The Patagonia by Henry James


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Patagonia, by Henry James

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: The Patagonia

Author: Henry James

Release Date: May 21, 2005 [eBook #2427]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1922 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email Proofing by Jonesey and Richard Carpenter

by Henry James


The houses were dark in the August night and the perspective of Beacon
Street, with its double chain of lamps, was a foreshortened desert. The
club on the hill alone, from its semi-cylindrical front, projected a glow
upon the dusky vagueness of the Common, and as I passed it I heard in the
hot stillness the click of a pair of billiard-balls. As "every one" was
out of town perhaps the servants, in the extravagance of their leisure,
were profaning the tables. The heat was insufferable and I thought with
joy of the morrow, of the deck of the steamer, the freshening breeze, the
sense of getting out to sea. I was even glad of what I had learned in
the afternoon at the office of the company--that at the eleventh hour an
old ship with a lower standard of speed had been put on in place of the
vessel in which I had taken my passage. America was roasting, England
might very well be stuffy, and a slow passage (which at that season of
the year would probably also be a fine one) was a guarantee of ten or
twelve days of fresh air.

I strolled down the hill without meeting a creature, though I could see
through the palings of the Common that that recreative expanse was
peopled with dim forms. I remembered Mrs. Nettlepoint's house--she lived
in those days (they are not so distant, but there have been changes) on
the water-side, a little way beyond the spot at which the Public Garden
terminates; and I reflected that like myself she would be spending the
night in Boston if it were true that, as had been mentioned to me a few
days before at Mount Desert, she was to embark on the morrow for
Liverpool. I presently saw this appearance confirmed by a light above
her door and in two or three of her windows, and I determined to ask for
her, having nothing to do till bedtime. I had come out simply to pass an
hour, leaving my hotel to the blaze of its gas and the perspiration of
its porters; but it occurred to me that my old friend might very _well_
not know of the substitution of the _Patagonia_ for the _Scandinavia_, so
that I should be doing her a service to prepare her mind. Besides, I
could offer to help her, to look after her in the morning: lone women are
grateful for support in taking ship for far countries.

It came to me indeed as I stood on her door-step that as she had a son
she might not after all be so lone; yet I remembered at the same time
that Jasper Nettlepoint was not quite a young man to lean upon, having--as
I at least supposed--a life of his own and tastes and habits which had
long since diverted him from the maternal side. If he did happen just
now to be at home my solicitude would of course seem officious; for in
his many wanderings--I believed he had roamed all over the globe--he
would certainly have learned how to manage. None the less, in fine, I
was very glad to show Mrs. Nettlepoint I thought of her. With my long
absence I had lost sight of her; but I had liked her of old, she had been
a good friend to my sisters, and I had in regard to her that sense which
is pleasant to those who in general have gone astray or got detached, the
sense that she at least knew all about me. I could trust her at any time
to tell people I was respectable. Perhaps I was conscious of how little
I deserved this indulgence when it came over me that I hadn't been near
her for ages. The measure of that neglect was given by my vagueness of
mind about Jasper. However, I really belonged nowadays to a different
generation; I was more the mother's contemporary than the son's.

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