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|The Europeans||Henry James|
|Page 2 of 8||
"In a style of their own. How shall I describe it? It 's primitive; it 's patriarchal; it 's the ton of the golden age."
"And have they nothing golden but their ton? Are there no symptoms of wealth?"
"I should say there was wealth without symptoms. A plain, homely way of life: nothing for show, and very little for-- what shall I call it?--for the senses: but a great aisance, and a lot of money, out of sight, that comes forward very quietly for subscriptions to institutions, for repairing tenements, for paying doctor's bills; perhaps even for portioning daughters."
"And the daughters?" Madame Munster demanded. "How many are there?"
"There are two, Charlotte and Gertrude."
"Are they pretty?"
"One of them," said Felix.
"Which is that?"
The young man was silent, looking at his sister. "Charlotte," he said at last.
She looked at him in return. "I see. You are in love with Gertrude. They must be Puritans to their finger-tips; anything but gay!"
"No, they are not gay," Felix admitted. "They are sober; they are even severe. They are of a pensive cast; they take things hard. I think there is something the matter with them; they have some melancholy memory or some depressing expectation. It 's not the epicurean temperament. My uncle, Mr. Wentworth, is a tremendously high-toned old fellow; he looks as if he were undergoing martyrdom, not by fire, but by freezing. But we shall cheer them up; we shall do them good. They will take a good deal of stirring up; but they are wonderfully kind and gentle. And they are appreciative. They think one clever; they think one remarkable!"
"That is very fine, so far as it goes," said the Baroness. "But are we to be shut up to these three people, Mr. Wentworth and the two young women--what did you say their names were-- Deborah and Hephzibah?"
"Oh, no; there is another little girl, a cousin of theirs, a very pretty creature; a thorough little American. And then there is the son of the house."
"Good!" said the Baroness. "We are coming to the gentlemen. What of the son of the house?"
"I am afraid he gets tipsy."
"He, then, has the epicurean temperament! How old is he?"
"He is a boy of twenty; a pretty young fellow, but I am afraid he has vulgar tastes. And then there is Mr. Brand--a very tall young man, a sort of lay-priest. They seem to think a good deal of him, but I don't exactly make him out."
"And is there nothing," asked the Baroness, "between these extremes-- this mysterious ecclesiastic and that intemperate youth?"
"Oh, yes, there is Mr. Acton. I think," said the young man, with a nod at his sister, "that you will like Mr. Acton."
"Remember that I am very fastidious," said the Baroness. "Has he very good manners?"
"He will have them with you. He is a man of the world; he has been to China."
Madame Munster gave a little laugh. "A man of the Chinese world! He must be very interesting."
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