Page:Pierre.djvu/126

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112 PIERRE

knowingly expressing her peculiar opinion in the presence of little Pierre. And this judicious, though half-unconscious delicacy in the mother, had been perhaps somewhat singularly answered by a like nicety of sentiment in the child ; for children of a naturally refined organisation, and a gentle nurture, sometimes possess a wonderful, and often undreamed of, daintiness of propriety, and thoughtfulness, and forbearance, in matters esteemed a little subtile even by then-elders, and self-elected betters. The little Pierre never disclosed to his mother that he had, through another person, become aware of her thoughts concerning aunt Dorothea's portrait ; he seemed to possess an intuitive knowledge of the circumstance, that from the difference of their relationship to his father, and for other minute reasons, he could in some things, with the greater propriety, be more inquisitive concerning him, with his aunt, than with his mother, especially touching the matter of the chair-portrait. And aunt Dorothea's reasons accounting for his mother's distaste, long continued satisfactory, or at least not unsufficiently explanatory.

And when the portrait arrived at the Meadows, it so chanced that his mother was abroad ; and so Pierre silently hung it up in his closet ; and when after a day or two his mother returned, he said nothing to her about its arrival, being still strangely alive to that certain mild mystery which invested it, and whose sacredness now he was fearful of violating, by provoking any discussion with his mother about aunt Dorothea's gift, or by permitting himself to be improperly curious concerning the reasons of his mother's private and self-reserved opinions of it. But the first time—and it was not long after the arrival of the portrait—that he knew of his mother's having entered his closet ; then, when he next saw her, he was prepared to hear what she should volun--