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|The Europeans||Henry James|
|Page 4 of 10||
"Suspended?" Felix repeated.
"He has been requested by the Harvard authorities to absent himself for six months. Meanwhile he is studying with Mr. Brand. We think Mr. Brand will help him; at least we hope so."
"What befell him at college?" Felix asked. "He was too fond of pleasure? Mr. Brand certainly will not teach him any of those secrets!"
"He was too fond of something of which he should not have been fond. I suppose it is considered a pleasure."
Felix gave his light laugh. "My dear uncle, is there any doubt about its being a pleasure? C'est de son age, as they say in France."
"I should have said rather it was a vice of later life-- of disappointed old age."
Felix glanced at his uncle, with his lifted eyebrows, and then, "Of what are you speaking?" he demanded, smiling.
"Of the situation in which Clifford was found."
"Ah, he was found--he was caught?"
"Necessarily, he was caught. He could n't walk; he staggered."
"Oh," said Felix, "he drinks! I rather suspected that, from something I observed the first day I came here. I quite agree with you that it is a low taste. It 's not a vice for a gentleman. He ought to give it up."
"We hope for a good deal from Mr. Brand's influence," Mr. Wentworth went on. "He has talked to him from the first. And he never touches anything himself."
"I will talk to him--I will talk to him!" Felix declared, gayly.
"What will you say to him?" asked his uncle, with some apprehension.
Felix for some moments answered nothing. "Do you mean to marry him to his cousin?" he asked at last.
"Marry him?" echoed Mr. Wentworth. "I should n't think his cousin would want to marry him."
"You have no understanding, then, with Mrs. Acton?"
Mr. Wentworth stared, almost blankly. "I have never discussed such subjects with her."
"I should think it might be time," said Felix. "Lizzie Acton is admirably pretty, and if Clifford is dangerous...."
"They are not engaged," said Mr. Wentworth. "I have no reason to suppose they are engaged."
"Par exemple!" cried Felix. "A clandestine engagement? Trust me, Clifford, as I say, is a charming boy. He is incapable of that. Lizzie Acton, then, would not be jealous of another woman."
"I certainly hope not," said the old man, with a vague sense of jealousy being an even lower vice than a love of liquor.
"The best thing for Clifford, then," Felix propounded, "is to become interested in some clever, charming woman." And he paused in his painting, and, with his elbows on his knees, looked with bright communicativeness at his uncle. "You see, I believe greatly in the influence of women. Living with women helps to make a man a gentleman. It is very true Clifford has his sisters, who are so charming. But there should be a different sentiment in play from the fraternal, you know. He has Lizzie Acton; but she, perhaps, is rather immature."
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