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|The Europeans||Henry James|
|Page 9 of 10||
Charlotte got up from her chair slowly rolling up her work. "We know you are very kind to every one, Felix," she said. "But we are extremely sorry for Mr. Brand."
"Of course you are--you especially! Because," added Felix hastily, "you are a woman. But I don't pity him. It ought to be enough for any man that you take an interest in him."
"It is not enough for Mr. Brand," said Charlotte, simply. And she stood there a moment, as if waiting conscientiously for anything more that Felix might have to say.
"Mr. Brand is not so keen about his marriage as he was," he presently said. "He is afraid of your sister. He begins to think she is wicked."
Charlotte looked at him now with beautiful, appealing eyes-- eyes into which he saw the tears rising. "Oh, Felix, Felix," she cried, "what have you done to her?"
"I think she was asleep; I have waked her up!"
But Charlotte, apparently, was really crying, she walked straight out of the room. And Felix, standing there and meditating, had the apparent brutality to take satisfaction in her tears.
Late that night Gertrude, silent and serious, came to him in the garden; it was a kind of appointment. Gertrude seemed to like appointments. She plucked a handful of heliotrope and stuck it into the front of her dress, but she said nothing. They walked together along one of the paths, and Felix looked at the great, square, hospitable house, massing itself vaguely in the starlight, with all its windows darkened.
"I have a little of a bad conscience," he said. "I ought n't to meet you this way till I have got your father's consent."
Gertrude looked at him for some time. "I don't understand you."
"You very often say that," he said. "Considering how little we understand each other, it is a wonder how well we get on!"
"We have done nothing but meet since you came here--but meet alone. The first time I ever saw you we were alone," Gertrude went on. "What is the difference now? Is it because it is at night?"
"The difference, Gertrude," said Felix, stopping in the path, "the difference is that I love you more--more than before!" And then they stood there, talking, in the warm stillness and in front of the closed dark house. "I have been talking to Charlotte-- been trying to bespeak her interest with your father. She has a kind of sublime perversity; was ever a woman so bent upon cutting off her own head?"
"You are too careful," said Gertrude; "you are too diplomatic."
"Well," cried the young man, "I did n't come here to make any one unhappy!"
Gertrude looked round her awhile in the odorous darkness. "I will do anything you please," she said.
"For instance?" asked Felix, smiling.
"I will go away. I will do anything you please."
Felix looked at her in solemn admiration. "Yes, we will go away," he said. "But we will make peace first."
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