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The Awkward Age

by Henry James

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Save when it happened to rain Vanderbank always walked home, but he usually took a hansom when the rain was moderate and adopted the preference of the philosopher when it was heavy. On this occasion he therefore recognised as the servant opened the door a congruity between the weather and the "four-wheeler" that, in the empty street, under the glazed radiance, waited and trickled and blackly glittered. The butler mentioned it as on such a wild night the only thing they could get, and Vanderbank, having replied that it was exactly what would do best, prepared in the doorway to put up his umbrella and dash down to it. At this moment he heard his name pronounced from behind and on turning found himself joined by the elderly fellow guest with whom he had talked after dinner and about whom later on upstairs he had sounded his hostess. It was at present a clear question of how this amiable, this apparently unassertive person should get home-of the possibility of the other cab for which even now one of the footmen, with a whistle to his lips, craned out his head and listened through the storm. Mr. Longdon wondered to Vanderbank if their course might by any chance be the same; which led our young friend immediately to express a readiness to see him safely in any direction that should accommodate him.

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If there was something serious in Nanda and something blank in their companion, there was, superficially at least, nothing in Mr Mitchett but his usual flush of gaiety. "Did she really send you off this way alone?" Then while the girl's face met his own with the clear confession of it, "Isn't she too splendid for anything?" he asked with immense enjoyment. "What do you suppose is her idea?"

The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Novel by Henry James, published in 1899. Written mostly in dialogue with limited narrative explanation, The Awkward Age is the story of Nanda Brookenham, a young society woman whose attempts at marriage are foiled by various members of her mother's social circle. Nanda's manipulative mother, Fernanda, is the hostess of a fashionable London salon. The two women both appear to love Gustavus Vanderbank, a young government employee, who becomes alienated from them. Nanda is befriended by the elderly Mr. Longdon, who once courted her grandmother, and by the young Mr. Mitchett, who unhappily marries Little Aggie, a naive young woman steered into the marriage by her conniving aunt, the Duchess.

Inside Flap Copy
Introduction by Cynthia Ozick



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