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The Portrait of a Lady

by Henry James

VOLUME I

PREFACE

The Portrait of a Ladywaslike "Roderick Hudson begun in
Florence, during three months spent there in the spring of 1879.
Like Roderick" and like "The American it had been
designed for publication in The Atlantic Monthly where it
began to appear in 1880. It differed from its two predecessors,
however, in finding a course also open to it, from month to
month, in Macmillan's Magazine"; which was to be for me one of
the last occasions of simultaneous "serialisation" in the two
countries that the changing conditions of literary intercourse
between England and the United States had up to then left
unaltered. It is a long noveland I was long in writing it; I
remember being again much occupied with itthe following year
during a stay of several weeks made in Venice. I had rooms on
Riva Schiavoniat the top of a house near the passage leading
off to San Zaccaria; the waterside lifethe wondrous lagoon
spread before meand the ceaseless human chatter of Venice came
in at my windowsto which I seem to myself to have been
constantly drivenin the fruitless fidget of compositionas if
to see whetherout in the blue channelthe ship of some right
suggestionof some better phraseof the next happy twist of my
subjectthe next true touch for my canvasmightn't come into
sight. But I recall vividly enough that the response most
elicitedin generalto these restless appeals was the rather
grim admonition that romantic and historic sitessuch as the
land of Italy abounds inoffer the artist a questionable aid to
concentration when they themselves are not to be the subject of
it. They are too rich in their own life and too charged with
their own meanings merely to help him out with a lame phrase;
they draw him away from his small question to their own greater
ones; so thatafter a littlehe feelswhile thus yearning
toward them in his difficultyas if he were asking an army of
glorious veterans to help him to arrest a peddler who has given
him the wrong change.

There are pages of the book whichin the reading overhave
seemed to make me see again the bristling curve of the wide Riva
the large colour-spots of the balconied houses and the repeated
undulation of the little hunchbacked bridgesmarked by the rise
and drop againwith the waveof foreshortened clicking
pedestrians. The Venetian footfall and the Venetian cry--all
talk therewherever utteredhaving the pitch of a call across
the water--come in once more at the windowrenewing one's old
impression of the delighted senses and the dividedfrustrated
mind. How can places that speak IN GENERAL so to the imagination
not give itat the momentthe particular thing it wants? I
recollect again and againin beautiful placesdropping into


that wonderment. The real truth isI thinkthat they express
under this appealonly too much--more thanin the given case
one has use for; so that one finds one's self working less
congruouslyafter allso far as the surrounding picture is
concernedthan in presence of the moderate and the neutralto
which we may lend something of the light of our vision. Such a
place as Venice is too proud for such charities; Venice doesn't
borrowshe but all magnificently gives. We profit by that
enormouslybut to do so we must either be quite off duty or be
on it in her service alone. Suchand so ruefulare these
reminiscences; though on the wholeno doubtone's bookand
one's "literary effort" at largewere to be the better for
them. Strangely fertilisingin the long rundoes a wasted
effort of attention often prove. It all depends on HOW the
attention has been cheatedhas been squandered. There are
high-handed insolent fraudsand there are insidious sneaking
ones. And there isI feareven on the most designing artist's
partalways witless enough good faithalways anxious enough
desireto fail to guard him against their deceits.

Trying to recover herefor recognitionthe germ of my ideaI
see that it must have consisted not at all in any conceit of a
plot,nefarious namein any flashupon the fancyof a set of
relationsor in any one of those situations thatby a logic of
their ownimmediately fallfor the fabulistinto movement
into a march or a rusha patter of quick steps; but altogether in
the sense of a single characterthe character and aspect of a
particular engaging young womanto which all the usual elements
of a "subject certainly of a setting, were to need to be super
added. Quite as interesting as the young woman herself at her
best, do I find, I must again repeat, this projection of memory
upon the whole matter of the growth, in one's imagination, of
some such apology for a motive. These are the fascinations of the
fabulist's art, these lurking forces of expansion, these
necessities of upspringing in the seed, these beautiful
determinations, on the part of the idea entertained, to grow as
tall as possible, to push into the light and the air and thickly
flower there; and, quite as much, these fine possibilities of
recovering, from some good standpoint on the ground gained, the
intimate history of the business--of retracing and reconstructing
its steps and stages. I have always fondly remembered a remark
that I heard fall years ago from the lips of Ivan Turgenieff in
regard to his own experience of the usual origin of the fictive
picture. It began for him almost always with the vision of some
person or persons, who hovered before him, soliciting him, as the
active or passive figure, interesting him and appealing to him
just as they were and by what they were. He saw them, in that
fashion, as disponibles, saw them subject to the chances, the
complications of existence, and saw them vividly, but then had to
find for them the right relations, those that would most bring
them out; to imagine, to invent and select and piece together the
situations most useful and favourable to the sense of the
creatures themselves, the complications they would be most likely
to produce and to feel.

To arrive at these things is to arrive at my story he
said, and that's the way I look for it. The result is that I'm
often accused of not having 'story' enough. I seem to myself to
have as much as I need--to show my peopleto exhibit their
relations with each other; for that is all my measure. If I watch
them long enough I see them come togetherI see them PLACEDI
see them engaged in this or that act and in this or that
difficulty. How they look and move and speak and behavealways
in the setting I have found for themis my account of them--of


which I dare sayalasque cela manque souvent d'architecture.
But I would ratherI thinkhave too little architecture than
too much--when there's danger of its interfering with my measure
of the truth. The French of course like more of it than I give-having
by their own genius such a hand for it; and indeed one
must give all one can. As for the origin of one's wind-blown
germs themselveswho shall sayas you askwhere THEY come
from? We have to go too far backtoo far behindto say. Isn't
it all we can say that they come from every quarter of heaven
that they are THERE at almost any turn of the road? They
accumulateand we are always picking them overselecting among
them. They are the breath of life--by which I mean that lifein
its own waybreathes them upon us. They are soin a manner
prescribed and imposed--floated into our minds by the current of
life. That reduces to imbecility the vain critic's quarrelso
oftenwith one's subjectwhen he hasn't the wit to accept it.
Will he point out then which other it should properly have been?
--his office beingessentially to point out. Il en serait bien
embarrasse. Ahwhen he points out what I've done or failed to do
with itthat's another matter: there he's on his ground. I give
him up my 'sarchitecture'" my distinguished friend concluded
as much as he will.

So this beautiful geniusand I recall with comfort the gratitude
I drew from his reference to the intensity of suggestion that may
reside in the stray figurethe unattached characterthe image
en disponibilite. It gave me higher warrant than I seemed then to
have met for just that blest habit of one's own imaginationthe
trick of investing some conceived or encountered individualsome
brace or group of individualswith the germinal property and
authority. I was myself so much more antecedently conscious of my
figures than of their setting--a too preliminarya preferential
interest in which struck me as in general such a putting of the
cart before the horse. I might envythough I couldn't emulate
the imaginative writer so constituted as to see his fable first
and to make out its agents afterwards. I could think so little of
any fable that didn't need its agents positively to launch it; I
could think so little of any situation that didn't depend for its
interest on the nature of the persons situatedand thereby on
their way of taking it. There are methods of so-called
presentationI believe among novelists who have appeared to
flourish--that offer the situation as indifferent to that
support; but I have not lost the sense of the value for meat
the timeof the admirable Russian's testimony to my not needing
all superstitiouslyto try and perform any such gymnastic. Other
echoes from the same source linger with meI confessas
unfadingly--if it be not all indeed one much-embracing echo. It
was impossible after that not to readfor one's useshigh
lucidity into the tormented and disfigured and bemuddled question
of the objective valueand even quite into that of the critical
appreciationof "subject" in the novel.

One had had from an early timefor that matterthe instinct of
the right estimate of such values and of its reducing to the
inane the dull dispute over the "immoral" subject and the moral.
Recognising so promptly the one measure of the worth of a given
subjectthe question about it thatrightly answereddisposes
of all others--is it validin a wordis it genuineis it
sincerethe result of some direct impression or perception of
life?--I had found small edificationmostlyin a critical
pretension that had neglected from the first all delimitation of
ground and all definition of terms. The air of my earlier time
showsto memoryas darkenedall roundwith that vanity-unless
the difference to-day be just in one's own final


impatiencethe lapse of one's attention. There isI thinkno
more nutritive or suggestive truth in this connexion than that of
the perfect dependence of the "moral" sense of a work of art on
the amount of felt life concerned in producing it. The question
comes back thusobviouslyto the kind and the degree of the
artist's prime sensibilitywhich is the soil out of which his
subject springs. The quality and capacity of that soilits
ability to "grow" with due freshness and straightness any vision
of liferepresentsstrongly or weaklythe projected morality.
That element is but another name for the more or less close
connexion of the subject with some mark made on the intelligence
with some sincere experience. By whichat the same timeof
courseone is far from contending that this enveloping air of
the artist's humanity--which gives the last touch to the worth of
the work--is not a widely and wondrously varying element; being
on one occasion a rich and magnificent medium and on another a
comparatively poor and ungenerous one. Here we get exactly the
high price of the novel as a literary form--its power not only
while preserving that form with closenessto range through all
the differences of the individual relation to its general
subject-matterall the varieties of outlook on lifeof
disposition to reflect and projectcreated by conditions that
are never the same from man to man (orso far as that goesfrom
man to woman)but positively to appear more true to its
character in proportion as it strainsor tends to burstwith a
latent extravaganceits mould.

The house of fiction has in short not one windowbut a million-a
number of possible windows not to be reckonedrather; every
one of which has been piercedor is still pierceablein its
vast frontby the need of the individual vision and by the
pressure of the individual will. These aperturesof dissimilar
shape and sizehang soall togetherover the human scene that
we might have expected of them a greater sameness of report than
we find. They are but windows at the bestmere holes in a dead
walldisconnectedperched aloft; they are not hinged doors
opening straight upon life. But they have this mark of their own
that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyesor at
least with a field-glasswhich formsagain and againfor
observationa unique instrumentinsuring to the person making
use of it an impression distinct from every other. He and his
neighbours are watching the same showbut one seeing more where
the other sees lessone seeing black where the other sees white
one seeing big where the other sees smallone seeing coarse
where the other sees fine. And so onand so on; there is
fortunately no saying on whatfor the particular pair of eyes
the window may NOT open; "fortunately" by reasonpreciselyof
this incalculability of range. The spreading fieldthe human
sceneis the "choice of subject"; the pierced apertureeither
broad or balconied or slit-like and low-browedis the "literary
form"; but they aresingly or togetheras nothing without the
posted presence of the watcher--withoutin other wordsthe
consciousness of the artist. Tell me what the artist isand I
will tell you of what he has BEEN conscious. Thereby I shall
express to you at once his boundless freedom and his "moral"
reference.

All this is a long way roundhoweverfor my word about my dim
first move toward "The Portrait which was exactly my grasp of a
single character--an acquisition I had made, moreover, after a
fashion not here to be retraced. Enough that I was, as seemed to
me, in complete possession of it, that I had been so for a long
time, that this had made it familiar and yet had not blurred its
charm, and that, all urgently, all tormentingly, I saw it in


motion and, so to speak, in transit. This amounts to saying that
I saw it as bent upon its fate--some fate or other; which, among
the possibilities, being precisely the question. Thus I had my
vivid individual--vivid, so strangely, in spite of being still at
large, not confined by the conditions, not engaged in the tangle,
to which we look for much of the impress that constitutes an
identity. If the apparition was still all to be placed how came
it to be vivid?--since we puzzle such quantities out, mostly,
just by the business of placing them. One could answer such a
question beautifully, doubtless, if one could do so subtle, if
not so monstrous, a thing as to write the history of the growth
of one's imagination. One would describe then what, at a given
time, had extraordinarily happened to it, and one would so, for
instance, be in a position to tell, with an approach to
clearness, how, under favour of occasion, it had been able to
take over (take over straight from life) such and such a
constituted, animated figure or form. The figure has to that
extent, as you see, BEEN placed--placed in the imagination that
detains it, preserves, protects, enjoys it, conscious of its
presence in the dusky, crowded, heterogeneous back-shop of the
mind very much as a wary dealer in precious odds and ends,
competent to make an advance" on rare objects confided to him
is conscious of the rare little "piece" left in deposit by the
reducedmysterious lady of title or the speculative amateurand
which is already there to disclose its merit afresh as soon as a
key shall have clicked in a cupboard-door.

That may heI recognisea somewhat superfine analogy for the
particular "value" I here speak ofthe image of the young
feminine nature that I had had for so considerable a time all
curiously at my disposal; but it appears to fond memory quite to
fit the fact--with the recallin additionof my pious desire but
to place my treasure right. I quite remind myself thus of the
dealer resigned not to "realise resigned to keeping the
precious object locked up indefinitely rather than commit it, at
no matter what price, to vulgar hands. For there ARE dealers in
these forms and figures and treasures capable of that refinement.
The point is, however, that this single small corner-stone, the
conception of a certain young woman affronting her destiny, had
begun with being all my outfit for the large building of The
Portrait of a Lady." It came to be a square and spacious house-or
has at least seemed so to me in this going over it again; but
such as it isit had to be put up round my young woman while she
stood there in perfect isolation. That is to meartistically
speakingthe circumstance of interest; for I have lost myself
once moreI confessin the curiosity of analysing the
structure. By what process of logical accretion was this slight
personality,the mere slim shade of an intelligent but
presumptuous girlto find itself endowed with the high
attributes of a Subject?--and indeed by what thinnessat the
bestwould such a subject not be vitiated? Millions of
presumptuous girlsintelligent or not intelligentdaily affront
their destinyand what is it open to their destiny to beat the
mostthat we should make an ado about it? The novel is of its
very nature an "ado an ado about something, and the larger the
form it takes the greater of course the ado. Therefore,
consciously, that was what one was in for--for positively
organising an ado about Isabel Archer.

One looked it well in the face, I seem to remember, this
extravagance; and with the effect precisely of recognising the
charm of the problem. Challenge any such problem with any
intelligence, and you immediately see how full it is of
substance; the wonder being, all the while, as we look at the


world, how absolutely, how inordinately, the Isabel Archers, and
even much smaller female fry, insist on mattering. George Eliot
has admirably noted it--In these frail vessels is borne onward
through the ages the treasure of human affection." In "Romeo and
Juliet" Juliet has to be importantjust asin "Adam Bede" and
The Mill on the Flossand "Middlemarch" and "Daniel
Deronda Hetty Sorrel and Maggie Tulliver and Rosamond Vincy and
Gwendolen Harleth have to be; with that much of firm ground, that
much of bracing air, at the disposal all the while of their feet
and their lungs. They are typical, none the less, of a class
difficult, in the individual case, to make a centre of interest;
so difficult in fact that many an expert painter, as for instance
Dickens and Walter Scott, as for instance even, in the main, so
subtle a hand as that of R. L. Stevenson, has preferred to leave
the task unattempted. There are in fact writers as to whom we
make out that their refuge from this is to assume it to be not
worth their attempting; by which pusillanimity in truth their
honour is scantly saved. It is never an attestation of a value,
or even of our imperfect sense of one, it is never a tribute to
any truth at all, that we shall represent that value badly. It
never makes up, artistically, for an artist's dim feeling about a
thing that he shall do" the thing as ill as possible. There
are better ways than thatthe best of all of which is to begin
with less stupidity.

It may be answered meanwhilein regard to Shakespeare's and to
George Eliot's testimonythat their concession to the
importanceof their Juliets and Cleopatras and Portias (even
with Portia as the very type and model of the young person
intelligent and presumptuous) and to that of their Hettys and
Maggies and Rosamonds and Gwendolenssuffers the abatement that
these slimnesses arewhen figuring as the main props of the
themenever suffered to be sole ministers of its appealbut
have their inadequacy eked out with comic relief and underplots
as the playwrights saywhen not with murders and battles and the
great mutations of the world. If they are shown as "mattering"
as much as they could possibly pretend tothe proof of it is in
a hundred other personsmade of much stouter stuff; and each
involved moreover in a hundred relations which matter to THEM
concomitantly with that one. Cleopatra mattersbeyond boundsto
Antonybut his colleagueshis antagoniststhe state of Rome
and the impending battle also prodigiously matter; Portia matters
to Antonioand to Shylockand to the Prince of Moroccoto the
fifty aspiring princesbut for these gentry there are other
lively concerns; for Antonionotablythere are Shylock and
Bassanio and his lost ventures and the extremity of his
predicament. This extremity indeedby the same tokenmatters to
Portia--though its doing so becomes of interest all by the fact
that Portia matters to US. That she does soat any rateand
that almost everything comes round to it againsupports my
contention as to this fine example of the value recognised in the
mere young thing. (I say "mere" young thing because I guess that
even Shakespearepreoccupied mainly though he may have been with
the passions of princeswould scarce have pretended to found the
best of his appeal for her on her high social position.) It is an
example exactly of the deep difficulty braved--the difficulty of
making George Eliot's "frail vessel if not the all-in-all for
our attention, at least the clearest of the call.

Now to see deep difficulty braved is at any time, for the really
addicted artist, to feel almost even as a pang the beautiful
incentive, and to feel it verily in such sort as to wish the
danger intensified. The difficulty most worth tackling can only
be for him, in these conditions, the greatest the case permits


of. So I remember feeling here (in presence, always, that is, of
the particular uncertainty of my ground), that there would be one
way better than another--oh, ever so much better than any other!-of
making it fight out its battle. The frail vessel, that charged
with George Eliot's treasure and thereby of such importance
to those who curiously approach it, has likewise possibilities of
importance to itself, possibilities which permit of treatment and
in fact peculiarly require it from the moment they are considered
at all. There is always the escape from any close account of the
weak agent of such spells by using as a bridge for evasion, for
retreat and flight, the view of her relation to those surrounding
her. Make it predominantly a view of THEIR relation and the trick
is played: you give the general sense of her effect, and you
give it, so far as the raising on it of a superstructure goes,
with the maximum of ease. Well, I recall perfectly how little, in
my now quite established connexion, the maximum of ease appealed
to me, and how I seemed to get rid of it by an honest
transposition of the weights in the two scales. Place the
centre of the subject in the young woman's own consciousness I
said to myself, and you get as interesting and as beautiful a
difficulty as you could wish. Stick to THAT--for the centre;
put the heaviest weight into THAT scalewhich will be so largely
the scale of her relation to herself. Make her only interested
enoughat the same timein the things that are not herselfand
this relation needn't fear to be too limited. Place meanwhile in
the other scale the lighter weight (which is usually the one that
tips the balance of interest): press least hardin shorton
the consciousness of your heroine's satellitesespecially the
male; make it an interest contributive only to the greater one.
Seeat all eventswhat can be done in this way. What better
field could there be for a due ingenuity? The girl hovers
inextinguishableas a charming creatureand the job will be to
translate her into the highest terms of that formulaand as
nearly as possible moreover into ALL of them. To depend upon her
and her little concerns wholly to see you through will
necessitaterememberyour really 'doing' her."

So far I reasonedand it took nothing less than that technical
rigourI now easily seeto inspire me with the right confidence
for erecting on such a plot of ground the neat and careful and
proportioned pile of bricks that arches over it and that was thus
to formconstructionally speakinga literary monument. Such is
the aspect that to-day "The Portrait" wears for me: a structure
reared with an "architectural" competenceas Turgenieff would
have saidthat makes itto the author's own sensethe most
proportioned of his productions after "The Ambassadors" which was
to follow it so many years later and which hasno doubta
superior roundness. On one thing I was determined; thatthough I
should clearly have to pile brick upon brick for the creation of
an interestI would leave no pretext for saying that anything is
out of linescale or perspective. I would build large--in fine
embossed vaults and painted archesas who should sayand yet
never let it appear that the chequered pavementthe ground under
the reader's feetfails to stretch at every point to the base of
the walls. That precautionary spiriton re-perusal of the book
is the old note that most touches me: it testifies sofor my own
earto the anxiety of my provision for the reader's amusement. I
feltin view of the possible limitations of my subjectthat no
such provision could be excessiveand the development of the
latter was simply the general form of that earnest quest. And I
find indeed that this is the only account I can give myself of
the evolution of the fable it is all under the head thus named
that I conceive the needful accretion as having taken placethe
right complications as having started. It was naturally of the


essence that the young woman should be herself complex; that was
rudimentary--or was at any rate the light in which Isabel Archer
had originally dawned. It wenthoweverbut a certain wayand
other lightscontendingconflicting lightsand of as many
different coloursif possibleas the rocketsthe Roman candles
and Catherine-wheels of a "pyrotechnic display would be
employable to attest that she was. I had, no doubt, a groping
instinct for the right complications, since I am quite unable to
track the footsteps of those that constitute, as the case stands,
the general situation exhibited. They are there, for what they
are worth, and as numerous as might be; but my memory, I confess,
is a blank as to how and whence they came.

I seem to myself to have waked up one morning in possession of
them--of Ralph Touchett and his parents, of Madame Merle, of
Gilbert Osmond and his daughter and his sister, of Lord
Warburton, Caspar Goodwood and Miss Stackpole, the definite array
of contributions to Isabel Archer's history. I recognised them, I
knew them, they were the numbered pieces of my puzzle, the
concrete terms of my plot." It was as if they had simplyby an
impulse of their ownfloated into my kenand all in response to
my primary question: "Wellwhat will she DO?" Their answer seemed
to be that if I would trust them they would show me; on which
with an urgent appeal to them to make it at least as interesting
as they couldI trusted them. They were like the group of
attendants and entertainers who come down by train when people
in the country give a party; they represented the contract for
carrying the party on. That was an excellent relation with them
--a possible one even with so broken a reed (from her slightness
of cohesion) as Henrietta Stackpole. It is a familiar truth to
the novelistat the strenuous hourthatas certain elements
in any work are of the essenceso others are only of the form;
that as this or that characterthis or that disposition of the
materialbelongs to the subject directlyso to speakso this
or that other belongs to it but indirectly--belongs intimately to
the treatment. This is a truthhoweverof which he rarely gets
the benefit--since it could be assured to himreallybut by
criticism based upon perceptioncriticism which is too little of
this world. He must not think of benefitsmoreoverI freely
recognisefor that way dishonour lies: he hasthat isbut one
to think of--the benefitwhatever it may beinvolved in his
having cast a spell upon the simplerthe very simplestforms of
attention. This is all he is entitled to; he is entitled to
nothinghe is bound to admitthat can come to himfrom the
readeras a result on the latter's part of any act of reflexion
or discrimination. He may ENJOY this finer tribute--that is
another affairbut on condition only of taking it as a gratuity
thrown in,a mere miraculous windfallthe fruit of a tree he
may not pretend to have shaken. Against reflexionagainst
discriminationin his interestall earth and air conspire;
wherefore it is thatas I sayhe must in many a case have
schooled himselffrom the firstto work but for a "living
wage." The living wage is the reader's grant of the least
possible quantity of attention required for consciousness of a
spell.The occasional charming "tip" is an act of his
intelligence over and beyond thisa golden applefor the
writer's lapstraight from the wind-stirred tree. The artist may
of coursein wanton moodsdream of some Paradise (for art) where
the direct appeal to the intelligence might be legalised; for to
such extravagances as these his yearning mind can scarce hope
ever completely to close itself. The most he can do is to
remember they ARE extravagances.

All of which is perhaps but a gracefully devious way of saying that


Henrietta Stackpole was a good examplein "The Portrait of the
truth to which I just adverted--as good an example as I could name
were it not that Maria Gostrey, in The Ambassadors then in the
bosom of time, may be mentioned as a better. Each of these persons
is but wheels to the coach; neither belongs to the body of that
vehicle, or is for a moment accommodated with a seat inside. There
the subject alone is ensconced, in the form of its hero and
heroine and of the privileged high officials, say, who ride with
the king and queen. There are reasons why one would have liked
this to be felt, as in general one would like almost anything to
be felt, in one's work, that one has one's self contributively felt.
We have seen, however, how idle is that pretension, which I should
be sorry to make too much of. Maria Gostrey and Miss Stackpole
then are cases, each, of the light ficelle, not of the true
agent; they may run beside the coach for all they are worth
they may cling to it till they are out of breath (as poor Miss
Stackpole all so visibly does), but neither, all the while, so
much as gets her foot on the step, neither ceases for a moment
to tread the dusty road. Put it even that they are like the
fishwives who helped to bring back to Paris from Versailles, on
that most ominous day of the first half of the French Revolution,
the carriage of the royal family. The only thing is that I may
well be asked, I acknowledge, why then, in the present fiction,
I have suffered Henrietta (of whom we have indubitably too much)
so officiously, so strangely, so almost inexplicably, to pervade.
I will presently say what I can for that anomaly--and in the most
conciliatory fashion.

A point I wish still more to make is that if my relation of
confidence with the actors in my drama who WERE, unlike Miss
Stackpole, true agents, was an excellent one to have arrived at,
there still remained my relation with the reader, which was
another affair altogether and as to which I felt no one to be
trusted but myself. That solicitude was to be accordingly
expressed in the artful patience with which, as I have said, I
piled brick upon brick. The bricks, for the whole counting-over-putting
for bricks little touches and inventions and enhancements
by the way--affect me in truth as well-nigh innumerable and as
ever so scrupulously fitted together and packed-in. It is an
effect of detail, of the minutest; though, if one were in this
connexion to say all, one would express the hope that the
general, the ampler air of the modest monument still survives. I
do at least seem to catch the key to a part of this abundance of
small anxious, ingenious illustration as I recollect putting my
finger, in my young woman's interest, on the most obvious of her
predicates. What will she 'do'? Whythe first thing she'll
do will be to come to Europe; which in fact will formand all
inevitablyno small part of her principal adventure. Coming to
Europe is even for the 'frail vessels' in this wonderful agea
mild adventure; but what is truer than that on one side--the side
of their independence of flood and fieldof the moving accident
of battle and murder and sudden death--her adventures are to be
mild? Without her sense of themher sense FOR themas one may
saythey are next to nothing at all; but isn't the beauty and
the difficulty just in showing their mystic conversion by that
senseconversion into the stuff of drama oreven more
delightful word stillof 'story'?" It was all as clearmy
contentionas a silver bell. Two very good instancesI think
of this effect of conversiontwo cases of the rare chemistry
are the pages in which Isabelcoming into the drawing-room at
Gardencourtcoming in from a wet walk or whateverthat rainy
afternoonfinds Madame Merle in possession of the placeMadame
Merle seatedall absorbed but all sereneat the pianoand
deeply recognisesin the striking of such an hourin the


presence thereamong the gathering shadesof this personageof
whom a moment before she had never so much as hearda
turning-point in her life. It is dreadful to have too muchfor
any artistic demonstrationto dot one's i's and insist on one's
intentionsand I am not eager to do it now; but the question
here was that of producing the maximum of intensity with the
minimum of strain.

The interest was to be raised to its pitch and yet the elements
to be kept in their key; so thatshould the whole thing duly
impressI might show what an "exciting" inward life may do for
the person leading it even while it remains perfectly normal. And
I cannot think of a more consistent application of that ideal
unless it be in the long statementjust beyond the middle of the
bookof my young woman's extraordinary meditative vigil on the
occasion that was to become for her such a landmark. Reduced to
its essenceit is but the vigil of searching criticism; but it
throws the action further forward that twenty "incidents" might
have done. It was designed to have all the vivacity of incidents
and all the economy of picture. She sits upby her dying fire
far into the nightunder the spell of recognitions on which she
finds the last sharpness suddenly wait. It is a representation
simply of her motionlessly SEEINGand an attempt withal to make
the mere still lucidity of her act as "interesting" as the
surprise of a caravan or the identification of a pirate. It
representsfor that matterone of the identifications dear to
the novelistand even indispensable to him; but it all goes on
without her being approached by another person and without her
leaving her chair. It is obviously the best thing in the book
but it is only a supreme illustration of the general plan. As to
Henriettamy apology for whom I just left incompleteshe
exemplifiesI fearin her superabundancenot an element of my
planbut only an excess of my zeal. So early was to begin my
tendency to OVERTREATrather than undertreat (when there was
choice or danger) my subject. (Many members of my craftI
gatherare far from agreeing with mebut I have always held
overtreating the minor disservice.) "Treating" that of "The
Portrait" amounted to never forgettingby any lapsethat the
thing was under a special obligation to be amusing. There was the
danger of the noted "thinness"--which was to be avertedtooth
and nailby cultivation of the lively. That is at least how I
see it to-day. Henrietta must have been at that time a part of my
wonderful notion of the lively. And then there was another
matter. I hadwithin the few preceding yearscome to live in
Londonand the "international" light layin those daysto my
sensethick and rich upon the scene. It was the light in which
so much of the picture hung. But that IS another matter. There is
really too much to say.

HENRY JAMES

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY

CHAPTER I

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 whichwhether 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-housein what I should call the perfect middle of a
splendid summer afternoon. Part of the afternoon had wanedbut
much of it was leftand 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 ebbthe air had grown
mellowthe shadows were long upon the smoothdense turf. They
lengthened slowlyhoweverand 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 taking their pleasure
quietlyand 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 servedand of two
younger men strolling to and froin desultory talkin front of
him. The old man had his cup in his hand; it was an unusually
large cupof a different pattern from the rest of the set and
painted in brilliant colours. He disposed of its contents with
much circumspectionholding it for a long time close to his
chinwith 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 timeas he passedlooked with a certain attention
at the elder manwhounconscious of observationrested 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 hillabove the river--the river being the
Thames at some forty miles from London. A long gabled front of
red brickwith the complexion of which time and the weather had
played all sorts of pictorial tricksonlyhoweverto improve
and refine itpresented to the lawn its patches of ivyits
clustered chimneysits 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 Sixthhad offered a night's hospitality
to the great Elizabeth (whose august person had extended itself
upon a hugemagnificent 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 warsand then
under the Restorationrepaired and much enlarged; and how
finallyafter having been remodelled and disfigured in the
eighteenth centuryit had passed into the careful keeping of a
shrewd American bankerwho 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
uglinessits antiquityits incommodityand who nowat the end
of twenty yearshad become conscious of a real aesthetic passion
for itso 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 protuberances which fell so softly
upon the warmweary brickwork--were of the right measure.
Besides thisas I have saidhe could have counted off most of
the successive owners and occupantsseveral of whom were known
to general fame; doing sohoweverwith 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 furnishedlike a roomwith
cushioned seatswith rich-coloured rugswith the books and
papers that lay upon the grass. The river was at some distance;
where the ground began to slope the lawnproperly speaking
ceased. But it was none the less a charming walk down to the
water.

The old gentleman at the tea-tablewho had come from America
thirty years beforehad brought with himat the top of his
baggagehis American physiognomy; and he had not only brought it
with himbut he had kept it in the best orderso thatif
necessaryhe might have taken it back to his own country with
perfect confidence. At presentobviouslyneverthelesshe 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 facewith features evenly distributed and an
expression of placid acuteness. It was evidently a face in which
the range of representation was not largeso that the air of
contented shrewdness was all the more of a merit. It seemed to
tell that he had been successful in lifeyet it seemed to tell
also that his success had not been exclusive and invidiousbut
had had much of the inoffensiveness of failure. He had certainly
had a great experience of menbut there was an almost rustic
simplicity in the faint smile that played upon his leanspacious
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
dressedin well-brushed black; but a shawl was folded upon his
kneesand his feet were encased in thickembroidered slippers.
A beautiful collie dog lay upon the grass near his chairwatching
the master's face almost as tenderly as the master took in the
still more magisterial physiognomy of the house; and a little
bristlingbustling terrier bestowed a desultory attendance upon
the other gentlemen.

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 facefreshcoloured
fair and frankwith firmstraight featuresa lively
grey eye and the rich adornment of a chestnut beard. This person
had a certain fortunatebrilliant exceptional look--the air of a
happy temperament fertilised by a high civilisation--which would
have made almost any observer envy him at a venture. He was
booted and spurredas if he had dismounted from a long ride; he
wore a white hatwhich looked too large for him; he held his two
hands behind himand in one of them--a largewhitewell-shaped
fist--was crumpled a pair of soiled dog-skin gloves.

His companionmeasuring the length of the lawn beside himwas a
person of quite a different patternwhoalthough he might have
excited grave curiositywould notlike the otherhave provoked
you to wish yourselfalmost blindlyin his place. Talllean
loosely and feebly put togetherhe had an uglysicklywitty
charming facefurnishedbut by no means decoratedwith 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 pocketsand there was
something in the way he did it that showed the habit was
inveterate. His gait had a shamblingwandering quality; he was
not very firm on his legs. As I have saidwhenever he passed the


old man in the chair he rested his eyes upon him; and at this
momentwith their faces brought into relationyou would easily
have seen they were father and son. The father caught his son's
eye at last and gave him a mildresponsive 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 consideredplacidly. "WellI guess I'll wait and
see." He hadin speakingthe American tone.

Are you cold?the son enquired.

The father slowly rubbed his legs. "WellI 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
Warburtonpromptly. "I'm bound to say you look wonderfully
comfortable."

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 otherwho 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 nohe 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.

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 nurseLord 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.

Lord Warburton considered a moment. "Yessironcein 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 sickany wayLord
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 theoreticalyou 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 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.

Oh, I say,cried Lord Warburtonyou'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.

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 changesand not all for the better."

I quite agree with you, sir,Lord Warburton declared. "I'm very
sure there will be great changesand 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 addedby way of
explanationto 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
hands on one as soon as possible and tie her round my neck as a
life-preserver.

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 herand 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 speechfor 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 saidhoweverhe
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 it myself--that would
be a great step in advance.

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 fatheryou've lived with the English for
thirty yearsand 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 motheryou knowhas been
spending the winter in Americaand 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 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. Then 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 young lady my mother has adopted, or does it characterise 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 on me suddenly; she
thinks she'll find me doing something wrong. She has never done
so yetbut 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 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 pursuedI'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 manwhose opposition to the idea was broadly humorous.

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

CHAPTER II

While this exchange of pleasantries took place between the two
Ralph Touchett wandered away a littlewith his usual slouching
gaithis hands in his pockets and his little rowdyish terrier at
his heels. His face was turned toward the housebut 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 dogwho had
suddenly darted forward with a little volley of shrill barksin
which the note of welcomehoweverwas more sensible than that
of defiance. The person in question was a young ladywho seemed
immediately to interpret the greeting of the small beast. He
advanced with great rapidity and stood at her feetlooking up
and barking hard; whereuponwithout hesitationshe stooped and
caught him in her handsholding 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 dresswho at first sight looked pretty. She was
bareheadedas if she were staying in the house--a fact which
conveyed perplexity to the son of its masterconscious 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 befrom the way she
handles the dog."


The collietoohad now allowed his attention to be diverted
and he trotted toward the young lady in the doorwayslowly
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 Ralphsmilingwhile she still held up the
terrier. "Is this your little dogsir?"

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.

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
quicklyas the collie came up.

Probably?the young man exclaimedlaughing. "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 everythingwith an eye that denoted clear
perception--at her companionat the two dogsat the two
gentlemen under the treesat 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."

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
thenOh you adorable creature!she suddenly criedstooping


down and picking up the small dog again.

She remained standing where they had metmaking no offer to
advance or to speak to Mr. Touchettand while she lingered so
near the thresholdslim and charmingher interlocutor wondered
if she expected the old man to come and pay her his respects.
American girls were used to a great deal of deferenceand 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."

Ah, poor man, I'm very sorry!the girl exclaimedimmediately
moving forward. "I got the impression from your mother that he
was 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 manlooking sidewise at
his neighbour.

What's his name?she askedher 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 Ralphand this is Miss Archer.

The old man placed his two hands on her shoulderslooked 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.

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 smilingrubbing 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.

OhI'm an old manmy 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 lawnthe great
treesthe reedysilvery Thamesthe 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 handsin her lapwere folded upon her black
dress; her head was erecther eye lightedher flexible figure
turned itself easily this way and thatin sympathy with the
alertness with which she evidently caught impressions. Her
impressions were numerousand they were all reflected in a
clearstill 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.

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 yesof 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 himwatching 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 Warburtonwho as yet had not spokenbut who
had kept an attentive eye upon Miss Archer. He slightly inclined
himselfsmiling; 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."

I don't know--I can't judge,said the girlsmiling at Lord
Warburton.

In this discussion Ralph Touchett took no interest whatever; he
stood with his hands in his pocketslooking 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 recognise that it was an awkward beginning for a clever
man.

Very fond of them indeed.

You must keep the terrier, you know,he went onstill
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?

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 fatherafter my mother's
deathwhich 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 staredand 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 Warburtonwho appeared constantly desirous of a
nearer view of Miss Archerstrolled toward the two cousins at
the momentand 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.

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 explicitI'm very fond of my
liberty.

Are you talking about Mrs. Touchett?the old man called out
from his chair. "Come heremy dearand tell me about her. I'm
always thankful for information."

The girl hesitated againsmiling. "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!"

CHAPTER III

Mrs. Touchett was certainly a person of many odditiesof 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 didand this is the simplest description of a
character whichalthough by no means without liberal motions
rarely succeeded in giving an impression of suavity. Mrs.
Touchett might do a great deal of goodbut she never pleased.
This way of her ownof which she was so fondwas 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 Americaunder
circumstances in which it might have seemed that her first act
would have been to exchange greetings with her husband and son.
Mrs. Touchettfor reasons which she deemed excellentalways
retired on such occasions into impenetrable seclusionpostponing
the more sentimental ceremony until she had repaired the disorder
of dress with a completeness which had the less reason to be of
high importance as neither beauty nor vanity were concerned in
it. She was a plain-faced old womanwithout graces and without
any great elegancebut 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 husbandbut she appeared to
perceive nothing irregular in the situation. It had become clear
at an early stage of their communitythat they should never
desire the same thing at the same momentand 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 Florencewhere
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 lightin a foggy square in
Londonwhere 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 assent or dissent should be so


terribly consistent. Mrs. Touchett indulged in no regrets nor
speculationsand usually came once a year to spend a month with
her husbanda 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 lifeand had three or four reasons
for it to which she currently alluded; they bore upon minor
points of that ancient orderbut for Mrs. Touchett they amply
justified non-residence. She detested bread-saucewhichas she
saidlooked 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 afternoonsome four months earlier than the occurrence
lately narratedthis 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 fertilising
quality and her imagination was strong. There was at this time
howevera want of fresh taste in her situation which the arrival
of an 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 Albanya large
squaredouble housewith a notice of sale in the windows of one
of the lower apartments. There were two entrancesone of which
had long been out of use but had never been removed. They were
exactly alike--large white doorswith an arched frame and wide
side-lightsperched upon little "stoops" of red stonewhich
descended sidewise to the brick pavement of the street. The two
houses together formed a single dwellingthe party-wall having
been removed and the rooms placed in communication. These rooms
above-stairswere extremely numerousand were painted all over
exactly alikein 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 housewhich Isabel and her
sisters used in their childhood to call the tunnel and which
though it was short and well lightedalways seemed to the girl
to be strange and lonelyespecially on winter afternoons. She
had been in the houseat different periodsas a child; in those
days her grandmother lived there. Then there had been an absence
of ten yearsfollowed by a return to Albany before her father's
death. Her grandmotherold Mrs. Archerhad exercisedchiefly
within the limits of the familya large hospitality in the early
periodand 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--largermore 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 remainso 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 itfurnished 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 seasonsbut somehow all her visits had a flavour of


peaches. On the other sideacross the streetwas an old house
that was called the Dutch House--a peculiar structure dating from
the earliest colonial timecomposed of bricks that had been
painted yellowcrowned with a gable that was pointed out to
strangersdefended by a rickety wooden paling and standing
sidewise to the street. It was occupied by a primary school for
children of both sexeskept or rather let goby 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 itshe
had protested against its laws and had been allowed to stay at
homewherein the September dayswhen the windows of the Dutch
House were openshe 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 housewhereas most of the other
inmates were not reading peopleshe had uncontrolled use of a
library full of books with frontispieceswhich she used to climb
upon a chair to take 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 calledtraditionallyno one knew whythe
office. Whose office it had been and at what period it had
flourishedshe 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 whichin the
manner of childrenshe 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 housethe door that
had been condemnedand that it was secured by bolts which a
particularly slender little girl found it impossible to slide.
She knew that this silentmotionless 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 outfor
this would have interfered with her theory that there was a
strangeunseen place on the other side--a place which became to
the child's imaginationaccording to its different moodsa
region of delight or 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 cynicalinsincere appeal--to patience. Isabel
howevergave 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
vagabondand she had spent much ingenuity in training it to a
military step and teaching it to advanceto haltto retreatto
perform even more complicated manoeuvresat 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 different from her own
intellectual pace; she listened a little and perceived that some
one was moving in the librarywhich communicated with the
office. It struck her first as the step of a person from whom she
was looking for a visitthen almost immediately announced itself
as the tread of a woman and a stranger--her possible visitor
being neither. It had an inquisitiveexperimental 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 plainelderly womandressed in a comprehensive
waterproof mantle; she had a face with a good deal of rather
violent point.

Oh,she beganis that where you usually sit?She looked
about at the heterogeneous chairs and tables.

Not when I have visitors,said Isabelgetting 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."

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
thensince the girl stood there hesitating and wonderingthis
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 slowlyyou 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-lawafter the death of her sistertaking 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 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 daughterswho had been bred in that disrespectful
view of her which we have just seen Isabel betray. Mrs.
Touchett's behaviour wasas usualperfectly deliberate. She
intended to go to America to look after her investments (with
which her husbandin spite of his great financial positionhad


nothing to do) and would take advantage of this opportunity to
enquire into the condition of her nieces. There was no need of
writingfor she should attach no importance to any account of
them she should elicit by letter; she believedalwaysin seeing
for one's self. Isabel foundhoweverthat she knew a good deal
about themand knew about the marriage of the two elder girls;
knew that their poor father had left very little moneybut that
the house in Albanywhich had passed into his handswas to be
sold for their benefit; knewfinallythat Edmund Ludlow
Lilian's husbandhad taken upon himself to attend to this
matterin consideration of which the young couplewho had come
to Albany during Mr. Archer's illnesswere remaining there for
the present andas well as Isabel herselfoccupying the old
place.

How much money do you expect for it?Mrs. Touchett asked of her
companionwho had brought her to sit in the front parlourwhich
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 hereI dare sayit 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 valueand 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."

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 emotionfor 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.

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 returnand Mrs. Touchett had an
hour's uninterrupted talk with her niecewho 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 hithertowhenever the girl had heard people
described as eccentricshe 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 ironyor comedyand led her to ask herself if the
common tonewhich was all she had knownhad ever been as
interesting. No one certainly had on any occasion so held her as
this little thin-lippedbright-eyedforeign-looking womanwho
retrieved an insignificant appearance by a distinguished manner
andsitting there in a well-worn waterprooftalked with
striking familiarity of the courts of Europe. There was nothing
flighty about Mrs. Touchettbut she recognised no social
superiorsandjudging the great ones of the earth in a way that
spoke of thisenjoyed the consciousness of making an impression
on a candid and susceptible mind. Isabel at first had answered a
good many questionsand it was from her answers apparently that
Mrs. Touchett derived a high opinion of her intelligence. But
after this she had asked a good manyand her aunt's answers
whatever turn they tookstruck her as food for deep reflexion.
Mrs. Touchett waited for the return of her other niece as long as
she thought reasonablebut as at six o'clock Mrs. Ludlow had 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.

CHAPTER IV

Mrs. Ludlow was the eldest of the three sistersand was usually


thought the most sensible; the classification being in general
that Lilian was the practical oneEdith the beauty and Isabel
the "intellectual" superior. Mrs. Keyesthe second of the group
was the wife of an officer of the United States Engineersand 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 stationschiefly in the unfashionable
Westto whichto her deep chagrinher husband was successively
relegated. Lilian had married a New York lawyera young man with
a loud voice and an enthusiasm for his profession; the match was
not brilliantany more than Edith'sbut 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 washowever
very happyand nowas the mother of two peremptory little boys
and the mistress of a wedge of brown stone violently driven into
Fifty-third Streetseemed to exult in her condition as in a bold
escape. She was short and solidand her claim to figure was
questionedbut she was conceded presencethough not majesty;
she had moreoveras people saidimproved 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.

WellI 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 Lilianwho
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 to comply with
their aunt's commands. Of what Isabel then said no report has
remainedbut 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-sympathise
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.

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 saidjocoselyto Isabel
a little laterwhile he brushed his hat.

I'm sure I don't care whether you do or not!exclaimed the
girl; whose voice and smilehoweverwere 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 thatLily. 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 Ludlowshe's grander than ever!

Whenever I feel grand,said the girlit will be for a better
reason.

Whether she felt grand or noshe at any rate felt differentas
if something had happened to her. Left to herself for the evening
she sat a while under the lampher hands emptyher usual
avocations unheeded. Then she rose and moved about the roomand
from one room to anotherpreferring 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 andas she said to herselfto 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 momentswhen she would have been
thankful to make use of her judgement aloneshe paid the penalty
of having given undue encouragement to the faculty of seeing
without judging. At presentwith her sense that the note of
change had been struckcame gradually a host of images of the
things she was leaving behind her. The years and hours of her
life came back to herand for a long timein a stillness broken
only by the ticking of the big bronze clockshe 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 everythingand 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 knowledgefor 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 handsomemuch loved fatherwho 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 generoustoo good-naturedtoo indifferent to
sordid considerations. Many persons had held that he carried this
indifference too farespecially 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 recognised in the late Mr. Archer a remarkably
handsome head and a very taking manner (indeedas one of them
had saidhe was always taking something)they had declared that
he was making a very poor use of his life. He had squandered a
substantial fortunehe had been deplorably convivialhe 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 schoolskept by the Frenchfrom whichat the end of
a monththey had been removed in tears. This view of the matter
would have excited Isabel's indignationfor 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 (an incident of the girl's
eleventh year) she had been neither frightened nor ashamedbut
had thought it a romantic episode in a liberal education. Her
father had a large way of looking at lifeof which his
restlessness and even his occasional incoherency of conduct had
been only a proof. He wished his daughterseven as childrento
see as much of the world as possible; and it was for this purpose
thatbefore Isabel was fourteenhe had transported them three
times across the Atlanticgiving them on each occasionhowever
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 fatherfor
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 superiorhis remarkable girl. Laterwhen the journeys to


Europe ceasedhe still had shown his children all sorts of
indulgenceand if he had been troubled about money-matters
nothing ever disturbed their irreflective consciousness of many
possessions. Isabelthough she danced very wellhad not the
recollection of having been in New York a successful member of
the choreographic circle; her sister Edith wasas 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 advantageor 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 twentiethbesides reversing this judgementhad 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 placebetween 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 cleverbut she hated to be thought bookish; she used to
read in secret andthough her memory was excellentto abstain
from showy reference. She had a great desire for knowledgebut
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 lifeand 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 countryof reading about
revolutions and warsof 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 excitementin 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 heartsas they approached her
beat only just fast enough to remind them they had heads as well
had kept her unacquainted with the supreme disciplines of her sex
and age. She had had everything a girl could have: kindness
admirationbonbonsbouquetsthe sense of exclusion from none of
the privileges of the world she lived inabundant opportunity
for dancingplenty of new dressesthe London Spectatorthe
latest publicationsthe music of Gounodthe poetry of Browning
the prose of George Eliot.

These things nowas memory played over themresolved themselves
into a multitude of scenes and figures. Forgotten things came
back to her; many otherswhich she had lately thought of great
momentdropped out of sight. The result was kaleidoscopicbut
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
Bostonwho had known Miss Archer for the last twelvemonth and
whothinking her the most beautiful young woman of her timehad
pronounced the timeaccording to the rule I have hinted ata


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
neverthelessshe felt no eagerness to receive him. He was the
finest young man she had ever seenwas indeed quite a splendid
young man; he inspired her with a sentiment of highof 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
herbut 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 citywhere he
was spending a few days and where he had hoped to find herthat
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 tallstrong and somewhat stiff;
he was also lean and brown. He was not romanticallyhe was much
rather obscurelyhandsome; but his physiognomy had an air of
requesting your attentionwhich it rewarded according to the
charm you found in blue eyes of remarkable fixednessthe eyes of
a complexion other than his ownand 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
whichin half an hourCaspar Goodwoodwho had arrived hopeful
as well as resolutetook his way back to his lodging with the
feeling of a man defeated. He was notit may be addeda man
weakly to accept defeat.

CHAPTER V

Ralph Touchett was a philosopherbut nevertheless he knocked at
his mother's door (at a quarter to seven) with a good deal of
eagerness. Even philosophers have their preferencesand it must
be admitted that of his progenitors his father ministered most to
his sense of the sweetness of filial dependence. His fatheras
he had often said to himselfwas the more motherly; his mother
on the other handwas paternaland evenaccording to the slang
of the daygubernatorial. 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 solicitudethe various punctualities of
performance of the workers of her will. He found her completely
dressed for dinnerbut 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
ownandreceiving no very brilliant account of eitherremarked
that she was more than ever convinced of her 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 waybut made no point of reminding her that his own
infirmity was not the result of the English climatefrom which
he absented himself for a considerable part of each year.

He had been a very small boy when his fatherDaniel Tracy
Touchetta native of Rutlandin the State of Vermontcame 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 countryof
whichfrom the firsthe took a simplesane and accommodating


view. Butas he said to himselfhe had no intention of
disamericanisingnor 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 s
was at pains to intensify this lighthoweverby sending the boy
home for his education. Ralph spent several terms at an American
school and took a degree at an American universityafter which
as he struck his father on his return as even redundantly native
he was placed for some three years in residence at Oxford. Oxford
swallowed up Harvardand 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
independenceon which nothing long imposed itselfand which
naturally inclined to adventure and ironyindulged in a
boundless liberty of appreciation. He began with being a young
man of promise; at Oxford he distinguished himselfto his
father's ineffable satisfactionand 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 fatherhe
admired him--he enjoyed the opportunity of observing him. Daniel
Touchettto his perceptionwas a man of geniusand 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 thishoweverhe mainly relished; it was
the fine ivory surfacepolished as by the English airthat the
old man had opposed to possibilities of penetration. Daniel
Touchett had been neither at Harvard nor at Oxfordand it was
his own fault if he had placed in his son's hands the key to
modern criticism. Ralphwhose head was full of ideas which his
father had never guessedhad a high esteem for the latter's
originality. Americansrightly or wronglyare 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 toneas his son
always noted with pleasurewas that of the more luxuriant parts
of New England. At the end of his life he had becomeon his own
groundas mellow as he was rich; he combined consummate
shrewdness with the disposition superficially to fraterniseand
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, 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 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 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 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."

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 its 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.

NoI don't think I pity her. She doesn't strike me as inviting
compassion. I think I envy her. Before being surehowevergive
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 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 laughyou 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 exclaimedone 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?

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 he--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 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 reportby which
his interest in the subject of it was not impaired. "Ahif 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 anyway, be easily right about her.

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. ThenAre 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 whichas Mrs.
Touchett declined his invitationdeclaring that he must find out
for himselfWell,he pursuedshe'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.

Natural people are not the most trouble.

No,said Ralph; "you yourself are a proof of that. You're
extremely naturaland 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 motheryou ask too many questions! Find that
out for yourself.

His questionshoweverwere 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; butmaking
no rejoinderhe offered his mother his arm. This put it in his
poweras they descended togetherto stop her a moment on the
middle landing of the staircase--the broadlowwide-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 saysthey're always engaged!"

His mother had told him that he must satisfy his curiosity at the
sourceand 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
Warburtonwho had ridden over from his own housesome ten miles
distantremounted and took his departure before dinner; and an
hour after this meal was ended Mr. and Mrs. Touchettwho
appeared to have quite emptied the measure of their forms
withdrewunder the valid pretext of fatigueto 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 itand knew
she should pay for it on the morrow; but it was her habit at this
period to carry exhaustion to the furthest point and confess to
it only when dissimulation broke down. A fine hypocrisy was for
the present possible; she was interested; she wasas she said to
herselffloated. She asked Ralph to show her the pictures; there
were a great many in the housemost of them of his own choosing.
The best were arranged in an oaken galleryof charming
proportionswhich 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 advantageand 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 eagershe 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 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: Wellnow
I know more than I did when I began!"

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
Isabelwho preferred not to dilate just yet on herself. Then in
a momentto change the subjectPlease 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?"

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.

Ralphhowevergave 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 companionlaughing.

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 youbut you'd
never see it. The privilege isn't given to every one; it's not
enviable. It has never been seen by a younghappyinnocent
person like you. You must have suffered firsthave suffered
greatlyhave gained some miserable 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.

Yesof happy knowledge--of pleasant knowledge. But you haven't
sufferedand you're not made to suffer. I hope you'll never see
the ghost!"

She had listened to him attentivelywith 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
afraidyou 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 Ralphlooking 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.

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-roominto which they had
returned from the galleryand paused in the hallat the foot of
the staircase. Here Ralph presented his companion with her
bedroom candlewhich 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 forto 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 awayand he watched her as she slowly ascended. Then
with his hands always in his pocketshe went back to the empty
drawing-room.

CHAPTER VI

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 consciousand spoke of Isabel as a prodigy
of learninga creature reported to have read the classic authors
--in translations. Her paternal auntMrs. Varianonce spread
the rumour that Isabel was writing a book--Mrs. Varian having a
reverence for booksand averred that the girl would distinguish
herself in print. Mrs. Varian thought highly of literaturefor
which she entertained that esteem that is connected with a sense
of privation. Her own large houseremarkable for its assortment
of mosaic tables and decorated ceilingswas unfurnished with a
libraryand in the way of printed volumes contained nothing but
half a dozen novels in paper on a shelf in the apartment of one
of the Miss Varians. PracticallyMrs. Varian's acquaintance with
literature was confined to The New York Interviewer; as she very
justly saidafter you had read the Interviewer you had lost all
faith in culture. Her tendencywith thiswas rather to keep the
Interviewer out of the way of her daughters; she was determined
to bring them up properlyand 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 superiorpeople
were right in admiring her if they thought her so; for it seemed
to her often that her mind moved more quickly than theirsand
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 grantedon scanty evidencethat she was
right; she treated herself to occasions of homage. Meanwhile her
errors and delusions were frequently such 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 wayand it had led her into a thousand ridiculous zigzags.
At moments she discovered she was grotesquely wrongand 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 useshe
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 bestshould be conscious
of a fine organisation (she couldn't help knowing her organsation
was fine)should move in a realm of lightof natural wisdomof
happy impulseof 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 selfin this mannerdistinguished
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 brightnessof free expansionof
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 stronglyafter discovering
themher 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 personpresented 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
reflectivelyshe was in no uncertainty about the things that
were wrong. She had no love of their lookbut when she fixed
them hard she recognised them. It was wrong to be meanto be
jealousto be falseto be cruel; she had seen very little of
the evil of the worldbut 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 Isabelwho knew little of the sorts of artillery to
which young women are exposedflattered herself that such
contradictions 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 appearedand she would
appear what she was. Sometimes she went so far as to wish that
she might find herself some day in a difficult positionso that
she should have the pleasure of being as heroic as the occasion
demanded. Altogetherwith her meagre knowledgeher inflated
idealsher confidence at once innocent and dogmaticher temper
at once exacting and indulgenther mixture of curiosity and
fastidiousnessof vivacity and indifferenceher desire to look
very well and to be if possible even betterher determination to
seeto tryto knowher combination of the delicatedesultory
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 independentand that she ought to make some very
enlightened use of that state. She never called it the state of
solitudemuch less of singleness; she thought such descriptions


weakandbesidesher sister Lily constantly urged her to come
and abide. She had a friend whose acquaintance she had made
shortly before her father's deathwho 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 journalismand her letters to the
Interviewerfrom WashingtonNewportthe White Mountains and
other placeswere 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 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 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 many places which were not gardens at all--only dusky
pestiferous tracts, planted thick with ugliness and misery. In
the current of that repaid 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 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 accidentalwhere the tread was muffed
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 ladywhose taste
played a considerable part in her emotions. She formed a fast
friendship with her uncleand 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 placidhomely household goda
god of servicewho 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 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
conversationwhich had much of the "point" observable in that of
the young ladies of her countryto 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 valuemany 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 thinkand 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 understandto speak--so many
characteristics of her niece--that he had fallen in love with


Mrs. Touchett. He never expressed this analogy to the girl
herselfhowever; 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 timeas he saidsince they had
had any young life in the house; and our rustlingquickly-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 answersthough her pressure sometimes came in forms that
puzzled him. She questioned him immensely about Englandabout
the British constitutionthe English characterthe state of
politicsthe manners and customs of the royal familythe
peculiarities of the aristocracythe 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; "wellI 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 dispositionthough
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 yearsand 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. 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.

Oh, I'm by no means sure it will satisfy me,Isabel judicially
emphasised. "I like the place very muchbut 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 sobecause 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 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
positivequite 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 caricatureas you might say--of my
unworthy self. I didn't read itbut Ralph just handed me the
book with the principal passages marked. It was understood to be
a description of my conversation; American peculiaritiesnasal
twangYankee notionsstars and stripes. Wellit was not at all
accurate; she couldn't have listened very attentively. I had no
objection to her giving a report of my conversationif 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 talkI'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 courseas I've no
daughtersand as Mrs. Touchett resides in FlorenceI 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
fiftyI 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!"

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 themwhereas
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.


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 Isabelstanding 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!"

CHAPTER VII

The two amused themselvestime and againwith 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 heras her cousin saidinto the
dullest house in England. Her gouty uncle received very little
companyand Mrs. Touchettnot having cultivated relations with
her husband's neighbourswas not warranted in expecting visits
from them. She hadhowevera 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
Gardencourtand it was not to be supposed thatin the
surrounding countrya 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 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 parchmentbut because it seemed to her her aunt might
make better use of her sharpness. She was very critical herself-it
was incidental to her ageher sex and her nationality; but
she was very sentimental as welland 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
criticise 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 criticise I have mine; it's thoroughly
American!"

My dear young lady,said Mrs. Touchettthere 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 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 judgingbut 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 immodestyeven
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 licence to extravagance. Her
cousin usedas the phrase isto chaff her; he very soon
established with her a reputation for treating everything as a
jokeand he was not a man to neglect the privileges such a
reputation conferred. She accused him of an odious want of
seriousnessof laughing at all thingsbeginning with himself.
Such slender faculty of reverence as he possessed centred wholly
upon his father; for the resthe exercised his wit indifferently
upon his father's sonthis gentleman's weak lungshis useless
lifehis fantastic motherhis friends (Lord Warburton in
especial)his adoptedand his native countryhis charming
new-found cousin. "I keep a band of music in my ante-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 apartmentsand 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-roomas her cousin
called itand 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-defencefor 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
dressedon the lines of the prevailing fashionin 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 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 herand if
he chose to laugh at her she would give him plenty of occupation.
She defended England against his motherbut when Ralph sang its
praises on purposeas she saidto work her upshe 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-usedbut
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 answeredwho 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 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 arrivalwhich promised
nothing and was an open-handed gift of fatehad refreshed and
quickened themgiven them wings and something to fly for. Poor
Ralph had been for many weeks steeped in melancholy; his outlook
habitually sombrelay under the shadow of a deeper cloud. He had
grown anxious about his fatherwhose gouthitherto confined to
his legshad begun to ascend into regions more vital. The old
man had been gravely ill in the springand the doctors had
whispered to Ralph that another attack would be less easy to deal
with. Just now he appeared disburdened of painbut Ralph could
not rid himself of a suspicion that this was a subterfuge of the
enemywho 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 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 companionsand the
idea of being left alone with the remnant of a tasteless life on
his hands was not gratifying to the young manwho 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 thatof the twothe
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 fallacywhich he should be
delighted to discredit so far as he might by dying first. But of
the two triumphsthat of refuting a sophistical son and
that of holding on a while longer to a state of being whichwith
all abatementshe enjoyedRalph deemed it no sin to hope the
latter might be vouchsafed to Mr. Touchett.

These were nice questionsbut 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 thisand 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 abilitieswhich he had always greatly
admired. If his cousin were to be nothing more than an
entertainment to himRalph 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-reliefthan a great Titianthan a Gothic cathedral.
It's very pleasant to be so well treated where one had least
looked for it. I had never been more bluemore boredthan for a
week before she came; I had never expected less that anything
pleasant would happen. Suddenly I receive a Titianby the post
to hang on my wall--a Greek bas-relief to stick over my
chimney-piece. The key of a beautiful edifice is thrust into my
handand I'm told to walk in and admire. My poor boyyou've
been sadly ungratefuland 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 girlwho
would takeas he saida good deal of knowing; but she needed
the knowingand his attitude with regard to herthough it was
contemplative and criticalwas 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 fastenedand 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 irregularfor with most women one had no occasion
to ask it. Most women did with themselves nothing at all; they
waitedin attitudes more or less gracefully passivefor a man
to come that way and furnish them with a destiny. Isabel's
originality was that she gave one an impression of 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 chairand 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 walkerbut 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 afternoonsof which the length was but the measure of her
gratified eagernessthey took a boat on the riverthe dear
little riveras Isabel called itwhere the opposite shore
seemed still a part of the foreground of the landscape; or drove
over the country in a phaeton--a lowcapaciousthick-wheeled
phaeton formerly much used by Mr. Touchettbut which he had now
ceased to enjoy. Isabel enjoyed it largely andhandling 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
timberedpast ale-houses latticed and sandedpast patches of
ancient common and glimpses of empty parksbetween 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 closedhis wife occupied with her knitting and
wearing that appearance of rare profundity with which some ladies
consider the movement of their needles.

One dayhowevera visitor had arrived. The two young persons
after spending an hour on the riverstrolled back to the house
and perceived Lord Warburton sitting under the trees and engaged
in conversationof which even at a distance the desultory
character was appreciablewith Mrs. Touchett. He had driven over
from his own place with a portmanteau and had askedas the
father and son often invited him to dofor a dinner and a
lodging. Isabelseeing him for half an hour on the day of her
arrivalhad 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 place itself was sovereignher
uncle was more and more a sort of golden grandfatherand 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 heras he had done several
timesI 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 societyshe encouraged the hospitable impulse and
promised in advance to hurl herself into the fray. Littlehowever
for the presenthad come of his offersand 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 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 recognised 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.

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 Isabelwhoif it pleased her to hear it said that
her accomplishments were numerouswas 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 Gardencourtbut 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
Isabelwho 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 weightbut 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 good fortunewith 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'clockbut his wife remained in the drawing-room with the
other members of the party. She prolonged her vigil for something
less than an hourand thenrisingobserved 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 woreto her sensea
festive characterand feasts were not in the habit of
terminating so early. Sowithout further thoughtshe 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."

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 Albanymy
dear."

Isabel roseblushing. "I wish I were she said.

OhI saymother!" 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 disappointedfor the girl simply
laughed a littlenodded good-night and withdrew accompanied by
her aunt. For himself he was annoyed at his motherthough he
thought she was right. Above-stairs the two ladies separated at
Mrs. Touchett's door. Isabel had said nothing on her way up.

Of course you're vexed at my interfering with you,said Mrs.
Touchett.

Isabel considered. "I'm not vexedbut 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 itbut I'm very glad to know it.

I shall always tell you,her aunt answeredwhenever 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.

CHAPTER VIII

As she was devoted to romantic effects Lord Warburton ventured to
express a hope that she would come some day and see his housea
very curious old place. He extracted from Mrs. Touchett a promise
that she would bring her niece to Lockleighand 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 sistershaving sounded himduring the hours they spent
together while he was at Gardencourton many points connected
with his family. When Isabel was interested she asked a great
many questionsand 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
cleveryou 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 Churchsettled in the family living
that of Lockleighwhich was a heavysprawling parishand was
an excellent 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 brotherwhich 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 herselftill he
assured her she was quite mistakenthat it was really
impossiblethat she had doubtless imagined she entertained them
but that she might depend thatif she thought them over a
littleshe 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
thatof all the people in the worldthe Americans were the most
grossly superstitious. They were rank Tories and bigotsevery
one of them; there were no conservatives like American
conservatives. Her uncle and her cousin were there to prove it;
nothing could be more medieval than many of their views; they had
ideas that people in England nowadays were ashamed to confess to;
and they had the impudence moreoversaid his lordshiplaughing
to pretend they knew more about the needs and dangers of this
poor dear stupid old England 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 patterna reformera radicala contemner of ancient
ways. His other brotherwho was in the army in Indiawas 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
doenjoys 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 sistersthe second and fourthwere
marriedone of them having done very wellas they saidthe
other only so-so. The husband of the elderLord Haycockwas a
very good fellowbut unfortunately a horrid Tory; and his wife
like all good English wiveswas worse than her husband. The
other had espoused a smallish squire in Norfolk andthough
married but the other dayhad already five children. This
information and much more Lord Warburton imparted to his young
American listenertaking pains to make many things clear and to
lay bare to her apprehension the peculiarities of English life.
Isabel 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 trapIt'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 worldbut 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 almost everything in the world.
Although he gave the most interesting and thrilling glimpses
Isabel felt he never did it to exhibit himselfand though he had
had rare chances and had tumbled inas she put itfor high
prizeshe was as far as possible from making a merit of it. He


had enjoyed the best things of lifebut they had not spoiled his
sense of proportion. His quality was a mixture of the effect of
rich experience--ohso 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. "Whythat seems to me his only
fault--that one can't pity him a little. He appears to have
everythingto know everythingto be everything."

Oh, he's in a bad way!Ralph insisted.

I suppose you don't mean in health?

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 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 rejoinedif he isn't he ought to be!

In the afternoon she spent an hour with her uncle on the lawn
where the old man satas usualwith 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. Touchettbut 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 addedmy 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.

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 slowlysmiled 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 it's 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 manI 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 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 unclewith 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 sympathises 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 must pay us a long
visit. You seewhen 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 realise. 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
amusementand they might have coarser tastes than that. You see
they're very luxuriousand these progressive ideas are about
their biggest luxury. They make them feel moral and yet don't
damage their position. They think a great deal of their position;
don't let one of them ever persuade you he doesn'tfor if you
were to proceed on that basis you'd be pulled up very short."

Isabel followed her uncle's argumentwhich he unfolded with his
quaint distinctnessmost attentivelyand though she was
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 literaturefor artfor sciencefor 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
elseexcept the young ladies. His old house over there--what
does he call itLockleigh?--is very attractive; but I don't
think it's as pleasant as this. That doesn't matterhowever--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
himthey'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. "YesI
doafter all!"

CHAPTER IX

THE two Misses Molyneuxthis nobleman's sisterscame presently
to call upon herand 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 Molyneuxsince there were fifty thousand young
women in England who exactly resembled them. Deprived of this
advantagehoweverIsabel's visitors retained that of an extreme
sweetness and shyness of demeanourand of havingas she thought
eyes like the balanced basinsthe circles of "ornamental water
set, in parterres, among the geraniums.

They're not morbidat any ratewhatever 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 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 Isabelwho often praised profusely.

Her visitors flushedand her cousin told herafter they were
gonethat if she said such things to those poor girls they would
think she was in some wildfree 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."

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 laterwhenwith Ralph and his


mothershe 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 Gardencourtand 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 roomwhile Lord Warburtonat a distance
talked to Mrs. Touchett.

Is it true your brother's such a great radical?Isabel asked.
She knew it was truebut we have seen that her interest in human
nature was keenand she had a desire to draw the Misses Molyneux
out.

Oh dear, yes; he's immensely advanced,said Mildredthe
younger sister.

At the same time Warburton's very reasonable,Miss Molyneux
observed.

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 Augustin the ancient
expanseshad not made an impertinence. "Do you suppose your
brother's sincere?" Isabel enquired with a smile.

Oh, he must be, you know!Mildred exclaimed quicklywhile 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 Molyneuxfinding 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.

Ah, I'm afraid he is an impostor!Isabel returned. "Don't you
think it's a false position?"

Her companionsevidentlyhad lost themselves. "My brother's
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 county.


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 soeven from the earliest times."

Ah well,said Isabelyou'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 houseafter luncheonit
seemed to her a matter of course that it should be a noble
picture. Withinit had been a good deal modernised--some of its
best points had lost their purity; but as they saw it from the
gardensa stout grey pileof the softestdeepestmost
weather-fretted huerising from a broadstill moatit affected
the young visitor as a castle in a legend. The day was cool and
rather lustreless; the first note of autumn had been struckand
the watery sunshine rested on the walls in blurred and desultory
gleamswashing themas it werein places tenderly chosen
where the ache of antiquity was keenest. Her host's brotherthe
Vicarhad come to luncheonand 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 bigathletic figurea candidnatural
countenancea 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--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 partyon
leaving lunchwent 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 housewhich 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 lastafter a pause of some durationreturning for a moment
to their ostensible themeAh, well,he saidI'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."

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 Isabelto 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. "ButI
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.

No, I'm not easily charmed!And then he stopped a moment. "But
you've charmed meMiss 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 recognised it. She had no
wishhoweverthat for the moment such a prelude should have a
sequeland 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.

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 his voice a moment
before reappearedand 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 peopleand 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 scenein his own houseonly the third time they
had met? She was reassured quickly enough by her sense of his
great good mannerswhich 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 mannersfor
he presently went onlaughing 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
foiblesthe afflictions of human naturethe peculiarities of
nations!"

As regards that,said IsabelI 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 beside her in silence. But before they
reached the othersI shall come and see you next week,he
said.

She had received an appreciable shockbut 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 enoughJust 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.

CHAPTER X

The day after her visit to Lockleigh she received a note from her
friend Miss Stackpole--a note of which the envelopeexhibiting
in conjunction the postmark of Liverpool and the neat calligraphy
of the quick-fingered Henriettacaused her some liveliness of
emotion. "Here I ammy 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 baglike a veteran journalistand 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 havefor 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 youand you know thatwhatever I
amat 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 the sights
with you) or else let me come to youwherever 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 purportandas she expectedhe begged
her instantly to assure Miss Stackpolein his namethat he
should be delighted to receive her at Gardencourt. "Though she's
a literary lady he said, I suppose thatbeing an American
she won't show me upas 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
instinctswhich belonged to that side of her friend's character
which she regarded with least complacency. She wrote to Miss
Stackpolehoweverthat 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 Londonand it
was from that centre that she took the train for the station
nearest to Gardencourtwhere 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.

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 Bunchieto 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 RalphI'm afraid I shall dislike her in spite
of her merits.

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 arrivedand Miss Stackpolepromptly
descendingprovedas Isabel had promisedquite delicately
even though rather provinciallyfair. She was a neatplump
personof medium staturewith a round facea small moutha
delicate complexiona bunch of light brown ringlets at the back
of her head and a peculiarly opensurprised-looking eye. The
most striking point in her appearance was the remarkable
fixedness of this organwhich rested without impudence or
defiancebut as if in conscientious exercise of a natural right
upon every object it happened to encounter. It rested in this
manner upon Ralph himselfa little arrested by Miss Stackpole's
gracious and comfortable aspectwhich hinted that it wouldn't be
so easy as he had assumed to disapprove of her. She rustledshe
shimmeredin freshdove-coloured draperiesand 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 clearhigh voice--a voice not rich but
loud; yet after she had taken her place with her companions in
Mr. Touchett's carriage she struck him as not all in the large
typethe 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.

WellI 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 himand 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 manfeel vaguely embarrassed--less inviolate
more dishonouredthan he liked. This sensationit must be
addedafter he had spent a day or two in her companysensibly
diminishedthough 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 EnglishmanI'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.

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--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 friendwhoonce her daily
task performeddeprecatedin fact defiedisolation. Isabel
speedily found occasion to desire her to desist from celebrating
the charms of their common sojourn in printhaving discovered
on the second morning of Miss Stackpole's visitthat she was
engaged on a letter to the Interviewerof which the titlein
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 Stackpolewith
the best conscience in the worldoffered to read her letter to
Isabelwho 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. "Whyit's just what the people
wantand 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
penvery neatlyupon an elegant little implement which she kept
for the purposeand put away 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
Americanand your cousin's a beautiful specimen. I should have
handled him severely."

He would have died of it!Isabel exclaimed. "Not of the
severitybut 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."

Henrietta coloured deeplyand for a moment her brilliant eyes
were suffusedwhile 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 Henriettaseizing her pen again.
Just let me make a note of it and I'll put it in somewhere.she
was a thoroughly good-natured womanand 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 herselfand the
next dayin conversation with her friendshe happened to
mention her visit to Lord Warburton's ancient house. "Ahyou
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
hereand you'll have a chance to see him and 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 apparentat the end of three daysthat her cousin
hadaccording to her prophecylost 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 treesand in
the afternoonwhen 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 himand he had long since decided that the
crescendo of mirth should be the flower of his declining days.
Henriettaon her sidefailed 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
irritating problemwhich 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. Laterwhen she stepped into the boat on joining the
water-partyshe remarked to Ralph that she supposed he hated her
and would like to drown her.


Ah no,said RalphI 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, 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 Stackpolein this undertakingappeared to shrink from no
effort; resorting largelywhenever the opportunity offeredto
the natural expedient of interrogation. On the following day the
weather was badand in the afternoon the young manby way of
providing indoor amusementoffered to show her the pictures.
Henrietta strolled through the long gallery in his societywhile
he pointed out its principal ornaments and mentioned the painters
and subjects. Miss Stackpole looked at the pictures in perfect
silencecommitting herself to no opinionand 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 justicewas but little addicted to the use of
conventional terms; there was something earnest and inventive in
her tonewhich at timesin its strained deliberationsuggested
a person of high culture speaking a foreign language. Ralph
Touchett subsequently learned that she had at one time officiated
as art critic to a journal of the other world; but she appeared
in spite of this factto carry in her pocket none of the small
change of admiration. Suddenlyjust after he had called her
attention to a charming Constableshe 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 RalphI'm the idlest man living.

Miss Stackpole directed her gaze to the Constable againand
Ralph bespoke her attention for a small Lancret hanging near it
which represented a gentleman in a pink doublet and hose and a
ruffleaning 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 againandthough her eyes had
rested upon the picturehe 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."

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 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 thisin a day or twoshe 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 youMr. 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.

Oh pshaw!Henrietta groaned.


Then it seemed to me,said Ralphthat I was not good enough.

It would improve you. Besides, it's your duty.

Ah,cried the young manone 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 distinctionbutas Isabel had
saidshe was brave: she went into cagesshe flourished lashes
like a spangled lion-tamer. He had not supposed her to be capable
of vulgar artsbut 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 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 askedis 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 RalphI 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 round 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. "Nonot 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."

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!

She has a great sense of duty,said Isabel gravely. "She has
indeedand 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 youyou 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 admittedshe doesn't sufficiently recognise 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.

Well,said IsabelsmilingI'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 sighI 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 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 prairiesblooming and smiling and
spreading till it stops at the green Pacific! A strongsweet
fresh odour seems to rise from itand Henrietta--pardon my
simile--has something of that odour in her garments."

Isabel blushed a little as she concluded this speechand the
blushtogether 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. Henriettahoweverdoes smell of the Future--it
almost knocks one down!"

CHAPTER XI

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 personsin her viewwere
simple and homogeneous organismsand that hefor 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 tactand the young lady found in
renewed contact with him no obstacle to the exercise of her
genius for unshrinking enquirythe general application of her
confidence. Her situation at Gardencourt thereforeappreciated
as we have seen her to be by Isabel and full of appreciation
herself of that free play of intelligence whichto her sense
rendered Isabel's character a sister-spiritand of the easy
venerableness of Mr. Touchettwhose noble toneas she saidmet
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 discoveredin truththat this obligation was of the
lightest and that 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 friendyet 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-houseand I detest the manners and the
liberties of such places. If you ask me if I prefer my own
mannerswhich you doubtless think very badI'll tell you that I
prefer them immensely. Miss Stackpole knows I detest
boarding-house civilisationand 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
meI find it almost too much of one! We shall never get on
together thereforeand there's no use trying."

Mrs. Touchett was right in guessing that Henrietta disapproved of
herbut 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 hotelswhich excited a vein of
counter-argument on the part of the correspondent of the
Interviewerwho in the exercise of her profession had acquainted
herselfin the western worldwith every form of caravansary.
Henrietta expressed the opinion that American hotels were
the best in the worldand Mrs. Touchettfresh from a renewed
struggle with themrecorded a conviction that they were the
worst. Ralphwith his experimental genialitysuggestedby way
of healing the breachthat 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
howeverMiss Stackpole rejected with scorn. Middling indeed! If
they were not the best in the world they were the worstbut
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.'"

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
themno wonder you don't like America."

If you've not good servants you're miserable,Mrs. Touchett
serenely said. "They're very bad in Americabut 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.

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 friendI 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 disappointedand her steady gaze betrayed it.
You don't ask that right--as if you thought it 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 herin silencefor a period which
tried Isabel's patienceso 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 youbut 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.


It was a pleasure to meand I liked the way he listened. I
could have talked a long time to such a listener; he was so
quietso 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 assertionwhich 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.

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
whichhowevershe 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 curiosityfor she disliked discussing the subject and found
Henrietta wanting in delicacy.

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 highbold action. Whatever happens to
him he'll always do somethingand whatever he does will always
be right."

I quite believe that.Henrietta might be wanting in delicacy
but it touched the girlall the sameto 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. "WellI don't care; you have
changed. You're not the girl you were a few short weeks agoand
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 intimation that Caspar
Goodwood would present himself at Gardencourt. She pretended to
herselfhoweverthat she thought the event impossibleand
latershe communicated her disbelief to her friend. For the next
forty-eight hoursneverthelessshe stood prepared to hear the
young man's name announced. The feeling pressed upon her; it made
the air sultryas if there were to be a change of weather; and
the weathersocially speakinghad 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 Bunchieand
after strolling about for some timein a manner at once listless
and restlesshad seated herself on a garden-benchwithin sight
of the housebeneath a spreading beechwherein a white dress
ornamented with black ribbonsshe formed among the flickering
shadows a graceful and harmonious image. She entertained herself
for some moments with talking to the little terrieras to whom
the proposal of an ownership divided with her cousin had been
applied as impartially as possible--as impartially as Bunchie's
own somewhat fickle and inconstant sympathies would allow. But
she was notified for the first timeon this occasionof the
finite character of Bunchie's intellect; hitherto she had been
mainly struck with its extent. It seemed to her at last that she
would do well to take a book; formerlywhen heavy-heartedshe
had been ablewith the help of some well-chosen volumeto
transfer the seat of consciousness to the organ of pure reason.
Of lateit was not to be deniedliterature had seemed a fading
lightand 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 withoutshe sat motionless
and empty-handedher 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
visionalready so held by himwith 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 Englandbut even if you have not it will scarcely
be a surprise to you. You will remember that when you gave me my
dismissal at Albanythree months agoI 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 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 changedand you were
able to give me no reason for the change. You admitted that you
were unreasonableand it was the only concession you would make;
but it was a very cheap onebecause that's not your character.
Noyou are notand you never will bearbitrary or capricious.
Therefore it is that I believe you will let me see you again. You
told me that I'm not disagreeable to youand 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 beforebut 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
howeveras she mechanically folded it she saw Lord Warburton
standing before her.

CHAPTER XII

She put the letter into her pocket and offered her visitor a
smile of welcomeexhibiting 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 seeI came out with no more ado."

Isabel had got up; she felt a wishfor the momentthat 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 pleasingand 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 Isabelwho 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 vision once


beforeand it had given her on that occasionas we knowa
certain alarm. This alarm was composed of several elementsnot
all of which were disagreeable; she had indeed spent some days in
analysing 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
factsif the charge be truemay serve to exonerate her from the
discredit of the former. She was not eager to convince herself
that a territorial magnateas she had heard Lord Warburton
calledwas 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 affrontquite to
the degree of an inconvenience. She had never yet known a
personage; there had been no personagesin this sensein her
life; there were probably none such at all in her native land.
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 concerned themselves largely
with moral images--things as to which the question would be
whether they pleased her sublime soul. Lord Warburton loomed up
before herlargely and brightlyas 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 girlwith her habit of judging quickly and
freelyfelt she lacked patience to bestow. He appeared to demand
of her something that no one elseas it werehad presumed to
do. What she felt was that a territoriala politicala social
magnate had conceived the design of drawing her into the system
in which he rather invidiously lived and moved. A certain
instinctnot imperiousbut persuasivetold 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 from his own point of
view; that on the other handhoweverthere was evidently a
great deal of it which she should regard only as a complication
of every hourand 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
allbut 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 nothoweverI venture to
repeatat 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 faithand
if there was a great deal of folly in her wisdom those who judge
her severely may have the satisfaction of finding thatlater
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 walkto sit or to do
anything that Isabel should proposeand he gave her this
assurance with his usual air of being particularly pleased to


exercise a social virtue. But he wasneverthelessnot in
command of his emotionsand as he strolled beside her for a
momentin silencelooking at her without letting her know it
there was something embarrassed in his glance and his misdirected
laughter. Yesassuredly--as we have touched on the pointwe 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 themand
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 antecedentsher
associations were very vague to his mind except in so far as they
were genericand 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 multitudeand 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 subsideand the judgement of mankindas
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 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 friendsthat when
the need comes for such a course it is not discredited by
irritating associations.

I hope you had a pleasant ride,said Isabelwho 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 askedmore and more
sure that he meant to make some appeal to her; wishing not to
challenge him if he hesitatedand 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-housewith
the foreground embellished by a "great" (as she supposed)
nobleman in the act of making love to a young lady whoon careful
inspectionshould 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.

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 sincerefor she had
no doubt whatever that he himself was. They were simply a tribute
to the factof which she was perfectly awarethat those he had
just uttered would have excited surprise on the part of a vulgar
world. Andmoreoverif anything beside the sense she had
already acquired that Lord Warburton was not a loose thinker had
been needed to convince herthe 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-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 kindesttenderestpleasantest voice
Isabel had ever heardand looking at her with eyes charged with
the light of a passion that had sifted itself clear of the baser
parts of emotion--the heatthe violencethe unreason--and that
burned as steadily as a lamp in a windless place.

By tacit consentas he talkedthey had walked more and more
slowlyand at last they stopped and he took her hand. "AhLord
Warburtonhow 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 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 thereinwardly
with the pleasure of feeling she did.

The light in her companion's eyes turned into a smileand he
gave a long exhalation of joy. "If you're mistakenMiss Archer
let me lose all I possess!"

She wondered whether he meant this for a reminder that he was
richandon the instantfelt sure that he didn't. He was
thinking thatas 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 agitatedand her mind was tranquil
enougheven while she listened and asked herself what it was
best she should sayto indulge in this incidental criticism.
What she should sayhad 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 didall so mysteriouslymatter 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 on you with such a thumper! Of course it's a great question;
I must tell you 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 murmuredsmiling againin his
seriousnessas if such a warning might perhaps be taken but as
the play of high spiritsthe 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 thathighly as I already think of youmy opinion of
youif I should know you wellwould 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 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 lordshipwhobe it averreddid 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.
Her suitor's countenance felland 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 perversebut 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 hopeand 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.

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 faceand by his cleanbreathing lipsof she knew not
what strange gardenswhat charged airs. She would have given her
little finger at that moment to feel strongly and simply the
impulse to answer: "Lord Warburtonit's impossible for me to do
better in this wonderful worldI thinkthan commit myselfvery
gratefullyto your loyalty." But though she was lost in
admiration of her opportunity she managed to move back into the
deepest shade of iteven as some wildcaught 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."

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 admonitionbut 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 graveand 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."

At your convenience, yes,he replied. "Whatever time you take
it must seem to me longand 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 momentwith
his hands behind himgiving 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 whybut the question
made her start and brought a conscious blush to her cheek. She
returned his look a momentand then with a note in her voice
that might almost have appealed to his compassionSo am I, my
lord!she oddly exclaimed.

His compassion was not stirredhowever; all he possessed of the
faculty of pity was needed at home. "Ah! be mercifulbe
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 reflectinghis eyes fixed on the
observant countenance of Bunchiewho had the air of having
understood all that had been said and of pretending to carry off


the indiscretion by a simulated fit of curiosity as to the roots
of an ancient oak. "There's one thing more he went on. You
knowif 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 dampby 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 moatyou know.
Good-bye."

I adore a moat,said Isabel. "Good-bye."

He held out his handand she gave him hers a moment--a moment
long enough for him to bend his handsome bared head and kiss it.
Thenstill agitatingin his mastered emotionhis implement of
the chasehe walked rapidly away. He was evidently much upset.

Isabel herself was upsetbut 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 himshe must
convince himand that duty was comparatively simple. But what
disturbed herin the sense that it struck her with wondermentwas
this very fact that it cost her so little to refuse a magnificent
chance.With whatever qualifications one wouldLord Warburton
had offered her a great opportunity; the situation might have
discomfortsmight contain oppressivemight contain narrowing
elementsmight 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
shewhat was shethat she should hold herself superior? What view
of lifewhat design upon fatewhat conception of happinesshad
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 thingsshe must do something greater. Poor Isabel found
ground to remind herself from time to time that she must not be too
proudand 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 was so conscious of liking him
that she ventured to assure herself it was the very softnessand
the fine intelligenceof sympathy. She liked him too much to marry
himthat 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 criticise would be a peculiarly discreditable act. She
had promised him she would consider his questionand whenafter
he had left hershe wandered back to the bench where he had found
her and lost herself in meditationit might have seemed that she
was keeping her vow. But this was not the case; she was wondering
if she were not a coldhardpriggish personandon her at last
getting up and going rather quickly back to the housefeltas she
had said to her friendreally frightened at herself.

CHAPTER XIII


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 naturalmore humanand her unclefor 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 dayafter breakfast
she sought her occasion. Her uncle never left his apartment till
the afternoonbut he received his croniesas he saidin his
dressing-room. Isabel had quite taken her place in the class so
designatedwhichfor the restincluded the old man's sonhis
physicianhis personal servantand even Miss Stackpole. Mrs.
Touchett did not figure in the listand this was an obstacle the
less to Isabel's finding her host alone. He sat in a complicated
mechanical chairat the open window of his roomlooking
westward over the park and the riverwith his newspapers and
letters piled up beside himhis toilet freshly and minutely
madeand his smoothspeculative 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 surprisebut 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 thatwhatever interest he might take in the matter from
the point of view of sociabilityhe 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 ungratefulI don't think I can marry Lord
Warburton."

Well,her uncle went onof 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 added slowlybut as if
it were not of much consequencethat 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. Touchettwho appeared to
wish to show his kindness to the girl by easing off her decision
as it wereand 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.

Her unclehoweverseemed 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 liked 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 therebut that's because our population is insufficient.
Hereyou knowthey're rather crowded. HoweverI presume
there's room for charming young ladies everywhere."

There seems to have been room here for you,said Isabelwhose
eyes had been wandering over the large pleasure-spaces of the
park.

Mr. Touchett gave a shrewdconscious smile. "There's room
everywheremy dearif 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 thoughtsand 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 appealreaching to something indefinable
and possibly not commendable. In so far as the indefinable had an
influence upon Isabel's behaviour at this junctureit was not
the conceptioneven unformulatedof 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 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 pusha kind of hardness of
presencein his way of rising before her. She had been haunted
at moments by the imageby the dangerof 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 notbut he insistedeverwith 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 presentsince 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
himself on the side of her destinyto be the stubbornest fact
she knew; she said to herself at such moments that she might
evade him for a timebut 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
invitationwhich 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 Albanyon the evening of Mrs.
Touchett's visitthat she couldn't then discuss difficult
questionsdazzled 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. 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 organise, 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 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 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 criticise 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 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 in the light of a companion for life; or to think
of your home--your various homes--as the 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
dispatch 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 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
togethermy 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-humouredlyif 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 whether I amuse you while you do so; or
ratherI'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-walkfixing on him perhaps
the very gaze that unnerved him. "That too would amuse youI
suppose. The way you do say 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."

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 RalphI'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 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
Europeansand 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 much puzzled by this appealand 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 woreto his eyesa tortuous
airand 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 described as her very dear friend should be
furnished with an opportunity to make himself agreeable to another
young womana 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 textand 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 vulgarityhowever
Ralph was savedand 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
consciouslyresisting 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 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."

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.

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.

As I understand it then,said Ralphyou wish me to push Mr.
Goodwood overboard after her. Do you know,he addedthat 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 thisand
he surrendered to thought while his companion watched him askance.
If I should invite Mr. Goodwood,he finally saidit 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 concludedto prove to you that you're wrong I'll
invite him. It must be of course as a friend of yours.

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 recognise; but it so far took the edge from too sharp
a recognition thatin spite of his suspecting it would be rather
more indiscreet to keep than to break his promisehe wrote Mr.
Goodwood a note of six linesexpressing the pleasure it would
give Mr. Touchett the elder that he should join a little party at
Gardencourtof 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 homethe 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
howeverthe 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 Londonwho was interested in a cotton-mill and
had manners in the most splendid of the American styles. Ralph
had two theories about this intervenes. Either his passion was a
sentimental fiction of Miss Stackpole's (there was always a sort
of tacit understanding among womenborn of the solidarity of the
sexthat 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 Goodwoodthanking him for itregretting
that other engagements made a visit to Gardencourt impossible and
presenting many compliments to Miss Stackpole. Ralph handed the
note to Henriettawhowhen she had read itexclaimed: "Well
I never have heard of anything so stiff!"

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 Isabelat all eventsthat they should
make an excursion to London together. "If I must tell the truth
she observed, I'm not seeing much at this placeand 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 friendwho 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 Isabelon her journey from New York to Gardencourthad seen
even less of the British capital than thisit appeared a
happy suggestion of Henrietta's that the two should go thither on
a visit of pleasure. The idea struck Isabel as charming; he was
curious of the thick detail of Londonwhich 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 Dickens-and
drive over the town in those delightful hansoms. Henrietta
was a literary womanand 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 livedand Goldsmith and Addison. Isabel
grew eager and presently unveiled the bright vision to Ralphwho
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 Gardenan easyinformalold-fashioned
placeand I'll have you put down at my club."

Do you mean it's improper?Isabel asked. "Dear meisn'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 Ralphlet me take advantage of her protection
to go up to town as well. I may never have a chance to
travel so safely!

CHAPTER XIV

Miss Stackpole would have prepared to start immediately; but
Isabelas we have seenhad been notified that Lord Warburton
would come again to Gardencourtand 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 writtenvery brieflyto 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 patientnot 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 himmentioning also his intention of coming;
and the old manin consequenceleft 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 partbut 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 hima
measure presumably dictated by reflexions of the same order as
Mr. Touchett's. The two visitors were introduced to Miss
Stackpolewhoat luncheonoccupied a seat adjoining Lord
Warburton's. Isabelwho was nervous and had no relish for the
prospect of again arguing the question he had so prematurely
openedcould 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 herand the only sign of his
emotion was that he avoided meeting her eyes. He had plenty of
talk for the othershoweverand he appeared to eat his luncheon
with discrimination and appetite. Miss Molyneuxwho had a
smoothnun-like forehead and wore a large silver cross
suspended from her neckwas evidently preoccupied with Henrietta
Stackpoleupon 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 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 herbut on the whole
he told her little. Suchat leastwas Isabel's theory; whenat
tableshe was not occupied in conversation she was usually
occupied in forming theories about her neighbours. According to
Isabelif 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 norather (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 opportunitiesat all
eventsHenrietta 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
answeredlooking a trifle absently about the table.

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
Warburtonlike your tomahawks and revolvers.

I'm sorry for that; I think an aristocracy ought to be
splendid,Henrietta declared. "If it's not thatwhat 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
youyou 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 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 Warburtonmeeting 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 StackpoleI 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!

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. Ahwe 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 dealbut at this it
met the gaze of his neighbour. "Oh yes he 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
criticising 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 gallerystaring 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 interruptedturning slightly
pale.

That you think me a good fellow; isn't that it?She said
nothingand he went on: "You don't seem to have any reasonand
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 herand she cried out: "You're mistaken!
I don't."

He sat down on a benchunceremoniouslydoggedlylike 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 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 paidhoweverno 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 criedgetting up. "It's all
the same to you."

Isabel walked to the other side of the gallery and stood there
showing him her charming backher light slim figurethe length
of her white neck as she bent her headand 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 eyeshoweversaw nothing; they had suddenly been suffused
with tears. In a moment he followed herand 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."

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 staredan 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 Isabelher colour quickly
coming back to her. And then she stoppedlooking down with a
deep frownas 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.

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 happyand 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 awayby 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 mepray? Heaven


help meI'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? WhyI'm devoted to the common lot! Strike an
alliance with meand I promise you that you shall have plenty of
it. You shall separate from nothing whatever--not even from your
friend Miss Stackpole."

She'd never approve of it,said Isabeltrying to smile and
take advantage of this side-issue; despising herself toonot a
littlefor 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 againfor she saw Miss Molyneux enter the
galleryaccompanied 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 teaas she was
expecting company to partake of it. He made no answer--apparently
not having heard her; he was preoccupiedand 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 quickshy laugh. "How very many pictures you have!" she
went onturning to Ralph.

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 onpersistently
to Ralphas if she were afraid Miss Stackpole would address her
again. Henrietta appeared at once to fascinate sand to frighten her.

Ah yes, pictures are very convenient,said Ralphwho 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.

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 Molyneuxvery
sweetlyto Isabelignoring this remark of Isabel's friend.
Isabel looked into her quiet eyes a momentand for that moment
seemed to see in their grey depths the reflexion of everything
she had rejected in rejecting Lord Warburton--the peacethe
kindnessthe honourthe possessionsa 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 tittle passage; then he turned away
and stared at a picture. Ralphleaning against the rail before
the picture with his hands in his pocketshad for the moment
been watching him.

I should like to see you at home,said Henriettawhom Lord
Warburton found beside him. "I should like 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 comeall 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. "Yesif 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 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 continuedaddressing 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 bad
material!Henrietta declaredlooking 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
tonegiving her a little intelligent nod as he led the party out
of the gallery. "There's something the matter with us all."

Isabel came behind these two; Miss Molyneuxwho decidedly liked
her immenselyhad taken her armto 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 thenIs 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 otherI
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 againand she let the two depart. After
itwithout rejoining Henrietta and Ralphshe retreated to her
own room; in which apartmentbefore dinnershe was found by
Mrs. Touchettwho had 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 Isabelsmiling.

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 Isabelsmiling still.

CHAPTER XV

It had been arranged that the two young ladies should proceed to
London under Ralph's escortthough Mrs. Touchett looked with
little favour on the plan. It was just the sort of planshe
saidthat Miss Stackpole would be sure to suggestand she
enquired if the correspondent of the Interviewer was to take the
party to stay at her favourite 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.

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 that I don't love Lord Warburton enough to marry
him."

You did right to refuse him then,said Mrs. Touchett in her
smallestsparest voice. "Onlythe next great offer you getI
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 criticise.

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.

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 pointsand in
her reactionnot in itself deplorableagainst the liberty
allowed to young persons beyond the seashad 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 Squarea large
dull mansion which at this period of the year was shrouded in
silence and brown holland; but he bethought himself thatthe
cook being at Gardencourtthere was no one in the house to get
them their mealsand Pratt's Hotel accordingly became their
resting-place. Ralphon his sidefound quarters in Winchester
Squarehaving 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. Pratt in personin a large bulging white waistcoat
to remove their dish-covers. Ralph turned upas he saidafter
breakfastand 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 servicethe
young manwho occasionally took an apologetic tonewas obliged
to remind his companionto Miss Stackpole's high derisionthat
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
hereof coursebut three or four millions of people. What is it
you call them--the lower-middle class? They're only the
population of Londonand that's of no consequence."

Ralph declared that for him the aristocracy left no void that
Miss Stackpole herself didn't filland that a more contented man
was nowhere at that moment to be found. In this he spoke the
truthfor the stale September daysin 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
Winchester Squareafter a chain of hours with his comparatively
ardent friendshe wandered into the big dusky dining-roomwhere
the candle he took from the hall-tableafter letting himself in
constituted the only illumination. The square was stillthe
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 stepin 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 wallall of
them very brownlooked vague and incoherent. There was a ghostly
presence as of dinners long since digestedof 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 nothingnot even reading
the evening paper. I say he did nothingand 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
pursuitleading to nothing and profiting little to any one. His
cousin had not yet seemed to him so charming as during these days
spent in soundingtourist-fashionthe deeps and shallows of the
metropolitan element. Isabel was full of premisesconclusions
emotions; if she had come in search of local colour she found it
everywhere. She asked more questions than he could answerand
launched brave theoriesas 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 disappointmentsand
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 thatas she said herselfshe was not
in her element. "I've not a sympathy with inanimate objects she
remarked to Isabel at the National 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 menwhere are your men and women of
intellect?" she enquired of Ralphstanding 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 columnyou say--Lord Nelson. Was he a lord too? Wasn't he
high enoughthat 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
futurebecause I don't believe much in your future." Poor Ralph
had few leading minds among his acquaintance and rarely enjoyed
the pleasure of buttonholing 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 gentlemanwhoever he might bethat 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 have plenty of meaningless customsbut none of those
that would help along. We are in advancecertainly. 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 faceas from a recurrent wavethe cold
breath of her last suitor's surpriseshe 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 necessityall the
samehad been as graceless as some physical act in a strained
attitudeand she felt no desire to take credit for her conduct.
Mixed with this imperfect prideneverthelesswas a feeling of
freedom which in itself was sweet and whichas 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 andwhen they were prettykissed
them. Ralph noticed these quaint charities; he noticed everything
she did. One afternoonthat his companions might pass the time
he invited them to tea in Winchester Squareand he had the house
set in order as much as possible for their visit. There was
another guest to meet theman amiable bacheloran 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. Bantlinga stoutsleeksmiling man of forty
wonderfully dresseduniversally informed and incoherently
amusedlaughed immoderately at everything Henrietta saidgave
her several cups of teaexamined in her society the bric-a-brac
of which Ralph had a considerable collectionand afterwards
when the host proposed they should go out into the square and
pretend it was a fete-champetrewalked round the limited
enclosure several times with her andat a dozen turns of their
talkbounded 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 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 to-morrow 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 continuedexpanding
in the stimulating air of Miss Stackpole's attentionbringing 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
ideadazzling to Henriettaof 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
allyou know; they have their own habitstheir own language
their own food--some odd religion evenI believeof their own.
The old man thinks it's wicked to huntI'm told. You must get
down to my sister's in time for the theatricalsand 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 childrenbut 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 Squarewhichalthough it had been
peppered by the London sootinvited the tread to linger.
Henrietta thought her bloomingeasy-voiced bachelorwith his
impressibility to feminine merit and his splendid range of
suggestiona very agreeable manand she valued the opportunity
he offered her. "I don't know but I would goif your sister
should ask 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 Stackpoleand she was sorry
to be obliged to separate from Lady Pensil's obliging brother.
But it happened that she had met the day beforein Piccadilly
some friends whom she had not seen for a year: the Miss Climbers
two ladies from WilmingtonDelawarewho had been travelling on
the Continent and were now preparing to re-embark. Henrietta had
had a long interview with them on the Piccadilly pavementand
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 the morrowand she now bethought herself of this
engagement. She prepared to start for Jermyn Streettaking leave
first of Ralph Touchett and Isabelwhoseated on garden chairs
in another part of the enclosurewere 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 HotelRalph
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 powershave 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.

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; "butif you likewe'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 bestand the two took their
departureleaving the girl and her cousin together in the
squareover 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 windowswhere the shutters
and blinds were closed; the pavements were a vacant expanseand
putting aside two small children from a neighbouring slumwho
attracted by symptoms of abnormal animation in the interior
poked their faces between the rusty rails of the enclosurethe
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.

Or rather, no, she won't,he went on. "But Bantling will ask
leave to get in."

Very likely again. I'm glad very 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
womanbut 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 askedlooking 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 Ifor our amusementshall 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 he half an hour yet before dark;
and if you permit it I'll light a cigarette.

You may do what you please,said Isabelif 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 againand 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 momenthoweverhe liked immensely
being alone with herin the thickening duskin 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.

Oh, I shall be delightful meanwhile,said Ralph.

But he said nothing moreand as she made no rejoinder they sat
some time in a stillness which seemed to contradict his promise
of entertainment. It seemed to him she was preoccupiedand 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 clearfair 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 whileand then
he resumed. "I promised just now to be very amusing; but you see
I don't come up to the markand 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 colouredand 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 itbecause I've a kind of interest in the answer."

Ask what you will,Isabel replied gentlyand 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.

Isabel suppressed a start; she 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 lastDo 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.

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 methen 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 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 momentthen 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
myselfand he's too good for me. Besideshis 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?

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 Isabelthat 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 faultsthe 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 addedlooking 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.

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 Ralphthat 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 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 Isabelbut 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 companionhoweverhe became graveand to
prove it went on: "You want to see life--you'll be hanged if you
don'tas 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.

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 continuedand I must go home.She
rose from her placebut Ralph only sat still and looked at her.
As he remained there she stoppedand they exchanged a gaze that
was full on either sidebut especially on Ralph'sof 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."
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 gateand 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 foundand he helped her into itstanding 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!"

CHAPTER XVI

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 timeand 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 solitudewhich 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
eveninghoweveran 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
Gardencourtshe 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-muffed knuckle of the
waiter was applied to the doorwhich presently gave way to his
exhibitioneven as a glorious trophyof 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
fullslightly peremptory tone--the tone of a man whose questions
were habitually pointed and who was capable of much insistence.

She answered by a ready questionHow 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?

She didn't see me; she wrote to me.

Isabel was silent; neither had sat down; they stood there with
an air of defianceor 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


treacheryas she momentarily qualified itwas 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 herbut she took a
different turn. "Noit's not your fault so much as hers. What
you've done was inevitableI supposefor 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 againwhile her visitor took the
first place that offeredin 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 wrongand 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 qualityand though little desirous to flaunt it in his
face she could 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 wordsknowing them of so
much less earnest a cast than the countenance of her listener.
Her eyeshoweverat last came back to himjust as he said very
irrelevantly; "Are you enjoying your visit to your uncle?"

Very much indeed.She droppedbut 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 addedyou 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 factbut as if to set it well before himselfso 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 softso that pin-pricks would draw blood
from it; and from the first of her acquaintance with himand of
her having to defend herself against a certain air that he had of
knowing better what was good for her than she knew herselfshe
had recognised the fact that perfect frankness was her best
weapon. To attempt to spare his sensibility or to escape from him
edgewiseas one might do from a man who had barred the way less
sturdily--thisin dealing with Caspar Goodwoodwho would grasp
at everything of every sort that one might give himwas wasted
agility. It was not that he had not susceptibilitiesbut his
passive surfaceas well as his activewas large and hardand
he might always be trusted to dress his woundsso far as they
required ithimself. She came backeven for her measure of
possible pangs and aches in himto her old sense that he was
naturally plated and steeledarmed 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.

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 fireI'm
capable of nothing with regard to you,he went onbut 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 offinto the vast of truth and
poetryas practically a bait to her imagination. But she
promptly came round. "Think of me or notas 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.

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
--classicromanticredeemingwhat did she know? for her; "the
strong man in pain" was one of the categories of the human
appeallittle 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
considerateas much as you can be; you've good reasons for what
you do. But I really don't want to marryor to talk about it at
all now. I shall probably never do it--nonever. I've a perfect
right to feel that wayand it's no kindness to a woman to press
her so hardto 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
friendbecause when women say thatin these situationsit
passesI believefor a sort of mockery. But try me some day."

Caspar Goodwoodduring this speechhad kept his eyes fixed upon
the name of his hatterand it was not until some time after she
had ceased speaking that he raised them. When he did so the sight
of a rosylovely eagerness in Isabel's face threw some confusion
into his attempt to analyse 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.

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 Goodwoodthat 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 suddenlychanging
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.

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 smileOh, you
ought to marry!she said.

He might be pardoned if for an instant this exclamation seemed to
him to sound the infernal noteand 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 hungryhowever--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 wrongand 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."

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 storybutnow she had begunthe 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 silencebut
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 Casper 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."

Oh yes, I'm very angry. I plead guilty to that!

She turned away from himwalked to the open window and stood a
moment looking into the dusky void of the streetwhere 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 far too dear to him
to be easily renouncedand 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 manif 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.

Isabel shook her head as if to carry off a blunder. "I've refused
a most kindnoble 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'sand I can't propose to you to come there. It would be
too inconsistent."

Caspar Goodwoodon his sideconsidered. "You must do me justice
too. I received an invitation to your uncle's more than a week
agoand 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 authorisation to accept it.
The suggestion that Mr. Touchett should invite me appeared to
have come from Miss Stackpole.

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.

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 systema theorythat she had lately
embracedand 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 meand 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'twith his own
long arms and stridesafraid of any force in her. Isabel's
wordsif they had been meant to shock himfailed 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 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 unmarried 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. "I'm 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. BesidesI try to judge things for
myself; to judge wrongI thinkis 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 momentbut 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 youMr. 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 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 adviceand he saw a shining candour in her
eyes that helped him to believe her. On the whole he felt
reassuredand you might have perceived it by the manner in which
he saidquite eagerly: "You want simply to travel for two years?
I'm quite willing to wait two yearsand you may do what you like
in the interval. If that's all you wantpray 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 slowlyI'll go home.And he put out his
handtrying to look contented and confident.

Isabel's confidence in himhoweverwas greater than any he
could feel in her. Not that he thought her capable of committing
an atrocity; butturn it over as he wouldthere 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 otherunited 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 inconsequentand at this
she suddenly changed her note. "AhrememberI promise nothing-absolutely
nothing!" Then more softlyas 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
roomand she waited a moment to see whether her visitor would
not take his departure. But he appeared 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.

CHAPTER XVII

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 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" somethingand indeed the discovery demanded no great
penetration. She went straight up to her friendwho received her
without a greeting. Isabel's elation in having sent Caspar
Goodwood back to America 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 heredear?" 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 unflatteringbut 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 overturesshe 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?

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 goingIsabel Archer?"

Just now I'm going to bed,said Isabel with persistent
frivolity.

Do you know where you're drifting?Henrietta pursuedholding
out her bonnet delicately.

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 interferenceyet 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 meHenriettato 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.

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: "WellIsabelif
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 addedthat 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 Bedfordshireand if Isabel cared to look
out for her impressions in the Interviewer she would certainly
find them. Henrietta was evidently going to see something of the
inner life this time.

Do you know where you're drifting, Henrietta Stackpole?Isabel
askedimitating 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 penwiper!

She had arranged with her friend Miss Annie Climberthe young
lady of the continental offersthat 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
announcedand 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 maladythat 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.

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 twelveand 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 timesboth there and in London.
There's an express at two-forty-fivewhich I shall take; and
you'll come back with me or remain here a few days longerexactly
as you prefer."

I shall certainly go with you,Isabel returned. "I don't
suppose I can be of any use to my unclebut 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 himwhich 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 assurancebut 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. Thishoweverwas
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 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 anxiousbut at this he broke into a laugh.
Suddenlynone the lesshis 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 doesandwhatever
happenshe'll take care of Henrietta."

Ralph went to keep his appointment with Sir Matthew Hopeand
Isabel made her arrangements for quitting Pratt's Hotel. Her
uncle's danger touched her nearlyand while she stood before her
open trunklooking about her vaguely for what she should put
into itthe 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
howeverin the sitting-roomwhere she had just risen from her
luncheonand 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 itbut 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 cheerfulhe 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. Wellall I
want is that he should give me the facts; I can put them together
quick enoughonce I've got them." And she added that Mr.
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 Ralphwe 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 momentI'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 Squarehad repudiated his
suggestion that her motive in doing so was the expectation of a
visitor at Pratt's Hoteland it was a new pang to him to have to
suspect her of duplicity. On the other handhe quickly said to
himselfwhat concern was it of his that she should have made an

appointment with a lover? Had it not been 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 thatwith the views you expressed to me the
other daythis 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 exclamationit must be
confessedwas automatic; it failed exactly to express his
thoughtswhich were taking another line.

You don't say that as if you felt it. I don't believe you care.

Ah,said Ralphyou 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-"
wellI'd give up myself. I mean I'd give HER up!"

CHAPTER XVIII


It had occurred to Ralph thatin the conditionsIsabel's
parting with her friend might be of a slightly embarrassed
natureand he went down to the door of the hotel in advance of
his cousinwhoafter a slight delayfollowed with the traces
of an unaccepted remonstranceas he thoughtin 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.
Touchetthe learnedon reaching homehad been constantly with
the old man and was with him at that moment; and this fact made
Ralph say to himself thatafter allwhat his mother wanted was
just easy occasion. The finer natures were those that shone at
the larger times. Isabel went to her own roomnoting throughout
the house that perceptible hush which precedes a crisis. At the
end of an hourhowevershe came downstairs in search of her
auntwhom she wished to ask about Mr. Touchett. She went into
the librarybut Mrs. Touchett was not thereand as the weather
which had been damp and chillwas now altogether spoiledit 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
roomwhen 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 pianoand the musician was
therefore probably Ralphwho 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 wayalmost with restored
cheertoward the source of the harmony. The drawing-room at
Gardencourt was an apartment of great distancesandas the
piano was placed at the end of it furthest removed from the door
at which she enteredher 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 herselfthough 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--one of them her aunt's maid--of whom she
had had speech since her return. Isabel had already learned
howeverwith what treasures of reserve the function of receiving
orders may be accompaniedand she was particularly conscious of
having been treated with dryness by her aunt's maidthrough
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 whatbut recognised Schubert--and
she touched the piano with a discretion of her own. It showed
skillit 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 playerand rose
from her seat to do sowhile at the same time the stranger
turned quickly roundas if but just aware of her presence.

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
admithoweverthat 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 chordswhile Isabel
sat down nearer the instrument. Suddenly the new-comer stopped
with her hands on the keyshalf-turning and looking over her
shoulder. She was forty years old and not prettythough 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 longercasting 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 beforesoftly and
solemnlyand while she played the shadows deepened in the room.
The autumn twilight gathered inand from her place Isabel could
see the rainwhich had now begun in earnestwashing the
cold-looking lawn and the wind shaking the great trees. At last
when the music had ceasedher companion got up andcoming
nearer with a smilebefore Isabel had time to thank her again
said: "I'm very glad you've come back; I've heard a great deal
about you."

Isabel thought her a very attractive personbut 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 thenFrom your
uncle,she answered. "I've been here three daysand 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 notifiedfor 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 himand much light was 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 Isabelhoweverit 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.

On the contrary,said Mrs. Touchettwho 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 smilea
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 MerleI've great faults, but I don't
think that's one of then; 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.

Isabelas a dispassionate witnesshad not been struck with the
force of Mrs. Touchett's characterisation of her visitorwho had
an expressivecommunicativeresponsive faceby no means of the
sort whichto Isabel's mindsuggested a secretive disposition.
It was a face that told of an amplitude of nature and of quick
and free motions andthough it had no regular beautywas in the
highest degree engaging and attaching. Madame Merle was a tall
fairsmooth woman; everything in her person was round and
repletethough without those accumulations which suggest


heaviness. Her features were thick but in perfect proportion and
harmonyand her complexion had a healthy clearness. Her grey
eyes were small but full of light and incapable of stupidity-incapable
according to some peopleeven of tears; she had a
liberalfull-rimmed mouth which when she smiled drew itself
upward to the left side in a manner that most people thought very
oddsome very affected and a few very graceful. Isabel inclined
to range herself in the last category. Madame Merle had thick
fair hairarranged somehow "classically" and as if she were a
BustIsabel judged--a Juno or a Niobe; and large white handsof
a perfect shapea shape so perfect that their possessor
preferring to leave them unadornedwore no jewelled rings.
Isabel had taken her at firstas we have seenfor a Frenchwoman;
but extended observation might have ranked her as a German--a
German of high degreeperhaps an Austriana baronessa
countessa 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 floated
immediately over her cradleand 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
flutteredflapping quality of a morsel of bunting in the wind;
her manner expressed the repose and confidence which come from a
large experience. Experiencehoweverhad 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 reflexions while the three ladies sat at
their teabut that ceremony was interrupted before long by the
arrival of the great doctor from Londonwho 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
partedto 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 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 Ralphhis
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 Ralphwho 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 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.

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 quicklyapologising for being latefastening a
braceletdressed in dark blue satinwhich 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 conditionhoweverRalph had
other things to think about. The great doctor spent the night at
Gardencourt andreturning to London on the morrowafter another
consultation with Mr. Touchett's own medical adviserconcurred
in Ralph's desire that he should see the patient again on the day
following. On the day following Sir Matthew Hope reappeared at
Gardencourtand now took a less encouraging view of the old man
who had grown worse in the twenty-four hours. His feebleness was
extremeand to his sonwho constantly sat by his bedsideit


often seemed that his end must be at hand. The local doctora
very sagacious manin whom Ralph had secretly more confidence
than in his distinguished colleaguewas 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 herand 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 intelligentlybut when she went
to himhoping he would recognise herhe closed them and
relapsed into stupor. The day after thishoweverhe revived for
a longer time; but on this occasion Ralph only was with him. The
old man began to talkmuch to his son's satisfactionwho
assured him that they should presently have him sitting up.

No, my boy,said Mr. Touchettnot unless you bury me in a
sitting posture, as some of the ancients--was it the ancients?-used
to do.

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 timeand 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 chargehaving just relieved Mrs. Touchettwho had been
on guard since dinner. The room was lighted only by the
flickering firewhich of late had become necessaryand 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 thenI want to talk
a little,he went on.

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 RalphI 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 dyingbut 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 fatherperhaps as she grows older she'll need
a little help.

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 sonMy 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 irrelevanceit
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 portionjust 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.

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 RalphI 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 moneyand 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.

Ralph had foreseen what his father was coming toand 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 mancarrying his ingenuity
further stillwhat 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 startedmeeting 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.

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 Ralphcoming 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.

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 cousinsand 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.

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 Ralphwho 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 lastwith the air of a man
fairly mustering courageI take a great interest in my cousin,
he saidbut 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.

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 business. "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. Touchettlistening 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?

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 yoursand
you can easily give it to her yourself."

Ralph openly stared. "Ahdear fatherI 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.

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; "andto carry out the ideaI give you notice that I
shall be very sharpquite horrid and strangewith you."

The humour of this appeared to touch his fatherwho 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?

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 Ralphsmiling serenely.

Poor Mr. Touchett's acuteness was rapidly giving place to pure
confusion. "It would merely be a question of time thenher
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.


Well, you HAVE worked it out,said the old man helplessly. "You
do take an interest in hercertainly."

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 followand 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 declaredshe 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."

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 lastquite lucidlyhe 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 perplexityand his
perplexity now passed into admiration. "Wellyou 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 scandalousthe way I've taken advantage of
you!"


CHAPTER XIX

As Mrs. Touchett had foretoldIsabel and Madame Merle were
thrown much together during the illness of their hostso that if
they had not become intimate it would have been almost a breach
of good manners. Their manners were of the bestbut in addition
to this they happened to please each other. It is perhaps too
much to say that they swore an eternal friendshipbut tacitly at
least they called the future to witness. Isabel did so with a
perfectly good consciencethough 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 beenor ever could beintimate 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
innot to see--a matter of faithnot of experience. Experience
howevermight supply us with very creditable imitations of it
and the part of wisdom was to make the best of these. Certainly
on the wholeIsabel 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 tiresomethe 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 possessedbut there was all the greater reason for
their being carefully guarded. Afterwardshowevershe always
remembered that one should never regret a generous error and that
if Madame Merle had not the merits she attributed to herso much
the worse for Madame Merle. There was no doubt she had great
merits--she was charmingsympatheticintelligentcultivated.
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 raresuperior and
preeminent. There are many amiable people in the worldand
Madame Merle was far from being vulgarly 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
tooshe 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 talenther most perfect gift. Life had told upon her; she
had felt it stronglyand 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
seasily and quickly. Emotionit is truehad become with her
rather historic; she made no secret of the fact that the fount of
passionthanks to having been rather violently tapped at one
perioddidn't flow quite so freely as of yore. She proposed
moreoveras well as expectedto cease feeling; she freely
admitted that of old she had been a little madand now she
pretended to be perfectly sane.

I judge more than I used to,she said to Isabelbut 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 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 soldierstill 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 sayof almost everything Isabel told herOh, 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 Isabelthough by no means incapable of desiring to be
effectivehad 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 indoor conversations with
her fellow visitorand in spite of the rain the two ladies often
sallied forth for a walkequipped with the defensive apparatus
which the English climate and the English genius have between
them brought to such perfection. Madame Merle liked almost
everythingincluding 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 soundwas the national aromaand was most
agreeable to the nostril; and she used to lift the sleeve of her
British overcoat and bury her nose in itinhaling the clear
fine scent of the wool. Poor Ralph Touchettas soon as the
autumn had begun to define itselfbecame almost a prisoner; in
bad weather he was unable to step out of the houseand he used
sometimes to stand at one of the windows with his hands in his
pockets andfrom a countenance half-ruefulhalf-criticalwatch
Isabel and Madame Merle as they walked down the avenue under a
pair of umbrellas. The roads about Gardencourt were so firmeven
in the worst weatherthat the two ladies always came back with a
healthy glow in their cheekslooking at the soles of their neat
stout boots and declaring that their walk had done them
inexpressible good. Before luncheonalwaysMadame 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 wanderedas
by the wrong side of the wall of a private gardenround the
enclosed talentsaccomplishmentsaptitudes of Madame Merle. She
found herself desiring to emulate themand in twenty such ways
this lady presented herself as a model. "I should like awfully to
be so!" Isabel secretly exclaimedmore than onceas one after
another of her friend's fine aspects caught the lightand before
long she knew that she had learned a lesson from a high authority.
It took no great time indeed for her to feel herselfas the
phrase isunder 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. Thatno doubtI
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 to shine as because she
wished to hold up the lamp for Madame Merle. She liked her
extremelybut 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 thatshould the occasion offerher
new friend would strike off some happy view of her old: Madame
Merle was too humoroustoo observantnot to do justice to
Henriettaand 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
everythingand 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 suchwhen one
considered itwas simply the essence of the aristocratic
situation. In this lightif in none otherone should aim at the
aristocratic situation.

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 peoplebut 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 sceneshe had yet to Isabel's imagination a sort of
greatness. To be so cultivated and civilisedso wise and so
easyand still make so light of it--that was really to be a
great ladyespecially when one so carried and presented one's
self. It was as if somehow she had all society under
contributionand all the arts and graces it practised--or was
the effect rather that of charming uses found for hereven from
a distancesubtle service rendered by her to a clamorous world
wherever she might be? After breakfast she wrote a succession of
lettersas 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 to deposit
Madame Merle's offering to the mail. She knew more peopleas she
told Isabelthan she knew what to do withand something was
always turning up to be written about. Of painting she was
devotedly fondand 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 perceivedand it was evidence of the fact that when she
seated herself at the pianoas she always did in the evening
her listeners resigned themselves without a murmur to losing the
grace of her talk. Isabelsince she had known herfelt ashamed
of her own facilitywhich she now looked upon as basely inferior;
and indeedthough she had been thought rather a prodigy at home
the loss to society whenin taking her place upon the music-stool
she turned her back to the roomwas usually deemed greater than
the gain. When Madame Merle was neither writingnor painting
nor touching the pianoshe was usually employed upon wonderful


tasks of rich embroiderycushionscurtainsdecorations for the
chimneypiece; an art in which her boldfree invention was as
noted as the agility of her needle. She was never idlefor when
engaged in none of the ways I have mentioned she was either
reading (she appeared to Isabel to read "everything important")
or walking outor playing patience with the cardsor talking
with her fellow inmates. And with all this she had always the
social qualitywas 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 timeand appeared to impute scant
worth to anything she did. She gave away her sketches and
tapestries; she rose from the piano or remained thereaccording
to the convenience of her auditorswhich she always unerringly
divined. She was in short the most comfortableprofitable
amenable person to live with. If for Isabel she had a fault it
was that she was not natural; by which the girl meantnot that
she was either affected or pretentioussince from these vulgar
vices no woman could have been more exemptbut that her nature
had been too much overlaid by custom and her angles too much
rubbed away. She had become too flexibletoo usefulwas 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 the
fashion. Isabel found it difficult to think of her in any
detachment or privacyshe existed only in her relationsdirect
or indirectwith her fellow mortals. One might wonder what
commerce she could possibly hold with her own spirit. One always
endedhoweverby feeling that a charming surface doesn't
necessarily prove one superficial; this was an illusion in which
in one's youthone had but just escaped being nourished.
Madame Merle was not superficial--not she. She was deepand 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 pretendlike some
people I've metto 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.

I haven't always been happy,said Madame Merlesmiling still
but with a mock gravityas 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
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 oneand reminded her
more than once of this engagement. Madame Merlehoweverbegged
repeatedly for a respiteand at last frankly told her young
companion that they must wait till they knew each other better.
This would be sure to happena long friendship so visibly lay
before them. Isabel assentedbut 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 afraidon the contraryof 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 Isabeland exhibited the greatest interest in our
heroine's historysentimentsopinionsprospects. She made her
chatter and listened to her chatter with infinite good nature.
This flattered and quickened the girlwho was struck with all
the distinguished people her friend had known and with her having
livedas Mrs. Touchett saidin 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
going to Sweden to stay with an old friendand another of
proceeding to Malta to follow up a new acquaintance. With
Englandwhere she had often dweltshe 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 peoplewho
after all,as she was fond of sayingwere 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 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 imaginesor at least alludes tono
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 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 conversationit will be perceivedwas
enriched with boldfree touches of criticismwhicheven when
they had a restrictive effectnever 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 elapsedand
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 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. Youhoweverwill 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
outsideand 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


oldyou say? WellI amif you please; I was born before the
French Revolution. Ahmy dearje viens de loin; I belong to the
oldold world. But it's not of that I want to 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 childand it's ridiculousor rather it's scandalous
how little I know about that splendiddreadfulfunny country-surely
the greatest and drollest of them all. There are a great
many of us like that in these partsand 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 parasitescrawling 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 mehas no natural place anywhere; wherever she finds
herself she has to remain on the surface andmore or lessto
crawl. You protestmy 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 wholeI don't think you'll crawl. But the menthe
Americans; je vous demande un peuwhat 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 consumption; I say fortunatelybecause it
gives him something to do. His consumption's his carriere it's a
kind of position. You can say: 'OhMr. Touchetthe takes care
of his lungshe knows a great deal about climates.' But without
that who would he bewhat 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 identityand it's rather a massive one. He represents a
great financial houseand thatin our dayis as good as
anything else. For an Americanat any ratethat 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 snuffboxes. If he weren't illyou sayhe'd do
something?--he'd take his father's place in the house. My poor
childI doubt it; I don't think he's at all fond of the house.
Howeveryou know him better than Ithough I used to know him
rather welland he may have the benefit of the doubt. The worst
caseI thinkis a friend of minea countryman of ourswho
lives in Italy (where he 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 clevera man made
to be distinguished; butas I tell youyou exhaust the
description when you say he's Mr. Osmond who lives tout betement
in Italy. No careerno nameno positionno fortuneno past
no futureno anything. Oh yeshe paintsif you please--paints
in water-colours; like meonly better than I. His painting's
pretty bad; on the whole I'm rather glad of that. Fortunately
he's very indolentso indolent that it amounts to a sort of
position. He can say'OhI 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 herand 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 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 medieval 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 smalland Isabel had
been struck with the positivediscriminatingcompetent 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 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 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 momentI'm not afraid of him.

I hope not indeed,said Isabelwho added something about his
being the kindest creature living. She rememberedhoweverthat
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 themIsabel said to


herselfbut 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 hermade
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, 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 gentlyfor 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 stillto get through the
hoursthe yearsto 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--frankgeneroussincere 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 bebut 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 exclaimedthat I've never seen! But my
dreams were so great--so preposterous. Heaven forgive me, I'm
dreaming now!And she turned back to the piano and began grandly
to play. On the morrow she said to Isabel that her definition of
success had been very prettyyet frightfully sad. Measured in
that waywho had ever succeeded? The dreams of one's youthwhy
they were enchantingthey 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."

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 ofthen that was successand 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 recognise 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.


This was very metaphysical; not more sohoweverthan several
observations Madame Merle had already made. Isabel was fond of
metaphysicsbut 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 myselfbut I know that nothing else expresses me.
Nothing that belongs to me is any measure of me; everything's on
the contrary a limita barrierand a perfectly arbitrary one.
Certainly the clothes whichas you sayI choose to weardon'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 confessthough it may cast some discredit on the
sketch I have given of the youthful loyalty practised by our
heroine toward this accomplished womanthat Isabel had said
nothing whatever to her about Lord Warburton and had been equally
reticent on the subject of Caspar Goodwood. She had nothowever
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 ashad he
still been in the neighbourhoodhe would probably have felt
bound to make in person. He had excellent waysbut she felt sure
that if he had come to Gardencourt he would have seen Madame
Merleand 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 countyshe
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 perfectthough 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 creatureand I
should like to see you married to a prime minister. But speaking
strictlyyou knowyou'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 Isabelsimplyapparently 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 endas 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 againor 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 herandthough some women kiss
with facilitythere are kisses and kissesand this embrace was
satisfactory to Madame Merle. Our young ladyafter thiswas
much alone; she saw her aunt and cousin only at mealsand
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 apartmentsto which
access was not allowed even to her nieceapparently occupied
there with mysterious and inscrutable exercises. At table she was
grave and silent; but her solemnity was not an attitude--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 tearsno sighsno 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 everat any ratea 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 thoughtnot 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 Stackpolewith whom she was in regular
correspondence. Isabel liked her friend's private epistolary
style better than her public; that is she felt her public letters
would have been excellent if they had not been printed.
Henrietta's careerhoweverwas 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 Pensilfor mysterious reasonshad never
arrived; and poor Mr. Bantling himselfwith all his friendly
ingenuityhad 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 heartand 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 Republicbut
he thinks of going over to Paris anyway. I must say he's quite as
attentive as I could wishand at least I shall have seen one
polite Englishman. I keep telling Mr. Bantling that he ought to
have been an Americanand you should see how that pleases him.
Whenever I say so he always breaks out with the same exclamation-'
Ahbut reallycome now!" A few days later she wrote that she
had decided to go to Paris at the end of the week and that Mr.
Banding had promised to see her off--perhaps even would go as far
as Dover with her. She would wait in Paris till Isabel should
arriveHenrietta 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 Ralphwho followed with an emotion akin to suspense the career
of the representative of the sInterviewer.

It seems to me she's doing very well,he saidgoing 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
innocentyou'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!

Isabel was by no means sure of thisbut she abstained from
expressing further doubtfor 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-benchfrom which she looked out
into the dulldamp park; and as the library stood at right
angles to the entrance-front of the house she could see the
doctor's broughamwhich had been waiting for the last two hours
before the door. She was struck with his remaining so longbut
at last she saw him appear in the porticostand a moment slowly
drawing on his gloves and looking at the knees of his horseand
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 softslow 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 pocketsbut 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.

Do you mean that my uncle...?And Isabel stopped.

My dear father died an hour ago.

Ah, my poor Ralph!she gently wailedputting out her two hands
to him.


CHAPTER XX

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 observedsuspended between the dining-room windows
a largeneatwooden tableton 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 houseas
she ascended to the drawing-roomshe 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 recognised this fact. "He
has treated me most liberally she said; I won't say more
liberally than I expectedbecause I didn't expect. You know that
as a general thing I don't expect. But he choseI presumeto
recognise the fact that though I lived much abroad and mingled-you
may say freely--in foreign lifeI 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 sotooas 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 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
herdbut we have already learned of her having desires that had
never been satisfied. If she had been questionedshe 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 thatpoor man!"--with a fillip of her thumb and
her third finger. I hasten to addmoreoverthat 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 gains 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 sincebut 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. Ralphof course
has Gardencourt; but I'm not sure that he'll have means to keep
up the place. He's naturally left very well offbut his father
has given away an immense deal of money; there are bequests to a
string of third cousins in Vermont. Ralphhoweveris 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
themstill claspedand held them a moment against her bosom
while her eyesa little dilatedfixed 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?"

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 friendIsabel
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 Merlethose 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."

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 silenceWhat 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?

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 momenther 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 thoughtas she appearedthat 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
Merlewho went forwardlaid her hand on our heroine's shoulder
andafter looking at her a momentkissed her as if she were
returning the kiss she had received from her at Gardencourt. This
was the only allusion the visitorin her great good tastemade
for the present to her young friend's inheritance.

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 abodeshe 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 niecewho 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 meanslooking 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 doand 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 wasfor a delicate young personrather
gracefulbutafter allas Isabel said to herselfthere was a
larger grace than that. Just nowit is truethere 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 widowhood compelled them to
spend together. The acquisition of power made her serious; she
scrutinised her power with a kind of tender ferocitybut 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 Paristhough 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 worldand that were prescribed
unreservedly by the guidance of Mrs. Touchettwho 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 thingsbut 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 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 waybut what does it lead to?" she was pleased to ask. "It
doesn't seem to lead to anythingand 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 Parisand Isabel
constantly saw her; so that Mrs. Touchett had some reason for
saying to herself that if her niece were not clever enough to
originate almost anythingshe 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. Lucean 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 yesI'm one of the
romantics;" her French had never become quite perfect. She was
always at home on Sunday afternoons and surrounded by sympathetic
compatriotsusually the same. In fact she was at home at all
timesand reproduced with wondrous truth in her well-cushioned
little corner of the brilliant citythe domestic tone of her
native Baltimore. This reduced Mr. Luceher worthy husbanda
tallleangrizzledwell-brushed gentleman who wore a gold
eye-glass and carried his hat a little too much on the back of
his headto 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'swhere he found 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 Elyseesand he dined uncommonly well at
his own tableseated 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 Anglaiswhere 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 pastimesbut they had beguiled his hours for upwards of
half a centuryand they doubtless justified his frequent
declaration that there was no place like Paris. In no other
placeon these termscould Mr. Luce flatter himself that he was
enjoying life. There was nothing like Parisbut 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 omittedfor 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--conservativeand gave no countenance to
the government lately established in France. He had no faith in
its duration and would assure you from year to year that its end
was close at hand. "They want to be kept downsirto 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.

Whymadamsitting in the Champs Elyseesopposite to the
Palace of IndustryI'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 talkingthe style's all gone. Napoleon knew
what the French people wantand there'll be a dark cloud over
Parisour Paristill 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
in Parisliving there under the eye of his father whoas it
happenedhad 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 ownwarranted 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 mindfor
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 sentimentsas when Edward told her that
he was "defended" by his bonne to go near the 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
youthwith what are called cultivated tastes--an acquaintance
with old chinawith good winewith the bindings of bookswith
the Almanach de Gothawith the best shopsthe best hotelsthe
hours of railway-trains. He could order a dinner almost as well
as Mr. Luceand 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 Parisdecorated
with old Spanish altar-lacethe envy of his female friendswho
declared that his chimney-piece was better draped than the high
shoulders of many a duchess. He usuallyhoweverspent a part of
every winter at Pauand had once passed a couple of months in the
United States.

He took a great interest in Isabel and remembered perfectly the
walk at Neufchatelwhen she would persist in going so near the
edge. He seemed to recognise this same tendency in the subversive
enquiry that I quoted a moment agoand set himself to answer our
heroine's question with greater urbanity than it perhaps
deserved. "What does it lead toMiss 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?
Wellhow 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 roadMiss Archer; I like the dear old asphalte. You can't
get tired of it--you can't if you try. You think you wouldbut
you wouldn't; there's always something new and fresh. Take the
Hotel Drouotnow; 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 tooif you know
the right places. I know plenty of placesbut I keep them to
myself. I'll tell youif you likeas 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 don't believe
any one knows Paris better than I. You and Mrs. Touchett must come
and breakfast with me some dayand 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-roomQueen 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 Iso 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? AhMiss Archeryou
overrate me. I can buy very wellbut 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 bethe people who make ME buy! Ah no; I
couldn't be a shopkeeper. I can't 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
difficultin 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 Stackpolewho was often with her friend when Mr.
Rosiercoming to pay his compliments late in the afternoon
expressed himself after the fashion I have sketchedusually
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
howeverwas at this time more than ever addicted to fine
criticismfor 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 assertedI'd have said to him 'Never!

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 toilingstriving
sufferingI may even say sinningworld 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."

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 Henriettayou 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 saidmust be one of those
occasions!

It was certainly true that Miss Stackpoleduring her visit to
Pariswhich had been professionally more remunerative than her
English sojournhad not been living in the world of dreams. Mr.
Bantlingwho had now returned to Englandwas 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 Henriettaowing to the gentleman's
remarkable knowledge of Paris. He had explained everythingshown
her everythingbeen her constant guide and interpreter. They had
breakfasted togetherdined togethergone to the theatre
togethersupped togetherreally in a manner quite lived
together. He was a true friendHenrietta 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 whybut 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 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--wasif subtly analysed (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. Bantlingwho was of rather a slow
and a discursive habitrelished a promptkeenpositive woman
who charmed him by the influence of a shiningchallenging eye
and a kind of bandbox freshnessand who kindled a perception of
raciness in a mind to which the usual fare of life seemed
unsalted. Henriettaon the other handenjoyed the society of a
gentleman who appeared somehowin his waymadeby expensive
roundaboutalmost "quaint" processesfor her useand whose
leisured statethough generally indefensiblewas a decided
boon to a breathless mateand who was furnished with an easy
traditionalthough by no means exhaustiveanswer to almost any
social or practical question that could come up. She often found
Mr. Bantling's answers very convenientand in the press of
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 retorthad warned her. There might
be danger in store for Isabel; but it was scarcely to be hoped
that Miss Stackpoleon her sidewould 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 sometimeson our heroine's lips
an object of irreverent and facetious allusion. Nothinghowever
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 heras previously
for opprobrium. Thena few moments latershe 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: "OhI 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 of Indian summeronly 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.

CHAPTER XXI

Mrs. Touchettbefore arriving in Parishad 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 Remoon the Italian shore of the Mediterraneanhad
been spending a dullbright winter beneath a slow-moving white
umbrella. Isabel went with her aunt as a matter of coursethough
Mrs. Touchettwith homelycustomary logichad 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 criticised 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 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 auntbecausein spite
of eccentric impulsesshe had a great regard for what was usually
deemed decentand 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 Albanywhen she sat in her
damp waterproof and sketched the opportunities that Europe would
offer to a young person of taste. Thishoweverwas in a great
measure the girl's own fault; she had got a glimpse of her aunt's


experienceand her imagination constantly anticipated the
judgements and emotions of a woman who had very little of the same
faculty. Apart from thisMrs. 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 presentbut 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
hadas it wereso little surface--offered so limited a face to
the accretions of human contact. Nothing tendernothing
sympathetichad ever had a chance to fasten upon it--no
wind-sown blossomno familiar softening moss. Her offeredher
passive extentin other wordswas 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 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 letterbut that I've hesitated on the
whole to write about. Face to faceneverthelessmy 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 girlyou did know.

Yes; he told me. We even talked it over a little.What did he
do it for?asked Isabel abruptly. "Whyas a kind of compliment."

A compliment on what?

On your so beautifully existing.

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 coarselyIf 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."

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
pausedsmiling; Isabel had listened quickly. "You've too much power
of thought--above all too much conscience Ralph added. It's out
of all reasonthe 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 eagerlyas I say; and it was her nature to
understand quickly. "I wonder if you appreciate what you say. If
you doyou take a great responsibility."

You frighten me a little, but I think I'm right,said Ralph
persisting in cheer.

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 usas 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. "YesI'm afraid; I can't tell


you. A large fortune means freedomand I'm afraid of that. It's
such a fine thingand 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.

Ah,Ralph answered with a flush that the girl noticedif you
are I'm awfully sold!

The charm of the Mediterranean coast only deepened for our heroine
on acquaintancefor it was the threshold of Italythe gate of
admirations. Italyas yet imperfectly seen and feltstretched
before her as a land of promisea 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 seawith longing eyes
to where she knew that Genoa lay. She was glad to pausehowever
on the edge of this larger adventure; there was such a thrill even
in the preliminary hovering. It affected her moreover as a peaceful
interludeas a hush of the drum and fife in a career which she
had little warrant as yet for regarding as agitatedbut which
nevertheless she was constantly picturing to herself by the light
of her hopesher fearsher fanciesher ambitionsher
predilectionsand 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 justified
as it had so often justified beforethat lady's perspicacity.
Ralph Touchett had praised his cousin for being morally
inflammablethat 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 herselfand 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 richindependent
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 importancegave
her evento her own imaginationa certain ideal beauty. What it
did for her in the imagination of others is another affairand
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 timesas she
listened to the murmur of the Mediterranean wavesher glance
took a backward flight. It rested upon two figures whichin
spite of increasing distancewere still sufficiently salient;
they were recognisable without 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 needwith an effortbut 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 speakingeither to Caspar Goodwood or to Lord
Warburtonand 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 halfand 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 soshe had
not the smallest belief that this merit would attract him. But
she reflected that she herself might know the humiliation of
changemight reallyfor that mattercome 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 orderand 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 notas
it may seemmerely a theory tinged with sarcasm. Isabel candidly
believed that his lordship wouldin the usual phraseget over
his disappointment. He had been deeply affected--this she
believedand 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. Englishmen liked moreover to be comfortablesaid
Isabeland there could be little comfort for Lord Warburtonin
the long runin brooding over a self-sufficient American girl
who had been but a casual acquaintance. She flattered herself
thatshould she hear from one day to another that he had married
some young woman of his own country who had done more to deserve
himshe 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.

CHAPTER XXII

On one of the first days of Maysome six months after old Mr.
Touchett's deatha 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 longrather
blank-looking structurewith the far-projecting roof which
Tuscany loves and whichon the hills that encircle Florence
when considered from a distancemakes so harmonious a rectangle
with the straightdarkdefinite cypresses that usually rise in
groups of three or four beside it. The house had a front upon a
little grassyemptyrural piazza which occupied a part of the
hill-top; and this frontpierced 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 Italyfor some reason or otheralways gracefully


invests any one who confidently assumes a perfectly passive
attitude--this antiquesolidweather-wornyet imposing front
had a somewhat incommunicative character. It was the masknot
the face of the house. It had heavy lidsbut no eyes; the house
in reality looked another way--looked off behindinto 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 Arnohazy with Italian colour. It had a narrow gardenin
the manner of a terraceproductive chiefly of tangles of wild
roses and other old stone benchesmossy and sun-warmed. The
parapet of the terrace was just the height to lean uponand
beneath it the ground declined into the vagueness of olive-crops
and vineyards. It is nothoweverwith 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-flooras you saw them from the piazza
werein their noble proportionsextremely architectural; but
their function seemed less to offer communication with the world
than to defy the world to look in. They were massively
cross-barredand placed at such a height that curiosityeven on
tiptoeexpired 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 resident
in Florence--a gentleman was seated in company with a young girl
and two good sisters from a religious house. The room was
howeverless sombre than our indications may have represented
for it had a widehigh doorwhich 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 easeindeed of luxurytelling of
arrangements subtly studied and refinements frankly proclaimed
and containing a variety of those faded hangings of damask and
tapestrythose chests and cabinets of carved and time-polished
oakthose angular specimens of pictorial art in frames as
pedantically primitivethose perverse-looking relics of medieval
brass and potteryof 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 newspapersand a few smalloddelaborate
pictureschiefly in water-colour. One of these productions stood
on a drawing-room easel before whichat the moment we begin to
be concerned with herthe 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 plainample
mild-featured womenwith 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 thema person of a certain agein spectacleswith a
fresh complexion and a full cheekhad a more discriminating
manner than her colleagueas well as the responsibility of their
errandwhich 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 gowntoo short for her
yearsthough 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 functionit being
in its way as arduous to converse with the very meek as with the
very mighty. At the same time he was clearly much occupied with
their quiet chargeand while she turned her back to him his eyes
rested gravely on her slimsmall figure. He was a man of forty
with a high but well-shaped headon which the hairstill dense
but prematurely grizzledhad been cropped close. He had a fine
narrowextremely modelled and composed faceof 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 beardcut in the manner of the portraits of
the sixteenth century and surmounted by a fair moustacheof
which the ends had a romantic upward flourishgave its wearer a
foreigntraditionary look and suggested that he was a gentleman
who studied style. His consciouscurious eyeshowevereyes at
once vague and penetratingintelligent and hardexpressive of
the observer as well as of the dreamerwould have assured you
that he studied it only within well-chosen limitsand 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 suggestedfine gold coin as he wasno stamp nor 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 lightleanrather 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 of the young
girl. He used the Italian tongueand 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 smallfair 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 sisterblushing a little. "Ce n'est
pas ma partie. I teach nothing; I leave that to those who
are wiser. We've an excellent drawing-masterMr.--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 Germanand we've had him many
years."


The young girlwho was not heeding the conversationhad
wandered away to the open door of the large room and stood
looking into the garden. "And youmy sisterare French said
the gentleman.

Yessir the visitor gently replied. I speak to the pupils in
my own tongue. I know no other. But we have sisters of other
countries--EnglishGermanIrish. 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 thenas he saw that his
visitors suspected a jokethough 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."

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 entertainerglancing at his daughterremarked
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 saidno particular reason why
my child should be short.

The nun gave a temperate shrugas 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 sweetsmall 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 Itrulyma
mere?"

Obey monsieur your father, my child,said the sisterblushing
again.

The childsatisfied with this authorisationdescended 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 grantedbut 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 rejoinedgazing
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. "Yesand what
else?"

He watched the lady from the conventprobably 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 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 companionafter
fumbling a momentpresently 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 tearsbut
in the tone of a man saying what was most agreeable to himself.
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
usedit is not I who wish to take her away. I wish you could
keep her always!

Ah, monsieur,said the elder sistersmiling 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 enquiredrising also.

This was a question of a wider bearing than the good woman
apparently supposed; and the lady in spectacles took a


harmonising 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 answerand
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 whitethe other
red.

I give you your choice, mamman Catherine,said the child.
It's only the colour that's different, mamman Justine; there are
just as many roses in one bunch as in the other.

The two sisters turned to each othersmiling and hesitating
with "Which will you take?" and "Noit's for you to choose."

I'll take the red, thank you,said 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
vows garde, ma fine.

Their hostwhile they exchanged kisses with his daughterwent
forward to open the door through which they were to pass; but as
he did so he gave a slight exclamationand stood looking beyond.
The door opened into a vaulted ante-chamberas high as a chapel
and paved with red tiles; and into this antechamber a lady had
just been admitted by a servanta lad in shabby liverywho was
now ushering her toward the apartment in which our friends were
grouped. The gentleman at the doorafter dropping his
exclamationremained 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 pupilwho was coming forwardbetween themwith a hand in
the arm of each. At the sight of the new visitor they all paused
and the ladywho had also stoppedstood looking at them. The
young girl gave a little soft cry: "AhMadame Merle!"


The visitor had been slightly startledbut her manner the next
instant was none the less gracious. "Yesit's Madame Merlecome
to welcome you home." And she held out two hands to the girlwho
immediately came up to herpresenting 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 obeisancebut permitted themselves no direct
scrutiny of this imposingbrilliant womanwho 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 sistersstanding with their hands folded into their
sleevesaccepted 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 oncePansy Madame Merle declared. Am I
not your great friend in Rome?"

I remember the last time best,said Pansybecause you told me
I should come away.

Did you tell her that?the child's father asked.

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 quietbut as from habit rather than
from any definite need. Madame Merle looked about herchoosing
her seat. "You're going to the door with these women? Let me of
course not interrupt the ceremony. Je vous saluemesdames
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
judgementand 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
Merlebut also as in pleasantry. "I believe you've a very good
schoolbut Miss Osmond's friends 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 murmuredglancing
at Pansywho stoodat a little distanceattentive 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 youpapa?"

Papa gave a quicklight laugh. "That doesn't prevent it! I'm of
the worldPansy."

Kindly permit us to retire,said sister Catherine. "Be good and
wise and happy in any casemy daughter."

I shall certainly come back and see you,Pansy returned
recommencing her embraceswhich were presently interrupted by
Madame Merle.

Stay with me, dear child,she saidwhile your father takes
the good ladies to the door.

Pansy stareddisappointedyet not protesting. She was evidently
impregnated with the idea of submissionwhich was due to any one
who took the tone of authority; and she was a passive spectator
of the operation of her fate. "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
Merlewhile Mr. Osmond and his companionswho had bowed low
again to the other visitorpassed into the ante-chamber.

Oh yes, I'll stay,Pansy answered; and she stood near Madame
Merlesurrendering her little handwhich 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 boastfulnessas if she had been speaking of her
piano-playing. And then she gave a faintjust audible sigh.

Madame Merleholding her handdrew it across her own fine palm
and looked at it. The gaze was criticalbut 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.

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
whichlooking at her a momentShall 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
Merleyou'll have another mother.

I don't think that's necessary,Pansy saidrepeating her
little soft conciliatory sigh. "I had more than thirty mothers at
the convent."

Her father's step sounded again in the antechamberand Madame
Merle got upreleasing the child. Mr. Osmond came in and closed
the door; thenwithout looking at Madame Merlehe pushed one or
two chairs back into their places. His visitor waited a moment
for him to speakwatching him as he moved about. Then at 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 MerleI 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. Presentlyhoweverhe 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 momentglancing at Madame Merle. "I asked her
to stay with me said this lady, who had seated herself again in
another place.

Ahthat 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.

You needn't tell that to every onemy 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 downdeferentiallynear the
open doorwithin sight of the gardeninto which she directed


her innocentwistful 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.

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'thowevermake 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
appearanceone's movementsone's engagementsone'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 gardenmignonneand 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 fro, 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 selfishwhat 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 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. Osmondin his walkhad 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 Osmondcoming
toward her. "There are some points in which my confidence in you
is complete. I'm perfectly awarefor instancethat 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 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
foolishOsmond. No one knows better than you what IS worth an
effort. Haven't I seen you in old days?"

I recognise 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.

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 silenceappearing 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.

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 personson first meeting at
any junctureand especially when they met in the presence of
otherswas something indirect and circumspectas 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-possession she
would have wished to wear for her host. The point to be made is
howeverthat at a certain moment the element between them
whatever it wasalways 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 youand 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 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 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 longerthen 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 cabinetspictures
tapestriessurfaces 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.

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. Osmondin return for this complimentsimply 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.

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 he 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 meditationI don't understand
your ambitions.

I think you'll understand this one after you've seen Miss
Archer. Suspend your judgement.Madame Merleas she spokehad
drawn near the open door of the gardenwhere 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.

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.

CHAPTER XXIII

Madame Merlewho 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; makinghoweverno 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 Italyas in Englandthe lady had a
multitude of friendsboth 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 courseshe
saidIsabel 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--wellin Europe
simply. He was altogether above the respectable average; quite
another affair. He wasn't a professional charmer--far from it
and the effect 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 onesaved only by his looking at such hours
rather like a demoralised 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 dependin himas in so many peopleon 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 Merlehoweverthought she could undertake
that for Isabel he would be brilliant. He was easily boredtoo
easilyand 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 Osmondwho 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 plungeat Gardencourtinto
the deeps of talkand wondered a little what was the nature of
the tie binding these superior spirits. She felt that Madame
Merle's ties always somehow had historiesand such an impression
was part of the interest created by this inordinate woman. As
regards her relations with Mr. Osmondhowevershe 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 possibleso
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 alarmedfor 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 lessby the beautiful city of Florencewhich pleased
her not less than 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 esthetic illuminationfor 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 artdiffering 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 went to the


galleries and palaces; she looked at the pictures and statues
that had hitherto been great names to herand 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 whichon a first visit to Italyyouth
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 returnevery daywas even pleasanter than the going
forth; the return into the widemonumental court of the great
house in which Mrs. Touchettmany years beforehad established
herselfand into the highcool 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 medieval 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 Isabelto hold to her ear all day a shell of the sea of the
past. This vague eternal rumour kept her imagination awake.

Gilbert Osmond came to see Madame Merlewho 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 presentand these two had itfor the
effect of brilliancyall their own way. They talked of the
Florentinethe Romanthe cosmopolite worldand 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 stagebut 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. Besidesshe had little skill in producing an impression
which she knew to be expected: nothing could be happierin
generalthan to seem dazzlingbut she had a perverse
unwillingness to glitter by arrangement. Mr. Osmondto do him
justicehad a well-bred air of expecting nothinga quiet ease
that covered everythingeven the first show of his own wit.
This was the more grateful as his facehis headwas sensitive;
he was not handsomebut he was fineas 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 thatwith its
clearnessit yet somehow wasn't sweet. This had had really to do
with making her abstain from interference. His utterance was the
vibration of glassand 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 saidconsents 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 embarrassmentleaving his sentence


unfinished. "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 charmingmy dear; you were just as one would have
wished you. You're never disappointing."

A rebuke might possibly have been irritatingthough it is much
more probable that Isabel would have taken it in good part; but
strange to saythe 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 flushedbut we know it was not her
habit to retract. "My dear childI didn't speak for himpoor
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."

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. Osmondit
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 trialsbut she flattered herself she
had learned to make allowance for that.

Do I know him?said her cousin. "OhyesI 'know' him; not
wellbut on the whole enough. I've never cultivated his society
and he apparently has never found mine indispensable to his
happiness. Who is hewhat is he? He's a vagueunexplained
American who has been living these thirty yearsor lessin
Italy. Why do I call him unexplained? Only as a cover for my
ignorance; I don't know his antecedentshis familyhis origin.
For all I do know he may be a prince in disguise; he rather looks
like oneby 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 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 incomewhich 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 wifeand I believe he has a daughter. He also has a sister
who's married to some small Count or otherof these parts; I
remember meeting her of old. She's nicer than heI 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 personalities. Don't mind anything
any one tells you about any one else. Judge everyone 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 addedand 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."

Isabel said no more about Mr. Osmondbut 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 meanbut if you've any grounds for disliking
her I think you should either mention them frankly or else say
nothing at all."

Ralphhoweverresented 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.

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 spiritif it
lurked in his wordsfailed 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.

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 Ralphshe's the great round world itself!

It had certainly notas Isabel for the moment took it into her
head to believebeen a refinement of malice in him to say that
he delighted in Madame Merle. Ralph Touchett took his refreshment
wherever he could find itand he would not have forgiven himself
if he had been left wholly unbeguiled by such a mistress of the
social art. There are deep-lying sympathies and antipathiesand
it may have been thatin spite of the administered justice she
enjoyed at his handsher absence from his mother's house would


not have made life barren to him. But Ralph Touchett had learned
more or less inscrutably to attendand there could have been
nothing so "sustained" to attend to as the general performance of
Madame Merle. He tasted her in sipshe let her standwith an
opportuneness she herself could not have surpassed. There were
moments when he felt almost sorry for her; and theseoddly
enoughwere 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 trainingbut had won
none of the prizes. She was always plain Madame Merlethe widow
of a Swiss negociantwith a small income and a large acquaintance
who stayed with people a great deal and was almost as universally
likedas 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 had given due
consideration to Isabel's intimacy with her eminent friend
having long since made up his mind that he could notwithout
oppositionkeep his cousin to himself; and he made the best of
itas 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 supposedand
when each had made an important discovery or two there would be
if not a ruptureat least a relaxation. Meanwhile he was quite
willing to admit that the conversation of the elder lady was an
advantage to the youngerwho 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.

CHAPTER XXIV

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 Gatebeneath the
enormous blank superstructure which crowns the fine clear arch of
that portal and makes it nakedly impressiveand wound between
high-walled lanes into which the wealth of blossoming orchards
over-drooped and flung a fragranceuntil they reached the small
superurban piazzaof crooked shapewhere the long brown wall
of the villa occupied in part by Mr. Osmond formed a principal
or at least a very imposingobject. Isabel went with her friend
through a widehigh courtwhere a clear shadow rested below and
a pair of light-arched galleriesfacing each other abovecaught
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 ifonce you were in
you would need an act of energy to get out. For Isabelhowever
there was of course as yet no thought of getting outbut only of
advancing. Mr. Osmond met her in the cold ante-chamber--it was
cold even in the month of May--and ushered herwith her
conductressinto the apartment to which we have already been
introduced. Madame Merle was in frontand while Isabel lingered
a littletalking with himshe went forward familiarly and
greeted two persons who were seated in the saloon. One of these


was little Pansyon whom she bestowed a kiss; the other was a
lady whom Mr. Osmond indicated to Isabel as his sisterthe
Countess Gemini. "And that's my little girl he said, who has
just come out of her convent."

Pansy had on a scant white dressand 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 prettyhaving
features that suggested some tropical bird--a long beak-like nose
smallquickly-moving eyes and a mouth and chin that receded
extremely. Her expressionhoweverthanks to various intensities
of emphasis and wonderof horror and joywas not inhumanand
as regards her appearanceit was plain she understood herself
and made the most of her points. Her attirevoluminous and
delicatebristling with elegancehad the look of shimmering
plumageand her attitudes were as light and sudden as those of a
creature who perched upon twigs. She had a great deal of manner;
Isabelwho 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 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 ondirectly addressing Isabelthat 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
pecksof roulades of shrillnessand in an accent that was as
some fond recall of good Englishor rather of good Americanin
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 returnedlooking
about her. "Everything seems to me beautiful and precious."

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 awkwardlysmiling 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
conventwhoin her prim white dresswith her small submissive
face and her hands locked before herstood there as if she were
about to partake of her first communioneven Mr. Osmond's
diminutive daughter had a kind of finish that was not entirely
artless.

You'd have liked a few things from the Uffzi 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. "Won't you have some tea?--you must be very
tired he at last bethought himself of remarking.

No indeedI'm not tired; what have I done to tire me?" Isabel
felt a certain need of being very directof pretending to
nothing; there was something in the airin her general impression
of things--she could hardly have said what it was--that deprived
her of all disposition to put herself forward. The placethe
occasionthe combination of peoplesignified 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 himselfhad invited hera young lady not lavish
of her favoursto 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 observantand for the moment
we judgeshe was not rendered more indulgentby perceiving that
Mr. Osmond carried his burden less complacently than might have
been expected. "What a fool I was to 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 goodbut the nuns do. Don't you see what I mean?"
she went onappealing to Isabel.

Isabel was not sure she sawand she answered that she was very
bad at following arguments. The Countess then declared that she
herself detested argumentsbut 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 everythingof 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
reasonsdon't you know? And then there are very bad feelings
sometimesthat have good reasons. Don't you see what I mean? I
don't care anything about reasonsbut I know what I like."

Ah, that's the great thing,said Isabelsmiling 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 itand
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
kneesleaning against him while he passed his arm round her
slimness. The child fixed her eyes on Isabel with a still
disinterested gaze which seemed void of an intentionyet
conscious of an attraction. Mr. Osmond talked of many things;
Madame Merle had said he could be agreeable when he choseand
to-dayafter a littlehe appeared not only to have chosen but
to have determined. Madame Merle and the Countess Gemini sat a
little apartconversing in the effortless manner of persons who
knew each other well enough to take their ease; but every now and
then Isabel heard the Countessat something said by her
companionplunge 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 Florenceof Italyof 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
realise,as they saidon their sensibility: they could keep it
about them therein their povertywithout ridiculeas 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. Certain
impressions you could get only there. Othersfavourable to life
you never gotand you got some that were very bad. But from time
to time you got one of a quality that made up for everything.
Italyall the samehad 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 characterdidn't cultivate in youotherwise 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 timesand 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 attachmentsto permit myself to feel attractions. You mean
to stay--to settle? That would be really comfortable. Ah yesyour
aunt's a sort of 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 Savonarolaand 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; littledry
definite faces that must have had a good deal of expressionbut
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 aunteh? I've an idea you don't. Perhaps you
think that's even worse. I assure you there's no want of respect
in itto 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
Merlewho met her eyes with an inattentive smile in whichon
this occasionthere was no infelicitous intimation that our
heroine appeared to advantage. Madame Merle eventually proposed
to the Countess Gemini that they should go into the gardenand
the Countessrising and shaking out her feathersbegan to
rustle toward the door. "Poor Miss Archer!" she exclaimed
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 answeredwith a laugh which
though it had something of a mocking ringhad 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 thenyou 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 Isabelwho had risen to her feet.

The Countess assumed for an instant an attitude of intense
meditationpressing one of her handswith the finger-tips
gathered togetherto 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 Merlepassing her arm into the
Countess Gemini's as if to guide her course to the gardenMr.
Osmond's never so historical.

Oh you,the Countess answered as they moved awayyou 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 roomhis hands in the pockets of his jacket and his
daughterwho 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 waitedwith a certain unuttered
contentednessto have her movements directed; she liked Mr.
Osmond's talkhis company: she had what always gave her a very
private thrillthe 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
turnedand 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 to her
abruptly: "Miss Archerwhat do you think of my sister?"

She faced him with some surprise. "Ahdon'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 freshunprejudiced 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 noticein
futureif you have a chance. I sometimes think we've got into a
rather bad wayliving off here among things and people not our
ownwithout responsibilities or attachmentswith nothing to
hold us together or keep us up; marrying foreignersforming
artificial tastesplaying tricks with our natural mission. Let
me addthoughthat 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 unhappyand 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 husbandthough I'm not sure she makes the best
of him. Of coursehowevera horrid husband's an awkward thing.
Madame Merle gives her excellent advicebut it's a good deal
like giving a child a dictionary to learn a language with. He can
look out the wordsbut he can't put them together. My sister
needs a grammarbut 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 picturecarried it toward the windowrelated
some curious facts about it. She looked at the other works of
artand he gave her such further information as might appear
most acceptable to a young lady making a call on a summer
afternoon. His pictureshis medallions and tapestries were
interesting; but after a while Isabel felt the owner much more
soand independently of themthickly 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 wererelatively speakingoriginal-original
as one might sayby courtesy such as Mr. Goodwoodas
her cousin Ralphas Henrietta Stackpoleas Lord Warburtonas
Madame Merle. But in essentialswhen 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 recognised
all these truths at the hourbut they were falling into order


before her. For the moment she only said to herself that this
new relationwould perhaps prove her very most distinguished.
Madame Merle had had that note of raritybut what quite other
power it immediately gained when sounded by a man! It was not so
much what he said and didbut rather what he withheldthat
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 usagehe was an original without being
an eccentric. She had never met a person of so fine a grain. The
peculiarity was physicalto begin withand it extended to
impalpabilities. His densedelicate hairhis overdrawn
retouched featureshis clear complexionripe without being
coarsethe very evenness of the growth of his beardand that
lightsmooth 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 woman
as signs of qualityof intensitysomehow 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 himselfin a sortedsifted
arranged worldthinking about art and beauty and history. He had
consulted his taste in everything--his taste alone perhapsas 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 qualitythis appearance of thinking
that life was a matter of connoisseurship; but in Ralph it was an
anomalya kind of humorous excrescencewhereas in Mr. Osmond it
was the keynoteand 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
paradoxintended 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
harmonywhat then was the finish of the capital? And she could
put this question in spite of so feeling her host a shy
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 othersand
exacting a good deal of othersto think them agreeableprobably
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 gradualsubtle
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 Geminithat 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 roomsbeyond the one in which she had been
receivedequally full of romantic objectsand in these
apartments Isabel spent a quarter of an hour. Everything was in
the last degree curious and preciousand 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 friendwho 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 eyesbut was not thinking of what he told her. He
probably thought her quickercleverer in every waymore
preparedthan she was. Madame Merle would have pleasantly
exaggerated; which was a pitybecause in the end he would be
sure to find outand 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 herand 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 enlightenmentwould think she oughtn't to like;
or to 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) serenelyyet
ignoblyflounder. She was very careful therefore as to what she
saidas to what she noticed or failed to notice; more careful
than she had ever been before.

They came back into the first of the roomswhere the tea had
been served; but as the two other ladies were still on the
terraceand as Isabel had not yet been made acquainted with the
viewthe paramount distinction of the placeMr. Osmond directed
her steps into the garden without more delay. Madame Merle and
the Countess had had chairs brought outand 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 lowthe golden light took a
deeper toneand 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 stilland the large expanse
of the landscapewith its garden-like culture and nobleness of
outlineits teeming valley and delicately-fretted hillsits
peculiarly human-looking touches of habitationlay 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.

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 deliberatelyand 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 slowlywith
short pauses betweenand 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?

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 affairhoweverand 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 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 inclinationhoweverto 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!"

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 beautifullyshe's a little saint of
heaven! She is my great happiness!

CHAPTER XXV

While this sufficiently intimate colloquy (prolonged for some
time after we cease to follow it) went forward Madame Merle and
her companionbreaking a silence of some durationhad begun to
exchange remarks. They were sitting in an attitude of unexpressed
expectancy; an attitude especially marked on the part of the
Countess Geminiwhobeing of a more nervous temperament than
her friendpractised 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-teteand the Countess waited because
Madame Merle did. The Countessmoreoverby waitingfound 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 gardento which point her eyes followed
them.

My dear,she then observed to her companionyou'll excuse me
if I don't congratulate you!

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
gravelyyet 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.

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 Countessand 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 Countessis perhaps the best thing
that could happen to her!

Madame Merle said nothing for some time. The Countess's manner
was odiouswas really low; but it was an old storyand 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."

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 radiantlyif 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 murmuredI 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. "Ahyou ARE dangerous--even by yourself!"

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 parapetfacing herhis arms
folded; and she at present was evidently not lost in the mere
impersonal viewpersistently as she gazed at it. As Madame Merle
watched her she lowered her eyes; she was listeningpossibly
with a certain embarrassmentwhile she pressed the point of her
parasol into the path. Madame Merle rose from her chair. "YesI
think so!" she pronounced.

The shabby footboysummoned by Pansy--he mighttarnished as
to livery and quaint as to typehave issued from some stray
sketch of old-time mannersbeen "put in" by the brush of a
Longhi or a Goya--had come out with a small table and placed it
on the grassand then had gone back and fetched the tea-tray;
after which he had again disappearedto return with a couple of
chairs. Pansy had watched these proceedings with the deepest
intereststanding with her small hands folded together upon the
front of her scanty frock; but she had not presumed to offer
assistance. When the tea-table had been arrangedhowevershe
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 answeredit'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 momentturning gravely from one of the persons


mentioned to the other. Then her face broke into its perfect
smile. "I have a pretty dressbut 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?"

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 Countesswhowith Madame
Merleremained 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."

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 otherswho 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 sixteenand 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 Iof all
womenset 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.

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
marryingwhen 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 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 gentlemanof course; but
I must say I've NEVERnononeverseen 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 he supposed to know. Who is heif
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 nothingnothingnothing. One's
parents were charming people of course; but so were yoursI've
no doubt. Every one's a charming person nowadays. Even I'm a
charming person; don't laughit has literally been said. As for
Osmondhe has always appeared to believe that he's descended
from the gods."

You may say what you please,said Madame Merlewho had
listened to this quick outbreak none the less attentivelywe may
believebecause her eye wandered away from the speaker and her
hands busied themselves with adjusting the knots of ribbon on her
dress. "You Osmonds are a fine race--your blood must flow from
some very pure source. Your brotherlike an intelligent manhas
had the conviction of it if he has not had the proofs. You're
modest about itbut 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 sacrificedany 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.

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

CHAPTER XXVI

Gilbert Osmond came to see Isabel again; that is he came to
Palazzo Crescentini. He had other friends there as welland 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 timesand 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 worthand she had never observed him select for such
visits those momentsof almost periodical recurrencewhen
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
overcoatbut 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 injustice was the motive of
their visitor's calls; he read the situation more clearly. Isabel
was the attractionand in all conscience a sufficient one.
Osmond was a critica student of the exquisiteand 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 ofRalph replied that he was quite of her opinion. Mrs.
Touchett had from far back found a place on her scant list for
this gentlemanthough 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 offensiveand 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 enoughaffected her as providing ground for a relation
with her. It gave her no satisfactionhoweverto think that he
had taken it into his head to marry her niece. Such an alliance
on Isabel's partwould 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 dilettantea middle-aged widower with an uncanny child
and an ambiguous incomethis answered to nothing in Mrs.
Touchett's conception of success. She tookit will be observed
not the sentimentalbut the politicalview 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.

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 himand 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 deathand 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."

My dear mother, I'm not afraid,Ralph answered. "She's making
fools of us all. She'll please herselfof course; but she'll do
so by studying human nature at close quarters and yet retaining
her liberty. She has started on an exploring expeditionand I
don't think she'll change her courseat the outsetat 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 perhapsbut was not so much reassured
as to withhold from Madame Merle the expression of her fears.
You who know everything,she saidyou must know this: whether
that curious creature's really making love to my niece.

Gilbert Osmond?Madame Merle widened her clear eyes andwith a
full intelligenceHeaven help us,she exclaimedthat's an
idea!


Hadn't it occurred to you?

You make me feel an idiot, but I confess it hadn't. I wonder,
she addedif 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."

I can't do that,said Mrs. Touchett. "I won't have him enquire
of me--as he perfectly may with that air of hisgiven 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. Touchettof 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 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 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 Merleand 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 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
eachin 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 foreignwho 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 thingshistories within histories: the image of a quiet
cleversensitivedistinguished manstrolling on a moss-grown
terrace above the sweet Val d'Arno and holding by the hand a
little girl whose bell-like clearness gave a new grace to
childhood. The picture had no flourishesbut 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 objectssubjects
contacts--what might she call them?--of a thin and those of a
rich association; of a lonelystudious life in a lovely land; of
an old sorrow that sometimes ached to-day; of a feeling of pride
that was perhaps exaggeratedbut 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-anxioushalf-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 easylivelyvery
positiverather aggressivealways 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 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 questionsaid 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 peoplefor "effect." He uttered his ideas as
ifodd as they often appearedhe were used to them and had
lived with them; old polished knobs and heads and handlesof
precious substancethat 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 himand she rejoiced to renew
acquaintance with the childwhoas she presented her forehead
to be kissed by every member of the circlereminded 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 worldand yet in
imaginationas one could seeso 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 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 herbut the Countess
was quite another affair. She was by no means a blank sheet; she
had been written over in a variety of handsand Mrs. Touchett
who felt by no means honoured by her visitpronounced 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 Romein 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 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 personwith an appreciation of
foreign titles which the daughterto do her justicehad
probably by this time thrown off--to an Italian nobleman who had
perhaps given her some excuse for attempting to quench the
consciousness of outrage. The Countesshoweverhad consoled
herself outrageouslyand the list of her excuses had now lost
itself in the labyrinth of her adventures. Mrs. Touchett had
never consented to receive herthough the Countess had made
overtures of old. Florence was not an austere city; butas Mrs.
Touchett saidshe 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 harmwho had only
done good in the wrong way. One must certainly draw the linebut
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 differences:
the Countess had doubtless been imprudentshe had not been so
clever as other women. She was a good creaturenot 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
herand 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 disputenot even a patient attention; she contented
herself with having given a friendly welcome to the unfortunate
ladywhowhatever her defectshad 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 villabut 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 propositionbut Madame Merle bestowed
upon it a certain improving polish. She told Isabel more about
the poor Countess than Mr. Osmond had doneand related the
history of her marriage and its consequences. The Count was a
member of an ancient Tuscan familybut of such small estate that
he had been glad to accept Amy Osmondin spite of the
questionable beauty which had yet not hampered her careerwith
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 thenhoweverhad
inherited moneyand now they were well enough offas Italians
wentthough 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
motherwho had bristled with pretensions to elegant learning and
published descriptive poems and corresponded on Italian subjects
with the English weekly journalsher mother had died three years
after the Countess's marriagethe fatherlost in the grey
American dawn of the situationbut reputed originally rich and
wildhaving died much earlier. One could see this in Gilbert
OsmondMadame Merle held--see that he had been brought up by a
woman; thoughto do him justiceone would suppose it had been
by a more sensible woman than the American Corinneas Mrs.
Osmond had liked to be called. She had brought her children to
Italy after her husband's deathand Mrs. Touchett remembered 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 partfor shelike Mrs. Osmondapproved 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 Amybecause (if it had to be
confessed for him) he rather felt she let down their common name.
Naturally he couldn't like her styleher shrillnessher
egotismher violations of taste and above all of truth: she
acted badly on his nervesshe was not HIS sort of woman. What
was his sort of woman? Ohthe very opposite of the Countessa
woman to whom the truth should be habitually sacred. Isabel was
unable to estimate the number of times her visitor hadin half
an hourprofaned 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 Parisin 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
passagebut she had not needed it to feel exempt from anxiety.
On the whole she was not afraid of the Countessand she could
afford to do what was altogether best--not to appear so.

Isabel had meanwhile another visitorwhom it was noteven
behind her backso easy a matter to patronise. Henrietta
Stackpolewho had left Paris after Mrs. Touchett's departure for
San Remo and had worked her way downas she saidthrough the
cities of North Italyreached the banks of the Arno about the


middle of May. Madame Merle surveyed her with a single glance
took her in from head to footand after a pang of despair
determined to endure her. She determined indeed to delight in
her. She mightn't be inhaled as a rosebut she might be grasped
as a nettle. Madame Merle genially squeezed her into
insignificanceand Isabel felt that in foreseeing this
liberality she had done justice to her friend's intelligence.
Henrietta's arrival had been announced by Mr. Bantlingwho
coming down from Nice while she was at Veniceand expecting to
find her in Florencewhich she had not yet reachedcalled 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 takenbut it was
uttered only by Ralph Touchettwhoin the privacy of his own
apartmentwhen Bantling smoked a cigar thereindulged 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 shouldersand found great comfort in the society of
a woman who was not perpetually thinking about what would be said
and how what she didhow what they did--and they had done
things!--would look. Miss Stackpole never cared how anything
lookedandif she didn't carepray 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.

Henrietta showed no signs of breaking down. Her prospects had
brightened on her leaving Englandand 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
questionon the Continentbristled with difficulties even more
numerous than those she had encountered in England. But on the
Continent there was the outer lifewhich was palpable and
visible at every turnand more easily convertible to literary
uses than the customs of those opaque islanders. Out of doors in
foreign landsas she ingeniously remarkedone seemed to see the
right side of the tapestry; out of doors in England one seemed to
see the wrong sidewhich gave one no notion of the figure. The
admission costs her historian a pangbut Henriettadespairing
of more occult thingswas now paying much attention to the outer
life. She had been studying it for two months at Venicefrom
which city she sent to the Interviewer a conscientious account of
the gondolasthe Piazzathe Bridge of Sighsthe pigeons and
the young boatman who chanted Tasso. The Interviewer was perhaps
disappointedbut Henrietta was at least seeing Europe. Her
present purpose was to get down to Rome before the malaria should
come on--she apparently supposed that it began on 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 Romeand she
pointed out to Isabel that as he had been there beforeas he was
a military man and as he had had a classical education--he had
been bred at Etonwhere they study nothing but Latin and
Whyte-Melvillesaid 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 alsounder his
own escortshould 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 sexwhose societythanks to the fact of
other calls on this lady's attentionwould 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 Isabelhoweverto assent to Ralph's proposaland
assured her that a good introduction to Rome was not a thing to
be despised. Isabel in truth needed no urgjngand the party of
four arranged its little journey. Mrs. Touchetton this
occasionhad 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 admittedof 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 itbut 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 gowhat should I do with my little girl?"

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 winterat 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 Isabelwhohoweverwas 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 to-morrow."

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.

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 filledand the talk had
been generalbut after a while Osmond left his place and came
and sat on an ottoman half-behindhalf-beside Madame Merle's
chair. "She wants mse 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 Osmondit 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.

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 smileleaning back in her chair and looking round
the room. "You've made a very good impressionand 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 momentduring 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 thisbut 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.

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 courtand 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 repeatedglancing up at the
windows of the housea modern structure in the new part of the
town.

He paid no heed to this remarkbut 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?

Dame, if they must be sacrificed!

Madame Merle leaned backlooking 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.

CHAPTER XXVII

I may not attempt to report in its fulness our young woman's
response to the deep appeal of Rometo analyse 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 historyand 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 deedsand 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 usualand Ralph Touchettwhen he appeared to
be looking listlessly and awkwardly over her headwas 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 herbut that of something
altogether contemporary would suddenly give it wings that it
could wave in the blue. Her consciousness was so mixed that she


scarcely knew where the different parts of it would lead herand
she went about in a repressed ecstasy of contemplationseeing
often in the things she looked at a great deal more than was
thereand yet not seeing many of the items enumerated in her
Murray. Romeas Ralph saidconfessed 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 blueand the plash of the fountains in their mossy
niches had lost its chill and doubled its music. On the corners
of the warmbright 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 Forumthese
labours having been for some time previous largely extended. They
had descended from the modern street to the level of the Sacred
Wayalong 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 Yorkand even found an analogy between the deep chariot-ruts
traceable in the antique street and the overjangled iron grooves
which express the intensity of American life. The sun had begun
to sinkthe air was a golden hazeand the long shadows of
broken column and vague pedestal leaned across the field of ruin.
Henrietta wandered away with Mr. Bantlingwhom 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
archeologists 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 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 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 alonebut my companions
have just left me. My cousin's gone to look at the work over
there."


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 momentbut sat down
again. "Don't let me interrupt you she added.

Oh dearI'm quite aloneI'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 Isabelwho 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 awkwardbut he wasn't easyand
after a longer look at the girl he came down to nature. "Do you
wish me to leave youor will you let me stay a little?"

She took it all humanely. "I don't wish you to leave meLord
Warburton; I'm very glad to see you."

Thank you for saying that. May I sit down?

The fluted shaft on which she had taken her seat would have
afforded a resting-place to several personsand 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
questionstaken rather at random and to whichas he put some of
them twice overhe 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 herand 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 solemnityand 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-fittingheterogeneous garments
in which the English traveller in foreign lands is wont to
consult his comfort and affirm his nationality; and with his
pleasant steady eyeshis bronzed complexionfresh beneath its
seasoninghis manly figurehis minimising manner and his
general air of being a gentleman and an explorerhe was such a
representative of 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 shocksevery one of his merits--properties
these partaking of the essence of great decent housesas 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 deathRalph's state of healththe way she had passed
her winterher visit to Romeher return to Florenceher plans
for the summerthe hotel she was staying at; and then of Lord
Warburton's own adventuresmovementsintentionsimpressions
and present domicile. At last there was a silenceand 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 Isabelit 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."

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 formulaas 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 girlwhoall still
as she sat therethrew herself back with a sort of inward
triumph on the answer that had satisfied him so little six months
before. He was pleasanthe was powerfulhe 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. But when you do that-the
pain's greater than the pleasure.And she got up with a
small conscious majestylooking 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-controland while he spoke it became complete. He might
have been 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 hatwhich he had not again put


on. And the committeeassuredlywould 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 togetherand 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 questionbut
dipped again into shallower and safer waters. But he wished to
know when she was to leave Romeand 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!

His flushed smilefor a littleseemed 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 attendantand these 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 wonderand
Henrietta exclaimed in a high voice "Graciousthere's that
lord!" Ralph and his English neighbour greeted with the austerity
with whichafter long separationsEnglish neighbours greetand
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 mesir."

Indeed I do remember you,said Lord Warburton. "I asked you to
come and see meand 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 Warburtonfor all his hilarityseemed sure enough. Mr.
Bantling had stood by without claiming a recognitionbut he now
took occasion to nod to his lordshipwho answered him with a
friendly "Ohyou hereBantling?" and a hand-shake.

Well,said HenriettaI didn't know you knew him!

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 Lilythe 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 lunchan hour
before the carriage cameLord Warburton presented himself at the
Hotel de Paris and paid a visit to the two ladiesRalph 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. He thus
left her to judge what a mere good friend he could be. He talked
about his travelsabout Persiaabout Turkeyand 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 justicebut 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 washe 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.
Neverthelesswhenon bringing his call to a closehe said he
too should be at Saint Peter's and should look out for her and
her friendsshe was obliged to reply that he must follow his
convenience.

In the churchas she strolled over its tesselated acreshe
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 beneath the far-arching dome and
saw the light drizzle down through the air thickened with incense
and with the reflections of marble and giltof mosaic and
bronzeher conception of greatness rose and dizzily rose. After
this it never lacked space to soar. She gazed and wondered like a
child or a peasantshe 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 begunbut at Saint Peter's there is much to observe
and as there is something almost profane in the vastness of the
placewhich seems meant as much for physical as for spiritual
exercisethe different figures and groupsthe mingled
worshippers and spectatorsmay follow their various intentions
without conflict or scandal. In that splendid immensity
individual indiscretion carries but a short distance. Isabel and
her companionshoweverwere 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
Washingtonshe 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 lordshipand as they drew 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 crowdcomposed
in equal measure of Roman cockneys and inquisitive strangersand
while they stood there the sacred concert went forward. Ralph
with Henrietta and Mr. Bantlingwas apparently withinwhere
Isabellooking beyond the dense group in front of hersaw the
afternoon lightsilvered by clouds of incense that seemed to
mingle with the splendid chantslope 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 Osmondwho 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.

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
cheekand this reminiscence had not the effect of dispelling it.
She repaired any betrayal by mentioning to each companion the
name of the otherand fortunately at this moment Mr. Bantling
emerged from the choircleaving the crowd with British valour
and followed by Miss Stackpole and Ralph Touchett. I say
fortunatelybut 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 backhoweverfrom civilityand presently
observed to Isabelwith due benevolencethat she would soon
have all her friends about her. Miss Stackpole had met Mr. Osmond
in Florencebut she had already found occasion to say to Isabel
that she liked him no better than her other admirers--than Mr.
Touchett and Lord Warburtonand 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. Goodwood's the only one I've any respect forand
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 exclaimedremembering
something he had referred to in Florence.

Ah, I should have enjoyed that!said Gilbert Osmond.

Lord Warburton meanwhile had joined Ralph Touchettand 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?

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 momentbut 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 silencebut 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?

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.