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|The Europeans||Henry James|
|Page 6 of 10||
She had been sitting just within one of the long windows that opened upon the piazza; but very soon after Acton had gone away she got up abruptly, just when the talkative gentleman from Boston was asking her what she thought of the "moral tone" of that city. On the piazza she encountered Clifford Wentworth, coming round from the other side of the house. She stopped him; she told him she wished to speak to him.
"Why did n't you go home with your cousin?" she asked.
Clifford stared. "Why, Robert has taken her," he said.
"Exactly so. But you don't usually leave that to him."
"Oh," said Clifford, "I want to see those fellows start off. They don't know how to drive."
"It is not, then, that you have quarreled with your cousin?"
Clifford reflected a moment, and then with a simplicity which had, for the Baroness, a singularly baffling quality, "Oh, no; we have made up!" he said.
She looked at him for some moments; but Clifford had begun to be afraid of the Baroness's looks, and he endeavored, now, to shift himself out of their range. "Why do you never come to see me any more?" she asked. "Have I displeased you?"
"Displeased me? Well, I guess not!" said Clifford, with a laugh.
"Why have n't you come, then?"
"Well, because I am afraid of getting shut up in that back room."
Eugenia kept looking at him. "I should think you would like that."
"Like it!" cried Clifford.
"I should, if I were a young man calling upon a charming woman."
"A charming woman is n't much use to me when I am shut up in that back room!"
"I am afraid I am not of much use to you anywhere!" said Madame M; auunster. "And yet you know how I have offered to be."
"Well," observed Clifford, by way of response, "there comes the buggy."
"Never mind the buggy. Do you know I am going away?"
"Do you mean now?"
"I mean in a few days. I leave this place."
"You are going back to Europe?"
"To Europe, where you are to come and see me."
"Oh, yes, I 'll come out there," said Clifford.
"But before that," Eugenia declared, "you must come and see me here."
"Well, I shall keep clear of that back room!" rejoined her simple young kinsman.
The Baroness was silent a moment. "Yes, you must come frankly--boldly. That will be very much better. I see that now."
"I see it!" said Clifford. And then, in an instant, "What 's the matter with that buggy?" His practiced ear had apparently detected an unnatural creak in the wheels of the light vehicle which had been brought to the portico, and he hurried away to investigate so grave an anomaly.
The Baroness walked homeward, alone, in the starlight, asking herself a question. Was she to have gained nothing-- was she to have gained nothing?
Gertrude Wentworth had held a silent place in the little circle gathered about the two gentlemen from Boston. She was not interested in the visitors; she was watching Madame Munster, as she constantly watched her. She knew that Eugenia also was not interested--that she was bored; and Gertrude was absorbed in study of the problem how, in spite of her indifference and her absent attention, she managed to have such a charming manner. That was the manner Gertrude would have liked to have; she determined to cultivate it, and she wished that-- to give her the charm--she might in future very often be bored. While she was engaged in these researches, Felix Young was looking for Charlotte, to whom he had something to say. For some time, now, he had had something to say to Charlotte, and this evening his sense of the propriety of holding some special conversation with her had reached the motive-point-- resolved itself into acute and delightful desire. He wandered through the empty rooms on the large ground-floor of the house, and found her at last in a small apartment denominated, for reasons not immediately apparent, Mr. Wentworth's "office:" an extremely neat and well-dusted room, with an array of law-books, in time-darkened sheep-skin, on one of the walls; a large map of the United States on the other, flanked on either side by an old steel engraving of one of Raphael's Madonnas; and on the third several glass cases containing specimens of butterflies and beetles. Charlotte was sitting by a lamp, embroidering a slipper. Felix did not ask for whom the slipper was destined; he saw it was very large.
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