Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Way We Live Now: Who does not know the smile?

Paul Montague, a likeable enough fellow but a moral weakling, goes to visit the American widow Mrs. Hurtle with whom he has tried to break off their engagement. Mrs. Hurtle represents herself as the fiancée of Paul when taking a room in London. Here is Paul upon entering the house where Mrs. Hurtle is staying:
The woman of the house with a smile showed him into Mrs Hurtle's sitting-room, and he at once perceived that the smile was intended to welcome him as an accepted lover. It was a smile half of congratulation to the lover, half of congratulation to herself as a woman that another man had been caught by the leg and made fast. Who does not know the smile? What man, who has been caught and made sure, has not felt a certain dissatisfaction at being so treated, understanding that the smile is intended to convey to him a sense of his own captivity? It has, however, generally mattered but little to us. If we have felt that something of ridicule was intended, because we have been regarded as cocks with their spurs cut away, then we also have a pride when we have declared to ourselves that upon the whole we have gained more than we have lost.

On second thought, maybe I'll skip any comments on this passage.

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