The Portrait of a Lady

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					    The Portrait of a Lady
                           Henry James




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The Portrait of a Lady



                         Chapter 1

   Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life
more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony
known as afternoon tea. There are circumstances in
which, whether you partake of the tea or not—some
people of course never do—the situation is in itself
delightful. Those that I have in mind in beginning to
unfold this simple history offered an admirable setting to
an innocent pastime. The implements of the little feast had
been disposed upon the lawn of an old English country-
house, in what I should call the perfect middle of a
splendid summer afternoon. Part of the afternoon had
waned, but much of it was left, and what was left was of
the finest and rarest quality. Real dusk would not arrive
for many hours; but the flood of summer light had begun
to ebb, the air had grown mellow, the shadows were long
upon the smooth, dense turf. They lengthened slowly,
however, and the scene expressed that sense of leisure still
to come which is perhaps the chief source of one’s
enjoyment of such a scene at such an hour. From five
o’clock to eight is on certain occasions a little eternity; but
on such an occasion as this the interval could be only an
eternity of pleasure. The persons concerned in it were

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taking their pleasure quietly, and they were not of the sex
which is supposed to furnish the regular votaries of the
ceremony I have mentioned. The shadows on the perfect
lawn were straight and angular; they were the shadows of
an old man sitting in a deep wicker-chair near the low
table on which the tea had been served, and of two
younger men strolling to and fro, in desultory talk, in front
of him. The old man had his cup in his hand; it was an
unusually large cup, of a different pattern from the rest of
the set and painted in brilliant colours. He disposed of its
contents with much circumspection, holding it for a long
time close to his chin, with his face turned to the house.
His companions had either finished their tea or were
indifferent to their privilege; they smoked cigarettes as
they continued to stroll. One of them, from time to time,
as he passed, looked with a certain attention at the elder
man, who, unconscious of observation, rested his eyes
upon the rich red front of his dwelling. The house that
rose beyond the lawn was a structure to repay such
consideration and was the most characteristic object in the
peculiarly English picture I have attempted to sketch.
   It stood upon a low hill, above the river—the river
being the Thames at some forty miles from London. A
long gabled front of red brick, with the complexion of


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which time and the weather had played all sorts of
pictorial tricks, only, however, to improve and refine it,
presented to the lawn its patches of ivy, its clustered
chimneys, its windows smothered in creepers. The house
had a name and a history; the old gentleman taking his tea
would have been delighted to tell you these things: how it
had been built under Edward the Sixth, had offered a
night’s hospitality to the great Elizabeth (whose august
person had extended itself upon a huge, magnificent, and
terribly angular bed which still formed the principal
honour of the sleeping apartments), had been a good deal
bruised and defaced in Cromwell’s wars, and then, under
the Restoration, repaired and much enlarged; and how,
finally, after having been remodelled and disfigured in the
eighteenth century, it had passed into the careful keeping
of a shrewd American banker, who had bought it
originally because (owing to circumstances too
complicated to set forth) it was offered at a great bargain:
bought it with much grumbling at its ugliness, its
antiquity, its incommodity, and who now, at the end of
twenty years, had become conscious of a real aesthetic
passion for it, so that he knew all its points and would tell
you just where to stand to see them in combination and
just the hour when the shadows of its various


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protuberances—which fell so softly upon the warm, weary
brickwork—were of the right measure. Besides this, as I
have said, he could have counted off most of the
successive owners and occupants, several of whom were
known to general fame; doing so, however, with an
undemonstrative conviction that the latest phase of its
destiny was not the least honourable. The front of the
house overlooking that portion of the lawn with which
we are concerned was not the entrance-front; this was in
quite another quarter. Privacy here reigned supreme, and
the wide carpet of turf that covered the level hill-top
seemed but the extension of a luxurious interior. The
great still oaks and beeches flung down a shade as dense as
that of velvet curtains; and the place was furnished, like a
room, with cushioned seats, with rich-coloured rugs, with
the books and papers that lay upon the grass. The river
was at some distance; where the ground began to slope,
the lawn, properly speaking, ceased. But it was none the
less a charming walk down to the water.
    The old gentleman at the tea-table, who had come
from America thirty years before, had brought with him,
at the top of his baggage, his American physiognomy; and
he had not only brought it with him, but he had kept it in
the best order, so that, if necessary, he might have taken it


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back to his own country with perfect confidence. At
present, obviously, nevertheless, he was not likely to
displace himself; his journeys were over, and he was taking
the rest that precedes the great rest. 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 big tea-cup upon the
table. He was neatly dressed, in well-brushed black; but a
shawl was folded upon his knees, and his feet were
encased in thick, embroidered slippers. A beautiful collie
dog lay upon the grass near his chair, watching the
master’s face almost as tenderly as the master took in the
still more magisterial physiognomy of the house; and a
little bristling, bustling terrier bestowed a desultory
attendance upon the other gentlemen.


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    One of these was a remarkably well-made man of five-
and-thirty, with a face as English as that of the old
gentleman I have just sketched was something else; a
noticeably handsome face, fresh-coloured, fair and frank,
with firm, straight features, a lively grey eye and the rich
adornment of a chestnut beard. This person had a certain
fortunate, brilliant exceptional look—the air of a happy
temperament fertilized by a high civilization—which
would have made almost any observer envy him at a
venture. He was booted and spurred, as if he had
dismounted from a long ride; he wore a white hat, which
looked too large for him; he held his two hands behind
him, and in one of them—a large, white, well-shaped
fist—was crumpled a pair of soiled dog-skin gloves.
    His companion, measuring the length of the lawn
beside him, was a person of quite a different pattern, who,
although he might have excited grave curiosity, would
not, like the other, have provoked you to wish yourself,
almost blindly, in his place. Tall, lean, loosely and feebly
put together, he had an ugly, sickly, witty, charming face,
furnished, but by no means decorated, with a straggling
moustache and whisker. He looked clever and ill—a
combination by no means felicitous; and he wore a brown
velvet jacket. He carried his hands in his pockets, and


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there was something in the way he did it that showed the
habit was inveterate. His gait had a shambling, wandering
quality; he was not very firm on his legs. As I have said,
whenever he passed the old man in the chair he rested his
eyes upon him; and at this moment, with their faces
brought into relation, you would easily have seen they
were father and son. The father caught his son’s eye at last
and gave him a mild, responsive smile.
   ‘I’m getting on very well,’ he said.
   ‘Have you drunk your tea?’ asked the son.
   ‘Yes, and enjoyed it.’
   ‘Shall I give you some more?’
   The old man considered, placidly. ‘Well, I guess I’ll
wait and see.’ He had, in speaking, the American tone.
   ‘Are you cold?’ the son enquired.
   The father slowly rubbed his legs. ‘Well, I don’t know.
I can’t tell till I feel.’
   ‘Perhaps some one might feel for you,’ said the
younger man, laughing.
   ‘Oh, I hope some one will always feel for me! Don’t
you feel for me, Lord Warburton?’
   ‘Oh yes, immensely,’ said the gentleman addressed as
Lord Warburton, promptly. ‘I’m bound to say you look
wonderfully comfortable.’


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    ‘Well, I suppose I am, in most respects.’ And the old
man looked down at his green shawl and smoothed it over
his knees. ‘The fact is I’ve been comfortable so many years
that I suppose I’ve got so used to it I don’t know it.’
    ‘Yes, that’s the bore of comfort,’ said Lord Warburton.
‘We only know when we’re uncomfortable.’
    ‘It strikes me we’re rather particular,’ his companion
remarked.
    ‘Oh yes, there’s no doubt we’re particular,’ Lord
Warburton murmured. And then the three men remained
silent a while; the two younger ones standing looking
down at the other, who presently asked for more tea. ‘I
should think you would be very unhappy with that shawl,’
Lord Warburton resumed while his companion filled the
old man’s cup again.
    ‘Oh no, he must have the shawl!’ cried the gentleman
in the velvet coat. ‘Don’t put such ideas as that into his
head.’
    ‘It belongs to my wife,’ said the old man simply.
    ‘Oh, if it’s for sentimental reasons-’ And Lord
Warburton made a gesture of apology.
    ‘I suppose I must give it to her when she comes,’ the
old man went on.



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    ‘You’ll please to do nothing of the kind. You’ll keep it
to cover your poor old legs.’
    ‘Well, you mustn’t abuse my legs,’ said the old man. ‘I
guess they are as good as yours.’
    ‘Oh, you’re perfectly free to abuse mine,’ his son
replied, giving him his tea.
    ‘Well, we’re two lame ducks; I don’t think there’s
much difference.’
    ‘I’m much obliged to you for calling me a duck. How’s
your tea?’
    ‘Well, it’s rather hot.’
    ‘That’s intended to be a merit.’
    ‘Ah, there’s a great deal of merit,’ murmured the old
man, kindly. ‘He’s a very good nurse, Lord Warburton.’
    ‘Isn’t he a bit clumsy?’ asked his lordship.
    ‘Oh no, he’s not clumsy—considering that he’s an
invalid himself. He’s a very good nurse—for a sick-nurse. I
call him my sick-nurse because he’s sick himself.’
    ‘Oh, come, daddy!’ the ugly young man exclaimed.
    ‘Well, you are; I wish you weren’t. But I suppose you
can’t help it.’
    ‘I might try: that’s an idea,’ said the young man.
    ‘Were you ever sick, Lord Warburton?’ his father
asked.


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   Lord Warburton considered a moment. ‘Yes, sir, once,
in the Persian Gulf.’
   He’s making light of you, daddy,’ said the other young
man. ‘That’s a sort of joke.’
   ‘Well, there seem to be so many sorts now,’ daddy
replied, serenely. ‘You don’t look as if you had been sick,
any way, Lord Warburton.’
   ‘He’s sick of life; he was just telling me so; going on
fearfully about it,’ said Lord Warburton’s friend.
   ‘Is that true, sir?’ asked the old man gravely.
   ‘If it is, your son gave me no consolation. He’s a
wretched fellow to talk to—a regular cynic. He doesn’t
seem to believe in anything.’
   ‘That’s another sort of joke,’ said the person accused of
cynicism.
   ‘It’s because his health is so poor,’ his father explained
to Lord Warburton. ‘It affects his mind and colours his
way of looking at things; he seems to feel as if he had
never had a chance. But it’s almost entirely theoretical,
you know; it doesn’t seem to affect his spirits. I’ve hardly
ever seen him when he wasn’t cheerful—about as he is at
present. He often cheers me up.’
   The young man so described looked at Lord
Warburton and laughed. ‘Is it a glowing eulogy or an


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accusation of levity? Should you like me to carry out my
theories, daddy?’
   ‘By Jove, we should see some queer things!’ cried Lord
Warburton.
   ‘I hope you haven’t taken up that sort of tone,’ said the
old man.
   ‘Warburton’s tone is worse than mine; he pretends to
be bored. I’m not in the least bored; I find life only too
interesting.’
   ‘Ah, too interesting; you shouldn’t allow it to be that,
you know!’
   ‘I’m never bored when I come here,’ said Lord
Warburton. ‘One gets such uncommonly good talk.’
   ‘Is that another sort of joke?’ asked the old man.
‘You’ve no excuse for being bored anywhere. When I was
your age I had never heard of such a thing.’
   ‘You must have developed very late.’
   ‘No, I developed very quick; that was just the reason.
When I was twenty years old I was very highly developed
indeed. I was working tooth and nail. You wouldn’t be
bored if you had something to do; but all you young men
are too idle. You think too much of your pleasure. You’re
too fastidious, and too indolent, and too rich.’



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   ‘Oh, I say,’ cried Lord Warburton, ‘you’re hardly the
person to accuse a fellow-creature of being too rich!’
   ‘Do you mean because I’m a banker?’ asked the old
man.
   ‘Because of that, if you like; and because you have—
haven’t you?- such unlimited means.’
   ‘He isn’t very rich,’ the other young man mercifully
pleaded. ‘He has given away an immense deal of money.’
   ‘Well, I suppose it was his own,’ said Lord Warburton;
‘and in that case could there be a better proof of wealth?
Let not a public benefactor talk of one’s being too fond of
pleasure.’
   ‘Daddy’s very fond of pleasure—of other people’s.’
   The old man shook his head. ‘I don’t pretend to have
contributed anything to the amusement of my
contemporaries.’
   ‘My dear father, you’re too modest!’
   ‘That’s a kind of joke, sir,’ said Lord Warburton.
   ‘You young men have too many jokes. When there are
no jokes you’ve nothing left.’
   ‘Fortunately there are always more jokes,’ the ugly
young man remarked.
   ‘I don’t believe it—I believe things are getting more
serious. You young men will find that out.’


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    ‘The increasing seriousness of things, then—that’s the
great opportunity of jokes.’
    ‘They’ll have to be grim jokes,’ said the old man. ‘I’m
convinced there will be great changes; and not all for the
better.’
    ‘I quite agree with you, sir,’ Lord Warburton declared.
‘I’m very sure there will be great changes, and that all sorts
of queer things will happen. That’s why I find so much
difficulty in applying your advice; you know you told me
the other day that I ought to ‘take hold’ of something.
One hesitates to take hold of a thing that may the next
moment be knocked sky-high.’
    ‘You ought to take hold of a pretty woman,’ said his
companion. ‘He’s trying hard to fall in love,’ he added, by
way of explanation, to his father.
    ‘The pretty women themselves may be sent flying!’
Lord Warburton exclaimed.
    ‘No, no, they’ll be firm,’ the old man rejoined; ‘they’ll
not be affected by the social and political changes I just
referred to.’
    ‘You mean they won’t be abolished? Very well, then,
I’ll lay my hands on one as soon as possible and tie her
round my neck as a life-preserver.’



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   ‘The ladies will save us,’ said the old man; ‘that is the
best of them will—for I make a difference between them.
Make up to a good one and marry her, and your life will
become much more interesting.’
   A momentary silence marked perhaps on the part of his
auditors a sense of the magnanimity of this speech, for it
was a secret neither for his son nor for his visitor that his
own experiment in matrimony had not been a happy one.
As he said, however, he made a difference; and these
words may have been intended as a confession of personal
error; though of course it was not in place for either of his
companions to remark that apparently the lady of his
choice had not been one of the best.
   ‘If I marry an interesting woman I shall be interested: is
that what you say?’ Lord Warburton asked. ‘I’m not at all
keen about marrying- your son misrepresented me; but
there’s no knowing what an interesting woman might do
with me.’
   ‘I should like to see your idea of an interesting woman,’
said his friend.
   ‘My dear fellow, you can’t see ideas—especially such
highly ethereal ones as mine. If I could only see myself—
that would be a great step in advance.’



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   ‘Well, you may fall in love with whomsoever you
please; but you mustn’t fall in love with my niece,’ said
the old man.
   His son broke into a laugh. ‘He’ll think you mean that
as a provocation! My dear father, you’ve lived with the
English for thirty years, and you’ve picked up a good
many of the things they say. But you’ve never learned the
things they don’t say!’
   ‘I say what I please,’ the old man returned with all his
serenity.
   ‘I haven’t the honour of knowing your niece,’ Lord
Warburton said. ‘I think it’s the first time I’ve heard of
her.’
   ‘She’s a niece of my wife’s; Mrs. Touchett brings her to
England.’
   Then young Mr. Touchett explained. ‘My mother, you
know, has been spending the winter in America, and
we’re expecting her back. She writes that she has
discovered a niece and that she has invited her to come
out with her.’
   ‘I see—very kind of her,’ said Lord Warburton. ‘Is the
young lady interesting?’
   ‘We hardly know more about her than you; my
mother has not gone into details. She chiefly


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communicates with us by means of telegrams, and her
telegrams are rather inscrutable. They say women don’t
know how to write them, but my mother has thoroughly
mastered the art of condensation. ‘Tired America, hot
weather awful, return England with niece, first steamer
decent cabin.’ That’s the sort of message we get from
her—that was the last that came. But there had been
another before, which I think contained the first mention
of the niece. ‘Changed hotel, very bad, impudent clerk,
address here. Taken sister’s girl, died last year, go to
Europe, two sisters, quite independent.’ Over that my
father and I have scarcely stopped puzzling; it seems to
admit of so many interpretations.’
    ‘There’s one thing very clear in it,’ said the old man;
‘she has given the hotel-clerk a dressing.’
    ‘I’m not sure even of that, since he has driven her from
the field. We thought at first that the sister mentioned
might be the sister of the clerk; but the subsequent
mention of a niece seems to prove that the allusion is to
one of my aunts. There there was a question as to whose
the two other sisters were; they are probably two of my
late aunt’s daughters. But who’s ‘quite independent,’ and
in what sense is the term used?—that point’s not yet
settled. Does the expression apply more particularly to the


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young lady my mother has adopted, or does it characterize
her sisters equally?—and is it used in a moral or in a
financial sense? Does it mean that they’ve been left well
off, or that they wish to be under no obligations? or does
it simply mean that they’re fond of their own way?’
    ‘Whatever else it means, it’s pretty sure to mean that,’
Mr. Touchett remarked.
    ‘You’ll see for yourself,’ said Lord Warburton. ‘When
does Mrs. Touchett arrive?’
    ‘We’re quite in the dark; as soon as she can find a
decent cabin. She may be waiting for it yet; on the other
hand she may already have disembarked in England.’
    ‘In that case she would probably have telegraphed to
you.’
    ‘She never telegraphs when you would expect it—only
when you don’t,’ said the old man. ‘She likes to drop in
on me suddenly; she thinks she’ll find me doing something
wrong. She has never done so yet, but she’s not
discouraged.’
    ‘It’s her share in the family trait, the independence she
speaks of.’ Her son’s appreciation of the matter was more
favourable. ‘Whatever the high spirit of those young ladies
may be, her own is a match for it. She likes to do
everything for herself and has no belief in any one’s power


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to help her. She thinks me of no more use than a postage-
stamp without gum, and she would never forgive me if I
should presume to go to Liverpool to meet her.’
    ‘Will you at least let me know when your cousin
arrives?’ Lord Warburton asked.
    ‘Only on the condition I’ve mentioned—that you
don’t fall in love with her!’ Mr. Touchett replied.
    ‘That strikes me as hard. Don’t you think me good
enough?’
    ‘I think you too good—because I shouldn’t like her to
marry you. She hasn’t come here to look for a husband, I
hope; so many young ladies are doing that, as if there were
no good ones at home. Then she’s probably engaged;
American girls are usually engaged, I believe. Moreover
I’m not sure, after all, that you’d be a remarkable
husband.’
    ‘Very likely she’s engaged; I’ve known a good many
American girls, and they always were; but I could never
see that it made any difference, upon my word! As for my
being a good husband,’ Mr. Touchett’s visitor pursued,
‘I’m not sure of that either. One can but try!’
    ‘Try as much as you please, but don’t try on my niece,’
smiled the old man, whose opposition to the idea was
broadly humorous.


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   ‘Ah, well,’ said Lord Warburton with a humour
broader still, ‘perhaps after all, she’s not worth trying on!’




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                         Chapter 2

    While this exchange of pleasantries took place between
the two Ralph Touchett wandered away a little, with his
usual slouching gait, his hands in his pockets and his little
rowdyish terrier at his heels. His face was turned toward
the house, but his eyes were bent musingly on the lawn;
so that he had been an object of observation to a person
who had just made her appearance in the ample doorway
for some moments before he perceived her. His attention
was called to her by the conduct of his dog, who had
suddenly darted forward with a little volley of shrill barks,
in which the note of welcome, however, was more
sensible than that of defiance. The person in question was
a young lady, who seemed immediately to interpret the
greeting of the small beast. He advanced with great
rapidity and stood at her feet, looking up and barking
hard; whereupon, without hesitation, she stooped and
caught him in her hands, holding him face to face while
he continued his quick chatter. His master now had had
time to follow and to see that Bunchie’s new friend was a
tall girl in a black dress, who at first sight looked pretty.
She was bareheaded, as if she were staying in the house—a


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fact which conveyed perplexity to the son of its master,
conscious of that immunity from visitors which had for
some time been rendered necessary by the latter’s ill-
health. Meantime the two other gentlemen had also taken
note of the new-comer.
   ‘Dear me, who’s that strange woman?’ Mr. Touchett
had asked.
   ‘Perhaps it’s Mrs. Touchett’s niece—the independent
young lady,’ Lord Warburton suggested. ‘I think she must
be, from the way she handles the dog.’
   The collie, too, had now allowed his attention to be
diverted, and he trotted toward the young lady in the
doorway, slowly setting his tail in motion as he went.
   ‘But where’s my wife then?’ murmured the old man.
   ‘I suppose the young lady has left her somewhere: that’s
a part of the independence.’
   The girl spoke to Ralph, smiling, while she still held up
the terrier. ‘Is this your little dog, sir?’
   ‘He was mine a moment ago; but you’ve suddenly
acquired a remarkable air of property in him.’
   ‘Couldn’t we share him?’ asked the girl. ‘He’s such a
perfect little darling.’
   Ralph looked at her a moment; she was unexpectedly
pretty. ‘You may have him altogether,’ he then replied.


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   The young lady seemed to have a great deal of
confidence, both in herself and in others; but this abrupt
generosity made her blush. ‘I ought to tell you that I’m
probably your cousin,’ she brought out, putting down the
dog. ‘And here’s another!’ she added quickly, as the collie
came up.
   ‘Probably?’ the young man exclaimed, laughing. ‘I
supposed it was quite settled! Have you arrived with my
mother?
   ‘Yes, half an hour ago.’
   ‘And has she deposited you and departed again?’
   ‘No, she went straight to her room, and she told me
that, if I should see you, I was to say to you that you must
come to her there at a quarter to seven.’
   The young man looked at his watch. ‘Thank you very
much; I shall be punctual.’ And then he looked at his
cousin. ‘You’re very welcome here. I’m delighted to see
you.’
   She was looking at everything, with an eye that
denoted clear perception—at her companion, at the two
dogs, at the two gentlemen under the trees, at the
beautiful scene that surrounded her. ‘I’ve never seen
anything so lovely as this place. I’ve been all over the
house; it’s too enchanting.’


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    ‘I"m sorry you should have been here so long without
our knowing it.’
    ‘Your mother told me that in England people arrived
very quietly; so I thought it was all right. Is one of those
gentlemen your father?’
    ‘Yes, the elder one—the one sitting down,’ said Ralph.
    The girl gave a laugh. ‘I don’t suppose it’s the other.
Who’s the other?’
    ‘He’s a friend of ours—Lord Warburton.’
    ‘Oh, I hoped there would be a lord; it’s just like a
novel!’ And then, ‘Oh you adorable creature!’ she
suddenly cried, stooping down and picking up the small
dog again.
    She remained standing where they had met, making no
offer to advance or to speak to Mr. Touchett, and while
she lingered so near the threshold, slim and charming, her
interlocutor wondered if she expected the old man to
come and pay her his respects. American girls were used to
a great deal of deference, and it had been intimated that
this one had a high spirit. Indeed, Ralph could see that in
her face.
    ‘Won’t you come and make acquaintance with my
father?’ he nevertheless ventured to ask. ‘He’s old and
infirm—he doesn’t leave his chair.’


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    ‘Ah, poor man, I’m very sorry!’ the girl exclaimed,
immediately moving forward. ‘I got the impression from
your mother that he was rather—rather intensely active.’
    Ralph Touchett was silent a moment. ‘She hasn’t seen
him for a year.’
    ‘Well, he has a lovely place to sit. Come along, little
hound.’
    ‘It’s a dear old place,’ said the young man, looking
sidewise at his neighbour.
    ‘What’s his name?’ she asked, her attention having
again reverted to the terrier.
    ‘My father’s name?’
    ‘Yes,’ said the young lady with amusement; ‘but don’t
tell him I asked you.
    They had come by this time to where old Mr.
Touchett was sitting, and he slowly got up from his chair
to introduce himself.
    ‘My mother has arrived,’ said Ralph, ‘and this is Miss
Archer.’
    The old man placed his two hands on her shoulders,
looked at her a moment with extreme benevolence and
then gallantly kissed her. ‘It’s a great pleasure to me to see
you here; but I wish you had given us a chance to receive
you.’


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    ‘Oh, we were received,’ said the girl. ‘There were
about a dozen servants in the hall. And there was an old
woman curtseying at the gate.’
    ‘We can do better than that—if we have notice!’ And
the old man stood there smiling, rubbing his hands and
slowly shaking his head at her. ‘But Mrs. Touchett doesn’t
like receptions.’
    ‘She went straight to her room.’
    ‘Yes—and locked herself in. She always does that.
Well, I suppose I shall see her next week.’ And Mrs.
Touchett’s husband slowly resumed his former posture.
    ‘Before that,’ said Miss Archer. ‘She’s coming down to
dinner—at eight o’clock. Don’t you forget a quarter to
seven,’ she added, turning with a smile to Ralph.
    ‘What’s to happen at a quarter to seven?’
    ‘I’m to see my mother,’ said Ralph.
    ‘Ah, happy boy!’ the old man commented. ‘You must
sit down—you must have some tea,’ he observed to his
wife’s niece.
    ‘They gave me some tea in my room the moment I got
there,’ this young lady answered. ‘I’m sorry you’re out of
health,’ she added, resting her eyes upon her venerable
host.



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    ‘Oh, I’m an old man, my dear; it’s time for me to be
old. But I shall be the better for having you here.’
    She had been looking all round her again—at the lawn,
the great trees, the reedy, silvery Thames, the beautiful old
house; and while engaged in this survey she had made
room in it for her companions; a comprehensiveness of
observation easily conceivable on the part of a young
woman who was evidently both intelligent and excited.
She had seated herself and had put away the little dog; her
white hands, in her lap, were folded upon her black dress;
her head was erect, her eye lighted, her flexible figure
turned itself easily this way and that, in sympathy with the
alertness with which she evidently caught impressions. Her
impressions were numerous, and they were all reflected in
a clear, still smile. ‘I’ve never seen anything so beautiful as
this.’
    ‘It’s looking very well,’ said Mr. Touchett. ‘I know the
way it strikes you. I’ve been through all that. But you’re
very beautiful yourself,’ he added with a politeness by no
means crudely jocular and with the happy consciousness
that his advanced age gave him the privilege of saying such
things—even to young persons who might possibly take
alarm at them.



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    What degree of alarm this young person took need not
be exactly measured; she instantly rose, however, with a
blush which was not a refutation. ‘Oh yes, of course I’m
lovely!’ she returned with a quick laugh. ‘How old is your
house? Is it Elizabethan?’
    ‘It’s early Tudor,’ said Ralph Touchett.
    She turned toward him, watching his face. ‘Early
Tudor? How very delightful! And I suppose there are a
great many others.’
    ‘There are many much better ones.’
    ‘Don’t say that, my son!’ the old man protested.
‘There’s nothing better than this.’
    ‘I’ve got a very good one; I think in some respects it’s
rather better,’ said Lord Warburton, who as yet had not
spoken, but who had kept an attentive eye upon Miss
Archer. He slightly inclined himself, smiling; he had an
excellent manner with women. The girl appreciated it in
an instant; she had not forgotten that this was Lord
Warburton. ‘I should like very much to show it to you,’
he added.
    ‘Don’t believe him,’ cried the old man; ‘don’t look at
it! It’s a wretched old barrack—not to be compared with
this.’



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    ‘I don’t know—I can’t judge,’ said the girl, smiling at
Lord Warburton.
    In this discussion Ralph Touchett took no interest
whatever; he stood with his hands in his pockets, looking
greatly as if he should like to renew his conversation with
his new-found cousin. ‘Are you very fond of dogs?’ he
enquired by way of beginning. He seemed to recognize
that it was an awkward beginning for a clever man.
    ‘Very fond of them indeed.’
    ‘You must keep the terrier, you know,’ he went on,
still awkwardly.
    ‘I’ll keep him while I’m here, with pleasure.’
    ‘That will be for a long time, I hope.’
    ‘You’re very kind. I hardly know. My aunt must settle
that.’
    ‘I’ll settle it with her—at a quarter to seven.’ And
Ralph looked at his watch again.
    ‘I’m glad to be here at all,’ said the girl.
    ‘I don’t believe you allow things to be settled for you.’
    ‘Oh yes; if they’re settled as I like them.’
    ‘I shall settle this as I like it,’ said Ralph. ‘It’s most
unaccountable that we should never have known you.’
    ‘I was there—you had only to come and see me.’
    ‘There? Where do you mean?’


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    ‘In the United States: in New York and Albany and
other American places.’
    ‘I’ve been there—all over, but I never saw you. I can’t
make it out.’
    Miss Archer just hesitated. ‘It was because there had
been some disagreement between your mother and my
father, after my mother’s death, which took place when I
was a child. In consequence of it we never expected to see
you.’
    ‘Ah, but I don’t embrace all my mother’s quarrels—
heaven forbid!’ the young man cried. ‘You’ve lately lost
your father?’ he went on more gravely.
    ‘Yes, more than a year ago. After that my aunt was very
kind to me; she came to see me and proposed that I
should come with her to Europe.’
    ‘I see,’ said Ralph. ‘She has adopted you.’
    ‘Adopted me?’ The girl stared, and her blush came back
to her, together with a momentary look of pain which
gave her interlocutor some alarm. He had underestimated
the effect of his words. Lord Warburton, who appeared
constantly desirous of a nearer view of Miss Archer,
strolled toward the two cousins at the moment, and as he
did so she rested her wider eyes on him. ‘Oh no; she has
not adopted me. I’m not a candidate for adoption.’


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    ‘I beg a thousand pardons,’ Ralph murmured. ‘I
meant—I meant-’ He hardly knew what he meant.
    ‘You meant she has taken me up. Yes; she likes to take
people up. She has been very kind to me; but,’ she added
with a certain visible eagerness of desire to be explicit, ‘I’m
very fond of my liberty.’
    ‘Are you talking about Mrs. Touchett?’ the old man
called out from his chair. ‘Come here, my dear, and tell
me about her. I’m always thankful for information.’
    The girl hesitated again, smiling. ‘She’s really very
benevolent,’ she answered; after which she went over to
her uncle, whose mirth was excited by her words.
    Lord Warburton was left standing with Ralph
Touchett, to whom in a moment he said: ‘You wished a
while ago to see my idea of an interesting woman. There
it is!’




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                         Chapter 3

    Mrs. Touchett was certainly a person of many oddities,
of which her behaviour on returning to her husband’s
house after many months was a noticeable specimen. She
had her own way of doing all that she did, and this is the
simplest description of a character which, although by no
means without liberal motions, rarely succeeded in giving
an impression of suavity. Mrs. Touchett might do a great
deal of good, but she never pleased. This way of her own,
of which she was so fond, was not intrinsically offensive—
it was just unmistakeably distinguished from the ways of
others. The edges of her conduct were so very clear-cut
that for susceptible persons it sometimes had a knife-like
effect. That hard fineness came out in her deportment
during the first hours of her return from America, under
circumstances in which it might have seemed that her first
act would have been to exchange greetings with her
husband and son. Mrs. Touchett, for reasons which she
deemed excellent, always retired on such occasions into
impenetrable seclusion, postponing the more sentimental
ceremony until she had repaired the disorder of dress with
a completeness which had the less reason to be of high


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importance as neither beauty nor vanity were concerned
in it. She was a plain-faced old woman, without graces
and without any great elegance, but with an extreme
respect for her own motives. She was usually prepared to
explain these—when the explanation was asked as a
favour; and in such a case they proved totally different
from those that had been attributed to her. She was
virtually separated from her husband, but she appeared to
perceive nothing irregular in the situation. It had become
clear, at an early stage of their community, that they
should never desire the same thing at the same moment,
and this appearance had prompted her to rescue
disagreement from the vulgar realm of accident. She did
what she could to erect it into a law—a much more
edifying aspect of it—by going to live in Florence, where
she bought a house and established herself; and by leaving
her husband to take care of the English branch of his bank.
This arrangement greatly pleased her; it was so felicitously
definite. It struck her husband in the same light, in a foggy
square in London, where it was at times the most definite
fact he discerned; but he would have preferred that such
unnatural things should have a greater vagueness. To agree
to disagree had cost him an effort; he was ready to agree to
almost anything but that, and saw no reason why either


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assent or dissent should be so terribly consistent. Mrs.
Touchett indulged in no regrets nor speculations, and
usually came once a year to spend a month with her
husband, a period during which she apparently took pains
to convince him that she had adopted the right system.
She was not fond of the English style of life, and had three
or four reasons for it to which she currently alluded; they
bore upon minor points of that ancient order, but for Mrs.
Touchett they amply justified non-residence. She detested
bread-sauce, which, as she said, looked like a poultice and
tasted like soap; she objected to the consumption of beer
by her maid-servants; and she affirmed that the British
laundress (Mrs. Touchett was very particular about the
appearance of her linen) was not a mistress of her art. At
fixed intervals she paid a visit to her own country; but this
last had been longer than any of its predecessors.
    She had taken up her niece—there was little doubt of
that. One wet afternoon, some four months earlier than
the occurrence lately narrated, this young lady had been
seated alone with a book. To say she was so occupied is to
say that her solitude did not press upon her; for her love of
knowledge had a fertilizing quality and her imagination
was strong. There was at this time, however, a want of
fresh taste in her situation which the arrival of an


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unexpected visitor did much to correct. The visitor had
not been announced; the girl heard her at last walking
about the adjoining room. It was in an old house at
Albany, a large, square, double house, with a notice of sale
in the windows of one of the lower apartments. There
were two entrances, one of which had long been out of
use but had never been removed. They were exactly
alike—large white doors, with an arched frame and wide
side-lights, perched upon little ‘stoops’ of red stone, which
descended sidewise to the brick pavement of the street.
The two houses together formed a single dwelling, the
party-wall having been removed and the rooms placed in
communication. These rooms, above-stairs, were
extremely numerous, and were painted all over exactly
alike, in a yellowish white which had grown sallow with
time. On the third floor there was a sort of arched passage,
connecting the two sides of the house, which Isabel and
her sisters used in their childhood to call the tunnel and
which, though it was short and well-lighted, always
seemed to the girl to be strange and lonely, especially on
winter afternoons. She had been in the house, at different
periods, as a child; in those days her grandmother lived
there. Then there had been an absence of ten years,
followed by a return to Albany before her father’s death.


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Her grandmother, old Mrs. Archer, had exercised, chiefly
within the limits of the family, a large hospitality in the
early period, and the little girls often spent weeks under
her roof—weeks of which Isabel had the happiest
memory. The manner of life was different from that of her
own home- larger, more plentiful, practically more festal;
the discipline of the nursery was delightfully vague and the
opportunity of listening to the conversation of one’s elders
(which with Isabel was a highly-valued pleasure) almost
unbounded. There was a constant coming and going; her
grandmother’s sons and daughters and their children
appeared to be in the enjoyment of standing invitations to
arrive and remain, so that the house offered to a certain
extent the appearance of a bustling provincial inn kept by
a gentle old landlady who sighed a great deal and never
presented a bill.
    Isabel of course knew nothing about bills; but even as a
child she thought her grandmother’s home romantic.
There was a covered piazza behind it, furnished with a
swing which was a source of tremulous interest; and
beyond this was a long garden, sloping down to the stable
and containing peach-trees of barely credible familiarity.
Isabel had stayed with her grandmother at various seasons,
but somehow all her visits had a flavour of peaches. On


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the other side, across the street, was an old house that was
called the Dutch House—a peculiar structure dating from
the earliest colonial time, composed of bricks that had
been painted yellow, crowned with a gable that was
pointed out to strangers, defended by a rickety wooden
paling and standing sidewise to the street. It was occupied
by a primary school for children of both sexes, kept or
rather let go, by a demonstrative lady of whom Isabel’s
chief recollection was that her hair was fastened with
strange bedroomy combs at the temples and that she was
the widow of some one of consequence. The little girl had
been offered the opportunity of laying a foundation of
knowledge in this establishment; but having spent a single
day in it, she had protested against its laws and had been
allowed to stay at home, where, in the September days,
when the windows of the Dutch House were open, she
used to hear the hum of childish voices repeating the
multiplication-table—an incident in which the elation of
liberty and the pain of exclusion were indistinguishably
mingled. The foundation of her knowledge was really laid
in the idleness of her grandmother’s house, where, as most
of the other inmates were not reading people, she had
uncontrolled use of a library full of books with
frontispieces, which she used to climb upon a chair to take


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down. When she had found one to her taste—she was
guided in the selection chiefly by the frontispiece—she
carried it into a mysterious apartment which lay beyond
the library and which was called, traditionally, no one
knew why, the office. Whose office it had been and at
what period it had flourished, she never learned; it was
enough for her that it contained an echo and a pleasant
musty smell and that it was a chamber of disgrace for old
pieces of furniture whose infirmities were not always
apparent (so that the disgrace seemed unmerited and
rendered them victims of injustice) and with which, in the
manner of children, she had established relations almost
human, certainly dramatic. There was an old haircloth sofa
in especial, to which she had confided a hundred childish
sorrows. The place owed much of its mysterious
melancholy to the fact that it was properly entered from
the second door of the house, the door that had been
condemned, and that it was secured by bolts which a
particularly slender little girl found it impossible to slide.
She knew that this silent, motionless portal opened into
the street; if the sidelights had not been filled with green
paper she might have looked out upon the little brown
stoop and the well-worn brick pavement. But she had no
wish to look out, for this would have interfered with her


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theory that there was a strange, unseen place on the other
side—a place which became to the child’s imagination,
according to its different moods, a region of delight of
terror.
    It was in the ‘office’ still that Isabel was sitting on that
melancholy afternoon of early spring which I have just
mentioned. At this time she might have had the whole
house to choose from, and the room she had selected was
the most depressed of its scenes. She had never opened the
bolted door nor removed the green paper (renewed by
other hands) from its sidelights; she had never assured
herself that the vulgar street lay beyond. A crude, cold rain
fell heavily; the spring-time was indeed an appeal—and it
seemed a cynical, insincere appeal—to patience. Isabel,
however, gave as little heed as possible to cosmic
treacheries; she kept her eyes on her book and tried to fix
her mind. It had lately occurred to her that her mind was a
good deal of a vagabond, and she had spent much
ingenuity in training it to a military step and teaching it to
advance, to halt, to retreat, to perform even more
complicated manoeuvres, at the word of command. Just
now she had given it marching orders and it had been
trudging over the sandy plains of a history of German
Thought. Suddenly she became aware of a step very


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different from her own intellectual pace; she listened a
little and perceived that some one was moving in the
library, which communicated with the office. It struck her
first as the step of a person from whom she was looking
for a visit, then almost immediately announced itself as the
tread of a woman and a stranger—her possible visitor
being neither. It had an inquisitive, experimental quality
which suggested that it would not stop short of the
threshold of the office; and in fact the doorway of this
apartment was presently occupied by a lady who paused
there and looked very hard at our heroine. She was a
plain, elderly woman, dressed in a comprehensive
waterproof mantle; she had a face with a good deal of
rather violent point.
    ‘Oh,’ she began, ‘is that where you usually sit?’ She
looked about at the heterogeneous chairs and tables.
    ‘Not when I have visitors,’ said Isabel, getting up to
receive the intruder.
    She directed their course back to the library while the
visitor continued to look about her. ‘You seem to have
plenty of other rooms; they’re in rather better condition.
But everything’s immensely worn.’
    ‘Have you come to look at the house?’ Isabel asked.
‘The servant will show it to you.’


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    ‘Send her away; I don’t want to buy it. She has
probably gone to look for you and is wandering about
upstairs; she didn’t seem at all intelligent. You had better
tell her it’s no matter.’ And then, since the girl stood there
hesitating and wondering, this unexpected critic said to
her abruptly: ‘I suppose you’re one of the daughters?’
    Isabel thought she had very strange manners. ‘It
depends upon whose daughters you mean.’
    ‘The late Mr. Archer’s—and my poor sister’s.’
    ‘Ah,’ said Isabel slowly, ‘you must be our crazy Aunt
Lydia!’
    ‘Is that what your father told you to call me? I’m your
Aunt Lydia, but I’m not at all crazy: I haven’t a delusion!
And which of the daughters are you?’
    ‘I’m the youngest of the three, and my name’s Isabel.’
    ‘Yes; the others are Lilian and Edith. And are you the
prettiest?’
    ‘I haven’t the least idea,’ said the girl.
    ‘I think you must be.’ And in this way the aunt and the
niece made friends. The aunt had quarrelled years before
with her brother-in-law, after the death of her sister,
taking him to task for the manner in which he brought up
his three girls. Being a high-tempered man he had
requested her to mind her own business, and she had


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taken him at his word. For many years she held no
communication with him and after his death had addressed
not a word to his daughters, who had been bred in that
disrespectful view of her which we have just seen Isabel
betray. Mrs. Touchett’s behaviour was, as usual, perfectly
deliberate. She intended to go to America to look after her
investments (with which her husband, in spite of his great
financial position, had nothing to do) and would take
advantage of this opportunity to enquire into the
condition of her nieces. There was no need of writing, for
she should attach no importance to any account of them
she should elicit by letter; she believed, always, in seeing
for one’s self. Isabel found, however, that she knew a good
deal about them, and knew about the marriage of the two
elder girls; knew that their poor father had left very little
money, but that the house in Albany, which had passed
into his hands, was to be sold for their benefit; knew,
finally, that Edmund Ludlow, Lilian’s husband, had taken
upon himself to attend to this matter, in consideration of
which the young couple, who had come to Albany during
Mr. Archer’s illness, were remaining there for the present
and, as well as Isabel herself, occupying the old place.
   ‘How much money do you expect for it?’ Mrs.
Touchett asked of her companion, who had brought her


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to sit in the front parlour, which she had inspected
without enthusiasm.
    ‘I haven’t the least idea,’ said the girl.
    ‘That’s the second time you have said that to me,’ her
aunt rejoined. ‘And yet you don’t look at all stupid.’
    ‘I’m not stupid; but I don’t know anything about
money.’
    ‘Yes, that’s the way you were brought up—as if you
were to inherit a million. What have you in point of fact
inherited?’
    ‘I really can’t tell you. You must ask Edmund and
Lilian; they’ll be back in half an hour.’
    ‘In Florence we should call it a very bad house,’ said
Mrs. Touchett; ‘but here, I dare say, it will bring a high
price. It ought to make a considerable sum for each of
you. In addition to that you must have something else; it’s
most extraordinary your not knowing. The position’s of
value, and they’ll probably pull it down and make a row of
shops. I wonder you don’t do that yourself; you might let
the shops to great advantage.’
    Isabel stared; the idea of letting shops was new to her. ‘I
hope they won’t pull it down,’ she said; ‘I’m extremely
fond of it.’



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    ‘I don’t see what makes you fond of it; your father died
here.’
    ‘Yes, but I don’t dislike it for that,’ the girl rather
strangely returned. ‘I like places in which things have
happened—even if they’re sad things. A great many
people have died here; the place has been full of life.’
    ‘Is that what you call being full of life?’
    ‘I mean full of experience—of people’s feelings and
sorrows. And not of their sorrows only, for I’ve been very
happy here as a child.’
    ‘You should go to Florence if you like houses in which
things have happened—especially deaths. I live in an old
palace in which three people have been murdered; three
that were known and I don’t know how many more
besides.’
    ‘In an old palace?’ Isabel repeated.
    ‘Yes, my dear; a very different affair from this. This is
very bourgeois.’
    Isabel felt some emotion, for she had always thought
highly of her grandmother’s house. But the emotion was
of a kind which led her to say: ‘I should like very much to
go to Florence.’
    ‘Well, if you’ll be very good, and do everything I tell
you I’ll take you there,’ Mrs. Touchett declared.


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    Our young woman’s emotion deepened; she flushed a
little and smiled at her aunt in silence. ‘Do everything you
tell me? I don’t think I can promise that.’
    ‘No, you don’t look like a person of that sort. You’re
fond of your own way; but it’s not for me to blame you.’
    ‘And yet, to go to Florence,’ the girl exclaimed in a
moment, ‘I’d promise almost anything!’
    Edmund and Lilian were slow to return, and Mrs.
Touchett had an hour’s uninterrupted talk with her niece,
who found her a strange and interesting figure: a figure
essentially—almost the first she had ever met. She was as
eccentric as Isabel had always supposed; and hitherto,
whenever the girl had heard people described as eccentric,
she had thought of them as offensive or alarming. The
term had always suggested to her something grotesque and
even sinister. But her aunt made it a matter of high but
easy irony, or comedy, and led her to ask herself if the
common tone, which was all she had known, had ever
been as interesting. No one certainly had on any occasion
so held her as this little thin-lipped, bright-eyed, foreign-
looking woman, who retrieved an insignificant appearance
by a distinguished manner and, sitting there in a well-
worn waterproof, talked with striking familiarity of the
courts of Europe. There was nothing flighty about Mrs.


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Touchett, but she recognized no social superiors, and,
judging the great ones of the earth in a way that spoke of
this, enjoyed the consciousness of making an impression
on a candid and susceptible mind. Isabel at first had
answered a good many questions, and it was from her
answers apparently that Mrs. Touchett derived a high
opinion of her intelligence. But after this she had asked a
good many, and her aunt’s answers, whatever turn they
took, struck her as food for deep reflexion. Mrs. Touchett
waited for the return of her other niece as long as she
thought reasonable, but as at six o’clock Mrs. Ludlow bad
not come in she prepared to take her departure.
   ‘Your sister must be a great gossip. Is she accustomed to
staying out so many hours?’
   ‘You’ve been out almost as long as she,’ Isabel replied;
‘she can have left the house but a short time before you
came in.’
   Mrs. Touchett looked at the girl without resentment;
she appeared to enjoy a bold retort and to be disposed to
be gracious. ‘Perhaps she hasn’t had so good an excuse as
I. Tell her at any rate that she must come and see me this
evening at that horrid hotel. She may bring her husband if
she likes, but she needn’t bring you. I shall see plenty of
you later.’


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                         Chapter 4

    Mrs. Ludlow was the eldest of the three sisters, and was
usually thought the most sensible; the classification being
in general that Lilian was the practical one, Edith the
beauty and Isabel the ‘intellectual’ superior. Mrs. Keyes,
the second of the group, was the wife of an officer of the
United States Engineers, and as our history is not further
concerned with her it will suffice that she was indeed very
pretty and that she formed the ornament of those various
military stations, chiefly in the unfashionable West, to
which, to her deep chagrin, her husband was successively
relegated. Lilian had married a New York lawyer, a young
man with a loud voice and an enthusiasm for his
profession; the match was not brilliant, any more than
Edith’s, but Lilian had occasionally been spoken of as a
young woman who might be thankful to marry at all—she
was so much plainer than her sisters. She was, however,
very happy, and now, as the mother of two peremptory
little boys and the mistress of a wedge of brown stone
violently driven into Fifty-third Street, seemed to exult in
her condition as in a bold escape. She was short and solid,
and her claim to figure was questioned, but she was


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conceded presence, though not majesty; she had
moreover, as people said, improved since her marriage,
and the two things in life of which she was most distinctly
conscious were her husband’s force in argument and her
sister Isabel’s originality. ‘I’ve never kept up with Isabel—
it would have taken all my time,’ she had often remarked;
in spite of which, however, she held her rather wistfully in
sight; watching her as a motherly spaniel might watch a
free greyhound. ‘I want to see her safely married—that’s
what I want to see,’ she frequently noted to her husband.
    ‘Well, I must say I should have no particular desire to
marry her,’ Edmund Ludlow was accustomed to answer in
an extremely audible tone.
    ‘I know you say that for argument; you always take the
opposite ground. I don’t see what you’ve against her
except that she’s so original.’
    ‘Well, I don’t like originals; I like translations,’ Mr.
Ludlow had more than once replied. ‘Isabel’s written in a
foreign tongue. I can’t make her out. She ought to marry
an Armenian or a Portuguese.’
    ‘That’s just what I’m afraid she’ll do!’ cried Lilian, who
thought Isabel capable of anything.
    She listened with great interest to the girl’s account of
Mrs. Touchett’s appearance and in the evening prepared


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to comply with their aunt’s commands. Of what Isabel
then said no report has remained, but her sister’s words
had doubtless prompted a word spoken to her husband as
the two were making ready for their visit. ‘I do hope
immensely she’ll do something handsome for Isabel; she
has evidently taken a great fancy to her.’
   ‘What is it you wish her to do?’ Edmund Ludlow
asked. ‘Make her a big present?’
   ‘No indeed; nothing of the sort. But take an interest in
her- sympathize with her. She’s evidently just the sort of
person to appreciate her. She has lived so much in foreign
society; she told Isabel all about it. You know you’ve
always thought Isabel rather foreign.’
   ‘You want her to give her a little foreign sympathy, eh?
Don’t you think she gets enough at home?’
   ‘Well, she ought to go abroad,’ said Mrs. Ludlow.
‘She’s just the person to go abroad.’
   ‘And you want the old lady to take her, is that it?’
   ‘She has offered to take her—she’s dying to have Isabel
go. But what I want her to do when she gets her there is
to give her all the advantages. I’m sure all we’ve got to
do,’ said Mrs. Ludlow, ‘is to give her a chance.’
   ‘A chance for what?’
   ‘A chance to develop.’


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    ‘Oh, Moses!’ Edmund Ludlow exclaimed. ‘I hope she
isn’t going to develop any more!’
    ‘If I were not sure you only said that for argument I
should feel very badly,’ his wife replied. ‘But you know
you love her.’
    ‘Do you know I love you?’ the young man said,
jocosely, to Isabel a little later, while he brushed his hat.
    ‘I’m sure I don’t care whether you do or not!’
exclaimed the girl; whose voice and smile, however, were
less haughty than her words.
    ‘Oh, she feels so grand since Mrs. Touchett’s visit,’ said
her sister.
    But Isabel challenged this assertion with a good deal of
seriousness. ‘You must not say that, Lily. I don’t feel grand
at all.’
    ‘I’m sure there’s no harm,’ said the conciliatory Lily.
    ‘Ah, but there’s nothing in Mrs. Touchett’s visit to
make one feel grand.’
    ‘Oh,’ exclaimed Ludlow, ‘she’s grander than ever!’
    ‘Whenever I feel grand,’ said the girl, ‘it will be for a
better reason.’
    Whether she felt grand or no, she at any rate felt
different, felt as if something had happened to her. Left to
herself for the evening she sat a while under the lamp, her


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hands empty, her usual avocations unheeded. Then she
rose and moved about the room, and from one room to
another, preferring the places where the vague lamplight
expired. She was restless and even agitated; at moments
she trembled a little. The importance of what had
happened was out of proportion to its appearance; there
had really been a change in her life. What it would bring
with it was as yet extremely indefinite; but Isabel was in a
situation that gave a value to any change. She had a desire
to leave the past behind her and, as she said to herself, to
begin afresh. This desire indeed was not a birth of the
present occasion; it was as familiar as the sound of the rain
upon the window and it had led to her beginning afresh a
great many times. She closed her eyes as she sat in one of
the dusky corners of the quiet parlour; but it was not with
a desire for dozing forgetfulness. It was on the contrary
because she felt too wide-eyed and wished to check the
sense of seeing too many things at once. Her imagination
was by habit ridiculously active; when the door was not
open it jumped out of the window. She was not
accustomed indeed to keep it behind bolts; and at
important moments, when she would have been thankful
to make use of her judgement alone, she paid the penalty
of having given undue encouragement to the faculty of


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seeing without judging. At present, with her sense that the
note of change had been struck, came gradually a host of
images of the things she was leaving behind her. The years
and hours of her life came back to her, and for a long
time, in a stillness broken only by the ticking of the big
bronze clock, she passed them in review. It had been a
very happy life and she had been a very fortunate
person—this was the truth that seemed to emerge most
vividly. She had had the best of everything, and in a world
in which the circumstances of so many people made them
unenviable it was an advantage never to have known
anything particularly unpleasant. It appeared to Isabel that
the unpleasant had been even too absent from her
knowledge, for she had gathered from her acquaintance
with literature that it was often a source of interest and
even of instruction. Her father had kept it away from
her—her handsome, much-loved father, who always had
such an aversion to it. It was a great felicity to have been
his daughter; Isabel rose even to pride in her parentage.
Since his death she had seemed to see him as turning his
braver side to his children and as not having managed to
ignore the ugly quite so much in practice as in aspiration.
But this only made her tenderness for him greater; it was
scarcely even painful to have to suppose him too generous,


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too good-natured, too indifferent to sordid considerations.
Many persons had held that he carried this indifference too
far, especially the large number of those to whom he owed
money. Of their opinions Isabel was never very definitely
informed; but it may interest the reader to know that,
while they had recognized in the late Mr. Archer a
remarkably handsome head and a very taking manner
(indeed, as one of them had said, he was always taking
something), they had declared that he was making a very
poor use of his life. He had squandered a substantial
fortune, he had been deplorably convivial, he was known
to have gambled freely. A few very harsh critics went so
far as to say that he had not even brought up his daughters.
They had had no regular education and no permanent
home; they had been at once spoiled and neglected; they
had lived with nursemaids and governesses (usually very
bad ones) or had been sent to superficial schools, kept by
the French, from which, at the end of a month, they had
been removed in tears. This view of the matter would
have excited Isabel’s indignation, for to her own sense her
opportunities had been large. Even when her father had
left his daughters for three months at Neufchatel with a
French bonne who had eloped with a Russian nobleman
staying at the same hotel—even in this irregular situation


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(an incident of the girl’s eleventh year) she had been
neither frightened nor ashamed, but had thought it a
romantic episode in a liberal education. Her father had a
large way of looking at life, of which his restlessness and
even his occasional incoherency of conduct had been only
a proof. He wished his daughters, even as children, to see
as much of the world as possible; and it was for this
purpose that, before Isabel was fourteen, he had
transported them three times across the Atlantic, giving
them on each occasion, however, but a few months’ view
of the subject proposed: a course which had whetted our
heroine’s curiosity without enabling her to satisfy it. She
ought to have been a partisan of her father, for she was the
member of his trio who most ‘made up’ to him for the
disagreeables he didn’t mention. In his last days his general
willingness to take leave of a world in which the difficulty
of doing as one liked appeared to increase as one grew
older had been sensibly modified by the pain of separation
from his clever, his superior, his remarkable girl. Later,
when the journeys to Europe ceased, he still had shown
his children all sorts of indulgence, and if he had been
troubled about money-matters nothing ever disturbed
their irreflective consciousness of many possessions. Isabel,
though she danced very well, had not the recollection of


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having been in New York a successful member of the
choregraphic circle; her sister Edith was, as every one said,
so very much more fetching. Edith was so striking an
example of success that Isabel could have no illusions as to
what constituted this advantage, or as to the limits of her
own power to frisk and jump and shriek—above all with
rightness of effect. Nineteen persons out of twenty
(including the younger sister herself pronounced Edith
infinitely the prettier of the two; but the twentieth, besides
reversing this judgement, had the entertainment of
thinking all the others aesthetic vulgarians. Isabel had in
the depths of her nature an even more unquenchable
desire to please than Edith; but the depths of this young
lady’s nature were a very out-of-the-way place, between
which and the surface communication was interrupted by
a dozen capricious forces. She saw the young men who
came in large numbers to see her sister; but as a general
thing they were afraid of her; they had a belief that some
special preparation was required for talking with her. Her
reputation of reading a great deal hung about her like the
cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic; it was supposed
to engender difficult questions and to keep the
conversation at a low temperature. The poor girl liked to
be thought clever, but she hated to be thought bookish;


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she used to read in secret and, though her memory was
excellent, to abstain from showy reference. She had a great
desire for knowledge, but she really preferred almost any
source of information to the printed page; she had an
immense curiosity about life and was constantly staring
and wondering. She carried within herself a great fund of
life, and her deepest enjoyment was to feel the continuity
between the movements of her own soul and the
agitations of the world. For this reason she was fond of
seeing great crowds and large stretches of country, of
reading about revolutions and wars, of looking at historical
pictures—a class of efforts as to which she had often
committed the conscious solecism of forgiving them much
bad painting for the sake of the subject. While the Civil
War went on she was still a very young girl; but she passed
months of this long period in a state of almost passionate
excitement, in which she felt herself at times (to her
extreme confusion) stirred almost indiscriminately by the
valour of either army. Of course the circumspection of
suspicious swains had never gone the length of making her
a social proscript; for the number of those whose hearts, as
they approached her, beat only just fast enough to remind
them they had heads as well, had kept her unacquainted
with the supreme discipline of her sex and age. She had


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had everything a girl could have: kindness, admiration,
bonbons, bouquets, the sense of exclusion from none of
the privileges of the world she lived in, abundant
opportunity for dancing, plenty of new dresses, the
London Spectator, the latest publications, the music of
Gounod, the poetry of Browning, the prose of George
Eliot.
   These things now, as memory played over them,
resolved themselves into a multitude of scenes and figures.
Forgotten things came back to her; many others, which
she had lately thought of great moment, dropped out of
sight. The result was kaleidoscopic, but the movement of
the instrument was checked at last by the servant’s coming
in with the name of a gentleman. The name of the
gentleman was Caspar Goodwood; he was a straight
young man from Boston, who had known Miss Archer for
the last twelvemonth and who, thinking her the most
beautiful young woman of her time, had pronounced the
time, according to the rule I have hinted at, a foolish
period of history. He sometimes wrote to her and had
within a week or two written from New York. She had
thought it very possible he would come in—had indeed all
the rainy day been vaguely expecting him. Now that she
learned he was there, nevertheless, she felt no eagerness to


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receive him. He was the finest young man she had ever
seen, was indeed quite a splendid young man; he inspired
her with a sentiment of high, of rare respect. She had
never felt equally moved to it by any other person. He
was supposed by the world in general to wish to marry
her, but this of course was between themselves. It at least
may be affirmed that he had travelled from New York to
Albany expressly to see her; having learned in the former
city, where he was spending a few days and where he had
hoped to find her, that she was still at the State capital.
Isabel delayed for some minutes to go to him; she moved
about the room with a new sense of complications. But at
last she presented herself and found him standing near the
lamp. He was tall, strong and somewhat stiff; he was also
lean and brown. He was not romantically, he was much
rather obscurely, handsome; but his physiognomy had an
air of requesting your attention, which it rewarded
according to the charm you found in blue eyes of
remarkable fixedness, the eyes of a complexion other than
his own, and a jaw of the somewhat angular mould which
is supposed to bespeak resolution. Isabel said to herself that
it bespoke resolution to-night; in spite of which, in half an
hour, Caspar Goodwood, who had arrived hopeful as well
as resolute, took his way back to his lodging with the


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feeling of a man defeated. He was not, it may be added, a
man weakly to accept defeat.




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                         Chapter 5

    Ralph Touchett was a philosopher, but nevertheless he
knocked at his mother’s door (at a quarter to seven) with a
good deal of eagerness. Even philosophers have their
preferences, and it must be admitted that of his progenitors
his father ministered most to his sense of the sweetness of
filial dependence. His father, as he had often said to
himself, was the more motherly; his mother, on the other
hand, was paternal, and even, according to the slang of the
day, gubernatorial. She was nevertheless very fond of her
only child and had always insisted on his spending three
months of the year with her. Ralph rendered perfect
justice to her affection and knew that in her thoughts and
her thoroughly arranged and servanted life his turn always
came after the other nearest subjects of her solicitude, the
various punctualities of performance of the workers of her
will. He found her completely dressed for dinner, but she
embraced her boy with her gloved hands and made him sit
on the sofa beside her. She enquired scrupulously about
her husband’s health and about the young man’s own,
and, receiving no very brilliant account of either,
remarked that she was more than ever convinced of her


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wisdom in not exposing herself to the English climate. In
this case she also might have given way. Ralph smiled at
the idea of his mother’s giving way, but made no point of
reminding her that his own infirmity was not the result of
the English climate, from which he absented himself for a
considerable part of each year.
    He had been a very small boy when his father, Daniel
Tracy Touchett, a native of Rutland, in the State of
Vermont, came to England as subordinate partner in a
banking-house where some ten years later he gained
preponderant control. Daniel Touchett saw before him a
life-long residence in his adopted country, of which, from
the first, he took a simple, sane and accommodating view.
But, as he said to himself, he had no intention of dis-
americanizing, nor had he a desire to teach his only son
any such subtle art. It had been for himself so very soluble
a problem to live in England assimilated yet unconverted
that it seemed to him equally simple his lawful heir should
after his death carry on the grey old bank in the white
American light. He was at pains to intensify this light,
however, by sending the boy home for his education.
Ralph spent several terms at an American school and took
a degree at an American university, after which, as he
struck his father on his return as even redundantly native,


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he was placed for some three years in residence at Oxford.
Oxford swallowed up Harvard, and Ralph became at last
English enough. His outward conformity to the manners
that surrounded him was none the less the mask of a mind
that greatly enjoyed its independence, on which nothing
long imposed itself, and which, naturally inclined to
adventure and irony, indulged in a boundless liberty of
appreciation. He began with being a young man of
promise; at Oxford he distinguished himself, to his father’s
ineffable satisfaction, and the people about him said it was
a thousand pities so clever a fellow should be shut out
from a career. He might have had a career by returning to
his own country (though this point is shrouded in
uncertainty) and even if Mr. Touchett had been willing to
part with him (which was not the case) it would have
gone hard with him to put a watery waste permanently
between himself and the old man whom he regarded as his
best friend. Ralph was not only fond of his father, he
admired him—he enjoyed the opportunity of observing
him. Daniel Touchett, to his perception, was a man of
genius, and though he himself had no aptitude for the
banking mystery he made a point of learning enough of it
to measure the great figure his father had played. It was
not this, however, he mainly relished; it was the fine ivory


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surface, polished as by the English air, that the old man
had opposed to possibilities of penetration. Daniel
Touchett had been neither at Harvard nor at Oxford, and
it was his own fault if he had placed in his son’s hands the
key to modern criticism. Ralph, whose head was full of
ideas which his father had never guessed, had a high
esteem for the latter’s originality. Americans, rightly or
wrongly, are commended for the ease with which they
adapt themselves to foreign conditions; but Mr. Touchett
had made of the very limits of his pliancy half the ground
of his general success. He had retained in their freshness
most of his marks of primary pressure; his tone, as his son
always noted with pleasure, was that of the more luxuriant
parts of New England. At the end of his life he had
become, on his own ground, as mellow as he was rich; he
combined consummate shrewdness with the disposition
superficially to fraternize, and his ‘social position,’ on
which he had never wasted a care, had the firm perfection
of an unthumbed fruit. It was perhaps his want of
imagination and of what is called the historic
consciousness; but to many of the impressions usually
made by English life upon the cultivated stranger his sense
was completely closed. There were certain differences he
had never perceived, certain habits he had never formed,


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certain obscurities he had never sounded. As regards these
latter, on the day he had sounded them his son would
have thought less well of him.
    Ralph, on leaving Oxford, had spent a couple of years
in travelling; after which he had found himself perched on
a high stool in his father’s bank. The responsibility and
honour of such positions is not, I believe, measured by the
height of the stool, which depends upon other
considerations: Ralph, indeed, who had very long legs,
was fond of standing, and even of walking about, at his
work. To this exercise, however, he was obliged to devote
but a limited period, for at the end of some eighteen
months he had become aware of his being seriously out of
health. He had caught a violent cold, which fixed itself on
his lungs and threw them into dire confusion. He had to
give up work and apply, to the letter, the sorry injunction
to take care of himself. At first he slighted the task; it
appeared to him it was not himself in the least he was
taking care of, but an uninteresting and uninterested
person with whom he had nothing in common. This
person, however, improved on acquaintance, and Ralph
grew at last to have a certain grudging tolerance, even an
undemonstrative respect, for him. Misfortune makes
strange bedfellows, and our young man, feeling that he


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had something at stake in the matter—it usually struck
him as his reputation for ordinary wit- devoted to his
graceless charge an amount of attention of which note was
duly taken and which had at least the effect of keeping the
poor fellow alive. One of his lungs began to heal, the
other promised to follow its example, and he was assured
he might outweather a dozen winters if he would betake
himself to those climates in which consumptives chiefly
congregate. As he had grown extremely fond of London,
he cursed the flatness of exile: but at the same time that he
cursed he conformed, and gradually, when he found his
sensitive organ grateful even for grim favours, he conferred
them with a lighter hand. He wintered abroad, as the
phrase is; basked in the sun, stopped at home when the
wind blew, went to bed when it rained, and once or
twice, when it had snowed overnight, almost never got up
again.
   A secret hoard of indifference—like a thick cake a fond
old nurse might have slipped into his first school outfit—
came to his aid and helped to reconcile him to sacrifice;
since at the best he was too ill for aught but that arduous
game. As he said to himself, there was really nothing he
had wanted very much to do, so that he had at least not
renounced the field of valour. At present, however, the


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fragrance of forbidden fruit seemed occasionally to float
past him and remind him that the finest of pleasures is the
rush of action. Living as he now lived was like reading a
good book in a poor translation—a meagre entertainment
for a young man who felt that he might have been an
excellent linguist. He had good winters and poor winters,
and while the former lasted he was sometimes the sport of
a vision of virtual recovery. But this vision was dispelled
some three years before the occurrence of the incidents
with which this history opens: he had on that occasion
remained later than usual in England and had been
overtaken by bad weather before reaching Algiers. He
arrived more dead than alive and lay there for several
weeks between life and death. His convalescence was a
miracle, but the first use he made of it was to assure
himself that such miracles happen but once. He said to
himself that his hour was in sight and that it behoved him
to keep his eyes upon it, yet that it was also open to him
to spend the interval as agreeably as might be consistent
with such a preoccupation. With the prospect of losing
them the simple use of his faculties became an exquisite
pleasure; it seemed to him the joys of contemplation had
never been sounded. He was far from the time when he
had found it hard that he should be obliged to give up the


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idea of distinguishing himself; an idea none the less
importunate for being vague and none the less delightful
for having had to struggle in the same breast with bursts of
inspiring self-criticism. His friends at present judged him
more cheerful, and attributed it to a theory, over which
they shook their heads knowingly, that he would recover
his health. His serenity was but the array of wild flowers
niched in his ruin.
    It was very probably this sweet-tasting property of the
observed thing in itself that was mainly concerned in
Ralph’s quickly-stirred interest in the advent of a young
lady who was evidently not insipid. If he was
consideringly disposed, something told him, here was
occupation enough for a succession of days. It may be
added, in summary fashion, that the imagination of
loving—as distinguished from that of being loved—had
still a place in his reduced sketch. He had only forbidden
himself the riot of expression. However, he shouldn’t
inspire his cousin with a passion, nor would she be able,
even should she try, to help him to one. ‘And now tell me
about the young lady,’ he said to his mother. ‘What do
you mean to do with her?’
    Mrs. Touchett was prompt. ‘I mean to ask your father
to invite her to stay three or four weeks at Gardencourt.’


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    ‘You needn’t stand on any such ceremony as that,’ said
Ralph. ‘My father will ask her as a matter of course.’
    ‘I don’t know about that. She’s my niece; she’s not his.’
    ‘Good Lord, dear mother; what a sense of property!
That’s all the more reason for his asking her. But after
that—I mean after three months (for it’s absurd asking the
poor girl to remain but for three or four paltry weeks)—
what do you mean to do with her?’
    ‘I mean to take her to Paris. I mean to get her
clothing.’
    ‘Ah yes, that’s of course. But independently of that?’
    ‘I shall invite her to spend the autumn with me in
Florence.’
    ‘You don’t rise above detail, dear mother,’ said Ralph.
‘I should like to know what you mean to do with her in a
general way.’
    ‘My duty!’ Mrs. Touchett declared. ‘I suppose you pity
her very much,’ she added.
    ‘No, I don’t think I pity her. She doesn’t strike me as
inviting compassion. I think I envy her. Before being sure,
however, give me a hint of where you see your duty.’
    ‘In showing her four European countries—I shall leave
her the choice of two of them—and in giving her the



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opportunity of perfecting herself in French, which she
already knows very well.’
    Ralph frowned a little. ‘That sounds rather dry—even
allowing her the choice of two of the countries.’
    ‘If it’s dry,’ said his mother with a laugh, ‘you can leave
Isabel alone to water it! She is as good as a summer rain,
any day.’
    ‘Do you mean she’s a gifted being?’
    ‘I don’t know whether she’s a gifted being, but she’s a
clever girl- with a strong will and a high temper. She has
no idea of being bored.’
    ‘I can imagine that,’ said Ralph; and then he added
abruptly: ‘How do you two get on?’
    ‘Do you mean by that that I’m a bore? I don’t think
she finds me one. Some girls might, I know; but Isabel’s
too clever for that. I think I greatly amuse her. We get on
because I understand her; I know the sort of girl she is.
She’s very frank, and I’m very frank: we know just what
to expect of each other.’
    ‘Ah, dear mother,’ Ralph exclaimed, ‘one always
knows what to expect of you! You’ve never surprised me
but once, and that’s to-day—in presenting me with a
pretty cousin whose existence I had never suspected.’
    ‘Do you think her so very pretty?’


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   ‘Very pretty indeed; but I don’t insist upon that. It’s her
general air of being some one in particular that strikes me.
Who is this rare creature, and what is she? Where did you
find her, and how did you make her acquaintance?’
   ‘I found her in an old house at Albany, sitting in a
dreary room on a rainy day, reading a heavy book and
boring herself to death. She didn’t know she was bored,
but when I left her no doubt of it she seemed very grateful
for the service. You may say I shouldn’t have enlightened
her—I should have let her alone. There’s a good deal in
that, but I acted conscientiously; I thought she was meant
for something better. It occurred to me that it would be a
kindness to take her about and introduce her to the world.
She thinks she knows a great deal of it—like most
American girls; but like most American girls she’s
ridiculously mistaken. If you want to know, I thought she
would do me credit. I like to be well thought of, and for a
woman of my age there’s no greater convenience, in some
ways, than an attractive niece. You know I had seen
nothing of my sister’s children for years; I disapproved
entirely of the father. But I always meant to do something
for them when he should have gone to his reward. I
ascertained where they were to be found and, without any
preliminaries, went and introduced myself. There are two


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others of them, both of whom are married; but I saw only
the elder, who has, by the way, a very uncivil husband.
The wife, whose name is Lily, jumped at the idea of my
taking an interest in Isabel; she said it was just what her
sister needed—that some one should take an interest in
her. She spoke of her as you might speak of some young
person of genius—in want of encouragement and
patronage. It may be that Isabel’s a genius; but in that case
I’ve not yet learned her special line. Mrs. Ludlow was
especially keen about my taking her to Europe; they all
regard Europe over there as a land of emigration, of
rescue, a refuge for their superfluous population. Isabel
herself seemed very glad to come, and the thing was easily
arranged. There was a little difficulty about the money-
question, as she seemed averse to being under pecuniary
obligations. But she has a small income and she supposes
herself to be travelling at her own expense.’
    Ralph had listened attentively to this judicious report,
by which his interest in the subject of it was not impaired.
‘Ah, if she’s a genius,’ he said, ‘we must find out her
special line. Is it by chance for flirting?’
    ‘I don’t think so. You may suspect that at first, but
you’ll be wrong. You won’t, I think, in any way, be easily
right about her.’


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   ‘Warburton’s wrong then!’ Ralph rejoicingly
exclaimed. ‘He flatters himself he has made that discovery.’
   His mother shook her head. ‘Lord Warburton won’t
understand her. He needn’t try.’
   ‘He’s very intelligent,’ said Ralph; ‘but it’s right he
should be puzzled once in a while.’
   ‘Isabel will enjoy puzzling a lord,’ Mrs. Touchett
remarked.
   Her son frowned a little. ‘What does she know about
lords?’
   ‘Nothing at all: that will puzzle him all the more.’
   Ralph greeted these words with a laugh and looked out
of the window. Then, ‘Are you not going down to see my
father?’ he asked.
   ‘At a quarter to eight,’ said Mrs. Touchett.
   Her son looked at his watch. ‘You’ve another quarter
of an hour then. Tell me some more about Isabel.’ After
which, as Mrs. Touchett declined his invitation, declaring
that he must find out for himself, ‘Well,’ he pursued,
‘she’ll certainly do you credit. But won’t she also give you
trouble?’
   ‘I hope not; but if she does I shall not shrink from it. I
never do that.’
   ‘She strikes me as very natural,’ said Ralph.


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   ‘Natural people are not the most trouble.’
   ‘No,’ said Ralph; ‘you yourself are a proof of that.
You’re extremely natural, and I’m sure you have never
troubled any one. It takes trouble to do that. But tell me
this; it just occurs to me. Is Isabel capable of making
herself disagreeable?’
   ‘Ah,’ cried his mother, ‘you ask too many questions!
Find that out for yourself.’
   His questions, however, were not exhausted. ‘All this
time,’ he said, ‘you’ve not told me what you intend to do
with her.’
   ‘Do with her? You talk as if she were a yard of calico. I
shall do absolutely nothing with her, and she herself will
do everything she chooses. She gave me notice of that.’
   ‘What you meant then, in your telegram, was that her
character’s independent.’
   ‘I never know what I mean in my telegrams—especially
those I send from America. Clearness is too expensive.
Come down to your father.’
   ‘It’s not yet a quarter to eight,’ said Ralph.
   ‘I must allow for his impatience,’ Mrs. Touchett
answered.
   Ralph knew what to think of his father’s impatience;
but, making no rejoinder, he offered his mother his arm.


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This put it in his power, as they descended together, to
stop her a moment on the middle landing of the
staircase—the broad, low, wide-armed staircase of time-
blackened oak which was one of the most striking features
of Gardencourt. ‘You’ve no plan of marrying her?’ he
smiled.
    ‘Marrying her? I should be sorry to play her such a
trick! But apart from that, she’s perfectly able to marry
herself. She has every facility.’
    ‘Do you mean to say she has a husband picked out?’
    ‘I don’t know about a husband, but there’s a young
man in Boston-!’
    Ralph went on; he had no desire to hear about the
young man in Boston. ‘As my father says, they’re always
engaged!’
    His mother had told him that he must satisfy his
curiosity at the source, and it soon became evident he
should not want for occasion. He had a good deal of talk
with his young kinswoman when the two had been left
together in the drawing-room. Lord Warburton, who had
ridden over from his own house, some ten miles distant,
remounted and took his departure before dinner; and an
hour after this meal was ended Mr. and Mrs. Touchett,
who appeared to have quite emptied the measure of their


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forms, withdrew, under the valid pretext of fatigue, to
their respective apartments. The young man spent an hour
with his cousin; though she had been travelling half the
day she appeared in no degree spent. She was really tired;
she knew it, and knew she should pay for it on the
morrow; but it was her habit at this period to carry
exhaustion to the furtherest point and confess to it only
when dissimulation broke down. A fine hypocrisy was for
the present possible; she was interested; she was, as she said
to herself, floated. She asked Ralph to show her the
pictures; there were a great many in the house, most of
them of his own choosing. The best were arranged in an
oaken gallery, of charming proportions, which had a
sitting-room at either end of it and which in the evening
was usually lighted. The light was insufficient to show the
pictures to advantage, and the visit might have stood over
to the morrow. This suggestion Ralph had ventured to
make; but Isabel looked disappointed- smiling still,
however—and said: ‘If you please I should like to see
them just a little.’ She was eager, she knew she was eager
and now seemed so; she couldn’t help it. ‘She doesn’t take
suggestions,’ Ralph said to himself; but he said it without
irritation; her pressure amused and even pleased him. The
lamps were on brackets, at intervals, and if the light was


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imperfect it was genial. It fell upon the vague squares of
rich colour and on the faded gilding of heavy frames; it
made a sheen on the polished floor of the gallery. Ralph
took a candlestick and moved about, pointing out the
things he liked; Isabel, inclining to one picture after
another, indulged in little exclamations and murmurs. She
was evidently a judge; she had a natural taste; he was
struck with that. She took a candlestick herself and held it
slowly here and there; she lifted it high, and as she did so
he found himself pausing in the middle of the place and
bending his eyes much less upon the pictures than on her
presence. He lost nothing, in truth, by these wandering
glances, for she was better worth looking at than most
works of art. She was undeniably spare, and ponderably
light, and proveably tall; when people had wished to
distinguish her from the other two Miss Archers they had
always called her the willowy one. Her hair, which was
dark even to blackness, had been an object of envy to
many women; her light grey eyes, a little too firm perhaps
in her graver moments, had an enchanting range of
concession. They walked slowly up one side of the gallery
and down the other, and then she said:
    ‘Well, now I know more than I did when I began!’



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   ‘You apparently have a great passion for knowledge,’
her cousin returned.
   ‘I think I have; most girls are horridly ignorant.’
   ‘You strike me as different from most girls.’
   ‘Ah, some of them would—but the way they’re talked
to!’ murmured Isabel, who preferred not to dilate just yet
on herself. Then in a moment, to change the subject,
‘Please tell me—isn’t there a ghost?’ she went on.
   ‘A ghost?’
   ‘A castle-spectre, a thing that appears. We call them
ghosts in America.’
   ‘So we do here, when we see them.’
   ‘You do see them then? You ought to, in this romantic
old house.’
   ‘It’s not a romantic old house,’ said Ralph. ‘You’ll be
disappointed if you count on that. It’s a dismally prosaic
one; there’s no romance here but what you may have
brought with you.’
   ‘I’ve brought a great deal; but it seems to me I’ve
brought it to the right place.’
   ‘To keep it out of harm, certainly; nothing will ever
happen to it here, between my father and me.’
   Isabel looked at him a moment. ‘Is there never any one
here but your father and you?’


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   ‘My mother, of course.’
   ‘Oh, I know your mother; she’s not romantic. Haven’t
you other people?’
   ‘Very few.’
   ‘I’m sorry for that; I like so much to see people.’
   ‘Oh, we’ll invite all the county to amuse you,’ said
Ralph.
   ‘Now you’re making fun of me,’ the girl answered
rather gravely. ‘Who was the gentleman on the lawn
when I arrived?’
   ‘A county neighbour; he doesn’t come very often.’
   ‘I’m sorry for that; I liked him,’ said Isabel.
   ‘Why, it seemed to me that you barely spoke to him,’
Ralph objected.
   ‘Never mind, I like him all the same. I like your father
too, immensely.’
   ‘You can’t do better than that. He’s the dearest of the
dear.’
   ‘I’m so sorry he is ill,’ said Isabel.
   ‘You must help me to nurse him; you ought to be a
good nurse.’
   ‘I don’t think I am; I’ve been told I’m not; I’m said to
have too many theories. But you haven’t told me about
the ghost,’ she added.


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    Ralph, however, gave no heed to this observation.
‘You like my father and you like Lord Warburton. I infer
also that you like my mother.’
    ‘I like your mother very much, because—because-’
And Isabel found herself attempting to assign a reason for
her affection for Mrs. Touchett.
    ‘Ah, we never know why!’ said her companion,
laughing.
    ‘I always know why,’ the girl answered. ‘It’s because
she doesn’t expect one to like her. She doesn’t care
whether one does or not.’
    ‘So you adore her—out of perversity? Well, I take
greatly after my mother,’ said Ralph.
    ‘I don’t believe you do at all. You wish people to like
you, and you try to make them do it.’
    ‘Good heavens, how you see through one!’ he cried
with a dismay that was not altogether jocular.
    ‘But I like you all the same,’ his cousin went on. ‘The
way to clinch the matter will be to show me the ghost.’
    Ralph shook his head sadly. ‘I might show it to you,
but you’d never see it. The privilege isn’t given to every
one; it’s not enviable. It has never been seen by a young,
happy, innocent person like you. You must have suffered
first, have suffered greatly, have gained some miserable


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knowledge. In that way your eyes are opened to it. I saw
it long ago,’ said Ralph.
    ‘I told you just now I’m very fond of knowledge,’
Isabel answered.
    ‘Yes, of happy knowledge—of pleasant knowledge. But
you haven’t suffered, and you’re not made to suffer. I
hope you’ll never see the ghost!’
    She had listened to him attentively, with a smile on her
lips, but with a certain gravity in her eyes. Charming as he
found her, she had struck him as rather presumptuous—
indeed it was a part of her charm; and he wondered what
she would say. ‘I’m not afraid, you know,’ she said: which
seemed quite presumptuous enough.
    ‘You’re not afraid of suffering?’
    ‘Yes, I’m afraid of suffering. But I’m not afraid of
ghosts. And I think people suffer too easily,’ she added.
    ‘I don’t believe you do,’ said Ralph, looking at her
with his hands in his pockets.
    ‘I don’t think that’s a fault,’ she answered. ‘It’s not
absolutely necessary to suffer; we were not made for that.’
    ‘You were not, certainly.’
    ‘I’m not speaking of myself.’ And she wandered off a
little.



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    ‘No, it isn’t a fault,’ said her cousin. ‘It’s a merit to be
strong.’
    ‘Only, if you don’t suffer they call you hard,’ Isabel
remarked.
    They passed out of the smaller drawing-room, into
which they had returned from the gallery, and paused in
the hall, at the foot of the staircase. Here Ralph presented
his companion with her bedroom candle, which he had
taken from a niche. ‘Never mind what they call you.
When you do suffer they call you an idiot. The great
point’s to be as happy as possible.’
    She looked at him a little; she had taken her candle and
placed her foot on the oaken stair. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘that’s
what I came to Europe for, to be as happy as possible.
Good-night.’
    ‘Good-night! I wish you all success, and shall be very
glad to contribute to it!’
    She turned away, and he watched her as she slowly
ascended. Then, with his hands always in his pockets, he
went back to the empty drawing-room.




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                         Chapter 6

   Isabel Archer was a young person of many theories; her
imagination was remarkably active. It had been her
fortune to possess a finer mind than most of the persons
among whom her lot was cast; to have a larger perception
of surrounding facts and to care for knowledge that was
tinged with the unfamiliar. It is true that among her
contemporaries she passed for a young woman of
extraordinary profundity; for these excellent people never
withheld their admiration from a reach of intellect of
which they themselves were not conscious, and spoke of
Isabel as a prodigy of learning, a creature reported to have
read the classic authors—in translations. Her paternal aunt,
Mrs. Varian, once spread the rumour that Isabel was
writing a book—Mrs. Varian having a reverence for
books, and averred that the girl would distinguish herself
in print. Mrs. Varian thought highly of literature, for
which she entertained that esteem that is connected with a
sense of privation. Her own large house, remarkable for its
assortment of mosaic tables and decorated ceilings, was
unfurnished with a library, and in the way of printed
volumes contained nothing but half a dozen novels in


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paper on a shelf in the apartment of one of the Miss
Varians. Practically, Mrs. Varian’s acquaintance with
literature was confined to The New York Interviewer; as
she very justly said, after you had read the Interviewer you
had lost all faith in culture. Her tendency, with this, was
rather to keep the Interviewer out of the way of her
daughters; she was determined to bring them up properly,
and they read nothing at all. Her impression with regard to
Isabel’s labours was quite illusory; the girl had never
attempted to write a book and had no desire for the laurels
of authorship. She had no talent for expression and too
little of the consciousness of genius; she only had a general
idea that people were right when they treated her as if she
were rather superior. Whether or no she were superior,
people were right in admiring her if they thought her so;
for it seemed to her often that her mind moved more
quickly than theirs, and this encouraged an impatience that
might easily be confounded with superiority. It may be
affirmed without delay that Isabel was probably very liable
to the sin of self-esteem; she often surveyed with
complacency the field of her own nature; she was in the
habit of taking for granted, on scanty evidence, that she
was right; she treated herself to occasions of homage.
Meanwhile her errors and delusions were frequently such


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as a biographer interested in preserving the dignity of his
subject must shrink from specifying. Her thoughts were a
tangle of vague outlines which had never been corrected
by the judgement of people speaking with authority. In
matters of opinion she had had her own way, and it had
led her into a thousand ridiculous zigzags. At moments she
discovered she was grotesquely wrong, and then she
treated herself to a week of passionate humility. After this
she held her head higher than ever again; for it was of no
use, she had an unquenchable desire to think well of
herself. She had a theory that it was only under this
provision life was worth living; that one should be one of
the best, should be conscious of a fine organization (she
couldn’t help knowing her organization was fine), should
move in a realm of light, of natural wisdom, of happy
impulse, of inspiration gracefully chronic. It was almost as
unnecessary to cultivate doubt of one’s self as to cultivate
doubt of one’s best friend: one should try to be one’s own
best friend and to give one’s self, in this manner,
distinguished company. The girl had a certain nobleness of
imagination which rendered her a good many services and
played her a great many tricks. She spent half her time in
thinking of beauty and bravery and magnanimity; she had
a fixed determination to regard the world as a place of


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brightness, of free expansion, of irresistible action: she held
it must be detestable to be afraid or ashamed. She had an
infinite hope that she should never do anything wrong.
She had resented so strongly, after discovering them, her
mere errors of feeling (the discovery always made her
tremble as if she had escaped from a trap which might
have caught her and smothered her) that the chance of
inflicting a sensible injury upon another person, presented
only as a contingency, caused her at moments to hold her
breath. That always struck her as the worst thing that
could happen to her. On the whole, reflectively, she was
in no uncertainty about the things that were wrong. She
had no love of their look, but when she fixed them hard
she recognized them. It was wrong to be mean, to be
jealous, to be false, to be cruel; she had seen very little of
the evil of the world, but she had seen women who lied
and who tried to hurt each other. Seeing such things had
quickened her high spirit; it seemed indecent not to scorn
them. Of course the danger of a high spirit was the danger
of inconsistency—the danger of keeping up the flag after
the place has surrendered; a sort of behaviour so crooked
as to be almost a dishonour to the flag. But Isabel, who
knew little of the sorts of artillery to which young women
are exposed, flattered herself that such contradictions


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would never be noted in her own conduct. Her life
should always be in harmony with the most pleasing
impression she should produce; she would be what she
appeared, and she would appear what she was. Sometimes
she went so far as to wish that she might find herself some
day in a difficult position, so that she should have the
pleasure of being as heroic as the occasion demanded.
Altogether, with her meagre knowledge, her inflated
ideals, her confidence at once innocent and dogmatic, her
temper at once exacting and indulgent, her mixture of
curiosity and fastidiousness, of vivacity and indifference,
her desire to look very well and to be if possible even
better, her determination to see, to try, to know, her
combination of the delicate, desultory, flame-like spirit
and the eager and personal creature of conditions: she
would be an easy victim of scientific criticism if she were
not intended to awaken on the reader’s part an impulse
more tender and more purely expectant.
    It was one of her theories that Isabel Archer was very
fortunate in being independent, and that she ought to
make some very enlightened use of that state. She never
called it the state of solitude, much less of singleness; she
thought such descriptions weak, and, besides, her sister
Lily constantly urged her to come and abide. She had a


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friend whose acquaintance she had made shortly before
her father’s death, who offered so high an example of
useful activity that Isabel always thought of her as a model.
Henrietta Stackpole had the advantage of an admired
ability; she was thoroughly launched in journalism, and
her letters to the Interviewer, from Washington, Newport,
the White Mountains and other places, were universally
quoted. Isabel pronounced them with confidence
‘ephemeral,’ but she esteemed the courage, energy and
good-humour of the writer, who, without parents and
without property, had adopted three of the children of an
infirm and widowed sister and was paying their school-
bills out of the proceeds of her literary labour. Henrietta
was in the van of progress and had clear-cut views on most
subjects; her cherished desire had long been to come to
Europe and write a series of letters to the Interviewer from
the radical point of view—an enterprise the less difficult as
she knew perfectly in advance what her opinions would
be and to how many objections most European
institutions lay open. When she heard that Isabel was
coming she wished to start at once; thinking, naturally,
that it would be delightful the two should travel together.
She had been obliged, however, to postpone this
enterprise. She thought Isabel a glorious creature, and had


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spoken of her covertly in some of her letters, though she
never mentioned the fact to her friend, who would not
have taken pleasure in it and was not a regular student of
the Interviewer. Henrietta, for Isabel, was chiefly a proof
that a woman might suffice to herself and be happy. Her
resources were of the obvious kind; but even if one had
not the journalistic talent and a genius for guessing, as
Henrietta said, what the public was going to want, one
was not therefore to conclude that one had no vocation,
no beneficent aptitude of any sort, and resign one’s self to
being frivolous and hollow. Isabel was stoutly determined
not to be hollow. If one should wait with the right
patience one would find some happy work to one’s hand.
Of course, among her theories, this young lady was not
without a collection of views on the subject of marriage.
The first on the list was a conviction of the vulgarity of
thinking too much of it. From lapsing into eagerness on
this point she earnestly prayed she might be delivered; she
held that a woman ought to be able to live to herself, in
the absence of exceptional flimsiness, and that it was
perfectly possible to be happy without the society of a
more or less coarse-minded person of another sex. The
girl’s prayer was very sufficiently answered; something
pure and proud that there was in her—something cold and


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dry an unappreciated suitor with a taste for analysis might
have called it—had hitherto kept her from any great vanity
of conjecture on the article of possible husbands. Few of
the men she saw seemed worth a ruinous expenditure, and
it made her smile to think that one of them should present
himself as an incentive to hope and a reward of patience.
Deep in her soul—it was the deepest thing there—lay a
belief that if a certain light should dawn she could give
herself completely; but this image, on the whole, was too
formidable to be attractive. Isabel’s thoughts hovered
about it, but they seldom rested on it long; after a little it
ended in alarms. It often seemed to her that she thought
too much about herself; you could have made her colour,
any day in the year, by calling her a rank egoist. She was
always planning out her development, desiring her
perfection, observing her progress. Her nature had, in her
conceit, a certain garden-like quality, a suggestion of
perfume and murmuring boughs, of shady bowers and
lengthening vistas, which made her feel that introspection
was, after all, an exercise in the open air, and that a visit to
the recesses of one’s spirit was harmless when one returned
from it with a lapful of roses. But she was often reminded
that there were other gardens in the world than those of
her remarkable soul, and that there were moreover a great


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many places which were not gardens at all- only dusky
pestiferous tracts, planted thick with ugliness and misery.
In the current of that repaid episode on curiosity on which
she had lately been floating, which had conveyed her to
this beautiful old England and might carry her much
further still, she often checked herself with the thought of
the thousands of people who were less happy than
herself—a thought which for the moment made her fine,
full consciousness appear a kind of immodesty. What
should one do with the misery of the world in a scheme of
the agreeable for one’s self? It must be confessed that this
question never held her long. She was too young, too
impatient to live, too unacquainted with pain. She always
returned to her theory that a young woman whom after all
every one thought clever should begin by getting a general
impression of life. This impression was necessary to
prevent mistakes, and after it should be secured she might
make the unfortunate condition of others a subject of
special attention.
    England was a revelation to her, and she found herself
as diverted as a child at a pantomime. In her infantine
excursions to Europe she had seen only the Continent,
and seen it from the nursery window; Paris, not London,
was her father’s Mecca, and into many of his interests


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there his children had naturally not entered. The images of
that time moreover had grown faint and remote, and the
old-world quality in everything that she now saw had all
the charm of strangeness. Her uncle’s house seemed a
picture made real; no refinement of the agreeable was lost
upon Isabel; the rich perfection of Gardencourt at once
revealed a world and gratified a need. The large, low
rooms, with brown ceilings and dusky corners, the deep
embrasures and curious casements, the quiet light on dark,
polished panels, the deep greenness outside, that seemed
always peeping in, the sense of well-ordered privacy in the
centre of a ‘property’—a place where sounds were
felicitously accidental, where the tread was muffled by the
earth itself and in the thick mild air all friction dropped
out of contact and all shrillness out of talk- these things
were much to the taste of our young lady, whose taste
played a considerable part in her emotions. She formed a
fast friendship with her uncle, and often sat by his chair
when he had had it moved out to the lawn. He passed
hours in the open air, sitting with folded hands like a
placid, homely household god, a god of service, who had
done his work and received his wages and was trying to
grow used to weeks and months made up only of off-days.
Isabel amused him more than she suspected—the effect she


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produced upon people was often different from what she
supposed—and he frequently gave himself the pleasure of
making her chatter. It was by this term that he qualified
her conversation, which had much of the ‘point’
observable in that of the young ladies of her country, to
whom the ear of the world is more directly presented than
to their sisters in other lands. Like the mass of American
girls Isabel had been encouraged to express herself; her
remarks had been attended to; she had been expected to
have emotions and opinions. Many of her opinions had
doubtless but a slender value, many of her emotions passed
away in the utterance; but they had left a trace in giving
her the habit of seeming at least to feel and think, and in
imparting moreover to her words when she was really
moved that prompt vividness which so many people had
regarded as a sign of superiority. Mr. Touchett used to
think that she reminded him of his wife when his wife was
in her teens. It was because she was fresh and natural and
quick to understand, to speak—so many characteristics of
her niece—that he had fallen in love with Mrs. Touchett.
He never expressed this analogy to the girl herself,
however; for if Mrs. Touchett had once been like Isabel,
Isabel was not at all like Mrs. Touchett. The old man was
full of kindness for her; it was a long time, as he said, since


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they had had any young life in the house; and our rustling,
quickly-moving, clear-voiced heroine was as agreeable to
his sense as the sound of flowing water. He wanted to do
something for her and wished she would ask it of him. She
would ask nothing but questions; it is true that of these she
asked a quantity. Her uncle had a great fund of answers,
though her pressure sometimes came in forms that puzzled
him. She questioned him immensely about England, about
the British constitution, the English character, the state of
politics, the manners and customs of the royal family, the
peculiarities of the aristocracy, the way of living and
thinking of his neighbours; and in begging to be
enlightened on these points she usually enquired whether
they corresponded with the descriptions in the books. The
old man always looked at her a little with his fine dry
smile while he smoothed down the shawl spread across his
legs.
   ‘The books?’ he once said; ‘well, I don’t know much
about the books. You must ask Ralph about that. I’ve
always ascertained for myself—got my information in the
natural form. I never asked many questions even; I just
kept quiet and took notice. Of course I’ve had very good
opportunities—better than what a young lady would
naturally have. I’m of an inquisitive disposition, though


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you mightn’t think it if you were to watch me: however
much you might watch me I should be watching you
more. I’ve been watching these people for upwards of
thirty-five years, and I don’t hesitate to say that I’ve
acquired considerable information. It’s a very fine country
on the whole—finer perhaps than what we give it credit
for on the other side. There are several improvements I
should like to see introduced; but the necessity of them
doesn’t seem to be generally felt as yet. When the
necessity of a thing is generally felt they usually manage to
accomplish it; but they seem to feel pretty comfortable
about waiting till then. I certainly feel more at home
among them than I expected to when I first came over; I
suppose it’s because I’ve had a considerable degree of
success. When you’re successful you naturally feel more at
home.’
   ‘Do you suppose that if I’m successful I shall feel at
home?’ Isabel asked.
   ‘I should think it very probable, and you certainly will
be successful. They like American young ladies very much
over here; they show them a great deal of kindness. But
you mustn’t feel too much at home, you know.’




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    ‘Oh, I’m by no means sure it will satisfy me,’ Isabel
judicially emphasized. ‘I like the place very much, but I’m
not sure I shall like the people.’
    ‘The people are very good people; especially if you like
them.’
    ‘I’ve no doubt they’re good,’ Isabel rejoined; ‘but are
they pleasant in society? They won’t rob me nor beat me;
but will they make themselves agreeable to me? That’s
what I like people to do. I don’t hesitate to say so, because
I always appreciate it. I don’t believe they’re very nice to
girls; they’re not nice to them in the novels.’
    ‘I don’t know about the novels,’ said Mr. Touchett. ‘I
believe the novels have a great deal of ability, but I don’t
suppose they’re very accurate. We once had a lady who
wrote novels staying here; she was a friend of Ralph’s and
he asked her down. She was very positive, quite up to
everything; but she was not the sort of person you could
depend on for evidence. Too free a fancy—I suppose that
was it. She afterwards published a work of fiction in which
she was understood to have given a representation—
something in the nature of a caricature, as you might
say—of my unworthy self. I didn’t read it, but Ralph just
handed me the book with the principal passages marked. It
was understood to be a description of my conversation;


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American peculiarities, nasal twang, Yankee notions, stars
and stripes. Well, it was not at all accurate; she couldn’t
have listened very attentively. I had no objection to her
giving a report of my conversation, if she liked; but I
didn’t like the idea that she hadn’t taken the trouble to
listen to it. Of course I talk like an American—I can’t talk
like a Hottentot. However I talk, I’ve made them
understand me pretty well over here. But I don’t talk like
the old gentleman in that lady’s novel. He wasn’t an
American; we wouldn’t have him over there at any price.
I just mention that fact to show you that they’re not
always accurate. Of course, as I’ve no daughters, and as
Mrs. Touchett resides in Florence, I haven’t had much
chance to notice about the young ladies. It sometimes
appears as if the young women in the lower class were not
very well treated; but I guess their position is better in the
upper and even to some extent in the middle.’
    ‘Gracious,’ Isabel exclaimed; ‘how many classes have
they? About fifty, I suppose.’
    ‘Well, I don’t know that I ever counted them. I never
took much notice of the classes. That’s the advantage of
being an American here; you don’t belong to any class.’
    ‘I hope so,’ said Isabel. ‘Imagine one’s belonging to an
English class!’


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   ‘Well, I guess some of them are pretty comfortable—
especially towards the top. But for me there are only two
classes: the people I trust and the people I don’t. Of those
two, my dear Isabel, you belong to the first.’
   ‘I’m much obliged to you,’ said the girl quickly. Her
way of taking compliments seemed sometimes rather dry;
she got rid of them as rapidly as possible. But as regards
this she was sometimes misjudged, she was thought
insensible to them, whereas in fact she was simply
unwilling to show how infinitely they pleased her. To
show that was to show too much. ‘I’m sure the English are
very conventional,’ she added.
   ‘They’ve got everything pretty well fixed,’ Mr.
Touchett admitted. ‘It’s all settled beforehand—they don’t
leave it to the last moment.’
   ‘I don’t like to have everything settled beforehand,’ said
the girl. ‘I like more unexpectedness.’
   Her uncle seemed amused at her distinctness of
preference. ‘Well, it’s settled beforehand that you’ll have
great success,’ he rejoined. ‘I suppose you’ll like that.’
   ‘I shall not have success if they’re too stupidly
conventional. I’m not in the least stupidly conventional.
I’m just the contrary. That’s what they won’t like.’



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   ‘No, no, you’re all wrong,’ said the old man. ‘You
can’t tell what they’ll like. They’re very inconsistent; that’s
their principal interest.’
   ‘Ah well,’ said Isabel, standing before her uncle with
her hands clasped about the belt of her black dress and
looking up and down the lawn—‘that will suit me
perfectly!’




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                         Chapter 7

    The two amused themselves, time and again, with
talking of the attitude of the British public as if the young
lady had been in a position to appeal to it; but in fact the
British public remained for the present profoundly
indifferent to Miss Isabel Archer, whose fortune had
dropped her, as her cousin said, into the dullest house in
England. Her gouty uncle received very little company,
and Mrs. Touchett, not having cultivated relations with
her husband’s neighbours, was not warranted in expecting
visits from them. She had, however, a peculiar taste; she
liked to receive cards. For what is usually called social
intercourse she had very little relish; but nothing pleased
her more than to find her hall-table whitened with oblong
morsels of symbolic pasteboard. She flattered herself that
she was a very just woman, and had mastered the
sovereign truth that nothing in this world is got for
nothing. She had played no social part as mistress of
Gardencourt, and it was not to be supposed that, in the
surrounding country, a minute account should be kept of
her comings and goings. But it is by no means certain that
she did not feel it to be wrong that so little notice was


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taken of them and that her failure (really very gratuitous)
to make herself important in the neighbourhood had, not
much to do with the acrimony of her allusions to her
husband’s adopted country. Isabel presently found herself
in the singular situation of defending the British
constitution against her aunt; Mrs. Touchett having
formed the habit of sticking pins into this venerable
instrument. Isabel always felt an impulse to pull out the
pins; not that she imagined they inflicted any damage on
the tough old parchment, but because it seemed to her
aunt might make better use of her sharpness. She was very
critical herself- it was incidental to her age, her sex and her
nationality; but she was very sentimental as well, and there
was something in Mrs. Touchett’s dryness that set her own
moral fountains flowing.
    ‘Now what’s your point of view?’ she asked of her
aunt. ‘When you criticize everything here you should
have a point of view. Yours doesn’t seem to be
American—you thought everything over there so
disagreeable. When I criticize I have mine; it’s thoroughly
American!’
    ‘My dear young lady,’ said Mrs. Touchett, ‘there are as
many points of view in the world as there are people of
sense to take them. You may say that doesn’t make them


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very numerous! American? Never in the world; that’s
shockingly narrow. My point of view, thank God, is
personal!’
    Isabel thought this a better answer than she admitted; it
was a tolerable description of her own manner of judging,
but it would not have sounded well for her to say so. On
the lips of a person less advanced in life and less
enlightened by experience than Mrs. Touchett such a
declaration would savour of immodesty, even of
arrogance. She risked it nevertheless in talking with Ralph,
with whom she talked a great deal and with whom her
conversation was of a sort that gave a large license to
extravagance. Her cousin used, as the phrase is, to chaff
her; he very soon established with her a reputation for
treating everything as a joke, and he was not a man to
neglect the privileges such a reputation conferred. She
accused him of an odious want of seriousness, of laughing
at all things, beginning with himself. Such slender faculty
of reverence as he possessed centred wholly upon his
father; for the rest, he exercised his wit indifferently upon
his father’s son, this gentleman’s weak lungs, his useless
life, his fantastic mother, his friends (Lord Warburton in
especial), his adopted, and his native country, his charming
new-found cousin. ‘I keep a band of music in my ante-


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room,’ he said once to her. ‘It has orders to play without
stopping; it renders me two excellent services. It keeps the
sounds of the world from reaching the private apartments,
and it makes the world think that dancing’s going on
within.’ It was dance-music indeed that you usually heard
when you came within ear-shot of Ralph’s band; the
liveliest waltzes seemed to float upon the air. Isabel often
found herself irritated by this perpetual fiddling; she would
have liked to pass through the ante-room, as her cousin
called it, and enter the private apartments. It mattered little
that he had assured her they were a very dismal place; she
would have been glad to undertake to sweep them and set
them in order. It was but half-hospitality to let her remain
outside; to punish him for which Isabel administered
innumerable taps with the ferule of her straight young wit.
It must be said that her wit was exercised to a large extent
in self-defence, for her cousin amused himself with calling
her ‘Columbia’ and accusing her of a patriotism so heated
that it scorched. He drew a caricature of her in which she
was represented as a very pretty young woman dressed, on
the lines of the prevailing fashion, in the folds of the
national banner. Isabel’s chief dread in life at this period of
her development was that she should appear narrow-
minded; what she feared next afterwards was that she


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should really be so. But she nevertheless made no scruple
of abounding in her cousin’s sense and pretending to sigh
for the charms of her native land. She would be as
American as it pleased him to regard her, and if he chose
to laugh at her she would give him plenty of occupation.
She defended England against his mother, but when Ralph
sang its praises on purpose, as she said, to work her up, she
found herself able to differ from him on a variety of
points. In fact, the quality of this small ripe country
seemed as sweet to her as the taste of an October pear; and
her satisfaction was at the root of the good spirits which
enabled her to take her cousin’s chaff and return it in kind.
If her good-humour flagged at moments it was not
because she thought herself ill-used, but because she
suddenly felt sorry for Ralph. It seemed to her he was
talking as a blind and had little heart in what he said.
    ‘I don’t know what’s the matter with you,’ she
observed to him once; ‘but I suspect you’re a great
humbug.’
    ‘That’s your privilege,’ Ralph answered, who had not
been used to being so crudely addressed.
    ‘I don’t know what you care for; I don’t think you care
for anything. You don’t really care for England when you



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praise it; you don’t care for America even when you
pretend to abuse it.’
   ‘I care for nothing but you, dear cousin,’ said Ralph.
   ‘If I could believe even that, I should be very glad.’
   ‘Ah well, I should hope so!’ the young man exclaimed.
   Isabel might have believed it and not have been far
from the truth. He thought a great deal about her; she was
constantly present to his mind. At a time when his
thoughts had been a good deal of a burden to him her
sudden arrival, which promised nothing and was an open-
handed gift of fate, had refreshed and quickened them,
given them wings and something to fly for. Poor Ralph
had been for many weeks steeped in melancholy; his
outlook, habitually sombre, lay under the shadow of a
deeper cloud. He had grown anxious about his father,
whose gout, hitherto confined to his legs, had begun to
ascend into regions more vital. The old man had been
gravely ill in the spring, and the doctors had whispered to
Ralph that another attack would be less easy to deal with.
Just now he appeared disburdened of pain, but Ralph
could not rid himself of a suspicion that this was a
subterfuge of the enemy, who was waiting to take him off
his guard. If the manoeuvre should succeed there would
be little hope of any great resistance. Ralph had always


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taken for granted that his father would survive him—that
his own name would be the first grimly called. The father
and son had been close companions, and the idea of being
left alone with the remnant of a tasteless life on his hands
was not gratifying to the young man, who had always and
tacitly counted upon his elder’s help in making the best of
a poor business. At the prospect of losing his great motive
Ralph lost indeed his one inspiration. If they might die at
the same time it would be all very well; but without the
encouragement of his father’s society he should barely
have patience to await his own turn. He had not the
incentive of feeling that he was indispensable to his
mother; it was a rule with his mother to have no regrets.
He bethought himself of course that it had been a small
kindness to his father to wish that, of the two, the active
rather than the passive party should know the felt wound;
he remembered that the old man had always treated his
own forecast of an early end as a clever fallacy, which he
should be delighted to discredit so far as he might by dying
first. But of the two triumphs, that of refuting a sophistical
son and that of holding on a while longer to a state of
being which, with all abatements, he enjoyed, Ralph
deemed it no sin to hope the latter might be vouchsafed to
Mr. Touchett.


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    These were nice questions, but Isabel’s arrival put a
stop to his puzzling over them. It even suggested there
might be a compensation for the intolerable ennui of
surviving his genial sire. He wondered whether he were
harbouring ‘love’ for this spontaneous young woman from
Albany; but he judged that on the whole he was not. After
he had known her for a week he quite made up his mind
to this, and every day he felt a little more sure. Lord
Warburton had been right about her; she was a really
interesting little figure. Ralph wondered how their
neighbour had found it out so soon; and then he said it
was only another proof of his friend’s high abilities, which
he had always greatly admired. If his cousin were to be
nothing more than an entertainment to him, Ralph was
conscious she was an entertainment of a high order. ‘A
character like that,’ he said to himself,—‘a real little
passionate force to see at play is the finest thing in nature.’
It’s finer than the finest work of art—than a Greek bas-
relief, than a great Titian, than a Gothic cathedral. It’s very
pleasant to be so well treated where one had least looked
for it. I had never been more blue, more bored, than for a
week before she came; I had never expected less that
anything pleasant would happen. Suddenly I receive a
Titian, by the post, to hang on my wall—a Greek bas-


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relief to stick over my chimney-piece. The key of a
beautiful edifice is thrust into my hand, and I’m told to
walk in and admire. My poor boy, you’ve been sadly
ungrateful, and now you had better keep very quiet and
never grumble again.’ The sentiment of these reflexions
was very just; but it was not exactly true that Ralph
Touchett had had a key put into his hand. His cousin was
a very brilliant girl, who would take, as he said, a good
deal of knowing; but she needed the knowing, and his
attitude with regard to her, though it was contemplative
and critical, was not judicial. He surveyed the edifice from
the outside and admired it greatly; he looked in at the
windows and received an impression of proportions
equally fair. But he felt that he saw it only by glimpses and
that he had not yet stood under the roof. The door was
fastened, and though he had keys in his pocket he had a
conviction that none of them would fit. She was
intelligent and generous; it was a fine free nature; but what
was she going to do with herself? This question was
irregular, for with most women one had no occasion to
ask it. Most women did with themselves nothing at all;
they waited, attitudes more or less gracefully passive, for a
man to come that way and furnish them with a destiny.
Isabel’s originality was that she gave one an impression of


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having intentions of her own. ‘Whenever she executes
them,’ said Ralph, ‘may I be there to see!’
    It devolved upon him of course to do the honours of
the place. Mr. Touchett was confined to his chair, and his
wife’s position was that of rather a grim visitor; so that in
the line of conduct that opened itself to Ralph duty and
inclination were harmoniously mixed. He was not a great
walker, but he strolled about the grounds with his cousin-
a pastime for which the weather remained favourable with
a persistency not allowed for in Isabel’s somewhat
lugubrious prevision of the climate; and in the long
afternoons, of which the length was but the measure of
her gratified eagerness, they took a boat on the river, the
dear little river, as Isabel called it, where the opposite
shore seemed still a part of the foreground of the
landscape; or drove over the country in a phaeton—a low,
capacious, thick-wheeled phaeton formerly much used by
Mr. Touchett, but which he had now ceased to enjoy.
Isabel enjoyed it largely and, handling the reins in a
manner which approved itself to the groom as ‘knowing,’
was never weary of driving her uncle’s capital horses
through winding lanes and byways full of the rural
incidents she had confidently expected to find; past
cottages thatched and timbered, past ale-houses latticed


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and sanded, past patches of ancient common and glimpses
of empty parks, between hedgerows made thick by
midsummer. When they reached home they usually found
tea had been served on the lawn and that Mrs. Touchett
had not shrunk from the extremity of handing her
husband his cup. But the two for the most part sat silent;
the old man with his head back and his eyes closed, his
wife occupied with her knitting and wearing that
appearance of rare profundity with which some ladies
consider the movement of their needles.
    One day, however, a visitor had arrived. The two
young persons, after spending an hour on the river,
strolled back to the house and perceived Lord Warburton
sitting under the trees and engaged in conversation, of
which even at a distance the desultory character was
appreciable, with Mrs. Touchett. He had driven over from
his own place with a portmanteau and had asked, as the
father and son often invited him to do, for a dinner and a
lodging. Isabel, seeing him for half an hour on the day of
her arrival, had discovered in this brief space that she liked
him; he had indeed rather sharply registered himself on
her fine sense and she had thought of him several times.
She had hoped she should see him again—hoped too that
she should see a few others. Gardencourt was not dull; the


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place itself was sovereign, her uncle was more and more a
sort of golden grandfather, and Ralph was unlike any
cousin she had ever encountered—her idea of cousins
having tended to gloom. Then her impressions were still
so fresh and so quickly renewed that there was as yet
hardly a hint of vacancy in the view. But Isabel had need
to remind herself that she was interested in human nature
and that her foremost hope in coming abroad had been
that she should see a great many people. When Ralph said
to her, as he had done several times, ‘I wonder you find
this endurable; you ought to see some of the neighbours
and some of our friends, because we have really got a few,
though you would never suppose it’—when he offered to
invite what he called a ‘lot of people’ and make her
acquainted with English society, she encouraged the
hospitable impulse and promised in advance to hurl herself
into the fray. Little, however, for the present, had come of
his offers, and it may be confided to the reader that if the
young man delayed to carry them out it was because he
found the labour of providing for his companion by no
means so severe as to require extraneous help. Isabel had
spoken to him very often about ‘specimens"; it was a word
that played a considerable part in her vocabulary; she had



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given him to understand that she wished to see English
society illustrated by eminent cases.
   ‘Well now, there’s a specimen,’ he said to her as they
walked up from the riverside and he recognized Lord
Warburton.
   ‘A specimen of what?’ asked the girl.
   ‘A specimen of an English gentleman.’
   ‘Do you mean they’re all like him?’
   ‘Oh no; they’re not all like him.’
   ‘He’s a favourable specimen then,’ said Isabel; ‘because
I’m sure he’s nice.’
   ‘Yes, he’s very nice. And he’s very fortunate.’
   The fortunate Lord Warburton exchanged a handshake
with our heroine and hoped she was very well. ‘But I
needn’t ask that,’ he said, ‘since you’ve been handling the
oars.’
   ‘I’ve been rowing a little,’ Isabel answered; ‘but how
should you know it?’
   ‘Oh, I know he doesn’t row; he’s too lazy,’ said his
lordship, indicating Ralph Touchett with a laugh.
   ‘He has a good excuse for his laziness,’ Isabel rejoined,
lowering her voice a little.
   ‘Ah, he has a good excuse for everything!’ cried Lord
Warburton, still with his sonorous mirth.


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    ‘My excuse for not rowing is that my cousin rows so
well,’ said Ralph. ‘She does everything well. She touches
nothing that she doesn’t adorn!’
    ‘It makes one want to be touched, Miss Archer,’ Lord
Warburton declared.
    ‘Be touched in the right sense and you’ll never look the
worse for it,’ said Isabel, who, if it pleased her to hear it
said that her accomplishments were numerous, was
happily able to reflect that such complacency was not the
indication of a feeble mind, inasmuch as there were several
things in which she excelled. Her desire to think well of
herself had at least the element of humility that it always
needed to be supported by proof.
    Lord Warburton not only spent the night at
Gardencourt, but he was persuaded to remain over the
second day; and when the second day was ended he
determined to postpone his departure till the morrow.
During this period he addressed many of his remarks to
Isabel, who accepted this evidence of his esteem with a
very good grace. She found herself liking him extremely;
the first impression he had made on her had had weight,
but at the end of an evening spent in his society she scarce
fell short of seeing him—though quite without luridity—
as a hero of romance. She retired to rest with a sense of


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good fortune, with a quickened consciousness of possible
felicities. ‘It’s very nice to know two such charming
people as those,’ she said, meaning by ‘those’ her cousin
and her cousin’s friend. It must be added moreover that an
incident had occurred which might have seemed to put
her good-humour to the test. Mr. Touchett went to bed
at half-past nine o’clock, but his wife remained in the
drawing-room with the other members of the party. She
prolonged her vigil for something less than an hour, and
then, rising, observed to Isabel that it was time they should
bid the gentlemen good-night. Isabel had as yet no desire
to go to bed; the occasion wore, to her sense, a festive
character, and feasts were not in the habit of terminating
so early. So, without further thought, she replied, very
simply-
    ‘Need I go, dear aunt? I’ll come up in half an hour.’
    ‘It’s impossible I should wait for you,’ Mrs. Touchett
answered.
    ‘Ah, you needn’t wait! Ralph will light my candle,’
Isabel gaily engaged.
    ‘I’ll light your candle; do let me light your candle, Miss
Archer!’ Lord Warburton exclaimed. ‘Only I beg it shall
not be before midnight.’



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    Mrs. Touchett fixed her bright little eyes upon him a
moment and transferred them coldly to her niece. ‘You
can’t stay alone with the gentlemen. You’re not—you’re
not at your blest Albany, my dear.’
    Isabel rose, blushing. ‘I wish I were,’ she said.
    ‘Oh, I say, mother!’ Ralph broke out.
    ‘My dear Mrs. Touchett!’ Lord Warburton murmured.
    ‘I didn’t make your country, my lord,’ Mrs. Touchett
said majestically. ‘I must take it as I find it.’
    ‘Can’t I stay with my own cousin?’ Isabel enquired.
    ‘I’m not aware that Lord Warburton is your cousin.’
    ‘Perhaps I had better go to bed!’ the visitor suggested.
‘That will arrange it.’
    Mrs. Touchett gave a little look of despair and sat
down again. ‘Oh, if it’s necessary I’ll stay up till midnight.’
    Ralph meanwhile handed Isabel her candlestick. He
had been watching her; it had seemed to him her temper
was involved—an accident that might be interesting. But
if he had expected anything of a flare he was disappointed,
for the girl simply laughed a little, nodded good-night and
withdrew accompanied by her aunt. For himself he was
annoyed at his mother, though he thought she was right.
Above-stairs the two ladies separated at Mrs. Touchett’s
door. Isabel had said nothing on her way up.


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   ‘Of course you’re vexed at my interfering with you,’
said Mrs. Touchett.
   Isabel considered. ‘I’m not vexed, but I’m surprised—
and a good deal mystified. Wasn’t it proper I should
remain in the drawing-room?’
   ‘Not in the least. Young girls here—in decent houses—
don’t sit alone with the gentlemen late at night.’
   ‘You were very right to tell me then,’ said Isabel. ‘I
don’t understand it, but I’m very glad to know it.’
   ‘I shall always tell you,’ her aunt answered, ‘whenever I
see you taking what seems to me too much liberty.’
   ‘Pray do; but I don’t say I shall always think your
remonstrance just.’
   ‘Very likely not. You’re too fond of your own ways.’
   ‘Yes, I think I’m very fond of them. But I always want
to know the things one shouldn’t do.’
   ‘So as to do them?’ asked her aunt.
   ‘So as to choose,’ said Isabel.




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                         Chapter 8

    As she was devoted to romantic effects Lord Warburton
ventured to express a hope that she would come some day
and see his house, a very curious old place. He extracted
from Mrs. Touchett a promise that she bring her niece to
Lockleigh, and Ralph signified his willingness to attend
the ladies if his father should be able to spare him. Lord
Warburton assured our heroine that in the mean time his
sisters, would come and see her. She knew something
about his sisters, having sounded him, during the hours
they spent together while he was at Gardencourt, on many
points connected with his family. When Isabel was
interested she asked a great many questions, and as her
companion was a copious talker she urged him on this
occasion by no means in vain. He told her he had four
sisters and two brothers and had lost both his parents. The
brothers and sisters were very good people—‘not
particularly clever, you know,’ he said, ‘but very decent
and pleasant"; and he was so good as to hope Miss Archer
might know them well. One of the brothers was in the
Church, settled in the family living, that of Lockleigh,
which was a heavy, sprawling parish, and was an excellent


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fellow in spite of his thinking differently from himself on
every conceivable topic. And then Lord Warburton
mentioned some of the opinions held by his brother,
which were opinions Isabel had often heard expressed and
that she supposed to be entertained by a considerable
portion of the human family. Many of them indeed she
supposed she had held herself, till he assured her she was
quite mistaken, that it was really impossible, that she had
doubtless imagined she entertained them, but that she
might depend that, if she thought them over a little, she
would find there was nothing in them. When she
answered that she had already thought several of the
questions involved over very attentively he declared that
she was only another example of what he had often been
struck with—the fact that, of all the people in the world,
the Americans were the most grossly superstitious. They
were rank Tories and bigots, every one of them; there
were no conservatives like American conservatives. Her
uncle and her cousin were there to prove it; nothing could
be more mediaeval than many of their views; they had
ideas that people in England nowadays were ashamed to
confess to; and they had the impudence moreover, said his
lordship, laughing, to pretend they knew more about the
needs and dangers of this poor dear stupid old England


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than he who was born in it and owned a considerable slice
of it—the more shame to him! From all of which Isabel
gathered that Lord Warburton was a nobleman of the
newest pattern, a reformer, a radical, a contemner of
ancient ways. His other brother, who was in the army in
India, was rather wild and pig-headed and had not been of
much use as yet but to make debts for Warburton to pay-
one of the most precious privileges of an elder brother. ‘I
don’t think I shall pay any more,’ said her friend; ‘he lives
a monstrous deal better than I do, enjoys unheard-of
luxuries and thinks himself a much finer gentleman than I.
As I’m a consistent radical I go in only for equality; I don’t
go in for the superiority of the younger brothers.’ Two of
his four sisters, the second and fourth, were married, one
of them having done very well, as they said, the other only
so-so. The husband of the elder, Lord Haycock, was a
very good fellow, but unfortunately a horrid Tory; and his
wife, like all good English wives, was worse than her
husband. The other had espoused a smallish squire in
Norfolk and, though married but the other day, had
already five children. This information and much more
Lord Warburton imparted to his young American listener,
taking pains to make many things clear and to lay bare to
her apprehension the peculiarities of English life. Isabel


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was often amused at his explicitness and at the small
allowance he seemed to make either for her own
experience or for her imagination. ‘He thinks I’m a
barbarian,’ she said, ‘and that I’ve never seen forks and
spoons"; and she used to ask him artless questions for the
pleasure of hearing him answer seriously. Then when he
had fallen into the trap, ‘It’s a pity you can’t see me in my
war-paint and feathers,’ she remarked; ‘if I had known
how kind you are to the poor savages I would have
brought over my native costume!’ Lord Warburton had
travelled through the United States and knew much more
about them than Isabel; he was so good as to say that
America was the most charming country in the world, but
his recollections of it appeared to encourage the idea that
Americans in England would need to have a great many
things explained to them. ‘If I had only had you to explain
things to me in America!’ he said. ‘I was rather puzzled in
your country; in fact I was quite bewildered, and the
trouble was that the explanations only puzzled me more.
You know I think they often gave me the wrong ones on
purpose; they’re rather clever about that over there. But
when I explain you can trust me; about what I tell you
there’s no mistake.’ There was no mistake at least about
his being very intelligent and cultivated and knowing


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almost everything in the world. Although he gave the
most interesting and thrilling glimpses Isabel felt he never
did it to exhibit himself, and though he had had rare
chances and had tumbled in, as she put it, for high prizes,
he was as far as possible from making a merit of it. He had
enjoyed the best things of life, but they had not spoiled his
sense of proportion. His quality was a mixture of the effect
of rich experienced, so easily come by!—with a modesty
at times almost boyish; the sweet and wholesome savour of
which—it was as agreeable as something tasted—lost
nothing from the addition of a tone of responsible
kindness.
    ‘I like your specimen English gentleman very much,’
Isabel said to Ralph after Lord Warburton had gone.
    ‘I like him too—I love him well,’ Ralph returned. ‘But
I pity him more.’
    Isabel looked at him askance. ‘Why, that seems to me
his only fault- that one can’t pity him a little. He appears
to have everything, to know everything, to be
everything.’
    ‘Oh, he’s in a bad way!’ Ralph insisted.
    ‘I suppose you don’t mean in health?’




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    ‘No, as to that he’s detestably sound. What I mean is
that he’s a man with a great position who’s playing all sorts
of tricks with it. He doesn’t take himself seriously.’
    ‘Does he regard himself as a joke?’
    ‘Much worse; he regards himself as an imposition—as
an abuse.’
    ‘Well, perhaps he is,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Perhaps he is—though on the whole I don’t think so.
But in that case what’s more pitiable than a sentient, self-
conscious abuse planted by other hands, deeply rooted but
aching with a sense of its injustice? For me, in his place, I
could be as solemn as a statue of Buddha. He occupies a
position that appeals to my imagination. Great
responsibilities, great opportunities, great consideration,
great wealth, great power, a natural share in the public
affairs of a great country. But he’s all in a muddle about
himself, his position, his power, and indeed about
everything in the world. He’s the victim of a critical age;
he has ceased to believe in himself and he doesn’t know
what to believe in. When I attempt to tell him (because if
I were he I know very well what I should believe in) he
calls me a pampered bigot. I believe he seriously thinks me
an awful Philistine; he says I don’t understand my time. I
understand it certainly better than he, who can neither


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abolish himself as a nuisance nor maintain himself as an
institution.’
   ‘He doesn’t look very wretched,’ Isabel observed.
   ‘Possibly not; though, being a man of a good deal of
charming taste, I think he often has uncomfortable hours.
But what is it to say of a being of his opportunities that
he’s not miserable? Besides, I believe he is.’
   ‘I don’t,’ said Isabel.
   ‘Well,’ her cousin rejoined, ‘if he isn’t he ought to be!’
   In the afternoon she spent an hour with her uncle on
the lawn, where the old man sat, as usual, with his shawl
over his legs and his large cup of diluted tea in his hands.
In the course of conversation he asked her what she
thought of their late visitor.
   Isabel was prompt. ‘I think he’s charming.’
   ‘He’s a nice person,’ said Mr. Touchett, ‘but I don’t
recommend you to fall in love with him.’
   ‘I shall not do it then; I shall never fall in love but on
your recommendation. Moreover,’ Isabel added, ‘my
cousin gives me rather a sad account of Lord Warburton.’
   ‘Oh, indeed? I don’t know what there may be to say,
but you must remember that Ralph must talk.’




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    ‘He thinks your friend’s too subversive—or not
subversive enough! I don’t quite understand which,’ said
Isabel.
    The old man shook his head slowly, smiled and put
down his cup. ‘I don’t know which either. He goes very
far, but it’s quite possible he doesn’t go far enough. He
seems to want to do away with a good many things, but
he seems to want to remain himself. I suppose that’s
natural, but rather inconsistent.’
    ‘Oh, I hope he’ll remain himself,’ said Isabel. ‘If he
were to be done away with his friends would miss him
sadly.’
    ‘Well,’ said the old man, ‘I guess he’ll stay and amuse
his friends. I should certainly miss him very much here at
Gardencourt. He always amuses me when he comes over,
and I think he amuses himself as well. There’s a
considerable number like him, round in society; they’re
very fashionable just now. I don’t know what they’re
trying to do- whether they’re trying to get up a
revolution. I hope at any rate they’ll put it off till after I’m
gone. You see they want to disestablish everything; but
I’m a pretty big landowner here, and I don’t want to be
disestablished. I wouldn’t have come over if I had thought
they were going to behave like that,’ Mr. Touchett went


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on with expanding hilarity. ‘I came over because I thought
England was a safe country. I call it a regular fraud if they
are going to introduce any considerable changes; there’ll
be a large number disappointed in that case.’
   ‘Oh, I do hope they’ll make a revolution!’ Isabel
exclaimed ‘I should delight in seeing a revolution.’
   ‘Let me see,’ said her uncle, with a humorous
intention; ‘I forget whether you’re on the side of the old
or on the side of the new. I’ve heard you take such
opposite views.’
   ‘I’m on the side of both. I guess I’m a little on the side
of everything. In a revolution—after it was well begun—I
think I should be a high, proud loyalist. One sympathizes
more with them, and they’ve a chance to behave so
exquisitely. I mean so picturesquely.’
   ‘I don’t know that I understand what you mean by
behaving picturesquely, but it seems to me that you do
that always, my dear.’
   ‘Oh, you lovely man, if I could believe that!’ the girl
interrupted.
   ‘I’m afraid, after all, you won’t have the pleasure of
going gracefully to the guillotine here just now,’ Mr.
Touchett went on. ‘If you want to see a big outbreak you



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must pay us a long visit. You see, when you come to the
point it wouldn’t suit them to be taken at their word.’
    ‘Of whom are you speaking?’
    ‘Well, I mean Lord Warburton and his friends—the
radicals of the upper class. Of course I only know the way
it strikes me. They talk about the changes, but I don’t
think they quite realize. You and I, you know, we know
what it is to have lived under democratic institutions: I
always thought them very comfortable, but I was used to
them from the first. And then I ain’t a lord; you’re a lady,
my dear, but I ain’t a lord. Now over here I don’t think it
quite comes home to them. It’s a matter of every day and
every hour, and I don’t think many of them would find it
as pleasant as what they’ve got. Of course if they want to
try, it’s their own business; but I expect they won’t try
very hard.’
    ‘Don’t you think they’re sincere?’ Isabel asked.
    ‘Well, they want to feel earnest,’ Mr. Touchett
allowed; ‘but it seems as if they took it out in theories
mostly. Their radical views are a kind of amusement;
they’ve got to have some amusement, and they might
have coarser tastes than that. You see they’re very
luxurious, and these progressive ideas are about their
biggest luxury. They make them feel moral and yet don’t


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damage their position. They think a great deal of their
position; don’t let one of them ever persuade you he
doesn’t, for if you were to proceed on that basis you’d be
pulled up very short.’
    Isabel followed her uncle’s argument, which he
unfolded with his quaint distinctness, most attentively, and
though she wag unacquainted with the British aristocracy
she found it in harmony with her general impressions of
human nature. But she felt moved to put in a protest on
Lord Warburton’s behalf. ‘I don’t believe Lord
Warburton’s a humbug; I don’t care what the others are. I
should like to see Lord Warburton put to the test.’
    ‘Heaven deliver me from my friends!’ Mr. Touchett
answered. ‘Lord Warburton’s a very amiable young man—
a very fine young man. He has a hundred thousand a year.
He owns fifty thousand acres of the soil of this little island
and ever so many other things besides. He has half a dozen
houses to live in. He has a seat in Parliament as I have one
at my own dinner-table. He has elegant tastes—cares for
literature, for art, for science, for charming young ladies.
The most elegant is his taste for the new views. It affords
him a great deal of pleasure—more perhaps than anything
else, except the young ladies. His old house over there—
what does he call it, Lockleigh?—is very attractive; but I


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don’t think it’s as pleasant as this. That doesn’t matter,
however—he has so many others. His views don’t hurt
any one as far as I can see; they certainly don’t hurt
himself. And if there were to be a revolution he would
come off very easily. They wouldn’t touch him, they’d
leave him as he is: he’s too much liked.’
   ‘Ah, he couldn’t be a martyr even if he wished!’ Isabel
sighed. ‘That’s a very poor position.’
   ‘He’ll never be a martyr unless you make him one,’ said
the old man.
   Isabel shook her head; there might have been
something laughable in the fact that she did it with a touch
of melancholy. ‘I shall never make any one a martyr.’
   ‘You’ll never be one, I hope.’
   ‘I hope not. But you don’t pity Lord Warburton then
as Ralph does?
   Her uncle looked at her a while with genial acuteness.
‘Yes, I do, after all!’




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                         Chapter 9

   The two Misses Molyneux, this nobleman’s sisters,
came presently to call upon her, and Isabel took a fancy to
the young ladies, who appeared to her to show a most
original stamp. It is true that when she described them to
her cousin by that term he declared that no epithet could
be less applicable than this to the two Misses Molyneux,
since there were fifty thousand young women in England
who exactly resembled them. Deprived of this advantage,
however, Isabel’s visitors retained that of an extreme
sweetness and shyness of demeanour, and of having, as she
thought, eyes like the balanced basins, the circles of
‘ornamental water,’ set, in parterres, among the geraniums.
   ‘They’re not morbid, at any rate, whatever they are,’
our heroine said to herself; and she deemed this a great
charm, for two or three of the friends of her girlhood had
been regrettably open to the charge (they would have
been so nice without it), to say nothing of Isabel’s having
occasionally suspected it as a tendency of her own. The
Misses Molyneux were not in their first youth, but they
had bright, fresh complexions and something of the smile
of childhood. Yes, their eyes, which Isabel admired, were


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round, quiet and contented, and their figures, also of a
generous roundness, were encased in sealskin jackets.
Their friendliness was great, so great that they were almost
embarrassed to show it; they seemed somewhat afraid of
the young lady from the other side of the world and rather
looked than spoke their good wishes. But they made it
clear to her that they hoped she would come to luncheon
at Lockleigh, where they lived with their brother, and
then they might see her very, very often. They wondered
if she wouldn’t come over some day and sleep: they were
expecting some people on the twenty-ninth, so perhaps
she would come while the people were there.
    ‘I’m afraid it isn’t any one very remarkable,’ said the
elder sister; ‘but I dare say you’ll take us as you find us.’
    ‘I shall find you delightful; I think you’re enchanting
just as you are,’ replied Isabel, who often praised profusely.
    Her visitors flushed, and her cousin told her, after they
were gone, that if she said such things to those poor girls
they would think she was in some wild, free manner
practising on them: he was sure it was the first time they
had been called enchanting.
    ‘I can’t help it,’ Isabel answered. ‘I think it’s lovely to
be so quiet and reasonable and satisfied. I should like to be
like that.’


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    ‘Heaven forbid!’ cried Ralph with ardour.
    ‘I mean to try and imitate them,’ said Isabel. ‘I want
very much to see them at home.’
    She had this pleasure a few days later, when, with
Ralph and his mother, she drove over to Lockleigh. She
found the Misses Molyneux sitting in a vast drawing-room
(she perceived afterwards it was one of several) in a
wilderness of faded chintz; they were dressed on this
occasion in black velveteen. Isabel liked them even better
at home than she had done at Gardencourt, and was more
than ever struck with the fact that they were not morbid.
It had seemed to her before that if they had a fault it was a
want of play of mind; but she presently saw they were
capable of deep emotion. Before luncheon she was alone
with them for some time, on one side of the room, while
Lord Warburton, at a distance, talked to Mrs. Touchett.
    ‘Is it true your brother’s such a great radical?’ Isabel
asked. She knew it was true, but we have seen that her
interest in human nature was keen, and she had a desire to
draw the Misses Molyneux out.
    ‘Oh dear, yes; he’s immensely advanced,’ said Mildred,
the younger sister.
    ‘At the same time Warburton’s very reasonable.’ Miss
Molyneux observed.


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    Isabel watched him a moment at the other side of the
room; he was clearly trying hard to make himself agreeable
to Mrs. Touchett. Ralph had met the frank advances of
one of the dogs before the fire that the temperature of an
English August, in the ancient expanses, had not made an
impertinence. ‘Do you suppose your brother’s sincere?’
Isabel enquired with a smile.
    ‘Oh, he must be, you know!’ Mildred exclaimed
quickly, while the elder sister gazed at our heroine in
silence.
    ‘Do you think he would stand the test?’
    ‘The test?’
    ‘I mean for instance having to give up all this.’
    ‘Having to give up Lockleigh?’ said Miss Molyneux,
finding her voice.
    ‘Yes, and the other places; what are they called?’
    The two sisters exchanged an almost frightened glance.
‘Do you mean- do you mean on account of the expense?’
the younger one asked.
    ‘I dare say he might let one or two of his houses,’ said
the other.
    ‘Let them for nothing?’ Isabel demanded.
    ‘I can’t fancy his giving up his property,’ said Miss
Molyneux.


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    ‘Ah, I’m afraid he is an impostor!’ Isabel returned.
‘Don’t you think it’s a false position?’
    Her companions, evidently, had lost themselves. ‘My
brother position?’ Miss Molyneux enquired.
    ‘It’s thought a very good position,’ said the younger
sister. ‘It’s the first position in this part of the country.’
    ‘I dare say you think me very irreverent,’ Isabel took
occasion to remark. ‘I suppose you revere your brother
and are rather afraid of him.’
    ‘Of course one looks up to one’s brother,’ said Miss
Molyneux simply.
    ‘If you do that he must be very good—because you,
evidently, are beautifully good.’
    ‘He’s most kind. It will never be known, the good he
does.’
    ‘His ability is known,’ Mildred added; ‘every one
thinks it’s immense.’
    ‘Oh, I can see that,’ said Isabel. ‘But if I were he I
should wish to fight to the death: I mean for the heritage
of the past. I should hold it tight.’
    ‘I think one ought to be liberal,’ Mildred argued
gently. ‘We’ve always been so, even from the earliest
times.’



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    ‘Ah well,’ said Isabel, ‘you’ve made a great success of it;
I don’t wonder you like it. I see you’re very fond of
crewels.’
    When Lord Warburton showed her the house, after
luncheon, seemed to her a matter of course that it should
be a noble picture. Within, it had been a good deal
modernized—some of its best points had lost their purity;
but as they saw it from the gardens, a stout grey pile, of
the softest, deepest, most weather-fretted hue, rising from
a broad, still moat, it affected the young visitor as a castle
in a legend. The day was cool and rather lustreless; the first
note of autumn had been struck, and the watery sunshine
rested on the walls in blurred and desultory gleams,
washing them, as it were, in places tenderly chosen, where
the ache of antiquity was keenest. Her host’s brother, the
Vicar, had come to luncheon, and Isabel had had five
minutes’ talk with him—time enough to institute a search
for a rich ecclesiasticism and give it up as vain. The marks
of the Vicar of Lockleigh were a big, athletic figure, a
candid, natural countenance, a capacious appetite and a
tendency to indiscriminate laughter. Isabel learned
afterwards from her cousin that before taking orders he
had been a mighty wrestler and that he was still, on
occasion—in the privacy of the family circle as it were—


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quite capable of flooring his man. Isabel liked him—she
was in the mood for liking everything; but her
imagination was a good deal taxed to think of him as a
source of spiritual aid. The whole party, on leaving lunch,
went to walk in the grounds; but Lord Warburton
exercised some ingenuity in engaging his least familiar
guest in a stroll apart from the others.
    ‘I wish you to see the place properly, seriously,’ he said.
‘You can’t do so if your attention is distracted by
irrelevant gossip.’ His own conversation (though he told
Isabel a good deal about the house, which had a very
curious history) was not purely archaeological; he reverted
at intervals to matters more personal—matters personal to
the young lady as well as to himself. But at last, after a
pause of some duration, returning for a moment to their
ostensible theme, ‘Ah, well,’ he said, ‘I’m very glad indeed
you like the old barrack. I wish you could see more of
it—that you could stay here a while. My sisters have taken
an immense fancy to you—if that would be any
inducement.’
    ‘There’s no want of inducements,’ Isabel answered; ‘but
I’m afraid I can’t make engagements. I’m quite in my
aunt’s hands.’



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   ‘Ah, pardon me if I say I don’t exactly believe that. I’m
pretty sure you can do whatever you want.’
   ‘I’m sorry if I make that impression on you; I don’t
think it’s a nice impression to make.’
   ‘It has the merit of permitting me to hope.’ And Lord
Warburton paused a moment.
   ‘To hope what?’
   ‘That in future I may see you often.’
   ‘Ah,’ said Isabel, ‘to enjoy that pleasure I needn’t be so
terribly emancipated.’
   ‘Doubtless not; and yet, at the same time, I don’t think
your uncle likes me.’
   ‘You’re very much mistaken. I’ve heard him speak very
highly of you.’
   ‘I’m glad you have talked about me,’ said Lord
Warburton. ‘But, I nevertheless don’t think he’d like me
to keep coming to Gardencourt.’
   ‘I can’t answer for my uncle’s tastes,’ the girl rejoined,
‘though I ought as far as possible to take them into
account. But for myself I shall be very glad to see you.’
   ‘Now that’s what I like to hear you say. I’m charmed
when you say that.’
   ‘You’re easily charmed, my lord,’ said Isabel.



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   ‘No, I’m not easily charmed!’ And then he stopped a
moment. ‘But you’ve charmed me, Miss Archer.’
   These words were uttered with an indefinable sound
which startled the girl; it struck her as the prelude to
something grave: she had heard the sound before and she
recognized it. She had no wish, however, that for the
moment such a prelude should have a sequel, and she said
as gaily as possible and as quickly as an appreciable degree
of agitation would allow her: ‘I’m afraid there’s no
prospect of my being able to come here again.’
   ‘Never?’ said Lord Warburton.
   ‘I won’t say ‘never’; I should feel very melodramatic.’
   ‘May I come and see you then some day next week?’
   ‘Most assuredly. What is there to prevent it?’
   ‘Nothing tangible. But with you I never feel safe. I’ve a
sort of sense that you’re always summing people up.’
   ‘You don’t of necessity lose by that.’
   ‘It’s very kind of you to say so; but, even if I gain, stern
justice is not what I most love. Is Mrs. Touchett going to
take you abroad?’
   ‘I hope so.’
   ‘Is England not good enough for you?’
   ‘That’s a very Machiavellian speech; it doesn’t deserve
an answer. I want to see as many countries as I can.’


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   ‘Then you’ll go on judging, I suppose.’
   ‘Enjoying, I hope, too.’
   ‘Yes, that’s what you enjoy most; I can’t make out
what you’re up to,’ said Lord Warburton. ‘You strike me
as having mysterious purposes—vast designs.’
   ‘You’re so good as to have a theory about me which I
don’t at all fill out. Is there anything mysterious in a
purpose entertained and executed every year, in the most
public manner, by fifty thousand of my fellow-
countrymen—the purpose of improving one’s mind by
foreign travel?’
   ‘You can’t improve your mind, Miss Archer,’ her
companion declared. ‘It’s already a most formidable
instrument. It looks down on us all; it despises us.’
   ‘Despises you? You’re making fun of me,’ said Isabel
seriously.
   ‘Well, you think us ‘quaint’—that’s the same thing. I
won’t be thought ‘quaint,’ to begin with; I’m not so in the
least. I protest.’
   ‘That protest is one of the quaintest things I’ve ever
heard,’ Isabel answered with a smile.
   Lord Warburton was briefly silent. ‘You judge only
from the outside- you don’t care,’ he said presently. ‘You
only care to amuse yourself.’ The note she had heard in


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his voice a moment before reappeared, and mixed with it
now was an audible strain of bitterness—a bitterness so
abrupt and inconsequent that the girl was afraid she had
hurt him. She had often heard that the English are a highly
eccentric people, and she had even read in some ingenious
author that they are at bottom the most romantic of races.
Was Lord Warburton suddenly turning romantic—was he
going to make her a scene, in his own house, only the
third time they had met? She was reassured quickly
enough by her sense of his great good manners, which was
not impaired by the fact that he had already touched the
furthest limit of good taste in expressing his admiration of
a young lady who had confided in his hospitality. She was
right in trusting to his good manners, for he presently
went on, laughing a little and without a trace of the accent
that had discomposed her: ‘I don’t mean of course that
you amuse yourself with trifles. You select great materials;
the foibles, the afflictions of human nature, the
peculiarities of nations!’
   ‘As regards that,’ said Isabel, ‘I should find in my own
nation entertainment for a lifetime. But we’ve a long
drive, and my aunt will soon wish to start.’ She turned
back toward the others and Lord Warburton walked



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beside her in silence. But before they reached the others,
‘I shall come and see you next week,’ he said.
    She had received an appreciable shock, but as it died
away she felt that she couldn’t pretend to herself that it
was altogether a painful one. Nevertheless she made
answer to his declaration, coldly enough, ‘Just as you
please.’ And her coldness was not the calculation of her
effect—a game she played in a much smaller degree than
would have seemed probable to many critics. It came from
a certain fear.




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                         Chapter 10

    The day after her visit to Lockleigh she received a note
from her friend Miss Stackpole—a note of which the
envelope, exhibiting in conjunction the postmark of
Liverpool and the neat calligraphy of the quick-fingered
Henrietta, caused her some liveliness of emotion. ‘Here I
am, my lovely friend,’ Miss Stackpole wrote; ‘I managed
to get off at last. I decided only the night before I left New
York—the Interviewer having come round to my figure. I
put a few things into a bag, like a veteran journalist, and
came down to the steamer in a street-car. Where are you
and where can we meet? I suppose you’re visiting at some
castle or other and have already acquired the correct
accent. Perhaps even you have married a lord; I almost
hope you have, for I want some introductions to the first
people and shall count on you for a few. The Interviewer
wants some light on the nobility. My first impressions (of
the people at large) are not rose-coloured; but I wish to
talk them over with you, and you know that, whatever I
am, at least I’m not superficial. I’ve also something very
particular to tell you. Do appoint a meeting as quickly as
you can; come to London (I should like so much to visit


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the sights with you) or else let me come to you, wherever
you are. I will do so with pleasure; for you know
everything interests me and I wish to see as much as
possible of the inner life.’
    Isabel judged best not to show this letter to her uncle;
but she acquainted him with its purport, and, as she
expected, he begged her instantly to assure Miss Stackpole,
in his name, that he should be delighted to receive her at
Gardencourt. ‘Though she’s a literary lady,’ he said, ‘I
suppose that, being an American, she won’t show me up,
as that other one did. She has seen others like me.’
    ‘She has seen no other so delightful!’ Isabel answered;
but she was not altogether at ease about Henrietta’s
reproductive instincts, which belonged to that side of her
friend’s character which she regarded with least
complacency. She wrote to Miss Stackpole, however, that
she would be very welcome under Mr. Touchett’s roof;
and this alert young woman lost no time in announcing
her prompt approach. She had gone up to London, and it
was from that centre that she took the train for the station
nearest to Gardencourt, where Isabel and Ralph were in
waiting to receive her.
    ‘Shall I love her or shall I hate her?’ Ralph asked while
they moved along the platform.


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    ‘Whichever you do will matter very little to her,’ said
Isabel. ‘She doesn’t care a straw what men think of her.’
    ‘As a man I’m bound to dislike her then. She must be a
kind of monster. Is she very ugly?’
    ‘No, she’s decidedly pretty.’
    ‘A female interviewer—a reporter in petticoats? I’m
very curious to see her,’ Ralph conceded.
    ‘It’s very easy to laugh at her but it is not easy to be as
brave as she.’
    ‘I should think not; crimes of violence and attacks on
the person require more or less pluck. Do you suppose
she’ll interview me?’
    ‘Never in the world. She’ll not think you of enough
importance.’
    ‘You’ll see,’ said Ralph. ‘She’ll send a description of us
all, including Bunchie, to her newspaper.’
    ‘I shall ask her not to,’ Isabel answered.
    ‘You think she’s capable of it then?’
    ‘Perfectly.’
    ‘And yet you’ve made her your bosom-friend?’
    ‘I’ve not made her my bosom-friend; but I like her in
spite of her faults.’
    ‘Ah well,’ said Ralph, ‘I’m afraid I shall dislike her in
spite of her merits.’


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   ‘You’ll probably fall in love with her at the end of three
days.’
   ‘And have my love-letters published in the Interviewer?
Never!’ cried the young man.
   The train presently arrived, and Miss Stackpole,
promptly descending, proved, as Isabel had promised,
quite delicately, even though rather provincially, fair. She
was a neat, plump person, of medium stature, with a
round face, a small mouth, a delicate complexion, a bunch
of light brown ringlets at the back of her head and a
peculiarly open, surprised-looking eye. The most striking
point in her appearance was the remarkable fixedness of
this organ, which rested without impudence or defiance,
but as if in conscientious exercise of a natural right, upon
every object it happened to encounter. It rested in this
manner upon Ralph himself, a little arrested by Miss
Stackpole’s gracious and comfortable aspect, which hinted
that it wouldn’t be so easy as he had assumed to
disapprove of her. She rustled, she shimmered, in fresh,
dove-coloured draperies, and Ralph saw at a glance that
she was as crisp and new and comprehensive as a first issue
before the folding. From top to toe she had probably no
misprint. She spoke in a clear, high voice—a voice not
rich but loud; yet after she had taken her place with her


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companions in Mr. Touchett’s carriage she struck him as
not all in the large type, the type of horrid ‘headings,’ that
he had expected. She answered the enquiries made of her
by Isabel, however, and in which the young man ventured
to join, with copious lucidity; and later, in the library at
Gardencourt, when she had made the acquaintance of Mr.
Touchett (his wife not having thought it necessary to
appear) did more to give the measure of her confidence in
her powers.
   ‘Well, I should like to know whether you consider
yourselves American or English,’ she broke out. ‘If once I
knew I could talk to you accordingly.’
   ‘Talk to us anyhow and we shall be thankful,’ Ralph
liberally answered.
   She fixed her eyes on him, and there was something in
their character that reminded him of large polished
buttons—buttons that might have fixed the elastic loops of
some tense receptacle: he seemed to see the reflection of
surrounding objects on the pupil. The expression of a
button is not usually deemed human, but there was
something in Miss Stackpole’s gaze that made him, as a
very modest man, feel vaguely embarrassed—less inviolate,
more dishonoured, than he liked. This sensation, it must
be added, after he had spent a day or two in her company,


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sensibly diminished, though it never wholly lapsed. ‘I
don’t suppose that you’re going to undertake to persuade
me that you’re an American,’ she said.
    ‘To please you I’ll be an Englishman, I’ll be a Turk!’
    ‘Well, if you can change about that way you’re very
welcome,’ Miss Stackpole returned.
    ‘I’m sure you understand everything and that
differences of nationality are no barrier to you,’ Ralph
went on.
    Miss Stackpole gazed at him still. ‘Do you mean the
foreign languages?’
    ‘The languages are nothing. I mean the spirit—the
genius.’
    ‘I’m not sure that I understand you,’ said the
correspondent of the Interviewer; ‘but I expect I shall
before I leave.’
    ‘He’s what’s called a cosmopolite,’ Isabel suggested.
    ‘That means he’s a little of everything and not much of
any. I must say I think patriotism is like charity—it begins
at home.’
    ‘Ah, but where does home begin, Miss Stackpole?’
Ralph enquired.
    ‘I don’t know where it begins, but I know where it
ends. It ended a long time before I got here.’


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    ‘Don’t you like it over here?’ asked Mr. Touchett with
his aged, innocent voice.
    ‘Well, sir, I haven’t quite made up my mind what
ground I shall take. I feel a good deal cramped. I felt it on
the journey from Liverpool to London.’
    ‘Perhaps you were in a crowded carriage,’ Ralph
suggested.
    ‘Yes, but it was crowded with friends—a party of
Americans whose acquaintance I had made upon the
steamer; a lovely group from Little Rock, Arkansas. In
spite of that I felt cramped—I felt something pressing
upon me; I couldn’t tell what it was. I felt at the very
commencement as if I were not going to accord with the
atmosphere. But I suppose I shall make my own
atmosphere. That’s the true way—then you can breathe.
Your surroundings seem very attractive.’
    ‘Ah, we too are a lovely group!’ said Ralph. ‘Wait a
little and you’ll see.
    Miss Stackpole showed every disposition to wait and
evidently was prepared to make a considerable stay at
Gardencourt. She occupied herself in the mornings with
literary labour; but in spite of this Isabel spent many hours
with her friend, who, once her daily task performed,
deprecated, in fact defied, isolation. Isabel speedily found


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occasion to desire her to desist from celebrating the
charms of their common sojourn in print, having
discovered, on the second morning of Miss Stackpole’s
visit, that she was engaged on a letter to the Interviewer,
of which the title, in her exquisitely neat and legible hand
(exactly that of the copybooks which our heroine
remembered at school) was ‘Americans and Tudors—
Glimpses of Gardencourt.’ Miss Stackpole, with the best
conscience in the world, offered to read her letter to
Isabel, who immediately put in her protest.
    ‘I don’t think you ought to do that. I don’t think you
ought to describe the place.’
    Henrietta gazed at her as usual. ‘Why, it’s just what the
people want, and it’s a lovely place.’
    ‘It’s too lovely to be put in the newspapers, and it’s not
what my uncle wants.’
    ‘Don’t you believe that!’ cried Henrietta. ‘They’re
always delighted afterwards.’
    ‘My uncle won’t be delighted—nor my cousin either.
They’ll consider it a breach of hospitality.’
    Miss Stackpole showed no sense of confusion; she
simply wiped her pen, very neatly, upon an elegant little
implement which she kept for the purpose, and put away



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her manuscript. ‘Of course if you don’t approve I won’t
do it; but I sacrifice a beautiful subject.’
    ‘There are plenty of other subjects, there are subjects all
round you. We’ll take some drives; I’ll show you some
charming scenery.’
    ‘Scenery’s not my department; I always need a human
interest. You know I’m deeply human, Isabel; I always
was,’ Miss Stackpole rejoined. ‘I was going to bring in
your cousin—the alienated American. There’s a great
demand just now for the alienated American, and your
cousin’s a beautiful specimen. I should have handled him
severely.’
    ‘He would have died of it!’ Isabel exclaimed. ‘Not of
the severity, but of the publicity.’
    ‘Well, I should have liked to kill him a little. And I
should have delighted to do your uncle, who seems to me
a much nobler type—the American faithful still. He’s a
grand old man; I don’t see how he can object to my
paying him honour.’
    Isabel looked at her companion in much wonderment;
it struck her as strange that a nature in which she found so
much to esteem should break down so in spots. ‘My poor
Henrietta,’ she said, ‘you’ve no sense of privacy.’



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   Henrietta coloured deeply, and for a moment her
brilliant eyes were suffused, while Isabel found her more
than ever inconsequent. ‘You do me great injustice,’ said
Miss Stackpole with dignity. ‘I’ve never written a word
about myself!’
   ‘I’m very sure of that; but it seems to me one should be
modest for others also!’
   ‘Ah, that’s very good!’ cried Henrietta, seizing her pen
again. ‘Just let me make a note of it and I’ll put it in
somewhere.’ She was a thoroughly good-natured woman,
and half an hour later she was in as cheerful a mood as
should have been looked for in a newspaper-lady in want
of matter. ‘I’ve promised to do the social side,’ she said to
Isabel; ‘and how can I do it unless I get ideas? If I can’t
describe this place don’t you know some place I can
describe?’ Isabel promised she would bethink herself, and
the next day, in conversation with her friend, she
happened to mention her visit to Lord Warburton’s
ancient house. ‘Ah, you must take me there—that’s just
the place for me!’ Miss Stackpole cried. ‘I must get a
glimpse of the nobility.’
   ‘I can’t take you,’ said Isabel; ‘but Lord Warburton’s
coming here, and you’ll have a chance to see him and



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observe him. Only if you intend to repeat his conversation
I shall certainly give him warning.’
    ‘Don’t do that,’ her companion pleaded; ‘I want him to
be natural.’
    ‘An Englishman’s never so natural as when he’s holding
his tongue,’ Isabel declared.
    It was not apparent, at the end of three days, that her
cousin had, according to her prophecy, lost his heart to
their visitor, though he had spent a good deal of time in
her society. They strolled about the park together and sat
under the trees, and in the afternoon, when it was
delightful to float along the Thames, Miss Stackpole
occupied a place in the boat in which hitherto Ralph had
had but a single companion. Her presence proved
somehow less irreducible to soft particles than Ralph had
expected in the natural perturbation of his sense of the
perfect solubility of that of his cousin; for the
correspondent of the Interviewer prompted mirth in him,
and he had long since decided that the crescendo of mirth
should be the flower of his declining days. Henrietta, on
her side, failed a little to justify Isabel’s declaration with
regard to her indifference to masculine opinion; for poor
Ralph appeared to have presented himself to her as an



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irritating problem, which it would be almost immoral not
to work out.
    ‘What does he do for a living?’ she asked of Isabel the
evening of her arrival. ‘Does he go round all day with his
hands in his pockets?’
    ‘He does nothing,’ smiled Isabel; ‘he’s a gentleman of
large leisure.’
    ‘Well, I call that a shame—when I have to work like a
car-conductor,’ Miss Stackpole replied. ‘I should like to
show him up.’
    ‘He’s in wretched health; he’s quite unfit for work,’
Isabel urged.
    ‘Pshaw! don’t you believe it. I work when I’m sick,’
cried her friend. Later, when she stepped into the boat on
joining the water-party, she remarked to Ralph that she
supposed he hated her and would like to drown her.
    ‘Ah no,’ said Ralph, ‘I keep my victims for a slower
torture. And you’d be such an interesting one!’
    ‘Well, you do torture me; I may say that. But I shock
all your prejudices; that’s one comfort.’
    ‘My prejudices? I haven’t a prejudice to bless myself
with. There’s intellectual poverty for you.’
    ‘The more shame to you; I’ve some delicious ones. Of
course I spoil your flirtation, or whatever it is you call it,


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with your cousin; but I don’t care for that, as I render her
the service of drawing you out. She’ll see how thin you
are.’
   ‘Ah, do draw me out!’ Ralph exclaimed. ‘So few
people will take the trouble.’
   Miss Stackpole, in this undertaking, appeared to shrink
from no effort; resorting largely, whenever the
opportunity offered, to the natural expedient of
interrogation. On the following day the weather was bad,
and in the afternoon the young man, by way of providing
indoor amusement, offered to show her the pictures.
Henrietta strolled through the long gallery in his society,
while he pointed out its principal ornaments and
mentioned the painters and subjects. Miss Stackpole
looked at the pictures in perfect silence, committing
herself to no opinion, and Ralph was gratified by the fact
that she delivered herself of none of the little ready-made
ejaculations of delight of which the visitors to Gardencourt
were so frequently lavish. This young lady indeed, to do
her justice, was but little addicted to the use of
conventional terms; there was something earnest and
inventive in her tone, which at times, in its strained
deliberation, suggested a person of high culture speaking a
foreign language. Ralph Touchett subsequently learned


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that she had at one time officiated as art-critic to a journal
of the other world; but she appeared, in spite of this fact,
to carry in her pocket none of the small change of
admiration. Suddenly, just after he had called her attention
to a charming Constable, she turned and looked at him as
if he himself had been a picture.
    ‘Do you always spend your time like this?’ she
demanded.
    ‘I seldom spend it so agreeably.’
    ‘Well, you know what I mean—without any regular
occupation.’
    ‘Ah,’ said Ralph, ‘I’m the idlest man living.’
    Miss Stackpole directed her gaze to the Constable
again, and Ralph bespoke her attention for a small Lancret
hanging near it, which represented a gentleman in a pink
doublet and hose and a ruff, leaning against the pedestal of
the statue of a nymph in a garden and playing the guitar to
two ladies seated on the grass. ‘That’s my ideal of a regular
occupation,’ he said.
    Miss Stackpole turned to him again, and, though her
eyes had rested upon the picture, he saw she had missed
the subject. She was thinking of something much more
serious. ‘I don’t see how you can reconcile it to your
conscience.’


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   ‘My dear lady, I have no conscience!’
   ‘Well, I advise you to cultivate one. You’ll need it the
next time you go to America.’
   ‘I shall probably never go again.’
   ‘Are you ashamed to show yourself?’
   Ralph meditated with a mild smile. ‘I suppose that if
one has no conscience one has no shame.’
   ‘Well, you’ve got plenty of assurance,’ Henrietta
declared. ‘Do you consider it right to give up your
country?’
   ‘Ah, one doesn’t give up one’s country any more than
one gives up one’s grandmother. They’re both antecedent
to choice—elements of one’s composition that are not to
be eliminated.’
   ‘I suppose that means that you’ve tried and been
worsted. What do they think of you over here?’
   ‘They delight in me.’
   ‘That’s because you truckle to them.’
   ‘Ah, set it down a little to my natural charm!’ Ralph
sighed.
   ‘I don’t know anything about your natural charm. If
you’ve got any charm it’s quite unnatural. It’s wholly
acquired—or at least you’ve tried hard to acquire it, living
over here. I don’t say you’ve succeeded. It’s a charm that I


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don’t appreciate, anyway. Make yourself useful in some
way, and then we’ll talk about it.’
   ‘Well, now, tell me what I shall do,’ said Ralph.
   ‘Go right home, to begin with.’
   ‘Yes, I see. And then?’
   ‘Take right hold of something.’
   ‘Well, now, what sort of thing?’
   ‘Anything you please, so long as you take hold. Some
new idea, some big work.’
   ‘Is it very difficult to take hold?’ Ralph enquired.
   ‘Not if you put your heart into it.’
   ‘Ah, my heart,’ said Ralph. ‘If it depends upon my
heart-!’
   ‘Haven’t you got a heart?’
   ‘I had one a few days ago, but I’ve lost it since.’
   ‘You’re not serious,’ Miss Stackpole remarked; ‘that’s
what’s the matter with you.’ But for all this, in a day or
two, she again permitted him to fix her attention and on
the later occasion assigned a different cause to her
mysterious perversity.
   ‘I know what’s the matter with you, Mr. Touchett,’
she said. ‘You think you’re too good to get married.’
   ‘I thought so till I knew you, Miss Stackpole,’ Ralph
answered; ‘and then I suddenly changed my mind.’


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    ‘Oh pshaw!’ Henrietta groaned.
    ‘Then it seemed to me,’ said Ralph, ‘that I was not
good enough.’
    ‘It would improve you. Besides, it’s your duty.’
    ‘Ah,’ cried the young man, ‘one has so many duties! Is
that a duty too?’
    ‘Of course it is—did you never know that before? It’s
every one’s duty to get married.’
    Ralph meditated a moment; he was disappointed.
There was something in Miss Stackpole he had begun to
like; it seemed to him that if she was not a charming
woman she was at least a very good ‘sort.’ She was
wanting in distinction, but, as Isabel had said, she was
brave: she went into cages, she flourished lashes, like a
spangled lion-tamer. He had not supposed her to be
capable of vulgar arts, but these last words struck him as a
false note. When a marriageable young woman urges
matrimony on an unencumbered young man the most
obvious explanation of her conduct is not the altruistic
impulse.
    ‘Ah, well now, there’s a good deal to be said about
that,’ Ralph rejoined.
    ‘There may be, but that’s the principal thing. I must say
I think it looks very exclusive, going round all alone, as if


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you thought no woman was good enough for you. Do
you think you’re better than any one else in the world? In
America it’s usual for people to marry.’
   ‘If it’s my duty,’ Ralph asked, ‘is it not, by analogy,
yours as well?’
   Miss Stackpole’s ocular surfaces unwinkingly caught the
sun. ‘Have you the fond hope of finding a flaw in my
reasoning? Of course I’ve as good a right to marry as any
one else.’
   ‘Well then,’ said Ralph, ‘I won’t say it vexes me to see
you single. It delights me rather.’
   ‘You’re not serious yet. You never will be.’
   ‘Shall you not believe me to be so on the day I tell you
I desire to give up the practice of going around alone?’
   Miss Stackpole looked at him for a moment in a
manner which seemed to announce a reply that might
technically be called encouraging. But to his great surprise
this expression suddenly resolved itself into an appearance
of alarm and even of resentment. ‘No, not even then,’ she
answered dryly. After which she walked away.
   ‘I’ve not conceived a passion for your friend,’ Ralph
said that evening to Isabel, ‘though we talked some time
this morning about it.’



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   ‘And you said something she didn’t like,’ the girl
replied.
   Ralph stared. ‘Has she complained of me?’
   ‘She told me she thinks there’s something very low in
the tone of Europeans towards women.’
   ‘Does she call me a European?’
   ‘One of the worst. She told me you had said to her
something that an American never would have said. But
she didn’t repeat it.’
   Ralph treated himself to a luxury of laughter. ‘She’s an
extraordinary combination. Did she think I was making
love to her?’
   ‘No; I believe even Americans do that. But she
apparently thought you mistook the intention of
something she had said, and put an unkind construction
on it.’
   ‘I thought she was proposing marriage to me and I
accepted her. Was that unkind?’
   Isabel smiled. ‘It was unkind to me. I don’t want you
to marry.’
   ‘My dear cousin, what’s one to do among you all?’
Ralph demanded. ‘Miss Stackpole tells me it’s my
bounden duty, and that it’s hers, in general, to see I do
mine!’


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    ‘She has a great sense of duty,’ said Isabel gravely. ‘She
has indeed, and it’s the motive of everything she says.
That’s what I like her for. She thinks it’s unworthy of you
to keep so many things to yourself. That’s what she
wanted to express. If you thought she was trying to—to
attract you, you were very wrong.’
    ‘It’s true it was an odd way, but I did think she was
trying to attract me. Forgive my depravity.’
    ‘You’re very conceited. She had no interested views,
and never supposed you would think she had.’
    ‘One must be very modest then to talk with such
women,’ Ralph said humbly. ‘But it’s a very strange type.
She’s too personal—considering that she expects other
people not to be. She walks in without knocking at the
door.’
    ‘Yes,’ Isabel admitted, ‘she doesn’t sufficiently
recognize the existence of knockers; and indeed I’m not
sure that she doesn’t think them rather a pretentious
ornament. She thinks one’s door should stand ajar. But I
persist in liking her.’
    ‘I persist in thinking her too familiar,’ Ralph rejoined,
naturally somewhat uncomfortable under the sense of
having been doubly deceived in Miss Stackpole.



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   ‘Well,’ said Isabel, smiling, ‘I’m afraid it’s because she’s
rather vulgar that I like her.’
   ‘She would be flattered by your reason!’
   ‘If I should tell her I wouldn’t express it in that way. I
should say it’s because there’s something of the ‘people’ in
her.’
   ‘What do you know about the people? and what does
she, for that matter?’
   ‘She knows a great deal, and I know enough to feel
that she’s a kind of emanation of the great democracy—of
the continent, the country, the nation. I don’t say that she
sums it all up, that would be too much to ask of her. But
she suggests it; she vividly figures it.’
   ‘You like her then for patriotic reasons. I’m afraid it is
on those very grounds I object to her.’
   ‘Ah,’ said Isabel with a kind of joyous sigh, ‘I like so
many things! If a thing strikes me with a certain intensity I
accept it. I don’t want to swagger, but I suppose I’m rather
versatile. I like people to be totally different from
Henrietta—in the style of Lord Warburton’s sisters for
instance. So long as I look at the Misses Molyneux they
seem to me to answer a kind of ideal. Then Henrietta
presents herself, and I’m straightway convinced by her; not



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so much in respect to herself as in respect to what masses
behind her.’
    ‘Ah, you mean the back view of her,’ Ralph suggested.
    ‘What she says is true,’ his cousin answered; ‘you’ll
never be serious. I like the great country stretching away
beyond the rivers and across the prairies, blooming and
smiling, and spreading till it stops at the green Pacific! A
strong, sweet, fresh odour seems to rise from it, and
Henrietta—pardon my simile—has something of that
odour in her garments.’
    Isabel blushed a little as she concluded this speech, and
the blush, together with the momentary ardour she had
thrown into it, was so becoming to her that Ralph stood
smiling at her for a moment after she had ceased speaking.
‘I’m not sure the Pacific’s so green as that,’ he said; ‘but
you’re a young woman of imagination. Henrietta,
however, does smell of the Future—it almost knocks one
down!’




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                         Chapter 11

    He took a resolve after this not to misinterpret her
words even when Miss Stackpole appeared to strike the
personal note most strongly. He bethought himself that
persons, in her view, were simple and homogeneous
organisms, and that he, for his own part, was too perverted
a representative of the nature of man to have a right to
deal with her in strict reciprocity. He carried out his
resolve with a great deal of tact, and the young lady found
in renewed contact with him no obstacle to the exercise of
her genius for unshrinking enquiry, the general application
of her confidence. Her situation at Gardencourt therefore,
appreciated as we have seen her to be by Isabel and full of
appreciation herself of that free play of intelligence which,
to her sense, rendered Isabel’s character a sister-spirit, and
of the easy venerableness of Mr. Touchett, whose noble
tone, as she said, met with her full approval—her situation
at Gardencourt would have been perfectly comfortable
had she not conceived an irresistible mistrust of the little
lady for whom she had at first supposed herself obliged to
‘allow’ as mistress of the house. She presently discovered,
in truth, that this obligation was of the lightest and that


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Mrs. Touchett cared very little how Miss Stackpole
behaved. Mrs. Touchett had defined her to Isabel as both
an adventuress and a bore—adventuresses usually giving
one more of a thrill; she had expressed some surprise at her
niece’s having selected such a friend, yet had immediately
added that she knew Isabel’s friends were her own affair
and that she had never undertaken to like them all or to
restrict the girl to those she liked.
   ‘If you could see none but the people I like, my dear,
you’d have a very small society,’ Mrs. Touchett frankly
admitted; ‘and I don’t think I like any man or woman well
enough to recommend them to you. When it comes to
recommending it’s a serious affair. I don’t like Miss
Stackpole—everything about her displeases me; she talks
so much too loud and looks at one as if one wanted to
look at her—which one doesn’t. I’m sure she has lived all
her life in a boarding-house, and I detest the manners and
the liberties of such places. If you ask me if I prefer my
own manners, which you doubtless think very bad, I’ll tell
you that I prefer them immensely. Miss Stackpole knows I
detest boarding-house civilization, and she detests me for
detesting it, because she thinks it the highest in the world.
She’d like Gardencourt a great deal better if it were a
boarding-house. For me, I find it almost too much of one!


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We shall never get on together therefore, and there’s no
use trying.’
    Mrs. Touchett was right in guessing that Henrietta
disapproved of her, but she had not quite put her finger
on the reason. A day or two after Miss Stackpole’s arrival
she had made some invidious reflexions on American
hotels, which excited a vein of counterargument on the
part of the correspondent of the Interviewer, who in the
exercise of her profession had acquainted herself, in the
western world, with every form of caravansary. Henrietta
expressed the opinion that American hotels were the best
in the world, and Mrs. Touchett, fresh from a renewed
struggle with them, recorded a conviction that they were
the worst. Ralph, with his experimental geniality,
suggested, by way of healing the breach, that the truth lay
between the two extremes and that the establishments in
question ought to be described as fair middling. This
contribution to the discussion, however, Miss Stackpole
rejected with scorn. Middling indeed! If they were not the
best in the world they were the worst, but there was
nothing middling about an American hotel.
    ‘We judge from different points of view, evidently,’
said Mrs. Touchett. ‘I like to be treated as an individual;
you like to be treated as a ‘party.’’


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    ‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Henrietta replied. ‘I
like to be treated as an American lady.’
    ‘Poor American ladies!’ cried Mrs. Touchett with a
laugh. ‘They’re the slaves of slaves.’
    ‘They’re the companions of freemen,’
Henrietta retorted.
    ‘They’re the companions of their servants—the Irish
chambermaid and the negro waiter. They share their
work.’
    ‘Do you call the domestics in an American household
‘slaves’?’ Miss Stackpole enquired. ‘If that’s the way you
desire to treat them, no wonder you don’t like America.’
    ‘If you’ve not good servants you’re miserable,’ Mrs.
Touchett serenely said. ‘They’re very bad in America, but
I’ve five perfect ones in Florence.’
    ‘I don’t see what you want with five,’ Henrietta
couldn’t help observing. ‘I don’t think I should like to see
five persons surrounding me in that menial position.’
    ‘I like them in that position better than in some others,’
proclaimed Mrs. Touchett with much meaning.
    ‘Should you like me better if I were your butler, dear?’
her husband asked.
    ‘I don’t think I should: you wouldn’t at all have the
tenue.’


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   ‘The companions of freemen—I like that, Miss
Stackpole,’ said Ralph. ‘It’s a beautiful description.’
   ‘When I said freemen I didn’t mean you, sir!’
   And this was the only reward that Ralph got for his
compliment. Miss Stackpole was baffled; she evidently
thought there was something treasonable in Mrs.
Touchett’s appreciation of a class which she privately
judged to be a mysterious survival of feudalism. It was
perhaps because her mind was oppressed with this image
that she suffered some days to elapse before she took
occasion to say to Isabel: ‘My dear friend, I wonder if
you’re growing faithless.’
   ‘Faithless? Faithless to you, Henrietta?’
   ‘No, that would be a great pain; but it’s not that.’
   ‘Faithless to my country then?’
   ‘Ah, that I hope will never be. When I wrote to you
from Liverpool I said I had something particular to tell
you. You’ve never asked me what it is. Is it because
you’ve suspected?’
   ‘Suspected what? As a rule I don’t think I suspect,’ said
Isabel. ‘I remember now that phrase in your letter, but I
confess I had forgotten it. What have you to tell me?’
   Henrietta looked disappointed, and her steady gaze
betrayed it. ‘You don’t ask that right—as if you thought it


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important. You’re changed—you’re thinking of other
things.’
   ‘Tell me what you mean, and I’ll think of that.’
   ‘Will you really think of it? That’s what I wish to be
sure of.’
   ‘I’ve not much control of my thoughts, but I’ll do my
best,’ said Isabel. Henrietta gazed at her, in silence, for a
period which tried Isabel’s patience, so that our heroine
added at last: ‘Do you mean that you’re going to be
married?’
   ‘Not till I’ve seen Europe!’ said Miss Stackpole. ‘What
are you laughing at?’ she went on. ‘What I mean is that
Mr. Goodwood came out in the steamer with me.’
   ‘Ah!’ Isabel responded.
   ‘You say that right. I had a good deal of talk with him;
he has come after you.’
   ‘Did he tell you so?’
   ‘No, he told me nothing; that’s how I knew it,’ said
Henrietta cleverly. ‘He said very little about you, but I
spoke of you a good deal.’
   Isabel waited. At the mention of Mr. Goodwood’s
name she had turned a little pale. ‘I’m very sorry you did
that,’ she observed at last.



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    ‘It was a pleasure to me, and I liked the way he
listened. I could have talked a long time to such a listener;
he was so quiet, so intense; he drank it all in.’
    ‘What did you say about me?’ Isabel asked.
    ‘I said you were on the whole the finest creature I
know.’
    ‘I’m very sorry for that. He thinks too well of me
already; he oughtn’t to be encouraged.’
    ‘He’s dying for a little encouragement. I see his face
now, and his earnest absorbed look while I talked. I never
saw an ugly man look so handsome.’
    ‘He’s very simple-minded,’ said Isabel. ‘And he’s not so
ugly.’
    ‘There’s nothing so simplifying as a grand passion.’
    ‘It’s not a grand passion; I’m very sure it’s not that.’
    ‘You don’t say that as if you were sure.’
    Isabel gave rather a cold smile. ‘I shall say it better to
Mr. Goodwood himself.’
    ‘He’ll soon give you a chance,’ said Henrietta. Isabel
offered no answer to this assertion, which her companion
made with an air of great confidence. ‘He’ll find you
changed,’ the latter pursued. ‘You’ve been affected by
your new surroundings.’
    ‘Very likely. I’m affected by everything.’


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   ‘By everything but Mr. Goodwood!’ Miss Stackpole
exclaimed with a slightly harsh hilarity.
   Isabel failed even to smile back and in a moment she
said: ‘Did he ask you to speak to me?’
   ‘Not in so many words. But his eyes asked it—and his
handshake, when he bade me good-bye.’
   ‘Thank you for doing so.’ And Isabel turned away.
   ‘Yes, you’re changed; you’ve got new ideas over here,’
her friend continued.
   ‘I hope so,’ said Isabel; ‘one should get as many new
ideas as possible.’
   ‘Yes; but they shouldn’t interfere with the old ones
when the old ones have been the right ones.’
   Isabel turned about again. ‘If you mean that I had any
idea with regard to Mr. Goodwood-!’ But she faltered
before her friend’s implacable glitter.
   ‘My dear child, you certainly encouraged him.’
   Isabel made for the moment as if to deny this charge;
instead of which, however, she presently answered: ‘It’s
very true. I did encourage him.’ And then she asked if her
companion had learned from Mr. Goodwood what he
intended to do. It was a concession to her curiosity, for
she disliked discussing the subject and found Henrietta
wanting in delicacy.


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   ‘I asked him, and he said he meant to do nothing,’ Miss
Stackpole answered. ‘But I don’t believe that; he’s not a
man to do nothing. He is a man of high, bold action.
Whatever happens to him he’ll always do something, and
whatever he does will always be right.’
   ‘I quite believe that.’ Henrietta might be wanting in
delicacy, but it touched the girl, all the same, to hear this
declaration.
   ‘Ah, you do care for him!’ her visitor rang out.
   ‘Whatever he does will always be right,’ Isabel
repeated. ‘When a man’s of that infallible mould what
does it matter to him what one feels?’
   ‘It may not matter to him, but it matters to one’s self.’
   ‘Ah, what it matters to me—that’s not what we’re
discussing,’ said Isabel with a cold smile.
   This time her companion was grave. ‘Well, I don’t
care; you have changed. You’re not the girl you were a
few short weeks ago, and Mr. Goodwood will see it. I
expect him here any day.’
   ‘I hope he’ll hate me then,’ said Isabel.
   ‘I believe you hope it about as much as I believe him
capable of it.’
   To this observation our heroine made no return; she
was absorbed in the alarm given her by Henrietta’s


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intimation that Caspar Goodwood would present himself
at Gardencourt. She pretended to herself, however, that
she thought the event impossible, and, later, she
communicated her disbelief to her friend. For the next
forty-eight hours, nevertheless, she stood prepared to hear
the young man’s name announced. The feeling pressed
upon her; it made the air sultry, as if there were to be a
change of weather; and the weather, socially speaking, had
been so agreeable during Isabel’s stay at Gardencourt that
any change would be for the worse. Her suspense indeed
was dissipated the second day. She had walked into the
park in company with the sociable Bunchie, and after
strolling about for some time, in a manner at once listless
and restless, had seated herself on a garden bench, within
sight of the house, beneath a spreading beech, where, in a
white dress ornamented with black ribbons, she formed
among the flickering shadows a graceful and harmonious
image. She entertained herself for some moments with
talking to the little terrier, as to whom the proposal of an
ownership divided with her cousin had been applied as
impartially as possible—impartially as Bunchie’s own
somewhat fickle and inconstant sympathies would allow.
But she was notified for the first time, on this occasion, of
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been mainly struck with its extent. It seemed to her at last
that she would do well to take a book; formerly, when
heavy-hearted, she had been able, with the help of some
well-chosen volume, to transfer the seat of consciousness
to the organ of pure reason. Of late, it was not to be
denied, literature had seemed a fading light, and even after
she had reminded herself that her uncle’s library was
provided with a complete set of those authors which no
gentleman’s collection should be without, she sat
motionless and empty-handed, her eyes bent on the cool
green turf of the lawn. Her meditations were presently
interrupted by the arrival of a servant who handed her a
letter. The letter bore the London postmark and was
addressed in a hand she knew—that came into her vision,
already so held by him, with the vividness of the writer’s
voice or his face. This document proved short and may be
given entire.
    MY DEAR MISS ARCHER—I don’t know whether
you will have heard of my coming to England, but even if
you have not it will scarcely be a surprise to you. You will
remember that when you gave me my dismissal at Albany,
three months ago, I did not accept it. I protested against it.
You in fact appeared to accept my protest and to admit
that I had the right on my side. I had come to see you


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with the hope that you would let me bring you over to
my conviction; my reasons for entertaining this hope had
been of the best. But you disappointed it; I found you
changed, and you were able to give me no reason for the
change. You admitted that you were unreasonable, and it
was the only concession you would make; but it was a
very cheap one, because that’s not your character. No,
you are not, and you never will be, arbitrary or capricious.
Therefore it is that I believe you will let me see you again.
You told me that I’m not disagreeable to you, and I
believe it; for I don’t see why that should be. I shall always
think of you; I shall never think of any one else. I came to
England simply because you are here; I couldn’t stay at
home after you had gone: I hated the country because you
were not in it. If I like this country at present it is only
because it holds you. I have been to England before, but
have never enjoyed it much. May I not come and see you
for half an hour? This at present is the dearest wish of
yours faithfully
   CASPAR GOODWOOD
   Isabel read this missive with such deep attention that
she had not perceived an approaching tread on the soft
grass. Looking up, however, as she mechanically folded it
she saw Lord Warburton standing before her.


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                         Chapter 12

    She put the letter into her pocket and offered her
visitor a smile of welcome, exhibiting no trace of
discomposure and half surprised at her coolness.
    ‘They told me you were out here,’ said Lord
Warburton; ‘and as there was no one in the drawing-room
and it’s really you that I wish to see, I came out with no
more ado.’
    Isabel had got up; she felt a wish, for the moment, that
he should not sit down beside her. ‘I was just going
indoors.’
    ‘Please don’t do that; it’s much jollier here; I’ve ridden
over from Lockleigh; it’s a lovely day.’ His smile was
peculiarly friendly and pleasing, and his whole person
seemed to emit that radiance of good-feeling and good
fare which had formed the charm of the girl’s first
impression of him. It surrounded him like a zone of fine
June weather.
    ‘We’ll walk about a little then,’ said Isabel, who could
not divest herself of the sense of an intention on the part
of her visitor and who wished both to elude the intention
and to satisfy her curiosity about it. It had flashed upon her


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vision once before, and it had given her on that occasion,
as we know, a certain alarm. This alarm was composed of
several elements, not all of which were disagreeable; she
had indeed spent some days in analyzing them and had
succeeded in separating the pleasant part of the idea of
Lord Warburton’s ‘making up’ to her from the painful. It
may appear to some readers that the young lady was both
precipitate and unduly fastidious; but the latter of these
facts, if the charge be true, may serve to exonerate her
from the discredit of the former. She was not eager to
convince herself that a territorial magnate, as she had heard
Lord Warburton called, was smitten with her charms; the
fact of a declaration from such a source carrying with it
really more questions than it would answer. She had
received a strong impression of his being a ‘personage,’
and she had occupied herself in examining the image so
conveyed. At the risk of adding to the evidence of her
self-sufficiency it must be said that there had been
moments when this possibility of admiration by a
personage represented to her an aggression almost to the
degree of an affront, quite to the degree of an
inconvenience. She had never yet known a personage;
there had been no personages, in this sense, in her life;
there were probably none such at all in her native land.


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When she had thought of individual eminence she had
thought of it on the basis of character and wit—of what
one might like in a gentleman’s mind and in his talk. She
herself was a character—she couldn’t help being aware of
that; and hitherto her visions of a completed consciousness
had connected themselves largely with moral images—
things as to which the question would be whether they
pleased her sublime soul. Lord Warburton loomed up
before her, largely and brightly, as a collection of attributes
and powers which were not to be measured by this simple
rule, but which demanded a different sort of appreciation-
an appreciation that the girl, with her habit of judging
quickly and freely, felt she lacked patience to bestow. He
appeared to demand of her something that no one else, as
it were, had presumed to do. What she felt was that a
territorial, a political, a social magnate had conceived the
design of drawing her into the system in which he rather
invidiously lived and moved. A certain instinct, not
imperious, but persuasive, told her to resist—murmured to
her that virtually she had a system and an orbit of her own.
It told her other things besides- things which both
contradicted and confirmed each other; that a girl might
do much worse than trust herself to such a man and that it
would be very interesting to see something of his system


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from his own point of view; that on the other hand,
however, there was evidently a great deal of it which she
should regard only as a complication of every hour, and
that even in the whole there was something stiff and
stupid which would make it a burden. Furthermore there
was a young man lately come from America who had no
system at all, but who had a character of which it was
useless for her to try to persuade herself that the
impression on her mind had been light. The letter she
carried in her pocket all sufficiently reminded her of the
contrary. Smile not, however, I venture to repeat, at this
simple young woman from Albany who debated whether
she should accept an English peer before he had offered
himself and who was disposed to believe that on the
whole she could do better. She was a person of great good
faith, and if there was a great deal of folly in her wisdom
those who judge her severely may have the satisfaction of
finding that, later, she became consistently wise only at the
cost of an amount of folly which will constitute almost a
direct appeal to charity.
    Lord Warburton seemed quite ready to walk, to sit or
to do anything that Isabel should propose, and he gave her
this assurance with his usual air of being particularly
pleased to exercise a social virtue. But he was,


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nevertheless, not in command of his emotions, and as he
strolled beside her for a moment, in silence, looking at her
without letting her know it, there was something
embarrassed in his glance and his misdirected laughter.
Yes, assuredly—as we have touched on the point, we may
return to it for a moment again—the English are the most
romantic people in the world and Lord Warburton was
about to give an example of it. He was about to take a step
which would astonish all his friends and displease a great
many of them, and which had superficially nothing to
recommend it. The young lady who trod the turf beside
him had come from a queer country across the sea which
he knew a good deal about; her antecedents, her
associations were very vague to his mind except in so far as
they were generic, and in this sense they showed as
distinct and unimportant. Miss Archer had neither a
fortune nor the sort of beauty that justifies a man to the
multitude, and he calculated that he had spent about
twenty-six hours in her company. He had summed up all
this—the perversity of the impulse, which had declined to
avail itself of the most liberal opportunities to subside, and
the judgement of mankind, as exemplified particularly in
the more quickly-judging half of it: he had looked these
things well in the face and then had dismissed them from


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his thoughts. He cared no more for them than for the
rosebud in his buttonhole. It is the good fortune of a man
who for the greater part of a lifetime has abstained without
effort from making himself disagreeable to his friends, that
when the need comes for such a course it is not
discredited by irritating associations.
    ‘I hope you had a pleasant ride,’ said Isabel, who
observed her companion’s hesitancy.
    ‘It would have been pleasant if for nothing else than
that it brought me here.’
    ‘Are you so fond of Gardencourt?’ the girl asked, more
and more sure that he meant to make some appeal to her;
wishing not to challenge him if he hesitated, and yet to
keep all the quietness of her reason if he proceeded. It
suddenly came upon her that her situation was one which
a few weeks ago she would have deemed deeply romantic:
the park of an old English country-house, with the
foreground embellished by a ‘great’ (as she supposed)
nobleman in the act of making love to a young lady who,
on careful inspection, should be found to present
remarkable analogies with herself. But if she was now the
heroine of the situation she succeeded scarcely the less in
looking at it from the outside.



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    ‘I care nothing for Gardencourt,’ said her companion.
‘I care only for you.
    ‘You’ve known me too short a time to have a right to
say that, and I can’t believe you’re serious.’
    These words of Isabel’s were not perfectly sincere, for
she had no doubt whatever that he himself was. They
were simply a tribute to the fact, of which she was
perfectly aware, that those he had just uttered would have
excited surprise on the part of a vulgar world. And,
moreover, if anything beside the sense she had already
acquired that Lord Warburton was not a loose thinker had
been needed to convince her, the tone in which he
replied would quite have served the purpose.
    ‘One’s right in such a matter is not measured by the
time, Miss Archer; it’s measured by the feeling itself. If I
were to wait three months it would make no difference; I
shall not be more sure of what I mean than I am to-day.
Of course I’ve seen you very little, but my impression
dates from the very first hour we met. I lost no time, I fell
in love with you then. It was at first sight, as the novels
say; I know now that’s not a fancy-phrase, and I shall
think better of novels for evermore. Those two days I
spent here settled it; I don’t know whether you suspected
I was doing so, but I paid—mentally speaking I mean—


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the greatest possible attention to you. Nothing you said,
nothing you did, was lost upon me. When you came to
Lockleigh the other day—or rather when you went
away—I was perfectly sure. Nevertheless I made up my
mind to think it over and to question myself narrowly.
I’ve done so; all these days I’ve done nothing else. I don’t
make mistakes about such things; I’m a very judicious
animal. I don’t go off easily, but when I’m touched, it’s
for life. It’s for life, Miss Archer, it’s for life,’ Lord
Warburton repeated in the kindest, tenderest, pleasantest
voice Isabel had ever heard, and looking at her with eyes
charged with the light of a passion that had sifted itself
clear of the baser parts of emotion—the heat, the violence,
the unreason—and that burned as steadily as a lamp in a
windless place.
   By tacit consent, as he talked, they had walked more
and more slowly, and at last they stopped and he took her
hand. ‘Ah, Lord Warburton, how little you know me!’
Isabel said very gently. Gently too she drew her hand
away.
   ‘Don’t taunt me with that, that I don’t know you
better makes me unhappy enough already; it’s all my loss.
But that’s what I want, and it seems to me I’m taking the
best way. If you’ll be my wife, then I shall know you, and


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when I tell you all the good I think of you you’ll not be
able to say it’s from ignorance.’
   ‘If you know me little I know you even less,’ said
Isabel.
   ‘You mean that, unlike yourself, I may not improve on
acquaintance? Ah, of course that’s very possible. But think,
to speak to you as I do, how determined I must be to try
and give satisfaction! You do like me rather, don’t you?’
   ‘I like you very much, Lord Warburton,’ she answered;
and at this moment she liked him immensely.
   ‘I thank you for saying that; it shows you don’t regard
me as a stranger. I really believe I’ve filled all the other
relations of life very creditably, and I don’t see why I
shouldn’t fill this one—in which I offer myself to you—
seeing that I care so much more about it. Ask the people
who know me well; I’ve friends who’ll speak for me.’
   ‘I don’t need the recommendation of your friends,’ said
Isabel.
   ‘Ah now, that’s delightful of you. You believe in me
yourself.’
   ‘Completely,’ Isabel declared. She quite glowed there,
inwardly, with the pleasure of feeling she did.




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   The light in her companion’s eyes turned into a smile,
and he gave a long exhalation of joy. ‘If you’re mistaken,
Miss Archer, let me lose all I possess!’
   She wondered whether he meant this for a reminder
that he was rich, and, on the instant, felt sure that he
didn’t. He was sinking that, as he would have said himself;
and indeed he might safely leave it to the memory of any
interlocutor, especially of one to whom he was offering his
hand. Isabel had prayed that she might not be agitated, and
her mind was tranquil enough, even while she listened and
asked herself what it was best she should say, to indulge in
this incidental criticism. What she should say, had she
asked herself? Her foremost wish was to say something if
possible not less kind than what he had said to her. His
words had carried perfect conviction with them; she felt
she did, all so mysteriously, matter to him. ‘I thank you
more than I can say for your offer,’ she returned at last. ‘It
does me great honour.’
   ‘Ah, don’t say that!’ he broke out. ‘I was afraid you’d
say something like that. I don’t see what you’ve to do
with that sort of thing. I don’t see why you should thank
me—it’s I who ought to thank you for listening to me: a
man you know so little coming down to you with such a
thumper! Of course it’s a great question; I must tell you


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that I’d rather ask it than have it to answer myself. But the
way you’ve listened—or at least your having listened at
all—gives me some hope.’
    ‘Don’t hope too much,’ Isabel said.
    ‘Oh, Miss Archer!’ her companion murmured, smiling
again, in his seriousness, as if such a warning might
perhaps be taken but as the play of high spirits, the
exuberance of elation.
    ‘Should you be greatly surprised if I were to beg you
not to hope at all?’ Isabel asked.
    ‘Surprised? I don’t know what you mean by surprise. It
wouldn’t be that; it would be a feeling very much worse.’
    Isabel walked on again; she was silent for some minutes.
‘I’m very sure that, highly as I already think of you, my
opinion of you, if I should know you well, would only
rise. But I’m by no means sure that you wouldn’t be
disappointed. And I say that not in the least out of
conventional modesty; it’s perfectly sincere.’
    ‘I’m willing to risk it, Miss Archer,’ her companion
replied.
    ‘It’s a great question, as you say. It’s a very difficult
question.’
    ‘I don’t expect you of course to answer it outright.
Think it over as long as may be necessary. If I can gain by


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waiting I’ll gladly wait a long time. Only remember that in
the end my dearest happiness depends on your answer.’
    ‘I should be very sorry to keep you in suspense,’ said
Isabel.
    ‘Oh, don’t mind. I’d much rather have a good answer
six months hence than a bad one to-day.’
    ‘But it’s very probable that even six months hence I
shouldn’t be able to give you one that you’d think good.’
    ‘Why not, since you really like me?’
    ‘Ah, you must never doubt that,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Well then, I don’t see what more you ask!’
    ‘It’s not what I ask; it’s what I can give. I don’t think I
should suit you; I really don’t think I should.’
    ‘You needn’t worry about that. That’s my affair. You
needn’t be a better royalist than the king.’
    ‘It’s not only that,’ said Isabel; ‘but I’m not sure I wish
to marry any one.’
    ‘Very likely you don’t. I’ve no doubt a great many
women begin that way,’ said his lordship, who, be it
averred, did not in the least believe in the axiom he thus
beguiled his anxiety by uttering. ‘But they’re frequently
persuaded.’
    ‘Ah, that’s because they want to be!’ And Isabel lightly
laughed.


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    Her suitor’s countenance fell, and he looked at her for
a while in silence. ‘I’m afraid it’s my being an Englishman
that makes you hesitate,’ he said presently. ‘I know your
uncle thinks you ought to marry in your own country.’
    Isabel listened to this assertion with some interest; it
had never occurred to her that Mr. Touchett was likely to
discuss her matrimonial prospects with Lord Warburton.
‘Has he told you that?’
    ‘I remember his making the remark. He spoke perhaps
of Americans generally.’
    ‘He appears himself to have found it very pleasant to
live in England.’ Isabel spoke in a manner that might have
seemed a little perverse, but which expressed both her
constant perception of her uncle’s outward felicity and her
general disposition to elude any obligation to take a
restricted view.
    It gave her companion hope, and he immediately cried
with warmth: ‘Ah, my dear Miss Archer, old England’s a
very good sort of country, you know! And it will be still
better when we’ve furbished it up a little.’
    ‘Oh, don’t furbish it, Lord Warburton; leave it alone. I
like it this way.
    ‘Well then, if you like it, I’m more and more unable to
see your objection to what I propose.’


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    ‘I’m afraid I can’t make you understand.’
    ‘You ought at least to try. I’ve a fair intelligence. Are
you afraid—afraid of the climate? We can easily live
elsewhere, you know. You can pick out your climate, the
whole world over.’
    These words were uttered with a breadth of candour
that was like the embrace of strong arms—that was like
the fragrance straight in her face, and by his clean,
breathing lips, of she knew not what strange gardens, what
charged airs. She would have given her little finger at that
moment to feel strongly and simply the impulse to answer:
‘Lord Warburton, it’s impossible for me to do better in
this wonderful world, I think, than commit myself, very
gratefully, to your loyalty.’ But though she was lost in
admiration of her opportunity she managed to move back
into the deepest shade of it, even as some wild, caught
creature in a vast cage. The ‘splendid’ security so offered
her was not the greatest she could conceive. What she
finally bethought herself of saying was something very
different—something that deferred the need of really
facing her crisis. ‘Don’t think me unkind if I ask you to
say no more about this to-day.’
    ‘Certainly, certainly!’ her companion cried. ‘I wouldn’t
bore you for the world.’


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   ‘You’ve given me a great deal to think about, and I
promise you to do it justice.’
   ‘That’s all I ask of you, of course—and that you’ll
remember how absolutely my happiness is in your hands.’
   Isabel listened with extreme respect to this admonition,
but she said after a minute: ‘I must tell you that what I
shall think about is some way of letting you know that
what you ask is impossible- letting you know it without
making you miserable.’
   ‘There’s no way to do that, Miss Archer. I won’t say
that if you refuse me you’ll kill me; I shall not die of it.
But I shall do worse; I shall live to no purpose.
   ‘You’ll live to marry a better woman than I.’
   ‘Don’t say that, please,’ said Lord Warburton very
gravely. ‘That’s fair to neither of us.’
   ‘To marry a worse one then.’
   ‘If there are better women than you I prefer the bad
ones. That’s all I can say,’ he went on with the same
earnestness. ‘There’s no accounting for tastes.’
   His gravity made her feel equally grave, and she
showed it by again requesting him to drop the subject for
the present. ‘I’ll speak to you myself—very soon. Perhaps I
shall write to you.’



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    ‘At your convenience, yes,’ he replied. ‘Whatever time
you take, it must seem to me long, and I suppose I must
make the best of that.’
    ‘I shall not keep you in suspense; I only want to collect
my mind a little.’
    He gave a melancholy sigh and stood looking at her a
moment, with his hands behind him, giving short nervous
shakes to his hunting-crop. ‘Do you know I’m very much
afraid of it—of that remarkable mind of yours?’
    Our heroine’s biographer can scarcely tell why, but the
question made her start and brought a conscious blush to
her cheek. She returned his look a moment, and then with
a note in her voice that might almost have appealed to his
compassion, ‘So am I, my lord!’ she oddly exclaimed.
    His compassion was not stirred, however; all he
possessed of the faculty of pity was needed at home. ‘Ah!
be merciful, be merciful,’ he murmured.
    ‘I think you had better go,’ said Isabel. ‘I’ll write to
you.’
    ‘Very good; but whatever you write I’ll come and see
you, you know.’ And then he stood reflecting, his eyes
fixed on the observant countenance of Bunchie, who had
the air of having understood all that had been said and of
pretending to carry off the indiscretion by a simulated fit


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of curiosity as to the roots of an ancient oak. ‘There’s one
thing more,’ he went on. ‘You know, if you don’t like
Lockleigh—if you think it’s damp or anything of that
sort—you need never go within fifty miles of it. It’s not
damp, by the way; I’ve had the house thoroughly
examined; it’s perfectly safe and right. But if you shouldn’t
fancy it you needn’t dream of living in it. There’s no
difficulty whatever about that; there are plenty of houses. I
thought I’d just mention it; some people don’t like a
moat, you know. Good-bye.’
    ‘I adore a moat,’ said Isabel. ‘Good-bye.’
    He held out his hand, and she gave him hers a
moment—a moment long enough for him to bend his
handsome bared head and kiss it. Then, still agitating, in
his mastered emotion, his implement of the chase, he
walked rapidly away. He was evidently much upset.
    Isabel herself was upset, but she had not been affected
as she would have imagined. What she felt was not a great
responsibility, a great difficulty of choice; it appeared to
her there had been no choice in the question. She
couldn’t marry Lord Warburton; the idea failed to support
any enlightened prejudice in favour of the free exploration
of life that she had hitherto entertained or was now
capable of entertaining. She must write this to him, she


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must convince him, and that duty was comparatively
simple. But what disturbed her, in the sense that it struck
her with wonderment, was this very fact that it cost her so
little to refuse a magnificent ‘chance.’ With whatever
qualifications one would, Lord Warburton had offered her
a great opportunity; the situation might have discomforts,
might contain oppressive, might contain narrowing
elements, might prove really but a stupefying anodyne; but
she did her sex no injustice in believing that nineteen
women out of twenty would have accommodated
themselves to it without a pang. Why then upon her also
should it not irresistibly impose itself? Who was she, what
was she, that she should hold herself superior? What view
of life, what design upon fate, what conception of
happiness, had she that pretended to be larger than these
large, these fabulous occasions? If she wouldn’t do such a
thing as that then she must do great things, she must do
something greater. Poor Isabel found ground to remind
herself from time to time that she must not be too proud,
and nothing could be more sincere than her prayer to be
delivered from such a danger: the isolation and loneliness
of pride had for her mind the horror of a desert place. If it
had been pride that interfered with her accepting Lord
Warburton such a betise was singularly misplaced; and she


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was so conscious of liking him that she ventured to assure
herself it was the very softness, and the fine intelligence, of
sympathy. She liked him too much to marry him, that was
the truth; something assured her there was a fallacy
somewhere in the glowing logic of the proposition—as he
saw it- even though she mightn’t put her very finest
finger-point on it; and to inflict upon a man who offered
so much a wife with a tendency to criticize would be a
peculiarly discreditable act. She had promised him she
would consider his question, and when, after he had left
her, she wandered back to the bench where he had found
her and lost herself in meditation, it might have seemed
that she was keeping her vow. But this was not the case;
she was wondering if she were not a cold, hard, priggish
person, and, on her at last getting up and going rather
quickly back to the house, felt, as she had said to her
friend, really frightened at herself.




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                         Chapter 13

    It was this feeling and not the wish to ask advice—she
had no desire whatever for that—that led her to speak to
her uncle of what had taken place. She wished to speak to
some one; she should feel more natural, more human, and
her uncle, for this purpose, presented himself in a more
attractive light than either her aunt or her friend
Henrietta. Her cousin of course was a possible confidant;
but she would have had to do herself violence to air this
special secret to Ralph. So the next day, after breakfast,
she sought her occasion. Her uncle never left his
apartment till the afternoon, but he received his cronies, as
he said, in his dressing-room. Isabel had quite taken her
place in the class so designated, which, for the rest,
included the old man’s son, his physician, his personal
servant, and even Miss Stackpole. Mrs. Touchett did not
figure in the list, and this was an obstacle the less to Isabel’s
finding her host alone. He sat in a complicated mechanical
chair, at the open window of his room, looking westward
over the park and the river, with his newspapers and
letters piled up beside him, his toilet freshly and minutely




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made, and his smooth, speculative face composed to
benevolent expectation.
    She approached her point directly. ‘I think I ought to
let you know that Lord Warburton has asked me to marry
him. I suppose I ought to tell my aunt; but it seems best to
tell you first.’
    The old man expressed no surprise, but thanked her for
the confidence she showed him.
    ‘Do you mind telling me whether you accepted him?’
he then enquired.
    ‘I’ve not answered him definitely yet; I’ve taken a little
time to think of it, because that seems more respectful.
But I shall not accept him.’
    Mr. Touchett made no comment upon this; he had the
air of thinking that, whatever interest he might take in the
matter from the point of view of sociability, he had no
active voice in it. ‘Well, I told you you’d be a success over
here. Americans are highly appreciated.’
    ‘Very highly indeed,’ said Isabel. ‘But at the cost of
seeming both tasteless and ungrateful, I don’t think I can
marry Lord Warburton.’
    ‘Well,’ her uncle went on, ‘of course an old man can’t
judge for a young lady. I’m glad you didn’t ask me before
you made up your mind. I suppose I ought to tell you,’ he


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added slowly, but as it were not of much consequence,
‘that I’ve known all about it these three days.’
   ‘About Lord Warburton’s state of mind?’
   ‘About his intentions, as they say here. He wrote me a
very pleasant letter, telling me all about them. Should you
like to see his letter?’ the old man obligingly asked.
   ‘Thank you; I don’t think I care about that. But I’m
glad he wrote to you; it was right that he should, and he
would be certain to do what was right.’
   ‘Ah well, I guess you do like him!’ Mr. Touchett
declared. ‘You needn’t pretend you don’t.’
   ‘I like him extremely; I’m very free to admit that. But I
don’t wish to marry any one just now.’
   ‘You think some one may come along whom you may
like better. Well, that’s very likely,’ said Mr. Touchett,
who appeared to wish to show his kindness to the girl by
easing off her decision, as it were, and finding cheerful
reasons for it.
   ‘I don’t care if I don’t meet any one else. I like Lord
Warburton quite well enough.’ She fell into that
appearance of a sudden change of point of view with
which she sometimes startled and even displeased her
interlocutors.



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    Her uncle, however, seemed proof against either of
these impressions. ‘He’s a very fine man,’ he resumed in a
tone which might have passed for that of encouragement.
‘His letter was one of the pleasantest I’ve received for
some weeks. I suppose one of the reasons I like it was that
it was all about you; that is all except the part that was
about himself. I suppose he told you all that.’
    ‘He would have told me everything I wished to ask
him,’ Isabel said.
    ‘But you didn’t feel curious?’
    ‘My curiosity would have been idle—once I had
determined to decline his offer.’
    ‘You didn’t find it sufficiently attractive?’ Mr. Touchett
enquired.
    She was silent a little. ‘I suppose it was that,’ she
presently admitted. ‘But I don’t know why.’
    ‘Fortunately ladies are not obliged to give reasons,’ said
her uncle. ‘There’s a great deal that’s attractive about such
an idea; but I don’t see why the English should want to
entice us away from our native land. I know that we try to
attract them over there, but that’s because our population
is insufficient. Here, you know, they’re rather crowded.
However, I presume there’s room for charming young
ladies everywhere.’


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    ‘There seems to have been room here for you,’ said
Isabel, whose eyes had been wandering over the large
pleasure-spaces of the park.
    Mr. Touchett gave a shrewd, conscious smile. ‘There’s
room everywhere, my dear, if you’ll pay for it. I
sometimes think I’ve paid too much for this. Perhaps you
also might have to pay too much.’
    ‘Perhaps I might,’ the girl replied.
    That suggestion gave her something more definite to
rest on than she had found in her own thoughts, and the
fact of this association of her uncle’s mild acuteness with
her dilemma seemed to prove that she was concerned with
the natural and reasonable emotions of life and not
altogether a victim to intellectual eagerness and vague
ambitions- ambitions reaching beyond Lord Warburton’s
beautiful appeal, reaching to something indefinable and
possibly not commendable. In so far as the indefinable had
an influence upon Isabel’s behaviour at this juncture, it
was not the conception, even unformulated, of a union
with Caspar Goodwood; for however she might have
resisted conquest at her English suitor’s large quiet hands
she was at least as far removed from the disposition to let
the young man from Boston take positive possession of
her. The sentiment in which she sought refuge after


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reading his letter was a critical view of his having come
abroad; for it was part of the influence he had upon her
that he seemed to deprive her of the sense of freedom.
There was a disagreeably strong push, a kind of hardness of
presence, in his way of rising before her. She had been
haunted at moments by the image, by the danger, of his
disapproval and had wondered—a consideration she had
never paid in equal degree to any one else—whether he
would like what she did. The difficulty was that more than
any man she had ever known, more than poor Lord
Warburton (she had begun now to give his lordship the
benefit of this epithet), Caspar Goodwood expressed for
her an energy—and she had already felt it as a power—
that was of his very nature. It was in no degree a matter of
his ‘advantages’- it was a matter of the spirit that sat in his
clear-burning eyes like some tireless watcher at a window.
She might like it or not, but he insisted, ever, with his
whole weight and force: even in one’s usual contact with
him one had to reckon with that. The idea of a
diminished liberty was particularly disagreeable to her at
present, since she had just given a sort of personal accent
to her independence by looking so straight at Lord
Warburton’s big bribe and yet turning away from it.
Sometimes Caspar Goodwood had seemed to range


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himself on the side of her destiny, to be the stubbornest
fact she knew; she said to herself at such moments that she
might evade him for a time, but that she must make terms
with him at last- terms which would be certain to be
favourable to himself. Her impulse had been to avail
herself of the things that helped her to resist such an
obligation; and this impulse had been much concerned in
her eager acceptance of her aunt’s invitation, which had
come to her at an hour when she expected from day to
day to see Mr. Goodwood and when she was glad to have
an answer ready for something she was sure he would say
to her. When she had told him at Albany, on the evening
of Mrs. Touchett’s visit, that she couldn’t then discuss
difficult questions, dazzled as she was by the great
immediate opening of her aunt’s offer of ‘Europe,’ he
declared that this was no answer at all; and it was now to
obtain a better one that he was following her across the
sea. To say to herself that he was a kind of grim fate was
well enough for a fanciful young woman who was able to
take much for granted in him; but the reader has a right to
a nearer and a clearer view.
    He was the son of a proprietor of well-known cotton-
mills in Massachusetts—a gentleman who had accumulated
a considerable fortune in the exercise of this industry.


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Caspar at present managed the works, and with a
judgement and a temper which, in spite of keen
competition and languid years, had kept their prosperity
from dwindling. He had received the better part of his
education at Harvard College, where, however, he had
gained renown rather as a gymnast and an oarsman than as
a gleaner of more dispersed knowledge. Later on he had
learned that the finer intelligence too could vault and pull
and strain—might even, breaking the record, treat itself to
rare exploits. He had thus discovered in himself a sharp
eye for the mystery of mechanics, and had invented an
improvement in the cotton-spinning process which was
now largely used and was known by his name. You might
have seen it in the newspapers in connection with this
fruitful contrivance; assurance of which he had given to
Isabel by showing her in the columns of the New York
Interviewer an exhaustive article on the Goodwood
patent—an article not prepared by Miss Stackpole, friendly
as she had proved herself to his more sentimental interests.
There were intricate, bristling things he rejoiced in; he
liked to organize, to contend, to administer; he could
make people work his will, believe in him, march before
him and justify him. This was the art, as they said, of
managing men—which rested, in him, further, on a bold


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though brooding ambition. It struck those who knew him
well that he might do greater things than carry on a
cotton-factory; there was nothing cottony about Caspar
Goodwood, and his friends took for granted that he would
somehow and somewhere write himself in bigger letters.
But it was as if something large and confused, something
dark and ugly, would have to call upon him: he was not
after all in harmony with mere smug peace and greed and
gain, an order of things of which the vital breath was
ubiquitous advertisement. It pleased Isabel to believe that
he might have ridden, on a plunging steed, the whirlwind
of a great war—a war like the Civil strife that had
overdarkened her conscious childhood and his ripening
youth.
    She liked at any rate this idea of his being by character
and in fact a mover of men—liked it much better than
some other points in his nature and aspect. She cared
nothing for his cotton-mill—the Goodwood patent left
her imagination absolutely cold. She wished him no ounce
less of his manhood, but she sometimes thought he would
be rather nicer if he looked, for instance, a little
differently. His jaw was too square and set and his figure
too straight and stiff: these things suggested a want of easy
consonance with the deeper rhythms of life. Then she


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viewed with reserve a habit he had of dressing always in
the same manner; it was not apparently that he wore the
same clothes continually, for, on the contrary, his
garments had a way of looking rather too new. But they
all seemed of the same piece; the figure, the stuff, was so
drearily usual. She had reminded herself more than once
that this was a frivolous objection to a person of his
importance; and then she had amended the rebuke by
saying that it would be a frivolous objection only if she
were in love with him. She was not in love with him and
therefore might criticize his small defects as well as his
great—which latter consisted in the collective reproach of
his being too serious, or, rather, not of his being so, since
one could never be, but certainly of his seeming so. He
showed his appetites and designs too simply and artlessly;
when one was alone with him he talked too much about
the same subject, and when other people were present he
talked too little about anything. And yet he was of
supremely strong, clean make—which was so much: she
saw the different fitted parts of him as she had seen, in
museums and portraits, the different fitted parts of
armoured warriors—in plates of steel handsomely inlaid
with gold. It was very strange: where, ever, was any
tangible link between her impression and her act? Caspar


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Goodwood had never corresponded to her idea of a
delightful person, and she supposed that this was why he
left her so harshly critical. When, however, Lord
Warburton, who not only did correspond with it, but
gave an extension to the term, appealed to her approval,
she found herself still unsatisfied. It was certainly strange.
    The sense of her incoherence was not a help to
answering Mr. Goodwood’s letter, and Isabel determined
to leave it a while unhonoured. If he had determined to
persecute her he must take the consequences; foremost
among which was his being left to perceive how little it
charmed her that he should come down to Gardencourt.
She was already liable to the incursions of one suitor at this
place, and though it might be pleasant to be appreciated in
opposite quarters there was a kind of grossness in
entertaining two such passionate pleaders at once, even in
a case where the entertainment should consist of
dismissing them. She made no reply to Mr. Goodwood;
but at the end of three days she wrote to Lord Warburton,
and the letter belongs to our history.
    DEAR LORD WARBURTON—A great deal of
earnest thought has not led me to change my mind about
the suggestion you were so kind as to make me the other
day. I am not, I am really and truly not, able to regard you


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in the light of a companion for life; or to think of your
home—your various homes—as settled seat of my
existence. These things cannot be reasoned about, and I
very earnestly entreat you not to return to the subject we
discussed so exhaustively. We see our lives from our own
point of view; that is the privilege of the weakest and
humblest of us; and I shall never be able to see mine in the
manner you proposed. Kindly let this suffice you, and do
me the justice to believe that I have given your proposal
the deeply respectful consideration it deserves. It is with
this very great regard that I remain sincerely yours,
   ISABEL ARCHER
   While the author of this missive was making up her
mind to despatch it Henrietta Stackpole formed a resolve
which was accompanied by no demur. She invited Ralph
Touchett to take a walk with her in the garden, and when
he had assented with that alacrity which seemed constantly
to testify to his high expectations, she informed him that
she had a favour to ask of him. It may be admitted that at
this information the young man flinched; for we know
that Miss Stackpole had struck him as apt to push an
advantage. The alarm was unreasoned, however; for he
was clear about the area of her indiscretion as little as
advised of its vertical depth, and he made a very civil


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profession of the desire to serve her. He was afraid of her
and presently told her so. ‘When you look at me in a
certain way my knees knock together, my faculties desert
me; I’m filled with trepidation and I ask only for strength
to execute your commands. You’ve an address that I’ve
never encountered in any woman.’
    ‘Well,’ Henrietta replied good-humouredly, ‘if I had
not known before that you were trying somehow to abash
me I should know it now. Of course I’m easy game—I
was brought up with such different customs and ideas. I’m
not used to your arbitrary standards, and I’ve never been
spoken to in America as you have spoken to me. If a
gentleman conversing with me over there were to speak
to me like that I shouldn’t know what to make of it. We
take everything more naturally over there, and, after all,
we’re a great deal more simple. I admit that; I’m very
simple myself. Of course if you choose to laugh at me for
it you’re very welcome; but I think on the whole I would
rather be myself than you. I’m quite content to be myself;
I don’t want to change. There are plenty of people that
appreciate me just as I am. It’s true they’re nice fresh free-
born Americans!’ Henrietta had lately taken up the tone of
helpless innocence and large concession. ‘I want you to
assist me a little,’ she went on. ‘I don’t care in the least


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whether I amuse you while you do so; or, rather, I’m
perfectly willing your amusement should be your reward.
I want you to help me about Isabel.’
    ‘Has she injured you?’ Ralph asked.
    ‘If she had I shouldn’t mind, and I should never tell
you. What I’m afraid of is that she’ll injure herself.’
    ‘I think that’s very possible,’ said Ralph.
    His companion stopped in the garden-walk, fixing on
him perhaps the very gaze that unnerved him. ‘That too
would amuse you, I suppose. The way you do things! I
never heard any one so indifferent.’
    ‘To Isabel? Ah, not that!’
    ‘Well, you’re not in love with her, I hope.’
    ‘How can that be, when I’m in love with Another?’
    ‘You’re in love with yourself, that’s the Other!’ Miss
Stackpole declared. ‘Much good may it do you! But if you
wish to be serious once in your life here’s a chance; and if
you really care for your cousin here’s an opportunity to
prove it. I don’t expect you to understand her; that’s too
much to ask. But you needn’t do that to grant my favour.
I’ll supply the necessary intelligence.’
    ‘I shall enjoy that immensely!’ Ralph exclaimed. ‘I’ll be
Caliban and you shall be Ariel.’



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   ‘You’re not at all like Caliban, because you’re
sophisticated, and Caliban was not. But I’m not talking
about imaginary characters; I’m talking about Isabel.
Isabel’s intensely real. What I wish to tell you is that I find
her fearfully changed.’
   ‘Since you came, do you mean?’
   ‘Since I came and before I came. She’s not the same as
she once so beautifully was.’
   ‘As she was in America?’
   ‘Yes, in America. I suppose you know she comes from
there. She can’t help it, but she does.’
   ‘Do you want to change her back again?’
   ‘Of course I do, and I want you to help me.’
   ‘Ah,’ said Ralph, ‘I’m only Caliban; I’m not Prospero.’
   ‘You were Prospero enough to make her what she has
become. You’ve acted on Isabel Archer since she came
here, Mr. Touchett.’
   ‘I, my dear Miss Stackpole? Never in the world. Isabel
Archer has acted on me—yes; she acts on every one. But
I’ve been absolutely passive.’
   ‘You’re too passive then. You had better stir yourself
and be careful. Isabel’s changing every day; she’s drifting
away—right out to sea. I’ve watched her and I can see it.
She’s not the bright American girl she was. She’s taking


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different views, a different colour, and turning away from
her old ideals. I want to save those ideals, Mr. Touchett,
and that’s where you come in.’
    ‘Not surely as an ideal?’
    ‘Well, I hope not,’ Henrietta replied promptly. ‘I’ve
got a fear in my heart that she’s going to marry one of
these fell Europeans, and I want to prevent it.’
    ‘Ah, I see,’ cried Ralph; ‘and to prevent it you want
me to step in and marry her?’
    ‘Not quite; that remedy would be as bad as the disease,
for you’re the typical, the fell European from whom I
wish to rescue her. No; I wish you to take an interest in
another person—a young man to whom she once gave
great encouragement and whom she now doesn’t seem to
think good enough. He’s a thoroughly grand man and a
very dear friend of mine, and I wish very much you
would invite him to pay a visit here.’
    Ralph was puzzled by this appeal, and it is perhaps not
to the credit of his purity of mind that he failed to look at
it at first in the simplest light. It wore, to his eyes, a
tortuous air, and his fault was that he was not quite sure
that anything in the world could really be as candid as this
request of Miss Stackpole’s appeared. That a young
woman should demand that a gentleman whom she


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described as her very dear friend should be furnished with
an opportunity to make himself agreeable to another
young woman, a young woman whose attention had
wandered and whose charms were greater—this was an
anomaly which for the moment challenged all his
ingenuity of interpretation. To read between the lines was
easier than to follow the text, and to suppose that Miss
Stackpole wished the gentleman invited to Gardencourt
on her own account was the sign not so much of a vulgar
as of an embarrassed mind. Even from this venial act of
vulgarity, however, Ralph was saved, and saved by a force
that I can only speak of as inspiration. With no more
outward light on the subject than he already possessed he
suddenly acquired the conviction that it would be a
sovereign injustice to the correspondent of the Interviewer
to assign a dishonourable motive to any act of hers. This
conviction passed into his mind with extreme rapidity; it
was perhaps kindled by the pure radiance of the young
lady’s imperturbable gaze. He returned this challenge a
moment, consciously, resisting an inclination to frown as
one frowns in the presence of larger luminaries. ‘Who’s
the gentleman you speak of?’
   ‘Mr. Caspar Goodwood—of Boston. He has been
extremely attentive to Isabel—just as devoted to her as he


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can live. He has followed her out here and he’s at present
in London. I don’t know his address, but I guess I can
obtain it.’
    ‘I’ve never heard of him,’ said Ralph.
    ‘Well, I suppose you haven’t heard of every one. I
don’t believe he has ever heard of you; but that’s no
reason why Isabel shouldn’t marry him.’
    Ralph gave a mild ambiguous laugh. ‘What a rage you
have for marrying people! Do you remember how you
wanted to marry me the other day?’
    ‘I’ve got over that. You don’t know how to take such
ideas. Mr. Goodwood does, however; and that’s what I
like about him. He’s a splendid man and a perfect
gentleman, and Isabel knows it.’
    ‘Is she very fond of him?’
    ‘If she isn’t she ought to be. He’s simply wrapped up in
her.’
    ‘And you wish me to ask him here,’ said Ralph
reflectively.
    ‘It would be an act of true hospitality.’
    ‘Caspar Goodwood,’ Ralph continued—‘it’s rather a
striking name.’




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    ‘I don’t care anything about his name. It might be
Ezekiel Jenkins, and I should say the same. He’s the only
man I have ever seen whom I think worthy of Isabel.’
    ‘You’re a very devoted friend,’ said Ralph.
    ‘Of course I am. If you say that to pour scorn on me I
don’t care.’
    ‘I don’t say it to pour scorn on you; I’m very much
struck with it.’
    ‘You’re more satiric than ever, but I advise you not to
laugh at Mr. Goodwood.’
    ‘I assure you I’m very serious; you ought to understand
that,’ said Ralph.
    In a moment his companion understood it. ‘I believe
you are; now you’re too serious.’
    ‘You’re difficult to please.’
    ‘Oh, you’re very serious indeed. You won’t invite Mr.
Goodwood.’
    ‘I don’t know,’ said Ralph. ‘I’m capable of strange
things. Tell me a little about Mr. Goodwood. What’s he
like?’
    ‘He’s just the opposite of you. He’s at the head of a
cotton-factory; a very fine one.’
    ‘Has he pleasant manners?’ asked Ralph.
    ‘Splendid manners—in the American style.’


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    ‘Would he be an agreeable member of our little circle?’
    ‘I don’t think he’d care much about our little circle.
He’d concentrate on Isabel.’
    ‘And how would my cousin like that?’
    ‘Very possibly not at all. But it will be good for her. It
will call back her thoughts.’
    ‘Call them back—from where?’
    ‘From foreign parts and other unnatural places. Three
months ago she gave Mr. Goodwood every reason to
suppose he was acceptable to her, and it’s not worthy of
Isabel to go back on a real friend simply because she has
changed the scene. I’ve changed the scene too, and the
effect of it has been to make me care more for my old
associations than ever. It’s my belief that the sooner Isabel
changes it back again the better. I know her well enough
to know that she would never be truly happy over here,
and I wish her to form some strong American tie that will
act as a preservative.’
    ‘Aren’t you perhaps a little too much in a hurry?’
Ralph enquired. ‘Don’t you think you ought to give her
more of a chance in poor old England?’
    ‘A chance to ruin her bright young life? One’s never
too much in a hurry to save a precious human creature
from drowning.’


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    ‘As I understand it then,’ said Ralph, ‘you wish me to
push Mr. Goodwood overboard after her. Do you know,’
he added, ‘that I’ve never heard her mention his name?’
    Henrietta gave a brilliant smile. ‘I’m delighted to hear
that; it proves how much she thinks of him.’
    Ralph appeared to allow that there was a good deal in
this, and he surrendered to thought while his companion
watched him askance. ‘If I should invite Mr. Goodwood,’
he finally said, ‘it would be to quarrel with him.’
    ‘Don’t do that; he’d prove the better man.’
    ‘You certainly are doing your best to make me hate
him! I really don’t think I can ask him. I should be afraid
of being rude to, him.’
    ‘It’s just as you please,’ Henrietta returned. ‘I had no
idea you were in love with her yourself.’
    ‘Do you really believe that?’ the young man asked with
lifted eyebrows.
    ‘That’s the most natural speech I’ve ever heard you
make! Of course I believe it,’ Miss Stackpole ingeniously
said.
    ‘Well,’ Ralph concluded, ‘to prove to you that you’re
wrong I’ll invite him. It must be of course as a friend of
yours.’



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    ‘It will not be as a friend of mine that he’ll come; and it
will not be to prove to me that I’m wrong that you’ll ask
him—but to prove it to yourself!’
    These last words of Miss Stackpole’s (on which the two
presently separated) contained an amount of truth which
Ralph Touchett was obliged to recognize; but it so far
took the edge from too sharp a recognition that, in spite of
his suspecting it would be rather more indiscreet to keep
than to break his promise, he wrote Mr. Goodwood a
note of six lines, expressing the pleasure it would give Mr.
Touchett the elder that he should join a little party at
Gardencourt, of which Miss Stackpole was a valued
member. Having sent his letter (to the care of a banker
whom Henrietta suggested) he waited in some suspense.
He had heard this fresh formidable figure named for the
first time; for when his mother had mentioned on her
arrival that there was a story about the girl’s having an
‘admirer’ at home, the idea had seemed deficient in reality
and he had taken no pains to ask questions the answers to
which would involve only the vague or the disagreeable.
Now, however, the native admiration of which his cousin
was the object had become more concrete; it took the
form of a young man who had followed her to London,
who was interested in a cotton-mill and had manners in


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the most splendid of the American styles. Ralph had two
theories about this intervener. Either his passion was a
sentimental fiction of Miss Stackpole’s (there was always a
sort of tacit understanding among women, born of the
solidarity of the sex, that they should discover or invent
lovers for each other), in which case he was not to be
feared and would probably not accept the invitation; or
else he would accept the invitation and in this event prove
himself a creature too irrational to demand further
consideration. The latter clause of Ralph’s argument might
have seemed incoherent; but it embodied his conviction
that if Mr. Goodwood were interested in Isabel in the
serious manner described by Miss Stackpole he would not
care to present himself at Gardencourt on a summons from
the latter lady. ‘On this supposition,’ said Ralph, ‘he must
regard her as a thorn on the stem of his rose; as an
intercessor he must find her wanting in tact.’
    Two days after he had sent his invitation he received a
very short note from Caspar Goodwood, thanking him for
it, regretting that other engagements made a visit to
Gardencourt impossible and presenting many compliments
to Miss Stackpole. Ralph handed the note to Henrietta,
who, when she had read it, exclaimed: ‘Well, I never have
heard of anything so stiff!’


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    ‘I’m afraid he doesn’t care so much about my cousin as
you suppose,’ Ralph observed.
    ‘No, it’s not that; it’s some subtler motive. His nature’s
very deep. But I’m determined to fathom it, and I shall
write to him to know what he means.’
    His refusal of Ralph’s overtures was vaguely
disconcerting; from the moment he declined to come to
Gardencourt our friend began to think him of importance.
He asked himself what it signified to him whether Isabel’s
admirers should be desperadoes or laggards; they were not
rivals of his and were perfectly welcome to act out their
genius. Nevertheless he felt much curiosity as to the result
of Miss Stackpole’s promised enquiry into the causes of
Mr. Goodwood’s stiffness—a curiosity for the present
ungratified, inasmuch as when he asked her three days
later if she had written to London she was obliged to
confess she had written in vain. Mr. Goodwood had not
replied.
    ‘I suppose he’s thinking it over,’ she said; ‘he thinks
everything over; he’s not really at all impetuous. But I’m
accustomed to having my letters answered the same day.’
She presently proposed to Isabel, at all events, that they
should make an excursion to London together. ‘If I must
tell the truth,’ she observed, ‘I’m not seeing much at this


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place, and I shouldn’t think you were either. I’ve not even
seen that aristocrat—what’s his name?—Lord Washburton.
He seems to let you severely alone.’
    ‘Lord Warburton’s coming to-morrow, I happen to
know,’ replied her friend, who had received a note from
the master of Lockleigh in answer to her own letter.
‘You’ll have every opportunity of turning him inside out.’
    ‘Well, he may do for one letter, but what’s one letter
when you want to write fifty? I’ve described all the
scenery in this vicinity and raved about all the old women
and donkeys. You may say what you please, scenery
doesn’t make a vital letter. I must go back to London and
get some impressions of real life. I was there but three days
before I came away, and that’s hardly time to get in
touch.’
    As Isabel, on her journey from New York to
Gardencourt, had seen even less of the British capital than
this, it appeared a happy suggestion of Henrietta’s that the
two should go thither on a visit of pleasure. The idea
struck Isabel as charming; she was curious of the thick
detail of London, which had always loomed large and rich
to her. They turned over their schemes together and
indulged in visions of romantic hours. They would stay at
some picturesque old inn—one of the inns described by


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Dickens—and drive over the town in those delightful
hansoms. Henrietta was a literary woman, and the great
advantage of being a literary woman was that you could
go everywhere and do everything. They would dine at a
coffee-house and go afterwards to the play; they would
frequent the Abbey and the British Museum and find out
where Doctor Johnson had lived, and Goldsmith and
Addison. Isabel grew eager and presently unveiled the
bright vision to Ralph, who burst into a fit of laughter
which scarce expressed the sympathy she had desired.
   ‘It’s a delightful plan,’ he said. ‘I advise you to go to the
Duke’s Head in Covent Garden, an easy, informal, old-
fashioned place, and I’ll have you put down at my club.’
   ‘Do you mean it’s improper?’ Isabel asked. ‘Dear me,
isn’t anything proper here? With Henrietta surely I may
go anywhere; she isn’t hampered in that way. She has
travelled over the whole American continent and can at
least find her way about this minute island.’
   ‘Ah then,’ said Ralph, ‘let me take advantage of her
protection to go up to town as well. I may never have a
chance to travel so safely!’




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                         Chapter 14

   Miss Stackpole would have prepared to start
immediately; but Isabel, as we have seen, had been
notified that Lord Warburton would come again to
Gardencourt, and she believed it her duty to remain there
and see him. For four or five days he had made no
response to her letter; then he had written, very briefly, to
say he would come to luncheon two days later. There was
something in these delays and postponements that touched
the girl and renewed her sense of his desire to be
considerate and patient, not to appear to urge her too
grossly; a consideration the more studied that she was so
sure he ‘really liked’ her. Isabel told her uncle she had
written to him, mentioning also his intention of coming;
and the old man, in consequence, left his room earlier
than usual and made his appearance at the two o’clock
repast. This was by no means an act of vigilance on his
part, but the fruit of a benevolent belief that his being of
the company might help to cover any conjoined straying
away in case Isabel should give their noble visitor another
hearing. That personage drove over from Lockleigh and
brought the elder of his sisters with him, a measure


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presumably dictated by reflexions of the same order as Mr.
Touchett’s. The two visitors were introduced to Miss
Stackpole, who, at luncheon, occupied a seat adjoining
Lord Warburton’s. Isabel, who was nervous and had no
relish for the prospect of again arguing the question he had
so prematurely opened, could not help admiring his good-
humoured self-possession, which quite disguised the
symptoms of that preoccupation with her presence it was
natural she should suppose him to feel. He neither looked
at her nor spoke to her, and the only sign of his emotion
was that he avoided meeting her eyes. He had plenty of
talk for the others, however, and he appeared to eat his
luncheon with discrimination and appetite. Miss
Molyneux, who had a smooth, nun-like forehead and
wore a large silver cross suspended from her neck, was
evidently preoccupied with Henrietta Stackpole, upon
whom her eyes constantly rested in a manner suggesting a
conflict between deep alienation and yearning wonder. Of
the two ladies from Lockleigh she was the one Isabel had
liked best; there was such a world of hereditary quiet in
her. Isabel was sure moreover that her mild forehead and
silver cross referred to some weird Anglican mystery—
some delightful reinstitution perhaps of the quaint office of
the canoness. She wondered what Miss Molyneux would


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think of her if she knew Miss Archer had refused her
brother; and then she felt sure that Miss Molyneux would
never know- that Lord Warburton never told her such
things. He was fond of her and kind to her, but on the
whole he told her little. Such, at least, was Isabel’s theory;
when, at table, she was not occupied in conversation she
was usually occupied in forming theories about her
neighbours. According to Isabel, if Miss Molyneux should
ever learn what had passed between Miss Archer and Lord
Warburton she would probably be shocked at such a girl’s
failure to rise; or no, rather (this was our heroine’s last
position) she would impute to the young American but a
due consciousness of inequality.
    Whatever Isabel might have made of her opportunities,
at all events, Henrietta Stackpole was by no means
disposed to neglect those in which she now found herself
immersed. ‘Do you know you’re the first lord I’ve ever
seen?’ she said very promptly to her neighbour. ‘I suppose
you think I’m awfully benighted.’
    ‘You’ve escaped seeing some very ugly men,’ Lord
Warburton answered, looking a trifle absently about the
table.




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    ‘Are they very ugly? They try to make us believe in
America that they’re all handsome and magnificent and
that they wear wonderful robes and crowns.’
    ‘Ah, the robes and crowns are gone out of fashion,’ said
Lord Warburton, ‘like your tomahawks and revolvers.’
    ‘I’m sorry for that; I think an aristocracy ought to be
splendid,’ Henrietta declared. ‘If it’s not that, what is it?’
    ‘Oh, you know, it isn’t much, at the best,’ her
neighbour allowed. ‘Won’t you have a potato?’
    ‘I don’t care much for these European potatoes. I
shouldn’t know you from an ordinary American
gentleman.’
    ‘Do talk to me as if I were one,’ said Lord Warburton.
‘I don’t see how you manage to get on without potatoes;
you must find so few things to eat over here.’
    Henrietta was silent a little; there was a chance he was
not sincere. ‘I’ve had hardly any appetite since I’ve been
here,’ she went on at last; ‘so it doesn’t much matter. I
don’t approve of you, you know; I feel as if I ought to tell
you that.’
    ‘Don’t approve of me?’
    ‘Yes; I don’t suppose any one ever said such a thing to
you before, did they? I don’t approve of lords as an



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institution. I think the world has got beyond them—far
beyond.’
    ‘Oh, so do I. I don’t approve of myself in the least.
Sometimes it comes over me—how I should object to
myself if I were not myself, don’t you know? But that’s
rather good, by the way—not to be vainglorious.’
    ‘Why don’t you give it up then?’ Miss Stackpole
enquired.
    ‘Give up—a-?’ asked Lord Warburton, meeting her
harsh inflexion with a very mellow one.
    ‘Give up being a lord.’
    ‘Oh, I’m so little of one! One would really forget all
about it if you wretched Americans were not constantly
reminding one. However, I do think of giving it up, the
little there is left of it, one of these days.’
    ‘I should like to see you do it!’ Henrietta exclaimed
rather grimly.
    ‘I’ll invite you to the ceremony; we’ll have a supper
and a dance.’
    ‘Well,’ said Miss Stackpole, ‘I like to see all sides. I
don’t approve of a privileged class, but I like to hear what
they have to say for themselves.’
    ‘Mighty little, as you see!’



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    ‘I should like to draw you out a little more,’ Henrietta
continued. ‘But you’re always looking away. You’re afraid
of meeting my eye. I see you want to escape me.’
    ‘No, I’m only looking for those despised potatoes.’
    ‘Please explain about that young lady—your sister—
then. I don’t understand about her. Is she a Lady?’
    ‘She’s a capital good girl.’
    ‘I don’t like the way you say that—as if you wanted to
change the subject. Is her position inferior to yours?’
    ‘We neither of us have any position to speak of; but
she’s better off than I, because she has none of the bother.’
    ‘Yes, she doesn’t look as if she had much bother. I wish
I had as little bother as that. You do produce quiet people
over here, whatever else you may do.’
    ‘Ah, you see one takes life easily, on the whole,’ said
Lord Warburton. ‘And then you know we’re very dull.
Ah, we can be dull when we try!’
    ‘I should advise you to try something else. I shouldn’t
know what to talk to your sister about; she looks so
different. Is that silver cross a badge?’
    ‘A badge?’
    ‘A sign of rank.’
    Lord Warburton’s glance had wandered a good deal,
but at this it met the gaze of his neighbour. ‘Oh yes,’ he


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answered in a moment; ‘the women go in for those things.
The silver cross is worn by the eldest daughters of
Viscounts.’ Which was his harmless revenge for having
occasionally had his credulity too easily engaged in
America. After luncheon he proposed to Isabel to come
into the gallery and look at the pictures; and though she
knew he had seen the pictures twenty times she complied
without criticizing this pretext. Her conscience now was
very easy; ever since she sent him her letter she had felt
particularly light of spirit. He walked slowly to the end of
the gallery, staring at its contents and saying nothing; and
then he suddenly broke out: ‘I hoped you wouldn’t write
to me that way.’
    ‘It was the only way, Lord Warburton,’ said the girl.
‘Do try and believe that.’
    ‘If I could believe it of course I should let you alone.
But we can’t believe by willing it; and I confess I don’t
understand. I could understand your disliking me; that I
could understand well. But that you should admit you do-
.’
    ‘What have I admitted?’ Isabel interrupted, turning
slightly pale.




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     ‘That you think me a good fellow; isn’t that it?’ She
said nothing, and he went on: ‘You don’t seem to have
any reason, and that gives me a sense of injustice.’
     ‘I have a reason, Lord Warburton.’ She said it in a tone
that made his heart contract.
     ‘I should like very much to know it.’
     ‘I’ll tell you some day when there’s more to show for
it.’
     ‘Excuse my saying that in the mean time I must doubt
of it.’
     ‘You make me very unhappy,’ said Isabel.
     ‘I’m not sorry for that; it may help you to know how I
feel. Will you kindly answer me a question?’ Isabel made
no audible assent, but he apparently saw in her eyes
something that gave him courage to go on. ‘Do you prefer
some one else?’
     ‘That’s a question I’d rather not answer.’
     ‘Ah, you do then!’ her suitor murmured with
bitterness.
     The bitterness touched her, and she cried out: ‘You’re
mistaken! I don’t.’
     He sat down on a bench, unceremoniously, doggedly,
like a man in trouble; leaning his elbows on his knees and
staring at the floor. ‘I can’t even be glad of that,’ he said at


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last, throwing himself back against the wall; ‘for that
would be an excuse.’
    She raised her eyebrows in surprise. ‘An excuse? Must I
excuse myself?’
    He paid, however, no answer to the question. Another
idea had come into his head. ‘Is it my political opinions?
Do you think I go too far?’
    ‘I can’t object to your political opinions, because I
don’t understand them.’
    ‘You don’t care what I think!’ he cried, getting up. ‘It’s
all the same to you.
    Isabel walked to the other side of the gallery and stood
there showing him her charming back, her light slim
figure, the length of her white neck as she bent her head,
and the density of her dark braids. She stopped in front of
a small picture as if for the purpose of examining it; and
there was something so young and free in her movement
that her very pliancy seemed to mock at him. Her eyes,
however, saw nothing; they had suddenly been suffused
with tears. In a moment he followed her, and by this time
she had brushed her tears away; but when she turned
round her face was pale and the expression of her eyes
strange. ‘That reason that I wouldn’t tell you—I’ll tell it
you after all. It’s that I can’t escape my fate.’


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    ‘Your fate?’
    ‘I should try to escape it if I were to marry you.’
    ‘I don’t understand. Why should not that be your fate
as well as anything else?’
    ‘Because it’s not,’ said Isabel femininely. ‘I know it’s
not. It’s not my fate to give up—I know it can’t be.’
    Poor Lord Warburton stared, an interrogative point in
either eye. ‘Do you call marrying me giving up?’
    ‘Not in the usual sense. It’s getting—getting—getting a
great deal. But it’s giving up other chances.’
    ‘Other chances for what?’
    ‘I don’t mean chances to marry,’ said Isabel, her colour
quickly coming back to her. And then she stopped,
looking down with a deep frown, as if it were hopeless to
attempt to make her meaning clear.
    ‘I don’t think it presumptuous in me to suggest that
you’ll gain more than you’ll lose,’ her companion
observed.
    ‘I can’t escape unhappiness,’ said Isabel. ‘In marrying
you I shall be trying to.’
    ‘I don’t know whether you’d try to, but you certainly
would: that I must in candour admit!’ he exclaimed with
an anxious laugh.
    ‘I mustn’t—I can’t!’ cried the girl.


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   ‘Well, if you’re bent on being miserable I don’t see
why you should make me so. Whatever charms a life of
misery may have for you, it has none for me.’
   ‘I’m not bent on a life of misery,’ said Isabel. ‘I’ve
always been intensely determined to be happy, and I’ve
often believed I should be. I’ve told people that; you can
ask them. But it comes over me every now and then that I
can never be happy in any extraordinary way; not by
turning away, by separating myself.’
   ‘By separating yourself from what?’
   ‘From life. From the usual chances and dangers, from
what most people know and suffer.’
   Lord Warburton broke into a smile that almost denoted
hope. ‘Why, my dear Miss Archer,’ he began to explain
with the most considerate eagerness, ‘I don’t offer you any
exoneration from life or from any chances or dangers
whatever. I wish I could; depend upon it I would! For
what do you take me, pray? Heaven help me, I’m not the
Emperor of China! All I offer you is the chance of taking
the common lot in a comfortable sort of way. The
common lot? Why, I’m devoted to the common lot!
Strike an alliance with me, and I promise you that you
shall have plenty of it. You shall separate from nothing
whatever—not even from your friend Miss Stackpole.’


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    ‘She’d never approve of it,’ said Isabel, trying to smile
and take advantage of this side-issue; despising herself too,
not a little, for doing so.
    ‘Are we speaking of Miss Stackpole?’ his lordship asked
impatiently. ‘I never saw a person judge things on such
theoretic grounds.’
    ‘Now I suppose you’re speaking of me,’ said Isabel
with humility; and she turned away again, for she saw Miss
Molyneux enter the gallery, accompanied by Henrietta
and by Ralph.
    Lord Warburton’s sister addressed him with a certain
timidity and reminded him she ought to return home in
time for tea, as she was expecting company to partake of
it. He made no answer—apparently not having heard her;
he was preoccupied, and with good reason. Miss
Molyneux—as if he had been Royalty—stood like a lady-
in-waiting.
    ‘Well, I never, Miss Molyneux!’ said Henrietta
Stackpole. ‘If I wanted to go he’d have to go. If I wanted
my brother to do a thing he’d have to do it.’
    ‘Oh, Warburton does everything one wants,’ Miss
Molyneux answered with a quick, shy laugh. ‘How very
many pictures you have!’ she went on, turning to Ralph.



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   ‘They look a good many, because they’re all put
together,’ said Ralph. ‘But it’s really a bad way.’
   ‘Oh, I think it’s so nice. I wish we had a gallery at
Lockleigh. I’m so very fond of pictures,’ Miss Molyneux
went on, persistently, to Ralph, as if she were afraid Miss
Stackpole would address her again. Henrietta appeared at
once to fascinate and to frighten her.
   ‘Ah yes, pictures are very convenient,’ said Ralph, who
appeared to know better what style of reflexion was
acceptable to her.
   ‘They’re so very pleasant when it rains,’ the young lady
continued. ‘It has rained of late so very often.’
   ‘I’m sorry you’re going away, Lord Warburton,’ said
Henrietta. ‘I wanted to get a great deal more out of you.’
   ‘I’m not going away,’ Lord Warburton answered.
   ‘Your sister says you must. In America the gentlemen
obey the ladies.’
   ‘I’m afraid we have some people to tea,’ said Miss
Molyneux, looking at her brother.
   ‘Very good, my dear. We’ll go.’
   ‘I hoped you would resist!’ Henrietta exclaimed. ‘I
wanted to see what Miss Molyneux would do.’
   ‘I never do anything,’ said this young lady.



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    ‘I suppose in your position it’s sufficient for you to
exist!’ Miss Stackpole returned. ‘I should like very much
to see you at home.’
    ‘You must come to Lockleigh again,’ said Miss
Molyneux, very sweetly, to Isabel, ignoring this remark of
Isabel’s friend.
    Isabel looked into her quiet eyes a moment, and for
that moment seemed to see in their grey depths the
reflexion of everything she had rejected in rejecting Lord
Warburton—the peace, the kindness, the honour, the
possessions, a deep security and a great exclusion. She
kissed Miss Molyneux and then she said: ‘I’m afraid I can
never come again.’
    ‘Never again?’
    ‘I’m afraid I’m going away.’
    ‘Oh, I’m so very sorry,’ said Miss Molyneux. ‘I think
that’s so very wrong of you.’
    Lord Warburton watched this little passage; then he
turned away and stared at a picture. Ralph, leaning against
the rail before the picture with his hands in his pockets,
had for the moment been watching him.
    ‘I should like to see you at home,’ said Henrietta,
whom Lord Warburton found beside him. ‘I should like



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an hour’s talk with you; there are a great many questions I
wish to ask you.’
   ‘I shall be delighted to see you,’ the proprietor of
Lockleigh answered; ‘but I’m certain not to be able to
answer many of your questions. When will you come?’
   ‘Whenever Miss Archer will take me. We’re thinking
of going to London, but we’ll go and see you first. I’m
determined to get some satisfaction out of you.’
   ‘If it depends upon Miss Archer I’m afraid you won’t
get much. She won’t come to Lockleigh; she doesn’t like
the place.’
   ‘She told me it was lovely!’ said Henrietta.
   Lord Warburton hesitated. ‘She won’t come, all the
same. You had better come alone,’ he added.
   Henrietta straightened herself, and her large eyes
expanded. ‘Would you make that remark to an English
lady?’ she enquired with soft asperity.
   Lord Warburton stared. ‘Yes, if I liked her enough.’
   ‘You’d be careful not to like her enough. If Miss
Archer won’t visit your place again it’s because she doesn’t
want to take me. I know what she thinks of me, and I
suppose you think the same—that I oughtn’t to bring in
individuals.’ Lord Warburton was at a loss; he had not
been made acquainted with Miss Stackpole’s professional


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character and failed to catch her allusion. ‘Miss Archer has
been warning you!’ she therefore went on.
   ‘Warning me?’
   ‘Isn’t that why she came off alone with you here—to
put you on your guard?’
   ‘Oh dear, no,’ said Lord Warburton brazenly; ‘our talk
had no such solemn character as that.’
   ‘Well, you’ve been on your guard—intensely. I
suppose it’s natural to you; that’s just what I wanted to
observe. And so, too, Miss Molyneux—she wouldn’t
commit herself. You have been warned, anyway,’
Henrietta continued, addressing this young lady; ‘but for
you it wasn’t necessary.’
   ‘I hope not,’ said Miss Molyneux vaguely.
   ‘Miss Stackpole takes notes,’ Ralph soothingly
explained. ‘She’s a great satirist; she sees through us all and
she works us up.’
   ‘Well, I must say I never have had such a collection of
had material!’ Henrietta declared, looking from Isabel to
Lord Warburton and from this nobleman to his sister and
to Ralph. ‘There’s something the matter with you all;
you’re as dismal as if you had got a bad cable.’
   ‘You do see through us, Miss Stackpole,’ said Ralph in
a low tone, giving her a little intelligent nod as he led the


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party out of the gallery. ‘There’s something the matter
with us all.’
    Isabel came behind these two; Miss Molyneux, who
decidedly liked her immensely, had taken her arm, to walk
beside her over the polished floor. Lord Warburton
strolled on the other side with his hands behind him and
his eyes lowered. For some moments he said nothing; and
then, ‘Is it true you’re going to London?’ he asked.
    ‘I believe it has been arranged.’
    ‘And when shall you come back?’
    ‘In a few days; but probably for a very short time. I’m
going to Paris with my aunt.’
    ‘When, then, shall I see you again?’
    ‘Not for a good while,’ said Isabel. ‘But some day or
other, I hope.’
    ‘Do you really hope it?’
    ‘Very much.’
    He went a few steps in silence; then he stopped and put
out his hand. ‘Good-bye.’
    ‘Good-bye,’ said Isabel.
    Miss Molyneux kissed her again, and she let the two
depart. After it, without rejoining Henrietta and Ralph,
she retreated to her own room; in which apartment,
before dinner, she was found by Mrs. Touchett, who had


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stopped on her way to the saloon. ‘I may as well tell you,’
said that lady, ‘that your uncle has informed me of your
relations with Lord Warburton.’
   Isabel considered. ‘Relations? They’re hardly relations.
That’s the strange part of it: he has seen me but three or
four times.’
   ‘Why did you tell your uncle rather than me?’ Mrs.
Touchett dispassionately asked.
   Again the girl hesitated. ‘Because he knows Lord
Warburton better.’
   ‘Yes, but I know you better.’
   ‘I’m not sure of that,’ said Isabel, smiling.
   ‘Neither am I, after all; especially when you give me
that rather conceited look. One would think you were
awfully pleased with yourself and had carried off a prize! I
suppose that when you refuse an offer like Lord
Warburton’s it’s because you expect to do something
better.’
   ‘Ah, my uncle didn’t say that!’ cried Isabel, smiling still.




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                         Chapter 15

   It had been arranged that the two young ladies should
proceed to London under Ralph’s escort, though Mrs.
Touchett looked with little favour on the plan. It was just
the sort of plan, she said, that Miss Stackpole would be
sure to suggest, and she enquired if the correspondent of
the Interviewer was to take the party to stay at a boarding-
house.
   ‘I don’t care where she takes us to stay, so long as
there’s local colour,’ said Isabel. ‘That’s what we’re going
to London for.’
   ‘I suppose that after a girl has refused an English lord
she may do anything,’ her aunt rejoined. ‘After that one
needn’t stand on trifles.’
   ‘Should you have liked me to marry Lord Warburton?’
Isabel enquired.
   ‘Of course I should.’
   ‘I thought you disliked the English so much.’
   ‘So I do; but it’s all the greater reason for making use of
them.’




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    ‘Is that your idea of marriage?’ And Isabel ventured to
add that her aunt appeared to her to have made very little
use of Mr. Touchett.
    ‘Your uncle’s not an English nobleman,’ said Mrs.
Touchett, ‘though even if he had been I should still
probably have taken up my residence in Florence.’
    ‘Do you think Lord Warburton could make me any
better than I am?’ the girl asked with some animation. ‘I
don’t mean I’m too good to improve. I mean—I mean
that I don’t love Lord Warburton enough to marry him.’
    ‘You did right to refuse him then,’ said Mrs. Touchett
in her smallest, sparest voice. ‘Only, the next great offer
you get, I hope you’ll manage to come up to your
standard.’
    ‘We had better wait till the offer comes before we talk
about it. I hope very much I may have no more offers for
the present. They upset me completely.’
    ‘You probably won’t be troubled with them if you
adopt permanently the Bohemian manner of life.
However, I’ve promised Ralph not to criticize.’
    ‘I’ll do whatever Ralph says is right,’ Isabel returned.
‘I’ve unbounded confidence in Ralph.’
    ‘His mother’s much obliged to you!’ this lady dryly
laughed.


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    ‘It seems to me indeed she ought to feel it!’ Isabel
irrepressibly answered.
    Ralph had assured her that there would be no violation
of decency in their paying a visit—the little party of
three—to the sights of the metropolis; but Mrs. Touchett
took a different view. Like many ladies of her country
who had lived a long time in Europe, she had completely
lost her native tact on such points, and in her reaction, not
in itself deplorable, against the liberty allowed to young
persons beyond the seas, had fallen into gratuitous and
exaggerated scruples. Ralph accompanied their visitors to
town and established them at a quiet inn in a street that
ran at right angles to Piccadilly. His first idea had been to
take them to his father’s house in Winchester Square, a
large, dull mansion which at this period of the year was
shrouded in silence and brown holland; but he bethought
himself that, the cook being at Gardencourt, there was no
one in the house to get them their meals, and Pratt’s Hotel
accordingly became their resting-place. Ralph, on his side,
found quarters in Winchester Square, having a ‘den’ there
of which he was very fond and being familiar with deeper
fears than that of a cold kitchen. He availed himself largely
indeed of the resources of Pratt’s Hotel, beginning his day
with an early visit to his fellow travellers, who had Mr.


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Pratt in person, in a large bulging white waistcoat, to
remove their dishcovers. Ralph turned up, as he said, after
breakfast, and the little party made out a scheme of
entertainment for the day. As London wears in the month
of September a face blank but for its smears of prior
service, the young man, who occasionally took an
apologetic tone, was obliged to remind his companion, to
Miss Stackpole’s high derision, that there wasn’t a creature
in town.
    ‘I suppose you mean the aristocracy are absent,’
Henrietta answered; ‘but I don’t think you could have a
better proof that if they were absent altogether they
wouldn’t be missed. It seems to me the place is about as
full as it can be. There’s no one here, of course, but three
or four millions of people. What is it you call them—the
lower-middle class? They’re only the population of
London, and that’s of no consequence.’
    Ralph declared that for him the aristocracy left no void
that Miss Stackpole herself didn’t fill, and that a more
contented man was nowhere at that moment to be found.
In this he spoke the truth, for the stale September days, in
the huge half-empty town, had a charm wrapped in them
as a coloured gem might be wrapped in a dusty cloth.
When he went home at night to the empty house in


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Winchester Square, after a chain of hours with his
comparatively ardent friends, he wandered into the big
dusky dining-room, where the candle he took from the
hall-table, after letting himself in, constituted the only
illumination. The square was still, the house was still;
when he raised one of the windows of the dining-room to
let in the air he heard the slow creak of the boots of a lone
constable. His own step, in the empty place, seemed loud
and sonorous; some of the carpets had been raised, and
whenever he moved he roused a melancholy echo. He sat
down in one of the armchairs; the big dark dining table
twinkled here and there in the small candle-light; the
pictures on the wall, all of them very brown, looked vague
and incoherent. There was a ghostly presence as of dinners
long since digested, of table-talk that had lost its actuality.
This hint of the supernatural perhaps had something to do
with the fact that his imagination took a flight and that he
remained in his chair a long time beyond the hour at
which he should have been in bed; doing nothing, not
even reading the evening paper. I say he did nothing, and
I maintain the phrase in the face of the fact that he
thought at these moments of Isabel. To think of Isabel
could only be for him an idle pursuit, leading to nothing
and profiting little to any one. His cousin had not yet


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seemed to him so charming as during these days spent in
sounding, tourist-fashion, the deeps and shallows of the
metropolitan element. Isabel was full of premises,
conclusions, emotions; if she had come in search of local
colour she found it everywhere. She asked more questions
than he could answer, and launched brave theories, as to
historic cause and social effect, that he was equally unable
to accept or to refute. The party went more than once to
the British Museum and to that brighter palace of art
which reclaims for antique variety so large an area of a
monotonous suburb; they spent a morning in the Abbey
and went on a penny-steamer to the Tower; they looked
at pictures both in public and private collections and sat on
various occasions beneath the great trees in Kensington
Gardens. Henrietta proved an indestructible sight-seer and
a more lenient judge than Ralph had ventured to hope.
She had indeed many disappointments, and London at
large suffered from her vivid remembrance of the strong
points of the American civic idea; but she made the best of
its dingy dignities and only heaved an occasional sigh and
uttered a desultory ‘Well!’ which led no further and lost
itself in retrospect. The truth was that, as she said herself,
she was not in her element. ‘I’ve not a sympathy with
inanimate objects,’ she remarked to Isabel at the National


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Gallery; and she continued to suffer from the meagreness
of the glimpse that had as yet been vouchsafed to her of
the inner life. Landscapes by Turner and Assyrian bulls
were a poor substitute for the literary dinner-parties at
which she had hoped to meet the genius and renown of
Great Britain.
    ‘Where are your public men, where are your men and
women of intellect?’ she enquired of Ralph, standing in
the middle of Trafalgar Square as if she had supposed this
to be a place where she would naturally meet a few.
‘That’s one of them on the top of the column, you say—
Lord Nelson? Was he a lord too? Wasn’t he high enough,
that they had to stick him a hundred feet in the air? That’s
the past—I don’t care about the past; I want to see some
of the leading minds of the present. I won’t say of the
future, because I don’t believe much in your future.’ Poor
Ralph had few leading minds among his acquaintance and
rarely enjoyed the pleasure of button-holing a celebrity; a
state of things which appeared to Miss Stackpole to
indicate a deplorable want of enterprise. ‘If I were on the
other side I should call,’ she said, ‘and tell the gentleman,
whoever he might be, that I had heard a great deal about
him and had come to see for myself. But I gather from
what you say that this is not the custom here. You seem to


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have plenty of meaningless customs, but none of those that
would help along. We are in advance, certainly. I suppose
I shall have to give up the social side altogether"; and
Henrietta, though she went about with her guidebook and
pencil and wrote a letter to the Interviewer about the
Tower (in which she described the execution of Lady Jane
Grey), had a sad sense of falling below her mission.
   The incident that had preceded Isabel’s departure from
Gardencourt left a painful trace in our young woman’s
mind: when she felt again in her face, as from a recurrent
wave, the cold breath of her last suitor’s surprise, she could
only muffle her head till the air cleared. She could not
have done less than what she did; this was certainly true.
But her necessity, all the same, had been as graceless as
some physical act in a strained attitude, and she felt no
desire to take credit for her conduct. Mixed with this
imperfect pride, nevertheless, was a feeling of freedom
which in itself was sweet and which, as she wandered
through the great city with her ill-matched companions,
occasionally throbbed into odd demonstrations. When she
walked in Kensington Gardens she stopped the children
(mainly of the poorer sort) whom she saw playing on the
grass; she asked them their names and gave them sixpence
and, when they were pretty, kissed them. Ralph noticed


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these quaint charities; he noticed everything she did. One
afternoon, that his companions might pass the time, he
invited them to tea in Winchester Square, and he had the
house set in order as much as possible for their visit. There
was another guest to meet them, an amiable bachelor, an
old friend of Ralph’s who happened to be in town and for
whom prompt commerce with Miss Stackpole appeared to
have neither difficulty nor dread. Mr. Bantling, a stout,
sleek, smiling man of forty, wonderfully dressed,
universally informed and incoherently amused, laughed
immoderately at everything Henrietta said, gave her
several cups of tea, examined in her society the bric-a-
brac, of which Ralph had a considerable collection, and
afterwards, when the host proposed they should go out
into the square and pretend it was a fete-champetre,
walked round the limited enclosure several times with her
and, at a dozen turns of their talk, bounded responsive—as
with a positive passion for argument- to her remarks upon
the inner life.
    ‘Oh, I see; I dare say you found it very quiet at
Gardencourt. Naturally there’s not much going on there
when there’s such a lot of illness about. Touchett’s very
bad, you know; the doctors have forbidden his being in
England at all, and he has only come back to take care of


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his father. The old man, I believe, has half a dozen things
the matter with him. They call it gout, but to my certain
knowledge he has organic disease so developed that you
may depend upon it he’ll go, some day soon, quite
quickly. Of course that sort of thing makes a dreadfully
dull house; I wonder they have people when they can do
so little for them. Then I believe Mr. Touchett’s always
squabbling with his wife; she lives away from her husband,
you know, in that extraordinary American way of yours. If
you want a house where there’s always something going
on, I recommend you to go down and stay with my sister,
Lady Pensil, in Bedfordshire. I’ll write to her tomorrow
and I’m sure she’ll be delighted to ask you. I know just
what you want—you want a house where they go in for
theatricals and picnics and that sort of thing. My sister’s
just that sort of woman; she’s always getting up something
or other and she’s always glad to have the sort of people
who help her. I’m sure she’ll ask you down by return of
post: she’s tremendously fond of distinguished people and
writers. She writes herself, you know; but I haven’t read
everything she has written. It’s usually poetry, and I don’t
go in much for poetry—unless it’s Byron. I suppose you
think a great deal of Byron in America,’ Mr. Bantling
continued, expanding in the stimulating air of Miss


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Stackpole’s attention, bringing up his sequences promptly
and changing his topic with an easy turn of hand. Yet he
none the less gracefully kept in sight of the idea, dazzling
to Henrietta, of her going to stay with Lady Pensil in
Bedfordshire. ‘I understand what you want; you want to
see some genuine English sport. The Touchetts aren’t
English at all, you know; they have their own habits, their
own language, their own food—some odd religion even, I
believe, of their own. The old man thinks it’s wicked to
hunt, I’m told. You must get down to my sister’s in time
for the theatricals, and I’m sure she’ll be glad to give you a
part. I’m sure you act well; I know you’re very clever. My
sister’s forty years old and has seven children, but she’s
going to play the principal part. Plain as she is she makes
up awfully well—I will say for her. Of course you needn’t
act if you don’t want to.’
    In this manner Mr. Bantling delivered himself while
they strolled over the grass in Winchester Square, which,
although it had been peppered by the London soot,
invited the tread to linger. Henrietta thought her
blooming, easy-voiced bachelor, with his impressibility to
feminine merit and his splendid range of suggestion, a very
agreeable man, and she valued the opportunity he offered
her. ‘I don’t know but I would go, if your sister should ask


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me. I think it would be my duty. What do you call her
name?’
    ‘Pensil. It’s an odd name, but it isn’t a bad one.’
    ‘I think one name’s as good as another. But what’s her
rank?’
    ‘Oh, she’s a baron’s wife; a convenient sort of rank.
You’re fine enough and you’re not too fine.’
    ‘I don’t know but what she’d be too fine for me. What
do you call the place she lives in—Bedfordshire?’
    ‘She lives away in the northern corner of it. It’s a
tiresome country, but I dare say you won’t mind it. I’ll try
and run down while you’re there.’
    All this was very pleasant to Miss Stackpole, and she
was sorry to be obliged to separate from Lady Pensil’s
obliging brother. But it happened that she had met the day
before, in Piccadilly, some friends whom she had not seen
for a year: the Miss Climbers, two ladies from
Wilmington, Delaware, who had been travelling on the
Continent and were now preparing to re-embark.
Henrietta had had a long interview with them on the
Piccadilly pavement, and though the three ladies all talked
at once they had not exhausted their store. It had been
agreed therefore that Henrietta should come and dine with
them in their lodgings in Jermyn Street at six o’clock on


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the morrow, and she now bethought herself of this
engagement. She prepared to start for Jermyn Street,
taking leave first of Ralph Touchett and Isabel, who,
seated on garden chairs in another part of the enclosure,
were occupied—if the term may be used—with an
exchange of amenities less pointed than the practical
colloquy of Miss Stackpole and Mr. Bantling. When it had
been settled between Isabel and her friend that they should
be reunited at some reputable hour at Pratt’s Hotel, Ralph
remarked that the latter must have a cab. She couldn’t
walk all the way to Jermyn Street.
   ‘I suppose you mean it’s improper for me to walk
alone!’ Henrietta exclaimed. ‘Merciful powers, have I
come to this?’
   ‘There’s not the slightest need of your walking alone,’
Mr. Bantling gaily interposed. ‘I should be greatly pleased
to go with you.’
   ‘I simply meant that you’d be late for dinner,’ Ralph
returned. ‘Those poor ladies may easily believe that we
refuse, at the last, to spare you.’
   ‘You had better have a hansom, Henrietta,’ said Isabel.
   ‘I’ll get you a hansom if you’ll trust me,’ Mr. Bantling
went on. ‘We might walk a little till we meet one.’



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     ‘I don’t see why I shouldn’t trust him, do you?’
Henrietta enquired of Isabel.
     ‘I don’t see what Mr. Bantling could do to you,’ Isabel
obligingly answered; ‘but, if you like, we’ll walk with you
till you find your cab.’
     ‘Never mind; we’ll go alone. Come on, Mr. Bantling,
and take care you get me a good one.’
     Mr. Bantling promised to do his best, and the two took
their departure, leaving the girl and her cousin together in
the square, over which a clear September twilight had
now begun to gather. It was perfectly still; the wide
quadrangle of dusky houses showed lights in none of the
windows, where the shutters and blinds were closed; the
pavements were a vacant expanse, and, putting aside two
small children from a neighbouring slum, who, attracted
by symptoms of abnormal animation in the interior, poked
their faces between the rusty rails of the enclosure, the
most vivid object within sight was the big red pillar-post
on the southeast corner.
     ‘Henrietta will ask him to get into the cab and go with
her to Jermyn Street,’ Ralph observed. He always spoke of
Miss Stackpole as Henrietta.
     ‘Very possibly,’ said his companion.



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    ‘Or rather, no, she won’t,’ he went on. ‘But Bantling
will ask leave to get in.’
    ‘Very likely again. I’m very glad they’re such good
friends.’
    ‘She has made a conquest. He thinks her a brilliant
woman. It may go far,’ said Ralph.
    Isabel was briefly silent. ‘I call Henrietta a very brilliant
woman, but I don’t think it will go far. They would never
really know each other. He has not the least idea what she
really is, and she has no just comprehension of Mr.
Bantling.’
    ‘There’s no more usual basis of union than a mutual
misunderstanding. But it ought not to be so difficult to
understand Bob Bantling,’ Ralph added. ‘He is a very
simple organism.’
    ‘Yes, but Henrietta’s a simpler one still. And, pray,
what am I to do?’ Isabel asked, looking about her through
the fading light, in which the limited landscape-gardening
of the square took on a large and effective appearance. ‘I
don’t imagine that you’ll propose that you and I, for our
amusement, shall drive about London in a hansom.’
    ‘There’s no reason we shouldn’t stay here—if you don’t
dislike it. It’s very warm; there will be half an hour yet
before dark; and if you permit it I’ll light a cigarette.’


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   ‘You may do what you please,’ said Isabel, ‘if you’ll
amuse me till seven o’clock. I propose at that hour to go
back and partake of a simple and solitary repast—two
poached eggs and a muffin—at Pratt’s Hotel.’
   ‘Mayn’t I dine with you?’ Ralph asked.
   ‘No, you’ll dine at your club.’
   They had wandered back to their chairs in the centre of
the square again, and Ralph had lighted his cigarette. It
would have given him extreme pleasure to be present in
person at the modest little feast she had sketched; but in
default of this he liked even being forbidden. For the
moment, however, he liked immensely being alone with
her, in the thickening dusk, in the centre of the
multitudinous town; it made her seem to depend upon
him and to be in his power. This power he could exert
but vaguely; the best exercise of it was to accept her
decisions submissively—which indeed there was already an
emotion in doing. ‘Why won’t you let me dine with you?’
he demanded after a pause.
   ‘Because I don’t care for it.’
   ‘I suppose you’re tired of me.’
   ‘I shall be an hour hence. You see I have the gift of
foreknowledge.’



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    ‘Oh, I shall be delightful meanwhile,’ said Ralph. But
he said nothing more, and as she made no rejoinder they
sat sometime in a stillness which seemed to contradict his
promise of entertainment. It seemed to him she was
preoccupied, and he wondered what she was thinking
about; there were two or three very possible subjects. At
last he spoke again. ‘Is your objection to my society this
evening caused by your expectation of another visitor?’
    She turned her head with a glance of her clear, fair
eyes. ‘Another visitor? What visitor should I have?’
    He had none to suggest; which made his question seem
to himself silly as well as brutal. ‘You’ve a great many
friends that I don’t know. You’ve a whole past from
which I was perversely excluded.’
    ‘You were reserved for my future. You must remember
that my past is over there across the water. There’s none
of it here in London.’
    ‘Very good, then, since your future is seated beside
you. Capital thing to have your future so handy.’ And
Ralph lighted another cigarette and reflected that Isabel
probably meant she had received news that Mr. Caspar
Goodwood had crossed to Paris. After he had lighted his
cigarette he puffed it a while, and then he resumed. ‘I
promised just now to be very amusing; but you see I don’t


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come up to the mark, and the fact is there’s a good deal of
temerity in one’s undertaking to amuse a person like you.
What do you care for my feeble attempts? You’ve grand
ideas—you’ve a high standard in such matters. I ought at
least to bring in a band of music or a company of
mountebanks.’
   ‘One mountebank’s enough, and you do very well.
Pray go on, and in another ten minutes I shall begin to
laugh.’
   ‘I assure you I’m very serious,’ said Ralph. ‘You do
really ask a great deal.’
   ‘I don’t know what you mean. I ask nothing!’
   ‘You accept nothing,’ said Ralph. She coloured, and
now suddenly it seemed to her that she guessed his
meaning. But why should he speak to her of such things?
He hesitated a little and then he continued: ‘There’s
something I should like very much to say to you. It’s a
question I wish to ask. It seems to me I’ve a right to ask it,
because I’ve a kind of interest in the answer.’
   ‘Ask what you will,’ Isabel replied gently, ‘and I’ll try
to satisfy you.’
   ‘Well then, I hope you won’t mind my saying that
Warburton has told me of something that has passed
between you.’


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    Isabel suppressed a start; he sat looking at her open fan.
‘Very good; I suppose it was natural he should tell you.’
    ‘I have his leave to let you know he has done so. He
has some hope still,’ said Ralph.
    ‘Still?’
    ‘He had it a few days ago.’
    ‘I don’t believe he has any now,’ said the girl.
    ‘I’m very sorry for him then; he’s such an honest man.’
    ‘Pray, did he ask you to talk to me?’
    ‘No, not that. But he told me because he couldn’t help
it. We’re old friends, and he was greatly disappointed. He
sent me a line asking me to come and see him, and I drove
over to Lockleigh the day before he and his sister lunched
with us. He was very heavy-hearted; he had just got a
letter from you.’
    ‘Did he show you the letter?’ asked Isabel with
momentary loftiness.
    ‘By no means. But he told me it was a neat refusal. I
was very sorry for him,’ Ralph repeated.
    For some moments Isabel said nothing; then at last, ‘Do
you know how often he had seen me?’ she enquired. ‘Five
or six times.’
    ‘That’s to your glory.’
    ‘It’s not for that I say it.’


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   ‘What then do you say it for? Not to prove that poor
Warburton’s state of mind’s superficial, because I’m pretty
sure you don’t think that.’
   Isabel certainly was unable to say she thought it but
presently she said something else. ‘If you’ve not been
requested by Lord Warburton to argue with me, then
you’re doing it disinterestedly—or for the love of
argument.’
   ‘I’ve no wish to argue with you at all. I only wish to
leave you alone. I’m simply greatly interested in your own
sentiments.’
   ‘I’m greatly obliged to you!’ cried Isabel with a slightly
nervous laugh.
   ‘Of course you mean that I’m meddling in what
doesn’t concern me. But why shouldn’t I speak to you of
this matter without annoying you or embarrassing myself?
What’s the use of being your cousin if I can’t have a few
privileges? What’s the use of adoring you without hope of
a reward if I can’t have a few compensations? What’s the
use of being ill and disabled and restricted to mere
spectatorship at the game of life if I really can’t see the
show when I’ve paid so much for my ticket? Tell me this,’
Ralph went on while she listened to him with quickened



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attention. ‘What had you in mind when you refused Lord
Warburton?’
    ‘What had I in mind?’
    ‘What was the logic—the view of your situation—that
dictated so remarkable an act?’
    ‘I didn’t wish to marry him—if that’s logic.’
    ‘No, that’s not logic—and I knew that before. It’s really
nothing, you know. What was it you said to yourself? You
certainly said more than that?’
    Isabel reflected a moment, then answered with a
question of her own. ‘Why do you call it a remarkable
act? That’s what your mother thinks too.
    ‘Warburton’s such a thorough good sort; as a man, I
consider he has hardly a fault. And then he’s what they call
here no end of a swell. He has immense possessions, and
his wife would be thought a superior being. He unites the
intrinsic and the extrinsic advantages.’
    Isabel watched her cousin as to see how far he would
go. ‘I refused him because he was too perfect then. I’m
not perfect myself, and he’s too good for me. Besides, his
perfection would irritate me.’
    ‘That’s ingenious rather than candid,’ said Ralph. ‘As a
fact you think nothing in the world too perfect for you.’
    ‘Do you think I’m so good?’


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   ‘No, but you’re exacting, all the same, without the
excuse of thinking yourself good. Nineteen women out of
twenty, however, even of the most exacting sort, would
have managed to do with Warburton. Perhaps you don’t
know how he has been stalked.’
   ‘I don’t wish to know. But it seems to me,’ said Isabel,
‘that one day when we talked of him you mentioned odd
things in him.’
   Ralph smokingly considered. ‘I hope that what I said
then had no weight with you; for they were not faults, the
things I spoke of: they were simply peculiarities of his
position. If I had known he wished to marry you I’d never
have alluded to them. I think I said that as regards that
position he was rather a sceptic. It would have been in
your power to make him a believer.’
   ‘I think not. I don’t understand the matter, and I’m not
conscious of any mission of that sort. You’re evidently
disappointed,’ Isabel added, looking at her cousin with
rueful gentleness. ‘You’d have liked me to make such a
marriage.’
   ‘Not in the least. I’m absolutely without a wish on the
subject. I don’t pretend to advise you, and I content
myself with watching you- with the deepest interest.’



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    She gave rather a conscious sigh. ‘I wish I could be as
interesting to myself as I am to you!’
    ‘There you’re not candid again; you’re extremely
interesting to yourself. Do you know, however,’ said
Ralph, ‘that if you’ve really given Warburton his final
answer I’m rather glad it has been what it was. I don’t
mean I’m glad for you, and still less of course for him. I’m
glad for myself.’
    ‘Are you thinking of proposing to me?’
    ‘By no means. From the point of view I speak of that
would be fatal; I should kill the goose that supplies me
with the material of my inimitable omelettes. I use that
animal as the symbol of my insane illusions. What I mean
is that I shall have the thrill of seeing what a young lady
does who won’t marry Lord Warburton.’
    ‘That’s what your mother counts upon too,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Ah, there will be plenty of spectators! We shall hang
on the rest of your career. I shall not see all of it, but I
shall probably see the most interesting years. Of course if
you were to marry our friend you’d still have a career—a
very decent, in fact a very brilliant one. But relatively
speaking it would be a little prosaic. It would be definitely
marked out in advance; it would be wanting in the
unexpected. You know I’m extremely fond of the


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unexpected, and now that you’ve kept the game in your
hands I depend on your giving us some grand example of
it.’
     ‘I don’t understand you very well,’ said Isabel, ‘but I do
so well enough to be able to say that if you look for grand
examples of anything from me I shall disappoint you.’
     ‘You’ll do so only by disappointing yourself—and that
will go hard with you!’
     To this she made no direct reply; there was an amount
of truth in it that would bear consideration. At last she said
abruptly: ‘I don’t see what harm there is in my wishing
not to tie myself. I don’t want to begin life by marrying.
There are other things a woman can do.’
     ‘There’s nothing she can do so well. But you’re of
course so many-sided.’
     ‘If one’s two-sided it’s enough,’ said Isabel.
     ‘You’re the most charming of polygons!’ her
companion broke out. At a glance from his companion,
however, he became grave, and to prove it went on: ‘You
want to see life—you’ll be hanged if you don’t, as the
young men say.
     ‘I don’t think I want to see it as the young men want to
see it. But I do want to look about me.’
     ‘You want to drain the cup of experience.’


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     ‘No, I don’t wish to touch the cup of experience. It’s a
poisoned drink! I only want to see for myself.’
     ‘You want to see, but not to feel,’ Ralph remarked.
     ‘I don’t think that if one’s a sentient being one can
make the distinction. I’m a good deal like Henrietta. The
other day when I asked her if she wished to marry she
said: ‘Not till I’ve seen Europe!’ I too don’t wish to marry
till I’ve seen Europe.’
     ‘You evidently expect a crowned head will be struck
with you.’
     ‘No, that would be worse than marrying Lord
Warburton. But it’s getting very dark,’ Isabel continued,
‘and I must go home.’ She rose from her place, but Ralph
only sat still and looked at her. As he remained there she
stopped, and they exchanged a gaze that was full on either
side, but especially on Ralph’s, of utterances too vague for
words.
     ‘You’ve answered my question,’ he said at last. ‘You’ve
told me what I wanted. I’m greatly obliged to you.’
     ‘It seems to me I’ve told you very little.’
     ‘You’ve told me the great thing: that the world
interests you and that you want to throw yourself into it.’
     Her silvery eyes shone a moment in the dusk. ‘I never
said that.’


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   ‘I think you meant it. Don’t repudiate it. It’s so fine!’
   ‘I don’t know what you’re trying to fasten upon me,
for I’m not in the least an adventurous spirit. Women are
not like men.’
   Ralph slowly rose from his seat and they walked
together to the gate of the square. ‘No,’ he said; ‘women
rarely boast of their courage. Men do so with a certain
frequency.’
   ‘Men have it to boast of!
   ‘Women have it too. You’ve a great deal.’
   ‘Enough to go home in a cab to Pratt’s Hotel, but not
more.’
   Ralph unlocked the gate, and after they had passed out
he fastened it. ‘We’ll find your cab,’ he said; and as they
turned toward a neighbouring street in which this quest
might avail he asked her again if he mightn’t see her safely
to the inn.
   ‘By no means,’ she answered; ‘you’re very tired; you
must go home and go to bed.’
   The cab was found, and he helped her into it, standing
a moment at the door. ‘When people forget I’m a poor
creature I’m often incommoded,’ he said. ‘But it’s worse
when they remember it!’



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                         Chapter 16

    She had had no hidden motive in wishing him not to
take her home; it simply struck her that for some days past
she had consumed an inordinate quantity of his time, and
the independent spirit of the American girl whom
extravagance of aid places in an attitude that she ends by
finding ‘affected’ had made her decide that for these few
hours she must suffice to herself. She had moreover a great
fondness for intervals of solitude, which since her arrival in
England had been but meagrely met. It was a luxury she
could always command at home and she had wittingly
missed it. That evening, however, an incident occurred
which—had there been a critic to note it—would have
taken all colour from the theory that the wish to be quite
by herself had caused her to dispense with her cousin’s
attendance. Seated toward nine o’clock in the dim
illumination of Pratt’s Hotel and trying with the aid of
two tall candles to lose herself in a volume she had
brought from Gardencourt, she succeeded only to the
extent of reading other words than those printed on the
page—words that Ralph had spoken to her that afternoon.
Suddenly the well-muffled knuckle of the waiter was


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applied to the door, which presently gave way to his
exhibition, even as a glorious trophy, of the card of a
visitor. When this memento had offered to her fixed sight
the name of Mr. Caspar Goodwood she let the man stand
before her without signifying her wishes.
    ‘Shall I show the gentleman up, ma’am?’ he asked with
a slightly encouraging inflexion.
    Isabel hesitated still and while she hesitated glanced at
the mirror. ‘He may come in,’ she said at last; and waited
for him not so much smoothing her hair as girding her
spirit.
    Caspar Goodwood was accordingly the next moment
shaking hands with her, but saying nothing till the servant
had left the room. ‘Why didn’t you answer my letter?’ he
then asked in a quick, full, slightly peremptory tone—the
tone of a man whose questions were habitually pointed
and who was capable of much insistence.
    She answered by a ready question, ‘How did you know
I was here?’
    ‘Miss Stackpole let me know,’ said Caspar Goodwood.
‘She told me you would probably be at home alone this
evening and would be willing to see me.’
    ‘Where did she see you—to tell you that?’



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   ‘She didn’t see me; she wrote to me.’ Isabel was silent;
neither had sat down; they stood there with an air of
defiance, or at least of contention. ‘Henrietta never told
me she was writing to you,’ she said at last. ‘This is not
kind of her.’
   ‘Is it so disagreeable to you to see me?’ asked the young
man.
   ‘I didn’t expect it. I don’t like such surprises.’
   ‘But you knew I was in town; it was natural we should
meet.’
   ‘Do you call this meeting? I hoped I shouldn’t see you.
In so big a place as London it seemed very possible.’
   ‘It was apparently repugnant to you even to write to
me,’ her visitor went on.
   Isabel made no reply; the sense of Henrietta Stackpole’s
treachery, as she momentarily qualified it, was strong
within her. ‘Henrietta’s certainly not a model of all the
delicacies!’ she exclaimed with bitterness: ‘It was a great
liberty to take.’
   ‘I suppose I’m not a model either—of those virtues or
of any others. The fault’s mine as much as hers.’
   As Isabel looked at him it seemed to her that his jaw
had never been more square. This might have displeased
her, but she took a different turn. ‘No, it’s not your fault


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so much as hers. What you’ve done was inevitable, I
suppose, for you.’
    ‘It was indeed!’ cried Caspar Goodwood with a
voluntary laugh. ‘And now that I’ve come, at any rate,
mayn’t I stay?’
    ‘You may sit down, certainly.’
    She went back to her chair again, while her visitor took
the first place that offered, in the manner of a man
accustomed to pay little thought to that sort of
furtherance. ‘I’ve been hoping every day for an answer to
my letter. You might have written me a few lines.’
    ‘It wasn’t the trouble of writing that prevented me; I
could as easily have written you four pages as one. But my
silence was an intention,’ Isabel said. ‘I thought it the best
thing.’
    He sat with his eyes fixed on hers while she spoke; then
he lowered them and attached them to a spot in the carpet
as if he were making a strong effort to say nothing but
what he ought. He was a strong man in the wrong, and he
was acute enough to see that an uncompromising
exhibition of his strength would only throw the falsity of
his position into relief. Isabel was not incapable of tasting
any advantage of position over a person of this quality, and
though little desirous to flaunt it in his face she could


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enjoy being able to say ‘You know you oughtn’t to have
written to me yourself!’ and to say it with an air of
triumph.
    Caspar Goodwood raised his eyes to her own again;
they seemed to shine through the vizard of a helmet. He
had a strong sense of justice and was ready any day in the
year—over and above this—to argue the question of his
rights. ‘You said you hoped never to hear from me again;
I know that. But I never accepted any such rule as my
own. I warned you that you should hear very soon.’
    ‘I didn’t say I hoped never to hear from you,’ said
Isabel.
    ‘Not for five years then; for ten years; twenty years. It’s
the same thing.’
    ‘Do you find it so? It seems to me there’s a great
difference. I can imagine that at the end of ten years we
might have a very pleasant correspondence. I shall have
matured my epistolary style.’
    She looked away while she spoke these words,
knowing them of so much less earnest a cast than the
countenance of her listener. Her eyes, however, at last
came back to him, just as he said very irrelevantly: ‘Are
you enjoying your visit to your uncle?’



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   ‘Very much indeed.’ She dropped, but then she broke
out. ‘What good do you expect to get by insisting?
   ‘The good of not losing you.’
   ‘You’ve no right to talk of losing what’s not yours. And
even from your own point of view,’ Isabel added, ‘you
ought to know when to let one alone.’
   ‘I disgust you very much,’ said Caspar Goodwood
gloomily; not as if to provoke her to compassion for a man
conscious of this blighting fact, but as if to set it well
before himself, so that he might endeavour to act with his
eyes on it.
   ‘Yes, you don’t at all delight me, you don’t fit in, not
in any way, just now, and the worst is that your putting it
to the proof in this manner is quite unnecessary.’ It wasn’t
certainly as if his nature had been soft, so that pin-pricks
would draw blood from it; and from the first of her
acquaintance with him, and of her having to defend
herself against a certain air that he had of knowing better
what was good for her than she knew herself, she had
recognized the fact that perfect frankness was her best
weapon. To attempt to spare his sensibility or to escape
from him edgewise, as one might do from a man who had
barred the way less sturdily—this, in dealing with Caspar
Goodwood, who would grasp at everything of every sort


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that one might give him, was wasted agility. It was not
that he had not susceptibilities, but his passive surface, as
well as his active, was large and hard, and he might always
be trusted to dress his wounds, so far as they required it,
himself. She came back, even for her measure of possible
pangs and aches in him, to her old sense that he was
naturally plated and steeled, armed essentially for
aggression.
    ‘I can’t reconcile myself to that,’ he simply said. There
was a dangerous liberality about it; for she felt how open it
was to him to make the point that he had not always
disgusted her.
    ‘I can’t reconcile myself to it either, and it’s not the
state of things that ought to exist between us. If you’d
only try to banish me from your mind for a few months
we should be on good terms again.’
    ‘I see. If I should cease to think of you at all for a
prescribed time, I should find I could keep it up
indefinitely.’
    ‘Indefinitely is more than I ask. It’s more even than I
should like.’
    ‘You know that what you ask is impossible,’ said the
young man, taking his adjective for granted in a manner
she found irritating.


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    ‘Aren’t you capable of making a calculated effort?’ she
demanded. ‘You’re strong for everything else; why
shouldn’t you be strong for that?’
    ‘An effort calculated for what?’ And then as she hung
fire, ‘I’m capable of nothing with regard to you,’ he went
on, ‘but just of being infernally in love with you. If one’s
strong one loves only the more strongly.’
    ‘There’s a good deal in that"; and indeed our young
lady felt the force of it—felt it thrown off, into the vast of
truth and poetry, as practically a bait to her imagination.
But she promptly came round. ‘Think of me or not, as
you find most possible; only leave me alone.’
    ‘Until when?’
    ‘Well, for a year or two.’
    ‘Which do you mean? Between one year and two
there’s all the difference in the world.’
    ‘Call it two then,’ said Isabel with a studied effect of
eagerness.
    ‘And what shall I gain by that?’ her friend asked with
no sign of wincing.
    ‘You’ll have obliged me greatly.’
    ‘And what will be my reward?’
    ‘Do you need a reward for an act of generosity?’
    ‘Yes, when it involves a great sacrifice.’


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    ‘There’s no generosity without some sacrifice. Men
don’t understand such things. If you make the sacrifice
you’ll have all my admiration.’
    ‘I don’t care a cent for your admiration—not one
straw, with nothing to show for it. When will you marry
me? That’s the only question.’
    ‘Never—if you go on making me feel only as I feel at
present.’
    ‘What do I gain then by not trying to make you feel
otherwise?’
    ‘You’ll gain quite as much as by worrying me to death!’
Caspar Goodwood bent his eyes again and gazed a while
into the crown of his hat. A deep flush overspread his face;
she could see her sharpness had at last penetrated. This
immediately had a value—classic, romantic, redeeming,
what did she know?—for her; ‘the strong man in pain’ was
one of the categories of the human appeal, little charm as
he might exert in the given case. ‘Why do you make me
say such things to you?’ she cried in a trembling voice. ‘I
only want to be gentle—to be thoroughly kind. It’s not
delightful to me to feel people care for me and yet to have
to try and reason them out of it. I think others also ought
to be considerate; we have each to judge for ourselves. I
know you’re considerate, as much as you can be; you’ve


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good reasons for what you do. But I really don’t want to
marry, or to talk about it at all now. I shall probably never
do it—no, never. I’ve a perfect right to feel that way, and
it’s no kindness to a woman to press her so hard, to urge
her against her will. If I give you pain I can only say I’m
very sorry. It’s not my fault; I can’t marry you simply to
please you. I won’t say that I shall always remain your
friend, because when women say that, in these situations,
it passes, I believe, for a sort of mockery. But try me some
day.’
    Caspar Goodwood, during this speech, had kept his
eyes fixed upon the name of his hatter, and it was not until
some time after she had ceased speaking that he raised
them. When he did so the sight of a rosy, lovely eagerness
in Isabel’s face threw some confusion into his attempt to
analyze her words. ‘I’ll go home—I’ll go to-morrow- I’ll
leave you alone,’ he brought out at last. ‘Only,’ he heavily
said, ‘I hate to lose sight of you!’
    ‘Never fear. I shall do no harm.’
    ‘You’ll marry some one else, as sure as I sit here,’
Caspar Goodwood declared.
    ‘Do you think that a generous charge?’
    ‘Why not? Plenty of men will try to make you.’



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    ‘I told you just now that I don’t wish to marry and that
I almost certainly never shall.’
    ‘I know you did, and I like your ‘almost certainly’! I
put no faith in what you say.’
    ‘Thank you very much. Do you accuse me of lying to
shake you off? You say very delicate things.’
    ‘Why should I not say that? You’ve given me no
pledge of anything at all.’
    ‘No, that’s all that would be wanting!’
    ‘You may perhaps even believe you’re safe—from
wishing to be. But you’re not,’ the young man went on as
if preparing himself for the worst.
    ‘Very well then. We’ll put it that I’m not safe. Have it
as you please.’
    ‘I don’t know, however,’ said Caspar Goodwood, ‘that
my keeping you in sight would prevent it.’
    ‘Don’t you indeed? I’m after all very much afraid of
you. Do you think I’m so very easily pleased?’ she asked
suddenly, changing her tone.
    ‘No—I don’t; I shall try to console myself with that.
But there are a certain number of very dazzling men in the
world, no doubt; and if there were only one it would be
enough. The most dazzling of all will make straight for
you. You’ll be sure to take no one who isn’t dazzling.’


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   ‘If you mean by dazzling brilliantly clever,’ Isabel
said—‘and I can’t imagine what else you mean—I don’t
need the aid of a clever man to teach me how to live. I
can find it out for myself.’
   ‘Find out how to live alone? I wish that, when you
have, you’d teach me!’
   She looked at him a moment; then with a quick smile,
‘Oh, you ought to marry!’ she said.
   He might be pardoned if for an instant this exclamation
seemed to him to sound the infernal note, and it is not on
record that her motive for discharging such a shaft had
been of the clearest. He oughtn’t to stride about lean and
hungry, however—she certainly felt that for him. ‘God
forgive you!’ he murmured between his teeth as he turned
away.
   Her accent had put her slightly in the wrong, and after
a moment she felt the need to right herself. The easiest
way to do it was to place him where she had been. ‘You
do me great injustice—you say what you don’t know!’ she
broke out. ‘I shouldn’t be an easy victim—I’ve proved it.’
   ‘Oh, to me, perfectly.’
   ‘I’ve proved it to others as well.’ And she paused a
moment. ‘I refused a proposal of marriage last week; what
they call—no doubt- a dazzling one.’


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    ‘I’m very glad to hear it,’ said the young man gravely.
    ‘It was a proposal many girls would have accepted; it
had everything to recommend it.’ Isabel had not proposed
to herself to tell this story, but, now she had begun, the
satisfaction of speaking it out and doing herself justice took
possession of her. ‘I was offered a great position and a
great fortune—by a person whom I like extremely.’
    Caspar watched her with intense interest. ‘Is he an
Englishman?’
    ‘He’s an English nobleman,’ said Isabel.
    Her visitor received this announcement at first in
silence, but at last said: ‘I’m glad he’s disappointed.’
    ‘Well then, as you have companions in misfortune,
make the best of it.’
    ‘I don’t call him a companion,’ said Caspar grimly.
    ‘Why not—since I declined his offer absolutely?’
    ‘That doesn’t make him my companion. Besides, he’s
an Englishman.’
    ‘And pray isn’t an Englishman a human being?’ Isabel
asked.
    ‘Oh, those people? They’re not of my humanity, and I
don’t care what becomes of them.’
    ‘You’re very angry,’ said the girl. ‘We’ve discussed this
matter quite enough.’


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     ‘Oh yes, I’m very angry. I plead guilty to that!’
     She turned away from him, walked to the open
window and stood a moment looking into the dusky void
of the street, where a turbid gaslight alone represented
social animation. For some time neither of these young
persons spoke; Caspar lingered near the chimney-piece
with eyes gloomily attached. She had virtually requested
him to go—he knew that; but at the risk of making
himself odious he kept his ground. She was too nursed a
need to be easily renounced, and he had crossed the sea all
to wring from her some scrap of a vow. Presently she left
the window and stood again before him. ‘You do me very
little justice—after my telling you what I told you just
now. I’m sorry I told you—since it matters so little to
you.’
     ‘Ah,’ cried the young man, ‘if you were thinking of me
when you did it!’ And then he paused with the fear that
she might contradict so happy a thought.
     ‘I was thinking of you a little,’ said Isabel.
     ‘A little? I don’t understand. If the knowledge of what I
feel for you had any weight with you at all, calling it a
‘little’ is a poor account of it.’




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   Isabel shook her head as if to carry off a blunder. ‘I’ve
refused a most kind, noble gentleman. Make the most of
that.’
   ‘I thank you then,’ said Caspar Goodwood gravely. ‘I
thank you immensely.’
   ‘And now you had better go home.’
   ‘May I not see you again?’ he asked.
   ‘I think it’s better not. You’ll be sure to talk of this, and
you see it leads to nothing.’
   ‘I promise you not to say a word that will annoy you.’
   Isabel reflected and then answered: ‘I return in a day or
two to my uncle’s, and I can’t propose to you to come
there. It would be too inconsistent.’
   Caspar Goodwood, on his side, considered. ‘You must
do me justice too. I received an invitation to your uncle’s
more than a week ago, and I declined it.’
   She betrayed surprise. ‘From whom was your
invitation?’
   ‘From Mr. Ralph Touchett, whom I suppose to be
your cousin. I declined it because I had not your
authorization to accept it. The suggestion that Mr.
Touchett should invite me appeared to have come from
Miss Stackpole.’



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   ‘It certainly never did from me. Henrietta really goes
very far,’ Isabel added.
   ‘Don’t be too hard on her—that touches me.’
   ‘No; if you declined you did quite right, and I thank
you for it.’ And she gave a little shudder of dismay at the
thought that Lord Warburton and Mr. Goodwood might
have met at Gardencourt: it would have been so awkward
for Lord Warburton.
   ‘When you leave your uncle where do you go?’ her
companion asked.
   ‘I go abroad with my aunt—to Florence and other
places.’
   The serenity of this announcement struck a chill to the
young man’s heart; he seemed to see her whirled away
into circles from which he was inexorably excluded.
Nevertheless he went on quickly with his questions. ‘And
when shall you come back to America?’
   ‘Perhaps not for a long time. I’m very happy here.’
   ‘Do you mean to give up your country?’
   ‘Don’t be an infant!’
   ‘Well, you’ll be out of my sight indeed!’ said Caspar
Goodwood.




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    ‘I don’t know,’ she answered rather grandly. ‘The
world—with all these places so arranged and so touching
each other—comes to strike one as rather small.’
    ‘It’s a sight too big for me!’ Caspar exclaimed with a
simplicity our young lady might have found touching if
her face had not been set against concessions.
    This attitude was part of a system, a theory, that she
had lately embraced, and to be thorough she said after a
moment: ‘Don’t think me unkind if I say it’s just that—
being out of your sight—that I like. If you were in the
same place I should feel you were watching me, and I
don’t like that—I like my liberty too much. If there’s a
thing in the world I’m fond of,’ she went on with a slight
recurrence of grandeur, ‘it’s my personal independence.’
    But whatever there might be of the too superior in this
speech moved Caspar Goodwood’s admiration; there was
nothing he winced at in the large air of it. He had never
supposed she hadn’t wings and the need of beautiful free
movements—he wasn’t, with his own long arms and
strides, afraid of any force in her. Isabel’s words, if they
had been meant to shock him, failed of the mark and only
made him smile with the sense that here was common
ground. ‘Who would wish less to curtail your liberty than
I? What can give me greater pleasure than to see you


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perfectly independent—doing whatever you like? It’s to
make you independent that I want to marry you.
    ‘That’s a beautiful sophism,’ said the girl with a smile
more beautiful still.
    ‘An ummarried woman—a girl of your age—isn’t
independent. There are all sorts of things she can’t do.
She’s hampered at every step.’
    ‘That’s as she looks at the question,’ Isabel answered
with much spirit. not in my first youth—I can do what I
choose—I belong quite to the independent class. I’ve
neither father nor mother; I’m poor and of a serious
disposition; I’m not pretty. I therefore am not bound to be
timid and conventional; indeed I can’t afford such
luxuries. Besides, I try to judge things for myself; to judge
wrong, I think, is more honourable than not to judge at
all. I don’t wish to be a mere sheep in the flock; I wish to
choose my fate and know something of human affairs
beyond what other people think it compatible with
propriety to tell me.’ She paused a moment, but not long
enough for her companion to reply. He was apparently on
the point of doing so when she went on: ‘Let me say this
to you, Mr. Goodwood. You’re so kind as to speak of
being afraid of my marrying. If you should hear a rumour
that I’m on the point of doing so—girls are liable to have


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such things said about them—remember what I have told
you about my love of liberty and venture to doubt it.’
   There was something passionately positive in the tone
in which she gave him this advice, and he saw a shining
candour in her eyes that helped him to believe her. On
the whole he felt reassured, and you might have perceived
it by the manner in which he said, quite eagerly: ‘You
want simply to travel for two years? I’m quite willing to
wait two years, and you may do what you like in the
interval. If that’s all you want, pray say so. I don’t want
you to be conventional; do I strike you as conventional
myself? Do you want to improve your mind? Your mind’s
quite good enough for me; but if it interests you to
wander about a while and see different countries I shall be
delighted to help you in any way in my power.’
   ‘You’re very generous; that’s nothing new to me. The
best way to help me will be to put as many hundred miles
of sea between us as possible.’
   ‘One would think you were going to commit some
atrocity!’ said Caspar Goodwood.
   ‘Perhaps I am. I wish to be free even to do that if the
fancy takes me.’
   ‘Well then,’ he said slowly, ‘I’ll go home.’ And he put
out his hand, trying to look contented and confident.


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   Isabel’s confidence in him, however, was greater than
any he could feel in her. Not that he thought her capable
of committing an atrocity; but, turn it over as he would,
there was something ominous in the way she reserved her
option. As she took his hand she felt a great respect for
him; she knew how much he cared for her and she
thought him magnanimous. They stood so for a moment,
looking at each other, united by a hand-clasp which was
not merely passive on her side. ‘That’s right,’ she said very
kindly, almost tenderly. ‘You’ll lose nothing by being a
reasonable man.’
   ‘But I’ll come back, wherever you are, two years
hence,’ he returned with characteristic grimness.
   We have seen that our young lady was inconsequent,
and at this she suddenly changed her note. ‘Ah, remember,
I promise nothing- absolutely nothing!’ Then more softly,
as if to help him to leave her: ‘And remember too that I
shall not be an easy victim!’
   ‘You’ll get very sick of your independence.’
   ‘Perhaps I shall; it’s even very probable. When that day
comes I shall be very glad to see you.’
   She had laid her hand on the knob of the door that led
into her room, and she waited a moment to see whether
her visitor would not take his departure. But he appeared


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unable to move; there was still an immense unwillingness
in his attitude and a sore remonstrance in his eyes. ‘I must
leave you now,’ said Isabel; and she opened the door and
passed into the other room.
   This apartment was dark, but the darkness was
tempered by a vague radiance sent up through the
window from the court of the hotel, and Isabel could
make out the masses of the furniture, the dim shining of
the mirror and the looming of the big four-posted bed.
She stood still a moment, listening, and at last she heard
Caspar Goodwood walk out of the sitting-room and close
the door behind him. She stood still a little longer, and
then, by an irresistible impulse, dropped on her knees
before her bed and hid her face in her arms.




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                         Chapter 17

    She was not praying; she was trembling—trembling all
over. Vibration was easy to her, was in fact too constant
with her, and she found herself now humming like a
smitten harp. She only asked, however, to put on the
cover, to case herself again in brown holland, but she
wished to resist her excitement, and the attitude of
devotion, which she kept for some time, seemed to help
her to be still. She intensely rejoiced that Caspar
Goodwood was gone; there was something in having thus
got rid of him that was like the payment, for a stamped
receipt, of some debt too long on her mind. As she felt the
glad relief she bowed her head a little lower; the sense was
there, throbbing in her heart; it was part of her emotion,
but it was a thing to be ashamed of—it was profane and
out of place. It was not for some ten minutes that she rose
from her knees, and even when she came back to the
sitting-room her tremor had not quite subsided. It had
had, verily, two causes: part of it was to be accounted for
by her long discussion with Mr. Goodwood, but it might
be feared that the rest was simply the enjoyment she found
in the exercise of her power. She sat down in the same


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chair again and took up her book, but without going
through the form of opening the volume. She leaned
back, with that low, soft, aspiring murmur with which she
often uttered her response to accidents of which the
brighter side was not superficially obvious, and yielded to
the satisfaction of having refused two ardent suitors in a
fortnight. That love of liberty of which she had given
Caspar Goodwood so bold a sketch was as yet almost
exclusively theoretic; she had not been able to indulge it
on a large scale. But it appeared to her she had done
something; she had tasted of the delight, if not of battle, at
least of victory; she had done what was truest to her plan.
In the glow of this consciousness the image of Mr.
Goodwood taking his sad walk homeward through the
dingy town presented itself with a certain reproachful
force; so that, as at the same moment the door of the
room was opened, she rose with an apprehension that he
had come back. But it was only Henrietta Stackpole
returning from her dinner.
   Miss Stackpole immediately saw that our young lady
had been ‘through’ something, and indeed the discovery
demanded no great penetration. She went straight up to
her friend, who received her without a greeting. Isabel’s
elation in having sent Caspar Goodwood back to America


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presupposed her being in a manner glad he had come to
see her; but at the same time she perfectly remembered
Henrietta had had no right to set a trap for her. ‘Has he
been here, dear?’ the latter yearningly asked.
     Isabel turned away and for some moments answered
nothing. ‘You acted very wrongly,’ she declared at last.
     ‘I acted for the best. I only hope you acted as well.’
     ‘You’re not the judge. I can’t trust you,’ said Isabel.
     This declaration was unflattering, but Henrietta was
much too unselfish to heed the charge it conveyed; she
cared only for what it intimated with regard to her friend.
‘Isabel Archer,’ she observed with equal abruptness and
solemnity, ‘if you marry one of these people I’ll never
speak to you again!’
     ‘Before making so terrible a threat you had better wait
till I’m asked,’ Isabel replied. Never having said a word to
Miss Stackpole about Lord Warburton’s overtures, she had
now no impulse whatever to justify herself to Henrietta by
telling her that she had refused that nobleman.
     ‘Oh, you’ll be asked quick enough, once you get off on
the Continent. Annie Climber was asked three times in
Italy—poor plain little Annie.’
     ‘Well, if Annie Climber wasn’t captured why should I
be?’


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    ‘I don’t believe Annie was pressed; but you’ll be.’
    ‘That’s a flattering conviction,’ said Isabel without
alarm.
    ‘I don’t flatter you, Isabel, I tell you the truth!’ cried
her friend. ‘I hope you don’t mean to tell me that you
didn’t give Mr. Goodwood some hope.’
    ‘I don’t see why I should tell you anything; as I said to
you just now, I can’t trust you. But since you’re so much
interested in Mr. Goodwood I won’t conceal from you
that he returns immediately to America.’
    ‘You don’t mean to say you’ve sent him off? ‘
Henrietta almost shrieked.
    ‘I asked him to leave me alone; and I ask you the same,
Henrietta.’ Miss Stackpole glittered for an instant with
dismay and then passed to the mirror over the chimney-
piece and took off her bonnet. ‘I hope you’ve enjoyed
your dinner,’ Isabel went on.
    But her companion was not to be diverted by frivolous
propositions. ‘Do you know where you’re going, Isabel
Archer?’
    ‘Just now I’m going to bed,’ said Isabel with persistent
frivolity.
    ‘Do you know where you’re drifting?’ Henrietta
pursued, holding out her bonnet delicately.


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    ‘No, I haven’t the least idea, and I find it very pleasant
not to know. A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling
with four horses over roads that one can’t see—that’s my
idea of happiness.’
    ‘Mr. Goodwood certainly didn’t teach you to say such
things as that- like the heroine of an immoral novel,’ said
Miss Stackpole. ‘You’re drifting to some great mistake.’
    Isabel was irritated by her friend’s interference, yet she
still tried to think what truth this declaration could
represent. She could think of nothing that diverted her
from saying: ‘You must be very fond of me, Henrietta, to
be willing to be so aggressive.’
    ‘I love you intensely, Isabel,’ said Miss Stackpole with
feeling.
    ‘Well, if you love me intensely let me as intensely
alone. I asked that of Mr. Goodwood, and I must also ask
it of you.’
    ‘Take care you’re not let alone too much.’
    ‘That’s what Mr. Goodwood said to me. I told him I
must take the risks.’
    ‘You’re a creature of risks—you make me shudder!’
cried Henrietta. ‘When does Mr. Goodwood return to
America?’
    ‘I don’t know—he didn’t tell me.’


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    ‘Perhaps you didn’t enquire,’ said Henrietta with the
note of righteous irony.
    ‘I gave him too little satisfaction to have the right to ask
questions of him.’
    This assertion seemed to Miss Stackpole for a moment
to bid defiance to comment; but at last she exclaimed:
‘Well, Isabel, if I didn’t know you I might think you were
heartless!’
    ‘Take care,’ said Isabel; ‘you’re spoiling me.’
    ‘I’m afraid I’ve done that already. I hope, at least,’ Miss
Stackpole added, ‘that he may cross with Annie Climber!’
    Isabel learned from her the next morning that she had
determined not to return to Gardencourt (where old Mr.
Touchett had promised her a renewed welcome), but to
await in London the arrival of the invitation that Mr.
Bantling had promised her from his sister Lady Pensil. Miss
Stackpole related very freely her conversation with Ralph
Touchett’s sociable friend and declared to Isabel that she
really believed she had now got hold of something that
would lead to something. On the receipt of Lady Pensil’s
letter—Mr. Bantling had virtually guaranteed the arrival of
this document—she would immediately depart for
Bedfordshire, and if Isabel cared to look out for her
impressions in the Interviewer she would certainly find


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them. Henrietta was evidently going to see something of
the inner life this time.
    ‘Do you know where you’re drifting, Henrietta
Stackpole?’ Isabel asked, imitating the tone in which her
friend had spoken the night before.
    ‘I’m drifting to a big position—that of the Queen of
American Journalism. If my next letter isn’t copied all over
the West I’ll swallow my pen-wiper!’
    She had arranged with her friend Miss Annie Climber,
the young lady of the continental offers, that they should
go together to make those purchases which were to
constitute Miss Climber’s farewell to a hemisphere in
which she at least had been appreciated; and she presently
repaired to Jermyn Street to pick up her companion.
Shortly after her departure Ralph Touchett was
announced, and as soon as he came in Isabel saw he had
something on his mind. He very soon took his cousin into
his confidence. He had received from his mother a
telegram to the effect that his father had had a sharp attack
of his old malady, that she was much alarmed and that she
begged he would instantly return to Gardencourt. On this
occasion at least Mrs. Touchett’s devotion to the electric
wire was not open to criticism.



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   ‘I’ve judged it best to see the great doctor, Sir Matthew
Hope, first,’ Ralph said; ‘by great good luck he’s in town.
He’s to see me at half-past twelve, and I shall make sure of
his coming down to Gardencourt—which he will do the
more readily as he has already seen my father several times,
both there and in London. There’s an express at two-
forty-five, which I shall take; and you’ll come back with
me or remain here a few days longer, exactly as you
prefer.’
   ‘I shall certainly go with you,’ Isabel returned. ‘I don’t
suppose I can be of any use to my uncle, but if he’s ill I
shall like to be near him.’
   ‘I think you’re fond of him,’ said Ralph with a certain
shy pleasure in his face. ‘You appreciate him, which all the
world hasn’t done. The quality’s too fine.’
   ‘I quite adore him,’ Isabel after a moment said.
   ‘That’s very well. After his son he’s your greatest
admirer.’
   She welcomed this assurance, but she gave secretly a
small sigh of relief at the thought that Mr. Touchett was
one of those admirers who couldn’t propose to marry her.
This, however, was not what she spoke; she went on to
inform Ralph that there were other reasons for her not
remaining in London. She was tired of it and wished to


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leave it; and then Henrietta was going away—going to
stay in Bedfordshire.
   ‘In Bedfordshire?’
   ‘With Lady Pensil, the sister of Mr. Bantling, who has
answered for an invitation.’
   Ralph was feeling anxious, but at this he broke into a
laugh. Suddenly, none the less, his gravity returned.
‘Bantling’s a man of courage. But if the invitation should
get lost on the way?’
   ‘I thought the British post-office was impeccable.’
   ‘The good Homer sometimes nods,’ said Ralph.
‘However,’ he went on more brightly, ‘the good Bantling
never does, and, whatever happens, he’ll take care of
Henrietta.’
   Ralph went to keep his appointment with Sir Matthew
Hope, and Isabel made her arrangements for quitting
Pratt’s Hotel. Her uncle’s danger touched her nearly, and
while she stood before her open trunk, looking about her
vaguely for what she should put into it, the tears suddenly
rose to her eyes. It was perhaps for this reason that when
Ralph came back at two o’clock to take her to the station
she was not yet ready. He found Miss Stackpole, however,
in the sitting-room, where she had just risen from her



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luncheon, and this lady immediately expressed her regret
at his father’s illness.
    ‘He’s a grand old man,’ she said; ‘he’s faithful to the
last. If it’s really to be the last—pardon my alluding to it,
but you must often have thought of the possibility—I’m
sorry that I shall not be at Gardencourt.’
    ‘You’ll amuse yourself much more in Bedfordshire.’
    ‘I shall be sorry to amuse myself at such a time,’ said
Henrietta with much propriety. But she immediately
added: ‘I should like so to commemorate the closing
scene.’
    ‘My father may live a long time,’ said Ralph simply.
Then, adverting to topics more cheerful, he interrogated
Miss Stackpole as to her own future.
    Now that Ralph was in trouble she addressed him in a
tone of larger allowance and told him that she was much
indebted to him for having made her acquainted with Mr.
Bantling. ‘He has told me just the things I want to know,’
she said; ‘all the society-items and all about the royal
family. I can’t make out that what he tells me about the
royal family is much to their credit; but he says that’s only
my peculiar way of looking at it. Well, all I want is that he
should give me the facts; I can put them together quick
enough, once I’ve got them.’ And she added that Mr.


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Bantling had been so good as to promise to come and take
her out that afternoon.
    ‘To take you where?’ Ralph ventured to enquire.
    ‘To Buckingham Palace. He’s going to show me over
it, so that I may get some idea how they live.’
    ‘Ah,’ said Ralph, ‘we leave you in good hands. The
first thing we shall hear is that you’re invited to Windsor
Castle.’
    ‘If they ask me, I shall certainly go. Once I get started
I’m not afraid. But for all that,’ Henrietta added in a
moment, ‘I’m not satisfied; I’m not at peace about Isabel.’
    ‘What is her last misdemeanour?’
    ‘Well, I’ve told you before, and I suppose there’s no
harm in my going on. I always finish a subject that I take
up. Mr. Goodwood was here last night.’
    Ralph opened his eyes; he even blushed a little—his
blush being the sign of an emotion somewhat acute. He
remembered that Isabel, in separating from him in
Winchester Square, had repudiated his suggestion that her
motive in doing so was the expectation of a visitor at
Prates Hotel, and it was a new pang to him to have to
suspect her of duplicity. On the other hand, he quickly
said to himself, what concern was it of his that she should
have made an appointment with a lover? Had it not been


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thought graceful in every age that young ladies should
make a mystery of such appointments? Ralph gave Miss
Stackpole a diplomatic answer. ‘I should have thought
that, with the views you expressed to me the other day,
this would satisfy you perfectly.’
    ‘That he should come to see her? That was very well,
as far as it went. It was a little plot of mine; I let him know
that we were in London, and when it had been arranged
that I should spend the evening out I sent him a word—
the word we just utter to the ‘wise.’ I hoped he would
find her alone; I won’t pretend I didn’t hope that you’d be
out of the way. He came to see her, but he might as well
have stayed away.’
    ‘Isabel was cruel?’—and Ralph’s face lighted with the
relief of his cousin’s not having shown duplicity.
    ‘I don’t exactly know what passed between them. But
she gave him no satisfaction—she sent him back to
America.’
    ‘Poor Mr. Goodwood!’ Ralph sighed.
    ‘Her only idea seems to be to get rid of him,’ Henrietta
went on.
    ‘Poor Mr. Goodwood!’ Ralph repeated. The
exclamation, it must be confessed, was automatic; it failed



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exactly to express his thoughts, which were taking another
line.
   ‘You don’t say that as if you felt it. I don’t believe you
care.’
   ‘Ah,’ said Ralph, ‘you must remember that I don’t
know this interesting young man—that I’ve never seen
him.’
   ‘Well, I shall see him, and I shall tell him not to give
up. If I didn’t believe Isabel would come round,’ Miss
Stackpole added- ‘well, I’d give up myself. I mean I’d give
her up!’




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                         Chapter 18

    It had occurred to Ralph that, in the conditions,
Isabel’s parting with her friend might be of a slightly
embarrassed nature, and he went down to the door of the
hotel in advance of his cousin, who, after a slight delay,
followed with the traces of an unaccepted remonstrance, as
he thought, in her eyes. The two made the journey to
Gardencourt in almost unbroken silence, and the servant
who met them at the station had no better news to give
them of Mr. Touchett—a fact which caused Ralph to
congratulate himself afresh on Sir Matthew Hope’s having
promised to come down in the five o’clock train and
spend the night. Mrs. Touchett, he learned, on reaching
home, had been constantly with the old man and was with
him at that moment; and this fact made Ralph say to
himself that, after all, what his mother wanted was just
easy occasion. The finer natures were those that shone at
the larger times. Isabel went to her own room, noting
throughout the house that perceptible hush which
precedes a crisis. At the end of an hour, however, she
came downstairs in search of her aunt, whom she wished
to ask about Mr. Touchett. She went into the library, but


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Mrs. Touchett was not there, and as the weather, which
had been damp and chill, was now altogether spoiled, it
was not probable she had gone for her usual walk in the
grounds. Isabel was on the point of ringing to send a
question to her room, when this purpose quickly yielded
to an unexpected sound—the sound of low music
proceeding apparently from the saloon. She knew her aunt
never touched the piano, and the musician was therefore
probably Ralph, who played for his own amusement. That
he should have resorted to this recreation at the present
time indicated apparently that his anxiety about his father
had been relieved; so that the girl took her way, almost
with restored cheer, toward the source of the harmony.
The drawing-room at Gardencourt was an apartment of
great distances, and, as the piano was placed at the end of
it furthest removed from the door at which she entered,
her arrival was not noticed by the person seated before the
instrument. This person was neither Ralph nor his
mother; it was a lady whom Isabel immediately saw to be
a stranger to herself, though her back was presented to the
door. This back—an ample and well-dressed one—Isabel
viewed for some moments with surprise. The lady was of
course a visitor who had arrived during her absence and
who had not been mentioned by either of the servants—


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one of them her aunt’s maid—of whom she had had
speech since her return. Isabel had already learned,
however, with what treasures of reserve the function of
receiving orders may be accompanied, and she was
particularly conscious of having been treated with dryness
by her aunt’s maid, through whose hands she had slipped
perhaps a little too mistrustfully and with an effect of
plumage but the more lustrous.
    The advent of a guest was in itself far from
disconcerting; she had not yet divested herself of a young
faith that each new acquaintance would exert some
momentous influence on her life. By the time she had
made these reflexions she became aware that the lady at
the piano played remarkably well. She was playing
something of Schubert’s—Isabel knew not what, but
recognized Schubert—and she touched the piano with a
discretion of her own. It showed skill, it showed feeling;
Isabel sat down noiselessly on the nearest chair and waited
till the end of the piece. When it was finished she felt a
strong desire to thank the player, and rose from her seat to
do so, while at the same time the stranger turned quickly
round, as if but just aware of her presence.




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    ‘That’s very beautiful, and your playing makes it more
beautiful still,’ said Isabel with all the young radiance with
which she usually uttered a truthful rapture.
    ‘You don’t think I disturbed Mr. Touchett then?’ the
musician answered as sweetly as this compliment deserved.
‘The house is so large and his room so far away that I
thought I might venture, especially as I played just—just
du bout des doigts.’
    ‘She’s a Frenchwoman,’ Isabel said to herself; ‘she says
that as if she were French.’ And this supposition made the
visitor more interesting to our speculative heroine. ‘I hope
my uncle’s doing well,’ Isabel added. ‘I should think that
to hear such lovely music as that would really make him
feel better.’
    The lady smiled and discriminated. ‘I’m afraid there are
moments in life when even Schubert has nothing to say to
us. We must admit, however, that they are our worst.’
    ‘I’m not in that state now then,’ said Isabel. ‘On the
contrary I should be so glad if you would play something
more.’
    ‘If it will give you pleasure—delighted.’ And this
obliging person took her place again and struck a few
chords, while Isabel sat down nearer the instrument.
Suddenly the new-comer stopped with her hands on the


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keys, half-turning and looking over her shoulder. She was
forty years old and not pretty, though her expression
charmed. ‘Pardon me,’ she said; ‘but are you the niece—
the young American?’
   ‘I’m my aunt’s niece,’ Isabel replied with simplicity.
   The lady at the piano sat still a moment longer, casting
her air of interest over her shoulder. ‘That’s very well;
we’re compatriots.’ And then she began to play.
   ‘Ah then she’s not French,’ Isabel murmured; and as
the opposite supposition had made her romantic it might
have seemed that this revelation would have marked a
drop. But such was not the fact; rarer even than to be
French seemed it to be American on such interesting
terms.
   The lady played in the same manner as before, softly
and solemnly, and while she played the shadows deepened
in the room. The autumn twilight gathered in, and from
her place Isabel could see the rain, which had now begun
in earnest, washing the cold-looking lawn and the wind
shaking the great trees. At last, when the music had
ceased, her companion got up and, coming nearer with a
smile, before Isabel had time to thank her again, said: ‘I’m
very glad you’ve come back; I’ve heard a great deal about
you.’


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    Isabel thought her a very attractive person, but
nevertheless spoke with a certain abruptness in reply to
this speech. ‘From whom have you heard about me?’
    The stranger hesitated a single moment and then,
‘From your uncle,’ she answered. ‘I’ve been here three
days, and the first day he let me come and pay him a visit
in his room. Then he talked constantly of you.’
    ‘As you didn’t know me that must rather have bored
you.’
    ‘It made me want to know you. All the more that since
then—your aunt being so much with Mr. Touchett—I’ve
been quite alone and have got rather tired of my own
society. I’ve not chosen a good moment for my visit.’
    A servant had come in with lamps and was presently
followed by another bearing the tea-tray. On the
appearance of this repast Mrs. Touchett had apparently
been notified, for she now arrived and addressed herself to
the tea-pot. Her greeting to her niece did not differ
materially from her manner of raising the lid of this
receptacle in order to glance at the contents: in neither act
was it becoming to make a show of avidity. Questioned
about her husband she was unable to say he was better; but
the local doctor was with him, and much light was



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expected from this gentleman’s consultation with Sir
Matthew Hope.
   ‘I suppose you two ladies have made acquaintance,’ she
pursued. ‘If you haven’t I recommend you to do so; for so
long as we continue—Ralph and I—to cluster about Mr.
Touchett’s bed you’re not likely to have much society but
each other.’
   ‘I know nothing about you but that you’re a great
musician,’ Isabel said to the visitor.
   ‘There’s a good deal more than that to know,’ Mrs.
Touchett affirmed in her little dry tone.
   ‘A very little of it, I am sure, will content Miss Archer!’
the lady exclaimed with a light laugh. ‘I’m an old friend of
your aunt’s. I’ve lived much in Florence. I’m Madame
Merle.’ She made this last announcement as if she were
referring to a person of tolerably distinct identity. For
Isabel, however, it represented little; she could only
continue to feel that Madame Merle had as charming a
manner as any she had ever encountered.
   ‘She’s not a foreigner in spite of her name,’ said Mrs.
Touchett. ‘She was born—I always forget where you were
born.’
   ‘It’s hardly worth while then I should tell you.’



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    ‘On the contrary,’ said Mrs. Touchett, who rarely
missed a logical point; ‘if I remembered your telling me
would be quite superfluous.’
    Madame Merle glanced at Isabel with a sort of world-
wide smile, a thing that over-reached frontiers. ‘I was born
under the shadow of the national banner.’
    ‘She’s too fond of mystery,’ said Mrs. Touchett; ‘that’s
her great fault.’
    ‘Ah,’ exclaimed Madame Merle, ‘I’ve great faults, but I
don’t think that’s one of them; it certainly isn’t the
greatest. I came into the world in the Brooklyn navy-yard.
My father was a high officer in the United States Navy,
and had a post—a post of responsibility—in that
establishment at the time. I suppose I ought to love the
sea, but I hate it. That’s why I don’t return to America. I
love the land; the great thing is to love something.’
    Isabel, as a dispassionate witness, had not been struck
with the force of Mrs. Touchett’s characterization of her
visitor, who had an expressive, communicative, responsive
face, by no means of the sort which, to Isabel’s mind,
suggested a secretive disposition. It was a face that told of
an amplitude of nature and of quick and free motions and,
though it had no regular beauty, was in the highest degree
engaging and attaching. Madame Merle was a tall, fair,


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smooth woman; everything in her person was round and
replete, though without those accumulations which
suggest heaviness. Her features were thick but in perfect
proportion and harmony, and her complexion had a
healthy clearness. Her grey eyes were small but full of light
and incapable of stupidity—incapable, according to some
people, even of tears; she had a liberal, full-rimmed mouth
which when she smiled drew itself upward to the left side
in a manner that most people thought very odd, some
very affected and a few very graceful. Isabel inclined to
range herself in the last category. Madame Merle had
thick, fair hair, arranged somehow ‘classically’ and as if she
were a Bust, Isabel judged—a Juno or a Niobe; and large
white hands, of a perfect shape, a shape so perfect that
their possessor, preferring to leave them unadorned, wore
no jewelled rings. Isabel had taken her at first, as we have
seen, for a Frenchwoman; but extended observation might
have ranked her as a German—a German of high degree,
perhaps an Austrian, a baroness, a countess, a princess. It
would never have been supposed she had come into the
world in Brooklyn—though one could doubtless not have
carried through any argument that the air of distinction
marking her in so eminent a degree was inconsistent with
such a birth. It was true that the national banner had


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floated immediately over her cradle, and the breezy
freedom of the stars and stripes might have shed an
influence upon the attitude she there took towards life.
And yet she had evidently nothing of the fluttered,
flapping quality of a morsel of bunting in the wind; her
manner expressed the repose and confidence which come
from a large experience. Experience, however, had not
quenched her youth; it had simply made her sympathetic
and supple. She was in a word a woman of strong impulses
kept in admirable order. This commended itself to Isabel
as an ideal combination.
    The girl made these reflections while the three ladies sat
at their tea, but that ceremony was interrupted before long
by the arrival of the great doctor from London, who had
been immediately ushered into the drawing-room. Mrs.
Touchett took him off to the library for a private talk; and
then Madame Merle and Isabel parted, to meet again at
dinner. The idea of seeing more of this interesting woman
did much to mitigate Isabel’s sense of the sadness now
settling on Gardencourt.
    When she came into the drawing-room before dinner
she found the place empty; but in the course of a moment
Ralph arrived. His anxiety about his father had been
lightened; Sir Matthew Hope’s view of his condition was


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less depressed than his own had been. The doctor
recommended that the nurse alone should remain with the
old man for the next three or four hours; so that Ralph,
his mother and the great physician himself were free to
dine at table. Mrs. Touchett and Sir Matthew appeared;
Madame Merle was the last.
    Before she came Isabel spoke of her to Ralph, who was
standing before the fireplace. ‘Pray who is this Madame
Merle?’
    ‘The cleverest woman I know, not excepting yourself,’
said Ralph.
    ‘I thought she seemed very pleasant.’
    ‘I was sure you’d think her very pleasant.’
    ‘Is that why you invited her?’
    ‘I didn’t invite her, and when we came back from
London I didn’t know she was here. No one invited her.
She’s a friend of my mother’s, and just after you and I
went to town my mother got a note from her. She had
arrived in England (she usually lives abroad, though she
has first and last spent a good deal of time here), and asked
leave to come down for a few days. She’s a woman who
can make such proposals with perfect confidence; she’s so
welcome wherever she goes. And with my mother there
could be no question of hesitating; she’s the one person in


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the world whom my mother very much admires. If she
were not herself (which she after all much prefers), she
would like to be Madame Merle. It would indeed be a
great change.’
   ‘Well, she’s very charming,’ said Isabel. ‘And she plays
beautifully.’
   ‘She does everything beautifully. She’s complete.’
   Isabel looked at her cousin a moment. ‘You don’t like
her.’
   ‘On the contrary, I was once in love with her.’
   ‘And she didn’t care for you, and that’s why you don’t
like her.’
   ‘How can we have discussed such things? Monsieur
Merle was then living.’
   ‘Is he dead now?’
   ‘So she says.’
   ‘Don’t you believe her?’
   ‘Yes, because the statement agrees with the
probabilities. The husband of Madame Merle would be
likely to pass away.’
   Isabel gazed at her cousin again. ‘I don’t know what
you mean. You mean something—that you don’t mean.
What was Monsieur Merle?’
   ‘The husband of Madame.’


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       ‘You’re very odious. Has she any children?’
       ‘Not the least little child—fortunately.’
       ‘Fortunately?’
       ‘I mean fortunately for the child. She’d be sure to spoil
it.’
    Isabel was apparently on the point of assuring her
cousin for the third time that he was odious; but the
discussion was interrupted by the arrival of the lady who
was the topic of it. She came rustling in quickly,
apologizing for being late, fastening a bracelet, dressed in
dark blue satin, which exposed a white bosom that was
ineffectually covered by a curious silver necklace. Ralph
offered her his arm with the exaggerated alertness of a man
who was no longer a lover.
    Even if this had still been his condition, however,
Ralph had other things to think about. The great doctor
spent the night at Gardencourt and, returning to London
on the morrow, after another consultation with Mr.
Touchett’s own medical adviser, concurred in Ralph’s
desire that he should see the patient again on the day
following. On the day following Sir Matthew Hope
reappeared at Gardencourt, and now took a less
encouraging view of the old man, who had grown worse
in the twenty-four hours. His feebleness was extreme, and


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to his son, who constantly sat by his bedside, it often
seemed that his end must be at hand. The local doctor, a
very sagacious man, in whom Ralph had secretly more
confidence than in his distinguished colleague, was
constantly in attendance, and Sir Matthew Hope came
back several times. Mr. Touchett was much of the time
unconscious; he slept a great deal; he rarely spoke. Isabel
had a great desire to be useful to him and was allowed to
watch with him at hours when his other attendants (of
whom Mrs. Touchett was not the least regular) went to
take rest. He never seemed to know her, and she always
said to herself, ‘Suppose he should die while I’m sitting
here"; an idea which excited her and kept her awake.
Once he opened his eyes for a while and fixed them upon
her intelligently, but when she went to him, hoping he
would recognize her, he closed them and relapsed into
stupor. The day after this, however, he revived for a
longer time; but on this occasion Ralph only was with
him. The old man began to talk, much to his son’s
satisfaction, who assured him that they should presently
have him sitting up.
    ‘No, my boy,’ said Mr. Touchett, ‘not unless you bury
me in a sitting posture, as some of the ancients—was it the
ancients?—used to do.’


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   ‘Ah, daddy, don’t talk about that,’ Ralph murmured.
‘You mustn’t deny that you’re getting better.’
   ‘There will be no need of my denying it if you don’t
say it,’ the old man answered. ‘Why should we prevaricate
just at the last? We never prevaricated before. I’ve got to
die some time, and it’s better to die when one’s sick than
when one’s well. I’m very sick- as sick as I shall ever be. I
hope you don’t want to prove that I shall ever be worse
than this? That would be too bad. You don’t? Well then.’
   Having made this excellent point he became quiet; but
the next time that Ralph was with him he again addressed
himself to conversation. The nurse had gone to her supper
and Ralph was alone in charge, having just relieved Mrs.
Touchett, who had been on guard since dinner. The room
was lighted only by the flickering fire, which of late had
become necessary, and Ralph’s tall shadow was projected
over wall and ceiling with an outline constantly varying
but always grotesque.
   ‘Who’s that with me—is it my son?’ the old man asked.
   ‘Yes, it’s your son, daddy.’
   ‘And is there no one else?’
   ‘No one else.’
   Mr. Touchett said nothing for a while; and then, ‘I
want to talk a little,’ he went on.


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    ‘Won’t it tire you?’ Ralph demurred.
    ‘It won’t matter if it does. I shall have a long rest. I
want to talk about you.
    Ralph had drawn nearer to the bed; he sat leaning
forward with his hand on his father’s. ‘You had better
select a brighter topic.’
    ‘You were always bright; I used to be proud of your
brightness. I should like so much to think you’d do
something.’
    ‘If you leave us,’ said Ralph, ‘I shall do nothing but
miss you.’
    ‘That’s just what I don’t want; it’s what I want to talk
about. You must get a new interest.’
    ‘I don’t want a new interest, daddy. I have more old
ones than I know what to do with.’
    The old man lay there looking at his son; his face was
the face of the dying, but his eyes were the eyes of Daniel
Touchett. He seemed to be reckoning over Ralph’s
interests. ‘Of course you have your mother,’ he said at last.
‘You’ll take care of her.’
    ‘My mother will always take care of herself,’ Ralph
returned.
    ‘Well,’ said his father, ‘perhaps as she grows older she’ll
need a little help.’


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    ‘I shall not see that. She’ll outlive me.’
    ‘Very likely she will; but that’s no reason-!’ Mr.
Touchett let his phrase die away in a helpless but not quite
querulous sigh and remained silent again.
    ‘Don’t trouble yourself about us,’ said his son. ‘My
mother and I get on very well together, you know.’
    ‘You get on by always being apart; that’s not natural.’
    ‘If you leave us we shall probably see more of each
other.’
    ‘Well,’ the old man observed with wandering
irrelevance, ‘it can’t be said that my death will make much
difference in your mother’s life.’
    ‘It will probably make more than you think.’
    ‘Well, she’ll have more money,’ said Mr. Touchett.
‘I’ve left her a good wife’s portion, just as if she had been a
good wife.’
    ‘She has been one, daddy, according to her own
theory. She has never troubled you.’
    ‘Ah, some troubles are pleasant,’ Mr. Touchett
murmured. ‘Those you’ve given me for instance. But your
mother has been less—less- what shall I call it? less out of
the way since I’ve been ill. I presume she knows I’ve
noticed it.’
    ‘I shall certainly tell her so; I’m so glad you mention it.’


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    ‘It won’t make any difference to her; she doesn’t do it
to please me. She does it to please—to please-’ And he lay
a while trying to think why she did it. ‘She does it because
it suits her. But that’s not what I want to talk about,’ he
added. ‘It’s about you. You’ll be very well off.’
    ‘Yes,’ said Ralph, ‘I know that. But I hope you’ve not
forgotten the talk we had a year ago—when I told you
exactly what money I should need and begged you to
make some good use of the rest.’
    ‘Yes, yes, I remember. I made a new will—in a few
days. I suppose it was the first time such a thing had
happened—a young man trying to get a will made against
him.’
    ‘It is not against me,’ said Ralph. ‘It would be against
me to have a large property to take care of. It’s impossible
for a man in my state of health to spend much money, and
enough is as good as a feast.’
    ‘Well, you’ll have enough—and something over. There
will be more than enough for one—there will be enough
for two.’
    ‘That’s too much,’ said Ralph.
    ‘Ah, don’t say that. The best thing you can do, when
I’m gone, will be to marry.’



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The Portrait of a Lady


    Ralph had foreseen what his father was coming to, and
this suggestion was by no means fresh. It had long been
Mr. Touchett’s most ingenious way of taking the cheerful
view of his son’s possible duration. Ralph had usually
treated it facetiously; but present circumstances proscribed
the facetious. He simply fell back in his chair and returned
his father’s appealing gaze.
    ‘If I, with a wife who hasn’t been very fond of me,
have had a very happy life,’ said the old man, carrying his
ingenuity further still, ‘what a life mightn’t you have if
you should marry a person different from Mrs. Touchett.
There are more different from her than there are like her.’
Ralph still said nothing; and after a pause his father
resumed softly: ‘What do you think of your cousin?’
    At this Ralph started, meeting the question with a
strained smile. ‘Do I understand you to propose that I
should marry Isabel?’
    ‘Well, that’s what it comes to in the end. Don’t you
like Isabel?’
    ‘Yes, very much.’ And Ralph got up from his chair and
wandered over to the fire. He stood before it an instant
and then he stooped and stirred it mechanically.
    ‘I like Isabel very much,’ he repeated.



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     ‘Well,’ said his father, ‘I know she likes you. She has
told me how much she likes you.’
     ‘Did she remark that she would like to marry me?’
     ‘No, but she can’t have anything against you. And she’s
the most charming young lady I’ve ever seen. And she
would be good to you. I have thought a great deal about
it.’
     ‘So have I,’ said Ralph, coming back to the bedside
again. ‘I don’t mind telling you that.’
     ‘You are in love with her then? I should think you
would be. It’s as if she came over on purpose.’
     ‘No, I’m not in love with her; but I should be if—if
certain things were different.’
     ‘Ah, things are always different from what they might
be,’ said the old man. ‘If you wait for them to change
you’ll never do anything. I don’t know whether you
know,’ he went on; ‘but I suppose there’s no harm in my
alluding to it at such an hour as this: there was some one
wanted to marry Isabel the other day, and she wouldn’t
have him.’
     ‘I know she refused Warburton: he told me himself.’
     ‘Well, that proves there’s a chance for somebody else.’
     ‘Somebody else took his chance the other day in
London—and got nothing by it.’


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    ‘Was it you?’ Mr. Touchett eagerly asked.
    ‘No, it was an older friend; a poor gentleman who
came over from America to see about it.’
    ‘Well, I’m sorry for him, whoever he was. But it only
proves what I say—that the way’s open to you.’
    ‘If it is, dear father, it’s all the greater pity that I’m
unable to tread it. I haven’t many convictions; but I have
three or four that I hold strongly. One is that people, on
the whole, had better not marry their cousins. Another is
that people in an advanced stage of pulmonary disorder
had better not marry at all.’
    The old man raised his weak hand and moved it to and
fro before his face. ‘What do you mean by that? You look
at things in a way that would make everything wrong.
What sort of a cousin is a cousin that you had never seen
for more than twenty years of her life? We’re all each
other’s cousins, and if we stopped at that the human race
would die out. It’s just the same with your bad lung.
You’re a great deal better than you used to be. All you
want is to lead a natural life. It is a great deal more natural
to marry a pretty young lady that you’re in love with than
it is to remain single on false principles.’
    ‘I’m not in love with Isabel,’ said Ralph.



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    ‘You said just now that you would be if you didn’t
think it wrong. I want to prove to you that it isn’t wrong.’
    ‘It will only tire you, dear daddy,’ said Ralph, who
marvelled at his father’s tenacity and at his finding strength
to insist. ‘Then where shall we all be?’
    ‘Where shall you be if I don’t provide for you? You
won’t have anything to do with the bank, and you won’t
have me to take care of. You say you’ve so many interests;
but I can’t make them out.’
    Ralph leaned back in his chair with folded arms; his
eyes were fixed for some time in meditation. At last, with
the air of a man fairly mustering courage, ‘I take a great
interest in my cousin,’ he said, ‘but not the sort of interest
you desire. I shall not live many years; but I hope I shall
live long enough to see what she does with herself. She’s
entirely independent of me; I can exercise very little
influence upon her life. But I should like to do something
for her.’
    ‘What should you like to do?’
    ‘I should like to put a little wind in her sails.’
    ‘What do you mean by that?’
    ‘I should like to put it into her power to do some of
the things she wants. She wants to see the world for
instance. I should like to put money in her purse.’


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    ‘Ah, I’m glad you’ve thought of that,’ said the old man.
‘But I’ve thought of it too. I’ve left her a legacy—five
thousand pounds.’
    ‘That’s capital; it’s very kind of you. But I should like
to do a little more.’
    Something of that veiled acuteness with which it had
been on Daniel Touchett’s part the habit of a lifetime to
listen to a financial proposition still lingered in the face in
which the invalid had not obliterated the man of
happiness. ‘I shall be happy to consider it,’ he said softly.
    ‘Isabel’s poor then. My mother tells me that she has but
a few hundred dollars a year. I should like to make her
rich.’
    ‘What do you mean by rich?’
    ‘I call people rich when they’re able to meet the
requirements of their imagination. Isabel has a great deal of
imagination.’
    ‘So have you, my son,’ said Mr. Touchett, listening
very attentively but a little confusedly.
    ‘You tell me I shall have money enough for two. What
I want is that you should kindly relieve me of my
superfluity and make it over to Isabel. Divide my
inheritance into two equal halves and give her the second.’
    ‘To do what she likes with?’


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   ‘Absolutely what she likes.’
   ‘And without an equivalent?’
   ‘What equivalent could there be?’
   ‘The one I’ve already mentioned.’
   ‘Her marrying—some one or other? It’s just to do away
with anything of that sort that I make my suggestion. If
she has an easy income she’ll never have to marry for a
support. That’s what I want cannily to prevent. She wishes
to be free, and your bequest will make her free.’
   ‘Well, you seem to have thought it out,’ said Mr.
Touchett. ‘But I don’t see why you appeal to me. The
money will be yours, and you can easily give it to her
yourself.’
   Ralph openly stared. ‘Ah, dear father, I can’t offer
Isabel money!’
   The old man gave a groan. ‘Don’t tell me you’re not in
love with her! Do you want me to have the credit of it?’
   ‘Entirely. I should like it simply to be a clause in your
will, without the slightest reference to me.’
   ‘Do you want me to make a new will then?’
   ‘A few words will do it; you can attend to it the next
time you feel a little lively.’
   ‘You must telegraph to Mr. Hilary then. I’ll do nothing
without my solicitor.’


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   ‘You shall see Mr. Hilary to-morrow.’
   ‘He’ll think we’ve quarrelled, you and I,’ said the old
man.
   ‘Very probably; I shall like him to think it,’ said Ralph,
smiling; ‘and, to carry out the idea, I give you notice that I
shall be very sharp, quite horrid and strange, with you.’
   The humour of this appeared to touch his father, who
lay a little while taking it in. ‘I’ll do anything you like,’
Mr. Touchett said at last; ‘but I’m not sure it’s right. You
say you want to put wind in her sails; but aren’t you afraid
of putting too much?’
   ‘I should like to see her going before the breeze!’
Ralph answered.
   ‘You speak as if it were for your mere amusement.’
   ‘So it is, a good deal.’
   ‘Well, I don’t think I understand,’ said Mr. Touchett
with a sigh. ‘Young men are very different from what I
was. When I cared for a girl—when I was young—I
wanted to do more than look at her. You’ve scruples that
I shouldn’t have had, and you’ve ideas that I shouldn’t
have had either. You say Isabel wants to be free, and that
her being rich will keep her from marrying for money. Do
you think that she’s a girl to do that?’



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   ‘By no means. But she has less money than she has ever
had before. Her father then gave her everything, because
he used to spend his capital. She has nothing but the
crumbs of that feast to live on, and she doesn’t really know
how meagre they are—she has yet to learn it. My mother
has told me all about it. Isabel will learn it when she’s
really thrown upon the world, and it would be very
painful to me to think of her coming to the consciousness
of a lot of wants she should be unable to satisfy.’
   ‘I’ve left her five thousand pounds. She can satisfy a
good many wants with that.’
   ‘She can indeed. But she would probably spend it in
two or three years.’
   ‘You think she’d be extravagant then?’
   ‘Most certainly,’ said Ralph, smiling serenely.
   Poor Mr. Touchett’s acuteness was rapidly giving place
to pure confusion. ‘It would merely be a question of time
then, her spending the larger sum?’
   ‘No—though at first I think she’d plunge into that
pretty freely: she’d probably make over a part of it to each
of her sisters. But after that she’d come to her senses,
remember she has still a lifetime before her, and live
within her means.’



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   ‘Well, you have worked it out,’ said the old man
helplessly. ‘You do take an interest in her, certainly.’
   ‘You can’t consistently say I go too far. You wished me
to go further.’
   ‘Well, I don’t know,’ Mr. Touchett answered. ‘I don’t
think I enter into your spirit. It seems to me immoral.’
   ‘Immoral, dear daddy?’
   ‘Well, I don’t know that it’s right to make everything
so easy for a person.’
   ‘It surely depends upon the person. When the person’s
good, your making things easy is all to the credit of virtue.
To facilitate the execution of good impulses, what can be
a nobler act?’
   This was a little difficult to follow, and Mr. Touchett
considered it for a while. At last he said: ‘Isabel’s a sweet
young thing; but do you think she’s so good as that?’
   ‘She’s as good as her best opportunities,’ Ralph
returned.
   ‘Well,’ Mr. Touchett declared, ‘she ought to get a great
many opportunities for sixty thousand pounds.’
   ‘I’ve no doubt she will.’
   ‘Of course I’ll do what you want,’ said the old man. ‘I
only want to understand it a little.’



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    ‘Well, dear daddy, don’t you understand it now?’ his
son caressingly asked. ‘If you don’t we won’t take any
more trouble about it. We’ll leave it alone.’
    Mr. Touchett lay a long time still. Ralph supposed he
had given up the attempt to follow. But at last, quite
lucidly, he began again. ‘Tell me this first. Doesn’t it occur
to you that a young lady with sixty thousand pounds may
fall a victim to the fortune-hunters?’
    ‘She’ll hardly fall a victim to more than one.’
    ‘Well, one’s too many.’
    ‘Decidedly. That’s a risk, and it has entered into my
calculation. I think it’s appreciable, but I think it’s small,
and I’m prepared to take it.’
    Poor Mr. Touchett’s acuteness had passed into
perplexity, and his perplexity now passed into admiration.
‘Well, you have gone into it!’ he repeated. ‘But I don’t see
what good you’re to get of it.’
    Ralph leaned over his father’s pillows and gently
smoothed them; he was aware their talk had been unduly
prolonged. ‘I shall get just the good I said a few moments
ago I wished to put into Isabel’s reach- that of having met
the requirements of my imagination. But it’s scandalous,
the way I’ve taken advantage of you!’



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                         Chapter 19

   As Mrs. Touchett had foretold, Isabel and Madame
Merle were thrown much together during the illness of
their host, so that if they had not become intimate it
would have been almost a breach of good manners. Their
manners were of the best, but in addition to this they
happened to please each other. It is perhaps too much to
say that they swore an eternal friendship, but tacitly at least
they called the future to witness. Isabel did so with a
perfectly good conscience, though she would have
hesitated to admit she was intimate with her new friend in
the high sense she privately attached to this term. She
often wondered indeed if she ever had been, or ever could
be, intimate with any one. She had an ideal of friendship
as well as of several other sentiments, which it failed to
seem to her in this case—it had not seemed to her in other
cases—that the actual completely expressed. But she often
reminded herself that there were essential reasons why
one’s ideal could never become concrete. It was a thing to
believe in, not to see—a matter of faith, not of experience.
Experience, however, might supply us with very
creditable imitations of it, and the part of wisdom was to


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make the best of these. Certainly, on the whole, Isabel had
never encountered a more agreeable and interesting figure
than Madame Merle; she had never met a person having
less of that fault which is the principal obstacle to
friendship—the air of reproducing the more tiresome, the
stale, the too-familiar parts of one’s own character. The
gates of the girl’s confidence were opened wider than they
had ever been; she said things to this amiable auditress that
she had not yet said to any one. Sometimes she took alarm
at her candour: it was as if she had given to a comparative
stranger the key to her cabinet of jewels. These spiritual
gems were the only ones of any magnitude that Isabel
possessed, but there was all the greater reason for their
being carefully guarded. Afterwards, however, she always
remembered that one should never regret a generous error
and that if Madame Merle had not the merits she
attributed to her, so much the worse for Madame Merle.
There was no doubt she had great merits—she was
charming, sympathetic, intelligent, cultivated. More than
this (for it had not been Isabel’s ill-fortune to go through
life without meeting in her own sex several persons of
whom no less could fairly be said), she was rare, superior
and preeminent. There are many amiable people in the
world, and Madame Merle was far from being vulgarly


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good natured and restlessly witty. She knew how to
think—an accomplishment rare in women; and she had
thought to very good purpose. Of course, too, she knew
how to feel; Isabel couldn’t have spent a week with her
without being sure of that. This was indeed Madame
Merle’s great talent, her most perfect gift. Life had told
upon her; she had felt it strongly, and it was part of the
satisfaction to be taken in her society that when the girl
talked of what she was pleased to call serious matters this
lady understood her so easily and quickly. Emotion, it is
true, had become with her rather historic; she made no
secret of the fact that the fount of passion, thanks to
having been rather violently tapped at one period, didn’t
flow quite so freely as of yore. She proposed moreover, as
well as expected, to cease feeling; she freely admitted that
of old she had been a little mad, and now she pretended to
be perfectly sane.
    ‘I judge more than I used to,’ she said to Isabel, ‘but it
seems to me one has earned the right. One can’t judge till
one’s forty; before that we’re too eager, too hard, too
cruel, and in addition much too ignorant. I’m sorry for
you; it will be a long time before you’re forty. But every
gain’s a loss of some kind; I often think that after forty one
can’t really feel. The freshness, the quickness have


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certainly gone. You’ll keep them longer than most people;
it will be a great satisfaction to me to see you some years
hence. I want to see what life makes of you. One thing’s
certain—it can’t spoil you. It may pull you about horribly,
but I defy it to break you up.’
    Isabel received this assurance as a young soldier, still
panting from a slight skirmish in which he has come off
with honour, might receive a pat on the shoulder from his
colonel. Like such a recognition of merit it seemed to
come with authority. How could the lightest word do less
on the part of a person who was prepared to say, of almost
everything Isabel told her, ‘Oh, I’ve been in that, my dear;
it passes, like everything else.’ On many of her
interlocutors Madame Merle might have produced an
irritating effect; it was disconcertingly difficult to surprise
her. But Isabel, though by no means incapable of desiring
to be effective, had not at present this impulse. She was
too sincere, too interested in her judicious companion.
And then moreover Madame Merle never said such things
in the tone of triumph or of boastfulness; they dropped
from her like cold confessions.
    A period of bad weather had settled upon Gardencourt;
the days grew shorter and there was an end to the pretty
tea-parties on the lawn. But our young woman had long


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indoor conversations with her fellow visitor, and in spite
of the rain the two ladies often sallied forth for a walk,
equipped with the defensive apparatus which the English
climate and the English genius have between them
brought to such perfection. Madame Merle liked almost
everything, including the English rain. ‘There’s always a
little of it and never too much at once,’ she said; ‘and it
never wets you and it always smells good.’ She declared
that in England the pleasures of smell were great—that in
this inimitable island there was a certain mixture of fog
and beer and soot which, however odd it might sound,
was the national aroma, and was most agreeable to the
nostril; and she used to lift the sleeve of her British
overcoat and bury her nose in it, inhaling the clear, fine
scent of the wool. Poor Ralph Touchett, as soon as the
autumn had begun to define itself, became almost a
prisoner; in bad weather he was unable to step out of the
house, and he used sometimes to stand at one of the
windows with his hands in his pockets and, from a
countenance half-rueful, half-critical, watch Isabel and
Madame Merle as they walked down the avenue under a
pair of umbrellas. The roads about Gardencourt were so
firm, even in the worst weather, that the two ladies always
came back with a healthy glow in their cheeks, looking at


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the soles of their neat, stout boots and declaring that their
walk had done them inexpressible good. Before luncheon,
always, Madame Merle was engaged; Isabel admired and
envied her rigid possession of her morning. Our heroine
had always passed for a person of resources and had taken a
certain pride in being one; but she wandered, as by the
wrong side of the wall of a private garden, round the
enclosed talents, accomplishments, aptitudes of Madame
Merle. She found herself desiring to emulate them, and in
twenty such ways this lady presented herself as a model. ‘I
should like awfully to be so!’ Isabel secretly exclaimed,
more than once, as one after another of her friend’s fine
aspects caught the light, and before long she knew that she
had learned a lesson from a high authority. It took no
great time indeed for her to feel herself, as the phrase is,
under an influence. ‘What’s the harm,’ she wondered, ‘so
long as it’s a good one? The more one’s under a good
influence the better. The only thing is to see our steps as
we take them—to understand them as we go. That, no
doubt, I shall always do. I needn’t be afraid of becoming
too pliable; isn’t it my fault that I’m not pliable enough?’
It is said that imitation is the sincerest flattery; and if Isabel
was sometimes moved to gape at her friend aspiringly and
despairingly it was not so much because she desired herself


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to shine as because she wished to hold up the lamp for
Madame Merle. She liked her extremely, but was even
more dazzled than attracted. She sometimes asked herself
what Henrietta Stackpole would say to her thinking so
much of this perverted product of their common soil, and
had a conviction that it would be severely judged.
Henrietta would not at all subscribe to Madame Merle; for
reasons she could not have defined this truth came home
to the girl. On the other hand she was equally sure that,
should the occasion offer, her new friend would strike off
some happy view of her old: Madame Merle was too
humorous, too observant, not to do justice to Henrietta,
and on becoming acquainted with her would probably
give the measure of a tact which Miss Stackpole couldn’t
hope to emulate. She appeared to have in her experience a
touchstone for everything, and somewhere in the
capacious pocket of her genial memory she would find the
key to Henrietta’s value. ‘That’s the great thing,’ Isabel
solemnly pondered; ‘that’s the supreme good fortune: to
be in a better position for appreciating people than they
are for appreciating you.’ And she added that such, when
one considered it, was simply the essence of the
aristocratic situation. In this light, if in none other, one
should aim at the aristocratic situation.


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    I may not count over all the links in the chain which
led Isabel to think of Madame Merle’s situation as
aristocratic—a view of it never expressed in any reference
made to it by that lady herself. She had known great things
and great people, but she had never played a great part.
She was one of the small ones of the earth; she had not
been born to honours; she knew the world too well to
nourish fatuous illusions on the article of her own place in
it. She had encountered many of the fortunate few and
was perfectly aware of those points at which their fortune
differed from hers. But if by her informed measure she was
no figure for a high scene, she had yet to Isabel’s
imagination a sort of greatness. To be so cultivated and
civilized, so wise and so easy, and still make so light of it—
that was really to be a great lady, especially when one so
carried and presented one’s self. It was as if somehow she
had all society under contribution, and all the arts and
graces it practised—or was the effect rather that of
charming uses found for her, even from a distance, subtle
service rendered by her to a clamorous world wherever
she might be? After breakfast she wrote a succession of
letters, as those arriving for her appeared innumerable: her
correspondence was a source of surprise to Isabel when
they sometimes walked together to the village post-office


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to deposit Madame Merle’s offering to the mail. She knew
more people, as she told Isabel, than she knew what to do
with, and something was always turning up to be written
about. Of painting she was devotedly fond, and made no
more of brushing in a sketch than of pulling off her gloves.
At Gardencourt she was perpetually taking advantage of an
hour’s sunshine to go out with a camp-stool and a box of
water-colours. That she was a brave musician we have
already perceived, and it was evidence of the fact that
when she seated herself at the piano, as she always did in
the evening, her listeners resigned themselves without a
murmur to losing the grace of her talk. Isabel, since she
had known her, felt ashamed of her own facility, which
she now looked upon as basely inferior; and indeed,
though she had been thought rather a prodigy at home,
the loss to society when, in taking her place upon the
music-stool, she turned her back to the room, was usually
deemed greater than the gain. When Madame Merle was
neither writing, nor painting, nor touching the piano, she
was usually employed upon wonderful tasks of rich
embroidery, cushions, curtains, decorations for the
chimney-piece; an art in which her bold, free invention
was as noted as the agility of her needle. She was never
idle, for when engaged in none of the ways I have


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mentioned she was either reading (she appeared to Isabel
to read ‘everything important’), or walking out, or playing
patience with the cards, or talking with her fellow
inmates. And with all this she had always the social quality,
was never rudely absent and yet never too seated. She laid
down her pastimes as easily as she took them up; she
worked and talked at the same time, and appeared to
impute scant worth to anything she did. She gave away
her sketches and tapestries; she rose from the piano or
remained there, according to the convenience of her
auditors, which she always unerringly divined. She was in
short the most comfortable, profitable, amenable person to
live with. If for Isabel she had a fault it was that she was
not natural; by which the girl meant, not that she was
either affected or pretentious, since from these vulgar vices
no woman could have been more exempt, but that her
nature had been too much overlaid by custom and her
angles too much rubbed away. She had become too
flexible, too useful, was too ripe and too final. She was in
a word too perfectly the social animal that man and
woman are supposed to have been intended to be; and she
had rid herself of every remnant of that tonic wildness
which we may assume to have belonged even to the most
amiable persons in the ages before country-house life was


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the fashion. Isabel found it difficult to think of her in any
detachment or privacy, she existed only in her relations,
direct or indirect, with her fellow mortals. One might
wonder what commerce she could possibly hold with her
own spirit. One always ended, however, by feeling that a
charming surface doesn’t necessarily prove one superficial;
this was an illusion in which, in one’s youth, one had but
just escaped being nourished. Madame Merle was not
superficial- not she. She was deep, and her nature spoke
none the less in her behaviour because it spoke a
conventional tongue. ‘What’s language at all but a
convention?’ said Isabel. ‘She has the good taste not to
pretend, like some people I’ve met, to express herself by
original signs.’
   ‘I’m afraid you’ve suffered much,’ she once found
occasion to say to her friend in response to some allusion
that had appeared to reach far.
   ‘What makes you think that?’ Madame Merle asked
with the amused smile of a person seated at a game of
guesses. ‘I hope I haven’t too much the droop of the
misunderstood.’
   ‘No; but you sometimes say things that I think people
who have always been happy wouldn’t have found out.’



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    ‘I haven’t always been happy,’ said Madame Merle,
smiling still, but with a mock gravity, as if she were telling
a child a secret. ‘Such a wonderful thing!’
    But Isabel rose to the irony. ‘A great many people give
me the impression of never having for a moment felt
anything.’
    ‘It’s very true; there are many more iron pots certainly
than porcelain. But you may depend on it that every one
bears some mark; even the hardest iron pots have a little
bruise, a little hole somewhere. I flatter myself that I’m
rather stout, but if I must tell you the truth I’ve been
shockingly chipped and cracked. I do very well for service
yet, because I’ve been cleverly mended; and I try to
remain in the cupboard—the quiet, dusky cupboard where
there’s an odour of stale spices—as much as I can. But
when I’ve to come out and into a strong light—then, my
dear, I’m a horror!’
    I know not whether it was on this occasion or on some
other that when the conversation had taken the turn I
have just indicated she said to Isabel that she would some
day a tale unfold. Isabel assured her she should delight to
listen to one, and reminded her more than once of this
engagement. Madame Merle, however, begged repeatedly
for a respite, and at last frankly told her young companion


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that they must wait till they knew each other better. This
would be sure to happen; a long friendship so visibly lay
before them. Isabel assented, but at the same time
enquired if she mightn’t be trusted—if she appeared
capable of a betrayal of confidence.
   ‘It’s not that I’m afraid of your repeating what I say,’
her fellow visitor answered; ‘I’m afraid, on the contrary, of
your taking it too much to yourself. You’d judge me too
harshly; you’re of the cruel age.’ She preferred for the
present to talk to Isabel of Isabel, and exhibited the
greatest interest in our heroine’s history, sentiments,
opinions, prospects. She made her chatter and listened to
her chatter infinite good nature. This flattered and
quickened the girl, who was struck with all the
distinguished people her friend had known and with her
having lived, as Mrs. Touchett said, in the best company
in Europe. Isabel thought the better of herself for enjoying
the favour of a person who had so large a field of
comparison; and it was perhaps partly to gratify the sense
of profiting by comparison that she often appealed to these
stores of reminiscence. Madame Merle had been a dweller
in many lands and had social ties in a dozen different
countries. ‘I don’t pretend to be educated,’ she would say,
‘but I think I know my Europe"; and she spoke one day of


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going to Sweden to stay with an old friend, and another of
proceeding to Malta to follow up a new acquaintance.
With England, where she had often dwelt, she was
thoroughly familiar, and for Isabel’s benefit threw a great
deal of light upon the customs of the country and the
character of the people, who ‘after all,’ as she was fond of
saying, were the most convenient in the world to live
with.
   ‘You mustn’t think it strange her remaining here at
such a time as this, when Mr. Touchett’s passing away,’
that gentleman’s wife remarked to her niece. ‘She is
incapable of a mistake; she’s the most tactful woman I
know. It’s a favour to me that she stays; she’s putting off a
lot of visits at great houses,’ said Mrs. Touchett, who
never forgot that when she herself was in England her
social value sank two or three degrees in the scale. ‘She has
her pick of places; she’s not in want of a shelter. But I’ve
asked her to put in this time because I wish you to know
her. I think it will be a good thing for you. Serena Merle
hasn’t a fault.’
   ‘If I didn’t already like her very much that description
might alarm me,’ Isabel returned.
   ‘She’s never the least little bit ‘off.’ I’ve brought you
out here and I wish to do the best for you. Your sister Lily


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told me she hoped I would give you plenty of
opportunities. I give you one in putting you in relation
with Madame Merle. She’s one of the most brilliant
women in Europe.’
    ‘I like her better than I like your description of her,’
Isabel persisted in saying.
    ‘Do you flatter yourself that you’ll ever feel her open to
criticism? I hope you’ll let me know when you do.’
    ‘That will be cruel—to you,’ said Isabel.
    ‘You needn’t mind me. You won’t discover a fault in
her.’
    ‘Perhaps not. But I dare say I shan’t miss it.’
    ‘She knows absolutely everything on earth there is to
know,’ said Mrs. Touchett.
    Isabel after this observed to their companion that she
hoped she knew Mrs. Touchett considered she hadn’t a
speck on her perfection. On which ‘I’m obliged to you,’
Madame Merle replied, ‘but I’m afraid your aunt imagines,
or at least alludes to, no aberrations that the clock-face
doesn’t register.’
    ‘So that you mean you’ve a wild side that’s unknown
to her?’
    ‘Ah no, I fear my darkest sides are my tamest. I mean
that having no faults, for your aunt, means that one’s


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never late for dinner—that is for her dinner. I was not late,
by the way, the other day, when you came back from
London; the clock was just at eight when I came into the
drawing-room; it was the rest of you that were before the
time. It means that one answers a letter the day one gets it
and that when one comes to stay with her one doesn’t
bring too much luggage and is careful not to be taken ill.
For Mrs. Touchett those things constitute virtue; it’s a
blessing to be able to reduce it to its elements.’
    Madame Merle’s own conversation, it will be
perceived, was enriched with bold, free touches of
criticism, which, even when they had a restrictive effect,
never struck Isabel as ill-natured. It couldn’t occur to the
girl for instance that Mrs. Touchett’s accomplished guest
was abusing her; and this for very good reasons. In the first
place Isabel rose eagerly to the sense of her shades; in the
second Madame Merle implied that there was a great deal
more to say; and it was clear in the third that for a person
to speak to one without ceremony of one’s near relations
was an agreeable sign of that person’s intimacy with one’s
self. These signs of deep communion multiplied as the
days elapsed, and there was none of which Isabel was more
sensible than of her companion’s preference for making
Miss Archer herself a topic. Though she referred


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frequently to the incidents of her own career she never
lingered upon them; she was as little of a gross egotist as
she was of a flat gossip.
    ‘I’m old and stale and faded,’ she said more than once;
‘I’m of no more interest than last week’s newspaper.
You’re young and fresh and of to-day; you’ve the great
thing—you’ve actuality. I once had it—we all have it for
an hour. You, however, will have it for longer. Let us talk
about you then; you can say nothing I shall not care to
hear. It’s a sign that I’m growing old—that I like to talk
with younger people. I think it’s a very pretty
compensation. If we can’t have youth within us we can
have it outside, and I really think we see it and feel it
better that way. Of course we must be in sympathy with
it- that I shall always be. I don’t know that I shall ever be
ill-natured with old people—I hope not; there are
certainly some old people I adore. But I shall never be
anything but abject with the young; they touch me and
appeal to me too much. I give you carte blanche then; you
can even be impertinent if you like; I shall let it pass and
horribly spoil you. I speak as if I were a hundred years old,
you say? Well, I am, if you please; I was born before the
French Revolution. Ah, my dear, je viens de loin; I
belong to the old, old world. But it’s not of that I want to


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talk; I want to talk about the new. You must tell me more
about America; you never tell me enough. Here I’ve been
since I was brought here as a helpless child, and it’s
ridiculous, or rather it’s scandalous, how little I know
about that splendid, dreadful, funny country—surely the
greatest and drollest of them all. There are a great many of
us like that in these parts, and I must say I think we’re a
wretched set of people. You should live in your own land;
whatever it may be you have your natural place there. If
we’re not good Americans we’re certainly poor
Europeans; we’ve no natural place here. We’re mere
parasites, crawling over the surface; we haven’t our feet in
the soil. At least one can know it and not have illusions. A
woman perhaps can get on; a woman, it seems to me, has
no natural place anywhere; wherever she finds herself she
has to remain on the surface and, more or less, to crawl.
You protest, my dear? you’re horrified? you declare you’ll
never crawl? It’s very true that I don’t see you crawling;
you stand more upright than a good many poor creatures.
Very good; on the whole, I don’t think you’ll crawl. But
the men, the Americans; je vous demande un peu, what
do they make of it over here? I don’t envy them trying to
arrange themselves. Look at poor Ralph Touchett: what
sort of a figure do you call that? Fortunately he has a


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consumption; I say fortunately, because it gives him
something to do. His consumption’s his carriere; it’s a kind
of position. You can say: ‘Oh Mr. Touchett, he takes care
of his lungs, he knows a great deal about climates.’ But
without that who would he be, what would he represent?
‘Mr. Ralph Touchett: an American who lives in Europe.’
That signifies absolutely nothing—it’s impossible anything
should signify less. ‘He’s very cultivated,’ they say: ‘he has
a very pretty collection of old snuff-boxes.’ The collection
is all that’s wanted to make it pitiful. I’m tired of the
sound of the word; I think it’s grotesque. With the poor
old father it’s different; he has his identity, and it’s rather a
massive one. He represents a great financial house, and
that, in our day, is as good as anything else. For an
American, at any rate, that will do very well. But I persist
in thinking your cousin very lucky to have a chronic
malady so long as he doesn’t die of it. It’s much better
than the snuff-boxes. If he weren’t ill, you say, he’d do
something?—he’d take his father’s place in the house. My
poor child, I doubt it; I don’t think he’s at all fond of the
house. However, you know him better than I, though I
used to know him rather well, and he may have the
benefit of the doubt. The worst case, I think, is a friend of
mine, a countryman of ours, who lives in Italy (where he


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also was brought before he knew better), and who is one
of the most delightful men I know. Some day you must
know him. I’ll bring you together and then you’ll see
what I mean. He’s Gilbert Osmond—he lives in Italy;
that’s all one can say about him or make of him. He’s
exceedingly clever, a man made to be distinguished; but,
as I tell you, you exhaust the description when you say
he’s Mr. Osmond who lives tout betement in Italy. No
career, no name, no position, no fortune, no past, no
future, no anything. Oh yes, he paints, if you please—
paints in water-colours; like me, only better than I. His
painting’s pretty bad; on the whole I’m rather glad of that.
Fortunately he’s very indolent, so indolent that it amounts
to a sort of position. He can say, ‘Oh, I do nothing; I’m
too deadly lazy. You can do nothing to-day unless you get
up at five o’clock in the morning.’ In that way he
becomes a sort of exception; you feel he might do
something if he’d only rise early. He never speaks of his
painting—to people at large; he’s too clever for that. But
he has a little girl—a dear little girl; he does speak of her.
He’s devoted to her, and if it were a career to be an
excellent father he’d be very distinguished. But I’m afraid
that’s no better than the snuff-boxes; perhaps not even so
good. Tell me what they do in America,’ pursued


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Madame Merle, who, it must be observed parenthetically,
did not deliver herself all at once of these reflexions,
which are presented in a cluster for the convenience of the
reader. She talked of Florence, where Mr. Osmond lived
and where Mrs. Touchett occupied a mediaeval palace;
she talked of Rome, where she herself had a little pied-a-
terre with some rather good old damask. She talked of
places, of people and even, as the phrase is, of ‘subjects";
and from time to time she talked of their kind old host
and of the prospect of his recovery. From the first she had
thought this prospect small, and Isabel had been struck
with the positive, discriminating, competent way in which
she took the measure of his remainder of life. One
evening she announced definitely that he wouldn’t live.
    ‘Sir Matthew Hope told me so as plainly as was proper,’
she said; ‘standing there, near the fire, before dinner. He
makes himself very agreeable, the great doctor. I don’t
mean his saying that has anything to do with it. But he
says such things with great tact. I had told him I felt ill at
my ease, staying here at such a time; it seemed to me so
indiscreet—it wasn’t as if I could nurse. ‘You must remain,
you must remain,’ he answered; ‘your office will come
later.’ Wasn’t that a very delicate way of saying both that
poor Mr. Touchett would go and that I might be of some


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use as a consoler? In fact, however, I shall not be of the
slightest use. Your aunt will console herself; she, and she
alone, knows just how much consolation she’ll require. It
would be a very delicate matter for another person to
undertake to administer the dose. With your cousin it will
be different; he’ll miss his father immensely. But I should
never presume to condole with Mr. Ralph; we’re not on
those terms.’ Madame Merle had alluded more than once
to some undefined incongruity in her relations with Ralph
Touchett; so Isabel took this occasion of asking her if they
were not good friends.
    ‘Perfectly, but he doesn’t like me.’
    ‘What have you done to him?’
    ‘Nothing whatever. But one has no need of a reason
for that.’
    ‘For not liking you? I think one has need of a very
good reason.’
    ‘You’re very kind. Be sure you have one ready for the
day you begin.’
    ‘Begin to dislike you? I shall never begin.’
    ‘I hope not; because if you do you’ll never end. That’s
the way with your cousin; he doesn’t get over it. It’s an
antipathy of nature—if I can call it that when it’s all on his
side. I’ve nothing whatever against him and don’t bear


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him the least little grudge for not doing me justice. Justice
is all I want. However, one feels that he’s a gentleman and
would never say anything underhand about one. Cartes
sur table,’ Madame Merle subjoined in a moment, ‘I’m
not afraid of him.’
    ‘I hope not indeed,’ said Isabel, who added something
about his being the kindest creature living. She
remembered, however, that on her first asking him about
Madame Merle he had answered her in a manner which
this lady might have thought injurious without being
explicit. There was something between them, Isabel said
to herself, but she said nothing more than this. If it were
something of importance it should inspire respect; if it
were not it was not worth her curiosity. With all her love
of knowledge she had a natural shrinking from raising
curtains and looking into unlighted corners. The love of
knowledge coexisted in her mind with the finest capacity
for ignorance.
    But Madame Merle sometimes said things that startled
her, made her raise her clear eyebrows at the time and
think of the words afterwards. ‘I’d give a great deal to be
your age again,’ she broke out once with a bitterness
which, though diluted in her customary amplitude of ease,



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was imperfectly disguised by it. ‘If I could only begin
again—if I could have my life before me!’
    ‘Your life’s before you yet,’ Isabel answered gently, for
she was vaguely awe-struck.
    ‘No; the best part’s gone, and gone for nothing.’
    ‘Surely not for nothing,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Why not—what have I got? Neither husband, nor
child, nor fortune, nor position, nor the traces of a beauty
that I never had.’
    ‘You have many friends, dear lady.’
    ‘I’m not so sure!’ cried Madame Merle.
    ‘Ah, you’re wrong. You have memories, graces,
talents-.’
    But Madame Merle interrupted her. ‘What have my
talents brought me? Nothing but the need of using them
still, to get through the hours, the years, to cheat myself
with some pretence of movement, of unconsciousness. As
for my graces and memories the less said about them the
better. You’ll be my friend till you find a better use for
your friendship.’
    ‘It will be for you to see that I don’t then,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Yes; I would make an effort to keep you.’ And her
companion looked at her gravely. ‘When I say I should
like to be your age I mean with your qualities—frank,


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generous, sincere like you. In that case I should have made
something better of my life.’
    ‘What should you have liked to do that you’ve not
done?’
    Madame Merle took a sheet of music—she was seated
at the piano and had abruptly wheeled about on the stool
when she first spoke- and mechanically turned the leaves.
‘I’m very ambitious!’ she at last replied.
    ‘And your ambitions have not been satisfied? They
must have been great.’
    ‘They were great. I should make myself ridiculous by
talking of them.’
    Isabel wondered what they could have been—whether
Madame Merle had aspired to wear a crown. ‘I don’t
know what your idea of success may be, but you seem to
me to have been successful. To me indeed you’re a vivid
image of success.’
    Madame Merle tossed away the music with a smile.
‘What’s your idea of success?’
    ‘You evidently think it must be a very tame one. It’s to
see some dream of one’s youth come true.’
    ‘Ah,’ Madame Merle exclaimed, ‘that I’ve never seen!
But my dreams were so great—so preposterous. Heaven
forgive me, I’m dreaming now!’ And she turned back to


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the piano and began grandly to play. On the morrow she
said to Isabel that her definition of success had been very
pretty, yet frightfully sad. Measured in that way, who had
succeeded? The dreams of one’s youth, why they were
enchanting, they were divine! Who had ever seen such
things come to pass?
   ‘I myself—a few of them,’ Isabel ventured to answer.
   ‘Already? They must have been dreams of yesterday.’
   ‘I began to dream very young,’ Isabel smiled.
   ‘Ah, if you mean the aspirations of your childhood—
that of having a pink sash and a doll that could close her
eyes.’
   ‘No, I don’t mean that.’
   ‘Or a young man with a fine moustache going down
on his knees to you.’
   ‘No, nor that either,’ Isabel declared with still more
emphasis.
   Madame Merle appeared to note this eagerness. ‘I
suspect that’s what you do mean. We’ve all had the young
man with the moustache. He’s the inevitable young man;
he doesn’t count.’
   Isabel was silent a little but then spoke with extreme
and characteristic inconsequence. ‘Why shouldn’t he
count? There are young men and young men.’


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    ‘And yours was a paragon—is that what you mean?’
asked her friend with a laugh. ‘If you’ve had the identical
young man you dreamed of, then that was success, and I
congratulate you with all my heart. Only in that case why
didn’t you fly with him to his castle in the Apennines?’
    ‘He has no castle in the Apennines.’
    ‘What has he? An ugly brick house in Fortieth Street?
Don’t tell me that; I refuse to recognize that as an ideal.’
    ‘I don’t care anything about his house,’ said Isabel.
    ‘That’s very crude of you. When you’ve lived as long
as I you’ll see that every human being has his shell and that
you must take the shell into account. By the shell I mean
the whole envelope of circumstances. There’s no such
thing as an isolated man or woman; we’re each of us made
up of some cluster of appurtenances. What shall we call
our ‘self’? Where does it begin? where does it end? It
overflows into everything that belongs to us—and then it
flows back again. I know a large part of myself is in the
clothes I choose to wear. I’ve a great respect for things!
One’s self—for other people- is one’s expression of one’s
self; and one’s house, one’s furniture, one’s garments, the
books one reads, the company one keeps—these things are
all expressive.’



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   This was very metaphysical; not more so, however,
than several observations Madame Merle had already
made. Isabel was fond of metaphysics, but was unable to
accompany her friend into this bold analysis of the human
personality. ‘I don’t agree with you. I think just the other
way. I don’t know whether I succeed in expressing myself,
but I know that nothing else expresses me. Nothing that
belongs to me is any measure of me; everything’s on the
contrary a limit, a barrier, and a perfectly arbitrary one.
Certainly the clothes which, as you say, I choose to wear,
don’t express me; and heaven forbid they should!’
   ‘You dress very well,’ Madame Merle lightly
interposed.
   ‘Possibly; but I don’t care to be judged by that. My
clothes may express the dressmaker, but they don’t express
me. To begin with it’s not my own choice that I wear
them; they’re imposed upon me by society.’
   ‘Should you prefer to go without them?’ Madame
Merle enquired in a tone which virtually terminated the
discussion.
   I am bound to confess, though it may cast some
discredit on the sketch I have given of the youthful loyalty
practiced by our heroine toward this accomplished
woman, that Isabel had said nothing whatever to her about


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Lord Warburton and had been equally reticent on the
subject of Caspar Goodwood. She had not, however,
concealed the fact that she had had opportunities of
marrying and had even let her friend know of how
advantageous a kind they had been. Lord Warburton had
left Lockleigh and was gone to Scotland, taking his sisters
with him; and though he had written to Ralph more than
once to ask about Mr. Touchett’s health the girl was not
liable to the embarrassment of such enquiries as, had he
still been in the neighbourhood, he would probably have
felt bound to make in person. He had excellent ways, but
she felt sure that if he had come to Gardencourt he would
have seen Madame Merle, and that if he had seen her he
would have liked her and betrayed to her that he was in
love with her young friend. It so happened that during this
lady’s previous visits to Gardencourt- each of them much
shorter than the present—he had either not been at
Lockleigh or had not called at Mr. Touchett’s. Therefore,
though she knew him by name as the great man of that
country, she had no cause to suspect him as a suitor of
Mrs. Touchett’s freshly-imported niece.
    ‘You’ve plenty of time,’ she had said to Isabel in return
for the mutilated confidences which our young woman
made her and which didn’t pretend to be perfect, though


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we have seen that at moments the girl had compunctions
at having said so much. ‘I’m glad you’ve done nothing
yet—that you have it still to do. It’s a very good thing for
a girl to have refused a few good offers—so long of course
as they are not the best she’s likely to have. Pardon me if
my tone seems horribly corrupt; one must take the
worldly view sometimes. Only don’t keep on refusing for
the sake of refusing. It’s a pleasant exercise of power; but
accepting’s after all an exercise of power as well. There’s
always the danger of refusing once too often. It was not
the one I fell into—I didn’t refuse often enough. You’re
an exquisite creature, and I should like to see you married
to a prime minister. But speaking strictly, you know,
you’re not what is technically called a parti. You’re
extremely good-looking and extremely clever; in yourself
you’re quite exceptional. You appear to have the vaguest
ideas about your earthly possessions; but from what I can
make out you’re not embarrassed with an income. I wish
you had a little money.’
    ‘I wish I had!’ said Isabel, simply, apparently forgetting
for the moment that her poverty had been a venial fault
for two gallant gentlemen.
    In spite of Sir Matthew Hope’s benevolent
recommendation Madame Merle did not remain to the


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end, as the issue of poor Mr. Touchett’s malady had now
come frankly to be designated. She was under pledges to
other people which had at last to be redeemed, and she
left Gardencourt with the understanding that she should in
any event see Mrs. Touchett there again, or else in town,
before quitting England. Her parting with Isabel was even
more like the beginning of a friendship than their meeting
had been. ‘I’m going to six places in succession, but I shall
see no one I like so well as you. They’ll all be old friends,
however; one doesn’t make new friends at my age. I’ve
made a great exception for you. You must remember that
and must think as well of me as possible. You must reward
me by believing in me.’
    By way of answer Isabel kissed her, and, though some
women kiss with facility, there are kisses and kisses, and
this embrace was satisfactory to Madame Merle. Our
young lady, after this, was much alone; she saw her aunt
and cousin only at meals, and discovered that of the hours
during which Mrs. Touchett was invisible only a minor
portion was now devoted to nursing her husband. She
spent the rest in her own apartments, to which access was
not allowed even to her niece, apparently occupied there
with mysterious and inscrutable exercises. At table she was
grave and silent; but her solemnity was not an attitude—


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Isabel could see it was a conviction. She wondered if her
aunt repented of having taken her own way so much; but
there was no visible evidence of this—no tears, no sighs,
no exaggeration of a zeal always to its own sense adequate.
Mrs. Touchett seemed simply to feel the need of thinking
things over and summing them up; she had a little moral
account-book—with columns unerringly ruled and a sharp
steel clasp—which she kept with exemplary neatness.
Uttered reflection had with her ever, at any rate, a
practical ring. ‘If I had foreseen this I’d not have proposed
your coming abroad now,’ she said to Isabel after Madame
Merle had left the house. ‘I’d have waited and sent for you
next year.’
    ‘So that perhaps I should never have known my uncle?
It’s a great happiness to me to have come now.’
    ‘That’s very well. But it was not that you might know
your uncle that I brought you to Europe.’ A perfectly
veracious speech; but, as Isabel thought, not as perfectly
timed. She had leisure to think of this and other matters.
She took a solitary walk every day and spent vague hours
in turning over books in the library. Among the subjects
that engaged her attention were the adventures of her
friend Miss Stackpole, with whom she was in regular
correspondence. Isabel liked her friend’s private epistolary


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style better than her public; that is she felt her public
letters would have been excellent if they had not been
printed. Henrietta’s career, however, was not so successful,
as might have been wished even in the interest of her
private felicity; that view of the inner life of Great Britain
which she was so eager to take appeared to dance before
her like an ignis fatuus. The invitation from Lady Pensil,
for mysterious reasons, had never arrived; and poor Mr.
Bantling himself, with all his friendly ingenuity, had been
unable to explain so grave a dereliction on the part of a
missive that had obviously been sent. He had evidently
taken Henrietta’s affairs much to heart, and believed that
he owed her a set-off to this illusory visit to Bedfordshire.
‘He says he should think I would go to the Continent,’
Henrietta wrote; and as he thinks of going there himself I
suppose his advice is sincere. He wants to know why I
don’t take a view of French life; and it’s a fact that I want
very much to see the new Republic. Mr. Bantling doesn’t
care much about the Republic, but he thinks of going
over to Paris anyway. I must say he’s quite as attentive as I
could wish, and at least I shall have seen one polite
Englishman. I keep telling Mr. Bantling that he ought to
have been an American, and you should see how that
pleases him. Whenever I say so he always breaks out with


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the same exclamation—’Ah, but really, come now!’’ A
few days later she wrote that she had decided to go to
Paris at the end of the week and that Mr. Bantling had
promised to see her off perhaps even would go as far as
Dover with her. She would wait in Paris till Isabel should
arrive, Henrietta added; speaking quite as if Isabel were to
start on her continental journey alone and making no
allusion to Mrs. Touchett. Bearing in mind his interest in
their late companion, our heroine communicated several
passages from this correspondence to Ralph, who followed
with an emotion akin to suspense the career of the
representative of the Interviewer.
    ‘It seems to me she’s doing very well,’ he said, ‘going
over to Paris with an ex-Lancer! If she wants something to
write about she has only to describe that episode.’
    ‘It’s not conventional, certainly,’ Isabel answered; ‘but
if you mean that—as far as Henrietta is concerned—it’s
not perfectly innocent, you’re very much mistaken. You’ll
never understand Henrietta.’
    ‘Pardon me, I understand her perfectly. I didn’t at all at
first, but now I’ve the point of view. I’m afraid, however,
that Bantling hasn’t; he may have some surprises. Oh, I
understand Henrietta as well as if I had made her!’



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    Isabel was by no means sure of this, but she abstained
from expressing further doubt, for she was disposed in
these days to extend a great charity to her cousin. One
afternoon less than a week after Madame Merle’s
departure she was seated in the library with a volume to
which her attention was not fastened. She had placed
herself in a deep window-bench, from which she looked
out into the dull, damp park; and as the library stood at
right angles to the entrance-front of the house she could
see the doctor’s brougham, which had been waiting for
the last two hours before the door. She was struck with his
remaining so long, but at last she saw him appear in the
portico, stand a moment slowly drawing on his gloves and
looking at the knees of his horse, and then get into the
vehicle and roll away. Isabel kept her place for half an
hour; there was a great stillness in the house. It was so
great that when she at last heard a soft, slow step on the
deep carpet of the room she was almost startled by the
sound. She turned quickly away from the window and
saw Ralph Touchett standing there with his hands still in
his pockets, but with a face absolutely void of its usual
latent smile. She got up and her movement and glance
were a question.
    ‘It’s all over,’ said Ralph.


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   ‘Do you mean that my uncle-?’ And Isabel stopped.
   ‘My dear father died an hour ago.’
   ‘Ah, my poor Ralph!’ she gently wailed, putting out
her two hands to him.




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                         Chapter 20

    Some fortnight after this Madame Merle drove up in a
hansom cab to the house in Winchester Square. As she
descended from her vehicle she observed, suspended
between the dining-room windows, a large, neat, wooden
tablet, on whose fresh black ground were inscribed in
white paint the words—‘This noble freehold mansion to
be sold"; with the name of the agent to whom application
should be made. ‘They certainly lose no time,’ said the
visitor as, after sounding the big brass knocker, she waited
to be admitted; ‘it’s a practical country!’ And within the
house, as she ascended to the drawing-room, she
perceived numerous signs of abdication; pictures removed
from the walls and placed upon sofas, windows undraped
and floors laid bare. Mrs. Touchett presently received her
and intimated in a few words that condolences might be
taken for granted.
    ‘I know what you’re going to say—he was a very good
man. But I know it better than any one, because I gave
him more chance to show it. In that I think I was a good
wife.’ Mrs. Touchett added that at the end her husband
apparently recognized this fact. ‘He has treated me most


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liberally,’ she said; ‘I won’t say more liberally than I
expected, because I didn’t expect. You know that as a
general thing I don’t expect. But he chose, I presume, to
recognize the fact that though I lived much abroad and
mingled—you may say freely—in foreign life, I never
exhibited the smallest preference for any one else.’
   ‘For any one but yourself,’ Madame Merle mentally
observed; but the reflexion was perfectly inaudible.
   ‘I never sacrificed my husband to another,’ Mrs.
Touchett continued with her stout curtness.
   ‘Oh no,’ thought Madame Merle; ‘you never did
anything for another!’
   There was a certain cynicism in these mute comments
which demands an explanation; the more so as they are
not in accord either with the view—somewhat superficial
perhaps—that we have hitherto enjoyed of Madame
Merle’s character or with the literal facts of Mrs.
Touchett’s history; the more so, too, as Madame Merle
had a well-founded conviction that her friend’s last remark
was not in the least to be construed as a side-thrust at
herself. The truth is that the moment she had crossed the
threshold she received an impression that Mr. Touchett’s
death had had subtle consequences and that these
consequences had been profitable to a little circle of


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persons among whom she was not numbered. Of course it
was an event which would naturally have consequences;
her imagination had more than once rested upon this fact
during her stay at Gardencourt. But it had been one thing
to foresee such a matter mentally and another to stand
among its massive records. The idea of a distribution of
property—she would almost have said of spoils—just now
pressed upon her senses and irritated her with a sense of
exclusion. I am far from wishing to picture her as one of
the hungry mouths or envious hearts of the general herd,
but we have already learned of her having desires that had
never been satisfied. If she had been questioned, she
would of course have admitted—with a fine proud
smile—that she had not the faintest claim to a share in Mr.
Touchett’s relics. ‘There was never anything in the world
between us,’ she would have said. ‘There was never that,
poor man!’—with a fillip of her thumb and her third
finger. I hasten to add, moreover, that if she couldn’t at
the present moment keep from quite perversely yearning
she was careful not to betray herself. She had after all as
much sympathy for Mrs. Touchett’s gain as for her losses.
   ‘He has left me this house,’ the newly-made widow
said; ‘but of course I shall not live in it; I’ve a much better
one in Florence. The will was opened only three days


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since, but I’ve already offered the house for sale. I’ve also a
share in the bank; but I don’t yet understand if I’m obliged
to leave it there. If not I shall certainly take it out. Ralph,
of course, has Gardencourt; but I’m not sure that he’ll
have means to keep up the place. He’s naturally left very
well off, but his father has given away an immense deal of
money; there are bequests to a string of third cousins in
Vermont. Ralph, however, is very fond of Gardencourt
and would be quite capable of living there—in summer—
with a maid-of-all-work and a gardener’s boy. There’s one
remarkable clause in my husband’s will,’ Mrs. Touchett
added. ‘He has left my niece a fortune.’
   ‘A fortune!’ Madame Merle softly repeated.
   ‘Isabel steps into something like seventy thousand
pounds.’
   Madame Merle’s hands were clasped in her lap; at this
she raised them, still clasped, and held them a moment
against her bosom while her eyes, a little dilated, fixed
themselves on those of her friend. ‘Ah,’ she cried, ‘the
clever creature!’
   Mrs. Touchett gave her a quick look. ‘What do you
mean by that?’




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    For an instant Madame Merle’s colour rose and she
dropped her eyes. ‘It certainly is clever to achieve such
results—without an effort!’
    ‘There assuredly was no effort. Don’t call it an
achievement.’
    Madame Merle was seldom guilty of the awkwardness
of retracting what she had said; her wisdom was shown
rather in maintaining it and placing it in a favourable light.
‘My dear friend, Isabel would certainly not have had
seventy thousand pounds left her if she had not been the
most charming girl in the world. Her charm includes great
cleverness.’
    ‘She never dreamed, I’m sure, of my husband’s doing
anything for her; and I never dreamed of it either, for he
never spoke to me of his intention,’ Mrs. Touchett said.
‘She had no claim upon him whatever; it was no great
recommendation to him that she was my niece. Whatever
she achieved she achieved unconsciously.’
    ‘Ah,’ rejoined Madame Merle, ‘those are the greatest
strokes!’
    Mrs. Touchett reserved her opinion. ‘The girl’s
fortunate; I don’t deny that. But for the present she’s
simply stupefied.’



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    ‘Do you mean that she doesn’t know what to do with
the money?’
    ‘That, I think, she has hardly considered. She doesn’t
know what to think about the matter at all. It has been as
if a big gun were suddenly fired off behind her; she’s
feeling herself to see if she be hurt. It’s but three days since
she received a visit from the principal executor, who came
in person, very gallantly, to notify her. He told me
afterwards that when he had made his little speech she
suddenly burst into tears. The money’s to remain in the
affairs of the bank, and she’s to draw the interest.’
    Madame Merle shook her head with a wise and now
quite benignant smile. ‘How very delicious! After she has
done that two or three times she’ll get used to it.’ Then
after a silence, ‘What does your son think of it?’ she
abruptly asked.
    ‘He left England before the will was read—used up by
his fatigue and anxiety and hurrying off to the south. He’s
on his way to the Riviera and I’ve not yet heard from
him. But it’s not likely he’ll ever object to anything done
by his father.’
    ‘Didn’t you say his own share had been cut down?’




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    ‘Only at his wish. I know that he urged his father to do
something for the people in America. He’s not in the least
addicted to looking after number one.’
    ‘It depends upon whom he regards as number one!’
said Madame Merle. And she remained thoughtful a
moment, her eyes bent on the floor. ‘Am I not to see your
happy niece?’ she asked at last as she raised them.
    ‘You may see her; but you’ll not be struck with her
being happy. She has looked as solemn, these three days,
as a Cimabue Madonna!’ And Mrs. Touchett rang for a
servant.
    Isabel came in shortly after the footman had been sent
to call her; and Madame Merle thought, as she appeared,
that Mrs. Touchett’s comparison had its force. The girl
was pale and grave—an effect not mitigated by her deeper
mourning; but the smile of her brightest moments came
into her face as she saw Madame Merle, who went
forward, laid her hand on our heroine’s shoulder and, after
looking at her a moment, kissed her as if she were
returning the kiss she had received from her at
Gardencourt. This was the only allusion the visitor, in her
great good taste, made for the present to her young
friend’s inheritance.



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   Mrs. Touchett had no purpose of awaiting in London
the sale of her house. After selecting from among its
furniture the objects she wished to transport to her other
abode, she left the rest of its contents to be disposed of by
the auctioneer and took her departure for the Continent.
She was of course accompanied on this journey by her
niece, who now had plenty of leisure to measure and
weigh and otherwise handle the windfall on which
Madame Merle had covertly congratulated her. Isabel
thought very often of the fact of her accession of means,
looking at it in a dozen different lights; but we shall not
now attempt to follow her train of thought or to explain
exactly why her new consciousness was at first oppressive.
This failure to rise to immediate joy was indeed but brief;
the girl presently made up her mind that to be rich was a
virtue because it was to be able to do, and that to do could
only be sweet. It was the graceful contrary of the stupid
side of weakness—especially the feminine variety. To be
weak was, for a delicate young person, rather graceful,
but, after all, as Isabel said to herself, there was a larger
grace than that. Just now, it is true, there was not much to
do—once she had sent off a cheque to Lily, and another to
poor Edith; but she was thankful for the quiet months
which her mourning robes and her aunt’s fresh


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widowhood compelled them to spend together. The
acquisition of power made her serious; she scrutinized her
power with a kind of tender ferocity, but was not eager to
exercise it. She began to do so during a stay of some
weeks which she eventually made with her aunt in Paris,
though in ways that will inevitably present themselves as
trivial. They were the ways most naturally imposed in a
city in which the shops are the admiration of the world,
and that were prescribed unreservedly by the guidance of
Mrs. Touchett, who took a rigidly practical view of the
transformation of her niece from a poor girl to a rich one.
‘Now that you’re a young woman of fortune you must
know how to play the part—I mean to play it well,’ she
said to Isabel once for all; and she added that the girl’s first
duty was to have everything handsome. ‘You don’t know
how to take care of your things, but you must learn,’ she
went on; this was Isabel’s second duty. Isabel submitted,
but for the present her imagination was not kindled; she
longed for opportunities, but these were not the
opportunities she meant.
    Mrs. Touchett rarely changed her plans, and, having
intended before her husband’s death to spend a part of the
winter in Paris, saw no reason to deprive herself—still less
to deprive her companion- of this advantage. Though they


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would live in great retirement she might still present her
niece, informally, to the little circle of her fellow
countrymen dwelling upon the skirts of the Champs
Elysees. With many of these amiable colonists Mrs.
Touchett was intimate; she shared their expatriation, their
convictions, their pastimes, their ennui. Isabel saw them
arrive with a good deal of assiduity at her aunt’s hotel, and
pronounced on them with a trenchancy doubtless to be
accounted for by the temporary exaltation of her sense of
human duty. She made up her mind that their lives were,
though luxurious, inane, and incurred some disfavour by
expressing this view on bright Sunday afternoons, when
the American absentees were engaged in calling on each
other. Though her listeners passed for people kept
exemplarily genial by their cooks and dressmakers, two or
three of them thought her cleverness, which was generally
admitted, inferior to that of the new theatrical pieces.
‘You all live here this way, but what does it lead to?’ she
was pleased to ask. ‘It doesn’t seem to lead to anything,
and I should think you’d get very tired of it.’
    Mrs. Touchett thought the question worthy of
Henrietta Stackpole. The two ladies had found Henrietta
in Paris, and Isabel constantly saw her; so that Mrs.
Touchett had some reason for saying to herself that if her


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niece were not clever enough to originate almost
anything, she might be suspected of having borrowed that
style of remark from her journalistic friend. The first
occasion on which Isabel had spoken was that of a visit
paid by the two ladies to Mrs. Luce, an old friend of Mrs.
Touchett’s and the only person in Paris she now went to
see. Mrs. Luce had been living in Paris since the days of
Louis Philippe; she used to say jocosely that she was one of
the generation of 1830—a joke of which the point was
not always taken. When it failed Mrs. Luce used to
explain—‘Oh yes, I’m one of the romantics"; her French
had never become quite perfect. She was always at home
on Sunday afternoons and surrounded by sympathetic
compatriots, usually the same. In fact she was at home at
all times, and reproduced with wondrous truth in her
well-cushioned little corner of the brilliant city, the
domestic tone of her native Baltimore. This reduced Mr.
Luce, her worthy husband, a tall, lean, grizzled, well-
brushed gentleman who wore a gold eye-glass and carried
his hat a little too much on the back of his head, to mere
platonic praise of the ‘distractions’ of Paris—they were his
great word—since you would never have guessed from
what cares he escaped to them. One of them was that he
went every day to the American banker’s, where he found


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a post-office that was almost as sociable and colloquial an
institution as in an American country town. He passed an
hour (in fine weather) in a chair in the Champs Elysees,
and he dined uncommonly well at his own table, seated
above a waxed floor which it was Mrs. Luce’s happiness to
believe had a finer polish than any other in the French
capital. Occasionally he dined with a friend or two at the
Cafe Anglais, where his talent for ordering a dinner was a
source of felicity to his companions and an object of
admiration even to the headwaiter of the establishment.
These were his only known pastimes, but they had
beguiled his hours for upwards of half a century, and they
doubtless justified his frequent declaration that there was
no place like Paris. In no other place, on these terms,
could Mr. Luce flatter himself that he was enjoying life.
There was nothing like Paris, but it must be confessed that
Mr. Luce thought less highly of this scene of his
dissipations than in earlier days. In the list of his resources
his political reflections should not be omitted, for they
were doubtless the animating principle of many hours that
superficially seemed vacant. Like many of his fellow
colonists Mr. Luce was a high—or rather a deep—
conservative, and gave no countenance to the government
lately established in France. He had no faith in its duration


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and would assure you from year to year that its end was
close at hand. ‘They want to be kept down, sir, to be kept
down; nothing but the strong hand—the iron heel—will
do for them,’ he would frequently say of the French
people; and his ideal of a fine showy clever rule was that
of the superseded Empire. ‘Paris is much less attractive
than in the days of the Emperor; he knew how to make a
city pleasant,’ Mr. Luce had often remarked to Mrs.
Touchett, who was quite of his own way of thinking and
wished to know what one had crossed that odious Atlantic
for but to get away from republics.
    ‘Why, madam, sitting in the Champs Elysees, opposite
to the Palace of Industry, I’ve seen the court-carriages
from the Tuileries pass up and down as many as seven
times a day. I remember one occasion when they went as
high as nine. What do you see now? It’s no use talking,
the style’s all gone. Napoleon knew what the French
people want, and there’ll be a dark cloud over Paris, our
Paris, till they get the Empire back again.’
    Among Mrs. Luce’s visitors on Sunday afternoons was a
young man with whom Isabel had had a good deal of
conversation and whom she found full of valuable
knowledge. Mr. Edward Rosier—Ned Rosier as he was
called—was native to New York and had been brought up


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in Paris, living there under the eye of his father who, as it
happened, had been an early and intimate friend of the late
Mr. Archer. Edward Rosier remembered Isabel as a little
girl; it had been his father who came to the rescue of the
small Archers at the inn at Neufchatel (he was travelling
that way with the boy and had stopped at the hotel by
chance), after their bonne had gone off with the Russian
prince and when Mr. Archer’s whereabouts remained for
some days a mystery. Isabel remembered perfectly the neat
little male child whose hair smelt of a delicious cosmetic
and who had a bonne all his own, warranted to lose sight
of him under no provocation. Isabel took a walk with the
pair beside the lake and thought little Edward as pretty as
an angel—a comparison by no means conventional in her
mind, for she had a very definite conception of a type of
features which she supposed to be angelic and which her
new friend perfectly illustrated. A small pink face
surmounted by a blue velvet bonnet and set off by a stiff
embroidered collar had become the countenance of her
childish dreams; and she had firmly believed for some time
afterwards that the heavenly hosts conversed among
themselves in a queer little dialect of French-English,
expressing the properest sentiments, as when Edward told
her that he was ‘defended’ by his bonne to go near the


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edge of the lake, and that one must always obey to one’s
bonne. Ned Rosier’s English had improved; at least it
exhibited in a less degree the French variation. His father
was dead and his bonne dismissed, but the young man still
conformed to the spirit of their teaching—he never went
to the edge of the lake. There was still something
agreeable to the nostrils about him and something not
offensive to nobler organs. He was a very gentle and
gracious youth, with what are called cultivated tastes—an
acquaintance with old china, with good wine, with the
bindings of books, with the Almanach de Gotha, with the
best shops, the best hotels, the hours of railway-trains. He
could order a dinner almost as well as Mr. Luce, and it was
probable that as his experience accumulated he would be a
worthy successor to that gentleman, whose rather grim
politics he also advocated in a soft and innocent voice. He
had some charming rooms in Paris, decorated with old
Spanish altar-lace, the envy of his female friends, who
declared that his chimney-piece was better draped than the
high shoulders of many a duchess. He usually, however,
spent a part of every winter at Pau, and had once passed a
couple of months in the United States.
   He took a great interest in Isabel and remembered
perfectly the walk at Neufchatel, when she would persist


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in going so near the edge. He seemed to recognize this
same tendency in the subversive enquiry that I quoted a
moment ago, and set himself to answer our heroine’s
question with greater urbanity than it perhaps deserved.
‘What does it lead to, Miss Archer? Why Paris leads
everywhere. You can’t go anywhere unless you come here
first. Every one that comes to Europe has got to pass
through. You don’t mean it in that sense so much? You
mean what good it does you? Well, how can you
penetrate futurity? How can you tell what lies ahead? If it’s
a pleasant road I don’t care where it leads. I like the road,
Miss Archer; I like the dear old asphalte. You can’t get
tired of it—you can’t if you try. You think you would,
but you wouldn’t; there’s always something new and fresh.
Take the Hotel Drouot, now; they sometimes have three
and four sales a week. Where can you get such things as
you can here? In spite of all they say I maintain they’re
cheaper too, if you know the right places. I know plenty
of places, but I keep them to myself. I’ll tell you, if you
like, as a particular favour; only you mustn’t tell any one
else. Don’t you go anywhere without asking me first; I
want you to promise me that. As a general thing avoid the
Boulevards; there’s very little to be done on the
Boulevards. Speaking conscientiously—sans blague—I


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don’t believe any one knows Paris better than I. You and
Mrs. Touchett must come and breakfast with me some
day, and I’ll show you my things; je ne vous dis que ca!
There has been a great deal of talk about London of late;
it’s the fashion to cry up London. But there’s nothing in
it—you can’t do anything in London. No Louis Quinze—
nothing of the First Empire; nothing but their eternal
Queen Anne. It’s good for one’s bed-room, Queen Anne-
for one’s washing-room; but it isn’t proper for a salon. Do
I spend my life at the auctioneer’s?’ Mr. Rosier pursued in
answer to another question of Isabel’s. ‘Oh no; I haven’t
the means. I wish I had. You think I’m a mere trifler; I
can tell by the expression of your face- you’ve got a
wonderfully expressive face. I hope you don’t mind my
saying that; I mean it as a kind of warning. You think I
ought to do something, and so do I, so long as you leave it
vague. But when you come to the point you see you have
to stop. I can’t go home and be a shopkeeper. You think
I’m very well fitted? Ah, Miss Archer, you overrate me. I
can buy very well, but I can’t sell; you should see when I
sometimes try to get rid of my things. It takes much more
ability to make other people buy than to buy yourself.
When I think how clever they must be, the people who
make me buy! Ah no; I couldn’t be a shopkeeper. I can’t


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be a doctor; it’s a repulsive business. I can’t be a
clergyman; I haven’t got convictions. And then I can’t
pronounce the names right in the Bible. They’re very
difficult, in the Old Testament particularly. I can’t be a
lawyer; I don’t understand- how do you call it?—the
American procedure. Is there anything else? There’s
nothing for a gentleman in America. I should like to be a
diplomatist; but American diplomacy—that’s not for
gentlemen either. I’m sure if you had seen the last min-.’
    Henrietta Stackpole, who was often with her friend
when Mr. Rosier, coming to pay his compliments late in
the afternoon, expressed himself after the fashion I have
sketched, usually interrupted the young man at this point
and read him a lecture on the duties of the American
citizen. She thought him most unnatural; he was worse
than poor Ralph Touchett. Henrietta, however, was at
this time more than ever addicted to fine criticism, for her
conscience had been freshly alarmed as regards Isabel. She
had not congratulated this young lady on her
augmentations and begged to be excused from doing so.
    ‘If Mr. Touchett had consulted me about leaving you
the money,’ she frankly asserted, ‘I’d have said to him
‘Never!’



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    ‘I see,’ Isabel had answered, ‘You think it will prove a
curse in disguise. Perhaps it will.’
    ‘Leave it to some one you care less for—that’s what I
should have said.’
    ‘To yourself for instance?’ Isabel suggested jocosely.
And then, ‘Do you really believe it will ruin me?’ she
asked in quite another tone.
    ‘I hope it won’t ruin you; but it will certainly confirm
your dangerous tendencies.’
    ‘Do you mean the love of luxury—of extravagance?’
    ‘No, no,’ said Henrietta; ‘I mean your exposure on the
moral side. I approve of luxury; I think we ought to be as
elegant as possible. Look at the luxury of our western
cities; I’ve seen nothing over here to compare with it. I
hope you’ll never become grossly sensual; but I’m not
afraid of that. The peril for you is that you live too much
in the world of your own dreams. You’re not enough in
contact with reality- with the toiling, striving, suffering, I
may even say sinning, world that surrounds you. You’re
too fastidious; you’ve too many graceful illusions. Your
newly-acquired thousands will shut you up more and
more to the society of a few selfish and heartless people
who will be interested in keeping them up.’



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    Isabel’s eyes expanded as she gazed at this lurid scene.
‘What are my illusions?’ she asked. ‘I try so hard not to
have any.’
    ‘Well,’ said Henrietta, ‘you think you can lead a
romantic life, that you can live by pleasing yourself and
pleasing others. You’ll find you’re mistaken. Whatever life
you lead you must put your soul in it—to make any sort
of success of it; and from the moment you do that it ceases
to be romance, I assure you: it becomes grim reality! And
you can’t always please yourself; you must sometimes
please other people. That, I admit, you’re very ready to
do; but there’s another thing that’s still more important—
you must often displease others. You must always be ready
for that—you must never shrink from it. That doesn’t suit
you at all—you’re too fond of admiration, you like to be
thought well of. You think we can escape disagreeable
duties by taking romantic views—that’s your great illusion,
my dear. But we can’t. You must be prepared on many
occasions in life to please no one at all- not even yourself.’
    Isabel shook her head sadly; she looked troubled and
frightened. ‘This, for you, Henrietta,’ she said, ‘must be
one of those occasions!’
    It was certainly true that Miss Stackpole, during her
visit to Paris, which had been professionally more


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remunerative than her English sojourn, had not been
living in the world of dreams. Mr. Bantling, who had now
returned to England, was her companion for the first four
weeks of her stay; and about Mr. Bantling there was
nothing dreamy. Isabel learned from her friend that the
two had led a life of great personal intimacy and that this
had been a peculiar advantage to Henrietta, owing to the
gentleman’s remarkable knowledge of Paris. He had
explained everything, shown her everything, been her
constant guide and interpreter. They had breakfasted
together, dined together, gone to the theatre together,
supped together, really in a manner quite lived together.
He was a true friend, Henrietta more than once assured
our heroine; and she had never supposed that she could
like any Englishman so well. Isabel could not have told
you why, but she found something that ministered to
mirth in the alliance the correspondent of the Interviewer
had struck with Lady Pensil’s brother; her amusement
moreover subsisted in face of the fact that she thought it a
credit to each of them. Isabel couldn’t rid herself of a
suspicion that they were playing somehow at cross-
purposes—that the simplicity of each had been entrapped.
But this simplicity was on either side none the less
honourable. It was as graceful on Henrietta’s part to


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believe that Mr. Bantling took an interest in the diffusion
of lively journalism and in consolidating the position of
lady-correspondents as it was on the part of his companion
to suppose that the cause of the Interviewer—a periodical
of which he never formed a very definite conception—
was, if subtly analyzed (a task to which Mr. Bantling felt
himself quite equal), but the cause of Miss Stackpole’s
need of demonstrative affection. Each of these groping
celibates supplied at any rate a want of which the other
was impatiently conscious. Mr. Bantling, who was of
rather a slow and a discursive habit, relished a prompt,
keen, positive woman, who charmed him by the influence
of a shining, challenging eye and a kind of bandbox
freshness, and who kindled a perception of raciness in a
mind to which the usual fare of life seemed unsalted.
Henrietta, on the other hand, enjoyed the society of a
gentleman who appeared somehow, in his way, made, by
expensive, roundabout, almost ‘quaint’ processes, for her
use, and whose leisured state, though generally
indefensible, was a decided boon to a breathless mate, and
who was furnished with an easy, traditional, though by no
means exhaustive, answer to almost any social or practical
question that could come up. She often found Mr.
Bantling’s answers very convenient, and in the press of


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catching the American post would largely and showily
address them to publicity. It was to be feared that she was
indeed drifting toward those abysses of sophistication as to
which Isabel, wishing for a good-humoured retort, had
warned her. There might be danger in store for Isabel; but
it was scarcely to be hoped that Miss Stackpole, on her
side, would find permanent rest in any adoption of the
views of a class pledged to all the old abuses. Isabel
continued to warn her good-humouredly; Lady Pensil’s
obliging brother was sometimes, on our heroine’s lips, an
object of irreverent and facetious allusion. Nothing,
however, could exceed Henrietta’s amiability on this
point; she used to abound in the sense of Isabel’s irony and
to enumerate with elation the hours she had spent with
this perfect man of the world—a term that had ceased to
make with her, as previously, for opprobrium. Then, a
few moments later, she would forget that they had been
talking jocosely and would mention with impulsive
earnestness some expedition she had enjoyed in his
company. She would say: ‘Oh, I know all about Versailles;
I went there with Mr. Bantling. I was bound to see it
thoroughly—I warned him when we went out there that I
was thorough: so we spent three days at the hotel and
wandered all over the place. It was lovely weather—a kind


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of Indian summer, only not so good. We just lived in that
park. Oh yes; you can’t tell me anything about Versailles.’
Henrietta appeared to have made arrangements to meet
her gallant friend during the spring in Italy.




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                         Chapter 21

    Mrs. Touchett, before arriving in Paris, had fixed the
day for her departure and by the middle of February had
begun to travel southward. She interrupted her journey to
pay a visit to her son, who at San Remo, on the Italian
shore of the Mediterranean, had been spending a dull,
bright winter beneath a slow-moving white umbrella.
Isabel went with her aunt as a matter of course, though
Mrs. Touchett, with homely, customary logic, had laid
before her a pair of alternatives.
    ‘Now, of course, you’re completely your own mistress
and are as free as the bird on the bough. I don’t mean you
were not so before, but you’re at present on a different
footing—property erects a kind of barrier. You can do a
great many things if you’re rich which would be severely
criticized if you were poor. You can go and come, you
can travel alone, you can have your own establishment: I
mean of course if you’ll take a companion—some decayed
gentlewoman, with a darned cashmere and dyed hair, who
paints on velvet. You don’t think you’d like that? Of
course you can do as you please; I only want you to
understand how much you’re at liberty. You might take


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Miss Stackpole as your dame de compagnie; she’d keep
people off very well. I think, however, that it’s a great deal
better you should remain with me, in spite of there being
no obligation. It’s better for several reasons, quite apart
from your liking it. I shouldn’t think you’d like it, but I
recommend you to make the sacrifice. Of course whatever
novelty there may have been at first in my society has
quite passed away, and you see me as I am—a dull,
obstinate, narrow-minded old woman.’
   ‘I don’t think you’re at all dull,’ Isabel had replied to
this.
   ‘But you do think I’m obstinate and narrow-minded? I
told you so!’ said Mrs. Touchett with much elation at
being justified.
   Isabel remained for the present with her aunt, because,
in spite of eccentric impulses, she had a great regard for
what was usually deemed decent, and a young
gentlewoman without visible relations had always struck
her as a flower without foliage. It was true that Mrs.
Touchett’s conversation had never again appeared so
brilliant as that first afternoon in Albany, when she sat in
her damp waterproof and sketched the opportunities that
Europe would offer to a young person of taste. This,
however, was in a great measure the girl’s own fault; she


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had got a glimpse of her aunt’s experience, and her
imagination constantly anticipated the judgements and
emotions of a woman who had very little of the same
faculty. Apart from this, Mrs. Touchett had a great merit;
she was as honest as a pair of compasses. There was a
comfort in her stiffness and firmness; you knew exactly
where to find her and were never liable to chance
encounters and concussions. On her own ground she was
perfectly present, but was never over-inquisitive as regards
the territory of her neighbour. Isabel came at last to have a
kind of undemonstrable pity for her; there seemed
something so dreary in the condition of a person whose
nature had, as it were, so little surface—offered so limited
a face to the accretions of human contact. Nothing tender,
nothing sympathetic, had ever had a chance to fasten upon
it—no wind-sown blossom, no familiar softening moss.
Her offered, her passive extent, in other words, was about
that of a knife-edge. Isabel had reason to believe none the
less that as she advanced in life she made more of those
concessions to the sense of something obscurely distinct
from convenience—more of them than she independently
exacted. She was learning to sacrifice consistency to
considerations of that inferior order for which the excuse
must be found in the particular case. It was not to the


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credit of her absolute rectitude that she should have gone
the longest way round to Florence in order to spend a few
weeks with her invalid son; since in former years it had
been one of her most definite convictions that when
Ralph wished to see her he was at liberty to remember
that Palazzo Crescentini contained a large apartment
known as the quarter of the signorino.
   ‘I want to ask you something,’ Isabel said to this young
man the day after her arrival at San Remo—‘something
I’ve thought more than once of asking you by letter, but
that I’ve hesitated on the whole to write about. Face to
face, nevertheless, my question seems easy enough. Did
you know your father intended to leave me so much
money?’
   Ralph stretched his legs a little further than usual and
gazed a little more fixedly at the Mediterranean. ‘What
does it matter, my dear Isabel, whether I knew? My father
was very obstinate.’
   ‘So,’ said the girl, ‘you did know.’
   ‘Yes; he told me. We even talked it over a little.’
   ‘What did he do it for?’ asked Isabel abruptly.
   ‘Why, as a kind of compliment.’
   ‘A compliment on what?’
   ‘On your so beautifully existing.’


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   ‘He liked me too much,’ she presently declared.
   ‘That’s a way we all have.’
   ‘If I believed that I should be very unhappy.
Fortunately I don’t believe it. I want to be treated with
justice; I want nothing but that.’
   ‘Very good. But you must remember that justice to a
lovely being is after all a florid sort of sentiment.’
   ‘I’m not a lovely being. How can you say that, at the
very moment when I’m asking such odious questions? I
must seem to you delicate!’
   ‘You seem to me troubled,’ said Ralph.
   ‘I am troubled.’
   ‘About what?’
   For a moment she answered nothing; then she broke
out: ‘Do you think it good for me suddenly to be made so
rich? Henrietta doesn’t.’
   ‘Oh, hang Henrietta!’ said Ralph coarsely. ‘If you ask
me I’m delighted at it.’
   ‘Is that why your father did it—for your amusement?’
   ‘I differ with Miss Stackpole,’ Ralph went on more
gravely. ‘I think it very good for you to have means.’
   Isabel looked at him with serious eyes. ‘I wonder
whether you know what’s good for me—or whether you
care.’


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    ‘If I know depend upon it I care. Shall I tell you what
it is? Not to torment yourself.’
    ‘Not to torment you, I suppose you mean.’
    ‘You can’t do that; I’m proof. Take things more easily.
Don’t ask yourself so much whether this or that is good
for you. Don’t question your conscience so much—it will
get out of tune like a strummed piano. Keep it for great
occasions. Don’t try so much to form your character—it’s
like trying to pull open a tight, tender young rose. Live as
you like best, and your character will take care of itself.
Most things are good for you; the exceptions are very rare,
and a comfortable income’s not one of them.’ Ralph
paused, smiling; Isabel had listened quickly. ‘You’ve too
much power of thought- above all too much conscience,’
Ralph added. ‘It’s out of all reason, the number of things
you think wrong. Put back your watch. Diet your fever.
Spread your wings; rise above the ground. It’s never
wrong to do that.’
    She had listened eagerly, as I say; and it was her nature
to understand quickly. ‘I wonder if you appreciate what
you say. If you do, you take a great responsibility.’
    ‘You frighten me a little, but I think I’m right,’ said
Ralph, persisting in cheer.



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    ‘All the same what you say is very true,’ Isabel pursued.
‘You could say nothing more true. I’m absorbed in
myself—I look at life too much as a doctor’s prescription.
Why indeed should we perpetually be thinking whether
things are good for us, as if we were patients lying in a
hospital? Why should I be so afraid of not doing right? As
if it mattered to the world whether I do right or wrong!’
    ‘You’re a capital person to advise,’ said Ralph; ‘you
take the wind out of my sails!’
    She looked at him as if she had not heard him—though
she was following out the train of reflexion which he
himself had kindled. ‘I try to care more about the world
than about myself—but I always come back to myself. It’s
because I’m afraid.’ She stopped; her voice had trembled a
little. ‘Yes, I’m afraid; I can’t tell you. A large fortune
means freedom, and I’m afraid of that. It’s such a fine
thing, and one should make such a good use of it. If one
shouldn’t one would be ashamed. And one must keep
thinking; it’s a constant effort. I’m not sure it’s not a
greater happiness to be powerless.’
    ‘For weak people I’ve no doubt it’s a greater happiness.
For weak people the effort not to be contemptible must
be great.’
    ‘And how do you know I’m not weak?’ Isabel asked.


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    ‘Ah,’ Ralph answered with a flush that the girl noticed,
‘if you are I’m awfully sold!’
    The charm of the Mediterranean coast only deepened
for our heroine on acquaintance, for it was the threshold
of Italy, the gate of admirations. Italy, as yet imperfectly
seen and felt, stretched before her as a land of promise, a
land in which a love of the beautiful might be comforted
by endless knowledge. Whenever she strolled upon the
shore with her cousin—and she was the companion of his
daily walk—she looked across the sea, with longing eyes,
to where she knew that Genoa lay. She was glad to pause,
however, on the edge of this larger adventure; there was
such a thrill even in the preliminary hovering. It affected
her moreover as a peaceful interlude, as a hush of the
drum and fife in a career which she had little warrant as
yet for regarding as agitated, but which nevertheless she
was constantly picturing to herself by the light of her
hopes, her fears, her fancies, her ambitions, her
predilections, and which reflected these subjective
accidents in a manner sufficiently dramatic. Madame
Merle had predicted to Mrs. Touchett that after their
young friend had put her hand into her pocket half a
dozen times she would be reconciled to the idea that it
had been filled by a munificent uncle; and the event


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justified, as it had so often justified before, that lady’s
perspicacity. Ralph Touchett had praised his cousin for
being morally inflammable, that is for being quick to take
a hint that was meant as good advice. His advice had
perhaps helped the matter; she had at any rate before
leaving San Remo grown used to feeling rich. The
consciousness in question found a proper place in rather a
dense little group of ideas that she had about herself, and
often it was by no means the least agreeable. It took
perpetually for granted a thousand good intentions. She
lost herself in a maze of visions; the fine things to be done
by a rich, independent, generous girl who took a large
human view of occasions and obligations were sublime in
the mass. Her fortune therefore became to her mind a part
of her better self; it gave her importance, gave her even, to
her own imagination, a certain ideal beauty. What it did
for her in the imagination of others is another affair, and
on this point we must also touch in time. The visions I
have just spoken of were mixed with other debates. Isabel
liked better to think of the future than of the past; but at
times, as she listened to the murmur of the Mediterranean
waves, her glance took a backward flight. It rested upon
two figures which, in spite of increasing distance, were still
sufficiently salient; they were recognizable without


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difficulty as those of Caspar Goodwood and Lord
Warburton. It was strange how quickly these images of
energy had fallen into the background of our young lady’s
life. It was in her disposition at all times to lose faith in the
reality of absent things; she could summon back her faith,
in case of need, with an effort, but the effort was often
painful even when the reality had been pleasant. The past
was apt to look dead and its revival rather to show the
livid light of a judgement-day. The girl moreover was not
prone to take for granted that she herself lived in the mind
of others—she had not the fatuity to believe she left
indelible traces. She was capable of being wounded by the
discovery that she had been forgotten; but of all liberties
the one she herself found sweetest was the liberty to
forget. She had not given her last shilling, sentimentally
speaking, either to Caspar Goodwood or to Lord
Warburton, and yet couldn’t but feel them appreciably in
debt to her. She had of course reminded herself that she
was to hear from Mr. Goodwood again; but this was not
to be for another year and a half, and in that time a great
many things might happen. She had indeed failed to say to
herself that her American suitor might find some other girl
more comfortable to woo; because, though it was certain
many other girls would prove so, she had not the smallest


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belief that this merit would attract him. But she reflected
that she herself might know the humiliation of change,
might really, for that matter, come to the end of the things
that were not Caspar (even though there appeared so
many of them), and find rest in those very elements of his
presence which struck her now as impediments to the
finer respiration. It was conceivable that these
impediments should some day prove a sort of blessing in
disguise—a clear and quiet harbour enclosed by a brave
granite breakwater. But that day could only come in its
order, and she couldn’t wait for it with folded hands. That
Lord Warburton should continue to cherish her image
seemed to her more than a noble humility or an
enlightened pride ought to wish to reckon with. She had
so definitely undertaken to preserve no record of what had
passed between them that a corresponding effort on his
own part would be eminently just. This was not, as it may
seem, merely a theory tinged with sarcasm. Isabel candidly
believed that his lordship would, in the usual phrase, get
over his disappointment. He had been deeply affected—
this she believed, and she was still capable of deriving
pleasure from the belief; but it was absurd that a man both
so intelligent and so honourably dealt with should
cultivate a scar out of proportion to any wound.


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Englishmen liked moreover to be comfortable, said Isabel,
and there could be little comfort for Lord Warburton, in
the long run, in brooding over a self-sufficient American
girl who had been but a casual acquaintance. She flattered
herself that, should she hear from one day to another that
he had married some young woman of his own country
who had done more to deserve him, she should receive
the news without a pang even of surprise. It would have
proved that he believed she was firm—which was what
she wished to seem to him. That alone was grateful to her
pride.




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                         Chapter 22

    On one of the first days of May, some six months after
old Mr. Touchett’s death, a small group that might have
been described by a painter as composing well was
gathered in one of the many rooms of an ancient villa
crowning an olive-muffled hill outside of the Roman gate
of Florence. The villa was a long, rather blank-looking
structure, with the far-projecting roof which Tuscany
loves and which, on the hills that encircle Florence, when
considered from a distance, make so harmonious a
rectangle with the straight, dark, definite cypresses that
usually rise in groups of three or four beside it. The house
had a front upon a little grassy, empty, rural piazza which
occupied a part of the hill-top; and this front, pierced with
a few windows in irregular relations and furnished with a
stone bench lengthily adjusted to the base of the structure
and useful as a lounging-place to one or two persons
wearing more or less of that air of undervalued merit
which in Italy, for some reason or other, always gracefully
invests any one who confidently assumes a perfectly
passive attitude—this antique, solid, weather-worn, yet
imposing front had a somewhat incommunicative


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character. It was the mask, not the face of the house. It
had heavy lids, but no eyes; the house in reality looked
another way—looked off behind, into splendid openness
and the range of the afternoon light. In that quarter the
villa overhung the slope of its hill and the long valley of
the Arno, hazy with Italian colour. It had a narrow
garden, in the manner of a terrace, productive chiefly of
tangles of wild roses and other old stone benches, mossy
and sun-warmed. The parapet of the terrace was just the
height to lean upon, and beneath it the ground declined
into the vagueness of olive-crops and vineyards. It is not,
however, with the outside of the place that we are
concerned; on this bright morning of ripened spring its
tenants had reason to prefer the shady side of the wall. The
windows of the ground-floor, as you saw them from the
piazza, were, in their noble proportions, extremely
architectural; but their function seemed less to offer
communication with the world than to defy the world to
look in. They were massively cross-barred, and placed at
such a height that curiosity, even on tiptoe, expired before
it reached them. In an apartment lighted by a row of three
of these jealous apertures—one of the several distinct
apartments into which the villa was divided and which
were mainly occupied by foreigners of random race long


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resident in Florence—a gentleman was seated in company
with a young girl and two good sisters from a religious
house. The room was, however, less sombre than our
indications may have represented, for it had a wide, high
door, which now stood open into the tangled garden
behind; and the tall iron lattices admitted on occasion
more than enough of the Italian sunshine. It was moreover
a seat of ease, indeed of luxury, telling of arrangements
subtly studied and refinements frankly proclaimed, and
containing a variety of those faded hangings of damask and
tapestry, those chests and cabinets of carved and time-
polished oak, those angular specimens of pictorial art in
frames as pedantically primitive, those perverse looking
relics of mediaeval brass and pottery, of which Italy has
long been the not quite exhausted storehouse. These
things kept terms with articles of modern furniture in
which large allowance had been made for a lounging
generation; it was to be noticed that all the chairs were
deep and well padded and that much space was occupied
by a writing-table of which the ingenious perfection bore
the stamp of London and the nineteenth century. There
were books in profusion and magazines and newspapers,
and a few small, odd, elaborate pictures, chiefly in water-
colour. One of these productions stood on a drawing-


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room easel before which, at the moment we begin to be
concerned with her, the young girl I have mentioned had
placed herself. She was looking at the picture in silence.
    Silence—absolute silence—had not fallen upon her
companions; but their talk had an appearance of
embarrassed continuity. The two good sisters had not
settled themselves in their respective chairs; their attitude
expressed a final reserve and their faces showed the glaze
of prudence. They were plain, ample, mild-featured
women, with a kind of business-like modesty to which the
impersonal aspect of their stiffened linen and of the serge
that draped them as if nailed on frames gave an advantage.
One of them, a person of a certain age, in spectacles, with
a fresh complexion and a full cheek, had a more
discriminating manner than her colleague, as well as the
responsibility of their errand, which apparently related to
the young girl. This object of interest wore her hat—an
ornament of extreme simplicity and not at variance with
her plain muslin gown, too short for her years, though it
must already have been ‘let out.’ The gentleman who
might have been supposed to be entertaining the two nuns
was perhaps conscious of the difficulties of his function, it
being in its way as arduous to converse with the very
meek as with the very mighty. At the same time he was


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clearly much occupied with their quiet charge, and while
she turned her back to him his eyes rested gravely on her
slim, small figure. He was a man of forty, with a high but
well-shaped head, on which the hair, still dense, but
prematurely grizzled, had been cropped close. He had a
fine, narrow, extremely modelled and composed face, of
which the only fault was just this effect of its running a
trifle too much to points; an appearance to which the
shape of the beard contributed not a little. This beard, cut
in the manner of the portraits of the sixteenth century and
surmounted by a fair moustache, of which the ends had a
romantic upward flourish, gave its wearer a foreign,
traditionary look and suggested that he was a gentleman
who studied style. His conscious, curious eyes, however,
eyes at once vague and penetrating, intelligent and hard,
expressive of the observer as well as of the dreamer, would
have assured you that he studied it only within well-
chosen limits, and that in so far as he sought it he found it.
You would have been much at a loss to determine his
original clime and country; he had none of the superficial
signs that usually render the answer to this question an
insipidly easy one. If he had English blood in his veins it
had probably received some French or Italian commixture;
but he suggested, fine gold coin as he was, no stamp nor


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emblem of the common mintage that provides for general
circulation; he was the elegant complicated medal struck
off for a special occasion. He had a light, lean, rather
languid-looking figure, and was apparently neither tall nor
short. He was dressed as a man dresses who takes little
other trouble about it than to have no vulgar things.
   ‘Well, my dear, what do you think of it?’ he asked the
young girl. He used the Italian tongue, and used it with
perfect ease; but this would not have convinced you he
was Italian.
   The child turned her head earnestly to one side and the
other. ‘It’s very pretty, papa. Did you make it yourself?’
   ‘Certainly I made it. Don’t you think I’m clever?’
   ‘Yes, papa, very clever; I also have learned to make
pictures.’ And she turned round and showed a small, fair
face painted with a fixed and intensely sweet smile.
   ‘You should have brought me a specimen of your
powers.’
   ‘I’ve brought a great many; they’re in my trunk.’
   ‘She draws very—very carefully,’ the elder of the nuns
remarked, speaking in French.
   ‘I’m glad to hear it. Is it you who have instructed her?’
   ‘Happily no,’ said the good sister, blushing a little. ‘Ce
n’est pas ma partie. I teach nothing; I leave that to those


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who are wiser. We’ve an excellent drawing-master, Mr.—
Mr.—what is his name?’ she asked of her companion.
    Her companion looked about at the carpet. ‘It’s a
German name,’ she said in Italian, as if it needed to be
translated.
    ‘Yes,’ the other went on. ‘he’s a German, and we’ve
had him many years.’
    The young girl, who was not heeding the conversation,
had wandered away to the open door of the large room
and stood looking into the garden. ‘And you, my sister,
are French,’ said the gentleman.
    ‘Yes, sir,’ the visitor gently replied. ‘I speak to the
pupils in my own tongue. I know no other. But we have
sisters of other countries- English, German, Irish. They all
speak their proper language.’
    The gentleman gave a smile. ‘Has my daughter been
under the care of one of the Irish ladies?’ And then, as he
saw that his visitors suspected a joke, though failing to
understand it, ‘You’re very complete,’ he instantly added.
    ‘Oh, yes, we’re complete. We’ve everything, and
everything’s of the best.’
    ‘We have gymnastics,’ the Italian sister ventured to
remark. ‘But not dangerous.’



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   ‘I hope not. Is that your branch?’ A question which
provoked much candid hilarity on the part of the two
ladies; on the subsidence of which their entertainer,
glancing at his daughter, remarked that she had grown.
   ‘Yes, but I think she has finished. She’ll remain—not
big,’ said the French sister.
   ‘I’m not sorry. I prefer women like books—very good
and not too long. But I know,’ the gentleman said, ‘no
particular reason why my child should be short.’
   The nun gave a temperate shrug, as if to intimate that
such things might be beyond our knowledge. ‘She’s in
very good health; that’s the best thing.’
   ‘Yes, she looks sound.’ And the young girl’s father
watched her a moment. ‘What do you see in the garden?’
he asked in French.
   ‘I see many flowers,’ she replied in a sweet, small voice
and with an accent as good as his own.
   ‘Yes, but not many good ones. However, such as they
are, go out and gather some for ces dames.’
   The child turned to him with her smile heightened by
pleasure. ‘May I truly?’
   ‘Ah, when I tell you,’ said her father.
   The girl glanced at the elder of the nuns. ‘May I, truly,
ma mere?’


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    ‘Obey monsieur your father, my child,’ said the sister,
blushing again.
    The child, satisfied with this authorization, descended
from the threshold and was presently lost to sight. ‘You
don’t spoil them,’ said her father gaily.
    ‘For everything they must ask leave. That’s our system.
Leave is freely granted, but they must ask it.’
    ‘Oh, I don’t quarrel with your system; I’ve no doubt
it’s excellent. I sent you my daughter to see what you’d
make of her. I had faith.’
    ‘One must have faith,’ the sister blandly rejoined,
gazing through her spectacles.
    ‘Well, has my faith been rewarded? What have you
made of her?’
    The sister dropped her eyes a moment. ‘A good
Christian, monsieur.’
    Her host dropped his eyes as well; but it was probable
that the movement had in each case a different spring.
‘Yes, and what else?’
    He watched the lady from the convent, probably
thinking she would say that a good Christian was
everything; but for all her simplicity she was not so crude
as that. ‘A charming young lady—a real little woman—a



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daughter in whom you will have nothing but
contentment.’
    ‘She seems to me very gentille,’ said the father. ‘She’s
really pretty.’
    ‘She’s perfect. She has no faults.’
    ‘She never had any as a child, and I’m glad you have
given her none.’
    ‘We love her too much,’ said the spectacled sister with
dignity. ‘And as for faults, how can we give what we have
not? Le couvent n’est pas comme le monde, monsieur.
She’s our daughter, as you may say. We’ve had her since
she was so small.’
    ‘Of all those we shall lose this year she’s the one we
shall miss most,’ the younger woman murmured
deferentially.
    ‘Ah, yes, we shall talk long of her,’ said the other. ‘We
shall hold her up to the new ones.’ And at this the good
sister appeared to find her spectacles dim; while her
companion, after fumbling a moment, presently drew
forth a pocket-handkerchief of durable texture.
    ‘It’s not certain you’ll lose her; nothing’s settled yet,’
their host rejoined quickly; not as if to anticipate their
tears, but in the tone of a man saying what was most
agreeable to himself.


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   ‘We should be very happy to believe that. Fifteen is
very young to leave us.’
   ‘Oh,’ exclaimed the gentleman with more vivacity than
he had yet used, ‘it is not I who wish to take her away. I
wish you could keep her always!’
   ‘Ah, monsieur,’ said the elder sister, smiling and getting
up, ‘good as she is, she’s made for the world. Le monde y
gagnera.’
   ‘If all the good people were hidden away in convents
how would the world get on?’ her companion softly
enquired, rising also.
   This was a question of a wider bearing than the good
woman apparently supposed; and the lady in spectacles
took a harmonizing view by saying comfortably:
‘Fortunately there are good people everywhere.’
   ‘If you’re going there will be two less here,’ her host
remarked gallantly.
   For this extravagant sally his simple visitors had no
answer, and they simply looked at each other in decent
deprecation; but their confusion was speedily covered by
the return of the young girl with two large bunches of
roses—one of them all white, the other red.
   ‘I give you your choice, Mamman Catherine,’ said the
child. ‘It’s only the colour that’s different, Mamman


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Justine; there are just as many roses in one bunch as in the
other.’
   The two sisters turned to each other, smiling and
hesitating, with ‘Which will you take?’ and ‘No, it’s for
you to choose.’
   ‘I’ll take the red, thank you,’ said mother Catherine in
the spectacles. I’m so red myself. They’ll comfort us on
our way back to Rome.’
   ‘Ah, they won’t last,’ cried the young girl. ‘I wish I
could give you something that would last!’
   ‘You’ve given us a good memory of yourself, my
daughter. That will last!’
   ‘I wish nuns could wear pretty things. I would give you
my blue beads,’ the child went on.
   ‘And do you go back to Rome to-night?’ her father
enquired.
   ‘Yes, we take the train again. We’ve so much to do la-
bas.’
   ‘Are you not tired?’
   ‘We are never tired.’
   ‘Ah, my sister, sometimes,’ murmured the junior
votaress.
   ‘Not to-day, at any rate. We have rested too well here.
Que Dieu vous garde, ma fille.’


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    Their host, while they exchanged kisses with his
daughter, went forward to open the door through which
they were to pass; but as he did so he gave a slight
exclamation, and stood looking beyond. The door opened
into a vaulted ante-chamber, as high as a chapel and paved
with red tiles; and into this ante-chamber a lady had just
been admitted by a servant, a lad in shabby livery, who
was now ushering her toward the apartment in which our
friends were grouped. The gentleman at the door, after
dropping his exclamation, remained silent; in silence too
the lady advanced. He gave her no further audible
greeting and offered her no hand, but stood aside to let
her pass into the saloon. At the threshold she hesitated. ‘Is
there any one?’ she asked.
    ‘Some one you may see.’
    She went in and found herself confronted with the two
nuns and their pupil, who was coming forward, between
them, with a hand in the arm of each. At the sight of the
new visitor they all paused, and the lady, who had also
stopped, stood looking at them. The young girl gave a
little soft cry:
    ‘Ah, Madame Merle!’
    The visitor had been slightly startled, but her manner
the next instant was none the less gracious. ‘Yes, it’s


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Madame Merle, come to welcome you home.’ And she
held out two hands to the girl, who immediately came up
to her, presenting her forehead to be kissed. Madame
Merle saluted this portion of her charming little person
and then stood smiling at the two nuns. They
acknowledged her smile with a decent obeisance, but
permitted themselves no direct scrutiny of this imposing,
brilliant woman, who seemed to bring in with her
something of the radiance of the outer world.
   ‘These ladies have brought my daughter home, and
now they return to the convent,’ the gentleman explained.
   ‘Ah, you go back to Rome? I’ve lately come from
there. It’s very lovely now,’ said Madame Merle.
   The good sisters, standing with their hands folded into
their sleeves, accepted this statement uncritically; and the
master of the house asked his new visitor how long it was
since she had left Rome. ‘She came to see me at the
convent,’ said the young girl before the lady addressed had
time to reply.
   ‘I’ve been more than once, Pansy,’ Madame Merle
declared. ‘Am I not your great friend in Rome?’
   ‘I remember the last time best,’ said Pansy, ‘because
you told me I should come away.’
   ‘Did you tell her that?’ the child’s father asked.


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    ‘I hardly remember. I told her what I thought would
please her. I’ve been in Florence a week. I hoped you
would come to see me.’
    ‘I should have done so if I had known you were there.
One doesn’t know such things by inspiration—though I
suppose one ought. You had better sit down.’
    These two speeches were made in a particular tone of
voice—a tone half-lowered and carefully quiet, but as
from habit rather than from any definite need. Madame
Merle looked about her, choosing her seat. ‘You’re going
to the door with these women? Let me of course not
interrupt the ceremony. Je vous salue, mesdames,’ she
added, in French, to the nuns, as if to dismiss them.
    ‘This lady’s a great friend of ours; you will have seen
her at the convent,’ said their entertainer. ‘We’ve much
faith in her judgement, and she’ll help me to decide
whether my daughter shall return to you at the end of the
holidays.’
    ‘I hope you’ll decide in our favour, madame,’ the sister
in spectacles ventured to remark.
    ‘That’s Mr. Osmond’s pleasantry; I decide nothing,’
said Madame Merle, but also as in pleasantry. ‘I believe
you’ve a very good school, but Miss Osmond’s friends



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must remember that she’s very naturally meant for the
world.’
   ‘That’s what I’ve told monsieur,’ sister Catherine
answered. ‘It’s precisely to fit her for the world,’ she
murmured, glancing at Pansy, who stood, at a little
distance, attentive to Madame Merle’s elegant apparel.
   ‘Do you hear that, Pansy? You’re very naturally meant
for the world,’ said Pansy’s father.
   The child fixed him an instant with her pure young
eyes. ‘Am I not meant for you, papa?’
   Papa gave a quick, light laugh. ‘That doesn’t prevent it!
I’m of the world, Pansy.’
   ‘Kindly permit us to retire,’ said sister Catherine. ‘Be
good and wise and happy in any case, my daughter.’
   ‘I shall certainly come back and see you,’ Pansy
returned, recommencing her embraces, which were
presently interrupted by Madame Merle.
   ‘Stay with me, dear child,’ she said, ‘while your father
takes the good ladies to the door.’
   Pansy stared, disappointed, yet not protesting. She was
evidently impregnated with the idea of submission, which
was due to any one who took the tone of authority; and
she was a passive spectator of the operation of her fate.



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‘May I not see Mamman Catherine get into the carriage?’
she nevertheless asked very gently.
    ‘It would please me better if you’d remain with me,’
said Madame Merle, while Mr. Osmond and his
companions, who had bowed low again to the other
visitor, passed into the ante-chamber.
    ‘Oh yes, I’ll stay,’ Pansy answered; and she stood near
Madame Merle, surrendering her little hand, which this
lady took. She stared out of the window; her eyes had
filled with tears.
    ‘I’m glad they’ve taught you to obey,’ said Madame
Merle. ‘That’s what good little girls should do.’
    ‘Oh yes, I obey very well,’ cried Pansy with soft
eagerness, almost with boastfulness, as if she had been
speaking of her piano-playing. And then she gave a faint,
just audible sigh.
    Madame Merle, holding her hand, drew it across her
own fine palm and looked at it. The gaze was critical, but
it found nothing to deprecate; the child’s small hand was
delicate and fair. ‘I hope they always see that you wear
gloves,’ she said in a moment. ‘Little girls usually dislike
them.’
    ‘I used to dislike them, but I like them now,’ the child
made answer.


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    ‘Very good, I’ll make you a present of a dozen.’
    ‘I thank you very much. What colours will they be?’
Pansy demanded with interest.
    Madame Merle meditated. ‘Useful colours.’
    ‘But very pretty?’
    ‘Are you very fond of pretty things?’
    ‘Yes; but—but not too fond,’ said Pansy with a trace of
asceticism.
    ‘Well, they won’t be too pretty,’ Madame Merle
returned with a laugh. She took the child’s other hand and
drew her nearer; after which, looking at her a moment,
‘Shall you miss mother Catherine?’ she went on.
    ‘Yes—when I think of her.’
    ‘Try then not to think of her. Perhaps some day,’
added Madame Merle, ‘you’ll have another mother.’
    ‘I don’t think that’s necessary,’ Pansy said, repeating her
little soft conciliatory sigh. ‘I had more than thirty mothers
at the convent.’
    Her father’s step sounded again in the ante-chamber,
and Madame Merle got up, releasing the child. Mr.
Osmond came in and closed the door; then, without
looking at Madame Merle, he pushed one or two chairs
back into their places. His visitor waited a moment for
him to speak, watching him as he moved about. Then at


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last she said: ‘I hoped you’d have come to Rome. I
thought it possible you’d have wished yourself to fetch
Pansy away.’
    ‘That was a natural supposition; but I’m afraid it’s not
the first time I’ve acted in defiance of your calculations.’
    ‘Yes,’ said Madame Merle, ‘I think you very perverse.’
    Mr. Osmond busied himself for a moment in the
room—there was plenty of space in it to move about—in
the fashion of a man mechanically seeking pretexts for not
giving an attention which may be embarrassing. Presently,
however, he had exhausted his pretexts; there was nothing
left for him—unless he took up a book—but to stand with
his hands behind him looking at Pansy. ‘Why didn’t you
come and see the last of Mamman Catherine?’ he asked of
her abruptly in French.
    Pansy hesitated a moment, glancing at Madame Merle.
‘I asked her to stay with me,’ said this lady, who had
seated herself again in another place.
    ‘Ah, that was better,’ Osmond conceded. With which
he dropped into a chair and sat looking at Madame Merle;
bent forward a little, his elbows on the edge of the arms
and his hands interlocked.
    ‘She’s going to give me some gloves,’ said Pansy.



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   ‘You needn’t tell that to every one, my dear,’ Madame
Merle observed.
   ‘You’re very kind to her,’ said Osmond. ‘She’s
supposed to have everything she needs.’
   ‘I should think she had had enough of the nuns.’
   ‘If we’re going to discuss that matter she had better go
out of the room.’
   ‘Let her stay,’ said Madame Merle. ‘We’ll talk of
something else.’
   ‘If you like I won’t listen,’ Pansy suggested with an
appearance of candour which imposed conviction.
   ‘You may listen, charming child, because you won’t
understand,’ her father replied. The child sat down,
deferentially, near the open door, within sight of the
garden, into which she directed her innocent, wistful eyes;
and Mr. Osmond went on irrelevantly, addressing himself
to his other companion. ‘You’re looking particularly well.’
   ‘I think I always look the same,’ said Madame Merle.
   ‘You always are the same. You don’t vary. You’re a
wonderful woman.’
   ‘Yes, I think I am.’
   ‘You sometimes change your mind, however. You told
me on your return from England that you wouldn’t leave
Rome again for the present.’


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   ‘I’m pleased that you remember so well what I say.
That was my intention. But I’ve come to Florence to
meet some friends who have lately arrived and as to whose
movements I was at that time uncertain.’
   ‘That reason’s characteristic. You’re always doing
something for your friends.’
   Madame Merle smiled straight at her host. ‘It’s less
characteristic than your comment upon it—which is
perfectly insincere. I don’t, however, make a crime of
that,’ she added, ‘because if you don’t believe what you
say there’s no reason why you should. I don’t ruin myself
for my friends; I don’t deserve your praise. I care greatly
for myself.’
   ‘Exactly; but yourself includes so many other selves—so
much of every one else and of everything. I never knew a
person whose life touched so many other lives.’
   ‘What do you call one’s life?’ asked Madame Merle.
‘One’s appearance, one’s movements, one’s engagements,
one’s society?’
   ‘I call your life your ambitions,’ said Osmond.
   Madame Merle looked a moment at Pansy. ‘I wonder if
she understands that,’ she murmured.
   ‘You see she can’t stay with us!’ And Pansy’s father
gave rather a joyless smile. ‘Go into the garden, mignonne,


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and pluck a flower or two for Madame Merle,’ he went
on in French.
    ‘That’s just what I wanted to do,’ Pansy exclaimed,
rising with promptness and noiselessly departing. Her
father followed her to the open door, stood a moment
watching her, and then came back, but remained standing,
or rather strolling to and from as if to cultivate a sense of
freedom which in another attitude might be wanting.
    ‘My ambitions are principally for you,’ said Madame
Merle, looking up at him with a certain courage.
    ‘That comes back to what I say. I’m part of your life—I
and a thousand others. You’re not selfish—I can’t admit
that. If you were selfish, what should I be? What epithet
would properly describe me?’
    ‘You’re indolent. For me that’s your worst fault.’
    ‘I’m afraid it’s really my best.’
    ‘You don’t care,’ said Madame Merle gravely.
    ‘No; I don’t think I care much. What sort of a fault do
you call that? My indolence, at any rate, was one of the
reasons I didn’t go to Rome. But it was only one of
them.’
    ‘It’s not of importance—to me at least—that you didn’t
go; though I should have been glad to see you. I’m glad
you’re not in Rome now—which you might be, would


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probably be, if you had gone there a month ago. There’s
something I should like you to do at present in Florence.’
    ‘Please remember my indolence,’ said Osmond.
    ‘I do remember it; but I beg you to forget it. In that
way you’ll have both the virtue and the reward. This is
not a great labour, and it may prove a real interest. How
long is it since you made a new acquaintance?’
    ‘I don’t think I’ve made any since I made yours.’
    ‘It’s time then you should make another. There’s a
friend of mine I want you to know.’
    Mr. Osmond, in his walk, had gone back to the open
door again and was looking at his daughter as she moved
about in the intense sunshine. ‘What good will it do me?’
he asked with a sort of genial crudity.
    Madame Merle waited. ‘It will amuse you.’ There was
nothing crude in this rejoinder; it had been thoroughly
well considered.
    ‘If you say that, you know, I believe it,’ said Osmond,
coming toward her. ‘There are some points in which my
confidence in you is complete. I’m perfectly aware, for
instance, that you know good society from bad.’
    ‘Society is all bad.’
    ‘Pardon me. That isn’t—the knowledge I impute to
you—a common sort of wisdom. You’ve gained it in the


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right way—experimentally; you’ve compared an immense
number of more or less impossible people with each
other.’
   ‘Well, I invite you to profit by my knowledge.’
   ‘To profit? Are you very sure that I shall?’
   ‘It’s what I hope. It will depend on yourself. If I could
only induce you to make an effort!’
   ‘Ah, there you are! I knew something tiresome was
coming. What in the world—that’s likely to turn up
here—is worth an effort?’
   Madame Merle flushed as with a wounded intention.
‘Don’t be foolish, Osmond. No one knows better than
you what is worth an effort. Haven’t I seen you in old
days?’
   ‘I recognize some things. But they’re none of them
probable in this poor life.’
   ‘It’s the effort that makes them probable,’ said Madame
Merle.
   ‘There’s something in that. Who then is your friend?’
   ‘The person I came to Florence to see. She’s a niece of
Mrs. Touchett, whom you’ll not have forgotten.’
   ‘A niece? The word niece suggests youth and
ignorance. I see what you’re coming to.’



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    ‘Yes, she’s young—twenty-three years old. She’s a
great friend of mine. I met her for the first time in
England, several months ago, and we struck up a grand
alliance. I like her immensely, and I do what I don’t do
every day—I admire her. You’ll do the same.’
    ‘Not if I can help it.’
    ‘Precisely. But you won’t be able to help it.’
    ‘Is she beautiful, clever, rich, splendid, universally
intelligent and unprecedentedly virtuous? It’s only on
those conditions that I care to make her acquaintance.
You know I asked you some time ago never to speak to
me of a creature who shouldn’t correspond to that
description. I know plenty of dingy people; I don’t want
to know any more.’
    ‘Miss Archer isn’t dingy; she’s as bright as the morning.
She corresponds to your description; it’s for that I wish
you to know her. She fills all your requirements.’
    ‘More or less, of course.’
    ‘No; quite literally. She’s beautiful, accomplished,
generous and, for an American, well-born. She’s also very
clever and very amiable, and she has a handsome fortune.’
    Mr. Osmond listened to this in silence, appearing to
turn it over in his mind with his eyes on his informant.
‘What do you want to do with her?’ he asked at last.


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    ‘What you see. Put her in your way.’
    ‘Isn’t she meant for something better than that?’
    ‘I don’t pretend to know what people are meant for,’
said Madame Merle. ‘I only know what I can do with
them.’
    ‘I’m sorry for Miss Archer!’ Osmond declared.
    Madame Merle got up. ‘If that’s a beginning of interest
in her I take note of it.’
    The two stood there face to face; she settled her
mantilla, looking down at it as she did so. ‘You’re looking
very well,’ Osmond repeated still less relevantly than
before. ‘You have some idea. You’re never so well as
when you’ve got an idea; they’re always becoming to
you.’
    In the manner and tone of these two persons, on first
meeting at any juncture, and especially when they met in
the presence of others, was something indirect and
circumspect, as if they had approached each other
obliquely and addressed each other by implication. The
effect of each appeared to be to intensify to an appreciable
degree the self-consciousness of the other. Madame Merle
of course carried off any embarrassment better than her
friend; but even Madame Merle had not on this occasion
the form she would have liked to have—the perfect self-


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possession she would have wished to wear for her host.
The point to be made is, however, that at a certain
moment the element between them, whatever it was,
always levelled itself and left them more closely face to
face than either ever was with any one else. This was what
had happened now. They stood there knowing each other
well and each on the whole willing to accept the
satisfaction of knowing as a compensation for the
inconvenience—whatever it might be—of being known.
‘I wish very much you were not so heartless,’ Madame
Merle quietly said. ‘It has always been against you, and it
will be against you now.’
    ‘I’m not so heartless as you think. Every now and then
something touches me—as for instance your saying just
now that your ambitions are for me. I don’t understand it;
I don’t see how or why they should be. But it touches me,
all the same.’
    ‘You’ll probably understand it even less as time goes
on. There are some things you’ll never understand.
There’s no particular need you should.’
    ‘You, after all, are the most remarkable of women,’ said
Osmond. ‘You have more in you than almost any one. I
don’t see why you think Mrs. Touchett’s niece should



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matter very much to me, when—when-’ But he paused a
moment.
   ‘When I myself have mattered so little?’
   ‘That of course is not what I meant to say. When I’ve
known and appreciated such a woman as you.’
   ‘Isabel Archer’s better than I,’ said Madame Merle.
   Her companion gave a laugh. ‘How little you must
think of her to say that!’
   ‘Do you suppose I’m capable of jealousy? Please answer
me that.’
   ‘With regard to me? No; on the whole I don’t.’
   ‘Come and see me then, two days hence. I’m staying at
Mrs. Touchett’s—Palazzo Crescentini—and the girl will
be there.’
   ‘Why didn’t you ask me that at first simply, without
speaking of the girl?’ said Osmond. ‘You could have had
her there at any rate.’
   Madame Merle looked at him in the manner of a
woman whom no question he could ever put would find
unprepared. ‘Do you wish to know why? Because I’ve
spoken of you to her.’
   Osmond frowned and turned away. ‘I’d rather not
know that.’ Then in a moment he pointed out the easel



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supporting the little water-colour drawing. ‘Have you seen
what’s there—my last?’
   Madame Merle drew near and considered. ‘Is it the
Venetian Alps—one of your last year’s sketches?’
   ‘Yes—but how you guess everything!’
   She looked a moment longer, then turned away. ‘You
know I don’t care for your drawings.’
   ‘I know it, yet I’m always surprised at it. They’re really
so much better than most people’s.’
   ‘That may very well be. But as the only thing you do—
well, it’s so little. I should have liked you to do so many
other things: those were my ambitions.’
   ‘Yes; you’ve told me many times—things that were
impossible.’
   ‘Things that were impossible,’ said Madame Merle.
And then in quite a different tone: ‘In itself your little
picture’s very good.’ She looked about the room—at the
old cabinets, pictures, tapestries, surfaces of faded silk.
‘Your rooms at least are perfect. I’m struck with that
afresh whenever I come back; I know none better
anywhere. You understand this sort of thing as nobody
anywhere does. You’ve such adorable taste.’
   ‘I’m sick of my adorable taste,’ said Gilbert Osmond.



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    ‘You must nevertheless let Miss Archer come and see
it. I’ve told her about it.’
    ‘I don’t object to showing my things—when people are
not idiots.’
    ‘You do it delightfully. As cicerone of your museum
you appear to particular advantage.’
    Mr. Osmond, in return for this compliment, simply
looked at once colder and more attentive. ‘Did you say
she was rich?’
    ‘She has seventy thousand pounds.’
    ‘En ecus bien comptes?’
    ‘There’s no doubt whatever about her fortune. I’ve
seen it, as I may say.’
    ‘Satisfactory woman!—I mean you. And if I go to see
her shall I see the mother?’
    ‘The mother? She has none—nor father either.’
    ‘The aunt then—whom did you say?—Mrs. Touchett.’
    ‘I can easily keep her out of the way.’
    ‘I don’t object to her,’ said Osmond; ‘I rather like Mrs.
Touchett. She has a sort of old-fashioned character that’s
passing away—a vivid identity. But that long jackanapes
the son—is he about the place?’
    ‘He’s there, but he won’t trouble you.’
    ‘He’s a good deal of a donkey.’


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    ‘I think you’re mistaken. He’s a very clever man. But
he’s not fond of being about when I’m there, because he
doesn’t like me.’
    ‘What could be more asinine than that? Did you say
she has looks?’ Osmond went on.
    ‘Yes; but I won’t say it again, lest you should be
disappointed in them. Come and make a beginning; that’s
all I ask of you.’
    ‘A beginning of what?’
    Madame Merle was silent a little. ‘I want you of course
to marry her.’
    ‘The beginning of the end? Well, I’ll see for myself.
Have you told her that?’
    ‘For what do you take me? She’s not so coarse a piece
of machinery—nor am I.’
    ‘Really,’ said Osmond after some meditation, ‘I don’t
understand your ambitions.’
    ‘I think you’ll understand this one after you’ve seen
Miss Archer. Suspend your judgement.’ Madame Merle, as
she spoke, had drawn near the open door of the garden,
where she stood a moment looking out. ‘Pansy has really
grown pretty,’ she presently added.
    ‘So it seemed to me.’
    ‘But she has had enough of the convent.’


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    ‘I don’t know,’ said Osmond. ‘I like what they’ve made
of her. It’s very charming.’
    ‘That’s not the convent. It’s the child’s nature.’
    ‘It’s the combination, I think. She’s as pure as a pearl.’
    ‘Why doesn’t she come back with my flowers then?’
Madame Merle asked. ‘She’s not in a hurry.’
    ‘We’ll go and get them.’
    ‘She doesn’t like me,’ the visitor murmured as she
raised her parasol and they passed into the garden.




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                         Chapter 23

    Madame Merle, who had come to Florence on Mrs.
Touchett’s arrival at the invitation of this lady—Mrs.
Touchett offering her for a month the hospitality of
Palazzo Crescentini—the judicious Madame Merle spoke
to Isabel afresh about Gilbert Osmond and expressed the
hope she might know him; making, however, no such
point of the matter as we have seen her do in
recommending the girl herself to Mr. Osmond’s attention.
The reason of this was perhaps that Isabel offered no
resistance whatever to Madame Merle’s proposal. In Italy,
as in England, the lady had a multitude of friends, both
among the natives of the country and its heterogeneous
visitors. She had mentioned to Isabel most of the people
the girl would find it well to ‘meet’—of course, she said,
Isabel could know whomever in the wide world she
would—and had placed Mr. Osmond near the top of the
list. He was an old friend of her own; she had known him
these dozen years; he was one of the cleverest and most
agreeable men—well, in Europe simply. He was altogether
above the respectable average; quite another affair. He
wasn’t a professional charmer—far from it, and the effect


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he produced depended a good deal on the state of his
nerves and his spirits. When not in the right mood he
could fall as low as any one, saved only by his looking at
such hours rather like a demoralized prince in exile. But if
he cared or was interested or rightly challenged—just
exactly rightly it had to be—then one felt his cleverness
and his distinction. Those qualities didn’t depend, in him,
as in so many people, on his not committing or exposing
himself. He had his perversities—which indeed Isabel
would find to be the case with all the men really worth
knowing—and didn’t cause his light to shine equally for all
persons. Madame Merle, however, thought she could
undertake that for Isabel he would be brilliant. He was
easily bored, too easily, and dull people always put him
out; but a quick and cultivated girl like Isabel would give
him a stimulus which was too absent from his life. At any
rate he was a person not to miss. One shouldn’t attempt to
live in Italy without making a friend of Gilbert Osmond,
who knew more about the country than any one except
two or three German professors. And if they had more
knowledge than he it was he who had most perception
and taste—being artistic through and through. Isabel
remembered that her friend had spoken of him during
their plunge, at Gardencourt, into the deeps of talk, and


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wondered a little what was the nature of the tie binding
these superior spirits. She felt that Madame Merle’s ties
always somehow had histories, and such an impression was
part of the interest created by this inordinate woman. As
regards her relations with Mr. Osmond, however, she
hinted at nothing but a long-established calm friendship.
Isabel said she should be happy to know a person who had
enjoyed so high a confidence for so many years. ‘You
ought to see a great many men,’ Madame Merle remarked;
‘you ought to see as many as possible, so as to get used to
them.’
   ‘Used to them?’ Isabel repeated with that solemn stare
which sometimes seemed to proclaim her deficient in the
sense of comedy. ‘Why, I’m not afraid of them—I’m as
used to them as the cook to the butcher-boys.’
   ‘Used to them, I mean, so as to despise them. That’s
what one comes to with most of them. You’ll pick out,
for your society, the few whom you don’t despise.’
   This was a note of cynicism that Madame Merle didn’t
often allow herself to sound; but Isabel was not alarmed,
for she had never supposed that as one saw more of the
world the sentiment of respect became the most active of
one’s emotions. It was excited, none the less, by the
beautiful city of Florence, which pleased her not less than


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Madame Merle had promised; and if her unassisted
perception had not been able to gauge its charms she had
clever companions as priests to the mystery. She was in no
want indeed of aesthetic illumination, for Ralph found it a
joy that renewed his own early passion to act as cicerone
to his eager young kinswoman. Madame Merle remained
at home; she had seen the treasures of Florence again and
again and had always something else to do. But she talked
of all things with remarkable vividness of memory—she
recalled the right-hand corner of the large Perugino and
the position of the hands of the Saint Elizabeth in the
picture next to it. She had her opinions as to the character
of many famous works of art, differing often from Ralph
with great sharpness and defending her interpretations
with as much ingenuity as good-humour. Isabel listened to
the discussions taking place between the two with a sense
that she might derive much benefit from them and that
they were among the advantages she couldn’t have
enjoyed for instance in Albany. In the clear May mornings
before the formal breakfast—this repast at Mrs. Touchett’s
was served at twelve o’clock—she wandered with her
cousin through the narrow and sombre Florentine streets,
resting a while in the thicker dusk of some historic church
or the vaulted chambers of some dispeopled convent. She


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went to the galleries and palaces; she looked at the pictures
and statues that had hitherto been great names to her, and
exchanged for a knowledge which was sometimes a
limitation a presentiment which proved usually to have
been a blank. She performed all those acts of mental
prostration in which, on a first visit to Italy, youth and
enthusiasm so freely indulge; she felt her heart beat in the
presence of immortal genius and knew the sweetness of
rising tears in eyes to which faded fresco and darkened
marble grew dim. But the return, every day, was even
pleasanter than the going forth; the return into the wide,
monumental court of the great house in which Mrs.
Touchett, many years before, had established herself, and
into the high, cool rooms where the carven rafters and
pompous frescoes of the sixteenth century looked down
on the familiar commodities of the age of advertisement.
Mrs. Touchett inhabited an historic building in a narrow
street whose very name recalled the strife of mediaeval
factions; and found compensation for the darkness of her
frontage in the modicity of her rent and the brightness of a
garden where nature itself looked as archaic as the rugged
architecture of the palace and which cleared and scented
the rooms in regular use. To live in such a place was, for
Isabel, to hold to her ear all day a shell of the sea of the


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past. This vague eternal rumour kept her imagination
awake.
    Gilbert Osmond came to see Madame Merle, who
presented him to the young lady lurking at the other side
of the room. Isabel took on this occasion little part in the
talk; she scarcely even smiled when the others turned to
her invitingly; she sat there as if she had been at the play
and had paid even a large sum for her place. Mrs.
Touchett was not present, and these two had it, for the
effect of brilliancy, all their own way. They talked of the
Florentine, the Roman, the cosmopolite world, and might
have been distinguished performers figuring for a charity.
It all had the rich readiness that would have come from
rehearsal. Madame Merle appealed to her as if she had
been on the stage, but she could ignore any learnt cue
without spoiling the scene—though of course she thus put
dreadfully in the wrong the friend who had told Mr.
Osmond she could be depended on. This was no matter
for once; even if more had been involved she could have
made no attempt to shine. There was something in the
visitor that checked her and held her in suspense- made it
more important she should get an impression of him than
that she should produce one herself. Besides, she had little
skill in producing an impression which she knew to be


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expected: nothing could be happier, in general, than to
seem dazzling, but she had a perverse unwillingness to
glitter by arrangement. Mr. Osmond, to do him justice,
had a well-bred air of expecting nothing, a quiet ease that
covered everything, even the first show of his own wit.
This was the more grateful as his face, his head, was
sensitive; he was not handsome, but he was fine, as fine as
one of the drawings in the long gallery above the bridge of
the Uffizi. And his very voice was fine—the more
strangely that, with its clearness, it yet somehow wasn’t
sweet. This had had really to do with making her abstain
from interference. His utterance was the vibration of glass,
and if she had put out her finger she might have changed
the pitch and spoiled the concert. Yet before he went she
had to speak.
    ‘Madame Merle,’ he said, ‘consents to come up to my
hill-top some day next week and drink tea in my garden.
It would give me much pleasure if you would come with
her. It’s thought rather pretty- there’s what they call a
general view. My daughter too would be so glad—or
rather, for she’s too young to have strong emotions, I
should be so glad—so very glad.’ And Mr. Osmond
paused with a slight air of embarrassment, leaving his
sentence unfinished.


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   ‘I should be so happy if you could know my daughter,’
he went on a moment afterwards.
   Isabel replied that she should be delighted to see Miss
Osmond and that if Madame Merle would show her the
way to the hill-top she should be very grateful. Upon this
assurance the visitor took his leave; after which Isabel fully
expected her friend would scold her for having been so
stupid. But to her surprise that lady, who indeed never fell
into the mere matter-of-course, said to her in a few
moments: ‘You were charming, my dear; you were just as
one would have wished you. You’re never disappointing.’
   A rebuke might possibly have been irritating, though it
is much more probable that Isabel would have taken it in
good part; but, strange to say, the words that Madame
Merle actually used caused her the first feeling of
displeasure she had known this ally to excite. ‘That’s more
than I intended,’ she answered coldly. ‘I’m under no
obligation that I know of to charm Mr. Osmond.’
   Madame Merle perceptibly flushed, but we know it
was not her habit to retract. ‘My dear child, I didn’t speak
for him, poor man; I spoke for yourself. It’s not of course
a question as to his liking you; it matters little whether he
likes you or not! But I thought you liked him.’



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    ‘I did,’ said Isabel honestly. ‘But I don’t see what that
matters either.’
    ‘Everything that concerns you matters to me,’ Madame
Merle returned with her weary nobleness; ‘especially
when at the same time another old friend’s concerned.’
    Whatever Isabel’s obligations may have been to Mr.
Osmond, it must be admitted that she found them
sufficient to lead her to put to Ralph sundry questions
about him. She thought Ralph’s judgements distorted by
his trials, but she flattered herself she had learned to make
allowance for that.
    ‘Do I know him?’ said her cousin. ‘Oh, yes, I ‘know’
him; not well, but on the whole enough. I’ve never
cultivated his society, and he apparently has never found
mine indispensable to his happiness. Who is he, what is
he? He’s a vague, unexplained American who has been
living these thirty years, or less, in Italy. Why do I call him
unexplained? Only as a cover for my ignorance; I don’t
know his antecedents, his family, his origin. For all I do
know he may be a prince in disguise; he rather looks like
one, by the way—like a prince who has abdicated in a fit
of fastidiousness and has been in a state of disgust ever
since. He used to live in Rome; but of late years he has
taken up his abode here; I remember hearing him say that


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Rome has grown vulgar. He has a great dread of vulgarity;
that’s his special line; he hasn’t any other that I know of.
He lives on his income, which I suspect of not being
vulgarly large. He’s a poor but honest gentleman—that’s
what he calls himself. He married young and lost his wife,
and I believe he has a daughter. He also has a sister, who’s
married to some small Count or other, of these parts; I
remember meeting her of old. She’s nicer than he, I
should think, but rather impossible. I remember there used
to be some stories about her. I don’t think I recommend
you to know her. But why don’t you ask Madame Merle
about these people? She knows them all much better than
I.’
    ‘I ask you because I want your opinion as well as hers,’
said Isabel.
    ‘A fig for my opinion! If you fall in love with Mr.
Osmond what will you care for that?’
    ‘Not much, probably. But meanwhile it has a certain
importance. The more information one has about one’s
dangers the better.’
    ‘I don’t agree to that—it may make them dangers. We
know too much about people in these days; we hear too
much. Our ears, our minds, our mouths, are stuffed with



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personalities. Don’t mind anything any one tells you about
any one else. Judge every one and everything for yourself.’
    ‘That’s what I try to do,’ said Isabel; ‘but when you do
that people call you conceited.’
    ‘You’re not to mind them—that’s precisely my
argument; not to mind what they say about yourself any
more than what they say about your friend or your
enemy.’
    Isabel considered. ‘I think you’re right; but there are
some things I can’t help minding: for instance when my
friend’s attacked or when I myself am praised.’
    ‘Of course you’re always at liberty to judge the critic.
Judge people as critics, however,’ Ralph added, ‘and you’ll
condemn them all!’
    ‘I shall see Mr. Osmond for myself,’ said Isabel. ‘I’ve
promised to pay him a visit.’
    ‘To pay him a visit?’
    ‘To go and see his view, his pictures, his daughter—I
don’t know exactly what. Madame Merle’s to take me; she
tells me a great many ladies call on him.’
    ‘Ah, with Madame Merle you may go anywhere, de
confiance,’ said Ralph. ‘She knows none but the best
people.’



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    Isabel said no more about Mr. Osmond, but she
presently remarked to her cousin that she was not satisfied
with his tone about Madame Merle. ‘It seems to me you
insinuate things about her. I don’t know what you mean,
but if you’ve any grounds for disliking her I think you
should either mention them frankly or else say nothing at
all.’
    Ralph, however, resented this charge with more
apparent earnestness than he commonly used. ‘I speak of
Madame Merle exactly as I speak to her: with an even
exaggerated respect.’
    ‘Exaggerated, precisely. That’s what I complain of.’
    ‘I do so because Madame Merle’s merits are
exaggerated.’
    ‘By whom, pray? By me? If so I do her a poor service.’
    ‘No, no; by herself.’
    ‘Ah, I protest!’ Isabel earnestly cried. ‘If ever there was
a woman who made small claims-!’
    ‘You put your finger on it,’ Ralph interrupted. ‘Her
modesty’s exaggerated. She has no business with small
claims—she has a perfect right to make large ones.’
    ‘Her merits are large then. You contradict yourself.’




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   ‘Her merits are immense,’ said Ralph. ‘She’s
indescribably blameless; a pathless desert of virtue; the only
woman I know who never gives one a chance.’
   ‘A chance for what?’
   ‘Well, say to call her a fool! She’s the only woman I
know who has but that one little fault.’
   Isabel turned away with impatience. ‘I don’t understand
you; you’re too paradoxical for my plain mind.’
   ‘Let me explain. When I say she exaggerates I don’t
mean it in the vulgar sense—that she boasts, overstates,
gives too fine an account of herself. I mean literally that
she pushes the search for perfection too far—that her
merits are in themselves overstrained. She’s too good, too
kind, too clever, too learned, too accomplished, too
everything. She’s too complete, in a word. I confess to
you that she acts on my nerves and that I feel about her a
good deal as that intensely human Athenian felt about
Aristides the Just.’
   Isabel looked hard at her cousin; but the mocking
spirit, if it lurked in his words, failed on this occasion to
peep from his face. ‘Do you wish Madame Merle to be
banished?’
   ‘By no means. She’s much too good company. I delight
in Madame Merle,’ said Ralph Touchett simply.


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    ‘You’re very odious, sir!’ Isabel exclaimed. And then
she asked him if he knew anything that was not to the
honour of her brilliant friend.
    ‘Nothing whatever. Don’t you see that’s just what I
mean? On the character of every one else you may find
some little black speck; if I were to take half an hour to it,
some day, I’ve no doubt I should be able to find one on
yours. For my own, of course, I’m spotted like a leopard.
But on Madame Merle’s nothing, nothing, nothing!’
    ‘That’s just what I think!’ said Isabel with a toss of her
head. ‘That is why I like her so much.’
    ‘She’s a capital person for you to know. Since you wish
to see the world you couldn’t have a better guide.’
    ‘I suppose you mean by that that she’s worldly?’
    ‘Worldly? No,’ said Ralph, ‘she’s the great round world
itself!’
    It had certainly not, as Isabel for the moment took it
into her head to believe, been a refinement of malice in
him to say that he delighted in Madame Merle. Ralph
Touchett took his refreshment wherever he could find it,
and he would not have forgotten himself if he had been
left wholly unbeguiled by such a mistress of the social art.
There are deep-lying sympathies and antipathies, and it
may have been that, in spite of the administered justice she


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enjoyed at his hands, her absence from his mother’s house
would not have made life barren to him. But Ralph
Touchett had learned more or less inscrutably to attend,
and there could have been nothing so ‘sustained’ to attend
to as the general performance of Madame Merle. He tasted
her in sips, he let her stand, with an opportuneness she
herself could not have surpassed. There were moments
when he felt almost sorry for her; and these, oddly
enough, were the moments when his kindness was least
demonstrative. He was sure she had been yearningly
ambitious and that what she had visibly accomplished was
far below her secret measure. She had got herself into
perfect training, but had won none of the prizes. She was
always plain Madame Merle, the widow of a Swiss
negociant, with a small income and a large acquaintance,
who stayed with people a great deal and was almost as
universally ‘liked’ as some new volume of smooth
twaddle. The contrast between this position and any one
of some half-dozen others that he supposed to have at
various moments engaged her hope had an element of the
tragical. His mother thought he got on beautifully with
their genial guest; to Mrs. Touchett’s sense two persons
who dealt so largely in too-ingenious theories of conduct-
that is of their own—would have much in common. He


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had given due consideration to Isabel’s intimacy with her
eminent friend, having long since made up his mind that
he could not, without opposition, keep his cousin to
himself; and he made the best of it, as he had done of
worse things. He believed it would take care of itself; it
wouldn’t last forever. Neither of these two superior
persons knew the other as well as she supposed, and when
each had made an important discovery or two there would
be, if not a rupture, at least a relaxation. Meanwhile he
was quite willing to admit that the conversation of the
elder lady was an advantage to the younger, who had a
great deal to learn and would doubtless learn it better from
Madame Merle than from some other instructors of the
young. It was not probable that Isabel would be injured.




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                         Chapter 24

   It would certainly have been hard to see what injury
could arise to her from the visit she presently paid to Mr.
Osmond’s hill-top. Nothing could have been more
charming than this occasion—a soft afternoon in the full
maturity of the Tuscan spring. The companions drove out
of the Roman Gate, beneath the enormous blank
superstructure which crowns the fine clear arch of that
portal and makes it nakedly impressive, and wound
between high-walled lanes into which the wealth of
blossoming orchards overdrooped and flung a fragrance,
until they reached the small superurban piazza, of crooked
shape, where the long brown wall of the villa occupied in
part by Mr. Osmond formed a principal, or at least a very
imposing, object. Isabel went with her friend through a
wide, high court, where a clear shadow rested below and a
pair of light-arched galleries, facing each other above,
caught the upper sunshine upon their slim columns and
the flowering plants in which they were dressed. There
was something grave and strong in the place; it looked
somehow as if, once you were in, you would need an act
of energy to get out. For Isabel, however, there was of


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course as yet no thought of getting out, but only of
advancing. Mr. Osmond met her in the cold ante-
chamber—it was cold even in the month of May—and
ushered her, with her conductress, into the apartment to
which we have already been introduced. Madame Merle
was in front, and while Isabel lingered a little, talking with
him, she went forward familiarly and greeted two persons
who were seated in the saloon. One of these was little
Pansy, on whom she bestowed a kiss; the other was a lady
whom Mr. Osmond indicated to Isabel as his sister, the
Countess Gemini.
   ‘And that’s my little girl,’ he said, ‘who has just come
out of her convent.’
   Pansy had on a scant white dress, and her fair hair was
neatly arranged in a net; she wore her small shoes tied
sandal-fashion about her ankles. She made Isabel a little
conventual curtsey and then came to be kissed. The
Countess Gemini simply nodded without getting up:
Isabel could see she was a woman of high fashion. She was
thin and dark and not at all pretty, having features that
suggested some tropical bird—a long beak-like nose, small,
quickly-moving eyes and a mouth and chin that receded
extremely. Her expression, however, thanks to various
intensities of emphasis and wonder, of horror and joy, was


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not inhuman, and, as regards her appearance, it was plain
she understood herself and made the most of her points.
Her attire, voluminous and delicate, bristling with
elegance, had the look of shimmering plumage, and her
attitudes were as light and sudden as those of a creature
who perched upon twigs. She had a great deal of manner;
Isabel, who had never known any one with so much
manner, immediately classed her as the most affected of
women. She remembered that Ralph had not
recommended her as an acquaintance; but she was ready
to acknowledge that to a casual view the Countess Gemini
revealed no depths. Her demonstrations suggested the
violent waving of some flag of general truce—white silk
with fluttering streamers.
    ‘You’ll believe I’m glad to see you when I tell you it’s
only because I knew you were to be here that I came
myself. I don’t come and see my brother—I make him
come and see me. This hill of his is impossible—I don’t
see what possesses him. Really, Osmond, you’ll be the
ruin of my horses some day, and if it hurts them you’ll
have to give me another pair. I heard them wheezing to-
day; I assure you I did. It’s very disagreeable to hear one’s
horses wheezing when one’s sitting in the carriage; it
sounds too as if they weren’t what they should be. But


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I’ve always had good horses; whatever else I may have
lacked I’ve always managed that. My husband doesn’t
know much, but I think he knows a horse. In general
Italians don’t, but my husband goes in, according to his
poor light, for everything English. My horses are
English—so it’s all the greater pity they should be ruined. I
must tell you,’ she went on, directly addressing Isabel,
‘that Osmond doesn’t often invite me; I don’t think he
likes to have me. It was quite my own idea, coming to-
day. I like to see new people, and I’m sure you’re very
new. But don’t sit there; that chair’s not what it looks.
There are some very good seats here, but there are also
some horrors.’
    These remarks were delivered with a series of little
jerks and pecks, of roulades of shrillness, and in an accent
that was as some fond recall of good English, or rather of
good American, in adversity.
    ‘I don’t like to have you, my dear?’ said her brother.
‘I’m sure you’re invaluable.’
    ‘I don’t see any horrors anywhere,’ Isabel returned,
looking about her. ‘Everything seems to me beautiful and
precious.’




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   ‘I’ve a few good things,’ Mr. Osmond allowed; ‘indeed
I’ve nothing very bad. But I’ve not what I should have
liked.’
   He stood there a little awkwardly, smiling and glancing
about; his manner was an odd mixture of the detached and
the involved. He seemed to hint that nothing but the right
‘values’ was of any consequence. Isabel made a rapid
induction: perfect simplicity was not the badge of his
family. Even the little girl from the convent, who, in her
prim white dress, with her small submissive face and her
hands locked before her, stood there as if she were about
to partake of her first communion, even Mr. Osmond’s
diminutive daughter had a kind of finish that was not
entirely artless.
   ‘You’d have liked a few things from the Uffizi and the
Pitti—that’s what you’d have liked,’ said Madame Merle.
   ‘Poor Osmond, with his old curtains and crucifixes!’
the Countess Gemini exclaimed: she appeared to call her
brother only by his family-name. Her ejaculation had no
particular object; she smiled at Isabel as she made it and
looked at her from head to foot.
   Her brother had not heard her; he seemed to be
thinking what he could say to Isabel:



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   ‘Won’t you have some tea?—you must be very tired,’
he at last bethought himself of remarking.
   ‘No, indeed, I’m not tired; what have I done to tire
me?’ Isabel felt a certain need of being very direct, of
pretending to nothing; there was something in the air, in
her general impression of things- she could hardly have
said what it was—that deprived her of all disposition to
put herself forward. The place, the occasion, the
combination of people, signified more than lay on the
surface; she would try to understand—she would not
simply utter graceful platitudes. Poor Isabel was doubtless
not aware that many women would have uttered graceful
platitudes to cover the working of their observation. It
must be confessed that her pride was a trifle alarmed. A
man she had heard spoken of in terms that excited interest
and who was evidently capable of distinguishing himself,
had invited her, a young lady not lavish of her favours, to
come to his house. Now that she had done so the burden
of the entertainment rested naturally on his wit. Isabel was
not rendered less observant, and for the moment, we
judge, she was not rendered more indulgent, by perceiving
that Mr. Osmond carried his burden less complacently
than might have been expected. ‘What a fool I was to



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have let myself so needlessly in-!’ she could fancy his
exclaiming to himself.
   ‘You’ll be 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


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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. If the
Countess objected to argument Isabel at this moment had
as little taste for it, and she put out her hand to Pansy with
a pleasant sense that such a gesture committed her to
nothing that would admit of a divergence of views.
Gilbert Osmond apparently took a rather hopeless view of
his sister’s tone; he turned the conversation to another
topic. He presently sat down on the other side of his
daughter, who had shyly brushed Isabel’s fingers with her
own; but he ended by drawing her out of her chair and
making her stand between his knees, leaning against him
while he passed his arm round her slimness. The child


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fixed her eyes on Isabel with a still, disinterested gaze
which seemed void of an intention, yet conscious of an
attraction. Mr. Osmond talked of many things; Madame
Merle had said he could be agreeable when he chose, and
to-day, after a little, he appeared not only to have chosen
but to have determined. Madame Merle and the Countess
Gemini sat a little apart, conversing in the effortless
manner of persons who knew each other well enough to
take their ease; but every now and then Isabel heard the
Countess, at something said by her companion, plunge
into the latter’s lucidity as a poodle splashes after a thrown
stick. It was as if Madame Merle were seeing how far she
would go. Mr. Osmond talked of Florence, of Italy, of the
pleasure of living in that country and of the abatements to
the pleasure. There were both satisfactions and drawbacks;
the drawbacks were numerous; strangers were too apt to
see such a world as all romantic. It met the case soothingly
for the human, for the social failure—by which he meant
the people who couldn’t ‘realize,’ as they said, on their
sensibility: they could keep it about them there, in their
poverty, without ridicule, as you might keep an heirloom
or an inconvenient entailed place that brought you in
nothing. Thus there were advantages in living in the
country which contained the greatest sum of beauty.


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Certain impressions you could get only there. Others,
favourable to life, you never got, and you got some that
were very bad. But from time to time you got one of a
quality that made up for everything. Italy, all the same,
had spoiled a great many people; he was even fatuous
enough to believe at times that he himself might have
been a better man if he had spent less of his life there. It
made one idle and dilettantish and second-rate; it had no
discipline for the character, didn’t cultivate in you,
otherwise expressed, the successful social and other ‘cheek’
that flourished in Paris and London. ‘We’re sweetly
provincial,’ said Mr. Osmond, ‘and I’m perfectly aware
that I myself am as rusty as a key that has no lock to fit it.
It polishes me up a little to talk with you—not that I
venture to pretend I can turn that very complicated lock I
suspect your intellect of being! But you’ll be going away
before I’ve seen you three times, and I shall perhaps never
see you after that. That’s what it is to live in a country that
people come to. When they’re disagreeable here it’s bad
enough; when they’re agreeable it’s still worse. As soon as
you like them they’re off again! I’ve been deceived too
often; I’ve ceased to form attachments, to permit myself to
feel attractions. You mean to stay—to settle? That would
be really comfortable. Ah yes, your aunt’s a sort of


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guarantee; I believe she may be depended on. Oh, she’s an
old Florentine; I mean literally an old one; not a modern
outsider. She’s a contemporary of the Medici; she must
have been present at the burning of Savonarola, and I’m
not sure she didn’t throw a handful of chips into the flame.
Her face is very much like some faces in the early pictures;
little, dry, definite faces that must have had a good deal of
expression, but almost always the same one. Indeed I can
show you her portrait in a fresco of Ghirlandaio’s. I hope
you don’t object to my speaking that way of your aunt,
eh? I’ve an idea you don’t. Perhaps you think that’s even
worse. I assure you there’s no want of respect in it, to
either of you. You know I’m a particular admirer of Mrs.
Touchett.’
    While Isabel’s host exerted himself to entertain her in
this somewhat confidential fashion she looked occasionally
at Madame Merle, who met her eyes with an inattentive
smile in which, on this occasion, there was no infelicitous
intimation that our heroine appeared to advantage.
Madame Merle eventually proposed to the Countess
Gemini that they should go into the garden, and the
Countess, rising and shaking out her feathers, began to
rustle toward the door. ‘Poor Miss Archer!’ she exclaimed,



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surveying the other group with expressive compassion.
‘She has been brought quite into the family.’
   ‘Miss Archer can certainly have nothing but sympathy
for a family to which you belong,’ Mr. Osmond answered,
with a laugh which, though it had something of a
mocking ring, had also a finer patience.
   ‘I don’t know what you mean by that! I’m sure she’ll
see no harm in me but what you tell her. I’m better than
he says, Miss Archer,’ the Countess went on. ‘I’m only
rather an idiot and a bore. Is that all he has said? Ah then,
you keep him in good-humour. Has he opened on one of
his favourite subjects? I give you notice that there are two
or three that he treats a fond. In that case you had better
take off your bonnet.’
   ‘I don’t think I know what Mr. Osmond’s favourite
subjects are,’ said Isabel, who had risen to her feet.
   The Countess assumed for an instant an attitude of
intense meditation, pressing one of her hands, with the
finger-tips gathered together, to her forehead. ‘I’ll tell you
in a moment. One’s Machiavelli; the other’s Vittoria
Colonna; the next is Metastasio.’
   ‘Ah, with me,’ said Madame Merle, passing her arm
into the Countess Gemini’s as if to guide her course to the
garden, ‘Mr. Osmond’s never so historical.’


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   ‘Oh you,’ the Countess answered as they moved away,
‘you yourself are Machiavelli—you yourself are Vittoria
Colonna!’
   ‘We shall hear next that poor Madame Merle is
Metastasio!’ Gilbert Osmond resignedly sighed.
   Isabel had got up on the assumption that they too were
to go into the garden; but her host stood there with no
apparent inclination to leave the room, his hands in the
pockets of his jacket and his daughter, who had now
locked her arm into one of his own, clinging to him and
looking up while her eyes moved from his own face to
Isabel’s. Isabel waited, with a certain unuttered
contentedness, to have her movements directed; she liked
Mr. Osmond’s talk, his company: she had what always
gave her a very private thrill, the consciousness of a new
relation. Through the open doors of the great room she
saw Madame Merle and the Countess stroll across the fine
grass of the garden; then she turned, and her eyes
wandered over the things scattered about her. The
understanding had been that Mr. Osmond should show
her his treasures; his pictures and cabinets all looked like
treasures. Isabel after a moment went toward one of the
pictures to see it better; but just as she had done so he said



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to her abruptly: ‘Miss Archer, what do you think of my
sister?’
    She faced him with some surprise. ‘Ah, don’t ask me
that—I’ve seen your sister too little.’
    ‘Yes, you’ve seen her very little; but you must have
observed that there is not a great deal of her to see. What
do you think of our family tone?’ he went on with his
cool smile. ‘I should like to know how it strikes a fresh,
unprejudiced mind. I know what you’re going to say—
you’ve had almost no observation of it. Of course this is
only a glimpse. But just take notice, in future, if you have
a chance. I sometimes think we’ve got into a rather bad
way, living off here among things and people not our
own, without responsibilities or attachments, with nothing
to hold us together or keep us up; marrying foreigners,
forming artificial tastes, playing tricks with our natural
mission. Let me add, though, that I say that much more
for myself than for my sister. She’s a very honest lady—
more so than she seems. She’s rather unhappy, and as she’s
not of a serious turn she doesn’t tend to show it tragically:
she shows it comically instead. She has got a horrid
husband, though I’m not sure she makes the best of him.
Of course, however, a horrid husband’s an awkward thing.
Madame Merle gives her excellent advice, but it’s a good


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deal like giving a child a dictionary to learn a language
with. He can look out the words, but he can’t put them
together. My sister needs a grammar, but unfortunately
she’s not grammatical. Pardon my troubling you with
these details; my sister was very right in saying you’ve
been taken into the family. Let me take down that picture;
you want more light.’
   He took down the picture, carried it toward the
window, related some curious facts about it. She looked at
the other works of art, and he gave her such further
information as might appear most acceptable to a young
lady making a call on a summer afternoon. His pictures,
his medallions and tapestries were interesting; but after a
while Isabel felt the owner much more so, and
independently of them, thickly as they seemed to
overhang him. He resembled no one she had ever seen;
most of the people she knew might be divided into groups
of half a dozen specimens. There were one or two
exceptions to this; she could think for instance of no
group that would contain her aunt Lydia. There were
other people who were, relatively speaking, original-
original, as one might say, by courtesy—such as Mr.
Goodwood, as her cousin Ralph, as Henrietta Stackpole,
as Lord Warburton, as Madame Merle. But in essentials,


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when one came to look at them, these individuals
belonged to types already present to her mind. Her mind
contained no class offering a natural place to Mr.
Osmond—he was a specimen apart. It was not that she
recognized all these truths at the hour, but they were
falling into order before her. For the moment she only
said to herself that this ‘new relation’ would perhaps prove
her very most distinguished. Madame Merle had had that
note of rarity, but what quite other power it immediately
gained when sounded by a man! It was not so much what
he said and did, but rather what he withheld, that marked
him for her as by one of those signs of the highly curious
that he was showing her on the underside of old plates and
in the corner of sixteenth-century drawings: he indulged
in no striking deflections from common usage, he was an
original without being an eccentric. She had never met a
person of so fine a grain. The peculiarity was physical, to
begin with, and it extended to impalpabilities. His dense,
delicate hair, his overdrawn, retouched features, his clear
complexion, ripe without being coarse, the very evenness
of the growth of his beard, and that light, smooth
slenderness of structure which made the movement of a
single one of his fingers produce the effect of an expressive
gesture- these personal points struck our sensitive young


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woman as signs of quality, of intensity, somehow as
promises of interest. He was certainly fastidious and
critical; he was probably irritable. His sensibility had
governed him—possibly governed him too much; it had
made him impatient of vulgar troubles and had led him to
live by himself, in a sorted, sifted, arranged world,
thinking about art and beauty and history. He had
consulted his taste in everything—his taste alone perhaps,
as a sick man consciously incurable consults at last only his
lawyer: that was what made him so different from every
one else. Ralph had something of this same quality, this
appearance of thinking that life was a matter of
connoisseurship; but in Ralph it was an anomaly, a kind of
humorous excrescence, whereas in Mr. Osmond it was the
keynote, and everything was in harmony with it. She was
certainly far from understanding him completely; his
meaning was not at all times obvious. It was hard to see
what he meant for instance by speaking of his provincial
side—which was exactly the side she would have taken
him most to lack. Was it a harmless paradox, intended to
puzzle her? or was it the last refinement of high culture?
She trusted she should learn in time; it would be very
interesting to learn. If it was provincial to have that
harmony, what then was the finish of the capital? And she


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could put this question in spite of so feeling her host a sly
personage; since such shyness as his—the shyness of
ticklish nerves and fine perceptions—was perfectly
consistent with the best breeding. Indeed it was almost a
proof of standards and touchstones other than the vulgar:
he must be so sure the vulgar would be first on the
ground. He wasn’t a man of easy assurance, who chatted
and gossiped with the fluency of a superficial nature; he
was critical of himself as well as of others, and, exacting a
good deal of others, to think them agreeable, probably
took a rather ironical view of what he himself offered: a
proof into the bargain that he was not grossly conceited. If
he had not been shy he wouldn’t have effected that
gradual, subtle, successful conversion of it to which she
owed both what pleased her in him and what mystified
her. If he had suddenly asked her what she thought of the
Countess Gemini, that was doubtless a proof that he was
interested in her; it could scarcely be as a help to
knowledge of his own sister. That he should be so
interested showed an enquiring mind; but it was a little
singular he should sacrifice his fraternal feeling to his
curiosity. This was the most eccentric thing he had done.
   There were two other rooms, beyond the one in which
she had been received, equally full of romantic objects,


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and in these apartments Isabel spent a quarter of an hour.
Everything was in the last degree curious and precious,
and Mr. Osmond continued to be the kindest of ciceroni
as he led her from one fine piece to another and still held
his little girl by the hand. His kindness almost surprised
our young friend, who wondered why he should take so
much trouble for her; and she was oppressed at last with
the accumulation of beauty and knowledge to which she
found herself introduced. There was enough for the
present; she had ceased to attend to what he said; she
listened to him with attentive eyes, but was not thinking
of what he told her. He probably thought her quicker,
cleverer in every way, more prepared, than she was.
Madame Merle would have pleasantly exaggerated; which
was a pity, because in the end he would be sure to find
out, and then perhaps even her real intelligence wouldn’t
reconcile him to his mistake. A part of Isabel’s fatigue
came from the effort to appear as intelligent as she
believed Madame Merle had described her, and from the
fear (very unusual with her) of exposing—not her
ignorance; for that she cared comparatively little—but her
possible grossness of perception. It would have annoyed
her to express a liking for something he, in his superior
enlightenment, would think she oughtn’t to like; or to


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pass by something at which the truly initiated mind would
arrest itself. She had no wish to fall into that
grotesqueness—in which she had seen women (and it was
a warning) serenely, yet ignobly, flounder. She was very
careful therefore as to what she said, as to what she noticed
or failed to notice; more careful than she had ever been
before.
   They came back into the first of the rooms, where the
tea had been served; but as the two other ladies were still
on the terrace, and as Isabel had not yet been made
acquainted with the view, the paramount distinction of
the place, Mr. Osmond directed her steps into the garden
without more delay. Madame Merle and the Countess had
had chairs brought out, and as the afternoon was lovely
the Countess proposed they should take their tea in the
open air. Pansy therefore was sent to bid the servant bring
out the preparations. The sun had got low, the golden
light took a deeper tone, and on the mountains and the
plain that stretched beneath them the masses of purple
shadow glowed as richly as the places that were still
exposed. The scene had an extraordinary charm. The air
was almost solemnly still, and the large expanse of the
landscape, with its gardenlike culture and nobleness of
outline, its teeming valley and delicately-fretted hills, its


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peculiarly human-looking touches of habitation, lay there
in splendid harmony and classic grace. ‘You seem so well
pleased that I think you can be trusted to come back,’
Osmond said as he led his companion to one of the angles
of the terrace.
   ‘I shall certainly come back,’ she returned, ‘in spite of
what you say about its being bad to live in Italy. What was
that you said about one’s natural mission? I wonder if I
should forsake my natural mission if I were to settle in
Florence.’
   ‘A woman’s natural mission is to be where she’s most
appreciated.’
   ‘The point’s to find out where that is.’
   ‘Very true—she often wastes a great deal of time in the
enquiry. People ought to make it very plain to her.’
   ‘Such a matter would have to be made very plain to
me,’ smiled Isabel.
   ‘I’m glad, at any rate, to hear you talk of settling.
Madame Merle had given me an idea that you were of a
rather roving disposition. I thought she spoke of your
having some plan of going round the world.’
   ‘I’m rather ashamed of my plans; I make a new one
every day.’



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   ‘I don’t see why you should be ashamed; it’s the
greatest of pleasures.’
   ‘It seems frivolous, I think,’ said Isabel. ‘One ought to
choose something very deliberately, and be faithful to
that.’
   ‘By that rule then, I’ve not been frivolous.’
   ‘Have you never made plans?’
   ‘Yes, I made one years ago, and I’m acting on it to-
day.’
   ‘It must have been a very pleasant one,’ Isabel
permitted herself to observe.
   ‘It was very simple. It was to be as quiet as possible.’
   ‘As quiet?’ the girl repeated.
   ‘Not to worry—not to strive nor struggle. To resign
myself. To be content with little.’ He spoke these
sentences slowly, with short pauses between, and his
intelligent regard was fixed on his visitor’s with the
conscious air of a man who has brought himself to confess
something.
   ‘Do you call that simple?’ she asked with mild irony.
   ‘Yes, because it’s negative.’
   ‘Has your life been negative?’




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    ‘Call it affirmative if you like. Only it has affirmed my
indifference. Mind you, not my natural indifference—I
had none. But my studied, my wilful renunciation.’
    She scarcely understood him; it seemed a question
whether he were joking or not. Why should a man who
struck her as having a great fund of reserve suddenly bring
himself to be so confidential? This was his affair, however,
and his confidences were interesting. ‘I don’t see why you
should have renounced,’ she said in a moment.
    ‘Because I could do nothing. I had no prospects, I was
poor, and I was not a man of genius. I had no talents even;
I took my measure early in life. I was simply the most
fastidious young gentleman living. There were two or
three people in the world I envied—the Emperor of
Russia, for instance, and the Sultan of Turkey! There were
even moments when I envied the Pope of Rome—for the
consideration he enjoys. I should have been delighted to
be considered to that extent; but since that couldn’t be I
didn’t care for anything less, and I made up my mind not
to go in for honours. The leanest gentleman can always
consider himself, and fortunately I was, though lean, a
gentleman. I could do nothing in Italy—I couldn’t even
be an Italian patriot. To do that I should have had to get
out of the country; and I was too fond of it to leave it, to


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say nothing of my being too well satisfied with it, on the
whole, as it then was, to wish it altered. So I’ve passed a
great many years here on that quiet plan I spoke of. I’ve
not been at all unhappy. I don’t mean to say I’ve cared for
nothing; but the things I’ve cared for have been definite—
limited. The events of my life have been absolutely
unperceived by any one save myself; getting an old silver
crucifix at a bargain (I’ve never bought anything dear, of
course), or discovering, as I once did, a sketch by
Correggio on a panel daubed over by some inspired idiot.’
    This would have been rather a dry account of Mr.
Osmond’s’ career if Isabel had fully believed it; but her
imagination supplied the human element which she was
sure had not been wanting. His life had been mingled with
other lives more than he admitted; naturally she couldn’t
expect him to enter into this. For the present she abstained
from provoking further revelations; to intimate that he had
not told her everything would be more familiar and less
considerate than she now desired to be—would in fact be
uproariously vulgar. He had certainly told her quite
enough. It was her present inclination, however, to
express a measured sympathy for the success with which
he had preserved his independence. ‘That’s a very pleasant
life,’ she said, ‘to renounce everything but Correggio!’


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    ‘Oh, I’ve made in my way a good thing of it. Don’t
imagine I’m whining about it. It’s one’s own fault if one
isn’t happy.’
    This was large; she kept down to something smaller.
‘Have you lived here always?’
    ‘No, not always. I lived a long time at Naples, and
many years in Rome. But I’ve been here a good while.
Perhaps I shall have to change, however; to do something
else. I’ve no longer myself to think of. My daughter’s
growing up and may very possibly not care so much for
the Correggios and crucifixes as I. I shall have to do what’s
best for Pansy.’
    ‘Yes, do that,’ said Isabel. ‘She’s such a dear little girl.’
    ‘Ah,’ cried Gilbert Osmond beautifully, ‘she’s a little
saint of heaven! She is my great happiness!’




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                         Chapter 25

    While this sufficiently intimate colloquy (prolonged for
some time after we cease to follow it) went forward
Madame Merle and her companion, breaking a silence of
some duration, had begun to exchange remarks. They
were sitting in an attitude of unexpressed expectancy; an
attitude especially marked on the part of the Countess
Gemini, who, being of a more nervous temperament than
her friend, practised with less success the art of disguising
impatience. What these ladies were waiting for would not
have been apparent and was perhaps not very definite to
their own minds. Madame Merle waited for Osmond to
release their young friend from her tete-a-tete, and the
Countess waited because Madame Merle did. The
Countess, moreover, by waiting, found the time ripe for
one of her pretty perversities. She might have desired for
some minutes to place it. Her brother wandered with
Isabel to the end of the garden, to which point her eyes
followed them.
    ‘My dear,’ she then observed to her companion, ‘you’ll
excuse me if I don’t congratulate you!’




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     ‘Very willingly, for I don’t in the least know why you
should.’
     ‘Haven’t you a little plan that you think rather well of?’
And the Countess nodded at the sequestered couple.
     Madame Merle’s eyes took the same direction; then she
looked serenely at her neighbour. ‘You know I never
understand you very well,’ she smiled.
     ‘No one can understand better than you when you
wish. I see that just now you don’t wish.’
     ‘You say things to me that no one else does,’ said
Madame Merle gravely, yet without bitterness.
     ‘You mean things you don’t like? Doesn’t Osmond
sometimes say such things?’
     ‘What your brother says has a point.’
     ‘Yes, a poisoned one sometimes. If you mean that I’m
not so clever as he you mustn’t think I shall suffer from
your sense of our difference. But it will be much better
that you should understand me.’
     ‘Why so?’ asked Madame Merle. ‘To what will it
conduce?’
     ‘If I don’t approve of your plan you ought to know it
in order to appreciate the danger of my interfering with
it.’



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   Madame Merle looked as if she were ready to admit
that there might be something in this; but in a moment
she said quietly: ‘You think me more calculating than I
am.’
   ‘It’s not your calculating I think ill of; it’s your
calculating wrong. You’ve done so in this case.’
   ‘You must have made extensive calculations yourself to
discover that.’
   ‘No, I’ve not had time. I’ve seen the girl but this once,’
said the Countess, ‘and the conviction has suddenly come
to me. I like her very much.’
   ‘So do I,’ Madame Merle mentioned.
   ‘You’ve a strange way of showing it.’
   ‘Surely I’ve given her the advantage of making your
acquaintance.’
   ‘That indeed,’ piped the Countess, ‘is perhaps the best
thing that could happen to her!’
   Madame Merle said nothing for some time. The
Countess’s manner was odious, was really low; but it was
an old story, and with her eyes upon the violet slope of
Monte Morello she gave herself up to reflection. ‘My dear
lady,’ she finally resumed, ‘I advise you not to agitate
yourself. The matter you allude to concerns three persons
much stronger of purpose than yourself.’


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    ‘Three persons? You and Osmond of course. But is
Miss Archer also very strong of purpose?’
    ‘Quite as much so as we.’
    ‘Ah then,’ said the Countess radiantly, ‘if I convince
her it’s her interest to resist you she’ll do so successfully!’
    ‘Resist us? Why do you express yourself so coarsely?
She’s not exposed to compulsion or deception.’
    ‘I’m not sure of that. You’re capable of anything, you
and Osmond. I don’t mean Osmond by himself, and I
don’t mean you by yourself. But together you’re
dangerous—like some chemical combination.’
    ‘You had better leave us alone then,’ smiled Madame
Merle.
    ‘I don’t mean to touch you—but I shall talk to that
girl.’
    ‘My poor Amy,’ Madame Merle murmured, ‘I don’t
see what has got into your head.’
    ‘I take an interest in her—that’s what has got into my
head. I like her.’
    Madame Merle hesitated a moment. ‘I don’t think she
likes you.’
    The Countess’s bright little eyes expanded and her face
was set in a grimace. ‘Ah, you are dangerous—even by
yourself!’


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   ‘If you want her to like you don’t abuse your brother
to her,’ said Madame Merle.
   ‘I don’t suppose you pretend she has fallen in love with
him in two interviews.’
   Madame Merle looked a moment at Isabel and at the
master of the house. He was leaning against the parapet,
facing her, his arms folded; and she at present was
evidently not lost in the mere impersonal view,
persistently as she gazed at it. As Madame Merle watched
her she lowered her eyes; she was listening, possibly with a
certain embarrassment, while she pressed the point of her
parasol into the path. Madame Merle rose from her chair.
‘Yes, I think so!’ she pronounced.
   The shabby footboy, summoned by Pansy—he might,
tarnished as to livery and quaint as to type, have issued
from some stray sketch of old-time manners, been ‘put in’
by the brush of a Longhi or a Goya- had come out with a
small table and placed it on the grass, and then had gone
back and fetched the tea-tray; after which he had again
disappeared, to return with a couple of chairs. Pansy had
watched these proceedings with the deepest interest,
standing with her small hands folded together upon the
front of her scanty frock; but she had not presumed to



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offer assistance. When the tea-table had been arranged,
however, she gently approached her aunt.
    ‘Do you think papa would object to my making the
tea?’
    The Countess looked at her with a deliberately critical
gaze and without answering her question.
    ‘My poor niece,’ she said, ‘is that your best frock?’
    ‘Ah no,’ Pansy answered, ‘it’s just a little toilette for
common occasions.’
    ‘Do you call it a common occasion when I come to see
you?—to say nothing of Madame Merle and the pretty
lady yonder.’
    Pansy reflected a moment, turning gravely from one of
the persons mentioned to the other. Then her face broke
into its perfect smile. ‘I have a pretty dress, but even that
one’s very simple. Why should I expose it beside your
beautiful things?’
    ‘Because it’s the prettiest you have; for me you must
always wear the prettiest. Please put it on the next time. It
seems to me they don’t dress you so well as they might.’
    The child sparingly stroked down her antiquated skirt.
‘It’s a good little dress to make tea—don’t you think?
Don’t you believe papa would allow me?’



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    ‘Impossible for me to say, my child,’ said the Countess.
‘For me, your father’s ideas are unfathomable. Madame
Merle understands them better. Ask her.’
    Madame Merle smiled with her usual grace. ‘It’s a
weighty question—let me think. It seems to me it would
please your father to see a careful little daughter making
his tea. It’s the proper duty of the daughter of the house—
when she grows up.’
    ‘So it seems to me, Madame Merle!’ Pansy cried. ‘You
shall see how well I’ll make it. A spoonful for each.’ And
she began to busy herself at the table.
    ‘Two spoonfuls for me,’ said the Countess, who, with
Madame Merle, remained for some moments watching
her. ‘Listen to me, Pansy,’ the Countess resumed at last. ‘I
should like to know what you think of your visitor.’
    ‘Ah, she’s not mine—she’s papa’s,’ Pansy objected.
    ‘Miss Archer came to see you as well,’ said Madame
Merle.
    ‘I’m very happy to hear that. She has been very polite
to me.’
    ‘Do you like her then?’ the Countess asked.
    ‘She’s charming—charming,’ Pansy repeated in her
little neat conversational tone. ‘She pleases me
thoroughly.’


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    ‘And how do you think she pleases your father?’
    ‘Ah really, Countess!’ murmured Madame Merle
dissuasively. ‘Go and call them to tea,’ she went on to the
child.
    ‘You’ll see if they don’t like it!’ Pansy declared; and
departed to summon the others, who had still lingered at
the end of the terrace.
    ‘If Miss Archer’s to become her mother it’s surely
interesting to know if the child likes her,’ said the
Countess.
    ‘If your brother marries again it won’t be for Pansy’s
sake,’ Madame Merle replied. ‘She’ll soon be sixteen, and
after that she’ll begin to need a husband rather than a
stepmother.’
    ‘And will you provide the husband as well?’
    ‘I shall certainly take an interest in her marrying
fortunately. I imagine you’ll do the same.’
    ‘Indeed I shan’t!’ cried the Countess. ‘Why should I, of
all women, set such a price on a husband?’
    ‘You didn’t marry fortunately; that’s what I’m speaking
of. When I say a husband I mean a good one.’
    ‘There are no good ones. Osmond won’t be a good
one.’



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    Madame Merle closed her eyes a moment. ‘You’re
irritated just now; I don’t know why,’ she presently said. ‘I
don’t think you’ll really object either to your brother’s or
to your niece’s marrying when the time comes for them to
do so; and as regards Pansy I’m confident that we shall
some day have the pleasure of looking for a husband for
her together. Your large acquaintance will be a great help.’
    ‘Yes, I’m irritated,’ the Countess answered. ‘You often
irritate me. Your own coolness is fabulous. You’re a
strange woman.’
    ‘It’s much better that we should always act together,’
Madame Merle went on.
    ‘Do you mean that as a threat?’ asked the Countess
rising.
    Madame Merle shook her head as for quiet amusement.
‘No indeed, you’ve not my coolness!’
    Isabel and Mr. Osmond were now slowly coming
toward them and Isabel had taken Pansy by the hand. ‘Do
you pretend to believe he’d make her happy?’ the
Countess demanded.
    ‘If he should marry Miss Archer I suppose he’d behave
like a gentleman.
    The Countess jerked herself into a succession of
attitudes. ‘Do you mean as most gentlemen behave? That


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would be much to be thankful for! Of course Osmond’s a
gentleman; his own sister needn’t be reminded of that. But
does he think he can marry any girl he happens to pick
out? Osmond’s a gentleman, of course; but I must say I’ve
never, no, no, never, seen any one of Osmond’s
pretensions! What they’re all founded on is more than I
can say. I’m his own sister; I might be supposed to know.
Who is he, if you please? What has he ever done? If there
had been anything particularly grand in his origin—if he
were made of some superior clay—I presume I should
have got some inkling of it. If there had been any great
honours or splendours in the family I should certainly have
made the most of them: they would have been quite in
my line. But there’s nothing, nothing, nothing. One’s
parents were charming people of course; but so were
yours, I’ve no doubt. Every one’s a charming person now-
a-days. Even I’m a charming person; don’t laugh, it has
literally been said. As for Osmond, he has always appeared
to believe that he’s descended from the gods.’
    ‘You may say what you please,’ said Madame Merle,
who had listened to this quick outbreak none the less
attentively, we may believe, because her eye wandered
away from the speaker and her hands busied themselves
with adjusting the knots of ribbon on her dress. ‘You


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Osmonds are a fine race—your blood must flow from
some very pure source. Your brother, like an intelligent
man, has had the conviction of it if he has not had the
proofs. You’re modest about it, but you yourself are
extremely distinguished. What do you say about your
niece? The child’s a little princess. Nevertheless,’ Madame
Merle added, ‘it won’t be an easy matter for Osmond to
marry Miss Archer. Yet he can try.’
   ‘I hope she’ll refuse him. It will take him down a little.’
   ‘We mustn’t forget that he is one of the cleverest of
men.’
   ‘I’ve heard you say that before, but I haven’t yet
discovered what he has done.’
   ‘What he has done? He has done nothing that has had
to be undone. And he has known how to wait.’
   ‘To wait for Miss Archer’s money? How much of it is
there?’
   ‘That’s not what I mean,’ said Madame Merle. ‘Miss
Archer has seventy thousand pounds.’
   ‘Well, it’s a pity she’s so charming,’ the Countess
declared. ‘To be sacrificed, any girl would do. She needn’t
be superior.’
   ‘If she weren’t superior your brother would never look
at her. He must have the best.’


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    ‘Yes,’ returned the Countess as they went forward a
little to meet the others, ‘he’s very hard to satisfy. That
makes me tremble for her happiness!’




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                         Chapter 26

    Gilbert Osmond came to see Isabel again; that is he
came to Palazzo Crescentini. He had other friends there as
well, and to Mrs. Touchett and Madame Merle he was
always impartially civil; but the former of these ladies
noted the fact that in the course of a fortnight he called
five times, and compared it with another fact that she
found no difficulty in remembering. Two visits a year had
hitherto constituted his regular tribute to Mrs. Touchett’s
worth, and she had never observed him select for such
visits those moments, of almost periodical recurrence,
when Madame Merle was under her roof. It was not for
Madame Merle that he came; these two were old friends
and he never put himself out for her. He was not fond of
Ralph—Ralph had told her so—and it was not supposable
that Mr. Osmond had suddenly taken a fancy to her son.
Ralph was imperturbable—Ralph had a kind of loose-
fitting urbanity that wrapped him about like an ill-made
overcoat, but of which he never divested himself; he
thought Mr. Osmond very good company and was willing
at any time to look at him in the light of hospitality. But
he didn’t flatter himself that the desire to repair a past


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injustice was the motive of their visitor’s calls; he read the
situation more clearly. Isabel was the attraction, and in all
conscience a sufficient one. Osmond was a critic, a student
of the exquisite, and it was natural he should be curious of
so rare an apparition. So when his mother observed to him
that it was plain what Mr. Osmond was thinking of, Ralph
replied that he was quite of her opinion. Mrs. Touchett
had from far back found a place on her scant list for this
gentleman, though wondering dimly by what art and what
process—so negative and so wise as they were—he had
everywhere effectively imposed himself. As he had never
been an importunate visitor he had had no chance to be
offensive, and he was recommended to her by his
appearance of being as well able to do without her as she
was to do without him—a quality that always, oddly
enough, affected her as providing ground for a relation
with her. It gave her no satisfaction, however, to think
that he had taken it into his head to marry her niece. Such
an alliance, on Isabel’s part, would have an air of almost
morbid perversity. Mrs. Touchett easily remembered that
the girl had refused an English peer; and that a young lady
with whom Lord Warburton had not successfully wrestled
should content herself with an obscure American
dilettante, a middle-aged widower with an uncanny child


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and an ambiguous income, this answered to nothing in
Mrs. Touchett’s conception of success. She took, it will be
observed, not the sentimental, but the political, view of
matrimony—a view which has always had much to
recommend it. ‘I trust she won’t have the folly to listen to
him,’ she said to her son; to which Ralph replied that
Isabel’s listening was one thing and Isabel’s answering
quite another. He knew she had listened to several parties,
as his father would have said, but had made them listen in
return; and he found much entertainment in the idea that
in these few months of his knowing her he should observe
a fresh suitor at her gate. She had wanted to see life, and
fortune was serving her to her taste; a succession of fine
gentlemen going down on their knees to her would do as
well as anything else. Ralph looked forward to a fourth, a
fifth, a tenth besieger; he had no conviction she would
stop at a third. She would keep the gate ajar and open a
parley; she would certainly not allow number three to
come in. He expressed this view, somewhat after this
fashion, to his mother, who looked at him as if he had
been dancing a jig. He had such a fanciful, pictorial way of
saying things that he might as well address her in the deaf-
mute’s alphabet.



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    ‘I don’t think I know what you mean,’ she said; ‘you
use too many figures of speech; I could never understand
allegories. The two words in the language I most respect
are Yes and No. If Isabel wants to marry Mr. Osmond
she’ll do so in spite of all your comparisons. Let her alone
to find a fine one herself for anything she undertakes. I
know very little about the young man in America; I don’t
think she spends much of her time in thinking of him, and
I suspect he has got tired of waiting for her. There’s
nothing in life to prevent her marrying Mr. Osmond if she
only looks at him in a certain way. That’s all very well; no
one approves more than I of one’s pleasing one’s self. But
she takes her pleasure in such odd things; she’s capable of
marrying Mr. Osmond for the beauty of his opinions or
for his autograph of Michael Angelo. She wants to be
disinterested: as if she were the only person who’s in
danger of not being so! Will he be so disinterested when
he has the spending of her money? That was her idea
before your father’s death, and it has acquired new charms
for her since. She ought to marry some one of whose
disinterestedness she shall herself be sure; and there would
be no such proof of that as his having a fortune of his
own.’



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   ‘My dear mother, I’m not afraid,’ Ralph answered.
‘She’s making fools of us all. She’ll please herself, of
course; but she’ll do so by studying human nature at close
quarters and yet retaining her liberty. She has started on an
exploring expedition, and I don’t think she’ll change her
course, at the outset, at a signal from Gilbert Osmond. She
may have slackened speed for an hour, but before we
know it she’ll be steaming away again. Excuse another
metaphor.’
   Mrs. Touchett excused it perhaps, but was not so much
reassured as to withhold from Madame Merle the
expression of her fears. ‘You who know everything,’ she
said, ‘you must know this: whether that curious creature’s
really making love to my niece.’
   ‘Gilbert Osmond?’ Madame Merle widened her clear
eyes and, with a full intelligence, ‘Heaven help us,’ she
exclaimed, ‘that’s an idea!’
   ‘Hadn’t it occurred to you?’
   ‘You make me feel an idiot, but I confess it hadn’t. I
wonder,’ she added, ‘if it has occurred to Isabel.’
   ‘Oh, I shall now ask her,’ said Mrs. Touchett.
   Madame Merle reflected. ‘Don’t put it into her head.
The thing would be to ask Mr. Osmond.’



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   ‘I can’t do that,’ said Mrs. Touchett. ‘I won’t have him
enquire of me—as he perfectly may with that air of his,
given Isabel’s situation—what business it is of mine.’
   ‘I’ll ask him myself,’ Madame Merle bravely declared.
   ‘But what business—for him—is it of yours?’
   ‘It’s being none whatever is just why I can afford to
speak. It’s so much less my business than any one’s else
that he can put me off with anything he chooses. But it
will be by the way he does this that I shall know.’
   ‘Pray let me hear then,’ said Mrs. Touchett, ‘of the
fruits of your penetration. If I can’t speak to him,
however, at least I can speak to Isabel.’
   Her companion sounded at this the note of warning.
‘Don’t be too quick with her. Don’t inflame her
imagination.’
   ‘I never did anything in my life to any one’s
imagination. But I’m always sure of her doing
something—well, not of my kind.’
   ‘No, you wouldn’t like this,’ Madame Merle observed
without the point of interrogation.
   ‘Why in the world should I, pray? Mr. Osmond has
nothing the least solid to offer.’
   Again Madame Merle was silent while her thoughtful
smile drew up her mouth even more charmingly than


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usual toward the left corner. ‘Let us distinguish. Gilbert
Osmond’s certainly not the first comer. He’s a man who
in favourable conditions might very well make a great
impression. He has made a great impression, to my
knowledge, more than once.’
    ‘Don’t tell me about his probably quite cold-blooded
love-affairs; they’re nothing to me!’ Mrs. Touchett cried.
‘What you say’s precisely why I wish he would cease his
visits. He has nothing in the world that I know of but a
dozen or two of early masters and a more or less pert little
daughter.’
    ‘The early masters are now worth a good deal of
money,’ said Madame Merle, ‘and the daughter’s a very
young and very innocent and very harmless person.’
    ‘In other words she’s an insipid little chit. Is that what
you mean? Having no fortune she can’t hope to marry as
they marry here; so that Isabel will have to furnish her
either with a maintenance or with a dowry.’
    ‘Isabel probably wouldn’t object to being kind to her. I
think she likes the poor child.’
    ‘Another reason then for Mr. Osmond’s stopping at
home! Otherwise, a week hence, we shall have my niece
arriving at the conviction that her mission in life’s to prove



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that a stepmother may sacrifice herself- and that, to prove
it, she must first become one.’
    ‘She would make a charming stepmother,’ smiled
Madame Merle; ‘but I quite agree with you that she had
better not decide upon her mission too hastily. Changing
the form of one’s mission’s almost as difficult as changing
the shape of one’s nose: there they are, each, in the middle
of one’s face and one’s character—one has to begin too far
back. But I’ll investigate and report to you.’
    All this went on quite over Isabel’s head; she had no
suspicions that her relations with Mr. Osmond were being
discussed. Madame Merle had said nothing to put her on
her guard; she alluded no more pointedly to him than to
the other gentlemen of Florence, native and foreign, who
now arrived in considerable numbers to pay their respects
to Miss Archer’s aunt. Isabel thought him interesting—she
came back to that; she liked so to think of him. She had
carried away an image from her visit to his hill-top which
her subsequent knowledge of him did nothing to efface
and which put on for her a particular harmony with other
supposed and divined things, histories within histories: the
image of a quiet, clever, sensitive, distinguished man,
strolling on a moss-grown terrace above the sweet Val
d’Arno and holding by the hand a little girl whose bell-


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like clearness gave a new grace to childhood. The picture
had no flourishes, but she liked its lowness of tone and the
atmosphere of summer twilight that pervaded it. It spoke
of the kind of personal issue that touched her most nearly;
of the choice between objects, subjects, contacts—what
might she call them?—of a thin and those of a rich
association; of a lonely, studious life in a lovely land; of an
old sorrow that sometimes ached to-day; of a feeling of
pride that was perhaps exaggerated, but that had an
element of nobleness; of a care for beauty and perfection
so natural and so cultivated together that the career
appeared to stretch beneath it in the disposed vistas and
with the ranges of steps and terraces and fountains of a
formal Italian garden—allowing only for arid places
freshened by the natural dews of a quaint half-anxious,
half-helpless fatherhood. At Palazzo Crescentini Mr.
Osmond’s manner remained the same; diffident at first- oh
self-conscious beyond doubt! and full of the effort (visible
only to a sympathetic eye) to overcome this disadvantage;
an effort which usually resulted in a great deal of easy,
lively, very positive, rather aggressive, always suggestive
talk. Mr. Osmond’s talk was not injured by the indication
of an eagerness to shine; Isabel found no difficulty in
believing that a person was sincere who had so many of


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the signs of strong conviction—as for instance an explicit
and graceful appreciation of anything that might be said on
his own side of the question, said perhaps by Miss Archer
in especial. What continued to please this young woman
was that while he talked so for amusement he didn’t talk,
as she had heard people, for ‘effect.’ He uttered his ideas as
if, odd as they often appeared, he were used to them and
had lived with them; old polished knobs and heads and
handles, of precious substance, that could be fitted if
necessary to new walking-sticks—not switches plucked in
destitution from the common tree and then too elegantly
waved about. One day he brought his small daughter with
him, and she rejoiced to renew acquaintance with the
child, who, as she presented her forehead to be kissed by
every member of the circle, reminded her vividly of an
ingenue in a French play. Isabel had never seen a little
person of this pattern; American girls were very
different—different too were the maidens of England.
Pansy was so formed and finished for her tiny place in the
world, and yet in imagination, as one could see, so
innocent and infantine. She sat on the sofa by Isabel; she
wore a small grenadine mantle and a pair of the useful
gloves that Madame Merle had given her—little grey
gloves with a single button. She was like a sheet of blank


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paper—the ideal jeune fille of foreign fiction. Isabel hoped
that so fair and smooth a page would be covered with an
edifying text.
    The Countess Gemini also came to call upon her, but
the Countess was quite another affair. She was by no
means a blank sheet; she had been written over in a variety
of hands, and Mrs. Touchett, who felt by no means
honoured by her visit, pronounced that a number of
unmistakeable blots were to be seen upon her surface. The
Countess gave rise indeed to some discussion between the
mistress of the house and the visitor from Rome, in which
Madame Merle (who was not such a fool as to irritate
people by always agreeing with them) availed herself
felicitously enough of that large licence of dissent which
her hostess permitted as freely as she practised it. Mrs.
Touchett had declared it a piece of audacity that this
highly compromised character should have presented
herself at such a time of day at the door of a house in
which she was esteemed so little as she must long have
known herself to be at Palazzo Crescentini. Isabel had
been made acquainted with the estimate prevailing under
that roof: it represented Mr. Osmond’s sister as a lady who
had so mismanaged her improprieties that they had ceased
to hang together at all—which was at the least what one


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asked of such matters—and had become the mere floating
fragments of a wrecked renown, incommoding social
circulation. She had been married by her mother—a more
administrative person, with an appreciation of foreign titles
which the daughter, to do her justice, had probably by this
time thrown off- to Italian nobleman who had perhaps
given her some excuse for attempting to quench the
consciousness of outrage. The Countess, however, had
consoled herself outrageously, and the list of her excuses
had now lost itself in the labyrinth of her adventures. Mrs.
Touchett had never consented to receive her, though the
Countess had made overtures of old. Florence was not an
austere city; but, as Mrs. Touchett said, she had to draw
the line somewhere.
   Madame Merle defended the luckless lady with a great
deal of zeal and wit. She couldn’t see why Mrs. Touchett
should make a scapegoat of a woman who had really done
no harm, who had only done good in the wrong way.
One must certainly draw the line, but while one was
about it one should draw it straight: it was a very crooked
chalk-mark that would exclude the Countess Gemini. In
that case Mrs. Touchett had better shut up her house; this
perhaps would be the best course so long as she remained
in Florence. One must be fair and not make arbitrary


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differences: the Countess had doubtless been imprudent,
she had not been so clever as other women. She was a
good creature, not clever at all; but since when had that
been a ground of exclusion from the best society? For ever
so long now one had heard nothing about her, and there
could be no better proof of her having renounced the
error of her ways than her desire to become a member of
Mrs. Touchett’s circle. Isabel could contribute nothing to
this interesting dispute, not even a patient attention; she
contented herself with having given a friendly welcome to
the unfortunate lady, who, whatever her defects, had at
least the merit of being Mr. Osmond’s sister. As she liked
the brother Isabel thought it proper to try and like the
sister: in spite of the growing complexity of things she was
still capable of these primitive sequences. She had not
received the happiest impression of the Countess on
meeting her at the villa, but was thankful for an
opportunity to repair the accident. Had not Mr. Osmond
remarked that she was a respectable person? To have
proceeded from Gilbert Osmond this was a crude
proposition, but Madame Merle bestowed upon it a
certain improving polish. She told Isabel more about the
poor Countess than Mr. Osmond had done, and related
the history of her marriage and its consequences. The


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Count was a member of an ancient Tuscan family, but of
such small estate that he had been glad to accept Amy
Osmond, in spite of the questionable beauty which had
yet not hampered her career, with the modest dowry her
mother was able to offer—a sum about equivalent to that
which had already formed her brother’s share of their
patrimony. Count Gemini since then, however, had
inherited money, and now they were well enough off, as
Italians went, though Amy was horribly extravagant. The
Count was a low-lived brute; he had given his wife every
pretext. She had no children; she had lost three within a
year of their birth. Her mother, who had bristled with
pretensions to elegant learning and published descriptive
poems and corresponded on Italian subjects with the
English weekly journals, her mother had died three years
after the Countess’s marriage, the father, lost in the grey
American dawn of the situation, but reputed originally
rich and wild, having died much earlier. One could see
this in Gilbert Osmond, Madame Merle held- see that he
had been brought up by a woman; though, to do him
justice, one would suppose it had been by a more sensible
woman than the American Corinne, as Mrs. Osmond had
liked to be called. She had brought her children to Italy
after her husband’s death, and Mrs. Touchett remembered


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her during the year that followed her arrival. She thought
her a horrible snob; but this was an irregularity of
judgement on Mrs. Touchett’s part, for she, like Mrs.
Osmond, approved of political marriages. The Countess
was very good company and not really the featherhead she
seemed; all one had to do with her was to observe the
simple condition of not believing a word she said.
Madame Merle had always made the best of her for her
brother’s sake; he appreciated any kindness shown to
Amy, because (if it had to be confessed for him) he rather
felt she let down their common name. Naturally he
couldn’t like her style, her shrillness, her egotism, her
violations of taste and above all of truth: she acted badly
on his nerves, she was not his sort of woman. What was
his sort of woman? Oh, the very opposite of the Countess,
a woman to whom the truth should be habitually sacred.
Isabel was unable to estimate the number of times her
visitor had, in half an hour, profaned it: the Countess
indeed had given her an impression of rather silly sincerity.
She had talked almost exclusively about herself; how much
she should like to know Miss Archer; how thankful she
should be for a real friend; how base the people in
Florence were; how tired she was of the place; how much
she should like to live somewhere else—in Paris, in


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London, in Washington; how impossible it was to get
anything nice to wear in Italy except a little old lace; how
dear the world was growing everywhere; what a life of
suffering and privation she had led. Madame Merle
listened with interest to Isabel’s account of this passage,
but she had not needed it to feel exempt from anxiety. On
the whole she was not afraid of the Countess, and she
could afford to do what was altogether best—not to
appear so.
    Isabel had meanwhile another visitor, whom it was not,
even behind her back, so easy a matter to patronize.
Henrietta Stackpole, who had left Paris after Mrs.
Touchett’s departure for San Remo and had worked her
way down, as she said, through the cities of North Italy,
reached the banks of the Arno about the middle of May.
Madame Merle surveyed her with a single glance, took her
in from head to foot, and after a pang of despair
determined to endure her. She determined indeed to
delight in her. She mightn’t be inhaled as a rose, but she
might be grasped as a nettle. Madame Merle genially
squeezed her into insignificance, and Isabel felt that in
foreseeing this liberality she had done justice to her
friend’s intelligence. Henrietta’s arrival had been
announced by Mr. Bantling, who, coming down from


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Nice while she was at Venice, and expecting to find her in
Florence, which she had not yet reached, called at Palazzo
Crescentini to express his disappointment. Henrietta’s own
advent occurred two days later and produced in Mr.
Bantling an emotion amply accounted for by the fact that
he had not seen her since the termination of the episode at
Versailles. The humorous view of his situation was
generally taken, but it was uttered only by Ralph
Touchett, who, in the privacy of his own apartment,
when Bantling smoked a cigar there, indulged in goodness
knew what strong comedy on the subject of the all-
judging one and her British backer. This gentleman took
the joke in perfectly good part and candidly confessed that
he regarded the affair as a positive intellectual adventure.
He liked Miss Stackpole extremely; he thought she had a
wonderful head on her shoulders, and found great comfort
in the society of a woman who was not perpetually
thinking about what would be said and how what she did,
how what they did—and they had done things!—would
look. Miss Stackpole never cared how anything looked,
and, if she didn’t care, pray why should he? But his
curiosity had been roused; he wanted awfully to see if she
ever would care. He was prepared to go as far as she—he
didn’t see why he should break down first.


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    Henrietta showed no signs of breaking down. Her
prospects had brightened on her leaving England, and she
was now in the full enjoyment of her copious resources.
She had indeed been obliged to sacrifice her hopes with
regard to the inner life; the social question, on the
Continent, bristled with difficulties even more numerous
than those she had encountered in England. But on the
Continent there was the outer life, which was palpable
and visible at every turn, and more easily convertible to
literary uses than the customs of those opaque islanders.
Out of doors in foreign lands, as she ingeniously remarked,
one seemed to see the right side of the tapestry; out of
doors in England one seemed to see the wrong side,
which gave one no notion of the figure. The admission
costs her historian a pang, but Henrietta, despairing of
more occult things, was now paying much attention to the
outer life. She had been studying it for two months at
Venice, from which city she sent to the Interviewer a
conscientious account of the gondolas, the Piazza, the
Bridge of Sighs, the pigeons and the young boatman who
chanted Tasso. The Interviewer was perhaps disappointed,
but Henrietta was at least seeing Europe. Her present
purpose was to get down to Rome before the malaria
should come on—he apparently supposed that it began on


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a fixed day; and with this design she was to spend at
present but few days in Florence. Mr. Bantling was to go
with her to Rome, and she pointed out to Isabel that as he
had been there before, as he was a military man and as he
had had a classical education—he had been bred at Eton,
where they study nothing but Latin and Whyte-Melville,
said Miss Stackpole—he would be a most useful
companion in the city of the Caesars. At this juncture
Ralph had the happy idea of proposing to Isabel that she
also, under his own escort, should make a pilgrimage to
Rome. She expected to pass a portion of the next winter
there—that was very well; but meantime there was no
harm in surveying the field. There were ten days left of
the beautiful month of May—the most precious month of
all to the true Rome lover. Isabel would become a Rome-
lover; that was a foregone conclusion. She was provided
with a trusty companion of her own sex, whose society,
thanks to the fact of other calls on this lady’s attention,
would probably not be oppressive. Madame Merle would
remain with Mrs. Touchett; she had left Rome for the
summer and wouldn’t care to return. She professed herself
delighted to be left at peace in Florence; she had locked
up her apartment and sent her cook home to Palestrina.
She urged Isabel, however, to assent to Ralph’s proposal,


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and assured her that a good introduction to Rome was not
a thing to be despised. Isabel in truth needed no urging,
and the party of four arranged its little journey. Mrs.
Touchett, on this occasion, had resigned herself to the
absence of a duenna; we have seen that she now inclined
to the belief that her niece should stand alone. One of
Isabel’s preparations consisted of her seeing Gilbert
Osmond before she started and mentioning her intention
to him.
     ‘I should like to be in Rome with you,’ he
commented. ‘I should like to see you on that wonderful
ground.’
     She scarcely faltered. ‘You might come then.’
     ‘But you’ll have a lot of people with you.’
     ‘Ah,’ Isabel admitted, ‘of course I shall not be alone.’
     For a moment he said nothing more. ‘You’ll like it,’ he
went on at last. They’ve spoiled it, but you’ll rave about
it.’
     ‘Ought I to dislike it because, poor old dear—the
Niobe of Nations, you know—it has been spoiled?’ she
asked.
     ‘No, I think not. It has been spoiled so often,’ he
smiled: ‘If I were to go, what should I do with my little
girl?’


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   ‘Can’t you leave her at the villa?’
   ‘I don’t know that I like that—though there’s a very
good old woman who looks after her. I can’t afford a
governess.’
   ‘Bring her with you then,’ said Isabel promptly.
   Mr. Osmond looked grave. ‘She has been in Rome all
winter, at her convent; and she’s too young to make
journeys of pleasure.’
   ‘You don’t like bringing her forward?’ Isabel enquired.
   ‘No, I think young girls should be kept out of the
world.’
   ‘I was brought up on a different system.’
   ‘You? Oh, with you it succeeded, because you—you
were exceptional.’
   ‘I don’t see why,’ said Isabel, who, however, was not
sure there was not some truth in the speech.
   Mr. Osmond didn’t explain; he simply went on: ‘If I
thought it would make her resemble you to join a social
group in Rome I’d take her there tomorrow.’
   ‘Don’t make her resemble me,’ said Isabel. ‘Keep her
like herself.’
   ‘I might send her to my sister,’ Mr. Osmond observed.
He had almost the air of asking advice; he seemed to like
to talk over his domestic matters with Miss Archer.


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   ‘Yes,’ she concurred; ‘I think that wouldn’t do much
towards making her resemble me!’
   After she had left Florence Gilbert Osmond met
Madame Merle at the Countess Gemini’s. There were
other people present; the Countess’s drawing-room was
usually well filled, and the talk had been general, but after
a while Osmond left his place and came and sat on an
ottoman half-behind, half-beside Madame Merle’s chair:
‘She wants me to go to Rome with her,’ he remarked in a
low voice.
   ‘To go with her?’
   ‘To be there while she’s there. She proposed it.’
   ‘I suppose you mean that you proposed it and she
assented.’
   ‘Of course I gave her a chance. But she’s
encouraging—she’s very encouraging.’
   ‘I rejoice to hear it—but don’t cry victory too soon. Of
course you’ll go to Rome.’
   ‘Ah,’ said Osmond, ‘it makes one work, this idea of
yours!’
   ‘Don’t pretend you don’t enjoy it—you’re very
ungrateful. You’ve not been so well occupied these many
years.’



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    ‘The way you take it’s beautiful,’ said Osmond. ‘I
ought to be grateful for that.’
    ‘Not too much so, however,’ Madame Merle
answered. She talked with her usual smile, leaning back in
her chair and looking round the room. ‘You’ve made a
very good impression, and I’ve seen for myself that you’ve
received one. You’ve not come to Mrs. Touchett’s seven
times to oblige me.’
    ‘The girl’s not disagreeable,’ Osmond quietly
conceded.
    Madame Merle dropped her eye on him a moment,
during which her lips closed with a certain firmness. ‘Is
that all you can find to say about that fine creature?’
    ‘All? Isn’t it enough? Of how many people have you
heard me say more?’
    She made no answer to this, but still presented her
talkative grace to the room. ‘You’re unfathomable,’ she
murmured at last. ‘I’m frightened at the abyss into which I
shall have cast her.’
    He took it almost gaily. ‘You can’t draw back—you’ve
gone too far.’
    ‘Very good; but you must do the rest yourself.’
    ‘I shall do it,’ said Gilbert Osmond.



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   Madame Merle remained silent and he changed his
place again; but when she rose to go he also took leave.
Mrs. Touchett’s victoria was awaiting her guest in the
court, and after he had helped his friend into it he stood
there detaining her. ‘You’re very indiscreet,’ she said
rather wearily; you shouldn’t have moved when I did.’
   He had taken off his hat; he passed his hand over his
forehead. ‘I always forget; I’m out of the habit.’
   ‘You’re quite unfathomable,’ she repeated, glancing up
at the windows of the house, a modern structure in the
new part of the town.
   He paid no heed to this remark, but spoke in his own
sense. ‘She’s really very charming. I’ve scarcely known any
one more graceful.’
   ‘It does me good to hear you say that. The better you
like her the better for me.’
   ‘I like her very much. She’s all you described her, and
into the bargain capable, I feel, of great devotion. She has
only one fault.’
   ‘What’s that?’
   ‘Too many ideas.’
   ‘I warned you she was clever.’
   ‘Fortunately they’re very bad ones,’ said Osmond.
   ‘Why is that fortunate?’


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   ‘Dame, if they must be sacrificed!’
   Madame Merle leaned back, looking straight before
her; then she spoke to the coachman. But her friend again
detained her. ‘If I go to Rome what shall I do with
Pansy?’
   ‘I’ll go and see her,’ said Madame Merle.




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                         Chapter 27

   I may not attempt to report in its fulness our young
woman’s response to the deep appeal of Rome, to analyze
her feelings as she trod the pavement of the Forum or to
number her pulsations as she crossed the threshold of Saint
Peter’s. It is enough to say that her impression was such as
might have been expected of a person of her freshness and
her eagerness. She had always been fond of history, and
here was history in the stones of the street and the atoms
of the sunshine. She had an imagination that kindled at the
mention of great deeds, and wherever she turned some
great deed had been acted. These things strongly moved
her, but moved her all inwardly. It seemed to her
companions that she talked less than usual, and Ralph
Touchett, when he appeared to be looking listlessly and
awkwardly over her head, was really dropping on her an
intensity of observation. By her own measure she was very
happy; she would even have been willing to take these
hours for the happiest she was ever to know. The sense of
the terrible human past was heavy to her, but that of
something altogether contemporary would suddenly give
it wings that it could wave in the blue. Her consciousness


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was so mixed that she scarcely knew where the different
parts of it would lead her, and she went about in a
repressed ecstasy of contemplation, seeing often in the
things she looked at a great deal more than was there, and
yet not seeing many of the items enumerated in her
Murray. Rome, as Ralph said, confessed to the
psychological moment. The herd of reechoing tourists had
departed and most of the solemn places had relapsed into
solemnity. The sky was a blaze of blue, and the plash of
the fountains in their mossy niches had lost its chill and
doubled its music. On the corners of the warm, bright
streets one stumbled on bundles of flowers. Our friends
had gone one afternoon—it was the third of their stay—to
look at the latest excavations in the Forum, these labours
having been for some time previous largely extended.
They had descended from the modern street to the level
of the Sacred Way, along which they wandered with a
reverence of step which was not the same on the part of
each. Henrietta Stackpole was struck with the fact that
ancient Rome had been paved a good deal like New
York, and even found an analogy between the deep
chariot-ruts traceable in the antique street and the over-
jangled iron grooves which express the intensity of
American life. The sun had begun to sink, the air was a


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golden haze, and the long shadows of broken column and
vague pedestal leaned across the field of ruin. Henrietta
wandered away with Mr. Bantling, whom it was
apparently delightful to her to hear speak of Julius Caesar
as a ‘cheeky old boy,’ and Ralph addressed such
elucidations as he was prepared to offer to the attentive ear
of our heroine. One of the humble archaeologists who
hover about the place had put himself at the disposal of the
two, and repeated his lesson with a fluency which the
decline of the season had done nothing to impair. A
process of digging was on view in a remote corner of the
Forum, and he presently remarked that if it should please
the signori to go and watch it a little they might see
something of interest. The proposal commended itself
more to Ralph than to Isabel, weary with much
wandering; so that she admonished her companion to
satisfy his curiosity while she patiently awaited his return.
The hour and the place were much to her taste—she
should enjoy being briefly alone. Ralph accordingly went
off with the cicerone while Isabel sat down on a prostrate
column near the foundations of the Capitol. She wanted a
short solitude, but she was not long to enjoy it. Keen as
was her interest in the rugged relics of the Roman past
that lay scattered about her and in which the corrosion of


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centuries had still left so much of individual life, her
thoughts, after resting a while on these things, had
wandered, by a concatenation of stages it might require
some subtlety to trace, to regions and objects charged with
a more active appeal. From the Roman past to Isabel
Archer’s future was a long stride, but her imagination had
taken it in a single flight and now hovered in slow circles
over the nearer and richer field. She was so absorbed in
her thoughts, as she bent her eyes upon a row of cracked
but not dislocated slabs covering the ground at her feet,
that she had not heard the sound of approaching footsteps
before a shadow was thrown across the line of her vision.
She looked up and saw a gentleman—a gentleman who
was not Ralph come back to say that the excavations were
a bore. This personage was startled as she was startled; he
stood there baring his head to her perceptibly pale
surprise.
   ‘Lord Warburton!’ Isabel exclaimed as she rose.
   ‘I had no idea it was you. I turned that corner and
came upon you.’
   She looked about her to explain. ‘I’m alone, but my
companions have just left me. My cousin’s gone to look at
the work over there.’



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   ‘Ah yes; I see.’ And Lord Warburton’s eyes wandered
vaguely in the direction she had indicated. He stood firmly
before her now; he had recovered his balance and seemed
to wish to show it, though very kindly. ‘Don’t let me
disturb you,’ he went on, looking at her dejected pillar.
‘I’m afraid you’re tired.’
   ‘Yes, I’m rather tired.’ She hesitated a moment, but sat
down again. ‘Don’t let me interrupt you,’ she added.
   ‘Oh dear, I’m quite alone, I’ve nothing on earth to do.
I had no idea you were in Rome. I’ve just come from the
East. I’m only passing through.’
   ‘You’ve been making a long journey,’ said Isabel, who
had learned from Ralph that Lord Warburton was absent
from England.
   ‘Yes, I came abroad for six months—soon after I saw
you last. I’ve been in Turkey and Asia Minor; I came the
other day from Athens.’ He managed not to be awkward,
but he wasn’t easy, and after a longer look at the girl he
came down to nature. ‘Do you wish me to leave you, or
will you let me stay a little?’
   She took it all humanely. ‘I don’t wish you to leave
me, Lord Warburton; I’m very glad to see you.’
   ‘Thank you for saying that. May I sit down?’



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    The fluted shaft on which she had taken her seat would
have afforded a resting-place to several persons, and there
was plenty of room even for a highly-developed
Englishman. This fine specimen of that great class seated
himself near our young lady, and in the course of five
minutes he had asked her several questions, taken rather at
random and to which, as he put some of them twice over,
he apparently somewhat missed catching the answer; had
given her too some information about himself which was
not wasted upon her calmer feminine sense. He repeated
more than once that he had not expected to meet her, and
it was evident that the encounter touched him in a way
that would have made preparation advisable. He began
abruptly to pass from the impunity of things to their
solemnity, and from their being delightful to their being
impossible. He was splendidly sunburnt; even his
multitudinous beard had been burnished by the fire of
Asia. He was dressed in the loose-fitting, heterogeneous
garments in which the English traveller in foreign lands is
wont to consult his comfort and affirm his nationality; and
with his pleasant steady eyes, his bronzed complexion,
fresh beneath its seasoning, his manly figure, his
minimizing manner and his general air of being a
gentleman and an explorer, he was such a representative of


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the British race as need not in any clime have been
disavowed by those who have a kindness for it. Isabel
noted these things and was glad she had always liked him.
He had kept, evidently in spite of shocks, every one of his
merits—these properties partaking of the essence of great
decent houses, as one might put it; resembling their
innermost fixtures and ornaments, not subject to vulgar
shifting and removable only by some whole break-up.
They talked of the matters naturally in order; her uncle’s
death, Ralph’s state of health, the way she had passed her
winter, her visit to Rome, her return to Florence, her
plans for the summer, the hotel she was staying at; and
then of Lord Warburton’s own adventures, movements,
intentions, impressions and present domicile. At last there
was a silence, and it said so much more than either had
said that it scarce needed his final words. ‘I’ve written to
you several times.’
    ‘Written to me? I’ve never had your letters.’
    ‘I never sent them. I burned them up.’
    ‘Ah,’ laughed Isabel, ‘it was better that you should do
that than I!’
    ‘I thought you wouldn’t care for them,’ he went on
with a simplicity that touched her. ‘It seemed to me that
after all I had no right to trouble you with letters.’


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    ‘I should have been very glad to have news of you.
You know how I hoped that—that-’ But she stopped;
there would be such a flatness in the utterance of her
thought.
    ‘I know what you’re going to say. You hoped we
should always remain good friends.’ This formula, as Lord
Warburton uttered it, was certainly flat enough; but then
he was interested in making it appear so.
    She found herself reduced simply to ‘Please don’t talk
of all that"; a speech which hardly struck her as
improvement on the other.
    ‘It’s a small consolation to allow me!’ her companion
exclaimed with force.
    ‘I can’t pretend to console you,’ said the girl, who, all
still as she sat there, threw herself back with a sort of
inward triumph on the answer that had satisfied him so
little six months before. He was pleasant, he was powerful,
he was gallant; there was no better man than he. But her
answer remained.
    ‘It’s very well you don’t try to console me; it wouldn’t
be in your power,’ she heard him say through the medium
of her strange elation.
    ‘I hoped we should meet again, because I had no fear
you would attempt to make me feel I had wronged you.


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But when you do that—the pain’s greater than the
pleasure.’ And she got up with a small conscious majesty,
looking for her companions.
   ‘I don’t want to make you feel that; of course I can’t
say that. I only just want you to know one or two
things—in fairness to myself, as it were. I won’t return to
the subject again. I felt very strongly what I expressed to
you last year; I couldn’t think of anything else. I tried to
forget—energetically, systematically. I tried to take an
interest in somebody else. I tell you this because I want
you to know I did my duty. I didn’t succeed. It was for
the same purpose I went abroad—as far away as possible.
They say travelling distracts the mind, but it didn’t distract
mine. I’ve thought of you perpetually, ever since I last saw
you. I’m exactly the same. I love you just as much, and
everything I said to you then is just as true. This instant at
which I speak to you shows me again exactly how, to my
great misfortune, you just insuperably charm me. There—
I can’t say less. I don’t mean, however, to insist; it’s only
for a moment. I may add that when I came upon you a
few minutes since, without the smallest idea of seeing you,
I was, upon my honour, in the very act of wishing I knew
where you were.’ He had recovered his self-control, and
while he spoke it became complete. He might have been


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addressing a small committee—making all quietly and
clearly a statement of importance; aided by an occasional
look at a paper of notes concealed in his hat, which he had
not again put on. And the committee, assuredly, would
have felt the point proved.
    ‘I’ve often thought of you, Lord Warburton,’ Isabel
answered. ‘You may be sure I shall always do that.’ And
she added in a tone of which she tried to keep up the
kindness and keep down the meaning: ‘There’s no harm
in that on either side.’
    They walked along together, and she was prompt to ask
about his sisters and request him to let them know she had
done so. He made for the moment no further reference to
their great question, but dipped again into shallower and
safer waters. But he wished to know when she was to
leave Rome, and on her mentioning the limit of her stay
declared he was glad it was still so distant.
    ‘Why do you say that if you yourself are only passing
through?’ she enquired with some anxiety.
    ‘Ah, when I said I was passing through I didn’t mean
that one would treat Rome as if it were Clapham
Junction. To pass through Rome is to stop a week or
two.’
    ‘Say frankly that you mean to stay as long as I do!’


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   His flushed smile, for a little, seemed to sound her.
‘You won’t like that. You’re afraid you’ll see too much of
me.’
   ‘It doesn’t matter what I like. I certainly can’t expect
you to leave this delightful place on my account. But I
confess I’m afraid of you.’
   ‘Afraid I’ll begin again? I promise to be very careful.’
   They had gradually stopped and they stood a moment
face to face. ‘Poor Lord Warburton!’ she said with a
compassion intended to be good for both of them.
   ‘Poor Lord Warburton indeed! But I’ll be careful.’
   ‘You may be unhappy, but you shall not make me so.
That I can’t allow.’
   ‘If I believed I could make you unhappy I think I
should try it.’ At this she walked in advance and he also
proceeded. ‘I’ll never say a word to displease you.’
   ‘Very good. If you do, our friendship’s at an end.’
   ‘Perhaps some day—after a while—you’ll give me
leave.’
   ‘Give you leave to make me unhappy?’
   He hesitated. ‘To tell you again-’ But he checked
himself. ‘I’ll keep it down. I’ll keep it down always.’
   Ralph Touchett had been joined in his visit to the
excavation by Miss Stackpole and her attendant, and these


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three now emerged from among the mounds of earth and
stone collected round the aperture and came into sight of
Isabel and her companion. Poor Ralph hailed his friend
with joy qualified by wonder, and Henrietta exclaimed in
a high voice ‘Gracious, there’s that lord!’ Ralph and his
English neighbour greeted with the austerity with which,
after long separation, English neighbours greet, and Miss
Stackpole rested her large intellectual gaze upon the
sunburnt traveller. But she soon established her relation to
the crisis. ‘I don’t suppose you remember me, sir.’
    ‘Indeed I do remember you,’ said Lord Warburton. ‘I
asked you to come and see me, and you never came.’
    ‘I don’t go everywhere I’m asked,’ Miss Stackpole
answered coldly.
    ‘Ah well, I won’t ask you again,’ laughed the master of
Lockleigh.
    ‘If you do I’ll go; so be sure!’
    Lord Warburton, for all his hilarity, seemed sure
enough. Mr. Bantling had stood by without claiming a
recognition, but he now took occasion to nod to his
lordship, who answered him with a friendly ‘Oh, you
here, Bantling?’ and a hand-shake.
    ‘Well,’ said Henrietta, ‘I didn’t know you knew him!’



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   ‘I guess you don’t know every one I know,’ Mr.
Bantling rejoined facetiously.
   ‘I thought that when an Englishman knew a lord he
always told you.’
   ‘Ah, I’m afraid Bantling was ashamed of me,’ Lord
Warburton laughed again. Isabel took pleasure in that
note; she gave a small sigh of relief as they kept their
course homeward.
   The next day was Sunday; she spent her morning over
two long letters—one to her sister Lily, the other to
Madame Merle; but in neither of these epistles did she
mention the fact that a rejected suitor had threatened her
with another appeal. Of a Sunday afternoon all good
Romans (and the best Romans are often the northern
barbarians) follow the custom of going to vespers at Saint
Peter’s; and it had been agreed among our friends that
they would drive together to the great church. After
lunch, an hour before the carriage came, Lord Warburton
presented himself at the Hotel de Paris and paid a visit to
the two ladies, Ralph Touchett and Mr. Bantling having
gone out together. The visitor seemed to have wished to
give Isabel a proof of his intention to keep the promise
made her the evening before; he was both discreet and
frank—not even dumbly importunate or remotely intense.


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He thus left her to judge what a mere good friend he
could be. He talked about his travels, about Persia, about
Turkey, and when Miss Stackpole asked him whether it
would ‘pay’ for her to visit those countries assured her
they offered a great field to female enterprise. Isabel did
him justice, but she wondered what his purpose was and
what he expected to gain even by proving the superior
strain of his sincerity. If he expected to melt her by
showing what a good fellow he was, he might spare
himself the trouble. She knew the superior strain of
everything about him, and nothing he could now do was
required to light the view. Moreover his being in Rome at
all affected her as a complication of the wrong sort—she
liked so complications of the right. Nevertheless, when,
on bringing his call to a close, he said he too should be at
Saint Peter’s and should look out for her and her friends,
she was obliged to reply that he must follow his
convenience.
    In the church, as she strolled over its tesselated acres, he
was the first person she encountered. She had not been
one of the superior tourists who are ‘disappointed’ in Saint
Peter’s and find it smaller than its fame; the first time she
passed beneath the huge leathern curtain that strains and
bangs at the entrance, the first time she found herself


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beneath the far-arching dome and saw the light drizzle
down through the air thickened with incense and with the
reflections of marble and gilt, of mosaic and bronze, her
conception of greatness rose and dizzily rose. After this it
never lacked space to soar. She gazed and wondered like a
child or a peasant, she paid her silent tribute to the seated
sublime. Lord Warburton walked beside her and talked of
Saint Sophia of Constantinople; she feared for instance that
he would end by calling attention to his exemplary
conduct. The service had not yet begun, but at Saint
Peter’s there is much to observe, and as there is something
almost profane in the vastness of the place, which seems
meant as much for physical as for spiritual exercise, the
different figures and groups, the mingled worshippers and
spectators, may follow their various intentions without
conflict or scandal. In that splendid immensity individual
indiscretion carries but a short distance. Isabel and her
companions, however, were guilty of none; for though
Henrietta was obliged in candour to declare that Michael
Angelo’s dome suffered by comparison with that of the
Capitol at Washington, she addressed her protest chiefly to
Mr. Bantling’s ear and reserved it in its more accentuated
form for the columns of the Interviewer. Isabel made the
circuit of the church with his lordship, and as they drew


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near the choir on the left of the entrance the voices of the
Pope’s singers were borne to them over the heads of the
large number of persons clustered outside the doors. They
paused a while on the skirts of this crowd, composed in
equal measure of Roman cockneys and inquisitive
strangers, and while they stood there the sacred concert
went forward. Ralph, with Henrietta and Mr. Bantling,
was apparently within, where Isabel, looking behind the
dense group in front of her, saw the afternoon light,
silvered by clouds of incense that seemed to mingle with
the splendid chant, slope through the embossed recesses of
high windows. After a while the singing stopped and then
Lord Warburton seemed disposed to move off with her.
Isabel could only accompany him; whereupon she found
herself confronted with Gilbert Osmond, who appeared to
have been standing at a short distance behind her. He now
approached with all the forms—he appeared to have
multiplied them on this occasion to suit the place.
    ‘So you decided to come?’ she said as she put out her
hand.
    ‘Yes, I came last night and called this afternoon at your
hotel. They told me you had come here, and I looked
about for you.’
    ‘The others are inside,’ she decided to say.


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    ‘I didn’t come for the others,’ he promptly returned.
    She looked away; Lord Warburton was watching them;
perhaps he had heard this. Suddenly she remembered it to
be just what he had said to her the morning he came to
Gardencourt to ask her to marry him. Mr. Osmond’s
words had brought the colour to her cheek, and this
reminiscence had not the effect of dispelling it. She
repaired any betrayal by mentioning to each companion
the name of the other, and fortunately at this moment Mr.
Bantling emerged from the choir, cleaving the crowd with
British valour and followed by Miss Stackpole and Ralph
Touchett. I say fortunately, because this is perhaps a
superficial view of the matter; since on perceiving the
gentleman from Florence Ralph Touchett appeared to
take the case as not committing him to joy. He didn’t
hang back, however, from civility, and presently observed
to Isabel, with due benevolence, that she would soon have
all her friends about her. Miss Stackpole had met Mr.
Osmond in Florence, but she had already found occasion
to say to Isabel that she liked him no better than her other
admirers- than Mr. Touchett and Lord Warburton, and
even than little Mr. Rosier in Paris. ‘I don’t know what
it’s in you,’ she had been pleased to remark, ‘but for a
nice-girl you do attract the most unnatural people. Mr.


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Goodwood’s the only one I’ve any respect for, and he’s
just the one you don’t appreciate.’
    ‘What’s your opinion of Saint Peter’s?’ Mr. Osmond
was meanwhile enquiring of our young lady.
    ‘It’s very large and very bright,’ she contented herself
with replying.
    ‘It’s too large; it makes one feel like an atom.’
    ‘Isn’t that the right way to feel in the greatest of human
temples?’ she asked with rather a liking for her phrase.
    ‘I suppose it’s the right way to feel everywhere, when
one is nobody. But I like it in a church as little as
anywhere else.’
    ‘You ought indeed to be a Pope!’ Isabel exclaimed,
remembering something he had referred to in Florence.
    ‘Ah, I should have enjoyed that!’ said Gilbert Osmond.
    Lord Warburton meanwhile had joined Ralph
Touchett, and the two strolled away together. ‘Who’s the
fellow speaking to Miss Archer?’ his lordship demanded.
    ‘His name’s Gilbert Osmond—he lives in Florence,’
Ralph said.
    ‘What is he besides?’
    ‘Nothing at all. Oh yes, he’s an American; but one
forgets that- he’s so little of one.’
    ‘Has he known Miss Archer long?’


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   ‘Three or four weeks.’
   ‘Does she like him?’
   ‘She’s trying to find out.’
   ‘And will she?’
   ‘Find out-?’ Ralph asked.
   ‘Will she like him?’
   ‘Do you mean will she accept him?’
   ‘Yes,’ said Lord Warburton after an instant; ‘I suppose
that’s what I horribly mean.’
   ‘Perhaps not if one does nothing to prevent it,’ Ralph
replied.
   His lordship stared a moment, but apprehended. ‘Then
we must be perfectly quiet?’
   ‘As quiet as the grave. And only on the chance!’ Ralph
added.
   ‘The chance she may?’
   ‘The chance she may not?’
   Lord Warburton took this at first in silence, but he
spoke again. ‘Is he awfully clever?’
   ‘Awfully,’ said Ralph.
   His companion thought. ‘And what else?’
   ‘What more do you want?’ Ralph groaned.
   ‘Do you mean what more does she?’



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   Ralph took him by the arm to turn him: they had to
rejoin the others. ‘She wants nothing that we can give
her.’
   ‘Ah well, if she won’t have You-!’ said his lordship
handsomely as they went.




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                         Chapter 28

   On the morrow, in the evening, Lord Warburton went
again to see his friends at their hotel, and at this
establishment he learned that they had gone to the opera.
He drove to the opera with the idea of paying them a visit
in their box after the easy Italian fashion; and when he had
obtained his admittance—it was one of the secondary
theatres—looked about the large, bare, ill-lighted house.
An act had just terminated and he was at liberty to pursue
his quest. After scanning two or three tiers of boxes he
perceived in one of the largest of these receptacles a lady
whom he easily recognized. Miss Archer was seated facing
the stage and partly screened by the curtain of the box;
and beside her, leaning back in his chair, was Mr. Gilbert
Osmond. They appeared to have the place to themselves,
and Warburton supposed their companions had taken
advantage of the recess to enjoy the relative coolness of
the lobby. He stood a while with his eyes on the
interesting pair; he asked himself if he should go up and
interrupt the harmony. At last he judged that Isabel had
seen him, and this accident determined him. There should
be no marked holding off. He took his way to the upper


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regions and on the staircase met Ralph Touchett slowly
descending, his hat at the inclination of ennui and his
hands where they usually were.
   ‘I saw you below a moment since and was going down
to you. I feel lonely and want company,’ was Ralph’s
greeting.
   ‘You’ve some that’s very good which you’ve yet
deserted.’
   ‘Do you mean my cousin? Oh, she has a visitor and
doesn’t want me. Then Miss Stackpole and Bantling have
gone out to a cafe to eat an ice—Miss Stackpole delights
in an ice. I didn’t think they wanted me either. The
opera’s very bad; the women look like laundresses and sing
like peacocks. I feel very low.’
   ‘You had better go home,’ Lord Warburton said
without affectation.
   ‘And leave my young lady in this sad place? Ah no, I
must watch over her.’
   ‘She seems to have plenty of friends.’
   ‘Yes, that’s why I must watch,’ said Ralph with the
same large mock-melancholy.
   ‘If she doesn’t want you it’s probable she doesn’t want
me.’



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    ‘No, you’re different. Go to the box and stay there
while I walk about.’
    Lord Warburton went to the box, where Isabel’s
welcome was as to a friend so honourably old that he
vaguely asked himself what queer temporal province she
was annexing. He exchanged greetings with Mr. Osmond,
to whom he had been introduced the day before and who,
after he came in, sat blandly apart and silent, as if
repudiating competence in the subjects of allusion now
probable. It struck her second visitor that Miss Archer had,
in operatic conditions, a radiance, even a slight exaltation;
as she was, however, at all times a keenly-glancing,
quickly-moving, completely animated young woman, he
may have been mistaken on this point. Her talk with him
moreover pointed to presence of mind; it expressed a
kindness so ingenious and deliberate as to indicate that she
was in undisturbed possession of her faculties. Poor Lord
Warburton had moments of bewilderment. She had
discouraged him, formally, as much as a woman could;
what business had she then with such arts and such
felicities, above all with such tones of reparation—
preparation? Her voice had tricks of sweetness, but why
play them on him? The others came back; the bare,
familiar, trivial opera began again. The box was large, and


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there was room for him to remain if he would sit a little
behind and in the dark. He did so for half an hour, while
Mr. Osmond remained in front, leaning forward, his
elbows on his knees, just behind Isabel. Lord Warburton
heard nothing, and from his gloomy corner saw nothing
but the clear profile of this young lady defined against the
dim illumination of the house. When there was another
interval no one moved. Mr. Osmond talked to Isabel, and
Lord Warburton kept his corner. He did so but for a short
time, however; after which he got up and bade good-
night to the ladies. Isabel said nothing to detain him, but it
didn’t prevent his being puzzled again. Why should she
mark so one of his values- quite the wrong one—when
she would have nothing to do with another, which was
quite the right? He was angry with himself for being
puzzled, and then angry for being angry. Verdi’s music did
little to comfort him, and he left the theatre and walked
homeward, without knowing his way, through the
tortuous, tragic streets of Rome, where heavier sorrows
than his had been carried under the stars.
    ‘What’s the character of that gentleman?’ Osmond
asked of Isabel after he had retired.
    ‘Irreproachable—don’t you see it?’



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    ‘He owns about half England; that’s his character,’
Henrietta remarked. ‘That’s what they call a free country!’
    ‘Ah, he’s a great proprietor? Happy man!’ said Gilbert
Osmond.
    ‘Do you call that happiness—the ownership of
wretched human beings?’ cried Miss Stackpole. ‘He owns
his tenants and has thousands of them. It’s pleasant to own
something, but inanimate objects are enough for me. I
don’t insist on flesh and blood and minds and consciences.’
    ‘It seems to me you own a human being or two,’ Mr.
Bantling suggested jocosely. ‘I wonder if Warburton
orders his tenants about as you do me.’
    ‘Lord Warburton’s a great radical,’ Isabel said. ‘He has
very advanced opinions.’
    ‘He has very advanced stone walls. His park’s enclosed
by a gigantic iron fence, some thirty miles round,’
Henrietta announced for the information of Mr. Osmond.
‘I should like him to converse with a few of our Boston
radicals.’
    ‘Don’t they approve of iron fences?’ asked Mr.
Bantling.
    ‘Only to shut up wicked conservatives. I always feel as
if I were talking to you over something with a neat top-
finish of broken glass.’


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   ‘Do you know him well, this unreformed reformer?’
Osmond went on, questioning Isabel.
   ‘Well enough for all the use I have for him.’
   ‘And how much of a use is that?’
   ‘Well, I like to like him.’
   ‘‘Liking to like’—why, it makes a passion!’ said
Osmond.
   ‘No’—she considered—‘keep that for liking to dislike.’
   ‘Do you wish to provoke me then,’ Osmond laughed,
‘to a passion for him?’
   She said nothing for a moment, but then met the light
question with a disproportionate gravity. ‘No, Mr.
Osmond; I don’t think I should ever dare to provoke you.
Lord Warburton, at any rate,’ she more easily added, ‘is a
very nice man.’
   ‘Of great ability?’ her friend enquired.
   ‘Of excellent ability, and as good as he looks.’
   ‘As good as he’s good-looking do you mean? He’s very
good-looking. How detestably fortunate!—to be a great
English magnate, to be clever and handsome into the
bargain, and, by way of finishing off, to enjoy your high
favour! That’s a man I could envy.’




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    Isabel considered him with interest. ‘You seem to me
to be always envying some one. Yesterday it was the
Pope; today it’s poor Lord Warburton.’
    ‘My envy’s not dangerous; it wouldn’t hurt a mouse. I
don’t want to destroy the people—I only want to be
them. You see it would destroy only myself.’
    ‘You’d like to be the Pope?’ said Isabel.
    ‘I should love it—but I should have gone in for it
earlier. But why’—Osmond reverted—‘do you speak of
your friend as poor?’
    ‘Women—when they are very, very good—sometimes
pity men after they’ve hurt them; that’s their great way of
showing kindness,’ said Ralph, joining in the conversation
for the first time and with a cynicism so transparently
ingenious as to be virtually innocent.
    ‘Pray, have I hurt Lord Warburton?’ Isabel asked,
raising her eyebrows as if the idea were perfectly fresh.
    ‘It serves him right if you have,’ said Henrietta while
the curtain rose for the ballet.
    Isabel saw no more of her attributive victim for the
next twenty-four hours, but on the second day after the
visit to the opera she encountered him in the gallery of the
Capitol, where he stood before the lion of the collection,
the statue of the Dying Gladiator. She had come in with


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her companions, among whom, on this occasion again,
Gilbert Osmond had his place, and the party, having
ascended the staircase, entered the first and finest of the
rooms. Lord Warburton addressed her alertly enough, but
said in a moment that he was leaving the gallery. ‘And I’m
leaving Rome,’ he added. ‘I must bid you good-bye.’
Isabel, inconsequently enough, was now sorry to hear it.
This was perhaps because she had ceased to be afraid of his
renewing his suit; she was thinking of something else. She
was on the point of naming her regret, but she checked
herself and simply wished him a happy journey; which
made him look at her rather unlightedly. ‘I’m afraid you’ll
think me very ‘volatile.’ I told you the other day I wanted
so much to stop.’
   ‘Oh no; you could easily change your mind.’
   ‘That’s what I have done.’
   ‘Bon voyage then.’
   ‘You’re in a great hurry to get rid of me,’ said his
lordship quite dismally.
   ‘Not in the least. But I hate partings.’
   ‘You don’t care what I do,’ he went on pitifully.
   Isabel looked at him a moment. ‘Ah,’ she said, ‘you’re
not keeping your promise!’



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   He coloured like a boy of fifteen. ‘If I’m not, then it’s
because I can’t; and that’s why I’m going.’
   ‘Good-bye then.’
   ‘Good-bye.’ He lingered still, however. ‘When shall I
see you again?’
   Isabel hesitated, but soon, as if she had had a happy
inspiration: ‘Some day after you’re married.’
   ‘That will never be. It will be after you are.’
   ‘That will do as well,’ she smiled.
   ‘Yes, quite as well. Good-bye.’
   They shook hands, and he left her alone in the glorious
room, among the shining antique marbles. She sat down
in the centre of the circle of these presences, regarding
them vaguely, resting her eyes on their beautiful blank
faces; listening, as it were, to their eternal silence. It is
impossible, in Rome at least, to look long at a great
company of Greek sculptures without feeling the effect of
their noble quietude; which, as with a high door closed
for the ceremony, slowly drops on the spirit the large
white mantle of peace. I say in Rome especially, because
the Roman air is an exquisite medium for such
impressions. The golden sunshine mingles with them, the
deep stillness of the past, so vivid yet, though it is nothing
but a void full of names, seems to throw a solemn spell


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upon them. The blinds were partly closed in the windows
of the Capitol, and a clear, warm shadow rested on the
figures and made them more mildly human. Isabel sat
there a long time, under the charm of their motionless
grace, wondering to what, of their experience, their absent
eyes were open, and how, to our ears, their alien lips
would sound. The dark red walls of the room threw them
into relief; the polished marble floor reflected their beauty.
She had seen them all before, but her enjoyment repeated
itself, and it was all the greater because she was glad again,
for the time, to be alone. At last, however, her attention
lapsed, drawn off by a deeper tide of life. An occasional
tourist came in, stopped and stared a moment at the Dying
Gladiator, and then passed out of the other door, creaking
over the smooth pavement. At the end of half an hour
Gilbert Osmond reappeared, apparently in advance of his
companions. He strolled toward her slowly, with his hands
behind him and his usual enquiring, yet not quite
appealing smile. ‘I’m surprised to find you alone, I thought
you had company.’
    ‘So I have—the best.’ And she glanced at the Antinous
and the Faun.
    ‘Do you call them better company than an English
peer?’


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    ‘Ah, my English peer left me some time ago.’ She got
up, speaking with intention a little dryly.
    Mr. Osmond noted her dryness, which contributed for
him to the interest of his question. ‘I’m afraid that what I
heard the other evening is true: you’re rather cruel to that
nobleman.’
    Isabel looked a moment at the vanquished Gladiator.
‘It’s not true. I’m scrupulously kind.’
    ‘That’s exactly what I mean!’ Gilbert Osmond
returned, and with such happy hilarity that his joke needs
to be explained. We know that he was fond of originals,
of rarities, of the superior and the exquisite; and now that
he had seen Lord Warburton, whom he thought a very
fine example of his race and order, he perceived a new
attraction in the idea of taking to himself a young lady
who had qualified herself to figure in his collection of
choice objects by declining so noble a hand. Gilbert
Osmond had a high appreciation of this particular
patriciate; not so much for its distinction, which he
thought easily surpassable, as for its solid actuality. He had
never forgiven his star for not appointing him to an
English dukedom, and he could measure the
unexpectedness of such conduct as Isabel’s. It would be



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proper that the woman he might marry should have done
something of that sort.




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                         Chapter 29

    Ralph Touchett, in talk with his excellent friend, had
rather markedly qualified, as we know, his recognition of
Gilbert Osmond’s personal merits; but he might really
have felt himself illiberal in the light of that gentleman’s
conduct during the rest of the visit to Rome. Osmond
spent a portion of each day with Isabel and her
companions, and ended by affecting them as the easiest of
men to live with. Who wouldn’t have seen that he could
command, as it were, both tact and gaiety?—which
perhaps was exactly why Ralph had made his old-time
look of superficial sociability a reproach to him. Even
Isabel’s invidious kinsman was obliged to admit that he
was just now a delightful associate. His good-humour was
imperturbable, his knowledge of the right fact, his
production of the right word, as convenient as the friendly
flicker of a match for your cigarette. Clearly he was
amused—as amused as a man could be who was so little
ever surprised, and that made him almost applausive. It
was not that his spirits were visibly high—he would never,
in the concert of pleasure, touch the big drum by so much
as a knuckle: he had a mortal dislike to the high, ragged


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note, to what he called random ravings. He thought Miss
Archer sometimes of too precipitate a readiness. It was pity
she had that fault, because if she had not had it she would
really have had none; she would have been as smooth to
his general need of her as handled ivory to the palm. If he
was not personally loud, however, he was deep, and
during these closing days of the Roman May he knew a
complacency that matched with slow irregular walks
under the pines of the Villa Borghese, among the small
sweet meadow-flowers and the mossy marbles. He was
pleased with everything; he had never before been pleased
with so many things at once. Old impressions, old
enjoyments, renewed themselves; one evening, going
home to his room at the inn, he wrote down a little
sonnet to which he prefixed the title of ‘Rome Revisited.’
A day or two later he showed this piece of correct and
ingenious verse to Isabel, explaining to her that it was an
Italian fashion to commemorate the occasions of life by a
tribute to the muse.
    He took his pleasures in general singly; he was too
often—he would have admitted that—too sorely aware of
something wrong, something ugly; the fertilizing dew of a
conceivable felicity too seldom descended on his spirit.
But at present he was happy—happier than he had perhaps


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ever been in his life, and the feeling had a large
foundation. This was simply the sense of success—the
most agreeable emotion of the human heart. Osmond had
never had too much of it; in this respect he had the
irritation of satiety, as he knew perfectly well and often
reminded himself. ‘Ah no, I’ve not been spoiled; certainly
I’ve not been spoiled,’ he used inwardly to repeat. ‘If I do
succeed before I die I shall thoroughly have earned it.’ He
was too apt to reason as if ‘earning’ this boon consisted
above all of covertly aching for it and might be confined
to that exercise. Absolutely void of it, also, his career had
not been; he might indeed have suggested to a spectator
here and there that he was resting on vague laurels. But his
triumphs were, some of them, now too old; others had
been too easy. The present one had been less arduous than
might have been expected, but had been easy—that is had
been rapid—only because he had made an altogether
exceptional effort, a greater effort than he had believed it
in him to make. The desire to have something or other to
show for his ‘parts’—to show somehow or other—had
been the dream of his youth; but as the years went on the
conditions attached to any marked proof of rarity had
affected him more and more as gross and detestable; like
the swallowing of mugs of beer to advertise what one


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could ‘stand.’ If an anonymous drawing on a museum wall
had been conscious and watchful it might have known this
peculiar pleasure of being at last and all of a sudden
identified—as from the hand of a great master—by the so
high and so unnoticed fact of style. His ‘style’ was what
the girl had discovered with a little help; and now, beside
herself enjoying it, she should publish it to the world
without his having any of the trouble. She should do the
thing for him, and he would not have waited in vain.
    Shortly before the time fixed in advance for her
departure this young lady received from Mrs. Touchett a
telegram running as follows: ‘Leave Florence 4th June for
Bellaggio, and take you if you have not other views. But
can’t wait if you dawdle in Rome.’ The dawdling in
Rome was very pleasant, but Isabel had different views,
and she let her aunt know she would immediately join
her. She told Gilbert Osmond that she had done so, and
he replied that, spending many of his summers as well as
his winters in Italy, he himself would loiter a little longer
in the cool shadow of Saint Peter’s. He would not return
to Florence for ten days more, and in that time she would
have started for Bellaggio. It might be months in this case
before he should see her again. This exchange took place
in the large decorated sitting-room occupied by our


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friends at the hotel; it was late in the evening, and Ralph
Touchett was to take his cousin back to Florence on the
morrow. Osmond had found the girl alone; Miss
Stackpole had contracted a friendship with a delightful
American family on the fourth floor and had mounted the
interminable staircase to pay them a visit. Henrietta
contracted friendships, in travelling, with great freedom,
and had formed in railway-carriages several that were
among her most valued ties. Ralph was making
arrangements for the morrow’s journey, and Isabel sat
alone in a wilderness of yellow upholstery. The chairs and
sofas were orange; the walls and windows were draped in
purple and gilt. The mirrors, the pictures had great
flamboyant frames; the ceiling was deeply vaulted and
painted over with naked muses and cherubs. For Osmond
the place was ugly to distress; the false colours, the sham
splendour were like vulgar, bragging, lying talk. Isabel had
taken in hand a volume of Ampere, presented, on their
arrival in Rome, by Ralph; but though she held it in her
lap with her finger vaguely kept in the place she was not
impatient to pursue her study. A lamp covered with a
drooping veil of pink tissue-paper burned on the table
beside her and diffused a strange pale rosiness over the
scene.


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   ‘You say you’ll come back; but who knows?’ Gilbert
Osmond said. ‘I think you’re much more likely to start on
your voyage round the world. You’re under no obligation
to come back; you can do exactly what you choose; you
can roam through space.’
   ‘Well, Italy’s a part of space,’ Isabel answered. ‘I can
take it on the way.
   ‘On the way round the world? No, don’t do that.
Don’t put us in a parenthesis—give us a chapter to
ourselves. I don’t want to see you on your travels. I’d
rather see you when they’re over. I should like to see you
when you’re tired and satiated,’ Osmond added in a
moment. ‘I shall prefer you in that state.’
   Isabel, with her eyes bent, fingered the pages of M.
Ampere. ‘You turn things into ridicule without seeming
to do it, though not, I think, without intending it. You’ve
no respect for my travels—you think them ridiculous.’
   ‘Where do you find that?’
   She went on in the same tone, fretting the edge of her
book with the paper-knife. ‘You see my ignorance, my
blunders, the way I wander about as if the world belonged
to me, simply because—because it has been put into my
power to do so. You don’t think a woman ought to do
that. You think it bold and ungraceful.’


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    ‘I think it beautiful,’ said Osmond. ‘You know my
opinions—I’ve treated you to enough of them. Don’t you
remember my telling you that one ought to make one’s
life a work of art? You looked rather shocked at first; but
then I told you that it was exactly what you seemed to me
to be trying to do with your own.’
    She looked up from her book. ‘What you despise most
in the world is bad, is stupid art.’
    ‘Possibly. But yours seem to me very clear and very
good.’
    ‘If I were to go to Japan next winter you would laugh
at me,’ she went on.
    Osmond gave a smile—a keen one, but not a laugh, for
the tone of their conversation was not jocose. Isabel had in
fact her solemnity; he had seen it before. ‘You have an
imagination that startles one!’
    ‘That’s exactly what I say. You think such an idea
absurd.’
    ‘I would give my little finger to go to Japan; it’s one of
the countries I want most to see. Can’t you believe that,
with my taste for old lacquer?’
    ‘I haven’t a taste for old lacquer to excuse me,’ said
Isabel.



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    ‘You’ve a better excuse—the means of going. You’re
quite wrong in your theory that I laugh at you. I don’t
know what has put it into your head.’
    ‘It wouldn’t be remarkable if you did think it ridiculous
that I should have the means to travel when you’ve not;
for you know everything, and I know nothing.’
    ‘The more reason why you should travel and learn,’
smiled Osmond. ‘Besides,’ he added as if it were a point to
be made, ‘I don’t know everything.’
    Isabel was not struck with the oddity of his saying this
gravely; she was thinking that the pleasantest incident of
her life—so it pleased her to qualify these too few days in
Rome, which she might musingly have likened to the
figure of some small princess of one of the ages of dress
over-muffled in a mantle of state and dragging a train that
it took pages or historians to hold up—that this felicity
was coming to an end. That most of the interest of the
time had been owing to Mr. Osmond was a reflexion she
was not just now at pains to make; she had already done
the point abundant justice. But she said to herself that if
there were a danger they should never meet again, perhaps
after all it would be as well. Happy things don’t repeat
themselves, and her adventure wore already the changed,
the seaward face of some romantic island from which, after


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feasting on purple grapes, she was putting off while the
breeze rose. She might come back to Italy and find him
different—this strange man who pleased her just as he was;
and it would be better not to come than run the risk of
that. But if she was not to come the greater the pity that
the chapter was closed; she felt for a moment a pang that
touched the source of tears. The sensation kept her silent,
and Gilbert Osmond was silent too; he was looking at her.
‘Go everywhere,’ he said at last, in a low, kind voice; ‘do
everything; get everything out of life. Be happy—be
triumphant.’
    ‘What do you mean by being triumphant?’
    ‘Well, doing what you like.’
    ‘To triumph, then, it seems to me, is to fail! Doing all
the vain things one likes is often very tiresome.’
    ‘Exactly,’ said Osmond with his quiet quickness. ‘As I
intimated just now, you’ll be tired some day.’ He paused a
moment and then he went on: ‘I don’t know whether I
had better not wait till then for something I want to say to
you.’
    ‘Ah, I can’t advise you without knowing what it is. But
I’m horrid when I’m tired,’ Isabel added with due
inconsequence.



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   ‘I don’t believe that. You’re angry, sometimes—that I
can believe, though I’ve never seen it. But I’m sure you’re
never ‘cross.’’
   ‘Not even when I lose my temper?’
   ‘You don’t lose it—you find it, and that must be
beautiful.’ Osmond spoke with a noble earnestness. ‘They
must be great moments to see.’
   ‘If I could only find it now!’ Isabel nervously cried.
   ‘I’m not afraid; I should fold my arms and admire you.
I’m speaking very seriously.’ He leaned forward, a hand on
each knee; for some moments he bent his eyes on the
floor. ‘What I wish to say to you,’ he went on at last,
looking up, ‘is that I find I’m in love with you.’
   She instantly rose. ‘Ah, keep that till I am tired!’
   ‘Tired of hearing it from others?’ He sat there raising
his eyes to her. ‘No, you may heed it now or never, as
you please. But after all I must say it now.’ She had turned
away, but in the movement she had stopped herself and
dropped her gaze upon him. The two remained a while in
this situation, exchanging a long look—the large,
conscious look of the critical hours of life. Then he got up
and came near her, deeply respectful, as if he were afraid
he had been too familiar. ‘I’m absolutely in love with
you.’


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   He had repeated the announcement in a tone of almost
impersonal discretion, like a man who expected very little
from it but who spoke for his own needed relief. The tears
came into her eyes: this time they obeyed the sharpness of
the pang that suggested to her somehow the slipping of a
fine bolt—backward, forward, she couldn’t have said
which. The words he had uttered made him, as he stood
there, beautiful and generous, invested him as with the
golden air of early autumn; but, morally speaking, she
retreated before them—facing him still—as she had
retreated in the other cases before a like encounter. ‘Oh
don’t say that, please,’ she answered with an intensity that
expressed the dread of having, in this case too, to choose
and decide. What made her dread great was precisely the
force which, as it would seem, ought to have banished all
dread—the sense of something within herself, deep down,
that she supposed to be inspired and trustful passion. It was
there like a large sum stored in a bank- which there was a
terror in having to begin to spend. If she touched it, it
would all come out.
   ‘I haven’t the idea that it will matter much to you,’ said
Osmond. ‘I’ve too little to offer you. What I have—it’s
enough for me; but it’s not enough for you. I’ve neither
fortune, nor fame, nor extrinsic advantages of any kind. So


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I offer nothing. I only tell you because I think it can’t
offend you, and some day or other it may give you
pleasure. It gives me pleasure, I assure you,’ he went on,
standing there before her, considerately inclined to her,
turning his hat, which he had taken up, slowly round with
a movement which had all the decent tremor of
awkwardness and none of its oddity, and presenting to her
his firm, refined, slightly ravaged face. ‘It gives me no
pain, because it’s perfectly simple. For me you’ll always be
the most important woman in the world.’
    Isabel looked at herself in this character—looked
intently, thinking she filled it with a certain grace. But
what she said was not an expression of any such
complacency. ‘You don’t offend me; but you ought to
remember that, without being offended, one may be
incommoded, troubled.’ ‘Incommoded": she heard herself
saying that, and it struck her as a ridiculous word. But it
was what stupidly came to her.
    ‘I remember perfectly. Of course you’re surprised and
startled. But if it’s nothing but that, it will pass away. And
it will perhaps leave something that I may not be ashamed
of.’
    ‘I don’t know what it may leave. You see at all events
that I’m not overwhelmed,’ said Isabel with rather a pale


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smile. ‘I’m not too troubled to think. And I think that I’m
glad we’re separating—that I leave Rome to-morrow.’
    ‘Of course I don’t agree with you there.’
    ‘I don’t at all know you,’ she added abruptly; and then
she coloured as she heard herself saying what she had said
almost a year before to Lord Warburton.
    ‘If you were not going away you’d know me better.’
    ‘I shall do that some other time.’
    ‘I hope so. I’m very easy to know.’
    ‘No, no,’ she emphatically answered—‘there you’re not
sincere. You’re not easy to know; no one could be less
so.’
    ‘Well,’ he laughed, ‘I said that because I know myself.
It may be a boast, but I do.’
    ‘Very likely; but you’re very wise.’
    ‘So are you, Miss Archer!’ Osmond exclaimed.
    ‘I don’t feel so just now. Still, I’m wise enough to think
you had better go. Good-night.’
    ‘God bless you!’ said Gilbert Osmond, taking the hand
which she failed to surrender. After which he added: ‘If
we meet again you’ll find me as you leave me. If we don’t
I shall be so all the same.’
    ‘Thank you very much. Good-bye.’



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    There was something quietly firm about Isabel’s visitor;
he might go of his own movement, but wouldn’t be
dismissed. ‘There’s one thing more. I haven’t asked
anything of you—not even a thought in the future; you
must do me that justice. But there’s a little service I should
like to ask. I shall not return home for several days;
Rome’s delightful, and it’s a good place for a man in my
state of mind. Oh, I know you’re sorry to leave it; but
you’re right to do what your aunt wishes.’
    ‘She doesn’t even wish it!’ Isabel broke out strangely.
    Osmond was apparently on the point of saying
something that would match these words, but he changed
his mind and rejoined simply: ‘Ah well, it’s proper you
should go with her, very proper. Do everything that’s
proper; I go in for that. Excuse my being so patronizing.
You say you don’t know me, but when you do you’ll
discover what a worship I have for propriety.’
    ‘You’re not conventional?’ Isabel gravely asked.
    ‘I like the way you utter that word! No, I’m not
conventional: I’m convention itself. You don’t understand
that?’ And he paused a moment, smiling. ‘I should like to
explain it.’ Then with a sudden, quick, bright naturalness,
‘Do come back again,’ he pleaded. ‘There are so many
things we might talk about.’


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    She stood there with lowered eyes. ‘What service did
you speak of just now?’
    ‘Go and see my little daughter before you leave
Florence. She’s alone at the villa; I decided not to send her
to my sister, who hasn’t at all my ideas. Tell her she must
love her poor father very much,’ said Gilbert Osmond
gently.
    ‘It will be a great pleasure to me to go,’ Isabel
answered. ‘I’ll tell her what you say. Once more good-
bye.’
    On this he took a rapid, respectful leave. When he had
gone she stood a moment looking about her and seated
herself slowly and with an air of deliberation. She sat there
till her companions came back, with folded hands, gazing
at the ugly carpet. Her agitation—for it had not
diminished—was very still, very deep. What had happened
was something that for a week past her imagination had
been going forward to meet; but here, when it came, she
stopped—that sublime principle somehow broke down.
The working of this young lady’s spirit was strange, and I
can only give it to you as I see it, not hoping to make it
seem altogether natural. Her imagination, as I say, now
hung back: there was a last vague space it couldn’t cross—
a dusky, uncertain tract which looked ambiguous and even


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slightly treacherous, like a moorland seen in the winter
twilight. But she was to cross it yet.




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                         Chapter 30

   She returned on the morrow to Florence, under her
cousin’s escort, and Ralph Touchett, though usually
restive under railway discipline, thought very well of the
successive hours passed in the train that hurried his
companion away from the city now distinguished by
Gilbert Osmond’s preference—hours that were to form
the first stage in a larger scheme of travel. Miss Stackpole
had remained behind; she was planning a little trip to
Naples, to be carried out with Mr. Bantling’s aid. Isabel
was to have three days in Florence before the 4th of June,
the date of Mrs. Touchett’s departure, and she determined
to devote the last of these to her promise to call on Pansy
Osmond. Her plan, however, seemed for a moment likely
to modify itself in deference to an idea of Madame
Merle’s. This lady was still at Casa Touchett; but she too
was on the point of leaving Florence, her next station
being an ancient castle in the mountains of Tuscany, the
residence of a noble family of that country, whose
acquaintance (she had known them, as she said, ‘forever’)
seemed to Isabel, in the light of certain photographs of
their immense crenellated dwelling which her friend was


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able to show her, a precious privilege. She mentioned to
this fortunate woman that Mr. Osmond had asked her to
take a look at his daughter, but didn’t mention that he had
also made her a declaration of love.
    ‘Ah, comme cela se trouve!’ Madame Merle exclaimed.
‘I myself have been thinking it would be a kindness to pay
the child a little visit before I go off.’
    ‘We can go together then,’ Isabel reasonably said:
‘reasonably’ because the proposal was not uttered in the
spirit of enthusiasm. She had prefigured her small
pilgrimage as made in solitude; she should like it better so.
She was nevertheless prepared to sacrifice this mystic
sentiment to her great consideration for her friend.
    That personage finely meditated. ‘After all, why should
we both go; having, each of us, so much to do during
these last hours?’
    ‘Very good; I can easily go alone.’
    ‘I don’t know about your going alone—to the house of
a handsome bachelor. He has been married—but so long
ago!’
    Isabel stared. ‘When Mr. Osmond’s away what does it
matter?’
    ‘They don’t know he’s away, you see.’
    ‘They? Whom do you mean?’


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    ‘Every one. But perhaps it doesn’t signify.’
    ‘If you were going why shouldn’t I?’ Isabel asked.
    ‘Because I’m an old frump and you’re a beautiful young
woman.’
    ‘Granting all that, you’ve not promised.’
    ‘How much you think of your promises!’ said the elder
woman in mild mockery.
    ‘I think a great deal of my promises. Does that surprise
you?’
    ‘You’re right,’ Madame Merle audibly reflected. ‘I
really think you wish to be kind to the child.’
    ‘I wish very much to be kind to her.’
    ‘Go and see her then; no one will be the wiser. And
tell her I’d have come if you hadn’t. Or rather,’ Madame
Merle added, ‘don’t tell her. She won’t care.’
    As Isabel drove, in the publicity of an open vehicle,
along the winding way which led to Mr. Osmond’s hill-
top, she wondered what her friend had meant by no one’s
being the wiser. Once in a while, at large intervals, this
lady, whose voyaging discretion, as a general thing, was
rather of the open sea than of the risky channel, dropped a
remark of ambiguous quality, struck a note that sounded
false. What cared Isabel Archer for the vulgar judgements
of obscure people? and did Madame Merle suppose that


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she was capable of doing a thing at all if it had to be
sneakingly done? Of course not: she must have meant
something else—something which in the press of the
hours that preceded her departure she had not had time to
explain. Isabel would return to this some day; there were
sorts of things as to which she liked to be clear. She heard
Pansy strumming at the piano in another place as she
herself was ushered into Mr. Osmond’s drawing-room; the
little girl was ‘practising,’ and Isabel was pleased to think
she performed this duty with rigour. She immediately
came in, smoothing down her frock, and did the honours
of her father’s house with a wide-eyed earnestness of
courtesy. Isabel sat there half an hour, and Pansy rose to
the occasion as the small, winged fairy in the pantomime
soars by the aid of the dissimulated wire—not chattering,
but conversing, and showing the same respectful interest
in Isabel’s affairs that Isabel was so good to take in hers.
Isabel wondered at her; she had never had so directly
presented to her nose the white flower of cultivated
sweetness. How well the child had been taught, said our
admiring young woman; how prettily she had been
directed and fashioned; and yet how simple, how natural,
how innocent she had been kept! Isabel was fond, ever, of
the question of character and quality, of sounding, as who


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should say, the deep personal mystery, and it had pleased
her, up to this time, to be in doubt as to whether this
tender slip were not really all-knowing. Was the extremity
of her candour but the perfection of self-consciousness?
Was it put on to please her father’s visitor, or was it the
direct expression of an unspotted nature? The hour that
Isabel spent in Mr. Osmond’s beautiful empty, dusky
rooms—the windows had been half-darkened, to keep out
the heat, and here and there, through an easy crevice, the
splendid summer day peeped in, lighting a gleam of faded
colour or tarnished gilt in the rich gloom—her interview
with the daughter of the house, I say, effectually settled
this question. Pansy was really a blank page, a pure white
surface, successfully kept so; she had neither art, nor guile,
nor temper, nor talent—only two or three small exquisite
instincts: for knowing a friend, for avoiding a mistake, for
taking care of an old toy or a new frock. Yet to be so
tender was to be touching withal, and she could be felt as
an easy victim of fate. She would have no will, no power
to resist, no sense of her own importance; she would easily
be mystified, easily crushed: her force would be all in
knowing when and where to cling. She moved about the
place with her visitor, who had asked leave to walk
through the other rooms again, where Pansy gave her


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judgement on several works of art. She spoke of her
prospects, her occupations, her father’s intentions; she was
not egotistical, but felt the propriety of supplying the
information so distinguished a guest would naturally
expect.
    ‘Please tell me,’ she said, ‘did papa, in Rome, go to see
Madame Catherine? He told me he would if he had time.
Perhaps he had not time. Papa likes a great deal of time.
He wished to speak about my education; it isn’t finished
yet, you know. I don’t know what they can do with me
more; but it appears it’s far from finished. Papa told me
one day he thought he would finish it himself; for the last
year or two, at the convent, the masters that teach the tall
girls are so very dear. Papa’s not rich, and I should be very
sorry if he were to pay much money for me, because I
don’t think I’m worth it. I don’t learn quickly enough,
and I have no memory. For what I’m told, yes- especially
when it’s pleasant; but not for what I learn in a book.
There was a young girl who was my best friend, and they
took her away from the convent, when she was fourteen,
to make—how do you say it in English?—to make a dot.
You don’t say it in English? I hope it isn’t wrong; I only
mean they wished to keep the money to marry her. I
don’t know whether it is for that that papa wishes to keep


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the money—to marry me. It costs so much to marry!’
Pansy went on with a sigh; ‘I think papa might make that
economy. At any rate I’m too young to think about it yet,
and I don’t care for any gentleman; I mean for any but
him. If he were not my papa I should like to marry him! I
would rather be his daughter than the wife of-of some
strange person. I miss him very much, but not so much as
you might think, for I’ve been so much away from him.
Papa has always been principally for holidays. I miss
Madame Catherine almost more; but you must not tell
him that. You shall not see him again? I’m very sorry, and
he’ll be sorry too. Of everyone who comes here I like you
the best. That’s not a great compliment, for there are not
many people. It was very kind of you to come to-day—so
far from your house; for I’m really as yet only a child. Oh,
yes, I’ve only the occupations of a child. When did you
give them up, the occupations of a child? I should like to
know how old you are, but I don’t know whether it’s
right to ask. At the convent they told us that we must
never ask the age. I don’t like to do anything that’s not
expected; it looks as if one had not been properly taught. I
myself—I should never like to be taken by surprise. Papa
left directions for everything. I go to bed very early. When
the sun goes off that side I go into the garden. Papa left


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strict orders that I was not to get scorched. I always enjoy
the view; the mountains are so graceful. In Rome, from
the convent, we saw nothing but roofs and bell-towers. I
practice three hours. I don’t play very well. You play
yourself? I wish very much you’d play something for me;
papa has the idea that I should hear good music. Madame
Merle has played for me several times; that’s what I like
best about Madame Merle; she has great facility. I shall
never have facility. And I’ve no voice—just a small sound
like the squeak of a slate-pencil making flourishes.’
    Isabel gratified this respectful wish, drew off her gloves
and sat down to the piano, while Pansy, standing beside
her, watched her white hands move quickly over the keys.
When she stopped she kissed the child good-bye, held her
close, looked at her long. ‘Be very good,’ she said; ‘give
pleasure to your father.’
    ‘I think that’s what I live for,’ Pansy answered. ‘He has
not much pleasure; he’s rather a sad man.’
    Isabel listened to this assertion with an interest which
she felt it almost a torment to be obliged to conceal. It was
her pride that obliged her, and a certain sense of decency;
there were still other things in her head which she felt a
strong impulse, instantly checked, to say to Pansy about
her father; there were things it would have given her


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pleasure to hear the child, to make the child, say. But she
no sooner became conscious of these things than her
imagination was hushed with horror at the idea of taking
advantage of the little girl—it was of this she would have
accused herself—and of exhaling into that air where he
might still have a subtle sense for it any breath of her
charmed state. She had come—she had come; but she had
stayed only an hour. She rose quickly from the music-
stool; even then, however, she lingered a moment, still
holding her small companion, drawing the child’s sweet
slimness closer and looking down at her almost in envy.
She was obliged to confess it to herself—she would have
taken a passionate pleasure in talking of Gilbert Osmond
to this innocent, diminutive creature who was so near
him. But she said no other word; she only kissed Pansy
once again. They went together through the vestibule, to
the door that opened on the court; and there her young
hostess stopped, looking rather wistfully beyond. ‘I may go
no further. I’ve promised papa not to pass this door.’
    ‘You’re right to obey him; he’ll never ask you anything
unreasonable.’
    ‘I shall always obey him. But when will you come
again?’
    ‘Not for a long time, I’m afraid.’


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   ‘As soon as you can, I hope. I’m only a little girl,’ said
Pansy, ‘but I shall always expect you.’ And the small figure
stood in the high, dark doorway, watching Isabel cross the
clear, grey court and disappear into the brightness beyond
the big portone, which gave a wider dazzle as it opened.




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                         Chapter 31

    Isabel came back to Florence, but only after several
months; an interval sufficiently replete with incident. It is
not, however, during this interval that we are closely
concerned with her; our attention is engaged again on a
certain day in the late spring-time, shortly after her return
to Palazzo Crescentini and a year from the date of the
incidents just narrated. She was alone on this occasion, in
one of the smaller of the numerous rooms devoted by
Mrs. Touchett to social uses, and there was that in her
expression and attitude which would have suggested that
she was expecting a visitor. The tall window was open,
and though its green shutters were partly drawn the bright
air of the garden had come in through a broad interstice
and filled the room with warmth and perfume. Our young
woman stood near it for some time, her hands clasped
behind her; she gazed abroad with the vagueness of unrest.
Too troubled for attention she moved in a vain circle. Yet
it could not be in her thought to catch a glimpse of her
visitor before he should pass into the house, since the
entrance to the palace was not through the garden, in
which stillness and privacy always reigned. She wished


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rather to forestall his arrival by a process of conjecture, and
to judge by the expression of her face this attempt gave
her plenty to do. Grave she found herself, and positively
more weighted, as by the experience of the lapse of the
year she had spent in seeing the world. She had ranged,
she would have said, through space and surveyed much of
mankind, and was therefore now, in her own eyes, a very
different person from the frivolous young woman from
Albany who had begun to take the measure of Europe on
the lawn at Gardencourt a couple of years before. She
flattered herself she had harvested wisdom and learned a
great deal more of life than this light-minded creature had
even suspected. If her thoughts just now had inclined
themselves to retrospect, instead of fluttering their wings
nervously about the present, they would have evoked a
multitude of interesting pictures. These pictures would
have been both landscapes and figure-pieces; the latter,
however, would have been the more numerous. With
several of the images that might have been projected on
such a field we are already acquainted. There would be for
instance the conciliatory Lily, our heroine’s sister and
Edmund Ludlow’s wife, who had come out from New
York to spend five months with her relative. She had left
her husband behind her, but had brought her children, to


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whom Isabel now played with equal munificence and
tenderness the part of maiden-aunt. Mr. Ludlow, toward
the last, had been able to snatch a few weeks from his
forensic triumphs and, crossing the ocean with extreme
rapidity, had spent a month with the two ladies in Paris
before taking his wife home. The little Ludlows had not
yet, even from the American point of view, reached the
proper tourist-age; so that while her sister was with her
Isabel had confined her movements to a narrow circle.
Lily and the babies had joined her in Switzerland in the
month of July, and they had spent a summer of fine
weather in an Alpine valley where the flowers were thick
in the meadows and the shade of great chestnuts made a
resting place for such upward wanderings as might be
undertaken by ladies and children on warm afternoons.
They had afterwards reached the French capital, which
was worshipped, and with costly ceremonies, by Lily, but
thought of as noisily vacant by Isabel, who in these days
made use of her memory of Rome as she might have
done, in a hot and crowded room, of a phial of something
pungent hidden in her handkerchief.
   Mrs. Ludlow sacrificed, as I say, to Paris, yet had doubts
and wonderments not allayed at that altar; and after her
husband had joined her found further chagrin in his failure


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to throw himself into these speculations. They all had
Isabel for subject; but Edmund Ludlow, as he had always
done before, declined to be surprised, or distressed, or
mystified, or elated, at anything his sister-in-law might
have done or have failed to do. Mrs. Ludlow’s mental
motions were sufficiently various. At one moment she
thought it would be so natural for that young woman to
come home and take a house in New York—the
Rossiters’, for instance, which had an elegant conservatory
and was just round the corner from her own; at another
she couldn’t conceal her surprise at the girl’s not marrying
some member of one of the great aristocracies. On the
whole, as I have said, she had fallen from high
communion with the probabilities. She had taken more
satisfaction in Isabel’s accession of fortune than if the
money had been left to herself; it had seemed to her to
offer just the proper setting for her sister’s slightly meagre,
but scarce the less eminent figure. Isabel had developed
less, however, than Lily had thought likely—development,
to Lily’s understanding, being somehow mysteriously
connected with morning calls and evening-parties.
Intellectually, doubtless, she had made immense strides;
but she appeared to have achieved few of those social
conquests of which Mrs. Ludlow had expected to admire


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the trophies. Lily’s conception of such achievements was
extremely vague; but this was exactly what she had
expected of Isabel-to give it form and body. Isabel could
have done as well as she had done in New York; and Mrs.
Ludlow appealed to her husband to know whether there
was any privilege she enjoyed in Europe which the society
of that city might not offer her. We know ourselves that
Isabel had made conquests—whether inferior or not to
those she might have effected in her native land it would
be a delicate matter to decide; and it is not altogether with
a feeling of complacency that I again mention that she had
not rendered these honourable victories public. She had
not told her sister the history of Lord Warburton, nor had
she given her a hint of Mr. Osmond’s state of mind; and
she had had no better reason for her silence than that she
didn’t wish to speak. It was more romantic to say nothing,
and, drinking deep, in secret, of romance, she was as little
disposed to ask poor Lily’s advice as she would have been
to close that rare volume forever. But Lily knew nothing
of these discriminations, and could only pronounce her
sister’s career a strange anti-climax—an impression
confirmed by the fact that Isabel’s silence about Mr.
Osmond, for instance, was in direct proportion to the
frequency with which he occupied her thoughts. As this


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happened very often it sometimes appeared to Mrs.
Ludlow that she had lost her courage. So uncanny a result
of so exhilarating an incident as inheriting a fortune was of
course perplexing to the cheerful Lily; it added to her
general sense that Isabel was not at all like other people.
    Our young lady’s courage, however, might have been
taken as reaching its height after her relations had gone
home. She could imagine braver things than spending the
winter in Paris—Paris had sides by which it so resembled
New York, Paris was like smart, neat prose—and her close
correspondence with Madame Merle did much to
stimulate such flights. She had never had a keener sense of
freedom, of the absolute boldness and wantonness of
liberty, than when she turned away from the platform at
the Euston Station on one of the last days of November,
after the departure of the train that was to convey poor
Lily, her husband and her children to their ship at
Liverpool. It had been good for her to regale; she was very
conscious of that; she was very observant, as we know, of
what was good for her, and her effort was constantly to
find something that was good enough. To profit by the
present advantage till the latest moment she had made the
journey from Paris with the unenvied travellers. She
would have accompanied them to Liverpool as well, only


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Edmund Ludlow had asked her, as a favour, not to do so;
it made Lily so fidgety and she asked such impossible
questions. Isabel watched the train move away; she kissed
her hand to the elder of her small nephews, a
demonstrative child who leaned dangerously far out of the
window of the carriage and made separation an occasion
of violent hilarity, and then she walked back into the
foggy London street. The world lay before her—she could
do whatever she chose. There was a deep thrill in it all,
but for the present her choice was tolerably discreet; she
chose simply to walk back from Euston Square to her
hotel. The early dusk of a November afternoon had
already closed in; the street-lamps, in the thick, brown air,
looked weak and red; our heroine was unattended and
Euston Square was a long way from Piccadilly. But Isabel
performed the journey with a positive enjoyment of its
dangers and lost her way almost on purpose, in order to
get more sensations, so that she was disappointed when an
obliging policeman easily set her right again. She was so
fond of the spectacle of human life that she enjoyed even
the aspect of gathering dusk in the London streets—the
moving crowds, the hurrying cabs, the lighted shops, the
flaring stalls, the dark, shining dampness of everything.
That evening, at her hotel, she wrote to Madame Merle


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that she should start in a day or two for Rome. She made
her way down to Rome without touching at Florence—
having gone first to Venice and then proceeded southward
by Ancona. She accomplished this journey without other
assistance than that of her servant, for her natural
protectors were not now on the ground. Ralph Touchett
was spending the winter at Corfu, and Miss Stackpole, in
the September previous, had been recalled to America by
a telegram from the Interviewer. This journal offered its
brilliant correspondent a fresher field for her genius than
the mouldering cities of Europe, and Henrietta was
cheered on her way by a promise from Mr. Bantling that
he would soon come over to see her. Isabel wrote to Mrs.
Touchett to apologize for not presenting herself just yet in
Florence, and her aunt replied characteristically enough.
Apologies, Mrs. Touchett intimated, were of no more use
to her than bubbles, and she herself never dealt in such
articles. One either did the thing or one didn’t, and what
one ‘would’ have done belonged to the sphere of the
irrelevant, like the idea of a future life or of the origin of
things. Her letter was frank, but (a rare case with Mrs.
Touchett) not so frank as it pretended. She easily forgave
her niece for not stopping at Florence, because she took it
for a sign that Gilbert Osmond was less in question there


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than formerly. She watched of course to see if he would
now find a pretext for going to Rome, and derived some
comfort from learning that he had not been guilty of an
absence.
    Isabel, on her side, had not been a fortnight in Rome
before she proposed to Madame Merle that they should
make a little pilgrimage to the East. Madame Merle
remarked that her friend was restless, but she added that
she herself had always been consumed with the desire to
visit Athens and Constantinople. The two ladies
accordingly embarked on this expedition, and spent three
months in Greece, in Turkey, in Egypt. Isabel found
much to interest her in these countries, though Madame
Merle continued to remark that even among the most
classic sites, the scenes most calculated to suggest repose
and reflexion, a certain incoherence prevailed in her.
Isabel travelled rapidly and recklessly; she was like a thirsty
person draining cup after cup. Madame Merle meanwhile,
as lady-in-waiting to a princess circulating incognita,
panted a little in her rear. It was on Isabel’s invitation she
had come, and she imparted all due dignity to the girl’s
uncountenanced state. She played her part with the tact
that might have been expected of her, effacing herself and
accepting the position of a companion whose expenses


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were profusely paid. The situation, however, had no
hardships, and people who met this reserved though
striking pair on their travels would not have been able to
tell you which was patroness and which client. To say that
Madame Merle improved on acquaintance states meagrely
the impression she made on her friend, who had found her
from the first so ample and so easy. At the end of an
intimacy of three months Isabel felt she knew her better;
her character had revealed itself, and the admirable woman
had also at last redeemed her promise of relating her
history from her own point of view-a consummation the
more desirable as Isabel had already heard it related from
the point of view of others. This history was so sad a one
(in so far as it concerned the late M. Merle, a positive
adventurer, she might say, though originally so plausible,
who had taken advantage, years before, of her youth and
of an inexperience in which doubtless those who knew
her only now would find it difficult to believe); it
abounded so in startling and lamentable incidents that her
companion wondered a person so eprouvee could have
kept so much of her freshness, her interest in life. Into this
freshness of Madame Merle’s she obtained a considerable
insight; she seemed to see it as professional, as slightly
mechanical, carried about in its case like the fiddle of the


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virtuoso, or blanketed and bridled like the ‘favourite’ of
the jockey. She liked her as much as ever, but there was a
corner of the curtain that never was lifted; it was as if she
had remained after all something of a public performer,
condemned to emerge only in character and in costume.
She had once said that she came from a distance, that she
belonged to the ‘old, old’ world, and Isabel never lost the
impression that she was the product of a different moral or
social clime from her own, that she had grown up under
other stars.
   She believed then that at bottom she had a different
morality. Of course the morality of civilized persons has
always much in common; but our young woman had a
sense in her of values gone wrong or, as they said at the
shops, marked down. She considered, with the
presumption of youth, that a morality differing from her
own must be inferior to it; and this conviction was an aid
to detecting an occasional flash of cruelty, an occasional
lapse from candour, in the conversation of a person who
had raised delicate kindness to an art and whose pride was
too high for the narrow ways of deception. Her
conception of human motives might, in certain lights,
have been acquired at the court of some kingdom in
decadence, and there were several in her list of which our


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heroine had not even heard. She had not heard of
everything, that was very plain; and there were evidently
things in the world of which it was not advantageous to
hear. She had once or twice had a positive scare; since it
so affected her to have to exclaim, of her friend, ‘Heaven
forgive her, she doesn’t understand me!’ Absurd as it may
seem this discovery operated as a shock, left her with a
vague dismay in which there was even an element of
foreboding. The dismay of course subsided, in the light of
some sudden proof of Madame Merle’s remarkable
intelligence; but it stood for a high-water-mark in the ebb
and flow of confidence. Madame Merle had once declared
her belief that when a friendship ceases to grow it
immediately begins to decline-there being no point of
equilibrium between liking more and liking less. A
stationary affection, in other words, was impossible-it must
move one way or the other. However that might be, the
girl had in these days a thousand uses for her sense of the
romantic, which was more active than it had ever been. I
do not allude to the impulse it received as she gazed at the
Pyramids in the course of an excursion from Cairo, or as
she stood among the broken columns of the Acropolis and
fixed her eyes upon the point designated to her as the
Strait of Salamis; deep and memorable as these emotions


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had remained. She came back by the last of March from
Egypt and Greece and made another stay in Rome. A few
days after her arrival Gilbert Osmond descended from
Florence and remained three weeks, during which the fact
of her being with his old friend Madame Merle, in whose
house she had gone to lodge, made it virtually inevitable
that he should see her every day. When the last of April
came she wrote to Mrs. Touchett that she should now
rejoice to accept an invitation given long before, and went
to pay a visit at Palazzo Crescentini, Madame Merle on
this occasion remaining in Rome. She found her aunt
alone; her cousin was still at Corfu. Ralph, however, was
expected in Florence from day to day, and Isabel, who had
not seen him for upwards of a year, was prepared to give
him the most affectionate welcome.




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                         Chapter 32

    It was not of him, nevertheless, that she was thinking
while she stood at the window near which we found her a
while ago, and it was not of any of the matters I have
rapidly sketched. She was not turned to the past, but to
the immediate, impending hour. She had reason to expect
a scene, and she was not fond of scenes. She was not
asking herself what she should say to her visitor; this
question had already been answered. What he would say
to her-that was the interesting issue. It could be nothing in
the least soothing-she had warrant for this, and the
conviction doubtless showed in the cloud on her brow.
For the rest, however, all clearness reigned in her; she had
put away her mourning and she walked in no small
shimmering splendour. She only felt older-ever so much,
and as if she were ‘worth more’ for it, like some curious
piece in an antiquary’s collection. She was not at any rate
left indefinitely to her apprehensions, for a servant at last
stood before her with a card on his tray. ‘Let the
gentleman come in,’ she said, and continued to gaze out
of the window after the footman had retired. It was only




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when she had heard the door close behind the person who
presently entered that she looked round.
    Caspar Goodwood stood there—stood and received a
moment, from head to foot, the bright, dry gaze with
which she rather withheld than offered a greeting.
Whether his sense of maturity had kept pace with Isabel’s
we shall perhaps presently ascertain; let me say meanwhile
that to her critical glance he showed nothing of the injury
of time. Straight, strong and hard, there was nothing in his
appearance that spoke positively either of youth or of age;
if he had neither innocence nor weakness, so he had no
practical philosophy. His jaw showed the same voluntary
cast as in earlier days; but a crisis like the present had in it
of course something grim. He had the air of a man who
had travelled hard; he said nothing at first, as if he had
been out of breath. This gave Isabel time to make a
reflexion: ‘Poor fellow, what great things he’s capable of,
and what a pity he should waste so dreadfully his splendid
force! What a pity too that one can’t satisfy everybody!’ It
gave her time to do more-to say at the end of a minute: ‘I
can’t tell you how I hoped you wouldn’t come!’
    ‘I’ve no doubt of that.’ And he looked about him for a
seat. Not only had he come, but he meant to settle.



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    ‘You must be very tired,’ said Isabel, seating herself,
and generously, as she thought, to give him his
opportunity.
    ‘No, I’m not at all tired. Did you ever know me to be
tired?’
    ‘Never; I wish I had! When did you arrive?’
    ‘Last night, very late; in a kind of snail-train they call
the express. These Italian trains go at about the rate of an
American funeral.’
    ‘That’s in keeping—you must have felt as if you were
coming to bury me!’ And she forced a smile of
encouragement to an easy view of their situation. She had
reasoned the matter well out, making it perfectly clear that
she broke no faith and falsified no contract; but for all this
she was afraid of her visitor. She was ashamed of her fear;
but she was devoutly thankful there was nothing else to be
ashamed of. He looked at her with his stiff insistence, an
insistence in which there was such a want of tact;
especially when the dull dark beam in his eye rested on
her as a physical weight.
    ‘No, I didn’t feel that; I couldn’t think of you as dead. I
wish I could! he candidly declared.
    ‘I thank you immensely.’



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    ‘I’d rather think of you as dead than as married to
another man.’
    ‘That’s very selfish of you!’ she returned with the
ardour of a real conviction. ‘If you’re not happy yourself
others have yet a right to be.’
    ‘Very likely it’s selfish; but I don’t in the least mind
your saying so. I don’t mind anything you can say now—I
don’t feel it. The cruellest things you could think of
would be mere pin-pricks. After what you’ve done I shall
never feel anything—I mean anything but that. That I
shall feel all my life.’
    Mr. Goodwood made these detached assertions with
dry deliberateness, in his hard, slow American tone, which
flung no atmospheric colour over propositions intrinsically
crude. The tone made Isabel angry rather than touched
her; but her anger perhaps was fortunate, inasmuch as it
gave her a further reason for controlling herself It was
under the pressure of this control that she became, after a
little, irrelevant. ‘When did you leave New York?’
    He threw up his head as if calculating. ‘Seventeen days
ago.’
    ‘You must have travelled fast in spite of your slow
trains.’



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    ‘I came as fast as I could. I’d have come five days ago if
I had been able.’
    ‘It wouldn’t have made any difference, Mr.
Goodwood,’ she coldly smiled.
    ‘Not to you—no. But to me.’
    ‘You gain nothing that I see.’
    ‘That’s for me to judge!’
    ‘Of course. To me it seems that you only torment
yourself.’ And then, to change the subject, she asked him
if he had seen Henrietta Stackpole. He looked as if he had
not come from Boston to Florence to talk of Henrietta
Stackpole; but he answered, distinctly enough, that this
young lady had been with him just before he left America.
‘She came to see you?’ Isabel then demanded.
    ‘Yes, she was in Boston, and she called at my office. It
was the day I had got your letter.’
    ‘Did you tell her?’ Isabel asked with a certain anxiety.
    ‘Oh no,’ said Caspar Goodwood simply; ‘I didn’t want
to do that.
    She’ll hear it quick enough; she hears everything.’
    ‘I shall write to her, and then she’ll write to me and
scold me,’ Isabel declared, trying to smile again.
    Caspar, however, remained sternly grave. ‘I guess she’ll
come right out,’ he said.


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    ‘On purpose to scold me?’
    ‘I don’t know. She seemed to think she had not seen
Europe thoroughly.’
    ‘I’m glad you tell me that,’ Isabel said. ‘I must prepare
for her.’
    Mr. Goodwood fixed his eyes for a moment on the
floor; then at last, raising them, ‘Does she know Mr.
Osmond?’ he enquired.
    ‘A little. And she doesn’t like him. But of course I
don’t marry to please Henrietta,’ she added. It would have
been better for poor Caspar if she had tried a little more to
gratify Miss Stackpole; but he didn’t say so; he only asked,
presently, when her marriage would take place. To which
she made answer that she didn’t know yet. ‘I can only say
it will be soon. I’ve told no one but yourself and one
other person-an old friend of Mr. Osmond’s.’
    ‘Is it a marriage your friends won’t like?’ he demanded.
    ‘I really haven’t an idea. As I say, I don’t marry for my
friends.’
    He went on, making no exclamation, no comment,
only asking questions, doing it quite without delicacy.
‘Who and what then is Mr. Gilbert Osmond?’
    ‘Who and what? Nobody and nothing but a very good
and very honourable man. He’s not in business,’ said


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Isabel. ‘He’s not rich; he’s not known for anything in
particular.’
   She disliked Mr. Goodwood’s questions, but she said to
herself that she owed it to him to satisfy him as far as
possible. The satisfaction poor Caspar exhibited was,
however, small; he sat very upright, gazing at her. ‘Where
does he come from? Where does he belong?’
   She had never been so little pleased with the way he
said ‘belawng.’
   ‘He comes from nowhere. He has spent most of his life
in Italy.’
   ‘You said in your letter he was American. Hasn’t he a
native place?’
   ‘Yes, but he has forgotten it. He left it as a small boy.’
   ‘Has he never gone back?’
   ‘Why should he go back?’ Isabel asked, flushing all
defensively. ‘He has no profession.’
   ‘He might have gone back for his pleasure. Doesn’t he
like the United States?’
   ‘He doesn’t know them. Then he’s very quiet and very
simple-he contents himself with Italy.’
   ‘With Italy and with you,’ said Mr. Goodwood with
gloomy plainness and no appearance of trying to make an
epigram. ‘What has he ever done?’ he added abruptly.


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   ‘That I should marry him? Nothing at all,’ Isabel
replied while her patience helped itself by turning a little
to hardness. ‘If he had done great things would you
forgive me any better? Give me up, Mr. Goodwood; I’m
marrying a perfect nonentity. Don’t try to take an interest
in him. You can’t.’
   ‘I can’t appreciate him; that’s what you mean. And you
don’t mean in the least that he’s a perfect nonentity. You
think he’s grand, you think he’s great, though no one else
thinks so.’
   Isabel’s colour deepened; she felt this really acute of her
companion, and it was certainly a proof of the aid that
passion might render perceptions she had never taken for
fine. ‘Why do you always come back to what others
think? I can’t discuss Mr. Osmond with you.’
   ‘Of course not,’ said Caspar reasonably. And he sat
there with his air of stiff helplessness, as if not only this
were true, but there were nothing else that they might
discuss.
   ‘You see how little you gain,’ she accordingly broke
out-"how little comfort or satisfaction I can give you.’
   ‘I didn’t expect you to give me much.’
   ‘I don’t understand then why you came.’



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    ‘I came because I wanted to see you once more even
just as you are.’
    ‘I appreciate that; but if you had waited a while, sooner
or later we should have been sure to meet, and our
meeting would have been pleasanter for each of us than
this.’
    ‘Waited till after you’re married? That’s just what I
didn’t want to do.
    You’ll be different then.’
    ‘Not very. I shall still be a great friend of yours. You’ll
see.’
    ‘That will make it all the worse,’ said Mr. Goodwood
grimly.
    ‘Ah, you’re unaccommodating! I can’t promise to
dislike you in order to help you to resign yourself.’
    ‘I shouldn’t care if you did!’
    Isabel got up with a movement of repressed impatience
and walked to the window, where she remained a
moment looking out. When she turned round her visitor
was still motionless in his place. She came toward him
again and stopped, resting her hand on the back of the
chair she had just quitted. ‘Do you mean you came simply
to look at me? That’s better for you perhaps than for me.’
    ‘I wished to hear the sound of your voice,’ he said.


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   ‘You’ve heard it, and you see it says nothing very
sweet.’
   ‘It gives me pleasure, all the same.’ And with this he
got up.
   She had felt pain and displeasure on receiving early that
day the news he was in Florence and by her leave would
come within an hour to see her. She had been vexed and
distressed, though she had sent back word by his
messenger that he might come when he would. She had
not been better pleased when she saw him; his being there
at all was so full of heavy implications. It implied things
she could never assent to-rights, reproaches, remonstrance,
rebuke, the expectation of making her change her
purpose. These things, however, if implied, had not been
expressed; and now our young lady, strangely enough,
began to resent her visitor’s remarkable self-control. There
was a dumb misery about him that irritated her; there was
a manly staying of his hand that made her heart beat faster.
She felt her agitation rising, and she said to herself that she
was angry in the way a woman is angry when she has been
in the wrong. She was not in the wrong; she had
fortunately not that bitterness to swallow; but, all the
same, she wished he would denounce her a little. She had
wished his visit would be short; it had no purpose, no


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propriety; yet now that he seemed to be turning away she
felt a sudden horror of his leaving her without uttering a
word that would give her an opportunity to defend herself
more than she had done in writing to him a month before,
in a few carefully chosen words, to announce her
engagement. If she were not in the wrong, however, why
should she desire to defend herself? It was an excess of
generosity on Isabel’s part to desire that Mr. Goodwood
should be angry. And if he had not meanwhile held
himself hard it might have made him so to hear the tone
in which she suddenly exclaimed, as if she were accusing
him of having accused her:
    ‘I’ve not deceived you! I was perfectly free!’
    ‘Yes, I know that,’ said Caspar.
    ‘I gave you full warning that I’d do as I chose.’
    ‘You said you’d probably never marry, and you said it
with such a manner that I pretty well believed it.’
    She considered this an instant. ‘No one can be more
surprised than myself at my present intention.’
    ‘You told me that if I heard you were engaged I was
not to believe it,’ Caspar went on. ‘I heard it twenty days
ago from yourself, but I remembered what you had said. I
thought there might be some mistake, and that’s partly
why I came.’


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   ‘If you wish me to repeat it by word of mouth, that’s
soon done. There’s no mistake whatever.’
   ‘I saw that as soon as I came into the room.’
   ‘What good would it do you that I shouldn’t marry?’
she asked with a certain fierceness.
   ‘I should like it better than this.’
   ‘You’re very selfish, as I said before.’
   ‘I know that. I’m selfish as iron.’
   ‘Even iron sometimes melts! If you’ll be reasonable I’ll
see you again.’
   ‘Don’t you call me reasonable now?’
   ‘I don’t know what to say to you,’ she answered with
sudden humility.
   ‘I shan’t trouble you for a long time,’ the young man
went on. He made a step towards the door, but he
stopped. ‘Another reason why I came was that I wanted to
hear what you would say in explanation of your having
changed your mind.’
   Her humbleness as suddenly deserted her. ‘In
explanation? Do you think I’m bound to explain?’
   He gave her one of his long dumb looks. ‘You were
very positive. I did believe it.’
   ‘So did I. Do you think I could explain if I would?’



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    ‘No, I suppose not. Well,’ he added, ‘I’ve done what I
wished. I’ve seen you.’
    ‘How little you make of these terrible journeys,’ she
felt the poverty of her presently replying.
    ‘If you’re afraid I’m knocked up-in any such way as
that-you may be at your ease about it.’ He turned away,
this time in earnest, and no handshake, no sign of parting,
was exchanged between them. At the door he stopped
with his hand on the knob. ‘I shall leave Florence to-
morrow,’ he said without a quaver.
    ‘I’m delighted to hear it!’ she answered passionately.
Five minutes after he had gone out she burst into tears.




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                         Chapter 33

    Her fit of weeping, however, was soon smothered, and
the signs of it had vanished when, an hour later, she broke
the news to her aunt. I use this expression because she had
been sure Mrs. Touchett would not be pleased; Isabel had
only waited to tell her till she had seen Mr.
    Goodwood. She had an odd impression that it would
not be honourable to make the fact public before she
should have heard what Mr. Goodwood would say about
it. He had said rather less than she expected, and she now
had a somewhat angry sense of having lost time. But she
would lose no more; she waited till Mrs. Touchett came
into the drawing-room before the mid-day breakfast, and
then she began. ‘Aunt Lydia, I’ve something to tell you.’
    Mrs. Touchett gave a little jump and looked at her
almost fiercely: ‘You needn’t tell me; I know what it is.’
    ‘I don’t know how you know.’
    ‘The same way that I know when the window’s open-
by feeling a draught. You’re going to marry that man.’
    ‘What man do you mean?’ Isabel enquired with great
dignity.
    ‘Madame Merle’s friend-Mr. Osmond.’


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    ‘I don’t know why you call him Madame Merle’s
friend. Is that the principal thing he’s known by?’
    ‘If he’s not her friend he ought to after what she has
done for him!
    cried Mrs. Touchett. ‘I shouldn’t have expected it of
her; I’m disappointed.’
    ‘If you mean that Madame Merle has had anything to
do with my engagement you’re greatly mistaken,’ Isabel
declared with a sort of ardent coldness.
    ‘You mean that your attractions were sufficient,
without the gentleman having had to be lashed up? You’re
quite right. They’re immense, your attractions, and he
would never have presumed to think of you if she hadn’t
put him up to it. He has a very good opinion of himself,
but he was not a man to take trouble. Madame Merle took
the trouble for him.’
    ‘He has taken a great deal for himself!’ cried Isabel with
a voluntary laugh.
    Mrs. Touchett gave a sharp nod. ‘I think he must, after
all, to have made you like him so much.’
    ‘I thought he even pleased you.’
    ‘He did, at one time; and that’s why I’m angry with
him.’
    ‘Be angry with me, not with him,’ said the girl.


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    ‘Oh, I’m always angry with you; that’s no satisfaction!
Was it for this that you refused Lord Warburton?’
    ‘Please don’t go back to that. Why shouldn’t I like Mr.
Osmond, since others have done so?’
    ‘Others, at their wildest moments, never wanted to
marry him. There’s nothing of him,’ Mrs. Touchett
explained.
    ‘Then he can’t hurt me,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Do you think you’re going to be happy? No
one’s happy, in such doings, you should know.’
    ‘I shall set the fashion then. What does one marry for?’
    ‘What you will marry for, heaven only knows. People
usually marry as they go into partnership-to set up a
house. But in your partnership you’ll bring everything.’
    ‘Is it that Mr. Osmond isn’t rich? Is that what you’re
talking about?’ Isabel asked.
    ‘He has no money; he has no name; he has no
importance. I value such things and I have the courage to
say it; I think they’re very precious. Many other people
think the same, and they show it. But they give some
other reason.’
    Isabel hesitated a little. ‘I think I value everything that’s
valuable. I care very much for money, and that’s why I
wish Mr. Osmond to have a little.’


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     ‘Give it to him then; but marry some one else.’
     ‘His name’s good enough for me,’ the girl went on.
‘It’s a very pretty name. Have I such a fine one myself?’
     ‘All the more reason you should improve on it. There
are only a dozen American names. Do you marry him out
of charity?’
     ‘It was my duty to tell you, Aunt Lydia, but I don’t
think it’s my duty to explain to you. Even if it were I
shouldn’t be able. So please don’t remonstrate; in talking
about it you have me at a disadvantage. I can’t talk about
it.’
     ‘I don’t remonstrate, I simply answer you: I must give
some sign of intelligence. I saw it coming, and I said
nothing. I never meddle.’
     ‘You never do, and I’m greatly obliged to you. You’ve
been very considerate.’
     ‘It was not considerate-it was convenient,’ said Mrs.
Touchett. ‘But I shall talk to Madame Merle.’
     ‘I don’t see why you keep bringing her in. She has
been a very good friend to me.’
     ‘Possibly; but she has been a poor one to me.’
     ‘What has she done to you?’
     ‘She has deceived me. She had as good as promised me
to prevent your engagement.’


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   ‘She couldn’t have prevented it.’
   ‘She can do anything; that’s what I’ve always liked her
for. I knew she could play any part; but I understood that
she played them one by one. I didn’t understand that she
would play two at the same time.’
   ‘I don’t know what part she may have played to you,’
Isabel said; ‘that’s between yourselves. To me she has been
honest and kind and devoted.’
   ‘Devoted, of course; she wished you to marry her
candidate. She told me she was watching you only in
order to interpose.’
   ‘She said that to please you,’ the girl answered;
conscious, however, of the inadequacy of the explanation.
   ‘To please me by deceiving me? She knows me better.
Am I pleased to-day?’
   ‘I don’t think you’re ever much pleased,’ Isabel was
obliged to reply. ‘If Madame Merle knew you would learn
the truth what had she to gain by insincerity?’
   ‘She gained time, as you see. While I waited for her to
interfere you were marching away, and she was really
beating the drum.’
   ‘That’s very well. But by your own admission you saw
I was marching, and even if she had given the alarm you
wouldn’t have tried to stop me.’


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    ‘No, but some one else would.’
    ‘Whom do you mean?’ Isabel asked, looking very hard
at her aunt.
    Mrs. Touchett’s little bright eyes, active as they usually
were, sustained her gaze rather than returned it. ‘Would
you have listened to Ralph?’
    ‘Not if he had abused Mr. Osmond.’
    ‘Ralph doesn’t abuse people; you know that perfectly.
He cares very much for you.’
    ‘I know he does,’ said Isabel; ‘and I shall feel the value
of it now, for he knows that whatever I do I do with
reason.’
    ‘He never believed you would do this. I told him you
were capable of it, and he argued the other way.’
    ‘He did it for the sake of argument,’ the girl smiled.
‘You don’t accuse him of having deceived you; why
should you accuse Madame Merle?’
    ‘He never pretended he’d prevent it.’
    ‘I’m glad of that!’ cried Isabel gaily. ‘I wish very much,’
she presently added, ‘that when he comes you’d tell him
first of my engagement.’
    ‘Of course I’ll mention it,’ said Mrs. Touchett. ‘I shall
say nothing more to you about it, but I give you notice I
shall talk to others.’


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   ‘That’s as you please. I only meant that it’s rather better
the announcement should come from you than from me.’
   ‘I quite agree with you; it’s much more proper!’ And
on this the aunt and the niece went to breakfast, where
Mrs. Touchett, as good as her word, made no allusion to
Gilbert Osmond. After an interval of silence, however, she
asked her companion from whom she had received a visit
an hour before.
   ‘From an old friend-an American gentleman,’ Isabel
said with a colour in her cheek.
   ‘An American gentleman of course. It’s only an
American gentleman who calls at ten o’clock in the
morning.’
   ‘It was half-past ten; he was in a great hurry; he goes
away this evening.’
   ‘Couldn’t he have come yesterday, at the usual time?’
   ‘He only arrived last night.’
   ‘He spends but twenty-four hours in Florence?’ Mrs.
Touchett cried. ‘He’s an American gentleman truly.’
   ‘He is indeed,’ said Isabel, thinking with perverse
admiration of what Caspar Goodwood had done for her.
   Two days afterward Ralph arrived; but though Isabel
was sure that Mrs. Touchett had lost no time in imparting
to him the great fact, he showed at first no open


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knowledge of it. Their prompted talk was naturally of his
health; Isabel had many questions to ask about Corfu. She
had been shocked by his appearance when he came into
the room; she had forgotten how ill he looked. In spite of
Corfu he looked very ill to-day, and she wondered if he
were really worse or if she were simply disaccustomed to
living with an invalid. Poor Ralph made no nearer
approach to conventional beauty as he advanced in life,
and the now apparently complete loss of his health had
done little to mitigate the natural oddity of his person.
Blighted and battered, but still responsive and still ironic,
his face was like a lighted lantern patched with paper and
unsteadily held; his thin whisker languished upon a lean
cheek; the exorbitant curve of his nose defined itself more
sharply. Lean he was altogether, lean and long and loose-
jointed; an accidental cohesion of relaxed angles. His
brown velvet jacket had become perennial; his hands had
fixed themselves in his pockets; he shambled and stumbled
and shuffled in a manner that denoted great physical
helplessness. It was perhaps this whimsical gait that helped
to mark his character more than ever as that of the
humorous invalid-the invalid for whom even his own
disabilities are part of the general joke. They might well
indeed with Ralph have been the chief cause of the want


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of seriousness marking his view of a world in which the
reason for his own continued presence was past finding
out. Isabel had grown fond of his ugliness; his
awkwardness had become dear to her. They had been
sweetened by association; they struck her as the very terms
on which it had been given him to be charming. He was
so charming that her sense of his being ill had hitherto had
a sort of comfort in it; the state of his health had seemed
not a limitation, but a kind of intellectual advantage; it
absolved him from all professional and official emotions
and left him the luxury of being exclusively personal. The
personality so resulting was delightful; he had remained
proof against the staleness of disease; he had had to consent
to be deplorably ill, yet had somehow escaped being
formally sick. Such had been the girl’s impression of her
cousin; and when she had pitied him it was only on
reflection. As she reflected a good deal she had allowed
him a certain amount of compassion; but she always had a
dread of wasting that essence-a precious article, worth
more to the giver than to any one else. Now, however, it
took no great sensibility to feel that poor Ralph’s tenure of
life was less elastic than it should be. He was a bright, free,
generous spirit, he had all the illumination of wisdom and
none of its pedantry, and yet he was distressfully dying.


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    Isabel noted afresh that life was certainly hard for some
people, and she felt a delicate glow of shame as she
thought how easy it now promised to become for herself.
She was prepared to learn that Ralph was not pleased with
her engagement; but she was not prepared, in spite of her
affection for him, to let this fact spoil the situation. She
was not even prepared, or so she thought, to resent his
want of sympathy; for it would be his privilege-it would
be indeed his natural line-to find fault with any step she
might take toward marriage. One’s cousin always
pretended to hate one’s husband; that was traditional,
classical; it was a part of one’s cousin’s always pretending
to adore one. Ralph was nothing if not critical; and
though she would certainly, other things being equal, have
been as glad to marry to please him as to please any one, it
would be absurd to regard as important that her choice
should square with his views. What were his views after
all? He had pretended to believe she had better have
married Lord Warburton; but this was only because she
had refused that excellent man. If she had accepted him
Ralph would certainly have taken another tone; he always
took the opposite. You could criticize any marriage; it was
the essence of a marriage to be open to criticism. How
well she herself, should she only give her mind to it, might


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criticize this union of her own! She had other
employment, however, and Ralph was welcome to relieve
her of the care. Isabel was prepared to be most patient and
most indulgent. He must have seen that, and this made it
the more odd he should say nothing. After three days had
elapsed without his speaking our young woman wearied of
waiting; dislike it as he would, he might at least go
through the form. We, who know more about poor
Ralph than his cousin, may easily believe that during the
hours that followed his arrival at Palazzo Crescentini he
had privately gone through many forms. His mother had
literally greeted him with the great news, which had been
even more sensibly chilling than Mrs. Touchett’s maternal
kiss. Ralph was shocked and humiliated; his calculations
had been false and the person in the world in whom he
was most interested was lost. He drifted about the house
like a rudderless vessel in a rocky stream, or sat in the
garden of the palace on a great cane chair, his long legs
extended, his head thrown back and his hat pulled over his
eyes. He felt cold about the heart; he had never liked
anything less. What could he do, what could he say? If the
girl were irreclaimable could he pretend to like it? To
attempt to reclaim her was permissible only if the attempt
should succeed. To try to persuade her of anything sordid


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or sinister in the man to whose deep art she had
succumbed would be decently discreet only in the event
of her being persuaded. Otherwise he should simply have
damned himself. It cost him an equal effort to speak his
thought and to dissemble; he could neither assent with
sincerity nor protest with hope. Meanwhile he knew-or
rather he supposed-that the affianced pair were daily
renewing their mutual vows. Osmond at this moment
showed himself little at Palazzo Crescentini; but Isabel met
him every day elsewhere, as she was free to do after their
engagement had been made public. She had taken a
carriage by the month, so as not to be indebted to her
aunt for the means of pursuing a course of which Mrs.
Touchett disapproved, and she drove in the morning to
the Cascine. This suburban wilderness, during the early
hours, was void of all intruders, and our young lady,
joined by her lover in its quietest part, strolled with him a
while through the grey Italian shade and listened to the
nightingales.




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The Portrait of a Lady



                         Chapter 34

    One morning, on her return from her drive, some half-
hour before luncheon, she quitted her vehicle in the court
of the palace and, instead of ascending the great staircase,
crossed the court, passed beneath another archway and
entered the garden. A sweeter spot at this moment could
not have been imagined. The stillness of noontide hung
over it, and the warm shade, enclosed and still, made
bowers like spacious caves. Ralph was sitting there in the
clear gloom, at the base of a statue of Terpsichore-a
dancing nymph with taper fingers and inflated draperies in
the manner of Bernini; the extreme relaxation of his
attitude suggested at first to Isabel that he was asleep. Her
light footstep on the grass had not roused him, and before
turning away she stood for a moment looking at him.
During this instant he opened his eyes; upon which she sat
down on a rustic chair that matched with his own.
Though in her irritation she had accused him of
indifference she was not blind to the fact that he had
visibly had something to brood over. But she had
explained his air of absence partly by the languor of his
increased weakness, partly by worries connected with the


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property inherited from his father-the fruit of eccentric
arrangements of which Mrs. Touchett disapproved and
which, as she had told Isabel, now encountered opposition
from the other partners in the bank. He ought to have
gone to England, his mother said, instead of coming to
Florence; he had not been there for months, and took no
more interest in the bank than in the state of Patagonia.
    ‘I’m sorry I waked you,’ Isabel said; ‘you look too
tired.’
    ‘I feel too tired. But I was not asleep. I was thinking of
you.’
    ‘Are you tired of that?’
    ‘Very much so. It leads to nothing. The road’s long and
I never arrive.’
    ‘What do you wish to arrive at?’ she put to him, closing
her parasol.
    ‘At the point of expressing to myself properly what I
think of your engagement.’
    ‘Don’t think too much of it,’ she lightly returned.
    ‘Do you mean that it’s none of my business?’
    ‘Beyond a certain point, yes.’
    ‘That’s the point I want to fix. I had an idea you may
have found me wanting in good manners. I’ve never
congratulated you.’


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    ‘Of course I’ve noticed that. I wondered why you were
silent.’
    ‘There have been a good many reasons. I’ll tell you
now,’ Ralph said. He pulled off his hat and laid it on the
ground; then he sat looking at her. He leaned back under
the protection of Bernini, his head against his marble
pedestal, his arms dropped on either side of him, his hands
laid upon the rests of his wide chair. He looked awkward,
uncomfortable; he hesitated long. Isabel said nothing;
when people were embarrassed she was usually sorry for
them, but she was determined not to help Ralph to utter a
word that should not be to the honour of her high
decision. ‘I think I’ve hardly got over my surprise,’ he
went on at last. ‘You were the last person I expected to
see caught.’
    ‘I don’t know why you call it caught.’
    ‘Because you’re going to be put into a cage.’
    ‘If I like my cage, that needn’t trouble you,’ she
answered.
    ‘That’s what I wonder at; that’s what I’ve been
thinking of.’
    ‘If you’ve been thinking you may imagine how I’ve
thought! I’m satisfied that I’m doing well.’



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    ‘You must have changed immensely. A year ago you
valued your liberty beyond everything. You wanted only
to see life.’
    ‘I’ve seen it,’ said Isabel. ‘It doesn’t look to me now, I
admit, such an inviting expanse.’
    ‘I don’t pretend it is; only I had an idea that you took a
genial view of it and wanted to survey the whole field.’
    ‘I’ve seen that one can’t do anything so general. One
must choose a corner and cultivate that.’
    ‘That’s what I think. And one must choose as good a
corner as possible. I had an idea, all winter, while I read
your delightful letters, that you were choosing. You said
nothing about it, and your silence put me off my guard.’
    ‘It was not a matter I was likely to write to you about.
Besides, I knew nothing of the future. It has all come
lately. If you had been on your guard, however,’ Isabel
asked, ‘what would you have done?’
    ‘I should have said ‘Wait a little longer.’
    ‘Wait for what?’
    ‘Well, for a little more light,’ said Ralph with rather an
absurd smile, while his hands found their way into his
pockets.
    ‘Where should my light have come from? From you?’
    ‘I might have struck a spark or two.’


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    Isabel had drawn off her gloves; she smoothed them
out as they lay upon her knee. The mildness of this
movement was accidental, for her expression was not
conciliatory. ‘You’re beating about the bush, Ralph. You
wish to say you don’t like Mr. Osmond, and yet you’re
afraid.’
    ’Willing to wound and yet afraid to strike’? I’m willing
to wound him, yes-but not to wound you. I’m afraid of
you, not of him. If you marry him it won’t be a fortunate
way for me to have spoken.’
    ‘If I marry him! Have you had any expectation of
dissuading me?’
    ‘Of course that seems to you too fatuous.’
    ‘No,’ said Isabel after a little; ‘it seems to me too
touching.’
    ‘That’s the same thing. It makes me so ridiculous that
you pity me.’
    She stroked out her long gloves again. ‘I know you’ve
a great affection for me. I can’t get rid of that.’
    ‘For heaven’s sake don’t try. Keep that well in sight. It
will convince you how intensely I want you to do well.’
    ‘And how little you trust me!’




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   There was a moment’s silence; the warm noon-tide
seemed to listen. ‘I trust you, but I don’t trust him,’ said
Ralph.
   She raised her eyes and gave him a wide, deep look.
‘You’ve said it now, and I’m glad you’ve made it so clear.
But you’ll suffer by it.’
   ‘Not if you’re just.’
   ‘I’m very just,’ said Isabel. ‘What better proof of it can
there be than that I’m not angry with you? I don’t know
what’s the matter with me, but I’m not. I was when you
began, but it has passed away. Perhaps I ought to be angry,
but Mr. Osmond wouldn’t think so. He wants me to
know everything; that’s what I like him for. You’ve
nothing to gain, I know that. I’ve never been so nice to
you, as a girl, that you should have much reason for
wishing me to remain one. You give very good advice;
you’ve often done so. No, I’m very quiet; I’ve always
believed in your wisdom,’ she went on, boasting of her
quietness, yet speaking with a kind of contained
exaltation. It was her passionate desire to be just; it
touched Ralph to the heart, affected him like a caress from
a creature he had injured. He wished to interrupt, to
reassure her; for a moment he was absurdly inconsistent;
he would have retracted what he had said. But she gave


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him no chance; she went on, having caught a glimpse, as
she thought, of the heroic line and desiring to advance in
that direction. ‘I see you’ve some special idea; I should like
very much to hear it. I’m sure it’s disinterested; I feel that.
It seems a strange thing to argue about, and of course I
ought to tell you definitely that if you expect to dissuade
me you may give it up. You’ll not move me an inch; it’s
too late. As you say, I’m caught. Certainly it won’t be
pleasant for you to remember this, but your pain will be in
your own thoughts. I shall never reproach you.’
   ‘I don’t think you ever will,’ said Ralph. ‘It’s not in the
least the sort of marriage I thought you’d make.’
   ‘What sort of marriage was that, pray?’
   ‘Well, I can hardly say. I hadn’t exactly a positive view
of it, but I had a negative. I didn’t think you’d decide for-
well, for that type.’
   ‘What’s the matter with Mr. Osmond’s type, if it be
one? His being so independent, so individual, is what I
most see in him,’ the girl declared. ‘What do you know
against him? You know him scarcely at all.’
   ‘Yes,’ Ralph said, ‘I know him very little, and I confess
I haven’t facts and items to prove him a villain. But all the
same I can’t help feeling that you’re running a grave risk.’



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    ‘Marriage is always a grave risk, and his risk’s as grave as
mine.’
    ‘That’s his affair! If he’s afraid, let him back out. I wish
to God he would.’
    Isabel reclined in her chair, folding her arms and gazing
a while at her cousin. ‘I don’t think I understand you,’ she
said at last coldly. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking
about.’
    ‘I believed you’d marry a man of more importance.’
    Cold, I say, her tone had been, but at this a colour like
a flame leaped into her face. ‘Of more importance to
whom? It seems to me enough that one’s husband should
be of importance to one’s self!’
    Ralph blushed as well; his attitude embarrassed him.
Physically speaking he proceeded to change it; he
straightened himself, then leaned forward, resting a hand
on each knee. He fixed his eyes on the ground; he had an
air of the most respectful deliberation. ‘I’ll tell you in a
moment what I mean,’ he presently said. He felt agitated,
intensely eager; now that he had opened the discussion he
wished to discharge his mind. But he wished also to be
superlatively gentle.
    Isabel waited a little-then she went on with majesty. ‘In
everything that makes one care for people Mr. Osmond is


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pre-eminent. There may be nobler natures, but I’ve never
had the pleasure of meeting one. Mr. Osmond’s is the
finest I know; he’s good enough for me, and interesting
enough, and clever enough. I’m far more struck with what
he has and what he represents than with what he may
lack.’
   ‘I had treated myself to a charming vision of your
future,’ Ralph observed without answering this: ‘I had
amused myself with planning out a high destiny for you.
There was to be nothing of this sort in it. You were not to
come down so easily or so soon.’
   ‘Come down, you say?’
   ‘Well, that renders my sense of what has happened to
you. You seemed to me to be soaring far up in the blue-to
be, sailing in the bright light, over the heads of men.
Suddenly some one tosses up a faded rosebud-a missile that
should never have reached you-and straight you drop to
the ground. It hurts me,’ said Ralph audaciously, ‘hurts
me as if I had fallen myself!’
   The look of pain and bewilderment deepened in his
companion’s face. ‘I don’t understand you in the least,’ she
repeated. ‘You say you amused yourself with a project for
my career-I don’t understand that. Don’t amuse yourself
too much, or I shall think you’re doing it at my expense.’


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    Ralph shook his head. ‘I’m not afraid of your not
believing that I’ve had great ideas for you.’
    ‘What do you mean by my soaring and sailing?’ she
pursued. ‘I’ve never moved on a higher plane than I’m
moving on now. There’s nothing higher for a girl than to
marry a-a person she likes,’ said poor Isabel, wandering
into the didactic.
    ‘It’s your liking the person we speak of that I venture
to criticize, my dear cousin. I should have said that the
man for you would have been a more active, larger, freer
sort of nature.’ Ralph hesitated, then added: ‘I can’t get
over the sense that Osmond is somehow-well, small.’ He
had uttered the last word with no great assurance; he was
afraid she would flash out again. But to his surprise she was
quiet; she had the air of considering.
    ‘Small?’ She made it sound immense.
    ‘I think he’s narrow, selfish. He takes himself so
seriously!
    ‘He has a great respect for himself; I don’t blame him
for that,’ said Isabel. ‘It makes one more sure to respect
others.’
    Ralph for a moment felt almost reassured by her
reasonable tone. ‘Yes, but everything is relative; one ought



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to feel one’s relation to things-to others. I don’t think Mr.
Osmond does that.’
    ‘I’ve chiefly to do with his relation to me. In that he’s
excellent.’
    ‘He’s the incarnation of taste,’ Ralph went on, thinking
hard how he could best express Gilbert Osmond’s sinister
attributes without putting himself in the wrong by
seeming to describe him coarsely. He wished to describe
him impersonally, scientifically. ‘He judges and measures,
approves and condemns, altogether by that.’
    ‘It’s a happy thing then that his taste should be
exquisite.’
    ‘It’s exquisite, indeed, since it has led him to select you
as his bride. But have you ever seen such a taste-a really
exquisite one-ruffled?’
    ‘I hope it may never be my fortune to fail to gratify my
husband’s.’
    At these words a sudden passion leaped to Ralph’s lips.
‘Ah, that’s wilful, that’s unworthy of you! You were not
meant to be measured in that way-you were meant for
something better than to keep guard over the sensibilities
of a sterile dilettante!’
    Isabel rose quickly and he did the same, so that they
stood for a moment looking at each other as if he had


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flung down a defiance or an insult. But ‘You go too far,’
she simply breathed.
    ‘I’ve said what I had on my mind-and I’ve said it
because I love you!’
    Isabel turned pale: was he too on that tiresome list? She
had a sudden wish to strike him off. ‘Ah then, you’re not
disinterested!’
    ‘I love you, but I love without hope,’ said Ralph
quickly, forcing a smile and feeling that in that last
declaration he had expressed more than he intended.
    Isabel moved away and stood looking into the sunny
stillness of the garden; but after a little she turned back to
him. ‘I’m afraid your talk then is the wildness of despair! I
don’t understand it-but it doesn’t matter. I’m not arguing
with you; it’s impossible I should; I’ve only tried to listen
to you. I’m much obliged to you for attempting to
explain,’ she said gently, as if the anger with which she
had just sprung up had already subsided. ‘It’s very good of
you to try to warn me, if you’re really alarmed; but I
won’t promise to think of what you’ve said: I shall forget
it as soon as possible. Try and forget it yourself; you’ve
done your duty, and no man can do more. I can’t explain
to you what I feel, what I believe, and I wouldn’t if I
could.’ She paused a moment and then went on with an


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inconsequence that Ralph observed even in the midst of
his eagerness to discover some symptom of concession. ‘I
can’t enter into your idea of Mr. Osmond; I can’t do it
justice, because I see him in quite another way. He’s not
important-no, he’s not important; he’s a man to whom
importance is supremely indifferent. If that’s what you
mean when you call him ‘small,’ then he’s as small as you
please. I call that large-it’s the largest thing I know. I
won’t pretend to argue with you about a person I’m going
to marry,’ Isabel repeated. ‘I’m not in the least concerned
to defend Mr. Osmond; he’s not so weak as to need my
defence. I should think it would seem strange even to
yourself that I should talk of him so quietly and coldly, as
if he were any one else. I wouldn’t talk of him at all to any
one but you; and you, after what you’ve said-I may just
answer you once for all. Pray, would you wish me to
make a mercenary marriage-what they call a marriage of
ambition? I’ve only one ambition-to be free to follow out
a good feeling. I had others once, but they’ve passed away.
Do you complain of Mr. Osmond because he’s not rich?
That’s just what I like him for. I’ve fortunately money
enough; I’ve never felt so thankful for it as to-day. There
have been moments when I should like to go and kneel
down by your father’s grave: he did perhaps a better thing


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than he knew when he put it into my power to marry a
poor man-a man who has borne his poverty with such
dignity, with such indifference. Mr. Osmond has never
scrambled nor struggled he has cared for no worldly prize.
If that’s to be narrow, if that’s to be selfish, then it’s very
well. I’m not frightened by such words, I’m not even
displeased; I’m only sorry that you should make a mistake.
Others might have done so, but I’m surprised that you
should. You might know a gentleman when you see one-
you might know a fine mind. Mr. Osmond makes no
mistakes! He knows everything, he understands
everything, he has the kindest, gentlest, highest spirit.
You’ve got hold of some false idea. It’s a pity, but I can’t
help it; it regards you more than me.’ Isabel paused a
moment, looking at her cousin with an eye illumined by a
sentiment which contradicted the careful calmness of her
manner-a mingled sentiment, to which the angry pain
excited by his words and the wounded pride of having
needed to justify a choice of which she felt only the
nobleness and purity, equally contributed. Though she
paused Ralph said nothing; he saw she had more to say.
She was grand, but she was highly solicitous; she was
indifferent, but she was all in a passion. ‘What sort of a
person should you have liked me to marry?’ she asked


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suddenly. ‘You talk about one’s soaring and sailing, but if
one marries at all one touches the earth. One has human
feelings and needs, one has a heart in one’s bosom, and
one must marry a particular individual. Your mother has
never forgiven me for not having come to a better
understanding with Lord Warburton, and she’s horrified at
my contenting myself with a person who has none of his
great advantages-no property, no title, no honours, no
houses, nor lands, nor position, nor reputation, nor
brilliant belongings of any sort. It’s the total absence of all
these things that pleases me. Mr. Osmond’s simply a very
lonely, a very cultivated and a very honest man-he’s not a
prodigious proprietor.’
   Ralph had listened with great attention, as if everything
she said merited deep consideration; but in truth he was
only half thinking of the things she said, he was for the rest
simply accommodating himself to the weight of his total
impression-the impression of her ardent good faith. She
was wrong, but she believed; she was deluded, but she was
dismally consistent. It was wonderfully characteristic of her
that, having invented a fine theory about Gilbert Osmond,
she loved him not for what he really possessed, but for his
very poverties dressed out as honours. Ralph remembered
what be had said to his father about wishing to put it into


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her power to meet the requirements of her imagination.
He had done so, and the girl had taken full advantage of
luxury. Poor Ralph felt sick; he felt ashamed. Isabel had
uttered her last words with a low solemnity of conviction
which virtually terminated the discussion, and she closed it
formally by turning away and walking back to the house.
Ralph walked beside her, and they passed into the court
together and reached the big staircase. Here he stopped
and Isabel paused, turning on him a face of elation-
absolutely and perversely of gratitude. His opposition had
made her own conception of her conduct clearer to her.
‘Shall you not come up to breakfast?’ she asked.
   ‘No; I want no breakfast; I’m not hungry.’
   ‘You ought to eat,’ said the girl; ‘you live on air.’
   ‘I do, very much, and I shall go back into the garden
and take another mouthful. I came thus far simply to say
this. I told you last year that if you were to get into
trouble I should feel terribly sold. That’s how I feel to-
day.’
   ‘Do you think I’m in trouble?’
   ‘One’s in trouble when one’s in error.’
   ‘Very well,’ said Isabel; ‘I shall never complain of my
trouble to you!
   And she moved up the staircase.


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    Ralph, standing there with his hands in his pockets
followed her with his eyes; then the lurking chill of the
high-walled court struck him and made him shiver, so that
he returned to the garden to breakfast on the Florentine
sunshine.




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                         Chapter 35

    Isabel, when she strolled in the Cascine with her lover,
felt no impulse to tell him how little he was approved at
Palazzo Crescentini. The discreet opposition offered to her
marriage by her aunt and her cousin made on the whole
no great impression upon her; the moral of it was simply
that they disliked Gilbert Osmond. This dislike was not
alarming to Isabel; she scarcely even regretted it; for it
served mainly to throw into higher relief the fact, in every
way so honourable, that she married to please herself. One
did other things to please other people; one did this for a
more personal satisfaction; and Isabel’s satisfaction was
confirmed by her lover’s admirable good conduct. Gilbert
Osmond was in love, and he had never deserved less than
during these still, bright days, each of them numbered,
which preceded the fulfilment of his hopes, the harsh
criticism passed upon him by Ralph Touchett. The chief
impression produced on Isabel’s spirit by this criticism was
that the passion of love separated its victim terribly from
every one but the loved object. She felt herself disjoined
from every one she had ever known before-from her two
sisters, who wrote to express a dutiful hope that she would


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be happy, and a surprise, somewhat more vague, at her not
having chosen a consort who was the hero of a richer
accumulation of anecdote; from Henrietta, who, she was
sure, would come out, too late, on purpose to
remonstrate; from Lord Warburton, who would certainly
console himself, and from Caspar Goodwood, who
perhaps would not; from her aunt, who had cold, shallow
ideas about marriage, for which she was not sorry to
display her contempt; and from Ralph, whose talk about
having great views for her was surely but a whimsical
cover for a personal disappointment. Ralph apparently
wished her not to marry at all-that was what it really
meant-because he was amused with the spectacle of her
adventures as a single woman. His disappointment made
him say angry things about the man she had preferred
even to him: Isabel flattered herself that she believed
Ralph had been angry. It was the more easy for her to
believe this because, as I say, she had now little free or
unemployed emotion for minor needs, and accepted as an
incident, in fact quite as an ornament, of her lot the idea
that to prefer Gilbert Osmond as she preferred him was
perforce to break all other ties. She tasted of the sweets of
this preference, and they made her conscious, almost with
awe, of the invidious and remorseless tide of the charmed


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and possessed condition, great as was the traditional
honour and imputed virtue of being in love. It was the
tragic part of happiness; one’s right was always made of the
wrong of some one else.
    The elation of success, which surely now flamed high
in Osmond, emitted meanwhile very little smoke for so
brilliant a blaze. Contentment, on his part, took no vulgar
form; excitement, in the most self-conscious of men, was a
kind of ecstasy of self-control. This disposition, however,
made him an admirable lover; it gave him a constant view
of the smitten and dedicated state. He never forgot
himself, as I say; and so he never forgot to be graceful and
tender, to wear the appearance-which presented indeed no
difficulty-of stirred senses and deep intentions. He was
immensely pleased with his young lady; Madame Merle
had made him a present of incalculable value. What could
be a finer thing to live with than a high spirit attuned to
softness? For would not the softness be all for one’s self,
and the strenuousness for society, which admired the air of
superiority? What could be a happier gift in a companion
than a quick, fanciful mind which saved one repetitions
and reflected one’s thought on a polished, elegant surface?
Osmond hated to see his thought reproduced literally-that
made it look stale and stupid; he preferred it to be


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freshened in the reproduction even as ‘words’ by music.
His egotism had never taken the crude form of desiring a
dull wife; this lady’s intelligence was to be a silver plate,
not an earthen one-a plate that he might heap up with ripe
fruits, to which it would give a decorative value, so that
talk might become for him a sort of served dessert. He
found the silver quality in this perfection in Isabel; he
could tap her imagination with his knuckle and make it
ring. He knew perfectly, though he had not been told,
that their union enjoyed little favour with the girl’s
relations; but he had always treated her so completely as an
independent person that it hardly seemed necessary to
express regret for the attitude of her family. Nevertheless,
one morning, he made an abrupt allusion to it. ‘It’s the
difference in our fortune they don’t like,’ he said. ‘They
think I’m in love with your money.’
    ‘Are you speaking of my aunt-of my cousin?’ Isabel
asked. ‘How do you know what they think?’
    ‘You’ve not told me they’re pleased, and when I wrote
to Mrs. Touchett the other day she never answered my
note. If they had been delighted I should have had some
sign of it, and the fact of my being poor and you rich is
the most obvious explanation of their reserve. But of
course when a poor man marries a rich girl he must be


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prepared for imputations. I don’t mind them; I only care
for one thing-for your not having the shadow of a doubt.
I don’t care what people of whom I ask nothing think-I’m
not even capable perhaps of wanting to know. I’ve never
so concerned myself, God forgive me, and why should I
begin to-day, when I have taken to myself a compensation
for everything? I won’t pretend I’m sorry you’re rich; I’m
delighted. I delight in everything that’s yours-whether it
be money or virtue. Money’s a horrid thing to follow, but
a charming thing to meet. It seems to me, however, that
I’ve sufficiently proved the limits of my itch for it: I never
in my life tried to earn a penny, and I ought to be less
subject to suspicion than most of the people one sees
grubbing and grabbing. I suppose it’s their business to
suspect-that of your family; it’s proper on the whole they
should. They’ll like me better some day; so will you, for
that matter. Meanwhile my business is not to make myself
bad blood, but simply to be thankful for life and love.’ ‘It
has made me better, loving you,’ he said on another
occasion; ‘it has made me wiser and easier and I won’t
pretend to deny-brighter and nicer and even stronger. I
used to want a great many things before and to be angry I
didn’t have them. Theoretically I was satisfied, as I once
told you. I flattered myself I had limited my wants. But I


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was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid, sterile,
hateful fits of hunger, of desire. Now I’m really satisfied,
because I can’t think of anything better. It’s just as when
one has been trying to spell out a book in the twilight and
suddenly the lamp comes in. I had been putting out my
eyes over the book of life and finding nothing to reward
me for my pains; but now that I can read it properly I see
it’s a delightful story. My dear girl, I can’t tell you how life
seems to stretch there before us-what a long summer
afternoon awaits us. It’s the latter half of an Italian day-
with a golden haze, and the shadows just lengthening, and
that divine delicacy in the light, the air, the landscape,
which I have loved all my life and which you love to-day.
Upon my honour, I don’t see why we shouldn’t get on.
We’ve got what we like-to say nothing of having each
other. We’ve the faculty of admiration and several capital
convictions. We’re not stupid, we’re not mean, we’re not
under bonds to any kind of ignorance or dreariness.
You’re remarkably fresh, and I’m remarkably well-
seasoned. We’ve my poor child to amuse us; we’ll try and
make up some little life for her. It’s all soft and mellow-it
has the Italian colouring.’
    They made a good many plans, but they left themselves
also a good deal of latitude; it was a matter of course,


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however, that they should live for the present in Italy. It
was in Italy that they had met, Italy had been a party to
their first impressions of each other, and Italy should be a
party to their happiness. Osmond had the attachment of
old acquaintance and Isabel the stimulus of new, which
seemed to assure her a future at a high level of
consciousness of the beautiful. The desire for unlimited
expansion had been succeeded in her soul by the sense
that life was vacant without some private duty that might
gather one’s energies to a point. She had told Ralph she
had ‘seen life’ in a year or two and that she was already
tired, not of the act of living, but of that of observing.
What had become of all her ardours, her aspirations, her
theories, her high estimate of her independence and her
incipient conviction that she should never marry? These
things had been absorbed in a more primitive need-a need
the answer to which brushed away numberless questions,
yet gratified infinite desires. It simplified the situation at a
stroke, it came down from above like the light of the stars,
and it needed no explanation. There was explanation
enough in the fact that he was her lover, her own, and
that she should be able to be of use to him. She could
surrender to him with a kind of humility, she could marry



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him with a kind of pride; she was not only taking, she was
giving.
    He brought Pansy with him two or three times to the
Cascine-Pansy who was very little taller than a year before,
and not much older. That she would always be a child was
the conviction expressed by her father, who held her by
the hand when she was in her sixteenth year and told her
to go and play while he sat down a little with the pretty
lady. Pansy wore a short dress and a long coat; her hat
always seemed too big for her. She found pleasure in
walking off, with quick, short steps, to the end of the
alley, and then in walking back with a smile that seemed
an appeal for approbation. Isabel approved in abundance,
and the abundance had the personal touch that the child’s
affectionate nature craved. She watched her indications as
if for herself also much depended on them-Pansy already
so represented part of the service she could render, part of
the responsibility she could face. Her father took so the
childish view of her that he had not yet explained to her
the new relation in which he stood to the elegant Miss
Archer. ‘She doesn’t know,’ he said to Isabel; ‘she doesn’t
guess; she thinks it perfectly natural that you and I should
come and walk here together simply as good friends.
There seems to me something enchantingly innocent in


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that; it’s the way I like her to be. No, I’m not a failure, as
I used to think; I’ve succeeded in two things. I’m to marry
the woman I adore, and I’ve brought up my child, as I
wished, in the old way.’
   He was very fond, in all things, of the ‘old way"; that
had struck Isabel as one of his fine, quiet, sincere notes. ‘It
occurs to me that you’ll not know whether you’ve
succeeded until you’ve told her,’ she said. ‘You must see
how she takes your news. She may be horrified-she may
be jealous.’
   ‘I’m not afraid of that; she’s too fond of you on her
own account. I should like to leave her in the dark a little
longer-to see if it will come into her head that if we’re not
engaged we ought to be.’
   Isabel was impressed by Osmond’s artistic, the plastic
view, as it somehow appeared, of Pansy’s innocence-her
own appreciation of it being more anxiously moral. She
was perhaps not the less pleased when he told her a few
days later that he had communicated the fact to his
daughter, who had made such a pretty little speech-"Oh,
then I shall have a beautiful sister!’
   She was neither surprised nor alarmed; she had not
cried, as he expected.
   ‘Perhaps she had guessed it,’ said Isabel.


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    ‘Don’t say that; I should be disgusted if I believed that.
I thought it would be just a little shock; but the way she
took it proves that her good manners are paramount.
That’s also what I wished. You shall see for yourself; to-
morrow she shall make you her congratulations in person.’
    The meeting, on the morrow, took place at the
Countess Gemini’s, whither Pansy had been conducted by
her father, who knew that Isabel was to come in the
afternoon to return a visit made her by the Countess on
learning that they were to become sisters-in-law. Calling
at Casa Touchett the visitor had not found Isabel at home;
but after our young woman had been ushered into the
Countess’s drawing-room Pansy arrived to say that her
aunt would presently appear. Pansy was spending the day
with that lady, who thought her of an age to begin to
learn how to carry herself in company. It was Isabel’s view
that the little girl might have given lessons in deportment
to her relative, and nothing could have justified this
conviction more than the manner in which Pansy
acquitted herself while they waited together for the
Countess. Her father’s decision, the year before, had
finally been to send her back to the convent to receive the
last graces, and Madame Catherine had evidently carried



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out her theory that Pansy was to be fitted for the great
world.
   ‘Papa has told me that you’ve kindly consented to
marry him,’ said this excellent woman’s pupil. ‘It’s very
delightful; I think you’ll suit very well.’
   ‘You think I shall suit you?’
   ‘You’ll suit me beautifully; but what I mean is that you
and papa will suit each other. You’re both so quiet and so
serious. You’re not so quiet as he-or even as Madame
Merle; but you’re more quiet than many others. He
should not for instance have a wife like my aunt. She’s
always in motion, in agitation-to-day especially; you’ll see
when she comes in. They told us at the convent it was
wrong to judge our elders, but I suppose there’s no harm
if we judge them favourably. You’ll be a delightful
companion for papa.’
   ‘For you too, I hope,’ Isabel said.
   ‘I speak first of him on purpose. I’ve told you already
what I myself think of you; I liked you from the first. I
admire you so much that I think it will be a good fortune
to have you always before me. You’ll be my model; I shall
try to imitate you though I’m afraid it will be very feeble.
I’m very glad for papa-he needed something more than
me. Without you I don’t see how he could have got it.


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You’ll be my stepmother, but we mustn’t use that word.
They’re always said to be cruel; but I don’t think you’ll
ever so much as pinch or even push me. I’m not afraid at
all.’
    ‘My good little Pansy,’ said Isabel gently, ‘I shall be
ever so kind to you.’ A vague, inconsequent vision of her
coming in some odd way to need it had intervened with
the effect of a chill.
    ‘Very well then, I’ve nothing to fear,’ the child
returned with her note of prepared promptitude. What
teaching she had had, it seemed to suggest-or what
penalties for non-performance she dreaded!
    Her description of her aunt had not been incorrect; the
Countess Gemini was further than ever from having
folded her wings. She entered the room with a flutter
through the air and kissed Isabel first on the forehead and
then on each cheek as if according to some ancient
prescribed rite. She drew the visitor to a sofa and, looking
at her with a variety of turns of the head, began to talk
very much as if, seated brush in hand before an easel, she
were applying a series of considered touches to a
composition of figures already sketched in. ‘If you expect
me to congratulate you I must beg you to excuse me. I
don’t suppose you care if I do or not; I believe you’re


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supposed not to care-through being so clever-for all sorts
of ordinary things. But I care myself if I tell fibs; I never
tell them unless there’s something rather good to be
gained. I don’t see what’s to be gained with you—
especially as you wouldn’t believe me. I don’t make
professions any more than I make paper flowers or
flouncey lampshades-I don’t know how. My lampshades
would be sure to take fire, my roses and my fibs to be
larger than life. I’m very glad for my own sake that you’re
to marry Osmond; but I won’t pretend I’m glad for yours.
You’re very brilliant-you know that’s the way you’re
always spoken of; you’re an heiress and very good-looking
and original, not banal; so it’s a good thing to have you in
the family. Our family’s very good, you know; Osmond
will have told you that; and my mother was rather
distinguished-she was called the American Corinne. But
we’re dreadfully fallen, I think, and perhaps you’ll pick us
up. I’ve great confidence in you; there are ever so many
things I want to talk to you about. I never congratulate
any girl on marrying; I think they ought to make it
somehow not quite so awful a steel trap. I suppose Pansy
oughtn’t to hear all this; but that’s what she has come to
me for-to acquire the tone of society. There’s no harm in
her knowing what horrors she may be in for. When first I


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got an idea that my brother had designs on you I thought
of writing to you, to recommend you, in the strongest
terms, not to listen to him. Then I thought it would be
disloyal, and I hate anything of that kind. Besides, as I say,
I was enchanted for myself; and after all I’m very selfish.
By the way, you won’t respect me, not one little mite, and
we shall never be intimate. I should like it, but you won’t.
Some day, all the same, we shall be better friends than you
will believe at first. My husband will come and see you,
though, as you probably know, he’s on no sort of terms
with Osmond. He’s very fond of going to see pretty
women, but I’m not afraid of you. In the first place I don’t
care what he does. In the second, you won’t care a straw
for him; he won’t be a bit, at any time, your affair, and,
stupid as he is, he’ll see you’re not his. Some day, if you
can stand it, I’ll tell you all about him. Do you think my
niece ought to go out of the room? Pansy, go and practise
a little in my boudoir.’
    ‘Let her stay, please,’ said Isabel. ‘I would rather hear
nothing that Pansy may not!’




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                         Chapter 36

    One afternoon of the autumn of 1876, toward dusk, a
young man of pleasing appearance rang at the door of a
small apartment on the third floor of an old Roman house.
On its being opened he enquired for Madame Merle;
whereupon the servant, a neat, plain woman, with a
French face and a lady’s maid’s manner, ushered him into
a diminutive drawing-room and requested the favour of
his name. ‘Mr. Edward Rosier,’ said the young man, who
sat down to wait till his hostess should appear.
    The reader will perhaps not have forgotten that Mr.
Rosier was an ornament of the American circle in Paris,
but it may also be remembered that he sometimes
vanished from its horizon. He had spent a portion of
several winters at Pau, and as he was a gentleman of
constituted habits he might have continued for years to
pay his annual visit to this charming resort. In the summer
of 1876, however, an incident befell him which changed
the current not only of his thoughts, but of his customary
sequences. He passed a month in the Upper Engadine and
encountered at Saint Moritz a charming young girl. To
this little person he began to pay, on the spot, particular


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attention: she struck him as exactly the household angel he
had long been looking for. He was never precipitate, he
was nothing if not discreet, so he forbore for the present
to declare his passion; but it seemed to him when they
parted-the young lady to go down into Italy and her
admirer to proceed to Geneva, where he was under bonds
to join other friends that he should be romantically
wretched if he were not to see her again. The simplest
way to do so was to go in the autumn to Rome, where
Miss Osmond was domiciled with her family. Mr. Rosier
started on his pilgrimage to the Italian capital and reached
it on the first of November. It was a pleasant thing to do,
but for the young man there was a strain of the heroic in
the enterprise. He might expose himself, unseasoned, to
the poison of the Roman air, which in November lay,
notoriously, much in wait. Fortune, however, favours the
brave; and this adventurer, who took three grains of
quinine a day, had at the end of a month no cause to
deplore his temerity. He had made to a certain extent
good use of his time; he had devoted it in vain to finding a
flaw in Pansy Osmond’s composition. She was admirably
finished; she had had the last touch; she was really a
consummate piece. He thought of her in amorous
meditation a good deal as he might have thought of a


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Dresden-china shepherdess. Miss Osmond, indeed, in the
bloom of her juvenility, had a hint of the rococo which
Rosier, whose taste was predominantly for that manner,
could not fail to appreciate. That he esteemed the
productions of comparatively frivolous periods would have
been apparent from the attention he bestowed upon
Madame Merle’s drawing-room, which, although
furnished with specimens of every style, was especially rich
in articles of the last two centuries. He had immediately
put a glass into one eye and looked round; and then ‘By
Jove, she has some jolly good things!’ he had yearningly
murmured. The room was small and densely filled with
furniture; it gave an impression of faded silk and little
statuettes which might totter if one moved. Rosier got up
and wandered about with his careful tread, bending over
the tables charged with knick-knacks and the cushions
embossed with princely arms. When Madame Merle came
in she found him standing before the fireplace with his
nose very close to the great lace flounce attached to the
damask cover of the mantel. He had lifted it delicately, as
if he were smelling it.
    ‘It’s old Venetian,’ she said; ‘it’s rather good.’
    ‘It’s too good for this; you ought to wear it.’



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    ‘They tell me you have some better in Paris, in the
same situation.’
    ‘Ah, but I can’t wear mine,’ smiled the visitor.
    ‘I don’t see why you shouldn’t! I’ve better lace than
that to wear.’
    His eyes wandered, lingeringly, round the room again.
‘You’ve some very good things.’
    ‘Yes, but I hate them.’
    ‘Do you want to get rid of them?’ the young man
quickly asked.
    ‘No, it’s good to have something to hate: one works it
off!’
    ‘I love my things,’ said Mr. Rosier as he sat there
flushed with all his recognitions. ‘But it’s not about them,
nor about yours, that I came to talk to you.’
    He paused a moment and then, with greater softness: ‘I
care more for Miss Osmond than for all the bibelots in
Europe!’
    Madame Merle opened wide eyes. ‘Did you come to
tell me that?’
    ‘I came to ask your advice.’
    She looked at him with a friendly frown, stroking her
chin with her large white hand. ‘A man in love, you
know, doesn’t ask advice.’


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   ‘Why not, if he’s in a difficult position? That’s often the
case with a man in love. I’ve been in love before, and I
know. But never so much as this time-really never so
much. I should like particularly to know what you think
of my prospects. I’m afraid that for Mr. Osmond I’m not-
well, a real collector’s piece.’
   ‘Do you wish me to intercede?’ Madame Merle asked
with her fine arms folded and her handsome mouth drawn
up to the left.
   ‘If you could say a good word for me I should be
greatly obliged. There will be no use in my troubling Miss
Osmond unless I have good reason to believe her father
will consent.’
   ‘You’re very considerate; that’s in your favour. But you
assume in rather an off-hand way that I think you a prize.’
   ‘You’ve been very kind to me,’ said the young man.
‘That’s why I came.’
   ‘I’m always kind to people who have good Louis
Quatorze. It’s very rare now, and there’s no telling what
one may get by it.’ With which the left-hand corner of
Madame Merle’s mouth gave expression to the joke.
   But he looked, in spite of it, literally apprehensive and
consistently strenuous. ‘Ah, I thought you liked me for
myself!’


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    ‘I like you very much; but, if you please, we won’t
analyze. Pardon me if I seem patronizing, but I think you
a perfect little gentleman. I must tell you, however, that
I’ve not the marrying of Pansy Osmond.’
    ‘I didn’t suppose that. But you’ve seemed to me
intimate with her family, and I thought you might have
influence.’
    Madame Merle considered. ‘Whom do you call her
family?’
    ‘Why, her father; and-how do you say it in English?-
her bellemere.’
    ‘Mr. Osmond’s her father, certainly; but his wife can
scarcely be termed a member of her family. Mrs. Osmond
has nothing to do with marrying her.’ ‘I’m sorry for that,’
said Rosier with an amiable sigh of good faith. ‘I think
Mrs. Osmond would favour me.’
    ‘Very likely-if her husband doesn’t.’
    He raised his eyebrows. ‘Does she take the opposite
line from him?’
    ‘In everything. They think quite differently.’
    ‘Well,’ said Rosier, ‘I’m sorry for that; but it’s none of
my business.
    She’s very fond of Pansy.’
    ‘Yes, she’s very fond of Pansy.’


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   ‘And Pansy has a great affection for her. She has told
me how she loves her as if she were her own mother.’
   ‘You must, after all, have had some very intimate talk
with the poor child,’ said Madame Merle. ‘Have you
declared your sentiments?’
   ‘Never!’ cried Rosier, lifting his neatly-gloved hand.
‘Never till I’ve assured myself of those of the parents.’
   ‘You always wait for that? You’ve excellent principles;
you observe the proprieties.’
   ‘I think you’re laughing at me,’ the young man
murmured, dropping back in his chair and feeling his small
moustache. ‘I didn’t expect that of you, Madame Merle.’
   She shook her head calmly, like a person who saw
things as she saw them. ‘You don’t do me justice. I think
your conduct in excellent taste and the best you could
adopt. Yes, that’s what I think.’
   ‘I wouldn’t agitate her-only to agitate her; I love her
too much for that,’ said Ned Rosier.
   ‘I’m glad, after all, that you’ve told me,’ Madame Merle
went on.
   ‘Leave it to me a little; I think I can help you.’
   ‘I said you were the person to come to!’ her visitor
cried with prompt elation.



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    ‘You were very clever,’ Madame Merle returned more
dryly. ‘When I say I can help you I mean once assuming
your cause to be good. Let us think a little if it is.’
    ‘I’m awfully decent, you know,’ said Rosier earnestly.
‘I won’t say I’ve no faults, but I’ll say I’ve no vices.’
    ‘All that’s negative, and it always depends, also, on
what people call vices. What’s the positive side? What’s
the virtuous? What have you got besides your Spanish lace
and your Dresden teacups?’
    ‘I’ve a comfortable little fortune-about forty thousand
francs a year. With the talent I have for arranging, we can
live beautifully on such an income.’
    ‘Beautifully, no. Sufficiently, yes. Even that depends on
where you live.’
    ‘Well, in Paris. I would undertake it in Paris.’
    Madame Merle’s mouth rose to the left. ‘It wouldn’t be
famous; you’d have to make use of the teacups, and they’d
get broken.’
    ‘We don’t want to be famous. If Miss Osmond should
have everything pretty it would be enough. When one’s as
pretty as she one can afford-well, quite cheap faience. She
ought never to wear anything but muslin-without the
sprig,’ said Rosier reflectively.



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   ‘Wouldn’t you even allow her the sprig? She’d be
much obliged to you at any rate for that theory.’
   ‘It’s the correct one, I assure you; and I’m sure she’d
enter into it. She understands all that; that’s why I love
her.’
   ‘She’s a very good little girl, and most tidy-also
extremely graceful.
   But her father, to the best of my belief, can give her
nothing.’
   Rosier scarce demurred. ‘I don’t in the least desire that
he should. But I may remark, all the same, that he lives
like a rich man.’
   ‘The money’s his wife’s; she brought him a large
fortune.’
   ‘Mrs. Osmond then is very fond of her stepdaughter;
she may do something.’
   ‘For a love-sick swain you have your eyes about you!’
Madame Merle exclaimed with a laugh.
   ‘I esteem a dot very much. I can do without it, but I
esteem it.’
   ‘Mrs. Osmond,’ Madame Merle went on, ‘will
probably prefer to keep her money for her own children.’
   ‘Her own children? Surely she has none.’



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   ‘She may have yet. She had a poor little boy, who died
two years ago, six months after his birth. Others therefore
may come.’
   ‘I hope they will, if it will make her happy. She’s a
splendid woman.’ Madame Merle failed to burst into
speech. ‘Ah, about her there’s much to be said. Splendid as
you like! We’ve not exactly made out that you’re a parti.
The absence of vices is hardly a source of income.’
   ‘Pardon me, I think it may be,’ said Rosier quite
lucidly. ‘You’ll be a touching couple, living on your
innocence!’ ‘I think you underrate me.’
   ‘You’re not so innocent as that? Seriously,’ said
Madame Merle, ‘of course forty thousand francs a year and
a nice character are a combination to be considered. I
don’t say it’s to be jumped at, but there might be a worse
offer. Mr. Osmond, however, will probably incline to
believe he can do better.’
   ‘He can do so perhaps; but what can his daughter do?
She can’t do better than marry the man she loves. For she
does, you know,’ Rosier added eagerly.
   ‘She does-I know it.’
   ‘Ah,’ cried the young man, ‘I said you were the person
to come to.’



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     ‘But I don’t know how you know it, if you haven’t
asked her,’ Madame Merle went on.
     ‘In such a case there’s no need of asking and telling; as
you say, we’re an innocent couple. How did you know
it?’
     ‘I who am not innocent? By being very crafty. Leave it
to me; I’ll find out for you.’
     Rosier got up and stood smoothing his hat. ‘You say
that rather coldly.
     Don’t simply find out how it is, but try to make it as it
should be.’
     ‘I’ll do my best. I’ll try to make the most of your
advantages.’
     ‘Thank you so very much. Meanwhile then I’ll say a
word to Mrs.
     Osmond.’
     ‘Gardez-vous-en bien!’ And Madame Merle was on her
feet. ‘Don’t set her going, or you’ll spoil everything.’
     Rosier gazed into his hat; he wondered whether his
hostess had been after all the right person to come to. ‘I
don’t think I understand you. I’m an old friend of Mrs.
Osmond, and I think she would like me to succeed.’
     ‘Be an old friend as much as you like; the more old
friends she has the better, for she doesn’t get on very well


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with some of her new. But don’t for the present try to
make her take up the cudgels for you. Her husband may
have other views, and, as a person who wishes her well, I
advise you not to multiply points of difference between
them.’
   Poor Rosier’s face assumed an expression of alarm; a
suit for the hand of Pansy Osmond was even a more
complicated business than his taste for proper transitions
had allowed. But the extreme good sense which he
concealed under a surface suggesting that of a careful
owner’s ‘best set’ came to his assistance. ‘I don’t see that
I’m bound to consider Mr. Osmond so very much!’ he
exclaimed.
   ‘No, but you should consider her. You say you’re an
old friend. Would you make her suffer?’
   ‘Not for the world.’
   ‘Then be very careful, and let the matter alone till I’ve
taken a few soundings.’
   ‘Let the matter alone, dear Madame Merle? Remember
that I’m in love.’
   ‘Oh, you won’t burn up! Why did you come to me, if
you’re not to heed what I say?’




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   ‘You’re very kind; I’ll be very good,’ the young man
promised. ‘But I’m afraid Mr. Osmond’s pretty hard,’ he
added in his mild voice as he went to the door.
   Madame Merle gave a short laugh. ‘It has been said
before. But his wife isn’t easy either.’
   ‘Ah, she’s a splendid woman!’ Ned Rosier repeated, for
departure.
   He resolved that his conduct should be worthy of an
aspirant who was already a model of discretion; but he saw
nothing in any pledge he had given Madame Merle that
made it improper he should keep himself in spirits by an
occasional visit to Miss Osmond’s home. He reflected
constantly on what his adviser had said to him, and turned
over in his mind the impression of her rather circumspect
tone. He had gone to her de confiance, as they put it in
Paris; but it was possible he had been precipitate. He
found difficulty in thinking of himself as rash-he had
incurred this reproach so rarely; but it certainly was true
that he had known Madame Merle only for the last
month, and that his thinking her a delightful woman was
not, when one came to look into it, a reason for assuming
that she would be eager to push Pansy Osmond into his
arms, gracefully arranged as these members might be to
receive her. She had indeed shown him benevolence, and


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she was a person of consideration among the girl’s people,
where she had a rather striking appearance (Rosier had
more than once wondered how she managed it) of being
intimate without being familiar. But possibly he had
exaggerated these advantages. There was no particular
reason why she should take trouble for him; a charming
woman was charming to every one, and Rosier felt rather
a fool when he thought of his having appealed to her on
the ground that she had distinguished him. Very likely-
though she had appeared to say it in joke-she was really
only thinking of his bibelots. Had it come into her head
that he might offer her two or three of the gems of his
collection? If she would only help him to marry Miss
Osmond he would present her with his whole museum.
He could hardly say so to her outright; it would seem too
gross a bribe. But he should like her to believe it.
    It was with these thoughts that he went again to Mrs.
Osmond’s, Mrs. Osmond having an ‘evening’-she had
taken the Thursday of each week when his presence could
be accounted for on general principles of civility. The
object of Mr. Rosier’s well-regulated affection dwelt in a
high house in the very heart of Rome; a dark and massive
structure overlooking a sunny piazzetta in the
neighbourhood of the Farnese Palace. In a palace, too,


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little Pansy lived-a palace by Roman measure, but a
dungeon to poor Rosier’s apprehensive mind. It seemed
to him of evil omen that the young lady he wished to
marry, and whose fastidious father he doubted of his
ability to conciliate, should be immured in a kind of
domestic fortress, a pile which bore a stern old Roman
name, which smelt of historic deeds, of crime and craft
and violence, which was mentioned in ‘Murray’ and
visited by tourists who looked, on a vague survey,
disappointed and depressed, and which had frescoes by
Caravaggio in the piano nobile and a row of mutilated
statues and dusty urns in the wide, nobly-arched loggia
overhanging the damp court where a fountain gushed out
of a mossy niche. In a less preoccupied frame of mind he
could have done justice to the Palazzo Roccanera; he
could have entered into the sentiment of Mrs. Osmond,
who had once told him that on settling themselves in
Rome she and her husband had chosen this habitation for
the love of local colour. It had local colour enough, and
though he knew less about architecture than about
Limoges enamels he could see that the proportions of the
windows and even the details of the cornice had quite the
grand air. But Rosier was haunted by the conviction that
at picturesque periods young girls had been shut up there


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to keep them from their true loves, and then, under the
threat of being thrown into convents, had been forced
into unholy marriages. There was one point, however, to
which he always did justice when once he found himself
in Mrs. Osmond’s warm, rich-looking reception-rooms,
which were on the second floor. He acknowledged that
these people were very strong in ‘good things.’ It was a
taste of Osmond’s own-not at all of hers; this she had told
him the first time he came to the house, when, after
asking himself for a quarter of an hour whether they had
even better ‘French’ than he in Paris, he was obliged on
the spot to admit that they had, very much, and
vanquished his envy, as a gentleman should, to the point
of expressing to his hostess his pure admiration of her
treasures. He learned from Mrs. Osmond that her husband
had made a large collection before their marriage and that,
though he had annexed a number of fine pieces within the
last three years, he had achieved his greatest finds at a time
when he had not the advantage of her advice. Rosier
interpreted this information according to principles of his
own. For ‘advice’ read ‘cash,’ he said to himself; and the
fact that Gilbert Osmond had landed his highest prizes
during his impecunious season confirmed his most
cherished doctrine-the doctrine that a collector may freely


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be poor if he be only patient. In general, when Rosier
presented himself on a Thursday evening, his first
recognition was for the walls of the saloon; there were
three or four objects his eyes really yearned for. But after
his talk with Madame Merle he felt the extreme
seriousness of his position; and now, when he came in, he
looked about for the daughter of the house with such
eagerness as might be permitted a gentleman whose smile,
as he crossed a threshold, always took everything
comfortable for granted.




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                         Chapter 37

    Pansy was not in the first of the rooms, a large
apartment with a concave ceiling and walls covered with
old red damask; it was here Mrs. Osmond usually sat-
though she was not in her most customary place to-night-
and that a circle of more special intimates gathered about
the fire. The room was flushed with subdued, diffused
brightness; it contained the larger things and-almost
always-an odour of flowers. Pansy on this occasion was
presumably in the next of the series, the resort of younger
visitors, where tea was served. Osmond stood before the
chimney, leaning back with his hands behind him; he had
one foot up and was warming the sole. Half a dozen
persons, scattered near him, were talking together; but he
was not in the conversation; his eyes had an expression,
frequent with them, that seemed to represent them as
engaged with objects more worth their while than the
appearances actually thrust upon them. Rosier, coming in
unannounced, failed to attract his attention; but the young
man, who was very punctilious, though he was even
exceptionally conscious that it was the wife, not the
husband, he had come to see, went up to shake hands


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with him. Osmond put out his left hand, without
changing his attitude.
    ‘How d’ye do? My wife’s somewhere about.’
    ‘Never fear; I shall find her,’ said Rosier cheerfully.
    Osmond, however, took him in; he had never in his
life felt himself so efficiently looked at. ‘Madame Merle
has told him, and he doesn’t like it,’ he privately reasoned.
He had hoped Madame Merle would be there, but she
was not in sight; perhaps she was in one of the other
rooms or would come later. He had never especially
delighted in Gilbert Osmond, having a fancy he gave
himself airs. But Rosier was not quickly resentful, and
where politeness was concerned had ever a strong need of
being quite in the right. He looked round him and smiled,
all without help, and then in a moment, ‘I saw a jolly
good piece of Capo di Monte to-day,’ he said.
    Osmond answered nothing at first; but presently, while
he warmed his boot-sole, ‘I don’t care a fig for Capo di
Monte!’ he returned.
    ‘I hope you’re not losing your interest?’
    ‘In old pots and plates? Yes, I’m losing my interest.’
    Rosier for an instant forgot the delicacy of his position.
‘You’re not thinking of parting with a-a piece or two?’



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    ‘No, I’m not thinking of parting with anything at all,
Mr. Rosier,’ said Osmond, with his eyes still on the eyes
of his visitor.
    ‘Ah, you want to keep, but not to add,’ Rosier
remarked brightly.
    ‘Exactly. I’ve nothing I wish to match.’
    Poor Rosier was aware he had blushed; he was
distressed at his want of assurance. ‘Ah, well, I have!’ was
all he could murmur; and he knew his murmur was partly
lost as he turned away. He took his course to the adjoining
room and met Mrs. Osmond coming out of the deep
doorway. She was dressed in black velvet; she looked high
and splendid, as he had said, and yet oh so radiantly gentle!
We know what Mr. Rosier thought of her and the terms
in which, to Madame Merle, he had expressed his
admiration. Like his appreciation of her dear little
stepdaughter it was based partly on his eye for decorative
character, his instinct for authenticity; but also on a sense
for uncatalogued values, for that secret of a ‘lustre’ beyond
any recorded losing or rediscovering, which his devotion
to brittle wares had still not disqualified him to recognize.
Mrs. Osmond, at present, might well have gratified such
tastes. The years had touched her only to enrich her; the
flower of her youth had not faded, it only hung more


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quietly on its stem. She had lost something of that quick
eagerness to which her husband had privately taken
exception-she had more the air of being able to wait.
Now, at all events, framed in the gilded doorway, she
struck our young man as the picture of a gracious lady.
‘You see I’m very regular,’ he said. ‘But who should be if
I’m not?’
    ‘Yes, I’ve known you longer than any one here. But
we mustn’t indulge in tender reminiscences. I want to
introduce you to a young lady.’
    ‘Ah, please, what young lady?’ Rosier was immensely
obliging; but this was not what he had come for.
    ‘She sits there by the fire in pink and has no one to
speak to.’
    Rosier hesitated a moment. ‘Can’t Mr. Osmond speak
to her? He’s within six feet of her.’
    Mrs. Osmond also hesitated. ‘She’s not very lively, and
be doesn’t like dull people.’
    ‘But she’s good enough for me? Ah now, that’s hard!’
    ‘I only mean that you’ve ideas for two. And then
you’re so obliging.’
    ‘So is your husband.’
    ‘No, he’s not-to me.’ And Mrs. Osmond vaguely
smiled.


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   ‘That’s a sign he should be doubly so to other women.’
   ‘So I tell him,’ she said, still smiling.
   ‘You see I want some tea,’ Rosier went on, looking
wistfully beyond.
   ‘That’s perfect. Go and give some to my young lady.’
   ‘Very good; but after that I’ll abandon her to her fate.
The simple truth is I’m dying to have a little talk with
Miss Osmond.’
   ‘Ah,’ said Isabel, turning away, ‘I can’t help you there!’
   Five minutes later, while he handed a tea-cup to the
damsel in pink, whom he had conducted into the other
room, he wondered whether, in making to Mrs. Osmond
the profession I have just quoted, he had broken the spirit
of his promise to Madame Merle. Such a question was
capable of occupying this young man’s mind for a
considerable time. At last, however, he became-
comparatively speaking-reckless; he cared little what
promises he might break. The fate to which he had
threatened to abandon the damsel in pink proved to be
none so terrible; for Pansy Osmond, who had given him
the tea for his companion-Pansy was as fond as ever of
making tea-presently came and talked to her. Into this
mild colloquy Edward Rosier entered little; he sat by
moodily, watching his small sweetheart. If we look at her


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now through his eyes we shall at first not see much to
remind us of the obedient little girl who, at Florence,
three years before, was sent to walk short distances in the
Cascine while her father and Miss Archer talked together
of matters sacred to elder people. But after a moment we
shall perceive that if at nineteen Pansy has become a
young lady she doesn’t really fill out the part; that if she
has grown very pretty she lacks in a deplorable degree the
quality known and esteemed in the appearance of females
as style; and that if she is dressed with great freshness she
wears her smart attire with an undisguised appearance of
saving it-very much as if it were lent her for the occasion.
Edward Rosier, it would seem, would have been just the
man to note these defects; and in point of fact there was
not a quality of this young lady, of any sort, that he had
not noted. Only he called her qualities by names of his
own-some of which indeed were happy enough. ‘No,
she’s unique-she’s absolutely unique,’ he used to say to
himself; and you may be sure that not for an instant would
he have admitted to you that she was wanting in style.
Style? Why, she had the style of a little princess; if you
couldn’t see it you had no eye. It was not modern, it was
not conscious, it would produce no impression in
Broadway; the small, serious damsel, in her stiff little dress,


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only looked like an Infanta of Velasquez. This was enough
for Edward Rosier, who thought her delightfully old-
fashioned. Her anxious eyes, her charming lips, her slip of
a figure, were as touching as a childish prayer. He had
now an acute desire to know just to what point she liked
him-a desire which made him fidget as he sat in his chair.
It made him feel hot, so that he had to pat his forehead
with his handkerchief; he had never been so
uncomfortable. She was such a perfect jeune fille, and one
couldn’t make of a jeune fille the enquiry requisite for
throwing light on such a point. A jeune fille was what
Rosier had always dreamed of-a jeune fille who should yet
not be French, for he had felt that this nationality would
complicate the question. He was sure Pansy had never
looked at a newspaper and that, in the way of novels, if
she had read Sir Walter Scott it was the very most. An
American jeune fille-what could be better than that? She
would be frank and gay, and yet would not have walked
alone, nor have received letters from men, nor have been
taken to the theatre to see the comedy of manners. Rosier
could not deny that, as the matter stood, it would be a
breach of hospitality to appeal directly to this
unsophisticated creature; but he was now in imminent
danger of asking himself if hospitality were the most sacred


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thing in the world. Was not the sentiment that he
entertained for Miss Osmond of infinitely greater
importance? Of greater importance to him-yes; but not
probably to the master of the house. There was one
comfort; even if this gentleman had been placed on his
guard by Madame Merle he would not have extended the
warning to Pansy; it would not have been part of his
policy to let her know that a prepossessing young man was
in love with her. But he was in love with her, the
prepossessing young man; and all these restrictions of
circumstance had ended by irritating him. What had
Gilbert Osmond meant by giving him two fingers of his
left hand? If Osmond was rude, surely he himself might be
bold. He felt extremely bold after the dull girl in so vain a
disguise of rose-colour had responded to the call of her
mother, who came in to say, with a significant simper at
Rosier, that she must carry her off to other triumphs. The
mother and daughter departed together, and now it
depended only upon him that he should be virtually alone
with Pansy. He had never been alone with her before; he
had never been alone with a jeune fille. It was a great
moment; poor Rosier began to pat his forehead again.
There was another room beyond the one in which they
stood-a small room that had been thrown open and


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lighted, but that, the company not being numerous, had
remained empty all the evening. It was empty yet; it was
upholstered in pale yellow; there were several lamps;
through the open door it looked the very temple of
authorized love. Rosier gazed a moment through this
aperture; he was afraid that Pansy would run away, and
felt almost capable of stretching out a hand to detain her.
But she lingered where the other maiden had left them,
making no motion to join a knot of visitors on the far side
of the room. For a little it occurred to him that she was
frightened-too frightened perhaps to move; but a second
glance assured him she was not, and he then reflected that
she was too innocent indeed for that. After a supreme
hesitation he asked her if he might go and look at the
yellow room, which seemed so attractive yet so virginal.
He had been there already with Osmond, to inspect the
furniture, which was of the First French Empire, and
especially to admire the clock (which he didn’t really
admire), an immense classic structure of that period. He
therefore felt that he had now begun to manoeuvre.
    ‘Certainly, you may go,’ said Pansy; ‘and if you like I’ll
show you.’ She was not in the least frightened.
    ‘That’s just what I hoped you’d say; you’re so very
kind,’ Rosier murmured.


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   They went in together; Rosier really thought the room
very ugly, and it seemed cold. The same idea appeared to
have struck Pansy. ‘It’s not for winter evenings; it’s for
summer,’ she said. ‘It’s papa’s taste; he has so much.’
   He had a good deal, Rosier thought; but some of it was
very bad. He looked about him; he hardly knew what to
say in such a situation.
   ‘Doesn’t Mrs. Osmond care how her rooms are done?
Has she no taste? he asked.
   ‘Oh yes, a great deal; but it’s more for literature,’ said
Pansy-"and for conversation. But papa cares also for those
things. I think he knows everything.’
   Rosier was silent a little. ‘There’s one thing I’m sure he
knows!’ he broke out presently. ‘He knows that when I
come here it’s, with all respect to him, with all respect to
Mrs. Osmond, who’s so charming-it’s really,’ said the
young man, ‘to see you!’
   ‘To see me?’ And Pansy raised her vaguely-troubled
eyes.
   ‘To see you; that’s what I come for,’ Rosier repeated,
feeling the intoxication of a rupture with authority.
   Pansy stood looking at him, simply, intently, openly; a
blush was not needed to make her face more modest. ‘I
thought it was for that.’


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    ‘And it was not disagreeable to you?’
    ‘I couldn’t tell; I didn’t know. You never told me,’ said
Pansy.
    ‘I was afraid of offending you.’
    ‘You don’t offend me,’ the young girl murmured,
smiling as if an angel had kissed her.
    ‘You like me then, Pansy?’ Rosier asked very gently,
feeling very happy.
    ‘Yes-I like you.’
    They had walked to the chimney-piece where the big
cold Empire clock was perched; they were well within the
room and beyond observation from without. The tone in
which she had said these four words seemed to him the
very breath of nature, and his only answer could be to take
her hand and hold it a moment. Then he raised it to his
lips. She submitted, still with her pure, trusting smile, in
which there was something ineffably passive. She liked
him-she had liked him all the while; now anything might
happen! She was ready-she had been ready always, waiting
for him to speak. If he had not spoken she would have
waited for ever; but when the word came she dropped
like the peach from the shaken tree. Rosier felt that if he
should draw her toward him and hold her to his heart she
would submit without a murmur, would rest there


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without a question. It was true that this would be a rash
experiment in a yellow Empire salottino. She had known
it was for her he came, and yet like what a perfect little
lady she had carried it off!
    ‘You’re very dear to me,’ he murmured, trying to
believe that there was after all such a thing as hospitality.
    She looked a moment at her hand, where he had kissed
it. ‘Did you say papa knows?’
    ‘You told me just now he knows everything.’
    ‘I think you must make sure,’ said Pansy.
    ‘Ah, my dear, when once I’m sure of you!’ Rosier
murmured in her ear; whereupon she turned back to the
other rooms with a little air of consistency which seemed
to imply that their appeal should be immediate.
    The other rooms meanwhile had become conscious of
the arrival of Madame Merle, who, wherever she went,
produced an impression when she entered. How she did it
the most attentive spectator could not have told you, for
she neither spoke loud, nor laughed profusely, nor moved
rapidly, nor dressed with splendour, nor appealed in any
appreciable manner to the audience. Large, fair, smiling,
serene, there was something in her very tranquillity that
diffused itself, and when people looked around it was
because of a sudden quiet. On this occasion she had done


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The Portrait of a Lady


the quietest thing she could do; after embracing Mrs.
Osmond, which was more striking, she had sat down on a
small sofa to commune with the master of the house.
There was a brief exchange of commonplaces between
these two-they always paid, in public, a certain formal
tribute to the commonplace-and then Madame Merle,
whose eyes had been wandering, asked if little Mr. Rosier
had come this evening.
    ‘He came nearly an hour ago-but he has disappeared,’
Osmond said.
    ‘And where’s Pansy?’
    ‘In the other room. There are several people there.’
    ‘He’s probably among them,’ said Madame Merle.
    ‘Do you wish to see him?’ Osmond asked in a
provokingly pointless tone.
    Madame Merle looked at him a moment; she knew
each of his tones to the eighth of a note. ‘Yes, I should
like to say to him that I’ve told you what he wants, and
that it interests you but feebly.’
    ‘Don’t tell him that. He’ll try to interest me more-
which is exactly what I don’t want. Tell him I hate his
proposal.’
    ‘But you don’t hate it.’



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    ‘It doesn’t signify; I don’t love it. I let him see that,
myself, this evening; I was rude to him on purpose. That
sort of thing’s a great bore. There’s no hurry.’
    ‘I’ll tell him that you’ll take time and think it over.’
    ‘No, don’t do that. He’ll hang on.’
    ‘If I discourage him he’ll do the same.’
    ‘Yes, but in the one case he’ll try to talk and explain-
which would be exceedingly tiresome. In the other he’ll
probably hold his tongue and go in for some deeper game.
That will leave me quiet. I hate talking with a donkey.’
    ‘Is that what you call poor Mr. Rosier?’
    ‘Oh, he’s a nuisance-with his eternal majolica.’
    Madame Merle dropped her eyes; she had a faint smile.
‘He’s a gentleman, he has a charming temper; and, after
all, an income of forty thousand francs!’
    ‘It’s misery-’genteel’ misery,’ Osmond broke in. ‘It’s
not what I’ve dreamed of for Pansy.’
    ‘Very good then. He has promised me not to speak to
her.’
    ‘Do you believe him?’ Osmond asked absent-mindedly.
    ‘Perfectly. Pansy has thought a great deal about him;
but I don’t suppose you consider that that matters.’
    ‘I don’t consider it matters at all; but neither do I
believe she has thought of him.’


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   ‘That opinion’s more convenient,’ said Madame Merle
quietly.
   ‘Has she told you she’s in love with him?’
   ‘For what do you take her? And for what do you take
me?’ Madame Merle added in a moment.
   Osmond had raised his foot and was resting his slim
ankle on the other knee; he clasped his ankle in his hand
familiarly-his long, fine forefinger and thumb could make
a ring for it-and gazed a while before him. ‘This kind of
thing doesn’t find me unprepared. It’s what I educated her
for. It was all for this-that when such a case should come
up she should do what I prefer.’
   ‘I’m not afraid that she’ll not do it.’
   ‘Well then, where’s the hitch?’
   ‘I don’t see any. But, all the same, I recommend you
not to get rid of Mr.
   Rosier. Keep him on hand; he may be useful.’
   ‘I can’t keep him. Keep him yourself.’
   ‘Very good; I’ll put him into a corner and allow him so
much a day.’ Madame Merle had, for the most part, while
they talked, been glancing about her; it was her habit in
this situation, just as it was her habit to interpose a good
many blank-looking pauses. A long drop followed the last
words I have quoted; and before it had ended she saw


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Pansy come out of the adjoining room, followed by
Edward Rosier. The girl advanced a few steps and then
stopped and stood looking at Madame Merle and at her
father.
   ‘He has spoken to her,’ Madame Merle went on to
Osmond.
   Her companion never turned his head. ‘So much for
your belief in his promises. He ought to be horse-
whipped.’
   ‘He intends to confess, poor little man!’
   Osmond got up; he had now taken a sharp look at his
daughter. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he murmured, turning away.
   Pansy after a moment came up to Madame Merle with
her little manner of unfamiliar politeness. This lady’s
reception of her was not more intimate; she simply, as she
rose from the sofa, gave her a friendly smile.
   ‘You’re very late,’ the young creature gently said.
   ‘My dear child, I’m never later than I intend to be.’
   Madame Merle had not got up to be gracious to Pansy;
she moved toward Edward Rosier. He came to meet her
and, very quickly, as if to get it off his mind, ‘I’ve spoken
to her!’ he whispered.
   ‘I know it, Mr. Rosier.’
   ‘Did she tell you?’


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    ‘Yes, she told me. Behave properly for the rest of the
evening, and come and see me to-morrow at a quarter
past five.’ She was severe, and in the manner in which she
turned her back to him there was a degree of contempt
which caused him to mutter a decent imprecation.
    He had no intention of speaking to Osmond; it was
neither the time nor the place. But he instinctively
wandered toward Isabel, who sat talking with an old lady.
He sat down on the other side of her; the old lady was
Italian, and Rosier took for granted she understood no
English. ‘You said just now you wouldn’t help me,’ he
began to Mrs. Osmond. ‘Perhaps you’ll feel differently
when you know-when you know-!
    Isabel met his hesitation. ‘When I know what?’
    ‘That she’s all right.’
    ‘What do you mean by that?’
    ‘Well, that we’ve come to an understanding.’
    ‘She’s all wrong,’ said Isabel. ‘It won’t do.’
    Poor Rosier gazed at her half-pleadingly, half-angrily; a
sudden flush testified to his sense of injury. ‘I’ve never
been treated so,’ he said. ‘What is there against me, after
all? That’s not the way I’m usually considered. I could
have married twenty times.’



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    ‘It’s a pity you didn’t. I don’t mean twenty times, but
once comfortably,’ Isabel added, smiling kindly. ‘You’re
not rich enough for Pansy.’ ‘She doesn’t care a straw for
one’s money.’
    ‘No, but her father does.’
    ‘Ah yes, he has proved that!’ cried the young man.
    Isabel got up, turning away from him, leaving her old
lady without ceremony; and he occupied himself for the
next ten minutes in pretending to look at Gilbert
Osmond’s collection of miniatures, which were neatly
arranged on a series of small velvet screens. But he looked
without seeing; his cheek burned; he was too full of his
sense of injury. It was certain that he had never been
treated that way before; he was not used to being thought
not good enough. He knew how good he was, and if such
a fallacy had not been so pernicious he could have laughed
at it. He searched again for Pansy, but she had disappeared,
and his main desire was now to get out of the house.
Before doing so he spoke once more to Isabel; it was not
agreeable to him to reflect that he had just said a rude
thing to her-the only point that would now justify a low
view of him.




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    ‘I referred to Mr. Osmond as I shouldn’t have done, a
while ago,’ he began. ‘But you must remember my
situation.’
    ‘I don’t remember what you said,’ she answered coldly.
    ‘Ah, you’re offended, and now you’ll never help me.’
    She was silent an instant, and then with a change of
tone: ‘It’s not that I won’t; I simply can’t!’ Her manner
was almost passionate.
    ‘If you could, just a little, I’d never again speak of your
husband save as an angel.’
    ‘The inducement’s great,’ said Isabel gravely-
inscrutably, as he afterwards, to himself, called it; and she
gave him, straight in the eyes, a look which was also
inscrutable. It made him remember somehow that he had
known her as a child; and yet it was keener than he liked,
and he took himself off.




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                         Chapter 38

    He went to see Madame Merle on the morrow, and to
his surprise she let him off rather easily. But she made him
promise that he would stop there till something should
have been decided. Mr. Osmond had had higher
expectations; it was very true that as he had no intention
of giving his daughter a portion such expectations were
open to criticism or even, if one would, to ridicule. But
she would advise Mr. Rosier not to take that tone; if he
would possess his soul in patience he might arrive at his
felicity. Mr. Osmond was not favourable to his suit, but it
wouldn’t be a miracle if he should gradually come round.
Pansy would never defy her father, he might depend on
that; so nothing was to be gained by precipitation. Mr.
Osmond needed to accustom his mind to an offer of a sort
that he had not hitherto entertained, and this result must
come of itself-it was useless to try to force it. Rosier
remarked that his own situation would be in the
meanwhile the most uncomfortable in the world, and Mad
Merle assured him that she felt for him. But, as she justly
declared, one couldn’t have everything one wanted; she
had learned that lesson for herself. There would be no use


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in his writing to Gilbert Osmond, who had charged her to
tell him as much. He wished the matter dropped for a few
weeks and would himself write when he should have
anything to communicate that it might please Mr. Rosier
to hear.
    ‘He doesn’t like your having spoken to Pansy. Ah, he
doesn’t like it at all,’ said Madame Merle.
    ‘I’m perfectly willing to give him a chance to tell me
so!
    ‘If you do that he’ll tell you more than you care to
hear. Go to the house, for the next month, as little as
possible, and leave the rest to me.’
    ‘As little as possible? Who’s to measure the possibility?’
    ‘Let me measure it. Go on Thursday evenings with the
rest of the world, but don’t go at all at odd times, and
don’t fret about Pansy. I’ll see that she understands
everything. She’s a calm little nature; she’ll take it quietly.’
    Edward Rosier fretted about Pansy a good deal, but he
did as he was advised, and awaited another Thursday
evening before returning to Palazzo Roccanera. There had
been a party at dinner, so that though he went early the
company was already tolerably numerous. Osmond, as
usual, was in the first room, near the fire, staring straight at



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the door, so that, not to be distinctly uncivil, Rosier had
to go and speak to him.
    ‘I’m glad that you can take a hint,’ Pansy’s father said,
slightly closing his keen, conscious eyes.
    ‘I take no hints. But I took a message, as I supposed it
to be.’
    ‘You took it? Where did you take it?’
    It seemed to poor Rosier he was being insulted, and he
waited a moment, asking himself how much a true lover
ought to submit to. ‘Madame Merle gave me, as I
understood it, a message from you-to the effect that you
declined to give me the opportunity I desire, the
opportunity to explain my wishes to you.’ And he
flattered himself he spoke rather sternly.
    ‘I don’t see what Madame Merle has to do with it.
Why did you apply to Madame Merle?’
    ‘I asked her for an opinion-for nothing more. I did so
because she had seemed to me to know you very well.’
    ‘She doesn’t know me so well as she thinks,’ said
Osmond.
    ‘I’m sorry for that, because she has given me some little
ground for hope.’
    Osmond stared into the fire a moment. ‘I set a great
price on my daughter.’


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    ‘You can’t set a higher one than I do. Don’t I prove it
by wishing to marry her?’
    ‘I wish to marry her very well,’ Osmond went on with
a dry impertinence which, in another mood, poor Rosier
would have admired.
    ‘Of course I pretend she’d marry well in marrying me.
She couldn’t marry a man who loves her more-or whom,
I may venture to add, she loves more.’
    ‘I’m not bound to accept your theories as to whom my
daughter loves’-and Osmond looked up with a quick, cold
smile.
    ‘I’m not theorizing. Your daughter has spoken.’
    ‘Not to me,’ Osmond continued, now bending forward
a little and dropping his eyes to his boot-toes.
    ‘I have her promise, sir!’ cried Rosier with the
sharpness of exasperation.
    As their voices had been pitched very low before, such
a note attracted some attention from the company.
Osmond waited till this little movement had subsided;
then he said, all undisturbed: ‘I think she has no
recollection of having given it.’
    They had been standing with their faces to the fire, and
after he had uttered these last words the master of the
house turned round again to the room. Before Rosier had


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time to reply he perceived that a gentleman-a stranger-had
just come in, unannounced, according to the Roman
custom, and was about to present himself to his host. The
latter smiled blandly, but somewhat blankly; the visitor
had a handsome face and a large, fair beard, and was
evidently an Englishman.
    ‘You apparently don’t recognize me,’ he said with a
smile that expressed more than Osmond’s.
    ‘Ah yes, now I do. I expected so little to see you.’
    Rosier departed and went in direct pursuit of Pansy.
He sought her, as usual, in the neighbouring room, but he
again encountered Mrs. Osmond in his path. He gave his
hostess no greeting-he was too righteously indignant, but
said to her crudely: ‘Your husband’s awfully cold-
blooded.’
    She gave the same mystical smile he had noticed
before. ‘You can’t expect every one to be as hot as
yourself.’
    ‘I don’t pretend to be cold, but I’m cool. What has he
been doing to his daughter?’
    ‘I’ve no idea.’
    ‘Don’t you take any interest?’ Rosier demanded with
his sense that she too was irritating.



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   For a moment she answered nothing; then, ‘No!’ she
said abruptly and with a quickened light in her eyes which
directly contradicted the word.
   ‘Pardon me if I don’t believe that. Where’s Miss
Osmond?’
   ‘In the corner, making tea. Please leave her there.’
   Rosier instantly discovered his friend, who had been
hidden by intervening groups. He watched her, but her
own attention was entirely given to her occupation. ‘What
on earth has he done to her?’ he asked again imploringly.
‘He declares to me she has given me up.’
   ‘She has not given you up,’ Isabel said in a low tone
and without looking at him.
   ‘Ah, thank you for that! Now I’ll leave her alone as
long as you think proper!’
   He had hardly spoken when he saw her change colour,
and became aware that Osmond was coming toward her
accompanied by the gentleman who had just entered. He
judged the latter, in spite of the advantage of good looks
and evident social experience, a little embarrassed. ‘Isabel,’
said her husband, ‘I bring you an old friend.’
   Mrs. Osmond’s face, though it wore a smile, was, like
her old friend’s, not perfectly confident. ‘I’m very happy
to see Lord Warburton,’ she said. Rosier turned away and,


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now that his talk with her had been interrupted, felt
absolved from the little pledge he had just taken. He had a
quick impression that Mrs. Osmond wouldn’t notice what
he did.
   Isabel in fact, to do him justice, for some time quite
ceased to observe him. She had been startled; she hardly
knew if she felt a pleasure or a pain. Lord Warburton,
however, now that he was face to face with her, was
plainly quite sure of his own sense of the matter; though
his grey eyes had still their fine original property of
keeping recognition and attestation strictly sincere. He was
‘heavier’ than of yore and looked older; he stood there
very solidly and sensibly.
   ‘I suppose you didn’t expect to see me,’ he said; ‘I’ve
but just arrived. Literally, I only got here this evening.
You see I’ve lost no time in coming to pay you my
respects. I knew you were at home on Thursdays.’
   ‘You see the fame of your Thursdays has spread to
England,’ Osmond remarked to his wife.
   ‘It’s very kind of Lord Warburton to come so soon;
we’re greatly flattered,’ Isabel said.
   ‘Ah well, it’s better than stopping in one of those
horrible inns,’ Osmond went on.



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   ‘The hotel seems very good; I think it’s the same at
which I saw you four years since. You know it was here
in Rome that we first met; it’s a long time ago. Do you
remember where I bade you good-bye?’ his lordship asked
of his hostess. ‘It was in the Capitol, in the first room.’
   ‘I remember that myself,’ said Osmond. ‘I was there at
the time.’
   ‘Yes, I remember you there. I was very sorry to leave
Rome-so sorry that, somehow or other, it became almost
a dismal memory, and I’ve never cared to come back till
to-day. But I knew you were living here,’ her old friend
went on to Isabel, ‘and I assure you I’ve often thought of
you. It must be a charming place to live in,’ he added with
a look, round him, at her established home, in which she
might have caught the dim ghost of his old ruefulness.
   ‘We should have been glad to see you at any time,’
Osmond observed with propriety.
   ‘Thank you very much. I haven’t been out of England
since then. Till a month ago I really supposed my travels
over.’
   ‘I’ve heard of you from time to time,’ said Isabel, who
had already, with her rare capacity for such inward feats,
taken the measure of what meeting him again meant for
her.


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    ‘I hope you’ve heard no harm. My life has been a
remarkably complete blank.’
    ‘Like the good reigns in history,’ Osmond suggested.
He appeared to think his duties as a host now terminated-
he had performed them so conscientiously. Nothing could
have been more adequate, more nicely measured, than his
courtesy to his wife’s old friend. It was punctilious, it was
explicit, it was everything but natural-a deficiency which
Lord Warburton, who, himself, had on the whole a good
deal of nature, may be supposed to have perceived. ‘I’ll
leave you and Mrs. Osmond together,’ he added. ‘You
have reminiscences into which I don’t enter.’
    ‘I’m afraid you lose a good deal!’ Lord Warburton
called after him, as he moved away, in a tone which
perhaps betrayed overmuch an appreciation of his
generosity. Then the visitor turned on Isabel the deeper,
the deepest, consciousness of his look, which gradually
became more serious. ‘I’m really very glad to see you.’
    ‘It’s very pleasant. You’re very kind.’
    ‘Do you know that you’re changed-a little?’
    She just hesitated. ‘Yes-a good deal.’
    ‘I don’t mean for the worse, of course; and yet how can
I say for the better?’



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    ‘I think I shall have no scruple in saying that to you,’
she bravely returned.
    ‘Ah well, for me-it’s a long time. It would be a pity
there shouldn’t be something to show for it.’ They sat
down and she asked him about his sisters, with other
enquiries of a somewhat perfunctory kind. He answered
her questions as if they interested him, and in a few
moments she saw-or believed she saw-that he would press
with less of his whole weight than of yore. Time had
breathed upon his heart and, without chilling it, given it a
relieved sense of having taken the air. Isabel felt her usual
esteem for Time rise at a bound. Her friend’s manner was
certainly that of a contented man, one who would rather
like people, or like her at least, to know him for such.
    ‘There’s something I must tell you without more
delay,’ he resumed.
    ‘I’ve brought Ralph Touchett with me.’
    ‘Brought him with you?’ Isabel’s surprise was great.
    ‘He’s at the hotel; he was too tired to come out and has
gone to bed.’
    ‘I’ll go to see him,’ she immediately said.
    ‘That’s exactly what I hoped you’d do. I had an idea
you hadn’t seen much of him since your marriage, that in



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fact your relations were a-a little more formal. That’s why
I hesitated-like an awkward Briton.’
    ‘I’m as fond of Ralph as ever,’ Isabel answered. ‘But
why has he come to Rome?’ The declaration was very
gentle, the question a little sharp.
    ‘Because he’s very far gone, Mrs. Osmond.’
    ‘Rome then is no place for him. I heard from him that
he had determined to give up his custom of wintering
abroad and to remain in England, indoors, in what he
called an artificial climate.’
    ‘Poor fellow, he doesn’t succeed with the artificial! I
went to see him three weeks ago, at Gardencourt, and
found him thoroughly ill. He has been getting worse every
year, and now he has no strength left. He smokes no more
cigarettes! He had got up an artificial climate indeed; the
house was as hot as Calcutta. Nevertheless he had
suddenly taken it into his head to start for Sicily. I didn’t
believe in it-neither did the doctors, nor any of his friends.
His mother, as I suppose you know, is in America, so
there was no one to prevent him. He stuck to his idea that
it would be the saving of him to spend the winter at
Catania. He said he could take servants and furniture,
could make himself comfortable, but in point of fact he
hasn’t brought anything. I wanted him at least to go by


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sea, to save fatigue; but he said he hated the sea and
wished to stop at Rome. After that, though I thought it all
rubbish, I made up my mind to come with him. I’m
acting as-what do you call it in America? a kind of
moderator. Poor Ralph’s very moderate now. We left
England a fortnight ago, and he has been very bad on the
way. He can’t keep warm, and the further south we come
the more he feels the cold. He has got rather a good man,
but I’m afraid he’s beyond human help. I wanted him to
take with him some clever fellow-=I mean some sharp
young doctor; but he wouldn’t hear of it. If you don’t
mind my saying so, I think it was a most extraordinary
time for Mrs. Touchett to decide on going to America.’
    Isabel had listened eagerly; her face was full of pain and
wonder. ‘My aunt does that at fixed periods and lets
nothing turn her aside. When the date comes round she
starts; I think she’d have started if Ralph had been dying.’
    ‘I sometimes think he is dying,’ Lord Warburton said.
    Isabel sprang up. ‘I’ll go to him then now.’
    He checked her; he was a little disconcerted at the
quick effect of his words. ‘I don’t mean I thought so to-
night. On the contrary, to-day, in the train, he seemed
particularly well; the idea of our reaching Rome-he’s very
fond of Rome, you know-gave him strength. An hour


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ago, when I bade him good-night, he told me he was very
tired, but very happy. Go to him in the morning; that’s all
I mean. I didn’t tell him I was coming here; I didn’t
decide to till after we had separated. Then I remembered
he had told me you had an evening, and that it was this
very Thursday. It occurred to me to come in and tell you
he’s here, and let you know you had perhaps better not
wait for him to call. I think he said he hadn’t written to
you.’ There was no need of Isabel’s declaring that she
would act upon Lord Warburton’s information; she
looked, as she sat there, like a winged creature held back.
‘Let alone that I wanted to see you myself,’ her visitor
gallantly added.
    ‘I don’t understand Ralph’s plan; it seems to me very
wild,’ she said.
    ‘I was glad to think of him between those thick walls at
Gardencourt.’
    ‘He was completely alone there; the thick walls were
his only company.’
    ‘You went to see him; you’ve been extremely kind.’
    ‘Oh dear, I had nothing to do,’ said Lord Warburton.
    ‘We hear, on the contrary, that you’re doing great
things. Every one speaks of you as a great statesman, and
I’m perpetually seeing your name in the Times, which, by


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the way, doesn’t appear to hold it in reverence. You’re
apparently as wild a radical as ever.’
   ‘I don’t feel nearly so wild; you know the world has
come round to me. Touchett and I have kept up a sort of
parliamentary debate all the way from London. I tell him
he’s the last of the Tories, and he calls me the King of the
Goths-says I have, down to the details of my personal
appearance, every sign of the brute. So you see there’s life
in him yet.’
   Isabel had many questions to ask about Ralph, but she
abstained from asking them all. She would see for herself
on the morrow. She perceived that after a little Lord
Warburton would tire of that subject-he had a conception
of other possible topics. She was more and more able to
say to herself that he had recovered, and, what is more to
the point, she was able to say it without bitterness. He had
been for her, of old, such an image of urgency, of
insistence, of something to be resisted and reasoned with,
that his reappearance at first menaced her with a new
trouble. But she was now reassured; she could see he only
wished to live with her on good terms, that she was to
understand he had forgiven her and was incapable of the
bad taste of making pointed allusions. This was not a form
of revenge, of course; she had no suspicion of his wishing


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to punish her by an exhibition of disillusionment; she did
him the justice to believe it had simply occurred to him
that she would now take a good-natured interest in
knowing he was resigned. It was the resignation of a
healthy, manly nature, in which sentimental wounds could
never fester. British politics had cured him; she had known
they would. She gave an envious thought to the happier
lot of men, who are always free to plunge into the healing
waters of action. Lord Warburton of course spoke of the
past, but he spoke of it without implications; he even
went so far as to allude to their former meeting in Rome
as a very jolly time. And he told her he had been
immensely interested in hearing of her marriage and that it
was a great pleasure for him to make Mr. Osmond’s
acquaintance-since he could hardly be said to have made it
on the other occasion. He had not written to her at the
time of that passage in her history, but he didn’t apologize
to her for this. The only thing he implied was that they
were old friends, intimate friends. It was very much as an
intimate friend that he said to her, suddenly, after a short
pause which he had occupied in smiling, as he looked
about him, like a person amused, at a provincial
entertainment, by some innocent game of guesses



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   -"Well now, I suppose you’re very happy and all that
sort of thing?’
   Isabel answered with a quick laugh; the tone of his
remark struck her almost as the accent of comedy. ‘Do
you suppose if I were not I’d tell you?’ ‘Well, I don’t
know. I don’t see why not.’
   ‘I do then. Fortunately, however, I’m very happy.’
   ‘You’ve got an awfully good house.’
   ‘Yes, it’s very pleasant. But that’s not my merit-it’s my
husband’s.’
   ‘You mean he has arranged it?’
   ‘Yes, it was nothing when we came.’
   ‘He must be very clever.’
   ‘He has a genius for upholstery,’ said Isabel.
   ‘There’s a great rage for that sort of thing now. But you
must have a taste of your own.’
   ‘I enjoy things when they’re done, but I’ve no ideas. I
can never propose anything.’
   ‘Do you mean you accept what others propose?’
   ‘Very willingly, for the most part.’
   ‘That’s a good thing to know. I shall propose to you
something.’




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   ‘It will be very kind. I must say, however, that I’ve in a
few small ways a certain initiative. I should like for
instance to introduce you to some of these people.’
   ‘Oh, please don’t; I prefer sitting here. Unless it be to
that young lady in the blue dress. She has a charming face.’
   ‘The one talking to the rosy young man? That’s my
husband’s daughter.’
   ‘Lucky man, your husband. What a dear little maid!
   ‘You must make her acquaintance.’
   ‘In a moment-with pleasure. I like looking at her from
here.’ He ceased to look at her, however, very soon; his
eyes constantly reverted to Mrs. Osmond. ‘Do you know I
was wrong just now in saying you had changed?’ he
presently went on. ‘You seem to me, after all, very much
the same.’
   ‘And yet I find it a great change to be married,’ said
Isabel with mild gaiety.
   ‘It affects most people more than it has affected you.
You see I haven’t gone in for that.’
   ‘It rather surprises me.’
   ‘You ought to understand it, Mrs. Osmond. But I do
want to marry,’ he added more simply.
   ‘It ought to be very easy,’ Isabel said, rising-after which
she reflected, with a pang perhaps too visible, that she was


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hardly the person to say this. It was perhaps because Lord
Warburton divined the pang that he generously forbore to
call her attention to her not having contributed then to
the facility.
    Edward Rosier had meanwhile seated himself on an
ottoman beside Pansy’s tea-table. He pretended at first to
talk to her about trifles, and she asked him who was the
new gentleman conversing with her stepmother.
    ‘He’s an English lord,’ said Rosier. ‘I don’t know
more.’
    ‘I wonder if he’ll have some tea. The English are so
fond of tea.’
    ‘Never mind that; I’ve something particular to say to
you.’
    ‘Don’t speak so loud-every one will hear,’ said Pansy.
    ‘They won’t hear if you continue to look that way; as if
your only thought in life was the wish the kettle would
boil.’
    ‘It has just been filled; the servants never know!’-she
sighed with the weight of her responsibility.
    ‘Do you know what your father said to me just now?
That you didn’t mean what you said a week ago.’
    ‘I don’t mean everything I say. How can a young girl
do that? But I mean what I say to you.’


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   ‘He told me you had forgotten me.’
   ‘Ah no, I don’t forget,’ said Pansy, showing her pretty
teeth in a fixed smile.
   ‘Then everything’s just the very same?’
   ‘Ah no, not the very same. Papa has been terribly
severe.’
   ‘What has he done to you?’
   ‘He asked me what you had done to me, and I told
him everything. Then he forbade me to marry you.’
   ‘You needn’t mind that.’
   ‘Oh yes, I must indeed. I can’t disobey papa.’
   ‘Not for one who loves you as I do, and whom you
pretend to love?’
   She raised the lid of the tea-pot, gazing into this vessel
for a moment; then she dropped six words into its
aromatic depths. ‘I love you just as much.’
   ‘What good will that do me?’
   ‘Ah,’ said Pansy, raising her sweet, vague eyes, ‘I don’t
know that.’
   ‘You disappoint me,’ groaned poor Rosier.
   She was silent a little; she handed a tea-cup to a servant.
‘Please don’t talk any more.’
   ‘Is this to be all my satisfaction?’
   ‘Papa said I was not to talk with you.’


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   ‘Do you sacrifice me like that? Ah, it’s too much!
   ‘I wish you’d wait a little,’ said the girl in a voice just
distinct enough to betray a quaver.
   ‘Of course I’ll wait if you’ll give me hope. But you take
my life away.’
   ‘I’ll not give you up-oh no!’ Pansy went on.
   ‘He’ll try and make you marry some one else.’
   ‘I’ll never do that.’
   ‘What then are we to wait for?’
   She hesitated again. ‘I’ll speak to Mrs. Osmond and
she’ll help us.’ It was in this manner that she for the most
part designated her stepmother.
   ‘She won’t help us much. She’s afraid.’
   ‘Afraid of what?’
   ‘Of your father, I suppose.’
   Pansy shook her little head. ‘She’s not afraid of any
one. We must have patience.’
   ‘Ah, that’s an awful word,’ Rosier groaned; he was
deeply disconcerted. Oblivious of the customs of good
society, he dropped his head into his hands and,
supporting it with a melancholy grace, sat staring at the
carpet. Presently he became aware of a good deal of
movement about him and, as he looked up, saw Pansy
making a curtsey-it was still her little curtsey of the


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convent-to the English lord whom Mrs. Osmond had
introduced.




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                         Chapter 19

    It will probably not surprise the reflective reader that
Ralph Touchett should have seen less of his cousin since
her marriage than he had done before that event of which
he took such a view as could hardly prove a confirmation
of intimacy. He had uttered his thought, as we know, and
after this had held his peace, Isabel not having invited him
to resume a discussion which marked an era in their
relations. That discussion had made a difference-the
difference he feared rather than the one he hoped. It had
not chilled the girl’s zeal in carrying out her engagement,
but it had come dangerously near to spoiling a friendship.
No reference was ever again made between them to
Ralph’s opinion of Gilbert Osmond, and by surrounding
this topic with a sacred silence they managed to preserve a
semblance of reciprocal frankness. But there was a
difference, as Ralph often said to himself-there was a
difference. She had not forgiven him, she never would
forgive him: that was all he had gained. She thought she
had forgiven him; she believed she didn’t care; and as she
was both very generous and very proud these convictions
represented a certain reality. But whether or no the event


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should justify him he would virtually have done her a
wrong, and the wrong was of the sort that women
remember best. As Osmond’s wife she could never again
be his friend. If in this character she should enjoy the
felicity she expected, she would have nothing but
contempt for the man who had attempted, in advance, to
undermine a blessing so dear; and if on the other hand his
warning should be justified the vow she had taken that he
should never know it would lay upon her spirit such a
burden as to make her hate him. So dismal had been,
during the year that followed his cousin’s marriage,
Ralph’s prevision of the future; and if his meditations
appear morbid we must remember he was not in the
bloom of health. He consoled himself as he might by
behaving (as he deemed) beautifully, and was present at
the ceremony by which Isabel was united to Mr. Osmond,
and which was performed in Florence in the month of
June. He learned from his mother that Isabel at first had
thought of celebrating her nuptials in her native land, but
that as simplicity was what she chiefly desired to secure she
had finally decided, in spite of Osmond’s professed
willingness to make a journey of any length, that this
characteristic would be best embodied in their being
married by the nearest clergyman in the shortest time. The


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thing was done therefore at the little American chapel, on
a very hot day, in the presence only of Mrs. Touchett and
her son, of Pansy Osmond and the Countess Gemini. That
severity in the proceedings of which I just spoke was in
part the result of the absence of two persons who might
have been looked for on the occasion and who would
have lent it a certain richness. Madame Merle had been
invited, but Madame Merle, who was unable to leave
Rome, had written a gracious letter of excuses. Henrietta
Stackpole had not been invited, as her departure from
America, announced to Isabel by Mr. Goodwood, was in
fact frustrated by the duties of her profession; but she had
sent a letter, less gracious than Madame Merle’s, intimating
that, had she been able to cross the Atlantic, she would
have been present not only as a witness but as a critic. Her
return to Europe had taken place somewhat later, and she
had effected a meeting with Isabel in the autumn, in Paris,
when she had indulged-perhaps a trifle too freely-her
critical genius. Poor Osmond, who was chiefly the subject
of it, had protested so sharply that Henrietta was obliged
to declare to Isabel that she had taken a step which put a
barrier between them. ‘It isn’t in the least that you’ve
married-it is that you have married him,’ she had deemed
it her duty to remark; agreeing, it will be seen, much


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more with Ralph Touchett than she suspected, though she
had few of his hesitations and compunctions. Henrietta’s
second visit to Europe, however, was not apparently to
have been made in vain; for just at the moment when
Osmond had declared to Isabel that he really must object
to that newspaper-woman, and Isabel had answered that it
seemed to her he took Henrietta too hard, the good Mr.
Bantling had appeared upon the scene and proposed that
they should take a run down to Spain. Henrietta’s letters
from Spain had proved the most acceptable she had yet
published, and there had been one in especial, dated from
the Alhambra and entitled ‘Moors and Moonlight,’ which
generally passed for her masterpiece. Isabel had been
secretly disappointed at her husband’s not seeing his way
simply to take the poor girl for funny. She even wondered
if his sense of fun, or of the funny-which would be his
sense of humour, wouldn’t it?-were by chance defective.
Of course she herself looked at the matter as a person
whose present happiness had nothing to grudge to
Henrietta’s violated conscience. Osmond had thought
their alliance a kind of monstrosity; he couldn’t imagine
what they had in common. For him, Mr. Bantling’s fellow
tourist was simply the most vulgar of women, and he had
also pronounced her the most abandoned. Against this


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latter clause of the verdict Isabel had appealed with an
ardour that had made him wonder afresh at the oddity of
some of his wife’s tastes. Isabel could explain it only by
saying that she liked to know people who were as different
as possible from herself. ‘Why then don’t you make the
acquaintance of your washerwoman?’ Osmond had
enquired; to which Isabel had answered that she was afraid
her washerwoman wouldn’t care for her. Now Henrietta
cared so much.
    Ralph had seen nothing of her for the greater part of
the two years that had followed her marriage; the winter
that formed the beginning of her residence in Rome he
had spent again at San Remo, where he had been joined
in the spring by his mother, who afterwards had gone with
him to England, to see what they were doing at the bank-
an operation she couldn’t induce him to perform. Ralph
had taken a lease of his house at San Remo, a small villa
which he had occupied still another winter; but late in the
month of April of this second year he had come down to
Rome. It was the first time since her marriage that he had
stood face to face with Isabel; his desire to see her again
was then of the keenest. She had written to him from time
to time, but her letters told him nothing he wanted to
know. He had asked his mother what she was making of


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her life, and his mother had simply answered that she
supposed she was making the best of it. Mrs. Touchett had
not the imagination that communes with the unseen, and
she now pretended to no intimacy with her niece, whom
she rarely encountered. This young woman appeared to be
living in a sufficiently honourable way, but Mrs. Touchett
still remained of the opinion that her marriage had been a
shabby affair. It had given her no pleasure to think of
Isabel’s establishment, which she was sure was a very lame
business. From time to time, in Florence, she rubbed
against the Countess Gemini, doing her best always to
minimize the contact; and the Countess reminded her of
Osmond, who made her think of Isabel. The Countess
was less talked of in these days; but Mrs. Touchett augured
no good of that: it only proved how she had been talked
of before. There was a more direct suggestion of Isabel in
the person of Madame Merle; but Madame Merle’s
relations with Mrs. Touchett had undergone a perceptible
change. Isabel’s aunt had told her, without
circumlocution, that she had played too ingenious a part;
and Madame Merle, who never quarrelled with any one,
who appeared to think no one worth it, and who had
performed the miracle of living, more or less, for several
years with Mrs. Touchett and showing no symptom of


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irritation-Madame Merle now took a very high tone and
declared that this was an accusation from which she
couldn’t stoop to defend herself. She added, however
(without stooping), that her behaviour had been only too
simple, that she had believed only what she saw, that she
saw Isabel was not eager to marry and Osmond not eager
to please (his repeated visits had been nothing; he was
boring himself to death on his hill-top and he came
merely for amusement). Isabel had kept her sentiments to
herself, and her journey to Greece and Egypt had
effectually thrown dust in her companion’s eyes. Madame
Merle accepted the event-she was unprepared to think of
it as a scandal; but that she had played any part in it,
double or single, was an imputation against which she
proudly protested. It was doubtless in consequence of Mrs.
Touchett’s attitude, and of the injury it offered to habits
consecrated by many charming seasons, that Madame
Merle had, after this, chosen to pass many months in
England, where her credit was quite unimpaired. Mrs.
Touchett had done her a wrong; there are some things
that can’t be forgiven. But Madame Merle suffered in
silence; there was always something exquisite in her
dignity.



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   Ralph, as I say, had wished to see for himself; but while
engaged in this pursuit he had yet felt afresh what a fool he
had been to put the girl on her guard. He had played the
wrong card, and now he had lost the game. He should see
nothing, he should learn nothing; for him she would
always wear a mask. His true line would have been to
profess delight in her union, so that later, when, as Ralph
phrased it, the bottom should fall out of it, she might have
the pleasure of saying to him that he had been a goose. He
would gladly have consented to pass for a goose in order
to know Isabel’s real situation. At present, however, she
neither taunted him with his fallacies nor pretended that
her own confidence was justified; if she wore a mask it
completely covered her face. There was something fixed
and mechanical in the serenity painted on it; this was not
an expression, Ralph said-it was a representation, it was
even an advertisement. She had lost her child; that was a
sorrow, but it was a sorrow she scarcely spoke of; there
was more to say about it than she could say to Ralph. It
belonged to the past, moreover; it had occurred six
months before and she had already laid aside the tokens of
mourning. She appeared to be leading the life of the
world; Ralph heard her spoken of as having a ‘charming
position.’ He observed that she produced the impression


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of being peculiarly enviable, that it was supposed, among
many people, to be a privilege even to know her. Her
house was not open to every one, and she had an evening
in the week to which people were not invited as a matter
of course. She lived with a certain magnificence, but you
needed to be a member of her circle to perceive it; for
there was nothing to gape at, nothing to criticize, nothing
even to admire, in the daily proceedings of Mr. and Mrs.
Osmond. Ralph, in all this, recognized the hand of the
master; for he knew that Isabel had no faculty for
producing studied impressions. She struck him as having a
great love of movement, of gaiety, of late hours, of long
rides, of fatigue; an eagerness to be entertained, to be
interested, even to be bored, to make acquaintances, to see
people who were talked about, to explore the
neighbourhood of Rome, to enter into relation with
certain of the mustiest relics of its old society. In all this
there was much less discrimination than in that desire for
comprehensiveness of development on which he had been
used to exercise his wit. There was a kind of violence in
some of her impulses, of crudity in some of her
experiments, which took him by surprise: it seemed to
him that she even spoke faster, moved faster, breathed
faster, than before her marriage. Certainly she had fallen


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into exaggerations-she who used to care so much for the
pure truth; and whereas of old she had a great delight in
good-humoured argument, in intellectual play (she never
looked so charming as when in the genial heat of
discussion she received a crushing blow full in the face and
brushed it away as a feather), she appeared now to think
there was nothing worth people’s either differing about or
agreeing upon. Of old she had been curious, and now she
was indifferent, and yet in spite of her indifference her
activity was greater than ever. Slender still, but lovelier
than before, she had gained no great maturity of aspect;
yet there was an amplitude and a brilliancy in her personal
arrangements that gave a touch of insolence to her beauty.
Poor human-hearted Isabel, what perversity had bitten
her? Her light step drew a mas of drapery behind it; her
intelligent head sustained a majesty of ornament. The free,
keen girl had become quite another person; what he saw
was the fine lady who was supposed to represent
something. What did Isabel represent? Ralph asked
himself; and he could only answer by saying that she
represented Gilbert Osmond. ‘Good heavens, what a
function!’ he then woefully exclaimed. He was lost in
wonder at the mystery of things.



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    He recognized Osmond, as I say; he recognized him at
every turn. He saw how he kept all things within limits;
how he adjusted, regulated, animated their manner of life.
Osmond was in his element; at last he had material to
work with. He always had an eye to effect, and his effects
were deeply calculated. They were produced by no vulgar
means, but the motive was as vulgar as the art was great.
To surround his interior with a sort of invidious sanctity,
to tantalize society with a sense of exclusion, to make
people believe his house was different from every other, to
impart to the face that he presented to the world a cold
originality-this was the ingenious effort of the personage
to whom Isabel had attributed a superior morality. ‘He
works with superior material,’ Ralph said to himself; ‘it’s
rich abundance compared with his former resources.’
Ralph was a clever man; but Ralph had never-to his own
sense-been so clever as when he observed, in petto, that
under the guise of caring only for intrinsic values Osmond
lived exclusively for the world. Far from being its master
as he pretended to be, he was its very humble servant, and
the degree of its attention was his only measure of success.
He lived with his eye on it from morning till night, and
the world was so stupid it never suspected the trick.
Everything he did was pose-pose so subtly considered that


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if one were not on the lookout one mistook it for
impulse. Ralph had never met a man who lived so much
in the land of consideration. His tastes, his studies, his
accomplishments, his collections, were all for a purpose.
His life on his hilltop at Florence had been the conscious
attitude of years. His solitude, his ennui, his love for his
daughter, his good manners, his bad manners, were so
many features of a mental image constantly present to him
as a model of impertinence and mystification. His
ambition was not to please the world, but to please himself
by exciting the world’s curiosity and then declining to
satisfy it. It had made him feel great, ever, to play the
world a trick. The thing he had done in his life most
directly to please himself was his marrying Miss Archer;
though in this case indeed the gullible world was in a
manner embodied in poor Isabel, who had been mystified
to the top of her bent. Ralph of course found a fitness in
being consistent; he had embraced a creed, and as he had
suffered for it he could not in honour forsake it. I give this
little sketch of its articles for what they may at the time
have been worth. It was certain that he was very skilful in
fitting the facts to his theory-even the fact that during the
month he spent in Rome at this period the husband of the



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woman he loved appeared to regard him not in the least as
an enemy.
    For Gilbert Osmond Ralph had not now that
importance. It was not that he had the importance of a
friend; it was rather that he had none at all. He was Isabel’s
cousin and he was rather unpleasantly ill-it was on this
basis that Osmond treated with him. He made the proper
enquiries, asked about his health, about Mrs. Touchett,
about his opinion of winter climates, whether he were
comfortable at his hotel. He addressed him, on the few
occasions of their meeting, not a word that was not
necessary; but his manner had always the urbanity proper
to conscious success in the presence of conscious failure.
For all this, Ralph had had, toward the end, a sharp
inward vision of Osmond’s making it of small ease to his
wife that she should continue to receive Mr. Touchett. He
was not jealous-he had not that excuse; no one could be
jealous of Ralph. But he made Isabel pay for her old-time
kindness, of which so much was still left; and as Ralph had
no idea of her paying too much, so when his suspicion
had become sharp, he had taken himself off. In doing so
he had deprived Isabel of a very interesting occupation:
she had been constantly wondering what fine principle
was keeping him alive. She had decided that it was his


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love of conversation; his conversation had been better than
ever. He had given up walking; he was no longer a
humorous stroller. He sat all day in a chair-almost any
chair would serve, and was so dependent on what you
would do for him that, had not his talk been highly
contemplative, you might have thought he was blind. The
reader already knows more about him than Isabel was ever
to know, and the reader may therefore be given the key to
the mystery. What kept Ralph alive was simply the fact
that he had not yet seen enough of the person in the
world in whom he was most interested: he was not yet
satisfied. There was more to come; he couldn’t make up
his mind to lose that. He wanted to see what she would
make of her husband-or what her husband would make of
her. This was only the first act of the drama, and he was
determined to sit out the performance. His determination
had held good; it had kept him going some eighteen
months more, till the time of his return to Rome with
Lord Warburton. It had given him indeed such an air of
intending to live indefinitely that Mrs. Touchett, though
more accessible to confusions of thought in the matter of
this strange, unremunerative- and unremunerated—son of
hers than she had ever been before, had, as we have
learned, not scrupled to embark for a distant land. If Ralph


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had been kept alive by suspense it was with a good deal of
the same emotion-the excitement of wondering in what
state she should find him-that Isabel mounted to his
apartment the day after Lord Warburton had notified her
of his arrival in Rome.
    She spent an hour with him; it was the first of several
visits. Gilbert Osmond called on him punctually, and on
their sending their carriage for him Ralph came more than
once to Palazzo Roccanera. A fortnight elapsed, at the end
of which Ralph announced to Lord Warburton that he
thought after all he wouldn’t go to Sicily. The two men
had been dining together after a day spent by the latter in
ranging about the Campagna. They had left the table, and
Warburton, before the chimney, was lighting a cigar,
which he instantly removed from his lips.
    ‘Won’t go to Sicily? Where then will you go?’
    ‘Well, I guess I won’t go anywhere,’ said Ralph, from
the sofa, all shamelessly.
    ‘Do you mean you’ll return to England?’
    ‘Oh dear no; I’ll stay in Rome.’
    ‘Rome won’t do for you. Rome’s not warm enough.’
    ‘It will have to do. I’ll make it do. See how well I’ve
been.’



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    Lord Warburton looked at him a while, puffing a cigar
and as if trying to see it. ‘You’ve been better than you
were on the journey, certainly. I wonder how you lived
through that. But I don’t understand your condition. I
recommend you to try Sicily.’
    ‘I can’t try,’ said poor Ralph. ‘I’ve done trying. I can’t
move further. I can’t face that journey. Fancy me between
Scylla and Charybdis! I don’t want to die on the Sicilian
plains-to be snatched away, like Proserpine in the same
locality, to the Plutonian shades.’
    ‘What the deuce then did you come for?’ his lordship
enquired.
    ‘Because the idea took me. I see it won’t do. It really
doesn’t matter where I am now. I’ve exhausted all
remedies, I’ve swallowed all climates. As I’m here I’ll stay.
I haven’t a single cousin in Sicily-much less a married
one.’
    ‘Your cousin’s certainly an inducement. But what does
the doctor say?’
    ‘I haven’t asked him, and I don’t care a fig. If I die here
Mrs. Osmond will bury me. But I shall not die here.’
    ‘I hope not.’ Lord Warburton continued to smoke
reflectively. ‘Well, I must say,’ he resumed, ‘for myself I’m



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very glad you don’t insist on Sicily. I had a horror of that
journey.’
    ‘Ah, but for you it needn’t have mattered. I had no
idea of dragging you in my train.’
    ‘I certainly didn’t mean to let you go alone.’
    ‘My dear Warburton, I never expected you to come
further than this,’
    Ralph cried.
    ‘I should have gone with you and seen you settled,’ said
Lord Warburton.
    ‘You’re a very good Christian. You’re a very kind
man.’
    ‘Then I should have come back here.’
    ‘And then you’d have gone to England.’
    ‘No, no; I should have stayed.’
    ‘Well,’ said Ralph, ‘if that’s what we are both up to, I
don’t see where Sicily comes in!’
    His companion was silent; he sat staring at the fire. At
last, looking up, ‘I say, tell me this,’ he broke out; ‘did you
really mean to go to Sicily when we started?’
    ‘Ah, vous m’en demandez trop! Let me put a question
first. Did you come with me quite-platonically?’
    ‘I don’t know what you mean by that. I wanted to
come abroad.’


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    ‘I suspect we’ve each been playing our little game.’
    ‘Speak for yourself. I made no secret whatever of my
desiring to be here a while.’
    ‘Yes, I remember you said you wished to see the
Minister of Foreign Affairs.’
    ‘I’ve seen him three times. He’s very amusing.’
    ‘I think you’ve forgotten what you came for,’ said
Ralph.
    ‘Perhaps I have,’ his companion answered rather
gravely.
    These two were gentlemen of a race which is not
distinguished by the absence of reserve, and they had
travelled together from London to Rome without an
allusion to matters that were uppermost in the mind of
each. There was an old subject they had once discussed,
but it had lost its recognized place in their attention, and
even after their arrival in Rome, where many things led
back to it, they had kept the same half-diffident, half-
confident silence.
    ‘I recommend you to get the doctor’s consent, all the
same,’ Lord Warburton went on, abruptly, after an
interval.
    ‘The doctor’s consent will spoil it. I never have it when
I can help it.’


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   ‘What then does Mrs. Osmond think?’ Ralph’s friend
demanded.
   ‘I’ve not told her. She’ll probably say that Rome’s too
cold and even offer to go with me to Catania. She’s
capable of that.’
   ‘In your place I should like it.’
   ‘Her husband won’t like it.’
   ‘Ah well, I can fancy that; though it seems to me
you’re not bound to mind his likings. They’re his affair.’
   ‘I don’t want to make any more trouble between
them,’ said Ralph.
   ‘Is there so much already?’
   ‘There’s complete preparation for it. Her going off
with me would make the explosion. Osmond isn’t fond of
his wife’s cousin.’
   ‘Then of course he’d make a row. But won’t he make a
row if you stop here?’
   ‘That’s what I want to see. He made one the last time I
was in Rome, and then I thought it my duty to disappear.
Now I think it’s my duty to stop and defend her.’
   ‘My dear Touchett, your defensive powers-!’ Lord
Warburton began with a smile. But he saw something in
his companion’s face that checked him.



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   ‘Your duty, in these premises, seems to me rather a
nice question,’ he observed instead.
   Ralph for a short time answered nothing. ‘It’s true my
defensive powers are small,’ he returned at last; ‘but as my
aggressive ones are still smaller Osmond may after all not
think me worth his gunpowder. At any rate,’ he added,
‘there are things I’m curious to see.’
   ‘You’re sacrificing your health to your curiosity then?’
   ‘I’m not much interested in my health, and I’m deeply
interested in Mrs. Osmond.’
   ‘So am I. But not as I once was,’ Lord Warburton
added quickly. This was one of the allusions he had not
hitherto found occasion to make.
   ‘Does she strike you as very happy?’ Ralph enquired,
emboldened by this confidence.
   ‘Well, I don’t know; I’ve hardly thought. She told me
the other night she was happy.’
   ‘Ah, she told you, of course,’ Ralph exclaimed, smiling.
   ‘I don’t know that. It seems to me I was rather the sort
of person she might have complained to.’
   ‘Complained? She’ll never complain. She has done it-
what she has done-and she knows it. She’ll complain to
you least of all. She’s very careful.’



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   ‘She needn’t be. I don’t mean to make love to her
again.’
   ‘I’m delighted to hear it. There can be no doubt at least
of your duty.’
   ‘Ah no,’ said Lord Warburton gravely; ‘none!’
   ‘Permit me to ask,’ Ralph went on, ‘whether it’s to
bring out the fact that you don’t mean to make love to her
that you’re so very civil to the little girl?’
   Lord Warburton gave a slight start; he got up and stood
before the fire, looking at it hard. ‘Does that strike you as
very ridiculous?’
   ‘Ridiculous? Not in the least, if you really like her.’
   ‘I think her a delightful little person. I don’t know
when a girl of that age has pleased me more.’
   ‘She’s a charming creature. Ah, she at least is genuine.’
   ‘Of course there’s the difference in our ages-more than
twenty years.’
   ‘My dear Warburton,’ said Ralph, ‘are you serious?’
   ‘Perfectly serious-as far as I’ve got.’
   ‘I’m very glad. And, heaven help us,’ cried Ralph,
‘how cheered-up old Osmond will be!’
   His companion frowned. ‘I say, don’t spoil it. I
shouldn’t propose for his daughter to please him.’
   ‘He’ll have the perversity to be pleased all the same.’


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   ‘He’s not so fond of me as that,’ said his lordship.
   ‘As that? My dear Warburton, the drawback of your
position is that people needn’t be fond of you at all to
wish to be connected with you. Now, with me in such a
case, I should have the happy confidence that they loved
me.’
   Lord Warburton seemed scarcely in the mood for
doing justice to general axioms-he was thinking of a
special case. ‘Do you judge she’ll be pleased?’
   ‘The girl herself? Delighted, surely.’ ‘No, no; I mean
Mrs. Osmond.’
   Ralph looked at him a moment. ‘My dear fellow, what
has she to do with it?’
   ‘Whatever she chooses. She’s very fond of Pansy.’
   ‘Very true-very true.’ And Ralph slowly got up. ‘It’s an
interesting question-how far her fondness for Pansy will
carry her.’ He stood there a moment with his hands in his
pockets and rather a clouded brow. ‘I hope, you know,
that you’re very-very sure. The deuce!’ he broke off. ‘I
don’t know how to say it.’
   ‘Yes, you do; you know how to say everything.’
   ‘Well, it’s awkward. I hope you’re sure that among
Miss Osmond’s merits her being-a-so near her stepmother
isn’t a leading one?’


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   ‘Good heavens, Touchett!’ cried Lord Warburton
angrily, ‘for what do you take me?’




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                         Chapter 20

    Isabel had not seen much of Madame Merle since her
marriage, this lady having indulged in frequent absences
from Rome. At one time she had spent six months in
England; at another she had passed a portion of a winter in
Paris. She had made numerous visits to distant friends and
gave countenance to the idea that for the future she should
be a less inveterate Roman than in the past. As she had
been inveterate in the past only in the sense of constantly
having an apartment in one of the sunniest niches of the
Pincian—an apartment which often stood empty-this
suggested a prospect of almost constant absence; a danger
which Isabel at one period had been much inclined to
deplore. Familiarity had modified in some degree her first
impression of Madame Merle, but it had not essentially
altered it; there was still much wonder of admiration in it.
That personage was armed at all points; it was a pleasure to
see a character so completely equipped for the social
battle. She carried her flag discreetly, but her weapons
were polished steel, and she used them with a skill which
struck Isabel as more and more that of a veteran. She was
never weary, never overcome with disgust; she never


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appeared to need rest or consolation. She had her own
ideas; she had of old exposed a great many of them to
Isabel, who knew also that under an appearance of
extreme self-control her highly-cultivated friend concealed
a rich sensibility. But her will was mistress of her life; there
was something gallant in the way she kept going. It was as
if she had learned the secret of it-as if the art of life were
some clever trick she had guessed. Isabel, as she herself
grew older, became acquainted with revulsions, with
disgusts; there were days when the world looked black and
she asked herself with some sharpness what it was that she
was pretending to live for. Her old habit had been to live
by enthusiasm, to fall in love with suddenly-perceived
possibilities, with the idea of some new adventure. As a
younger person she had been used to proceed from one
little exaltation to the other: there were scarcely any dull
places between. But Madame Merle had suppressed
enthusiasm; she fell in love now-a-days with nothing; she
lived entirely by reason and by wisdom. There were hours
when Isabel would have given anything for lessons in this
art; if her brilliant friend had been near she would have
made an appeal to her. She had become aware more than
before of the advantage of being like that-of having made
one’s self a firm surface, a sort of corselet of silver.


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    But, as I say, it was not till the winter during which we
lately renewed acquaintance with our heroine that the
personage in question made again a continuous stay in
Rome. Isabel now saw more of her than she had done
since her marriage; but by this time Isabel’s needs and
inclinations had considerably changed. It was not at
present to Madame Merle that she would have applied for
instruction; she had lost the desire to know this lady’s
clever trick. If she had troubles she must keep them to
herself, and if life was difficult it would not make it easier
to confess herself beaten. Madame Merle was doubtless of
great use to herself and an ornament to any circle; but was
she-would she be-of use to others in periods of refined
embarrassment? The best way to profit by her friend-this
indeed Isabel had always thought-was to imitate her, to be
as firm and bright as she. She recognized no
embarrassments, and Isabel, considering this fact,
determined for the fiftieth time to brush aside her own. It
seemed to her too, on the renewal of an intercourse which
had virtually been interrupted, that her old ally was
different, was almost detached-pushing to the extreme a
certain rather artificial fear of being indiscreet. Ralph
Touchett, we know, had been of the opinion that she was
prone to exaggeration, to forcing the note-was apt, in the


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vulgar phrase, to overdo it. Isabel had never admitted this
charge-had never indeed quite understood it; Madame
Merle’s conduct, to her perception, always bore the stamp
of good taste, was always ‘quiet.’ But in this matter of not
wishing to intrude upon the inner life of the Osmond
family it at last occurred to our young woman that she
overdid a little. That of course was not the best taste; that
was rather violent. She remembered too much that Isabel
was married; that she had now other interests; that though
she, Madame Merle, had known Gilbert Osmond and his
little Pansy very well, better almost than any one, she was
not after all of the inner circle. She was on her guard; she
never spoke of their affairs till she was asked, even pressed
when her opinion was wanted; she had a dread of seeming
to meddle. Madame Merle was as candid as we know, and
one day she candidly expressed this dread to Isabel.
    ‘I must be on my guard,’ she said; ‘I might so easily,
without suspecting it, offend you. You would be right to
be offended, even if my intention should have been of the
purest. I must not forget that I knew your husband long
before you did; I must not let that betray me. If you were
a silly woman you might be jealous. You’re not a silly
woman; I know that perfectly. But neither am I; therefore
I’m determined not to get into trouble. A little harm’s


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very soon done; a mistake’s made before one knows it. Of
course if I had wished to make love to your husband I had
ten years to do it in, and nothing to prevent; so it isn’t
likely I shall begin to-day, when I’m so much less
attractive than I was. But if I were to annoy you by
seeming to take a place that doesn’t belong to me, you
wouldn’t make that reflection; you’d simply say I was
forgetting certain differences. I’m determined not to forget
them. Certainly a good friend isn’t always thinking of that;
one doesn’t suspect one’s friends of injustice. I don’t
suspect you, my dear, in the least; but I suspect human
nature. Don’t think I make myself uncomfortable; I’m not
always watching myself. I think I sufficiently prove it in
talking to you as I do now. All I wish to say is, however,
that if you were to be jealous-that’s the form it would
take-I should be sure to think it was a little my fault. It
certainly wouldn’t be your husband’s.’
    Isabel had had three years to think over Mrs.
Touchett’s theory that Madame Merle had made Gilbert
Osmond’s marriage. We know how she had at first
received it. Madame Merle might have made Gilbert
Osmond’s marriage, but she certainly had not made Isabel
Archer’s. That was the work of-Isabel scarcely knew what:
of nature, providence, fortune, of the eternal mystery of


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things. It was true her aunt’s complaint had been not so
much of Madame Merle’s activity as of her duplicity: she
had brought about the strange event and then she had
denied her guilt. Such guilt would not have been great, to
Isabel’s mind; she couldn’t make a crime of Madame
Merle’s having been the producing cause of the most
important friendship she had ever formed. This had
occurred to her just before her marriage, after her little
discussion with her aunt and at a time when she was still
capable of that large inward reference, the tone almost of
the philosophic historian, to her scant young annals. If
Madame Merle had desired her change of state she could
only say it had been a very happy thought. With her,
moreover, she had been perfectly straightforward; she had
never concealed her high opinion of Gilbert Osmond.
After their union Isabel discovered that her husband took a
less convenient view of the matter; he seldom consented
to finger, in talk, this roundest and smoothest bead of their
social rosary.
    ‘Don’t you like Madame Merle?’ Isabel had once said
to him. ‘She thinks a great deal of you.’
    ‘I’ll tell you once for all,’ Osmond had answered. ‘I
liked her once better than I do to-day. I’m tired of her,
and I’m rather ashamed of it. She’s so almost unnaturally


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good! I’m glad she’s not in Italy; it makes for relaxation-
for a sort of moral detente. Don’t talk of her too much; it
seems to bring her back. She’ll come back in plenty of
time.’
   Madame Merle, in fact, had come back before it was
too late-too late, I mean, to recover whatever advantage
she might have lost. But meantime, if, as I have said, she
was sensibly different, Isabel’s feelings were also not quite
the same. Her consciousness of the situation was as acute
as of old, but it was much less satisfying. A dissatisfied
mind, whatever else it may miss, is rarely in want of
reasons; they bloom as thick as buttercups in June. The
fact of Madame Merle’s having had a hand in Gilbert
Osmond’s marriage ceased to be one of her titles to
consideration; it might have been written, after all, that
there was not so much to thank her for. As time went on
there was less and less, and Isabel once said to herself that
perhaps without her these things would not have been.
That reflection indeed was instantly stifled; she knew an
immediate horror at having made it. ‘Whatever happens to
me let me not be unjust,’ she said; ‘Let me bear my
burdens myself and not shift them upon others!’ This
disposition was tested, eventually, by that ingenious
apology for her present conduct which Madame Merle


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saw fit to make and of which I have given a sketch; for
there was something irritating-there was almost an air of
mockery-in her neat discriminations and clear convictions.
In Isabel’s mind to-day there was nothing clear; there was
a confusion of regrets, a complication of fears. She felt
helpless as she turned away from her friend, who had just
made the statements I have quoted: Madame Merle knew
so little what she was thinking of! She was herself
moreover so unable to explain. jealous of her-jealous of
her with Gilbert? The idea just then suggested no near
reality.
   She almost wished jealousy had been possible; it would
have made in a manner for refreshment. Wasn’t it in a
manner one of the symptoms of happiness? Madame
Merle, however, was wise, so wise that she might have
been pretending to know Isabel better than Isabel knew
herself. This young woman had always been fertile in
resolutions-many of them of an elevated character; but at
no period had they flourished (in the privacy of her heart)
more richly than to-day. It is true that they all had a family
likeness; they might have been summed up in the
determination that if she was to be unhappy it should not
be by a fault of her own. Her poor winged spirit had
always had a great desire to do its best, and it had not as


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yet been seriously discouraged. It wished, therefore, to
hold fast to justice-not to pay itself by petty revenges. To
associate Madame Merle with its disappointment would be
a petty revenge-especially as the pleasure to be derived
from that would be perfectly insincere. It might feed her
sense of bitterness, but it would not loosen her bonds. It
was impossible to pretend that she had not acted with her
eyes open; if ever a girl was a free agent she had been. A
girl in love was doubtless not a free agent; but the sole
source of her mistake had been within herself. There had
been no plot, no snare; she had looked and considered and
chosen. When a woman had made such a mistake, there
was only one way to repair it-just immensely (oh, with the
highest grandeur! to accept it. One folly was enough,
especially when it was to last for ever; a second one would
not much set it off. In this vow of reticence there was a
certain nobleness which kept Isabel going; but Madame
Merle had been right, for all that, in taking her
precautions.
    One day about a month after Ralph Touchett’s arrival
in Rome Isabel came back from a walk with Pansy. It was
not only a part of her general determination to be just that
she was at present very thankful for Pansy-it was also a part
of her tenderness for things that were pure and weak.


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Pansy was dear to her, and there was nothing else in her
life that had the rightness of the young creature’s
attachment or the sweetness of her own clearness about it.
It was like a soft presence-like a small hand in her own; on
Pansy’s part it was more than an affection-it was a kind of
ardent coercive faith. On her own side her sense of the
girl’s dependence was more than a pleasure; it operated as
a definite reason when motives threatened to fail her. She
had said to herself that we must take our duty where we
find it, and that we must look for it as much as possible.
Pansy’s sympathy was a direct admonition; it seemed to
say that here was an opportunity, not eminent perhaps,
but unmistakeable. Yet an opportunity for what Isabel
could hardly have said; in general, to be more for the child
than the child was able to be for herself. Isabel could have
smiled, in these days, to remember that her little
companion had once been ambiguous, for she now
perceived that Pansy’s ambiguities were simply her own
grossness of vision. She had been unable to believe any
one could care so much-so extraordinarily much-to please.
But since then she had seen this delicate faculty in
operation, and now she knew what to think of it. It was
the whole creature-it was a sort of genius. Pansy had no
pride to interfere with it, and though she was constantly


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extending her conquests she took no credit for them. The
two were constantly together; Mrs. Osmond was rarely
seen without her stepdaughter. Isabel liked her company;
it had the effect of one’s carrying a nosegay composed all
of the same flower. And then not to neglect Pansy, not
under any provocation to neglect her-this she had made an
article of religion. The young girl had every appearance of
being happier in Isabel’s society than in that of any one
save her father, whom she admired with an intensity
justified by the fact that, as paternity was an exquisite
pleasure to Gilbert Osmond, he had always been
luxuriously mild. Isabel knew how Pansy liked to be with
her and how she studied the means of pleasing her. She
had decided that the best way of pleasing her was negative,
and consisted in not giving her trouble-a conviction
which certainly could have had no reference to trouble
already existing. She was therefore ingeniously passive and
almost imaginatively docile; she was careful even to
moderate the eagerness with which she assented to Isabel’s
propositions and which might have implied that she could
have thought otherwise. She never interrupted, never
asked social questions, and though she delighted in
approbation, to the point of turning pale when it came to
her, never held out her hand for it. She only looked


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toward it wistfully-an attitude which, as she grew older,
made her eyes the prettiest in the world. When during the
second winter at Palazzo Roccanera she began to go to
parties, to dances, she always, at a reasonable hour, lest
Mrs. Osmond should be tired, was the first to propose
departure. Isabel appreciated the sacrifice of the late
dances, for she knew her little companion had a passionate
pleasure in this exercise, taking her steps to the music like
a conscientious fairy. Society, moreover, had no
drawbacks for her; she liked even the tiresome parts-the
heat of ball-rooms, the dulness of dinners, the crush at the
door, the awkward waiting for the carriage. During the
day, in this vehicle, beside her stepmother, she sat in a
small fixed, appreciative posture, bending forward and
faintly smiling, as if she had been taken to drive for the
first time.
    On the day I speak of they had been driven out of one
of the gates of the city and at the end of half an hour had
left the carriage to await them by the roadside while they
walked away over the short grass of the Campagna, which
even in the winter months is sprinkled with delicate
flowers. This was almost a daily habit with Isabel, who was
fond of a walk and had a swift length of step, though not
so swift a one as on her first coming to Europe. It was not


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the form of exercise that Pansy loved best, but she liked it,
because she liked everything; and she moved with a
shorter undulation beside her father’s wife, who
afterwards, on their return to Rome, paid a tribute to her
preferences by making the circuit of the Pincian or the
Villa Borghese. She had gathered a handful of flowers in a
sunny hollow, far from the walls of Rome, and on
reaching Palazzo Roccanera she went straight to her
room, to put them into water. Isabel passed into the
drawing-room, the one she herself usually occupied, the
second in order from the large ante-chamber which was
entered from the staircase and in which even Gilbert
Osmond’s rich devices had not been able to correct a look
of rather grand nudity. just beyond the threshold of the
drawing-room she stopped short, the reason for her doing
so being that she had received an impression. The
impression had, in strictness, nothing unprecedented; but
she felt it as something new, and the soundlessness of her
step gave her time to take in the scene before she
interrupted it. Madame Merle was there in her bonnet,
and Gilbert Osmond was talking to her; for a minute they
were unaware she had come in. Isabel had often seen that
before, certainly; but what she had not seen, or at least had
not noticed, was that their colloquy had for the moment


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converted itself into a sort of familiar silence, from which
she instantly perceived that her entrance would startle
them. Madame Merle was standing on the rug, a little way
from the fire; Osmond was in a deep chair, leaning back
and looking at her. Her head was erect, as usual, but her
eyes were bent on his. What struck Isabel first was that he
was sitting while Madame Merle stood; there was an
anomaly in this that arrested her. Then she perceived that
they had arrived at a desultory pause in their exchange of
ideas and were musing, face to face, with the freedom of
old friends who sometimes exchange ideas without
uttering them. There was nothing to shock in this; they
were old friends in fact. But the thing made an image,
lasting only a moment, like a sudden flicker of light. Their
relative positions, their absorbed mutual gaze, struck her as
something detected. But it was all over by the time she
had fairly seen it. Madame Merle had seen her and had
welcomed her without moving; her husband, on the other
hand, had instantly jumped up. He presently murmured
something about wanting a walk and, after having asked
their visitor to excuse him, left the room.
    ‘I came to see you, thinking you would have come in;
and as you hadn’t I waited for you,’ Madame Merle said.



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    ‘Didn’t he ask you to sit down?’ Isabel asked with a
smile.
    Madame Merle looked about her. ‘Ah, it’s very true; I
was going away.’
    ‘You must stay now.’
    ‘Certainly. I came for a reason; I’ve something on my
mind.’
    ‘I’ve told you that before,’ Isabel said-"that it takes
something extraordinary to bring you to this house.’
    ‘And you know what I’ve told you; that whether I
come or whether I stay away, I’ve always the same
motive-the affection I bear you.’
    ‘Yes, you’ve told me that.’
    ‘You look just now as if you didn’t believe it,’ said
Madame Merle.
    ‘Ah,’ Isabel answered, ‘the profundity of your motives,
that’s the last thing I doubt!’
    ‘You doubt sooner of the sincerity of my words.’
    Isabel shook her head gravely. ‘I know you’ve always
been kind to me.’
    ‘As often as you would let me. You don’t always take
it; then one has to let you alone. It’s not to do you a
kindness, however, that I’ve come to-day; it’s quite
another affair. I’ve come to get rid of a trouble of my


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own-to make it over to you. I’ve been talking to your
husband about it.’
     ‘I’m surprised at that; he doesn’t like troubles.’
     ‘Especially other people’s; I know very well. But
neither do you, I suppose. At any rate, whether you do or
not, you must help me. It’s about poor Mr. Rosier.’
     ‘Ah,’ said Isabel reflectively, ‘it’s his trouble then, not
yours.’
     ‘He has succeeded in saddling me with it. He comes to
see me ten times a week, to talk about Pansy.’
     ‘Yes, he wants to marry her. I know all about it.’
     Madame Merle hesitated. ‘I gathered from your
husband that perhaps you didn’t.’
     ‘How should he know what I know? He has never
spoken to me of the matter.’
     ‘It’s probably because he doesn’t know how to speak of
it.’
     ‘It’s nevertheless the sort of question in which he’s
rarely at fault.’
     ‘Yes, because as a general thing he knows perfectly well
what to think.
     To-day he doesn’t.’
     ‘Haven’t you been telling him?’ Isabel asked.



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   Madame Merle gave a bright, voluntary smile. ‘Do you
know you’re a little dry?’
   ‘Yes; I can’t help it. Mr. Rosier has also talked to me.’
   ‘In that there’s some reason. You’re so near the child.’
   ‘Ah,’ said Isabel, ‘for all the comfort I’ve given him! If
you think me dry, I wonder what he thinks.’
   ‘I believe he thinks you can do more than you have
done.’
   ‘I can do nothing.’
   ‘You can do more at least than I. I don’t know what
mysterious connection he may have discovered between
me and Pansy; but he came to me from the first, as if I
held his fortune in my hand. Now he keeps coming back,
to spur me up, to know what hope there is, to pour out
his feelings.’
   ‘He’s very much in love,’ said Isabel.
   ‘Very much-for him.’
   ‘Very much for Pansy, you might say as well.’
   Madame Merle dropped her eyes a moment. ‘Don’t
you think she’s attractive?’
   ‘The dearest little person possible-but very limited.’
   ‘She ought to be all the easier for Mr. Rosier to love.
Mr. Rosier’s not unlimited.’



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   ‘No,’ said Isabel, ‘he has about the extent of one’s
pocket-handkerchief-the small ones with lace borders.’
Her humour had lately turned a good deal to sarcasm, but
in a moment she was ashamed of exercising it on so
innocent an object as Pansy’s suitor. ‘He’s very kind, very
honest,’ she presently added; ‘and he’s not such a fool as
he seems.’
   ‘He assures me that she delights in him,’ said Madame
Merle.
   ‘I don’t know; I’ve not asked her.’
   ‘You’ve never sounded her a little?’
   ‘It’s not my place; it’s her father’s.’
   ‘Ah, you’re too literal!’ said Madame Merle.
   ‘I must judge for myself.’
   Madame Merle gave her smile again. ‘It isn’t easy to
help you.’
   ‘To help me?’ said Isabel very seriously. ‘What do you
mean?’
   ‘It’s easy to displease you. Don’t you see how wise I am
to be careful? I notify you, at any rate, as I notified
Osmond, that I wash my hands of the love-affairs of Miss
Pansy and Mr. Edward Rosier. Je n’y peux rien, moi! I
can’t talk to Pansy about him. Especially,’ added Madame
Merle, ‘as I don’t think him a paragon of husbands.’


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    Isabel reflected a little; after which, with a smile, ‘You
don’t wash your hands then!’ she said. After which again
she added in another tone: ‘You can’t-you’re too much
interested.’
    Madame Merle slowly rose; she had given Isabel a look
as rapid as the intimation that had gleamed before our
heroine a few moments before. Only this time the latter
saw nothing. ‘Ask him the next time, and you’ll see.’
    ‘I can’t ask him; he has ceased to come to the house.
Gilbert has let him know that he’s not welcome.’
    ‘Ah yes,’ said Madame Merle, ‘I forgot that-though it’s
the burden of his lamentation. He says Osmond has
insulted him. All the same,’ she went on, ‘Osmond doesn’t
dislike him so much as he thinks.’ She had got up as if to
close the conversation, but she lingered, looking about
her, and had evidently more to say. Isabel perceived this
and even saw the point she had in view; but Isabel also
had her own reasons for not opening the way.
    ‘That must have pleased him, if you’ve told him,’ she
answered, smiling.
    ‘Certainly I’ve told him; as far as that goes I’ve
encouraged him. I’ve preached patience, have said that his
case isn’t desperate if he’ll only hold his tongue and be



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quiet. Unfortunately he has taken it into his head to be
jealous.’
    ‘Jealous?
    ‘Jealous of Lord Warburton, who, he says, is always
here.’
    Isabel, who was tired, had remained sitting; but at this
she also rose. ‘Ah!’ she exclaimed simply, moving slowly
to the fireplace. Madame Merle observed her as she passed
and while she stood a moment before the mantel-glass and
pushed into its place a wandering tress of hair.
    ‘Poor Mr. Rosier keeps saying there’s nothing
impossible in Lord Warburton’s falling in love with
Pansy,’ Madame Merle went on.
    Isabel was silent a little; she turned away from the glass.
    ‘It’s true-there’s nothing impossible,’ she returned at
last, gravely and more gently.
    ‘So I’ve had to admit to Mr. Rosier. So, too, your
husband thinks.’
    ‘That I don’t know.’
    ‘Ask him and you’ll see.’
    ‘I shall not ask him,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Pardon me; I forgot you had pointed that out. Of
course,’ Madame Merle added, ‘you’ve had infinitely more
observation of Lord Warburton’s behaviour than I.’


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   ‘I see no reason why I shouldn’t tell you that he likes
my stepdaughter very much.’
   Madame Merle gave one of her quick looks again.
‘Likes her, you mean-Mr. Rosier means?’
   ‘I don’t know how Mr. Rosier means; but Lord
Warburton has let me know that he’s charmed with
Pansy.’
   ‘And you’ve never told Osmond?’ This observation was
immediate, precipitate; it almost burst from Madame
Merle’s lips.
   Isabel’s eyes rested on her. ‘I suppose he’ll know in
time; Lord Warburton has a tongue and knows how to
express himself.’
   Madame Merle instantly became conscious that she had
spoken more quickly than usual, and the reflection
brought the colour to her cheek. She gave the treacherous
impulse time to subside and then said as if she had been
thinking it over a little: ‘That would be better than
marrying poor Mr. Rosier.’
   ‘Much better, I think.’
   ‘It would be very delightful; it would be a great
marriage. It’s really very kind of him.’
   ‘Very kind of him?’
   ‘To drop his eyes on a simple little girl.’


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   ‘I don’t see that.’
   ‘It’s very good of you. But after all, Pansy Osmond-.’
   ‘After all, Pansy Osmond’s the most attractive person
he has ever known!’ Isabel exclaimed.
   Madame Merle stared, and indeed she was justly
bewildered. ‘Ah, a moment ago I thought you seemed
rather to disparage her.’
   ‘I said she was limited. And so she is. And so’s Lord
Warburton.’
   ‘So are we all, if you come to that. If it’s no more than
Pansy deserves, all the better. But if she fixes her affections
on Mr. Rosier I won’t admit that she deserves it. That will
be too perverse.’
   ‘Mr. Rosier’s a nuisance!’ Isabel cried abruptly.
   ‘I quite agree with you, and I’m delighted to know that
I’m not expected to feed his flame. For the future, when
he calls on me, my door shall be closed to him.’ And
gathering her mantle together Madame Merle prepared to
depart. She was checked, however, on her progress to the
door, by an inconsequent request from Isabel.
   ‘All the same, you know, be kind to him.’
   She lifted her shoulders and eyebrows and stood
looking at her friend. ‘I don’t understand your
contradictions! Decidedly I shan’t be kind to him, for it


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will be a false kindness. I want to see her married to Lord
Warburton.’
    ‘You had better wait till he asks her.’
    ‘If what you say’s true, he’ll ask her. Especially,’ said
Madame Merle in a moment, ‘if you make him.’
    ‘If I make him?’
    ‘It’s quite in your power. You’ve great influence with
him.’
    Isabel frowned a little. ‘Where did you learn that?’
    ‘Mrs. Touchett told me. Not you-never!’ said Madame
Merle, smiling.
    ‘I certainly never told you anything of the sort.’
    ‘You might have done far as opportunity went-when
we were by way of being confidential with each other.
But you really told me very little; I’ve often thought so
since.’
    Isabel had thought so too, and sometimes with a certain
satisfaction. But she didn’t admit it now-perhaps because
she wished not to appear to exult in it. ‘You seem to have
had an excellent informant in my aunt,’ she simply
returned.
    ‘She let me know you had declined an offer of marriage
from Lord Warburton, because she was greatly vexed and
was full of the subject. Of course I think you’ve done


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better in doing as you did. But if you wouldn’t marry
Lord Warburton yourself, make him the reparation of
helping him to marry some one else.’
    Isabel listened to this with a face that persisted in not
reflecting the bright expressiveness of Madame Merle’s.
But in a moment she said, reasonably and gently enough:
‘I should be very glad indeed if, as regards Pansy, it could
be arranged.’ Upon which her companion, who seemed to
regard this as a speech of good omen, embraced her more
tenderly than might have been expected and triumphantly
withdrew.




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                         Chapter 41

    Osmond touched on this matter that evening for the
first time; coming very late into the drawing-room, where
she was sitting alone. They had spent the evening at
home, and Pansy had gone to bed; he himself had been
sitting since dinner in a small apartment in which he had
arranged his books and which he called his study. At ten
o’clock Lord Warburton had come in, as he always did
when he knew from Isabel that she was to be at home; he
was going somewhere else and he sat for half an hour.
Isabel, after asking him for news of Ralph, said very little
to him, on purpose; she wished him to talk with her
stepdaughter. She pretended to read; she even went after a
little to the piano; she asked herself if she mightn’t leave
the room. She had come little by little to think well of the
idea of Pansy’s becoming the wife of the master of
beautiful Lockleigh, though at first it had not presented
itself in a manner to excite her enthusiasm. Madame
Merle, that afternoon, had applied the match to an
accumulation of inflammable material. When Isabel was
unhappy she always looked about her-partly from impulse
and partly by theory-for some form of positive exertion.


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She could never rid herself of the sense that unhappiness
was a state of disease-of suffering as opposed to doing. To
‘do’-it hardly mattered what-would therefore be an
escape, perhaps in some degree a remedy. Besides, she
wished to convince herself that she had done everything
possible to content her husband; she was determined not
to be haunted by visions of his wife’s limpness under
appeal. It would please him greatly to see Pansy married to
an English nobleman, and justly please him, since this
nobleman was so sound a character. It seemed to Isabel
that if she could make it her duty to bring about such an
event she should play the part of a good wife. She wanted
to be that; she wanted to be able to believe sincerely, and
with proof of it, that she had been that. Then such an
undertaking had other recommendations. It would occupy
her, and she desired occupation. It would even amuse her,
and if she could really amuse herself she perhaps might be
saved. Lastly, it would be a service to Lord Warburton,
who evidently pleased himself greatly with the charming
girl. It was a little ‘weird’ he should-being what he was;
but there was no accounting for such impressions. Pansy
might captivate any one-any one at least but Lord
Warburton. Isabel would have thought her too small, too
slight, perhaps even too artificial for that. There was


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always a little of the doll about her, and that was not what
he had been looking for. Still, who could say what men
ever were looking for? They looked for what they found;
they knew what pleased them only when they saw it. No
theory was valid in such matters, and nothing was more
unaccountable or more natural than anything else. If he
had cared for her it might seem odd he should care for
Pansy, who was so different; but he had not cared for her
so much as he had supposed. Or if he had, he had
completely got over it, and it was natural that, as that affair
had failed, he should think something of quite another sort
might succeed. Enthusiasm, as I say, had not come at first
to Isabel, but it came to-day and made her feel almost
happy. It was astonishing what happiness she could still
find in the idea of procuring a pleasure for her husband. It
was a pity, however, that Edward Rosier had crossed their
path!
   At this reflection the light that had suddenly gleamed
upon that path lost something of its brightness. Isabel was
unfortunately as sure that Pansy thought Mr. Rosier the
nicest of all the young men sure as if she had held an
interview with her on the subject. It was very tiresome she
should be so sure, when she had carefully abstained from
informing herself; almost as tiresome as that poor Mr.


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Rosier should have taken it into his own head. He was
certainly very inferior to Lord Warburton. It was not the
difference in fortune so much as the difference in the men;
the young American was really so light a weight. He was
much more of the type of the useless fine gentleman than
the English nobleman. It was true that there was no
particular reason why Pansy should marry a statesman; still,
if a statesman admired her, that was his affair, and she
would make a perfect little pearl of a peeress.
    It may seem to the reader that Mrs. Osmond had
grown of a sudden strangely cynical, for she ended by
saying to herself that this difficulty could probably be
arranged. An impediment that was embodied in poor
Rosier could not anyhow present itself as a dangerous one;
there were always means of levelling secondary obstacles.
Isabel was perfectly aware that she had not taken the
measure of Pansy’s tenacity, which might prove to be
inconveniently great; but she inclined to see her as rather
letting go, under suggestion, than as clutching under
deprecation-since she had certainly the faculty of assent
developed in a very much higher degree than that of
protest. She would cling, yes, she would cling; but it really
mattered to her very little what she clung to. Lord
Warburton would do as well as Mr. Rosier-especially as


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she seemed quite to like him; she had expressed this
sentiment to Isabel without a single reservation; she had
said she thought his conversation most interesting-he had
told her all about India. His manner to Pansy had been of
the rightest and easiest-Isabel noticed that for herself, as
she also observed that he talked to her not in the least in a
patronizing way, reminding himself of her youth and
simplicity, but quite as if she understood his subjects with
that sufficiency with which she followed those of the
fashionable operas. This went far enough for attention to
the music and the barytone. He was careful only to be
kind-he was as kind as he had been to another fluttered
young chit at Gardencourt. A girl might well be touched
by that; she remembered how she herself had been
touched, and said to herself that if she had been as simple
as Pansy the impression would have been deeper still. She
had not been simple when she refused him; that operation
had been as complicated as, later, her acceptance of
Osmond had been. Pansy, however, in spite of her
simplicity, really did understand, and was glad that Lord
Warburton should talk to her, not about her partners and
bouquets, but about the state of Italy, the condition of the
peasantry, the famous grist-tax, the pellagra, his
impressions of Roman society. She looked at him, as she


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drew her needle through her tapestry, with sweet
submissive eyes, and when she lowered them she gave
little quiet oblique glances at his person, his hands, his feet,
his clothes, as if she were considering him. Even his
person, Isabel might have reminded her, was better than
Mr. Rosier’s. But Isabel contented herself at such
moments with wondering where this gentleman was; he
came no more at all to Palazzo Roccanera. It was
surprising, as I say, the hold it had taken of her-the idea of
assisting her husband to be pleased.
    It was surprising for a variety of reasons which I shall
presently touch upon. On the evening I speak of, while
Lord Warburton sat there, she had been on the point of
taking the great step of going out of the room and leaving
her companions alone. I say the great step, because it was
in this light that Gilbert Osmond would have regarded it,
and Isabel was trying as much as possible to take her
husband’s view. She succeeded after a fashion, but she fell
short of the point I mention. After all she couldn’t rise to
it; something held her and made this impossible. It was not
exactly that it would be base or insidious; for women as a
general thing practise such manoeuvres with a perfectly
good conscience, and Isabel was instinctively much more
true than false to the common genius of her sex. There


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was a vague doubt that interposed-a sense that she was not
quite sure. So she remained in the drawing-room, and
after a while Lord Warburton went off to his party, of
which he promised to give Pansy a full account on the
morrow. After he had gone she wondered if she had
prevented something which would have happened if she
had absented herself for a quarter of an hour; and then she
pronounced-always mentally-that when their distinguished
visitor should wish her to go away he would easily find
means to let her know it. Pansy said nothing whatever
about him after he had gone, and Isabel studiously said
nothing, as she had taken a vow of reserve until after he
should have declared himself. He was a little longer in
coming to this than might seem to accord with the
description he had given Isabel of his feelings. Pansy went
to bed, and Isabel had to admit that she could not now
guess what her stepdaughter was thinking of. Her
transparent little companion was for the moment not to be
seen through.
    She remained alone, looking at the fire, until, at the
end of half an hour, her husband came in. He moved
about a while in silence and then sat down; he looked at
the fire like herself. But she now had transferred her eyes
from the flickering flame in the chimney to Osmond’s


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face, and she watched him while he kept his silence.
Covert observation had become a habit with her; an
instinct, of which it is not an exaggeration to say that it
was allied to that of self-defence, had made it habitual. She
wished as much as possible to know his thoughts, to know
what he would say, beforehand, so that she might prepare
her answer. Preparing answers had not been her strong
point of old; she had rarely in this respect got further than
thinking afterwards of clever things she might have said.
But she had learned caution-learned it in a measure from
her husband’s very countenance. It was the same face she
had looked into with eyes equally earnest perhaps, but less
penetrating, on the terrace of a Florentine villa; except
that Osmond had grown slightly stouter since his marriage.
He still, however, might strike one as very distinguished.
     ‘Has Lord Warburton been here?’ he presently asked.
     ‘Yes, he stayed half an hour.’
     ‘Did he see Pansy?’
     ‘Yes; he sat on the sofa beside her.’
     ‘Did he talk with her much?’
     ‘He talked almost only to her.’
     ‘It seems to me he’s attentive. Isn’t that what you call
it?’



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    ‘I don’t call it anything,’ said Isabel; ‘I’ve waited for
you to give it a name.’
    ‘That’s a consideration you don’t always show,’
Osmond answered after a moment.
    ‘I’ve determined, this time, to try and act as you’d like.
I’ve so often failed of that.’
    Osmond turned his head slowly, looking at her. ‘Are
you trying to quarrel with me?’
    ‘No, I’m trying to live at peace.’
    ‘Nothing’s more easy; you know I don’t quarrel
myself.’
    ‘What do you call it when you try to make me angry?’
Isabel asked.
    ‘I don’t try; if I’ve done so it has been the most natural
thing in the world. Moreover I’m not in the least trying
now.’
    Isabel smiled. ‘It doesn’t matter. I’ve determined never
to be angry again.’
    ‘That’s an excellent resolve. Your temper isn’t good.’
    ‘No-it’s not good.’ She pushed away the book she had
been reading and took up the band of tapestry Pansy had
left on the table.
    ‘That’s partly why I’ve not spoken to you about this
business of my daughter’s,’ Osmond said, designating


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Pansy in the manner that was most frequent with him. ‘I
was afraid I should encounter opposition-that you too
would have views on the subject. I’ve sent little Rosier
about his business.’
    ‘You were afraid I’d plead for Mr. Rosier? Haven’t you
noticed that I’ve never spoken to you of him?’
    ‘I’ve never given you a chance. We’ve so little
conversation in these days. I know he was an old friend of
yours.’
    ‘Yes; he’s an old friend of mine.’ Isabel cared little
more for him than for the tapestry that she held in her
hand; but it was true that he was an old friend and that
with her husband she felt a desire not to extenuate such
ties. He had a way of expressing contempt for them which
fortified her loyalty to them, even when, as in the present
case, they were in themselves insignificant. She sometimes
felt a sort of passion of tenderness for memories which had
no other merit than that they belonged to her unmarried
life. ‘But as regards Pansy,’ she added in a moment, ‘I’ve
given him no encouragement.’
    ‘That’s fortunate,’ Osmond observed.
    ‘Fortunate for me, I suppose you mean. For him it
matters little.’



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   ‘There’s no use talking of him,’ Osmond said. ‘As I tell
you, I’ve turned him out.’
   ‘Yes; but a lover outside’s always a lover. He’s
sometimes even more of one. Mr. Rosier still has hope.’
   ‘He’s welcome to the comfort of it! My daughter has
only to sit perfectly quiet to become Lady Warburton.’
   ‘Should you like that?’ Isabel asked with a simplicity
which was not so affected as it may appear. She was
resolved to assume nothing, for Osmond had a way of
unexpectedly turning her assumptions against her. The
intensity with which he would like his daughter to
become Lady Warburton had been the very basis of her
own recent reflections. But that was for herself; she would
recognize nothing until Osmond should have put it into
words; she would not take for granted with him that he
thought Lord Warburton a prize worth an amount of
effort that was unusual among the Osmonds. It was
Gilbert’s constant intimation that for him nothing in life
was a prize; that he treated as from equal to equal with the
most distinguished people in the world, and that his
daughter had only to look about her to pick out a prince.
It cost him therefore a lapse from consistency to say
explicitly that he yearned for Lord Warburton and that if
this nobleman should escape his equivalent might not be


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found; with which moreover it was another of his
customary implications that he was never inconsistent. He
would have liked his wife to glide over the point. But
strangely enough, now that she was face to face with him
and although an hour before she had almost invented a
scheme for pleasing him, Isabel was not accommodating,
would not glide. And yet she knew exactly the effect on
his mind of her question: it would operate as an
humiliation. Never mind; he was terribly capable of
humiliating her-all the more so that he was also capable of
waiting for great opportunities and of showing sometimes
an almost unaccountable indifference to small ones. Isabel
perhaps took a small opportunity because she would not
have availed herself of a great one.
    Osmond at present acquitted himself very honourably.
‘I should like it extremely; it would be a great marriage.
And then Lord Warburton has another advantage: he’s an
old friend of yours. It would be pleasant for him to come
into the family. It’s very odd Pansy’s admirers should all be
your old friends.’
    ‘It’s natural that they should come to see me. In
coming to see me they see Pansy. Seeing her it’s natural
they should fall in love with her.’
    ‘So I think. But you’re not bound to do so.’


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    ‘If she should marry Lord Warburton I should be very
glad,’ Isabel went on frankly. ‘He’s an excellent man. You
say, however, that she has only to sit perfectly still. Perhaps
she won’t sit perfectly still. If she loses Mr. Rosier she may
jump up!’
    Osmond appeared to give no heed to this; he sat gazing
at the fire.
    ‘Pansy would like to be a great lady,’ he remarked in a
moment with a certain tenderness of tone. ‘She wishes
above all to please,’ he added.
    ‘To please Mr. Rosier, perhaps.’
    ‘No, to please me.’
    ‘Me too a little, I think,’ said Isabel.
    ‘Yes, she has a great opinion of you. But she’ll do what
I like.’
    ‘If you’re sure of that, it’s very well,’ she went on.
    ‘Meantime,’ said Osmond, ‘I should like our
distinguished visitor to speak.’
    ‘He has spoken-to me. He has told me it would be a
great pleasure to him to believe she could care for him.’
    Osmond turned his head quickly, but at first he said
nothing. Then, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that?’ he asked
sharply.



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   ‘There was no opportunity. You know how we live.
I’ve taken the first chance that has offered.’
   ‘Did you speak to him of Rosier?’
   ‘Oh yes, a little.’
   ‘That was hardly necessary.’
   ‘I thought it best he should know, so that, so that-’
And Isabel paused.
   ‘So that what?’
   ‘So that he might act accordingly.’
   ‘So that he might back out, do you mean?’
   ‘No, so that he might advance while there’s yet time.’
   ‘That’s not the effect it seems to have had.’
   ‘You should have patience,’ said Isabel. ‘You know
Englishmen are shy.’
   ‘This one’s not. He was not when he made love to
you.’
   She had been afraid Osmond would speak of that; it
was disagreeable to her. ‘I beg your pardon; he was
extremely so,’ she returned.
   He answered nothing for some time; he took up a
book and fingered the pages while she sat silent and
occupied herself with Pansy’s tapestry. ‘You must have a
great deal of influence with him,’ Osmond went on at last.



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‘The moment you really wish it you can bring him to the
point.’
    This was more offensive still; but she felt the great
naturalness of his saying it, and it was after all extremely
like what she had said to herself. ‘Why should I have
influence?’ she asked. ‘What have I ever done to put him
under an obligation to me?’
    ‘You refused to marry him,’ said Osmond with his eyes
on his book.
    ‘I must not presume too much on that,’ she replied.
    He threw down the book presently and got up,
standing before the fire with his hands behind him. ‘Well,
I hold that it lies in your hands. I shall leave it there. With
a little good-will you may manage it. Think that over and
remember how much I count on you.’ He waited a little,
to give her time to answer; but she answered nothing, and
he presently strolled out of the room.




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                         Chapter 42

    She had answered nothing because his words had put
the situation before her and she was absorbed in looking at
it. There was something in them that suddenly made
vibrations deep, so that she had been afraid to trust herself
to speak. After he had gone she leaned back in her chair
and closed her eyes; and for a long time, far into the night
and still further, she sat in the still drawing-room, given up
to her meditation. A servant came in to attend to the fire,
and she bade him bring fresh candles and then go to bed.
Osmond had told her to think of what he had said; and
she did so indeed, and of many other things. The
suggestion from another that she had a definite influence
on Lord Warburton-this had given her the start that
accompanies unexpected recognition. Was it true that
there was something still between them that might be a
handle to make him declare himself to Pansy-a
susceptibility, on his part, to approval, a desire to do what
would please her? Isabel had hitherto not asked herself the
question, because she had not been forced; but now that it
was directly presented to her she saw the answer, and the
answer frightened her. Yes, there was something-


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something on Lord Warburton’s part. When he had first
come to Rome she believed the link that united them to
be completely snapped; but little by little she had been
reminded that it had yet a palpable existence. It was as thin
as a hair, but there were moments when she seemed to
hear it vibrate. For herself nothing was changed; what she
once thought of him she always thought; it was needless
this feeling should change; it seemed to her in fact a better
feeling than ever. But he? had he still the idea that she
might be more to him than other women? Had he the
wish to profit by the memory of the few moments of
intimacy through which they had once passed? Isabel
knew she had read some of the signs of such a disposition.
But what were his hopes, his pretensions, and in what
strange way were they mingled with his evidently very
sincere appreciation of poor Pansy? Was he in love with
Gilbert Osmond’s wife, and if so what comfort did he
expect to derive from it? If he was in love with Pansy he
was not in love with her stepmother, and if he was in love
with her stepmother he was not in love with Pansy. Was
she to cultivate the advantage she possessed in order to
make him commit himself to Pansy, knowing he would
do so for her sake and not for the small creature’s own-
was this the service her husband had asked of her? This at


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any rate was the duty with which she found herself
confronted-from the moment she admitted to herself that
her old friend had still an uneradicated predilection for her
society. It was not an agreeable task; it was in fact a
repulsive one. She asked herself with dismay whether Lord
Warburton were pretending to be in love with Pansy in
order to cultivate another satisfaction and what might be
called other chances. Of this refinement of duplicity she
presently acquitted him; she preferred to believe him in
perfect good faith. But if his admiration for Pansy were a
delusion this was scarcely better than its being an
affectation. Isabel wandered among these ugly possibilities
until she had completely lost her way; some of them, as
she suddenly encountered them, seemed ugly enough.
Then she broke out of the labyrinth, rubbing her eyes, and
declared that her imagination surely did her little honour
and that her husband’s did him even less. Lord Warburton
was as disinterested as he need be, and she was no more to
him than she need wish. She would rest upon this till the
contrary should be proved; proved more effectually than
by a cynical intimation of Osmond’s.
    Such a resolution, however, brought her this evening
but little peace, for her soul was haunted with terrors
which crowded to the foreground of thought as quickly as


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a place was made for them. What had suddenly set them
into livelier motion she hardly knew, unless it were the
strange impression she had received in the afternoon of
her husband’s being in more direct communication with
Madame Merle than she suspected. That impression came
back to her from time to time, and now she wondered it
had never come before. Besides this, her short interview
with Osmond half an hour ago was a striking example of
his faculty for making everything wither that he touched,
spoiling everything for her that he looked at. It was very
well to undertake to give him a proof of loyalty; the real
fact was that the knowledge of his expecting a thing raised
a presumption against it. It was as if he had had the evil
eye; as if his presence were a blight and his favour a
misfortune. Was the fault in himself, or only in the deep
mistrust she had conceived for him? This mistrust was
now the clearest result of their short married life; a gulf
had opened between them over which they looked at each
other with eyes that were on either side a declaration of
the deception suffered. It was a strange opposition, of the
like of which she had never dreamed-an opposition in
which the vital principle of the one was a thing of
contempt to the other. It was not her fault-she had
practised no deception; she had only admired and


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believed. She had taken all the first steps in the purest
confidence, and then she had suddenly found the infinite
vista of a multiplied life to be a dark, narrow alley with a
dead wall at the end. Instead of leading to the high places
of happiness, from which the world would seem to lie
below one, so that one could look down with a sense of
exaltation and advantage, and judge and choose and pity,
it led rather downward and earthward, into realms of
restriction and depression where the sound of other lives,
easier and freer, was heard as from above, and where it
served to deepen the feeling of failure. It was her deep
distrust of her husband-this was what darkened the world.
That is a sentiment easily indicated, but not so easily
explained, and so composite in its character that much
time and still more suffering had been needed to bring it
to its actual perfection. Suffering, with Isabel, was an
active condition; it was not a chill, a stupor, a despair; it
was a passion of thought, of speculation, of response to
every pressure. She flattered herself that she had kept her
failing faith to herself, however-that no one suspected it
but Osmond. Oh, he knew it, and there were times when
she thought he enjoyed it. It had come gradually-it was
not till the first year of their life together, so admirably
intimate at first, had closed that she had taken the alarm.


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Then the shadows had begun to gather; it was as if
Osmond deliberately, almost malignantly, had put the
lights out one by one. The dusk at first was vague and
thin, and she could still see her way in it. But it steadily
deepened, and if now and again it had occasionally lifted
there were certain corners of her prospect that were
impenetrably black. These shadows were not an
emanation from her own mind: she was very sure of that;
she had done her best to be just and temperate, to see only
the truth. They were a part, they were a kind of creation
and consequence, of her husband’s very presence. They
were not his misdeeds, his turpitudes; she accused him of
nothing-that is but of one thing, which was not a crime.
She knew of no wrong he had done; he was not violent,
he was not cruel: she simply believed he hated her. That
was all she accused him of, and the miserable part of it was
precisely that it was not a crime, for against a crime she
might have found redress. He had discovered that she was
so different, that she was not what he had believed she
would prove to be. He had thought at first he could
change her, and she had done her best to be what he
would like. But she was, after all, herself-she couldn’t help
that; and now there was no use pretending, wearing a
mask or a dress, for he knew her and had made up his


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mind. She was not afraid of him; she had no apprehension
he would hurt her; for the ill-will he bore her was not of
that sort. He would if possible never give her a pretext,
never put himself in the wrong. Isabel, scanning the future
with dry, fixed eyes, saw that he would have the better of
her there. She would give him many pretexts, she would
often put herself in the wrong. There were times when
she almost pitied him; for if she had not deceived him in
intention she understood how completely she must have
done so in fact. She had effaced herself when he first knew
her; she had made herself small, pretending there was less
of her than there really was. It was because she had been
under the extraordinary charm that he, on his side, had
taken pains to put forth. He was not changed; he had not
disguised himself, during the year of his courtship, any
more than she. But she had seen only half his nature then,
as one saw the disk of the moon when it was partly
masked by the shadow of the earth. She saw the full moon
now-she saw the whole man. She had kept still, as it were,
so that he should have a free field, and yet in spite of this
she had mistaken a part for the whole.
   Ah, she had been immensely under the charm! It had
not passed away; it was there still: she still knew perfectly
what it was that made Osmond delightful when he chose


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to be. He had wished to be when he made love to her,
and as she had wished to be charmed it was not wonderful
he had succeeded. He had succeeded because he had been
sincere; it never occurred to her now to deny him that.
He admired her-he had told her why: because she was the
most imaginative woman he had known. It might very
well have been true; for during those months she had
imagined a world of things that had no substance. She had
had a more wondrous vision of him, fed through charmed
senses and oh such a stirred fancy!-she had not read him
right. A certain combination of features had touched her,
and in them she had seen the most striking of figures. That
he was poor and lonely and yet that somehow he was
noble-that was what had interested her and seemed to give
her opportunity. There had been an indefinable beauty
about him-in his situation, in his mind, in his face. She
had felt at the same time that he was helpless and
ineffectual, but the feeling had taken the form of a
tenderness which was the very flower of respect. He was
like a sceptical voyager strolling on the beach while he
waited for the tide, looking seaward yet not putting to sea.
It was in all this she had found her occasion. She would
launch his boat for him; she would be his providence; it
would be a good thing to love him. And she had loved


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him, she had so anxiously and yet so ardently given
herself-a good deal for what she found in him, but a good
deal also for what she brought him and what might enrich
the gift. As she looked back at the passion of those full
weeks she perceived in it a kind of maternal strain-the
happiness of a woman who felt that she was a contributor,
that she came with charged hands. But for her money, as
she saw to-day, she would never have done it. And then
her mind wandered off to poor Mr. Touchett, sleeping
under English turf, the beneficent author of infinite woe!
For this was the fantastic fact. At bottom her money had
been a burden, had been on her mind, which was filled
with the desire to transfer the weight of it to some other
conscience, to some more prepared receptacle. What
would lighten her own conscience more effectually than
to make it over to the man with the best taste in the
world? Unless she should have given it to a hospital there
would have been nothing better she could do with it; and
there was no charitable institution in which she had been
as much interested as in Gilbert Osmond. He would use
her fortune in a way that would make her think better of
it and rub off a certain grossness attaching to the good luck
of an unexpected inheritance. There had been nothing
very delicate in inheriting seventy thousand pounds; the


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delicacy had been all in Mr. Touchett’s leaving them to
her. But to marry Gilbert Osmond and bring him such a
portion-in that there would be delicacy for her as well.
There would be less for him-that was true; but that was
his affair, and if he loved her he wouldn’t object to her
being rich. Had he not had the courage to say he was glad
she was rich?
   Isabel’s cheek burned when she asked herself if she had
really married on a factitious theory, in order to do
something finely appreciable with her money. But she was
able to answer quickly enough that this was only half the
story. It was because a certain ardour took possession of
her-a sense of the earnestness of his affection and a delight
in his personal qualities. He was better than any one else.
This supreme conviction had filled her life for months,
and enough of it still remained to prove to her that she
could not have done otherwise. The finest-in the sense of
being the subtlest-manly organism she had ever known
had become her property, and the recognition of her
having but to put out her hands and take it had been
originally a sort of act of devotion. She had not been
mistaken about the beauty of his mind; she knew that
organ perfectly now. She had lived with it, she had lived
in it almost-it appeared to have become her habitation. If


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she had been captured it had taken a firm hand to seize
her; that reflection perhaps had some worth. A mind more
ingenious, more pliant, more cultivated, more trained to
admirable exercises, she had not encountered; and it was
this exquisite instrument she had now to reckon with. She
lost herself in infinite dismay when she thought of the
magnitude of his deception. It was a wonder, perhaps, in
view of this, that he didn’t hate her more. She
remembered perfectly the first sign he had given of it-it
had been like the bell that was to ring up the curtain upon
the real drama of their life. He said to her one day that she
had too many ideas and that she must get rid of them. He
had told her that already, before their marriage; but then
she had not noticed it: it had come back to her only
afterwards. This time she might well have noticed it,
because he had really meant it. The words had been
nothing superficially; but when in the light of deepening
experience she had looked into them they had then
appeared portentous. He had really meant it-he would
have liked her to have nothing of her own but her pretty
appearance. She had known she had too many ideas; she
had more even than he had supposed, many more than she
had expressed to him when he had asked her to marry
him. Yes, she had been hypocritical; she had liked him so


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much; She had too many ideas for herself; but that was just
what one married for, to share them with some one else.
One couldn’t pluck them up by the roots, though of
course one might suppress them, be careful not to utter
them. It had not been this, however, his objecting to her
opinions; this had been nothing. She had no opinions-
none that she would not have been eager to sacrifice in
the satisfaction of feeling herself loved for it. What he had
meant had been the whole thing-her character, the way
she felt, the way she judged. This was what she had kept
in reserve; this was what he had not known until he had
found himself-with the door closed behind, as it were-set
down face to face with it. She had a certain way of
looking at life which he took as a personal offence.
Heaven knew that now at least it was a very humble,
accommodating way! The strange thing was that she
should not have suspected from the first that his own had
been so different. She had thought it so large, so
enlightened, so perfectly that of an honest man and a
gentleman. Hadn’t he assured her that he had no
superstitions, no dull limitations, no prejudices that had
lost their freshness? Hadn’t he all the appearance of a man
living in the open air of the world, indifferent to small
considerations, caring only for truth and knowledge and


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believing that two intelligent people ought to look for
them together and, whether they found them or not, find
at least some happiness in the search? He had told her he
loved the conventional; but there was a sense in which
this seemed a noble declaration. In that sense, that of the
love of harmony and order and decency and of all the
stately offices of life, she went with him freely, and his
warning had contained nothing ominous. But when, as
the months had elapsed, she had followed him further and
he had led her into the mansion of his own habitation,
then, then she had seen where she really was.
    She could live it over again, the incredulous terror with
which she had taken the measure of her dwelling.
Between those four walls she had lived ever since; they
were to surround her for the rest of her life. It was the
house of darkness, the house of dumbness, the house of
suffocation. Osmond’s beautiful mind gave it neither light
nor air; Osmond’s beautiful mind indeed seemed to peep
down from a small high window and mock at her. Of
course it had not been physical suffering; for physical
suffering there might have been a remedy. She could
come and go; she had her liberty; her husband was
perfectly polite. He took himself so seriously; it was
something appalling. Under all his culture, his cleverness,


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his amenity, under his good-nature, his facility, his
knowledge of life, his egotism lay hidden like a serpent in
a bank of flowers. She had taken him seriously, but she
had not taken him so seriously as that. How could she-
especially when she had known him better? She was to
think of him as he thought of himself as the first
gentleman in Europe. So it was that she had thought of
him at first, and that indeed was the reason she had
married him. But when she began to see what it implied
she drew back; there was more in the bond than she had
meant to put her name to. It implied a sovereign
contempt for every one but some three or four very
exalted people whom he envied, and for everything in the
world but half a dozen ideas of his own. That was very
well; she would have gone with him even th