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|The Europeans||Henry James|
|Page 3 of 8||
"Gertrude," Lizzie went on, "I had an idea you were so fond of your new cousin."
"Which new cousin?" asked Gertrude.
"I don't mean the Baroness!" the young girl rejoined, with her laugh. "I thought you expected to see so much of him."
"Of Felix? I hope to see a great deal of him," said Gertrude, simply.
"Then why do you want to keep him out of the house?"
Gertrude looked at Lizzie Acton, and then looked away.
"Should you want me to live in the house with you, Lizzie?" asked Clifford.
"I hope you never will. I hate you!" Such was this young lady's reply.
"Father," said Gertrude, stopping before Mr. Wentworth and smiling, with a smile the sweeter, as her smile always was, for its rarity; "do let them live in the little house over the way. It will be lovely!"
Robert Acton had been watching her. "Gertrude is right," he said. "Gertrude is the cleverest girl in the world. If I might take the liberty, I should strongly recommend their living there."
"There is nothing there so pretty as the northeast room," Charlotte urged.
"She will make it pretty. Leave her alone!" Acton exclaimed.
Gertrude, at his compliment, had blushed and looked at him: it was as if some one less familiar had complimented her. "I am sure she will make it pretty. It will be very interesting. It will be a place to go to. It will be a foreign house."
"Are we very sure that we need a foreign house?" Mr. Wentworth inquired. "Do you think it desirable to establish a foreign house--in this quiet place?"
"You speak," said Acton, laughing, "as if it were a question of the poor Baroness opening a wine-shop or a gaming-table."
"It would be too lovely!" Gertrude declared again, laying her hand on the back of her father's chair.
"That she should open a gaming-table?" Charlotte asked, with great gravity.
Gertrude looked at her a moment, and then, "Yes, Charlotte," she said, simply.
"Gertrude is growing pert," Clifford Wentworth observed, with his humorous young growl. "That comes of associating with foreigners."
Mr. Wentworth looked up at his daughter, who was standing beside him; he drew her gently forward. "You must be careful," he said. "You must keep watch. Indeed, we must all be careful. This is a great change; we are to be exposed to peculiar influences. I don't say they are bad. I don't judge them in advance. But they may perhaps make it necessary that we should exercise a great deal of wisdom and self-control. It will be a different tone."
Gertrude was silent a moment, in deference to her father's speech; then she spoke in a manner that was not in the least an answer to it. "I want to see how they will live. I am sure they will have different hours. She will do all kinds of little things differently. When we go over there it will be like going to Europe. She will have a boudoir. She will invite us to dinner--very late. She will breakfast in her room. "
Charlotte gazed at her sister again. Gertrude's imagination seemed to her to be fairly running riot. She had always known that Gertrude had a great deal of imagination--she had been very proud of it. But at the same time she had always felt that it was a dangerous and irresponsible faculty; and now, to her sense, for the moment, it seemed to threaten to make her sister a strange person who should come in suddenly, as from a journey, talking of the peculiar and possibly unpleasant things she had observed. Charlotte's imagination took no journeys whatever; she kept it, as it were, in her pocket, with the other furniture of this receptacle--a thimble, a little box of peppermint, and a morsel of court-plaster. "I don't believe she would have any dinner--or any breakfast," said Miss Wentworth. "I don't believe she knows how to do anything herself. I should have to get her ever so many servants, and she would n't like them."
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