Chapters 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis

In Boston of the 1840s, Eugenia, the Baroness Münster, the wife of a German prince (the Prince of Silberstadt-Schreckenstein), looks out the window of the inn where she is staying with her brother, Felix, on their recent arrival in America from Europe. Although it is May, it is snowing. Eugenia is depressed by the gloominess of the Massachusetts capital and considers returning to Europe. Felix, however, is enjoying the land of his parents, engaging his artistic talents in procuring some funds for himself.

Eugenia is not pretty, but carries herself as if she is pretty, which functions almost as well. She criticizes everything around her, from the church spire to the fire in the fireplace. Thirty-three years of age, she is five years older than Felix. While Eugenia is negative and cynical, Felix is positive and personable. Soon the weather changes from winter to spring, and the brother and sister go for a walk about the town. Felix proposes that they go to visit their American cousins who live nearby. Eugenia declines until Felix has had a chance to look them over; then she will have him present her to them. Felix agrees, and he plans to go the next day.

The following day, a Sunday, the scene changes to the home of the Wentworths, the American cousins of Eugenia and Felix. Gertrude, the younger of two sisters, has decided that it is too nice of a day to go to church, so she stays home. Her sister, Charlotte, warns her that Mr. Brand, a neighbor may come, so she has left Gertrude the key to the cupboard. Charlotte is on the verge of leaving when Mr. Brand does indeed appear and begs Gertrude to go to church with him. She declines and tries to get him to leave. He says he will return later after church and then departs.

Gertrude settles down to read from The Arabian Nights when she notices someone standing there. Thinking that he might a prince like the one in her novel, she looks up to see it is Felix. He announces to her that he is her cousin. Seeing Gertrude sitting there, Felix confesses engagingly that he expected to be shown into his cousins’ presence by a servant, instead of this informal meeting. A conversation ensues, and Felix explains that he and Eugenia are the children of the half-sister of Gertrude’s father....

(The entire section is 954 words.)