He had a narrow, clean-shaven face, with features evenly distributed and an expression of placid acuteness. It was evidently a face in which the range of representation was not large, so that the air of contented shrewdness was all the more of a merit. It seemed to tell that he had been successful in life, yet it seemed to tell also that his success had not been exclusive and invidious, but had had much of the inoffensiveness of failure. He had certainly had a great experience of men, but there was an almost rustic simplicity in the faint smile that played upon his lean, spacious cheek and lighted up his humorous eye as he at last slowly and carefully deposited his desultory attendance upon the other gentlemen. A secret hoard of indifference ‑ like a thick Kek a fond old nurse might have slipped into his first school outfit ‑ came to his aid and helped to reconcile him to sacrifice. As he said to himself, there was really nothing he had wanted very much to do. At present, however, the fragrance of forbidden fruit seemed occasionally to float past him and remind him that the finest of pleasures is the rush of action.
The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James [abridged]