23 June 2009

don't you know?

"You'll be very tired when you go home, if he shows you all his bibelots and gives you a lecture on each," said the Countess Gemini.
  "I'm not afraid of that; but if I'm tired I shall at least have learned something."
  "Very little, I suspect. But my sister's dreadfully afraid of learning anything," said Mr. Osmond.
  "Oh, I confess to that; I don't want to know anything more—I know too much already. The more you know the more unhappy you are."
  "You should not undervalue knowledge before Pansy who has not finished her education," Madame Merle interposed with a smile.
  "Pansy will never know any harm," said the child's father. "Pansy's a little convent-flower."
  "Oh, the convents, the convents!" cried the Countess with a flutter of her ruffles. "Speak to me of the convents! You may learn anything there; I'm a convent-flower myself. I don't pretend to be good, but the nuns do. Don't you see what I mean?" she went on, appealing to Isabel.
  Isabel was not sure she saw, and she answered that she was very bad at following arguments. The Countess then declared that she herself detested arguments, but that this was her brother's taste—he would always discuss. "For me," she said, "one should like a thing or one shouldn't; one can't like everything, of course. But one shouldn't attempt to reason it out—you never know where it may lead you. There are some very good feelings that may have bad reasons, don't you know? And then there are very bad feelings, sometimes, that have good reasons. Don't you see what I mean? I don't care anything about reasons, but I know what I like."
  "Ah, that's the great thing," said Isabel, smiling and suspecting that her acquaintance with this lightly flitting personage would not lead to intellectual repose.

Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1976: 256-257)