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THE 


PORTRAIT  OP  A LADY. 


BY 

HENRY  JAMES,  JR. 


BOSTON  AND  NEW  YORK 
HOUGHTON,  MIFFLIN  AND  COMPANY 
®i)c  SiDcmHe  JJrese,  Cambrige 


Copyright,  1881 
By  HENRY  JAMES,  JR. 


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RhMOTE'  STORAGE 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


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  which,  whether  you 
partake  of  the  tea  or  not — some  people  of  course  never  do — the 
situation  is  in  itself  delightful.  Those  that  I have  in  mind  in 
beginning  to  unfold  this  simple  history  offered  an  admirable 
setting  to  an  innocent  pastime.  The  implements  of  the  little 
feast  had  been  disposed  upon  the  lawn  of  an  old  English  country- 
house,  in  what  I should  call  the  perfect  middle  of  a splendid 
summer  afternoon.  Part  of  the  afternoon  had  waned,  but  much 
of  it  was  left,  and  what  was  left  was  of  the  finest  and  rarest 
quality.  Real  dusk  would  not  arrive  for  many  hours  ; but  the 
flood  of  summer  light  had  begun  to  ebb,  the  air  had  grown 
mellow,  the  shadows  were  long  upon  the  smooth,  dense  turf. 
They  lengthened  slowly,  however,  and  the  scene  expressed  that 
sense  of  leisure  still  to  come  which  is  perhaps  the  chief  source 
of  one’s  enjoyment  of  such  a scene  at  such  an  hour.  From  five 
o’clock  to  eight  is  on  certain  occasions  a little  eternity ; but  on 
such  an  occasion  as  this  the  interval  could  be  only  an  eternity 
of  pleasure.  The  persons  concerned  in  it  were  taking  their 
pleasure  quietly,  and  they  were  not  of  the  sex  which  is  supposed 
to  furnish  the  regular  votaries  of  the  ceremony  I have  mentioned. 
The  shadows  on  the  perfect  lawn  were  straight  and  angular; 
they  were  the  shadows  of  an  old  man  sitting  in  a deep  wicker- 
, chair  near  the  low  table  on  which  the  tea  had  been  served,  and 
of  two  younger  men  strolling  to  and  fro,  in  desultory  talk,  in 
front  of  him.  The  old  man  had  his  cup  in  his  hand ; it  was  an 

B 


142637 


I 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


unusually  large  cup,  of  a different  pattern  from  the  rest  of  the 
set,  and  painted  in  brilliant  colours.  He  disposed  of  its  contents 
with  much  circumspection,  holding  it  for  a long  time  close  to 
his  chin,  with  his  face  turned  to  the  house.  His  companions 
had  either  finished  their  tea  or  were  indifferent  to  their  privilege ; 
they  smoked  cigarettes  as  they  continued  to  stroll.  One  of  them, 
from  time  to  time,  as  he  passed,  looked  with  a certain  attention 
at  the  elder  man,  who,  unconscious  of  observation,  rested  his 
eyes  upon  the  rich  red  front  of  his  dwelling.  The  house  that 
rose  beyond  the  lawn  was  a structure  to  repay  such  consideration 
and  was  the  most  characteristic  object  in  the  peculiarly  English 
picture  I have  attempted  to  sketch. 

It  stood  upon  a low  hill,  above  the  river — the  river  being  the 
Thames,  at  some  forty  miles  from  London.  A long  gabled  front 
of  red  brick,  with  the  complexion  of  which  time  and  the  weather 
had  played  all  sorts  of  picturesque  tricks,  only,  however,  to 
improve  and  refine  it,  presented  itself  to  the  lawn,  with  its 
patches  of  ivy,  its  clustered  chimneys,  its  windows  smothered  in 
creepers.  The  house  had  a name  and  a history  ; the  old  gentle- 
man taking  his  tea  would  have  been  delighted  to  tell  you  these 
things  : how  it  had  been  built  under  Edward  the  Sixth,  had 
offered  a night’s  hospitality  to  the  great  Elizabeth  (whose  august 
person  had  extended  itself  upon  a huge,  magnificent,  and  terribly 
angular  bed  which  still  formed  the  principal  honour  of  the 
sleeping  apartments),  had  been  a good  deal  bruised  and  defaced 
in  Cromwell’s  wars,  and  then,  under  the  Restoration,  repaired 
and  much  enlarged;  and  how,  finally,  after  having  been  remodelled 
and  disfigured  in  the  eighteenth  century,  it  had  passed  into  the 
careful  keeping  of  a shrewd  American  banker,  who  had  bough » 
it  originally  because  (owing  to  circumstances  too  complicated  to 
set  forth)  it  was  offered  at  a great  bargain ; bought  it  with  much 
grumbling  at  its  ugliness,  its  antiquity,  its  incommodity,  and 
who  now,  at  the  end  of  twenty  years,  had  become  conscious  of  a 
mil  aesthetic  passion  for  it,  so  that  he  knew  all  its  points,  and 
would  tell  you  just  where  to  stand  to  see  them  in  combination, 
&nd  just  the  hour  when  the  shadows  of  its  various  protuberances 
— which  fell  so  softly  upon  the  warm,  weary  brickwork — wero 
of  the  right  measure.  Besides  this,  as  I have  said,  he  could 
have  counted  off  most  of  the  successive  owners  and  occupants,  ■ 
several  of  whom  wrere  known  to  general  fame  ; doing  so,  howTever, 
with  an  undemonstrative  conviction  that  the  latest  phase  of  its 
lestiny  was  not  the  least  honourable.  The  front  of  the  house 
overlooking  that  portion  of  the  lawn  with  which  we  are  con- 
cerned, was  not  the  entrance-front;  thie  was  in  quite  anothef 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


$ 


quarter  Privacy  here  reigned  supreme,  and  the  wide  carpet  of 
turf  that  covered  the  level  hill-top  seemed  hut  the  extension 
of  a luxurious  interior.  The  great  still  oaks  and  beeches  flung 
down  a snade  as  dense  as  that  of  velvet  curtains;  and  the  place 
was  furnished,  like  a room,  with  cushioned  seats,  with  rich- 
coloured  rugs,  with  the  hooks  and  papers  that  lay  upon  the  grass. 
The  river  was  at  some  distance ; where  the  ground  began  to 
elope,  the  lawn,  properly  speaking,  ceased.  But  it  was  none  tho 
less  a charming  walk  down  to  the  water. 

The  old  gentleman  at  the  tea-table,  who  had  come  from 
America  thirty  years  before,  had  brought  with  him,  at  the  top 
of  his  baggage,  his  American  physiognomy ; and  he  had  not 
only  brought  it  with  him,  hut  he  had  kept  it  in  the  best  order, 
so  that,  if  necessary,  he  might  have  taken  it  back  to  his  own 
country  with  perfect  confidence.  But  at  present,  obviously,  he 
was  not  likely  to  displace  himself;  his  journeys  were  over,  and 
he  was  taking  the  rest  that  precedes  the  great  rest.  He  had  a 
narrow,  clean-shaven  face,  with  evenly  distributed  features,  and 
an  expression  of  placid  acuteness.  It  was  evidently  a face  in 
which  the  range  of  expression  was  not  large ; so  that  the  air  of 
contented  shrewdness  was  all  the  more  of  a merit.  It  seemed 
to  tell  that  he  had  been  successful  in  life,  hut  it  seemed  to  tell 
also  that  his  success  had  not  been  exclusive  and  invidiouSj  hut 
had  had  much  of  the  inoffensiveness  of  failure.  He  had  certainly 
had  a great  experience  of  men ; but  there  was  an  almost  rustic 
simplicity  in  the  faint  smile  that  played  upon  his  lean,  spacious 
cheek,  and  lighted  up  his  humorous  eye,  as  he  at  last  slowly 
and  carefully  deposited  his  big  tea-cup  upon  the  table.  He  was 
neatly  dressed,  in  well-brushed  black ; but  a shawl  was  folded 
upon  his  knees,  and  his  feet  were  encased  in  thick,  embroidered 
slippers.  A beautiful  collie  dog  lay  upon  the  grass  near  his 
chair,  watching  the  master’s  face  almost  as  tenderly  as  the  master 
contemplated  the  still  more  magisterial  physiognomy  of  the 
house  ; and  a little  bristling,  bustling  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 
face,  fresh-coloured,  fair,  and  frank,  with  firm,  straight  features, 
a lively  grey  eye,  and  the  rich  adornment  of  a chestnut  heard. 
This  person  had  a certain  fortunate,  brilliant  exceptional  look — 
the  air  of  a happ^  temperament  fertilised  by  a high  civilisation 
— which  would  have  made  almost  any  observer  envy  him  at  a 
Venture.  He  was  booted  and  spurred,  as  if  he  had  dismounted 

B 2 


4 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A La1)Y. 


from  a long  ride ; he  wore  a white  hat,  which  looked  too  large 
for  him;  he  held  his  two  hands  behind  him,  and  in  one  of 
them — a large,  white,  well-shaped  fist — was  crumpled  a pair  of 
soiled  dog-skin  gloves. 

His  companion,  measuring  the  length  of  the  lawn  beside  him, 
was  a person  of  quite  another  pattern,  who,  although  he  might 
have  excited  grave  curiosity,  would  not,  like  the  other,  have 
provoked  you  to  wish  yourself,  almost  blindly,  in  his  place. 
Tall,  lean,  loosely  and  feebly  put  together,  he  had  an  ugly, 
sickly,  witty,  charming  face — furnished,  but  by  no  means 
decorated,  with  a straggling  moustache  and  whisker.  He 
looked  clever  and  ill — a combination  by  no  means  felicitous ; 
and  he  wore  a brown  velvet  jacket.  He  carried  his  hands  in 
his  pockets,  and  there  was  something  in  the  way  he  did  it  that 
showed  the  habit  was  inveterate.  His  gait  had  a shambling, 
wandering  quality;  he  was  not  very  firm  on  his  legs.  As  I 
have  said,  whenever  he  passed  the  old  man  in  the  chair,  he 
rested  his  eyes  upon  him ; and  at  this  moment,  with  their  faces 
brought  into  relation,  you  would  easily  have  seen  that  they 
were  father  and  son. 

The  father  caught  his  son’s  eye  at  last,  and  gave  him  a mild, 
responsive  smile. 

I am  getting  on  very  well,”  he  said. 

“ Have  you  drunk  your  tea  ] ” asked  the  son. 

“Yes,  and  enjoyed  it.” 

“ Shall  I give  you  some  more  ? ” 

The  old  man  considered,  placidly. 

“ Well,  I guess  I will  wait  and  see.” 

He  had,  in  speaking,  the  American  tone. 

“ Are  you  cold  ? ” his  son  inquired. 

The  father  slowly  rubbed  his  legs. 

“ Well,  I don’t  know.  I can’t  tell  till  I feel.” 

u Perhaps  some  one  might  feel  for  you,”  said  the  younger 
man,  laughing. 

“ Oh,  I hope  some  0113  will  always  feel  for  me  ! Don’t  you 
keel  for  me,  Lord  Warburton?” 

“ Oh  yes,  immensely,”  said  the  gentleman  addressed  as  Lord 
Warburton,  promptly.  “ I am  bound  to  say  you  look  wonder- 
fully 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 have  been  comfortable  so  many  years 
that  I suppose  I have  got  so  used  to  it  I don’t  know  it.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


0 


“Y*,  that’s  the  bore  of  comfort,”  said  Lord  Warburton. 
14  We  only  know  when  we  are  uncomfortable.” 

“ It  strikes  me  that  we  are  rather  particular,”  said  his 
companion. 

“Oh  yes,  there  is  no  doubt  we’re  particular,”  Lord  Warbur- 
ton  murmured. 

And  then  the  three  men  remained  silent  a while ; the  two 
younger  ones  standing  looking  down  at  the  other,  who  presently 
asked  for  more  tea. 

“I  should  think  you  would  be  very  unhappy  with  that 
shawl,”  said  Lord  Warburton,  while  his  companion  filled  the 
old  man’s  cup  again. 

“ Oh  no,  he  must  have  the  shawl ! ” cried  the  gentleman  in 
the  velvet  coat.  “ Don’t  put  such  ideas  as  that  into  his  head.” 

“It  belongs  to  my  wife,”  said  the  old  man,  simply. 

“ Oh,  if  it’s  for  sentimental  reasons ” And  Lord  War- 

burton  made  a gesture  of  apology. 

“ I suppose  I must  give  it  to  her  when  she  comes,”  the  old 
man  went  on. 

“ You  will  please  to  do  nothing  of  the  kind.  You  will  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  are  perfectly  free  to  abuse  mine,”  his  son  replied, 
giving  him  his  tea. 

“ Well,  we  are  two  lame  ducks;  I don’t  think  there  is  much 
difference.” 

“ I am  much  obliged  to  you  for  calling  me  a duck.  How  is 
your  tea  1 ” 

“Well,  it’s  rather  hot.” 

“ That’s  intended  to  be  a merit.” 

“ Ah,  there’s  a great  deal  of  merit,”  murmured  the  old  man, 
kindly.  “ He’s  a very  good  nurse,  Lord  Warburton.” 

“ Isn’t  he  a bit  clumsy]  ” asked  his  lordship. 

“ Oh  no,  he’s  not  clumsy — considering  that  he’s  an  invalid 
himself.  He’s  a very  good  nurse — for  a sick-nurse.  I call  him 
my  sick-nurse  because  he’s  sick  himself  ” 

“ Oh,  come,  daddy  ! ” the  ugly  young  man  exclaimed. 

“Well,  you  are;  I wish  you  weren’t.  Hut  I suppose  you 
ean’t  help  it.” 

“ I might  try  : that’s  an  idaa,”  said  the  young  man. 

“Were  you  ever  sick,  Lord  Warburton]”  his  father  asked. 

lord  Warburton  considered  a moment. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


ft 


“ Yes,  sir,  once,  in  the  Persian  Gulf.” 

“ He  is  making  light  of  ’you,  daddy,”  said  the  other  young 
man.  “ That's  a sort  of  joke.” 

44  Well,  there  seem  to  be  so  many  sorts  now,”  daddy  replied, 
serenely.  “ You  don't  look  as  if  you  had  been  sick,  any  way, 
Lord  Warburton.” 

44  He  is  sick  of  life ; he  was  just  telling  me  so ; going  on 
feaifully  about  it,”  said  Lord  Warburton's  friend. 

44  Is  that  true,  sir  ? ” asked  the  old  man  gravely. 

“ If  it  is,  your  son  gave  me  no  consolation.  HVs  a wretched 
fellow  to  talk  to — a regular  cynic.  He  doesn't  I'eem  to  believe 
anything.” 

“ That’s  another  sort  of  joke,”  said  the  person  accused  of 
cynicism. 

44  It's  because  his  health  is  so  poor,”  his  father  explained  to 
Lord  Warburton.  44  It  affects  his  mind,  and  colours  his  way  of 
looking  at  things ; he  seems  to  feel  as  if  he  had  never  had  a 
chance.  But  it's  almost  entirely  theoretical,  you  know ; it 
doesn't  seem  to  affect  his  spirits.  I have  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  ? ” 

4 ‘By  Jove,  we  should  see  some  queer  things!”  cried  Lord 
Warburton. 

“ 1 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 am  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 am  never  bored  when  I come  here,”  said  Lord  Warburton. 
u One  gets  such  uncommonly  good  talk.” 

54  Is  that  another  sort  of  joke?”  asked  the  old  man.  44  You 
have  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.” 

44  No,  I developed  very  quick ; that  was  just  the  reason. 
When  I was  twenty  years  old,  I was  very  highly  developed 
indeed.  1 was  working,  tooth  and  nail.  You  wouldn't  be 
bored  if  you  had  something  to  do  ; but  all  you  young  men  aw 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


7 


too  idle.  You  think  too  much  of  your  pleasure.  You  are 
too  fastidious,  and  too  indolent,  and  too  rich.” 

“ Oh,  I say,”  cried  Lord  Warburton,  “ you’re  hardly  tha 
person  to  accuse  a fellow-creature  of  being  too  rich  ! ” 

“ Do  you  mean  because  I am  a banker  h ” asked  the  old  man. 

“ Because  of  that,  if  you  like;  and  because  you  are  so  ridicul- 
ously wealthy.” 

“ He  isn’t  very  rich,”  said  the  other  young  man,  indicating  his 
father.  “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  is  very  fond  of  pleasure — of  other  people’s.” 

The  old  man  shook  his  head. 

“ I don’t  pretend  to  have  contributed  anything  to  the  amuse- 
ment of  my  contemporaries.” 

“ My  dear  father,  you  are  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  have  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 — that  is  the  great 
opportunity  of  jokes.” 

“ They  will  have  to  be  grim  jokes,”  said  the  old  man.  “ I am 
convinced  there  will  be  great  changes;  and  not  all  for  the 
better.” 

“ I quite  agree  with  you,  sir,”  Lord  Warburton  declared. 
“ I am  very  sure  there  will  be  great  changes,  and  that  all  sorts 
of  queer  things  will  happen.  That’s  why  I find  so  much 
difficulty  in  applying  your  advice ; you  know  you  told  me  the 
other  day  that  I ought  to  ‘take  hold’  of  something.  One 
hesitates  to  take  hold  of  a thing  that  may  the  next  moment  be 
knocked  sky-high.” 

“You  ought  to  take  hold  of  a pretty  woman,”  said  his 
companion.  “ He  is  trying  hard  to  fall  in  love,”  he  added,  by 
way  of  explanation,  to  his  father. 

“ The  j^retty  women  themsel\  es  may  be  sent  flying ! ” Lord 
Warburton  exclaimed. 

“ Ho,  no,  they  will  be  firm,”  the  old  man  rejoined  ; “they  will 
not  be  affected  by  the  social  and  political  changes  J just 
referred  to,” 


s 


THE  PORTRAIT  OP  A LADY. 


“You  mean  they  won’t  be  abolished?  Veiy  well,  then,  1 
will  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  her,  and  your  life  will  become  much 

more  interesting.” 

A momentary  silence  marked  perhaps  on  the  part  of  his 
auditors  a sense  of  the  magnanimity  of  this  speech,  for  it  was  a 
secret  neither  for  his  son  nor  for  his  visitor  that  his  own 
experiment  in  matrimony  had  not  been  a happy  one.  As  he 
said,  however,  he  made  a difference ; and  these  words  may  have 
been  intended  as  a confession  of  personal  error;  though  of 
course  it  was  not  in  place  for  either  of  his  companions  to  remark 
that  apparently  the  lady  of  his  choice  had  not  been  one  of  the 
best. 

“If  I marry  an  interesting  woman,  I shall  be  interested:  is 
that  what  you  say  ? ” Lord  War  burton  asked.  “ I am  not  at  all 
keen  about  marrying — your  son  misrepresented  me ; but  there 
is  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  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  must  not  fall  in  love  with  my  niece,”  said  the  old  man. 

His  son  broke  into  a laugh.  “ He  will  think  you  mean  that 
as  a provocation ! My  dear  father,  you  have  lived  with  the 
English  for  thirty  years,  and  you  have  picked  up  a good  many 
i\£  the  things  they  say.  Hut  you  have  never  learned  the  things 
they  don’t  say  ! ” 

“I  say  what  I please,”  the  old  man  declared,  with  all  his 
serenity. 

“ I haven’t  the  honour  of  knowing  your  niece,”  Lord  War-' 
burton  said.  “ I think  it  is  the  first  time  I have  heard  of  her.” 

“ She  is  a niece  of  my  wife’s ; Mrs.  Touchett  brings  her  to 
England.” 

Then  young  Mr.  Touchett  explained.  “ My  mother,  you 
know,  has  been  spending  the  winter  in  America,  and  we  are 
expecting  her  back.  She  writes  that  she  has  discovered  a niece, 
and  that  she  has  invited  her  to  come  with  her.” 

“I  see — very  kind  of  her/’  laid  Lord  Warburton.  “Is  the 
, jung  lady  interesting  ? ” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


9 


“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.  4 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  is  one  thing  very  clear  in  it,”  said  the  old  man; 
“she  has  given  the  hotel-clerk  a dressing.” 

“ I am  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  is 
4 quite  independent,*  and  in  what  sense  is  the  term  used  1 — that 
point  is  not  yet  settled.  Does  the  expression  apply  more 
particularly  to  the  young  lady  my  mother  has  adopted,  or  does  it 
characterise  her  sisters  equally  1 — and  is  it  used  in  a moral  or  in 
a financial  sense  1 Does  it  mean  that  they  have  been  left  well 
off,  or  that  they  wish  to  be  under  no  obligations  'l  or  does  it 
simply  mean  that  they  are  fond  of  their  own  way  1 ” 

“ Whatever  else  it  means,  it  is  pretty  sure  to  mean  that,”  Mr. 
Touchett  remarked. 

“ You  will  see  for  yourself,”  said  Lord  Warburton.  " When 
does  Mrs.  Touchett  arrive  ? ” 

“We  are  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.” 

44  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  will  find  me  doing  something  wrcrg. 
She  has  never  done  so  yet,  but  she  is  not  discouraged.” 

“ It’s  her  independence,”  her  son  explained,  more  favourably. 
u Whatever  that  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  uo 


io 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


more  use  than  a postage-stamp  without  gum,  and  she  would 
never  forgive  me  if  1 should  presume  to  go  to  Liverpool  to  meet 
her.” 

“ Will  you  at  least  let  me  know  when  your  cousin  arrives  1 9 
Lord  Warburton  asked. 

“ Only  on  the  condition  I have  mentioned — that  you  don:i 
fall  in  love  with  her  ! ” Mr.  Touchett  declared. 

“That  strikes  me  as  hard.  Don’t  yon  think  me  good 
enough  h ” 

“ I think  you  too  good — because  I shouldn’t  like  her  to  many 
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  one3 
at  home.  Then  she  is  probably  engaged ; American  girls  are 
usually  engaged,  I believe.  Moreover,  I am  not  sure,  after  all9 
that  you  would  be  a good  husband.” 

“ Very  likely  she  is  engaged  ; I have  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,  I am  not  sure  of  that  either ; one  can  but 
try  ! ” 

“ Try  as  much  as  you  please,  but  don’t  try  on  my  niece,” 
said  the  old  man,  whose  opposition  to  the  idea  was  broadly 
humorous. 

“ Ah,  well,”  said  Lord  Warburton,  with  a humour  broader 
still,  “ perhaps,  after  all,  she  is*  not  worth  trying  on  l” 


II. 

While  this  exchange  of  pleasantries  took  place  between  the 
two,  Ralph  Touchett  wandered  away  a little,  with  his  usual 
slouching  gait,  his  hands  in  his  pockets,  and  his  little  rowdyish 
errier  at  his  heels.  His  face  was  turned  towards  the  house,  but 
.is  eyes  were  bent,  musingly,  upon  the  lawn  ; so  that  he  had 
been  an  object  of  observation  to  a person  who  had  just  made 
her  appearance  in  the  doorway  of  the  dwelling  for  some 
moments  before  he  perceived  her.  His  attention  was  called  to 
her  by  the  conduct  of  his  dog,  who  had  suddenly  darted 
forward,  with  a little  volley  of  shrill  barks,  in  which  the  note 
of  welcome,  however,  was  more  sensible  than  that  of  defiance. 
The  person  in  question  was  a young  lady,  who  seemed  immedi- 
ately to  interpret  the  greeting  of  the  little  terrier.  He  advanced 
with  great  rapidity,  and  stood  at  her  feet,  looking  up  and  barking 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


11 


hard  ; whereupon,  without  hesitation,  she  stooped  and  caught 
him  in  her  hands,  holding  him  face  to  face  while  he  continued  his 
joyous  demonstration.  His  master  now  had  had  time  to  follow 
and  to  see  that  Bunchie’s  new  friend  was  a tall  girl  in  a black 
dress,  who  at  first  sight  looked  pretty.  She  was  bare-headed,  as 
if  she  were  staying  in  the  house — a fact  which  conveyed  per- 
plexity to  the  son  of  its  master,  conscious  of  that  immunity  from 
visitors  which  had  for  some  time  been  rendered  necessary  by  the 
latter’s  ill-health.  Meantime  the  two  other  gentlemen  had  also 
taken  note  of  the  new-comer. 

“Dear  me,  who  is  that  strange  woman  V9  Mr.  Touchett  had 
asked.  0 

“Perhaps  it  is  Mrs.  Touchett’s  niece— the  independent  young 
lady,”  Lord  Warburton  suggested.  “ I think  she  must  be,  from 
the  way  she  handles  the  dog.”  £| 

The  collie,  too,  had  now  allowed  his  attention  to  be  diverted, 
and  he  trotted  toward  the  young  lady  in  the  doorway,  slowly 
setting  his  tail  in  motion  as  he  went. 

“ But  where  is  my  wife,  then  'l  ” murmured  the  old  man. 

“ I suppose  the  young  lady  has  left  her  somewhere  : that’s  a 
part  of  the  independence.” 

The  girl  spoke  to  Balph,  smiling,  while  she  still  held  up  the 
terrier.  “ Is  this  your  little  dog,  sir  ] ” 

“ He  was  mine  a moment  ago ; but  you  have  suddenly 
acquired  a remarkable  air  of  property  in  him.” 

“ Couldn’t  we  share  him  i ” asked  the  girl.  “ He’s  such  a little 
darling.” 

Ralph  looked  at  her  a moment ; she  was  unexpectedly  pretty. 
“ You  may  have  him  altogether,”  he  said. 

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 am  probably  your 
cousin,”  she  murmured,  putting  down  the  dog.  “ And  here’s 
another  ! ” she  added  quickly,  as  the  collie  came  up. 

“ Probably  ? ” the  young  man  exclaimed,  laughing.  “ I sup- 
posed it  was  quite  settled ! Have  you  come  with  my 
mother  % ” | 

“Yes,  half-an-hour  ago.” 

“ And  has  she  deposited  you  and  departed  again  ? ” 

“ .No,  she  went  straight  tg  her  room  ; and  she  told  me  that,  if 
I should  see  you,  I was  to  say  to  you  that  vou  must  come  to  her 
there  at  a quarter  to  seven.” 

Tiie  young  man  looked  at  his  watch.  “ Thank  you  very 
much  , I shall  be  punctual.”  And  then  he  looked  at  his  cousm 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


12 

u You  are  very  welcome  here,”  he  went  on.  “I  am  delighted 
to  see  you.” 

She  was  looking  at  everything,  with  an  eye  that  denoted  quick 
perception  — at  her  companion,  at  the  two  dogs,  at  the  two 
gentlemen  under  the  trees,  at  the  beautiful  scene  that  surrounded 
her.  “ I have  never  seen  anything  so  lovely  as  this  place,”  she 
said.  “ I have  been  all  over  the  house  ; it’s  too  enchanting.” 

“ I am  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  gentle- 
men your  father  h ” 

“ Yes,  the  elder  one — the  one  sitting  down,”  said  Ealph. 

The  young  girl  gave  a laugh.  “ I don’t  suppose  it’s  the  other. 
Who  is  the  other  1 ” 

“ He  is  a friend  of  ours — Lord  Warburton.” 

“ Oh,  I hoped  there  would  be  a lord  ; it’s  just  like  a novel  ! ” 
And  then — “ 0 you  adorable  creature ! ” she  suddenly  cried; 
stooping  down  and  picking  up  the  little  terrier  again. 

She  remained  standing  where  they  had  met,  making  no  offer 
to  advance  or  to  speak  to  Mr.  Touchett,  and  while  she  lingered 
in  the  doorway,  slim  and  charming,  her  interlocutor  wondered 
whether  she  expected  the  old  man  to  come  and  pay  her  his 
respects.  American  girls  were  used  to  a great  deal  of  deference, 
and  it  had  been  intimated  that  this  one  had  a high  spirit 
Indeed,  Ealph  could  see  that  in  her  face. 

“Won’t  you  come  and  make  acquaintance  with  my  father'!” 
he  nevertheless  ventured  to  ask.  “ He  is  old  and  infirm — he 
doesn’t  leave  his  chair.” 

“ Ah,  poor  man,  I am  very  sorry ! ” the  girl  exclaimed, 
immediately  moving  forward.  “ I got  the  impression  from  your 
mother  that  he  was  rather — rather  strong.” 

Ealph  Touchett  was  silent  a moment. 

“ She  has  not  seen  him  for  a year.” 

a Well,  he  has  got  a lovely  place  to  sit.  Come  along,  little 
dog*  ’ 

“ It’s  a dear  old  place,”  said  the  young  man,  looking  sidewise 
at  his  neighbour. 

" What’s  his  name  1 ” she  asked,  her  attention  having  reverted 
to  the  terrier  again. 

“ My  father’s  name  1 ” 

u Yes,”  said  the  young  lady,  humorously  ; “ but  don’t  tell  him 
l asked  you.” 

They  had  come  by  this  time  to  where  old  Mr.  Touchett  was 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


li 


sitting,  and  he  slowly  got  up  from  his  chair  to  introduce 
himself. 

“ My  mother  has  arrived,”  said  Ealph,  “ and  this  is  Miss 
Archer.” 

The  old  man  placed  his  two  hands  on  her  shoulders,  looked 
at  her  a moment  with  extreme  benevolence,  and  then  gallantly 
kissed  her. 

6 ‘ It  is  a great  pleasure  to  me  to  see  you  here  ; but  I wish  yon 
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,  smiling,  rubbing  his  hands,  and  slowly 
shaking  his  head  at  her.  “But  Mrs.  Touchett  doesn’t  like 
receptions.” 

“ She  went  straight  to  her  room.” 

“Yes — -and  locked  herself  in.  She  always  does  that.  Well, 
I suppose  I shall  see  her  next  week.”  And  Mrs.  Touchett’a 
husband  slowly  resumed  his  former  posture. 

“ Before  that,”  said  Miss  Archer.  “ She  is  coming  down  to 
dinner — at  eight  o’clock.  Don’t  you  forget  a quarter  to  seven,” 
she  added,  turning  with  a smile  to  Balph. 

“ What  is  to  happen  at  a quarter  to  seven  ] ” 

“ I am  to  see  my  mother,”  said  Balph. 

" Ah,  happy  boy  ! ” the  old  man  murmured.  “ You  must  sit 
down — you  must  have  some  tea,”  he  went  on,  addressing  his 
wife’s  niece. 

“ They  gave  me  some  tea  in  my  room  the  moment  I arrived,” 
this  young  lady  answered.  “ I am  sorry  you  are  out  of  health,” 
she  added,  resting  her  eyes  upon  her  venerable  host. 

“ Oh,  I’m  an  old  man,  my  dear;  it’s  time  for  me  to  be  old. 
But  I shall  be  the  better  for  having  you  here.” 

She  had  been  looking  all  round  her  again — at  the  lawn,  the 
great  trees,  the  reedy,  silvery  Thames,  the  beautiful  old  house ; 
and  while  engaged  in  this  survey,  she  had  also  narrowly  scruti- 
nized her  companions ; a comprehensiveness  of  observation  easily 
conceivable  on  the  part  of  a young  woman  who  was  evidently 
both  intelligent  and  excited.  She  had  seated  herself,  and  had 
put  away  the  little  dog  ; her  white  hands,  in  her  lap,  were  folded 
upon  her  black  dress  ; her  head  was  erect,  her  eye  brilliant,  her 
flexible  figure  turned  itself  lightly  this  way  and  that,  in  sym- 
pathy with  the  alertness  with  which  she  evidently  caught  im- 
pressions. Her  impressions  were  numerous,  and  they  were  all 


!4 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


reflected  in  a clear,  still  smile.  “ I have  never  seen  anything  so 
beautiful  as  this,”  she  declared. 

“ IPs  looking  very  well/ 7 said  Mr.  Touchett.  “ I know  the 
way  it  strikes  you.  I have  been  through  all  that.  But  you  are 
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  girls  who  might  possibly  take  alarm  at  them. 

What  degree  of  alarm  this  young  girl  took  need  not  be  exactly 
measured ; she  instantly  rose,  however,  with  a blush  which  was 
not  a refutation. 

“ Oh  yes,  of  course,  Pm  lovely  ! ” she  exclaimed  quickly,  with 
& little  laughf  “ How  old  is  your  house  ? Is  it  Elizabethan  ? ” 

“ IPs  early  Tudor,”  said  Balph  Touchett. 

She  turned  toward  him,  watching  his  face  a little.  “ 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 
is  nothing  better  than  this.” 

“ I have  got  a very  good  one ; I think  in  some  respects  it's 
rather  better,”  said  Lord  Warburton,  who  as  yet  had  not  spoken, 
but  who  had  kept  an  attentive  eye  upon  Miss  Archer.  He  bent 
towards  her  a little  smiling ; he  had  an  excellent  manner  with 
women.  The  girl  appreciated  it  in  an  instant ; she  had  not  for- 
gotten 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  girl,  smiling  at  Lord 
Warburton. 

In  this  discussion,  Balph  Touchett  took  no  interest  whatever ; 
he  stood  with  his  hands  in  his  pockets,  looking  greatly  as  if 
he  should  like  to  renew  his  conversation  with  his  new-found 
cousin. 

“ Are  you  very  fond  of  dogs  ? ” he  inquired,  by  way  of  begin- 
ning ; and  it  was  an  awkward  beginning  for  a clever  man. 

“ Very  fond  of  them  indeed.” 

“ You  must  keep  the  terrier,  you  know,”  he  went  on,  still 
awkwardly. 

“ I will  keep  him  while  I am  here,  with  pleasure.” 

“That  will  be  for  a long  time,  I hope.” 

•*  You  are  very  kind.  I hardly  know.  My  aunt  must  settl* 
lhat.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


II 

“ I will  settle  it  with  her — at  a quarter  to  seven”  And  Ralph 
looked  at  his  watch  again. 

“lam  glad  to  he  here  at  all,”  said  the  girl. 

“ I don’t  believe  you  allow  things  to  be  settled  for  you.” 

“ Oh  yes ; if  they  are  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  1 Where  do  you  mean  1 ” 

“ In  the  United  States  : in  New  York,  and  Albany,  and  othei 
places.” 

“ I have  been  there — all  over,  but  I never  saw  you.  I can’t 
make  it  out.” 

Miss  Archer  hesitated  a moment. 

“ It  was  because  there  had  been  some  disagreement  between 
your  mother  and  my  father,  after  my  mother's  death,  which  took 
place  when  I was  a child.  In  consequence  of  it,  we  never 
expected  to  see  you.” 

“ Ah,  but  I don’t  embrace  all  my  mother’s  quarrels — Heaven 
forbid  1 ” the  young  man  cried.  “ You  have  lately  lost  your 
father  1 ” 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  L should 
come  to  Europe.” 

“ I see,”  said  Ralph.  “ She  has  adopted  you.” 

“ Adopted  me?”  The  girl  stared,  and  her  blush  came  back 
to  her,  together  with  a momentary  look  of  pain,  which  gave  her 
interlocutor  some  alarm.  He  had  under-estimated  the  effect  of  hia 
words.  Lord  Warburton,  who  appeared  constantly  desirous  of 
a nearer  view  of  Miss  Archer,  strolled  toward  the  two  cousins  at 
the  moment,  and  as  he  did  so,  she  rested  her  startled  eyes  upon 
him.  “ Oh,  no  ; she  has  not  adopted  me,”  she  said.  “ I am 
not  a candidate  for  adoption.” 

“ I beg  a thousand  pardons,”  Ealph  murmured.  “ I meant — • 
I meant ” He  hardly  knew  what  he  meant. 

“ You  meant  she  has  taken  me  up.  Yes  ; she  likes  to  take 
people  up.  She  has  been  very  kind  to  me ; but,”  she  added, 
with  a certain  visible  eagerness  of  desire  to  be  explicit,  “ I am 
very  fond  of  my  liberty.” 

“ Are  you  talking  about  Mrs.  Touchett  ? ” the  old  man  called 
out  from  his  chair.  “ Come  here,  my  dear,  and  tell  me  about 
her.  I am  always  thankful  for  information.” 

The  girl  hesitated  a moment,  smiling. 

“ She  is  really  very  benevolent,”  she  answered;  and  then  s 


16  THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

went  over  to  ner  uncle,  whose  mirth  was  excited  by  her 
words. 

Lord  Warburton  was  left  standing  with  Ealph  Touchett,  to 
whom  in  a moment  he  said — 

“You  wished  a while  ago  to  see  my  idea  of  an  interesting 
woman.  There  it  is  1” 


Hi. 

Mrs.  Touchett  was  certainly  a person  of  many  oddities,  of 
which  her  behaviour  on  returning  to  her  husband's  house  after 
many  months  was  a noticeable  specimen.  She  had  her  own 
way  of  doing  all  that  she  did,  and  this  is  the  simplest  descrip- 
tion of  a character  which,  although  it  was  by  no  means  without 
benevolence,  rarely  succeeded  in  giving  an  impression  of  softness. 
Mrs.  Touchett  might  do  a great  deal  of  good,  but  she  never 
pleased.  This  way  of  her  own,  of  which  she  was  so  fond,  was 
not  intrinsically  offensive — it  was  simply  very  sharply  distin- 
guished from  the  ways  of  others.  The  edges  of  ’ her  conduct 
were  so  very  clear-cut  that  for  susceptible  persons  it  sometimes 
had  a wounding  effect.  This  purity  of  outline  was  visible  in 
her  deportment  during  the  first  hours  of  her  return  from 
America,  under  circumstances  in  which  it  might  have  seemed 
that  her  first  act  would  have  been  to  exchange  greetings  with 
her  husband  and  son.  Mrs.  Touchett,  for  reasons  which  she 
deemed  excellent,  always  retired  on  such  occasions  into  impene- 
trable seclusion,  postponing  the  more  sentimental  ceremony  until 
she  had  achieved  a toilet  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  woman,  without  coquetry  and  without 
any  great  elegance,  but  with  an  extreme  respect  for  her  own 
motives.  She  was  usually  prepared  to  explain  these — when  the 
explanation  was  asked  as  a favour ; and  in  such  a case  they 
proved  totally  different  from  those  that  had  been  attributed  to 
her.  She  was  virtually  separated  from  her  husband,  but  she 
appeared  to  perceive  nothing  irregular  in  the  situation.  It  had 
become  apparent,  at  an  early  stage  of  their  relations,  that  they 
should  never  desire  the  same  thing  at  the  same  moment,  and  this 
fact  had  prompted  her  to  rescue  disagreement  from  the  vulgar 
realm  of  accident.  She  did  what  she  could  to  erect  it  into  a 
law — a much  more  edifying  aspect  of  it — by  going  to  live 
in  Florence  where  she  bought  a house  and  established  herself; 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


17 


leaving  her  husband  in  England  to  take  care  of  his  bank.  This 
arrangement  greatly  pleased  her ; it  was  so  extremely  definite. 
It  struck  her  husband  in  the  same  light,  in  a foggy  square  in 
London,  where  it  was  at  times  the  most  definite  fact  he  discerned  ; 
but  he  would  have  preferred  that  discomfort  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  consist- 
ent. Mrs.  Touche tt  indulged  in  no  regrets  nor  speculations, 
and  usually  came  once  a year  to  spend  a month  with  her  hus- 
band, a period  during  which  she  apparently  took  pains  to  con- 
vince him  that  she  had  adopted  the  right  system.  She  was  not 
fond  of  England,  and  had  three  or  four  reasons  for  it  to  which 
she  currently  alluded ; they  bore  upon  minor  points  of  British 
civilisation,  but  for  Mrs.  Touchett  they  amply  justified  non- 
residence. She  detested  bread-sauce,  which,  as  she  said,  looked 
like  a poultice  and  tasted  “Ek^sbap^  she  objected  to  the  con- 
sumption 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 
one  had  been  longer  than  any  of  its  predecessors. 

She  had  taken  up  her  niece — there  was  little  doubt  of  that. 
One  wet  afternoon,  some  four  months  earlier  than  the  occurrence 
lately  narrated,  this  young  lady  had  been  seated  alone  with  a 
book.  To  say  that  she  had  a book  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, 
however,  a want  of  lightness  in  her  situation,  which  the  arrival 
of  an  unexpected  visitor  did  much  to  dispel.  The  visitor  had 
not  been  announced;  the  girl  heard  her  at  last  walking  about 
the  adjoining  room.  It  was  an  old  house  at  Albany — -a  large, 
square,  double  house,  with  a notice  of  sale  in  the  windows  of  the 
parlour.  There  were  two  entrances,  one  of  which  had  long  been 
out  of  use,  but  had  never  been  removed.  They  were  exactly 
alike — large  white  doors,  with  an  arched  frame  and  wide  side- 
lights, perched  upon  little  “ stoops  ” of  red  stone,  which  descended 
sidewise  to  the  brick  pavement  of  the  street.  The  two  houses 
together  formed  a single  dwelling,  the  party-wall  having  been 
removed  and  the  rooms  placed  in  communication.  These  rooms, 
above-stairs,  were  extremely  numerous,  and  were  painted  all  over 
exactly  alike,  in  a yellowish  white  which  had  grown  sallow  with 
time.  On  the  third  floor  there  was  a sort  of  arched  passage, 
connecting  the  two  sides  of  the  house,  which  Isabel  and  her 

o 


\s 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Bisters  used  in  their  childhood  to  call  the  tunnel,  and  which, 
though  it  was  short  and  well-lighted,  always  seemed  to  the  girl 
to  be  strange  and  lonely,  especially  on  winter  afternoons.  She 
had  been  in  the  house,  at  different  periods,  as  a child ; in  those 
days  her  grandmother  lived  there.  Then  there  had  been  an 
absence  of  ten  years,  followed  by  a return  to  Albany  before  her 
father's  death.  Her  grandmother,  old  Mrs.  Archer,  had  exer- 
cised, chiefly  within  the  limits  of  the  family,  a large  hospitality 
in  the  early  period,  and  the  little  girls  often  spent  weeks  under 
her  roof — weeks  of  which  Isabel  had  the  happiest  memory.  The 
manner  of  life  was  different  from  that  of  her  own  home — larger, 
more  plentiful,  more  sociable;  the  discipline  of  the  nursery  was 
delightfully  vague,  and  the  opportunity  of  listening  to  the  con- 
versation 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  stay 
with  her,  so  that  the  house  offered,  to  a certain  extent,  the  appear- 
ance 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  dwelling  picturesque.  There  was  a covered 
piazza  behind  it,  furnished  with  a swing,  which  was  a source  of 
tremulous  interest ; and  beyond  this  was  a long  garden,  sloping 
down  to  the  stable,  and  containing  certain  capital  peach-trees. 
Isabel  had  stayed  with  her  grandmother  at  various  seasons  ; but, 
somehow,  all  her  visits  had  a flavour  of  peaches.  On  the  other 
side,  opposite,  across  the  street,  was  an  old  house  that  was  called 
the  Dutch  House — -a  peculiar  structure,  dating  from  the  earliest 
colonial  time,  composed  of  bricks  that  had  been  painted  yellow, 
crowned  with  a gable  that  was  pointed  out  to  strangers,  defended 
by  a rickety  wooden  paling,  and  standing  sidewise  to  the  street. 
It  was  occupied  by  a primary  school  for  children  of  both  sexes, 
kept  in  an  amateurish  manner  by  a demonstrative  lady,  of  whom 
Isabel’s  chief  recollection  was  that  her  hair  was  puffed  out  very 
much  at  the  temples  and  that  she  was  the  widow  of  some  one  of 
consequence.  The  little  girl  had  been  offered  the  opportunity  of 
laying  a foundation  of  knowledge  in  this  establishment;  but 
having  spent  a single  day  in  it,  she  had  expressed  great  disgust 
with  the  place,  and  had  been  allowed  to  stay  at  home,  where  in 
the  September  days,  when  the  windows  of  the  Dutch  House 
were  open,  she  used  to  hear  the  hum  of  childish  voices  repeating 
the  multiplication  table — an  incident  in  which  the  elation  of 
liberty  and  the  pain  of  exclusion  were  indistinguishably  mingled. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


II 

The  foundation  of  her  knowledge  was  really  laid  in  the  idleness 
of  her  grandmother’s  house,  where,  as  most  of  the  other  inmates 
were  not  reading  people,  she  had  uncontrolled  use  of  a library 
full  of  books  with  frontispieces,  which  she  used  to  climb  upon 
a chair  to  take  down.  When  she  had  found  one  to  her  taste — 
she  was  guided  in  the  selection  chiefly  by  the  frontispiece — «h© 
carried  it  into  a mysterious  apartment  which  lay  beyond  the 
library,  and  which  was  called,  traditionally,  no  one  knew  why, 
the  office.  Whose  office  it  had  been,  and  at  what  period  it  had 
flourished,  she  neyer  learned ; it  was  enough  for  her  that  it 
contained  an  echo  and  a pleasant  musty  smell,  and  that  it  was 
a chamber  of  disgrace  for  old  pieces  of  furniture,  whose  infirmities 
were  not  always  apparent  (so  that  the  disgrace  seemed  unmerited, 
and  rendered  them  victims  of  injustice),  and  with  which,  in  the 
manner  of  children,  she  had  established  relations  almost  human, 
or  dramatic.  There  was  an  old  haircloth  sofa,  in  especial,  to 
which  she  had  confided  a hundred  childish  sorrows.  The  place 
owed  much  of  its  mysterious  melancholy  to  the  fact  that  it  was 
properly  entered  from  the  second  door  of  the  house,  the  door 
that  had  been  condemned,  and  that  was  fastened  by  bolts  which 
a particularly  slender  little  girl  found  it  impossible  to  slide.  She 
knew  that  this  silent,  motionless  portal  opened  into  the  street ; 
if  the  sidelights  had  not  been  filled  with  green  paper,  she  might 
have  looked  out  upon  the  little  brown  stoop  and  the  well-worn 
brick  pavement.  But  she  had  no  wish  to  look  out,  for  this 
would  have  interfered  with  her  theory  that  there  was  a strange, 
unseen  place  on  the  other  side — a place  which  became,  to  the 
child’s  imagination,  according  to  its  different  moods,  a region  of 
delight  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 
joyless  chamber  it  contained.  She  had  never  opened  the  bolted 
door  nor  removed  the  green  paper  (renewed  by  other  hands) 
from  its  side-lights;  she  had  never  assured  herself  that  the 
vulgar  street  lay  beyond  it.  A crude,  cold  rain  was  falling 
heavily;  the  spring-time  presented  itself  as  a questionable 
improvement.  Isabel,  however,  gave  as  little  attention  as 
possible  to  the  incongruities  of  the  season ; she  kept  her  eyes 
on  her  book  and  tried  to  fix  her  mind.  It  had  lately  occurred 
to  her  that  her  mind  was  a good  deal  of  a vagabond,  and  she 
had  spent  much  ingenuity  in  training  it  to  a military  step,  and 
teaching  it  to  advance,  to  halt,  to  retreat,  to  perform  even  more 


£0 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


complicated  manoeuvres,  at  the  word  of  command.  Just  now 
she  had  given  it  marching  orders,  and  it  had  been  trudging 
over  the  sandy  plains  of  a history  of  German  Thought. 
Suddenly  she  became  aware  of  a step  very  different  from  her 
own  intellectual  pace ; she  listened  a little,  and  perceived  that 
some  one  was  walking  about  the  library,  which  communicated 
with  the  office.  It  struck  her  first  as  the  step  of  a person  from 
whom  sho  had  reason  to  expect  a visit ; then  almost  immediately 
announced  itself  as  the  tread  of  a woman  and  a stranger — her 
possible  visitor  being  neither.  It  had  an  inquisitive,  experi- 
mental quality,  which  suggested  that  it  would  not  stop  short  of 
the  threshold  of  the  office ; and,  in  fact,  the  doorway  of  this 
apartment  was  presently  occupied  by  a lady  who  paused  there 
and  looked  very  hard  at  our  heroine.  She  was  a plain,  elderly 
woman,  dressed  in  a comprehensive  waterproof  mantle : she  had 
a sharp,  but  not  an  unpleasant,  face. 

“ Oh,”  she  said,  “ is  that  where  you  usually  sit  ? ” And  she 
looked  about  at  the  heterogeneous  chairs  and  tables. 

“Not  when  I have  visitors,”  said  Isabel,  getting  up  to 
receive  the  intruder. 

She  directed  their  course  back  to  the  library,  and  the  visitor 
continued  to  look  about  her.  “You  seem  to  have  plenty  of 
other  rooms ; they  are  in  rather  better  condition.  But  every- 
thing is  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  up-stairs ; she 
didn’t  seem  at  all  intelligent.  You  had  better  tell  her  it  is  no 
matter.”  And  then,  while  the  girl  stood  there,  hesitating  and 
wondering,  this  unexpected  critic  said  to  her  abruptly,  “I 
suppose  you  are  one  of  the  daughters  1 ” 

Isabel  thought  she  had  very  strange  manners.  “ It  depends 
upon  whose  daughters  you  mean.” 

“The  late  Mr.  Archer’s — and  my  poor  sister’s.” 

“Ah,”  said  Isabel,  slowly,  “you  must  be  our  crazy  Aunt 
Lydia!” 

“ Is  that  what  your  father  told  you  to  call  me  1 I am  your 
Aunt  Lydia,  but  I am  not  crazy.  And  which  of  the  daughters 
are  you  1 ” 

“ I am  the  youngest  of  the  three,  and  my  name  is  Isabel” 

“Yes;  the  others  are  Lilian  and  Edith.  And  are  you  tbs 
prettiest  1 ” 

“ I have  not  the  least  idea,”  said  the  girl. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


*1 

4 I think  you  must  be.”  And  in  this  way  the  aunt  and  the 
niece  made  friends.  The  aunt  had  quarrelled,  years  before,  with 
her  brother-in-law,  after  the  death  of  her  sister,  taking  him  to 
task  for  the  manner  in  which  he  brought  up  his  three  girls. 
Being  a high-tempered  man,  he  had  requested  her  to  mind  her 
cwn  business;  and  she  had  taken  him  at  his  word.  For  many 
years  she  held  no  communication  with  him,  and  after  his  death 
she  addressed  not  a word  to  his  daughters,  who  had  been  bred 
in  that  disrespectful  view  of  her  which  we  have  just  seen  Isabel 
betray.  Mrs.  Touchett’s  behaviour  was,  as  usual,  perfectly 
deliberate.  She  intended  to  go  to  America  to  look  after  he,1 
investments  (with  which  her  husband,  in  spite  of  his  great 
financial  position,  had  nothing  to  do),  and  would  take  advantage 
of  this  opportunity  to  inquire  into  the  condition  of  her  nieces. 
There  was  no  need  of  writing,  for  she  should  attach  no  import- 
ance to  any  account  of  them  that  she  should  elicit  by  letter ; 
she  believed,  always,  in  seeing  for  one/s  self.  Isabel  found, 
however,  that  she  knew  a good  deal  about  them,  and  knew 
about  the  marriage  of  the  two  elder  girls ; knew  that  their  poor 
father  had  left  very  little  money,  but  that  the  house  in  Albany, 
which  had  passed  into  his  hands,  was  to  be  sold  for  their 
benefit;  knew,  finally,  that  Edmund  Ludlow,  Lilian’s  husband, 
had  taken  upon  himself  to  attend  to  this  matter,  in  consideration 
of  which  the  young  couple,  who  had  come  to  Albany  during 
Mr.  Archer’s  illness,  were  remaining  there  for  the  present,  andtf 
as  well  as  Isabel  herself,  occupying  the  mansion. 

“ How  much  money  do  you  expect  to  get  for  it  ? ” Mrs. 
Touchett  asked  of  the  girl,  who  had  brought  her  to  sit  in  the 
front-parlour,  which  she  had  inspected  without  enthusiasm. 

“ I haven’t  the  least  idea,”  said  the  girl. 

“ That’s  the  second  time  you  have  said  that  to  me,”  her  aunt 
rejoined.  “ And  yet  you  don’t  look  at  all  stupid.” 

“ I am  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.  In  point  of  fact,  what  have  you  in- 
herited 1 ” 

" I really  can’t  tell  you.  You  must  ask  Edmund  and  Lilian  ; 
they  will  be  back  in  half-an-hour.” 

“In  Florence  we  should  call  it  a very  bad  house,”  said  Mra. 
Touchett ; “ but  here,  I suspect,  it  will  bring  a high  price.  It 
ought  to  make  a considerable  sum  for  each  of  you.  In  addition 
to  that,  you  must  have  something  else ; it’s  most  extraordinary 
your  not  knowing.  The  position  is  of  value,  and  they  will 
probably  pull  it  down  and  make  a row  of  shops.  I wnnde? 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


12 

you  don’t  do  that  yourself ; you  might  let  the  shops  to  gra&i 
advantage/’ 

Isabel  stared ; the  idea  of  letting  shops  was  new  to  her. 

“ I hope  they  won’t  pull  it  down,”  she  said ; “ I am  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,”  said  the  girl,  rather 
strangely.  “ I like  places  in  which  things  have  happened— 
even  if  they  are  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 have  been  very  happy  her® 
as  a child.” 

‘ 6 You  should  go  to  Florence  if  you  like  houses  in  which  things 
have  happened — especially  deaths.  I live  in  an  old  palace  in  ' 
which  three  people  have  been  murdered  ; three  that  were  known, 
and  I don’t  know  how  many  more  besides.” 

“ In  an  old  palace  ? ” Isabel  repeated. 

“ Yes,  my  dear ; a very  different  affair  from  this.  This  is  very 
bourgeois” 

Isabel  felt  some  emotion,  for  she  had  always  thought  highly 
of  her  grandmother’s  house.  But  the  emotion  was  of  a kind 
which  led  her  to  say — 

“ I should  like  very  much  to  go  to  Florence.” 

“‘Well,  if  you  will  be  very  good,  and  do  everything  I tell  you, 

I will  take  you  there,”  Mrs.  Touchett  rejoined. 

The  girl’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.” 

“ Ho,  you  don’t  look  like  a young  lady  of  that  sort.  You 
are  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 would  promise  almost  anything  ! ” 

Edmund  and  Lilian  were  slow  to  return,  and  Mrs.  Touchett 
had  an  hour’s  uninterrupted  talk  with  her  niece,  who  found  her 
a strange  and  interesting  person.  She  was  as  eccentric  as  Isabel 
nad  always  supposed ; and  hitherto,  whenever  the  girl  had  heard 
people  described  as  eccentric,  she  had  thought  of  them  as  dis- 
agreeable. To  her  imagination  the  term  had  always  suggested 
something  grotesque  and  inharmonious.  But  her  aunt  infused  a 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


23 


new  vividness  into  the  idea,  and  gave  her  s<j  many  fresh  impres- 
sions that  it  seemed  to  her  she  had  over-estimated  the  charms  of 
conformity.  She  had  never  met  any  one  so  entertaining  as  thin 
little  thin-lipped,  bright-eyed,  foreign-looking  woman,  who  re- 
trieved an  insignificant  appearance  by  a distinguished  manner 
and,  sitting  there  in  a well-worn  waterproof,  talked  with  striking 
familiarity  of  European  courts.  There  was  nothing  flighty  about 
Mrs.  Touchett,  but  she  was  fond  of  social  grandeur,  and  she 
enjoyed  the  consciousness  of  making  an  impression  on  a candid 
and  susceptible  mind.  Isabel  at  first  had  answered  a good  many 
questions,  and  it  was  from  her  answers  apparently  that  Mrs. 
Touchett  derived  a high  opinion  of  her  intelligence.  But 
after  this  she  had  asked  a good  many,  and  her  aunt’s  answers, 
whatever  they  were,  struck  her  as  deeply  interesting.  Mrs. 
Touchett  waited  for  the  return  of  her  other  niece  as  long  as  she 
thought  reasonable,  but  as  at  six  o’clock  Mrs.  Ludlow  had  not 
come  in,  she  prepared  to  take  her  departure. 

“ Your  sister  must  be  a great  gossip,”  she  said.  “ Is  she 
accustomed  to  staying  out  for  hours  h ” 

“ You  have  been  out  almost  as  long  as  she,”  Isabel  answered; 
“ 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 
to  her  niece. 

“ Perhaps  she  has  not  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.” 


IV. 

Mrs.  Ludlow  was  the  eldest  of  the  three  sisters,  and  waa 
usually  thought  the  most  sensible;  the  classification  being  in 
general  that  Lilian  was  the  practical  one,  Edith  the  beauty,  and 
Isabel  the  “ intellectual  ” one.  Mrs.  Keyes,  the  second  sister, 
was  the  wife  of  an  officer  in  the  United  States  Engineers,  and  aa 
our  history  is  not  further  concerned  with  her,  it  will  be  enough 
to  say  that  she  was  indeed  very  pretty,  and  that  she  formed  the 
ornament  of  those  various  military  stations,  chiefly  in  the  un- 
fashionable West,  to  which,  to  her  deep  chagrin,  her  husband 
was  successively  relegated  Lilian  had  married  a New  York 


24 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


lawyer,  a young  man  with  a loud  voice  and  an  enthusiasm  for 
his  profession ; the  match  was  not  brilliant,  any  more  than 
Edith’s  had  been,  but  Lilian  had  occasionally  been  spoken  of  as 
& young  woman  who  might  be  thankful  to  marry  at  all — she 
was  so  much  plainer  than  her  sisters.  She  was,  however,  very 
happy,  and  now,  as  the  mother  of  two  peremptory  little  boys, 
and  the  mistress  of  a house  which  presented  a narrowness  of  new 
brown  stone  to  Fifty-third  Street,  she  had  quite  justified  her 
claim  to  matrimony.  She  was  short  and  plump,  and,  as  people 
said,  had  improved  since  her  marriage ; 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 have 
never  felt  like  Isabel’s  sister,  and  I am  sure  I never  shall,”  she  had 
said  to  an  intimate  friend  ; a declaration  which  made  it  all  the 
more  creditable  that  she  had  been  prolific  in  sisterly  offices. 

“ I want  to  see  her  safely  married — that’s  what  I want  to  see,” 
she  frequently  remarked  to  her  husband 

“ Well,  I must  say  I should  have  no  particular  desire  to  marry 
her,”  Edmund  Ludlow  was  accustomed  to  answer,  in  an  extremely 
audible  tone. 

“I  know  you  say  that  for  argument;  you  always  take  the 
opposite  ground.  I don’t  see  what  you  have  against  her,  except 
that  she  is  so  original.” 

“ Well,  I don’t  like  originals ; I like  translations,”  Mr.  Ludlow 
had  more  than  once  replied.  “ Isabel  is  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 am  afraid  she  will  do  ! ” cried  Lilian,  who 
thought  Isabel  capable  of  anything. 

She  listened  with  great  interest  to  the  girl’s  account  of  Mrs. 
Touche tt’s  visit,  and  in  the  evening  prepared  to  comply  with  her 
commands.  Of  what  Isabel  said  to  her  no  report  has  remained, 
but  her  sister’s  words  must  have  prompted  a remark  that  she 
made  to  her  husband  in  the  conjugal  chamber  as  the  two  were 
getting  ready  to  go  to  the  hotel. 

u I do  hope  immensely  she  will  do  something  handsome  for 
Isabel ; she  has  evidently  taken  a great  fancy  to  her.” 

“ What  is  it  you  wish  her  to  do  1 ” Edmund  Ludlow  asked  ; 
* make  her  a big  present  1 ” 

“ Ho,  indeed ; nothing  of  the  sort.  But  take  an  interest  in 
her — sympathise  with  her.  She  is  evidently  just  the  . sort  of 
person  to  appreciate  Isabel.  She  has  lived  so  much  in  foreign 
society ; she  told  Isabel  all  about  it.  You  know  you  have 
si  ways  thought  Isabel  rather  foreign.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


n 

“ 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  1 ” hex 
husband  asked. 

“ She  has  offered  to  take  her — she  is  dying  to  have  Isabel  go  ! 
But  what  I want  her  to  do  when  she  gets  her  there  is  to  give  hex 
all  the  advantages.  I am  sure  that  all  we  have  got  to  do,”  said 
Mrs.  Ludlow,  “ is  to  give  her  a chance  ! ” 

“ A chance  for  what ! ” 

“ A chance  to  develop.” 

“ 0 Jupiter  ! ” 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  h ” the  young  man  said,  jocosely,  to 
Isabel  a little  later,  while  he  brushed  his  hat. 

“ I am  sure  I don't  care  whether  you  do  or  not  ! ” exclaimed 
the  girl,  whose  voice  and  smile,  however,  were  sweeter  than  the 
words  she  uttered. 

“ Oh,  she  feels  so  grand  since  Mrs.  Touchett's  visit,”  said 
her  sister. 

But  Isabel  challenged  this  assertion  with  a good  deal  of 
seriousness.  * 

“You  must  not  say  that,  Lily.  I don't  feel  grand  at  all.” 

“ I am  sure  there  is  no  harm,”  said  the  conciliatory  Lily. 

“ Ah,  but  there  is  nothing  in  Mrs.  Touchett’s  visit  to  make 
one  feel  grand.” 

“ Oh,”  exclaimed  Ludlow,  cc  she  is  grander  than  ever  ! ” 

“ Whenever  I feel  grand,”  said  the  girl,  “ it  will  be  for  a better 
reason.” 

Whether  she  felt  grand  or  no,  she  at  any  rate  felt  busy ; busy, 
I mean,  with  her  thoughts.  Left  to  herself  for  the  evening,  she 
sat  awhile  under  the  lamp,  with  empty  hands,  heedless  of  her 
i;sual  avocations.  Then  she  rose  and  moved  about  the  room* 
and  from  one  room  to  another,  preferring  the  places  where  the 
vague  lamplight  expired.  She  was  restless,  and  even  excited; 

moments  she  trembled  a little.  She  felt  that  something  had 
happened  to  her  of  which  the  importance  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  ; 
lut  Isabel  was  in  a situation  which  gave  a value  to  any  change. 
Bite  had  a desire  to  leave  the  past  behind  her,  and,  as  she  said 


26 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


So  herself,  to  begin  afresh.  This  desire,  indeed,  was  not  a birth 
of  the  present  occasion;  it  was  as  familiar  as  the  sound  of  tha 
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 
fco  take  a nap.  On  the  contrary,  it  was  because  she  felt  too 
wide-awake,  and  wished  to  check  the  sense  of  seeing  too  many 
things  at  once.  Her  imagination  was  by  habit  ridiculously 
active  ; if  the  don*  were  not  opened  to  it,  it  jumped  out  of  the 
window.  She  was  not  accustomed,  indeed,  to  keep  it  behind 
bolts  ; and,  at  important  moments,  when  she  would  have  been 
thankful  to  make  use  of  her  judgment  alone,  she  paid  the  penalty 
of  having  given  undue  encouragement  to  the  faculty  of  seeing 
without  judging.  At  present,  with  her  sense  that  the  note  of 
change  had  been  struck,  came  gradually  a host  of  images  of  the 
things  she  was  leaving  behind  her.  The  years  and  hours  of  her 
life  came  back  to  her,  and  for  a long  time,  in  a stillness  broken 
only  by  the  ticking  of  the  big  bronze  clock,  she  passed  them  in 
review.  It  had  been  a very  happy  life  and  she  had  been  a very 
fortunate  girl — this  was  the  truth  that  seemed  to  emerge  most 
vividly.  She  had  had  the  best  of  everything,  and  in  a world 
in  which  the  circumstances  of  so  many  people  made  them  unen- 
viable, it  was  an  advantage  never  to  have  known  anything 
particularly  disagreeable.  It  appeared  to  Isabel  that  the  disa- 
greeable had  been  even  too  absent  from  her  knowledge,  for  she 
had  gathered  from  her  acquaintance  with  literature  that  it  was 
often  a source  of  interest,  and  even  of  instruction.  Her  father 
had  kept  it  away  from  her — her  handsome,  much-loved  father, 
who  always  had  such  an  aversion  to  it.  It  was  a great  good 
fortune  to  have  been  his  daughter  ; Isabel  was  even  proud  of  her 
parentage.  Since  his  death  she  had  gathered  a vague  impression 
that  he  turned  his  brighter  side  to  his  children,  and  that  he  had 
not  eluded  discomfort  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  think  that  he  was  too  generous, 
too  good-natured,  too  indifferent  to  sordid  considerations.  Many 
persons  thought  that  he  carried  this  indifference  too  far; 
especially  the  large  number  of  those  to  whom  he  owed  money. 
Of  their  opinions,  Isabel  was  never  very  definitely  informed; 
but  it  may  interest  the  reader  to  know  that,  while  they  adpiitted 
that  the  late  Mr.  Archer  had  a remarkably  handsome  head  and  a 
very  taking  manner  (indeed,  as  one  of  them  had  said,  he  was 
always  taking  something),  they  declared  that  he  had  made  a 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY.  27 

yery  poor  use  of  his  life.  He  had  squandered  a substantia] 
{fortune,  ha  had  been  deplorably  convivial,  he  was  known  to 
ha  re  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  nurse- 
maids and  governesses  (usually  very  bad  ones),  or  had  been  sent 
to  strange  schools  kept  by  foreigners,  from  which,  at  the  end  of 
z month,  they  had  been  removed  in  tears.  This  view  of  the 
matter  would  have  excited  IsabePs  indignation,  for  to  her  own 
sense  her  opportunities  had  been  abundant.  Even  when  liet 
father  had  left  his  daughters  for  three  months  at  Neufchatel 
with  a French  bonne , who  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  fright- 
ened nor  ashamed,  but  had  thought  it  a picturesque  episode  in  a 
liberal  education.  Her  father  had  a large  way  of  looking  at  life, 
of  which  his  restlessness  and  even  his  occasional  incoherency  of 
conduct  had  been  only  a proof.  He  wished  his  daughters,  even 
as  children,  to  see  as  much  of  the  world  as  possible ; and  it  was 
for  this  purpose  that,  before  Isabel  was  fourteen,  he  had  trans- 
ported them  three  times  across  the  Atlantic,  giving  them  on  each 
occasion,  however,  but  a few  months’  view  of  foreign  lands ; a 
course  which  had  whetted  our  heroine’s  curiosity  without 
enabling  her  to  satisfy  it.  She  ought  to  have  been  a partisan 
of  her  father,  for  among  his  three  daughters  she  was  quite  his 
favourite,  and  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  was  sensibly  modified  by 
the  pain  of  separation  from  his  clever,  his  superior,  his  remark- 
able girl.  Later,  when  the  journeys  to  Europe  ceased,  he  still 
had  shown  his  children  all  sorts  of  indulgence,  and  if  he  had 
been  troubled  about  money-matters,  nothing  ever  disturbed  their 
irreflective  consciousness  of  many  possessions.  Isabel,  though 
she  danced  \ery  well,  had  not  the  recollection  of  having  been  in 
Few  York  a successful  member  of  the  choregraphic  circle  ; her 
sifter  Edith  was,  as  every  one  said,  so  very  much  more  popular. 
Edith  was  so  striking  an  example  of  success  that  Isabel  could 
Lave  no  illusions  as  to  what  constituted  this  advantage,  or  as  to 
the  moderate  character  of  her  own  triumphs.  Nineteen  persons 
out  of  twenty  (including  the  younger  sister  herself)  pronounced 
Edith  infinitely  the  prettier  of  the  two  ; but  the  twentieth, 
besides  reversing  this  judgment,  had  the  entertainment  of  thinking 


£8 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


all  the  others  a parcel  of  fools.  Isabel  had  in  the  depths  of 
her  nature  an  even  more  unquenchable  desire  to  please  than 
Edith ; but  the  depths  of  this  young  lady’s  nature  were  a very 
out-of-the-way  place,  between  which  and  the  surface  communi- 
cation 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  conver- 
sation at  a low  temperature.  The  poor  girl  liked  to  be  thought 
clever,  but  she  hated  to  be  thought  bookish ; she  used  to  read  in 
secret,  and,  though  her  memory  was  excellent,  to  abstain  from 
quotation.  She  had  a great  desire  for  knowledge,  but  she  really 
preferred  almost  any  source  of  information  to  the  printed  page  ; 
she  had  an  immense  curiosity  about  life,  and  was  constantly 
staring  and  wondering.  She  carried  within  herself  a great  fund 
of  life,  and  her  deepest  enjoyment  was  to  feel  the  continuity 
between  the  movements  of  her  own  heart  and  the  agitations  of 
the  world.  Eor  this  reason  she  was  fond  of  seeing  great  crowds 
and  large  stretches  of  country,  of  reading  about  revolutions  and 
wars,  of  looking  at  historical  pictures — a class  of  efforts  to  which 
she  had  often  gone  so  far  as  to  forgive  much  bad  painting  for 
the  sake  of  the  subject.  While  the  Civil  War  went  on,  she  was 
still  a very  young  girl ; but  she  passed  months  of  this  long 
period  in  a state  of  almost  passionate  excitement,  in  which  she 
felt  herself  at  times  (to  her  extreme  confusion)  stirred  almost 
indiscriminately  by  the  valour  of  either  army.  Of  course 
the  circumspection  of  the  local  youth  had  never  gone  the 
length  of  making  her  a social  proscript;  for  the  proportion  of 
those  whose  hearts,  as  they  approached  her,  beat  only  just  fast 
enough  to  make  it  a sensible  pleasure,  was  sufficient  to  redeem 
her  maidenly  career  from  failure.  She  had  had  everything  that 
a girl  could  have  : kindness,  admiration,  flattery,  bouquets,  the 
sense  of  exclusion  from  none  of  the  privileges  of  the  world  she 
lived  in,  abundant  opportunity  for  dancing,  the  latest  publica- 
tions, plenty  of  new  dresses,  the  London  Spectator , and  a glimpse 
of  contemporary  aesthetics. 

These  things  now,  as  memory  played  over  them,  resolved 
themselves  into  a multitude  of  scenes  and  figures.  Forgotten 
things  came  back  to  her ; many  others,  which  she  had  lately 
thought  of  great  moment,  dropped  out  of  sight.  The  result  was 
kaleidoscopic;  but  the  movement  of  the  instrument  was  checked 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


£9 


at  last  by  the  servant’s  coming  in  with  the  name  of  a gentleman. 
The  name  of  the  gentleman  was  Caspar  Goodwood ; lie  was  a 
straight  young  man  from  Boston,  who  had  known  Miss  Archer  for 
the  last  twelvemonth,  and  who,  thinking  her  the  most  beautiful 
young  woman  of  her  time,  had  pronounced  the  time,  according  to 
the  rule  I have  hinted  at,  a foolish  period  of  history.  He  sometimes 
wrote  to  Isabel,  and  he  had  lately  written  to  her  fr'tu  New  York. 
She  had  thought  it  very  possible  he  would  come  in — had,  indeed, 
all  the  rainy  day  been  vaguely  expecting  him.  Nevertheless,  now 
that  she  learned  he  was  there,  she  felt  no  eagerness  to  receive 
him.  He  was  the  finest  young  man  she  had  ever  seen,  was, 
indeed,  quite  a magnificent  young  man ; he  filled  her  with  a 
certain  feeling  of  respect  which  she  had  never  entertained  for 
any  one  else.  He  was  supposed  by  the  world  in  general  to  wish 
to  marry  her ; but  this  of  course  was  between  themselves.  It 
at  least  may  be  affirmed  that  he  had  travelled  from  New  York 
to  Albany  expressly  to  see  her;  having  learned  in  the  former 
city,  where  he  was  spending  a few  days  and  where  he  had  hoped 
to  find  her,  that  she  was  still  at  the  capital.  Isabel  delayed  foj 
some  minutes  to  go  to  him  ; she  moved  about  the  room  with  a 
certain  feeling  of  embarrassment.  But  at  last  she  presented 
herself,  and  found  him  standing  near  the  lamp.  He  was  tall, 
strong,  and  somewhat  stiff ; he  was  also  lean  and  brown.  He 
was  not  especially  good-looking,  but  his  physiognomy  had  an  air 
of  requesting  your  attention,  which  it  rewarded  or  not,  according 
to  the  charm  you  found  in  a blue  eye  of  remarkable  fixedness 
and  a jaw  of  the  somewhat  angular  mould,  which  is  supposed 
to  bespeak  resolution.  Isabel  said  to  herself  that  it  bespoke 
resolution  to-night ; but,  nevertheless,  an  hour  later,  Caspar 
Goodwood,  who  had  arrived  hopeful  as  well  as  resolute,  took  his 
way  back  to  his  lodging  with  the  feeling  of  a man  defeated. 
He  was  not,  however,  a man  to  be  discouraged  by  a defeat. 


V. 

Ralph  Touchett  was  a philosopher,  but  nevertheless  hs 
knocked  at  his  mother’s  door  (at  a quarter  to  seven)  with  a good 
deal  of  eagerness.  Even  philosophers  have  their  preferences, 
\nd  it  must  be  admitted  that  of  his  progenitors  his  father 
ministered  most  to  his  sense  of  the  sweetness  of  filial  depend- 
2nce.  His  father,  as  he  had  often  said  to  himself,  was  the  more 
motherly  • his  mother  on  the  other  ha.  ad,  was  paternal,  and 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


ID 

Bren,  uncording  to  the  slang  of  the  day,  gubernatorial.  She 
was  nevertheless  very  fond  of  her  only  child,  and  had  always 
insisted  on  his  spending  three  months  of  the  year  with  her. 
Ralph  rendered  perfect  justice  to  her  affection,  and  knew  that  in 
her  thoughts  his  turn  always  came  after  the  care  of  her  house 
and  her  conservatory  (she  was  extremely  fond  of  flowers^.  He 
found  her  completely  dressed  for  dinner,  but  she  embrace  d her 
boy  with  her  gloved  hands,  and  made  him  sit  on  the  sofa  beside 
her.  She  inquired  scrupulously  about  her  husband’s  health  and 
about  the  young  man’s  own,  and  receiving  no  very  brilliant 
account  of  either,  she  remarked  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  broken  down.  Ralph 
smiled  at  the  idea  of  his  mother  breaking  down,  but  made  no 
point  of  reminding  her  that  his  own  enfeebled  condition  was 
not  the  result  of  the  English  climate,  from  which  he  absented 
himself  for  a considerable  part  of  each  year. 

He  had  been  a very  small  boy  when  his  father,  Daniel  Tracy 
Touch ett,  who  was  a native  of  Rutland,  in  the  State  of  Vermont, 
came  to  England  as  subordinate  partner  in  a banking-house,  in 
which  some  ten  years  later  he  acquired  a preponderant  interest. 
Daniel  Touchett  saw  before  him  a life-long  residence  in  his 
adopted  country,  of  which,  from  the  first,  he  took  a simple, 
cheerful,  and  eminently  practical  view.  But,  as  he  said  to  him- 
self, he  had  no  intention  of  turning  Englishman,  nor  had  he  any 
desire  to  convert  his  only  son  to  the  same  sturdy  faith.  It  .had 
been  for  himself  so  very  soluble  a problem  to  live  in  England, 
and  yet  not  be  of  it,  that  it  seemed  to  him  equally  simple  that 
after  his  death  his  lawful  heir  should  carry  on  the  bank  in  a 
pure  American  spirit.  He  took  pains  to  cultivate  this  spirit, 
however,  by  sending  the  boy  home  for  his  education.  Ralph 
spent  several  terms  in  an  American  school,  and  took  a degree 
it  an  American  college,  after  which,  as  he  struck  his  father  on 
ais  return  as  even  redundantly  national,  he  was  placed  for 
some  three  years  in  residence  at  Oxford.  Oxford  swallowed 
up  Harvard,  and  Ralph  became  at  last  English  enough.  His 
outward  conformity  to  the  manners  that  surrounded  him  was 
Hone  the  less  the  mask  of  a mind  that  greatly  enjoyed  its 
independence,  on  which  nothing  long  imposed  itself,  and  which, 
naturally  inclined  to  jocosity  and  irony,  indulged  in  a boundless 
liberty  of  appreciation.  He  began  with  being  a young  man  of 
promise;  at  Oxford  he  distinguished  himself,  to  his  fathers 
Lneif&blo  satisfaction,  and  the  people  about  him  said  it  was  a 
thousand  pities  so  clever  a fellow  should  be  shut  out  from  a 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


3* 

farcer.  He  fnight  have  had  a career  by  returning  to  his  own 
country  (thou£  h 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  the  ocean 
(which  he  detested)  permanently  between  himself  and  the  old 
man  whom  ha  regarded  as  his  best  friend.  Ralph  was  not  only 
- fond  of  his  father,  bu^t  he  admired  him — he  enjoyed  the  opportunity 
of  observing  him.  Daniel  Touchett  to  his  perception  was  a man 
of  genius,  and  though  he  himself  had  no  great  fancy  for  the 
banking  business,  he  Ymade  a point  of  learning  enough  of  it  to 
measure  the  great  figure  his  father  had  played.  It  was  not  this, 
however,  he  mainly  Relished,  it  was  the  old  man’s  effective 
simplicity.  Daniel  Touchett  had  been  neither  at  Harvard  nor 
at  Oxford,  and  it  was  Ins' own  fault  if  he  had  put  into  his  son’s 
hands  the  key  to  modern  criticism.  Ralph,  whose  head  was 
full  of  ideas  which  his  father  had  never  guessed,  had  a high 
esteem  for  the  latter’s  originality..  Americans,  rightly  or  wrongly, 
are  commended  for  the  ease  with  which  they  adapt  themselves 
to  foreign  conditions ; but  Mr.  Touchett  had  given  evidence  of 
this  talent  only  up  to  a certain  point.  He  had  made  himsen 
thoroughly  comfortable  in  England,  but  he  had  never  attempted 
to  pitch  his  thoughts  in  the  English  key.  He  had  retained 
many  characteristics  of  Rutland,  Vermont ; his  tone,  as  his  son 
always  noted  with  pleasure,  was  that  of  the  more  luxuriant  parts 
of  Hew  England.  At  the  end  of  his  life,  especially,  he  was  a 
gentle,  refined,  fastidious  old  man,  who  combined  consummate 
shrewdness  with  a sort  of  fraternising  good-humour,  and  whose 
feeling  about  his  own  position  in  the  world  was  quite  of  the 
democratic  sort.  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  never  perceived,  certain  habits  he  never  formed, 
certain  mysteries  he  never  understood.  As  regards  these  latter, 
on  the  day  that  he  had  understood  them  his  son  would  have 
thought  less  well  of  him. 

Ralph,  on  leaving  Oxford,  spent  a couple  of  years  in  travelling  • 
after  which  he  found  himself  mounted  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  ha 


32 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


became  conscious  that  he  was  seriously  out  of  heaUh.  He  had 
caught  a violent  cold,  which  fixed  itself  upon  his  lungs  and 
threw  them  into  extreme  embarrassment.  H/e  had  to  give 
up  work  and  embrace  the  sorry  occupation  kin  own  as  taking 
care  of  one’s  self.  At  first  he  was  greatiy  disgusted ; it  ap- 
peared to  him  that  it  was  not  himself  in  the  least  that  he  wu 
taking  care  of,  but  an  uninteresting  and  uninterested  person  wivb 
whom  he  had  nothing  in  common.  This  person,  however, 
improved  on  acquaintance,  and  Kalph  grew  at  last  to  have  a 
certain  grudging  tolerance,  and  even  undemonstrative  respect,  for 
him.  Misfortune  makes  strange  bed-fellows,  and  our  ycung 
man,  feeling  that  he  had  something  at  stake  in  the  matter — it 
usually  seemed  to  him  to  be  his  reputation  for  common  sense — 
devoted  to  his  unattractive  protege  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 
that  he  might  outweather  a dozen  winters  if  he  would  betake 
himself  to  one  of  those  climates  in  which  consumptives  chiefly 
congregate.  He  had  grown  extremely  fond  of  London,  and 
cursed  this  immitigable  necessity  ; but  at  the  same  time  that  he 
cursed,  he  conformed,  and  gradually,  when  he  found  that  his 
sensitive  organ  was  really  grateful  for  such  grim  favours,  he 
conferred  them  with  a better  grace.  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  snowed,  almost  never  got  up  again.  A certain  fund  of  indo- 
lence that  he  possessed  came  to  his  aid  and  helped  to  reconcile 
him  to  doing  nothing ; for  at  the  best  he  was  too  ill  for  anything 
but  a passive  life.  As  he  said  to  himself,  there  was  really  nothing 
he  had  wanted  very  much  to  do,  so  that  he  had  given  up 
nothing.  At  present,  however,  the  perfume  of  forbidden  fruit 
Beemed  occasionally  to  float  past  him,  to  remind  him  that  the 
finest  pleasures  of  life  are  to  be  found  in  the  world  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  this  occasion 
remained  later  than  usual  in  England,  and  ha  1 been  overtaken 
by  had  weather  before  reaching  Algiers.  He  reached  it  more 
leal  than  alive,  and  lay  there  for  several  weeks  between  life  and 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


89 

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,  but  that  it  was  also  open 
to  him  to  spend  the  interval  as  agreeably  as  might  be  consistent 
with  such  a pre-occupation.  With  the  prospect  of  losing  them, 
the  simple  use  of  his  faculties  became  an  exquisite  pleasure ; it 
seemed  to  him  that  the  delights  of  observation  had  never  been 
suspected.  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  to  struggle  with  a good  deal 
of  native  indifference.  His  friends  at  present  found  him  much 
more  cheerful,  and  attributed  it  to  a theory,  over  which  they 
shook  their  heads  knowingly,  that  he  would  recover  his  health. 
The  truth  was  that  he  had  simply  accepted  the  situation. 

It  was  very  probable  this  sweet-tasting  property  of  observation 
to  which  I allude  (for  he  found  himself  in  these  last  years  much 
more  inclined  to  notice  the  pleasant  things  of  the  world  than  the 
others)  that  was  mainly  concerned  in  Ealph's  quickly-stirred 
interest  in  the  arrival  of  a young  lady  who  was  evidently  not 
insipid.  If  he  were  observantly  disposed,  something  told  him, 
here  was  occupation  enough  for  a succession  of  days.  It  may  be 
added,  somewhat  crudely,  that  the  liberty  of  falling  in  love  had 
a place  in  Ealph  Touchett’s  programme.  This  was  of  course  a 
liberty  to  be  very  temperately  used ; for  though  the  safest  form 
cf  any  sentiment  is  that  which  is  conditioned  upon  silence,  it  is 
not  always  the  most  comfortable,  and  Ealph  had  forbidden  him- 
self the  art  of  demonstration.  But  conscious  observation  of  a 
lovely  woman  had  struck  him  as  the  finest  entertainment  that 
the  world  now  had  to  offer  him,  and  if  the  interest  should 
become  poignant,  he  flattered  himself  that  he  could  carry  it  oil 
quietly,  as  he  had  carried  other  discomforts.  He  speedily 
acquired  a conviction,  however,  that  he  was  not  destined  to  fall 
in  love  with  his  cousin. 

“ And  now  tell  me  about  the  young  lady,”  he  said  to  hia 
mother.  “ What  do  you  mean  to  do  with  her  h ” 

Mrs.  Touchett  hesitated  a little.  “ 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  is  my  niece  ; she  is  not  his/ 
“ Good  Lord,  dear  mother ; what  a sense  of  property  ! That's 
all  the  more  reason  for  hi3  asking  her.  But  after  that — I mean 

D 


n 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


after  * \ree  months  (for  it’s  absurd  asking  the  poor  girl  to  remain 
but  tor  three  or  four  paltry  weeks) — what  do  you  mean  to  do 
with  her  1 ” 

u I mean  to  take  her  to  Paris,  to  get  her  some  clothes.” 

“ Ah  yes,  that’s  of  course.  But  independently  of  that  ] ” 

“ I shall  invite  her  to  spend  the  autumn  with  mo  in 
Florence.” 

“ You  don’t  rise  above  detail,  dear  mother,”  said  Ralph.  “ [ 
should  like  to  know  what  you  mean  to  do  with  her  in  a general 
way.” 

“ My  duty  ! ” Mrs.  Touchett  declared.  “ I suppose  you  pity 
her  very  much,”  she  added. 

“ No,  I don’t  think  I pity  her.  She  doesn’t  strike  me  as  a 
girl  that  suggests  compassion.  I think  I envy  her.  Before  being 
sure,  however,  give  me  a hint  of  what  your  duty  will  direct  you 
to  do.” 

“ It  will  direct  mo  to  show  her  four  European  countries — I 
shall  leave  her  the  choice  of  two  of  them — and  to  give  her  the 
opportunity  of  perfecting  herself  in  French,  which  she  already 
knows  very  well.” 

Ralph  frowned  a little.  “ That  sounds  rather  dry  — even 
giving  her  the  choice  of  two  of  the  countries.” 

“ If  it’s  dry,”  said  his  mother  with  a laugh,  “ you  can  leave 
Isabel  alone  to  water  it  ! She  is  as  good  as  a summer  rain,  any 
day.” 

“ Do  you  mean  that  she  is  a gifted  being  1 ” 

“ I don’t  know  whether  she  is  a gifted  being,  but  she  is  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  1 ” 

“ Do  you  mean  by  that  that  I am  a bore  ] I don’t  think 
Isabel  finds  me  one.  Some  girls  might,  I know ; but  this  one  is 
too  clever  for  that.  I think  I amuse  her  a good  deal.  We  get 
on  very  well,  because  I understand  her ; I know  the  sort  of  girl 
Bhe  is.  She  is  very  frank,  and  I am  very  frank ; we  know  just 
what  to  expect  of  each  other  ” 

“Ah,  dear  mother,”  Ralph  exclaimed,  “ one  always  knows 
what  to  expect  of  you  ! You  have  never  surprised  me  but  once, 
ind  that  is  to-day — in  presenting  me  with  a pretty  cousin  whose 
ixistence  I had  never  suspected.” 

“ Do  you  think  her  very  pretty]  ” 

“ Very  pretty  indeed  ; but  I don’t  insist  upon  that  It’s  hai 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


8ft 


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 told  her? 
she  seemed  very  grateful  for  the  hint.  You  may  say  I shouldn*t 
have  told  her — I should  have  let  her  alone.  There  is  a good 
deal  in  that ; but  I acted  conscientiously  ; I thought  she  wag 
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  is  very  much  mistaken. 
If  you  want  to  know,  1 thought  she  would  do  me  credit.  I like 
to  be  well  thought  of,  and  for  a woman  of  my  age  there  is  no 
more  becoming  ornament  than  an  attractive  niece.  You  know 
I had  seen  nothing  of  my  sister’s  children  for  years ; I disap- 
proved entirely  of  the  father.  But  I always  meant  to  do  some- 
thing 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.  Thefe  are  two  other 
sisters,  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  is  a genius ; 
but  in  that  case  I have  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 sort  of  land  of  emigration,  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  hex 
own  expense.” 

Ralph  had  listened  attentively  to  this  judicious  account  of  his 
pretty  cousin,  by  which  his  interest  in  her  was  not  impaired. 
“ Ah,  if  she  is  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,  blit  yor 
will  be  wrong.” 


D 2 


«« 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“Warburton  is  wrong,  then!”  Ealph  Touchett  exclaimed, 
* He  Hatters  himself  he  has  made  that  discovery.” 

His  mother  shook  her  head.  44  Lord  Warburton  won’t  under- 
stand  her;  he  needn’t  try.” 

“ He  is  very  intelligent,”  said  Ealph  ; “ 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.  4 4 What  does  she  know  about 
lords ? ” 

44  Nothing  at  all ; that  will  puzzle  him  all  the  more.” 

Ealph  greeted  these  words  with  a laugh,  and  looked  out  of  the 
window  a little.  Then — 44  Are  you  not  going  down  to  see  my 
father  ? ” he  asked. 

44  At  a quarter  to  eight,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett. 

Her  son  looked  at  his  watch.  44  You  have  another  quarter  of 
an  hour,  then  ; tell  me  some  more  about  Isabel.” 

But  Mrs.  Touchett  declined  his  invitation,  declaring  that  he 
must  find  out  for  himself. 

4 Well,”  said  Ealph,  44  she  will  certainly  do  you  credit.  But 
won’t  she  also  give  you  trouble  ? ” 

44 1 hope  not ; but  if  she  does,  I shall  not  shrink  from  it.  I 
never  do  that.” 

44  She  strikes  me  as  very  natural,”  said  Ealph. 

44  Natural  people  are  not  the  most  trouble.” 

44  No,”  said  Ealph  ; 44  you  yourself  are  a proof  of  that.  You 
are  extremely  natural,  and  I am  sure  you  have  never  troubled 
any  one.  But  tell  me  this  ; it  just  occurs  to  me.  Is  Isabel 
capable  of  making  herself  disagreeable  ? ” 

44  Ah,”  cried  his  mother,  44  you  ask  too  many  questions  ! Bind 
that  out  for  yourself.” 

His  questions,  however,  were  not  exhausted.  44  All  this  time,” 
he  said,  44  you  have  not  tcld  me  what  you  intend  to  do  with 
her.” 

44  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  that  she  chooses.  She  gave  me  notice  of  that.” 

44  What  you  meant  then,  in  v^ur  telegram,  was  that  her 
character  was  independent.” 

44 1 never  know  what  I mean  by  my  telegrams — especially 
those  I send  from  America.  Clearness  is  too  expensive.  Come 
down  to  your  father.” 

44  It  is  not  yet  a quarter  to  eight,”  said  Ealph. 

44 1 must  allow  for  his  impatience,”  Mrs.  Touchett  answered. 

Ealph  knew  what  to  think  of  his  father’3  impatience ; hut 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LALY. 


87 


making  no  rejoinder,  he  offered  his  mother  his  arm.  This  put 
it  into  his  power,  as  they  descended  together,  to  stop  her  a 
moment  on  the  middle  landing  of  the  staircase — the  broad,  low, 
wide-armed  staircase  of  time-stained  oak  which  was  one  of  the 
most  striking  ornaments  of  Gardencourt. 

“You  have  no  plan  of  marrying  her?  ” he  said,  smiling. 

“ Marry  her  1 I should  be  sorry  to  play  her  such  a trick  5 
But  apart  from  that,  she  is  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  is  a young  man  in 
Boston ” 

Kalph  went  on;  he  had  no  desire  to  hear  about  the  young 
man  in  Boston.  “As  my  father  says,"  he  exclaimed,  “ they  are 
always  engaged  l ” 

His  mother  had  told  him  that  he  must  extract  his  information 
about  his  cousin  from  the  girl  herself,  and  it  soon  became  evident 
to  him  that  he  should  not  want  for  opportunity.  He  had,  for 
instance,  a good  deal  of  talk  with  her  that  same  evening,  when 
the  two  had  been  left  alone  together  in  the  drawing-room.  Lord 
Warburton,  who  had  ridden  over  from  his  own  house,  some  ten 
miles  distant,  remounted  and  took  his  departure  before  dinner ; 
and  an  hour  after  this  meal  was  concluded,  Mr.  and  Mrs. 
Touchett,  who  appeared  to  have  exhausted  each  other’s  convers- 
ation, withdrew,  under  the  valid  pretext  of  fatigue,  to  their 
respective  apartments.  The  young  man  spent  an  hour  with  his 
cousin ; though  she  had  been  travelling  half  the  day  she 
appeared  to  have  no  sense  of  weariness.  She  was  really  tired ; 
she  knew  it,  and  knew  that  she  should  pay  for  it  on  the  morrow ; 
but  it  was  her  habit  at  this  period  to  carry  fatigue  to  the  furthest 
point,  and  confess  to  it  only  when  dissimulation  had  become 
impossible.  For  the  present  it  was  perfectly  possible  ; she  was 
interested  and  excited.  She  asked  Balph  to  show  her  the 
pictures ; there  were  a great  many  of  them  in  the  house,  most  of 
them  of  his  own  choosing.  The  best  of  them  were  arranged  in 
an  oaken  gallery  of  charming  proportions,  which  had  a sitting- 
room  at  either  end  of  it,  and  which  in  the  evening  was  usually 
lighted.  The  light  was  insufficient  to  show  the  pictures  to 
advantage,  and  the  visit  might  have  been  deferred  till  the 
morrow.  This  suggestion  Balph  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 
ivas  ea^er,  she  knew  that  she  was  eager  and  that  she  seemed  so ; 
but  she  could  not  help  it.  “ She  doesn’t  take  suggestions,"  Balph 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


S3 

said  to  himself ; but  he  said  it  without  irritation  ; her  eagerness 
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 shining  on  the  polished  floor  of  the 
gallery.  Ralph  took  a candlestick  and  moved  about,  pointing 
out  the  things  he  liked  ; Isabel,  bending  toward  one  picture  after 
another,  indulged  in  little  exclamations  and  murmurs.  She  was 
evidently  a judge  ; she  had  a natural  taste ; he  was  struck  wifh 
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  gallery  and  bending  his 
eyes  much  less  upon  the  pictures  than  on  her  figure.  He  lost 
nothing,  in  truth,  by  these  wandering  glances  ; for  she  was  better 
worth  looking  at  than  most  works  of  art.  She  was  thin,  and 
light,  and  middling  tall;  when  people  had  wished  to  distin- 
guish her  from  the  other  two  Miss  Archers,  they  always  called 
her  the  thin  one.  Her  hair,  which  was  dark  even  to  blackness, 
had  been  an  object  of  envy  to  many  women ; her  light  grey  eye, 
a little  too  keen  perhaps  in  her  graver  moments,  had  an  enchant- 
ing softness  when  she  smiled.  They  walked  slowly  up  one  side 
•)f  th<*  gallery  and  down  the  other,  and  then  she  said — 

“ W ell,  now  I know  more  than  I did  when  I began  ! ” 

u You  apparently  have  a great  passion  for  knowledge,”  her 
cousin  answered,  laughing. 

“ I think  I have  ; most  girls  seem  to  me  so  ignorant,”  said 
Isabel. 

“ You  strike  me  as  different  from  most  girls.” 

“ All,  some  girls  are  so  nice,”  murmured  Isabel,  who  preferred 
not  to  talk  about  herself.  Then,  in  a moment,  to  change  the 
subject,  she  went  on,  “ Please  tell  me — isn’t  there  a ghost  1 ” 

“ A ghost  h ” 

**  A spectre,  a phantom  ; 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  house,”  said  Ralph.  “ You  will  be 
disappointed  if  you  count  on  that.  It’s  dismally  prosaic  ; there 
is  no  romance  here  but  what  you  may  have  brought  with  you.” 

“ I have  brought  a great  deal ; but  it  seems  to  me  I 
Drought  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. 


IKE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


!9 


“ I?  there  never  any  one  here  but  your  father  and  you  1 * 

6 My  mother,  of  course.” 

u Oh,  I know  your  mother ; she  is  not  romantic.  Haven't 
you  other  people  ] ” 

“ Very  few.” 

“ T am  sorry  for  that ; I like  so  much  to  see  people.” 

“Oh,  we  will  invite  all  the  .county  to  amuse  you,5*  said 
Ralph. 

“ Now  you  are  making  fun  of  me,”  the  girl  answered,  rather 
gravely.  “ Who  was  the  gentleman  that  was  on  the  lawn  when 
I arrived  ? ” 

“ A county  neighbour  ; he  doesn’t  come  very  often.” 

“ I am  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  fatherw 
too,  immensely.” 

“You  can’t  do  better  than  that ; he  is  a dear  old  man.” 

“ I am  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 have  been  told  I am  not ; I am  said 
to  be  too  theoretic.  But  you  haven’t  told  me  about  the  ghost,” 
she  added. 

Ralph,  however,  gave  no  heed  to  this  observation. 

“ You  like  my  father,  and  you  like  Lord  Warburton.  I 
infer  also  that  you  like  my  mother.” 

“ I like  your  mother  very  much,  because — because ” 

And  Isabel  found  herself  attempting  to  assign  a reason  for  her 
affection  for  Mrs.  Touchett. 

“ Ah,  we  never  know  why  ! ” said  her  companion,  laughing. 

“ I always  know  why,”  the  girl  answered.  “ It’s  because  she 
doesn’t  axpect  one  to  like  her ; she  doesn’t  care  whether  one 

does  or  not. ' 

“ So  you  adore  her,  out  of  perversity  1 Well,  I take  greatly 
after  my  mother,”  said  Ralph.* 

“ I don’t  believe  you  do  at  all.  You  wish  people  to  like  youf 
and  you  try  to  make  them  do  it.” 

“ Good  heavens,  how  you  see  through  one  ! r cried  Ralph; 
with  a dismay  that  was  not  altogether  jocular. 

“ But  I like  you  all  the  same,”  his  cousin  went  on.  “ Tka 
way  to  clinch  the  matter  will  be  to  show  me  the  ghost.” 

Ralph  shook  his  head  sadly.  “I  mi^ht  show  it  to  you,  but 
y o l w ould  never  see  it.  The  privilege  isn’t  given  to  every  one  ; 


10 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


it’s  not  enviable.  It  has  never  been  seen  by  a young,  happy 
innocent  person  like  you.  You  must  have  suffered  first,  have 
Buffered  greatly,  have  gained  some  miserable  knowledge.  In 
that  way  your  eyes  are  opened  to  it.  I saw  it  long  ago,”  said 
Ralph,  smiling. 

“ I told  you  just  now  I was  very  fond  of  knowledge,”  the 
girl  answered. 

a Yes,  of  happy  knowledge — of  pleasant  knowledge.  But 
you  haven’t  suffered,  and  you  are  not  made  to  suffer.  I hope 
you  will  never  see  the  ghost ! ” 

Isabel  had  listened  to  him  attentively,  with  a smile  on  her  lips, 
but  with  a certain  gravity  in  her  eyes.  Charming  as  he  found 
her,  she  had  struck  him  as  rather  presumptuous — indeed  it  wa* 
a part  of  her  charm;  and  he  wondered  what  she  would  say. 

“ I am  not  afraid,”  she  said ; which  seemed  quite  presumptuous 
enough. 

“ You  are  not  afraid  of  suffering?  ” 

“Yes,  I am  afraid  of  suffering.  But  I am  not  afraid  of  ghosts. 
And  I think  people  suffer  too  easily,”  she  added. 

“ I don’t  believe  you  do,”  said  Ralph,  looking  at  her  with  hir 
hands  in  his  pockets. 

“ I don’t  think  that’s  a fault,”  she  answered.  “ It  is  not 
absolutely  necessary  to  suffer ; we  were  not  made  for  that.” 

“ You  were  not,  certainly.” 

“ I am  not  speaking  of  myself.”  And  she  turned  away  a 
little. 

“Ho,  it  isn’t  a fault,”  said  her  cousin.  “ It’s  a merit  to  1)0 
strong.” 

“ Only,  if  you  don’t  suffer,  they  call  you  hard,”  Isabel  re- 
marked. They  passed  out  of  the  smaller  drawing-room,  into 
which  they  had  returned  from  the  gallery,  and  paused  in  the 
hall,  at  the  foot  of  the  staircase.  Here  Ralph  presented  his 
companion  with  her  bed-room  candle,  which  he  had  taken  from 
a niche.  “ Hever  mind  what  they  call  you,”  he  said.  “ When 
you  do  suffer,  they  call  you  an  idiot.  The  great  point  is  to  be 
as  happy  as  possible.” 

She  looked  at  him  a little  ; she  had  taken  her  candle,  and  placed 
her  foot  on  the  oaken  stair.  “Well,”  she  said,  “that’s  what  I 
came  to  Europe  for,  to  be  as  happy  as  possible.  Good  night.” 

“ Good  night ! I wish  you  all  success,  and  shall  be  very  glad 
to  contribute  to  it ! ” 

She  turned  away,  and  he  watched  her,  as  she  slowly  ascended. 
Then,  with  his  hands  always  in  liis  pockets,  he  went  back  to  tha 
empty  drawing-room. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


41 


VI. 

Isabel  Archer  was  a young  person  of  many  theories ; her 
Iiq  igination  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  fcr  knowledge  that  was  tinged  with  the  unfamiliar. 
It  is  true  that  among  her  contemporaries  she  passed  for  a young 
woman  of  extraordinary  profundity  ; for  these  excellent  people 
never  withheld  their  admiration  from  a reach  of  intellect  of 
which  they  themselves  were  not  conscious,  and  spoke  of  Isabel 
as  a prodigy  of  learning,  a young  lady  reputed  to  have  read  the 
classic  authors — in  translations.  Her  paternal  aunt,  Mrs.  Varian, 
once  spread  the  rumour  that  Isabel  was  writing  a book — Mrs. 
Varian  having  a reverence  for  books — and  averred  that  Isabel 
would  distinguish  herself  in  print.  Mrs.  Varian  thought  highly 
of  literature,  for  which  she  entertained  that  esteem  that  is  con- 
nected with  a sense  of  privation.  Her  own  large  house,  remark- 
able for  its  assortment  of  mosaic  tables  and  decorated  ceilings, 
was  unfurnished  with  a library,  and  in  the  way  of  printed 
volumes  contained  nothing  but  half-a-dozen  novels  in  paper,  on 
a shelf  in  the  apartment  of  one  of  the  Miss  Varians.  Practically, 
Mrs.  Variant  acquaintance  with  literature  was  confined  to  the 
New  York  Inter viewer ; as  she  very  justly  said,  after  you  had  read 
th Qlntervieiver,  you  had  no  time  for  anything  else.  Her  tendency, 
however,  was  rather  to  keep  the  Interviewer  out  of  the  way  of 
her  daughters ; she  was  determined  to  bring  them  up  seriously, 
and  they  read  nothing  at  all.  Her  impression  with  regard  to 
Isabel's  labours  was  quite  illusory;  the  girl  never  attempted 
to  write  a book,  and  had  no  desire  to  be  an  authoress.  She  had 
no  talent  for  expression,  and  had  none  of  the  consciousness  of 
genius  ; she  only  had  a general  idea  that  people  were  right  when 
they  treated  her  as  if  she  were  rather  superior.  Whether  or  no 
she  were  superior,  people  were  right  in  admiring  her  if  they 
thought  heT  so ; for  it  seemed  to  her  often  that  her  mind  moved 
more  quickly  than  theirs,  and  this  encouraged  an  impatience  that 
might  easily  be  confounded  with  superiority.  It  may  be  affirmed 
without  delay  that  Isabel  was  probably  very  liable  to  the  sin  of 
self-esteem ; she  often  surveyed  with  complacency  the  field  of 
her  own  nature ; she  was  in  the  habit  of  taking  for  granted,  on 
scanty  evidence,  that  she  was  right;  impulsively,  she  often 
admired  herself.  Meanwhile  her  errors  and  delusions  were  fre- 
quently such  as  a biographer  interested  in  preserving  the  dignity 


«2  THE  PORTE  AIT  OF  A LADY. 

of  his  heroine  must  shrink  from  specifying.  Her  thoughts 
were  a tangle  of  vague  outlines,  which  had  never  been  con 
rested  by  the  judgment  of  people  who  seemed  to  her  to  speak 
with  authority.  In  matters  of  opinion  she  had  had  her  own 
way,  and  it  had  led  her  into  a thousand  ridiculous  zigiags. 
Every  now  and  then  she  found  out  she  was  wrong,  and  then 
she  treated  herself  to  a week  of  passionate  humility.  After 
this  she  held  her  head  higher  than  ever  again ; for  it  was  of  no 
use,  she  had  an  unquenchable  desire  to  think  well  of  herself. 
She  had  a theory  that  it  was  only  on  this  condition  that  life  was 
worth  living ; that  one  should  he  one  of  the  best,  should  be  con- 
scious of  a tine  organization  (she  could  not  help  knowing  her 
organization  was  fine),  should  move  in  a realm  of  light,  of  natural 
wisdom,  of  happy  impulse,  of  inspiration  gracefully  chronic.  It 
was  almost  as  unnecessary  to  cultivate  doubt  of  oneself  as  to 
cultivate  doubt  of  one’s  best  friend;  one  should  try  to  be  one’s 
own  best  friend,  and  to  give  oneself,  in  this  manner,  distinguished 
mmpany.  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  brightness,  of  free  expansion,  of 
irresistible  action;  she  thought  it  would  be  detestable  to  be 
afraid  or  ashamed.  She  had  an  infinite  hope  that  she  should 
never  do  anything  wrong.  She  had  resented  so  strongly,  after 
discovering  them,  her  mere  errors  of  feeling  (the  discovery  always 
made  her  tremble,  as  if  she  had  escaped  from  a trap  which  might 
have  caught  her  and  smothered  her),  that  the  chance  of  inflict- 
ing a sensible  injury  upon  another  person,  presented  only  as  a 
contingency,  caused  her  at  moments  to  hold  her  breath.  That 
always  seemed  to  her  the  worst  thing  that  could  happen  to  one. 
On  the  whole,  reflectively,  she  was  in  no  uncertainty  about  the 
things  that  were  wrong.  She  had  no  taste  for  thinking  of  them, 
but  whenever  she  looked  at  them  fixedly  she  recognized  them. 
It  was  wrong  to  be  mean,  to  be  jealous,  to  be  false,  to  be  cruel, 
she  had  seen  very  little  of  the  evil  of  the  world,  but  she  had 
seen  women  who  lied  and  who  tried  to  hurt  each  other.  Seeing 
such  things  had  quickened  her  high  spirit;  it  seemed  right  to 
scorn  them.  Of  course  the  danger  of  a high  spirit  is  the  danger 
of  inconsistency — the  danger  of  keeping  up  the  flag  after  the 
place  has  surrendered  ; a sort  of  behaviour  so  anomalous  as  to  be 
almost  a dishonour  to  the  flag.  But  Isabel,  who  knew  little  of 
the  sorts  of  artillery  to  which  young  ladies  are  exposed,  flattered 
W^self  that  such  contradictions  would  never  be  observed  in  hei 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


45 


own  conduct.  Her  life  should  always  be  in  Laimony  with  the 
most  pleasing  impression  she  should  produce;  she  would  be  what 
she  appeared,  and  she  would  appear  what  she  was.  Sometimes 
she  went  so  far  as  to  wish  that  she  should  find  herself  some 
day  in  a difficult  position,  so  that  she  might  have  the  pleasure 
of  being  as  heroic  as  the  occasion  demanded.  Altogether,  with 
her  meagre  knowledge,  her  inflated  ideals,  her  confidence  at  once 
innocent  and  dogmatic,  her  temper  at  once  exacting  and  indulg- 
ent, her  mixture  of  curiosity  and  fastidiousness,  of  vivacity  and 
indifference,  her  desire  to  look  very  well  and  to  be  if  possible 
even  better ; her  determination  to  see,  to  try,  to  know ; her 
combination  of  the  delicate,  desultory,  flame-like  spirit  and  the 
eager  and  personal  young  girl ; 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  fortun- 
ate in  being  independent,  and  that  she  ought  to  make  some  very 
enlightened  use  of  her  independence.  She  never  called  it  lone- 
liness ; she  thought  that  weak ; and  besides,  her  sister  Lily  con- 
stantly urged  her  to  come  and  stay  with  her.  She  had  a friend 
whose  acquaintance  she  had  made  shortly  before  her  father’s 
death,  who  offered  so  laudable  an  example  of  useful  activity  that 
Isabel  always  thought  of  her  as  a model.  Henrietta  Stackpole 
had  the  advantage  of  a remarkable  talent;  she  was  thoroughly 
launched  in  journalism,  and  her  letters  to  the  Interviewer , from 
Washington,  Newport,  the  White  Mountains,  and  other  places, 
were  universally  admired.  Isabel  did  not  accept  them  unrestrict- 
ediy,  but  she  esteemed  the  courage,  energy,  and  good-humour  of 
her  friend,  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  a great  radical,  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  aa 
she  knew  perfectly  in  advance  what  her  opinions  would  be,  and 
to  how  many  objections  most  European  institutions  Jay  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  post- 
pone 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  hav« 
fc&ken  pleasure  in  it  and  was  not  a regular  reader  of  the  Inter • 


44 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


viewer.  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  oneself  to  being  trivial  and  superficial.  Isabel  was  reso- 
lutely determined  not  to  be  superficial.  If  one  should  wait 
expectantly  and  trustfully,  one  would  find  some  happy  work  to 
one’s  hand.  Of  course,  among  her  theories,  this  young  lady  was 
not  without  a collection  of  opinions  on  the  question  of  marriage. 
The  first  on  the  list  was  a conviction  that  it  was  very  vulgar  to 
think  too  much  about  it.  From  lapsing  into  a state  of  eagerness 
on  this  point  she  earnestly  prayed  that  she  might  be  delivered ; 
she  held  that  a woman  ought  to  be  able  to  make  up  her  life  in 
singleness,  and  that  it  was  perfectly  possible  to  be  happy  with- 
out the  society  of  a more  or  less  coarse-minded  person  of  another 
sex.  The  girl’s  prayer  was  very  sufficiently  answered ; some- 
thing pure  and  proud  that  there  was  in  her — something  cold  and 
stiff,  an  unappreciated  suitor  with  a taste  for  analysis  might  have 
called  it — had  hitherto  kept  her  from  any  great  vanity  of  conjec- 
ture on  the  subject  of  possible  husbands.  Few  of  the  men  she 
saw  seemed  worth  an  expenditure  of  imagination,  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  by  frightening  her.  It  often  seemed  to 
her  that  she  thought  too  much  about  herself ; you  could  have 
made  her  blush,  any  day  Jn  the  year,  by  telling  her  that  she  was  i 
selfish.  She  was  always  planning  out  her  own  development, 
desiring  her  own  perfection,  observing  her  own  progress.  Hex 
nature  had  for  her  own  imagination  a certain  garden-like  quality,  i 
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  th6 
recesses  of  one’s  mind  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  virginal  soul, 
and  that  there  were,  moreover,  a great  many  places  that  were  not 
gardens  at  all — only  dusky,  pestiferous  tracts,  planted  thick  with 
ugliness  and  misery.  In  the  current  of  that  easy  eagerness  on 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


49 


which  she  had  lately  been  floating,  which  had  conveyed  her  to 
this  beautiful  old  England  and  might  carry  her  much  farther 
still,  she  often  checked  herself  with  the  thought  of  the  thousands 
of  people  wTho  were  less  happy  than  herself — a thought  which 
for  the  moment  made  her  absorbing  happiness  appear  to  her  ? 
kind  of  immodesty.  What  should  one  do  with  the  misery  oi 
the  world  in  a scheme  of  the  agreeable  for  oneself  1 Tt  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  was  necessary  to  prevent  mistakes,  and 
after  it  should  be  secured  she  might  make  the  unfortunate  con- 
dition of  others  an  object  of  special  attention. 

England  was  a revelation  to  her,  and  she  found  herself  as 
entertained  as  a child  at  a pantomime.  In  her  infantine  excur 
sions  to  Europe  she  had  seen  only  the  Continent,  and  seen  i« 
from  the  nursery  window ; Paris,  not  London,  was  her  father’^ 
Mecca.  The  impressions  of  that  time,  moreover,  had  become 
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  agree- 
able 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  em- 
brasures and  curious  casements,  the  quiet  light  on  dark,  polished 
panels,  the  deep  greenness  outside,  that  seemed  always  peep- 
ing in,  the  sense  of  well-ordered  privacy,  in  the  centre  of  a 
property  ” — a place  where  sounds  were  felicitously  accidental, 
where  the  tread  was  muffled  by  the  earth  itself,  and  in  the 
thick  mild  air  all  shrillness  dropped  out  of  conversation — these 
things  were  much  to  the  taste  of  our  young  lady,  whose  taste 
played  a considerable  part  in  her  emotions.  She  formed  a fast 
friendship  with  her  uncle,  and  often  sat  by  his  chair  when  he 
had  had  it  moved  out  to  the  lawn.  He  passed  hours  in  the 
open  air,  sitting  placidly  with  folded  hands,  like  a good  old 
man  who  had  done  his  work  and  received  his  wages,  and  was 
trying  to  grow  used  to  weeks  and  months  made  up  only  of  off- 
days.  Isabel  amused  him  more  than  she  suspected — the  effect 
she  produced  upon  people  was  often  different  from  what  she 
supposed  — and  he  frequently  gave  himself  the  pleasure  of 
making  her  chatter.  It  was  by  this  term  that  he  qualified  her 
conversation,  which  had  much  of  the  vivacity  observable  in  that 
of  the  young  ladies  of  her  country,  to  whom  the  sa?  of  the  world 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


ts  more  directly  presented  than  to  their  sisters  in  other  land  a. 
Like  the  majority  of  American  girls,  Isabel  had  been  encouraged 
to  express  herself ; her  remarks  had  been  attended  to  ; she  had 
been  expected  to  have  emotions  and  opinions.  Many  of  her 
opinions  had  doubtless  but  a slender  value,  many  of  her  emotions 
passed  away  in  the  utterance ; but  they  had  left  a trace  in 
giving  her  the  habit  of  seeming  at  least  to  feel  and  think,  and 
in  imparting,  moreover,  to  her  words,  when  she  was  really  moved, 
that  artless  vividness  which  so  many  people  had  regarded  as 
a sign  of  superiority.  Mr.  Touchett  used  to  think  that  she  re- 
minded him  of  his  wife  when  his  wife  was  in  her  teens.  It  was 
because  she  was  fresh  and  natural  and  quick  to  understand,  to 
speak — so  many  characteristics  of  her  niece — that  he  had  fallen 
in  love  with  Mrs.  Touchett.  He  never  expressed  this  analogy  to 
the  girl  herself,  however;  for  if  Mrs.  Touchett  had  once  been 
like  Isabel,  Isabel  was  not  at  all  like  Mrs.  Touchett.  The  old 
man  was  full  of  kindness  for  her;  it  was  a long  time,  as  he  said, 
since  they  had  had  any  young  life  in  the  house  ; and  our  rustling, 
quickly-moving,  clear-voiced  heroine  wa,s  as  agreeable  to  his  sense 
as  the  sound  of  flowing  water.  He  wished  to  do  something  for 
her,  he  wished  she  would  ask  something  of  him.  But  Isabel 
asked  nothing  but  questions ; it  is  true  that  of  these  she  asked 
a great  many.  Her  uncle  had  a great  fund  of  answers,  though 
interrogation  sometimes  came  in  forms  that  puzzled  him.  She 
questioned  him  immensely  about  England,  about  the  British 
constitution,  the  English  character,  the  state  of  politics,  the 
manners  and  customs  of  the  royal  family,  the  peculiarities  of 
the  aristocracy,  the  way  of  living  and  thinking  of  his  neigh- 
bours; and  in  asking  to  be  enlightened  on  these  points  she 
usually  inquired  whether  they  correspond  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  that  was  ; 
spread  across  his  legs. 

“The  books?”  he  once  said;  “well,  I don’t  know  much 
about  the  books.  You  must  ask  Balph  about  that.  I have; 
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 have  had  very  good  oppor- 
tunities— better  than  what  a young  lady  would  naturally  have. 

I am  of  an  inquisitive  disposition,  though  you  mightn’t  think  it 
if  you  were  to  watch  me ; however  much  you  might  watch  me, 

I should  be  watching  you  more.  I have  been  watching  these 
people  for  upwards  of  thirty-five  years,  and  I don’t  hesitate  to 
lay  that  I have  acquired  considerable  information.  It’s  a very 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


47 


8ne  country  on  the  whole — finer  perhaps  than  what  we  give  it 
credit  for  on  the  other  side.  There  are  several  improvements 
that  I should  like  to  see  introduced;  hut  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 have  had  a 
considerable  degree  of  success.  When  you  are  successful  you 
naturally  feel  more  at  home.” 

“ Do  you  suppose  that  if  I am  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 am  by  no  means  sure  I shall  like  it,”  said  Isabel, 
somewhat  judicially.  “I  like  the  place  very  much,  but  I am 
not  sure  I shall  like  the  people.” 

“ The  people  are  very  good  people ; especially  if  you  like  them.” 

“I  have  no  doubt  they  are  good,”  Isabel  rejoined;  “but  are 
they  pleasant  in  society]  They  won’t  rob  me  nor  beat  me  ; but 
will  they  make  themselves  agreeable  to  me  ] That’s  what  I like 
people  to  do.  I don’t  hesitate  to  say  so,  because  I always 
appreciate  it.  I don’t  believe  they  are  very  nice  to  girls ; they 
are  not  nice  to  them  in  the  novels.” 

“I  don’t  know  about  the  novels,”  said  Mr.  Touchett.  “I 
believe  the  novels  have  a great  deal  of  ability,  but  I don’t 
suppose  they  are  very  accurate.  We  once  had  a lady  who  wrote 
novels  staying  here ; she  was  a friend  of  Ralph’s,  and  he  asked 
her  down.  She  was  very  positive,  very  positive ; but  she  was 
not  the  sort  of  person  that  you  could  depend  on  her  testimony. 
Too  much  imagination — I suppose,  that  was  it.  She  afterwards 
published  a work  of  fiction  in  which  she  was  understood  to  have 
given  a representation — something  in  the  nature  of  a caricature, 

you  might  say — of  my  unworthy  self.  I didn’t  read  it,  but 
Ralph  just  handed  me  the  book,  with  the  principal  passages 
marked.  It  was  understood  to  be  a description  of  my  convers- 
ion; American  peculiarities,  nasal  twang,  Yankee  notions, 
rs  and  stripes.  Well,  it  was  not  at  all  accurate ; she  couldn’t 
e listened  very  attentively.  I had  no  objection  to  her  giving 
port  of  my  conversation,  if  she  liked;  but  I didn’t  like  the 
that  she  hadn’t  taken  the  trouble  to  listen  to  it.  Of  course 
lk  like  an  American — I can’t  talk  like  a Hottentot.  Hew 


48 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


ever  I talk,  I have  made  them  understand  me  pretty  well  ovet 
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  ! I just  mention  that  fact  to  show  you  that  they  are  not 
always  accurate.  Of  course,  as  I have  no  daughters,  and  as 
Mrs.  Touchett  resides  in  Florence,  I haven't  had  much  chance 
to  notice  about  the  young  ladies.  It  sometimes  appears  as  if 
the  young  women  in  the  lower  class  were  not  very  well  treated ; 
but  I guess  their  position  is  better  in  the  upper  class.” 

“ Dear  me  ! ” Isabel  exclaimed ; “ how  many  classes  have 
they?  About  fifty,  I suppose.” 

“Well,  I don't  know  that  I ever  counted  them.  I never 
took  much  notice  of  the  classes.  That's  the  advantage  of  being 
an  American  here  ; you  don't  belong  to  any  class.” 

“ I hope  so,”  said  Isabel.  “ Imagine  one's  belonging  to  an 
English  class ! ” 

“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  thoso 
two,  my  dear  Isabel,  you  belong  to  the  first.” 

“ I am  much  obliged  to  you,”  said  the  young  girl,  quickly. 
Her  way  of  taking  compliments  seemed  sometimes  rather  dry ; 
she  got  rid  of  them  as  rapidly  as  possible.  But  as  regards  this, 
she  was  sometimes  misjudged ; she  was  thought  insensible  to 
them,  whereas  in  fact  she  was  simply  unwilling  to  show  how 
infinitely  they  pleased  her.  To  show  that  was  to  show  too  much. 
“ I am  sure  the  English  are  very  conventional,”  she  added. 

“ They  have  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  will  have  great  success,” 
he  rejoined.  “ I suppose  you  will  like  that.” 

“ I shall  not  have  success  if  they  are  conventional.  I am  not 
in  the  least  conventional.  I am  just  the  contrary.  That’s  what 
•hey  won’t  like.” 

“ No,  no,  you  are  all  wrong,”  said  the  old  man.  “ You  can'* 
tell  what  they  will  like.  They^  are  very  inconsistent ; thal’s 
their  principal  interest.”  ' 

“ Ah  well,”  said  Isabel,  standing  before  her  uncle  with  /her 
aands  clasped  about  the  belt  of  her  black  dress,  and  looking  nf 
Mid  down  the  lawn — “that  will  suit  me  perfectly  1” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


40 


VIL 


The  two  amused  themselves,  time  and  agaiu,  with  talking 
of  the  attitude  of  the  British  public,  as  if  the  young  lady  hail 
been  in  a position  to  appeal  to  it ; but  in  fact  the  British  public 
remained  for  the  present  profoundly  indifferent  to  Miss  Isabel 
Archer,  whose  fortune  had  dropped  her,  as  her  cousin  said,  into 
the  dullest  house  in  England.  Her  gouty  uncle  received  very 
little  company,  and  Mrs.  Touchett,  not  having  cultivated  relations 
with  her  husband’s  neighbours,  was  not  warranted  in  expecting 
visits  from  them.  She  had,  however,  a peculiar  taste ; she 
liked  to  receive  cards.  For  what  is  usually  called  social  ‘nter- 
course  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  nothin^ 
in  this  world  is  got  for  nothing.  She  had  played  no  social  part 
as  mistress  of  Gardencourt,  and  it  was  not  to  be  supposed  that, 
in  the  surrounding  country,  a minute  account  should  be  kept 
of  her  comings  and  goings.  But  it  is  by  no  means  certain  that 
she  did  not  feel  it  to  be  wrong  that  so  little  notice  was  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 
cl  defending  the  British  constitution  against  her  aunt;  Mrs 
Touchett  having  formed  the  habit  of  sticking  pins  into  this 
venerable  instrument.  Isabel  always  felt  an  impulse  to  pull 
out  the  pins ; not  that  she  imagined  they  inflicted  any  damage 
on  the  tough  old  parchment,  but  because  it  seemed  to  her  that, 
her  aunt  might  make  better  use  of  her  sharpness.  She  was  very 
critical  herself  it  was  incidental  to  her  age,  her  sex,  and  her 
nationality;  but  she  was  very  sentimental  as  well,  and  there 
was  something  in  Mrs.  Touchett’s  dryness  that  set  her  own 
moral  fountains  flowing. 

-^ov'r  what  is  your  point  of  view?”  she  asked  of  her  aunt. 

* f . crlt^c‘ze  everything  here,  you  should  have  a pointy 

at  view.  YoUrs  doesn’t  seem  to  be  American— you  thought 
everything  over  there  so  disagreeable.  When  I criticize,  I have 
Qiine  ; it’s  thoroughly  American  ! ” 

“ My  ,dear  young  lady,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett,  “ there  are  as 
*nany  points  of  view  in  the  world  as  there  are  people  of  sense. 


to 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


i 


You  may  say  that  doesn’t  make  them  very  numerous  ! Ameri- 
can? Never  in  the  world;  that’s  shockingly  narrow.  My 
point  of  view,  thank  God,  is  personal ! ” 

Isabel  thought  this  a better  answer  than  she  admitted ; it 
was  a tolerable  description  of  her  own  manner  of  judging,  but 
it  would  not  have  sounded  well  for  her  to  say  so.  On  the  lips 
of  a person  less  advanced  in  life,  and  less  enlightened  by 
experience  than  Mrs.  Touchett,  such  a declaration  would  savour 
of  immodesty,  even  of  arrogance.  She  risked  it  nevertheless, 
in  talking  with  Ralph,  with  whom  she  talked  a great  deal,  and 
with  whom  her  conversation  was  of  a sort  that  gave  a large 
licence  to  violent  statements.  Her  cousin  used,  as  the  phrase 
is,  to  chaff  her ; he  very  soon  established  with  her  a reputation 
for  treating  everything  as  a joke,  and  he  was  not  a man  to 
neglect  the  privileges  such  a reputation  conferred.  She  accused 
him  of  an  odious  want  of  seriousness,  of  laughing  at  all  things, 
peginning  with  himself.  Such  slender  faculty  of  reverence  as  he 
possessed  centred  wholly  upon  his  father  ; for  the  rest,  he  exer- 
cised his  wit  indiscriminately  upon  father’s  son,  this  gentleman’s 
weak  lungs,  his  useless  life,  his  anomalous  mother,  his  friends 
(Lord  Warburton  in  especial),  his  adopted  and  his  native  country, 
his  charming  new-found  cousin.  “ I keep  a band  of  music  in  my 
ante-room,”  he  said  once  to  her.  “ It  has  orders  to  play  without 
stopping ; it  renders  me  two  excellent  services.  It  keeps  the 
sounds  of  the  world  from  reaching  the  private  apartments,  and 
It  makes  the  world  think  that  dancing  is  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 
lloat  upon  the  air.  Isabel  often  found  herself  irritated  by  this 
perpetual  fiddling;  she  would  have  liked  to  pass  through  the 
ante-room,  as  her  cousin  called  it,  and  enter  the  private  apart- 
ments. It  mattered  little  that  he  had  assured  her  that  they 
were  a very  dismal  place  ; she  would  have  been  glad  to  under- 
take 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  ferrule  of  her 
straight  young  wit.  It  must  be  said  that  her  wit  was  exercised 
to  a large  extent  in  self-defence,  for  har  cousin  amused  himself 
with  calling  her  “ Columbia,”  and  accusing  her  of  a patriotism 
bo  fervid  that  it  scorched.  He  drew  a caricature  of  her,  in 
wLLh  she  was  represented  as  a very  pretty  young  woman, 
dressed,  in  the  height  of  the  prevailing  fashion,  in  the  folds  of 
the  national  banner.  Isabel’s  chief  dread  in  life,  at  this  period 
sf  her  development,  was  that  she  should  appear  narrow-minded ; 


THE  FORTRAIT  OF  A LADS'. 


51 


srhat  she  feared  next  afterwards  was  that  she  should  be  so. 
Bat  she  nevertheless  made  no  scruple  of  abounding  In  her 
cousin’s  sense,  and  pretending  to  sigh  for  the  charms  of  he? 
native  land.  She  would  be  as  American  as  it  pleased  him  to 
regard  her,  and  if  he  chose  to  laugh  at  her,  she  would  give  him 
plenty  of  occupation.  She  defended  England  against  his 
mother,  but  when  Ralph  sang  its  praises,  on  purpose,  as  she 
said,  to  torment  her,  she  found  herself  able  to  differ  from  him 
on  a variety  of  points.  In  fact,  the  quality  of  this  small  ripe 
country  seemed  as  sweet  to  her  as  the  taste  of  an  October  pear ; 
and  her  satisfaction  was  at  the  root  of  the  good  spirits  which 
enabled  her  to  take  her  cousin’s  chaff  and  return  it  in  kind.  If 
her  good-humour  flagged  at  moments,  it  was  not  because  she 
thought  herself  ill-used,  but  because  she  suddenly  felt  sorry  for 
.Ralph.  It  seemed  to  her  that  he  was  talking  as  a blind  and 
had  little  heart  in  what  he  said. 

“ I don’t  know  what  is  the  matter  with  you,”  she  said  to  him 
once  ; a but  I suspect  you  are  a great  humbug.” 

“ That’s  your  privilege,”  Ralph  answered,  who  had  not  been 
used  to  being  so  crudely  addressed. 

“ I don’t  know  what  you  care  for ; I don’t  think  you  care  for 
anything.  You  don’t  really  care  for  England  when  you  praise  it ; 
you  don’t  care  for  America  even  when  you  pretend  to  abuse  it.” 

“ I care  for  nothing  but  you,  dear  cousin,”  said  Ralph. 

“ If  I could  believe  even  that,  I should  be  very  glad.” 

“ Ah,  well,  I should  hope  so  ! ” the  young  man  exclaimed. 

Isabel  might  have  believed  it,  and  not  have  been  far  from 
the  truth.  He  thought  a great  deal  about  her;  she  was 
constantly  present  to  his  mind.  At  a time  when  his  thoughts 
had  been  a good  deal  of  a burden  to  him,  her  sudden  arrival, 
vhich  promised  nothing  and  was  an  open-handed  gift  of 
tate,  had  refreshed  and  quickened  them,  given  them  wings  and 
something  to  fly  for.  Poor  Ralph  for  many  weeks  had  been 
steeped  in  melancholy  ; his  out-look,  habitually  sombre,  lay 
under  the  shadow  of  a deeper  cloud.  He  had  grown  anxious 
about  his  father,  whose  gout,  hitherto  confined  to  his  legs,  had 
begun  to  ascend  into  regions  more  vital.  The  old  man  had 
?een  gravely  ill  in  the  spring,  and  the  doctors  had  whispered 
ko  Ralph  that  another  attack  would  be  less  easy  to  deal  with. 
Just  now  he  appeared  tolerably  comfortable,  but  Ralph  could 
not  rid  himself  of  a suspicion  that  this  was  a subterfuge  of  the 
enemy,  who  was  waiting  to  take  him  off*  his  guard.  If  the 
manoeuvre  should  succeed,  there  would  be  little  hope  of  any 
preax,  resistance.  Ralph  had  always  taken  for  granted  that  hi* 

E 2 


32 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


father  ’W'mid  survive  him — that  his  own  name  would  be  the 
first  CaUed.  The  father  and  son  had  been  close  companions, 
aD<i  the  idea  of  being  left  alone  with  the  remnant  of  a tasteless 
life  on  his  hands  was  not  gratifying  to  the  young  man,  who  had 
always  and  tacitly  counted  upon  his  elder’s  help  in  making  the 
best  of  a poor  business.  At  the  prospect  of  losing  his  great 
motive,  Ralph  was  indeed  mightily  disgusted.  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  waa 
a rule  with  his  mother  to  have  no  regrets.  He  bethought 
himself,  of  course,  that  it  had  been  a small  kindness  to  hia 
father  to  wish  that,  of  the  two,  the  active  rather  than  the 
passive  party  should  know  the  pain  of  loss ; he  remembered 
that  the  old  man  had  always  treated  his  own  forecast  of  an 
uncompleted  career  as  a clever  fallacy,  which  he  should  b* 
delighted  to  discredit  so  far  as  he  might  by  dying  first.  But 
of  the  two  triumphs,  that  of  refuting  a sophistical  son  and  that 
of  holding  on  a while  longer  to  a state  of  being  which,  with  all 
abatements,  he  enjoyed,  Ralph  deemed  it  no  sin  to  hope  that 
the  latter  might  be  vouchsafed  to  Mr.  Touchett. 

These  were  nice  questions,  but  Isabel’s  arrival  put  a stop  to 
his  puzzling  over  them.  It  even  suggested  that  there  might  be 
a compensation  for  the  intolerable  ennui  of  surviving  his  genial 
sire.  He  wondered  whether  he  were  falling  in  love  with  this 
spontaneous  young  woman  from  Albany ; but  he  decided  that 
on  the  whole  he  was  not.  After  he  had  known  her  for  a week, 
he  quite  made  up  his  mind  to  this,  and  every  day  he  felt  a little 
more  sure.  Lord  Warburton  had  been  right  about  her;  she  was 
a thoroughly  interesting  woman.  Ralph  wondered  how  Lord 
Warburton  had  found  it  out  so  soon ; and  then  he  said  it  waa 
'.nly  another  proof  of  his  friend’s  high  abilities,  which  he  had 
always  greatly  admired.  If  his  cousin  were  to  be  nothing  more 
than  an  entertainment  to  him,  Ralph  was  conscious  that  she  waa 
&n  entertainment  of  a high  order.  “ A character  like  that,”  he 
said  to  himself,  “ is  the  finest  thing  in  nature.  It  is  finer  than 
the  finest  work  of  art — than  a Greek  bas-relief,  than  a great 
Titian,  than  a Gothic  cathedral.  It  is  very  pleasant  to  be  so 
well-tr°ated  where  one  least  looked  for  it.  I had  never  been 
more  blue,  more  bored,  than  for  a week  before  she  came ; I had 
never  expected  less  that  something  agreeable  Would  happen. 
Suddenly  I receive  a Titian,  by  the  post,  to  hang  on  my  waD  l 
a Greek  bas-relief  to  stick  over  my  chimney-piece.  The  ke 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


5a 


a beautiful  edifice  is  thrust  into  my  hand,  and  I am  told  to  walk 
in  and  admire.  My  poor  boy,  you  have  been  sadly  ungrateful, 
and  now  you  had  better  keep  very  quiet  and  never  grumble 
again.,,  The  sentiment  of  these  reflections  was  very  just ; but  it 
was  not  exactly  true  that  Kalph  Touchett  had  had  a key  put 
into  his  hand.  His  cousin  was  a very  brilliant  girl,  who  would 
take,  as  he  said,  a good  deal  of  knowing ; but  she  needed  the 
knowing,  and  his  attitude  with  regard  to  her,  though  it  was 
contemplative  and  critical,  was  not  judicial.  He  surveyed  the 
edifice  from  the  outside,  and  admired  it  greatly ; he  looked  in  at 
the  windows,  and  received  an  impression  of  proportions  equally 
fair.  Hut  he  felt  that  he  saw  it  only  by  glimpses,  and  that  he 
had  not  yet  stood  under  the  roof.  The  door  was  fastened,  and 
though  he  had  keys  in  his  pocket  he  had  a conviction  that  none 
of  them  would  fit.  She  was  intelligent  and  generous  ; it  was  a 
fine  free  nature ; but  what  was  she  going  to  do  with  herself  1 
This  question  was  irregular,  for  with  most  women  one  had  no 
occasion  to  ask  it.  Most  women  did  with  themselves  nothing  at 
all ; they  waited,  in  attitudes  more  or  less  gracefully  passive,  for 
a man  to  come  that  way  and  furnish  them  with  a destiny.  Isa- 
bel’s originality  was  that  she  gave  one  an  impression  of  having 
intentions  of  her  own.  “ Whenever  she  executes  them,”  said 
Ealph,  “ may  I be  there  to  see  ! ” 

It  devolved  upon  him  of  course  to  do  the  honours  of  the  place. 
Mr.  Touchett  was  confined  to  his  chair,  and  his  wife’s  position 
was  that  of  a rather  grim  visitor ; so  that  in  the  line  of  conduct 
that  opened  itself  to  Ealph,  duty  and  inclination  were  harmoni- 
ously mingled.  He  was  not  a great  walker,  but  he  strolled 
about  the  grounds  with  his  cousin — a pastime  for  which  the 
weather  remained  favourable  with  a persistency  not  allowed  for 
in  Isabel’s  somewhat  lugubrious  prevision  of  the  climate ; and  in 
the  long  afternoons,  of  which  the  length  was  but  the  measure  of 
her  gratified  eagerness,  they  took  a boat  on  the  river,  the  dear 
little  river,  as  Isabel  called  it,  where  the  opposite  shore  seemed 
still  a part  of  the  foreground  of  the  landscape ; or  drove  over  the 
country  in  a phaeton — a low,  capacious,  thick-wheeled  phaeton 
formerly  much  used  by  Mr.  Touchett,  but  which  he  had  now 
ceased  to  enjoy.  Isabel  enjoyed  it  largely,  and,  handling  the 
reins  in  a manner  which  approved  itself  to  the  groom  as 
'*  knowing,”  was  never  weary  of  driving  her  uncle’s  capital 
norses  through  winding  lanes  and  byways  full  of  the  rural 
Incidents  she  had  confidently  expected  to  find ; past  cottages 
thatched  and  timbered,  past  ale-houses  latticed  and  sanded,  past 
Catches  of  ancient  common  and  glimpses  of  empty  parks,  between 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


*4 

hedgerows  made  thick  by  midsummer.  When  they  reached 
home,  they  usually  found  that  tea  had  been  served  upon  the 
lawn,  and  that  Mrs.  Touchett  had  not  absolved  herself  from  the 
obligation  of  handing  her  husband  his  cup.  But  the  two  for  the 
most  part  sat  silent;  the  old  man  with  his  head  back  and  his 
eyes  closed,  his  wife  occupied  with  her  knitting,  and  wearing 
that  appearance  of  extraordinary  meditation  with  which  3ome 
ladies  contemplate  the  movement  of  their  needles. 

One  day,  however,  a visitor  had  arrived.  The  two  young 
people,  after  spending  an  hour  upon  the  river,  strolled  back  to 
the  house  and  perceived  Lord  Warburton  sitting  under  the  trees 
and  engaged  in  conversation  of  which  even  at  a distance  the 
desultory  character  was  appreciable,  with  Mrs.  Touchett.  He 
had  driven  over  from  his  own  place  with  a portmanteau,  and 
had  asked,  as  the  father  and  son  often  invited  him  to  dc,  for  a 
dinner  and  a lodging.  Isabel,  seeing  him  for  half-an-hour  on 
the  day  of  her  arrival,  had  discovered  in  this  brief  space  that  she 
liked  him  ; he  had  made  indeed  a tolerably  vivid  impression  on 
her  mind,  and  she  had  thought  of  him  several  times.  She  had 
hoped  that  she  should  see  him  again — hoped  too  that  she  should 
see  a few  others.  Gardencourt  was  not  dull ; the  place  itself 
was  so  delightful,  her  uncle  was  such  a perfection  of  an  uncle, 
and  Ralph  was  so  unlike  any  cousin  she  had  ever  encountered — 
her  view  of  cousins  being  rather  monotonous  Then  her  impres- 
sions were  still  so  fresh  and  so  quickly  renewed  that  there  was 
as  yet  hardly  a sense  of  vacancy  in  the  prospect.  But  Isabel 
had  need  to  remind  herself  that  she  was  interested  in  human 
nature,  and  that  her  foremost  hope  in  coming  abroad  had  been 
that  she  should  see  a great  many  people.  When  Ralph  said  to 
her,  as  he  had  done  several  times — “ I wonder  you  find  this 
endurable ; you  ought  to  see  some  of  the  neighbours  and  some 
of  our  friends — because  we  have  really  got  a few,  though  you 
would  never  suppose  it” — when  he  offered  to  invite  what  he 
called  & “lot  of  people,”  and  make  the  young  girl  acquainted 
with  English  society,  she  encouraged  the  hospitable  impulse  and 
promised,  in  advance,  to  be  delighted.  Little,  however,  for  the 
present,  had  come  of  Ralph’s  offers,  and  it  may  be  confided  to 
the  reader  that,  if  the  young  man  delayed  to  carry  them  out,  it 
was  because  he  found  the  labour  of  entertaining  his  cousin  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  figures. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


55 


€t  Well  now,  there’s  a specimen,”  he  said  to  her,  as  they 
Walked  up  from  the  river-side,  and  he  recognized  Lord  Warburton, 

“ A specimen  of  what- 1 ” asked  the  girl. 

“ A specimen  of  an  English  gentleman.” 

“ Do  you  mean  they  are  ail  like  him  It  ” 

“ Oh  no ; they  are  not  all  like  him.” 

* Ho’s  a favourable  specimen,  then,”  said  Isabel ; “ because  I 
»m  sure  he  is  good.” 

“ Yes,  he  is  very  good.  And  he  is  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  have  been  handling  the  oars.” 

“ I have  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  Balph  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  deep,  agreeable  laugh. 

“ 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  will  never  look  the 
worse  for  it,”  said  Isabel,  who,  if  it  pleased  her  to  hear  it  said 
that  her  accomplishments  were  numerous,  was  happily  able  to 
reflect  that  such  complacency  was  not  the  indication  of  a feeble 
mind,  inasmuch  as  there  were  several  things  in  which  she 
excelled.  Her  desire  to  think  well  of  herself  always  needed  to 
be  supported  by  proof ; though  it  is  possible  that  this  fact  is  not 
the  sign  of  a milder  egotism. 

Lord  Warburton  not  only  spent  the  night  at  Gardencourt,  but 
he  was  persuaded  to  remain  over  the  second  day  ; and  when  the 
second  day  was  ended,  he  determined  to  postpone  his  departure 
4ill  the  morrow.  During  this  period  he  addressed  much  of  his 
conversation  to  Isabel,  who  accepted  this  evidence  of  his  esteem 
with  a very  good  grace.  She  found  herself  liking  him  extremely ; 
the  first  impression  he  had  made  upon  her  was  pleasant,  but  at 
the  end  of  an  evening  spent  in  his  society  she  thought  him  quite 
one  of  the  most  delectable  persons  she  had  met.  She  retired  to 
rest  with  a sense  of  good  fortune,  with  a quickened  consciousness 
Df  the  pleasantness  of  life.  “ It’s  very  nice  to  know  two  such 


56 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


charming  people  as  those,”  she  said,  meaning  by  “ those  ” hei 
cousin  and  her  cousin’s  friend.  It  must  be  added,  moreover 
that  an  incident  had  occurred  which  might  have  seemed  to  put 
her  good  humour  to  the  test.  Mr.  Touchett  went  to  bed  at 
half-past  nine  o’clock,  but  his  wife  remained  in  the  drawing- 
room with  the  other  members  of  the  party.  She  prolonged  hex 
vigil  for  something  less  than  an  hour,  and  then  rising,  she  said 
to  Isabel  that  it  was  time  they  should  bid  the  gentlemen  good- 
night. Isabel  had  as  yet  no  desire  to  go  to  bed ; the  occasion 
wore,  to  her  sense,  a festive  character,  and  feasts  were  not  in  tho 
habit  of  terminating  so  early.  So,  without  further  thought*  she 
replied,  very  simply — 

44  Need  I go,  dear  aunt  1 I will  come  up  in  half-an-hour.” 

“ It’s  impossible  I should  wait  for  you,”  Mrs.  Touchett 
answered. 

44  Ah,  you  needn’t  wait  1 Ealph  will  light  my  candle,”  said 
Isabel,  smiling. 

44  I will  light  your  candle  ; do  let  me  light  your  candle,  Miss 
Archer!”  Lord  Warburton  exclaimed.  44  Only  I beg  it  shall 
not  be  before  midnight.” 

Mrs.  Touchett  fixed  her  bright  little  eyes  upon  him  for  a 
moment,  and  then  transferred  them  to  her  niece. 

44  You  can’t  stay  alone  with  the  gentlemen.  You  are  not — 
you  are  not  at  Albany,  my  dear.” 

Isabel  rose,  blushing. 

44 1 wish  I were,”  she  said. 

44  Oh,  I say,  mother  ! ” Ealph  broke  out. 

44  My  dear  Mrs.  Touchett,”  Lord  Warburton  murmured. 

44 1 didn’t  make  your  country,  my  lord,”  Mrs.  Touchett  said 
majestically.  44 1 must  take  it  as  I find  it.” 

44  Can’t  I stay  with  my  own  cousin  % ” Isabel  inquired. 

44 1 am  not  aware  that  Lord  Warburton  is  your  cousin.” 

44  Perhaps  I had  better  go  to  bed ! ” the  visitor  exclaimed. 
44  That  will  arrange  it.” 

Mrs.  Touchett  gave  a little  look  of  despair,  and  sat  down 
again. 

44  Oh,  if  it’s  necessary,  I will  stay  up  till  midnight,”  she  said. 

Ealph  meanwhile  handed  Isabel  her  candlestick.  He  had 
been  watching  her ; it  had  seemed  to  him  that  her  temper  was 
stirred — an  accident  that  might  be  interesting.  But  if  he  had 
expected  an  exhibition  of  temper,  he  was  disappointed,  for  the 
girl  simply  laughed  a little,  nodded  good  night,  and  withdrew 
accompanied  by  her  aunt.  For  himself  he  was  annoyed  at  hia 
mother,  though  he  thought  she  wa3  right.  Above-stairs,  the  two 


THE  TORTRAIT  OF  A LAiJY. 


57 


ladies  separated  at  Mrs.  Touchett’s  door.  Isabel  bad  said  nothing 
on  her  way  up. 

“ Of  course  you  are  displeased  at  my  interfering  with  you,” 
eaid  Mrs.  Touchett. 

Isabel  reflected  a moment. 

“ I am  not  displeased,  but  I am  surprised — and  a good  deal 
puzzled.  Was  it  not  proper  I should  remain  in  the  drawing- 
room ? ” 

“ Not  in  the  least.  Young  girls  here  don’t  sit  alone  with  the 
gentlemen  late  at  night.” 

“ You  were  very  right  to  tell  me  then,”  said  Isabel.  “ I don’t 
understand  it,  but  I am  very  glad  to  know  it.” 

“ 1 shall  always  tell  you,”  her  aunt  answered,  “ whenever  I 
see  you  taking  what  seems  to  be  too  much  liberty.” 

“ Pray  do ; but  I don't  say  I shall  always  think  youi 
remonstrance  just.” 

“ Very  likely  not.  You  are  too  fond  of  your  liberty.” 

“ Yes,  I think  I am  very  fond  of  it.  But  I always  want  to 
know  the  things  one  shouldn’t  do.” 

“ So  as  to  do  them  1 ” asked  her  aunt. 

c:  So  as  to  choose,”  said  Isabel. 


VIII. 

) 

As  she  was  much  interested  in  the  picturesque,  Lord  War- 
burton  ventured  to  express  a hope  / that  she  would  come  some 
day  and  see  his  house,  wkkh  was  a very  curious  old  place.  He 
extracted  from  Mrs.  Touchett  a promise  that  she  would  bring 
her  niece  to  Lockleigh,  and  Ealph  signified  his  willingness  to 
attend  upon  the  ladies  if  his  father  should  be  able  to  spare  him. 
Lord  Warburton  assured  our  heroine  that  in  the  mean  time  his 
sisters  would  come  and  see  her.  She  knew  something  about  his 
sisters,  having  interrogated  him,  during  the  hours  they  spent 
together  while  he  was  at  Gardencourt,  on  many  points  connected 
with  his  family.  When  Isabel  was  interested,  she  asked  a great 
many  questions,  and  as  her  companion  was  a copious  talker,  she 
asked  him  on  this  occasion  by  no  means  in  vain.  He  told  her 
that  he  had  four  sisters  and  two  brothers,  and  had  lost  both  hia 
parents.  The  brothers  and  sisters  were  very  good  people — “ not 
particularly  clever,  you  know,”  he  said,  “ but  simple  and  respeclr- 
able  and  trustworthy ;”  and  he  was  so  good  as  to  hope  that  Miss 
Archer  should  know  them  well.  One  of  the  brothers  was  in  ih« 


58 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Church,  settled  in  the  parsonage  at  Lockleigh,  which  was  Tathei 
a largeish  parish,  and  was  an  excellent  fellow,  in  spite  of  hia 
thinking  differently  from  himself  on  every  conceivable  topic. 
And  then  Lord  Warburton  mentioned  some  of  the  opinions  held 
by  his  brother,  which  were  opinions  that  Isabel  had  often  heard 
expressed  and  that  she  supposed  to  be  entertained  by  a consider- 
able portion  of  the  human  family.  Many  of  them,  indeed,  she 
supposed  she  had  held  herself,  till  he  assured  her  that  she  was 
quite  mistaken,  that  it  was  really  impossible,  that  she  had 
doubtless  imagined  she  entertained  them,  but  that  she  might 
depend  that,  if  she  thought  them  over  a little,  she  would  find 
there  was  nothing  in  them.  When  she  answered  that  she  had 
already  thought  several  of  them  over  very  attentively,  he  declared 
that  she  was  only  another  example  of  what  he  had  often  been 
struck  with — the  fact  that,  of  all  the  people  in  the  world,  the 
Americans  were  the  most  grossly  superstitious.  They  were  rank 
Tories  and  bigots,  every  one  of  them ; there  were  no  conserva 
lives  like  American  conservatives.  Her  uncle  and  her  cousin 
were  there  to  prove  it ; nothing  could  be  more  mediaeval  than 
many  of  their  views ; they  had  ideas  that  people  in  England 
now-a-days  were  ashamed  to  confess  to  ; and  they  had  the  impud- 
ence, moreover,  said  his  lordship,  laughing,  to  pretend  they  know 
more  about  the  needs  and  dangers  of  this  poor  dear  stupid  old 
England  than  he  who  was  born  in  it  and  owned  a considerable 
part  of  it— the  more  shame  to  him  ! Erom  all  of  which  Isabel 
gathered  that  Lord  Warburton  was  a nobleman  of  the  newest 
pattern,  a reformer,  a radical,  a contemner  of  ancient  ways.  His 
other  brother,  who  was  in  the  army  in  India,  was  rather  wild 
and  pig-headed,  and  had  not  been  of  much  use  as  yet  but  to 
make  debts  for  Warburton  to  pay — one  of  the  most  precious 
privileges  of  an  elder  brother.  “ I don’t  think  I will  pay  any 
more,”  said  Warburton;  ‘‘he  lives  a monstrous  deal  better  than 
I do,  enjoys  unheard-of  luxuries,  and  thinks  himself  a much  finer 
gentleman  than  I.  As  I am  a consistent  radical,  I go  in  only 
for  equality ; I don’t  go  in  for  the  superiority  of  the  younger 
brothers.”  Two  of  his  four  sisters,  the  second  and  fourth,  were 
married,  one  of  them  having  done  very  well,  as  they  said,  the 
other  only  so-so.  The  husband  of  the  elder,  Lord  Haycock,  wras 
a very  good  fellow,  but  unfortunately  a horrid  Tory ; and  his 
wif^  like  all  good  English  wives,  was  worse  than  her  husband. 
The  other  had  espoused  a smallish  squire  in  Norfolk,  and,  though 
die  was  married  only  the  other  day,  had  already  five  children. 
This  information,  and  much  more,  Lord  Warburton  imparted  te 
hi#  y : ang  American  listener,  taking  pains  to  make  many  thing* 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


5® 

^lear  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.  “lie  thinks  I am  a bar- 
barian,v she  said,  “and  that  I have  never  seen  forks  and  spoons;” 
and  she  used  to  ask  him  artless  questions  for  the  pleasure  of 
hearing  him  answer  seriously.  Then  when  he  had  fallen  into 
the  trap — “ It’s  a pity  you  can’t  see  me  in  my  war-paint  and 
feathers,”  she  remarked ; “ if  I had  known  how  kind  you  are 
to  the  poor  savages,  I would  have  brought  over  my  national 
costume  ! ” Lord  Warburton  had  travelled  through  the  United 
States,  and  knew  much  more  about  them  than  Isabel ; he  was 
so  good  as  to  say  that  America  was  the  most  charming  country 
in  the  world,  but  his  recollections  of  it  appeared  to  encourage 
the  idea  that  Americans  in  England  would  need  to  have  a great 
many  things  explained  to  them.  “ If  I had  only  had  you  to 
explain  things  to  me  in  America ! ” he  said.  “ I was  rather 
puzzled  in  your  country ; in  fact,  I was  quite  bewildered,  and 
the  trouble  was  that  the  explanations  only  puzzled  me  more. 
You  know  I think  they  often  gave  me  the  wrong  ones  on 
purpose  ; they  are  rather  clever  about  that  over  there.  But 
when  I explain,  you  can  trust  me ; about  what  I tell  you  there 
is  no  mistake.”  There  was  no  mistake  at  least  about  his  being 
very  intelligent  and  cultivated,  and  knowing  almost  everything 
in  the  world.  Although  he  said  the  most  interesting  and 
entertaining  things,  Isabel  perceived  that  he  never  said  them  to 
exhibit  himself,  and  though  he  had  a great  good  fortune,  he  was 
as  far  as  possible  from  making  a merit  of  it.  He  had  enjoyed 
the  best  things  of  life,  but  they  had  not  spoiled  his  sense  of 
proportion.  His  composition  was  a mixture  of  good-humoured 
manly  force  and  a modesty  that  at  times  was  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  kindness  which  was  not  boyish,  inasmuch  as  there  was  a 
good  deal  of  reflection  and  of  conscience  in  it. 

“I  like  your  specimen  English  gentleman  very  much,”  Isabel 
fcaid  to  Ralph,  after  Lord  Warburton  had  gone. 

“I  like  him  too — I love  him  well,”  said  Ralph.  “But  I 
pity  him  more.” 

Isabel  looked  at  him  askance. 

- “ Why,  that  seems  to  me  his  only  fault — that  one  can  t 
pity  him  a little.  He  appears  to  have  everything,  to  know 
everything,  to  be  everything.” 

*'  Oh,  he’s  in  a bad  way,”  Ralph  insisted. 


90  THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

u I suppose  you  don’t  mean  in  health  1 ” 

“ No,  as  to  that,  he’s  detestably  robust.  What  I mean  is 
that  he  is  a man  with  a gieat  position,  who  is  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  is  more  pitiable  than  a sentient,  self- 
conscious  abuse,  planted  by  other  hands,  deeply  rooted,  but 
aching  with  a sense  of  its  injustice?  For  me,  I could  take  the 
poor  fellow  very  seriously ; 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  is  all  in  a muddle 
about  himself,  his  position,  his  power,  and  everything  else.  He 
is  the  victim  of  a critical  age  ; he  has  ceased  to  believe  in  him- 
self, 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  an  old-fashioned  and  narrow- 
minded person.  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  imagination,  I think 
he  often  has  uncomfortable  hours.  But  what  is  it  to  say  of  a 
man  of  his  opportunities  that  he  is  not  miserable  ? Besides,  I 
believe  he  is.” 

“ I don’t,”  said  Isabel. 

“Well,”  her  cousin  rejoined,  “if  he  is  not,  he  ought  to 
be!” 

In  the  afternoon  she  spent  an  hour  with  her  uncle  on  the 
lawn,  where  the  old  man  sat,  as  usual,  with  his  shawl  over  his 
legs  and  his  large  cup  of  diluted  tea  in  his  hands.  In  the 
course  of  conversation  he  asked  her  what  she  thought  of  their 
late  visitor. 

“ I think  he  is  charming,”  Isabel  answered. 

“He’s  a fine  fellow,”  said  Mr.  Touchett,  “but  I don’t 
recommend  you  to  fall  in  love  with  him.” 

“ I shall  not  do  it  then ; I shall  never  fall  in  love  but  on 
your  recommendation.  Moreover,”  Isabel  added,  “my  cousin 
gives  me  a rather  sad  account  of  Lord  Warburton.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


61 

4 Oh,  indeed  1 I don’t  know  what  there  may  be  to  say,  but 
you  must  remember  that  Ralph  is  rather  fanciful.” 

“He  thinks  Lord  Warburton  is  too  radical — or  not  radical 
enough  ! I don’t  quite  understand  which,”  said  Isabel. 

The  old  man  shook  his  head  slowly,  smiled,  and  put  down 
his  cup. 

“ I don’t  know  which,  either.  He  goes  very  far,  but  it  is 
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  is  natural ; but  it  is  rather  incon- 
sistent.’1 

“ Oh,  I hope  he  will  remain  himself,”  said  Isabel.  “ If 
he  were  to  be  done  away  with,  his  friends  would  miss  him 
sadly.” 

“ Well,”  said  the  old  man,  “ I guess  he’ll  stay  and  amuse  his 
friends.  I should  certainly  miss  him  very  much  here  at  Garden- 
court.  He  always  amuses  me  when  he  comes  over,  and  I think 
he  amuses  himself  as  well.  There  is  a considerable  number  like 
him,  round  in  society ; they  are  very  fashionable  just  now.  I 
don’t  know  what  they  are  trying  to  do — whether  they  are  trying 
to  get  up  a revolution ; I hope  at  any  rate  they  will  put  it  off 
till  after  I am  gone.  You  see  they  want  to  disestablish  every- 
thing ; 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  will  make  a revolution ! ” Isabel 
exclaimed.  “ I should  delight  in  seeing  a revolution.” 

" Let  me  see,”  said  her  uncle,  with  a humorous  intention ; 
“ I forget  wh ether  you  are  a liberal  or  a conservative.  I have 
heard  you  take  such  opposite  views.” 

“ I am  both.  I think  I am  a little  of  everything.  In  a 
revolution — after  it  was  well  begun — I think  I should  bo  a 
conservative.  One  sympathises  more  with  them,  and  they  have 
a chance  to  behave  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 am  afraid,  after  all,  you  won’t  have  the  pleasure  of  seeing 


<12 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


a revolution  here  just  now/’  Mr.  Touchett  went  on.  “ If  you 
want  to  see  one,  you  must  pay  us  a mng  visit.  You  see,  when 
you  come  to  the  point,  it  wouldn’t  suit  them  to  be  taken  at 
their  word.” 

“ Of  whom  are  you  speaking  ] ” 

“ Well,  I mean  Lord  Warburton  and  his  friends — the  radicals 
of  the  upper  class.  Of  course  I only  know  the  way  it  strikes 
me.  They  talk  about  the  changes,  but  I don’t  think  they 
quite  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. 
But  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  are  sincere  1”  Isabel  asked. 

“ Well,  they  are  very  conscientious,”  Mr.  Touchett  allowed  ; 
“ but  it  seems  as  if  they  took  it  out  in  theories,  mostly.  Their 
radical  views  are  a kind  of  amusement ; they  have  got  to  have 
some  amusement,  and  they  might  have  coarser  tastes  than  that. 
You  see  they  are  very  luxurious,  and  these  progressive  ideas  are 
about  their  biggest  luxury.  They  make  them  feel  moral,  and 
yet  they  don’t  affect  their  position.  They  think  a great  deal  of 
their  position ; don’t  let  one  of  them  ever  persuade  you  he 
doesn’t,  for  if  you  were  to  proceed  on  that  basis,  you  would  be 
pulled  up  very  short.” 

Isabel  followed  her  uncle’s  argument,  which  he  unfolded  with 
his  mild,  reflective,  optimistic  accent,  most  attentively,  and 
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,”  she  said ; “ 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  is  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.  He 
nas  half-a-dozen  houses  to  live  in.  He  has  a seat  in  Parliament 
as  1 have  one  at  my  own  dinner-table.  He  has  very  cultivated 
tastes — cares  for  literature,  for  art,  for  science,  for  charming 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


$3 


young  ladies.  The  most  cultivated  is  his  taste  for  the  r.ew 
views.  It  affords  him  a great  deal  of  entertainment — mere 
perhaj,  3 than  anything  else,  except  the  young  ladies.  His  old 
house  over  there — what  does  he  call  it,  Lockleigh? — is  very 
attractive  ; but  I don’t  think  it  is  as  pleasant  as  this.  That 
doesn’t  matter,  however — he  has  got  so  many  others.  His  views 
don’t  hurt  any  one  as  far  as  I can  see  ; they  certainly  don’t  hurt 
himself.  And  if  there  were  to  be  a revolution,  he  would  come 
off  very  easily ; they  wouldn’t  touch  him,  they  would  leave  him 
as  he  is ; he  is  too  much  liked.” 

“ Ah,  he  couldn’t  be  a martyr  even  if  he  wished  ! ” Isabel 
exclaimed.  “ That’s  a very  poor  position.” 

“ He  will  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  sadness. 

“ I shall  never  make  any  one  a martyr.” 

“ You  will  never  be  one,  I hope.”  A 

“ I hope  not.  But  you  don’t  pity  Lord  Warburton,  then,  as 
Kalph  does  1 ” 

Her  uncle  looked  at  her  a while,  with  genial  acuteness. 

“ Yes,  I do,  after  all  J” 


IX. 

The  two  Misses  Molyneux,  this  nobleman’s  sisters,  came 
presently  to  call  upon  her,  and  Isabel  took  a fancy  to  the  young 
ladies,  who  appeared  to  her  to  have  a very  original  stamp.  It  is 
true  that,  when  she  spoke  of  them  to  her  cousin  as  original,  he 
declared  that  no  epithet  could  be  less  applicable  than  this  to  the 
two  Misses  Molyneux,  for  that  there  were  fifty  thousand  young 
women  in  England  who  exactly  resembled  them.  Deprived  of 
this  advantage,  however,  Isabel’s  visitors  retained  that  of  an 
extreme  sweetness  and  shyness  of  demeanour,  and  of  having,  as 
she  thought,  the  kindest  eyes  in  the  world. 

“ They  are  not  morbid,  at  any  rate,  whatever  they  are,”  our 
heroine  said  to  herself ; and  she  deemed  this  a great  charm,  for 
two  or  three  of  the  friends  of  her  girlhood  had  been  regrettably 
open  to  the  charge  (they  would  have  been  so  nice  without  it),  to 
say  nothing  of  Isabel’s  having  occasionally  suspected  that  it 
might  become  a fault  of  her  own.  The  Misses  Molyneux  were 
aot  in  their  first  youth,  but  they  had  bright,  fresh  complexion** 


54 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


and  something  of  the  smile  of  childhood.  Their  eyes,  widen 
Isabel  admired  so  much,  were  quiet  and  contented,  and  their 
figures,  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  lunch  at  Lockleigb, 
wnere  they  lived  with  their  brother,  and  then  they  might  see  her 
very,  very  often.  They  wondered  whether  she  wouldn’t  come  ,y 
over  some  day  and  sleep  ; they  were  expecting  some  people  on  1 
the  twenty-ninth,  and  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 daresay  you  will  take  us  as  you  find  us.” 

“ I shall  find  you  delightful ; I think  you  are  enchanting  just 
as  you  are,”  replied  Isabel,  who  often  praised  profusely. 

Her  visitors  blushed,  and  her  cousin  told  her,  after  they  were 
gone,  that  if  she  said  such  things  to  those  poor  girls,  they  would 
think  she  was  quizzing  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  Balph,  with  ardour. 

“ I mean  to  try  and  imitate  them,”  said  Isabel.  “ I want  very 
much  to  see  them  at  home.” 

She  had  this  pleasure  a few  days  later,  when,  with  Balph  ana 
his  mother,  she  drove  over  to  Lockleigh.  She  found  the  Misses 
Molyneux  sitting  in  a vast  drawing-room  (she  perceived  after- 
wards 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  Garden- 
court,  and  was  more  than  ever  struck  with  the  fact  that  they 
were  not  morbid.  It  had  seemed  to  her  before  that,  if  they  had 
a fault,  it  was  a want  of  vivacity ; but  she  presently  saw  that 
they  were  capable  of  deep  emotion.  Before  lunch  she  was  alone 
with  them,  for  some  time,  on  one  side  of  the  room,  while  Lord 
Warburton,  at  a distance,  talked  to  Mrs.  Touchett. 

“Is  it  true  that  your  brother  is  such  a great  radical  1”  Isabel 
asked.  She  knew  it  was  true,  but  we  have  seen  that  her  interest 
in  human  nature  was  keen,  and  she  had  a desire  to  draw  the 
Misses  Molyneux  out. 

“ On  dear,  yes;  he’s  immensely  advanced,”  said  Mildred,  the 
younger  sister. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


65 


a At  the  same  time,  Warburton  is  very  reasonable,”  Miss 
Mclyneux  observed. 

Isabel  watched  him  a moment,  at  the  other  side  of  the  room  ; 
he  was  evidently  trying  hard  to  make  himself  agreeable  to 
Mrs.  Touchett.  Ealph  was  playing  with  one  of  the  dogs  before 
the  fire,  which  the  temperature  of  an  English  August,  in  the 
ancient,  spacious  room,  had  not  made  an  impertinence.  “Do 
you  suppose  your  brother  is  sincere  % ” Isabel  inquired  with  a 
smile. 

“ Oh,  he  must  be,  you  know  ! ” Mildred  exclaimed,  quickly  ; 
while  the  elder  sister  gazed  at  our  heroine  in  silence. 

“ Do  you  think  he  would  stand  the  test  1 ” 

“ The  test  ] ” 

“ I mean,  for  instance,  having  to  give  up  all  this  1 ” 

“ Having  to  give  up  Lockleigh ! ” said  Miss  Molyneux,  finding 
her  voice. 

“ Yes,  and  the  other  places  ; what  are  they  called  ? ” 

The  two  sisters  exchanged  an  almost  frightened  glance.  “Do 
you  mean — do  you  mean  on  account  of  the  expense  1 ” the  younger 
one  asked. 

“ I daresay  he  might  let  one  or  two  of  his  houses,”  said  the 
other. 

“ Let  them  for  nothing  ? ” Isabel  inquired. 

“ I can't  fancy  his  giving  up  his  property,”  said  Miss 
Molyneux. 

“ Ah,  I am  afraid  he  is  an  impostor ! ” Isabel  exclaimed. 
“ Don’t  you  think  it’s  a false  position  1 ” 

Her  companions,  evidently,  were  rapidly  getting  bewildered. 
“ My  brother’s  position  ?”  Miss  Molyneux  inquired. 

“ It’s  thought  a very  good  position,”  said  the  younger  sister. 
u It’s  the  first  position  in  the  county.” 

“ I suspect  you  think  me  very  irreyerent,”  Isabel  took  occa- 
sion to  observe.  “ 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,  evi- 
dently, are  very  good.” 

“ He  is  most  kind.  It  will  never  be  known,  the  good  he  does.” 

“ His  ability  is  known,”  Mildred  added ; “ every  one  thinks 
it’s  immense.” 

1 Oh,  I can  see  that,”  said  Isabel.  ‘ But  if  I were  he,  I 
thould  wish  to  be  a conservative.  I should  wish  to  keep  every 

thing.” 

v 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


H I tliink  one  ought  to  be  liberal/ * Mildred  argued,  gently 
4 We  have  always  been  so,  even  from  the  earliest  times.” 

“ Ah  well/’  said  Isabel,  “ you  have  made  a great  success  of  it ; 1 
don’t  wonder  you  like  it.  I see  you  are  very  fond  of  crewels.” 

When  Lord  Warburton  showed  her  the  house,  after  lunch,  it 
seemed  to  her  a matter  of  course  that  it  should  be  a noble  pic- 
ture. Within,  it  had  been  a good  deal  modernised — some  of  its 
best  points  had  lost  their  purity ; but  as  they  saw  it  from  the 
gardens,  a stout,  grey  pile,  of  the  softest,  deepest,  most  weather- 
fretted  hue,  rising  from  a broad,  still  moat,  it  seemed  to  Isabel 
a castle  in  a fairy-tale.  The  day  was  cool  and  rather  lustreless ; 
the  first  note  of  autumn  had  been  struck ; and  the  watery  sun- 
shine rested  on  the  walls  in  blurred  and  desultory  gleams,  wash- 
ing them,  as  it  were,  in  places  tenderly  chosen,  where  the  ache 
of  antiquity  was  keenest.  Her  host’s  brother,  the  Yicar,  had 
come  to  lunch,  and  Isabel  had  had  five  minutes’  talk  with  him — 
time  enough  to  institute  a search  for  theological  characteristics 
and  give  it  up  as  vain.  The  characteristics  of  the  Yicar  of 
Lockleigh  were  a big,  athletic  figure,  a candid,  natural  counten- 
ance, a capacious  appetite,  and  a tendency  to  abundant  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  party,  on  leaving  lunch,  went  to  walk  in  the  grounds ; but 
Lord  Warburton  exercised  some  ingenuity  in  engaging  his 
youngest  visitor  in  a stroll  somewhat  apart  from  the  others. 

“ I wish  you  to  see  the  place  properly,  seriously,”  he  said. 
“ You  can’t  do  so  if  your  attention  is  distracted  by  irrelevant 
gossip.”  His  own  conversation  (though  he  told  Isabel  a good 
deal  about  the  house,  which  had  a very  curious  history)  was  not 
purely  archaeological ; he  reverted  at  intervals  to  matters  more 
personal — matters  personal  to  the  young  lady  as  well  as  to  him- 
self. But  at  last,  after  a pause  of  some  duration,  returning  for 
a moment  to  their  ostensible  theme,  “Ah,  well,”  he  said,  “I 
am  very  glad  indeed  you  like  the  old  house.  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  is  no  want  of  inducements,”  Isabel  answered ; “ but 
I am  afraid  I can’t  make  engagements.  I am  quite  in  my 
aunt ’3  hands.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


99  Ah,  excuse  me  if  I say  I don’t  exactly  believe  that.  I am 
pretty  sure  you  can  do  whatever  you  want.” 

“ I am  sorry  if  I make  that  impression  on  you  ; 1 don’t  think 
it’s  a nice  impression  to  make.” 

“ It  has  the  merit  of  permitting  ine  to  hope.”  And  Lord 
Warburton  paused  a moment: 

“ To  hope  what  ? ” 

“ That  in  future  I may  see  you  often.” 

“ Ah,”  said  Isabel,  “ to  enjoy  that  pleasure,  I needn’t  be 
terribly  emancipated.” 

“ Doubtless  not ; and  yet,  at  the  same  time,  I don’t  think  your 
uncle  likes  me.” 

“You  are  very  much  mistaken.  I have  heard  him  speak  very 
highly  of  you.” 

“ I am  glad  you  have  talked  about  me,”  said  Lord  Warburton. 
96  But,  all  the  same,  I don’t  think  he  would  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 am  charmed 
when  you  say  that.” 

“You  are  easily  charmed,  my  lord,”  said  Isabel. 

“No,  I am  not  easily  charmed  ! ” And  then  he  stopped  a 
moment.  “ But  you  have  charmed  me,  Miss  Archer,”  he 
added. 


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. 
8he  had  no  wish,  however,  that  for  the  moment  such  a prelude 
should  have  a sequel,  and  she  said,  as  gaily,  as  possible  and  as 
quickly  as  an  appreciable  degree  of  agitation  would  allow  her,  “ I 
am  afraid  there  is  no  prospect  of  my  being  able  to  come 
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 have 
a sort  of  sense  that  you 'are  always  judging  people.” 

“You  don’t  of  necessity  lose  by  that.” 

“ It  is  very  kind  of  you  to  say  so  ; but  even  if  I gain,  stern 
justice  is  not  what  1 most  love.  Is  Mrs.  Touchett  going  to  take 
you  auroad  1 ” 


F 2 


sa 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


u I hope  so." 

“ Is  England  not  good  enough  for  you  ? 99 
u That's  a very  Machiavellian  speech ; it  doesn’t  deserve  m 
answer.  I want  very  much  tq.  see  foreign  lands  as  well.” 

* Then  you  will  go  on  judging,  I suppose.” 

“ Enjoying,  I hope,  too.” 

“ Yes,  that's  what  you  enjoy  most ; I can’t  make  out  what  you 
are  up  to,”  said  Lord  Warburton.  “ You  strike  me  as  having 
mysterious  purposes — vast  designs  ? ” 

“ You  are  so  good  as  to  have  a theory  about  me  which  I don’t 
at  all  fill  out.  Is  there  anything  mysterious  in  a purpose  enter- 
tained 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 

t declared.  “ It’s  already  a most  formidable  instrument.  It  looks 
down  on  us  all ; it  despises  us.” 

“ Despises  you  i You  are  making  fun  of  me,”  said  Isabel, 
seriously. 

“ Well,  you  think  us -picturesque — that’s  the  same  thing.  I 
won’t  be  thought  picturesque,  to  begin  with ; I am  not  so  in  the 
least.  I protest.” 

“ That  protest  is  one  of  the  most  picturesque  things  I have 
ever  heard,”  Isabel  answered  with  a-smile. 
f0*] Lord  Warburton  was  silent  a moment.  “ You  judge  only  from 
j 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  reappeared,  and  mixed  with  it  now  was  an 
audible  strain  of  bitterness— a bitterness  so  abrupt  and  inconse- 
quent that  the  girl  was  afraid  she  had  hurt  him.  She  had  often 
heard  that  the  English  were  a highly  eccentric  people  ; and  she 
had  e ren  read  in  some  ingenious  author  that  they  were,  at  bottom, 
the  most  romantic  of  races.  Was  Lord  Warburton  suddenly 
turning  romantic — was  he  going  to  make  a scene,  in  his  own 
house,  only  the  third  time  they  had  met?  She  was  reassured, 
quickly  enough,  by  her  sense  of  his  great  good  manners,  whici* 
was  not  impaired  by  the  fact  that  he  had  already  touched  the 
furthest  limit  of  good  taste  in  expressing  his  admiration  of  a 
young  lady  who  had  confided  in  his  hospitality.  She  was 
right  in  trusting  to  his  good  manners,  for  he  presently  went  on, 
laughing  a little,  and  without  a trace  of  the  accent  that  had  dis- 
1 composed  her — “ I don’t  mean,  of  course,  that  you  amuse  yourself 
with  trifles.  You  select  great  materials ; the  foibles,  the  afilio- 
^ttons  of  human  nature,  the  peculiarities  of  nations  ! ” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

“ As  regards  that,”  said  Isabel,  “ I should  find  l 
nation  entertainment  for  a lifetime.  But  we  have  a 
and  my  aunt  will  soon  wish  to  start.”  She  turned  ba 
the  others,  and  Lord  Warburton  walked  beside  her 
Bat  before  they  reached  the  others — “ I shall  come  and  see  you 
next  week,”  he  said. 

She  had  received  an  appreciable  shock,  but  as  it  died  away 
she  felt  that  she  could  not  pretend  to  herself  that  it  was  alto- 
gether a painful  one.  Nevertheless,  she  made  answer  to  this 
declaration,  coldly  enough,  “Just  as  you  please.”  And  her 
coldness  was  not  coquetry — a quality  that  she  possessed  in  a 
much  smaller  degree  than  would  have  seemed  probable  to  many 
critics ; it  came  from  a certain  fea]k-  --  . 


X. 

The  day  after  her  visit  to  Lockleigh  she  received  a note  from 
her  friend,  Miss  Stackpole — a note  of  which  the  envelope, 
exhibiting  in  conjunction  the  postmark  of  Liverpool  and  the 
neat  calligraphy  of  the  quick-fingered  Henrietta,  caused  her  some 
liveliness  of  emotion.  “ Here  I am,  my  lovely  friend,”  Miss 
Stackpole  wrote  ; “I  managed  to  get  off  at  last.  I decided  only 
the  night  before  I left  New  York — the  Interviewer  having  come 
round  to  my  figure.  I put  a few  things  into  a bag,  like  a veteran 
journalist,  and  came  down  to  the  steamer  in  a street-car.  Where 
are  you,  and  where  can  we  meet  1 I suppose  you  are  visiting  at 
some  castle  or  other, . and  have  already  acquired  the  correct 
accent.  Perhaps,  even,  you  have  married  a lord ; I almost  hope 
you  have,  for  I want  some  introductions  to  the  first  people,  and 
ohall  count  on  you  for  a few.  The  Interviewer  wants  some  light 
on  the  nobility.  My  first  impressions  (of  the  people  at  large) 
are  not  rose-coloured ; but  I wish  to  talk  them  over  with  you, 
and  you  know  that  whatever  I am,  at  least  I am  not  superficial. 
I have  also  something  very  particular  to  tell  you.  Do  appoint  a 
meeting  as  quickly  as  you  can ; come  to  London  (I  should  like 
fco  much  to  visit  the  sights  with  you),  or  else  let  me  come  to  you, 
wherever  you  are . I will  do  so  with  pleasure ; for  you  know 
everything  interests  me,  and  I wish  to  see  as  much  as  possible  of 
the  inner  life.” 

Isabel  did  not  show  this  letter  to  her  uncle  ; but  she  acquainted 
him  with  its  purport,  and,  as  she  expected,  he  begged  her 
instantly  to  assure  Miss  Stackpole  in  his  name,  that  he  should 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


,d  to  receive  her  at  Gardencourt.  “ Though  she  is  a 
dy,”  he  said,  “ I suppose  that,  being  an  American,  she 
roduce  me,  as  that  other  one  did.  She  has  seen  others 


“ She  has  seen  no  other  so  delightful ! ” Isabel  answered  ; hut 
she  was  not  altogether  at  ease  about  Henrietta’s  reproductive 
instincts,  which  belonged  to  that  side  of  her  friend’s  character 
which  she  regarded  with  least  complacency.  She  wrote  to  Miss 
Stackpole,  however,  that  she  would  be  very  welcome  under  Mr. 
Touchett’s  roof;  and  this  enterprising  young  woman  lost  no  time 
in  signifying  her  intention  of  arriving.  She  had  gone  up  to 
London,  and  it  was  from  the  metropolis  that  she  took  the  train 
for  the  station  nearest  to  Gardencourt,  where  Isabel  and  Ealph 
were  in  waiting  to  receive  the  visitor. 

“ Shall  I love  her,  or  shall  I hate  her  1 ” asked  Ealph,  while 
they  stood  on  the  platform,  before  the  advent  of  the  train., 
“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 am  hound  to-dislike  her,  then.  She  must  be  a 
kind  of  monster.  Is  she  very  ugly  1 ” 

“ Ho,  she  is  decidedly  pretty.” 

“ A female  interviewer — a reporter  in  petticoats  1 I am  very 
curious  to  see  her,”  Ealph  declared.  _ _ 

“It  is  very  easy  to  laugh,  at  her,  hut  it  is  not  easy  to  he  as 

brave  as  she.” 

“ I should  think  not ; interviewing  requires  bravery.  J Jo  you 
suppose  she  will  interview  me  V}  . 

u Never  in  the  world.  She  will  not  think  you  of  enough 

importance.”  , , . , « - 

«« You  will  see,”  said  Ealph.  “ She  will  send  a description  of 

us  all,  including  Bunchie,  to  her  newspaper.” 

“ I shall  ask  her  not  to,”  Isabel  answered. 

“ You  think  she  is  capable  of  it,  then.” 

“Perfectly.” 

“ And  yet  you  have  made  her  your  bosom-friend  ? 

“ I have  not  made  her  my  bosom-friend ; but  I like  her,  in 

spite  of  her  faults.”  , 

“Ah,  well,”  said  Ealph,  “I  am  afraid  I shall  dislike  her,  m 

spite  of  her  merits.”  _ „ 

“ You  will  probably  fall  in  love  with  her  at  the  end  ot  JiBee 

davs  ” 

“And  have  my  love-letters  published  in  the  Interviewer  t 

Never ! ” cried  the  young  man.  . 

The  train  presently  arrived,  and  Miss  Stackpole,  promptly 


« 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


71 


descending,  proved  to  be,  as  Isabel  had  said,  decidedly  pretty. 
She  was  a fair,  plump  person,  of  medium  stature,  with  a round 
face,  a small  mouth,  a delicate  complexion,  a bunch  of  light 
brown  ringlets  at  the  back  of  her  head,  and  a peculiarly  open, 
surprised-looking  eye.  The  most  striking  point  in  her  appear- 
ance was  the  remarkable  fixedness  of  this  organ,  which  rested 
without  impudence  or  defiance,  but  as  if  in  conscientious  exercise 
of  a natural  right,  upon  every  object  it  happened  to  encounter. 
It  rested  in  this  manner  upon  Ralph  himself,  who  was  somewhat 
disconcerted  by  Miss  Stackpole’s  gracious  and  comfortable  aspect, 
which  seemed  to  indicate  that  it  would  not  be  so  easy  as  he  had 
assumed  to  disapprove  of  her.  She  was  very  well  dressed,  in 
fresh;  dove-coloured  draperies,  and  Ralph  saw  at  a glance  that 
she  was  scrupulously,  fastidiously  neat.  From  top  to  toe  she 
carried  not  an  ink-stain.  She  spoke  in  a clear,  high  voice — a 
voi:e  not  rich,  but  loud,  though  after  she  had  taken  her  place, 
witn  her  companions,  in  Mr.  Touchett’s  carriage,  she  struck  him, 
rather  to  his  surprise,  as  not  an  abundant  talker.  She  answered 
the  inquiries  made  of  her  by  Isabel,  however,  and  in  which  the 
young  man  ventured  to  join,  with  a great  deal  of  precision  and 
distinctness ; 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  conversational  powers. 

“ Well,  I should  like  to  know  whether  you  consider  yourselves 
American  or  English/7  she  said.  “ If  once  I knew,  I could  talk 
to  you  accordingly/7 

“ Talk  to  us  anyhow,  and  we  shall  be  thankful,77  Ralph 
answered,  liberally. 

She  fixed  her  eyes  upon  him,  and  there  was  something  in 
their  character  that  reminded  him  of  large,  polished  buttons  ; h* 
seemed  to  see  the  reflection  of  surrounding  objects  upon  the 
pupil.  The  expression  of  a bu  tton  is  not  usually  deemed  human 
but  there  was  something  in  M iss  Stackpole’s  gaze  that  made  him 
as  he  was  a very  modest  man,  feel  vaguely  embarrassed  and 
uncomfortable.  This  sensation,  it  must  be  added,  after  he  had 
spent  a day  or  two  in  her  company,  sensibly  diminished,  though 
.*t  never  wholly  disappeared.  “I  don’t  suppose  that  you  are 
going  to  undertake  to  persuade  me  that  you  are  an  American/* 
3he  said. 

“To  please  you,  I will  be  an  Englishman,  I will  be  a 
Turk ! 77 

“Well,  if  you  can  change  about  that  way,  you  are  very 
welcome/7  Miss  Stackpole  rejoined. 

\ 


n 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ I am  sure  you  understand  everything,  and  that  difference* 
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.” 

w I am  not  sure  that  I understand  you,”  said  the  correspondent 
of  the  Interviewer ; “ but  I expect  I shall  before  I leave.” 

“He  is  what  is  called  a cosmopolitan,”  Isabel  suggested. 

i 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  1 ” Ralph 
inquired. 

“ 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 
mild,  wise,  aged,  innocent  voice. 

“ Well,  sir,  I haven’t  quite  made  up  my  mind  what  ground  I 
shall  take.  I feel  a good  deal  cramped.  I felt  it  on  the  journey 
from  Liverpool  to  London.” 

“ Perhaps  you  were  in  a crowded  carriage,”  Ralph  suggested. 

“ Yes,  but  it  was  crowded  with  friends — a party  of  Americans 
whose  acquaintance  I had  made  upon  the  steamer ; a most  lovely 
group,  from  Little  Rock,  Arkansas.  In  spite  of  that  I felt 
cramped — I felt  something  pressing  upon  me;  I couldn’t  tell 
iv  hat  it  was.  I felt  at  the  very  commencement  as  if  I were  not 
going  to  sympathise  with  the  atmosphere.  But  I suppose  I 
shall  make  my  own  atmosphere.  Your  surroundings  seem  very 
attractive.” 

“Ah,  we  too  are  a lovely  group  1”  said  Ralph.  “Wait  a 
little  and  you  will  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 
Bpite  of  this  Isabel  spent  many  hours  with  her  friend,  who,  once 
her  daily  task  performed,  was  of  an  eminently  social  tendency. 
Isabel  speedily  found  occasion  to  request  her  to  desist  from 
celebrating  the  charms  of  their  common  sojourn  in  print,  having 
discovered,  on  the  second  morning  of  Miss  Stackpole’s  visit,  that 
she  was  engaged  upon  a letter  to  the  Intervieiver , of  which  the 
title,  in  her  exquisitely  neat  and  legible  hand  (exactly  that  of 
the  copy  books  which  our  heroine  remembered  at  school),  wa* 
* Americans  and  Tudors  — Glimpses  of  Gardencourt.”  Mist 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


78 


Btackpole,  with  the  best  conscience  in  the  world,  offered  to  read 
her  letter  to  Isabel,  who  immediately  put  in  her  protest. 

“ I don’t  think  you  ought  to  do  that.  I don’t  think  you  ought 
to  describe  the  place.” 

Henrietta  gazed  at  her,  as  usual.  “ Why,  it’s  just  what  the 
people  want,  and  it’s  a lovely  place.” 

‘ It’s  too  lovely  to  be  put  in  the  newspapers,  and  it’s  not  what 
my  uncle  wants.” 

‘ ‘Don’t  you  believe  that!”  cried  Henrietta.  “They  are 
always  delighted,  afterwards.”' 

“ My  uncle  won’t  be  delighted — nor  my  cousin,  either.  They 
will  consider  it  a breach  of  hospitality.” 

Miss  Stackpole  showed  no  sense  of  confusion ; she  simply 
wiped  her  pen,  very  neatly,  upon  an  elegant  little  implement 
which  she  kept  for  the  purpose,  and  put  away  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  will  take  some  drives,  and  I will  show  yon 
some  charming  scenery.” 

“ Scenery  is  not  my  department ; I always  need  a human 
interest.  You  know  I am  deeply  human,  Isabel ; I always  was,” 
Miss  Stackpole  rejoined.  “ 1 was  going  to  bring  in  your  cousin 
— the  alienated  American.  There  is  a great  demand  just  now 
for  the  alienated  American,  and  your  cousin  is  a beautiful  speci- 
men. I should  have  handled  him  severely.” 

“ He  would  have  died  of  it !”  Isabel  exclaimed.  “ Hot  of  the 
severity,  but  of  the  publicity.” 

“ Well,  I should  have  liked  to  kill  him  a little.  And  I should 
have  delighted  to  do  your  uncle,  who  seems  to  me  a much  nobler 
type — the  American  faithful  still.  He  is  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 
appeared  to  her  so  strange  that  a nature  in  which  she  found  so 
much  to  esteem  should  exhibit  such  extraordinary  disparities. 

My  poor  Henrietta,”  she  said,  “ you  have  no  spense  of  privacy.” 

Henrietta  coloured  deeply,  and  for  a moment  her  brilliant  eyes 
were  suffused ; while  Isabel  marvelled  more  than  ever  at  her  in- 
consistency. “ You  do  me  great  injustice,”  said  Miss  Stackpole, 
with  dignity.  “ I have  never  written  a word  about  myself  ! ” 

“ I am  very  sure  of  that ; but  it  seems  to  me  one  should  be 
ciodest  for  others  also  ! ” 

‘ Ah,  that  is  very  good  ! ” cried  Henrietta,  seizing  her  pen 
sgaiu.  “ Just  let  me  make  a note  of  it,  and  I will  put  it  in  a 


74 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


letter.”  She  was  a thoroughly  good-natured  'woman,  and  half 
an  hour  later  she  was  in  as  cheerful  a mood  as  should  have  been 
looked  for  in  a newspaper-correspondent  in  want  of  material. 
“ I have  promised  to  do  the  social  side,”  she  said  to  Isabel ; 
“ and  how  can  I do  it  unless  I get  ideas  ? If  I can’t  describe 
this  place,  don’t  you  know  some  place  I can  describe  ? ” Isabel 
promised  she  would  bethink  herself,  and  the  next  day,  in  con- 
versation with  her  friend,  she  happened  to  mention  her  visit  to 
Lord  Warburton’s  ancient  house.  “ Ah,  you  must  take  me 
there — that  is  just  the  place  for  me  !”  Miss  Stackpole  exclaimed. 
u I must  get  a glimpse  of  the  nobility.” 

“ I can’t  take  you,”  said  Isabel;  “but  Lord  Warburton  Is 
coming  here,  and  you  will  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  begged ; “I  want  him  to 
be  natural.” 

“ An  Englishman  is  never  so  natural  as  when  he  is  holding 
his  tongue,”  Isabel  rejoined. 

It  was  not  apparent,  at  the  end  of  three  days,  that  his  cousin 
had  fallen  in  love  with  their  visitor,  though  he  had  spent  a good 
deal  of  time  in  her  society.  They  strolled  about  the  park 
together,  and  sat  under  the  trees,  and  in  the  afternoon,  when  it 
was  delightful  to  float  along  the  Thames,  Miss  Stackpole 
occupied  a place  in  the  boat  in  which  hitherto  Ealph  had  had 
but  a single  companion.  Her  society  had  a less  insoluble  quality 
than  Ralph  had  expected  in  the  natural  perturbation  of  his  sense 
of  the  perfect  adequacy  of  that  of  his  cousin ; for  the  corre- 
spondent of  the  Interviewer  made  him  laugh  a good  deal,  and  he 
had  long  since  decided  that  abundant  laughter  should  be  the 
embellishment  of  the  remainder  of  his  days.  Henrietta,  on  her 
Bide,  did  not  quite  justify  Isabel’s  declaration  with  regard  to  her 
indifference  to  masculine  opinion  ; for  poor  Ealph  appeared  to 
have  presented  himself  to  her  as  an  irritating  problem,  which  it 
would  be  superficial  on  her  part  not  to  solve. 

“ What  does  he  do  for  a living  It  ” she  asked  of  Isabel,  the 
evening  of  her  arrival.  “ Does  he  go  round  all  day  with  his 
hands  in  his  pockets  ? ” 

“ He  does  nothing,”  said  Isabel,  smiling  ; “he’s  a gentleman 
of  leisure.” 

“ Well,  I call  that  a shame — when  I have  to  work  like  a cotton 
mill,”  Miss  Stackpole  replied.  “ I should  like  to  show  him  up 

“ He  is  in  wretched  health  ; he  is  quite  uctit  for  wozk,”  L 

iigod. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


71 


“Pshaw!  don't  you  believe  it.  I work  when  I am  sick,” 
tried  her  friend.  Later,  when  she  stepped  into  the  boat,  on 
joining  the  water-party,  she  remarked  to  Balph  that  she  sup* 
posed  he  hated  her — he  would  like  to  drown  her. 

“ Ah,  no,”  said  Balph,  “ I keep  my  victims  for  a slower 
torture.  And  you  would  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  1 I haven’t  a prejudice  to  bless  myself  with. 
There’s  intellectual  poverty  for  you.” 

“ The  more  shame  to  you  ; I have  some  delicious  prejudices. 
Of  course  I spoil  your  flirtation,  or  whatever  it  is  you  call  it, 
with  your  cousin ; but  I don’t  care  for  that,  for  I render  your 
cousin  the  service  of  drawing  you  out.  She  will  see  how  thin 
you  are.” 

u Ah,  do  draw  me  out !”  Balph  exclaimed.  “ So  few  people 
will  take  the  trouble.” 

Miss  Stackpole,  in  this  undertaking,  appeared  to  shrink  from 
no  trouble ; resorting  largely,  whenever  the  opportunity  offered, 
to  the  natural  expedient  of  interrogation.  On  the  following  day 
the  weather  was  bad,  and  in  the  afternoon  the  young  man,  by 
way  of  providing  in-door  amusement,  offered  to  show  her  the 
pictures.  Henrietta  strolled  through  the  long  gallery  in  his 
society,  while  he  pointed  out  its  principal  ornaments  and  men- 
tioned the  painters  and  subjects.  Miss  Stackpolg  looked  at  the 
pictures  in  perfect  silence,  committing  herself  to  no  opinion,  and 
Balph  was  gratified  by  the  fact  that  she  delivered  herself  of  none 
of  the  little  ready-made  ejaculations  of  delight  of  which  the 
visitors  to  Gardencourt  were  so  frequently  lavish.  This  young 
lady,  indeed,  to  do  her  justice,  was  but  little  addicted  to  the 
use  of  conventional  phrases ; there  was  something  earnest  and 
inventive  in  her  tone,  which  at  times,  in  its  brilliant  deliberation, 
suggested  a person  of  high  culture  speaking  a foreign  language. 
Balph  Touchett  subsequently  learned  that  she  had  at  one  time 
officiated  as  art-critic  to  a Transatlantic  journal ; but  she  appeared, 
in  spite  of  this  fact,  to  carry  in  her  pocket  none  of  the  small 
change  of  admiration.  Suddenly,  just  after  he  had  called  her 
attention  to  a charming  Constable,  she  turned  and  looked  at  him 
as  if  he  himself  had  been  a picture. 

“ Do  you  always  spend  your  time  like  this  ? ” she  demanded. 

u I seldom  spend  it  so  agreeably,”  said  Balph. 

“ Well,  you  know  what  I mean — without  any  regular  occu- 
pation.” 

“ Ah,”  said  Balph,  “ I am  the  idlest  man  living.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


?a 


Miss  Stackpole  turned  her  gaze  to  the  Constable  again,  and 
Ralph  bespoke  her  attention  for  a small  Watteau  hanging  near 
it,  which  represented  a gentleman  in  a pink  doublet  and  hose  and 
a ruff,  leaning  against  the  pedestal  of  the  statue  of  a nymph  in  a 
garden,  and  playing  the  guitar  to  two  ladies  seated  on  the  grass. 

“ That’s  my  ideal  of  a regular  occupation,”  he  said. 

Miss  Stackpole  turned  to  him  again,  and  though  her  eyes  had 
rested  upon  the  picture,  he  saw  that  she  had  not  apprehended 
the  subject.  She  was  thinking  of  something  much  more  serious. 

*1  don’t  see  how  you  can  reconcile  it  to  your  conscience,” 
she  said. 

u My  dear  lady,  I have  no  conscience  ! ” 

“Well,  I advise  you  to  cultivate  one.  You  will  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 gentle  smile. 

“ I suppose  that,  if  one  has  no  conscience,  one  has  no  shame.” 

“ Well,  you  have  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.  It’s  antecedent  to  choice.” 

“ I suppose  that  means  that  you  would  give  it  up  if  you 
could  ] 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  urged. 

“ I don’t  know  anything  about  your  natural  charm.  If  you 
have  got  any  charm,  it’s  quite  unnatural.  It’s  wholly  acquired 
— or  at  least  you  have  tried  hard  to  acquire  it,  living  over  here* 
I don’t  say  you  have  succeeded.  It’s  a charm  that  I don’t 
appreciate,  any  way.  Make  yourself  useful  in  some  way,  and 
then  we  will  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  inquired. 

“ Not  if  you  put  your  heart  into  it.” 

“ Ah,  my  heart,”  said  Ralph.  “ If  it  depends  upon  taj 
kean  ” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


11 


“ Haven’t  you  got  any  1 ” 

“ I had  one  a few  days  ago,  but  I have  lost  it  since/' 

“You  are  not  serious/’  Miss  Stackpole  remarked;  “that's 
what’s  the  matter  with  you.”  But  for  all  this,  in  a day  or  two 
*he  again  permitted  him  to  fix  her  attention,  and  on  this 
occasion  assigned  a different  cause  to  her  mysterious  perversity. 

“ I know  what’s  the  matter  with  you,  Mr.  Touchett,”  she  said. 

“ You  think  you  are  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  exclaimed  impatiently. 

“Then  it  seemed  to  me,”  said  Ralph,  “that  I was  not  good 
enough.” 

“ It  would  improve  you.  Besides,  it’s  your  duty.” 

“ All,”  cried  the  young  man,  “ one  has  so  many  duties  1 la 
that  a duty  too  1 ” 

“ Of  course  it  is — did  you  never  know  that  before  1 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  fellow.  She  was  wanting  in  distinction, 
but,  as  Isabel  had  said,  she  was  brave,  and  there  is  always 
something  fine  about  that.  He  had  not  supposed  her  to  be 
capable  of  vulgar  arts  ; but  these  last  words  struck  him  as  a 
false  note.  When  a marriageable  young  woman  urges  matrimony 
upon  an  unencumbered  young  man,  the  most  obvious  explana- 
tion of  her  conduct  is  not  the  altruistic  impulse. 

“ Ah,  well  now,  there  is  a good  deal  to  be  said  about  that  * 
Ralph  rejoined. 

“ There  may  be,  but  that  is  the  principal  thing.  I nfust  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  are  better  than  any  one  else  in  the  world  ] In  America  it’s  ^ 
usual  for  people  to  marry.” 

“ If  it’s  my  duty,”  Ralph  asked,  “ is  it  not,  by  analogy,  yours 
as  well  1 ” 

Miss  Stackpole’s  brilliant  eyes  expanded  still  further. 

“ Have  you  the  fond  hope  of  finding  a flaw  in  my  reason- 
ing 1 Of  course  I have  got  as  good  a right  to  marry  as  any  one 
dse.” 

“ Well  then,”  said  Ralph.  “ I won’t  say  it  vexes  me  to  see 
tou  single.  It  delights  me  rather.” 

“ You  are  not  serious  yet.  You  never  will  be.” 


rs 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


c<  Shall  you  not  believe  me  to  be  so  on  the  day  that  I tel! 
you  I desire  to  give  up  the  practice  of  going  round  alone  t” 

Miss  Stackpole  looked  at  him  for  a moment  in  a manner 
which  seemed  to  announce  a reply  that  might  technically  be 
called  encouraging.  But  to  his  great  surprise  this  expression 
suddenly  resolved  itself  into  an  appearance  of  alarm,  and  even 
of  resentment. 

“ No,  not  even  then,”  she  answered,  dryly.  After  which  she 
walked  away. 

“ I have  not  fallen  in  love  with  your  friend,”  Balph  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. 

Balph  stared.  “ Has  she  complained  of  me  ? ” 

“ She  told  me  she  thinks  there  is  something  very  low  ia  the 
tone  of  Europeans  towards  women.” 

“ Does  she  call  me  a European  h ” 

“ One  of  the  worst.  She  told  me  you  had  said  uo  her  some- 
thing that  an  American  never  would  have  said.  But  she  didn’t 
repeat  it.” 

Balph  treated  himself  to  a burst  of  resounding  laughter. 

“ She  is  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  is  one  to  do  among  you  all  ] ” Balph 
demanded.  “ Miss  Stackpole  tells  me  it’s  my  bounden  duty, 
and  that  it’s  hers  to  see  I do  mine  ! ” 

“ She  has  a great  sense  of  duty,”  said  Isabel  gravely.  “ She 
has,  indeed,  and  it’s  the  motive  of  everything  she  says.  That’s 
what  I like  her  for.  She  thinks  it’s  very  frivolous  for  you  to 
be  single;  that’s  what  she  meant  to  express  to  you.  If  you 
thought  she  was  trying  to — to  attract  you,  you  were  very 
wrong.” 

“ It  is  true  it  was  an  odd  way ; but  I did  think  she  was 
trying  to  attract  me.  Excuse  my  superficiality.” 

“ You  are  very  conceited.  She  had  no  interested  views,  and 
never  supposed  you  would  think  she  had.” 

44  One  must  be  very  modest,  then,  to  talk  with  such  women.’ 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


79 


Ralph  said,  humbly.  “ But  it's  a very  strange  type.  She  is 
too  personal — considering  that  she  expects  other  people  not  to 
be.  She  walks  in  without  knocking  at  the  door.” 

“ Yes,”  Isabel  admitted,  “ she  doesn’t  sufficiently  recognise  the 
existence  of  knockers  ; and  indeed  I am  not  sure  that  she 
doesn’t  think  them  a rather  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  Isabel,  smiling,  “ I am  afraid  it  is  because  she 
is  rather  vulgar  that  I like  her.” 

“ She  would  be  flattered  by  your  reason  I ” 

“ If  I should  tell  her,  I would  not  express  it  in  that  way.  I 
should  say  it  is  because  there  is  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 
is  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  reminds  me  of  it.” 

“ You  like  her  then  for  patriotic  reasons.  I am  afraid  it  is 
on  those  very  grounds  that  I object  to  her.” 

“ All,”  said  Isabel,  with  a kind  of  joyous  sigh,  “ I like  so 
many  things  ! If  a thing  strikes  me  in  a certain  way,  I like  it. 
I don’t  want  to  boast,  but  I suppose  I am  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 am  immensely  struck 
With  her ; not  so  much  for  herself  as  what  stands  behind  her.” 

“ Ah,  you  mean  the  back  view  of  her,”  Balph  suggested. 

“ What  she  says  is  true,” his  cousin  answered;  “you  will  never 
be  serious.  I like  the  great  country  stretching  away  beyond 
the  rivers  and  across  the  prairies,  blooming  and  smiling  and 
spreading,  till  it  stops  at  the  blue  Pacific  ! A strong,  sweet, 
fresh  odour  seems  to  rise  from  it,  and  Henrietta — excuse  my 
simile — has  something  of  that  odour  in  her  garments.” 

Isabel  blushed  a little  as  she  concluded  this  speech,  and  the 
blush,  together  with  the  momentary  ardour  she  had  thrown  into 
it,  was  so  becoming  to  her  that  Ralph  stood  smiling  at  her  for  a 
moment  after  she  had  ceased  speaking. 


80 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ I am  25. ot  sure  the  Pacific  is  blue,”  he  said ; “ hut  yon  aie  a 
woman  of  imagination.  Henrietta,  however,  is  fragrant — Hoi* 
rietta  is  decidedly  fragrant ! ” 


XL 

He  took  a resolve  after  this  not  to  misinterpret  her  words, 
even  when  Miss  Stackpole  appeared  to  strike  the  personal  note 
most  strongly.  He  bethought  himself  that  persons,  in  her  view, 
were  simple  and  homogeneous  organisms,  and  that  he,  for  his 
own  part,  was  too  perverted  a representative  of  human  nature  to 
have  a right  to  deal  with  her  in  strict  reciprocity.  He  carried 
out  his  resolve  with  a great  deal  of  tact,  and  the  young  lady 
found  in  her  relations  with  him  no  obstacle  to  the  exercise  of 
that  somewhat  aggressive  frankness  which  was  the  social  expres- 
sion of  her  nature.  Her  situation  at  Garden  court,  therefore, 
appreciated  as  we  have  seen  her  to  be  by  Isabel,  and  full  of 
appreciation  herself  of  that  fine  freedom  jf  composition  which, 
to  her  sense,  rendered  Isabel’s  character  a sister-spirit,  and  of 
the  easy  venerableness  of  Mr.  Touchett,  whose  general  tone,  as 
she  said,  met  with  her  full  approval — her  situation  at  Garden- 
court  would  have  been  perfectly  comfortable,  had  she  not  con- 
ceived an  irresistible  mistrust  of  the  little  lady  to  whom  she  had 
at  first  supposed  herself  obliged  to  pay  a certain  deference  as 
mistress  of  the  house.  She  presently  discovered,  however,  that 
this  obligation  was  of  the  lightest,  and  that  Mrs.  Touchett  cared 
very  little  how  Miss  Stackpole  behaved.  Mrs.  Touchett  had 
spoken  of  her  to  Isabel  as  a “ newspaper-woman,”  and  expressed 
some  surprise  at  her  niece’s  having  selected  such  a friend;  but 
die  had  immediately  added  that  she  knew  Isabel’s  friends  were 
her  own  affair,  and  that  she  never  undertook  to  like  them  ail, 
or  to  restrict  the  girl  to  those  she  liked. 

“ If  you  could  see  none  but  the  people  I like,  my  dear,  you 
would  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  recom- 
mending, it  is  a serious  affair.  I don’t  like  Miss  Stackpole — I 
don’t  like  her  tone.  She  talks  too  loud,  and  she  looks  at  me 
too  hard.  I am  sure  she  has  lived  all  her  life  in  a boarding- 
house, and  I detest  the  style  of  manners  that  such  a way  o> 
living  produces.  If  you  ask  me  if  I prefer  my  own  manners, 
which  you  doubtless  think  very  bad,  I will  tell  you  that  J 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


SI 


t^efer  them  immensely.  Miss  Stackpole  knows  that  I detest 
oarding-house  civilisation,  and  she  detests  me  for  detesting  it, 
because  she  thinks  it  is  the  highest  in  the  world.  She  would 
like  Gardencourt  a great  deal  better  if  it  were  a boarding-house. 
For  me,  I find  it  almost  too  much  of  one  ! We  shall  never  get 
on  together,  therefore,  and  there  is  no  use  trying.” 

Mrs.  Touchett  was  right  in  guessing  that  Henrietta  disap- 
proved of  her,  but  she  had  not  quite  put  her  finger  on  the  reason. 
A day  or  two  after  Miss  Stackpole’s  arrival  she  had  made  some 
invidious  reflections  on  American  hotels,  which  excited  a vein 
of  counter-argument  on  the  part  of  the  correspondent  of  the 
Interviewer , who  in  the  exercise  of  her  profession  had  acquired 
a large  familiarity  with  the  technical  hospitality  of  her  country. 
Henrietta  expressed  the  opinion  that  American  hotels  were  the 
best  in  the  world,  and  Mrs.  Touchett  recorded  a conviction  that 
they  were  the  worst  Ealph,  with  his  experimental  geniality, 
suggested,  by  way  of  healing  the  breach,  that  the  truth  lay 
between  the  two  extremes,  and  that  the  establishments  in 
question  ought  to  be  described  as  fair  middling.  This  contribu- 
tion to  the  discussion,  however.  Miss  Stackpole  rejected  with 
scorn.  Middling,  indeed  ! If  they  were  not  the  best  in  the 
world,  they  were  the  worst,  but  there  was  nothing  middling 
about  an  American  hotel. 

“We  judge  from  different  points  of  view,  evidently,”  said 
Mrs.  Touchett.  “ I like  to  be  treated  as  an  individual  ; you 
like  to  be  treated  as  a ‘ party.’  ” 

“ 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, 
u They  are  the  slaves  of  slaves.” 

“ They  are  the  companions  of  freemen,”  Henrietta  rejoined. 
“They  are  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 
1 slaves  ’ 1 ” Miss  Stackpole  inquired.  “ If  that’s  the  way  you 
desire  to  treat  them,  no  wonder  you  don’t  like  America.” 

“ If  you  have  not  good  servants,  you  are  miserable,”  Mrs. 
Touchett  said,  serenely.  “ They  are  very  bad  in  America,  but 
I have  five  perfect  ones  in  Florence.” 

“ I don’t  see  what  you  want  with  five,”  Henrietta  could  not 
help  observing.  “ I don’t  think  I should  like  to  see  five  persona 
3urrounding  me  in  that  menial  position.” 

“ I like  them  in  that  position  better  than  in  seme  others,1 * 
ttisd  Mrs.  Touchett,  with  a laugh, 

a 


82 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


u Should  you  like  me  better  if  I were  your  butler,  dear ! ” hei 
husband  asked. 

“ I don’t  think  I should ; you  would  make  a very  poor 
butler.” 

“ The  companions  of  freemen — I like  that,  Miss  Stackpole,” 
said  Ealph.  “ It’s  a beautiful  description.” 

i(  When  I said  freemen,  I didn’t  mean  you,  sir  ! ” 

And  this  was  the  only  reward  that  Ealph  got  for  his  compli* 
ment.  Miss  Stackpole  was  baffled  ; she  evidently  thought  there 
was  something  treasonable  in  Mrs.  Touchett’s  appreciation  of  a 
class  which  she  privately  suspected  of  being  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 
said  to  Isabel  in  the  morning,  while  they  were  alone  together, 

“ My  dear  friend,  I wonder  whether  you  are  growing  faith- 
less ? ” 

“ Faithless?  Faithless  to  you,  Henrietta?  ” 

“ No,  that  would  be  a great  pain  ; but  it  is  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  have  never  asked  me  what  it  is.  Is  it  because  you  have 
suspected  ? ” 

“ Suspected  what?  As  a rule,  I don’t  think  I suspect,”  said 
Isabel.  “ I remember  now  that  phrase  in  your  letter,  but  I 
confess  I had  forgotten  it.  What  have  you  to  tell  me  ? ” 

Henrietta  looked  disappointed,  and  her  steady  gaze  betrayed  it. 
“ You  don’t  ask  that  right — as  if  you  thought  it  important. 
You  are  changed — you  are  thinking  of  other  things.” 

“ Tell  me  what  you  mean,  and  I will  think  of  that.” 

“ Will  you  really  think  of  it  ? That  is  what  I wish  to  be 
sure  of.” 

“ I have  not  much  control  of  my  thoughts,  but  I will  do  my 
best,”  said  Isabel. 

Henrietta  gazed  at  her,  in  silence,  for  a period  of  time  which 
tried  Isabel’s  patience,  so  that  our  heroine  said  at  last — 

“ Ho  you  mean  that  you  are  going  to  be  married  ? ” 

“ Not  till  I have  seen  Europe  ! ” said  Miss  Stackpole.  “ What 
are  you  laughing  at  ? ” she  went  on.  “ What  I mean  is,  that  Mr. 
fcroodwood  came  out  in  the  steamer  with  me.” 

“ Ah  ! ” Isabel  exclaimed,  quickly. 

" You  say  that  right  I had  a good  deal  of  talk  with  nim  ] 
be  has  come  after  you  ” 
u Did  he  tell  you  so  ? ” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


83 


“Ho,  he  told  mo  nothing;  that’s  how  I knew  it,”  said 
Henrietta,  cleverly.  “ He  said  very  little  about  you,  but  I spoke 
of  you  a good  deal.” 

Isabel  was  silent  a moment.  At  the  mention  of  Mr.  Good- 
wood’s name  she  had  coloured  a little,  and  now  her  blush  was 
slowly  fading. 

“ I am  very  sorry  you  did  that,”  she  observed  at  last. 

“ It  was  a pleasure  to  me,  and  I liked  the  way  he  listened. 
I could  have  talked  a long  time  to  such  a listener ; he  was 
so  quiet,  so  intense  ; he  drank  it  all  in.” 

“ What  did  you  say  about  me  ? ” Isabel  asked. 

u I said  you  were  on  the  whole  the  finest  creature  I know.” 

" I am  very  sorry  for  that.  He  thinks  too  well  of  me  already ; 
he  ought  not  to  be  encouraged.” 

“ He  is  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  is  very  simple-minded,”  said  Isabel.  “ And  he  is  not 
bo  ugly.” 

“ There  is  nothing  so  simple  as  a great  passion.” 

“ It  is  not  a great  passion  ; I am  very  sure  it  is  not  that.” 

u 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  will  soon  give  you  a chance,”  said  Henrietta. 

Isabel  offered  no  answer  to  this  assertion,  which  her  com 
pan  ion  made  with  an  air  of  great  confidence. 

“ He  will  find  you  changed,”  the  latter  pursued.  “ You  have 
been  affected  by  your  new  surroundings.” 

“ Very  likely.  I am  affected  by  everything.” 

“ By  everything  but  Mr.  Goodwood  ! ” Miss  Stackpole  ex- 
claimed, with  a laugh. 

Isabel  failed  even  to  smile  in  reply ; and  in  a moment  she 
said — 

“ Did  he  ask  you  to  speak  to  me  1 ” 

“Hot  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  are  changed  ; you  have  got  new  ideas  over  heRS,” 
her  friend  continued. 

“ I hope  so,”  said  Isabel ; “ one  should  get  as  many  new  idea* 
w possible.” 

“ Yes  ; but  they  shouldn’t  interfere  with  the  old  ones.” 

Isabel  turned  a bout  again.  ‘ If  you  mean  that  I had  any 
Q 2 


84 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


idea  with  regard  to  Mr.  Goodwood ” And  then  she  paused!  \ 

Henrietta’s  bright  eyes  seemed  to  her  to  grow  enormous. 

“ My  dear  child,  you  certainly  encouraged  him,”  said  Miss 
Stackpole. 

Isabel  appeared  for  the  moment  to  be  on  the  point  of  denying 
this  charge,  but  instead  of  this  she  presently  answered — “ It 
is  very  true;  I did  encourage  him.”  And  then  she  inquired 
whether  her  companion  had  learned  from  Mr.  Goodwood  what 
he  intended  to  do.  This  inquiry  was  a concession  to  curiosity, 
for  she  did  not  enjoy  discussing  the  gentleman  with  Henrietta 
Stackpole,  and  she  thought  that  in  her  treatment  of  the  subject 
this  faithful  friend  lacked  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  action.  Whatever  happens  to 
him,  he  will  always  do  something,  and  whatever  he  does  will 
be  right.” 

“ I quite  believe  that,”  said  Isabel.  Henrietta  might  be 
wanting  in  delicacy ; but  it  touched  the  girl,  all  the  same,  to 
hear  this  rich  assertion  made. 

“Ah,  you  do  care  for  him,”  Henrietta  murmured. 

“ Whatever  he  does  will  be  right,”  Isabel  repeated.  “ When 
a man  is  of  that  supernatural  mould,  what  does  it  matter  to  him 
whether  one  cares  for  him  ? ” 

“ It  may  not  matter  to  him,  but  it  matters  to  one’s  self.” 

u Ah,  what  it  matters  to  me,  that  is  not  what  we  are  discuss- 
ing,” said  Isabel,  smiling  a little. 

This  time  her  companion  was  grave.  “Well,  I don’t  care; 
you  have  changed,”  she  replied.  “You  are  not  the  girl  you 
were  a few  short  weeks  ago,  and  Mr.  Goodwood  will  see  it.  I 
expect  him  here  any  day.” 

“ I hope  he  will  hate  me,  then,”  said  Isabel. 

“ I believe  that  you  hope  it  about  as  much  as  I believe  that 
he  is  capable  of  it.  ” 

To  this  observation  our  heroine  made  no  rejoinder ; she  was 
absorbed  iu  the  feeling  of  alarm  given  her  by  Henrietta’s  intirn- 
ation  that  Caspar  Goodwood  would  present  himself  at  Garden 
court,  A larm  is  perhaps  a violent  term  to  apply  to  the  uneasiness 
with  which  she  regarded  this  contingency ; but  her  uneasiness 
was  keen,  and  there  were  various  good  reasons  for  it.  She 
pretended  to  herself  that  she  thought  the  event  impossible,  and, 
later,  she  communicated  her  disbelief  to  her  friend ; but  for  tha 
uext  forty-eight  hours,  nevertheless,  she  stood  prepared  to  heai 
ihe  young  man’s  name  announced.  The  feeling  was  oppressive ; 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


St 


H;  made  the  air  sultry,  as  if  there  were  to  be  a change  of 
weather ; and  the  weather,  socially  speaking,  had  been  so  agree- 
able during  Isabel’s  stay  at  Gardencourt  that  any  change  would 
be  for  the  worse.  Her  suspense,  however,  was  dissipated  on  the 
second  day.  She  had  walked  into  the  park,  in  company  with 
the  sociable  Bunchie,  and  after  Strolling  about  for  some  time,  in 
a manner  at  once  listless  and  restless,  had  seated  herself  oil  a 
garden-bench,  within  sight  of  the  house,  beneath  a spreading 
beech,  where,  in  a white  dress  ornamented  with  black  ribbons, 
she  formed,  among  the  flickering  shadows,  a very  graceful  and 
harmonious  image.  She  entertained  herself  for  some  moments 
with  talking  to  the  little  terrier,  as  to  whom  the  proposal  of  an 
ownership  divided  with  her  cousin  had  been  applied  as  impar- 
tially as  possible — as  impartially  as  Bunchie’s  own  somewhat 
fickle  and  inconstant  sympathies  would  allow.  But  she  was 
notified  for  the  first  time,  on  this  occasion,  of  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  ; formerly,  when  she  felt  heavy-hearted,  she  had 
been  able,  with  the  help  of  some  well-chosen  volume,  to  transfer 
the  seat  of  consciousness  to  the  organ  of  pure  reason.  Of  late, 
however,  it  was  not  to  be  denied,  literature  had  seemed  a fading 
light,  and  even  after  she  had  reminded  herself  that  her  uncle’s 
library  was  provided  with  a complete  set  of  those  authors  which 
no  gentleman’s  collection  should  be  without,  she  sat  motionless 
and  empty-handed,  with  her  eyes  fixed  upon  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  that 
she  knew — that  she  seemed  to  know  all  the  better,  indeed,  as 
the  writer  had  been  present  to  her  mind  when  the  letter  was 
delivered.  This  document  proved  to  be  short,  and  I may  give 
it  entire. 

“My  dear  Miss  Archer — I don’t  know  whether  you  will 
have  heard  of  my  coming  to  England,  but  even  if  you  have  not, 
it  will  scarcely  be  a surprise  to  you  You  will  remember  that 
when  you  gave  me  my  dismissal  at  Albany  three  months  ago,  I 
did  not  accept  it.  I protested  against  it.  You  in  fact,  appeared 
to  accept  my  protest,  and  to  admit  that  I had  the  right  on  my 
side.  I had  come  to  see  you  with  the  hope  that  you  would  let 
me  bring  you  over  to  my  conviction  ; my  reasons  for  entertaii  ing 
this  hope  had  been  of  the  best.  But  you  disappointed  it  ; I 
found  you  changed,  and  you  were  able  to  give  me  no  reason  for 


36 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


fclie  change.  You  admitted  that  you  were  unreasonable,  and  it 
was  the  only  concession  you  would  make  ; but  it  was  a very 
cheap  one,  because  you  are  not  unreasonable.  No,  you  aie  not, 
and  you  never  will  be.  Therefore  it  is  that  I believe  you  will 
let  me  see  you  again.  You  told  me  that  I am  not  disagreeable 
to  you,  and  I believe  it ; for  I don’t  see  why  that  should  be.  I 
shall  always  think  of  you ; I shall  never  think  of  any  one  else.  I 
came  to  England  simply  because  you  are  here ; I couldn’t  stay  at 
home  after  you  had  gone ; I hated  the  country  because  you  were 
not  in  it.  If  I like  this  country  at  present,  it  is  only  because 
you  are  here.  I have  been  to  England  before,  but  I have  never 
enjoyed  it  much.  May  I not  come  and  see  you  for  half-an- 
hourl  This  at  present  is  the  dearest  wish  of,  yours  faithfully, 

“ Caspar  Goodwood.” 

Isabel  read  Mr.  Goodwood’s  letter  with  such  profound  atten- 
tion that  she  had  not  perceived  an  approaching  tread  on  the  soft 
grass.  Looking  up,  however,  as  she  mechanically  folded  the 
paper,  she  saw  Lord  Warburton  standing  before  her. 


XIL 

She  put  the  letter  into  her  pocket,  and  offered  her  visitor  a 
smile  of  welcome,  exhibiting  no  trace  of  discomposure,  and  half 
surprised  at  her  self-possession. 

“ They  told  me  you  were  out  here,”  said  Lord  Warburton ; 
u and  as  there  was  no  one  in  the  drawing-room,  and  it  is  really 
you  that  I wish  to  see,  I came  out  with  no  more  ado.” 

Isabel  had  got  up ; she  felt  a wish,  for  the  moment,  that  he 
should  not  sit  down  beside  her.  “ I was  just  going  in-doors,” 
she  said. 

“ Please  don’t  do  that ; it  is  much  pleasanter  here ; I have 
ridden  over  from  Lockleigh ; it’s  a lovely  day.”  His  smile  was 
peculiarly  friendly  and  pleasing,  and  his  whole  person  seemed  to 
emit  that  radiance  of  good-feeling  and  good  fare  which  had 
formed  the  charm  of  the  girl’s  first  impression  of  him.  It 
surrounded  him  like  a zone  of  fine  June  weather. 

“We  will  walk  about  a little,  then,”  said  Isabel,  who  could 
not  divest  herself  of  the  sense  of  an  intention  on  the  part  of  her 
visitor,  and  who  wished  both  to  elude  the  intention  and  to  satisfy 
her  curiosity  regarding  it.  It  had  flashed  upon  her  vision  onc« 
before,  and  it  had  given  her  on  that  occasion,  as  we  know,  a 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


87 


certain  alarm.  This  alarm  was  composed  of  several  elemonts,  not 
ill  of  which  were  disagreeable ; she  had  indeed  spent  some  days 
in  analysing  them,  and  had  succeeded  in  separating  the  pleasant 
part  of  this  idea  of  Lord’s  Warburton’s  making  love  to  her  from 
the  painful.  It  may  appear  to  some  readers  that  the  young  lady 
was  both  precipitate  and  unduly  fastidious;  but  the  latter  of 
these  facts,  if  the  charge  be  true,  may  serve  to  exonerate  her  from 
the  discredit  of  the  former.  She  was  not  eager  to  convince  her- 
self that  a territorial  magnate,  as  she  had  heard  Lord  War  burton 
called,  was  smitten  with  her  charms  ; because  a declaration  from 
such  a source  would  point  to  more  questions  than  it  would  answer. 
She  had  received  a strong  impression  of  Lord  Warburton’s  being 
a personage,  and  she  had  occupied  herself  in  examining  the  idea. 
At  the  risk  of  making  the  reader  smile,  it  must  be  said  that  there 
had  been  moments  when  the  intimation  that  she  was  admired  by 
a “ personage  ” struck  her  as  an  aggression  which  she  would 
rather  have  been  spared.  She  had  never  known  a personage 
before ; there  were  no  personages  in  her  native  land.  When  she 
had  thought  of  such  matters  as  this,  she  had  done  so  on  the  basis 
of  character — of  what  one  likes  in  a gentleman's  mind  and  in 
his  talk.  She  herself  was  a character — she  could  not  help  being 
aware  of  that ; and  hitherto  her  visions  of  a completed  life  had 
concerned  themselves  largely  with  moral  images — things  as  to 
which  the  question  would  be  whether  they  pleased  her  soul. 
Lord  Warburton  loomed  up  before  her,  largely  and  brightly,  as  a 
collection  of  attributes  and  powers  which  were  not  to  be  measured 
by  this  simple  rule,  but  which  demanded  a different  sort  of 
appreciation — an  appreciation  which  the  girl,  with  her  habit  of 
judging  quickly  and  freely,  felt  that  she  lacked  the  patience  to 
bestow.  Of  course,  there  would  be  a short  cut  to  it,  and  as  Lord 
Warburton  was  evidently  a very  fine  fellow,  it  would  probably 
also  be  a safe  cut.  Isabel  was  able  to  say  all  this  to  herself,  but' 
she  was  unable  to  feel  the  force  of  it.  What  she  felt  was  that  a 
territorial,  a political,  a social  magnate  had  conceived  the  design 
of  drawing  her  into  the  system  in  which  he  lived  and  moved.  A 
certain  instinct,  not  imperious,  but  persuasive,  told  her  to  resist 
— it  murmured  to  her  that  virtually  she  had  a system  and  an 
oi bit  of  her  own.  It  told  her  other  things  besides — tilings  which 
both  contradicted  and  confirmed  each  other ; that  a girl  might 
do  much  worse  than  trust  herself  to  such  a man  as  Lord  War- 


burton, and  that  it  would  be  very  interesting  to  see  something  of  j 
his  system  from  his  own  point  of  view ; that,  on  the  other  hand, 
however,  there  was  evidently  a great  deal  of  it  which  she  should  I 
regard  only  as  an  incumbrance,  and  that  even  in  the  whole  there  / 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADF. 


88 

waa  something  heavy  and  rigid  which  would  make  it  unaccept* 
able.  Furthermore,  there  was  a young  man  lately  come  from 
America  who  had  no  system  at  all ; but  who  had  a character  oi 
which  it  was  useless  for  her  to  try  to  persuade  herself  that  the 
impression  on  her  mind  had  been  light.  The  letter  that  she 
carried  in  her  pocket  sufficiently  reminded  her  of  the  contrary. 
Smile  not,  however,  I venture  to  repeat,  at  this  simple  young 
lady  from  Albany,  who  debated  whether  she  should  accept 
an  English  peer  before  he  had  offered  himself,  and  who 
was  disposed  to  believe  that  on  the  whole  she  could  do  better. 

/ She  was  a person  of  great  good  faith,  and  if  there  was  a great 
deal  of  folly  in  her  wisdom,  those  who  judge  her  severely  may 
have  the  satisfaction  of  finding  that,  later,  she  became  consist- 
ently wise  only  at  the  cost  of  an  amount  of  folly  which  will 

Constitute  almost  a direct  appeal  to  charity. 

Lord  Warburton  seemed  quite  ready  to  walk,  to  sit,  or  to  do 
anything  that  Isabel  should  propose,  and  he  gave  her  this  assur- 
ance with  his  usual  air  of  being  particularly  pleased  to  exercise  a 
social  virtue.  But  he  was,  nevertheless,  not  in  command  of  his 
emotions,  and  as  he  strolled  beside  her  for  a moment,  in  silence, 
looking  at  her  without  letting  her  know  it,  there  was  something 
embarrassed  in  his  glance  and  his  misdirected  laughter.  Yes, 
assuredly — as  we  have  touched  on  the  point,  we  may  return  to 
it  for  a moment  again — the  English  are  the  most  romantic  people 
in  the  world,  and  Lord  Warburton  was  about  to  give  an  example 
of  it.  He  was  about  to  take  a step  which  would  astonish  all  his 
friends  and  displease  a great  many  of  them,  and  which,  superfici- 
ally, had  nothing  to  recommend  it.  The  young  lady  who  trod 
the  turf  beside  him  had  come  from  a queer  country  across  the 
sea,  which  he  knew  a good  deal  about ; her  antecedents,  her 
associations,  were  very  vague  to  his  mind,  except  in  so  far  as  they 
were  generic,  and  in  this  sense  they  revealed  themselves  with  a 
certain  vividness.  Miss  Archer  had  neither  a fortune  nor  the  sort 
of  beauty  that  justifies  a man  to  the  multitude,  and  he  calculated 
that  he  had  spent  about  twenty-six  hours  in  her  company.  He 
had  summed  up  all  this — the  perversity  of  the  impulse,  which 
had  declined  to  avail  itself  of  the  most  liberal  opportunities  to 
subside,  and  the  judgment  of  mankind,  as  exemplified  particularly 
in  the  more  quickly-judging  half  of  it;  he  had  looked  these 
things  well  in  the  face,  and  then  he  had  dismissed  them  from  his 
thoughts.  He  cared  no  more  for  them  than  for  the  rosebud  iu 
his  button-hole.  It  is  the  good  fortune  of  a man  who  for  tha 
greater  part  of  a lifetime  has  abstained  without  effort  from 
making  himself  disagreeable  to  his  friends,  that  when  the  need 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


8f« 

eomes  for  such  a course  it  is  not  discredited  by  irritating 
associations. 

“ I hope  you  had  a pleasant  ride,”  said  Isabel,  who  observed 
her  companion’s  hesitancy. 

“ It  would  have  been  pleasant  if  for  nothing  else  than  that  it 
brought  me  here/’  Lord  Warburton  answered. 

“ Are  you  so  fond  of  Gardencourt  % ” the  girl  asked ; more 
and  more  sure  that  he  meant  to  make  some  demand  of  her ; 
wishing  not  to  challenge  him  if  he  hesitated,  and  yet  to  keep 
all  the  quietness  of  her  reason  if  he  proceeded.  It  suddenly 
came  upon  her  that  her  situation  was  one  which  a few  weeks 
ago  she  would  have  deemed  deeply  romantic  ; the  park  of  an 
old  English  country-house,  with  the  foreground  embellished  by 
a local  nobleman  in  the  act  of  making  love  to  a young  lady 
%vho,  on  careful  inspection,  should  be  found  to  present  remarkable 
analogies  with  herself.  But  if  she  were  now  the  heroine  of  the 
situation,  she  succeeded  scarcely  the  less  in  looking  at  it  from 
the  outside. 

“ I care  nothing  for  Gardencourt,”  said  Lord  Warburton ; “I 
care  only  for  you.” 

“ You  have  known  me  too  short  a time  to  have  a right  to 
say  that,  and  I cannot  believe  you  are  serious.” 

These  words  of  Isabel’s  were  not  perfectly  sincere,  for  she 
had  no  doubt  whatever  that  he  was  serious.  They  were  simply 
a tribute  to  the  fact,  of  which  she  was  perfectly  aware,  that 
those  he  himself  had  just  uttered  would  have  excited  surprise 
on  the  part  of  the  public  at  large.  And,  moreover,  if  anything 
beside  the  sense  she  had  already  acquired  that  Lord  Warburton 
was  not  a frivolous  person  had  been  needed  to  convince  her,  the 
tone  in  which  he  replied  to  her  would  quite  lave  served  the 
purpose. 

“ One’s  right  in  such  a matter  is  not  measured  by  the  time, 
Miss  Archer  ; it  is  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 have 
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 
tli at  is  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  Gardencourt  the  other  day — or  rather,  wheu 


10 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A L ALY. 


you  went  away — I was  perfectly  sure.  Nevertheless,  I natie 
up  my  mind  to  think  it  over,  and  to  question  myself  narrowly. 
I have  done  so  ; all  these  days  I have  thought  of  nothing  else. 
I don’t  make  mistakes  about  such  things;  I am  a very 
judicious  fellow.  I don’t  go  off  easily,  hut  when  I am  touched, 
it’s  for  life.  It’s  for  life,  Miss  Archer,  it’s  for  life,”  Lord 
Warburton  repeated  in  the  kindest,  tenderest,  pleasantest  voice 
Isabel  had  ever  heard,  and  looking  at  her  with  eyes  that  shone 
with  the  light  of  a passion  that  had  sifted  itself  clear  of  the 
baser  parts  of  emotion — the  heat,  the  violence,  the  unreason — 
and  which  burned  as  steadily  as  a lamp  in  a windless  place. 

By  tacit  consent,  as  he  talked,  they  had  walked  more  and 
more  slowly,  and  at  last  they  stopped,  and  he  took  her  hand. 

“ Ah,  Lord  Warburton,  how  little  you  know  me  ! ” Isabel  said, 
very  gently ; gently,  too,  she  drew  her  hand  away. 

“ Don’t  taunt  me  with  that ; that  I don’t  know  you  better 
makes  me  unhappy  enough  already ; it’s  all  my  loss.  But  that 
is  what  I want,  and  it  seems  to  me  I am  taking  the  best  way. 
If  you  will  be  my  wife,  then  I shall  know  you,  and  when  I tell 
you  all  the  good  I think  of  you,  you  will  not  be  able  to  say  it 
is  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  1 Ah,  of  course,  that  is  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  % ” 

u I like  you  very  much,  Lord  Warburton,”  the  girl  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 have  filled  all  the  other 
relations  of  life  very  creditably,  and  I don’t  see  why  I should 
not  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 have  friends  who  will  speak  for  me.” 

“ I don’t  need  the  recommendation  of  your  friends/’  said 
Isabel. 

“Ah  now,  that  is  delightful  of  you.  You  believe  in  ms 
yourself.” 

“ Completely,”  Isabel  declared  ; and  it  was  the  truth. 

The  light  in  her  companion’s  eyes  turned  into  a smile,  and  he 
f&ve  a long  exhalation  of  joy. 

“ If  you  are  mistaken,  Miss  Archer,  let  me  lose  all  I possess  ! * 

She  wondered  whether  he  meant  this  for  a reminder  that  h* 


’HE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


91 


was  rich,  and,  on  the  instant,  felt  sure  that  he  did  not.  He 
was  sinking  that,  as  he  would  have  said  himself;  and  indeed 
he  might  safely  leave  it  to  the  memory  of  any  interlocutor, 
especially  of  one  to  whom  he  was  offering  his  hand.  Isabel 
had  prayed  that  she  might  not  be  agitated,  and  her  mind  was 
tranquil  enough,  even  while  she  listened  and  asked  herself  what 
it  was  best  she  should  say,  to  indulge  in  this  incidental 
criticism.  What  she  should  say,  had  she  asked  herself  1 Her 
foremost  wish  was  to  say  something  as  nearly  as  possible  as 
kind  as  what  he  had  said  to  her.  His  words  had  carried 
perfect  conviction  with  them  ; she  felt  that  he  loved  her. 

“ I thank  you  more  than  I can  say  for  your  offer,”  she 
rejoined  at  last ; “ it  does  me  great  honour/ * 

“ Ah,  don’t  say  that ! ” Lord  Warburton  broke  out.  “ I was 
afraid  you  would  say  something  like  that.  I don’t  see  what 
you  have  to  do  with  that  sort  of  thing.  I don’t  see  why  you 
should  thank  me — it  is  I who  ought  to  thank  you,  for  listening 
to  me ; a man  whom  you  know  so  little,  coming  down  on  you 
with  such  a thumper  1 Of  course  it’s  a great  question  ; I must 
tell  you  that  I would  rather  ask  it  than  have  it  to  answer 
myself.  But  the  way  you  have  listened — or  at  least  your 
having  listened  at  all — gives  me  some  hope.” 

“ Don’t  hope  too  much,”  Isabel  said. 

“ Oh,  Miss  Archer ! ” her  companion  murmured,  smiling 
again  in  his  seriousness,  as  if  such  a warning  might  perhaps  be 
taken  but  as  the  play  of  high  spirits — the  coquetry  of  elation. 

“ Should  you  be  greatly  surprised  if  I were  to  beg  you  not  to 
hope  at  all  1 ” Isabel  asked. 

“ Surprised  1 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 am  very  sure  that,  highly  as  I already  think  of  you,  my 
opinion  of  you,  if  I should  know  you  well,  would  only  rise. 
But  I am  by  no  means  sure  that  you  would  not  be  disappointed. 
And  I say  that  not  in  the  least  out  of  conventional  modesty ; 
it  is  perfectly  sincere.” 

“ I am  willing  to  risk  it,  Miss  Archer,”  her  companion 
answered. 

“ It’s  a great  question,  as  you  say ; it’s  a very  difficult 
question.” 

i(  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  waitings 
I will  gladly  wait  a long  time.  Only  remember  that  in  the  end 
my  dearest  happiness  depends  upon  your  answer.” 


92 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


* T should  be  very  sorry  to  keep  you  in  suspense,”  said 
Isabel. 

‘ Oh,  don't  mind.  I would  much  rather  have  a good  answer 
six  months  hence  than  a bad  one  to-day.” 

“ But  it  is  very  probable  that  even  six  months  hence  I should 
not  be  able  to  give  you  one  that  you  would  think  good.” 

“ Why  not,  since  you  really  like  me?’' 

“ Ah,  you  must  never  doubt  of  that,”  said  Isabel. 

“ Well,  then,  I don’t  see  what  more  you  ask  ! ” 

“ It  is  not  what  I ask  ; it  is  what  I can  give.  I don’t  think 
should  suit  you ; I really  don’t  think  I should.” 

“ You  needn’t  bother  about  that ; that’s  my  affair.  You 
needn’t  be  a better  royalist  than  the  king.” 

“ It  is  not  only  that,”  said  Isabel ; “ but  I am  not  sure  I wish 
to  marry  any  one.” 

“Very  likely  you  don’t.  I have  no  doubt  a great  many 
women  begin  that  way,”  said  his  lordship,  who,  be  it  averred, 
did  not  in  the  least  believe  in  the  axiom  he  thus  beguiled  his 
anxiety  by  uttering.  “ But  they  are  frequently  persuaded.” 

Ah,  that  is  because  they  want  to  be  ! ” 

And  Isabel  lightly  laughed. 

Her  suitor’s  countenance  fell,  and  he  looked  at  her  for  a 
while  in  silence. 

“I’m  afraid  it’s  my  b' ing  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  1 ” she  asked. 

“ I remember  his  making  the  remark ; he  spoke  perhaps  ol 
Americans  generally.” 

“ He  appears  himself  to  have  found  it  very  pleasant  to  live  in 
England,”  said  Isabel,  in  a manner  that  might  have  seemed  a 
little  perverse,  but  which  expressed  both  her  constant  perception 
of  her  uncle’s  pictorial  circumstances  and  her  general  dis- 
position to  elude  any  obligation  to  take  a restricted  view. 

It  gave  her  companion  hope,  and  he  immediately  exclaimed 
warmly — 

“ Ah,  my  dear  Miss  Archer,  old  England  is  a very  good  sort 
s>f  country,  you  know ! And  it  will  be  still  better  when  we 
aave  furbished  it  up  a little.” 

“Oh,  don’t  furbish  it,  Lord  Warburton;  leave  it  alone;  I 
Ske  it  this  way.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


n 


“ Well,  then,  if  you  like  it,  I am  more  and  more  unable  to 
Bee  your  objection  to  what  I propose.” 

“ I am  afraid  I can’t  make  you  understand.’ 1 

“ You  ought  at  least  to  try ; I have  got  a fair  intelligence. 
Are  you  afraid — afraid  of  the  climate  1 AVe  can  easily  live 
elsewhere,  you  know.  You  can  pick  out  your  climate,  the 
whole  world  over.” 

These  words  were  uttered  with  a tender  eagerness  which 
went  to  Isabel’s  heart,  and  she  would  have  given  her  little 
linger  at  that  moment,  to  feel,  strongly  and  simply,  the 
impulse  to  answer,  “ Lord  Warburton,  it  is  impossible  for 
a woman  to  do  better  in  this  world  than  to  commit  herself 
to  your  loyalty.”  But  though  she  could  conceive  the  impulse, 
she  could  not  let  it  operate ; her  imagination  was  charmed, 
but  it  was  not  led  captive.  What  she  finally  bethought 
herself  of  saying  was  something  very  different  — something 
which  altogether  deferred  the  need  of  answering.  u Don’t 
think  me  unkind  if  I ask  you  to  say  no  more  about  this 
to-day.” 

“ Certainly,  certainly  ! ” cried  Lord  Warburton.  “ I wouldn’t 
bore  you  for  the  world.” 

“ You  have  given  me  a great  deal  to  think  about,  and  1 
promise  you  I will  do  it  justice.” 

“ That’s  all  I ask  of  you,  of  course  — and  that  you  will 
remember  that  my  happiness  is  in  your  hands.” 

Isabel  listened  with  extreme  respect  to  this  admonition, 
but  she  said  after  a minute  — “I  must  tell  you  that  what 
I shall  think  about  is  some  way  of  letting  you  know  that  what 
you  ask  is  impossible,  without  making  you  miserable.” 

“ There  is  no  way  to  do  that,  Miss  Archer.  I won’t  say  that, 
if  you  refuse  me,  you  will  kill  me  ; I shall  not  die  of  it.  But  I 
shall  do  worse ; I shall  live  to  no  purpose.” 

“ You  will  live  to  marry  a better  woman  than  I.” 

“ Don’t  say  that,  please,”  said  Lord  Warburton,  very  gravely, 
f<  That  is  fair  to  neither  of  us.” 

“ To  marry  a worse  one,  then.” 

“ If  there  are  better  women  than  you,  then  I prefer  the  bad 
enes  ; that’s  all  I can  say,”  he  went  on,  with  the  same  gravity. 
“ There  is  no  accounting  for  tastes.” 

His  gravity  made  her  feel  equally  grave,  and  she  showed  it 
by  again  requesting  him  to  drop  the  subject  for  the  present. 
“ I will  speak  to  you  myself,  very  soon,”  she  said.  “ Perhaps 
I shall  write  to  you.” 

“At  your  convenience,  yes,”  he  answered.  “ Whatever  time 


04 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


you  take,  it  must  seem  to  me  long,  and  I suppose  I must  make 
the  best  of  that.” 

“ I shall  not  keep  you  in  suspense ; I only  want  to  collect 
my  mind  a little/ 

/'He  gave  a melancholy  sigh  and  stood  looking  at  her  a 
moment,  with  his  hands  behind  him,  giving  short  nervous 
shakes  to  his  hunting-whip.  “ Do  you  know  I am  very  much 
afraid  of  it — of  that  mind  of  yours  1 ” 

' Our  heroine’s  biographer  can  scarcely  tell  why,  but  the 
question  made  her  start  and  brought  a conscious  blush  to  her 
cheek.  She  returned  his  look  a moment,  and  then,  with  a note 
in  her  voice  that  might  almost  have  appealed  to  his  compassion 
— “ Sjo  am„I,  my  lord  ! ” she  exclaimed. 

x His  compassion  was  not  stirred,  however;  all  that  he  possessed 
of  the  faculty  of  pity  was  needed  at  home.  “ Ah  ! be  merciful, 
be  merciful,”  he  murmured. 

“ I think  you  had  better  go,”  said  Isabel.  “ I will  write  to  you.” 

“Very  good;  but  whatever  you  write,  I will  come  and  see 
you.”  And  then  he  stood  reflecting,  with  his  eyes  fixed  on  the 
observant  countenance  of  Bunchie,  who  had  the  air  of  having 
understood  all  that  had  been  said,  and  of  pretending  to  carry 
off  the  indiscretion  by  a simulated  fit  of  curiosity  as  to  the  roots 
of  an  ancient  bsech.  “ There  is  one  thing  more,”  said  Lord. 
Warburton.  “You  know,  if  you  don’t  like  Lockleigh — if  you 
think  it’s  damp,  or  anything  of  that  sort — you  need  never  go 
within  fifty  miles  of  it.  It  is  not  damp,  by  the  way ; I have 
had  the  house  thoroughly  examined  ; it  is  perfectly  sanitary. 
But  if  you  shouldn’t  fancy  it,  you  needn’t  dream  of  living  in  it. 
There  is  no  difficulty  whatever  about  that ; there  are  plenty  of 
houses.  I thought  I would  just  mention  it;  some  people  don’t 
like  a moat,  you  know.  Good-bye.” 

* I delight  in  a moat,”  said  Isabel.  “ Good-bye.” 

He  held  out  his  hand,  and  she  gave  him  hers  a moment — a 
moment  long  enough  for  him  to  bend  his  head  and  kiss  it. 
Then,  shaking  his  hunting-whip  with  little  quick  strokes,  he 
walked  rapidly  away.  He  was  evidently  very  nervous. 

Isabel  herself  was  nervous,  but  she  was  not  affected  as  she 
would  have  imagined.-^What  she  felt  was  not  a great  responsi- 
bility, a great  difficultycTf  choice ; for  it  appeared  to  her  that 
there  was  no  choice  in  the  question.  She  could  not  marry  Lord 
Warburton ; the  idea  failed  to  correspond  to  any  vision  of 
happiness  that  she  had  hitherto  entertained,  or  was  now  capable 
of  entertaining^  She  must  write  this  to  him,  she  must  convince 
him,  and  thisauty  was  comparatively  simple.  But  what 


TiIE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


95 


disturbed  her,  in  the  sense  that  it  struck  her  with  wonderment^ 
was  this  very  fact  that  it  cost  her  so  little  to  refuse  a great 
opportunity.  With  whatever  qualifications  one  would,  Lord 
Warburton  had  offered  her  a great  opportunity ; the  situation 
'night  have  discomforts,  might  contain  elements  that  would 
displease  her,  but  she  did  her  sex  no  injustice  in  believing  that 
nineteen  women  out  of  twenty  would  accommodate  themselves 
to  it  with  extreme  zeal.  Why  then  upon  her  also  should  it  not 
impose  itself  h Who  was  she,  what  was  she,  that  she  should 
hold  herself  superior1?  What  view  of  life,  what  design  upon 
fate,  what  conception  of  happiness,  had  she  that  pretended  to  be 
larger  than  this  large  occasion  1 If  she  would  not  do  this,  then 
she  must  do  great  things,  she  must  do  something  greater.  Poor 
Isabel  found  occasion  to  remind  herself  from  time  to  time  that 
she  must  not  be  too  proud,  and  nothing  could  be  more  sincere 
than  her  prayer  to  be  delivered  from  such  a danger;  for  the 
isolation  and  loneliness  of  pride  had  for  her  mind  the  horror 
of  a desert  place.  If  it  were  pride  that  interfered  with  her 
accepting  Lord  Warburton,  it  was  singularly  misplaced  ; and  she 
was  so  conscious  of  liking  him  that  she  ventured  to  assure 
herself  it  was  not.  She  liked  him  too  much  to  marry  him,  that 
was  the  point ; something  told  her  that  she  should  not  be 
satisfied,  and  to  inflict  upon  a man  who  offered  so  much  a 
wife  with  a tendency  to  criticise  would  be  a peculiarly  discredit- 
able act.  She  had  promised  him  that  she  would  consider 
his  proposal,  and  when,  after  he  had  left  her,  she  wandered 
back  to  the  bench  where  he  had  found  her,  and  lost  herself 
in  meditation,  it  might  have  seemed  that  she  was  keeping  her 
word.  P>ut  this  was  not  the  case ; she  was  wondering  whether 
she  were  not  a cold,  hard  girl;  and  when  at  last  she  got  up 
and  rather  quickly  went  back  to  the  house,  it  was  because, 
as  she  had  said  to  Lord  Warburton,  shg ..was  really  frightened 
at  herself, 


xm. 

It  was  this  feeling,  and  not  the  wish  to  ask  advice — she  bad 
no  desire  whatever  for  that — that  led  her  to  speak  to  her  uncle 
of  what  Lord  Warburton  had  said  to  her.  She  wished  to  speak 
to  some  one  ; she  should  feel  more  natural,  more  human,  and  her 
uncle,  for  this  purpose,  presented  himself  in  a more  attractive 
light  than  either  her  aunt  or  her  friend  Henrietta.  Her  cousin. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 

of  course,  was  a possible  confidant;  but  it  would  have  been 
^disagreeable  to  her  to  confide  this  particular  matter  to  Ralph. 
So,  the  next  day,  after  breakfast,  she  sought  her  occasion.  Her 
uncle  never  left  his  apartment  till  the  afternoon ; but  he  received 
his  cronies,  as  he  said,  in  his  dressing-room.  Isabel  had  quite 
taken  her  place  in  the  class  so  designated,  which,  for  the  rest, 
included  the  old  man’s  son,  his  physician,  his  personal  servant, 
and  even  Miss  Stackpole.  Mrs.  Touchett  did  not  figure  in  the 
list,  and  this  was  an  obstacle  the  less  to  Isabel’s  finding  her 
uncle  alone.  He  sat  in  a complicated  mechanical  chair,  at  the 
open  window  of  his  room,  looking  westward  over  the  park  and 
the  river,  with  his  newspapers  and  letters  piled  up  beside  him, 
his  toilet  freshly  and  minutely  made,  and  his  smooth,  speculative 
face  composed  to  benevolent  expectation. 

Isabel  approached  her  point  very  directly.  “ I think  I ought 
to  let  you  know  that  Lord  Warburton  has  asked  me  to  many 
him.  I suppose  I ought  to  tell  my  aunt ; but  it  seems  best  to 
tell  you  first.” 

The  old  man  expressed  no  surprise,  but  thanked  ner  for  the 
confidence  she  showed  him.  “ Do  you  mind  telling  me  whether 
you  accepted  him  'l  ” he  added. 

“I  have  not  answered  him  definitely  yet;  I have  taken  a 
little  time  to  think  of  it,  because  that  seems  more  respectful. 
But  I shall  not  accept  him.” 

Mr.  Touchett  made  no  comment  upon  this ; he  had  the  air  of 
thinking  that  whatever  interest  he  might  take  in  the  matter 
from  the  point  of  view  of  sociability,  he  had  no  active  voice 
in  it.  “Well,  I told  you  you  would  be  a success  over  here. 
Americans  are  highly  appreciated.” 

“Very  highly  indeed,”  said  Isabel.  “But  at  the  cost 
of  seeming  ungrateful,  I don’t  think  I can  marry  Lord 
Warburton.” 

“Well,”  her  uncle  went  on,  “of  course  an  old  man  can’t 
judge  for  a young  lady.  I am  glad  you  didn’t  ask  me  before 
you  made  up  your  mind.  I suppose  I ought  to  tell  you,”  he 
added  slowly,  but  as  if  it  were  not  of  much  consequence,  “ that 
I have  known  all  about  it  these  three  days.” 

“ About  Lord  Warburton’s  state  of  mind  1 ” 

“ About  his  intentions,  as  they  say  here.  He  wrote  me  a very 
pleasant  letter,  telling  me  all  about  them.  Should  you  like  to 
see  it  1 ” the  old  man  asked,  obligingly. 

“Thank  you;  I don’t  think  I care  about  that.  But  I am 
glad  he  wrote  to  you ; it  was  right  that  he  should,  and  he  would 
a©  certain  to  do  what  was  right.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


97 


“ Ah,  well,  I guess  you  do  like  him ! " Mr.  Touchett  declared 
!t  You  needn't  pretend  you  don’t." 

“ I like  him  extremely  ; I am  very  free  to  admit  that.  But  1 
don’t  wish  to  marry  any  one  just  now." 

“ \Tou  think  some  one  may  come  along  whom  you  may 
like  better.  Well,  that’s  very  likely,"  said  Mr.  Touchett,  who 
appeared  to  wish  to  show  his  kindness  to  the  girl  by  easing  off 
her  decision,  as  it  were,  and  finding  cheerful  reasons  for  it. 

“ I don’t  care  if  I don’t  meet  any  one  else ; I like  Lord 
Warburton  quite  well  enough,"  said  Isabel,  with  that  appearance 
of  a sudden  change  of  point  of  view  with  which  she  sometimes 
startled  and  even  displeased  her  interlocutors. 

Her  uncle,  however,  seemed  proof  against  either  of  these 
Bensations. 

“ 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  letters  I have  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  which  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  1 ” 

“ My  curiosity  would  have  been  idle — once  I had  determined 
to  decline  his  offer." 

“You  didn’t  find  it  sufficiently  attractive  1 ” Mr.  Touchett 
inquired. 

The  girl  was  silent  a moment. 

“ I suppose  it  was  that,"  she  presently  admitted.  “ But  I 
don’t  know  why.” 

“ Fortunately,  ladies  are  not  obliged  to  give  reasons,"  said  her 
uncle.  “There’s  a great  deal  that’s  attractive  about  such  an 
idea ; but  I don’t  see  why  the  English  should  want  to  entice  us 
away  from  our  native  land.  I know  that  we  try  to  attract  them 
over  there ; but  that’s  because  our  population  is  insufficient. 
Here,  you  know,  they  are  rather  crowded.  However,  I suppose 
there  is  room  for  charming  young  ladies  everywhere." 

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

Mr.  Touchett  gave  a shrewd,  conscious  smile. 

“ There  is  room  everywhere,  my  dear,  if  you  will  pay  for  it, 
I sometimes  think  I have  paid  too  much  for  this.  Perhaps  you 
fclso  might  have  to  pay  too  much.”  w ^ 

^ ~ H 


18  THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

“ Perhaps  I might,”  the  girl  replied. 

This  suggestion  gave  her  something  more  definite  to  rest  upon 
than  she  had  found  in  her  own  thoughts,  and  the  fact  of  her 
uncle’s  genial  shrewdness  being  associated  with  her  dilemma 
seemed  to  prove  to  her  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  handsome  offer  to  something  inde- 
finable and  possibly  not  commendable.  In  so  far  as  the 
indefinable  had  an  influence  upon  Isabel’s  behaviour  at  this 
juncture,  it  was  not  the  conception,  however  unformulated,  of 
a union  with  Caspar  Goodwood ; for  however  little  she  might 
have  felt  warranted  in  lending  a receptive  ear  to  her  English 
suitor,  she  was  at  least  as  far  removed  from  the  disposition  to 
let  the  young  man  from  Boston  take  complete  possession  of  her. 
The  sentiment  in  which  she  ultimately  took  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  take  from  her  the  sense  of  freedom.  There  was  something 
too  forcible,  something  oppressive  and  restrictive,  in  the  manner 
in  which  he  presented  himself.  She  had  been  haunted  at 
moments  by  the  image  of  his  disapproval,  and  she  had  wondered 
—a  consideration  she  had  never  paid  in  one  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  gave  her  an 
impression  of  energy.  She  might  like  it  or  not,  but  at  any 
rate  there  was  something  very  strong  about  him  ; even  in  one’s 
usual  contact  with  him  one  had  to  reckon  with  it.  The  idea  of 
a diminished  liberty  was  particularly  disagreeable  to  Isabel  at 
present,  because  it  seemed  to  her  that  she  had  just  given  a sort 
of  personal  accent  to  her  independence  by  making  up  her  mind 
to  refuse  Lord  Warburton.  Sometimes  Caspar  Goodwood  had 
seemed  to  range  himself  on  the  side  of  her  destiny,  to  be  the 
stubbornest  fact  she  knew  ; she  said  to  herself  at  such  moments 
that  she  might  evade  him  for  a time,  but  that  she  must  make 
terms  with  him  at  last — terms  which  would  be  certain  to  be 
favourable  to  himself.v  Her  impulse  had  been  to  avail  herself  of 
she  things  that  helped  her  to  resist  such  an  obligation  ; and  this 
impulse  had  been  much  concerned  in  her  eager  acceptance  of  her 
aunt’s  invitation,  which  had  come  to  her  at  a time  when  she 
expected  from  day  to  day  to  see  Mr.  Goodwood,  and  when  she 
*as  glad  to  have  an  answer  ready  for  something  she  was  sure  he 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


90 

would  ;?ay  to  her.  When  she  had  told  him  at  Albany,  on  the 
evening  of  Mrs.  Touchett’s  visit,  that  she  could  not  now  discuss 
difficult  questions,  because  she  was  preoccupied  with  the  idea  ol 
going  to  Europe  with  her  aunt,  he  declared  that  this  was  no 
answer  at  all ; and  it  was  to  obtain  a better  one  that  he  followed 
her  across  the  seas.  To  say  to  herself  that  he  was  a kind  of 
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 
demand  a description  less  metaphysical. 

He  was  the  son  of  a proprietor  of  certain  well-known  cotton- 
mills  in  Massachusetts — a gentleman  who  had  accumulated  a 
considerable  fortune  in  the  exercise  of  this  industry.  Caspar 
now  managed  the  establishment,  with  a judgment  and  a brilliancy 
which,  in  spite  of  keen  competition  and  languid  years,  had  kept 
its  prosperity  from  dwindling.  He  had  received  the  better  part 
of  his  education  at  Harvard  University,  where,  however,  he  had 
gained  more  renown  as  a gymnast  and  an  oarsman  than  as  a 
votary  of  culture,  Later,  he  had  become  reconciled  to  culture, 
and  though  he  was  still  fond  of  sport,  he  was  capable  of  showing 
an  excellent  understanding  of  other  matters.  He  had  a remark- 
able aptitude  for  mechanics,  and  had  invented  an  improvement 
in  the  cotton-spinning  process,  which  was  now  largely  used  and 
was  knov/n  by  his  name.  You  might  have  seen  his  name  in 
the  papers  in  connection  with  this  fruitful  contrivance  ; assur- 
ance of  which  he  had  given  to  Isabel  by  showing  her  in  the 
columns  of  the  Hew  York  Interviewer  an  exhaustive  article  on 
the  Goodwood  patent — an  article  not  prepared  by  Miss  Stack  pole, 
friendly  as  she  had  proved  herself  to  his  more  sentimental 
interests.  He  had  great  talent  for  business,  for  administration, 
and  for  making  people  execute  his  purpose  and  carry  out  his 
views — for  managing  men,  as  the  phrase  was  ; and  to  give  its 
complete  value  to  this  faculty,  he  had  an  insatiable,  an  almost 
fierce,  ambition.  It  always  struck  people  who  knew  him  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  not  always  content  himself  with 
that.  He  had  once  said  to  Isabel  that,  if  the  United  States 
were  only  not  such  a confoundedly  peaceful  nation,  he  would 
find  his  proper  place  in  the  army.  He  keenly  regretted  that 
the  Civil  War  should  have  terminated  just  as  he  had  grown  old 
Enough  to  wear  shoulder-straps,  and  was  sure  that  if  something 
cf  the  same  kind  would  only  occur  again,  he  would  make  a 
display  of  striking  military  talent.  It  pleased  Isabel  to  believe 
ihat  he  had  the  qualities  of  a famous  captain,  and  she  answered 

H 2 


too 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


chat,  if  it  would  help  him  on,  she  shouldn’t  object  to  a war-^ 
a speech  which  ranked  *among  the  three  or  four  most  encouraging 
ones  he  had  elicited  from  her,  and  of  which  the  value  was  not 
diminished  by  her  subsequent  regret  at  having  said  anything  so 
heartless,  inasmuch  as  she  never  communicated  this  regret  to 
him.  She  liked  at  any  rate  this  idea  of  his  being  potentially  a 
commander  of  men — liked  it  much  better  than  some  other  points 
in  his  character  and  appearance.  She  cared  nothing  about  his 
cotton-mill,  and  the  Goodwood  patent  left  her  imagination 
absolutely  cold.  She  wished  him  not  an  inch  less  a man  than 
he  was ; but  she  sometimes  thought  he  would  be  rather  nicer  if 
he  looked,  for  • instance,  a little  differently.  His  jaw  was  too 
square  and  grim,  and  his  figure  too  straight  and  stiff ; these 
things  suggested  a want  of  easy  adaptability  to  some  of  the 
occasions  of  life.  Then  she  regarded  with  disfavour  a habit  he 
had  of  dressing  always  in  the  same  manner ; it  was  not  appar- 
ently 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  to  be  made  of  the  same  piece ; the  pattern, 
the  cut,  was  in  every  case  identical.  She  had  reminded  herself 
more  than  once  that  this  was  a frivolous  objection  to  a man  of 
Mr.  Goodwood’s  importance;  and  then  she  had  amended  the 
rebuke  by  saying  that  it  would  be  a frivolous  objection  if  she 
were  in  love  with  him.  She  was  not  in  love  with  him,  and 
therefore  she  might  criticise  his  small  defects  as  well  as  his  great 
ones — which  latter  consisted  in  the  collective  reproach  of  his 
being  too  serious,  or,  rather,  not  of  his  being  too  serious,  for  one 
could  never  be  that,  but  of  his  seeming  so.  He  showed  his 
seriousness  too  simply,  too  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  the  strongest  man  she  had  ever  known,  and  she 
believed  that  at  bottom  he  was  the  cleverest.  It  was  very 
strange ; she  was  far  from  understanding  the  contradictions 
among  her  own  impressions.  Caspar  Goodwood  had  never 
corresponded  to  her  idea  of  a delightful  person,  and  she  supposed 
that  this  was  why  he  was  so  unsatisfactory.  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. 

Such  incongruities  were  not  a help  to  answering  Mr.  Good- 
wood’s letter,  and  Isabel  determined  to  leave  it  a while  unanswered. 
If  he  had  determined  to  persecute  her,  he  must  take  the  conse- 
fuences ; foremost  among  which  was  his  being  left  to  perceivs 


rHE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


101 


that  she  did  not  approve  of  his  coming  to  Gardencourt.  Sha 
was  already  liable  to  the  incursions  of  one  suitor  at  this  place, 
and  though  it  might  be  pleasant  to  be  appreciated  in  opposite 
quarters,  Isabel  had  a personal  shrinking  from  entertaining 
two  lovers  at  once,  even  in  a case  where  the  entertainment 
should  consist  of  dismissing  them.  She  sent  no  answer  to 
Mr.  Goodwood : but  at  the  end  of  three  days  she  wrote  to  Lord 
Warburton,  and  the  letter  belongs  to  our  history.  It  ran  aa 
follows. 

“ Dear  Lord  Warburton — A great  deal  of  careful  reflection 
has  not  led  me  to  change  my  mind  about  the  suggestion  you 
were  so  kind  as  to  make  me  the  other  day.  Ido  not  find  myself 
able  to  regard  you  in  the  light  of  a husband,  or  to  regard  your 
home — your  various  homes — in  the  light  of  my  own.  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  privi- 
lege 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  feeling  of  respect  that  I remain  very  truly 
yours 

“ Isabel  Archer.” 

While  the  author  of  this  missive  was  making  up  her  mind  to 
despatch  it,  Henrietta  Stackpole  formed  a resolution  which  was 
accompanied  by  no  hesitation.  She  invited  Italph  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  confided  to  the  reader  that  at  this  information 
the  young  man  flinched  ; for  we  know  that  Miss  Stackpole  had 
struck  him  as  indiscreet.  The  movement  was  unreasonable, 
however ; for  he  had  measured  the  limits  of  her  discretion  as 
little  as  he  had  explored  its  extent ; and  he  made  a very  civil 
profession  of  the  desire  to  serve  her.  He  was  afraid  of  her,  and 
he  presently  told  her  so. 

“ When  you  look  at  me  in  a certain  way,”  he  said,  “ my  knees 
knock  together,  my  faculties  desert  me;  I am  filled  with  trepid* 
ition,  and  I ask  only  for  strength  to  execute  your  commands, 
VTou  have  a look  which  I have  never  encountered  in  any 

voman.” 


102 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


4i  Well,”  Henrietta  replied,  good-humouredly,  44  if  I had  not 
known  before  that  you  were  trying  to  turn  me  into  ridicule,  I 
shoidd  know  it  now.  Of  course  I am  easy  game— I was  brought 
up  with  such  different  customs  and  ideas.  I am  not  used  to 
your  arbitrary  standards,  and  I have  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  are  a great  deal  more  simple, 
I admit  that ; I am  very  simple  myself.  Of  course,  if  you  choose 
to  laugh  at  me  for  that,  you  are  very  welcome  ; hut  I think 
on  the  whole  I would  rather  he  myself  than  you.  I am  quite 
content  to  he  myself ; I don’t  want  to  change.  There  are  plenty 
of  people  that  appreciate  me  just  as  I am ; it  is  true  they  are 
only  Americans  ! ” Henrietta  had  lately  taken  up  the  tone  of 
helpless  innocence  and  large  concession.  44  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,  rather,  I am  perfectly  willing 
that  your  amusement  should  he  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 am  afraid  of  is  that  she  will  injure  herself.” 

“ I think  that  is  very  possible,”  said  Ralph. 

His  companion  stopped  in  the  garden- walk,  fixing  on  him  a 
gaze  which  may  perhaps  have  contained  the  quality  that  caused 
his  knees  to  knock  together.  “ That,  too,  would  amuse  you,  ) 
suppose.  The  way  you  do  say  things  ! I nevei  heard  any  on* 
so  indifferent.” 

“ To  Isabel  1 Never  in  the  world.” 

44  Well,  you  are  not  in  love  with  her,  I hope.” 

“ How  can  that  be,  when  I am  in  love  with  another  ] ” 

44  You  are  in  love  with  yourself,  that’s  the  other  ! ” Mis? 
Stackpole  declared.  44  Much  good  may  it  do  you  ! But  if  yov 
wish  to  be  serious  once  in  your  life,  here’s  a chance ; and  if  yov 
really  care  for  your  cousin,  here  is  an  opportunity  to  prove  it.  ] 
don’t  expect  you  to  understand  her ; that’s  too  much  to  ask. 
But  you  needn’t  do  that  to  grant  my  favour.  I will  supply  ths 
necessary  intelligence.” 

44 1 shall  enjoy  that  immensely  ! ” Ralph  exclaimed.  “ I will 
be  Caliban,  and  you  shall  be  Ariel.” 

44  You  are  not  at  all  like  Caliban,  because  you  are  sophisti 
'jated,  and  Caliban  was  not.  But  I am  not  talking  about 
imaginary  characters  ; I am  talking  about  Isabel.  Isabel  is 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY , 


*03 

Intensely  real.  What  I wish  to  tell  you  is  that  I find  he* 
fearfully  changed.” 

“ Since  you  came,  do  you  mean  ? ” 

“ Since  I came,  and  before  I came.  She  is  not  the  same  m 
she  was.” 

“ As  she  was  in  America  h ” 

“ Yes,  in  America.  I suppose  you  know  that  she  comes  from 
there.  She  can’t  help  it,  but  she  does.” 

“ Do  you  want  to  change  her  back  again  1 ” 

“Of  course  I do  ; and  I want  you  to  help  me.” 

“ Ah,”  said  Ralph,  “ I am  only  Caliban ; I am  not  Prospero.” 

“ You  were  Prospero  enough  to  make  her  what  she  has 
become.  You  have  acted  on  Isabel  Archer  since  she  came  here, 
Air.  Touchett.” 

“ I,  my  dear  Miss  Stackpole  1 Never  in  the  world.  Isabel 
A roller  has  acted  on  me — yes  ; she  acts  on  every  one.  But  I 
have  been  absolutely  passive.” 

“ You  are  too  passive,  then.  You  had  better  stir  yourself  and 
be  careful.  Isabel  is  changing  every  day ; she  is  drifting  away — 
right  out  to  sea.  I have  watched  her  and  I can  see  it.  She  is 
not  the  bright  American  girl  she  was.  She  is  taking  different 
views,  and  turning  away  from  her  old  ideals.  I want  to  save 
those  ideals,  Mr.  Touchett,  and  that  is  where  you  come  in.” 

“Not  surely  as  an  ideal  h ” 

“Well,  I hope  not,”  Henrietta  replied,  promptly.  “I  have 
got  a fear  in  my  heart  that  she  is  going  to  marry  one  of  these 
Europeans,  and  I want  to  prevent  it.” 

“ Ah,  I see,”  cried  Ralph  ; “ and  to  prevent  it,  you  want  me 
to  step  in  and  marry  her  1 ” 

“ Not  quite ; that  remedy  would  be  as  bad  as  the  disease,  for 
you  are  the  typical  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 noble  fellow, 
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  appeal,  and  it  is  perhapis  not 
to  the  credit  of  his  purity  of  mind  that  he  failed  to  look  at  it  at 
first  in  the  simplest  light.  It  wore,  to  his  eyes,  a tortuous  air, 
and  his  fault  was  that  he  was  not  quite  sure  that  anything  in  tho 
world  could  really  be  as  candid  as  this  request  of  Miss  Stack- 
polo’s  appeared.  That  a young  woman  should  demand  that  a 
gentleman  whom  she  described  as  her  very  dear  friend  should 
he  furnished  with  an  opportunity  to  make  himself  agreeable  to 


104 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


another  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.  Ta  read  between 
the  lines  was  easier  than  to  follow  the  text,  and  to  suppose  that 
Miss  Stackpole  wished  the  gentleman  invited  to  Gardencourt  on 
her  own  account  was  the  sign  not  so  much  of  a vulgar,  as  of  an 
embarrassed,  mind.  Even  from  this  venial  act  of  vulgarity, 
however,  Ralph  was  saved,  and  saved  by  a force  that  I can 
scarcely  call  anything  less  than  inspiration.  With  no  more  cut 
ward  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  gaze  a moment,  consciously,  resisting  an  inclination  to  frown, 
as  one  frowns  in  the  presence  of  larger  luminaries.  “ Who  is 
the  gentleman  you  speak  of?  ” 

“ Mr.  Caspar  Goodwood,  from  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  is  at  present  in  London.  I 
don’t  know  his  address,  but  I guess  I can  obtain  it.” 

“ I have  never  heard  of  him,”  said  Ralph. 

“Well,  I suppose  you  haven’t  heard  of  everyone.  I don’t 
believe  he  has  ever  heard  of  you ; but  that  is  no  reason  why 
Isabel  shouldn’t  marry  him.” 

Ralph  gave  a small  laugh.  “What  a rage  you  have  for 
marrying  people  ! Do  you  remember  how  you  wanted  to  marry 
me  the  other  day  ? ” 

“ I have  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  is  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 
Jeukins,  and  I should  say  the  same.  He  is  the  only  man  I have 
ever  seen  whom  I think  worthy  of  Isabel.” 

“ You  are  a very  devoted  friend,”  caid  Ralph. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


US 


“Of  course  I am.  If  you  say  that  to  laugh  at  me,  I 
ion't  care.” 

“I  don’t  say  it  to  laugh  at  you;  I am  very  much  struck 
with  it.” 

“ You  are  laughing  worse  than  ever  ; hut  I advise  you  not  to 
laugh  at  Mr.  Goodwood.” 

“ I assure  you  I am  very  serious ; you  ought  to  understand 
that,”  said  Ralph. 

In  a moment  his  companion  understood  it.  “ I believe  yea 
are  ; now  you  are  too  serious.” 

“ You  are  difficult  to  please.” 

“ Oh,  you  are  very  serious  indeed.  You  won’t  invite  Mr. 
Goodwood.” 

“ I don’t  know,”  said  Ralph.  “lain  capable  of  strange  things. 
Tell  me  a little  about  Mr.  Goodwood.  What  is  he  like?  ” 

“ He  is  just  the  opposite  of  you.  He  is  at  the  head  of  a 
cotton  factory  ; a very  fine  one.” 

“ Has  he  pleasant  manners  1 ” asked  Ralph. 

“ Splendid  manners — in  the  American  style.” 

“Would  he  be  an  agreeable  member  of  our  little  circle!  ” 

“ I don’t  think  he  would  care  much  about  our  little  circle. 
He  would  concentrate  on  Isabel.”  f 

“ And  how  would  my  cousin  like  that  1 ” 

“ Very  possibly  not  at  all.  But  it  will  be  good  for  her.  It 
will  call  back  her  thoughts.” 

u Call  them  back — from  where  1 ” 

“ From  foreign  parts  and  other  unnatural  places.  Three 
months  ago  she  gave  Mr.  Goodwood  every  reason  to  suppose 
that  he  was  acceptable  to  her,  and  it  is  not  worthy  of  Isabel  to 
turn  her  back  upon  a real  friend  simply  because  she  has  changed 
the  scene.  I have  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 
Btrong  American  tie  that  will  act  as  a preservative.” 

“ Are  you  not  a little  too  much  in  a hurry ! ” Ralph  inquired. 
“ 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  is  never  too  much 
in  a hurry  to  save  a precious  human  creature  from  drowning.” 

“As  I understand  it,  then,”  said  Ralph,  “ you  wish  me  to 
push  Mr.  Goodwood  overboard  after  her.  Do  you  know,”  ha 
idded,  “ that  I have  never  heard  her  mention  hi?  name!” 


106 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Henrietta  Stackpole  gave  a brilliant  smile.  “ I am  delighted 
to  hear  that ; it  proves  how  much  she  thinks  of  him.” 

Ralph  appeared  to  admit  that  there  was  a good  deal  in  this, 
and  he  surrendered  himself  to  meditation,  while  his  companion 
watched  him  askance.  “ If  I should  invite  Mr.  Goodwood,”  ha 
said,  “ it  would  be  to  quarrel  with  him.” 

“ Don’t  do  that ; he  would  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,”  said  Henrietta.  “ 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 have  ever  heard  you  make  1 
Of  course  I believe  it,”  Miss  Stackpole  answered,  ingeniously. 

“ Well,”  said  Ralph,  “ to  prove  to  you  that  you  are  wrong,  I 
will  invite  him.  It  must  be,  of  course,  as  a friend  of  yours.” 

“It  will  not  be  as  a friend  of  mine  that  he  will  come  ; and  it 
will  not  be  to  prove  to  me  that  I am  wrong  that  you  will  ask 
him — but  to  prove  it  to  yourself ! ” 

These  last  words  of  Miss  Stackpole’ s (on  which  the  two  pre- 
sently separated)  contained  an  amount  of  truth  which  Ralph 
Touchett  was  obliged  to  recognize  ; but  it  so  far  took  the  edge 
from  too  sharp  a recognition  that,  in  spite  of  his  suspecting  that 
it  would  be  rather  more  indiscreet  to  keep  his  promise  than  it 
would  be  to  break  it,  he  wrote  Mr.  Goodwood  a note  of  six  lines, 
expressing  the  pleasure  it  would  give  Mr.  Touchett  the  elder  that 
he  should  join  a little  party  at  Gardencourt,  of  which  Miss 
Stackpole  was  a valued  member.  Having  sent  his  letter  (to  the 
care  of  a banker  whom  Henrietta  suggested)  he  waited  in  some 
suspense.  He  had  heard  of  Mr.  Caspar  Goodwood  by  name  for 
the  first  time ; for  when  his  mother  mentioned  to  him  on  her 
arrival  that  there  was  a story  about  the  girl’s  having  an 
“admirer”  at  home,  the  idea  seemed  deficient  in  reality,  and 
Ralph  took  no  pains  to  ask  questions,  the  answers  to  which 
would  suggest  only  the  vague  or  the  disagreeable.  JSow,  how- 
ever, the  native  admiration  of  which  his  cousin  was  the  object 
had  become  more  concrete  ; it  took  the  form  of  a young  man 
who  had  followed  her  to  London ; who  was  interested  in  a 
cotton-mill,  and  had  manners  in  the  American  style.  Ralph  had 
two  theories  about  this  young  man.  Either  his  passion  was  a 
sentimental  fiction  of  Miss  Stackpole’s  (there  was  always  a sort 
9*  tacit  understanding  among  women,*  born  of  the  solidarity  of 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LAD? 


107 


the  sex,  that  they  should  discover  or  invent  lovers  foi  'eStd* 
other),  in  which  case  he  was  not  to  he  feared,  and  would  pro- 
bably  not  accept  the  invitation  ; or  else  he  would  accept  the 
invitation,  and  in  this  event  would  prove  himself  a creature  too 
irrational  to  demand  further  consideration.  The  latter  clause  of 
Ralph’s  argument  might  have  seemed  incoherent ; but  it  em- 
bodied his  conviction,  that  if  Mr.  Goodwood  were  interested  in 
Isabel  in  the  serious  manner  described  by  Miss  Steckpole,  h3  ^ 
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  inter- 
cessor he  must  find  her  wanting  in  tact.” 

Two  days  after  he  had  sent  his  invitation  he  received  a very 
short  note  from  Caspar  Goodwood,  thanking  him  for  it,  regret- 
ting that  other  engagements  made  a visit  to  Gardencourt  impos- 
sible, and  presenting  many  compliments  to  Miss  Staekpole* 
Ralph  handed  the  note  to  Henrietta,  who,  when  she  had  read  it, 
exclaimed — 

“Well,  I never  have  heard  of  anything  so  stiff!  ” 

“ I am  afraid  he  doesn’t  care  so  much  about  my  cousin  as  you 
suppose,”  Ralph  observed. 

“Ho,  it’s  not  that ; it’s  some  deeper  motive.  His  nature  is 
very  deep.  But  I am  determined  to  fathom  it,  and  I will  write 
to  him  to  know  what  he  means.”  « 

His  refusal  of  Ralph’s  overtures  made  this  young  man  Vaguely  i 
uncomfortable  ; from  the  moment  he  declined  to  come  to  Garden- 
court  Ralph  began  to  think  him  of  importance.  He  asked  him- 
self 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® 
inquiry  into  the  causes  of  Mr.  Goodwood’s  stiffness — a curiosity® 
for  the  present  ungratified,  inasmuch  as  when  he  asked  hei® 
three  days  later  whether  she  had  written  to  London,  she  wai® 
obliged  to  confess  that  she  had  written  in  vain.  Mr.  Goodwooc® 
had  not  answered  her.  J0 

u I suppose  he  is  thinking  it  over,”  she  said ; “ he  thinks 
everything  over ; he  is  not  at  all  impulsive.  But  I am  accus- 
tomed to  having  my  letters  answered  the  same  day.” 

Whether  it  was  to  pursue  her  investigations,  or  whether  it  was 
i.n  compliance  with  still  larger  interests,  is  a point  which  remains  ^ 
fcomewhat  uncertain  ; at  all  events,  she  presently  proposed  to 
Isabel  that  they  should  make  an  excursion  to  London  together. 
w If  I must  tell  the  truth,”  she  said,  “ I am  not  seeing  much 


106 


l 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


place,  and  I shouldn’t  think  you  were  either.  I have  not 
fcven  seen  that  aristocrat — what’s  his  name  ] — Lord  Wasliburton. 
He  seems  to  let  you  severely  alone.” 

“ Lord  Warburton  is  coming  to-morrow,  I happen  to  know,” 
replied  Isabel,  who  had  received  a note  from  the  master  of  Lock- 
leigh  in  answer  to  her  own  letter.  “You  will  have  every 
opportunity  of  examining  him  ” 

“ Well,  he  may  do  for  one  letter,  but  what  is  one  letter  when 
you  want  to  write  fifty]  I have  described  all  the  scenery  in  this 
vicinity,  and  raved  about  all  the  old  women  and  donkeys.  You 
may  say  what  you  please,  scenery  makes  a thin  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  is  hardly  time 
to  get  started.” 

As  Isabel,  on  her  journey  from  New  York  to  Gardencourt,  had 
seen  even  less  of  the  metropolis  than  this,  it  appeared  a happy 
suggestion  of  Henrietta’s  that  the  two  should  go  thither  on  a 
visit  of  pleasure.  The  idea  struck  Isabel  as  charming ; she  had 
a great  desire  to  see  something  of  London,  which  had  always 
been  the  city  of  her  imagination.  They  turned  over  their  scheme 
together  and  indulged  in  visions  of  aesthetic  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  woman,  and  the  great  advantage  of  being 
a literary  woman  was  that  you  could  go  everywhere  and  do 
everything.  They  would  dine  at  a coffee-house,  and  go  after- 
wards to  the  play ; they  would  frequent  the  Abbey  and  the 
.British  Museum,  and  find  out  where  Doctor  Johnson  had  lived, 
and  Goldsmith  and  Addison.  Isabel  grew  eager,  and  presently 
mentioned  these  bright  intentions  to  Ralph,  who  burst  into  a 
fit  of  laughter,  which  did  not  express  the  sympathy  she  had 
i desired. 

I “ It’s  a delightful  plan,”  he  said.  “ I advise  you  to  go  to  the 
■Tavistock  Hotel  in  Covent  Garden,  an  easy,  informal,  old' 
■fashioned  place,  and  I will  have  you  put  down  at  my  club.” 

| “Do  you  mean  it’s  improper]”  Isabel  asked.  “Dear  me, 
bit  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  she  can  surely  find  hez 
way  about  this  simple  little  island.” 

“ Ah,  then,”  said  Ralph,  “ let  me  take  advantage  of  her  pro- 
tection to  go  up  to  town  as  well.  I may  never  have  a chance  fca 
travel  sc  safely  ! ” 


THE  FORTRAfT  OF  A LADY. 


109 


XIY. 

Miss  Stackpole  would  have  prepared  to  start  for  London 
Immediately ; but  Isabel,  as  we  have  seen,  had  been  notified  that 
Lord  Warburton  would  come  again  to  Gardencourt,  and  she 
believed  it  to  be  her  duty  to  remain  there  and  see  him.  For  four 
or  five  days  he  had  made  no  answer  to  her  letter ; then  he  had 
written,  very  briefly,  to  say  that  he  would  come  to  lunch  two 
days  later.  There  was  something  in  these  delays  and  postpone- 
ments that  touched  the  girl,  and  renewed  her  sense  of  his  desire 
to  be  considerate  and  patient,  not  to  appear  to  urge  her  too 
grossly ; a discretion  the  more  striking  that  she  was  so  su  re  he 
really  liked  her.  Isabel  told  her  uncle  that  she  had  written  to 
him,  and  let  Mr.  Touchett  know  of  Lord  Warburton’ s intention 
of  coming  ; and  the  old  man,  in  consequence,  left  his  room  earlier 
than  usual,  and  made  his  appearance  at  the  lunch-table.  This 
was  by  no  means  an  act  of  vigilance  on  his  part,  but  the  fruit  of 
a benevolent  belief  that  his  being  of  the  company  might  help  to 
cover  the  visitor’s  temporary  absence,  in  case  Isabel  should  find 
it  needful  to  give  Lord  Warburton  another  hearing.  This  per- 
sonage drove  over  from  Lockleigh,  and  brought  the  elder  of  his 
sisters  with  him,  a measure  presumably  dictated  by  considerations 
of  the  same  order  as  Mr.  Touchett’s.  The  'two  visitors  were 
introduced  to  Miss  Stackpole,  who,  at  luncheon,  occupied  a seat 
adjoining  Lord  Warburton’s.  Isabel,  who  was  nervous,  and  had 
no  relish  of  the  prospect  of  again  arguing  the  question  he  had  so 
precipitately  opened,  could  not  help  admiring  his  good-humoured 
self-possession,  which  quite  disguised  the  symptoms  of  that 
admiration  it  was  natural  she  should  suppose  him  to  feel.  He 
neither  looked  at  her  nor  spoke  to  her,  and  the  only  sign  of  his 
emotion  was  that  he  avoided  meeting  her  eye.  He  had  plenty 
of  talk  for  the  others,  however,  and  he  appeared  to  eat  his 
luncheon  with  discrimination  and  appetite.  Miss  Molyneux, 
who  had  a smooth,  nun-like  forehead,  and  wore  a large  silver 
cross  suspended  from  her  neck,  was  evidently  preoccupied  with 
Henrietta  Stackpole,  upon  whom  her  eyes  constantly  rested  in  a 
manner  which  seemed  to  denote  a conflict  between  attention  and 
alienation.  Of  the  two  ladies  from  Lockleigh,  she  was  the  one 
that  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  had  a romantic  meaning — that  she  was  a mem- 
Der  of  a High  Church  sisterhood,  had  taken  some  picturesque 


no 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


tows.  She  wondered  what  Miss  Molynenx  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  her,  but  on  the  whole  he  told  her  little.  Such,  at  least, 
was  Isabel’s  theory ; when,  at  table,  she  was  not  occupied  in 
conversation,  she  was  usually  occupied  in  forming  theories  about 
her  neighbours.  According  to  Isabel,  if  Miss  Molyneux  should 
ever  learn  what  had  passed  between  Miss  Archer  and  Lord 
Warburton,  she  would  probably  be  shocked  at  the  young  lady’s 
indifference  to  such  an  opportunity  ; or  no,  rather  (this  was 
our  heroine’s  last  impression)  she  would  impute  to  the  young 
American  a high  sense  of  general  fitness. 

Whatever  Isabel  might  have  made  of  her  opportunities, 
Henrietta  Stackpole  was  by  no  means  disposed  to  neglect  those 
in  which  she  now  found  herself  immersed. 

“ Do  you  know  you  are  the  first  lord  I have  ever  seen?”  she 
said,  very  promptly,  to  her  neighbour.  “ I suppose  you  think  I 
am  awfully  benighted.” 

“ You  have  escaped  seeing  some  very  ugly  men,”  Lord 
Warburton  answered,  looking  vaguely  about  the  table  and 
laughing  a little. 

“ Are  they  very  ugly  ? They  try  to  make  us  believe  in 
America  that  they  are  all  handsome  and  magnificent,  and  that 
they  wear  wonderful  robes  and  crowns.” 

“ Ah,  the  robes  and  crowns  are  gone  out  of  fashion,”  said 
Lord  Warburton,  “ like  your  tomahawks  and  revolvers.” 

“ 1 am  sorry  for  that ; I think  an  aristocracy  ought  to  be 
splendid,”  Henrietta  declared.  “ If  it  is  not  that,  what  is 
it  ? ” 

“ Oh,  you  know,  it  isn’t  much,  at  the  best,”  Lord  Warburton 
answered.  “ 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  ; yon 
must  find  so  few  things  to  eat  over  here.” 

Henrietta  was  silent  a moment ; there  was  a chance  that  h© 
^as  not  sincere. 

“ I have  had  hardly  any  appetite  since  I have  been  here,”  she 
went  on  at  last ; “ so  it  doesn’t  much  matter.  I don’t  approve 
of  you , you  know ; I feel  as  if  I ought  to  tell  you  that.” 

“ D«  -n’t  approve  of  me  ? ” 

44  Yes,  1 don’t  suppose  any  one  ever  sail  such  a thing  to  you 


THE  TORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

before,  did  they  ! I don’t  approve  of  lords,  as  an  insti 
[ think  the  world  has  got  beyond  that — far  beyond. 

44  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  vain-glorious.” 

44  Why  don’t  you  give  it  up,  then!”  Miss  Stackpole  inquired. 

44  Give  up — a — 1 ” asked  Lord  War  burton,  meeting  her  harsh 
inflection  with  a very  mellow  one. 

44  Give  up  being  a lord.” 

44  Oh,  I am  so  little  of  one  ! One  would  really  forget  all 
about  it,  if  you  wretched  Americans  were  not  constantly  remind- 
ing one.  However,  I do  think  of  giving  up — the  little  there  is 
left  of  it — one  of  these  days.” 

44 1 should  like  to  see  you  do  it,”  Henrietta  exclaimed,  rather 
grimly. 

44 1 will  invite  you  to  the  ceremony ; we  will  have  a supper 
and  a dance.” 

44  Well,”  said  Miss  Stackpole,  44 1 like  to  see  all  sides.  I 
don’t  approve  of  a privileged  class,  but  I like  to  hear  what  they 
have  got  to  say  for  themselves.” 

44  Mighty  little,  as  you  see  ! ” 

44 1 should  like  to  draw  you  out  a little  more,”  Henrietta 
continued.  44  But  you  are  always  looking  away.  You  are 
afraid  of  meeting  my  eye.  I see  you  want  to  escape  me.” 

44  Ho,  I am  only  looking  for  those  despised  potatoes.” 

44  Please  explain  about  that  young  lady — your  sister — then 
I don’t  understand  about  her.  Is  she  a Lady  1 ” 

44  She’s  a capital  good  girl.” 

44 1 don’t  like  the  way  you  say  that — as  if  you  wanted  to 
change  the  subject.  Is  her  position  inferior  to  yours!” 

44  We  neither  of  us  have  any  position  to  speak  of ; but  she  is 
better  off  than  I,  because  she  has  none  of  the  bother.” 

44  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  you  may  do.” 

44  Ah,  you  see  one  takes  life  easily,  on  the  whole,”  said  Lord 
Warburton.  44  And  then  you  know  we  are  very  dull.  Ah,  we 
can  be  dull  when  we  try ! ” 

44 1 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!” 

44  A sign  of  rank.” 


T1IE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


W 

T.nr 


Lord  Warburton’ s glance  had  wandered  a good  deal,  but  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.” 

This  was  his  harmless  revenge  for  having  occasionally  h&i 
his  credulity  too  easily  engaged  in  America. 

After  lunch  he  proposed  to  Isabel  to  come  into  the  gallery 
and  look  at  the  pictures ; and  though  she  knew  that  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  gallery,  staring  at  the 
paintings  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  st  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  what  you  do ” 

“ What  have  I admitted  ? ” Isabel  interrupted,  blushing  a 
little. 

“ That  you  think  me  a good  fellow ; isn’t  that  it  1 ” She 


said  nothing,  and  he  went  on — “ You  don’t  seem  to  have  any 
reason,  and  that  gives  me  a sense  of  injustice.” 

“ I have  a reason,  Lord  Warburton,”  said  the  girl;  and  she 
said  it  in  a tone  that  made  his  heart  contract. 

“ I should  like  very  much  to  know  it.” 

“ I will  tell  you  some  day  when  there  is  more  to  show  for  it.”  { 

“ Excuse  my  saying  that  in  the  meantime  I must  douot  of 
it.”  ) 


“ You  make  me  very  unhappy,”  said  Isabel. 

“ I am  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  something  in  her  eyes 
which  gave  him  courage  to  go  on.  “Do  you  prefer  some  one 
else  % ” 

“That’s  a question  I would  rather  not  answer.” 

“ Ah,  you  do  then  ! ” her  suitor  murmured  with  bitterness. 

The  bitterness  touched  her,  and  she  cried  out — 

“ You  are  mistaken  ! I don’t.” 

He  sat  down  on  a bench,  unceremoniously,  doggedly,  like  a 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


113 

Esan  in  trouble;  leaning  liis  elbows  on  liis  knees  and  staring 

the  boor. 

b can't  even  be  glad  of  that,”  be  said  at  last,  throwing 
himself  back  against  the  wall,  “ for  that  would  be  an  excuse.” 

Isabel  raised  her  eyebrows,  with  a certain  eagerness. 

“ An  excuse  1 Must  I excuse  myself  ? ” 

He  paid,  however,  no  answer  to  the  question.  Another  idea 
had  come  into  his  head. 

“ Is  it  my  political  opinions  ? Do  you  think  I go  too  far  ? ” 

“ I can’t  object  to  your  political  opinions,  Lord  Warburton,” 
said  the  girl,  “ because  I don’t  understand  them.” 

“ You  don’t  care  what  I think,”  he  cried,  getting  up.  “ It’s 
all  the  same  to  you.” 

Isabel  walked  away,  to  the  other  side  of  the  gallery,  and 
stood  there,  showing  him  her  charming  back,  her  light  slim 
figure,  the  length  of  her  white  neck  as  she  bent  her  head,  and 
the  density  of  her  dark  braids.  She  stopped  in  front  of  a small 
picture,  as  if  for  the  purpose  of  examining  it ; and  there  was 
something  young  and  fiexible  in  her  movement,  which  her 
companion  noticed.  Isabel’s  eyes,  however,  saw  nothing;  they 
had  suddenly  been  suffused  with  tears.  In  a moment  he  fol- 
lowed her,  and  by  this  time  she  had  brushed  her  tears  away ; 
but  when  she  turned  round,  her  face  was  pale,  and  the  expression 
of  her  eyes  was  strange. 

“ That  reason  that  I wouldn’t  tell  you,”  she  said,  “ I will  tell 
it  you,  after  all.  It  is  that  I can’t  escape  my  fate.” 

“Your  fate?” 

“ I should  try  to  escape  it  if  I should  marry  you.” 

“ I don’t  understand.  Why  should  not  that  be  your  fate,  as 
well  as  anything  else  ? ” 

“ Because  it  is  not,”  said  Isabel,  femininely.  “ I know  it  is 
not.  It’s  not  my  fate  to  give  up — I know  it  can’t  be.” 

Poor  Lord  Warburton  stared,  with  an  interrogative  point  in 
either  eye. 

“ Do  you  call  marrying  me  giving  up?” 

“ ISTot  in  the  usual  sense.  It  is  getting — getting — getting  a 
great  deal.  But  it  is  giving  up  other  chances.” 

“ Other  chances?”  Lord  Warburton  repeated,  more  and  moro 
puzzled. 

“ I don’t  mean  chances  to  marry,”  said  Isabel,  her  colour 
rapidly  coming  back  to  her.  And  then  she  stopped,  looking 
down  with  a deep  frown,  as  if  it  were  hopeless  to  attempt 
fco  make  her  meaning  clear. 

**  I don’t  think  it  is  presumptuous  in  me  to  say  that  I think 

i 


114 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


you  will  gain  more  than  you  will  lose,”  Lord  Watburton 
observed. 

“ I can’t  escape  unhappiness,”  said  Isabel.  i In  marrying 
you,  I shall  be  trying  to.” 

“ I don’t  know  whether  you  would  try  to,  but  you  certainly 
would : that  I must  in  candour  admit ! ” Lord  Warburton 
exclaimed,  with  an  anxious  laugh. 

“ I must  not — I can’t ! ” cried  the  girl. 

“Well,  if  you  are  bent  on  being  miserable,  I don’t  see  why 
you  should  make  me  so.  Whatever  charms  unhappiness  may 
have  for  you,  it  has  none  for  me.” 

“ I am  not  bent  on  being  miserable/’  said  Isabel.  " I have 
always  been  intensely  determined  to  be  happy,  and  I have  often 
believed  I should  be.  I have  told  people  that ; you  can  ask 
them.  But  it  comes  over  me  every  now  and  then  that  I can 
never  be  happy  in  any  extraordinary  way  ; not  by  turning 
away,  by  separating  myself.” 

“By  separating  yourself  from  what?” 

“ From  life.  From  the  usual  chances  and  dangers,  from  what 
most  people  know  and  suffer.” 

Lord  Warburton  broke  into  a smjle  that  almost  denoted  hope. 

“ Why,  my  dear  Miss  Archer,”  he  began  to  explain,  with  the 
most  considerate  eagerness,  “ I don’t  offer  you  any  exoneration 
from  life,  or  from  any  chances  or  dangers  whatever.  I wish  I 
could;  depend  upon  it  I would  ! For  what  do  you  take  me,  pray? 
Heaven  help  me,  I am  not  the  Emperor  of  China  ! All  I offer 
you  is  the  chance  of  taking  the  common  lot  in  a comfortable  sort 
of  way.  The  common  lot?  Why,  I am  devoted  to  the  common 
lot ! Strike  an  alliance  with  me,  and  I promise  you  that  you 
shall  have  plenty  of  it.  You  shall  separate  from  nothing  what 
ever — not  even  from  your  friend  Miss  Stackpole.” 

“ She  would  never  approve  of  it,”  said  Isabel,  trying  to  smile 
and  take  advantage  of  this  side-  issue ; despising  herself  too,  not 
a little,  for  doing  so. 

“Are  we  speaking  of  Miss  Stackpole?”  Lord  Warburton 
asked,  impatiently.  “ I never  saw  a person  judge  things  on 
such  theoretic  grounds.” 

€i  How  I suppose  you  are  speaking  of  me,”  said  Isabel,  with 
humility;  and  she  turned  away  again,  for  she  saw  Miss 
Molyneux  enter  the  gallery,  accompanied  by  Henrietta  and 
by  Ralph. 

Lord  Warburton’s  sister  addressed  him  with  a certain  timidity, 
and  reminded  him  that  she  ought  to  return  home  in  time  for  tea, 
as  she  was  expecting  some  company.  He  made  no  answer — 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


>1* 

apparently  not  having  heard  her;  he  was  preoccupied — with 
good  reason.  Miss  Molyneux  looked  lady-like  and  patient,  and 
awaited  his  pleasure. 

“ Well,  I never,  Miss  Molyneux  ! ” said  Henrietta  Stackpole. 
“ If  I wanted  to  go,  he  would  have  to  go.  If  I wanted  my 
brother  to  do  a thing,  he  would  have  to  do  it.” 

“ Oh,  Warburton  does  everything  one  wants,”  Miss  Molyneux 
answered,  with  a quick,  shy  laugh.  “ How  very  many  pictures 
you  have  ! ” she  went  on,  turning  to  Ralph. 

“ They  look  a good  many,  because  they  are  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  Lock- 
leigh.  I am  so  very  fond  of  pictures,”  Miss  Molyneux  went  on, 
persistently,  to  Ralph,  as  if  she  were  afraid  that  Miss  Stackpole 
would  address  her  again.  Henrietta  appeared  at  once  to  fascinate 
and  to  frighten  her. 

“ Oh  yes,  pictures  are  very  indispensable,”  said  Ralph,  who 
appeared  to  know  better  what  style  of  reflection  was  acceptable 
to  her. 

“ They  are  so  very  pleasant  when  it  rains,”  the  young  lady 
continued.  “ It  rains  so  very  often.” 

“I  am  sorry  you  are  going  away,  Lord  Warburton,”  said 
Henrietta.  “ I wanted  to  get  a great  deal  more  out  of  you.” 

“ I am  not  going  away,”  Lord  Warburton  answered. 

“ Your  sister  says  you  must.  In  America  the  gentlemen  obey 
the  ladies.” 

“ I am  afraid  we  have  got  some  people  to  tea,”  said  Miss 
Molyneux,  looking  at  her  brother. 

“ Yery  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  rejoined.  “ I should  like  very  much  to  see  you 
at  home.” 

“You  must  come  to  Lockleigh  again,”  said  Miss  Molyneux, 
7ery  sweetly,  to  Isabel,  ignoring  this  remark  of  Isabel’s  friend. 

Isabel  looked  into  her  quiet  eyes  a moment,  and  for  that 
moment  seemed  to  see  in  their  grey  depths  the  reflection  ot 
everything  she  had  rejected  in  rejecting  Lord  Warburton — tha 
peace^  the  kindness,  the  honoinv  the jjossessions,  a_deep  security 
and  a great  exclusion.  She  kissed  Miss  Molyneux,  and  then 
ahe  said — 

“ I am  afraid  I can  never  come  agahi.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


ll* 

“ N ever  again  ? ” 

“ 1 am  afraid  I am  going  away/' 

“ Oh,  I am  so  very  sorry,”  said  Miss  Molyneux.  “ I think 
that’s  so  very  wrong  of  you.” 

Lord  Warburton  watched  this  little  passage ; then  he  turned 
away  and  stared  at  a picture.  Ealph,  leaning  against  the  rail 
before  the  picture,  with  his  hands  in  his  pockets,  had  for  the 
moment  been  watching  him. 

“I  should  like  to  see  you  at  home,”  said  Henrietta,  whom 
Lord  Warburton  found  beside  him.  “ I should  like  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 am  certain  not  to  be  able  to  answer  many  of 
your  questions.  When  will  you  come  1 ” 

“ Whenever  Miss  Archer  will  take  me.  We  are  thinking  of 
going  to  London,  but  we  will  go  and  see  you  first.  I am 
determined  to  get  some  satisfaction  out  of  you.” 

“ If  it  depends  upon  Miss  Archer,  I am  afraid  you  won’t  get 
much.  She  will  not  come  to  Locldeigh ; she  doesn’t  like  the 
place.” 

“ She  told  me  it  was  lovely  ! ” said  Henrietta. 

Lord  Warburton  hesitated  a moment. 

“ She  won’t  come,  all  the  same.  You  had  better  come  alone,” 
he  added. 

Henrietta  straightened  herself,  and  her  large  eyes  expanded. 

“ W ould  you  make  that  remark  to  an  English  lady  1 ” she 
inquired,  with  soft  asperity. 

Lord  Warburton  stared. 

“ Yes,  if  I liked  her  enough.” 

“You  would  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  did 
not  catch  her  allusion. 

“ Miss  Archer  has  been  warning  you  ! ” she  went  on. 

“ Warning  me  1 ” 

“ Isn’t  that  why  she  came  off  alone  with  you  here — to  put 
you  on  your  guard  1 ” 

“Oh,  dear  no,”  said  Lord  Warburton,  blushing;  “oui  talk 
had  no  such  solemn  character  as  that.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


11= 

44  Well,  you  have  been  on  your  guard — intensely.  I suppose 
It's  natural  to  you  ; that's  just  what  I wanted  to  observe.  And 
bo,  too,  Miss  Molyneux — she  wouldn’t  commit  herself.  You 
have  been  warned,  anyway,”  Henrietta  continued,  addressing 
this  young  lady,  “ but  for  you  it  wasn’t  necessary.” 

“ I hope  not,”  said  Miss  Molyneux,  vaguely. 

46  Miss  Stackpole  takes  notes,”  Ralph  explained,  humorously. 
44  She  is  a great  satirist ; she  sees  through  us  all,  and  she  workf 
us  up.” 

“ Well,  I must  say  I never  have  had  such  a collection  of  bad 
material ! ” Henrietta  declared,  looking  from  Isabel  to  Lord 
Warburton,  and  from  this  nobleman  to  his  sister  and  to  Ralph. 
“ There  is  something  the  matter  with  you  all ; you  are  as  dismal 
as  if  you  had  got  a bad  telegram.” 

‘‘You  do  see  through  us,  Miss  Stackpole,”  said  Ralph  in  a 
low  tone,  giving  her  a little  intelligent  nod,  as  he  led  the 
party  out  of  the  gallery.  “ There  is  something  the  matter  with 
us  all.” 

Isabel  came  behind  these  two;  Miss  Molyneux,  who  decidedly 
liked  her  immensely,  had  taken  her  arm,  to  walk  beside  her 
over  the  polished  floor.  Lord  Warburton  strolled  on  the  other 
side,  with  his  hands  behind  him,  and  his  eyes  lowered.  For 
some  moments  he  said  nothing  ; and  then — 

“ Is  it  true  that  you  are  going  to  London  V9  he  asked. 

“ I believe  it  has  been  arranged.” 

“ And  when  shall  you  come  back  'l  ” 

“ In  a few  days  ; but  probably  for  a very  short  time.  I am 
gjing  to  Paris  with  my  aunt.” 

“ When,  then,  shall  I see  you  again  'l  ” 

“ Hot  for  a good  while.”  said  Isabel ; “ but  some  day  or 
o;her,  I hope.” 

“ Do  you  really  hope  it  1 ” 

“Very  much.” 

He  went  a few  steps  in  silence ; then  he  stopped,  and  put 
ot  t his  hand. 

“ Good-bye.” 

“ Good-bye,”  said  Isabel. 

Miss  Molyneux  kissed  her  again,  and  she  let  the  two  depart  * 
liter  which,  without  rejoining  Henrietta  and  Ralph,  she  re- 
treated to  her  own  room. 

In  this  apartment,  before  dinner,  she  was  found  by  Mrs. 
fouchett,  who  had  stopped  on  her  way  to  the  drawing-room. 

“ I may  as  well  tell  you,”  said  her  aunt,  “ that  your  uncle  has 
Utformed  me  of  your  relations  with  Lord  Warburton.” 


119 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Isabel  hesitated  an  instant. 

“ Eelations  ? They  are  hardly  relations.  That  is  the  strange 
part  of  it ; he  has  seen  me  hut  three  or  four  times.” 

“ Why  did  you  tell  your  uncle  rather  than  me  f”  Mrs, 
Touchett  inquired,  dryly,  but  dispassionately. 

Again  Isabel  hesitated. 

“ Because  he  knows  Lord  W arburton  better.” 

“ Yes,  but  I know  you  better.” 

“ 1 am  not  sure  of  that,”  said  Isabel,  smiling. 

“ Neither  am  I,  after  all ; especially  when  you  smile  that 
way.  One  would  think  you  had  carried  off  a prize  ! I suppose 
that  when  you  refuse  an  offer  like  Lord  Warburton’s  it’s 
because  you  expect  to  do  something  better.” 

“Ah,  my  uncle  didn’t  say  that !”  cried  Isabel,  smiling  stilL 


XY. 

It  had  been  arranged  that  the  two  young  ladies  should  proceed 
to  London  under  Ealph’s  escort,  though  Mrs.  Touchett  looked 
with  little  favour  upon  the  plan.  It  was  just  the  sort  of  plan, 
she  said,  that  Miss  Stackpole  would  be  sure  to  suggest,  and  she 
inquired  if  the  correspondent  of  the  Interviewer  was  to  take  the 
party  to  stay  at  a boarding-house. 

“ I don’t  care  where  she  Takes  us  to  stay,  so  long  as  there  is 
local  colour,”  said  Isabel.  “ That  is  what  we  are  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  inquired. 

“ Of  course  I should.” 

“ I thought  you  disliked  the  English  so  much.” 

“ So  I do ; but  it’s  all  the  more  reason  for  making  use  of 
them.” 

“ Is  that  your  idea  of  marriage  1 ” And  Isabel  ventured  to 
add  that  her  aunt  appeared  to  her  to  have  made  very  little  use 
of  Mr.  Touchett. 

“ Your  uncle  is  not  an  English  nobleman,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett, 

‘ though  even  if  he  had  been,  I should  still  probably  have  taken 
ftp  my  residence  in  Florence.” 

“ Do  you  think  Lord  Warburton  could  make  me  any  bettag 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY.  lift 

than  I am  1 ” the  girl  asked,  with  some  animation.  “ I 
don’t  mean  that  I am  too  good  to  improve.  I mean  — I 
mean  that  I don’t  love  Lord  Warburton  enough  to  marry 

him.” 

“ You  did  right  to  refuse  him,  then,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett,  in 
her  little  spare  voice.  “ Only,  the  next  great  offer  you  get,  X 
hope  you  will  manage  to  come  up  to  your  standard/’ 

“We  had  better  wait  till  the  offer  comes,  before  we  talk 
about  it.  I hope  very  much  that  I may  have  no  more  offers  for 
the  present.  They  bother  me  fearfully.” 

“ You  probably  won’t  be  troubled  with  them  if  you  adopt 
permanently  the  Bohemian  manner  of  life.  However,  X have 
promised  Ralph  not  to  criticise  the  affair.” 

“I  will  do  whatever  Ralph  says  is  right,”  Isabel  said.  “X 
have  unbounded  confidence  in  Ralph.” 

4 'His  mother  is  much  obliged  to  you!”  cried  this  lady,  with 
a laugh.  ’ J 

“ It  seems  to  me  she  ought  to  ber”  Isabel  rejoined,  smiling. 
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  have  lived  a long 
time  in  Europe,  she  had  completely  lost  her  native  tact  on  such 
points,  and  in  her  reaction,  not  in  itself  deplorable,  against 
the  liberty  allowed  to  young  persons  beyond  the  seas,  had  fallen 
into  gratuitous  and  exaggerated  scruples.  Ralph  accompanied 
the  two  young  ladies  to  town  and  established  them  at  a quiet 
inn  in  a street  that  ran  at  right  angles  to  Piccadilly.  His  first 
.’dea  had  been  to  take  them  to  his  father’s  house  in  Winchester 
Square,  a large,  dull  mansion,  which  at  this  period  of  the  year 
was  shrouded  in  silence  and  brown  holland  ; but  he  bethought 
himself  that,  the  cook  being  at  Gardencourt,  there  was  no  one 
in  the  house  to  get  them  their  meals ; and  Pratt’s  Hotel  accord- 
ingly became  their  resting-place.'  Ralph,  on  his  side,  found 
quarters  in  Winchester  Square,  having  a “ den  ” there  of  which 
be  was  very  fond,  and  not  being  dependent  on  the  local  cuisine. 
He  availed  himself  largely  indeed  of  that  of  Pratt’s  Hotel, 
beginning  his  day  with  an  early  visit  to  his  fellow-travellers’ 
who  had  Mr.  Pratt  in  person,  in  a large  bulging  white  waistcoat, 
to  remove  their  dish-covers.  Ralph  turned  up,  as  he  said,  after 
breakfast,  and  the  little  party  made  out  a scheme  of  entertain- 
ment for  the  day.  As  London  does  not  wear  in  the  month 
September  its  most  brilliant  face,  the  young  man,  wha 
occasionally  took  an  apologetic  tone,  was  obliged  to  remind  hit 


*20 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


companion,  to  Miss  Stackpole’s  high  irritation,  that  there 
not  a creature  in  town. 

“I  suppose  you  mean  that  the  aristocracy  are  absent, ” Hen- 
rietta answered ; “ but  I don’t  think  you  could  have  a better 
proof  that  if  they  were  absent  altogether  they  would  not  be 
missed.  It  seems  to  me  the  place  is  about  as  full  as  it  can  be. 
There  is  no  one  here,  of  course,  except  three  or  four  millions  of 
people.  What  is  it  you  call  them — the  lower-middle  class  1 
They  are  only  the  population  of  London,  and  that  is  of  no 
consequence.” 

Ealph  declared  that  for  him  the  aristocracy  left  no  void  that 
Miss  Stackpole  herself  did  not  fill,  and  that  a more  contented 
man  was  nowhere  at  that  moment  to  be  found.  In  this  he 
spoke  the  truth,  for  the  stale  September  days,  in  the  huge  half- 
empty  town,  borrowed  a charm  from  his  circumstances.  When 
he  went  home  at  night  to  the  empty  house  in  Winchester  Square, 
after  a day  spent  with  his  inquisitive  countrywomen,  he  wandered 
into  the  big  dusky  dining-room,  where  the  candle  he  took  from 
the  hall-table,  after  letting  himself  in,  constituted  the  only 
illumination.  The  square  was  still,  the  house  was  still ; when 
he  raised  one  of  the  windows  of  the  dining-room  to  let  in  the 
air,  he  heard  the  slow  creak  of  the  boots  of  a solitary  policeman. 
His  own  step,  in  the  empty  room,  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  arm-  ? 
chairs  ; the  big,  dark,  dining  table  twinkled  here  ^and  there  in 
the  small  candle-light ; the  pictures  on  the  wall,  all  of  them 
very  brown,  looked  vague  and  incoherent.  There  was  a ghostly 
presence  in  the  room,  as  of  dinners  long  since  digested,  of  table- 
talk  that  had  lost  its  actuality.  This  hint  of  the  supernatural 
perhaps  had  something  to  do  with  the  fact  that  Ealph’s  imagin-  ( 
ation  took  a flight,  and  that  he  remained  in  his  chair  a long  time 
beyond  the  hour  at  which  he  should  have  been  in  bed  ; doing' 
nothing,  not  even  reading  the  evening  paper.  I say  he  did 
nothing,  and  I maintain  the  phrase  in  the  face  of  the  fact  that ! 
he  thought  at  these  moments  of  Isabel.  To  think  of  Isabel 
could  only  be  for  Ealph  an  idle  pursuit,  leading  to  nothing  and 
profiting  little  to  any  one.  His  cousin  had  not  yet  seemed  to 
him  so  charming  as  during  these  days  spent  in  sounding,  tourist* 
fashion,  the  deeps  and  shallows  of  the  metropolitan  element. 
Isabel  was  constantly  interested  and  often  excited  ; if  she  had 
come  in  search  of  local  colour  she  found  it  everywhere.  She 
asked  more  questions  than  he  could  answer,  and  launched  little 
theories  that  he  was  equally  unable  to  accept  or  to  refute.  The 


121 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

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-ste  amer  to  th6  Tower  ; they  looked 
at  pictures  both  in  public  and  private  collections,  and  sat  on 
various  occasions  beneath  the  gifeat  trees  in  Kensington  Gardens. 
Henrietta  Stackpole  proved  to  he  an  indefatigable  sight-seer  and 
a more  good-natured  critic  than,  Ralph  had  ventured  to  hope. 
She  had  indeed  many  disappointments,  and  London  at  large 
Buffered  from  her  vivid  remembrance  of  many  of  the  cities  of 
her  native  land ; but  she  made  the  best  of  its  dingy  peculiarities 
and  only  heaved  an  occasional  nigh,  and  uttered  a desultory 
“ Well ! ” which  led  no  further  and  lost  itself  in  retrospect. 
The  truth  was  that,  as  she  said  herself,  she  was  not  in  her 
element.  “ I have  not  a sympathy  with  inanimate  objects,”  shs 
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  men,  where  are  your  men  and  women 
of  intellect  ]”  she  inquired  of  Ralph,  standing  in  the  middle  of 
Trafalgar  Square,  as  if  she  had  supposed  this  to  be  a place  where 
she  would  naturally  meet  a few.  “ That’s  one  of  them  on  the 
top  of  the  column,  you  say — Lord  Kelson]  Was  he  a lord  tool 
Wasn’t  he  high  enough,  that  they  had  to  stick  him  a hundred 
feet  in  the  air]  That’s  the  past — I don’t  care  about  the  past; 
I want  to  see  some  of  the  leading  minds  of  the  present.  I won’t 
say  of  the  future,  because  I don’t  believe  much  in  your  future.” 
Poor  Ralph  had  few  leading  minds  among  his  acquaintance,  and 
rarely  enjoyed  the  pleasure  of  button-holding  a celebrity ; a 
state  of  things  which  appeared  to  Miss  Stackpole  to  indicate  a 
deplorable  want  of  enterprise.  “ If  I were  on  the  other  side  I 
should  call,”  she  said,  “and  tell  the  gentleman,  whoever  he 
might  be,  that  I had  heard  a great  deal  about  him  and  had  come 
to  see  for  myself.  But  I gather  from  what  you  say  that  this  is 
not  the  custom  here.  You  seem  to  have  plenty  of  meaningless 
tustoms,  and  none  of  those  that  one  really  wants.  We  are  in 
advance,  certainly.  I suppose  I shall  have  to  give  up  the  social 
side  altogether ; ” and  Henrietta,  though  she  went  about  with  her 
guide-book  and.pencii,  and  wrote  a letter  to  the  Interviewer  about 
the  Tower  (in  which  she  described  the  execution  of  Lady  Jane 
Grey),  had  a depressing  sense  of  falling  below  her  own  standard* 


122 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Tho  incident  which  had  preceded  IsabePs  departure  from 
Gardencourt  left  a painful  trace*  in  the  girl?s  mind ; she  took 
no  pleasure  in  recalling  Lord  Warburton’s  magnanimous  dis- 
appointment. She  could  not  have  done  less  than  what  she 
did  ; this  was  certainly  true.  But  her  necessity,  all  the  same, 
had  been  a distasteful  one,  and  she  felt  no  desire  to  take 
credit  for  her  conduct.  Nevertheless,  mingled  with  this  ab- 
sence of  an  intellectual  relish  of  it,  was  a feeling  of  freedom 
which  in  itself  was  sweet,  and  which,  as  she  wandered  through 
the  great  city  with  her  ill-matched  companions,  occasionally 
throbbed  into  joyous  excitement.  When  she  walked  in  Ken- 
sington Gardens,  she  stopped  the  children  (mainly  of  the  poorer 
sort)  whom  she  saw  playing  on  the  grass ; she  asked  them  their 
names  and  gave  them  sixpence,  and  when  they  were  pretty  she 
kissed  them.  Kalph  noticed  such  incidents  ; he  noticed  every- 
thing that  Isabel  did. 

One  afternoon,  by  way  of  amusing  his  companions,  he  invited 
them  to  tea  in  Winchester  Square,  and  he  had  the  house  set  in 
order  as  much  as  possible,  to  do  honour  to  their  visit.  There 
was  another  guest,  also,  to  meet  the  ladies,  an  amiable  bachelor, 
an  old  friend  of  KalphY,  who  happened  to  be  in  town,  and  who 
got  on  uncommonly  well  with  Miss  Stackpole.  Mr.  Bantling,  a 
stout,  fair,  smiling  man  of  forty,  who  was  extraordinarily  well 
dressed,  and  whose  contributions  to  the  conversation  were 
characterised  by  vivacity  rather  than  continuity,  laughed  immo- 
derately at  everything  Henrietta  said,  gave  her  several  cups  of 
tea,  examined  in  her  society  the  bric-a-brac , of  which  Kalph  had 
a considerable  collection,  and  afterwards,  when  the  host  proposed 
they  should  go  out  into  the  square  and  pretend  it  was  a fete - 
champetre,  walked  round  the  limited  inclosure  several  times  with 
her  and  listened  with  candid  interest  to  her  remarks  upon  the 
inner  life. 

“ Oh,  I see/7  said  Mr.  Bantling ; “ 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  forbid  his  being  in  England  at 
all,  and  he  has  only  come  back  to  take  care  of  his  father.  The 
Did  man,  I believe,  has  half-a-dozen  things  the  matter  with  him. 
They  call  it  gout,  but  to  my  certain  knowledge  he  is  dropsical 
as  well,  though  he  doesn’t  look  it.  You  may  depend  upon  it  he 
has  got  a lot  of  water  somewhere.  Of  course  that  sort  of  thing 
makes  it  awfully  slow  for  people  in  the  house;.  I wonder  they 
have  them  under  such  circumstances.  Then  I believe  Mr 
Touchett  is  always  squabbling  with  his  wife;  she  lives  away 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


123 


from  her  husband,  you  know,  in  that  extraordinary  American 
way  of  yours.  If  you  want  a house  where  there  is  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 am  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  is 
just  that  sort  of  woman ; she  is'  always  getting  up  something  or 
other,  and  she  is  always  glad  to  have  the  sort  of  people  that  help 
her.  I am  sure  she’ll  ask  you  down  by  return  of  post ; she  is 
tremendously  fond  of  distinguished  people  and  writers.  She 
writes  herself,  you  know  ; but  I h aven’t  read  everything  she  has 
written.  It’s  usually  poetry,  and  I don’t  go  in  much  for  poetry 
— unless  it’s  Byron.  I suppose  you  think  a great  deal  of  Byron 
in  America,”  Mr.  Bantling  continued,  expanding  in  the  stimu- 
lating air  of  Miss  Stackpole’s  attention,  bringing  up  his  sequences 
promptly,  and  at  last  changing  his  topic,  with  a natural  eagerness 
to  provide  suitable  conversation  for  so  remarkable  a woman. 
He  returned,  however,  ultimately  to  the  idea  of  Henrietta’s 
going  to  stay  with  Lady  Pensil,  in  Bedfordshire.  “ I understand 
what  you  want,”  he  repeated ; “ you  want  to  see  some  genuine 
English  sport.  The  Touchetts  are  not  English  at  all,  you 
know ; they  live  on  a kind  of  foreign  system ; they  have  got 
some  awfully  queer  ideas.  The  old  man  thinks  it’s  wicked  to 
hunt,  I am  told.  You  must  get  down  to  my  sister’s  in  time  for 
the  theatricals,  and  I am  sure  she  will  be  glad  to  give  you  a 
part.  I am  sure  you  act  well ; I know  you  are  very  clever. 
My  sister  is  forty  years  old,  and  she  has  seven  children  ; but  she 
is  going  to  play  the  principal  part.  Of  course  you  needn’t  act  if 
you  don’t  want  to.” 

In  this  manner  Mr.  Bantling  delivered  himself,  while  they 
strolled  over  the  grass  in  Winchester  Square,  which,  although  it 
had  been  peppered  by  the  London  soot,  invited  the  tread  to 
linger.  Henrietta  thought  her  blooming,  easy-voiced  bachelor, 
with  his  impressibility  to  feminine  merit  and  his  suggestivenesa 
of  allusion,  a very  agreeable  man,  and  she  valued  the  opportunity 
tie  offered  her. 

“ I don’t  know  but  I would  go,  if  your  sister  should  ask  me,” 
she  said.  “I  think  it  would  be  my  duty.  What  do  you  call 
her  name  1 ” 

“ Pensil.  It’s  an  odd  name,  but  it  isn’t  a bad  one.” 

"I  think  one  name  is  as  good  as  another.  But  what  is  her  rank  1” 

“ Oh,  she’s  a baron’s  wife;  a convenient  sort  of  rank.  Yog 
*re  fine  enough,  and  you  are  not  too  fine.” 


124 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LAD*. 


“ 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 daresay  you  won’t  mind  it.  I’ll  try  and  run  down 
while  you  are  there.” 

All  this  was  very  pleasant  to  Miss  Stackpole,  and  she  was 
eorry  to  be  obliged  to  separate  from  Lady  Pensil’s  obliging 
brother.  But  it  happened  that  she  had  met  the  day  before,  in 
Piccadilly,  some  friends  whom  she  had  not  seen  for  a year ; the 
Miss  Climbers,  two  ladies  from  Wilmington,  Delaware,  who  had 
been  travelling  on  the  continent  and  were  now  preparing  to 
re-embark.  Henrietta  had  a long  interview  with  them  on  the 
Piccadilly  pavement,  and  though  the  three  ladies  all  talked  at 
once,  they  had  not  exhausted  their  accumulated  topics.  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 
morrow,  and  she  now  bethought  herself  of  this  engagement. 
She  prepared  to  start  for  Jermyn  Street,  taking  leave  first  of 
Ralph  Touchett  and  Isabel,  who,  seated  on  garden  chairs  in 
another  part  of  the  inclosure,  were  occupied — if  the  term  may 
be  used — with  an  exchange  of  amenities  less  pointed  than  the 
practical  colloquy  of  Miss  Stackpole  and  Mr.  Bantling.  When 
it  had  been  settled  between  Isabel  and  her  friend  that  they 
should  be  re-united  at  some  reputable  hour  at  Pratt’s  Hotel, 
Ralph  remarked  that  the  latter  must  have  a cab.  She  could  not 
walk  all  the  way  to  Jermyn  Street. 

“ I suppose  you  mean  it’s  improper  for  me  to  walk  alone  ! ” 
Henrietta  exclaimed.  “ Merciful  powers,  have  I come  to  this  1 ” 

“ There  is  not  the  slightest  need  of  your  walking  alone,”  said 
Mr.  Bantling,  in  an  off-hand  tone  expressive  of  gallantry.  “ I 
should  be  greatly  pleased  to  go  with  you.” 

“ I simply  meant  that  you  would  be  late  for  dinner,”  Ralph 
answered.  “ Think  of  those  poor  ladies,  in  their  impatience, 
waiting  for  you.” 

“ You  had  better  have  a hansom,  Henrietta,”  said  Isabel. 

u I will  get  you  a hansom,  if  you  will  trust  to  me,”  Mi*. 
Bantling  went  on.  “ We  might  walk  a little  till  we  met  one.” 

u I don’t  see  why  I shouldn’t  trust  to  him,  do  you]  ” Henrietta 
.Inquired  of  Isabel. 

66 1 don’t  see  what  Mr.  Bantling  could  do  to  you,”  Isabel 
answered,  smiling ; “ but  if  you  like,  we  will  walk  with  you  till 
you  find  your  cab.” 

“ Never  mind ; we  will  go  alone.  Come  on,  Mr.  Bantling^ 
and  take  care  you  get  me  a good  one  ” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LAD  Y. 


m 


Mr.  Bantling  promised  to  do  his  best,  and  the  two  took  their 
departure,  leaving  Isabel  and  her  cousin  standing  in  the  square, 
over  which  a clear  September  twilight  had  now  begun  to  gather. 
It  was  perfectly  still ; the  wide  quadrangle  of  dusky  houses 
showed  lights  in  none  of  the  windows,  where  the  shutters  and 
blinds  were  closed;  the  pavements  were  a vacant  expanse,  and 
putting  aside  two  small  children  from  a neighbouring  slum,  wTho, 
attracted  by  symptoms  of  abnormal  animation  in  the  interior, 
were  squeezing  their  necks  between  the  rusty  railings  of  the 
inclosure,  the  most  vivid  object  within  sight  was  the  big  red 
pillar-post  on  the  south-east  corner. 

“ Henrietta  wull  ask  him  to  get  into  th6  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 am  very  glad  they  are  such  good 
friends." 

“ She  has  made  a conquest.  He  thinks  her  a brilliant  woman. 
It  may  go  far,"  said  Ralph. 

Isabel  was  silent  a moment. 

“ I call  Henrietta  a very  brilliant  woman ; but  I don’t  think 
it  will  go  far,"  she  rejoined  at  last.  “ 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  is  no  more  usual  basis  of  matrimony  than  a mutual 
misunderstanding.  But  it  ought  not  to  be  so  difficult  to  under- 
stand Bob  Bantling,"  Ralph  added.  “ He  is  a very  simple 
fellow." 

“ Yes,  but  Henrietta  is  simpler  still.  And  pray,  what  am  I 
to  do  1"  Isabel  asked,  looking  about  her  through  the  fading  light, 
in  which  the  limited  landscape-gardening  of  the  square  took  on 
4 large  and  effective  appearance.  “ I don’t  imagine  that  you 
will  propose  that  you  and  I,  for  our  amusement,  should  drive 
about  London  in  a hansom." 

“ There  is  no  reason  why  we  should  not  stay  here — if  you 
don’t  dislike  it.  It  is  very  warm ; there  will  be  half-an-honr 
yet  before  dark  ; and  if  you  permit  it,  I will  light  a cigarette." 

“ You  may  do  what  you  please,"  said  Isabel,  “ if  you  will 
amuse  me  till  seven  o'clock.  I propose  at  that  hour  to  go  back 
and  partake  of  a simple  and  solitary  repast — two  poached  egga 
and  a muffin — at  Pratt’s  Hotel." 

u May  I not  dine  with  you  1 " Ralph  asked. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


126 

“ No,  you  will  dine  at  your  club.” 

They  had  wandered  back  to  their  chairs  in  the  centre  of  tbs 
square  again,  and  Ealph  had  lighted  his  cigarette.  It  would 
have  given  him  extreme  pleasure  to  be  present  in  person  at  the 
modest  little  feast  she  had  sketched;  but  in  default  of  this  he 
liked  even  being  forbidden.  For  the  moment,  however,  he  liked 
immensely  being  alone  with  her,  in  the  thickening  dusk,  in  the 
centre  of  the  multitudinous  town ; it  made  her  seem  to  depend 
upon  him  and  to  be  in  his  powpr.  This  power  he  could  exert 
but  vaguely ; the  best  exercise  of  it  was  to  accept  her  decisions 
submissively.  There  was  almost  an  emotion  in  doing  so. 

“ Why  won’t  you  let  me  dine  with  you  ] ” he  asked,  after  a 
pause. 

“ Because  I don’t  care  for  it.” 

“ I suppose  you  are  tired  of  me.” 

“ I shall  be  an  nour  hence.  You  see  I have  the  gift  of 
f ore-kno  wled  ge.  ” 

“ Oh,  I shall  be  delightful  meanwhile,”  said  Ealph.  But  he 
said  nothing  more,  and  as  Isabel  made  no  rejoinder,  they  sat 
some  time  in  silence  which  seemed  to  contradict  his  promise  of 
entertainment.  It  seemed  to  him  that  she  was  preoccupied, 
and  he  wondered  what  she  was  thinking  about ; there  were  two 
or  three  very  possible  subjects.  At  last  he  spoke  again.  “Is 
your  objection  to  my  society  this  evening  caused  by  your 
expectation  of  another  visitor  'l  ” 

She  turned  her  head  with  a glance  of  her  clear,  fair  eyes. 

“ Another  visitor  ] What  visitor  should  I have  I ” 

He  had  none  to  suggest ; which  made  his  question  seem  to 
iimself  silly  as  well  as  brutal. 

“You  have  a great  many  friends  that  I don’t  know,”  he  said, 
laughing  a little  awkwardly.  “You  have  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  is  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  Ealph 
lighted  another  cigarette  and  reflected  that  Isabel  probably 
meant  that  she  had  received  news  that  Mr.  Caspar  Goodwood 
had  crossed  to  Paris.  After  he  had  lighted  his  cigarette  he 
puffed  it  a while,  and  then  he  went  on.  “ I promised  a while 
ago  to  be  very  amusing  ; but  you  see  I don’t  come  up  to  the 
mark,  and  the  fact  is  there  is  a good  deal  of  temerity  in  my 
undertaking  to  amuse  a person  like  you.  What  do  you  care  for 


137 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

1 

my  feeble  attempts'!  You  have  "rand  ideas — you  have  a high 
Standard  in  such  matters,  I ought  at  least  to  bring  in  a band 
&f  music  or  a company  of  mountebanks.” 

u One  mountebank  is  enough,  and  you  do  very  well.  Pray 
go  on,  and  in  another  ten  minutes  I shall  begin  to  laugh.” 

1 I assure  you  that  I am  very  serious,”  said  Ralph.  “ You 
do  3ally  ask  a great  deal.” 

* I don’t  know  what  you  mean.  I ask  nothing  ! ” 

* You  accept  nothing,”  said  Ralph.  She  coloured,  and  now 
suddenly  it  seemed  to  her  that  she  guessed  his  meaning.  Rut 
why  should  he  speak  to  her  of  such  things  ? He  hesitated  a 
little,  and  then  he  continued.  “ There  is  something  I should 
like  very  much  to  say  to  you.  It’s  a question  I wish  to  ask. 
It  seems  to  me  I have  a right  *o  ask  it,  because  I have  a kind 
of  interest  in  the  answer.” 

“ Ask  what  you  will,”  Isabel  answered  gently,  “ and  I will 
try  and  satisfy  you.” 

“ Well,  then,  I hope  you  won’t  mind  my  saying  that  Lord 
Warburton  has  told  me  of  something  that  has  passed  between 
you.” 

Isabel  started  a little;  she  sat  looking  at  her  open  fa**. 
u Yery  good  ; I suppose  it  was  natural  he  should  tell  you.” 

“ I have  his  leave  to  let  you  know  he  has  done  so.  He  has 
gome  hope  stii:  ” said  Ralph. 

“ Still  r 

“ He  had  it  a few  days  ago.” 

“ I don’t  believe  he  has  any  now,”  said  the  girl. 

“ I am  very  sorry  for  him,  then ; he  is  such  a fine  fellow.” 

“ Pray,  did  he  ask  you  to  talk  to  me  ? ” 

“ No,  not  that.  But  he  told  me  because  he  couldn’t  help  it. 
We  are  old  friends,  and  he  was  greatly  disappointed.  He  sent 
me  a line  asking  me  to  come  and  see  him,  and  I rode  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 
outness. 

tl  By  no  means.  But  he  told  me  it  was  a neat  refusal.  I 
was  very  sorry  for  him,”  Ralph  repeated. 

For  some  moments  Isabel  said  nothing ; then  at  last,  “ De 
you  know  how  often  he  had  seen  me  ? 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  poo* 


128 


THE  PORTRAIT  (fF  A LADY. 

Wai  burton  s state  of  mind  is  superficial,  because  I am  pretty 
Bure  you  don’t  think  that/* 

Isabel  certainly  was  unable  to  say  that  she  thought  it ; but 
presently  she  said  something  else.  “ If  you  have  not  been 
requested  by  Lord  Warburton  to  argue  with  me,  then  you  are 
doing  it  disinterestedly — or  for  the  love  of  argument/’ 

“ I have  no  wish  to  argue  with  you  at  all.  I only  wish  to 
leave  you  alone.  I am  simply  greatly  interested  in  your  own 
sentiments.” 

‘ I am  greatly  obliged  to  you  ! ” cried  Isabel,  with  a laugh. 

“ Of  course  you  mean  that  I am  meddling  in  what  doesn’t 
concern  me.  But  why  shouldn’t  I speak  to  you  of  this  matter 
without  annoying  you  or  embarrassing  myself  1 What’s  the  use 
of  being  your  cousin,  if  I can’t  have  a few  privileges  ? What 
is  the  use  of  adoring  you  without  the  hope  of  a reward,  if  I 
can’t  have  a few  compensations  ? What  is  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 have  paid  so  much 
for  my  ticket?  Tell  me  this,”  Kalph  went  on,  while  Isabel 
listened  to  him  with  quickened  attention  : “ What  had  you  in 
your  mind  when  you  refused  Lord  Warburton?” 

“ What  had  I in  my  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  is  logic.” 

“Ho,  that  is  not  logic — and  I knew  that  before.  What  was 
it  you  said  to  yourself?  You  certainly  said  more  than  that.” 

Isabel  reflected  a moment  and  then  she  answered  this  inquiry 
with  a question  of  her  own.  “Why  do  you  call  it  a remarkable 
act  ? That  is  what  your  mother  thinks,  too.” 

“ Warburton  is  such  a fine  fellow  ; as  a man  I think  he  has 
hardly  a fault.  And  then,  he  is  what  they  call  here  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  while  he  spoke,  as  if  to  see  how 
far  he  would  go.  “I  refused  him  because  he  was  too  perfect 
then.  I am  not  perfect  myself,  and  he  is  too  good  for  me. 
Besides,  his  perfection  would  irritate  me.” 

“ That  is  ingenious  rather  than  candid,”  said  Ralph.  “ \s  a 
fact,  you  think  nothing  in  the  world  too  perfect  for  you.” 

“ Do  you  think  I am  so  good  ? ” 

No,  but  you  are  exacting,  all  the  same,  without  the  excuse 
if  thinking  yourself  good.  Nineteen  women  out  of  twenty 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


129 


however,  even  of  the  most  exacting  sort,  would  have  contented 
themselves  with  Warburton.  Perhaps  you  don’t  know  he  haa 
been  run  after.” 

“ I don’t  wish  to  know.  But  it  seems  to  me,”  said  Isabel, 
(i  that  you  told  me  of  several  faults  that  he  has,  one  day  when 
I spoke  of  him  to  you.” 

Ralph  looked  grave.  “ I hope  that  what  I said  then  had  no 
weight  with  you;  for  they  were  not  faults,  the  things  I spoke 
of ; they  were  simply  peculiarities  of  his  position.  If  I had 
known  he  wished  to  marry  you,  I would  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 am  not 
conscious  of  any  mission  of  that  sort. — You  are  evidently  dis- 
appointed,” Isabel  added,  looking  gently  but  earnestly  at  her 
cousin.  “You  would  have  liked  me  to  marry  Lord  Warburton.” 

“ Not  in  the  least.  I am  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.” 

Isabel  gave  a rather  conscious  sigh.  “ I wish  I could  be 
as  interesting  to  myself  as  I am  to  you  ! ” 

“ There  you  are  not  candid  again ; you  are  extremely  interest- 
ing to  yourself.  Do  you  know,  however,”  said  Ralph,  “ that 
if  you  have  really  given  Lord  Warburton  his  final  answer,  I am 
rather  glad  it  has  been  what  it  was.  I don’t  mean  I am  glad  for 
you,  and  still  less,  of  course,  for  him.  I am  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 
golden  eggs.  I use  that  animal  as  a symbol  of  my  insane  illu- 
sions. What  I mean  is,  I shall  have  the  entertainment  of  seeing 
what  a young  lady  does  who  won’t  marry  Lord  Warburton.” 

“ That  is  what  your  mother  counts  upon  too,”  said  Isabel. 

“Ah,  there  will  be  plenty  of  spectators  ! We  shall  contem- 
plate 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  would  still  have  a career — a very 
honourable  and  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 
x.  am  extremely  fond  of  the  unexpected,  and  now  that  you  have 
sept  the  game  in  your  hands  I depend  on  your  giving  us  some 
magnificent  example  of  it.” 

K 


180 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ I lon’t  understand  you  very  well,”  said  Isabel,  “ but  I do  sc 
well  enough  to  be  able  to  say  that  it*  yon  look  for  magnificent 
examples  of  anything  1 shall  disappoint  you.” 

u You  will  do  so  only  by  disappointing  yourself— and  that 
will  go  hard  with  you  ! ” 

To  this  Isabel  made  no  direct  reply ; there  was  an  amount 
of  truth  in  it  which  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.” 

‘ i There  is  nothing  she  can  do  so  well.  But  you  are  many- 
sided.” 

“If  one  is  two-sided,  it  is  enough,”  said  Isabel. 

" You  are  the  most  charmihg  of  polygons  ! ” Balph  broke  out, 
with  a laugh.  At  a glance  from  his  companion,  however,  he 
became  grave,  and  to  prove  it  he  went  on — “ You  want  to  see 
life,  as  the  young  men  say.” 

“ I don’t  think  I want  to  see  it  as  the  young  men  want  to  see 
it ; but  I do  want  to  look  about  me.” 

“You  want  to  drain  the  cut)  of  experience.” 

“Ho,  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,”  said  Balph. 

“ I don’t  think  that  if  one  is  a sentient  being,  one  can  make 
the  distinction,”  Isabel  returned.  “ I am  a good  deal  like 
Henrietta.  The  other  day,  when  I asked  her  if  she  wished  to 
marry,  she  said — ‘ Hot  till  I have  seen  Europe!*  I too  don’t 
wish  to  marry  until  I have  seen  Europe.” 

“ You  evidently  expect  that  a crowned  head  will  be  struck 
with  you.” 

“Ho,  that  would  be  worse  than  marrying  Lord  Warburton. 
But  it  is  getting  very  dark,”  Isabel  continued,  “ and  I must  go 
home.”  She  rose  from  her  place,  but  Balph  sat  still  a moment, 
looking  at  her.  As  he  did  not  follow  her,  she  stopped,  and  they 
remained  a while  exchanging  a gaze,  full  on  either  side,  but 
especially  on  Balph’s,  of  utterances  too  vague  for  words. 

“ You  have  answered  my  question,”  said  Balph  at  last. 
“You  have  told  me  what  I wanted.  I am  greatly  obliged  to 
you.” 

“ It  seems  to  me  I have  told  you  very  little.” 

“You  have  told  me  the  great  thing  : that  the  world  interests 
Ton  and  that  you  want  to  throw  yourself  into  it.” 

Isabel’s  silvery  eyes  shone  for  a moment  in  the  darkness 

I never  said  that.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


131 


“ I think  you  meant  it.  Don’t  repudiate  it ; it’s  so  fine  ! ” 

“ I don’t  know  what  you  are  trying  to  fasten  upon  me,  for  1 
am  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  have  a great  deal.” 

“ Enough  to  go  home  in  a cab  to  Pratt’s  Hotel  ; but  not  more.” 

Ralph  unlocked  the  gate,  and  after  they  had  passed  out  he 
fastened  it. 

“ We  will  find  your  cab,”  he  said ; and  as  they  turned 
towards  a neighbouring  street  in  which  it  seemed  that  this 
quest  would  be  fruitful,  he  asked  her  again  if  he  might  not  see 
her  safely  to  the  inn. 

“ By  no  means,”  she  answered ; u you  are  very  tired ; you 
must  go  home  and  go  to  bed.” 

The  cab  was  found,  and  he  helped  her  into  it,  standing  a 
moment  at  the  door. 

“ When  people  forget  I am  a sick  man  I am  often  annoyed,” 
he  said  '*  But  it’s  worse  when  they  remember  it ! 99 


XYI. 

Isabel  had  had  no  hidden  motive  in  wishing  her  cousin  not  to 
cake  her  home ; it  simply  seemed  to  her  that  for  some  days  past 
she  had  consumed  an  inordinate  quantity  of  his  time,  and  the 
independent  spirit  of  the  American  girl  who  ends  by  regarding 
perpetual  assistance  as  a sort  of  derogation  to  her  sanity,  had 
made  her  decide  that  for  these  few  hours  she  must  suffice  to 
herself.  She  had  moreover  a great  fondness  for  intervals  of 
solitude,  and  since  her  arrival  in  England  it  had  been  but 
scantily  gratified.  It  was  a luxury  she  could  always  command 
at  home,  and  she  had  missed  it.  That  evening,  however,  an 
incident  occurred  which — had  there  been  a critic  to  note  it — 
would  have  taken  all  colour  from  the  theory  that  the  love  of 
solitude  had  caused  her  to  dispense  with  Ralph’s  attendance. 
She  was  sitting,  towards  nine  o’clock,  in  the  dim  illumination  of 
Pratt’s  Hotel,  trying  with  the  aid  of  two  tall  candles  to  lose 
nerself  in  a volume  she  had  brought  from  Gardencourt,  but 
succeeding  only  to  the  extent  of  reading  other  words  on  the  page 

K 2 


132 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


fchan  those  that  were  printed  there  — words  that  Ealph  had 
spoken  to  her  in  the  afternoon. 

Suddenly  the  well-muffled  knuckle  of  the  waiter  was  applied 
to  the  door,  which  presently  admitted  him,  hearing  the  card  of 
a visitor.  This  card,  duly  considered,  offered  to  Isabel’s  startled 
vision  the  name  of  Mr.  Caspar  Goodwood.  She  Jet  the  servant 
stand  before  her  inquiringly  for  some  instants,  without  signifying 
her  wishes. 

“ Shall  I show  the  gentleman  up,  ma’am  ? ” he  asked  at  last, 
with  a slightly  encouraging  inflection. 

Isabel  hesitated  still,  and  while  she  hesitated  she  glanced  at 
the  mirror. 

“ He  may  come  in,”  she  said  at  last ; and  waited  for  him  with 
Borne  emotion. 

Caspar  Goodwood  came  in  and  shook  hands  with  her.  He 
said  nothing  till  the  servant  had  left  the  room  again,  then  he 
said — 

“ Why  didn’t  you  answer  my  letter  ?” 

He  spoke  in  a quick,  full,  slightly  peremptory  tone  — the 
tone  of  a man  whose  questions  were  usually  pointed,  and  who 
was  capable  of  much  insistence. 

Isabel  answered  him  by  a question. 

“ How  did  you  know  I was  here?” 

“Miss  Stackpole  let  me  know,”  said  Caspar  Goodwood. 
u She  told  me  that  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  of  them  had  seated  themselves  ; they 
stood  there  with  a certain  air  of  defiance,  or  at  least  of  contention. 

“ Henrietta  never  told  me  that  she  was  writing  to  you,” 
Isabel  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 should  not  see  you* 
In  so  large  a place  as  London  it  seemed  to  me  very  possible.” 

“ Apparently  it  was  disagreeable  to  you  even  to  write  to  me,” 
said  Mr.  Goodwood. 

Isabel  made  no  answer  to  this  ; the  sense  of  Henrietta 
Stackpole’ s treachery,  as  she  momentarily  qualified  it,  wai 
strong  within  her. 


TIIE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


133 


“Henrietta  is  not  delicate!”  she  exclaimed  with  a certain 
bitterness.  “ It  was  a great  liberty  to  take.” 

“ I suppose  I am  not  delicate  either.  The  fault  is  mine  as 
much  as  hers.” 

As  Isabel  looked  at  him  it  seemed  to  her  that  his  jaw  had 
never  been  more  square.  This  might  have  displeased  her ; 
nevertheless  she  rejoined  inconsequently — 

“No,  it  is  not  your  fault  so  much  as  hers.  What  you  have 
done  is  very  natural.” 

“It  is  indeed  ! ” cried  Caspar  Goodwood,  with  a voluntary 
laugh.  “ And  now  that  I have  come,  at  any  rate,  may  I not  stay  1” 

“You  may  sit  down,  certainly.” 

And  Isabel  went  back  to  her  chair  again,  while  her  visitor 
took  the  first  place  that  offered,  in  the  manner  of  a man  accus- 
tomed to  pay  little  thought  to  the  sort  of  chair  he  sat  in. 

“I  have  been  hoping  every  day  for  an  answer  to  my  letter,” 
he  said.  “You  might  have  written  me  a few  lines.” 

“ It  was  not  the  trouble  of  writing  that  prevented  me  \ I 
could  as  easily  have  written  you  four  pages  as  one.  Eut  my 
silence  was  deliberate  ; I thought  it  best.” 

He  sat  with  his  eyes  fixed  on  hers  while  she  said  this  ; 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  to  say.  He  was  a strong  man  in  the  wrong,  and  he  was 
acute  enough  to  see  that  an  uncompromising  exhibition  of  his 
strength  would  only  throw  the  falsity  of  his  position  into  relief. 
Isabel  was  not  incapable  of  finding  it  agreeable  to  have  an 
advantage  of  position  over  a person  of  this  quality,  and  though 
she  was  not  a girl  to  flaunt  her  advantage  in  his  face,  she  was 
woman  enough  to  enjoy  being  able  to  say  “You  know  you 
ought  not  to  have  written  to  me  yourself  ! ” and  to  say  it  with  a 
certain  air  of  triumph. 

Caspar  Goodwood  raised  his  eyes  to  hers  again  ; they  wore  an 
expression  of  ardent  remonstrance.  He  had  a strong  sense  ot 
justice,  and  he  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.  Eut  I never  accepted  the  prohibition.  I promised  you 
that  you  should  hear  very  soon.” 

“ I did  not  say  that  I hoped  never  to  hear  from  you,”  said 
Isabel. 

“ Hot  for  five  years,  then ; for  ten  years.  It  is  the  same 
tfiing.” 

“ Do  you  find  it  so  ? It  seems  to  me  there  is  a great  difference 


184 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


I can  imagine  that  at  the  end  of  ten  years  we  might  have  a 
very  pleasant  correspondence.  I shall  have  matured  my  epis- 
tolary style.” 

Isabel  looked,  away  while  she  spoke  these  words,  for  she 
knew  they  were  of  a much  less  earnest  cast  than  the  countenance 
of  her  listener.  Her  eyes,  however,  at  last  came  hack  to  him, 
just  as  he  said,  very  irrelevantly — 

“ Are  you  enjoying  your  visit  to  your  uncle  ] 

“ Very  much  indeed.”  She  hesitated,  and  then  she  broke 
out  with  even  greater  irrelevance,  “ What  good  do  you  expect 
to  get  by  insisting  ? ” 

“ The  good  of  not  losing  you.” 

“ You  have  no  right  to  talk  about  losing  what  is  not  yours. 
And  even  from  your  own  point  of  view,”  Isabel  added,  “you 
ought  to  know  when  to  let  one  alone.” 

“ I displease  you  very  much,”  said  Caspar  Goodwood  gloomily  ; 
not  as  if  to  provoke  her  to  compassion  for  a man  conscious  of 
this  blighting  fact,  but  as  if  to  set  it  well  before  himself,  so 
that  he  might  endeavour  to  act  with  his  eyes  upon  it. 

“ Yes,  you  displease  me  very  much,  and  the  worst  is  that  it 
is  needless.” 

Isabel  knew  that  his  was  not  a soft  nature,  from  which  pin- 
pricks would  draw  blood  ; and  from  the  first  of  her  acquaintance 
with  him  and  of  her  having  to  defend  herself  against  a certain 
air  that  he  had  of  knowing  better  what  was  good  for  her  than 
she  knew  herself,  she  had  recognised  the  fact  that  perfect  frank- 
ness was  her  best  weapon.  To  attempt  to  spare  his  sensibility 
or  to  escape  from  him  edgewise,  as  one  might  do  from  a man 
who  had  barred  the  way  less  sturdily — this,  in  dealing  with 
Caspar  Goodwood,  who  would  take  everything  of  every  sort 
that  one  might  give  • him,  was  wasted  agility.  It  was  not 
that  he  had  not  susceptibilities,  but  his  passive  surface,  as 
well  as  his  active,  was  large  and  firm,  and  he  might  always  be 
trusted  to  dress  his  wounds  himself.  In  measuring  the  effect 
of  his  suffering,  one  might  always  reflect  that  he  had  a sound 
constitution, 

“ I can’t  reconcile  myself  to  that,”  he  said. 

There  was  a dangerous  liberality  about  this  ; for  Isabel  felt 
that  it  was  quite  open  to  him  to  say  that  he  had  not  always 
displeased  her. 

“ I can’t  reconcile  myself  to  it  either,  and  it  is  not  the  state 
of  things  that  ought  to  exist  between  us.  If  you  would  only 
try  and  banish  me  from  your  mind  for  a few  months  we  should 
be  on  good  terms  again.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


l'Sfl 

“ I see.  If  I should  cease  to  think  of  you  for  a few  months 
I should  find  I could  keep  it  up  indefinitely.” 

“ Indefinitely  is  more  than  I ask.  It  is  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  that  Isabel 
found  irritating. 

“ Are  you  not  capable  of  making  an  effort  ? ” she  demanded. 
" You  are  strong  for  everything  else ; why  shouldn’t  you  be 
strong  for  that  ? ” 

1 Because  I am  in  love  with  you,”  said  Caspar  Goodwood 
simply.  “ If  one  is  strong,  one  loves  only  the  more  strongly.” 

6 There  is  a good  deal  in  that ; ” and  indeed  our  young 
lady  felt  the  force  of  it.  “ Think  of  me  or  not,  as  you  find  most 
possible ; only  leave  me  alone.” 

“ Until  when  ? ” 

“ Well,  for  a year  or  two.” 

“ Which  do  you  mean  ? Between  one  year  and  two  there  is  a 
great  difference.” 

“ Call  it  two,  then,”  said  Isabel,  wondering  whether  a little 
cynicism  might  not  be  effective. 

“ And  what  shall  I gain  by  that  ? ” Mr.  Goodwood  asked, 
giving  no  sign  of  wincing. 

“ You  will  have  obliged  me  greatly.” 

“ But  what  will  be  my  reward  ? ” 

“ Do  you  need  a reward  for  an  act  of  generosity  ? 9 

“ Yes,  when  it  involves  a great  sacrifice.” 

“ There  is  no  generosity  without  sacrifice.  Men  don’t  under- 
stand such  things.  If  you  make  this  sacrifice  I shall  admire 
you  greatly.” 

“ I don’t  care  a straw  for  your  admiration.  Will  you  marry 
me?  That  is  the  question.” 

“ Assuredly  not,  if  I feel  as  I feel  at  present.” 

“ Then  I ask  again,  what  I shall  gain  ? ” 

“ You  will  gain  quite  as  much  as  by  worrying  me  to  rteath  ! ’* 

Caspar  Goodwood  bent  his  eyes  again  and  gazed  for  a while 
into  the  crown  of  his  hat.  A deep  flush  overspread  his  face, 
and  Isabel  could  perceive  that  this  dart  at  last  had  struck  home. 
To  see  a strong  man  in  pain  had  something  terrible  for  her,  and 
she  immediately  felt  very  sorry  tor  her  visitor. 

“ Why  do  you  make  me  say  such  things  to  y^»u  1 w»he  cried 
in  a trembling  voice.  “ I only  want  to  be  gentle — to  be  kind. 
It  is  not  delightful  to  me  to  feel  that  people  care  for  me,  and 
yet  to  have  to  try  and  reason  them  out  cf  it.  I think  othera 


136 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


also  ought  to  be  considerate ; we  have  each  to  judge  for  our- 
selves. I know  you  are  considerate,  as  much  as  you  can  be 
you  have  good  reasons  for  what  you  do.  But  I don’t  want  to 
marry.  I shall  probably  never  marry.  I have  a perfect  right 
to  feel  that  way,  and  it  is  no  kindness  to  a woman  to  urge  her — • 
to  persuade  her  against  her  will.  If  I give  you  pain  I can  only 
say  I am  very  sorry.  It  is  not  my  fault ; I can’t  marry  you 
simply  to  please  you.  I won’t  say  that  I shall  always  remain 
your  friend,  because  when  women  say  that,  in  these  circum- 
stances, it  is  supposed,  I believe,  to  be  a sort  of  mockery.  But 
try  me  some  day.” 

Caspar  Goodwood,  during  this  speech,  had  kept  his  eyes  fixed 
upon  the  name  of  liis  hatter,  and  it  was  not  until  some  time 
after  she  had  ceased  speaking  that  he  raised  them.  When  he 
did  so,  the  sight  of  a certain  rosy,  lovely  eagerness  in  Isabel’s 
face  threw  some  confusion  into  his  attempt  to  analyse  what  she 
had  said.  “ I will  go  home — I will  go  to-morrow — I will  leave 
you  alone,”  he  murmured  at  last.  “ Only,”  he  added  in  a louder 
tone — “ I hate  to  lose  sight  of  you  ! ” 

“ Never  fear.  I will  do  no  harm.” 

“ You  will  marry  some  one  else,”  said  Caspar  Goodwood. 

“ Do  you  think  that  is  a generous  charge  ] ” 

u Why  not  1 Plenty  of  men  will  ask  you.” 

“ I told  you  just  now  that  I don’t  wish  to  marry,  and  that  I 
shall  probably  never  do  so.” 

“ I know  you  did ; but  I don’t  believe  it.” 

“ Thank  you  very  much.  You  appear  to  think  I am  attempt- 
ing to  deceive  you ; you  say  very  delicate  things.” 

‘‘Why  should  I not  say  that]  You  have  given  me  no 
promise  that  you  will  not  marry.” 

“ No,  that  is  all  that  would  be  wanting  ! ” cried  Isabel,  with  a 
bitter  laugh. 

“ You  think  you  won’t,  but  you  will,”  her  visitor  went  on,  as 
if  he  were  preparing  himself  for  the  worst. 

‘'Very  well,  I will  then.  Have  it  as  you  please.” 

“ I don’t  know,  however,”  said  Caspar  Goodwood,  “ that  my 
keeping  you  in  sight  would  prevent  it.” 

“ Don’t  you  indeed  h I am,  after  all,  very  much  afraid  of  you. 
Do  you  think  I am  so  very  easily  pleased  i ” she  asked  suddenly, 
changing  her  tone. 

“ No,  I don’t ; I shall  try  and  console  myself  with  that.  But 
ihers  are  a certain  number  of  very  clever  men  in  the  world ; if 
vhere  were  only  one,  it  would  be  enough.  You  will  be  sure  tc 
take  no  one  who  is  not.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


137 


“ I don’t  need  the  aid  of  a clever  man  to  teacli  me  hew  to 
live/’  said  Isabel.  “ I can  find  it  out  for  myself/’ 

“ To  live  alone,  do  you  mean  1 I wisli  that  when  you  have 
found  that  out,  you  would  teach  me.” 

Isabel  glanced  at  him  a moment ; then,  with  a quick  smile — 
u Oh,  you  ought  to  marry  ! ” she  said. 

Poor  Caspar  may  be  pardoned  if  for  an  instant  this  exclama- 
tion seemed  to  him  to  have  the  infernal  note,  and  I cannot  take 
upon  myself  to  say  that  Isabel  uttered  it  in  obedience  to  an 
impulse  strictly  celestial.  It  was  a fact,  however,  that  it  had 
always  seemed  to  her  that  Caspar  Goodwood,  of  all  men,  ought 
to  enjoy  the  whole  devotion  of  some  tender  woman.  “ God 
forgive  you  ! ” he  murmured  between  his  teeth,  turning 
away. 

Her  exclamation  had  put  her  slightly  in  the  wrong,  and  after 
a moment  she  felt  the  need  to  right  herself.  The  easiest  way 
to  do  it  was  to  put  her  suitor  in  the  wrong.  “ You  do  me  great 
injustice — you  say  what  you  don’t  know  ! ” she  broke  out.  “ I 
should  not  be  an  easy  victim — I have  proved  it.” 

“ Oh,  to  me,  perfectly.” 

“ I have  proved  it  to  others  as  well.”  And  she  paused  a 
moment.  “ I refused  a proposal  of  marriage  last  week — what 
they  call  a brilliant  one.” 

“ I am  very  glad  to  hear  it,”  said  the  young  man,  gravely. 

“ It  was  a proposal  that  many  girls  would  have  accepted ) it 
had  everything  to  recommend  it.”  Isabel  had  hesitated  to  tell 
this  story,  but  now  she  had  begun,  the  satisfaction  of  speaking 
it  out  and  doing  herself  justice  took  possession  of  her.  “I 
was  offered  a great  position  and  a great  fortune — by  a person 
whom  I like  extremely.” 

Caspar  gazed  at  her  with  great  interest.  “ Is  he  an 
Englishman  1 ” 

“ He  is  an  English  nobleman,”  said  Isabel. 

Mr.  Goodwood  received  this  announcement  in  silence ; then, 
at  last,  he  said — “ I am  glad  he  is  disappointed.” 

“ Well,  then,  as  you  have  companions  in  misfortune,  make  the 
beet  of  it.” 

“ I don’t  call  him  a companion,”  said  Caspar,  grimly. 

“ Why  not — since  I declined  his  offer  absolutely  1 ” 

“That  doesn’t  make  him  my  companion.  Besides,  he’s  an 
Englishman.” 

“And  pray  is  not  an  Englishman  a human  being  1”  Isabel 
Uiquired. 

“ Oh,  no  ; he’s  superhuman.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


138 

“You  are  angry,”  said  the  girl.  “We  have  discussed  this 
matter  quite  enough.” 

“ Oh,  yes,  I am  angry.  I plead  guilty  to  that ! ” 

Isabel  turned  away  from  him,  walked  to  the  open  window, 
and  stood  a moment  looking  into  the  dusky  vacancy  of  the 
Btreet,  where  a turbid  gaslight  alone  represented  social  animat 
tion.  For  some  time  neither  of  these  young  persons  spoke ; 
Caspar  lingered  near  the  chimney-piece,  with  his  eyes  gloomily 
fixed  upon  our  heroine.  She  had  virtually  requested  him  to 
withdraw — he  knew  that ; hut  at  the  risk  of  making  himself 
odious  to  her  he  kept  his  ground.  She  was  far  too  dear  to  him 
to  he  easily  forfeited,  and  lie  had  sailed  across  the  Atlantic  to 
extract  some  pledge  from  her.  Presently  she  left  the  window 
and  stood  before  him  again. 

“You  do  me  very  little  justice,”  she  said — “ after  my  telling 
you  what  I told  you  just  now.  I am  sorry  I told  you — since  it 
matters  so  little  to  you.” 

“Ah,”  cried  the  young  man,  “if  you  were  thinking  of  me 
when  you  did  it ! ” And  then  he  paused,  with  the  fear  that  she 
might  contradict  so  happy  a thought. 

“ I was  thinking  of  you  a little,”  said  Isabel. 

“A  little?  I don't  understand.  If  the  knowledge  that  I 
love  you  had  any  weight  with  you  at  all,  it  must  have  had  a 
good  deal.” 

Isabel  shook  her  head  impatiently,  as  if  to  carry  off  a blush. 
“ I have  refused  a noble  gentleman.  Make  the  most  of  that.” 

“I  thank  you,  then,”  said  Caspar  Goodwood,  gravely.  “I 
thank  you  immensely.” 

“ And  now  you  had  better  go  home.” 

“ May  I not  see  you  again?  ” he  asked. 

“ I think  it  is  better  not.  You  will  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  a little,  and  then  she  said — “I  return  in  a day 
or  two  to,  my  uncle’s,  and  I can’t  propose  to  you  to  come  there ; 
it  would  he  very  inconsistent.” 

Caspar  Goodwood,  on  his  side,  debated  within  himself.  “You 
must  do  me  justice  too.  I received  an  invitation  to  your  uncle’s 
more  than  a week  ago,  and  I declined  it.” 

“ From  whom  was  your  invitation  ? ” Isabel  asked,  surprised. 

“From  Mr.  Ealph  Touchett,  whom  I suppose  to  be  youx 
cousin.  I declined  it  because  I had  not  your  authorisation  to 
accept  it.  The  suggestion  that  Mr.  Touchett  should  invite  m« 
appeared  to  have  come  from  Miss  Stack  pole.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


139 


u It  certainly  did  not  come  from  me.  Henrietta  certainly  goes 
Very  far,”  Isabel  added. 

“ Don  t be  too  hard  on  her — that  touches  me.” 

“ No  ; if  you  declined,  that  was  very  proper  of  you,  and 
I thank  you  for  it.”  And  Isabel  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  are  you  going]”  Caspar 
asked. 

“I  shall  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 am  very  happy  here.” 

“Do  you  mean  to  give  up  your  country ] ” 

“ Don’t  be  an  infant.” 

“Well,  you  will  be  out  of  my  sight  indeed!”  said  Caspar 
Goodwood. 

“ I don’t  know,”  she  answered,  rather  grandly.  “ The  world 
strikes  me  as  small.” 

“ It  is  too  large  for  me  ! ” Caspar  exclaimed,  with  a simplicity 
which  our  young  lady  might  have  found  touching  if  her  face 
had  not  been  set  against  concessions. 

This  attitude  was  part  of  a system,  a theory,  that  she  had 
lately  embraced,  and  to  be  thorough  she  said  after  a moment — 
“ Don’t  think  me  unkind  if  I say  that  it’s  just  that — being  out 
of  your  sight — that  I like.  If  you  were  in  the  same  place  as  I, 
I should  feel  as  if  you  were  watching  me,  and  I don’t  like  that 
I like  my  liberty  too  much.  If  there  is  a thing  in  the  world 
that  I am  fond  of,”  Isabel  went  on,  with  a slight  recurrence  of 
the  grandeur  that  had  shown  itself  a moment  before — “ it  is  my 
personal  independence.” 

But  whatever  there  was  of  grandeur  in  this  speech  moved 
Caspar  Goodwood’s  admiration ; there  was  nothing  that  displeased 
him  in  the  sort  of  feeling  it  expressed.  This  feeling  not  only  did 
no  violence  to  his  way  of  looking  at  the  girl  he  wished  to  make 
his  wife,  but  seemed  a grace  the  more  in  so  ardent  a spirit.  10 
nis  mind  she  had  always  had  wings,  and  this  was  but  the  flutter 
of  those  stainless  pinions.  He  was  not  afraid  of  having  a wife 
with  a certain  largeness  of  movement;  he  was  a man  of  long 


140 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


gteps  himself.  Isabel’s  words,  if  they  had  been  meant  to  shock 
him,  failed  of  the  mark,  and  only  made  him  smile  with  the 
sense  that  here  was  common  ground.  “ Who  would  wish  less 
to  curtail  your  liberty  than  1 ] ” he  asked.  “ What  can  give 
me  greater  pleasure  than  to  see  you  perfectly  independent — 
doing  whatever  you  like  ] It  is  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  cf  your  age — is  not  inde- 
pendent. There  are  all  sorts  of  tilings  she  can’t  do.  She  is 
hampered  at  every  step.” 

“ That’s  as  she  looks  at  the  auestion,”  Isabel  answered,  with 
much  spirit.  j“  I am  not  in  my  first  youth — I can  do  what  I 
choose — I belong  quite  to  the  independent  class.  I have  neither 
father  nor  mother ; I am  poor ; I am  of  a serious  disposition, 
and  not  pretty.  I therefore  am  not  bound  to  be  timid  and 
conventional;  indeed  I can’t  afford  such  luxuries.  Besides,  I 
try  to  judge  things  for  myself ; to  judge  wrong,  I think,  is  more 
honourable  than  not  to  judge  at  all.  I don’t  wish  to  be  a mere 
sheep  in  the  flock ; I wish  to  choose  my  fate  and  know  some- 
thing of  human  affairs  beyond  what  other  people  think  it  com- 
patible with  propriety  to  tell  me^  She  paused  a moment,  but 
not  long  enough  for  her  companion  to  reply.  He  was  apparently 
on  the  point  of  doing  so,  when  she  went  on — “ Let  me  say  thi& 
to  you,  Mr.  Goodwood.  You  are  so  kind  as  to  speak  of  being 
afraid  of  my  marrying.  If  you  should  hear  a rumour  that  1 
am  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  almost  passionately  positive  in  the  tone 
in  which  Isabel  gave  him  this  advice,  and  he  saw  a shining 
candour  in  her  eyas  which  helped  him  to  believe  her.  On  the 
whole  he  felt  reassured,  and  you  might  have  perceived  it  by  the 
manner  in  which  he  said,  quite  eagerly — “ You  want  simply  to 
travel  for  two  years  ] I am  quite  willing  to  wait  two  years,  and 
you  may  do  what  you  like  in  the  interval.  If  that  is  all  you 
want,  pray  say  so.  I don’t  want  you  to  be  conventional ; do  I 
strike  you  as  conventional  myself]  Do  you  want  to  improve 
your  mind]  Your  mind  is  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  aie  very  generous;  that  is  nothing  new  to  me.  Th« 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


141 


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  a crime  ! ” said 
Caspar  Goodwood. 

“ Perhaps  I am.  I wish  to  be  free  even  to  do  that,  if  the 
fancy  takes  me.” 

“Well  then,”  he  said,  slowly,  “I  will  go  home.7’  And  he 
put  out  his  hand,  trying  to  look  contented  and  confident. 

Isabel's  confidence  in  him,  however,  was  greater  than  any  he 
could  feel  in  her.  Not  that  he  thought  her  capable  of  commit- 
ting a crime ; but,  turn  it  over  as  he  would,  there  was  something 
ominous  in  the  way  she  reserved  her  option.  As  Isabel  took 
his  hand,  she  felt  a great  respect  for  him ; she  knew  how  much 
he  cared  for  her,  and  she  thought  him  magnanimous.  They 
stood  so  for  a moment,  looking  at  each  other,  united  by  a hand- 
clasp which  was  not  merely  passive  on  her  side.  “ That’s 
right,”  she  said,  very  kindly,  almost  tenderly.  “You  will  lose 
nothing  by  being  a reasonable  man.” 

“But  I will  come  back,  wherever  you  are,  two  years  hence,” 
he  returned,  with  characteristic  grimness. 

We  have  seen  that  our  young  lady  was  inconsequent,  and  at 
this  she  suddenly  changed  her  note.  “Ah,  remember,  I 
promise  nothing — absolutely  nothing  ! ” Then  more  softly,  as 
if  to  help  him  to  leave  her,  she  added — “ And  remember,  too, 
that  I shall  not  be  an  easy  victim  ! ” 

“You  will  get  very  sick  of  your  independence.” 

“ Perhaps  I shall ; it  is  even  very  probable.  When  that  day 
comes  I shall  be  very  glad  to  see  you.” 

She  had  laid  her  hand  on  the  knob  of  the  door  that  led  into 
her  room,  and  she  waited  a moment  to  see  whether  her  visitor 
would  not  take  his  departure.  But  he  appeared  unable  to 
move ; there  was  still  an  immense  unwillingness  in  his  attitude 
— a deep  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 moment 
longer,  and  then,  by  an  irresistible  impulse,  she  dropped  on  het 
knees  before  her  bed,  and  hid  her  face  in  her  arms. 


US 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


XVII. 


She  was  not  praying;  she  was  trembling — trembling  all 
over.  She  was  an  excitable  creature,  and  now  she  was  much 
excited ; but  she  wished  to  resist  her  excitement,  and  the 
attitude  of  prayer,  which  she  kept  for  some  time,  seemed  tr 
help  her  to  be  still.  She  was  extremely  glad  Caspar  Goodwood 
was  gone ; there  was  something  exhilarating  in  having  got  rid 
of  him.  As  Isabel  became  conscious  of  this  feeling  she  bowed 
her  head  a little  lower;  the  feeling  was  there,  throbbing  in  her 
heart ; it  was  a 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  when  she 
came  back  to  the  sitting-room  she  was  still  trembling  a little. 
Her  agitation  had  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  expressed  her  gladness 
in  accidents  of  which  the  brighter  side  was  not  superficially 
obvious,  and  gave  herself  up  to  the  satisfaction  of  having  re-  , 
fused  two  ardent  suitors  within  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  seemed  to  her 
that  she  had  done  something ; she  had  tasted  of  the  delight,  if 
not  of  battle,  at  least  of  victory ; she  had  done  what  she  pre-  ( 
ferred.  In  the  midst  of  this  agreeable  sensation  the  image  of  j 
Mr.  Goodwood  taking  his  sad  walk  hohieward  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  quickly  with  an  apprehension  that  he  had  come  back/ 
But  it  was  only  Henrietta  Stackpole  returning  from  her  dinner. 

Miss  Stackpole  immediately  saw  that  something  had  happened 
to  Isabel,  and  indeed  the  discovery  demanded  no  great  penetra- 
tion. Henrietta  went  straight  up  to  her  friend,  who  received 
her  without  a greeting.  Isabel’s  elation  in  having  sent  Caspar 
Goodwood  back  to  America  pre-supposed  her  being  glad  that  he 
had  come  to  see  her ; but  at  the  same  time  she  perfectly  remem- 
bered that  Henrietta  had  had  no  right  to  set  a trap  for  her. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


143 


u Has  lie  been  here,  dear  ? ” Miss  Stackpole  inquired,  softly. 

Isabel  turned  away,  and  for  some  moments  answered  nothing. 

“ You  acted  very  wrongly,”  she  said  at  last. 

“ I acted  for  the  best,  dear.  I only  hope  you  acted  as  well.” 

“ You  are  not  the  judge.  I can’t  trust  you,”  said  Isabel. 

This  declaration  was  unflattering,  but  Henrietta  was  much  too 
unselfish  to  heed  the  charge  it  conveyed ; she  cared  only  for 
what  it  intimated  with  regard  to  her  friend. 

“ Isabel  Archer,”  she  declared,  with  equal  abruptness  and 
solemnity,  “ if  you  marry  one  of  these  people,  I will  never  speak 
to  you  again  ! ” 

“ Before  making  so  terrible  a threat,  you  had  better  wait  till 
I am  asked,”  Isabel  replied.  Xever  having  said  a word  to  Miss 
Stackpole  about  Lord  Warburton’s  overtures  she  had  now  no 
impulse  whatever  to  justify  herself  to  Henrietta  by  telling  her 
that  she  had  refused  that  nobleiiian. 

“ 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  was  not  captured,  why  should 
I be?” 

“ I don’t  believe  Annie  was  pressed  ; but  you’ll  be.” 

“ That’s  a flattering  conviction,”  said  Isabel,  with  a laugh.  * 

“ I don’t  flatter  you,  Isabel,  1 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  are  so  much 
interested  in  Mr.  Goodwood,  l won’t  conceal  from  you  that  he 
returns  immediately  to  America.” 

“You  don’t  mean  to  say  you  have  sent  him  off?  ” Henrietta 
broke  out  in  dismay. 

“ I asked  him  to  leave  me  alone ; and  I ask  you  the  same* 
Henrietta.” 

Miss  Stackpole  stood  there  with  expanded  eyes,  and  then  she 
went  to  the  mirror  over  the  chimney-piece  and  took  off  hoc? 
bonnet. 

“ T hope  you  have  enjoyed  your  dinner,”  Isabel  remarked^ 
lightly,  as  she  did  so. 

But  Miss  Stackpole  was  not  to  be  diverted  by  frivolous  pro- 
positions, nor  bribed  by  the  offer  of  autobiographic  opportunities. 

“Do  you  know  where  you  are  going,  Isabel  Archer  ? ” 

^ Just  now  T am  going  to  bed,”  said  Isabel,  with  persistent 

r 


144 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


u Do  you  know  where  you  are  drifting  !”  Henrietta  went  on 
holding  out  her  bonnet  delicately. 

“INTo,  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 
E3  that — like  the  heroine  of  an  immoral  novel,”  said  Miss  Stack- 
pole.  “ You  are  drifting  to  some  great  mistake.” 

Isabel  was  irritated  by  her  friend’s  interference,  but  even  in 
the  midst  of  her  irritation  she  tried  to  think  what  truth  this 
declaration  could  represent.  She  could  think  of  nothing  that 
diverted  her  from  saying — “ You  must  be  very  fond  of  me, 
Henrietta,  to  be  willing  to  be  so  disagreeable  to  me.” 

“ I love  you,  Isabel,”  said  Miss  Stackpole,  with  feeling. 

“ Well,  if  you  love  me,  let  me  alone.  I asked  that  of  Mr. 
Goodwood,  and  I must  also  ask  it  of  you.” 

a Take  care  you  are  not  let  alone  too  much.” 

“ That  is  what  Mr.  Goodwood  said  to  me.  I told  him  I must 


take  the  risks.” 

“ You  are  a creature  of  risks — you  make  me  shudder  !.  cried 
Henrietta.  “ When  does  Mr.  Goodwood  return  to  America!”  j 
• u I don’t  know — he  didn’t  tell  me.” 

‘ i Perhaps  you  didn’t  inquire,”  said  Henrietta,  with  the  note  ? 

of  righteous  irony.  . 

u 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  “ W ell,^ Isabel, 
if  I didn’t  know  you,  I might  think  you  were  heartless  ! ” 

“ Take  care,”  said  Isabel;  “ you  are  spoiling  me.”  jf  ] 

“ I am  afraid  I have  done  that  already.  I hope,,  at  least. 
Miss  Stackpole  added,  " that  he  may  cross  with  Annie 


Climber  ! ” , 

Isabel  learned  from  her  the  next  morning  that  she  had  deter- 
mined not  to  return  to  Gardencourt  (where  old  Mr.  Touchett 
had  promised  her  a renewed  welcome),  but  to  await  in  London 
\lie  arrival  of  the  invitation  that  Mr.  Bantling  had  promised  her 
Crom  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  guarantied 
the  arrival  of  this  document— she  would  immediately  depart  ml 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


145 


Bedfordshire,  and  if  Isabel  cared  to  look  out  for  het  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  are  drifting,  Henrietta  Stackpolel 
Isabel  asked,  imitating  the  tone  in  which  her  friend  had  spoken 
the  night  before. 

“ I am  drifting  to  a big  position — that  of  que'en  of  American 
journalism.  If  my  next  letter  isn't  copied  all  over  the  West, 
I’ll  swallow  my  pen- wiper  ! ” 

She  had  arranged  with  her  friend  Miss  Annie  Climber,  the 
young  lady  of  the  continental  offers,  that  they  should  go  together 
to  make  those  purchases  which  were  to  constitute  Miss  Climber’s 
farewell  to  a hemisphere  in  which  she  at  least  had  been  appreci- 
ated; and  she  presently  repaired  to  Jermyn  Street  to  pick  up 
her  companion.  Shortly  after  her  departure  Ralph  Touchett 
was  announced,  and  as  soon  as  he  came  in  Isabel  saw  that  he 
had  something  on  his  mind.  He  very  soon  took  his  cousin 
into  his  confidence.  He  had  received  a telegram  from  his 
mother,  telling  him  that  his  father  had  had  a sharp  attack  of 
his  old  malady,  that  she  was  much  alarmed,  and  that  she  begged 
Ralph  would  instantly  return  to  Gardencourt.  On  this  occa- 
sion, at  least,  Mrs.  Touchett’s  devotion  to  the  electric  wire  had 
nothing  incongruous. 

“ I have  judged  it  best  to  see  the  great  doctor,  Sir  Matthew 
Hope,  first,”  Ralph  said  ; “ by  great  good  luck  he’s  in  town.  He 
is  to  see  me  at  half-past  twelve,  and  I shall  make  sure  of  his 
coming  down  to  Gardencourt — which  he  will  do  the  more  readily 
as  he  has  already  seen  my  father  several  times,  both  there  and  in 
London.  There  is  an  express  at  two-forty-five,  which  I shall 
take,  and  you  will  come  back  with  me,  or  remain  here  a few 
days  longer,  exactly  as  you  prefer.” 

“ I will  go  with  you  ! ” Isabel  exclaimed.  “ I don’t  suppose 
I can  be  of  any  use  to  my  uncle,  but  if  he  is  ill  I should  like  tc 
be  near  him.” 

“I  think  you  like  him,”  said  Ralph,  with  a certain  shy 
pleasure  in  his  eye.  “ You  appreciate  him,  which  all  the  world 
hasn’t  done.  The  quality  is  too  fine.” 

“ I think  I love  him,”  said  Isabel,  simply. 

“ That’s  very  well.  After  his  son,  he  is  your  greatest  admirer.” 

Isabel  welcomed  this  assurance,  but  she  gave  secretly  a little 
sigh  of  relief  at  the  thought  that  Mr.  Touchett  was  one  of  those 
admirers  who  could  not  propose  to  marry  her.  This,  however, 
was  not  what  she  said  ; she  went  on  to  inform  Ralph  that  there 
were  other  reasons  why  she  should  not  remain  in  London.  She 

h 


146 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


was  tired  of  it  and  wished  to  leave  it ; and  then  Henrietta  waa 
going  away — going  to  stay  in  Bedfordshire.  ” 

“ In  Bedfordshire  1 ” Balph  exclaimed,  with  surprise. 

“With  Lady  Pensil,  the  sister  of  Mr.  Bantling,  who  has 
answered  for  an  invitation.” 

Balph  was  feeling  anxious,  but  at  this  he  broke  into  a laugh. 
Suddenly,  however,  he  looked  grave  again.  “ Bantling  is  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  Balph.  “ However,” 
he  went  on,  more  brightly,  “ the  good  Bantling  never  does,  and, 
whatever  happens,  he  will  take  care  of  Henrietta.” 

Balph  went  to  keep  his  appointment  with  Sir  Matthew  Hope, 
and  Isabel  made  her  arrangements  for  quitting  Pratt’s  Hotel. 
Her  uncle’s  danger  touched  her  nearly,  and  while  she  stood 
before  her  open  trunk,  looking  about  her  vaguely  for  what  she 
should  put  into  it,  the  tears  suddenly  rushed  into  her  eyes.  It 
was  perhaps  for  this  reason  that  when  Balph  came  back  at  two 
o’clock  to  take  her  to  the  station  she  was  not  yet  ready. 

He  found  Miss  Stackpole,  however,  in  the  sitting-room,  where 
she  had  just  risen  from  the  lunch-table,  and  this  lady  immedi- 
ately expressed  her  regret  at  his  father’s  illness. 

“ He  is  a grand  old  man,”  she  said  ; “ he  is  faithful  to  the 
last.  If  it  is  really  to  be  the  last — excuse  my  alluding  to  it, 
but  you  must  often  have  thought  of  the  possibility — I am  sorry 
that  I shall  not  be  at  Gardencourt.” 

“You  will  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 — 

M I should  like  so  to  commemorate  the  closing  scene.” 

“ My  father  may  live  a long  time,”  said  Balph,  simply.  ‘ 
Then,  adverting  to  topics  more  cheerful,  he  interrogated  Misa  i 
Stackpole  as  to  her  own  future. 

Now  that  Balph  was  in  trouble,  she  addressed  him  in  a tone 
of  larger  allowance,  and  told  him  that  she4was  much  indebted  i 
to  him  for  having  made  her  acquainted  with  Mr.  Bantling. 
“He  has  told  me  just  the  things  I want  to  know,”  she  said; 

all  the  society-items  and  all  about  the  royal  family.  I can’t 
make  out  that  what  he  tells  me  about  the  royal  family  is  much 
to  their  credit ; but  he  says  that’s  only  my  peculiar  way  of 
looking  at  it.  Well,  all  I want  is  that  he  should  give  me  the 
tacte ; °I  can  put  them  together  quick  enough,  once  I’ve  got 
them.”  And  she  added  that  Mr.  Bantling  had  been  so  good 
as  to  promise  to  come  and  take  her  out  in  the  afternoon. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


147 


H To  take  you  where  ? ” Ealph  ventured  to  inquire. 

“To  Buckingham  Palace.  He  is  going  to  show  me  over  it, 
go  that  I may  get  some  idea  how  they  live.” 

“ Ah,”  said  Ralph,  “ we  leave  you  in  good  hands.  The  first 
thing  we  shall  hear  is  that  you  are  invited  to  Windsor  Castle.” 

“ If  they  ask  me,  I shall  certainly  go.  Once  I get  started  I 
am  not  afraid.  But  for  all  that,”  Henrietta  added  in  a moment, 
“ I am  not  satisfied;  I am  not  satisfied  about  Isabel.” 

“ What  is  her  last  misdemeanour  ] ” 

“ Well,  I have  told  you  before,  and  I suppose  there  is  no 
harm  in  my  going  on.  I always  finish  a subject  that  I take  up. 
Mr.  Goodwood  was  here  last  night.” 

Ealph  opened  his  eyes ; he  even  blushed  a little — his  blush 
being  the  sign  of  an  emotion  somewhat  acute.  He  remembered 
that  Isabel,  in  separating  from  him  in  Winchester  Square,  had 
repudiated  his  suggestion  that  her  motive  in  doing  so  was  the 
expectation  of  a visitor  at  Pratt’s  Hotel,  and  it  was  a novel 
sensation  to  him  to  have  to  suspect  her  of  duplicity.  On  the 
other  hand,  he  quickly  said  to  himself,  what  concern  was  it  of 
his  that  she  should  have  made  an  appointment  with  a lover1? 
Had  it  not  been  thought  graceful  in  every  age  that  young  ladies 
should  make  a mystery  of  such  appointments]  Ealph  made 
Miss  Stackpole  a diplomatic  answer.  “ I should  have  thought 
that,  with  the  views  you  expressed  to  me  the  other  day,  that 
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 just  sent  him  a word — a word 
to  the  wise.  I hoped  he  would  find  her  alone  ; I won’t  pretend 
I didn’t  hope  that  you  would  be  out  of  the  way.  He  came  to 
gee  her ; but  he  might  as  well  have  stayed  away.” 

“ Isabel  was  cruel  ? ” Ealph  inquired,  smiling,  and  relieved  at 
learning  that  his  cousin  had  not  deceived  him. 

“ 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  exclaimed. 

“ Her  only  idea  seems  to  be  to  get  rid  of  him,”  Henrietta 
went  on. 

“ Poor  Mr.  Goo4wood  ! ” repeated  Ealph.  The  exclamation, 
it  must  be  confessed,  was  somewhat  mechanical.  It  failed 
exactly  ta  express  his  thoughts,  which  were  taking  anothei 
line. 

[n’t  say  that  as  if  you  felt  it ; I don’t  believe  you  care/ 


tactly  ta  < 

“ Yjfln 


L 2 


148 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Ah,’'  said  Ralph,  “ you  must  remember  that  I don’t  know 
this  interesting  young  man — that  I have  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,”  said  Miss  Stack- 
pole— “ well,  I’d  give  her  up  myself  ! ” 


XVIII. 


It  had  occurred  to  Ralph  that  under  the  circumstances  Isabel’s 
parting  with  Miss  Stackpole  might  be  of  a slightly  embarrassed 
nature,  and  he  went  down  to  the  door  ©f  the  hotel  in  advance 
of  his  cousin,  who  after  a slight  delay  followed,  with  the  traces 
of  an  unaccepted  remonstrance,  as  he  thought,  in  her  eye.  The 
two  made  the  journey  to  Gardencourt  in  almost  unbroken 
silence,  and  the  servant  who  met  them  at  the  station  had  no 
better  news  to  give  them  of  Mr.  Touchett — a fact  which  caused 
Ralph  to  congratulate  himself  afresh  on  Sir  Matthew  Hope’s 
having  promised  to  come  down  in  the  five  o’clock  train  and  spend 
the  night.  Mrs.  Touchett,  he  learned,  on  reaching  home,  had 
been  constantly  with  the  old  man,  and  was  with  him  at  that 
moment;  and  this  fact  made  Ralph  say  to  himself  that,  after 
all,  what  his  mother  wanted  was  simply  opportunity.  The 
finest  natures  were  those  that  shone  on  large  occasions.  Isabel 
went  to  her  own  room,  noting,  throughout  the  house,  that  per- 
ceptible hush  which  precedes  a crisis.  At  the  end  of  an  hour, 
however,  she  came  down-stairs  in  search  of  her  aunt,  whom 
she  wished  to  ask  about  Mr.  Touchett.  She  went  into  the 
library,  but  Mrs.  Touchett  was  not  there,  and  as  the  weather, 
which  had  been  damp  and  chill,  was  now  altogether  spoiled, 
*t  was  not  probable  that  she  had  gone  for  her  usual  walk  in 
the  grounds.  Isabel  was  on  the  point  of  ringing  to  send  an 
inquiry  to  her  room,  when  her  attention  was  taken  by  an  un- 
expected sound — the  .sound  of  low  music  proceeding  appar- 
ently from  the  drawing-room.  She  knew  that  her  aunt  never 
touched  the  piano,  and  the  musician  was  therefore  probably 
Ralph,  who  played  for  his  own  amusement.  That  he  should 
have  resorted  to  this  recreation  at  the  present  time,  indicated 
apparently  that  his  anxiety  about  his  father  had  been  relieved ; 
so  that  Isabel  took  her  way  to  the  drawing-room  with  much 
alertness.  The  drawing-room  at  Gardencourt  was  an  apart- 
ment of  great  distances,  and  as  the  piano  was  placed  Ak  the  end 
of  it  furthest  removed  from  the  door  at  which  Isab^^itered 


dM  the  e] 

k 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


149 


er  x.  \ . was  not  noticed  by  the  person  seated  before  the 
astro  mem  This  person  was  neither  Ralph  nor  his  mother;  it 
/as  a L?dy  whom  Isabel  immediately  saw  to  be  a stranger  to 
erself,  although  her  back  was  presented  to  the  door.  This 
lack — an  ample  and  well-dressed  one — Isabel  contemplated  lor 
ome  moments  in  surprise.  The  lady  was  of  course  a visitor 
/ho  had  mnte<  during  her  absence,  and  who  had  not  been 
lentioned  it  her  of  the  servants — one  of  them  her  aunt’s 

laid — of  who  she  had  had  speech  since  her  return.  Isabel 
ad  already  lea*  >?i,  however,  that  the  British  domestic  is  not 
ffusive,  and  sh  wa,  particularly  conscious  of  having  been 
reated  with  dry.  ^ by  her  aunt’s  maid,  whose  offered  assistance 
be  young  lady  pom  ± lbany — versed,  as  young  ladies  are  in 
dbany,  in  the  Vv  / metaphysics  of  the  toilet — had  perhaps 
lade  too  light  of.  he  .rrival  of  a visitor  was  far  from  dis- 
greeable  to  Isabel;  had  not  yet  divested  herself  of  a 
outhful  impression  , m each  new  acquaintance  would  exert 
ome  momentous  influ  nee  upon  her  life.  By  the  time  she 
ad  made  these  reflections  she  became  aware  that  the  lady  at 
he  piano  played  remarkabi  well.  She  was  playing  something 
f Beethoven’s — Isabel  knew  not  what,  but  she  recognised 
>eethoven — and  she  touch  ■ ■ the  piano  softly  and  discreetly, 
ut  with  evident  skill.  Hei  ouch  was  that  of  an  artist ; Isabel 
it  down  noiselessly  on  the  nicest  chair  and  waited  till  the 
nd  of  the  piece.  When  it  w,  finished  she  felt  a strong  desire 
o thank  the  player,  and  rose  fro  n her  seat  to  do  so,  while  at  the 
ime  time  the  lady  at  the  piano  i ned  quickly  round,  as  if  she 
ad  become  aware  of  her  presence. 

“That  is  very  beautiful,  and  y<  • playing  makes  it  more 
eautiful  still,”  said  Isabel,  with  all  U'#  young  radiance  with 
/hich  she  usually  uttered  a truthful  rapture. 

“You  don’t  think  I disturbed  Mr.  Touchet-t,  then?”  the 
lusician  answered,  as  sweetly  as  this  co>  Ament  deserved. 
The  house  is  so  large,  and  his  room  so  far  av,ey,  that  I thought 
Anight  venture — especially  as  I played  y -just  du  boui  des 
oigts .” 

“She  is  a Frenchwoman,”  Isabel  said  to  herself;  “she  .says 
bat  as  if  she  were  French.”  And  this  supposition  made  oho 
branger  more  interesting  to  our  speculative" heroine.  “I  hope 
ly  uncle  is  doing  well,”  Isabel  added.  “ I should  think  that 
) hear  such  lovely  music  as  that  would  really  make  him  feel 
etter.” 

The  lady  gave  a discriminating  smile. 

“ I am  afraid  there  are  moments  in  life  when  eve*  Beethoven 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


150 


We  must  admit,  howev^ 


Al 


1 

aey 


has  nothing  to  say  to  us. 

are  our  worst  moments.  ” { ^ 

“I  am  not  in  that  state  now,”  said  Isabel.  *'/(}£  the  con- 
trary, I should  be  so  glad  if  you  would  play  somefrfig  more.” 

“ If  it  will  give  you  pleasure — most  willing!  .5  uignd  this 
obliging  person  took  her  place  again,  and  struck  a few  chcids, 
while  Isabel  sat  down  nearer  the  instrument.  Suddenly  the 
stranger  stopped,  with  her  hands  on  the  key-;*  \alf  tprning  and 
looking  over  her  shoulder  at  the  girl.  She  , )j  years  old, 
and  she  was  not  pretty ; but  she  had  a deb  ‘ . expression. 

“ Excuse  me,”  she  said;  “but  are  you  thpe  n , — the  young 

American  ] ” v. 

“ I am  my  aunt’s  niece/’  said  Isabel,  with  rc  oete. 

The  lady  at  the  piano  sat  still  a moment  } ger,  ooking  over 
her  shoulder  with  her  charming  smile. 

“ That’s  very  well,”  she  said,  “ we  are  compatriots.” 

And  then  she  began  to  play. 

“Ah,  then  she  is  not  French,”  Is  bel  murmured;  and  as  the 
opposite  supposition  had  made  h interesting,  it  might  have 
seemed  that  this  revelation  would  lave  diminished  her  effective- 
ness. But  such  was  not  the  fact/ , fe;  Isabel,  as  she  listened  to 
the  music,  found  much  stimulus  to  conjecture  in  the  fact  that 
an  American  should  so  strongly  res  nble  a foreign  woman. 

Her  companion  played  ir  t!  same  manner  as  before,  softly 
and  solemnly,  and  while  she  playe  d the  shadows  deepened  in  the 
room.  The  autumn  twib'ght , [fathered  in,  and  from  her  place 
Isabel  could  see  the  rain,  y1  ach  had  now  begun  in  earnest, 
washing  the  cold-looking  lawn,  and  the  wind  shaking  the  great 
trees.  At  last,  when  thK/music  had  ceased,  the  lady  got  up,  and, 
coming  to  her  auditor,  o oiling,  before  Isabel  had  time  to  tnanfc 
her  again,  said— 

“ I am  very  glad  uave  come  back  ; I have  heard  a great' 
deal  about  you.”  , . \ 

Isabel  though'  ner  a very  attractive  person;  but  she  never- 
theless sjuid,  with  a certain  abruptness,  in  answer  to  this 

speech — 

1 4 From  whom  have  you  heard  about  me  h ” 

The  stranger  hesitated  a single  moment,  and  then 
“ From  your  uncle,”  she  answered.  “ I have  been  here  thl©# 
days,  and  the  first  day  he  let  me  come  and  pay  him  a visit  in  his 
ooin.  Then  he  talked  constantly  of  you.” 

“ As  you  didn’t  know  me,  that  must  have  bored  you.” 

“It  made  me  want  to  know  you.  All  the  more  that  sines 
then — youi  aunt  being  so  much  with  Mr.  louchett  I have  beeD 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A 


151 


LADY. 

50  v r alone,  and  have  got  rather  tired  of  my  own  society.  I 
hav  ti*  chosen  a good  moment  for  my  visit.” 

A b /ant  had  come  in  with  lamps,  and  was  presently  followed 
by  am  mr,  bearing  the  tea-tray.  On  the  appearance  of  this 
repast  Am.  Touchett  had  apparently  been  notified,  for  she  now 
arri\eu  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  war  mning  to  make  a show  of  avidity.  Questioned 

about,  h . ' s jand,  she  was  unable  to  say  that  he  was  better; 
but  the  1 ' or  was  with  him,  and  much  light  was  expected 

from  this  g il  man’s  consultation  with  Sir  Matthew  Hope. 

“ I suppose  " ou  two  ladies  have  made  acquaintance  ] ” she 
said.  “ If  you  have  not,  I recommend  you  to  do  so  ; for  so  long 
as  we  ce  .Tinue — Ralph  and  I — to  cluster  about  Mr.  Touchett’s 
bed,  you  are  not  likely  to  have  much  society  but  each  other.” 

“ I know  nothing  about  you  but  that  you  are  a great 
musician,”  Isabel  said  to  the  visitor. 

“ There  is  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 am  an  old  friend  of 
your  aunt’s — I have  lived  much  in  Florence — I am  Madame 
Merle;” 

She  made  this  last  announcement  as  if  she  were  referring  to  a 
person  of  tolerably  distinct  identity. 

For  Isabel,  however,  it  rep”r  Ted  but  little  ; she  could  only 
continue  to  feel  that  Madame  .erle  had  a charming  manner. 

“ She  is  not  a foreigner,  in  spite  of  her  name,”  said  Mrs. 
Touchett.  “ She  was  born — I alv  ..ys  forget  where  you  were 
born.” 

“It  is  hardly  worth  while  I should  tell  vo  , then.” 

“ On  the  contrary,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett,  who  rarely  missed  a 
logical  point ; “ if  I remembered,  your  elling  me  would  be  quite 
superfluous.” 

Madame  Merle  glanced  at  Isabel  with  a fine,  frank  smile. 

“ I was  born  under  the  shadow  of  the  national  banner.” 

“ She  is  too  fond  of  mystery,”  said  Airs.  Touchett ; “ that 
her  great  fault.” 

“ Ah,”  exclaimed  Aladame  Merle,  “ I have  great  faults,  but  I 
don’t  think  that  is  one  of  them ; it  certainly  is  not  the  greatest. 
1 came  into  the  world  in  the  Brooklyn  navy-yard.  Aly  father 
was  a high  officer  in  the  United  States  navy,  and  had  a post — a 
post  of  responsibility — in  that  establishment  at  the  time  l 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


>52 

auppose  I ought  to  love  the  sea,  hut  I hate  it.  That’s  why  I 
don’t  return  to  America.*  I love  the  land ; the  great  thing  is  tc 
love  something.” 

Isabel,  as  a dispassionate  witness,  had  not  been  struck  with 
the  force  of  Mrs.  Touchett’s  characterisation  of  her  visitor,  who 
had  an  expressive,  communicative,  responsive  face,  by  no  means 
of  the  sort  which,  to  Isabel’s  mind,  suggested  a secretive  disposi- 
tion. It  was  a face  that  told  of  a rich  nature  and  ef  quick  and 
liberal  impulses,  and  though  it  had  no  regular  beauty  was  in  the 
highest  degree  agreeable  to  contemplate. 

Madame  Merle  was  a tall,  fair,  plump  worn  ; everything  in 
her  person  was  round  and  replete,  though  without  those  accumu- 
lations which  minister  to  indolence.  Her  features  were  thick, 
but  there  was  a graceful  harmony  among  them,  and  her  com- 
plexion had  a healthy  clearness.  She  had  a small  grey  eye,  with 
a great  deal  of  light  in  it — an  eye  incapable  of  dulness,  and, 
according  to  some  people,  incapable  of  tears ; and  a wide,  firm 
mouth,  which,  when  she  smiled,  drew  itself  upward  to  the  left 
side,  in  a manner  that  most  people  thought  very  odd,  some  very 
affected,  and  a few  very  graceful.  Isabel  inclined  to  range 
herself  in  the  last  category.  Madame  Merle  had  thick,  fair  hair, 
which  was  arranged  with  picturesque  simplicity,  and  a large 
white  hand,  of  a perfect  shape — a shape  so  perfect  that  its 
owner,  preferring  to  leave  it  unadorned,  wore  no  rings.  -Isabel 
had  taken  her  at  first,  as  we  have  seen,  for  a Frenchwoman  ; but 
extended  observation  led  her  to  say  to  herself  that  Madame 
Merle  might  be  a German — a German  of  rank,  a countess,  a 
princess.  Isabel  would  never  have  supposed  that  she  had  been 
born  in  Brooklyn — though  she  could  doubtless  not  have  justified 
her  assumption  that  the  air  of  distinction,  possessed  by  Madame 
Merle  in  so  eminent  a degree,  was  inconsistent  with  such  a birth. 
It  was  true  that  the  national  banner  had  floated  immediately 
over  the  spot  of  the  lady’s  nativity,  and  the  breezy  freedom  of 
the  stars  and  stripes  might  have  shed  an  influence  upon  the 
attitude  which  she  then  and  there  took  towards  life.  And  yet 
Madame  Merle  had  evidently  nothing  of  the  fluttered,  flapping 
quality  of  a morsel  of  bunting  in  the  wind ; her  deportment 
expressed  the  repose  and  confidence  which  come  from  a large 
experience.  Experience,  however,  had  not  quenched  her  youth  ; 
it  had  simply  made  her  sympathetic  and  supple.  She  was  in  a 
word  a woman  of  ardent  impulses,  kept  in  admirable  order. 
What  an  ideal  combination  ! thought  Isabel. 

She  made  these  reflections  while  the  three  ladies  sat  at  their 
but  this  ceremony  was  interrupted  before  long  by  the  arrival 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


153 


of  the  great  doctor  from  London,  who  had  heen  immediately 
ushered  into  the  drawing-room.  Mrs.  Touchett  took  him  off  to 
the  library,  to  confer  with  him  in  private ; and  then  Madame 
Merle  and  Isabel  parted,  to  meet  again  at  dinner.  The  idea  of 
seeing  more  of  this  interesting  woman  did  much  to  mitigate 
Isabel’s  perception  of  the  melancholy  that  now  hung  ova 
Gardencourt. 

When  she  came  into  the  drawing-room  before  dinner  she 
found  the  place  empty ; hut  in  the  course  of  a moment  Ralph 
arrived.  His  anxiety  about  his  father  had  heen  lightened ; Sir 
Matthew  Hope’s  view  of  his  condition  w.as  less  sombre  than 
Ralph’s  had  been.  The  doctor  recommended  that  the  nurse 
alone  should  remain  with  the  old  man  for  the  next  three  or  four 
hours ; so  that  Ralph,  his  mother,  and  the  great  physician  him- 
self, were  free  to  dine  at  table.  Mrs.  Touchett  and  Sir  Matthew 
came  in ; Madame  Merle  was  the  last  to  appear. 

Before  she  came,  Isabel  spoke  of  her  to  Ralph,  who  was 
standing  before  the  fireplace. 

“ Pray  who  is  Madame  Merle  % ” 

“ The  cleverest  woman  I know,  not  excepting  yourself,”  said 

Ralph. 

“ I thought  she  seemed  very  pleasant.” 

“ I was  sure  you  would  think  her  pleasant,”  said  Ralph. 

“ 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  is  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  she  asked  leave  to  come  down  for  a few 
days.  Madame  Merle  is  a woman  who  can  make  such  proposals 
with  perfect  confidence ; she  is  so  welcome  wherever  she  goes. 
And  with  my  mother  there  could  be  no  question  of  hesitating ; 
%he  is  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  is  very  charming,”  said  Isabel.  “And  she  plays 
beautifully  ” 

“ She  does  everything  beautifully.  She  is  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 


154 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


u Hew  can  we  have  discussed  such  things  ? M.  Merle  waa 
then  living.7 * 

“ Is  he  dead  now  ? 99 

“ So  she  says.77 

“ Don’t  you  believe  her  ? 77 

“ Yes,  because  the  statement  agrees  with  the  probabilities 
The  husband  of  Madame  Merle  wrould  be  likely  to  pass  away.77 

Isabel  gazed  at  her  cousin  again.  “ I don’t  know  what  you 
mean.  You  mean  something— -that  you  don  t mean.  What  was 
M.  Merle  % 77 

“ The  husband  of  Madame.77 

“ You  are  very  odious.  Has  she  any  children  ? 77 

“ Hot  the  least  little  child — fortunately.77 

“ Fortunately? 77 

“ I mean  fortunately  for  the  child ; she  would  be  sure  to 
spoil  it.77 

Isabel  was  apparently  on  the  point  of  assuring  her  cousin  for 
the  third  time  that  he  was  odious ; but  the  discussion  was  inter- 
rupted by  the  arrival  of  the  lady  who  was  the  topic  of  it.  She 
came  rustling  in  quickly,  apologising  for  being  late,  fastening  a 
bracelet,  dressed  in  dark  blue  satin,  which  exposed  a white 
bosom  that  was  ineffectually  covered  by  a curious  silver  necklace. 
Ralph  offered  her  his  arm  with  the  exaggerated  alertness  of  a 
man  who  was  no  longer  a lover. 

Even  if  this  had  still  been  his  condition,  however,  Ralph  had 
other  things  to  think  about.  The  great  doctor  spent  the  night 
at  Gardencourt,  and  returning  to  London  on  the  morrow,  after 
another  consultation  with  Mr.  Touchett’s  own  medical  adviser, 
concurred  in  Ralph7s  desire  that  he  should  see  the  patient  again 
on  the  day  following.  On  the  day  following  Sir  Matthew  Hope 
reappeared  at  Gardencourt,  and  on  this  occasion  took  a less 
encouraging  view  of  the  old  man,  who  had  grown  worse  in  the 
twenty-four  hours.  His  feebleness  was  extreme,  and  to  his  son, 
vho  constantly  sat  by  his  bedside,  it  often  seemed  that  his  end 
was  at  hand.  The  local  doctor,  who  was  a very  sagacious  man, 
and  in  whom  Ralph  had  secretly  more  confidence  than  in  his 
distinguished  colleague,  was  constantly  in  attendance,  and  Sir 
Matthew  Hope  returned  several  times  to  Gardencourt.  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  several  times  when 
his  uther  attendants  (of  whom  Mrs.  Touchett  was  not  the  least 
regular)  went  to  take  rest,  He  never  seemed  to  know  her,  and 
she  always  said  to  herself— “ Suppose  he  should  die  while  I am 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


155 


sitting  here ; ” an  idea  which  excited  her  and  kept  her  awake. 
Once  he  opened  his  eyes  for  a while  and  fixed  them  upon  her 
intelligently,  hut  when  she  went  to  him,  hoping  he  would  recog- 
nise her,  he  closed  them  and  relapsed  into  unconsciousness. 
The  day  after  this,  however,  he  revived  for  a longer  time ; but 
on  this  occasion  Ralph  was  with  him  alone.  The  old  man  began 
to  talk,  milch  to  his  son’s  satisfaction,  who  assured  him  that  thej 
should  presently  have  him  sitting  up. 

“ i^o,  my  boy/’  said  Mr.  Touchett,  “ not  unless  you  bury  me 
in  a sitting  posture, as  some  of  the  ancients — was  it  the  ancients? 
— used  to  do.” 

“ Ah,  daddy,  don’t  talk  about  that,”  Ralph  murmured.  “ You 
must  not  deny  that  you  are  getting  better.” 

“ There  will  be  no  need  of  my  denying  it  if  you  don’t  say  so,” 
the  old  man  answered.  “ Why  should  we  prevaricate,  just  at 
the  last?  We  never  prevaricated  before.  I have  got  to  die 
some  time,  and  it’s  better  to  die  when  one  is  sick  than  when 
one  is  well.  I am  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  with  him,  having  just  relieved  Mrs.  Touchett,  who 
had  been  on  guard  since  dinner.  The  room  was  lighted  only  by 
the  flickering  fire,  which  of  late  had  become  necessary,  and 
Ralph’s  tall  shadow  was  projected  upon  the  wall  and  ceiling, 
with  an  outline  constantly  varying  but  always  grotesque. 

“ Who  is  that  with  me — is  it  my  son?”  the  old  man  asked. 

" Yes,  it’s  your  son,  daddy.” 

“ And  is  there  no  one  else  ? ” 

“ Ho  one  else.” 

Mr.  Touchett  said  nothing  for  a while ; and  then,  “ I want  to 
talk  a little,”  he  went  on. 

“ Won’t  it  tire  you?”  Ralph  inquired. 

“ 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,”  he  said. 

44 You  were  always  bright;  I used  to  be  proud  of  your 
brightness.  I should  like  so  much  to  think  that  you  would  do 
something  ” 

“ If  you  leave  us,”  said  Ralph,  “ I shall  do  nothing  but  miss  you.” 


156 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“That  is  just  what  I don’t  want  ; it’s  what  I want  to  talk 
about.  You  must  get  a new  interest.” 

“ I don’t  want  a new  interest,  daddy.  I have  more  old  ones 
than  I know  what  to  do  with.” 

The  old  man  lay  there  looking  at  his  son  ; his  face  was  the 
face  of  the  dying,  but  his  eyes  were  the  eyes  of  Daniel  Touchett. 
He  seemed  to  be  reckoning  over  Ealph’s  interests.  “.Of  course 
you  have  got  your  mother,”  he  said  at  last.  “ You  will  take  care 
of  her.” 

“My  mother  will  always  take  care  of  herself,”  Ealph  an- 
swered. 

“Well,”  said  his  father,  “perhaps  as  she  grows  older  she  will 
need  a little  help.” 

“ I shall  not  see  that.  She  will  outlive  me.” 

“Very  likely  she  will ; but  that’s  no  reason — ” Mr.  Touchett 
let  his  phrase  die  away  in  a helpless  but  not  exactly  querulous 
sigh,  and  remained  silent  again. 

“Don’t  trouble  yourself  about  us,”  said  his  son.  “My 
mother  and  I get  on  very  well  together,  you  know.” 

“ You  get  on  by  always  being  apart ; that’s  not  natural.” 

“ If  you  leave  us,  we  shall  probably  see  more  of  each  other. * 

“Well,”  the  old  man  observed,  with  wandering  irrelevance, 
“it  cannot  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 
have  left  her  a good  wife’s  portion,  just  as  if  she  had  been  a good 
wife.” 

“ She  has  been  one,  daddy,  according  to  her  own  theory. 
She  has  never  troubled  you.” 

“Ah,  some  troubles  are  pleasant,”  Mr.  Touchett  murmured. 
“ Those  you  have  given  me,  for  instance.  But  your  mother  has 
been  less — less — what  shall  I call  it  1 less  out  of  the  way  since 
I have  been  ill.  I presume  she  knows  I have  noticed  it.” 

“ I shall  certainly  tell  her  so ; I am  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  to 
please  herself.  But  that  is  not  what  I want  to  talk  about,”  he 
added.  “ It’s  about  you.  You  will  be  very  well  off.” 

“ Yes,”  said  Ealph,  “ I know  that.  But  I hope  you  have  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.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


157 


“ 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  is  impossible  for 
a man  in  my  state  of  health  to  spend  much  money,  and  enough 
is  as  good  as  a feast.” 

“ Well,  you  will  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 am 
gone,  will  be  to  marry.” 

Ralph  had  foreseen  what  his  father  was  coming  to,  and  this 
suggestion  was  by  no  means  novel.  It  had  long  been  Mr. 
Touchett’s  most  ingenious  way  of  expressing  the  optimistic  view 
of  his  son’s  health.  Ralph  had  usually  treated  it  humorously; 
but  present  circumstances  made  the  humorous  tone  impossible. 
He  simply  fell  back  in  his  chair  and  returned  his  father's  appeal- 
ing gaze  in  silence. 

u If  I,  with  a wife  who  hasn’t  been  very  fond  of  me,  have 
had  a very  happy  life,”  said  the  old  man,  carrying  his  ingenuity 
further  still,  “ what  a life  might  you  not  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  asked 
eoftly—  “ What  do  you  think  of  your  cousin  ? ” 

At  this  Ralph  started,  meeting  the  question  with  a rather 
fixed  smile.  “ Do  I understand  you  to  propose  that  I should 
many  Isabel  ? ” 

“ Well,  that's  what  it  comes  to  in  the  end.  Don’t  you  like 
her  lc  ” 

“ 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  told 
me  so.” 

“ Did  she  remark  that  she  would  like  to  marry  mel” 

“Xo,  but  she  can’t  have  anything  against  you.  And  she  is 
the  most  charming  young  lady  I have  ever  seen.  And  she 
would  be  good  to  you.  I have  thought  a great  deal  about  it.” 

“ So  have  I.”  said  Ralph,  coming  back  vo  the  bedside  again* 
4 1 don’t  mind  telling  you  that  ” 


158 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ You  are  in  love  with  her,  then  ] T should  think  you  would 
be.  It’s  as  if  she  came  over  on  purpose.” 

“No,  I am  not  in  love  with  her;  hut  I should  be  if — i i 
certain  things  were  different.” 

“Ah,  things  are  always  different  from  what  they  might  he,” 
said  the  old  man.  “ If  you  wait  for  them  to  change,  you  will 
sever  do  anything.  I don’t  know  whether  you  know,”  he  went 
an ; “ hut  I suppose  there  is  no  harm  in  my  alluding  to  it  in 
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  Lord  W arburton ; he  told  me  himself.” 

“ Well,  that  proves  that  there  is  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  asked,  eagerly. 

“No,  it  was  an  older  friend;  a poor  gentleman  who  came 
over  from  America  to  see  about  it.” 

“Well,  1 am  sorry  for  him.  But  it  only  proves  what  I say 
— that  the  way  is  open  to  you.” 

“ If  it  is,  dear  father,  it  is  all  the  greater  pity  that  I am 
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  weakness  had  better 
not  marry  at  all.” 

The  old  man  raised  his  feeble  hand  and  moved  it  to  and  fro 
a little  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  have  never  seen  for 
more  than  twenty  years  of  her  life  ] W e are  all  each  other’3 
cousins,  and  if  we  stopped  at  that  the  human  race  would  die 
out.  It  is  just  the  same  with  your  weak  lungs.  You  are  a 
great  deal  better  than  you  used  to  be.  All  you  want  is  to  lead 
a natural  life.  It  i3  a great  deal  more  natural  to  marry  a pretty 
young  lady  that  you  are  in  love  with  thau  it  is  to  remain  single 
on  false  principles.” 

“ I am  not  in  love  with  Isabel,”  said  Ralph. 

“You  said  just  now  that  you  would  be  if  you  didn’t  think  it 
was  wrong, . I want  to  prove  to  you  that  it  isn’t  wrong.” 

“ It  will  only  tire  you,  dear  daddy,”  said  Ralph,  who  mar- 
velled 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 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


159 


take  care  of.  You  say  you  have  got  so  many  interests  ; but  I 
can’t  make  them  out.” 

Ralph  leaned  back  in  his  chair,  with  folded  arms  ; his  eyo3 
were  fixed  for  some  time  in  meditation.  At  last,  with  the  air . 
of  a man  fairly  mustering  courage— 4 4 I take  a great  interest  in 
my  cousin,”  he  said,  44  but  not  the  sort  of  interest  you  desire. 

[ shall  not  live  many  years ; hut  I hope  I shall  live  long  enough 
to  see  what  she  does  with  herself.  She  is  entirely  independent 
of  me  ; I can  exercise  very  little  influence  upon  her  life.  Bat 
I should  like  to  do  something  for  her.” 

44  What  should  you  like  to  do  % ” 

44 1 should  like  to  put  a little  wind  in  her  sails.” 

44  What  do  you  mean  by  that  ? ” 

44 1 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.” 

44  Ah,  I am  glad  you  have  thought  of  that,”  said  the  old  man. 
44  But  I have  thought  of  it  too.  I have  left  her  a legacy — five 
thousand  pounds.” 

44  That  is  capital ; it  is  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.  44 1 shall  be 
happy  to  consider  it,”  he  said,  softly. 

44  Isabel  is  poor,  then.  My  mother  tells  me  that  she  has  but 
a few  hundred  dollars  a year.  I should  like  to  make  her  rich.” 

44  What  do  you  mean  by  rich  ? ” 

44 1 call  people  rich  when  they  are  able  to  gratify  their  imagin- 
ation. Isabel  has  a great  deal  of  imagination.” 

44  So  have  you,  my  son,”  said  Mr.  Touchett,  listening  very 
attentively,  but  a little  confusedly. 

44  You  tell  me  I shall  have  money  enough  for  two.  What  I 
want  is  that  you  should  kindly  relieve  me  of  my  superfluity 
and  give  it  to  Isabel.  Divide  my  inheritance  ii  to  two  equal 
halves,  and  give  the  second  half  to  her.” 

44  To  do  what  she  likes  with  ? ” 

44  Absolutely  what  she  likes.” 

44  And  without  an  equivalent?” 

44  What  equivalent  could  there  be  ? ” 

44  The  one  I have  already  mentioned.” 

a Her  marrying — some  one  or  other  % It’  b just  to  do  away 
with  auy thing  of  that  sort  that  I make  my  suggestion.  Ii  sha 


<S0 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


has  an  easy  income  she  will  never  have  to  marry  for  a support. 
She  wishes  to  be  free,  and  your  bequest  will  make  her  free.” 

“Well,  you  seem  to  have  thought  it  out,”  said  Mr.  Touchett. 
“ But  I don't  see  why  you  appeal  to  me.  The  money  will  be 
yours,  and  you  can  easily  give  it  to  her  yourself.” 

Ralph  started  a little.  “ Ah,  dear  father,  I can't  offer  Isabel 
money  ! ” 

The  old  man  gave  a groan.  “ Don’t  tell  me  you  are  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 will  do  nothing 
without  my  solicitor.” 

“ YY>u  shall  see  Mr.  Hilary  to-morrow.” 

“ He  will  think  we  have  quarrelled,  you  and  I,”  said  the  old 
man. 

“ Yery  probably ; I shall  like  him  to  think  it,”  said  Ralph, 
smiling ; “ and  to  carry  out  the  idea,  I give  you  notice  that  I 
shall  be  very  sharp  with  you.” 

The  humour  of  this  appeared  to  touch  his  father ; he  lay  a 
little  while  taking  it  in. 

“ I will  do  anything  you  like,”  he  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  entertainment.” 

“ So  it  is,  a good  deal.” 

“ Wfcll,  I don’t  think  I understand,”  said  Mr.  Touchett,  with 
a sign.  “ 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  have  scruples  that  I shouldn’t  have 
had,  and  you  have  ideas  that  I shouldn’t  have  had  either.  You 
say  that  Isabel  wants  to  be  free,  and  that  her  being  rich  will 
keep  her  from  marrying  for  money.  Do  you  think  that  she  is 
a girl  to  do  that  ? ” 

“ By  no  means.  But  she  has  less  money  than  she  has  ever 
had  before ; but  her  father  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 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


161 


It,  Isabel  will  learn  it  when  she  is  really  thrown  upon  the 
world,  and  it  would  be  very  painful  to  me  to  think  of  hei 
coming  to  the  consciousness  of  a lot  of  wants  that  she  should  be 
unable  to  satisfy.” 

“ I have  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  would  be  extravagant  then  ] ” 

“ Most  certainly,”  said  Ralph,  smiling  serenely. 

Poor  Mr.  Touchett’s  acuteness  was  rapidly  giving  place  to 
pure  confusion.  “ It  would  merely  be  a question  of  time,  then, 
her  spending  the  larger  sum  ] ” 

“ jSo,  at  first  I think  she  would  plunge  into  that  pretty 
freely  ; she  would  probably  make  over  a part  of  it  to  each  of 
her  sisters.  But  after  that  she  would  come  to  her  senses, 
remember  that  she  had  still  a lifetime  before  her,  and  live 
within  her  means.” 

“ Well,  you  have  worked  it  out,”  said  the  old  man,  with  a 
sigh.  “You  do  take  an  interest  in  her,  certainly.” 

“ You  can’t  consistently  say  I go  too  far.  You  wished  me  to 
go  further.” 

“Well,  I don’t  know,”  the  old  man  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  is 
good,  your  making  things  easy  is  all  to  the  credit  of  virtue.  To 
facilitate  the  execution  of  good  impulses,  what  can  be  a nobler 
act  ] ” 

This  was  a little  difficult  to  follow,  and  Mr.  Touchett  con- 
sidered *it  for  a while.  At  last  he  said — 

“ Isabel  is  a sweet  young  girl ; but  do  you  think  she  is  as 
good  as  that] ” 

“ She  is  as  good  as  her  best  opportunities,’ 9 said  Ralph. 

“Well,”  Mr.  Touchett  declared,  “she  ought  to  get  a great 
many  opportunities  for  sixty  thousand  pounds.” 

“ I have  no  doubt  she  will.” 

“ Of  course  I will  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 
asked,  caressingly.  “If  you  dun’t,  we  won’t  take  any  more 
l rouble  about  it ; we  will  leave  it  alone.” 

H 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


16* 

Mr.  Touchett  lay  silent  a long  time.  Ralph  supposed  that 
hie  had  given  up  the  attempt  to  understand  it.  But  at  last  he 
began  again — 

“ Tell  me  this  first.  Doesn’t  it  occur  to  you  that  a young 
lady  with  sixty  thousand  pounds  may  fall  a victim  to  the 
fortune-hunters  1 ” 

“ She  will  hardly  fall  a victim  tc  more  than  one.” 

“ W ell,  one  is  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 am  prepared  to  take  it.” 

Poor  Mr.  Touchett’s  acuteness  had  passed  into  perplexity, 
and  his  perplexity  now  passed  into  admiration. 

“ Well,  you  haoe  gone  into  it ! ” he  exclaimed.  “ But  I don’t 
see  what  good  you  are  to  get  of  it.” 

Ralph  leaned  over  his  father’s  pillows  and  gently  smoothed 
them ; he  was  aware  that  their  conversation  had  been  prolonged 
to  a dangerous  point.  “ I shall  get  just  the  good  that  I' said 
just  now  I wished  to  put  into  Isabel’s  reach — that  of  having 
gratified  my  imagination.  But  it’s  scandalous,  the  way  I have 
taken  advantage  of  you  ! ” 


XIX. 


As  Mrs.  Touchett  had  foretold,  Isabel  and  Madame  Merit 
were  thrown  much  together  during  the  illness  of  their  host,  and 
if  they  had  not  become  intimate  it  would  have  been  almost  a 
breach  of*  good  manners.  Their  manners  were  of  the  best ; but 
in  addition  to  this  they  happened  to  please  each  other.  It  is 
perhaps  too  much  to  say  that  they  swore  an  eternal  friendship  ; 
but  tacitly,  at  least,  they  called  the  future  to  witness.  Isabel 
did  so  with  a perfectly  good  conscience,  although  she  would 
have  hesitated  to  admit  that  she  was  intimate  with  her  new 
friend  in  the  sense  which  she  privately  attached  to  this  term. 
She  often  wondered,  indeed,  whether  she  ever  had  been,  or  evei 
could  be,  intimate  with  any  one.  She  had  an  ideal  of  friend- 
ship, as  well  as  of  several  other  sentiments,  and  it  did  not  seem 
to  her  in  this  case — it  had  not  seemed  to  her  in  other  cases — 
that  the  actual  completely  expressed  it.  But  she  often  reminded 
herself  that  there  were  essential  reasons  why  one’s  ideal  could 
not  become  concrete.  It  was  a thing  to  believe  in,  not  to  see 
— & matter  of  faith,  not  of  experience.  Experience,  however 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


163 

might  supply  us  witli  very  creditable  imitations  of  it,  and  the 
part  of  wisdom  was  to  make  the  best  of  these.  Certainly,  on 
the  whole,  Isabel  had  never  encountered  a more  agreeable  and 
interesting  woman  than  Madame  Merle ; she  had  never  met  a 
woman  who  had  less  of  that  fault  which  is  the  principal  obstacle 
to  friendship — the  air  of  reproducing  the  more  tiresome  parts  of 
one’s  own  personality.  The  gates  of  the  girl’s  confidence  weie 
opened  wider  than  they  had  ever  been ; she  said  things  to 
Madame  Merle  that  she  had  not  yet  said  to  any  one.  Sometimes 
she  took  alarm  at  her  candour ; it  was  as  if  she  had  given  to  a 
comparative  stranger  the  key  to  her  cabinet  of  jewels.  These 
spiritual  gems  were  the  only  ones  of  any  magnitude  that  Isabel 
possessed  ; but  that  was  all  the  greater  reason  why  they  should 
be  carefully  guarded.  Afterwards,  however,  the  girl  always  said 
to  herself  that  one  should  never  regret  a generous  error,  and  that 
if  Madame  Merle  had  not  the  merits  she  attributed  to  her,  su 
much  the  worse  for  Madame  Merle.  There  was  no  doubt  she 
had  great  merits — she  was  a charming,  sympathetic,  intelligent, 
cultivated  woman.  More  than  this  (for  it  had  not  been  Isabel’s 
ill-fortune  to  go  through  life  without  meeting  several  persons  of 
her  own  sex,  of  whom  no  less  could  fairly  be  said),  she  was  rare, 
she  was  superior,  she  was  pre-eminent.  There  are  a great  many 
amiable  people  in  the  world,  and  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,  too,  she  knew  how 
to  feel ; Isabel  could  not  have  spent  a week  with  her  without 
being  sure  of  that.  This  was,  indeed,  Madame  Merle’s  great 
talent,  her  most  perfect  gift.  Life  had  told  upon  her  ; she  had 
felt  it  strongly,  and  it  was  part  of  the  satisfaction  that  Isabel 
found  in  her  society  that  when  the  girl  talked  of  v\hat  she  was 
pleased  to  call  serious  matters,  her  companion  understood  her  so 
easily  and  quickly.  Emotion,  it  is  true,  had  become  with  her 
rather  historic ; she  made  no  secret  of  the  fact  that  the  fountain 
of  sentiment,  thanks  to  having  been  rather  violently  tapped  at 
one  period,  did  not  how  quite  so  freely  as  of  yore.  HLr  pleasure 
was  now  to  judge  rather  than  to  feel  ; she  freely  admitted  that 
of  old  she  had  been  rather  foolish,  and  now  she  pretended  to 
be  wise. 

<f  I judge  more  than  I used  to,”  she  said  to  Isabel  ; “ but  it  \ 
seems  to  me  that  I have  earned  the  right.  One  can’t  judge  till 
one  is  forty  ; before  that  we  are  too  eager,  too  hard,  too  cruel, 
and  in  addition  too  ignorant.  I am  sorry  for  you  ; it  will  be  a 
aong  time  before  you  are  forty.  But  every  gain  is  a loss  of 

M 2 


164 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


\ 


Borne  kind ; E often  think  that  after  forty  one  can’t  really  feel. 
The  freshness,  the  quickness  have  certainly  gone.  You  will 
keep  them  longer  than  most  people ; it  will  be  a great  satis- 
faction to  me  to  see  you  some  years  hence.  I want  to  see 
what  life  makes  of  you.  One  thing  is  certain — it  can’t  spoil 
you.  It  may  pull  you  about  horribly ; but  I defy  it  to  break 
you  up.” 

Isabel  received  this  assurance  as  a young  soldier,  still  panting 
from  a slight  skirmish  in  which  he  has  come  off  with  honour, 
might  receive  a pat  on  the  shoulder  from  his  colonel.  Like  such 
a recognition  of  merit,  it  seemed  to  come  with  authority.  How 
could  the  lightest  word  do  less,  of  a person  who  was  prepared  to 
say,  of  almost  everything  Isabel  told  her — “ Oh,  I have  been  in 
that,  my  dear  ; it  passes,  like  everything  else.”  Upon  many  of 
her  interlocutors,  Madame  Merle  might  have  produced  an  irritat- 
ing effect ; it  was  so  difficult  to  surprise  her.  Bur  Isabel,  though 
by  no  means  incapable  of  desiring  to  be  effective,  had  not  at 
present  this  motive.  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  grave  confessions. 

A period  of  bad  weather  had  settled  down  upon  Gardencourt ; 
the  days  grew  shorter,  and  there  was  an  end  to  the  pretty  tea- 
parties  on  the  lawn.  But  Isabel  had  long  in-door  conversations 
with  her  fellow-visitor,  and  in  spite  of  the  rain  the  two  ladies 
often  sallied  forth  for  a walk,  equipped  with  the  defensive 
apparatus  which  the  English  climate  and  the  English  genius 
have  between  them  brought  to  such  perfection.  Madame  Merle  | 
was  very  appreciative;  she  liked  almost  everything,  including 
the  English  rain.  “ There  is  always  a little  of  it,  and  never  too 
much  at  once,”  she  said ; 66  and  it  never  wets  you,  and  it  always 
smells  good.”  She  declared  that  in  England  the  pleasures  of 
smell  were  great — that  in  this  inimitable  island  there  was  a 
certain  mixture  of  fog  and  beer  and  soot  which,  however  odd  it 
might  sound,  was  the  national  aroma,  and  was  most  agreeable  to 
the  nostril ; and  she  used  to  lift  the  sleeve  of  her  British  over- 
coat and  bury  her  nose  in  it,  to  inhale  the  clear,  fine  odour  ol 
the  wool.  Poor  Balph  Touchett,  as  soon  as  the  autumn  had 
begun  to  d ffine  itself,  became  almost  a prisoner ; in  bad  weather 
he  was  unable  to  step  out  of  the  house,  and  he  used  sometimes 
to  stand  at  one  of  the  windows,  with  his  hands  in  his  pockets, 
and,  with  a countenance  half  rueful,  half  critical,  watch  Isabel 
and  Madame  Merle  as  they  walked  down  the  avenue  under  a 
pair  of  umbrellas.  The  roads  about  Gardencourt  were  so  firm, 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


16C 


even  in  the  worst  weather,  that  the  two  ladies  always  came  hack 
with  a healthy  glow  in  their  cheeks,  looking  at  the  soles  of  their 
neat,  stout  hoots,  and  declaring  that  their  walk  had  done  them 
inexpressible  good.  Before  lunch  Madame  Merle  was  always 
engaged;  Isabel  admired  the  inveteracy  with  which  she  occupied 
herself.  Our  heroine  had  always  passed  for  a person  of  resources 
and  had  taken  a certain  pride  in  being  one ; hut  she  envied  the 
talents,  the  accomplishments,  the  aptitudes,  of  Madame  Merle. 
She  found  herself  desiring  to  emulate  them,  and  in  this  and 
other  ways  Madame  Merle  presented  herself  as  a model.  “ I 
should  like  to  he  like  that  ! ” Isabel  secretly  exclaimed,  more 
than  once,  as  one  of  her  friend’s  numerous  facets  suddenly  caught 
the  light,  and  before  long  she  knew  that  she  had  learned  a lesson 
from  this  exemplary  woman.  It  took  no  very  long  time,  indeed, 
for  Isabel  to  feel  that  she  was,  as  the  phrase  is,  under  an  in- 
fluence. “ What  is  the  harm,”  she  asked  herself,  “ so  long  as 
it  is  a good  one  The  more  one  is  under  a good  influence  the 
better.  The  only  thing  is  to  see  our  steps  as  we  take  them — to 
understand  them  as  we  go.  That  I think  I shall  always  do. 
I needn’t  be  afraid  of  becoming  too  pliable  ; it  is  my  fault  that 
I am  not  pliable_enoughT”  Jt  is  said  that  imitation  is  the 
sincerest  flattery ; and  if  Isabel  was  tempted  to  reproduce  in 
her  deportment  some  of  the  most  graceful  features  of  that  of  her 
friend,  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  extremely  ; but  she  admired  her  even  more  than 
she  liked  her.  She  sometimes  wondered  what  Henrietta  Stack- 
pole  would  say  to  her  thinking  so  much  of  this  brilliant  fugitive 
from  Brooklyn;  and  had  a conviction  that  Henrietta  would 
not  approve  of  it.  Henrietta  would  not  like  Madame  Merle ; 
for  reasons  that  she  could  not  have  defined,  this  truth  came 
home  to  Isabel.  On  the  other  hand  she  was  equally  sure  that 
should  the  occasion  offer,  her  new  friend  would  accommodate 
herself  perfectly  to  her  old  ; Madame  Merle  was  too  humorous, 
too  observant,  not  to  do  justice  to  Henrietta,  and  on  becoming 
acquainted  with  her  would  probably  give  the  measure  of  a tact 
which  Miss  Stackpole  could  not  hope  to  emulate.  She  appeared 
to  have,  in  her  experience,  a touchstone  for  everything,  and 
somewhere  in  the  capacious  pocket  of  her  genial  memory  she 
would  find  the  key  to  Henrietta’s  virtues.  “ That  is  the  great 
*hing,”  Isabel  reflected  ; “ that  is  the  supreme  good  fortune  : to 
be  in  a better  position  for  appreciating  people  than  they  are  foT 
appreciating  you.”  And  she  added  that  this,  when  one  con- 
sidered it,  was  simply  the  essence  of  the  aristocratic  situation. 


y 

106  THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

In  this  light,  if  in  none  other,  one  should  aim  at  the  aristocraik 
situation. 

I cannot  enumerate  all  the  links  in  the  chain  which  led 
Isabel  to  think  of  Madame  Merle’s  situation  as  aristocratic — a 
view  of  it  never  expressed  in  any  reference  made  to  it  by  that 
lady  herself.  She  had  known  great  things  and  great  people, 
but  she  had  never  played  a great  part.  She  was  one  of4,ho 
small  ones  of  the  earth ; she  had  not  been  born  to  honours ; 
she  knew  the  world  too  well  to  be  guilty  of  any  fatuous 
illusions  on  the  subject  of  her  own  place  in  it.  She  had  known 
a good  many  of  the  fortunate  few,  and  was  perfectly  aware  of 
those  points  at  which  their  fortune  differed  fiom  hers.  Bu*  if 
by  her  own  measure  she  was  nothing  of  a personage,  she  had 
yet,  to  Isabel’s  imagination,  a sort  of  greatness.  To  be  so 
graceful,  so  gracious,  so  wise,  so  good,  and  to  make  so  light  of  it 
all — that  was  really  to  be  a great  lady ; especially  when  one 
looked  so  much  like  one.  If  Madame  Merle,  however,  made 
light  of  her  advantages  as  regards  the  world,  it  was  not  because 
she  had  not,  for  her  own  entertainment,  taken  them,  as  I have 
intimated,  as  seriously  as  possible.  Her  natural  talents,  for 
instance ; these  she  had  zealously  cultivated.  After  breakfast 
she  wrote  a succession  of  letters;  her  correspondence  was  a 
source  of  surprise  to  Isabel  wdien  they  sometimes  walked 
together  to  the  village  post-office,  to  deposit  Madame  Merle’s 
contribution  to  the  mail.  She  knew  a multitude  of  people, 
and,  as  she  told  Isabel,  something  was  always  turning  up  to  be 
written  about.  Of  painting  she  was  devotedly  fond,  and  made 
no  more  of  taking  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 brilliant  musician  we  have  already  perceived, 
and  it  was  evidence  of  the  fact  that  when  she  seated  herself  at 
the  piano,  as  she  always  did  in  the  evening,  her  listeners 
resigned  themselves  without  a murmur  to  losing  the  entertain- 
ment of  her  talk.  Isabel,  since  she  had  known  Madame  Merle, 
felt  ashamed  of  her  own  playing,  which  she  now  looked  upon  as 
meagre  and  artless ; and  indeed,  though  she  had  been  thought 
to  play  very  well,  the  loss  to  society  when,  in  taking  her  place 
upon  the  music-stool,  she  turned  her  back  to  the  room,  was 
usually  deemed  greater  than  the  gain.  When  Madame  Merle 
was  neither  writing,  nor  painting,  nor  touching  the  piano,  she 
was  usually  employed  upon  wonderful  morsels  of  picturesque 
embroidery,  cushions,  curtains,  decorations  for  the  chimney- 
piece  ; a sort  of  work  in  which  her  bold,  free  invention  was  a f 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


167 


remarkable  as  the  agility  of  her  needle.  She  was  never  idle, 
for  when  she  was  engaged  in  none  of  the  ways  I have  mentioned 
she  was  either  reading  (she  appeared  to  Isabel  to  read  everything 
important),  or  walking  out,  or  playing  patience  with  the  cards, 
or  talking  with  her  fellow  inmates.  And  with  all  this,  she 
always  had  the  social  quality ; she  never  was  preoccupied,  she 
never  pressed  too  hard.  She  laid  down  her  pastimes  as  easily 
as  she  took  them  up ; she  worked  and  talked  at  the  same  time, 
and  she  appeared  to  attach  no  importance  to  anything  she  did. 
She  gave  away  her  sketches  and  tapestries ; she  rose  from  the 
piano,  or  remained  there,  according  to  the  convenience  of  her 
auditors,  which  she  always  unerringly  divined.  She  was,  in 
short,  a most  comfortable,  profitable,  agreeable  person  to  live 
with.  If  for  Isabel  she  had  a fault,  it  was  that  she  was  not 
natural ; by  which  the  girl  meant,  not  that  she  was  affected  or 
pretentious  ; for  from  these  vulgar  vices  no  woman  could  have 
been  more  exempt ; but  that  her  nature  had  been  too  much  over- 
laid by  custom  and  her  angles  too  much  smoothed.  She  had 
become  too  flexible,  too  supple ; she  was  too  finished,  too  civilised. 
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  Madame  Merle  as  an  isolated 
figure ; she  existed  only  in  her  relations  with  her  fellow-mortals. 
Isabel  often  wondered  what  her  relations  might  be  with  her  own 
soul.  She  always  ended,  however,  by  feeling  that  having  a 
charming  surface  does  not  necessarily  prove  that  one  is  super- 
ficial ; this  was  an  illusion  in  which,  in  her  youth,  she  had  only 
just  sufficiently  escaped  being  nourished.  Madame  Merle  was 
not  superficial — not  she.  She  was  deep  ; and  her  nature  spoke 
none  the  less  in  her  behaviour  because  it  spoke  a conventional 
language.  “ What  is  language  at  all  but  a convention  ? ” said 
Isabel.  “ She  has  the  good  taste  not  to  pretend,  like  some 
people  I have  met,  to  express  herself  by  original  signs.” 

“.I  am  afraid  you  have  suffered  much,”  Isabel  once  found 
accasiorTto  say  to  her,  in  response  to  some  allusion  that  she  had 
dropped. 

“ What  makes  you  think  that  ] ” Madame  Merle  asked,  with 
a picturesque  smile.  “ I hope  I have  not  the  pose  of  a 
martyr.” 

“ No  ; but  you  sometimes  say  things  that  I think  people  who 
have  always  been  happy  would  not  have  found  out.” 


J68 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“I  have  not  always  been  happy,”  said  Madame  Merle, 
*miling  still,  but  with  a mock  gravity,  as  if  she  were  telling  a 
child  a secret.  “ What  a wonderful  thing  ! ” 

“ A great  many  people  give  me  the  impression  of  never  having 
felt  anything  very  much,”  Isabel  answered. 

u IPs  very  true ; there  are  more  iron  pots,  I think,  than 
porcelain  ones.  But  you  may  depend  upon  it  that  every  one  has 
something;  even  the  hardest  iron  pots  have  a little  bruise,  a 
little  hole,  somewhere.  I flatter  myself  that  I am  rather  stout 
porcelain ; but  if  I must  tell  you  the  truth  I have  been  chipped 
and  cracked  ! I do  very  well  for  service  yet,  because  I have 
been  cleverly  mended ; and  I try  to  remain  in  the  cupboard— 
the  quiet,  dusky  cupboard,  where  there  is  an  odour  of  stale 
spices — as  much  as  I can.  But  when  I have  to  come  out,  and 
into  a strong  light,  then,  my  dear,  I am  a horror ! ” 

I know  not  whether  it  was  on  this  occasion  or  some  other, 
that  when  the  conversation  had  taken  the  turn  I have  just  indi- 
cated, she  said  to  Isabel  that  some  day  she  would  relate  her 
history.  Isabel  assured  her  that  she  should  delight  to  listen  to 
it,  and  reminded  her  more  than  once  of  this  engagement. 
Madame  Merle,  however,  appeared  to  desire  a postponement, 
and  at  last  frankly  told  the  young  girl  that  she  must  wait  till 
they  knew  each  other  better.  This  would  certainly  happen ; a 
long  friendship  lay  before  them.  Isabel  assented,  but  at  the 
same  time  asked  Madame  Merle  if  she  could  not  trust  her — 
if  she  feared  a betrayal  of  confidence. 

“ It  is  not  that  I am  afraid  of  your  repeating  what  I say,”  the 
elder  lady  answered ; “ I am  afraid,  on  the  contrary,  of  your 
taking  it  too  much  to  yourself.  You  would  judge  me  too 
harshly;  you  are  of  the  cruel  age.”  She  preferred  for  the  pre- 
sent to  talk  to  Isabel  about  Isabel,  and  exhibited  the  greatest 
interest  in  our  heroine’s  history,  her  sentiments,  opinions, 
prospects.  She  made  her  chatter,  and  listened  to  her  chatter 
with  inexhaustible  sympathy  and  good  nature.  In  all  this  there 
was  something  flattering  to  the  girl,  who  knew  that  Madame 
Merle  knew  a great  many  distinguished  people,  and  had  lived, 
&s  Mrs.  Touchett  said,  in  the  best  company  in  Europe.  Isabel 
thought  the  better  of  herself  for  enjoying  the  favour  of  a person 
who  had  so  large  a field  of  comparison  ; and  it  was  perhaps 
partly  to  gratify  this  sense  of  profiting  by  comparison  that  she 
often  begged  her  friend  to  tell  her  about  the  people  she  knew. 
Madame  Merle  had  been  a dweller  in  many  lands,  and  had  social 
ties  in  a dozen  different  countries.  “ I don’t  pretend  to  be 
learned,”  she  would  say,  “ but  I think  I know  my  Europe ; ” and 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 


ike  spolce  one  day  of  going  to  Sweden  to  stay  with  an  old  friend, 
and  another  of  going  to  Wallachia  to  follow  up  a new  acquaint- 
ance. With  England,  where  she  had  often  stayed,  she  was 
thoroughly  familiar ; and  for  IsabePs  benefit  threw  a great  deal 
of  light  upon  the  customs  of  the  country  and  the  character  of 
the  people,  who  “ after  all,”  as  she  was  fond  of  saying,  were  the 
finest  people  in  the  world. 

“ You  must  not  think  it  strange,  her  staying  in  the  house  at 
such  a time  as  this,  when  Mr.  Touchett  is  passing  away,”  Mrs. 
Touchett  remarked  to  Isabel.  “ She  is  incapable  of  doing  anything 
indiscreet ; she  is  the  best-bred  woman  I know.  It’s  a favour 
to  me  that  she  stays ; she  is  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  is  not 
in  want  of  a shelter.  But  I have  asked  her  to  stay  because  I 
wish  you  to  know  her.  I think  it  will  be  a good  thing  for  you. 
Serena  Merle  has  no  faults.” 

“ If  I didn’t  already  like  her  very  much  that  description 
might  alarm  me,”  Isabel  said. 

“ She  never  does  anything  wrong.  I have  brought  you  out 
here,  and  I wish  to  do  the  best  for  you.  Your  sister  Lily  told 
me  that  she  hoped  I would  give  you  plenty  of  opportunities.  I 
give  you  one  in  securing  Madame  Merle.  She  is  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  will  find  a fault  in  her  1 I 
hope  you  will  let  me  know  when  you  do.” 

44  That  will  be  cruel — to  you,”  said  Isabel. 

“ You  needn’t  mind  me.  You  never  will  find  one.” 

“ Perhaps  not ; but  I think  I shall  not  miss  it  ” 

44  She  is  always  up  to  the  mark  ! ” said  Mrs.  Touchett. 

Isabel  after  this  said  to  Madame  Merle  that  she  hoped  she 
knew  Mrs.  Touchett  believed  she  had  not  a fault. 

44 1 am  obliged  to  you,  but  I am  afraid  your  aunt  has  no 
ception  of  spiritual  things,”  Madame  Merle  answered. 

44  Do  you  mean  by  that  that  you  have  spiritual  faults  1 ” 

“ Ah  no  ; I mean  nothing  so  flat  1 I mean  that  having  no 
faults,  for  your  aunt,  means  that  one  is  never  late  for  dinner — 
that  is,  for  her  dinner.  I was  not  late,  by  the  way,  the  othe^ 
day,  when  you  came  back  from  London ; the  clock  was  just  at 
tight  when  I came  into  the  drawing-room;  it  was  the  rest  of 
you  that  were  before  the  time.  It  means  that  one  answers  a 


X7C 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


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  he 
taken  ill.  For  Mrs.  Touchett  those  things  constitute  virtue  ; it’s 
a blessing  to  be  able  to  reduce  it  to  its  elements.” 

Madame  Meile’s  conversation,  it  will  be  perceived,  was  enriched 
with  bold,  free  touches  of  criticism,  which,  even  when  they  had 
a restrictive  effect,  never  struck  Isabel  as  ill-natured.  It  never 
occurred  to  the  girl,  for  instance,  that  Mrs.  Touchett’s  accom- 
plished guest  was  abusing  her  ; and  this  for  very  good  reasons. 
In  the  first  place  Isabel  agreed  with  her ; in  the  second  Madame 
Merle  implied  that  there  was  a great  deal  more  to  say  ; and  in 
the  third,  to  speak  to  one  without  ceremony  of  one’s  near 
relations  was  an  agreeable  sign  of  intimacy.  These  signs  of 
intimacy  multiplied  as  the  days  elapsed,  and  there  was  none  of 
which  Isabel  was  more  sensible  than  of  her  companion’s  prefer- 
ence for  making  Miss  Archer  herself  a topic.  Though  she 
alluded  frequently  to  the  incidents  of  her  own  life,  she  never 
lingered  upon  them ; she  was  as  little  of  an  egotist  as  she  was  of 
a gossip. 

“ I am  old,  and  stale,  and  faded,”  she  said  more  than  once ; 

I am  o/  no  more  interest  than  last  week’s  newspaper.  You  are 
young  and  fresh,  and  of  to-day;  you  have  the  great  thing — you 
have  actuality.  I once  had  it — we  all  have  it  for  an  hour.  You, 
however,  will  have  it  for  longer.  Let  us  talk  about  you,  then  ; 
you  can  say  nothing  that  I shall  not  care  to  hear.  It  is  a sign 
that  I am  growing  old — that  I like  to  talk  with  younger  people. 
I think  it’s  a very  pretty  compensation.  If  we  can’t  have  youth 
within  us  we  can  have  it  outside  of  us,  and  I really  think  we 
it  and  feel  it  better  that  way.  Of  course  we  must  be  in  sympatb  y 
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 
6ome  old  people  that  I adore.  But  I shall  never  be  ill-natured  with 
the  young ; they  touch  me  too  much.  I give  you  carte  bla,nchey 
then ; you  can  even  be  impertinent  if  you  like  ; I shall  let  it 
pass.  I talk  as  if  I were  a hundred  years  old,  you  sayl  Well, 
I am,  if  you  please;  I was  born  before  the  French  Be  volution. 
Ah,  my  dear  je  views  de  loin;  I belong  to  the  old  world.  But 
\t  is  not  of  that  I wish  to  talk ; I wish  to  talk  about  the  new. 
You  must  tell  me  more  about  America ; you  never  tell  me 
enough.  Here  I have  been  since  I was  brought  here  as  a helpless 
child,  and  it  is  ridiculous,  or  rather  it’s  scandalous,  how  little  I 
know  about  the  land  of  my  birth.  There  are  a great  many  of  us 
like  that,  over  here ; and  I must  say  I think  we  are  a wretched 
jet  of  people.  You  should  live  in  your  own  country  ; whaievai 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


in 


/ It  may  be  you  have  your  natural  place  there.  If  we  are  not 
good  Americans  we  are  certainly  poor  Europeans;  we  have  no 
natural  place  here.  We  are  mere  parasites,  crawling  over  the 
y surface  ; we  haven’t  our  feet  in  the  soil.  At  least  one  can  know 
it,  and  not  have  illusions.  A woman,  perhaps,  can  get  on ; a 
woman,  it  seems  to  me,  has  no  natural  place  anywhere ; when- 
ever she  finds  herself  she  has  to  remain  on  the  surface  and,  more 
or  less,  to  crawl.*  You  protest,  my  dear?  you  are  horrified?  you 
declare  you  will  never  crawl  ? It  is  very  true  that  I don’t  se« 
you  crawling  ; you  stand  more  upright  than  a good  many  poor 
creatures.  Very  good;  on  the  whole,  I don’t  think  you  will 
crawl.  But  the  men,  the  Americans  ; je  vous  demande  un  peu9 
what  do  they  make  of  it  over  here?  I don’t  envy  them,  trying 
to  arrange  themselves.  Look  at  poor  Balph  Touchett ; what 
sort  of  a figure  do  you  call  that?  Fortunately  he  has  got  a 
consumption ; I say  fortunately,  because  it  gives  him  something 
to  do.  His  consumption  is  his  career ; it’s  a kind  of  position. 
You  can  say,  4 Oh,  Mr.  Touchett,  he  takes  care  of  his  lungs,  he 
knows  a great  deal  about  climates.’  But  without  that,  who 
y^would  he  be,  what  would  he  represent  ? 4 Mr.  Balph  Touchett, 

an  American  who  lives  in  Europe.’  That  signifies  absolutely 
nothing — it’s  impossible  that  anything  should  signify  less.  4 He 
is  very  cultivated,’  they  say  ; 4 he  has  got  a very  pretty  collection 
of  old  snuff-boxes.’  The  collection  is  all  that  is  wanted  to  make 
it  pitiful.  I am  tired  of  the  sound  of  the  word ; I think  it’s 
grotesque.  With  the  poor  old  father  it’s  different ; he  has  his 
identity,  and  it  is  rather  a massive  one.  He  represents  a great 
financial  house,  and  that,  in  our  day,  is  as  good  as  anything  else. 
For  an  American,  at  any  rate,  that  will  do  very  well.  But  I 
persist  in  thinking  your  cousin  is  very  lucky  to  have  a chronic 
malady ; so  long  as  he  doesn’t  die  of  it.  It’s  much  better  than 
the  snuff-boxes.  If  he  were  not  ill,  you  say,  he  would  do  some- 
thing ? — he  would  take  his  father’s  place  in  the  house.  My  poor 
child,  I doubt  it ; I don’t  think  he  is  at  all  fond  of  the  house. 
However,  you  know  him  better  than  I,  though  I used  to  know 
him  rather  well,  and  he  may  have  the  benefit  of  the  doubt. 
The  worst  case,  I think,  is  a friend  of  mine,  a countryman  of 
ours,  who  lives  in  Italy  (where  he  also  was  brought  before  he 
knew  better),  and  who  is  one  of  the  most  delightful  men  I know. 
Borne  day  you  must  know  him.  I will  bring  you  together,  and 
then  you  will  see  what  I mean.  He  is  Qilbert  Osmond — he 
lives  in  Italy ; that  is  all  one  can  say  about  hiruT^^elFexceed- 
ingly  clever,  a man  made  to  be  distinguished ; but,  as  I say,  you 
•xhaust  the  description  when  you  say  that  he  is  Mr.  Osiuoiid« 


172 


THE  PORTRa/T  OF  A LADY. 


who  lives  in  Italy.  No  career,  no  name,  no  position,  no  fortune, 
no  past,  no  future,  no  anything.  Oh  yes,  he  paints,  if  you  pleasa 
— paints  in  water-colours,  like  me,  only  better  than  I.  His 
painting  is  pretty  bad ; on  the  whole  I am  rather  glad  of  that. 
Fortunately  he  is  very  indolent,  so  indolent  that  it  amounts  to  a 
sort  of  position.  He  can  say,  4 Oh,  I do  nothing ; I am  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  that  he  might  do  something  if  he  would 
only  rise  early.  He-  never  speaks  of  his  painting — to  people  at 
large  ; he  is  too  clever  for  that.  But  he  has  a little  girl — a dear 
little  girl ; he  does  speak  of  her.  He  is  devoted  to  her,  and  if 
it  were  a career  to  be  an  excellent  father  he  would  be  very  dis- 
tinguished. But  I am  afraid  that  is  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  reflec- 
tions, 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 
Borne,  where  she  herself  had  a little  pied-a-terre , with  some 
rather  good  old  damask.  She  talked  of  places,  of  people,  and 
even,  as  the  phrase  is,  of  “ subjects  " ; and  from  time  to  time 
she  talked  of  their  kind  old  host  and  of  the  prospect  of  his 
recovery.  From  the  first  she  had  thought  this  prospect  small, 
and  Isabel  had  been  struck  with  the  positive,  discriminating, 
competent  way  which  she  took  of  the  measure  of  his  remainder 
of  life.  One  evening  she  announced  definitely  that  he  would 
not  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.  1 don’t  mean 
that  his  saying  that  has  anything  to  do  with  it.  But  he  says 
#uch  things  with  great  tact.  I had  said  to  him  that  I felt  ill 
at  my  ease,  staying  here  at  such  a time ; it  seemed  to  me  so 
indiscreet — it  was  not  as  if  I could  nurse.  ‘ You  must  remain, 
you  must  remain,’  he  answered ; ‘ your  office  will  come  later/ 
Was  not  that  a very  delicate  way  both  of  saying  that  poor  Mr. 
Touchett  would  go,  and  that  I might  be  of  some  use  as  a 
consoler  1 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  will  require.  It  would  be  a very 
delicate  matter  for  another  person  to  undertake  to  administer 
fche  dose.  With  your  cousin  it  will  be  different ; he  will  mis# 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


173 


his  father  sadly.  But  I should  never  presume  to  condole  with 
Mr.  Balph  ; we  are  not  on  those  terms.” 

Madame  Merle  had  alluded  more  than  once  to  some  undefined 
incongruity  in  her  relations  with  Balph  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  1 ” 

“ Nothing  whatever.  But  one  has  no  need  of  a reason  foi 
that.” 

“ For  not  liking  you]  I think  one  has  need  of  a very  good 
reason.” 

“ You  are  very  kind.  Be  sure  you  have  one  ready  for  the 
day  when  you  begin.” 

“ Begin  to  dislike  you]  I shall  never  begin.” 

“ I hope  not ; because  if  you  do,  you  will  never  end.  That 
is  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  is  all  on  bis 
side.  I have  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  is  a gentleman,  and  would 
never  say  anything  underhand  about  one.  Cartes  sur  table” 
Madame  Merle  subjoined  in  a moment,  “lam  not  afraid  of 
him.  ” 

“ I hope  not,  indeed,”  said  Isabel,  who  added  something 
about  his  being  the  kindest  fellow  living.  She  remembered, 
however,  that  on  her  first  asking  him  about  Madame  Merle  he 
had  answered  her  in  a manner  which  this  lady  might  have 
thought  injurious  without  being  explicit.  There  was  something 
between  them,  Isabel  said  to  herself,  but  she  said  nothing  more 
than  this.  If  it  were  something  of  importance,  it  should  inspire 
respect ; if  it  were  not,  it  was  not  worth  her  curiosity.  With 
all  her  love  of  knowledge,  Isabel  had  a natural  shrinking  from 
raising  curtains  and  looking  into  unlighted  corners.  The  love 
of  knowledge  co-existed  in  her  mind  with  a still  tender  love  of 
ignorance. 

But  Madame  Merle  sometimes  said  things  that  startled  her, 
made  her  raise  her  clear  eyebrows  at  the  time,  and  think  of  the 
words  afterwards. 

“ I would  give  a great  deal  to  be  your  age  again,”  she  broke 
out  once,  with  a bitterness  which,  though  diluted  in  her  cus- 
tomary smile,  was  by  no  means  disguised  by  it.  “ If  I could 
only  begin  again — if  I could  have  my  life  before  me  ! ” 

“ Your  life  is  before  you  yet,”  Isabel  answered  gently,  for  sh« 
was  vaguely  awe-struck. 


!74 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


" No ; tlie  best  part  is  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  which  1 
never  had.” 

“ You  have  friends,  dear  lady.” 

“ I am  not  so  sure  ! ” cried  Madame  Merle. 

“ Ah,  you  are  wrong.  You  have  memories,  talents ” 

Madame  Merle  interrupted  her. 

“ What  hav^  my  talents  brought  me]  Nothing  but  the  need 
of  using  them  still,  to  get  through  the  hours,  the  years,  to  cheat 
myself  with  some  pretence  of  action.  As  for  my  memories,  the 
less  said  about  them  the  better.  You  will  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,”  Madame  Merle 
rejoined,  looking  at  her  gravely.  “ When  I say  I should  like 
to  be  your  age,”  she  went  on,  “I  mean  with  your  qualities — 
frank,  generous,  sincere,  like  you.  In  that  case  I should  have 
made  something  better  of  my  life.” 

“ What  should  you  have  liked  to  do  that  you  have  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.  At  last  she 
said — 

“ I am  very  ambitious  ! 9 

“And  your  ambitions  have  not  been  satisfied]  They  must 
have  been  great.” 

“ They  were  great.  I should  make  myself  ridiculous  by 
talking  of  them.” 

Isabel  wondered  what  they  could  have  been  — whether 
Madame  Merle  had  aspired  to  wear  a crown.  “ I don’t  know 
what  your  idea  of  success  may  be,  but  you  seem  to  me  to  have 
been  successful.  To  me,  indeed,  you  are  an  image  of  success.” 

Madame  Merle  tossed  away  tlie  music  with  a smile. 

“ What  is  your  idea  of  success  ] ” 

“You  evidently  think  it  must  be  very  tame,”  said  Isabel* 

It  is  to  see  some  dream  of  one’s  youth  come  true.” 

“ Ah,”  Madame  Merle  exclaimed,  “that  I have  never  seen! 
But  my  dreams  were  so  great — so  preposterous.  Heaven  forgive 
me,  I am  dreaming  now.”  And  she  turned  back  to  the  piano 
fend  began  to  play  with  energy. 

On  the  morrow  she  said  to  Isabel  that  her  definition  of 
success  had  been  very  pretty,  but  frightfully  sad.  Measured  in 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


17ff 


lltat  way,  who  had  succeeded?  The  dreams  of  one’s  youth,  why 
they  were  enchanting,  they  were  divine  ! Who  had  ever  seen 
such  things  come  to  pass  ? 

“ I myself — a few  of  them,”  Isabel  ventured  to  answer. 

“ Already?  They  must  have  been  dreams  of  yesterday.” 

“ I began  to  dream  very  young,”  said  Isabel,  smiling. 

“ 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 moustache  going  down  on  hia 
knees  to  you.” 

“ No,  nor  that  either,”  Isabel  declared,  blushing. 

Madame  Merle  gave  a glance  at  her  blush  which  caused  it  to 
deepen. 

“ I suspect  that  is  what  you  do  mean.  We  have  all  had  the 
young  man  with  the  moustache.  He  is  the  inevitable  young 
man  ; he  doesn’t  count.” 

Isabel  was  silent  for  a moment,  and  then,  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  ? ” cried 
her  friend  with  a laugh.  “ If  you  have  had  the  identical  young 
man  you  dreamed  of,  then  that  was  success,  and  I congratulate 
you.  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  is  very  crude  of  you.  When  you  have  lived  as  long 
as  I,  you  will  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  is  no  such  thing 
as  an  isolated  man  or  woman ; we  are  each  of  us  made  up  of  a 
cluster  of  appurtenances.  What  do  you  call  one’s  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  that 
a large  part  of  myself  is  in  the  dresses  I choose  to  wear.  I have 

great  respect  for  things  ! One’s  self — for  other  people — is 
ne’s  expression  of  one’s  self ; and  one’s  house,  one’s  clothes, 
ine  book  onev  reads,  the  company  one  keeps — these  things  aw 
all  expressive.” 

This  was  very  metaphysical ; not  more  so,  however,  than 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


476 

Reveral  observations  Madame  Merle  bad  already  made.  Isabel 
was  fond  of  metaphysics,  but  she  was  unable  to  accompany  heir 
friend  into  this  bold  analysis  of  the  human  personality. 

“ I don't  agree  with  you,"  she  said.  “I  think  just  the  other 
way.  I don't  know  whether  I succeed  in  expressing  myself, 
but  I know  that  nothing  else  expresses  me.  Nothing  that 
belongs  to  me  is  any  measure  of  me  ; on  the  contrary,  it's  a 
limit,  a barrier,  and  a perfectly  arbitrary  one.  Certainly,  the 
clothes  which,  as  you  say,  I choose  to  wear,  don't  express  me ; 
and  heaven  forbid  they  should  ! ' 

“ You  dress  very  well,"  interposed  Madame  Merle,  skilfully. 

“ 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 
are  imposed  upon  me  by  society." 

“ Should  you  prefer  to  go  without  them?"  Madame  Merle 
inquired,  in  a tone  which  virtually  terminated  the  discussion. 

I am  bound  to  confess,  though  it  may  cast  some  discredit 
upon  the  sketch  I have  given  of  the  youthful  loyalty  which  our 
heroine  practised  towards  this  accomplished  woman,  that  Isabel 
had  said  nothing  whatever  to  her  about  Lord  Warburton,  and 
had  been  equally  reticent  on  the  subject  of  Caspar  Goodwood. 
Isabel  had  not  concealed  from  her,  however,  that  she  had  had 
opportunities  of  marrying,  and  had  even  let  her  know  that  they 
were  of  a highly  advantageous  kind.  Lord  Warburton  had  left 
Lockleigh,  and  was  gone  to  Scotland,  taking  his  sisters  with 
him ; and  though  he  had  written  to  Kalph  more  than  once,  to 
ask  about  Mr.  Touch ett's  health,  the  girl  was  not  liable  to  the 
embarrassment  of  such  inquiries  as,  had  he  still  been  in  the 
neighbourhood,  he  would  probably  have  felt  bound  to  make  in 
person.  He  had  admirable  self-control,  but  she  felt  sure  that 
if  he  had  come  to  Gardencourt  he  would  have  seen  Madame 
Merle,  and  that  if  he  had  seen  her  he  would  have  liked  her, 
and  betrayed  to  her  that  he  was  in  love  with  her  young  friend. 

It  so  happened  that  during  Madame  Merle’s  previous  visits 
to  Gardencourt — each  of  them  much  shorter  than  the  present 
one — he  had  either  not  been  at  Lockleigh  or  had  nop  called  at 
Mr.  Touchett's.  Therefore,  though  she  knew  him  by  name  as 
the  great  man  of  that  county,  she  had  no  cause  to  suspect  him 
of  being  a suitor  of  Mrs.  Touchett's  freshly-imported,  niece. 

“ You  have  plenty  of  time,”  she  had  said  to  Isabel,  in  return 
for  the  mutilated  confidences  which  Isabel  made  her,  and  wnich 
did  not  pretend  to  be  perfect,  though  we  have  seen  that  at 
Homonts  the  girl  had  compunctions  at  having  said  so  much 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADA, 


177 


«I  am  glad  you  have  d^ne  nothing  yet — that  you  have  it  still 
to  do.  It  is  a very  good  tiling  for  a girl  to  have  refused  a few 
good  offers — so  long,  of  course,  as  they  are  not  the  best  she  is 
likely  to  have.  Excuse  me  if  my  tone  seems  horribly  worldly; 
one  must  take  that  view  sometimes.  Only  don’t  keep  on  refus- 
ing for  the  sake  of  refusing.  It’s  a pleasant  exercise  of  power ; 
but  accepting  is  after  all  an  exercise  of  power  as  welL  There  is 
always  the  danger  of  refusing  once  too  often.  It  was  not  the 
one  I fell  into — I didn’t  refuse  often  enough.  You  are  an 
exquisite  creature,  and  I should  like  to  see  you  married  to  a 
prime  minister.  But  speaking  strictly,  you  know  you  are  nol 
what  is  technically  called  a parti  You  are  extremely  good 
looking,  and  extremely  clever  ; in  yourself  you  are  quite  excep 
tional.  You  appear  to  have  the  vaguest  ideas  about  your 
earthly  possessions ; but  from  what  I can  make  out,  you  are  not 
embarrassed  with  an  income.  I wish  you  had  a little  money.” 

“ I wish  I had  ! ” said  Isabel,  simply,  apparently  forgetting 
for  the  moment  that  her  poverty  had  been  a venial  fault  for  twc 
gallant  gentlemen. 

In  spite  of  Sir  Matthew  Hope’s  benevolent  recommendation, 
Madame  Merle  did  not  remain  to  the  end,  as  the  issue . of  poor 
Mr.  Touchett’s  malady  had  now  come  frankly  to  be  designated. 
She  was  under  pledges  to  other  people  which  had  at  last  to  be 
redeemed,  and  she  left  Gardencourt  with  the  understanding  that 
she  should  in  any  event  see  Mrs.  Touchett  there  again,  or  in 
town,  before  quitting  England.  Her  parting  with  Isabel  was 
even  more  like  the  beginning  of  a friendship  than  their  meeting 
had  been. 

u I am  going  to  six  places  in  succession,”  she  said,  “ but  I 
shall  see  no  one  I like  so  well  as  you.  They  will  all  be  old 
friends,  however ; one  doesn’t  make  new  friends  at  my  age.  I 
have  made  a great  exception  for  you.  You  must  remember 
that,  and  you  must  think  well  of  me.  You  must  reward  me  by 
believing  in  me.” 

By  way  of  answer,  Isabel  kissed  her,  and  though  some  women 
kiss  with  facility,  there  are  kisses  and  kisses,  and  this  embrace 
was  satisfactory  to  Madame  Merle. 

Isabel,  after  this,  was  much  alone ; she  saw  her  aunt  and 
10 u sip  only  at  meals,  and  discovered  that  of  the  hours  that  Mrs, 
Louche tt  was  invisible,  only  a minor  portion  was  now  devoted 
to  nursing  her  husband.  She  spent  the  rest  in  her  own  apart- 
ments, to  which  access  was  not  allowed  even  to  her  niece,  in 
mysterious  and  inscrutable  exercises.  At  table  she  was  grave 
Mid  silent;  but  her  solemnity  was  not  an  attitude — Isabel  could 

N 


178 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


see  that  it  was  a conviction.  She  wc-ndered  whether  her  aunt 
repented  of  having  taken  her  own  wa f so  much  ; but  the-e  was 
no  visible  evidence  of  this— no  tears;  no  sighs,  no  exaggeration 
of  a zeal  which  had  always  deemed  itself  sufficient.  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. 

“ If  I had  foreseen  this  I would  not  have  proposed  your 
coming  abroad  now,”  she  said  to  Isabel  after  Madame  Merle  had 
left  the  house.  “ I would  have  waited  and  sent  for  you  next 
year.” 

Her  remarks  had  usually  a practical  ring 

“ So  that  perhaps  I should  never  have  Known  my  uncle  1 
It's  a great  happiness  to  me  to  have  come  now.” 

© That’s  very  well. ; But  it  was  not  that  you  might  know 
your  uncle  that  I brought  you  to  Europe.”  A perfectly  veracious 
speech  ; but,  as*  Isabel  thought,  not  as  perfectly  timed. 

She  had  leisure  to  think  of  this  and  other  matters,  She  took 
a solitary  walk  every  day,  and  spent  much  time  in  turning  over 
the  books  in  the  library.  Among  the  subjects  that  engaged  her 
attention  were  the  adventured  of  her  friend  Miss  Stackpole, 
with  whom  she  was  in  regular  correspondence.  Isabel  liked 
her  friend’s  private  epistolary  style  better  than  her  public ; that 
is,  she  thought  her  public  letters  would  have  been  excellent  if 
they  had  not  been  printed.  Henrietta's  career,  however,  was 
not  so  successful  as  might  have  been  wished  even  in  the  interest 
of  her  private  felicity ; that  view  of  the  inner  life  of  Great 
Britain  which  she  was  so  eager  to  take  appeared  to  dance  before 
her  like  an  ignis  fatuus.  The  invitation  from  Lady  Pensil,  for 
mysterious  reasons,  had  never  arrived  ; and  poor  Mr.  Bantling 
himself,  with  all  his  friendly  ingenuity,  had  been  unable  to 
explain  so  grave  a dereliction  on  the  part  of  a missive  that  had 
obviously  been  sent.  Mr.  Bantling,  however,  had  evidently 
taken  Henrietta’s  affairs  much  to  heart,  and  believed  that  he 
owed  her  a set-off  to  this  illusory  visit  to  Bedfordshire.  “ He 
says  he  should  think  I would  go  to  the  Continent,”  Henrietta 
wrote ; “ and  as  he  thinks  of  going  there  himself,  I suppose  his 
advice  is  sincere.  He  wants  to  know  why  I don’t  take  a view 
of  French  life ; and  it  is  a fact  that  I want  very  much  to  see 
the  new  Bepublic.  Mr.  Bantling  doesn’t  care  much  about  the 
Kopublic,  but  he  thinks  of  going  over  to  Paris  any  way.  I must 
say  he  is  quite  as  attentive  as  I could  wish,  and  at  any  rate  I 
fthaJl  have  seen  (me  polite  Englishman.  I keep  telling  Mr. 


THfL  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


178 


Bantling  that  he  ought  to  have  been  an  American ; and  yoif 
ought  to  see  how  it  pleases  him.  Whenever  I say  so,  he  always 
breaks  out  with  the  same  exclamation — 6 Ah,  but  really,  come 
now ! ’ ” A few  days  later  she  wuote  that  she  had  decided  to 
go  to  Paris  at  the  end  of  the  week,  and  that  Mr.  Bantling  had 
promised  to  see  her  off — perhaps  even  he  would  go  as  far  as 
Dover  with  her.  She  would  wait  in  Paris  till  Isabel  should 
arrive,  Henrietta  added  ; speaking  quite  as  if  Isabel  were  to 
start  on  her  Continental  journey  alone,  and  making  no  allusion 
to  Mrs.  Touchett.  Bearing  in  mind  his  interest  in  their  late 
companion,  our  heroine  communicated  several  passages  from 
Miss  Stackpole’s  letters  to  Ralph,  who  followed  with  an  emo- 
tion akin  to  suspense  the  career  of  the  correspondent  of  the 
Interviewer. 

“ It  seems  to  me  that  she  is  doing  very  well,”  he  said,  “ going 
over  to  Paris  with  an  ex-guardsman  ! If  she  wants  something 
to  write  about,  she  has  only  to  describe  that  episode.” 

“It  is  not  conventional,  certainly,”  Isabel  answered ; “ but  if 
you  mean  that — as  far  as  Henrietta  is  concerned — it  is  not 
perfectly  innocent,  you  are  very  much  mistaken.  You  will 
never  understand  Henrietta.” 

“ Excuse  me ; I understand  her  perfectly.  I didn’t  at  all  at 
first ; but  now  I have  got  the  point  of  view.  I am  afraid, 
however,  that  Bantling  has  not;  he  may  have  some  surprises. 
Oh,  I understand  Henrietta  as  well  as  if  I had  made  her ! ” 

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

N 2 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


face  absolutely  void  of  its  usual  latent  smile.  She  got  up*  tni 

her  movement  and  glance  were  a question. 

“ It’s  all  over,”  said  Ralph. 

<fDo  you  mean  that  my  uncle h ” And  Isabel  stopped. 

“ My  father  died  an  hour  ago.” 

“ Ah,  my  poor  Ralph  ! ” the  girl  murmured,  putting  out  her 
hand  to  him. 


XX. 

Some  fortnight  after  this  incident  Madame  Merle  drove  up  in 
a hansom  cab  to  the  house  in  Winchester  Square.  As  she 
descended  from  her  vehicle  she  observed,  suspended  between 
the  dining-room  windows,  a large,  neat,  wooden  tablet,  on  whose 
fresh  black  ground  were  inscribed  in  white  paint  the  words — 
“ This  noble  freehold  mansion  to  be  sold  with  the  name  of 
the  agent  to  whom  application  should  be  made.  “ They  certainly 
lose  no  time,”  said  the  visitor,  as,  after  sounding  the  big  brass 
knocker,  she  waited  to  be  admitted  ; “ it’s  a practical  country ! ” 
And  within  the  house,  as  she  ascended  to  the  drawing-room, 
she  perceived  numerous  signs  of  abdication  ; pictures  removed 
from  the  walls  and  placed  upon  sofas,  windows  undraped  and 
floors  laid  bare.  Mrs.  Touchett  presently  received  her,  and 
intimated  in  a few  words  that  condolences  might  be  taken 
for  granted. 

“ I know  what  you  are  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  liberally,”  she  said  ; 
“ I won’t  say  more  liberally  than  I expected,  because  I didn’t 
expect.  You  know  that  as  a general  thing  I don’t  expect.  But 
he  chose,  I presume,  to  recognise  the  fact  that  though  I lived 
much  abroad,  and  mingled — you  may  say  freely — in  foreign  life, 
I never  exhibited  the  smallest  preference  for  any  one  else.” 

“ For  any  one  but  yourself,”  Madame  Merle  mentally  observed; 
but  the  reflection  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 
or  another  ! ” 

There  was  a certain  cynicism  in  these  mute  comments  which 
demands  an  explanation  ; the  moio  so  as  they  are  not  in  accord 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


181 


either  with  the  view — somewhat  superficial  perhaps — that  w a 
have  hitherto  enjoyed  of  Madame  Merle’s  character,  or  with  the 
literal  facts  of  Mrs.  Touch ett’s  history  ; the  more  so,  too,  as 
Madame  Merle  had  a well-founded  conviction  that  her  friend’s 
last  remark  was  not  in  the  least  to  he  construed  a*  a side-thrust 
at  herself.  The  truth  is,  that  the  moment  she  had  crossed  the 
threshold  she  received  a subtle  impression  that  Mr.  Touchett’s 
death  had  had  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  it  mentally,  and  it  was  another 
to  behold  it  actually.  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  say  that  Madame  Merle  was  one  of  the  hungry 
ones  of  the  world ; but  we  have  already  perceived  that  she  had 
desires  which  had  never  been  satisfied.  If  she  had  been 
questioned,  she  would  of  course  have  admitted — with  a most 
becoming  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.  4 ‘There  was  never 
that,  poor  man  ! ” — with  a fillip  of  her  thumb  and  her  third 
finger.  I hasten  to  add,  moreover,  that  if  her  private  attitude 
at  the  present  moment  was  somewhat  incongruously  invidious, 
she  was  very  careful  not  to  betray  herself.  She  had,  after  ail, 
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 have  a much  better 
house  in  Florence.  The  will  was  opened  only  three  days  since, 
but  I have  already  offered  the  house  for  sale.  I have  also  a 
share  in  the  bank ; but  I don’t  yet  understand  whether  I am 
obliged  to  leave  it  there.  If  not,  I shall  certainly  take  it  out. 
Kalph,  of  course,  has  Gardencourt ; but  I am  not  sure  that  he 
will  have  means  to  keep  up  the  place.  He  is  of  course  left  very 
well  off,  but  his  father  has  given  away  an  immense  deal  of 
money  ; there  are  bequests  to  a string  of  third  cousins  in  Ver- 
mont. Kalph,  however,  is  very  fond  of  Gardencourt,  and  would 
be  quite  capable  of  living  there — in  summer — with  a maid -of - 
wll-work  and  a gardener’s  boy.  There  is  one  remarkable  clause 
in  my  husband’s  will,”  Mrs.  Touchett  added.  “ Fie  has  left  my 
niece  a fortune.” 

“ A fortune  ! ” Madame  Merle  repeated,  sofily. 


THE  PORTRAIT  0 T A LADY. 


182 

“ Isabel  steps  into  something  like  seventy  thousand  pounds." 

Madame  Merle’s  hands  were  clasped  in  her  lap ; at  this  she 
raised  them,  still  clasped,  and  held  them  a moment  against  her 
bosom,  while  her  eyes,  a little  dilated,  fixed  themselves  on  those 
of  her  friend.  “ Ah,”  she  cried,  “ the  clever  creature  ! ” 

Mrs.  Touchett  gave  her  a quick  look.  “ What  do  you  mean 
by  that  ? ” 

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  certainly  was  no  effort;  don’t  call  it  an  achievement.” 

Madame  Merle  was  rarely  guilty  of  the  awkwardness  of 
retracting  what  she  had  said ; her  wisdom  was  shown  rather  in 
maintaining  it  and  placing  it  in  a favourable  light.  “ My  dear 
friend,  Isabel  would  certainly  not  have  had  seventy  thousand 
pounds  left  her  if  she  had  not  been  the  most  charming  girl  in 
the  world.  Her  charm  includes  great  cleverness.” 

“ She  never  dreamed,  I am  sure,  of  my  husband’s  doing  any- 
thing for  her;  and  I never  dreamed  of  it  either,  for  he  never 
spoke  to  me  of  his  intention,”  Mrs.  Touchett  said.  “ She  had 
no  claim  upon  him  whatever ; it  was  no  great  recommendation 
to  him  that  she  was  my  niece.  Whatever  she  achieved  she 
achieved  unconsciously.” 

“Ah,”  rejoined  Madame  Merle,  “those  are  the  greatest 
strokes  1 ” 

Mrs.  Touchett  gave  a shrug.  “ The  girl  is  fortunate  ; I don’t 
deny  that.  But  for  the  present  she  is  simply  stupefied.” 

“ Do  you  mean  that  she  doesn’t  know  what  to  do  with  the 
money  'l  ” 

“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  is  feeling 
herself,  to  see  if  she  be  hurt.  It  is  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  is  to  remain  in  the  bank,  and  she  is  to  draw  the 
interest.” 

Madame  Merle  shook  her  head,  with  a wise,  and  now  quite 
benignant,  smile.  “After  she  had  done  that  two  or  three  times 
she  will  get  used  to  it.”  Then  after  a silence — “ What  does 
your  son  think  of  it  % ” she  abruptly  asked. 

“ He  left  England  just  before  it  came  out — used  up  by  his 
fatigue  and  anxiety,  and  hurrying  off  to  the  south.  He  is  ou 


THE  PORTRAIT  CF  A LADY. 


183 


feis  way  to  the  Biviera,  and  I have  not  yet  heard  from  him  But 
it  is  not  likely  he  will  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  is  net  in  the  least 
addicted  to  looking  after  number  one.” 

“ It  depends  upon  whom  he  regards  as  number  one ! ” said 
Madame  Merle.  And  she  remained  thoughtful  a moment,  with 
her  eye3  bent  upon  the  floor.  ‘ Am  I not  to  see  your  happy 
niece  h ” she  asked  at  last,  looking  up. 

“ You  may  see  her ; but  you  will  not  be  struck  with  her 
being  happy.  She  has  looked  as  solemn,  these  three  days,  as  a 
Cimabue  Madonna ! ” And  Mrs.  Touchett  rang  for  a servant. 

Isabel  came  in  shortly  after  the  footman  had  been  sent  to  call 
her  ; and  Madame  Merle  thought,  as  she  appeared,  that  Mrs. 
Touchett’s  comparison  had  its  force.  The  girl  was  pale  and 
grave — an  effect  not  mitigated  by  her  deeper  mourning ; but  the 
smile  of  her  brightest  moments  came  into  her  face  as  she  saw 
Madame  Merle,  who  went  forward,  laid  her  hand  on  our  heroine’s 
shoulder,  and  after  looking  at  her  a moment,  kissed  her  as  if  she 
were  returning  the  kiss  that  she  had  received  from  Isabel  at 
Garden  court.  This  was  the  only  allusion  that  Madame  Merle, 
in  her  great  good  taste,  made  for  the  present  to  her  young  friend’s 
inheritance. 

Mrs.  Touchett  did  not  remain  in  London  until  she  had  sold 
her  house.  After  selecting  from  among  its  furniture  those 
objects  which  she  wished  to  transport  to  her  Florentine  residence, 
she  left  the  rest  of  its  contents  to  be  disposed  of  by  the 
auctioneer,  and  took  her  departure  for  the  Continent.  She  was, 
of  course,  accompanied  on  this  journey  by  her  niece,  who  now 
Rad  plenty  of  leisure  to  contemplate  the  windfall  on  which 
Madame  Merle  had  covertly  congratulated  her.  Isabel  thought 
of  it  very  often  and  looked  at  it  in  a dozen  different  lights  ; but 
we  shall  not  at  present  attempt  to  enter  into  her  meditations  or 
to  explain  why  it  was  that  some  of  them  were  of  a rather 
pessimistic  cast.  The  pessimism  of  this  young  lady  was  tran- 
sient ; she  ultimately  made  up  her  mind  that  to  be  rich  was  a 
virtue,  because  it  was  to  be  able  to  do , and  to  do  was  sweet.  It 
was  the  contrary  of  weakness.  To  be  weak  was,  for  a young 
lady,  rather  graceful,  but,  after  all,  as  Isabel  said  to  herself, 
there  was  a larger  grace  than  that.  Just  now,  it  is  true,  there 
was  not  much  to  do — once  she  had  sent  off  a cheque  to  Lily  and 
another  to  poor  Edith;  but  she  was  thankful  for  the  quiet 


THE  PORTRAIT  OP  A LADY* 


*64 

months  which  her  mourning  robes  and  her  aunt’s  fresb  widow* 
hood  compelled  the  two  ladies  to  spend.  The  acquisition  of 
power  made  her  serious  ; she  scrutinised  her  power  with  a kind 
of  tender  ferocity,  but  she  was  not  eager  to  exercise  it.  She 
began  to  do  so  indeed  during  a stay  of  some  weeks  which  she 
presently  made  with  her  aunt  in  Paris,  but  in  ways  that  will 
probably  be  thought  rather  vulgar.  They  were  the  ways  that 
most  naturally  presented  themselves  in  a city  in  which  the  shops 
are  the  admiration  of  the  world,  especially  under  the  guidance  of 
Mrs.  Touchett,  who  took  a rigidly  practical  view  of  the  trans- 
formation of  her  niece  from  a poor  girl  to  a rich  one.  “ JSTow 
that  you  are  a young  woman  of  fortune  you  must  know  how  to 
play  the  part — I mean  to  play  it  well,”  she  said  to  Isabel,  once 
for  all  ; and  she  added  that  the  girl’s  first  duty  was  to  have 
everything  handsome.  “ You  don’t  know  how  to  take  care  of 
your  things,  but  you  must  learn,”  she  went  on ; this  was  Isabel’s 
second  duty.  Isabel  submitted,  but  for  the  present  her  imagin- 
ation 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  Pans 
she  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 
come  with  a good  deal  of  assiduity  to  her  aunt’s  hotel,  and 
judged  them  with  a trenchancy  which  is  doubtless  to  be  accounted 
for  by  the  temporary  exaltation  of  her  sense  of  human  duty 
She  made  up  her  mind  that  their  manner  of  life  was  superficial, 
and  incurred  some  disfavour  by  expressing  this  view  on  bright 
Sunday  afternoons,  when  the  American  absentees  were  engaged 
in  calling  upon  each  other.  Though  her  listeners  were  the  most 
good-natured  people  in  the  world,  two  or  three  of  them  thought 
her  cleverness,  which  was  generally  admitted,  only  a dangerous 
variation  of  impertinence. 

You  all  live  here  this  way,  but  what  does  it  all  lead  to  ? ” 
she  was  pleased  to  ask.  “ It  doesn’t  seem  to  lead  to  anything, 
and  I should  think  you  would  get  very  tired  of  it.” 

Mrs.  Touchett  thought  the  question  worthy  of  Henrietta 
Stackpole.  The  two  ladies  had  found  Henrietta  in  Paris,  and 
Isabel  constantly  saw  her;  so  tbit  Mrs.  Touchett  had  soma 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


IS? 


reason  for  saying  to  herself  that  if  her  niece  were  not  clever 
enough  to  originate  almost  anything,  she  might  he  suspected  of 
having  borrowed  that  style  of  remark  from  her  journalistic  friend. 
The  first  occasion  on  which  Isabel  had  spoken  was  that  of  a visit 
paid  by  the  two  ladies  to  Mrs.  Luce,  an  old  friend  of  Mrs. 
Touchett’s,  and  the  only  person  in  Paris  she  now  went  to  see. 
Mrs.  Luce  had  been  living  in  Paris  since  the  days  of  Louis 
Philippe;  she  used  to  say  jocosely  that  she  was  one  of  the 
generation  of  1830 — a joke  of  which  the  point  was  not  always 
taken.y  When  it  failed  Mrs.  Luce  used  always  to  explain — “ Oh 
yes,  I am  one  of  the  romantics ; ” her  French  had  never  become 
very  perfect.  She  was  always  at  home  on  Sunday  afternoons, 
and  surrounded  by  sympathetic  compatriots,  usually  the  same. 
In  fact  she  was  at  home  at  all  times,  and  led  in  her  well-cushioned 
little  corner  of  the  brilliant  city  as  quiet  and  domestic  a life  as 
she  might  have  led  in  her  native  Baltimore.  The  existence  of 
Mr.  Luce,  her  worthy  husband,  was  somewhat  more  inscrutable. 
Superficially  indeed,  there  was  no  mystery  about  it ; the  mystery 
lay  deeper,  and  resided  in  the  wonder  of  his  supporting  existence 
at  all.  He  was  the  most  unoccupied  man  in  Europe,  for  he  not 
only  had  no  duties,  but  he  had  no  pleasures.  Habits  certainly 
he  had,  but  they  were  few  in  number,  and  had  been  worn 
threadbare  by  forty  years  of  use.  Mr.  Luce  was  a tall,  lean, 
grizzled,  well-brushed  gentleman,  who  wore  a gold  eye-glass  and 
carried  his  hat  a little  too  much  on  the  back  of  his  head.  He 
went  every  day  to  the  American  banker’s,  where  there  was  a 
post-office  which  was  almost  as  sociable  and  colloquial  an  institu- 
tion as  that  of  an  American  country  town.  He  passed  an  hour 
(in  fine  weather)  in  a chair  in  the  Champs  Elysees,  and  he  dined 
uncommonly  well  at  his  own  table,  seated  above  a waxed  floor, 
which  it  was  Mrs.  Luce’s  happiness  to  believe  had  a finer  polish 
than  any  other  in  Paris.  Occasionally  he  dined  with  a friend 
or  two  at  the  Caf4  Anglais,  where  his  talent  for  ordering  a 
dinner  was  a source  of  felicity  to  his  companions  and  an  object 
uf  admiration  even  to  the  head-waiter  of  the  establishment. 
These  were  his  only  known  avocations,  but  they  had  beguiled 
his  hours  for  upwards  of  half  a century,  and  they  doubtless 
justified  his  frequent  declaration  that  there  was  no  place  like 
Paris.  In  no  other  place,  on  these  terms,  could  Mr.  Luce  flatter 
nimself  that  he  was  enjoying  life.  There  was  nothing  like  Paris 
but  it  must  be  confessed  that  Mr.  Luce  thought  less  highly  of 
the  French  capital  than  in  earlier  days.  In  the  list  of  his  occu- 
pations his  political  reveries  should  not  be  omitted,  for  they 
irere  doubtless  the  animating  principle  of  many  hours  fchaf 


186 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


superficially  seemed  vacant.  Like  many  of  his  fellow  colonists. 
Mr.  Luce  was  a high — or  rather  a deep — conservative,  and  gave 
no  countenance  to  the  government  recently  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 
down,  sir,  to  be  kept  down  ; nothing  but  the  strong  hand — the 
iron  heel — will  do  for  them,”  he  would  frequently  say  of  the 
French  people  ; and  his  ideal  of  a fine  government  was  that  of 
the  lately-abolished  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,  Vvho 
was  quite  of  his  own  way  of  thinking,  and  wished  to  know  what 
one  had  crossed  that  odious  Atlantic  for  but  to  get  away  from 
republics. 

“ Why,  madam,  sitting  in  the  Champs  Ely  sees,  opposite  to 
the  Palace  of  Industry,  I have  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  times. 
What  do  you  see  now  ] It's  no  use  talking,  the  style's  all  gone. 
Napoleon  knew  what  the  French  people  want,  and  there’ll  be  a 
cloud  over  Paris  till  they  get  the  Empire  back  again.” 

Among  Mrs.  Luce’s  visitors  on  Sunday  afternoons  was  a 
young  man  with  whom  Isabel  had  had  a good  deal  of  convers- 
ation, and  whom  she  found  full  of  valuable  knowledge.  Mr. 
Edward  Hosier — Ned  Rosier,  as  he  was  called — was  a native  of 
New  York,  and  had  been  brought  up  in  Paris,  living  there 
under  the  eye  of  his  father,  who,  as  it  happened,  had  been  an 
old  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  little  Archers  at  the  inn  at  Neufchatel 
(he  was  travelling  that  way  with  the  boy,  and  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  of  his  own,  warranted  to  lose  sight  of  him  under  no 
provocation.  Isabel  took  a walk  with  the  pair  beside  the  lake, 
tnd  thought  little  Edward  as  pretty  as  an  angel — a comparison 
by  no  means  conventional  in  her  mind,  for  she  had  a very 
definite  conception  of  a type  of  features  which  she  supposed  to 
be  angelic,  and  which  her  -new  friend  perfectly  illustrated.  A 
small  pink  face,  surmounted  by  a blue  velvet  bonnet  and  set  off 
*>y  a stiff  embroidered  collar,  became  the  countenance  of  he* 
thiidish  dreams ; and  she  firmly  believed  for  some  time  after' 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


187 


wards  that  the  heavenly  hosts  conversed  among  themselves  in 
a queer  little  dialect  of  French-English,  expressing  the  properest 
sentiments,  as  when  Edward  told  her  that  he  was  “ defended  ” 
by  his  bonne  to  go  near  the  edge  of  the  lake,  and  that  one  must 
always  obey  to  one’s  bonne . Ned  Eosiex’a  English  had  im- 
proved; at  least  it  exhibited  in  a less  degree  the  French 
variation.  His  father  was  dead  and  his  bonne  was  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  nostril  about  him,  and  something 
not  offensive  to  nobler  organs.  He  was  a very  gentle ' and 
gracious  youth,  with  what  are  called  cultivated  tastes — an 
acquaintance  with  old  china,  with  good  wine,  with  the  bindings 
of  books,  with  the  Almanach  de  Gotha , with  the  best  shops, 
the  best  hotels,  the  hours  of  railway-trains.  He  could  order  a 
dinner  almost  as  well  as  Mr.  Luce,  and  it  was  probable  that  as 
his  experience  accumulated  he  would  be  a worthy  successor  to 
that  gentleman,  whose  rather  grim  politics  he  also  advocated,  in 
a soft  and  innocent  voice.  He  had  some  charming  rooms  in 
Paris,  decorated  with  old  Spanish  altar-lace,  the  envy  of  his 
female  friends,  who  declared  that  his  chimney-piece  was  better 
draped  than  many  a duchess.  He  usually,  however,  spent  a 
part  of  every  winter  at  Pau,  and  had  once  passed  a couple  of 
months  in  the  United  States. 

He  took  a great  interest  in  Isabel,  and  remembered  perfectly 
the  walk  at  Neufchatel,  when  she  would  persist  in  going  so  near 
the  edge.  He  seemed  to  recognise  this  same  tendency  in  the 
subversive  inquiry  that  I quoted  a moment  ago%  and  set  himself 
to  answer  our  heroine’s  question  with  greater  urbanity  than  it 
perhaps  deserved.  “ What  does  it  lead  to,  Miss  Archer  1 Why 
Paris  leads  everywhere.  You  can’t  go  anywhere  unless  you 
come  here  first.  Every  one  that  comes  to  Europe  has  got  to 
pass  through.  You  don’t  mean  it  in  that  sense  so  much!  You 
mean  what  good  it  does  you!  Well,  how  can  you  penetrate 
futurity ! How  can  you  tell  what  lies  ahead ! If  it’s  a pleasant 
road  I don’t  care  where  it  leads.  I like  the  road,  Miss  Archer ; 
I like  the  dear  old  asphalte.  You  can’t  get  tired  of  it — you 
can’t  if  you  try.  You  think  you  would,  but  you  wouldn’t; 
there’s  always  something  new  and  fresh.  Take  the  Hotel 
Drouot,  now ; they  sometimes  have  three  and  four  sales  a week. 
Where  can  you  get  such  things  as  you  can  here  1 In  spite  of 
ill  they  say,  I maintain  they  are  cheaper  too,  if  you  know  the 
.dght  places.  I know  plenty  of  places,  but  I keep  them  to 
myself.  I’ll  tell  you,  if  you  like,  as  a particular  favour ; only 


183 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


you  must  not  tell  any  one  else.  Don’t  you  go  anywhere  with 
out  asking  me  first;  I want  you  to  promise  me  that.  As  & 
general  thing  avoid  the  Boulevards ; there  is  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  day,  and 
I’ll  show  you  my  things ; je  ne  vous  dis  que  ! There  has 
been  a great  deal  of  talk  about  London  of  late ; it’s  the  fashion 
to  cry  up  London.  But  there  is  nothing  in  it — you  can’t  do 
anything  in  London.  If o Louis  Quinze — nothing  of  the  First 
Empire ; nothing  but  their  eternal  Queen  Anne.  It’s  good  for 
one’s  bed-room,  Queen  Anne — for  one’s  washing-room  ; but  it 
isn’t  proper  for  a salon.  Do  I spend  my  life  at  the  auctioneer’s  ? ” 
Mr.  "Rosier  pursued,  in  answer  to  another  question  of  Isabel’s. 
“ Oh,  no  ; I haven’t  the  means.  I wish  I had.  Yuu  think  I’m 
a mere  trifler;  I can  tell  by  the  expression  of  your  face — you 
have  got  a wonderfully  expressive  face.  I hope  you  don’t  mind 
my  saying  that ; I mean  it  as  a kind  of  warning.  You  think  I 
ought  to  do  something,  and  so  do  I,  so  long  as  you  leave  it 
vague.  But  when  you  come  to  the  point,  you  see  you  have  to 
stop.  I can’t  go  home  and  be  a shopkeeper.  You  think  I am 
very  well  fitted?  Ah,  Miss  Archer,  you  overrate  me.  I can 
buy  very  well,  but  I can’t  sell ; you  should  see  when  1 some- 
times try  to  get  rid  of  my  things.  It  takes  much  more  ability 
to  make  other  people  buy  than  to  buy  yourself.  When  I think 
how  clever  they  must  be,  the  people  who  make  me  buy ! Ah, 
no ; I couldn’t  be  a shopkeeper.  I can’t  be  a doctor,  it’s  a 
repulsive  business.  I can’t  be  a clergyman,  I haven’t  got  con- 
victions. And  ‘ then  I can’t  pronounce  the  names  right  in  the 
Bible.  They  are  very  difficult,  in  the  Old  Testament  particularly. 
I can’t  be  a lawyer ; I don’t  understand — how  do  you  call  it  ? — 
— the  American  procedure.  Is  there  anything  else?  There 
is  nothing  for  a gentleman  to  do  in  America.  I should  like 
to  be  a diplomatist;  but  American  diplomacy — that  is  not 
for  gentlemen  either.  I am  sure  if  you  had  seen  the  last 
min ” 

Henrietta  Stackpole,  who  was  often  with  her  friend  when  Mr. 
Rosier,  coming  to  pay  his  compliments,  late  in  the  afternoon, 
expressed  himself  after  the  fashion  I have  sketched,  usually 
interrupted  the  young  man  at  this  point  and  read  him  a lecture 
on  the  duties  of  the  American  citizen.  She  thought  him  most 
unnatural ; he  was  worse  than  Mr.  Ralph  Touchett.  Henrietta, 
however,  was  at  this  time  more  than  ever  addicted  to  fine 
criticism,  for  her  conscience  had  been  freshly  alarmed  as  regard* 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF;  A LADY. 


m 


Isabel.  She  had  not  congratulated  this  young  lady  on  her 
accession  of  fortune,  and  begged  to  be  excused  from  doing  so. 

“ If  Mr.  Touchett  had  consulted  me  about  leaving  you  tha 
money,”  she  frankly  said,  “I  would  have  said  to  him, 
1 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 skculd 
have  said.” 

“To  yourself,  for  instance ?”  Isabel  suggested,  jocosely.  And 
th8n — “ Do  you  really  believe  it  will  ruin  me  1 ” 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  moral  tendencies. 
I approve  of  luxury ; I think  we  ought  to  be  as  elegant  as 
possible.  Look  at  the  luxury  of  our  western  cities  ; I have 
seen  nothing  over  here  to  compare  with  it.  I hope  you  will 
never  become  sensual ; but  I am  not  afraid  of  that.  The  peril 
for  you  is  that  you  live  too  much  in  the  world  of  your  own 
dreams — you  are  not  enough  in  contact  with  reality — with  the 
toiling,  striving,  suffering,  I may  even  say  sinning,  world  that 
surrounds  you.  You  are  too  fastidious ; you  have  too  many 
graceful  illusions.  Your  newly-acquired  thousands  will  shut 
you  up  more  and  more  to  the  society  of  a few  selfish  and  heart- 
less people,  who  will  be  interested  in  keeping  up  those  illusions.” 

Isabel's  eyes  expanded  as  she  gazed  upon  this  vivid  but  dusky 
picture  of  her  future.  “What  are  my  illusions  1 ” she  asked. 

“ I try  so  hard  not  to  have  any.” 

“Well,”  said  Henrietta,  “you  think  that  you  can  lead  a 
romantic  life,  that  you  can  live  by  pleasing  yourself  and  pleasing 
others.  You  will  find  you  are  mistaken.  Whatever  life  you 
lead,  you  must  put  your  soul  into  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  reality  ! And  you  can't  always  please 
yourself;  you  must  sometimes  please  other  people.  That,  I 
admit,  you  are  very  ready  to  do;  but  there  is  another  thing 
that  is  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  are  too  fond  of 
admiration,  you  like  to  be  thought  well  of.  You  think  we  can 
escape  disagreeable  duties  by  taking  romantic  views — that  in 
your  great  illusion,  my  dear.  But  we  can’t.  You  must  b< 


190 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


prepared  on  many  occasions  in  life  to  please  no  one  at  all— not 
even  yourself/ * 

Isabel  shook  her  head  sadly ; she  looked  troubled  and 
frightened.  “ This,  for  you,  Henrietta,”  she  said,  “ must  be 
one  of  those  occasions  ! ” 

It  was  certainly  true  that  Miss  Stackpole,  during  her  visit  to 
Paris,  which  had  been  professionally  more  remunerative  than 
her  English  sojourn,  had  not  been  living  in  the  world  of 
dreams.  Mr.  Bantling,  who  had  now  returned  to  England,  was 
her  companion  for  the  first  four  weeks  of  her  stay ; and  about 
Mr.  Bantling  there  was  nothing  dreamy.  Isabel  learned  from 
her  friend  that  the  two  had  led  a life  of  great  intimacy,  and 
that  this  had  been  a peculiar  advantage  to  Henrietta,  owing 
to  the  gentleman’s  remarkable  knowledge  of  Paris.  He  had 
explained  everything,  shown  her  everything,  been  her  constant 
guide  and  interpreter.  They  had  breakfasted  together,  dined 
together,  gone  to  the  theatre  together,  supped  together,  really  in 
a manner  quite  lived  together.  He  was  a true  friend,  Henrietta 
more  than  once  assured  our  heroine ; and  she  had  never 
supposed  that  she  could  like  any  Englishman  so  well.  Isabel 
could  not  have  told  you  why,  but  she  found  something  that 
ministered  to  mirth  in  the  alliance  the  correspondent  of  the 
Interviewer  had  struck  with  Lady  Pensil’s  brother;  and  her 
amusement  subsisted  in  the  face  of  the  fact  that  she  thought 
it  a credit  to  each  of  them.  Isabel  could  not  rid  herself  of  a 
suspicion  that  they  were  playing,  somehow,  at  cross-purposes — 
that  the  simplicity  of  each  of  them  had  been  entrapped.  But 
this  simplicity  was  none  the  less  honourable  on  either  side ; 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  her  companion  to  suppose  that  the  cause  of  the 
Interviewer — a periodical  of  which  he  never  formed  a very 
definite  conception — was,  if  subtly  analysed  (a  task  to  which 
Mr.  Bantling  felt  himself  quite  equal),  but  the  cause  of  Miss 
Stackpole’s  coquetry.  Each  of  these  harmless  confederates 
supplied  at  any  rate  a w&nt  of  which  the  other  was  somewhat 
eagerly  conscious.  Mr.  Bantling,  who  was  of  a rather  slow  and 
discursive  habit,  relished  a prompt,  keen,  positive  woman,  who 
charmed  him  with  the  spectacle  of  a brilliant  eye  and  a kind  of 
bandbox  neatness,  and  who  kindled  a perception  of  raciness  in  a 
mind  to  which  the  usual  fare  of  life  seemed  unsalted.  Henrietta, 
on  the  other  hand,  enjoyed  the  society  of  a fresh-looking, 
professionlees  gentleman,  whose  leisured  state,  though  generally 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


191 


Indefensible,  was  a decided  advantage  ft)  Miss  Stackpole,  and 
who  was  furnished  with  an  easy,  traditional,  though  by  no 
means  exhaustive,  answer  to  almost  any  social  or  practical 
question  that  could  come  up.  She  often  found  Mr.  Bantling's 
answers  very  convenient,  and  in  the  press  of  catching  the 
American  post  would  make  use  of  them  in  her  correspondence. 
It  was  to  be  feared  that  she  was  indeed  drifting  toward  those 
mysterious  shallows  as  to  which  Isabel,  wishing  for  a good- 
humoured  retort,  had  warned  her.  There  might  be  danger  in 
store  for  Isabel ; but  it  was  scarcely  to  be  hoped  that  Miss 
Stackpole,  on  her  side,  would  find  permanent  safety  in  the 
adoption  of  second-hand  views.  Isabel  continued  to  warn  her, 
good-humouredly;  Lady  Pensil’s  obliging  brother  was  some- 
times, on  our  heroine’s  lips,  an  object  of  irreverent  and  facetious 
allusion.  [Nothing,  however,  could  exceed  Henrietta’s  amiability 
on  this  point ; she  used  to  abound  in  the  sense  of  Isabel’s  irony, 
and  to  enumerate  with  elation  the  hours  she  had  spent  with 
the  good  Mr.  Bantling.  Then,  a few  moments  later,  she  would 
forget  that  they  had  been  talking  jocosely,  and  would  mention 
with  impulsive  earnestness  some  expedition  she  had  made  in  the 
company  of  the  gallant  ex-guardsman.  She  would  say — u Oh, 
I know  all  about  Versailles;  I went  there  with  Mr.  Bantling. 
I was  bound  to  see  it  thoroughly — I warned  him  when  we  went 
out  there  that  I was  thorough ; so  we  spent  three  days  at  the 
lotel  and  wandered  all  over  the  place.  It  was  lovely  weather — 
\ kind  of  Indian  summer,  only  not  so  good.  We  just  lived  in 
*hat  park.  Oh  yes;  you  can’t  tell  me  anything  about 
Versailles.”  Henrietta  appeared  to  have  made  arrangements 
to  meet  Mr.  Bantling  in  the  spring,  in  Italy. 


XXI. 

Mrs.  Touchett,  before  arriving  in  Paris,  had  fixed  the  day 
for  her  departure;  and  by  the  middle  of  February  she  had  begun 
to  travel  southward.  She  did  not  go  directly  to  Florence,  but 
interrupted  her  journey  to  pay  a visit  to  her  son,  who  at  San 
Remo,  on  the  Italian  shore  of  the  Mediterranean,  had  been 
spending  a dull,  bright  winter,  under  a white  umbrella.  Isabel 
went  with  her  aunt,  as  a matter  of  course,  though  Mrs.  Touchett, 
with  her  usual  homely  logic,  had  laid  before  her  a pair  of  alter* 
natives. 

4<  ^ow«  of  course,  you  are  completely  your  own  mistress/  sb* 


192 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


laid.  “ Excuse  me ; I don’t  mean  that  you  were  not  so  before. 
But  you  are  on  a different  footing — property  erects  a kind  of 
barrier.  You  can  do  a great  many  things  if  you  are  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  will  take  a companion — some  decayed 
gentlewoman  with  a darned  cashmere  and  dyed  hair,  who  paints 
on  velvet.  You  don’t  think  you  would  like  that1?  Of  course 
you  can  do  as  you  please  ; I only  want  you  to  understand  that 
you  are  at  liberty.  You  might  take  Miss  Stackpole  as  your  dame 
de  cornpagnie ; she  would  keep  people  off  very  well.  I think, 
however,  that  it  is  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 
would  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  are  at  all  dull,”  Isabel  had  replied  to  this. 

“ But  you  do  think  I am  obstinate  and  narrow-minded  1 I 
told  you  so ! ” said  Mrs.  Touchett,  with  much  elation  at  being 
justified. 

Isabel  remained  for  the  present  with  her  aunt,  because,  in 
spite  of  eccentric  impulses,  she  had  a great  regard  for  what  was 
usually  deemed  decent,  and  a young  gentlewoman  without  visi- 
ble relations  had  always  struck  her  as  a flower  without  foliage. 
It  was  true  that  Mrs.  Touchett’s  conversation  had  never  again 
appeared  so  brilliant  as  that  first  afternoon  in  Albany,  when  she 
sat  in  her  damp  waterproof  and  sketched  the  opportunities  that 
Europe  would  offer  to  a young  person  of  taste.  This,  however, 
was  in  a great  measure  the  girl’s  own  fault;  she  had  got  a 
glimpse  of  her  aunt’s  experience,  and  her  imagination  constantly 
anticipated  the  judgments  and  emotions  of  a woman  who  had 
very  little  of  the  same  faculty.  Apart  from  this,  Mrs.  Touchett 
had  a great  merit ; she  was  as  honest  as  a pair  of  compasses. 
There  was  a comfort  in  her  stiffness  and  firmness ; you  knew 
exactly  where  to  find  her,  and  were  never  liable  to  chance 
encounters  with  her.  On  her  own  ground  she  was  always  to  be 
found  ; but  she  was  never  over-inquisitive  as  regards  the  terri- 
tory of  her  neighbour.  Isabel  came  at  last  to  have  a kind  of 
undemonstrable  pity  for  her ; there  seemed  something  so  dreary 
In  the  condition  of  a person  whose  nature  had,  as  it  were,  so 
little  surface — offered  so  limited  a face  to  the  accretions  of 
tminan  contact.  Nothing  tender,  nothing  sympathetic,  had  ever 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


193 


had  a chance  to  fasten  upon  it — no  wind-sown  blossom,  no 
familiar  moss.  Her  passive  extent,  in  other  words,  was  about 
that  of  a knife-edge.  Isabel  had  reason  to  believe,  however, 
that  as  advanced  in  life  she  grew  more  disposed  to  confer 
those  sentimental  favours  which  she  was  still  unable  to  accept — • 
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  ; for  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  the  Palazzo 
Crescentini  contained  a spacious  apartment  which  was  known  as 
the  room  of  the  signorino. 

“ I want  to  ask  you  something/'  Isabel  said  to  this  young 
man,  the  day  after  her  arrival  at  San  Remo — “ something  that  I 
have  thought  more  than  once  of  asking  you  by  letter,  but  that  I 
have  hesitated  on  the  whole  to  write  about.  Face  to  face,  never' 
theless,  my  question  seems  easy  enough.  Did  you  know  that 
your  father  intended  to  leave  me  so  much  money  1 ” 

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  1 My  father  was  very 
obstinate.” 

“ So,”  said  the  girl,  “you  did  know.” 

“ Yes  ; he  told  me.  We  even  talked  it  over  a little.” 

“ What  did  he  do  it  for  'l  ” asked  Isabel,  abruptly. 

“ Why,  as  a kind  of  souvenir.” 

“ He  liked  me  too  much,”  said  Isabel. 

“ 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 am  not  a lovely  being.  How  can  you  say  that,  at  the  very 
moment  when  I am  asking  such  odious  questions  1 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  30  rich 
Henrietta  doesn't.” 


194 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A RATTY 


“ Oh,  hang  Henrietta  ! ” said  Ralph,  coarsely.  “ If  you  ask 
me,  I am  delighted  at  it.” 

“ Is  that  why  your  father  did  it — for  your  amusement  ? ” 

“I  differ  with  Miss  Stackpole,”  Ralph  said,  more  gravely 
“ I think  it's  very  good  for  you  to  have  means.  ” 

Isabel  looked  at  him  a moment  with  serious  eye?.  “ I wonder 
whether  you  know  what  is  good  for  me — or  whether  you  care.” 

“ If  I know,  depend  upon  it  I care.  Shall  I tell  you  what  it 
is  1 Not  tc  torment  yourself.” 

“ Not  to  torment  you,  I suppose  you  mean.” 

“ You  can't  do  that ; I am  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 
rosebud.  Live  as  you  like  best,  and  your  character  will  form 
itself.  Most  things  are  good  for  you ; the  exceptions  are  very 
rare,  and  a comfortable  income  is  not  one  of  them.”  Ralph 
paused,  smiling  ; Isabel  had  listened  quickly.  “ You  have  too 
much  conscience,"  Ralph  added.  “ It's  out  of  all  reason,  the 
number  of  things  you  think  wrong.  S pread  your  wings ; rise 
above  the  ground.  It's  never  wrong  to  do  that.” 

She  had  listened  eagerly,  as  I say ; and  it  was  her  nature  to 
understand  quickly. 

“ I wonder  if  you  appreciate  what  you  say.  If  you  do,  you 
take  a great  responsibility." 

“ You  frighten  me  a little,  but  I think  I am  right,”  said 
Ralph,  continuing  to  smile. 

“ All  the  same,  what  you  say  is  very  true,”  Isabel  went  on. 
‘You  could  say  nothing  more  true.  I am  absorbed  in  myself — 
I look  at  life  too  much  as  a doctor's  prescription.  Why,  indeed, 
should  we  perpetually  be  thinking  whether  things  are  good  for 
us,  as  if  we  were  patients  lying  in  a hospital  'l  Why  should  L 
be  so  afraid  of  not  doing  right  1 As  if  it  mattered  to  the  world 
whether  I do  right  or  wrong  ! ” 

“ You  are  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  reflection  which  he  himself  had 
kindled.  “ I try  to  care  more  about  the  world  than  about  my 
self — but  I always  come  back  to  myself.  It's  because  I am 
afraid."  She  stopped ; her  voice  had  trembled  a little.  “Yes, 
T.  am  afraid ; I can’t  tell  you.  A large  fortune  means  freedom, 
and  I am  afraid  of  that.  It’s  such  a fine  thing,  and  one  should 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


19« 


make  such  a good  use  of  it.  If  one  shouldn’t,  one  would  be 
ashamed.  And  one  must  always  he  thinking — it’s  a constant 
effort.  I am  not  sure  that  it’s  not  a greater  happiness  to  bo 
powerless.” 

“ For  weak  people  I have  no  doubt  it’s  a greater  happiness. 
For  weak  people  the  effort  not  to  be  contemptible  must  be 
great.” 

6i  And  how  do  you  know  I am  not  weak  1 ” Isabel  asked. 

“ Ah,”  Ealph  answered,  with  a blush  which  the  girl  noticed, 

‘ if  you  are,  I am  awfully  sold  ! ” 

The  charm  of  the  Mediterranean  coast  only  deepened  for  our 
heroine  on  acquaintance  ; for  it  was  the  threshold  of  Italy — the 
gate  of  admirations.  Italy,  as  yet  imperfectly  seen  and  felt, 
stretched  before  her  as  a land  of  promise,  a land  in  which  a love 
of  the  beautiful  might  be  comforted  by  endless  knowledge. 
Whenever  she  strolled  upon  the  shore  with  her  cousin — and  she 
was  the  companion  of  his  daily  walk — she  looked  a while  across 
the  sea,  with  longing  eyes,  to  where  she  knew  that  Genoa  lay. 
She  was  glad  to  pause,  however,  on  the  edge  of  this  larger 
knowledge  ; the  stillness  of  these  soft  weeks  seemed  good  to  her. 
They  were  a peaceful  interlude  in  a career  which  she  had  little 
warrant  as  yet  for  regarding  as  agitated,  hut  which  nevertheless 
she  was  constantly  picturing  to  herself  by  the  light  of  her  hopes, 
her  fears,  her  fancies,  her  ambitions,  her  predilections,  and  which 
reflected  these  subjective  accidents  in  a manner  sufficiently  dra- 
matic. Madame  Merle  had  predicted  to  Mrs.  Touchett  that  after 
Isabel  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  before,  Madame  Merle’s  perspicacity.  Ealph  Touchett 
had  praised  his  cousin  for  being  morally  inflammable  ; that  is, 
for  being  quick  to  take  a hint  that  was  meant  as  good  advice. 
His  advice  had  perhaps  helped  the  matter ; at  any  rate  before 
she  left  San  Eemo  she  had  grown  used  to  feeling  rich.  The 
consciousness  found  a place  in  rather  a dense  little  group  of  ideas 
that  she  had  about  her  herself,  and  often  it  was  by  no  means  the 
.east  agreeable.  It  was  a perpetual  implication  of  good  inten- 
tions. She  lost  herself  in  a maze  of  visions  ; the  fine  things  a 
rich,  independent,  generous  girl,  who  took  a large,  human  view 
of  her  opportunities  and  obligations,  might  do,  were  really  innu- 
merable. Her  fortune  therefore  became  to  her  mind  a part  of 
her  better  self ; it  gave  her  importance,  gave  her  even,  to  her 
own  imagination,  a certain  ideal  beauty.  What  it  did  for  her  in 
the  imagination  r f others  is  another  affair,  and  on  this  point  w« 

O 2 


f 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 

must  also  touch  in  time.  The  visions  I have  just  spoken  of 
were  intermingled  with  other  reveries.  Isabel  liked  better  to 
think  of  the  future  than  of  the  past ; hut  at  times,  as  she  listened 
to  the  murmur  of  the  Mediterranean  waves,  her  glance  took  a 
backward  flight.  It  rested  upon  two  figures  which,  in  spite  of 
increasing  distance,  were  still  sufficiently  salient ; they  were 
recognisable  without  difficulty  as  those  of  Caspar  Goodwood  and 
Lord  Warburton.  It  was  strange  how  quickly  these  gentlemen 
had  fallen  into  the  background  of  our  young  lady’s  life.  It  was 
in  her  disposition  at  all  times  to  lose  faith  in  the  reality  of 
absent  things  ; she  could  summon  back  her  faith,  in  case  of  need, 
with  an  effort,  but  the  effort  was  often  painful,  even  when  the 
reality  had  been  pleasant  The  past  was  apt  to  look  dead,  and 
its  revival  to  wear  the  supernatural  aspect  of  a resurrection. 
Isabel  moreover  was  not  prone  to  take  for  granted  that  she  her- 
self lived  in  the  mind  of  others — she  had  not  the  fatuity  to 
believe  that  she  left  indelible  traces.  She  was  capable  of  being 
wounded  by  the  discovery  that  she  had  been  forgotten ; and 
yet,  of  all  liberties,  the  one  she  herself  found  sweetest  was  the 
liberty  to  forget.  She  had  not  given  her  last  shilling,  sentiment- 
ally speaking,  either  to  Caspar  Goodwood  or  to  Lord  Warbur- 
ton, and  yet  she  did  not  regard  them  as  appreciably  in  her  debt. 
She  had,  of  course,  reminded  herself  that  she  was  to  hear  from 
Mr.  Goodwood  again  ; but  this  was  not  to  be  for  another  year 
and  a half,  and  in  that  time  a great  many  things  might  happen. 
Isabel  did  not  say  to  herself  that  her  American  suitor  might  find 
some  other  girl  more  comfortable  to  woo  ; because,  though  it  was 
certain  that  many  other  girls  would  prove  so,  she  had  not  the 
smallest  belief  that  this  merit  would  attract  him.  But  she 
reflected  that  she  herself  might  change  her  humour — might 
weary  of  those  things  that  were  not  Caspar  (and  there  were  so 
many  things  that  were  not  Caspar  !),  and  might  find  satisfaction 
in  the  very  qualities  which  struck  her  to-day  as  his  limitations. 
It  was  conceivable  that  his  limitations  should  some  day  prove  a 
sort  of  blessing  in  disguise — a clear  and  quiet  harbour,  inclosed 
by  a fine  granite  breakwater.  But  that  day  could  only  come  in 
its  order,  and  she  could  not  wait  for  it  with  folded  hands.  That 
Lord  Warburton  should  continue  to  cherish  her  image  seemed  to 
her  more  than  modesty  should  not  only  expect,  but  even  desire. 
She  had  so  definitely  undertaken  to  forget  him,  as  a lover,  that 
a corresponding  effort  on  his  own  part  would  be  eminently  pro- 
per. This  was  not,  as  it  may  seem,  merely  a theory  tinged  with 
sarcasm.  Isabel  really  believed  that  his  lordship  would,  in 
the  usual  phrase,  get  over  it.  He  had  been  deeply  smitten — 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


W 


this  she  believed,  and  she  was  still  capable  of  deriving  pleasure 
from  the  belief ; but  it  was  absurd  that  a man  so  completely 
absolved  from  fidelity  should  stiffen  himself  in  an  attitude  it 
would  be  more  graceful  to  discontinue.  Englishmen  liked  to  be 
comfortable,  said  Isabel,  and  there  could  be  little  comfort  for 
Lord  Warburton,  in  the  long  run,  in  thinking  of  a self-sufficient 
American  girl  who  had  been  but  a casual  acquaintance.  Isabel 
flattered  herself  that  should  she  hear,  from  one  day  to  another, 
that  he  had  married  some  young  lady  of  his  own  country  who 
had  done  more  to  deserve  him,  she  should  receive  the  news 
without  an  impulse  of  jealousy.  It  would  have  proved  that  he 
believed  she  was  firm — which  was  what  she  wished  to  seem  to 
him;  and  this  was  grateful  to  her  pride. 


XXII. 

On  one  of  the  first  days  of  May,  some  six  months  after  old 
Mr.  Touchett’s  death,  a picturesque  little  group  was  gathered  in 
one  of  the  many  rooms  of  an  ancient  villa  which  stood  on  the 
summit  of  an  olive-muffled  hill,  outside  of  the  Roman  gate  of 
Florence.  The  villa  was  a long,  rather  blank-looking  structure, 
with  the  far-projecting  roof  which  Tuscany  loves,  and  which,  on 
the  hills  that  encircle  Florence,  when  looked  at  from  a distance, 
makes  so  harmonious  a rectangle  with  the  straight,  dark,  definite 
cypresses  that  usually  rise,  in  groups  of  three  or  four,  beside  it. 
The  house  had  a front  upon  a little  grassy,  empty,  rural  piazza 
which  occupied  a part  of  the  hill-top ; and  this  front,  pierced 
with  a few  windows  in  irregular  relations  and  furnished  with  a 
stone  bench  which  ran  along  the  base  of  the  structure  and  usually 
afforded  a lounging-place  to  one  or  two  persons  wearing  more  or 
less  of  that  air  of  under-valued  merit  which  in  Italy,  for  some 
reason  or  other,  always  gracefully  invests  any  one  who  confi- 
dently assumes  a perfectly  passive  attitude — this  ancient,  solid, 
weather-worn,  yet  imposing  front,  had  a somewhat  incommuni- 
cative character.  It  was  the  mask  of  the  house ; it  was  not 
its  face.  It  had  heavy  lids,  but  no  eyes ; the  house  in  reality 
looked  another  way — looked  off  behind,  into  splendid  openness 
*nd  the  range  of  the  afternoon  light.  In  that  quarter  the  villa 
overhung  the  slope  of  its  hill  and  the  long  valley  of  the  Arno, 
hazy  with  Italian  colour.  It  had  a narrow  garden,  in  the  man 
ner  of  a terraoe,  productive  chiefly  of  tangles  of  wild  roses  and 
old  stone  benches,  mossy  and  sun- warmed.  The  parapet  of  the 


im 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


terrace  Tras  just  the  height  to  lean  upon,  and  beneath  it  the 
ground  declined  into  the  vagueness  of  olive-crops  and  vineyards 
It  is  not,  however,  with  the  outside  of  the  place  that  we  are 
concerned ; on  this  bright  morning  of  ripened  spring  its  tenants 
had  reason  to  prefer  the  shady  side  of  the  wall.  The  windows 
of  the  ground-floor,  as  you  saw  them  from  the  piazza,  were,  in 
their  noble  proportions,  extremely  architectural ; but  their  func- 
tion seemed  to  be  less  to  offer  communication  with  the  world 
than  to  defy  the  world  to  look  in.  They  were  massively  cioss- 
barred  and  placed  at  such  a height  that  curiosity,  even  on  tip- 
toe, expired  before  it  reached  them.  In  an  apartment  lighted  by 
a row  of  three  of  these  obstructive  apertures — one  of  the  several 
distinct  apartments  into  which  the  villa  was  divided,  and  which 
were  mainly  occupied  by  foreigners  of  conflicting  nationality 
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,  however,  much  less  gloomy  than  my  indications 
may  have  represented,  for  it  had  a wide,  high  door,  which  now 
stood  open  into  thfc  tangled  garden  behind ; and  the  tall  iron 
lattices  admitted  on  occasion  more  than  enough  of  the  Italian 
sunshine.  The  place,  moreover,  was  almost  luxuriously  comfort- 
able ; it  told  of  habitation  being  practised  as  a fine  art.  It  con- 
tained a variety  of  those  faded  hangings  of  damask  and  tapestry, 
those  chests  and  cabinets  of  carved  and  time-polished  oak,  those 
primitive  specimens  of  pictorial  art  in  frames  pedantically  rusty, 
those  perverse-looking  relics  of  mediaeval  brass  and  pottery,  of 
which  Italy  has  long  been  the  not  quite  exhausted  storehouse. 
These  things  were  intermingled  with  articles  of  modern  furni- 
ture, in  which  liberal  concession  had  been  made  to  cultivated 
sensibilities ; it  was  to  be  noticed  that  all  the  chairs  were  deep 
and  well  padded,  and  that  much  space  was  occupied  by  a writ- 
ing-table of  which  the  ingenious  perfection  bore  the  stamp  of 
London  and  the  nineteenth  century.  There  were  books  in  pro- 
fusion, and  magazines  and  newspapers,  and  a few  small  modern 
pictures,  chiefly  in  water-colour.  One  of  these  productions  stood 
on  a drawing-room  easel,  before  which,  at  the  moment  when  we 
begin  to  be  concerned  with  her,  the  young  girl  I have  mentioned 
had  placed  herself.  She  was  looking  at  the  picture  in  silence. 

Silence — absolute  silence — had  not  fallen  upon  her  com- 
panions ; but  their  conversation  had  an  appearance  of  embar- 
rassed continuity.  The  two  good  sisters  had  not  settled  them- 
selves in  their  respective  chairs  ; their  attitude  was  noticeably 
provisional,  and  they  evidently  wished  to  emphasise  the  transi- 
tory character  of  thei  r presence.  They  were  plain,  comfoi  table 


THE  PDRTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 


mild-faced  women,  with  a kind  of  business-like  modesty,  to 
which  the  impersonal  aspect  of  their  stiffened  linen  and  inexpress- 
ive serge  gave  an  advantage.  One  of  them,  a person  of  a cer- 
tain age,  in  spectacles,  with  a fresh  complexion  and  a full  cheek, 
had  a more  discriminating  manner  than  her  colleague,  and  had 
evidently  the  responsibility  of  their  errand,  which  apparently 
related  to  the  young  girl.  This  young  lady  wore  her  hat — a 
coiffure  of  extreme  simplicity,  which  was  not  at  variance  with  a 
plain  muslin  gown,  too  short  for  the  wearer,  though  it  must 
already  have  been  “ let  out.”  The  gentleman  who  might  have 
been  supposed  to  be  entertaining  the  two  nuns  was  perhaps 
conscious  of  the  difficulties  of  his  function ; to  entertain  a 
nun  is,  in  fact,  a sufficiently  delicate  operation.  At  the  same 
time  he  was  plainly  much  interested  in  his  youthful  companion, 
and  while  she  turned  her  back  to  him  his  eyes  rested  gravely 
upon  her  slim,  small  figure.  He  was  a man  of  forty,  with  a 
well-shaped  head,  upon  which  the  hair,  still  dense,  but  prema- 
turely grizzled,  had  been  cropped  close.  He  had  a thin,  delicate, 
sharply-cut  face,  of  which  the  only  fault  was  that  it  looked  too 
pointed ; an  appearance  to  which  the  shape  of  his  beard  contri- 
buted not  a little.  This  beard,  cut  in  the  manner  of  the  por- 
traits of  the  sixteenth  century  and  surmounted  by  a fair  mous- 
tache, of  which  the  ends  had  a picturesque  upward  flourish,  gave 
its  wearer  a somewhat  foreign,  traditionary  look,  and  suggested 
that  he  was  a gentleman  who  studied  effect.  His  luminous 
intelligent  eye,  an  eye  which  expressed  both  softness  and  keen- 
ness—the  nature  of  the  observer  as  well  as  of  the  dreamer — 
would  have  assured  you,  however,  that  he  studied  it  only  within 
well-chosen  limits,  and  that  in  so  far  as  he  sought  it  he  found  it. 
You  would  have  been  much  at  a loss  to  determine  his  national- 
ity ; he  had  none  of  the  superficial  signs  that  usually  render  the 
answer  to  this  question  an  insipidly  easy  one.  If  he  had  Eng- 
lish blood  in  his  veins,  it  had  probably  received  some  French  or 
Italian  commixture  ; he  was  one  of  those  persons  who,  in  the 
matter  of  race,  may,  as  the  phrase  is,  pass  for  anything.  He 
had  a light,  lean,  lazy-looking  figure,  and  was  apparently  neither 
tall  nor  short.  He  was  dressed  as  a man  dresses  who  takes  little 
trouble  about  it. 

“ Well,  my  dear,  what  do  you  think  of  iU”  he  asked  cf  the 
young  girl.  He  used  the  Italian  tongue,  and  used  it  with 
perfect  ease ; but  this  would  not  have  convinced  you  that  he  was 
in  Italian. 

The  girl  turned  her  head  a little  to  one  side  and  the  other. 

“ It  is  very  pretty,  papa.  Did  you  make  it  yourself  ? ” 


200 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


" Yes,  my  child  ; I made  it.  Don’t  you  think  I am  clever  ?* 

“Yes,  papa,  very  clever;  I also  have  learned  to  make  pic- 
tures.” And  she  turned  round  and  showed  a small,  fair  face,  of 
which  the  natural  and  usual  expression  seemed  to  be  a smile  of 
perfect  sweetness. 

44  You  should  have  brought  me  a specimen  of  your  powers.” 

44  I have  brought  a great  many ; they  are  in  my  trunk,”  said 
fchQ  child. 

“ She  draws  very — very  carefully,”  the  elder  of  the  nuns 
icmarked,  speaking  in  French. 

6C I am  glad  to  hear  it.  Is  it  you  who  have  instructed  her  ? ” 

“ Happily,  no,”  said  the  good  sister,  blushing  a little.  “ Ce 
riesi  pas  ma  partie.  I teach  nothing  ; I leave  that  to  those  who 
are  wiser.  We  have  an  excellent  drawing-master,  Mr. — Mr. — 
what  is  his  name?”  she  asked  of  her  companion. 

Her  companion  looked  about  at  the  carpet. 

“ It’s  a German  name,”  she  said  in  Italian,  as  if  it  needed  to 
be  translated. 

“ Yes,”  the  other  went  on,  “ he  is  a German,  and  we  have  had 
him  for  many  years.” 

The  young  girl,  who  was  not  heeding  the  conversation,  had 
wandered  away  to  the  open  door  of  the  large  room,  and  stood 
looking  into  the  garden. 

44  And  you,  my  sister,  are  French,”  said  the  gentleman. 

“ Yes,  sir,”  the  woman  replied,  gently.  “ I speak  to  the  pupils 
in  my  own  language.  I know  no  other.  But  we  have  sisters  of 
other  countries — English,  German,  Irish.  They  all  speak  their 
own  tongue.” 

The  gentleman  gave  a smile. 

4 4 Has  my  daughter  been  under  the  care  of  one  of  the  Irish 
ladies  ? ” And  then,  as  he  saw  that  his  visitors  suspected  a joke, 
but  failed  to  understand  it — 4 4 You  are  very  complete,”  he  said, 
instantly. 

44  Oh,  yes,  we  are  complete.  We  have  everything,  and  every- 
thing is  of  the  best.” 

44  We  have  gymnastics,”  the  Italian  sister  ventured  to  remark. 
44  But  not  dangerous.” 

44 1 hope  not.  Is  that  your  branch  ? ” A question  which 
provoked  much  candid  hilarity  on  the  part  of  the  two  ladies ; on 
the  subsidence  of  which  their  entertainer,  glancing  at  his  daughter, 
^marked  that  she  had  grown. 

44  Yes,  but  I think  she  has  finished.  She  will  remain  little/ 
«aid  the  French  sister. 

44 1 am  not  sorry.  I like  little  women,”  the  gentleman  declared* 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


201 


frankly.  “But  I know  no  particular  reason  why  my  child 
should,  be  short.” 

The  nun  gave  a temperate  shrug,  as  if  to  intimate  that  such 
things  might  he  beyond  our  knowledge. 

“ She  is  in  very  good  health ; that  is  the  best  thing/ 

“Yes,  she  looks  well.”  And  the  young  girFs  father  watched 
her  a moment.  “ What  do  you  see  in  the  garden  1 ” he  asked,  in 
French. 

“ I see  many  flowers,”  she  replied,  in  a sweet,  small  voice, 
and  with  a French  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  brightened  by  pleasure. 
“ May  I,  truly  ? ” she  asked. 

“ Ah,  when  I tell  you,”  said  her  father. 

The  girl  glanced  at  the  elder  of  the  nuns. 

“ May  I,  truly,  ma  mbre  ? ” 

“Obey  monsieur  your  father,  my  child,”  said  the  sister, 
blushing  again. 

The  child,  satisfied  with  this  authorisation,  descended  from  the 
threshold,  and  was  presently  lost  to  sight. 

“ You  don’t  spoil  them,”  said  her  father,  smiling. 

“ For  everything  they  must  ask  leave.  That  is  our  system. 
Leave  is  freely  granted,  but  they  must  ask  it.” 

“ Oh,  I don’t  quarrel  with  your  system ; I have  no  doubt  it  is 
a very  good  one.  I sent  you  my  daughter  to  see  what  you  would 
make  of  her.  I had  faith.” 

“ One  must  have  faith,”  the  sister  blandly  rejoined,  gazing 
through  her  spectacles. 

“Well,  has  my  faith  been  rewarded?  What  have  you  made 
of  her  ? ” 

The  sister  dropped  her  eyes  a moment. 

“ A good  Christian,  monsieur.” 

Hei  host  dropped  his  eyes  as  well ; but  it  was  probable  that 
the  movement  had  in  each  case  a different  spring. 

“ Yes,”  he  said  in  a moment,  “ and  what  else  ? ” 

He  watched  the  lady  from  the  convent,  probably  thinking 
that  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  nice,”  said  the  father.  “ She  is  vexy 
pretty.” 

“ She  is  perfect.  She  has  no  faults.” 


202 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ She  never  had  any  as  a child,  and  I am  glad  you  have  given 
her  none.” 

“ We  love  her  too  much,”  said  the  spectacled  sister,  with  dig- 
nity. “ And  as  for  faults,  how  can  we  give  what  we  have  not! 
Le  convent  riest  pas  comme  le  monde , monsieur.  She  is  our  child, 
as  you  may  say.  We  have  had  her  since  she  was  so  small.” 

“ Of  all  those  we  shall  lose  this  year  she  is  the  one  wo  shall 
miss  most,”  the  younger  woman  murmured,  deferentially. 

“ Ah,  yes,  we  shall  talk  long  of  her,”  said  the  other.  “We 
shall  hold  her  up  to  the  new  ones.” 

And  at  this  the  good  sister  appeared  to  find  her  spectacles 
dim  ; while  her  companion,  after  fumbling  a moment,  presently 
drew  forth  a pocket-handkerchief  of  durable  texture. 

“ It  is  not  certain  that  you  will  lose  her ; nothing  is  settled 
yet,”  the  host  rejoined,  quickly ; not  as  if  to  anticipate  their 
tears,  but  in  the  tone  of  a man  saying  what  was  most  agreeable 
to  himself. 

“We  should  be  very  happy  to  believe  that.  Fifteen  is  verj 
young  to  leave  us.” 

“ Oh,”  exclaimed  the  gentleman,  with  more  vivacity  than  he 
had  yet  used,  “it  is  not  I who  wish  to  take  her  away.  I wish 
you  could  keep  her  always  1 ” 

“ Ah,  monsieur,”  said  the  elder  sister,  smiling  and  getting  up 
“ good  as  she  is,  she  is  made  for  the  world.  Le  monde  y gagnera." 

“ If  all  the  good  people  were  hidden  away  in  convents,  how 
would  the  world  get  on  1 ” her  companion  softly  inquired,  rising 
also. 

This  was  a question  of  a wider  bearing  than  the  good  woman 
apparently  supposed ; and  the  lady  in  spectacles  took  a harmon- 
ising view  by  saying  comfortably — 

“ Fortunately  there  are  good  people  everywhere.” 

“ If  you  are  going  there  will  be  two  less  here,”  her  host 
•emarked,  gallantly. 

For  this  extravagant  sally  his  simple  visitors  had  no  answer, 
and  they  simply  looked  at  each  other  in  decent  deprecation  ; but 
their  confusion  was  speedily  covered  by  the  return  of  the  young 
girl,  with  two  large  bunches  of  roses — one  of  them  all  white,  the 
other  red. 

“ I give  you  your  choice,  mamman  Catherine,”  said  the  child. 
“ It  is  only  the  colour  that  is  different,  mamman  Justine  ; there 
are  just  as  many  roses  tn  one  bunch  as  another.” 

The  two  sisters  turned  to  each  other,  smiling  and  hesitating,  with 
— “ Which  will  you  take'?”  and  “ No,  it's  for  you  to  choose.” 

44 1 will  take  the  red,”  said  mother  Catherine,  in  the  speo- 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 

fcacles.  “ I am  so  red  myself.  They  will  comfort  us  on  otu 
way  hack  to  Home.” 

“ Ah,  they  won't  last,"  cried  the  young  girl.  “ I wish  I 
could  give  you  something  that  would  last ! ” 

“ You  have  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  heads,"  the  child  went  on. 

“ And  do  you  go  hack  to  Rome  to-night  1 " her  father  asked. 

“Yes,  we  take  the  train  again.  We  have  so  much  to  do 
la-bas ." 

“ Are  you  not  tired  ? " 

" We  are  never  tired." 

“Ah,  my  sister,  sometimes,"  murmured  the  junior  votaress. 

“Not  to-day,  at  any  rate.  We  have  rested  too  well  here. 
Que  Dieu  vous  garde , ma  filled1 

Their  host,  while  they  exchanged  kisses  with  his  daughter, 
went  forward  to  open  the  door  through  which  they  were  to 
pass ; hut  as  he  did  so  he  gave  a slight  exclamation,  and  stood 
looking  beyond.  The  door  opened  into  a vaulted  ante-chamber, 
as  high  as  a chapel,  and  paved  with  red  tiles ; and  into  this 
ante-chamber  a lady  had  just  been  admitted  by  a servant,  a lad 
in  shabby  livery,  who  was  now  ushering  her  toward  the  apart- 
ment in  which  our  friends  were  grouped.  The  gentleman  at  the 
door,  after  dropping  his  exclamation,  remained  silent;  in  silence, 
too,  the  lady  advanced.  He  gave  her  no  further  audible  greeting, 
and  offered  her  no  hand,  but  stood  aside  to  let  her  pass  into  the 
drawing-room.  At  the  threshold  she  hesitated. 

“ Is  there  any  one  % 99  she  asked. 

“ Some  one  you  may  see." 

She  went  in,  and  found  herself  confronted  with  the  two  nun3 
and  their  pupil,  who  was  coming  forward  between  them,  with  a 
hand  in  the  arm  of  each.  At  the  sight  of  the  new  visitor  they 
all  paused,  and  the  lady,  who  had  stopped  too,  stood  looking  at 
them.  The  young  girl  gave  a little  soft  cry — 

“ All,  Madame  Merle  ! " 

The  visitor  had  been  slightly  startled ; but  her  manner  the 
next  instant  was  none  the  less  gracious. 

“Yes,  it's  Madame  Merle,  come  to  welcome  you  home." 

And  she  held  out  two  hands  to  the  girl,  who  immediately 
came  up  to  her,  presenting  her  forehead  to  be  kissed.  Madame 
Merle  saluted  this  portion  of  her  charming  little  person,  and 
then  stood  smiling  at  the  two  nuns.  They  acknowledged  her 
tmile  with  a decent  obeisance,  but  permitted  tkemselves  no  direct 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


2G4 

scrutiny  of  this  imposing,  brilliant  woman,  who  seemed  to  bring 
in  with  her  something  of  the  radiance  of  the  outer  world. 

“ These  ladies  have  brought  my  daughter  home,  and  now  they 
return  to  the  convent,”  the  gentleman  explained. 

“ Ah,  you  go  back  to  Rome  1 I have  lately  come  from  there. 
It  is  very  lovely  now,”  said  Madame  Merle. 

The  good  sisters,  standing  with  their  hands  folded  into  their 
sleeves,  accepted  this  statement  uncritically ; and  the  master  of 
the  house  asked  Madame  Merle  how  long  it  was  since  she  had 
left  Rome. 

“ She  came  to  see  me  at  the  convent,”  said  the  young  girl, 
before  her  father's  visitors  had  time  to  reply. 

“ I have  been  more  than  once,  Pansy,”  Madame  Merle 
answered.  “ Am  I not  your  great  friend  in  Rome  ? ” 

“I  remember  the  last  time  best,"  said  Pansy,  “ because  you 
told  me  I should  leave  the  place.” 

“Did  you  tell  her  that?”  the  child’s  father  asked. 

“ I hardly  remember.  I told  her  what  I thought  would 
please  her.  I have  been  in  Florence  a week.  I hoped  you 
would  come  and  see  me.” 

“ I should  have  done  so  if  I had  known  you  were  here.  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 peculiar  tone  of  voice — a 
tone  half-lowered,  and  carefully  quiet,  but  as  from  habit  rather 
than  from  any  definite  need. 

Madame  Merle  looked  about  her,  choosing  her  seat. 

“ You  are  going  to  the  door  with  these  women  ? Let  me  of 
course  not  interrupt  the  ceremony.  Je  vous  salue , mesdames  ” 
she  added,  in  French,  to  the  nuns,  as  if  to  dismiss  them. 

“ This  lady  is  a great  friend  of  ours ; you  will  have  seen  her 
at  the  convent,”  said  the  host.  “We  have  much  faith  in  her 
judgment,  and  she  will  help  me  to  decide  whether  my  daughter 
shall  return  to  you  at  the  end  of  the  holidays.” 

“ I hope  you  will  decide  in  our  favour,  madam,”  ^he  sister  in 
spectacles  ventured  to  remark. 

“That  is  Mr.  Osmond’s  pleasantry;  I decide  nothing,”  said 
Madame  Merle,  smiling  still.  “ I believe  you  have  a very  good 
school,  but  Miss  Osmond’s  friends  must  remember  that  she  is 
meant  for  the  world.” 

“ That  is  what  I have  told  monsieur,”  sister  Catherine 
answered  “ It  is  precisely  to  fit  her  for  the  world,”  she 
murmured,  glancing  at  Pansy,  who  stood  at  a little  distance 
looking  at  Madame  Merle’s  elegant  apparel. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


205 


‘Do  you  hear  that,  Pansy  1 You  are  meant  for  tho  world/ 
ta id  Pansy’s  father. 

The  child  gazed  at  him  an  instant  with  her  pure  young  eyes. 

“ Am  I not  meant  for  you,  papa  h ” she  asked. 

Papa  gave  a quick,  light  laugh. 

“ That  doesn’t  prevent  it  ! I am  of  the  world,  Pansy.” 

“■Kindly  permit  us  to  retire,”  said  sister  Catherine.  “Be 
good,  in  any  case,  my  daughter.” 

“ I shall  certainly  come  back  and  see  you,”  Pansy  declared, 
recommencing  her  embraces,  which  were  presently  interrupted 
by  Madame  Merle. 

“ Stay  with  me,  my  child,”  she  said,  “ while  your  father 
takes  the  good  ladies  to  the  door.” 

Pansy  stared,  disappointed,  but  not  protesting.  She  was 
evidently  impregnated  with  the  idea  of  submission,  which  was 
due  to  any  one  who  took  the  tone  of  authority ; and  she  was  a 
passive  spectator  of  the  operation  of  her  fate. 

“ May  I not  see  mamman  Catherine  get  into  the  carriage  1 * 
she  asked  very  gently. 

“ It  would  please  me  better  if  you  would  remain  with  me," 
said  Madame  Merle,  while  Mr.  Osmond  and  his  companions, 
vho  had  bowed  low  again  to  the  other  visitor,  passed  into  the 
ante-chamber. 

“ Oh  yes,  I will  stay,”  Pansy  answered ; and  she  stood  near 
Madame  Merle,  surrendering  her  little  hand,  which  this  lady  took. 
She  stared  out  of  the  window ; her  eyes  had  filled  with  tears. 

“ I am  glad  they  have  taught  you  to  obey,”  said  Madame 
Merle.  “ That  is  what  little  girls  should  do.” 

“ Oh  yes,  I obey  very  well,”  said  Pansy,  with  soft  eagerness, 
almost  with  boastfulness,  as  if  she  had  been  speaking  of  her 
piano-playing.  And  then  she  gave  a faint,  just  audible  sigh. 

Madame  Merle,  holding  her  hand,  drew  it  across  her  own 
fine  palm  and  looked  at  it.  The  gaze  was  critical,  but  it  found 
nothing  to  deprecate;  the  child’s  small  hand  was  delicate  and  fair. 

“ I hope  they  always  see  that  you  wear  gloves,”  she  said  in 
a moment.  “ Little  girls  usually  dislike  them.” 

“I  used  to  dislike  them,  but  I like  them  now  ” the  child 
answered. 

“Very  good,  I will  make  you  a present  of  a dozen.” 

“ I thank  you  very  much.  What  colours  will  they  hi  i * 
tansy  demanded,  with  interest. 

Madame  Merle  meditated  a moment. 

a Useful  colours.” 

f<  But  will  they  be  pretty  ” 


10* 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ Are  you  fond  of  pretty  things  ? ” 

“ Yes  ; but — but  not  too  fond,”  said  Pansy,  with  a trace  o! 
asceticism. 

“ Well,  they  will  not  be  too  pretty,”  Madame  Merle  answered, 
with  a laugh.  She  took  the  child1  s other  hand,  and  drew  her 
nearer ; and  then,  looking  at  her  a moment — “ Shall  you  miss 
mother  Catherine  ? ” 

“ Yes — when  I think  of  her.” 

“ Try,  then,  not  to  think  of  her.  Perhaps  some  day,”  added 
Madame  Merle,  “ you  will  have  another  mother.” 

“ I don’t  think  that  is  necessary,”  Pansy  said,  repeating  her 
little  soft,  conciliatory  sigh.  “ I had  more  than  thirty  mothers 
at  the  convent.” 

Her  father’s  step  sounded  again  in  the- ante-chamber,  and 
Madame  Merle  got  up,  releasing  the  child.  Mr.  Osmond  came 
in  and  closed  the  door ; then,  without  looking  at  Madame  Merle, 
he  pushed  one  or  two  chairs  back  into  their  places. 

His  visitor  waited  a moment  for  him  to  speak,  watching  him 
as  he  moved  about.  Then  at  last  she  said — “ I hoped  you  would 
have  come  to  Rome.  I thought  it  possible  you  would  have 
come  to  fetch  Pansy  away.” 

“ That  was  a natural  supposition ; but  I am  afraid  it  is  not 
the  first  time  I have  acted  in  defiance  of  your  calculations/' 

“ Yes,”  said  Madame  Merle,  “ I think  you  are  very  perverse." 

Mr.  Osmond  busied  himself  for  a moment  in  the  room — there 
was  plenty  of  space  in  it  to  move  about — in  the  fashion  of  a 
man  mechanically  seeking  pretexts  for  not  giving  an  attention 
which  may  be  embarrassing.  Presently,  however,  he  had  ex- 
hausted his  pretexts ; there  was  nothing  left  for  him — unless 
he  took  up  a book — but  to  stand  with  his  hands  behind  him, 
looking  at  Pansy.  “ Why  didn’t  you  come  and  see  the  last  of 
mamman  Catherine  ? ” he  asked  of  her  abruptly,  in  French. 

Pansy  hesitated  a moment,  glancing  at  Madame  Merle.  u I 
asked  her  to  stay  with  me,”  said  this  lady,  who  had  seated 
herself  again  in  another  place. 

“Ah,  that  was  better,”  said  Osmond.  Then,  at  last,  he 
dropped  into  a chair,  and  sat  looking  at  Madame  Merle ; leaning 
forward  a little,  with  his  elbows  on  the  edge  of  the  arms  and 
his  hands  interlocked. 

“ She  is  going  to  give  me  some  gloves,”  said  Pansy. 

“ You  needn’t  tell  that  to  every  one,  my  dear,”  Madame  Merle 
observed. 

4r  You  are  very  kind  to  her,”  said  Osmond.  “ She  is  sup- 
posed to  have  everything  she  needs.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


*07 


u I should  think  she  had  had  enough  of  the  nuns.” 

“ If  we  are  going  to  discuss  that  matter,  she  had  better  go 
mt  of  the  room.” 

“ Let  her  stay,”  said  Madame  Merle.  “ We  will  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  under- 
stand,” her  father  replied.  The  child  sat  down  deferentially, 
near  the  open  door,  within  sight  of  the  garden,  into  which  she 
directed  her  innocent,  wistful  eyes  ; and  Mr.  Osmond  went  on, 
irrelevantly,  addressing  himself  to  his  other  companion.  “ You 
are  looking  particularly  well.” 

“ I think  I always  look  the  same,”  said  Madame  Merle. 

“You  always  are  the  same.  You  don’t  vary.  You  are  a 
wonderful  woman.” 

“ Yes,  I think  I am.” 

“ You  sometimes  change  your  mind,  however.  You  told  me 
on  your  return  from  England  that  you  would  not  leave  Iiome 
again  for  the  present.” 

“ I am  pleased  that  you  remember  so  well  what  I say.  That 
was  my  intention.  But  I have  come  to  Florence  to  meet  some 
friends  who  have  lately  arrived,  and  as  to  whose  movements  I 
was  at  that  time  uncertain.” 

“ That  reason  is  characteristic.  You  are  always  doing  some- 
thing for  your  friends.” 

Madame  Merle  looked  straight  at  her  interlocutor,  smiling. 
“ It  is  less  characteristic  than  your  comment  upon  it — which  is 
perfectly  insincere.  I don’t,  however,  make  a crime  of  that,” 
she  added,  “ because  if  you  don’t  believe  what  you  say  there  is 
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 — sc 
much  of  everything.  I never  knew  a person  whose  life  touched 
bo  many  other  lives.” 

“ What  do  you  call  one’s  life?”  asked  Madame  Merle.  “One’s 
appearance,  one’s  movements,  one’s  engagements,  one’s  society  ? ” 

* I call  your  life — your  ambitions,”  said  Osmond. 

Madame  Merle  looked  a moment  at  Pansy.  “I  wonder 
whether  she  understands  that,”  she  murmured. 

“ You  see  she  can’t  stay  with  us  ! ” And  Pansy’s  father  gave 
a rather  joyless  smile.  “ Go  into  the  garden,  ma  bonne , and 
pluck  a Bower  or  two  for  Madame  Merle,”  he  went  on,  in 
French. 


aos 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ 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  ner,  and  then 
came  back,  but  remained  standing,  or  rather  strolling  to  and 
fro,  as  if  to  cultivate  a sense  of  freedom  which  in  another  atti- 
tude might  be  wanting. 

“My  ambitions  are  principally  for  you,”  said  Madame  Merle, 
looking  up  at  him  with  a certain  nobleness  of  expression. 

“ That  comes  back  to  what  I say.  I am  part  of  your  life — I 
and  a thousand  others.  You  are  not  selfish — I can’t  admit  that 
If  you  were  selfish,  what  should  I be  1 What  epithet  would 
properly  describe  me  1 ” 

“ You  are  indolent.  For  me  that  is  your  worst  fault.” 

“ I am  afraid  it  is  really  my  best.” 

“ You  don't  care,”  said  Madame  Merle,  gravely. 

“ Ho ; I don’t  think  I care  much.  What  sort  cf  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  is  not  of  importance — to  me  at  ieast — that  you  didn’t 
go ; though  I should  have  been  glad  to  see  you.  I am  glad 
that  you  are  not  in  Rome  now — which  you  might  be,  would 
probably  be,  if  you  had  gone  there  a month  ago.  There  is 
something  I should  like  you  to  do  at  present  in  Florence.” 

“ Please  remember  my  indolence,”  said  Osmond. 

“I  will  remember  it ; but  I beg  you  to  forget  it.  In  that 
way  you  will  have  both  the  virtue  and  the  reward.  This  is  not 
a great  labour,  and  it  may  prove  a great  pleasure.  How  long  is 
it  since  you  made  a new  acquaintance  ? ” 

“ I don’t  think  I have  made  any  since  I made  yours.” 

“It  is  time  you  should  make  another,  then.  There  is  a 
friend  of  mine  I want  you  to  know.” 

Mr.  Osmond,  in  his  walk,  had  gone  back  to  the  open  door 
again,  and  was  looking  at  his  daughter,  as  she  moved  about  in 
the  intense  sunshine.  “ What  good  will  it  do  me  1 ” he  asked, 
with  a sort  of  genial  crudity. 

Madame  Merle  reflected  a moment.  “ It  will  amuse  you.’ 
There  was  nothing  crude  in  this  rejoinder ; it  had  been  thoroughly 
well  considered. 

“ If  you  say  that,  I believe  it,”  said  Osmond,  coming  toward 
her.  “ There  are  some  points  in  which  my  confidence  in  you  is 
complete.  I am  perfectly  aware,  for  instance,  that  you  know 
good  society  from  bad.” 

u Society  is  all  bad.’ 

“ Excuse  me.  That  isn’t  a common  sort  of  wisdom.  You  have 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


2C* 

gained  it  in  the  right  way — experimentally  ; you  have  compared 
an  immense  number  of  people  with  each  other.” 

“ Well,  I invite  you  to  profit  by  my  knowledge.” 

“ To  profit  ? Are  you  very  sure  that  I shall  1 ” 

“ IPs  what  I hope.  It  will  depend  upon  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  is  likely  to  turn  up  here — is  worth  an 
effort  ? ” 

Madame  Merle  flushed  a little,  and  her  eye  betrayed  vexation. 

Don’t  be  foolish,  Osmond.  There  is  no  one  knows  better  than 
a^u  that  there  are  many  things  worth  an  effort.” 

“ Many  things,  I admit.  But  they  are  none  of  them  probable 
ihings.” 

“ It  is  the  effort  that  makes  them  probable,”  said  Madame 
Merle. 

“ There’s  something  in  that.  Who  is  your  friend  1 ” 

“ The  person  I came  to  Florence  to  see.  She  is  a niece  of 
Mrs.  Touchett,  whom  you  will  not  have  forgotten.” 

“ A niece  1 The  word  niece  suggests  youth.  I see  what  you 
are  coming  to.” 

“ Yes,  she  is  young — twenty-two  years  old.  She  is  a great 
friend  of  mine.  I met  her  for  the  first  time  in  England,  several 
months  ago,  and  we  took  a great  fancy  to  each  other.  I like  her 
immensely,  and  I do  what  I don’t  do  every  day — I admire  her. 
You  will  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  intelli 
gent  and  unprecedentedly  virtuous  1 It  is  only  on  those  condi- 
tions that  I care  to  make  her  acquaintance.  You  know  I asked 
you  some  time  ago  never  to  speak  to  me  of  any  one  who  should 
not  correspond  to  that  description.  I know  plenty  of  dingy 
people  ; I don’t  want  to  know  any  more.” 

“ Miss  Archer  is  not  dingy ; she’s  as  bright  as  the  morning 
She  corresponds  to  your  description ; it  is  for  that  I wish  you  to 
know  her.  She  fills  all  your  requirements.” 

“ More  or  less,  of  course.” 

“ No  ; quite  literally.  She  is  beautiful,  accomplished,  gener- 
ous, and  for  an  American,  well-born.  She  is  also  very  clever 
and  very  amiable,  and  she  has  a handsome  fortune.” 

Mr.  Osmond  listened  to  this  in  silence,  appearing  to  turn  it 
over  in  his  mind,  with  his  eyes  on  his  informant.  “ What  do 
yoi  want  to  do  with  her  1 ” he  asked,  at  last. 


BIO 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ What  you  see.  Put  her  in  your  way.” 

“ Isn’t  she  meant  for  something  better  than  that  ? ” 

Ci  I don’t  pretend  to  know  what  people  are  meant  f ; r,”  said 
Madame  Merle.  “ I only  know  what  I can  do  with  them.” 

“ I am  sorry  for  Miss  Archer  ! ” Osmond  declared. 

Madame  Merle  got  up.  “ If  that  is  a beginningof  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  are  looking  very  well,”  Osmond  repeated,  still  more 
irrelevantly  than  before.  “ You  have  got  some  idea.  You  are 
never  as  well  as  when  you  have  got  an  idea ; they  are  always 
becoming  to  you.” 

In  the  manner  of  these  two  persons,  on  first  meeting  on  any 
occasion,  and  especially  when  they  met  in  the  presence  of  others, 
there  was  something  indirect  and  circumspect,  which  showed 
itself  in  glance  and  tone.  They  approached  each  other  obliquely, 
as  it  were,  and  tiiey  addressed  each  other  by  implication.  The 
effect  of  each  appeared  to  be  to  intensify  to  an  embarrassing 
degree  the  self-consciousness  of  the  other.  Madame  Merle  of 
course  carried  off  such  embarrassments  better  than  her  friend  ; 
but  even  Madame  Merle  had  not  on  this  occasion  the  manner 
she  would  have  liked  to  have — the  perfect  self-possession  she 
would  have  wished  to  exhibit  to  her  host.  The  point  I wish 
to  make  is,  however,  that  at  a certain  moment  the  obstruction, 
whatever  it  was,  always  levelled  itself,  and  left  them  more  closely 
face  to  face  than  either  of  them  ever  was  with  any  one  else. 
This  was  what  had  happened  now.  They  stood  there,  knowing 
each  other  well,  and  each  of  them  on  the  whole  willing  to  accept 
the  satisfaction  of  knowing,  as  a compensation  for  the  inconveni- 
ence— whatever  it  might  be — of  being  known. 

“ I wish  very  much  you  were  not  so  heartless/  ’ said  Madame 
Merle,  quietly.  “ It  has  always  been  against  you,  and  it  will  be 
against  you  now.” 

i(  I am  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  will  probably  understand  it  even  less  as  time  goes  on. 
There  are  some  things  you  will  never  understand.  There  is  no 
particular  need  that  you  should.” 

“You,  after  all,  are  the  most  remarkable  woman,”  said 
Osmond.  “ You  have  more  in  you  than  almost  any  one.  I 

M 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


211 


don’t  see  why  you  think  Mrs.  Touchett’s  niece  should  matter 
very  much  to  me,  when — when ” and  he  paused  a moment. 

“ When  I myself  have  mattered  so  little  ] ” 

“ That  of  course  is  not  what  I meant  to  say.  When  I have 
known  and  appreciated  such  a woman  as  you.” 

“ Isabel  Archer  is  better  than  1,”  said  Madame  Merle. 

Her  companion  gave  a laugh.  “ How  little  you  must  think 
of  her  to  say  that ! ” 

“ Do  you  suppose  I am  capable  of  jealousy  ? Please  answer 
me  that.” 

“ With  regard  to  mel  Ho  ; on  the  whole  I don’t.” 

“ Come  and  see  me,  then,  two  days  hence.  I am  staying  at 
Mrs.  Touchett’s — the  Palazzo  Crescentini — and  the  girl  will  be 
there.” 

“ Why  didn’t  you  ask  me  that  at  first,  simply,  without  speak- 
ing 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  that  he  could  ask  would  find  unprepared. 
M Do  you  wish  to  know  why  ] Because  I have  spoken  of  you 

to  her.” 

Osmond  frowned  and  turned  away.  “ I would  rather  not 
know  that.”  Then,  in  a moment,  he  pointed  out  the  easel  sup- 
porting the  little  water-colour  drawing.  “ Have  you  seen  that 
—my  last  'l  ” 

Madame  Merle  drew  near  and  looked  at  it  a moment.  " Is  it 
che  Venetian  Alps — one  of  your  last  year’s  sketches  V9 

“ Yes — but  how  you  guess  everything  ! ” 

Madame  Merle  looked  for  a moment  longer ; then  she  turned 
away.  “ You  know  I don’t  care  for  your  drawings.” 

“ I know  it,  yet  I am  always  surprised  at  it.  They  are  really 
so  much  better  than  most  people’s.” 

“ That  may  very  well  be.  But  as  the  only  thing  you  do,  it’s 
on  little.  T should  have  liked  you  to  do  so  many  other  things  : 
those  were  my  ambitions.” 

“ Yes ; you  have  told  me  many  times — things  that  were 
impossible.” 

Things  that  were  impossible,”  said  Madame  Merle.  And 
then,  in  quite  a different  tone — 4 ‘In  itself  your  little  picture  is 
very  good.”  She  looked  about  the  room — at  the  old  cabinets, 
the  pictures,  the  tapestries,  the  surfaces  of  faded  silk.  “ Your 
rooms,  at  least,  are  perfect,”  she  went  on.  “ I am  struck  with 
that  afresh,  whenever  I come  back ; I know  none  better  any- 
where. You  understand  this  sort  of  thing  as  no  one  else  does.” 

P 2 


212 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ I am  very  sick  of  it,”  said  Osmond. 

*6  You  must  let  Miss  Archer  come  and  see  all  this  I have 
told  her  about  it.” 

“ I don't  object  to  showing  my  things — when  people  are  not 
idiots.” 

“ You  do  it  delightfully.  As  a cicerone  in  your  own  museum 
you.  appear  to  particular  advantage.” 

Mr.  Osmond,  in  return  for  this  compliment,  simply  turned 
upon  his  companion  an  eye  expressive  of  perfect  clairvoyance. 

“ Did  you  say  she  was  rich  % ” he  asked  in  a moment. 

“ She  has  seventy  thousand  pounds.” 

“ En  ecus  bien  comptes  ? ” 

“ There  is  no  doubt  whatever  about  her  fortune.  I have  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  1 She  has  none — nor  father  either.” 

“ The  aunt  then  ; whom  did  you  say  'l — 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  is 
passing  away — a vivid  identity.  But  that  long  jackanapes,  the 
son — is  he  about  the  place  1 ” 

“ He  is  there,  but  he  won't  trouble  you.” 

“ He’s  an  awful  ass.” 

“ I think  you  are  mistaken.  He  is  a very  clever  man.  But 
he  is  not  fond  of  being  about  when  I am  there,  because  he  doesn't 
like  me.” 

“ What  could  be  more  asinine  than  that  1 Did  you  say  that 
she  was  pretty  1 ” Osmond  went  on. 

“Yes;  but  I won’t  say  it  again,  lest  you  should  be  disap- 
pointed. Come  and  make  a beginning;  that  is  all  I ask  of 
you.” 

“ A beginning  of  what  1 ” 

Madame  Merle  was  silent  a moment  “ I want  you  of  coursa 
to  marry  her.” 

“The  beginning  of  the  endl  Well,  I will  see  for  myself. 
Have  you  told  her  that  1 ” 

“ For  what  do  you  take  mel  She  is  a very  delicate  piece  of 
machinery.” 

“ Really,”  said  Osmond,  after  some  meditation,  “ I don’t 
understand  your  ambitions.” 

“ I think  you  will  understand  this  one  after  you  have  seen 
Miss  Archer.  Suspend  your  judgment  till  then.”  Madame 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


213 


Merle,  as  she  spoke,  had  drawn  near  the  open  door  of  the 
garden,  where  she  stood  a moment,  looking  out.  “ Pansy  has 
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  have  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  hack  with  my  flowers,  then  1 ” MadaBfl8 
Merle  asked.  “ She  is  not  in  a hurry.” 

“ We  will  go  and  get  them,”  said  her  companion. 

“ She  doesn’t  like  me,”  murmured  Madame  Merle,  as  she  raised 
her  parasol,  and  they  passed  into  the  garden. 


XXIII. 

Madame  Merle,  who  had  come  to  Florence  on  Mrs.  Touchett’s 
arrival  at  the  invitation  of  this  lady — Mrs.  Touchett  offering  her 
for  a month  the  hospitality  of  the  Palazzo  Crescentini — the 
judicious  Madame  Merle  spoke  to  Isabel  afresh  about  Gilbert 
Osmond,  and  expressed  the  wish  that  she  should  know  him ; but 
made  no  such  point  of  the  matter  as  we  have  seen  her  do  in 
recommending  the  girl  herself  to  Mr.  Osmond’s  attention.  The 
reason  of  this  was  perhaps  that  Isabel  offered  no  resistance 
whatever  to  Madame  Merle’s  proposal.  In  Italy,  as  in  England, 
the  lady  had  a multitude  of  friends,  both  among  the  natives  of 
the  country  and  its  heterogeneous  visitors.  She  had  mentioned 
to  Isabel  most  of  the  people  the  girl  would  find  it  well  to  know 
— of  course,  she  said,  Isabel  could  know  whomever  she  would — 
and  she  had  placed  Mr.  Osmond  near  the  top  of  the  list.  He 
was  an  old  friend  of  her  own ; she  had  known  him  these  ten 
years ; he  was  one  of  the  cleverest  and  most  agreeable  men  it 
was  possible  to  meet.  He  was  altogether  above  the  respectable 
average ; quite  another  affair.  He  was  not  perfect — far  from 
it ; the  effect  he  produced  depended  a good  deal  on  the  state  of 
his  nerves  and  his  spirits.  If  he  were  not  in  the  right  mood  he 
could  be  very  unsatisfactory — like  most  people,  after  all;  but 
when  he  chose  to  exert  himself  no  man  could  do  it  to  better 
purpose.  He  had  his  peculiarities — which  indeed  Isabel  would 
find  to  be  the  case  with  all  the  men  really  worth  knowing — and 
he  did  not  cause  his  light  to  shine  equally  for  all  peraonsu 


tu 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Madame  Merle,  however,  thought  she  could  undertake  that  foi 
Isabel  he  would  be  brilliant.  He  was  easily  bored— too  easily 
and  dull  people  always  put  him  out ; but  a quick  and  cultivated 
girl  like  Isabel  would  give  him  a stimulus  which  was  too  absent 
from  his  life.  At  any  rate,  he  was  a person  to  know.  One 
should  not  attempt  to  live  in  Italy  without  making  a friend  of 
Gilbert  Osmond,  who  knew  more  about  the  country  than  any 
one  except  two  or  three  German  professors.  And  if  they  had 
more  knowledge  than  he,  he  had  infinitely  more  taste ; he  had  a 
taste  which  was  quite  by  itself.  Isabel  remembered  that  her 
friend  had  spoken  of  him  during  their  multifarious  colloquies  at 
Gardencourt,  and  wondered  a little  what  was  the  nature  of  the 
tie  that  united  them.  She  was  inclined  to  imagine  that  Madame 
Merle’s  ties  were  peculiar,  and  such  a possibility  was  a part  of 
.the  interest  created  by  this  suggestive  woman.  As  regards  her 
relations  with  Mr.  Osmond,  however,  Madame  Merle  hinted  at 
nothing  but  a long-established  and  tranquil  friendship.  Isabel 
said  that  she  should  be  happy  to  know  a person  who  had  enjoyed 
her  friend’s  confidence  for  so  many  years.  “You  ought  to  see  a 
great  many  men,”  Madame  Merle  remarked ; “ you  ought  to  see 
as  many  as  possible,  so  as  to  get  used  to  them.” 

“ Used  to  them  ] ” Isabel  repeated,  with  that  exceedingly 
serious  gaze  which  sometimes  seemed  to  proclaim  that  she  was 
deficient  in  a sense  of  humour — an  intimation  which  at  other 
moments  she  effectively  refuted.  “ I am  not  afraid  of  them  ? ” 

“ Used  to  them,  I mean,  so  as  to  despise  them.  That’s  what 
one  comes  to  with  most  of  them.  You  will  pick  out,  for  your 
society,  the  few  whom  you  don’t  despise.” 

This  remark  had  a bitterness  which  Madame  Merle  did  not 
often  allow  herself  to  betray ; but  Isabel  was  not  alarmed  by  it, 
for  she  had  never  supposed  that,  as  one  saw  more  of  the  world, 
the  sentiment  of  respect  became  the  most  active  of  one’s  emotions. 
This  sentiment  was  excited,  however,  by  the  beautiful  city  of 
Florence,  which  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  to  call  attention  to 
latent  merits.  She  was  in  no  want,  indeed,  of  aesthetic  illumin- 
ation, for  Ralph  found  it  a pleasure  which  renewed  his  own 
earlier  sensations,  to  act  as  cicerone  to  his  eager  young  kinswoman. 
Madame  Merle  remained  at  home ; she  had  seen  the  treasures  of 
Florence  so  often,  and  she  had  always  something  to  do.  But 
she  talked  of  all  things  with  remarkable  vividness  of  memory — 
she  remembered  the  right-hand  angle  in  the  large  Perugino,  and 
the  position  of  the  hands  of  the  Saint  Elizabeth  in  the  picture 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


21? 


next  to  it;  and  had  her  own  opinions  as  to  the  character  of  many 
famous  works  of  art,  differing  often  from  Balph  with  great  sharp- 
ness, and  defending  her  interpretations  with  as  much  ingenuity 
as  good-humour.  Isabel  listened  to  the  discussions  which  took 
nlace  between  the  two,  with  a sense  that  she  might  derive  much 
benefit  from  them  and  that  they  were  among  the  advantages 
which — for  instance — she  could  not  have  enjoyed  in  Albany. 
In  the  clear  May  mornings,  before  the  faunal  breakfast — this 
repast  at  Mrs.  Touchett’s  was  served  at  twelve  o’clock — Isabel 
wandered  about  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  con- 
vent. She  went  to  the  galleries  and  palaces ; she  looked  at  the 
pictures  and  statues  which  had  hitherto  been  great  names  to  her, 
and  exchanged  for  a knowledge  which  was  sometimes  a limitation 
a presentiment  which  proved  usually  to  have  been  a blank.  She 
performed  all  those  acts  of  mental  prostration  in  which,  on  a 
first  visit  to  Italy,  youth  and  enthusiasm  so  freely  indulge  ; she 
felt  her  heart  beat  in  the  presence  of  immortal  genius,  and  knew 
the  sweetness  of  rising  tears  in  eyes  to  which  faded  fresco  and 
darkened  marble  grew  dim.  But  the  return,  every  day,  was  even 
pleasanter  than  the  going  forth ; the  return  into  the  wide,  monu- 
mental court  of  the  great  house  in  which  Mrs.  Touch  ett,  many 
years  before,  had  established  herself,  and  into  the  high,  cool 
rooms  where  carven  rafters  and  pompous  frescoes  of  the  sixteenth 
century  looked  down  upon  the  familiar  commodities  of  the 
nineteenth.  Mrs.  Touchett  inhabited  an  historic  building  in  a 
narrow  street  whose  very  name  recalled  the  strife  of  mediaeval 
factions  ; and  found  compensation  for  the  darkness  of  her  front- 
age in  the  modicity  of  her  rent  and  the  brightness  of  a garden  in 
which  nature  itself  looked  as  archaic  as  the  rugged  architecture 
of  the  palace  and  which  illumined  the  rooms  that  were  in  regular 
use.  Isabel  found  that  to  live  in  such  a place  might  be  a source 
of  happiness — almost  of  excitement.  At  first  it  had  struck  her 
as  a sort  of  prison ; but  very  soon  its  prison-like  quality  became 
a merit,  for  she  discovered  that  it  contained  other  prisoners  than 
the  members  of  her  aunt’s  household.  The  spirit  of  the  past  was 
shut  up  there,  like  a refugee  from  the  outer  world  ; it  lurked  in 
lonely  corners,  and,  at  night,  haunted  even  the  rooms  in  which 
Mrs.  Touchett  diffused  her  matter-of-fact  influence.  Isabel  used 
*0  hear  vague  echoes  and  strange  reverberations ; she  had  a sense 
wf  the  hovering  of  unseen  figures,  of  the  flitting  of  ghosts.  Often 
•he  paused,  listening,  half-startled,  half-disappointed,  on  the  grea* 
loJi  stone  staircase. 


tia 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Gilbert  Osmond  came  to  see  Madame  Merle,  who  presented 
him  to  the  young  lady  seated  almost  out  of  sight  at  the  other 
end  of  the  room.  Isabel,  on  this  occasion,  took  little  share  in 
the  conversation ; she  scarcely  even  smiled  when  the  others 
turned  to  her  appealingly  ; but  sat  there  as  an  impartial  auditor 
of  their  brilliant  discourse.  Mrs.  Touchett  was  not  present, 
and  these  two  had  it  their  own  way.  They  talked  extremely 
well ; it  struck  Isabel  almost  as  a dramatic  entertainment, 
rehearsed  in  advance.  Madame  Merle  referred  everything  to 
her,  but  the  girl  answered  nothing,  though  she  knew  that  this 
attitude  would  make  Mr.  Osmond  think  she  was  one  of  those 
dull  people  who  bored  him.  It  was  the  worse,  too,  that 
Madame  Merle  would  have  told  him  she  was  almost  as  much 
above  the  merely  respectable  average  as  he  himself,  and  that 
she  was  putting  her  friend  dreadfully  in  the  wrong.  But  this 
was  no  matter,  for  once ; even  if  more  had  depended  on  it, 
Isabel  could  not  have  made  an  attempt  to  shine.  There  was 
something  in  Mr.  Osmond  that  arrested  her  and  held  her  in 
suspense — made  it  seem  more  important  that  she  should  get  an 
impression  of  him  than  that  she  should  produce  one  herself. 
Besides,  Isabel  had  little  skill  in  producing  an  impression  which 
she  knew  to  be  expected ; nothing  could  be  more  charming,  in 
general,  than  to  seem  dazzling ; but  she  had  a perverse  unwill- 
ingness to  perform  by  arrangement.  Mr.  Osmond,  to  do  him 
justice,  had  a well-bred  air  of  expecting  nothing  ; he  was  a quiet 
gentleman,  with  a colourless  manner,  who  said  elaborate  things 
with  a great  deal  of  simplicity.  Isabel,  however,  privately 
perceived  that  if  he  did  not  expect  he  observed ; she  was  very 
sure  he  was  sensitive.  His  face,  his  head  was  sensitive  ; he  was 
not  handsome,  but  he  was  fine,  as  fine  as  one  of  the  drawings  in 
the  long  gallery  above  the  bridge,  at  the  Uffizi.  Mr.  Osmond 
was  very  delicate ; the  tone  of  his  voice  alone  would  have  proved 
it.  It  was  the  visitor’s  delicacy  that  made  her  abstain  from 
interference.  His  talk  was  like  the  tinkling  of  glass,  and  if 
she  had  put  out  her  finger  she  might  have  changed  the  pitch 
and  spoiled  the  concert.  Before  he  went  he  made  an  appeal 
to  her. 

“ Madame  Merle  says  she  will  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  is  too  young  to  have 
strong  emotions,  I should  be  so  glad — so  very  glad.”  And  Mr 
Osmond  paused  a moment,  with  a slight  air  of  embarrassment 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


217 


leaving  h.s  sentence  unfinished.  " I should  be  so  happy  if  you 
co  ild  know  my  daughter,”  he  went  on,  a moment  afterwards. 

Isabel  answered  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  that 
her  friend  would  scold  her  for  having  been  so  stupid.  But  to 
her  surprise,  Madame  Merle,  who  indeed  never  fell  into  the 
matter-of-course,  said  to  her  in  a few  moments — 

“ You  were  charming,  my  dear ; you  were  just  as  one  would 
have  wished  you.  You  are  never  disappointing.” 

A rebuke  might  possibly  have  been  irritating,  though  it  is 
much  more  probable  that  Isabel  would  have  taken  it  in  good 
part ; but,  strange  to  say,  the  words  that  Madame  Merle  actually 
used  caused  her  the  first  feeling  of  displeasure  she  had  known 
this  lady  to  excite.  “ That  is  more  than  I intended,”  she 
answered,  coldly.  “ I am  under  no  obligation  that  I know  of 
to  charm  Mr.  Osmond.” 

Madame  Merle  coloured  a moment ; but  we  know  it  was  not 
her  habit  to  retract.  “ My  dear  child,  I didn’t  speak  for  him, 
poor  man  ; I spoke  for  yourself.  It  is  not  of  course  a question 
as  to  his  liking  you  ; it  matters  little  whether  he  likes  you  or 
not  I 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  a sort  of  noble  gentleness,  “ especially  when 
at  the  same  time  another  old  friend  is  concerned.” 

Whatever  Isabel’s  obligations  may  have  been  to  Mr.  Osmond, 
it  must  be  admitted  that  she  found  them  sufficient  to  lead  her  to 
ask  Ralph  sundry  questions  about  him.  She  thought  Ralph’s 
judgments  cynical,  but  she  flattered  herself  that  she  had  learned 
to  make  allowance  for  that. 

“ Do  I know  him?”  said  her  cousin.  “Oh,  yes,  I know 
him  ; not  well,  but  on  the  whole  enough.  I have  never  culti- 
vated his  society,  and  he  apparently  has  never  found  mine 
indispensable  to  his  happiness.  Who  is  he — what  is  he  ? He 
is  a mysterious  American,  who  has  been  living  these  twenty 
years,  or  more,  in  Italy.  Why  do  I call  him  mysterious  ? Only 
as  a cover  for  my  ignorance ; I don’t  know  his  antecedents,  his 
family,  his  origin.  For  all  I know,  he  may  be  a prince  in 
disguise ; he  rather  looks  like  one,  by  the  way — like  a prince 
who  has  abdicated  in  a fit  of  magnanimity,  and  has  been  in  a 
state  of  disgust  ever  since.  He  used  to  live  in  Rome  • but  o t 


218 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


late  years  he  has  taken  lip  his  abode  in  Florence;  I remember 
hearing  him  say  once  that  Home  has  grown  vulgar.  He  has  a great 
dread  of  vulgarity;  that's  his  special  line;  he  hasn't  any  other 
that  I know  of.  He  lives  on  his  income,  which  I suspect  of  not 
being  vulgarly  large.  He's  a poor  gentleman — that’s  what  he 
calls  himself.  He  married  young  and  lost  his  wife,  and  I 
believe  he  has  a daughter.  He  also  has  a sister,  who  is  married 
to  some  little  Count  or  other,  of  these  parts ; I remember 
meeting  her  of  old.  She  is  nicer  than  he,  I should  think,  but 
rather  wicked.  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  1 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  a person  the 


better." 


“ I don't  agree  to  that.  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 
that  any  one  tells  you  about  any  one  else.  Judge  every  one  and 
everything  for  yourself.” 

“ That's  what  I try  to  do,”  said  Isabel ; “ but  when  you  do 
ihat  people  call  you  conceited.” 

“ You  are  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  was  silent  a moment.  “ I think  you  are  right ; but 
there  are  some  things  I can’t  help  minding  : for  instance,  when 
my  friend  is  attacked,  or  when  I myself  am  praised.” 

“Of  course  you  are  always  at  liberty  to  judge  the  critic. 
Judge  people  as  critics,  however,”  Ralph  added,  “and  you  will 
condemn  them  all ! ” 

“ I shall  see  Mr.  Osmond  for  myself,”  said  Isabel.  “ I have 
promised  to  pay  him  a visit.” 

“ To  pay  him  a visit  1 ” 

“ To  go  and  see  his  view,  his  pictures,  his  daughter — I don't 
know  exactly  what.  Madame  Merle  is  to  take  me ; she  tella 
5ie  a great  many  ladies  call  upon  him.” 

w Ah,  with  Madame  Mene  you  may  go  anywhere,  de  cory 
fiance,"  said  Ralph.  4‘  She  knows  none  but  the  best  people  ” t 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


219 


Isabel  said  no  more  about  Mr.  Osmond,  but  she  presently 
remarked  to  her  cousin  that  she  was  not  satisfied  with  his  tone 
about  Madame  Merle.  “ It  seems  to  me  that  you  insinuate 
things  about  her.  I don’t  know  what  you  mean,  but  if  you 
have  any  grounds  for  disliking  her,  I think  you  should  either 
mention  them  frankly  or  else  say  nothing  at  all.” 

Ralph,  however,  resented  this  charge  with  more  apparent 
earnestness  than  he  commonly  used.  “I  speak  of  Madame 
Merle  exactly  as  I speak  to  her  : with  an  even  exaggerated 
respect.” 

“ Exaggerated,  precisely.  That  is  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  cried  with  fervour.  “ If  ever  there 
was  a woman  who  made  small  claims ” 

“ You  put  your  finger  on  it,”  Ralph  interrupted.  “ Her 
modesty  is  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  is  perfect ; she 
is  the  only  woman  I know  who  has  but  that  one  little  fault.” 

Isabel  turned  away  with  impatience.  “ I don’t  understand 
you ; you  are  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  is  too  good,  too  kind,  too  clever,  too  learned, 
too  accomplished,  too  everything.  She  is  too  complete,  in  a 
word.  I confess  to  you  that  she  acts  a little  on  my  nerves,  and 
that  I feel  about  her  a good  deal  as  that  intensely  human 
Athenian  felt  about  Aristides  the  Just.” 

Isabel  looked  hard  at  her  cousin ; but  the  mocking  spirit,  if 
‘t  lurked  in  his  words,  failed  on  this  occasion  to  peep  from  his 
oye.  “ Do  you  wish  Madame  Merle  to  be  banished  1 ” she 
inquired. 

“ By  no  means.  She  is  much  too  good  company.  I delight 
in  Madame  Merle,”  said  Ralph  Touchett,  simply. 

“ You  are  very  odious,  sir  ! ’'  Isabel  exclaimed.  And  then 
ihe  asked  him  if  he  knew  anything  that  was  not  to  the  honour 
of  her  brilliant  friend. 

“ Nothing  whatever.  Don’t  you  see  that  is  just  what  I 
mean  ? Upon  the  character  of  every  one  else  you  may  find  some 


220 


TIIE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


little  black  speck  ; if  I were  to  take  half-an-hour  to  it,  some 
day,  I have  no  doubt  I should  be  able  to  find  one  on  yours. 
For  my  own,  of  course,  I am  spotted  like  a leopard.  But  on 
/ Madame  Merle’s  nothing,  nothing,  nothing  ! ” 

p That  is  just  what  I think  ! ” said  Isabel,  with  a toss  of  hex 
head.  “ That  is  why  I like  her  so  much.” 

“ She  is  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  is  worldly  1 ” 
u Worldly  'l  No,”  said  Balph,  “ she  is  the  world  itself ! ” 

It  had  certainly  not,  as  Isabel  for  the  moment  took  it  into 
her  head  to  believe,  been  a refinement  of  malice  in  him  to  say 
that  he  delighted  in  Madame  Merle.  Ealph  Touchett  took  his 
entertainment  wherever  he  could  find  it,  and  he  would  not  have 
forgiven  himself  if  he  had  not  been  able  to  find  a great  deal  in 
the  society  of  a woman  in  whom  the  social  virtues  existed  in 
polished  perfection.  There  are  deep-lying  sympathies  and 
antipathies ; and  it  may  have  been  that  in  spite  of  the  intel- 
lectual justice  he  rendered  her,  her  absence  from  his  mother’s 
house  would  not  have  made  life  seem  barren.  But  Kalph 
Touchett  had  learned  to  appreciate,  and  there  could  be  no  better 
field  for  such  a talent  than  the  table-talk  of  Madame  Merle.  He 
talked  with  her  largely,  treated  her  with  conspicuous  civility, 
occupied  himself  with  her  and  let  her  alone,  with  an  opportune- 
ness which  she  herself  could  not  have  surpassed.  There  were 
moments  when  he  felt  almost  sorry  for  her;  and  these,  oddly 
enough,  were  the  moments  when  his  kindness  was  least  demon- 
strative. He  was  sure  that  she  had  been  richly  ambitious,  and 
that  what  she  had  visibly  accomplished  was  far  below  her 
ambition.  She  had  got  herself  into  perfect  training,  but  she  had 
won  none  of  the  prizes.  She  was  always  plain  Madame  Merle, 
the  widow  of  a Swiss  negotiant , with  a small  income  and  a 
large  acquaintance,  who  stayed  with  people  a great  deal,  and 
was  universally  liked.  The  contrast  between  this  position  and 
any  one  of  some  half-dozen  others  which  he  vividly  imagined 
ner  to  have  had  her  eyes  upon  at  various  moments,  had  an 
element  of  the  tragical.  His  mother  thought  he  got  on  beauti- 
fully with  their  pliable  guest ; to  Mrs.  Touchett’s  sense  two 
people  who  dealt  so  largely  in  factitious  theories  of  conduct 
would  have  much  in  common.  He  had  given  a great  deal  of 
consideration  to  Isabel’s  intimacy  with  Madame  Merle — having 
long  since  made  up  his  mind  that  he  could  not,  without  opposi- 
tion, keep  his  cousin  to  himself ; and  he  regarded  it  on  She 
whole  with  philosophic  tolerance.  He  believed  it  would  take 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


221 


care  of  hself  ; it  would  not  last  for  ever.  Neither  of  these  two 
superior  perse  ns  knew  the  other  as  well  as  she  supposed,  and 
when  each  of  them  had  made  certain  discoveries,  there  would  he, 
if  not  a rupture,  at  least  a relaxation.  Meanwhile  he  was  quite 
willing  to  admit  that  the  conversation  of  the  elder  lady  was  an 
advantage  to  the  younger,  who  had  a great  deal  to  learn,  and 
would  doubtless  learn  it  better  from  Madame  Merle  than  from 
seme  other  instructors  of  the  young.  It  was  not  probable  that 
Isabel  would  be  injured. 


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  May,  in  the  full  maturity  of  the 
Italian  spring.  The  two  ladies  drove  out  of  the  Eoman  Gate, 
beneath  the  enormous  blank  superstructure  which  crowns  the 
fine  clear  arch  of  that  portal  and  makes  it  nakedly  impressive, 
and  wound  between  high-walled  lanes,  into  which  the  wealth  of 
blossoming  orchards  overdrooped  and  flung  a perfume,  until 
they  reached  the  small  superurban  piazza,  of  crooked  shape,  of  | 
which  the  long  brown  wall  of  the  villa  occupied  in  part  by  Mr. 
Osmond,  formed  the  principal,  or  at  least  the  most  imposing, 
side.  Isabel  went  with  her  friend  through  a wide,  high  court, 
where  a clear  shadow  rested  below,  and  a pair  of  light-arched 
galleries,  facing  each  other  above,  caught  the  upper  sunshine 
apon  their  slim  columns  and  the  flowering  plants  in  which  they 
were  dressed.  There  was  something  rather  severe  about  the 
place ; it  looked  somehow  as  if,  once  you  were  in,  it  would  not 
be  easy  to  get  out.  For  Isabel,  however,  there  was  of"  course 
alTyet ii(T  "IhOUgklTbl  getting  out,  but  only  of  advancing.  Mr. 
Osmond  met  her  in  the  cold  ante-chamber — it  was  cold  even  in 
he  month  of  May — and  ushered  her,  with  her  companion,  into 
\he  apartment  to  which  we  have  already  been  introduced. 
Madame  Merle  was  in  front,  and  while  Isabel  lingered  a little, 
talking  with  Mr.  Osmond,  she  went  forward,  familiarly,  and 
greeted  two  persons  who  were  seated  in  the  drawing-room. 
One  of  these  was  little  Pansy,  on  whom  she  bestowed  a kiss ; 
the  other  was  a lady  whom  Mr.  Osmond  presented  to  Isabel  aa 
bis  sister,  the  Countess  Gemini.  “ And  that  is  my  little  0hrl  * 
se  said,  u who  has  just  come  out  of  a convent,” 


222 


THE  TORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Pansy  had  on  a scanty  white  dress,  and  her  fab*  hair  was 
neatly  arranged  in  a net ; she  wore  a pair  of  slippers,  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 
that  she  was  a woman  of  fashion.  She  was  thin  and  dark,  and 
not  at  all  pretty,  having  features  that  suggested  some  tropical 
bird — a long  beak-like  nose,  a small,  quickly-moving  eye,  and 
a mouth  and  chin  that  receded  extremely.  Her  face,  however, 
thanks  to  a very  human  and  feminine  expression,  was  by  no 
means  disagreeable,  and,  as  regards  her  appearance,  it  was 
evident  that  she  understood  herself  and  made  the  most  of  her 
points.  The  soft  brilliancy  of  her  toilet  had  the  look  of 
shimmering  plumage,  and  her  attitudes  were  light  and  sudden, 
like  those  of  a creature  that  perched  upon  twigs.  She  had  a 
great  deal  of  manner;  Isabel,  who  had  never  known  any  one 
with  so  much  manner,  immediately  classified  the  Countess 
Gemini  as  the  most  affected  of  women.  She  remembered  that 
Ralph  had  not  recommended  her  as  an  acquaintance ; but  she 
was  ready  to  acknowledge  that  on  a casual  view  the  Countess 
presented  no  appearance  of  wickedness.  Nothing  could  have 
been  kinder  or  more  innocent  than  her  greeting  to  Isabel. 

“ You  will  believe  that  I am  glad  to  see  you  when  I tell  you 
that  it  is  only  because  I knew  you  were  to  be  here  that  I came 
myself.  I don’t  come  and  see  my  brother — 1 make  him  come 
and  see  me.  This  hill  of  his  is  impossible — I don’t  see  what 
possesses  him.  Really,  Osmond,  you  will  be  the  ruin  of  my 
horses  some  day  ; and  if  they  receive  an  injury  you  will  have  to 
give  me  another  pair.  I heard  them  panting  to-day ; I assure 
you  I did.  It  is  very  disagreeable  to  hear  one’s  horses  panting 
when  one  is  sitting  in  the  carriage ; it  sounds,  too,  as  if  they 
were  not  what  they  should  be.  But  I have  always  had  good 
horses ; whatever  else  I may  have  lacked,  I have  always 
managed  that.  My  husband  doesn’t  know  much,  but  I think 
he  does  know  a horse.  In  general  the  Italians  don’t,  but  my 
husband  goes  in,  according  to  his  poor  light,  for  everything  English. 
My  horses  are  English — so  it  is  all  the  greater  pity  they  should 
be  ruined.  I must  tell  you,”  she  went  on,  directly  addressing 
Isabel,  “ that  Osmond  doesn’t  often  invite  me ; I don’t  think  he 
likes  to  have  me.  It  was  quite  my  own  idea,  coming  to-day 
I like  to  see  new  people,  and  I am  sure  you  are  very  new 
But  don’t  sit  there ; that  cnair  is  not  what  it  looks.  There 
*re  some  very  good  seats  here,  but  there  are  also  some  horrors.’’ 

These  ismarks  v-ere  delivered  with  a variety  of  little  jerk* 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


22S 


»nd  glances,  in  a tone  which,  although  it  expressed  a high 
degree  of  good-nature,  was  rather  shrill  than  sweet. 

“ I don’t  like  to  have  you,  my  dear?”  said  her  brother.  “1 
am  sure  you  are  invaluable.” 

“ I don’t  see  any  horrors  anywhere,”  Isabel  declared,  looking 
about  her.  “ Everything  here  seems  to  me  very  beautiful.” 

“ I have  got  a few  good  things,”  Mr.  Osmond  murmured ; 
* indeed  I have  nothing  very  bad.  But  I have  not  what  I 
ehould  have  liked.” 

lie  stood  there  a little  awkwardly,  smiling  and  glancing 
about ; his  manner  was  an  odd  mixture  of  the  indiiferent  and 
the  expressive.  He  seemed  to  intimate  that  nothing  was  of 
much  consequence.  Isabel  made  a rapid  induction  : perfect 
simplicity  was  not  the  badge  of  his  family.  Even  the  little  girl 
from  the  convent,  who,  in  her  prim  white  dress,  with  her  small 
submissive  face  and  her  hands  locked  before  her,  stood  there  as 
if  she  were  about  to  partake  of  her  first  communion — even  Mr. 
Osmond’s  diminutive  daughter  had  a kind  of  finish  which  was 
not  entirely  artless. 

“You  would  have  liked  a few  things  from  the  Uffizi  and 
the  Pitti — that’s  what  you  would  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,  indeed,  I am  not  tired ; what  have  I done  to  tire  me  ? ” 
Isabel  felt  a certain  need.  of  being  very  direct,  of  pretending  to 
nothing ; there  was  something  in  the  air,  in  her  general 
impression  of  things — she  could  hardly  have  said  what  it  was — 
that  deprived  her  of  all  disposition  to  put  herself  forward.  The 
place,  the  occasion,  the  combination  of  people,  signified  more 
than  lay  on  the  surface ; she  would  try  to  understand — she 
would  not  simply  utter  graceful  platitudes.  Poor  Isabel  was 
perhaps  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  whom  she  had  heard  spoken  of  in  terms  that  excited 
interest,  and  who  was  evidently  capable  of  distinguish  mg 


224 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


himself,  had  invited  her,  a young  lady  not  lavish  of  her  favours, 
to  come  to  his  house.  Now  that  she  had  done  so,  the  burden 
of  the  entertainment  rested  naturally  upon  himself.  Isabel  was 
not  rendered  less  observant,  and  for  the  moment,  I am  afraid, 
she  was  not  rendered  more  indulgent,  by  perceiving  that  Mr. 
Osmond  carried  his  burden  less  complacently  than  might  have 
been  expected.  “ What  a fool  I was  to  have  invited  these 
women  here  ! ” she  could  fancy  his  exclaiming  to  himself. 

“ You  will  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  am  not  afraid  of  that ; but  if  I am  tired,  I shall  at  least 
have  learned  something.” 

“Very  little,  I suspect.  But  my  sister  is  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  is  a little  convent-flower.” 

“ Oh,  the  convents,  the  convents  ! ” cried  the  Countess,  with 
a sharp  laugh.  “ Speak  to  me  of  the  convents.  You  may  learn 
anything  there ; I am  a convent-flower  myself.  I don’t  pretend 
to  be  good,  but  the  nuns  do.  Don’t  you  see  what  I mean  * ” 
she  went  on,  appealing  to  Isabel. 

Isabel  was  not  sure  that  she  saw,  and  she  answered  that  she 
was  very  bad  at  following  arguments.  The  Countess  then 
declared  that  she  herself  detested  arguments,  but  that  this  was 
her  brother’s  taste — he  would  always  discuss.  “For  me,”  she 
said,  “ one  should  like  a thing  or  one  shouldn’t ; one  can’t  like 
everything,  of  course.  But  one  shouldn’t  attempt  to  reason  it 
out — you  never  know  where  it  may  lead  you.  There  are  some 
srery  good  feelings  that  may  have  bad  reasons ; don’t  you  know  1 
And  then  there  are  very  bad  feelings,  sometimes,  that  have  good 
reasons.  Don’t  you  see  what  I mean?  I don’t  care  anything 
xbout  reasons,  but  I know  what  I like.” 

“ Ah,  that’s  the  great  thing,”  said  Isabel,  smiling,  but  sus- 
pecting that  her  acquaintance  with  this  lightly-flitting  personage 
would  not  lead  to  intellectual  repose.  If  the  Countess  objected 
to  argument,  Isabel  at  this  moment  had  as  little  taste  for  it,  and 
*he  put  out  her  hand  to  Pansy  with  a pleasant  sense  that  such 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  i LADY. 


225 


A gesture  committed  her  to  nothing  that  would  admit  of  a diverg- 
ence of  views.  Gilbert  Osmond  apparently  took  a rather  hopeless 
view  of  his  sister’s  tone,  and  he  turned  the  conversation  to 
another  topic.  He  presently  sat  down  on  the  other  side  of  hia 
daughter,  who  had  taken  Isabel's  hand  for  a moment ; but  he 
ended  by  drawing  her  out  of  her  chair,  and  making  her  stand 
between  his  knees,  leaning  against  him  while  he  passed  his  arm 
round  her  little  waist.  The  child  fixed  her  eyes  on  Isabel  with 
a still,  disinterested  gaze,  which  seemed  void  of  an  intention, 
but  conscious  of  an  attraction.  Mr.  Osmond  talked  of  many 
things  ; Madame  Merle  had  said  he  could  be  agreeable  when  he 
chose,  and  to-day,  after  a little,  he  appeared  not  only  to  have 
chosen,  but  to  have  determined.  Madame  Merle  and  the 
Countess  Gemini  sat  a little  apart,  conversing  in  the  effortless 
manner  of  persons  who  knew  each  other  well  enough  to  take 
their  ease ; every  now  and  then  Isabel  heard  the  Countess  say 
something  extravagant.  Mr.  Osmond  talked  of  Florence,  of 
Italy,  of  the  pleasure  of  living  in  that  country,  and  of  the  abate- 
ments to  such  pleasure.  There  were  both  satisfactions  and 
drawbacks ; the  drawbacks  were  pretty  numerous ; strangers 
were  too  apt  to  see  Italy  in  rose-colour.  On  the  whole  it  was 
better  than  other  countries,  if  one  was  content  to  lead  a quiet 
life  and  take  things  as  they  came.  It  was  very  dull  sometimes, 
but  there  were  advantages  in  living  in  the  country  which  con- 
tained the  most  beauty.  There  were  certain  impressions  that 
one  could  get  only  in  Italy.  There  were  others  that  one  never 
got  there,  and  one  got  some  that  were  very  bad.  But  from  time 
to  time  one  got  a delightful  one,  which  made  up  for  everything. 
He  was  inclined  to  think  that  Italy  had  spoiled  a great  many 
people ; he  was  even  fatuous  enough  to  believe  at  times  that  he 
himself  might  have  been  a better  man  if  he  had  spent  less  of 
his  life  there.  It  made  people  idle  and  dilettantish,  and  second- 
rate  ; there  was  nothing  tonic  in  an  Italian  life.  One  was  out 
of  the  currant ; one  was  not  dans  le  mouvement , as  the  French 
) said ; one  was  too  far  from  Paris  and  London.  “We  are 
gloriously  provincial,  I assure  you,”  said  Mr.  Osmond,  “ and  I am 
perfectly  aware  that  I myself  am  as  rusty  as  a key  that  has  no 
I lock  to  fit  it.  It  polishes  me  up  a little  to  talk  with  you — not 
that  l venture  to  pretend  I can  turn  that  very  complicated  lock 
I suspect  your  intellect  of  being ! But  you  will  be  going  away 
before  I have  seen  you  three  times,  and  I shall  perhaps  nevcf 
see  you  after  that.  That’s  what  it  is  to  live  in  a country  that 
people  come  to.  When  they  are  disagreeable  it  is  bad  enougn; 
* hen  they  are  agreeable  it  is  still  worse.  As  soon  as  you  find 

Q 


*26 


THP;  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


you  like  them  they  are  off  again ! I have  been  deceived  toe 
listen;  I have  ceased  to  form  attachments;  to  permit' myself  to 
feel  attractions.  You  mean  to  stay — to  settle?  That  would  he 
really  comfortable.  Ah  yes,  your  aunt  is  a sort  of  guarantee  ; I 
believe  she  may  be  depended  upon.  Oh,  she’s  an  old  Florentine  ; 
I mean  literally  an  old  one ; not  a modern  outsider.  She  is 
a contemporary  of  the  Medici ; she  must  have  been  present  at 
the  burning  of  Savonarola,  and  I am  not  sure  she  didn’t  throw 
a handful  of  chips  into  the  flame.  Her  face  is  very  much  like 
some  faces  in  the  early  pictures  ; little,  dry,  definite  faces,  that 
must  have  had  a good  deal  of  expression,  but  almost  always  the 
same  one.  Indeed,  I can  show  you  her  portrait  in  a fresco  of 
Ghirlandaio’s.  I hope  you  don’t  object  to  my  speaking  that 
way  of  your  aunt,  eh?  I have  an  idea  you  don’t.  Perhaps 
you  think  that’s  even  worse.  I assure  you  there  is  no  want  of 
respect  in  it,  to  either  of  you.  You  know  I’m  a particular 
admirer  of  Mrs.  Touche tt.” 

While  Isabel’s  host  exerted  himself  to  entertain  her  in  this 
somewhat  confidential  fashion,  she  looked  occasionally  at 
Madame  Merle,  who  met  her  eyes  with  an  inattentive  smile  in 
which,  on  this  occasion,  there  was  no  infelicitous  intimation 
that  our  heroine  appeared  to  advantage.  Madame  Merle  event- 
ually proposed  to  the  Countess  Gemini  that  they  should  go  into 
the  garden,  and  the  Countess,  rising  and  shaking  out  her  soft 
plumage,  began  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  answered,  with  a 
laugh  which,  though  it  had  something  of  a mocking  ring,  was 
not  ill-natured. 

“ I don’t  know  what  you  mean  by  that ! I am  sure  she  will 
see  no  harm  in  me  but  what  you  tell  her.  I am  better  than  he 
says,  Miss  Archer,”  the  Countess  went  on.  “ I am  only  rather 
light.  Is  that  all  he  has  said  ? Ah  then,  you  keep  him  in 
good  humour.  Has  he  opened  on  one  of  his  favourite  subjects? 
I give  you  notice  that  there  are  two  or  three  that  he  treats  d 
fond.  In  that  case  you  had  better  take  off  your  bonnet.” 

“ I don’t  think  I know  what  Mr.  Osmond’s  favourite  subjects 
are,”  said  Isabel,  who  had  risen  to  her  feet. 

The  Countess  assumed,  for  an  instant,  an  attitude  of  intense 
meditation ; pressing  one  of  her  hands,  with  the  finger-tipa 
gathered  together,  to  her  forehead. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LAIW, 


227 

“ FII  tell  you  in  a moment,1 ” she  answered.  * One  is  Machia- 
Velii,  the  other  is  Yittoria  Colonna,  the  next  is  Metastasio.” 

“ Ah,  with  me,”  said  Madame  Merle,  passing  her  arm  into  the 
Countess  Gemini’s,  as  if  to  guide  her  course  to  the  garden,  “ Mr. 
Osmond  is  never  so  historical.” 

“ Oh  you,”  the  Countess  answered  as  they  moved  away,  “ you 
yourself  are  Machiavelli — you  yourself  are  Yittoria  Colonna  ! ” 

“ We  shall  hear  next  that  poor  Madame  Merle  is  Metastasio  ! y 
Gilbert  Osmond  murmured,  with  a little  melancholy  smile. 

Isabel  had  got  up,  on  the  assumption  that  they  too  were  to  go 
into  the  garden  ; but  Mr.  Osmond  stood  there,  with  no  apparent 
inclination  to  leave  the  room,  with  his  hands  in  the  pockets  of 
his  jacket,  and  his  daughter,  who  had  now  locked  her  arm  into 
one  of  his  own,  clinging  to  him  and  looking  up,  while  her  eyes 
moved  from  his  own  face  to  Isabel’s.  Isabel  waited,  with  a 
certain  unuttered  contented  ness,  to  have  her  movements  directed ; 
she  liked  Mr.  Osmond’s  talk,  his  company;  she  felt  that  she 
was  being  entertained.  Through  the  open  doors  of  the  great 
room  she  saw  Madame  Merle  and  the  Countess  stroll  across 
the  deep  grass  of  the  garden  ; then  she  turned,  and  her  eyes 
wandered  over  the  things  that  were  scattered  about  her.  The 
understanding  had  been  that  her  host  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  Mr.  Osmond  said  to  her 
abruptly — 

“ Miss  Archer,  wdiat  do  you  think  of  my  sister]” 

Isabel  turned,  with  a good  deal  of  surprise. 

66  Ah,  don’t  ask  me  that — I have  seen  your  sister  too  Mttle.’' 

“ Yes,  you  have  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  ] ” Osmond  went  on,  smiling.  “ I 
should  like  to  know  how  it  strikes  a fresh,  unprejudiced  mind. 
I know  what  you  are  going  to  say — you  have  had  too  little 

observation  of  it.  Of  course  this  is  only  a glimpse.  But  just 

take  notice,  in  future,  if  you  have  a chance.  I sometimes 
think  we  have  got  into  a rather  bad  way,  living  off  here  among 
things  and  people  not  our  own,  without  responsibilities  or 
attachments,  with  nothing  to  hold  us  together  or  keep  us  up ; 
marrying  foreigners,  forming  artificial  tastes,  playing  tricks  with 
our  natural  missi  3n.  Let  me  add,  though,  that  I say  that  much 
more  for  myself  than  for  my  sister.  She’s  a very  good  woman 
— better  than  she  seems.  She  is  rather  unhappy,  and  as  she  i h 
not  of  a very  serious  disposition,  she  doesn’t  tend  to  show  it 

<j  2 


228 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


tragically ; she  shows  it  comically  instead.  She  has  got  a nasty 
nusband,  though  I am  not  sure  she  makes  the  best  of  him.  Oi 
course,  however,  a nasty  husband  is  an  awkward  thing.  M adame 
Merle  gives  her  excellent  advice,  but  it’s  a good  deal  like  giving 
a child  a dictionary  to  learn  a language  with.  He  can  look  out 
the  words,  but  he  can’t  put  them  together.  My  sister  needs  a 
grammar,  but  unfortunately  she  is  not  grammatical.  Excuse 
my  troubling  you  with  these  details ; my  sister  was  very  right 
in  saying  that  you  have  been  taken  into  the  family.  Let  me 
take  down  that  picture ; you  want  more  light.” 

He  took  down  the  picture,  carried  it  toward  the  window, 
related  some  curious  facts  about  it.  She  looked  at  the  other 
works  of  art,  and  he  gave  her  such  further  information  as  might 
appear  to  be  most  acceptable  to  a young  lady  making  a call  on  a 
summer  afternoon.  His  pictures,  his  carvings  and  tapestries 
were  interesting ; but  after  a while  Isabel  became  conscious  that 
the  owner  was  more  interesting  still.  He  resembled  no  one  she 
had  ever  seen  ; most  of  the  people  she  knew  might  be  divided 
into  groups  of  half-a-dozen  specimens.  There  were  one  or  two 
exceptions  to  this ; she  could  think,  for  instance,  of  no  group 
that  would  contain  her  aunt  Lydia.  There  were  other  people 
who  were,  relatively  speaking,  original — original,  as  one  might 
say,  by  courtesy — such  as  Mr.  Goodwood,  as  her  cousin  Kalph, 
^ as  Henrietta  Stackpole,  as  Lord  Warburton,  as  Madame  Merle. 
But  in  essentials,  when  one  came  to  look  at  them,  these 
individuals  belonged  to  types  which  were  already  present  to  her 
mind.  Her  mind  contained  no  class  which  offered  a natural 
place  to  Mr.  Osmond — he  was  a specimen  apart.  Isabel  did 
not  say  all  these  things  to  herself  at  the  time  ; but  she  felt  them, 
and  afterwards  they  became  distinct.  For  the  moment  sheonly 
Said  to  herself  that  Mr.  Omor)f|  bad  intp.re.st  pf  va.mnpaa 
ITwas  not  so  much  what  he  said  and  did,  but  rather  what  he 
withheld,  that  distinguished  him;  he  indulged  in  no  striking 
deflections  from  common  usage;  he  was  an  original  without 
being  an  eccentric.  Isabel  had  never  met  a person  of  so  fine 
a grain.  The  peculiarity  was  physical,  to  begin  with,  and  it 
extended  to  his  immaterial  part.  His  dense,  delicate  hair,  his 
overdrawn,  retouched  features,  his  clear  complexion,  ripe  with- 
out being  coarse,  the  very  evenness  of  the  growth  of  his  beard, 
and  that  light,  smooth,  slenderness  of  structure  which  made  the 
mov?ment  of  a single  one  of  his  fin^rs  produce  the  effect  of  an 
explosive  gesture — these  personal  ] joints  struck  our  observant 
young  lady  as  the  signs  of  an  unusual  sensibility.  [Tie  was 
wrtainly  fastidious  and  critical;  he  was  probably  irritatTe.  His 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 


feasibility  had  governed  him — possibly  governed  him  too  much; 
it  had  made  him  impatient  of  vulgar  troubles  and  had  led  him 
to  live  by  himself,  in  a serene,  impersonal  way,  thinking  about 
art  and  beauty  and  history.  He  had  consulted  his  taste  in 
everything — his  taste  alone,  perhaps ; that  was  what  made  him 
so  different  from  every  one  else/]]  Ralph  had  something  of  this 
same  quality,  this  appearance  ol thinking  that  life  was  a matter  * 
of  connoisseurship^  but  in  Ralph  it  was  an  anomaly,  a kind 
of  humorous  excrescence,  whereas  in  Mr.  Osmond  it  was  the 
key-note,  and  everything  was  in  harmony  with  it]  Isabel  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  saying  that  he  was  gloriously  provincial 
— which  was  so  exactly  the  opposite  of  what  she  had  supposed. 
Was  it  a harmless  paradox,  intended  to  puzzle  her]  or  was  it 
the  last  refinement  of  high  culture]  Isabel  trusted  that  she 
should  learn  in  time;  it  would  be  very  interesting  to  learn.  If 
Mr.  Osmond  were  provincial,  pray  what  were  the  characteristics 
of  the  capital]  Isabel  could  ask  herself  this  question,  in  spite  of 
having  perceived  that  her  host  was  a shy  personage ; for  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  superior  qualities.  Mr.  Osmond  was  not  a 
man  of  easy  assurance,  who  chatted  and  gossiped  with  the  fluency 
of  a superficial  nature ; he  was  critical  of  himself  as  well  as  of 
others,  and  exacting  a good  deal  of  others  (to  think  them  agree- 
able), he  probably  took  a rather  ironical  view  of  what  he  himself 
offered:  a proof,  into  the  bargain,  that  he  was  not  grossly  con- 
ceited. If  he  had  not  been  shy,  he  would  not  have  made  that 
gradual,  subtle,  successful  effort  to  overcome  his  shyness,  to  which 
Isabel  felt  that  she  owed  both  what  pleased  and  what  puzzled  her 
in  his  conversation  to-day.  He  suddenly  asked  her  what  she 
thought  of  the  Countess  of  Gemini — that  was  doubtless  a prooi 
that  he  was  interested  in  her  feelings ; it  could  scarcely  be  as  a 
help  to  knowledge  of  his  own  sister.  That  he  should  be  so 
interested  showed  an  inquiring  mind ; but  it  was  a little  singu- 
lar that  he  should  sacrifice  his  fraternal  feeling  to  his  curiosity. 
This  was  the  most  eccentric  thing  lie  had  done. 

There  were  two  other  rooms,  beyond  the  one  in  which  she 
had  been  received,  equally  full  of  picturesque  objects,  and  in 
these  apartments  Isabel  spent  a quarter  of  an  hour.  Every 
thing  was  very  curious  and  valuable,  and  Mr.  Osmmd  continue  ! 
to  be  the  kindest  of  ciceroni,  as  he  led  her  from  one  fine  pieca 
to  another,  still  holding  his  little  girl  by  the  hand.  His  kind- 


% 


ISO 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


ness  almost  surprised  our  young  lady,  who  wondered  why  h« 
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.  Qrhere  was  enough  for  the 
present ; she  had  ceased  to  attend  to  what  he  said ; she  listened 
to  him  with  attentive  eyes,  but  she  was  not  thinking  of  what 
he  told  her,  He  probably  thought  she  was  cleverer  than  she 
was ; Madame  Merle  would  have  told  him  so ; which  was  a 
pity,  because  in  the  end  he  would  be  sure  to  find  out,  and  then 
perhaps  even  her  real  cleverness  would  not  reconcile  him  to  hia 
mistake.  A part  of  Isabel's  fatigue  came  from  the  effort  to 
appear  as  intelligent  as  she  believed  Madame  Merle  had  described 
her,  and  from  the  fear  (very  unusual  with  her)  of  exposing — 
not  her  ignorance ; for  that  she  cared  comparatively  little — but 
her  possible  grossness  of  perception.  It  would  have  annoyed* 
her  to  express ~^IiHhg^dF^omething  which  her  host,  in  his 
superior  enlightenment,  would  think  she  ought  not  to  like ; or 
to  pass  by  something  at  which  the  truly  initiated  mind  would 
arrest  itself.  She  was  very  careful,  therefore,  as  to  what  she 
said,  as  to  what  she  noticed  or  failed  to  notice — more  careful 
than  she  had  ever  been  before. 

They  came  back  into  the  first  of  the  rooms,  where  the  tea  had 
been  served  ; but  as  the  two  other  ladies  were  still  on  the  terrace, 
and  as  Isabel  had  not  yet  been  made  acquainted  with  the  view, 
which  constituted  the  paramount  distinction  of  the  place,  Mr. 
Osmond  directed  her  steps  into  the  garden  without  more  delay. 
Madame  Merle  and  the  Countess  had  had  chairs  brought  out,  and 
as  the  afternoon  was  lovely,  the  Countess  proposed  they  should 
take  their  tea  in  the  open  air.  Pansy,  therefore,  was  sent  to  bid 
the  servant  bring  out  the  tray.  The  sun  had  got  low,  the  golden 
light  took  a deeper  tone,  and  on  the  mountains  and  the  plain 
that  stretched  beneath  them,  the  masses  of  purple  shadow  seemea 
to  glow  as  richly  as  the  places  that  were  still  exposed.  The 
scene  had  an  extraordinary  charm.  The  air  was  almost  solemnly 
still,  and  the  large  expanse  of  the  landscape,  with  its  gardenlike 
culture  and  nobleness  of  outline,  its  teeming  valley  and  deli- 
cately-fretted hills,  its  peculiarly  human-looking  touches  of 
habit  ation,  lay  there  in  splendid  harmony  and  classic  grace. 

“ You  seem  so  well  pleased  that  I think  you  can  be  trusted  to 
come  back,”  Mr.  Osmond  said,  as  he  led  his  companion  to  one  ol 
the  angles  of  the  terrace. 

“ I shall  certainly  come  back,”  Isabel  answered,  in  spite  of 
what  you  say  about  its  being  bad  to  live  in  Italy.  What  was 
that  you  said  about  one’s  natural  mission  1 I wonder  if  I 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


231 


should  forsake  my  natural  mission  if  I were  to  settle  in 
Florence.” 

“ A woman’s  natural  mission  is  to  be  where  she  is  moat 
appreciated.” 

“ The  point  is  to  find  out  where  that  is.” 

“ Very  true — a woman  often  wastes  a great  deal  of  time  in  ths 
inquiry.  People  ought  to  make  it  very  plain  to  her.” 

“ Such  a matter  would  have  to  be  made  very  plain  to  me,” 
said  Isabel,  smiling. 

“ I am  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 am  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  deliberately,  and  be  faithful  to  that.” 

“ By  that  rule,  then,  I have  not  been  frivolous.” 

£“  Have  you  never  made  plans  1 ” 

“ Yes,  I made  one  years  ago,  and  I am  acting  on  it  to-day.” 

“ It  must  have  been  a very  pleasant  one,”  said  Isabel. 

“ It  was  very  simple.  It  was  to  be  as  quiet  as  possible*? 

“ As  quiet  1 ” the  girl  repeated. 

“ Not  to  worry — not  to  strive  nor  struggle.  To  resign  myself. 
To  be  content  with  a little.”  He  uttered  these  sentences  slowly, 
with  little  pauses  between,  and  his  intelligent  eyes  were  fixed 
upon  Isabel’s  with  the  conscious  look  of  a man  who  has  brought 
himself  to  confess  something. 

“ Do  you  call  that  simple  ] ” Isabel  asked,  with  a gentle 
iaugh. 

“ Yes,  because  it’s  negative.” 

“ Has  your  life  been  negative  1 ” 

“ 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.”  j 

Isabel  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  1 This  was  his  affair,  however,  and  his  confidences 
were  interesting.  <£  I don’t  see  why  you  should  have  renounced/1 
lilts  said  in  a moment. 

Because  I could  do  nothing.  I had  no  prospects,  I wa* 


232 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


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.  A gentleman  can 
always  consider  himself,  and  fortunately,  I was  a gentleman.  X 
could  do  nothing  in  Italy — I couldn’t  even  be  an  Italian  patriot. 
To  do  that,  I* should  have  had  to  go  out  of  the  country;  and  I 
v as  too  fond  of  it  to  leave  it.  So  I have  passed  a great  many 
years  here,  on  that  quiet  plan  I spoke  of.  I have  not  been  at  all 
unhappy.  I don’t  mean  to  say  I have  cared  for  nothing ; but  the 
things  I have  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  have  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  sup- 
plied the  human  element  which  she  was  sure  had  not  been 
wantmg.  His  life  had  been  mingled  Mrith  other  lives  more  than 
he  admitted ; of  course  she  could  not  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.  He  had  certainly  told  her  quite  enough.  It  was  her 
present  inclination,  however,  to  express  considerable  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 have  been  very  happy  ; don’t  imagine  me  to  suggest 
for  a moment  that  I have  not.  It’s  one’s  own  fault  if  one  is  not 
happy.” 

“ Have  you  lived  here  always  ? ” 

“ No,  not  always.  1 lived  a long  time  at  Naples,  and  many 
years  in  Home.  But  I have  been  here  a good  while.  Perhaps  I 
shall  have  to  change,  however ; to  do  something  else.  I have 
no  longer  myself  to  think  of.  My  daughter  is  growing  up,  and 
it  is  very  possible  she  inay  not  care  so  much  for  the  Correggios 
and  crucilixes  as  L I shall  have  to  do  what  is  best  for  her.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


2S5 


«'  Yes,  do  that,”  said  Isabel.  “ She  is  such  a dear  little 

gill”  . 

“ Ah,”  cried  Gilbert  Osmond,  with  feeling,  “ she  is  a little 
saint  of  heaven ! She  is  my  great  happiness  ! ” 


XXV. 

While  this  sufficiently  intimate  colloquy  (prolonged  for  some 
time  after  we  cease  to  follow  it)  was  going  on,  Madame  Merle 
and  her  companion,  breaking  a silence  of  some  duration,  had 
begun  to  exchange  remarks.  They  were  sitting  in  an  attitude 
of  unexpressed  expectancy ; an  attitude  especially  marked  on 
the  part  of  the  Countess  Gemini,  who,  being  of  a more  nervous 
temperament  than  Mad&me  Merle,  practised  with  less  success 
the  art  of  disguising  impatience.  What  these  ladies  were 
waiting  for  would  not  have  been  apparent,  and  was  perhaps  not 
very  definite  to  their  own  minds.  Madame  Merle  waited  for 
Osmond  to  release  their  young  friend  from  her  tete-a-tete , and 
the  Countess  waited  because  Madame  Merle  did.  The  Countess, 
moreover,  by  waiting,  found  the  time  ripe  for  saying  something 
discordant ; a necessity  of  which  she  had  been  conscious  for  the 
last  twenty  minutes.  Her  brother  wandered  with  Isabel  to  the 
end  of  the  garden,  and  she  followed  the  pair  for  a while  with 
her  eyes. 

“ My  dear,”  she  then  observed  to  Madame  Merle,  " you  will 
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  towards  the  retreating  couple. 

Madame  Merle’s  eyes  took  the  same  direction ; then  she 
looked  serenely  at  her  neighbour.  “ You  know  I never  under- 
stand you  very  well,”  she  answered,  smiling. 

“ No  one  can  understand  better  than  you  when  you  wish.  1 
see  that,  just  now,  you  don’t  wish  to.” 

“ You  say  things  to  me  that  no  one. else  does,”  said  Madame 
Merle,  gravely,  but  without  bitterness. 

“ You  mean  things  you  don’t  like  h Doesn’t  Osmond  some- 
times say  such  things  1 ” 

“ What  your  brother  says  has  a point.” 

" Yes,  a very  sharp  one  sometimes.  If  you  mean  that  I am 
not  so  clever  as  he,  you  must  not  think  I shall  suffer  from  youf 


231 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Baying  it.  But  it  will  be  much  better  that  you  should  under 
stand  me,” 

“ Why  so  ? ” asked  Madame  Merle ; “ what  difference  will  it 

make  ? ” 

“ 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  that  I think  ill  of;  it’s  your 
calculating  wrong.  You  have  done  so  in  this  case.” 

“ You  must  have  made  extensive  calculations  yourself  to 
discover  it.” 

“ No,  I have  not  had  time  for  that.  I have  seen  the  girl  but 
this  once,”  said  the  Countess,  “ and  the  conviction  has  suddenly 
come  to  me.  I like  her  very  much.” 

“ So  do  I,”  Madame  Merle  declared. 

“ You  have  a strange  way  of  showing  it.” 

“ Surely — I have  given  her  the  advantage  of  making  your 
acquaintance.” 

“ That,  indeed,”  cried  the  Countess,  with  a laugh,  “ is  perhaps 
the  best  thing  that  could  happen  to  her ! ” 

Madame  Merle  said  nothing  for  some  time.  The  Countess’s 
manner  was  impertinent,  but  she  did  not  suffer  this  to  dis- 
compose her  ; and  with  her  eyes  upon  the  violet  slope  of  Monte 
Morello  she  gave  herself  up  to  reflection. 

“ My  dear  lady,”  she  said  at  last,  “ 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  Mis* 
Archer  also  very  strong  of  purpose  ] ” 

“ Quite  as  much  so  as  we.” 

“ Ah  then,”  said  the  Countess  radiantly,  “ if  I convince  her 
it’s  her  interest  to  resist  you,  she  will  do  so  successfully ! ” 

“ Besist  us  ] Why  do  you  express  yourself  so  coarsely  ] 
She  is  not  to  be  subjected  to  force.” 

* 1 am  not  sure  of  that.  You  are  capable  of  anything,  you 
and  Osmond.  I don’t  mean  Osmond  by  himself,  and  I don’t 
mean  you  by  yourself.  But  together  you  are  dangerous — like 
Borne  chemical  combination.” 

“ You  had  better  leave  us  alone,  then,”  said  Madame  Merle, 
smiling. 

“ I don’t  mean  to  touch  you — but  I shall  talk  to  that 
girl” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


230 


“My  poor  Amy,”  Madame  Merle  murmured,  “ I don’t  see 
what  has  got  into  your  head.” 

“ I take  an  interest  in  her  — that  is  what  has  got  into  my 
head.  I like  her.” 

Madame  Merle  hesitated  a moment.  “I  don’t  think  she 
likes  you.” 

The  Countess’s  bright  little  eyes  expanded,  and  her  face  was 
set  in  a grimace.  “ Ah,  you  are  dangerous,”  she  cried,  “ even 
by  yourself  1 ” . 

“ If  you  want  her  to  like  you,  don’t  abuse  your  brother  to 
her,”  said  Madame  Merle. 

“I  don’t  suppose  you  pretend  she  has  fallen  in  love  with 
him — in  two  interviews.” 

Madame  Merle  looked  a moment  at  Isabel  and  at  the  master 
of  the  house.  He  was  leaning  against  the  parapet,  facing  her, 
with  his  arms  folded ; and  she,  at  present,  though  she  had  hei 
face  turned  to  the  opposite  prospect,  was  evidently  not  scruti- 
nising it.  As  Madame  Merle  watched  her  she  lowered  her 
eyes  ; she  was  listening,  possibly  with  a certain  embarrassment, 
while  she  pressed  the  point  of  her  parasol  into  the  path. 
Madame  Merle  rose  from  her  chair.  “ Yes,  I think  so  ! ” she 
said. 

The  shabby  footboy,  summoned  by  Pansy,  had  come  out 
with  a small  table,  which  he  placed  upon  the  grass,  and  then 
had  gone  back  and  fetched  the  tea-tray ; after  which  he  again 
disappeared,  to  return  with  a couple  of  chairs.  Pansy  had 
watched  these  proceedings  with  the  deepest  interest,  standing 
with  her  small  hands  folded  together  upon  the  front  of  h«r 
scanty  frock ; but  she  had  not  presumed  to  offer  assistance  to 
the  servant.  When  the  tea-table  had  been  arranged,  however, 
she  gently  approached  her  aunt. 

“ Do  you  think  papa  would  object  to  my  making  the  tea]” 

The  Countess  looked  at  her  with  a deliberately  critical  gaze, 
and  without  answering  her  question.  “ My  poor  niece,”  she 
said,  “ is  that  your  best  frock  ] ” 

“Ah  no,”  Pansy  answered,  “it’s  just  a little  toilet  for 
common  occasions.” 

“ Do  you  call  it  a common  occasion  when  I come  to  see  you  1 
— to  say  nothing  of  Madame  Merle  and  the  pretty  lady  yonder.” 

Pansy  reflected  a moment,  looking  gravely  from  one  of  the 
persons  mentioned  to  the  other.  Then  her  face  broke  into  its 
perfect  smile.  “I  have  a pretty  dress,  but  even  that  one  ia 
verv  simple.  Why  should  I expose  it  beside  your  beautiful 
JtU'gs?” 


136 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ Because  it’s  the  prettiest  you  have  ; for  me  you  must  alwayn 
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  stroked  down  her  antiquated  skirt,  sparingly.  " It’s 
a good  little  dress  to  make  tea — don’t  you  think  ] Do  you  not 
believe  papa  would  allow  me  'i  ” 

“ Impossible  for  me  to  say,  my  child,”  said  the  Countesa. 
“For  me,  your  father’s  ideas  are  unfathomable.  Madam© 
Merle  understands  them  better;  ask  her.” 

Madame  Merle  smiled  with  her  usual  geniality.  “ 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 will  make  it.  A spoonful  for  each.”  And 
she  began  to  busy  herself  at  the  table. 

“ Two  spoonfuls  for  me,”  said  the  Countess,  who,  with 
Madame  Merle,  remained  for  some  moments  watching  her. 
“'Listen  to  me,  Pansy,”  the  Countess  resumed  at  last.  “I 
should  like  to  know  what  you  think  of  your  visitor.” 

“ Ah,  she  is  not  mine — she  is  papa’s,”  said  Pansy. 

“ Miss  Archer  came  to  see  you  as  well,”  Madame  Merle 
remarked. 

“I  am  very  happy  to  hear  that.'  She  has  been  very  polite  to  me.” 

“ Do  you  like  her,  then  ? ” the  Countess  asked. 

M She  is  charming — charming,”  said  Pansy,  in  her  little  neat, 
conversational  tone.  “ She  pleases  me  exceedingly.” 

* i And  you  think  she  pleases  your  father  ? ” 

“All,  really,  Countess,”  murmured  Madame  Merle,  dissua- 
Bively.  “ Go  and  call  them  to  tea,”  she  went  on,  to  the  child. 

“ You  will  see  if  they  don’t  like  it ! ” Pansy  declared ; and 
wsnt  off  to  summon  the  others,  who  were  still  lingering  at  the 
end  of  the  terrace. 

“ If  Miss  Archer  is  to  become  her  mother  it  is  surely  interest- 
ing to  know  whether  the  child  likes  her,”  said  the  Countess. 

“ If  your  brother  marries  again  it  won’t  be  for  Pansy’s  sake,” 
Madame  Merle  replied.  “ She  will  soon  be  sixteen,  and  affer 
that  she  will  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  well  I 
hnagine  you  will  do  the  same.” 

“ Indeed  I shan’t ! ” cried  the  Countess.  “ Why  should  I 
•d  all  women,  set  such  a price  on  a husband  ] ” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


m 

u You  didn’t  marry  well ; that’s  what  I am  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  are  irritated 
just  now;  I don’t  know  why,”  she  said,  presently.  “I  don’t 
think  you  will  really  object  either  to  your  brother,  or  to  y.ai 
niece’s,  marrying,  when  the  time  comes  for  them  to  do  so  ; and 
as  regards  Pansy,  I am  confident  that  wo  shall  some  day  have  the 
pleasure  of  looking  for  a husband  for  her  together.  Your  large 
acquaintance  will  be  a great  help.” 

“ Yes,  I am  irritated,”  the  Countess  answered.  “ You  often 
irritate  me.  Your  own  coolness  is  fabulous ; you  are  a 
strange  woman.” 

“ It  is  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,  with  a smile  of  sadness.  “No 
indeed,  you  have  not  my  coolness  ! ” 

Isabel  and  Mr.  Osmond  were  now  coming  toward  them,  and 
Isabel  had  taken  Pansy  by  the  hand. 

u Do  you  pretend  to  believe  he  would  make  her  happy  ? ” the 
Countess  demanded. 

“ If  he  should  marry  Miss  Archer  I suppose  he  would  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 
gentleman,  of  course ; but  I must  say  I have  never,  no  never, 
seen  any  one  of  Osmond’s  pretensions  ! What  they  are  all  based 
upon  is  more  than  I can  say.  I am  his  own  sister ; I might  be 
supposed  to  know.  Who  is  he,  if  you  please  ? What  has  ha 
ever  done  ? If  there  had  been  anything  particularly  grand  in 
his  origin — if  he  were  made  of  some  superior  clay — I suppose  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  is  nothing,  nothing,  nothing.  One’s  parents 
were  charming  people  of  course  ; but  so  were  yours,  I have  no 
doubt.  Every  one  is  a charming  person,  now-a-days.  Even 
I am  a charming  person ; don’t  laugh,  it  has  literally  been  said. 
As  for  Osmond,  he  has  always  appeared  to  believe  that  he  ia 
descended  from  the  gods.” 


238 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


" You  may  say  what  you  piease,”  said  Madame  Merle,  who 
had  listened  to  this  quick  outbreak  none  the  less  attentively,  we 
may  believe,  because  her  eye  wandered  away  from  the  speaker, 
and  her  hands  busied  themselves  with  adjusting  the  knots  of 
ribbon  on  her  dress.  “ You  Osmonds  are  a fine  race — your 
blood  must  flow  from  some  very  pure  source.  Your  brother, 
like  an  intelligent  man,  has  had  the  conviction  of  it,  if  he  has 
not  had  the  proofs.  You  are  modest  about  it,  but  you  youreslf 
are  extremely  distinguished.  What  do  you  say  about  your 
niece  1 The  child’s  a little  duchess.  Nevertheless,”  Madame 
Merle  added,  “ it  will  not  be  an  easy  matter  for  Osmond  to 
marry  Miss  Archer.  But  he  can  try.” 

“ I hope  she  will  refuse  him.  It  will  take  him  down  a little. 99 

We  must  not  forget  that  he  is  one  of  the  cleverest  of  men.” 

“ I have  heard  you  say  that  before ; but  I haven’t  yet  dis- 
covered what  he  has  done.” 

“ What  he  has  done  1 He  has  done  nothing  that  has  had  to 
be  undone.  And  he  has  known  how  to  wait.” 

“ To  wait  for  Miss  Archer’s  money  1 How  much  of  it  ia 
there  1 ” 

“ That’s  not  what  I mean,”  said  Madame  Merle.  “ Miss 
Archer  has  seventy  thousand  pounds.” 

“ Well,  it  is  a pity  she  is  so  nice,”  the  Countess  declared. 
“ To  be  sacrificed,  any  girl  would  do.  She  needn’t  be  superior.” 

“ If  she  were  not  superior,  your  brother  would  never  look  at 
her.  He  must  have  the  best.” 

“ Yes,”  rejoined  the  Countess,  as  they  went  forward  a little  to 
meet  the  others,  “ he  is  very  hard  to  please.  That  makes  me 
faar  for  her  happiness  ! ” 


XXVI. 

Gilbert  Osmond  came  to  see  Isabel  again ; that  is,  he  came 
to  the  Palazzo  Crescentini.  He  had  other  friends  there  as  well ; 
and  to  Mrs.  Touchett  and  Madame  Merle  he  was  always  impar- 
tially civil ; but  the  former  of  these  ladies  noted  the  fact  that  in 
the  course  of  a fortnight  he  called  five  times,  and  compared  it 
with  another  fact  that  she  found  no  difficulty  in  remembering. 
Two  visits  a year  had  hitherto  constituted  his  regular  tribute  to 
Mrs.  Touchett’s  charms,  and  she  had  never  observed  that  he 
selected  for  such  visits  those  moments,  of  almost  periodica, 
recurrence,  when  Madame  Merle  was  under  her  roof.  It  was 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


235 


Hot  for  Madame  Merle  that  he  came ; these  two  were  old  fr:ends, 
and  he  never  put  himself  out  for  her.  He  was  not  fond  of 
Ralph — Ralph  had  told  her  so — and  it  was  not  supposable  that 
Mr.  Osmond  had  suddenly  taken  a fancy  to  her  son.  Ralph  was 
imperturbable — Ralph  had  a kind  of  loose-fitting  urbanity  that 
wrapped  him  about  like  an  ill-made  overcoat,  hut  of  which  he 
never  divested  himself ; he  thought  Mr.  Osmond  very  good  com- 
pany, and  would  have  been  willing  at  any  time  to  take  the  hos- 
pitable view  of  his  idiosyncracies.  But  he  did  not  flatter  him- 
self 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  attraction,  and  in  all  conscience  a sufficient  one.  Osmond 
was  a critic,  a student  of  the  exquisite,  and  it  was  natural  he 
should  admire  an  admirable  person.  So  when  his  mother  said 
to  him  that  it  was  very  plain  what  Mr.  Osmond  was  thinking  of, 
Ralph  replied  that  he  was  quite  of  her  opinion.  Mrs.  Touchett 
had  always  liked  Mr.  Osmond ; she  thought  him  so  much  of  a 
gentleman.  As  he  had  never  been  an  importunate  visitor  he 
had  had  no  chance  to  be  offensive,  and  he  was  recommended  to 
Mrs.  Touchett  by  his  appearance  of  being  as  wrell  able  to  do 
without  her  as  she  was  to  do  without  him — a quality  that  always 
excited  her  esteem.  It  gave  her  no  satisfaction,  however,  to 
think  that  he, had  taken  it  into  his  head  to  marry  her  niece. 
Such  an  alliance,  on  Isabel’s  part,  would  have  an  air  of  almost 
morbid  perversity.  Mrs.  Touchett  easily  remembered  that  the 
girl  had  refused  an  English  peer ; and  that  a young  lady  for 
whom  Lord  Warburton  had  not  been  up  to  the  mark  should 
content  herself  with  an  obscure  American  dilettante,  a middle- 
aged  widower  with  an  overgrown  daughter  and  an  income  of 
nothing— this  answered  to  nothing  in  Mrs.  Touchett’s  conception 
of  success.  She  took,  it  will  be  observed,  not  the  sentimental, 
but  the  political,  view  of  matrimony — a view  which  has  always 
had  much  to  recommend  it.  “ I trust  she  won’t  have  the  folly 
to  listen  to  him,”  she  said  to  her  son ; to  which  Ralph  replied 
that  Isabel’s  listening  was  one  thing  and  her  answering  quite 
another.  He  knew  that  she  had  listened  to  others,  but  that  she 
had  made  them  listen  to  her  in  return  ; and  he  found  much 
entertainment  in  the  idea  that,  in  these  few  months  that  he  had 
known  her,  he  should  see  a third  suitor  at  her  gate.  She  had 
wanted  to  see  life,  and  fortune  was  serving  her  to  her  taste  ; a 
succession  of  gentlemen  going  down  on  their  knees  to  her  was 
by  itself  a respectable  chapter  of  experience.  Ralph  looked 
forward  to  a fourth  and  a fifth  soupirant  / he  had  no  conviction 
that  she  would  stop  at  a third.  She  would  keep  the  gate  ajar 


£40 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


and  open  a parley  ; she  would  certainly  not  allow  number  thra* 
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  us  a 
too  many  metaphors  ; 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  will  do  so  in  spite  of  all 
your  similes.  Let  her  alone  to  find  a favourable  comparison  for 
anything  she  undertakes.  I know  very  little  about  the  young 
man  in  America ; I don’t  think  she  spends  much  of  her  time  in 
thinking  of  him,  and  I suspect  he  has  got  tired  of  waiting  for 
her.  There  is  nothing  in  life  to  prevent  her  marrying  Mr. 
Osmond,  if  she  only  looks  at  him  in  a certain  way.  That  is  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  is 
capable  of  marrying  Mr.  Osmond  for  his  opinions.  She  wants 
to  be  disinterested : as  if  she  were  the  only  person  who  is  in 
danger  of,  not  being  so  1 Will  he  be  so  disinterested  when  he 
has  the  spending  of  her  money  % That  was  her  idea  before  your 
father’s  death,  and  it  has  acquired  new  charms  for  her  since. 
She  ought  to  marry  some  one  of  whose  disinterestedness  she 
should  be  sure,  herself ; and  there  would  be  no  such  proof  of 
that  as  his  having  a fortune  of  his  own.” 

“ My  dear  mother,  I am  not  afraid,”  Balph  answered.  She 
is  making  fools  of  us  all.  She  will  please  herself,  of  course ; but 
she  will  do  so  by  studying  human  nature  and  retaining  her 
liberty.  She  has  started  on  an  exploring  expedition,  and  I don’t 
think  she  will  change  her  course,  at  the  outset,  at  a signal  from 
Gilbert  Osmond.  She  may  have  slackened  speed  for  an  hour, 
out  before  we  know  it  she  will  be  steaming  away  again.  Excuse 
another  metaphor.” 

Mrs.  Touchett  excused  it  perhaps,  but  she  was  not  so  much 
reassured  as  to  withhold  from  Madame  Merle  the  expression 
of  her  fears.  “You  who  know  everything,”  she  said,  “you 
must  know  this : whether  that  man  is  making  love  to  my 
niece.” 

Madame  Merle  opened  her  expressive  eyes,  and  with  a bril- 
liant smile — “ Heaven  help  us,”  she  exclaimed,  “ that’s  an 
idea!” 

“ Has  it  never  occurred  to  you?” 

“ You  make  me  feel  like  a fool— but  I confess  it  hasn’t.  I 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


241 


wonder,”  added  Madame  Merle,  “whether  it  has  occurred  to 
her.” 

“ I think  I will  ask  her,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett. 

Madame  Merle  reflected  a moment.  “ Don’t  put  it  into  her 
head.  The  thing  would  he  to  ask  Mr.  Osmond.” 

“ I can’t  do  that,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett ; “ it’s  none  of  my 
ousiness.” 

I will  ask  him  myself,”  Madame  Merle  declared,  bravely. 

“ It’s  none  of  yours,  either.” 

“ That’s  precisely  why  I can  afford  to  ask  him ; it  is  so  much 
less  my  business  than  any  one’s  else,  that  in  me  the  question  will 
not  seem  to  him  embarrassing.” 

“ Pray  let  me  know  on  the  first  day,  then,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett, 
* If  I can’t  speak  to  him,  at  least  I can  speak  to  her.” 

“ Don’t  be  too  quick  with  her ; don’t  inflame  her  imagin- 
ation.” 

“ I never  did  anything  to  any  one’s  imagination.  But  I am 
always  sure  she  will  do  something  I don’t  like.” 

“ You  wouldn’t  like  this,”  Madame  Merle  observed,  without 
the  point  of  interrogation. 

“ Why  should  I,  pray  ] Mr.  Osmond  has  nothing  t<?  offer.” 

Again  Madame  Merle  was  silent,  while  her  thoughtful  smile 
drew  up  her  mouth  more  than  usual  toward  the  left  corner. 
“ Let  us  distinguish.  Gilbert  Osmond  is  certainly  not  the  first 
comer.  He  is  a man  who  under  favourable  circumstances  might 
very  well  make  an  impression.  He  has  made  an  impression,  to 
my  knowledge,  more  than  once.” 

“ Don’t  tell  me  about  his  love-affairs ; they  are  nothing  to 
me ! ” Mrs.  Touchett  cried.  “ What  you  say  is  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 grown- 
up daughter.” 

“ The  early  masters  are  worth  a good  deal  of  money,”  said 
Madame  Merle,  “ and  the  daughter  is  a very  young  and  very 
harmless  person.” 

“ In  other  words,  she  is  an  insipid  school-girl.  Is  that  what 
jou  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  would  not  object  to  being  kind  to  her.  I 
think  she  likes  the  child.” 

“ Another  reason  for  Mr.  Osmond  stopping  at  home  ! Other- 
wise, a week  hence,  we  shall  have  Isabel  arriving  at  the  convic- 
tion that  her  mission  in  life  is  to  prove  that  a stepmother  may 

u 


242 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


sacrifice  herself— and  that,  to  prove  it,  she  must  first  become 
one.” 

“ She  would  make  a charming  stepmother/’  said  Madame 
Merle,  smiling ; “ but  I quite  agree  with  you  that  she  had  better 
not  decide  upon  her  mission  too  hastily.  Changing  one’s  mission 
is  often  awkward  ! I will  investigate  and  report  to  you.” 

All  this  went  on  quite  over  Isabel’s  head ; she  had  no  sus- 
picion 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  Mr.  Osmond  than  to  the  other 
gentlemen  of  Florence,  native  and  foreign,  who  came  in  consider- 
able numbers  to  pay  their  respects  to  Miss  Archer’s  aunt.  Isabel 
thought  him  very  pleasant ; she  liked  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 
happened  to  take  her  fancy  particularly — the  image  of  a quiet, 
clever,  sensitive,  distinguished  man,  strolling  on  a moss-grown 
terrace  above  the  sweet  Yal  d’Arno,  and  holding  by  the  hand  a 
little  girl  whose  sympathetic  docility  gave  a new  aspect  to  child- 
hood. The  picture  was  not  brilliant,  but  she  liked  its  lowness 
of  tone,  and  the  atmosphere  of  summer  twilight  that  pervaded 
it.  It  seemed  to  tell  a story — a story  of  the  sort  that  touched 
her  most  easily ; to  speak  of  a serious  choice,  a choice  between 
things  of  a shallow,  and  things  of  a deep,  interest ; of  a lonely, 
studious  life  in  a lovely  land ; of  an  old  sorrow  that  sometimes 
ached  to-day ; a feeling  of  pride  that  was  perhaps  exaggerated, 
but  that  had  an  element  of  nobleness ; a care  for  beauty  and 
perfection  so  natural  and  so  cultivated  together,  that  it  had  been 
the  main  occupation  of  a lifetime  of  which  the  arid  places  were 
watered  with  the  sweet  sense  of  a quaint,  half -anxious,  half- 
helpless  fatherhood.  At  the  Palazzo  Crescentini  Mr.  Osmond’s 
manner  remained  the  same ; shy  at  first,  and  full  of  the  effort 
(visible  only  to  a sympathetic  eye)  to  overcome  this  disadvan- 
tage ; an  effort  which  usually  resulted  in  a great  deal  of  easy, 
lively,  very  positive,  rather  aggressive,  and  always  effective,  talk. 
Mr.  Osmond’s  talk  was  not  injured  by  the  indication  of  an  eager- 
ness to  shine ; Isabel  found  no  difficulty  in  believing  that  a 
person  was  sincere  who  had  so  many  of  the  signs  of  strong  con- 
viction— as,  for  instance,  an  explicit  and  graceful  appreciation  of 
anything  that  might  be  said  on  his  own  side,  said  perhaps  by 
Miss  Archer  in  particular.  What  continued  to  please  this  young 
lady  was  his  extraordinary  subtlety.  There  was  such  a fine 
intellectual  intention  in  what  he  said,  and  the  movement  of  his 
wit  was  like  that  of  a quick-hashing  blade.  One  day  he  brou6ht 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


24$ 


his  little  daughter  with  him,  and  Isabel  was  delighted  to  renew 
acquaintance  with  the  child,  who,  as  she  presented  her  forehead 
to  be  kissed  by  every  member  of  the  circle,  reminded  her  vividly 
of  an  ingenue  in  a French  play.  Isabel  had  never  seen  a young 
girl  of  this  pattern ; American  girls  were  very  different — different 
too  were  the  daughters  of  England.  This  young  lady  was  so 
neat,  so  complete  in  her  manner ; and  yet  in  character,  as  one 
could  see,  so  innocent  and  infantine.  She  sat  on  the  sofa,  by 
Isabel ; she  wore  a small  grenadine  mantle  and  a pair  of  the 
useful  gloves  that  Madame  Merle  had  given  her — little  grey 
gloves,  with  a single  button.  She  was  like  a sheet  of  blank 
paper — the  ideal  jeunefille  of  foreign  fiction.  Isabel  hoped  that 
so  fair  and  smooth  a page  would  be  covered  with  an  edifying 
text. 

The  Countess  Gemini  also  came  to  call  upon  her,  but  the 
Countess  was  quite  another  affair.  She  was  by  no  means  a blank 
sheet ; she  had  been  written  over  in  a variety  of  hands,  and  Mrs, 
Touchett,  who  felt  by  no  means  honoured  by  her  visit,  declared 
that  a number  of  unmistakable  blots  were  to  be  seen  upon  her 
surface.  The  Countess  Gemini  was  indeed  the  occasion  of  a 
slight  discussion  between  the  mistress  of  the  house  and  the 
visitor  from  Koine,  in  which  Madame  Merle  (who  was  not  such 
a fool  as  to  irritate  people  by  always  agreeing  with  them) 
availed  herself  humorously  of  that  large  license  of  dissent  which 
her  hostess  permitted  as  freely  as  she  practised  it.  Mrs.  Touchett 
had  pronounced  it  a piece  of  audacity  that  the  Countess  Gemini 
should  have  presented  herself  at  this  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  the  Palazzo  Crescentini.  Isabel 
had  been  made  acquainted  with  the  estimate  which  prevailed 
under  this  roof ; it  represented  Mr.  Osmond’s  sister  as  a kind 
of  flighty  reprobate.  She  had  been  married  by  her  mother — a 
heartless  featherhead  like  herself,  with  an  appreciation  of  foreign 
titles  which  the  daughter,  to  do  her  justice,  had  probably  by  this 
time  thrown  off — to  an  Italian  nobleman  who  had  perhaps  given 
her  some  excuse  for  attempting  to  quench  the  consciousness  of 
neglect.  The  Countess,  however,  had  consoled  herself  too  well, 
and  it  was  notorious  in  Florence  that  she  had  consoled  others 
also.  Mrs.  Touchett  had  never  consented  to  receive  her,  though 
the  Countess  had  made  overtures  of  old.  Florence  was  not  an 
austere  city ; but,  as  Mrs.  Touchett  said,  she  had  to  draw  the 
line  somewhere. 

Madame  Merle  defended  the  unhappy  lady  with  a great  deal 
of  zeal  and  wit.  She  could  not  see  why  Mrs.  Touchett  should 

K 2 


244 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


make  a scapegoat  of  that  poor  Countess,  who  had  really  done  no 
harm,  who  had  only  done  good  in  the  wrong  way.  One  must 
certainly  draw  the  line,  but  while  one  was  about  it  one  should 
draw  it  straight ; it  was  a very  crooked  chalk-mark  that  would 
exclude  the  Countess  Gemini.  In  that  case  Mrs.  Touchett  had 
better  shut  up  her  house ; this  perhaps  would  be  the  best  course 
so  long  as  she  remained  in  Florence.  One  must  be  fair  and  not 
make  arbitrary  differences ; the  Countess  had  doubtless  been 
imprudent ; she  had  not  been  so  clever  as  other  women.  She 
was  a good  creature,  not  clever  at  all ; but  since  when  had  that 
been  a ground  of  exclusion  from  the  best  society  ? It  was  a long 
time  since  one  had  heard  anything  about  her,  and  there  could  be 
no  better  proof  of  her  having  renounced  the  error  of  her  ways 
than  her  desire  to  become  a member  of  Mrs.  Touchett’s  circle. 
Isabel  could  contribute  nothing  to  this  interesting  dispute,  not 
even  a patient  attention;  she  contented  herself  with  having 
given  a friendly  welcome  to  the  Countess  Gemini,  who,  whatever 
her  defects,  had  at  least  the  merit  of  being  Mr.  Osmond’s  sister. 
As  she  liked  the  brother,  Isabel  thought  it  proper  to  try  and  like 
the  sister ; in  spite  of  the  growing  perplexity  of  things  she  was 
still  perfectly  capable  of  these  rather  primitive  sequences  of  feel- 
ing. She  had  not  received  the  happiest  impression  of  the  Countess 
on  meeting  her  at  the  villa,  but  she  was  thankful  for  an  oppor- 
tunity to  repair  this  accident.  Had  not  Mr.  Osmond  declared 
that  she  was  a good  woman?  To  have  proceeded  from  Gilbert 
Osmond,  this  was  rather  a rough  statement ; but  Madame  Merle 
bestowed  upon  it  a certain  improving  polish.  She  told  Isabel 
more  about  the  poor  Countess  than  Mr.  Osmond  had  done,  and 
related  the  history  of  her  marriage  and  its  consequences.  The 
Count  was  a member  of  an  ancient  Tuscan  family,  but  so  poor 
that  he  had  been  glad  to  accept  Amy  Osmond,  in  spite  of  her 
being  no  beauty,  with  the  modest  dowry  her  mother  was  able  to 
*ffer — a sum  about  equivalent  to  that  which  had  already  formed 
her  brother’s  share  of  their  patrimony.  Count  Gemini,  since  then* 
however,  had  inherited  money,  and  now  they  were  well  enough 
off,  as  Italians  went,  though  Amy  was  horribly  extravagant. 
The  Count  was  a low-lived  brute ; he  had  given  his  wife  every 
excuse.  She  had  no  children  ; she  had  lost  three  within  a year 
of  their  birth.  Her  mother,  who  had  pretensions  to  “ culture,” 
wrote  descriptive  poems,  and  corresponded  on  Italian  subjects 
with  the  English  weekly  journals — her  mother  had  died  three 
years  after  the  Countess’s  marriage,  the  father  having  died  long 
before.  One  could  see  this  in  Gilbert  Osmond,  Madame  Merle 
thought — see  that  he  had  been  brought  up  by  a woman;  though. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


245 


to  do  him  justice,  one  would  suppose  it  had  been  by  a more 
sensible  woman  than  the  American  Corinne,  as  Mrs.  Osmond 
liked  to  be  called.  She  had  brought  her  children  to  Italy  after 
her  husband's  death,  and  Mrs.  Touchett  remembered  her  during 
the  years  that  followed  her  arrival.  She  thought  her  a horrible 
snob  ; but  this  was  an  irregularity  of  judgment  on  Mrs.  Touchett's 
part,  for  she,  like  Mrs.  Osmond,  approved  of  political  marriages. 
The  Countess  was  very  good  company,  and  not  such  a fool  as 
she  seemed ; one  got  on  with  her  perfectly  if  one  observed  a 
single  simple  condition — that  of  not  believing  a word  she  said. 
Madame  Merle  had  always  made  the  best  of  her  for  her  brother's 
sake;  he  always  appreciated  any  kindness  shown  to  Amy, 
because  (if  it  had  to  be  confessed  for  him)  he  was  rather  ashamed 
of  her,  Naturally,  he  couldn’t  like  her  style,  her  loudness,  her 
want  of  repose.  She  displeased  him  ; she  acted  on  his  nerves  ; 
she  was  not  his  sort  of  woman.  What  was  his  sort  of  woman  ] 
Oh,  the  opposite  of  the  Countess,  a woman  who  should  always 
speak  the  truth.  Isabel  was  unable  to  estimate  the  number  of 
fibs  her  visitor  had  told  her ; 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 
nasty  the  people  in  Florence  were ; how  tired  she  was  of  the 
place;  how  much  she  should  like  to  live  somewhere  else — in 
Paris,  or  London,  or  St.  Petersburg ; 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  her  conversation  with  this  plaintive  butter- 
fly; but  she  had  not  needed  it  to  feel  exempt  from  anxiety. 
On  the  whole,  she  was  not  afraid  of  the  Countess,  and  she 
could  afford  to  do  what  was  altogether  best — not  to  appear  so. 

Isabel  had  another  visitor,  whom  it  was  not,  even  behind  her 
back,  so  easy  a matter  to  ^patronise.  Henrietta  Stackpole,  who 
had  left  Paris  after  Mrs.  Touchett’s  departure  for  San  Eemo 
and  had  worked  her  way  down,  as  she  said,  through  the  cities 
of  North  Italy,  arrived  in  Florence  about  the  middle  of  May. 
Madame  Merle  surveyed  her  with  a single  glance,  comprehended 
her,  and,  after  a moment’s  concentrated  reflection,  determined 
to  like  her.  She  determined,  indeed,  to  delight  in  her.  To 
like  her  was  impossible;  but  the  in  tenser  sentiment  might  be 
managed.  Madame  Merle  managed  it  beautifully,  and  Isabel 
felt  that  in  foreseeing  this  event  she  had  done  justice  to  her 
fx 'end’s  breadth  of  mind.  Henrietta’s  arrival  had  been  announced 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


by  Mr.  Bantling,  who,  coming  down  from  Nice  while  she  was 
at  Venice,  and  expecting  to  find  her  in  Florence,  which  she  had 
not  yet  reached,  came  to  the  Palazzo  Crescentini  to  express  his 
disappointment.  Henrietta’s  own  advent  occurred  two  days 
later,  and  produced  in  Mr.  Bantling  an  emotion  amply  accounted 
for  by  the  fact  that  he  had  not  seen  her  since  the  termination 
of  the  episode  at  Versailles.  The  humorous  view  of  his  situation 
was  generally  taken,  but  it  was  openly  expressed  only  by  Ralph 
Touchett,  who,  in  the  privacy  of  his  own  apartment,  when 
Bantling  smoked  a cigar  there,  indulged  in  Heaven  knows  what 
genial  pleasantries  on  the  subject  of  the  incisive  Miss  Stack  pole 
and  her  British  ally.  This  gentleman  took  the  joke  in  perfectly 
good  part,  and  artlessly  confessed  that  he  regarded  the  affair  as 
an  intellectual  flirtation.  He  liked  Miss  Stackpole  extremely  ; 
he  thought  she  had  a wonderful  head  on  her  shoulders,  and 
found  great  comfort  in  the  society  of  a woman  who  was  not 
perpetually  thinking  about  what  would  be  said  and  how  it 
would  look.  Miss  Stackpole  never  cared  how  it  looked,  and  if 
she  didn’t  care,  pray  why  should  he  'l  But  his  curiosity  had 
been  roused  ; he  wanted  awfully  to  see  whether  she  ever  would 
care.  He  was  prepared  to  go  as  far  as  she — he  did  not  see  why 
he  should  stop  first. 

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


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


247 


Exad  day ; and  with  this  design  she  was  to  spend  at  present  but 
few  days  in  Florence.  Mr.  Bantling  was  to  go  with  her  to 
Rome,  and  she  pointed  out  to  Isabel  that  as  he  had  been  there 
before,  as  he  was  a military  man,  and  as  he  had  had  a classical 
education — he  was  brought  up  at  Eton,  where  they  study  nothing 
but  Latin,  said  Miss  Stackpole — he  would  be  a most  useful 
companion  in  the  city  of  the  Caesars.  At  this  juncture  Ralph 
had  the  happy  idea  of  proposing  to  Isabel  that  she  also,  under 
his  own  escort,  should  make  a pilgrimage  to  Rome.  She 
expected  to  pass  a portion  of  the  next  winter  there — that  was 
very  well ; but  meantime  there  was  no  harm  in  surveying  the 
field.  There  were  ten  days  left  of  the  beautiful  month  of  May 
— the  most  precious  month  of  all  to  the  true  Rome-lover.  Isabel 
would  become  a Rome-lover ; that  was  a foregone  conclusion. 
She  was  provided  with  a well-tested  companion  of  her  own  sex, 
whose  society,  thanks  to  the  fact  that  she  had  other  calls  upon 
her  sympathy,  would  probably  not  be  oppressive.  Madame 
Merle  would  remain  with  Mrs.  Touchett ; she  had  left  Romo 
for  the  summer  and  would  not  care  to  return.  This  lady  pro- 
fessed herself  delighted  to  be  left  at  peace  in  Florence ; she  had 
locked  up  her  apartment  and  sent  her  cook  home  to  Palestrina. 
She  urged  Isabel,  however,  to  assent  to  Ralph’s  proposal,  and 
assured  her  that  a good  introduction  to  Rome  was  not  a thing 
to  be  despised.  Isabel,  in  truth,  needed  no  urging,  and  the 
party  of  four  arranged  its  little  journey.  Mrs.  Touchett,  on 
this  occasion,  had  resigned  herself  to  the  absence  of  a duenna , 
we  have  seen  that  she  now  inclined  to  the  belief  that  her  niece 
should  stand  alone. 

Isabel  saw  Gilbert  Osmond  before  she  started,  and  mentioned 
her  intention  to  him. 

u I should  like  to  be  in  Rome  with  you,”  he  said  ; “ I should 
like  to  see  you  there.” 

She  hesitated  a moment. 

“ You  might  come,  then.” 

“ But  you’ll  have  a lot  of  people  with  you.” 

“ Ah,”  Isabel  admitted,  “ of  course  I shall  not  be  alone.” 

For  a moment  he  said  nothing  more. 

“ You’ll  like  it,”  he  went  on,  at  last.  “ They  have  spoiled 
it,  but  you’ll  like  it.” 

“ Ought  I to  dislike  it,  because  it’s  spoiled  ? ” she  asked. 

“ FTo,  I think  not.  It  has  been  spoiled  so  often.  If  I wer« 
to  go,  what  should  I do  with  my  little  girl  2 ” 

“ Can’t  you  leave  her  at  the  villa  ? ” 

M I don’t  know  that  I like  that  — though  there  is  a very 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


148 

good  old  woman  who  looks  after  her.  I can’t  afford  a 
governess.” 

“ Bring  her  with  yon,  then,”  said  Isabel,  smiling. 

Mr.  Osmond  looked  grave. 

“ She  has  been  in  Rome  all  winter,  at  her  convent ; and  she 
is  to>3  young  to  make  journeys  of  pleasure.” 

“ You  don’t  like  bringing  her  forward?”  Isabel  suggested. 

“ 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  wore 
exceptional.” 

“ I don’t  see  why,”  said  Isabel,  who,  however,  was  not  sure 
there  was  not  some  truth  in  the  speech. 

Mr.  Osmond  did  not  explain  ; he  simply  went  on.  “ If  I 
thought  it  would  make  her  resemble  you  to  join  a social  group 
in  Rome,  I would  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  suggested.  He 
had  almost  the  air  of  asking  advice ; he  seemed  to  like  to  talk 
over  his  domestic  matters  with  Isabel. 

“ Yes,”  said  the  girl  ; “ I think  that  would  not  do  much 
towards  making  her  resemble  me  ! ” 

After  she  had  left  Florence,  Gilbert  Osmond  met  Madame 
Merle  at  the  Countess  Gemini’s.  There  were  other  people 
present;  the  Countess’s  drawing-room  was  usually  well  filled, 
and  the  talk  had  been  general ; but  after  a while  Osmond  left 
his  place  and  came  and  sat  on  an  ottoman  half-behind,  half- 
beside,  Madame  Merle’s  chair. 

“ She  wants  me  to  go  to  Rome  with  her,”  he  announced,  in 
a low  voice. 

“To  go  with  her  ? ” 

“ To  be  there  while  she  is  there.  She  proposed  it.” 

“ I suppose  you  mean  that  you  proposed  it,  and  that  she 
assented.” 

“ Of  course  I gave  her  a chance.  But  she  is  encouraging — 
she  is  very  encouraging.” 

“ I am  glad  to  hear  it — but  don’t  cry  victory  too  soon.  Of 
course  you  will  gc  to  Rome.” 

“ Ah,”  said  Osmond,  “ it  makes  one  work,  this  idea  of  yours !” 

“ Don’t  pretend  you  don’t  enjoy  it — you  are  very  ungrateful. 
You  have  not  been  so  well  occupied  these  many  years.” 

“ The  way  you  take  it  is  beautiful,”  sai  3 Osmond.  “ I ought 
to  be  grateful  for  that.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


249 


“ Not  too  much  so,  however,”  Madame  Merle  answered.  She 
talked  with  her  usual  smile,  leaning  back  in  her  chair,  and 
looking  round  the  room.  “ You  have  made  a very  good  im- 
pression, and  I have  seen  for  myself  that  you  have  received  one. 
You  have  not  come  to  Mrs.  Touchett’s  seven  times  to  oblige 
me.” 

“ The  girl  is  not  disagreeable,”  Osmond  quietly  remarked, 

Madame  Merle  dropped  her  eye  on  him  a moment,  during 
which  her  lips  closed  with  a certain  firmness. 

“ Is  that  all  you  can  find  to  say  about  that  fine  creature  1 ” 

“All?  Isn’t  it  enough]  Of  how  many  people  have  you 
heard  me  say  more  ] ” 

She  made  no  answer  to  this,  but  still  presented  her  convers- 
ational smile  to  the  room. 

“ You’re  unfathomable,”  she  murmured  at  last.  “ I am 
frightened  at  the  abyss  into  which  I shall  have  dropped  her  l 99 

Osmond  gave  a laugh. 

“ You  can’t  draw  back — you  have  gone  too  far.” 

“ Very  good  ; but  you  must  do  the  rest  yourself.” 

“ I shall  do  it,”  said  Osmond. 

Madame  Merle  remained  silent,  and  he  changed  his  place 
again ; but  when  she  rose  to  go  he  also  took  leave.  Mrs. 
Toucliett’s  victoria  was  awaiting  her  in  the  court,  and  after  he 
had  helped  Madame  Merle  into  it  he  stood  there  detaining 

her. 

“ You  are  very  indiscreet,”  she  said,  rather  wearily  ; “ you 
should  not  have  moved  when  I did.” 

He  had  taken  off  his  hat;  he  passed  his  hand  over  his 
forehead. 

“ I always  forget ; I am  out  of  the  habit.” 

“ You  are  quite  unfathomable,”  she  repeated,  glancing  up  at 
the  windows  of  the  house ; a modern  structure  in  the  new  part 
of  the  town. 

He  paid  no  heed  to  this  remark,  but  said  to  Madame  Merle, 
with  a considerable  appearance  of  earnestness — 

“ She  is  really  verv  charming ; I have  scarcely  known  any 
one  more  graceful.” 

“ I like  to  hear  you  say  that.  The  better  you  like  her,  the 

better  for  me.” 

“ I like  her  very  much.  She  is  all  you  said,  and  into  the 
bargain  she  is  capable  of  great  devotion.  She  has  only  one 
fault.” 

“ What  is  that  ] ” 

u She  has  too  many  ideas.” 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ I warned  you  she  was  el  ever” 

“ Fortunately  they  are  very  bad  ones/1  said  Osmond. 
u Why  is  that  fortunate  ] ” 

“ Dame , if  they  must  be  sacrificed  ! ” 

Madame  Merle  leaned  back,  looking  straight  before  her  ; then 
she  spoke  to  the  coachman.  But  Osmond  again  detained  her. 

“ If  I go  to  Home,  what  shall  I do  with  Pansy  ] ” 

“ I will  go  and  see  her,”  said  Madame  Merle. 


XXYII. 

I shall  not  undertake  to  give  an  account  of  IsabePs  impres- 
sions of  Borne,  to  analyse  her  feelings  as  she  trod  the  ancient 
yavement  of  the  Forum,  or  to  number  her  pulsations  as  she 
crossed  the  threshold  of  St.  Peter's.  It  is  enough  to  say  that 
her  perception  of  the  endless  interest  of  the  place  was  such  as 
might  have  been  expected  in  a young  woman  of  her  intelligence 
and  culture.  She  had  always  been  fond  of  history,  and  here 
was  history  in  the  stones  of  the  street  and  the  atoms  of  the 
sunshine.  She  had  an  imagination  that  kindled  at  the  mention 
of  great  deeds,  and  wherever  she  turned  some  great  deed  had 
been  acted.  These  things  excited  her,  but  she  was  quietly 
excited.  It  seemed  to  her  companions  that  she  spoke  less  than 
usual,  and  Balph  Touchett,  when  he  appeared  to  be  looking 
listlessly  and  awkwardly  over  her  head,  was  really  dropping  an 
eye  of  observation  upon  her.  To  her  own  knowledge  she  was 
very  happy  ; she  would  even  have  been  willing  to  believe  that 
these  were  to  be  on  the  whole  the  happiest  hours  of  her  life. 
The  sense  of  the  mighty  human  past  was  heavy  upon  her,  but 
it  was  interfused  in  the  strangest,  suddenest,  most  capricious 
way,  with  the  fresh,  cool  breath  of  the  future.  Her  feelings 
were  so  mingled  that  she  scarcely  knew  whither  any  of  them 
would  lead  her,  and  she  went  about  in  a kind  of  repressed 
ecstasy  of  contemplation,  seeing  often  in  the  things  she  looked 
at  a greal  deal  more  than  was  there,  and  yet  not  seeing  many  of 
ihe  items  enumerated  in  “ Murray.”  Borne,  as  Balph  said,  was  in 
capital  condition.  The  herd  of  re-echoing  tourists  had  departed, 
and  most  of  the  solemn  places  had  relapsed  into  solemnity. 
The  sky  was  a blaze  of  blue,  and  the  plash  of  the  fountains 
in  their  mossy  niches,  had  lost  its  chill  and  doubled  its  music. 
On  the  corners  of  the  warm,  bright  streets  one  stumbled  upoff 
bundles  of  flowers. 


THE  FOR  TRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


251 


Our  friends  had  gone  one  afternoon — it  was  the  third  of  their 
stay — to  look  at  the  latest  excavations  in  the  Forum  ; these 
labours  having  been  for  some  time  previous  largely  extended. 
They  had  gone  down  from  the  modern  street  to  the  level  of  the 
Sacred  Way,  along  which  they  wandered  with  a reverence  of 
step  which  was  not  the  same  on  the  part  of  each.  Henrietta 
Stackpole  was  struck  with  the  fact  that  ancient  Home  had  been 
paved  a good  deal  like  New  York,  and  even  found  an  analogy 
between  the  deep  chariot-ruts  which  are  traceable  in  the  antique 
street,  and  the  iron  grooves  which  mark  the  course  of  the 
American  horse-car.  The  sun  had  begun  to  sink,  the  air  was 
filled  with  a golden  haze,  and  the  long  shadows  of  broken 
column  and  formless  pedestal  were  thrown  across  the  field  of 
ruin.  Henrietta  wandered  away  with  Mr.  Bantling,  in  whose 
Latin  reminiscences  she  was  apparently  much  engrossed,  and 
Ralph  addressed  such  elucidations  as  he  was  prepared  to  offer, 
to  the  attentive  ear  of  our  heroine.  One  of  the  humble 
archaeologists  who  hover  about  the  place  had  put  himself  at  the 
disposal  of  the  two,  and  repeated  his  lesson  with  a liuency  which 
the  decline  of  the  season  had  done  nothing  to  impair.  A process 
of  diggingwas  going  on  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  interesting.  The 
proposal  commended  itself  more  to  Ralph  than  to  Isabel,  who 
was  weary  with  much  wandering;  so  that  she  charged  her 
companion  to  satisfy  his  curiosity  while  she  patiently  awaited 
his  return.  The  hour  and  the  place  were  much  to  her  taste, 
and  she  should  enjoy  being  alone.  Ralph  accordingly  went  oil 
with  the  cicerone,  while  Isabel  sat  down  on  a prostrate  column, 
near  the  foundations  of  the  Capitol.  She  desired  a quarter  ol 
an  hour’s  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  around  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 concaten- 
ation of  stages  it  might  require  some  subtlety  to  trace,  to  regions 
and  objects  more  contemporaneous.  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 
*as  thrown  across  the  line  of  her  vision.  She  looked  up  and 


*52 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


*aw  a gentleman — a gentleman  who  was  not  Balph  come  hack 
*o  say  that  the  excavations  were  a bore.  This  personage  was- 
startled  as  she  was  startled ; he  stood  there,  smiling  a little, 
blushing  a good  deal,  and  raising  his  hat. 

“ Lord  Warburton  ! ” Isabel  exclaimed,  getting  up. 

“ I had  no  idea  it  was  you,”  he  said.  “ I turned  that  corner 
md  came  upon  you.” 

Isabel  looked  about  her. 

“I  am  alone,  but  my  companions  have  just  left  me.  My 
eousin  is  gone  to  look  at  the  digging  over  there.” 

“ Ah  yes ; I see.”  And  Lord  Warburton’s  eyes  wandered 
vaguely  in  the  direction  Isabel  had  indicated.  He  stood  firmly 
before  her ; he  had  stopped  smiling ; he  folded  his  arms  with  a 
kind  of  deliberation.  “ Don’t  let  me  disturb  you,”  he  went  on, 
looking  at  her  dejected  pillar.  “ I am  afraid  you  are  tired.” 

“ Yes,  I am  rather  tired.”  She  hesitated  a moment,  and 
then  shs  sat  down.  “But  don’t  let  me  interrupt  you,”  she 
added. 

“ Oh  dear,  I am  quite  alone,  I have  nothing  on  earth  to  do. 
I had  no  idea  you  were  in  Borne.  I have  just  come  from  the 
East.  I am  only  passing  through.” 

“ You  have  been  making  a long  journey,”  said  Isabel,  who 
had  learned  from  Balph  that  Lord  Warburton  was  absent  from 
England. 

“ Yes,  I came  abroad  for  six  months — soon  after  I saw  you 
last.  I have  been  in  Turkey  and  Asia  Minor ; I came  the  other 
day  from  Athens.”  He  spoke  with  visible  embarrassment ; this 
unexpected  meeting  caused  him  an  emotion  he  was  unable  to 
conceal.  He  looked  at  Isabel  a moment,  and  then  he  said, 
abruptly — “ Do  you  wish  me  to  leave  you,  or  will  you  let  me 
stay  a little  'l  ” 

She  looked  up  at  him,  gently.  “ I don’t  wish  you  to  leave 
me,  Lord  Warburton ; I am  very  glad  to  see  you.” 

“ Thank  you  for  saying  that.  May  I sit  down  1 99 

The  fluted  shaft  on  which  Isabel  had  taken  her  seat  would 
have  afforded  a resting-place  to  several  persons,  and  there  was 
plenty  of  room  even  for  a highly-developed  Englishman.  This 
flue  specimen  of  that  great  class  seated  himself  near  our  young 
lady,  and  in  the  course  of  five  minutes  he  had  asked  her  several 
questions,  taken  rather  at  random,  and  of  which,  as  he  asked 
some  of  them  twice  over,  he  apparently  did  not  always  heed  the 
answer;  had  given  her,  too,  some  information  about  himself 
which  was  not  wasted  upon  her  calmer  feminine  sense.  Lord 
iVarburton,  though  he  tried  hard  to  seem  easy,  was  agitated 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


253 


lie  repeated  more  than  once  that  he  had  not  expected  to  meet 
her,  and  it  was  evident  that  the  encounter  touched  him  in  a 
way  that  would  have  made  preparation  advisable.  He  had 
abrupt  alternations  of  gaiety  and  gravity ; he  appeared  at  one 
moment  to  seek  his  neighbour’s  eye  and  at  the  next  to  avoid 
it.  He  was  splendidly  sunburnt ; even  his  multitudinous  beard 
seemed  to  have  been  burnished  by  the  fire  of  Asia.  He  was 
dressed  in  the  loose-fitting,  heterogeneous  garments  in  which  the 
English  traveller  in  foreign  lands  is  wont  to  consult  his  comfort 
and  affirm  his  nationality;  and  with  his  clear  grey  eye,  his 
bronzed  complexion,  fresh  beneath  its  brownness,  his  manly 
figure,  his  modest  manner,  and  his  general  air  of  being  a gentle- 
man and  an  explorer,  he  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  Lord  Warburton.  He  was 
evidently  as  likeable  as  before,  and  the  tone  of  his  voice,  which 
she  had  formerly  thought  delightful,  was  as  good  as  an  assu'rance 
that  he  would  never  change  for  the  worse.  They  talked  about 
the  matters  that  were  naturally  in  order ; her  uncle’s  death, 
Ralph’s  state  of  health,  the  way  she  had  passed  her  winter,  her 
visit  to  Rome,  her  return  to  Florence,  her  plans  for  the  summer, 
the  hotel  she  was  staying  at ; and  then  Lord  Warburton’s  own 
adventures,  movements,  intentions,  impressions  and  present 
domicile.  At  last  there  was  a silence,  and  she  knew  what  he 
was  thinking  of.  His  eyes  were  fixed  on  the  ground;  but  at 
last  he  raised  them  and  said  gravely — “I  have  written  to  you 
several  times.” 

“ Written  to  me?  I have  never  got  your  letters.” 

“ I never  sent  them.  I burned  them  up.” 

“ Ah,”  said  Isabel  with  a laugh,  “ it  was  better  that  you 
should  do  that  than  I ! ” 

“ 1 thought  you  wouldn’t  care  about  them,”  he  went  on,  with 
a simplicity  that  might  have  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  that  I hoped  that — that — ” Isabel  stopped ; it  seemed  to 
her  there  would  be  a certain  flatness  in  the  utterance  of  her 
thought. 

“ I know  what  you  are  going  to  say.  You  hoped  we  should 
always  remain  good  friends.”  This  formula,  as  Lord  Warburton 
uttered  it,  was  certainly  fiat  enough ; but  then  he  was  interested 
in  making  it  appear  so. 

Isabel  found  herself  reduced  simply  to  saying  — “ Please  lor’ I 


254 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


talk  of  all  that;”  a speech  which  hardly  seemed  to  her  at 
improvement  on  the  other. 

“ It's  a small  consolation  to  allow  me ! ” Lord  Warburton 
exclaimed,  with  force. 

“ I can’t  pretend  to  console  you,”  said  the  girl,  who,  as  she 
sat  there,  found  it  good  to  think  that  she  had  given  him  the 
answer  that  had  satisfied  him  so  little  six  months  before.  He 
was  pleasant,  he  was  powerful,  he  was  gallant,  there  was  no 
better  man  than  he.  But  her  answer  remained. 

“ It’s  very  well  you  don’t  try  to  console  me  ; it  would  not  be 
in  your  power,”  she  heard  him  say,  through  the  medium  of  her 
quickened  reflections. 

“ 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  is  greater  than  the  pleasure.”  And 
Isabel  got  up,  looking  for  her  companions. 

“ I don’t  want  to  make  you  feel  that ; of  course  I can’t  say 
that.  I only  just  want  you  to  know  one  or  two  things,  in 
fairness  to  myself  as  it  were.  I won’t  return  to  the  subject 
again.  I felt  very  strongly  what  I expressed  to  you  last  year  ; 
I couldn’t  think  of  anything  else.  I tried  to  forget — energetic- 
ally, systematically.  I tried  to  take  an  interest  in  some  one  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 have  thought  of  you  perpetually, 
ever  since  I last  saw  you.  I am  exactly  the  same.  I love  you 
just  as  much,  and  everything  I said  to  you  then  is  just  as  true. 
However,  I don’t  mean  to  trouble  you  now ; it’s  only  for  a 
moment.  I may  add  that  when  I came  upon  you  a moment 
since,  without  the  smallest  idea  of  seeing  you,  I was  in  the  very 
act  of  wishing  I knew  where  you  were.” 

He  had  recovered  his  self-control,  as  I say,  and  while  he  spoke 
it  became  complete.  He  spoke  plainly  and  simply,  in  a low 
tone  of  voice,  in  a matter-of-fact  way.  There  might  have  been 
something  impressive,  even  to  a woman  of  less  imagination  than 
the  one  he  addressed,  in  hearing  this  brilliant,  brave-looking 
gentleman  express  himself  so  modestly  and  reasonably. 

“ I have  often  thought  of  you,  Lord  Warburton,”  Isabel 
answered.  “ You  may  be  sure  I shall  always  do  that.”  And 
then  she  added,  with  a smile — “ There  is  no  harm  in  that,  ou 
either  side.” 

They  walked  along  together,  and  she  asked  kindly  about  his 
■inters  and  requested  him  to  let  them  know  she  had  done  so.  He 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


26* 


said  nothing  more  about  his  own  feelings,  but  returned  to  those 
more  objective  topics  they  had  already  touched  upon.  Presently 
he  asked  her  when  she  was  to  leave  Rome,  and  on  her  mention- 
ing 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  1”  she  inquired,  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  ! ” 

Lord  Warburton  looked  at  her  a moment,  with  an  uncomfort- 
able smile.  “ You  won’t  like  that.  You  are  afraid  you  will  see 
too  much  of  me.” 

“ It  doesn’t  matter  what  I like.  I certainly  can’t  expect  yon 
to  leave  this  delightful  place  on  my  account.  But  I confess  I 
am  afraid  of  you.” 

“ Afraid  I will  begin  again  'l  I promise  to  be  very  careful.” 

They  had  gradually  stopped,  and  they  stood  a moment  face  fcc 
face.  “ Poor  Lord  Warburton  ! ” said  Isabel,  with  a melancholy 

smile. 

“ Poor  Lord  Warburton,  indeed  ! But  I will  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 will  never  say  a word  to  displease  you,”  he  promised,  verv 
gently. 

“ Very  good.  If  you  do,  our  friendship’s  at  an  end.” 

“ Perhaps  some  day — after  a while — you  will  give  me  leave/ 
he  suggested. 

“ Give  you  leave — to  make  me  unhappy  ? ” 

He  hesitated.  “ To  tell  you  again — ” But  he  checked  him 
self.  “ I will  be  silent,”  he  said  ; “ silent  always.” 

Ralph  Touchett  had  been  joined,  in  his  visit  to  the  excavation 
by  Miss  Stackpole  and  her  attendant,  and  these  three  now 
emerged  from  among  the  mounds  of  earth  and  stone  collected 
round  the  aperture,  and  came  into  sight  of  Isabel  and  her  com- 
panion. Ralph  Touchett  gave  signs  of  greeting  to  Lord  War- 
burton, and  Henrietta  exclaimed  in  a high  voice,  “ Gracious, 
there's  that  lord  1 ” Ralph  and  his  friend  met  each  other  with 
undemonstrative  cordiality,  and  Miss  Stackpole  rested  her  large 
t telle  jtual  gaze  upon  the  sunburnt  traveller. 

“ I lon’t  suppose  yen  remember  me,  sir,”  she  soon  remarked, 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ Indeed  I do  remember  you/’  said  Lord  Warburton.  41 1 
asked  you  to  come  and  see  me,  and  you  never  came.” 

“ I don’t  go  everywhere  I am  asked,”  Miss  Stackpole 
answered,  coldly. 

“ Ah  well,  I won’t  ask  you  again,”  said  the  master  of  Lock- 
leigh,  good-humouredly. 

“ If  you  do  I will  go  ; so  be  sure  ! ” 

Lord  Warburton,  for  all  his  good-humour,  seemed  sure 
.nough.  Mr.  Bantling  had  stood  by,  without  claiming  a recog- 
lition,  but  he  now  took  occasion  to  nod  to  his  lordship,  who 
answered  him  with  a friendly  “ Oh,  you  here,  Bantling  1 ” and  a 
hand-shake. 

“ Well,”  said  Henrietta,  “ I 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 am  afraid  Bantling  was  ashamed  of  me,”  said  Lord 
Warburton,  laughing.  Isabel  was  glad  to  hear  him  laugh  ; she 
gave  a little  sigh  of  relief  as  they  took  their  way  homeward. 

The  next  day  was  Sunday ; she  spent  her  morning  writing 
two  long  letters — one  to  her  sister  Lily,  the  other  to  Madame 
Merle ; but  in  neither  of  these  epistles  did  she  mention  the  fact 
that  a rejected  suitor  had  threatened  her  with  another  appeal. 
Of  a Sunday  afternoon  all  good  Eomans  (and  the  best  Bomans 
are  often  the  northern  barbarians)  follow  the  custom  of  going  to 
hear  vespers  at  St.  Peter’s ; and  it  had  been  agreed  among  our 
friends  that  they  would  drive  together  to  the  great  church. 
After  lunch,  an  hour  before  the  carriage  came,  Lord  Warburton 
presented  himself  at  the  Hotel  de  Paris  and  paid  a visit  to  the 
two  ladies,  Balph  Touche tt  and  Mr.  Bantling  having  gone  out 
together.  The  visitor  seemed  to  have  wished  to  give  Isabel  an 
example  of  his  intention  to  keep  the  promise  he  had  made  her 
the  evening  before ; he  was  both  discreet  and  frank  ; he  made 
not  even  a tacit  appeal,  but  left  it  for  her  to  judge  what  a mere 
good  friend  he  could  be.  He  talked  about  his  travels,  about 
Persia,  about  Turkey,  and  when  Miss  Stackpole  asked  him 
whether  it  would  “ pay  ” for  her  to  visit  those  countries,  assured 
her  that  they  offered  a great  field  to  female  enterprise.  Isabel 
did  him  justice,  but  she  wondered  what  his  purpose  was,  and 
what  he  expected  to  gain  even  by  behaving  heroically.  If  he 
expected  to  melt  her  by  showing  what  a good  fellow  he  was,  he 
might  spare  himself  the  trouble.  She  knew  already  he  was  a good 
fellow,  and  nothing  he  could  do  would  add  to  this  conviction. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


257 


Moreover,  his  being  in  Eome  at  all  made  her  vaguely  uneasy. 
Nevertheless,  when  on  bringing  his  call  to  a close,  he  said  that 
he  too  should  he  at  St.  Peter’s  and  should  look  out  for  Isabel 
and  her  friends,  she  was  obliged  to  reply  that  it  would  be  a 
pleasure  to  see  him  again. 

In  the  church,  as  she  strolled  over  its  tesselated  acres,  he  was 
the  first  person  she  encountered.  She  had  not  been  one  of  the 
superior  tourists  who  are  “ disappointed  ” in  St.  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  gilt,  of  mosaic 
and  bronze,  her  conception  of  greatness  received  an  extension. 
After  this  it  never  lacked  space  to  soar.  She  gazed  and  won- 
dered, like  a child  or  a peasant,  and  paid  her  silent  tribute  to 
visible  grandeur.  Lord  Warburton  walked  beside  her  and  talked 
of  Saint  Sophia  of  Constantinople ; she  was  afraid  that  he  would 
end  by  calling  attention  to  his  exemplary  conduct.  The  service 
had  not  yet  begun,  but  at  St.  Peter’s  there  is  much  to  observe, 
and  as  there  is  something  almost  profane  in  the  vastness  of  the 
place,  which  seems  meant  as  much  for  physical  as  for  spiritual 
exercise,  the  different  figures  and  groups,  the  mingled  worship- 
pers and  spectators,  may  follow  their  various  intentions  without 
mutual  scandal.  In  that  splendid  immensity  individual  indis- 
cretion carries  but  a short  distance.  Isabel  and  her  companions, 
however,  were  guilty  of  none ; for  though  Henrietta  was  obliged 
to  declare  that  Michael  Angelo’s  dome  suffered  by  comparison 
with  that  of  the  Capitol  at  Washington,  she  addressed  her  pro- 
test 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  Lord  Warburton,  and  as 
they  drew  near  the  choir  on  the  left  of  the  entrance  the  voices 
of  the  Pope’s  singers  were  borne  towards  them  over  the  heads 
of  the  large  number  of  persons  clustered  outside  the  doors. 
They  paused  i while  on  the  skirts  of  this  crowd,  composed  in 
equal  measure  of  Eoman  cockneys  and  inquisitive  strangers,  and 
while  they  stood  there  the  sacred  concert  went  forward.  Ealph, 
with  Henrietta  and  Mr.  Bantling,  was  apparently  within,  where 
Isabel,  above  the  heads  of  the  dense  group  in  front  of  her,  saw 
the  afternoon  light,  silvered  by  clouds  of  incense  that  seemed  to 
mingle  with  the  splendid  chant,  sloping  through  the  embossed 
recesses  of  high  windows.  After  a while  the  singing  stopped, 
and  Lord  Warburton  seemed  disposed  to  turn  away  again. 


258 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Isabel  for  a moment  did  the  same ; whereupon  she  found  herself 
confronted  with  Gilbert  Osmond,  who  appeared  to  have  been 
standing  at  a short  distance  behind  her.  He  now  approached 
with  a formal  salutation. 

“ So  you  decided  to  come?  ” she  said,  putting  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,”  said  Isabel. 

“ I didn’t  come  for  the  others,”  Gilbert  Osmond  murmured, 
smiling. 

She  turned  away ; Lord  Warburton  was  looking  at  them ; 
perhaps  he  had  heard  this.  Suddenly  she  remembered  that  it 
was  just  what  he  had  said  to  her  the  morning  he  came  to  Gar- 
dencourt  to  ask  her  to  marry  him.  Mr.  Osmond’s  words  had 
brought  the  colour  to  her  cheek,  and  this  reminiscence  had  not 
the  effect  of  dispelling  it.  Isabel  sought  refuge  from  her  slight 
agitation  in  mentioning  to  each  gentleman  the  name  of  the  other, 
and  fortunately  at  this  moment  Mr.  Bantling  made  his  way  out 
of  the  choir,  cleaving  the  crowd  with  British  valour,  and  followed 
by  Miss  Stackpole  and  Balph  Touchett.  I say  fortunately,  but 
this  is  perhaps  a superficial  view  of  the  matter ; for  on  perceiv- 
ing the  gentleman  from  Florence,  Balph  Touchett  exhibited 
symptoms  of  surprise  which  might  not  perhaps  have  seemed 
flattering  to  Mr.  Osmond.  It  must  be  added,  however,  that 
these  manifestations  were  momentary,  and  Balph  was  presently 
able  to  say  to  his  cousin,  with  due  jocularity,  that  she  would 
soon  have  all  her  friends  about  her.  His  greeting  to  Mr.  Osmond 
was  apparently  frank  ; that  is,  the  two  men  shook  hands  and 
looked  at  each  other.  Miss  Stackpole  had  met  the  new-comer 
in  Florence,  but  she  had  already  found  occasion  to  say  to  Isabel 
that  she  liked  him  no  better  than  her  other  admirers — than  Mr 
Touchett,  Lord  Warburton,  and  little  Mr.  Bosier  in  Paris.  “ I 
don’t  know  what  it  is  in  you,”  she  had  been  pleased  to  remark, 
“ but  for  a nice  girl  you  do  attract  the  most  unpleasant  people. 
Mr.  Goodwood  is  the  only  one  I have  any  respect  for,  and  he’s 
just  the  one  you  don’t  appreciate.” 

“ What's  your  opinion  of  St.  Peter’s  ? ” Mr.  Osmond  asked  of 
Isabel. 

“ It’s  very  large  and  very  bright,”  said  the  girl. 

“ It’s  too  large ; it  makes  one  feel  like  an  atom.” 

“ Is  not  that  the  right  way  to  feel — in  a church  1 ” Isabel 
tsked,  with  a faint  but  interested  smile. 

I suppose  it’s  the  right  way  to  feel  everywhere,  when  one 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


259 


fa  nobody.  But  I like  it  in  a church  as  little  as  anywhere 
else.” 

“ You  ought  indeed  to  he  a Pope  ! ” Isabel  exclaimed,  remem- 
bering something  he  had  said  to  her  in  Florence. 

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

Lord  Warburton  meanwhile  had  joined  Ealph  Touchett,  and 
the  two  strolled  away  together. 

“ Who  is  the  gentleman  speaking  to  Miss  Archer!  ” his  lord- 
ship  inquired. 

“ His  name  is  Gilbert  Osmond — he  lives  in  Florence,”  Ealph 
said. 

“ What  is  he  besides  1 ” 

“ Nothing  at  all.  Oh  yes,  he  is  an  American ; but  one  forgets 
that ; he  is  so  little  of  one.” 

“ Has  he  known  Miss  Archer  long  1 ” 

“No,  about  a fortnight.” 

“ Does  she  like  him  1 ” 

“ Yes,  I think  she  does.” 

“ Is  he  a good  fellow  1 ” 

Ralph  hesitated  a moment.  “No,  he’s  not,”  he  said,  at  last. 

“ Why  then  does  she  like  him!  ” pursued  Lord  Warburton, 
with  noble  naivete. 

“ Because  she’s  a woman.” 

Lord  Warburton  was  silent  a moment.  “ There  are  other 
men  who  are  good  fellows,”  he  presently  said,  “ and  them— and 
them ” 

“ And  them  she  likes  also  ! ” Ealph  interrupted,  smiling. 

“ Oh,  if  you  mean  she  likes  him  in  that  way  ! ” And  Lord 
Warburton  turned  round  again.  As  far  as  he  was  concerned, 
nowever,  the  party  was  broken  up.  Isabel  remained  in  con- 
versation with  the  gentleman  from  Florence  till  they  left  the 
church,  and  her  English  lover  consoled  himself  by  lending  such 
attention  as  he  might  to  the  strains  which  continued  to  proceed 
from  the  choir. 


XXVIII. 

On  the  morrow,  in  the  evening,  Lord  Warburton  went  again 
to  see  his  friends  at  their  hotel,  and  at  this  establishment  he 
learned  that  they  had  gone  to  the  opera.  He  drove  to  the 
opera,  with  the  idea  of  paying  them  a visit  in  their  box,  in 
accordance  with  the  time-honoured  Italian  custom  ; and  after 
ne  had  obtained  his  admittance — it  was  one  of  the  secondary 


260 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


theatres — looked  about  the  large,  baie,  ill-lighted  house.  An 
act  had  just  terminated,  and  he  was  at  liberty  to  pursue  his 
quest.  After  scanning  two  or  three  tiers  of  boxes,  he  perceived 
in  one  of  the  largest  of  these  receptacles  a lady  whom  he  easily 
recognised.  Miss  Archer  was  seated  facing  the  stage,  and  partly 
screened  by  the  curtain  of  the  box;  and  beside  her,  leaning 
back  in  his  chair,  was  Mr.  Gilbert  Osmond.  They  appeared  to 
have  the  place  to  themselves,  and  Warburton  supposed  that 
their  companions  had  taken  advantage  of  the  entracte  to  enjoy 
the  relative  coolness  of  the  lobby.  He  stood  a while  watching 
the  interesting  pair  in  the  box,  and  asking  himself  whether  he 
should  go  up  and  interrupt  their  harmonious  colloquy.  AX  last 
it  became  apparent  that  Isabel  had  seen  him,  and  this  accident 
determined  him.  He  took  his  way  to  the  upper  regions,  and 
on  the  staircase  he  met  Ealph  Touchett,  slowly  descending, 
with  his  hat  in  the  attitude  of  ennui  and  his  hands  where  they 
usually  were. 

“ I saw  you  below  a moment  since,  and  was  gor  ^ down  to 
you.  1 feel  lonely  and  want  company,”  Ealph  remarked. 

“ You  have  some  that  is  very  good  that  you  have  deserted.” 

“ l)o  you  mean  my  cousin]  Oh,  she  has  got  a visitor  and 
doesn’t  want  me.  Then  Miss  Stackpole  and  Bantling  have 
gone  our  to  a caf6  to  eat  an  ice — Miss  Stackpole  delights  in  an 
ice.  I didn’t  think  they  wanted  me  either.  The  opera  is  very 
bad ; the  women  look  like  laundresses  and  sing  like  peacocks. 
I feel  very  low.” 

“ You  had  better  go  home,”  Lord  Warburton  said,  without 
affectation. 

‘ 4 And  leave  my  young  lady  in  this  sad  place  ] Ah  no,  I 
must  watch  over  her.” 

“ She  seems  to  have  plenty  of  friends.” 

“ Yes,  that's  why  I must  watch,”  said  Ealph,  with  the  same 
low-voiced  mock-melancholy. 

“ If  she  doesn’t  want  you,  it's  probable  she  doesn't  want  me.” 

“ No,  you  are  different.  Go  to  the  box  and  stay  there  while 
I walk  about.” 

Lord  Warburton  went  to  the  box,  where  he  received  a verv 
gracious  welcome  from  the  more  attractive  of  its  occupants.  He 
exchanged  greetings  with  Mr.  Osmond,  to  whom  he  had  been 
introduced  the  day  before,  and  who,  after  he  came  in,  sat  very 
quietly,  scarcely  mingling  in  the  somewhat  disjointed  talk  in 
which  Lord  Warburton  engaged  with  Isabel.  It  seemed  to  fhe 
latter  gentleman  that  Miss  Archer  looked  very  pretty  ; he  even 
thought  she  looked  excited ; as  she  was,  however,  at  all  times 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


281 


k keenly-glancing,  quickly-moving,  completely  animated  young 
woman,  he  may  have  been  mistaken  on  this  point.  Her  talk 
with  him  betrayed  little  agitation ; it  expressed  a kindness  so 
ingenious  and  deliberate  as  to  indicate  that  she  was  in  undis- 
turbed possession  of  her  faculties.  Poor  Lord  Warburton  had 
moments  of  bewilderment.  She  had  discouraged  him,  formally, 
as  much  as  a woman  could ; what  business  had  she  then  to  have 
such  soft,  reassuring  tones  in  her  voice  h The  others  came  back  ; 
the  bare,  familiar,  trivial  opera  began  again.  The  box  was  large, 
and  there  was  room  for  Lord  Warburton  to  remain  if  he  would 
Bit  a little  behind,  in  the  dark.  He  did  so  for  half-an-hour, 
while  Mr.  Osmond  sat  in  front,  leaning  forward,  with  his  elbows 
on  his  knees,  just  behind  Isabel.  Lord  Warburton  heard  nothing, 
and  from  his  gloomy  corner  saw  nothing  but  the  clear  profile 
of  this  young  lady,  defined  against  the  dim  illumination  of  the 
house.  When  there  was  another  interval  no  one  moved.  Mr. 
Osmond  talked  to  Isabel,  and  Lord  Warburton  remained  in  his 
corner.  He  did  so  but  for  a short  time,  however ; after  which 
he  got  up  and  bade  good-night  to  the  ladies.  Isabel  said  nothing 
to  detain  him,  and  then  he  was  puzzled  again.  Why  had  she 
so  sweet  a voice — such  a friendly  accent  **  He  was  angry  with 
himself  for  being  puzzled,  and  then  angry  for  being  angry. 
Verdi’s  music  did  little  to  comfort  him,  and  he  left  the  theatre 
and  walked  homeward,  without  knowing  his  way,  through  tne 
tortuous,  tragical  streets  of  Pome,  where  heavier  sorrows  than 
his  had  been  carried  under  the  stars. 

“ What  is  the  character  of  that  gentleman  1 ” Osmond  asked 
of  Isabel,  after  the  visitor  had  gone. 

“ Irreproachable — don’t  you  see  it  1 ” 

“ He  owns  about  half  England;  that’s  his  character,”  Henrietta 
remarked.  “ That’s  what  they  call  a free  country  ! ” 

“ Ah,  he  is  a great  proprietor  1 Happy  man  1 99  said  Gilbert 
Osmond. 

“Do  you  call  that  happiness  — the  ownership  of  human 
beings  1 ” cried  Miss  Stackpole.  “ He  owns  his  tenants,  and  he 
has  thousands  of  them.  It  is  pleasant  to  own  something,  but 
inanimate  objects  are  enough  for  me.  I don’t  insist  on  flesh 
and  blood,  and  minds  and  consciences.” 

“ It  seems  to  me  you  own  a human  being  or  two,”  Mr. 
Bantling  suggested  jocosely.  “ I wonder  if  Warburton  orders 
his  tenants  about  as  you  do  me.  9 

“ Lord  Warburton  is  a great  radical,”  Isabel  said.  “He  has 
very  advanced  opinions.” 

“ He  has  very  advanced  stone  walls.  His  park  is  inclosed 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


by  a gigantic  iron  fence,  some  thirty  miles  round,”  Henrietta 
announced,  for  the  information  of  Mr.  Osmond.  “ I should  like 
him  to  converse  with  a few  of  our  Boston  radicals.” 

“ Don’t  they  approve  of  iron  fences'?”  asked  Mr.  Bantling. 

“ Only  to  shut  up  wicked  conservatives,  I always  feel  as  i/ 
I were  talking  to  you  over  a fence  ! ” 

“ Do  you  know  him  well,  this  unreformed  reformer  V 
Osmond  went  on,  questioning  Isabel. 

“ Well  enough.” 

“ Do  you  like  him  ] ” 

“ Very  much.” 

“ Is  he  a man  of  ability  ? ” 

“ Of  excellent  ability,  and  as  good  as  he  looks.” 

“As  good  as  he  is  good-looking  do  you  mean1?  He  is  very 
good-looking.  How  detestably  fortunate  ! to  be  a great  English 
magnate,  to  be  clever  and  handsome  into  the  bargain,  and,  by 
way  of  finishing  off,  to  enjoy  your  favour  ! That’s  a man  I 
could  envy.” 

Isabel  gave  a serious  smile. 

“ You  seem  to  me  to  be  always  envying  some  one.  Yesterday 
it  was  the  Pope ; to-day  it’s  poor  Lord  Warburton.” 

“My  envy  is  not  dangerous;  it  is  very  platonic.  Why  do 
you  call  him  poor  1 ” 

“ Women  usually  pity  men  after  they  have  hurt  them  ; that 
is  their  great  way  of  showing  kindness,”  said  Balph,  joining  in 
the  conversation  for  the  first  time,  with  a cynicism  so  trans- 
parently ingenious  as  to  be  virtually  innocent. 

“Pray,  have  I hurt  Lord  Warburton'?”  Isabel  asked,  raising 
her  eyebrows,  as  if  the  idea  were  perfectly  novel. 

“ It  serves  him  right  if  you  have,”  said  Henrietta,  while  the 
curtain  rose  for  the  ballet. 

Isabel  saw  no  more  of  her  attributive  victim  for  the  next 
twenty-four  hours,  but  on  the  second  day  after  the  visit  to  the 
opera  she  encountered  him  in  the  gallery  of  the  Capitol,  where 
he  was  standing  before  the  lion  of  the  collection,  the  statue  of 
the  Dying  Gladiator.  She  had  come  in  with  her  companions, 
among  whom,  on  this  occasion  again,  Gilbert  Osmond  was 
numbered,  and  the  party,  having  ascended  the  staircase,  entered 
ine  first  and  finest  of  the  rooms.  Lord  Warburton  spoke  to  her 
with  all  his  usual  geniality,  but  said  in  a moment  that  he  was 
leaving  the  gallery. 

“And  I am  leaving  Borne,”  he  added.  “I  should  bid  you 
rood-bye.” 

I shall  not  undertake  to  explain  why,  but  Isabel  was  sorry  to 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


£6$ 

hear  it.  It  was,  perhaps,  "because  slie  had  ceased  to  he  afraid 
of  his  renewing  his  suit ; she  was  thinking  of  something  else. 
She  was  on  the  point  of  saying  she  was  sorry,  hut  she  checked 
herself  and  simply  wished  him  a happy  journey. 

He  looked  at  her  with  a somewhat  heavy  eye. 

“I  am  afraid  you  think  me  rather  inconsistent ,”  he  said.  “ I 
told  you  the  other  day  that  I wanted  so  much  to  stay  a while/ 

“ Oh  no  ; you  could  easily  change  your  mind.” 

“ That’s  what  I have  done.” 

“ Bon  voyage , then.” 

“ You’re  in  a great  hurry  to  get  rid  of  me,”  said  his  lordship, 
rather  dismally. 

“ Hot  in  the  least.  But  I hate  partings.” 

“ You  don’t  care  what  I do,”  he  went  on  pitifully. 

Isabel  looked  at  him  for  a moment. 

“ Ah,”  she  said,  “ you  are  not  keeping  your  promise  ! ” 

He  coloured  like  a boy  of  fifteen. 

“ If  I am  not,  then  it’s  because  I can’t ; and  that’s  why  I am 
going.” 

“ Good-bye,  then.” 

“ Good-bye.”  He  lingered  still,  however.  “ When  shall  I 
see  you  again  1 ” 

Isabel  hesitated,  and  then,  as  if  she  had  had  a happy  inspira- 
tion— “ Some  day  after  you  are  married.” 

“ That  will  never  be.  It  will  be  after  ycu  are.” 

“ That  will  do  as  well,”  said  Isabel,  smiling. 

“ Yes,  quite  as  well.  Good-bye.” 

They  shook  hands,  and  he  left  her  alone  in  the  beautiful 
room,  among  the  shining  antique  marbles.  She  sat  down  in  the 
middle  of  the  circle  of  statues,  looking  at  them  vaguely,  resting 
her  eyes  on  their  beautiful  blank  faces ; listening,  as  it  were,  to 
their  eternal  silence.  It  is  impossible,  in  Borne  at  least,  to  look 
long  at  a great  company  of  Greek  sculptures  without  feeling  the 
effect  of  their  noble  quietude.  It  soothes  and  moderates  the 
spirit,  it  purifies  the  imagination.  I say  in  Rome  especially, 
because  the  Roman  air  is  an  exquisite  medium  for  such  im- 
pressions. The  golden  sunshine  mingles  with  them,  the  great 
stillness  of  the  past,  so  vivid  yet,  though  it  is  nothing  but  a 
void  full  of  names,  seems  to  throw  a solemn  spell  upon  them. 
The  blinds  were  partly  closed  in  the  windows  of  the  Capitol, 
and  a clear,  warm  shadow  rested  on  the  figures  and  made  them 
more  perfectly  human.  Isabel  sat  there  a long  time,  under  the 
charm  of  their  motionless  grace,  seeing  life  between  their  gazing 
•yelids  and  purpose  in  their  marble  lips.  The  dark  red  walls 


264 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


of  the  room  threw  them  into  relief ; the  polished  marble  floor 
reflected  their  beauty.  She  had  seen  them,  all  before,  but  her 
enjoyment  repeated  itself,  and  it  was  all  the  greater  because  she 
was  glad,  for  the  time,  to  be  alone.  At  the  last  her  thoughts 
wandered  away  from  them,  solicited  by  images  of  a vitality 
more  complete.  An  occasional  tourist  came  into  the  room, 
stopped  and  stared  a moment  at  the  Dying  Gladiator,  and  then 
passed  out  of  the  other  door,  creaking  over  the  smooth  pave* 
ment.  At  the  end  of  half-an-hour  Gilbert  Osmond  reappeared, 
apparently  in  advance  of  his  companions.  He  strolled  towards 
her  slowly,  with  his  hands  behind  him,  and  with  his  usual 
bright,  inquiring,  yet  not  appealing  smile. 

“I  am  surprised  to  find  you  alone,”  he  said.  “I  thought 
you  had  company.” 

“ So  I have — the  best.”  And  Isabel  glanced  at  the  circle  of 
sculpture. 

“Do  you  call  this  better  company  than  an  English  peer  1 79 

“ Ah,  my  English  peer  left  me  some  time  ago,”  said  Isabely 
getting  up.  She  spoke,  with  intention,  a little  dryly. 

Mr.  Osmond  noted  her  dryness,  but  it  did  not  prevent  him 
from  giving  a laugh. 

“I  am  afraid  that  what  I heard  the  other  evening  is  true  $ 
you  are  rather  cruel  to  that  nobleman.” 

Isabel  looked  a moment  at  the  vanquished  Gladiator. 

“ It  is  not  true.  I am  scrupulously  kind.” 

“ That’s  exactly  what  I mean  ! ” Gilbert  Osmond  exclaimed, 
so  humorously  that  his  joke  needs  to  be  explained. 

We  knew  that  he  was  fond  of  originals,  of  rarities,  of  the 
superior,  the  exquisite;  and  now  that  he  had  seen  Lord  War- 
burton,  whom  he  thought  a very  fine  example  of  his  race  and 
order,  he  perceived  a new  attraction  in  the  idea  of  taking  to 
himself  a young  lady  who  had  qualified  herself  to  figure  m his 
collection  of  choice  objects  by  rejecting  the  splendid  offer  of  a 
British  aristocrat.  Gilbert  Osmond  had  a high  appreciation  of 
the  British  aristocracy — he  had  never  forgiven  Providence  for 
not  making  him  an  English  duke — and  could  measure  the  unex- 
pectedness of  this  conduct.  It  would  be  proper  that  the  woman 
he  should  marry  should  have  done  something  of  that  sort. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 


XXIX. 

Ralph  Topciibtt,  for  reasons  best  known  to  himself,  had 
seen  fit  to  say  that  Gilbert  Osmond  was  not  a good  fellow ; but 
this  assertion  was  not  borne  out  by  the  gentleman’s  conduct 
during  the  rest  of  the  visit  to  Rome.  He  spent  a portion  of 
each  day  with  Isabel  and  her  companions,  and  gave  every 
indication  of  being  an  easy  man  to  live  with.  It  was  impossible 
not  to  feel  that  he  had  excellent  points,  and  indeed  this  is  per- 
haps why  Ralph  Touchett  made  his  want  of  good  fellowship  a 
reproach  to  him.  Even  Ralph  was  obliged  to  admit  that  just 
now  he  was  a delightful  companion.  His  good  humour  was 
imperturbable,  his  knowledge  universal,  his  manners  were  the 
gentlest  in  the  world.  His  spirits  were  not  visibly  high  ; it  was 
difficult  to  think  of  Gilbert  Osmond  as  boisterous ; he  had  a 
mortal  dislike  to  loudness  or  eagerness.  He  thought  Miss 
Archer  sometimes  too  eager,  too  pronounced.  It  was  a pity  she 
had  that  fault ; because  if  she  had  not  had  it  she  would  really 
have  had  none ; she  would  have  been  as  bright  and  soft  as  an 
April  cloud.  If  Osmond  was  not  loud,  however,  he  was  deep, 
and  during  these  closing  days  of  the  Roman  May  he  had  a gaiety 
that  matched  with  slow  irregular  walks  under  the  pines  of  the 
Villa  Borghese,  among  the  small  sweet  meadow-flowers  and  the 
mossy  marbles.  He  was  pleased  with  everything ; he  had 
never  before  been  pleased  with  so  many  things  at  once.  Old 
impressions,  old  enjoyments,  renewed  themselves ; one  evening, 
going  home  to  his  room  at  the  inn,  he  wrote  down  a little 
sonnet  to  which  he  prefixed  the  title  of  “ Rome  Revisited.”  A 
day  or  two  later  he  showed  this  piece  of  correct  and  ingenious 
verse  to  Isabel,  explaining  to  her  that  it  was  an  Italian  fashion 
to  commemorate  the  pleasant  occasions  of  life  by  a tribute  to 
the  muse.  In  general  Osmond  took  his  pleasures  singly;  he 
■vas  usually  disgusted  with  something  that  seemed  to  him  ugly 
or  offensive;  his  mind  was  rarely  visited  with  moods  of  com- 
prehensive satisfaction.  But  at  present  he  was  happy — happier 
than  he  had  perhaps  ever  been  in  his  life ; and  the  feeling  had 
a large  foundation.  This  was  simply  the  sense  of  success — the 
most  agreeable  emotion  of  the  human  heart.  Osmond  had  never 
;iad  too  much  of  it ; in  this  respect  he  had  never  been  spoiled ; 
as  he  knew  perfectly  well  and  often  reminded  himself.  “ Ah 
no,  I have  not  been  spoiled;  certainly  I have  not  been  spoiled,” 
be  used  co  repeat  to  himself.  “If  I do  succeed  before  I die  I 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


966 

shall  have  earned  it  well.”  Absolutely  void  of  success  his  careei 
had  not  been ; a very  moderate  amount  of  reflection  would  have 
assured  him  of  this.  But  his  triumphs  were,  some  of  them, 
now,  too  old ; others  had  been  too  easy.  The  present  one  had 
been  less  difficult  than  might  have  been  expected ; but  it  had 
been  easy — that  is,  it  had  been  rapid — only  because  he  had 
made  an  altogether  exceptional  effort,  a greater  effort  than  he 
had  believed  it  was  in  him  to  make.  The  desire  to  succeed 
greatly — in  something  or  other— had  been  the  dream  of  his 
youth ; but  as  the  years  went  on,  the  conditions  attached  to 
success  became  so  various  and  repulsive  that  the  idea  of  making 
an  effort  gradually  lost  its  charm..  It  was  not  dead,  however  ; 
it  only  slept ; it  revived  after  he  had  made  the  acquaintance  of 
Isabel  Archer.  Osmond  had  felt  that  any  enterprise  in  which 
the  chance  of  failure  was  at  all  considerable  would  never  have 
an  attraction  for  him  ; to  fail  would  have  been  unspeakably 
odious,  would  have  left  an  ineffaceable  stain  upon  his  life. 
Success  was  to  seem  in  advance  definitely  certain — certain,  that 
is,  on  this  one  condition,  that  the  effort  should  be  an  agreeable 
one  to  make.  That  of  exciting  an  interest  on  the  part  of  Isabel 
Archer  corresponded  to  this  description,  for  the  girl  had  pleased 
him  from  the  first  of  his  seeing  her.  We  have  seen  that  she 
thought  him  “ fine”;  and  Gilbert  Osmond  returned  the  compli- 
ment. We  have  also  seen  (or  heard)  that  he  had  a great  dread 
of  vulgarity,  and  on  this  score  his  mind  was  at  rest  with  regard 
to  our  young  lady.  He  was  not  afraid  that  she  would  disgust 
him  or  irritate  him ; he  had  no  fear  that  she  would  even,  in  the 
more  special  sense  of  the  word,  displease  him.  If  she  was  too 
eager,  she  could  be  taught  to  be  less  so  ; that  was  a fault  which 
diminished  with  growing  knowledge.  She  might  defy  him,  she 
might  anger  him ; this  was  another  matter  from  displeasing 
him,  and  on  the  whole  a less  serious  one.  If  a woman  were 
ungraceful  and  common,  her  whole  quality  was  vitiated,  and 
one  could  take  no  precautions  against  that ; one’s  own  delicacy 
W'mld  avail  little.  If,  however,  she  were  only  wilful  and  high- 
tenured,  the  defect  might  be  managed  with  comparative  ease ; 
for  had  cne  not  a will  of  one’s  own  that  one  had  been  keeping 
for  years  in  the  best  condition — as  pure  and  keen  as  a sword 
protected  by  its  sheath  h 

Though  I have  tried  to  speak  with  extreme  discretion,  the 
reader  may  have  gathered  a suspicion  that  Gilbert  Osmond  was 
not  untainted  by  selfishness.  This  is  rather  a coarse  imputation 
to  put  upon  a man  of  his  refinement ; and  it  behoves  us  at  all 
times  to  remember  the  familiar  proverb  about  those  who  live  in 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


267 


Bflass  houses.  If  Mr.  Osmond  was  more  selfish  than  most  of  his 
fellows,  the  fact  will  still  establish  itself.  Lest  it  should  fail  to 
do  so,  I must  decline  to  commit  myself  to  an  accusation  so  gross; 
the  more  especially  as  several  of  the  items  of  our  story  would 
seem  to  point  the  other  way.  It  is  well  known  that  there  are 
few  indications  of  selfishness  more  conclusive  (on  the  part  of  a 
gentleman  at  least)  than  the  preference  for  a single  life.  Gil  ben 
Osmond,  after  having  tasted  of  matrimony,  had  spent  a succession 
of  years  in  the  full  enjoyment  of  recovered  singleness.  He  was 
familiar  with  the  simplicity  of  purpose,  the  lonely  liberties,  of 
bachelorhood.  He  had  reached  that  period  of  life  when  it  is 
supposed  to  be  doubly  difficult  to  renounce  these  liberties, 
endeared  as  they  are  by  long  association  ; and  yet  he  was  pre- 
pared to  make  the  generous  sacrifice.  It  would  seem  that  this 
might  fairly  be  set  down  to  the  credit  of  the  noblest  of  our 
qualities  — the  faculty  of  self-devotion.  Certain  it  is  that 
Osmond’s  desire  to  marry  had  been  deep  and  distinct.  It  had. 
not  been  notorious  ; he  had  not  gone  about  asking  people  whether 
they  knew  a nice  girl  with  a little  money.  Money  was  an 
object ; but  this  was  not  his  manner  of  proceeding,  and  no  one 
knew — or  even  greatly  cared — -whether  he  wished  to  marry  or  not. 
Madame  Merle  knew — that  we  have  already  perceived.  It  was 
not  that  he  had  told  her ; on  the  whole  he  would  not  have  cared 
to  tell  her.  But  there  were  things  of  which  she  had  no  need  to 
be  told — things  as  to  which  she  had  a sort  of  creative  intuition. 
She  had  recognised  a truth  that  was  none  the  less  pertinent  for 
being  very  subtle  : the  truth  that  there  was  something  very- 
imperfect  in  Osmond’s  situation  as  it  stood.  He  was  a failure, 
of  course ; that  was  an  old  story ; to  Madame  Merle’s  percep- 
tion he  would  always  be  a failure.  But  there  were  degrees  of 
ineffectiveness,  and  there  was  no  need  of  taking  one  of  the 
highest.  Success,  for  Gilbert  Osmond,  would  be  to  make  himself 
felt : that  was  the  only  success  to  wmchT  he  could  d. 

It  is  not  a kind  of  distinction”  that  is”  offi  dally  recognised — 
unless  indeed  the  operation  be  performed  upon  multitudes  of 
men.  Osmond’s  line  would  be  to  impress  himself  not  largely 
but  deeply ; a distinction  of  the  most  private  sort.  A single 
diaraoter  might  offer  the  whole  measure  of  it ; the  clear  and 
tensitive  nature  of  a generous  girl  would  make  space  for  the 
record.  The  record  of  course  would  be  complete  if  the  young 
lady  should  have  a fortune,  and  Madame  Merle  would  have 
taken  no  pains  to  make  Mr.  Osmond  acquainted  with  Mrs. 
Touchett’s  niece  if  Isabel  had  been  as  scantily  dowered  as  when 
Srst  she  met  her.  He  had  waited  all  these  years  because  h« 


268 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


wanted  only  the  best,  and  a portionless  bride  naturally  would 
not  have  been  the  best.  He  had  waited  so  long  in  vain  that  he 
finally  almost  lost  his  interest  in  the  subject  — not  having  kept 
it  up  by  venturesome  experiments.  It  had  become  improbable 
that  the  best  was  now  to  be  had,  and  if  he  wished  to  make 
himself  felt,  there  was  soft  and  supple  little  Pansy,  who  would 
evidently  respond  to  the  slightest  pressure.  When  at  last  the 
best  did  present  itself  Osmond  recognised  it  like  a gentleman. 
There  was  therefore  no  incongruity  in  his  wishing  to  marry  — 
it  was  his  own  idea  of  success,  as  well  as  that  which  Madame 
Merle,  with  her  old-time  interest  in  his  affairs,  entertained  for 
him.  Let  it  not,  however,  be  supposed  that  he  was  guilty  of 
the  error  of  believing  that  Isabel’s  character  was  of  that  passive 
sort  which  offers  a free  field  for  domination.  He  was  sure 
that  she  would  constantly  act  — act  in  the  sense  of  enthusiastic 
concession. 

Shortly  before  the  time  which  had  been  fixed  in  advance  for 
her  return  to  Florence,  this  young  lady  received  from  Mrs. 
Touchett  a telegram  which  ran  as  follows:  — “Leave  Florence 
4th  June,  Bellaggio,  and  take  you  if  you  have  not  other  views. 
But  can’t  wait  if  you  dawdle  in  Rome.”  The  dawdling  in  Rome 
was  very  pleasant,,  but  Isadel  had  no  other  views,  and  she  wrote 
to  her  aunt  that  she  would  immediately  join  her.  She  told 
Gilbert  Osmond  that  she  had  done  so,  and  he  replied  that  spend- 
ing many  of  his  summers  as  well  as  his  winters  in  Italy,  he 
himself  would  loiter  a little  longer  among  the  Seven  Hills.  He 
should  not  return  to  Florence  for  ten  days  more,  and  in  that  time 
she  would  have  started  for  Bellaggio.  It  might  be  long,  in  this 
case,  before  he  should  see  her  again.  This  conversation  took 
place  in  the  large  decorated  sitting-room  which  our  friends 
occupied  at  the  hotel ; it  was  late  in  the  evening,  and  Ralph 
Touchett  was  to  take  his  cousin  back  to  Florence  on  the  morrow. 
Osmond  had  found  the  girl  alone  ; Miss  Stackpole  had  con- 
tracted a friendship  with  a delightful  American  family  on  the 
fourth  floor,  and  had  mounted  the  interminable  staircase  to  pay 
them  a visit.  Miss  Stackpole  contracted  friendships,  in  travel- 
ling, with  great  freedom,  and  had  formed  several  in  railway- 
carriages,  which  were  among  her  most  valued  ties.  Ralph  was 
making  arrangements  for  the  morrow’s  journey,  and  Isabel  sat 
alone  in  a wilderness  of  yellow  upholstery.  The  chairs  and  sofas 
were  orange ; the  walls  and  windows  were  draped  in  purple  and 
gilt.  The  mirrors,  the  pictures,  had  great  flamboyant  frames; 
the  ceiling  was  deeply  vaulted  and  painted  over  with  naked 
muses  and  cherubs.  To  Osmond  the  place  was  painfully  ugly ; 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


269 


the  false  colours,  the  sham  splendour,  made  him  suffor,  Isabel 
had  taken  in  hand  a volume  of  Ampere,  presented,  cn  their 
arrival  in  Rome,  by  Ralph ; but  though  she  held  it  in  her  lap 
with  her  finger  vaguely  kept  in  the  place,  she  was  not  impatient 
to  go  on  with  her  reading.  A lamp  covered  with  a drooping 
veil  of  pink  tissue-paper  burned  on  the  table  beside  her,  and 
diffused  a strange  pale  rosiness  over  the  scene. 

“ You  say  you  will  come  back  ; but  who  knows  ? ” Gilbert 
Osmond  said.  “ I think  you  are  much  more  likely  to  start  on 
your  voyage  round  the  world.  You  are  under  no  obligation  to 
come  back ; you  can  do  exactly  what  you  choose ; you  can  roam 
through  space.” 

“ Well,  Italy  is  a part  of  space,”  Isabel  answered ; “ I can 
take  it  on  the  way.” 

“ On  the  way  round  the  world  1 No,  don’t  do  that.  Don’t 
put  us  into  a parenthesis — give  us  a chapter  to  ourselves.  I 
don’t  want  to  see  you  on  your  travels.  I would  rather  see  you 
when  they  are  over.  I should  like  to  see  you  when  you  are 
tired  and  satiated,”  Osmond  added,  in  a moment.  “ I shall 
prefer  you  in  that  state.” 

Isabel,  with  her  eyes  bent  down,  fingered  the  pages  of  M. 
Ampere  a little. 

“ You  turn  things  into  ridicule  without  seeming  to  do  it, 
thougli  not,  I think,  without  intending  it,”  she  said  at  last. 
“You  have  no  respect  for  my  travels  — you  think  them 
ridiculous.” 

“ Where  do  you  find  that  1 ” 

Isabel  went  on  in  the  same  tone,  fretting  the  edge  of  her  book 
with  the  paper-knife. 

“You  see  my  ignorance,  my  blunders,  the  way  I wander 
about  as  if  the  world  belonged  to  me,  simply  because — because 
it  has  been  put  into  my  power  to  do  so.  You  don’t  think  a 
woman  ought  to  do  that.  You  think  it  bold  and  ungraceful.” 

“ I think  it  beautiful,”  said  Osmond.  “ You  know  my 
opinions— I have  treated  you  to  enough  of  them.  Don’t  you 
remember  my  telling  you  that  one  ought  to  make  one’s  life  a 
work  of  art  1 You  looked  rather  shocked  at  first ; but  then  I 
told  you  that  it  was  exactly  what  you  seemed  to  me  to  be  trying 
to  do  with  your  own  life.” 

Isabel  looked  up  from  her  book. 

“ What  you  despise  most  in  the  world  is  bad  art.” 

“ Possibly.  But  yours  seem  to  me  very  good.” 

“ If  I were  to  go  to  Japan  next  winter,  you  would  laugh  at 
»e,”  Isabel  continued. 


I 


270 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Osmond  gave  a smile — a keen  one,  hut  not  a laugh,  for  the 
tone  of  their  conversation  was  not  jocular.  Isabel  was  almost 
tremulously  serious;  he  had -seen  her  so  before. 

“ You  have  an  imagination  that  startles  one  ! ” 

“ That  is  exactly  what  I say.  You  think  such  an  idea 
absurd.” 

“ I would  give  my  little  finger  to  go  to  Japan ; it  is  one  of 
the  countries  I want  most  to  see.  Can’t  you  believe  that,  with 
my  taste  for  old  lacquer  'l  ” 

“ I haven’t  a taste  for  old  lacquer  to  excuse  me,”  said  Isabel. 

“lrou  have  a better  excuse — the  means  of  going.  You  are 
quite  wrong  in  your  theory  that  I laugh  at  you.  I don’t  know 
what  put  it  into  your  head.” 

“ It  wouldn’t  be  remarkable  if  you  did  think  it  ridiculous 
that  I should  have  the  means  to  travel,  when  you  have  not ; tor 
you  know  everything,  and  I know  nothing.” 

“ The  more  reason  why  you  should  travel  and  learn,”  said 
Osmond,  smiling.  “ Besides,”  he  added,  more  gravely,  “I  don’t 
know  everything.” 

Isabel  was  not  struck  with  the  oddity  of  his  saying  this 
gravely ; she  was  thinking  that  the  pleasantest  incident  of  her 
life — so  it  pleased  her  to  qualify  her  little  visit  to  Rome^—was 
coming  to  an  end.  That  most  of  the  interest  of  this  episode 
had  been  owing  to  Mr.  Osmond — this  reflection  she  was  not  just 
now  at  pains  to  make  ; she  had  already  done  the  point  abundant 
justice.  But  she  said  to  herself  that  if  there  were  a danger  that 
they  should  not  meet  again,  perhaps  after  all  it  would  be  as  well. 
Happy  things  do  not  repeat  themselves,  and  these  few  days  had 
been  interfused  with  the  element  of  success.  She  might  come 
back  to  Italy  and  find  him  different — this  strange  man  who 
pleased  her  just  as  he  was  ; and  it  would  be  better  not  to  come 
than  run  the  risk  of  that.  But  if  she  was  not  to  come,  the 
greater  was  the  pity  that  this  happy  week  was  over;  for  a 
moment  she  felt  her  heart  throb  with  a kind  of  delicious  pain. 
The  sensation  kept  her  silent,  and  Gilbert  Osmond  was  silent 
too  ; he  was  looking  at  her. 

E“  Go  everywhere,”  he  said  at  last,  in  a low,  kind  voice ; 
do  everything;  get  everything  out  of  life.  Be  happy  — be 
iumphant.” 

“ What  do  you  mean  by  being  triumphant  1 ” 
u Doing  what  you  like.” 

“ To  triumph,  then,  it  seems  to  me,  is  to  fail ! Doing  what 
re  like  is  often  very  tiresome.” 

“ Exactly,”  said  Osmond,  with  his  quick  responsiveness 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


271 


“ As  I intimated  just  now,  you  will  be  tired  some  day.”  He 
paused  a moment,  and  then  he  went  on  : “I  don’t  know 
whether  I had  better  not  wait  till  then  for  something  I wish  to 
say  to  you.” 

“ Ah,  I can’t  advise  you  without  knowing  what  it  is.  But  I 
am  horrid  when  I am  tired,”  Isabel  added,  with  due  inconse- 
quence. 

“ I don’t  believe  that.  You  are  angry,  sometimes — that  I 
can  believe,  though  I have  never  seen  it.  But  I am  sure  you 
are  never  disagreeable.”  C CPS$ 

“ Not  even  when  I lose  my  temper  ] ” 

“ You  don’t  lose  it — you  find  it,  and  that  must  be  beautiful,” 
Osmond  spoke  very  simply  — almost  solemnly.  “ There  must 
be  something  very  noble  about  that.” 

“ If  I could  only  find  it  now  !”  the  girl  exclaimed,  laughing, 
yet  frowning. 

“ I am  not  afraid;  I should  fold  my  arms  and  admire  you. 

1 am  speaking  very  seriously.”  He  was  leaning  forward,  with  a 
hand  on  each  knee ; for  some  moments  he  bent  his  eyes  on  the 
floor.  “ What  I wish  to  say  to  you,”  he  went  on  at  last,  looking 
up,  “ is  that  I find  I am  in  love  with  you.” 

Isabel  instantly  rose  from  her  chair. 

“ Ah,  keep  that  till  I am  tired  ! ” she  murmured. 

“ Tired  of  hearing  it  from  others  1 ” And  Osmond  sat  there, 
looking  up  at  her.  “ No,  you  may  heed  it  now,  or  never,  as 
you  please.  But,  after  all,  I must  say  it  now.” 

She  had  turned  away,  but  in  the  movement  she  had  stopped 
herself  and  dropped  her  gaze  upon  him.  The  two  remained  a 
moment  in  this  situation,  exchanging  a long  look — the  large, 
'•onscious  look  of  the  critical  hours  of  life.  Then  he  got  up  an  Si 
came  near  her,  deeply  respectful,  as  if  he  were  afraid  he  had/ 
been  too  familiar. 

“ I am  thoroughly  in  love  with  you.”  \ 

He  repeated  the  announcement  in  a tone  of  almost  impersonal  \ 
discretion  ; like  a man  who  expected  very  little  from  it,  but 
spoke  for  his  own  relief. 

The  tears  came  into  Isabel’s  eyes — they  were  caused  by  an 
intenser  throb  of  that  pleasant  pain  I spoke  of  a moment  ago. 
There  was  an  immense  sweetness  in  the  words  he  had  uttered  ; 
but,  morally  speaking,  she  retreated  before  them — facing  him 
still — as  she  had  retreated  in  two  or  three  cases  that  we  know  of 
in  which  the  same  words  had  been  spoken. 

“ Oh,  don’t  say  that,  please,”  she  answered  at  last,  in  a tone 
if  entreaty  which  had  nothing  of  conventional  modesty,  but 


me  1 

)Ut  / 


172 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


irhich  expressed  the  dread  of  haying,  in  this  case  too,  to  choose 
and  decide.  What  made  her  dread  great  was  precisely  the  force 
which,  as  it  would  seem,  ought  to  have  banished  all  dread — the 
consciousness  of  what  was  in  her  own  heart.  It  was  terrible  to 
have  to  surrender  herself  to  that. 

“ I haven’t  the  idea  that  it  will  matter  much  to  you,”  said 
Osmond.  “ I have  too  little  to  olfer  you.  What  I have — it’s 
enough  for  me  ; hut  it’s  not  enough  for  you.  I have  neither 
fortune,  nor  fame,  nor  extrinsic  advantages  of  any  kind.  So  I 
offer  nothing.  I only  tell  you  because  I think  it  can’t  offend 
you,  and  some  day  or  other  it  may  give  you  pleasure.  It  gives 
me  pleasure,  I assure  you,”  he  went  on,  standing  there  before 
her,  bending  forward  a little,  turning  his  hat,  which  he  had 
taken  up,  slowly  round,  with  a movement  which  had  all  the 
decent  tremor  of  awkwardness  and  none  of  its  oddity,  and  pre- 
senting to  her  his  keen,  expressive,  emphatic  face.  “ It  gives 
me  no  pain,  because  it  is  perfectly  simple.  For  me  you  will 
always  be  the  most  important  woman  in  the  world.” 

Isabel  looked  at  herself  in  this  character — looked  intently,  and 
thought  that  she  filled  it  with  a certain  grace.  But  what  she 
said  was  not  an  expression  of  this  complacency.  “You  don’t 
offend  me ; but  you  ought  to  remember  that,  without  being 
offended,  one  may  be  incommoded,  troubled.”  “Incommoded”: 
she  heard  herself  saying  that,  and  thought  it  a ridiculous  word. 
But  it  was  the  word  that  came  to  her. 

“I  remember,  perfectly.  Of  course  you  are  surprised  and 
startled.  But  if  it  is  nothing  but  that,  it  will  pass  away.  And 
it  will  perhaps  leave  something  that  I may  not  be  ashamed  of.” 

“ I don’t  know  what  it  may  leave.  You  see  at  all  events  that 
I am  not  overwhelmed,”  said  Isabel,  with  rather  a pale  smile. 
u I am  not  too  troubled  to  think.  And  I think  that  I am  glad 
we  are  separating — that  I leave  Borne  to-morrow.” 

“ Of  course  I don’t  agree  with  you  there.” 

“ I don’t  know  you,”  said  Isabel,  abruptly  ; and  then  she 
coloured,  as  she  heard  herself  saying  what  she  had  said  almost  a 
year  before  to  Lord  Warburton. 

“ If  you  were  not  going  away  you  would  know  me  better.” 

“ I shall  do  that  some  other  time.” 

" I hope  so.  I am  very  easy  to  know.” 

‘ No,  no,”  said  the  girl  with  a flash  of  bright  eagerness ; 
u there  you  are  not  sincere.  You  are  not  easy  to  know ; no  one 
toidd  be  less  so.” 

“ Well*”  Osmond  answered,  with  a laugh,  “ I said  that  because 
I know  myself.  That  may  be  a boast,  but  I do.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


5*8 


“ Very  likely  ; but  you  are  very  'wise.” 

“ So  are  you,  Miss  Archer  ! ” Osmond  exclaimed. 

“ I don’t  feel  so  just  now.  Still,  I am  wise  enough  to  think 
you  had  better  go.  Good  night.” 

“God  bless  you!”  said  Gilbert  Osmond,  taking  the  hand 
which  she  failed  to  surrender  to  him.  And  then  in  a moment 
he  added,  " If  we  meet  again,  you  will  find  me  as  you  leave  me. 
If  we  don’t,  I shall  be  so,  all  the  same.” 

“ Thank  you  very  much.  Good-bye.” 

There  was  something  quietly  firm  about  Isabel’s  visitor  ; he 
might  go  of  his  own  movement,  but  he  would  not  be  dismissed. 

“ There  is  one  thing  more,”  he  said.  “ I haven’t  asked  anything 
of  you — not  even  a thought  in  the  future  ; you  must  do  me  that 
justice.  But  there  is  a little  service  I should  like  to  ask.  I 
shall  not  return  home  for  several  days ; Rome  is  delightful,  and 
it  is  a good  place  for  a man  in  my  state  of  mind.  Oh,  I know 
you  are  sorry  to  leave  it ; but  you  are  right  to  do  what  your 
aunt  wishes.” 

“ She  doesn’t  even  wish  it ! ” Isabel  broke  out,  strangely. 

Osmond  for  a moment  was  apparently  on  the  point  of  saying 
something  that  would  match  these  words.  But  he  changed  his 
mind,  and  rejoined,  simply — “ Ah  well,  it’s  proper  you  should 
go  with  her,  all  the  same.  Do  everything  that’s  proper ; I go 
in  for  that.  Excuse  my  being  so  patronising.  You  say  you 
don’t  know  me ; but  when  you  do  you  will  discover  what  a 
worship  I have  for  propriety.” 

“ You  are  not  conventional  ! ” said  Isabel,  very  gravely. 

“ I like  the  way  you  utter  that  word  ! No,  I am  not  conven- 
tional: I am  convention  itself.  You  don’t  understand  that!” 
And  Osmond  paused  a moment,  smiling.  UI  should  like  to 
explain  it.”  Then,  with  a sudden,  quick,  bright  naturalness — ■ 

“ Do  come  back  again  ! ” he  cried.  “ There  are  so  many  things 
we  might  talk  about.” 

Isabel  stood  there  with  lowered  eyes.  " What  service  did 
you  speak  of  just  now ! ” 

“ Go  and  see  my  little  daughter  before  you  leave  Florence. 
She  is  alone  at  the  villa  ; I decided  not  to  send  her  to  my  sister, 
who  hasn’t  my  ideas.  Tell  her  she  must  love  her  poor  fathei 
very  much,”  said  Gilbert  Osmond,  gently. 

“ It  will  be  a great  pleasure  to  me  to  go,”  Isabel  answered 
M I will  tell  her  what  you  say.  Once  more,  good-bye.” 

On  this  he  took  a rapid,  respectful  leave.  Vfken  he  had 
pne,  she  stood  a moment,  looking  about  her,  and  then  she  seated  . 
seraelf,  slowly,  with  an  air  of  deliberation.  Sho  sat  there,  till 

T 


174 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


her  companions  came  back,  with  folded  hands,  gazing  at  the 
ugly  carpet.  Her  agitation — for  it  had  not  diminished — was 
very  still,  very  deep.  That  which  had  happened  was  something 
that  for  a week  past  her  imagination  had  been  going  forward 
to  meet ; but  here,  when  it  came,  she  stopped — her  imagina- 
tion halted.  The  working  of  this  young  lady’s  spirit  was 
strange,  and  I can  only  give  it  to  you  as  I see  it,  not  hoping  to 
make  it  seem  altogether  natural.  Her  imagination  stopped,  as  I 
say  ; there  was  a last  vague  space  it  could  not  cross — a dusky, 
uncertain  tract  which  looked  ambiguous,  and  even  slightly 
treacherous,  like  a moorland  seen  in  the  winter  twilight.  But 
she  was  to  cross  it  yet. 


XXX. 

Under  her  cousin’s  escort  Isabel  returned  on  the  morrow  to 
Florence,  and  Kalph  Touchett,  though  usually  he  was  not  fond 
of  railway  journeys,  thought  very  well  of  the  successive  hours 
passed  in  the  train  which  hurried  his  companion  away  from  the 
city  now  distinguished  by  Gilbert  Osmond’s  preference — hours 
that  were  to  form  the  first  stage  in  a still  larger  scheme  of  travel. 
Miss  Stackpole  had  remained  behind ; she  was  planning  a little 
trip  to  Naples,  to  be  executed  with  Mr.  Bantling’s  assistance. 
Isabel  was  to  have  but  three  days  in  Florence  before  the  4th  of 
June,  the  date  of  Mrs.  Touchett’s  departure,  and  she  determined 
to  devote  the  last  of  these  to  her  promise  to  go  and  see  Pansy 
Osmond.  Her  plan,  however,  seemed  for  a moment  likely  to 
modify  itself,  in  deference  to  a plan  of  Madame  Merle’s.  This 
lady  was  still  at  Casa  Touchett ; but  she  too  was  on  the  point  of 
leaving  Florence,  her  next  station  being  an  ancient  castle  in  th6 
mountains  of  Tuscany,  the  residence  of  a noble  family  of  that 
country,  whose  acquaintance  (she  had  known  them,  as  she  said, 
“ for  ever”)  seemed  to  Isabel,  in  the  light  of  certain  photographs 
of  their  immense  crenellated  dwelling  which  her  friend  was  able 
to  show  her.  a precious  privilege. 

She  mentioned  to  Madame  Merle  that  Mr.  Osmond  had  asked 
her  to  call  upon  his  daughter ; she  did  not  mention  to  her  that 
he  had  also  made  her  a declaration  of  love. 

“ Ah,  comme  cela  se  trouve  ! ” the  elder  lady  exclaimed.  I 
myself  have  been  thinking  it  would  be  a kindness  to  take  a look 
tit  the  child  before  I go  into  the  country.” 

“ We  can  go  together,  then,”  said  Isabel,  reasonably.  I say 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


275 


M reasonably  ” because  the  proposal  was  not  uttered  in  the  spirit 
of  enthusiasm.  She  had  prefigured  her  visit  as  made  in  solitude  ; 
she  should  like  it  better  so.  Nevertheless,  to  her  great  consider- 
ation for  Madame  Merle  she  was  prepared  to  sacrifice  this  mystic 
sentiment. 

Her  friend  meditated,  with  her  usual  suggestive  smile.  “ After 
all,0  she  presently  said,  “ why  should  we  both  go ; having,  each 
of  us,  so  much  to  do  during  these  last  hours  ! ” 

“ Very  good ; I can  easily  go  alone.” 

“ I don't  know  about  your  going  alone — to  the  house  of  a 
handsome  bachelor.  He  has  been  married — but  so  long  ago  I ” 

Isabel  stared.  “ When  Mr.  Osmond  is  away,  what  does  it 
matter  1 ” 

“ They  don’t  know  he  is  away,  you  see.” 

“ They  1 Whom  do  you  mean  ! ” 

“ Every  one.  But  perhaps  it  doesn’t  matter.” 

“ If  you  were  going,  why  shouldn’t  I ? ” Isabel  asked. 

“ Because  I am  an  old  frump,  and  you  are  a beautiful  young 
woman.” 

“ Granting  all  that,  you  have  not  promised.” 

“ How  much  you  think  of  your  promises ! ” said  Madame 
Merle,  with  a smile  of  genial  mockery. 

“ I think  a great  deal  of  my  promises.  Does  that  surprise 
you  1 ” 

“ You  are  right,”  Madame  Merle  reflected  audibly.  “I  really 
think  you  wish  to  be  kind  to  the  child.” 

“ I wish  very  much  to  be  kind  to  her.” 

“ Go  and  see  her,  then ; no  one  will  be  the  wiser.  And  tell 
her  I would  have  come  if  you  had  not. — Or  rather,”  Madame 
Merle  added — “ don’t  tell  her;  she  won’t  care.” 

As  Isabel  drove,  in  the  publicity  of  an  open  vehicle,  along  the 
charming  winding  way  which  led  to  Mr.  Osmond’s  hill-top,  she 
wondered  what  Madame  Merle  had  meant  by  no  one  being  the 
wiser.  Once  in  a while,  at  large  intervals,  this  lady,  in  whose 
discretion,  as  a general  thing,  there  was  something  almost  brilliant, 
dropped  a remark  of  ambiguous  quality,  struck  a note  that 
sounded  false.  What  cared  Isabel  Archer  for  the  vulgar  judg- 
ments of  obscure  people  1 and  did  Madame  Merle  suppose  that 
he  was  capable  of  doing  a deed  in  secret!  Of  course  not — she 
must  have  meant  something  else — something  which  in  the  press 
of  the  hours  that  preceded  her  departure  she  had  not  had  time 
to  explain.  Isabel  would  return  to  this  some  day ; there  were 
certain  things  as  to  which  she  liked  to  be  clear.  She  heard 
Pansy  .strumming  at  the  piano  in  another  apartment,  as  ska 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 

herself  was  ushered  into  Mr.  Osmond’s  drawing-room  ; the  littla 
girl  was  “ practising,”  and  Isabel  was  pleased  to  think  that  she 
performed  this  duty  faithfully.  Presently  Pansy  came  in, 
smoothing  down  her  frock,  and  did  the  honours  of  her  father’s 
house  with  the  wide-eyed  conscientiousness  of  a sensitive  child. 
Isabel  sat  there  for  half-an-hour,  and  Pansy  entertained  her  like 
a little  lady — not  chattering,  but  conversing,  and  showing  the 
game  courteous  interest  in  Isabel’s  affairs  that  Isabel  was  so  good 
as  to  take  in  hers.  Isabel  wondered  at  her  ; as  I have  said 
before,  she  had  never  seen  a child  like  that.  How  well  she  had 
been  taught,  said  our  keen  young  lady,  how  prettily  she  had 
been  directed  and  fashioned  ; and  yet  how  simple,  how  natural, 
how  innocent  she  has  been  kept ! Isabel  was  fond  of  psycho- 
logical problems,  and  it  had  pleased  her,  up  to  this  time,  to  be 
in  doubt  as  to  whether  Miss  Pansy  w6re  not  all-knowing.  Was 
her  infantine  serenity  but  the  perfection  of  self-consciousness  1 
Was  it  put  on  to  please  her  father’s  visitor,  or  was  it  the  direct 
expression  of  a little  neat,  orderly  character  ! The  hour  that 
Isabel  spent  in  Mr.  Osmond’s  beautiful  empty,  dusky  rooms — 
the  windows  had  been  half-darkened,  to  keep  out  the  heat,  and 
here  and  there,  through  an  easy  crevice,  the  splendid  summer 
day  peeped  in,  lighting  a gleam  of  faded  colour  or  tarnished  gilt 
in  the  rich-looking  gloom — Isabel’s  interview  with  the  daughter 
of  the  house,  I say,  effectually  settled  this  question.  Pansy  was 
really  a blank  page,  a pure  white  surface  ; she  was  not  clever 
enough  for  precocious  coquetries.  She  was  not  clever ; Isabel 
could  see  that ; she  only  had  nice  feelings.  There  was  some- 
thing touching  about  her  ; Isabel  had  felt  it  before ; she  would 
be  an  easy  victim  of  fate.  She  would  have  no  will,  no  power  to 
resist,  no  sense  of  her  own  importance ; only  an  exquisite  taste, 
and  an  appreciation,  equally  exquisite,  of  such  affection  as  might 
be  bestowed  upon  her.  She  would  easily  be  mystified,  easily 
:rushed ; her  force  would  be  solely  in  her  power  to  cling.  She 
moved  about  the  place  with  Isabel,  who  had  asked  leave  to  walk 
through  the  other  rooms  again,  where  Pansy  gave  her  judgment 
on  several  works  of  art.  She  talked  about  her  prospects,  her 
occupations,  her  father’s  intentions ; she  was  not  egotistical,  but 
she  felt  the  propriety  of  giving  Isabel  the  information  that  so 
observant  a visitor  would  naturally  expect. 

“ Please  ;ell  me,”  she  said,  “ did  papa,  in  Eome,  go  to  see 
Madame  Catherine!  He  told  me  he  would  if  he  had  time. 
Perkap*  he  had  not  time.  Papa  likes  a great  deal  of  time.  He 
wished  to  epeak  about  my  education ; it  isn’t  finished  yet,  you 
know.  I don’t  know  what  they  can  do  with  me  more ; but  it 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


277 


appears  it  is  far  from  finished.  Papa  told  me  one  day  he 
thought  he  would  finish  it  himself ; for  the  last  year  or  two,  at 
the  convent,  the  masters  that  teach  the  tall  girls  are  so  very 
dear.  Papa  is  not  rich,  and  I should  he  very  sorry  if  he  were 
to  pay  much  money  for  me,  because  I don’t  think  I am  worth 
it.  I don’t  learn  quickly  enough,  and  I have  got  no  memory. 
For  what  I am  told,  yes— especially  when  it  is  pleasant;  but 
not  for  what  I learn  in  a book.  There  was  a young  girl,  who 
was  my  best  friend,  and  they  took  her  away  from  the  convent 
when  she  was  fourteen,  to  make — how  do  you  say  it  in  English  1 
— to  make  a dot . You  don’t  say  it  in  English'!  I hope  it  isn’t 
wrong ; I only  mean  they  wished  to  keep  the  money,  to  marry 
her.  I don’t  know  whether  it  is  for  that  that  papa  wishes  to  keep 
the  money,  to  marry  me.  It  costs  so  much  to  marry  ! ” Pansy 
went  on,  with  a sigh ; “ I think  papa  might  make  that  economy. 
At  any  rate  I am  too  young  to  think  about  it  yet,  and  I don’t 
care  for  any  gentleman  ; I mean  for  any  but  him.  If  he  were  not 
my  papa  I should  like  to  marry  him  ; I would  rather  be  his 
daughter  than  the  wife  of — of  some  strange  person.  I miss  him 
very  much,  but  not  so  much  as  you  might  think,  for  I have  been 
so  much  away  from  him.  Papa  has  always  been  principally 
for  holidays.  I miss  Madame  Catherine  almost  more  ; but  you 
must  not  tell  him  that.  You  shall  not  see  him  again  'l  I am 
very  sorry  for  that.  Of  every  one  who  comes  here  I like  you 
the  best.  That  is  not  a great  compliment,  for  there  are  not 
many  people.  It  was  very  kind  of  you  to  come  to-day — so  far 
from  your  house  ; for  I am  as  yet  only  a child.  Oh,  yes,  I have 
only  the  occupations  of  a child.  When  did  you  give  them  up, 
the  occupations  of  a child  I I should  like  to  know  how  old  you 
are,  but  I don’t  know  whether  it  is  right  to  ask.  At  the  conv 
they  told  us  that  we  must  never  ask  the  age.  I don’t  like  to 
anything  that  is  not  expected  ; it  looks  as  if  one  had  not  b 
properly  taught.  I myself — I should  never  like  to  be  take 
surprise.  Papa  left  directions  for  everything.  I go  to  bed 
early.  When  the  sun  goes  off  that  side  I go  into  the  gar 
Papa  left  strict  orders  that  I was  not  to  get  scorched.  I al 
enjoy  the  view;  the  mountains  are  so  graceful.  In  Eome, 
the  convent,  we  saw  nothing  but  roofs  and  bell-towers, 
practise  three  hours.  I do  not  play  very  well.  You  play  yo 
self]  I wish  very  much  that  you  would  play  something 
me  ; papa  wishes  very  much  that  I should  hear  good  musi 
Madame  Merle  has  played  for  me  several  times  ; that  is  what 
kike  best  about  Madame  Merle  ; she  has  great  facility.  I shall 
never  have  facility.  And  1 have  no  voice — just  a little  thread 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


578 


Isabel  gratified  this  respectful  wish,  drew  off  her  glove?,  and 
sat  down  to  the  piano,  while  Pansy,  standing  beside  her,  watched 
her  white  hands  move  quickly  over  the  keys.  When  she  stopped, 
she  kissed  the  child  good-bye,  and  held  her  a moment,  looking 
at  her. 

“ Be  a good  child,1 ” she  said  ; “ give  pleasure  to  your  father.” 

“ I think  that  is  what  I live  for,”  Pansy  answered.  “ He 
has  not  much  pleasure  ; he  is  rather  a sad  man.” 

Isabel  listened  to  this  assertion  with  an  interest  which  she 
felt  it  to  be  almost  a torment  that  she  was  obliged  to  conceal 
from  the  child.  It  was  her  pride  that  obliged  her,  and  a certain 
sense  of  decency;  there  were  still  other  things  in  her  head 
which  she  felt  a strong  impulse,  instantly  checked,  to  say  to 
Pansy  about  her  father  ; there  were  things  it  would  have  given 
her  pleasure  to  hear  the  child,  to  make  the  child,  say.  But  she 
no  sooner  became  conscious  of  these  things  than  her  imagination 
was  hushed  with  horror  at  the  idea  of  taking  advantage  of  the 
little  girl — it  was  of  this  she  would  have  accused  herself — and 
of  leaving  an  audible  trace  of  her  emotion  behind.  She  had 
come — she  had  come  ; but  she  had  stayed  only  an  hour ! She 
rose  quickly  from  the  music-stool ; even  then,  however,  she 
lingered  a moment,  still  holding  her  small  companion,  drawing 
the  child’s  little  tender  person  closer,  and  looking  down  at  her. 
She  was  obliged  to  confess  it  to  herself — she  would  have  taken 


a passionate  pleasure  in  talking  about  Gilbert  Osmond  to  this 
innocent,  diminutive  creature  who  was  near  to  him.  But  she 
said  not  another  word  ; she  only  kissed  Pansy  once  more.  They 
went  together  through  the  vestibule,  to  the  door  which  opened 
into  the  court ; and  there  Pansy  stopped,  looking  rather 
’stfully  beyond. 

4 1 may  go  no  further,”  she  said.  “ I have  promised  papa 
to  go  out  of  this  door.” 

You  are  right  to  obey  him;  he  will  never  ask  you  anything 
easonable.” 

I shall  always  obey  him.  But  when  will  you  come  again  1 n 
Not  for  a long  time,  I am  afraid.” 

As  soon  as  you  can,  I hope.  I am  only  a little  girl,”  said 
ixy,  “ but  I shall  always  expect  you.” 

And  the  small  figure  stood  in  the  high,  dark  doorway,  watch 
Isabel  cross  the  clear,  grey  court,  and  disappear  into  the 
rightness  beyond  the  big  portone,  which  gave  a wider  gleam  a* 
f t opened. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


27J> 


i ) 

XXXI. 

Isabel  came  back  to  Florence,  but  only  after  several  months; 
an  interval  sufficiently  replete  with  incident.  It  is  not,  however, 
during  this  interval  that  we  are  closely  concerned  with  her ; our 
attention  is  engaged  again  on  a certain  day  in  the  late  spring- 
time, shortly  after  her  return  to  the  Palazzo  Crescentini,  and  a 
year  from  the  date  of  the  incidents  I have  just  narrated.  She 
was  alone  on  this  occasion,  in  one  of  the  smaller  of  the  numerous 
rooms  devoted  by  Mrs.  Touchett  to  social  uses,  and  there  was 
that  in  her  expression  and  attitude  which  would  have  suggested 
that  she  was  expecting  a visitor.  The  tall  window  was  open, 
and  though  its  green  shutters  were  partly  drawn,  the  bright  air 
of  the  garden  had  come  in  through  a broad  interstice  and  filled 
the  room  with  warmth  and  perfume.  Our  young  lady  stood 
for  some  time  at  the  window,  with  her  hands  clasped  behind 
her,  gazing  into  the  brilliant  aperture  in  the  manner  of  a person 
relapsing  into  reverie.  She  was  pre-occupied  ; she  was  too  rest- 
less to  sit  down,  to  work,  to  read.  It  was  evidently  not  her 
design,  however,  to  catch  a glimpse  of  her  visitor  before  he 
should  pass  into  the  house ; for  the  entrance  to  the  palace  was 
not  through  the  garden,  in  which  stillness  and  privacy  ’always 
reigned.  She  was  endeavouring  rather  to  anticipate  his  arrival 
by  a process  of  conjecture,  and  to  judge  by  the  expression  of  her 
face  this  attempt  gave  her  plenty  to  do.  She  was  extremely 
grave ; not  sad  exactly,  but  deeply  serious.  The  lapse  of  a year 
may  doubtless  account  for  a considerable  increase  of  gravity ; 
though  this  will  depend  a good  deal  upon  the  manner  in  which 
the  year  has  been  spent.  Isabel  had  spent  hers  in  seeing  the 
■world ; she  had  moved  about ; she  had  travelled  ; she  had 
exerted  herself  with  an  almost  passionate  activity.  She  was  now, 
to  her  own  sense,  a very  different  person  from  the  frivolous 
young  woman  from  Albany  who  had  begun  to  see  Europe  upon 
the  lawn  at  Gardencourt  a couple  of  years  before.  She  flattered 
herself  that  she  had  gathered  a rich  experience,  that  she  knew 
a great  deal  more  of  life  than  this  light-minded  creature  had 
gven  suspected.  If  her  thoughts  just  now  had  inclined  them- 
ielves  to  retrospect,  instead  of  fluttering  their  wings  nervously 
about  the  present,  they  would  have  evoked  a multitude  of  inter- 
esting pictures.  These  pictures  would  have  been  both  landscapes 
and  figure-pieces ; the  latter,  however,  would  have  been  the  more 
numerous.  With  several  of  the  figures  concerned  in  these 


280 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


combinations  we  are  already  acquainted.  There  world  be,  for 
instance,  the  conciliatory  Lily,  our  heroine’s  sister  and  Edmund 
Ludlow’s  wife,  who  came  out  from  New  York  to  snend  five 
months  with  Isabel.  She  left  her  husband  behind  her,  but  she 
brought  her  children,  to  whom  Isabel  now  played  vith  equal 
munificence  and  tenderness  the  part  of  maiden-aunt.  Mr. 
Ludlow,  towards  the  last,  had  been  able  to  snatch  a few  weeks 
from  his  forensic  triumphs,  and,  crossing  the  ocean  with  extreme 
rapidity,  spent  a month  with  the  two  ladies  in  Paris,  before 
taking  his  wife  home.  The  little  Ludlows  had  not  yet,  even 
from  the  American  point  of  view,  reached  the  proper  tourist-age ; 
bo  that  while  her  sister  was  with  her,  Isabel  confined  her  move- 
ments to  a narrow  circle.  Lily  and  the  babies  had  joined  her  in 
Switzerland  in  the  month  of  July,  and  they  had  spent  a summer 
of  fine  weather  in  an  Alpine  valley  where  the  flowers  were 
thick  in  the  meadows,  and  the  shade  of  great  chestnuts  made  a 
resting-place  in  such  upward  wanderings  as  might  be  undertaken 
by  ladies  and  children  on  warm  afternoons.  Afterwards  they 
had  come  to  Paris,  a city  beloved  by  Lily,  but  less  appreciated 
by  Isabel,  who  in  those  days  was  constantly  thinking  of  Pome. 
Mrs.  Ludlow  enjoyed  Paris,  but  she  was  nevertheless  somewhat 
disappointed  and  puzzled  ; and  after  her  husband  had  joined  her 
she  was  in  addition  a good  deal  depressed  at  not  being  able  to 
induce  him  to  enter  into  these  somewhat  subtle  and  complex 
emotions.  They  all  had  Isabel  for  their  object ; but  Edmund 
Ludlow,  as  he  had  always  done  before,  declined  to  be  surprised, 
or  distressed,  or  mystified,  or  elated,  at  anything  his  sister-in-law 
might  have  done  or  have  failed  to  do.  Mrs.  Ludlow’s  feelings 
were  various.  At  one  moment  she  thought  it  would  be  so 
natural  for  Isabel  to  come  home  and  take  a house  in  New  York 
— the  Rossiters’,  for  instance,  which  had  an  elegant  conservatory, 
and  was  just  round  the  corner  from  her  own ; at  another  she 
could  not  conceal  her  surprise  at  the  girl’s  not  marrying  some 
gentleman  of  rank  in  one  of  the  foreign  countries.  On  the 
whole,  as  I have  said,  she  was  rather  disappointed.  She  had 
taken  more  satisfaction  in  Isabel’s  accession  of  fortune  than  if  the 
money  had  been  left  to  herself ; it  had  seemed  to  her  to  offer 
just  the  proper  setting  for  her  sister’s  slender  but  eminent  figure. 
Isabel  had  developed  less,  however,  than  Lily  had  thought 
likely — development,  to  Lily’s  understanding,  being  somehow 
mysteriously  connected  with  morning-calls  and  evening-parties. 
Intellectually,  doubtless,  she  had  made  immense  strides ; but 
ihe  appeared  to  have  achieved  few  of  those  social  conquests  of 
tfhich  Mrs.  Ludlow  had  expected  to  admire  the  trophies.  Lily’s 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


281 


•onception  of  such  achievements  was  extremely  vague  ; but  this 
was  exactly  what  she  had  expected  of  Isabel — to  give  it  form 
and  body.  Isabel  could  have  done  as  well  as  she  had  done  in 
New  York  ; and  Mrs.  Ludlow  appealed  to  her  husband  to  know 
whether  there  was  any  privilege  that  she  enjoyed  in  Europe 
which  the  society  of  that  city  might  not  offer  her.  We  know, 
ourselves,  that  Isabel  had  made  conquests — whether  inferior  or 
not  to  those  she  might  have  effected  in  her  native  land,  it  would 
be  a delicate  matter  to  decide ; and  it  is  not  altogether  with  a 
feeling  of  complacency  that  I again  mention  that  she  had  not 
made  these  honourable  victories  public.  She  had  not  told  her 
sister  the  history  of  Lord  Warburton,  nor  had  she  given  her  a 
hint  of  Mr.  Osmond’s  state  of  mind  ; and  she  had  no  better 
reason  for  her  silence  than  that  she  didn’t  wish  to  speak.  It 
entertained  her  more  to  say  nothing,  and  she  had  no  idea  of 
asking  poor  Lily’s  advice.  But  Lily  knew  nothing  of  these  rich 
mysteries,  and  it  is  no  wonder,  therefore,  that  she  pronounced  hei 
sister’s  career  in  Europe  rather  dull — an  impression  confirmed  by 
the  fact  that  Isabel’s  silence  about  Mr.  Osmond,  for  instance, 
was  in  direct  proportion  to  the  frequency  with  which  he  occupied 
her  thoughts.  As  this  happened  very  often,  it  sometimes 
appeared  to  Mrs.  Ludlow  that  her  sister  was  really  losing  her 
gaiety.  So  very  strange  a result  of  so  exhilarating  an  incident 
as  inheriting  a fortune  was  of  course  perplexing  to  the  cheerful 
Lily ; it  added  to  her  general  sense  that  Isabel  was  not  at  all 
like  other  people. 

Isabel’s  gaiety,  however  — superficially  speaking,  at  least — 
exhibited  itself  rather  more  after  her  sister  had  gone  home.  She 
could  imagine  something  more  poetic  than  spending  the  winter 
in  Paris — Paris  was  like  smart,  neat  prose — and  her  frequent 
correspondence  with  Madame  Merle  did  much  to  stimulate  such 
fancies.  She  had  never  had  a keener  sense  of  freedom,  of  the 
absolute  boldness  and  wantonness  of  liberty,  than  when  she 
turned  away  from  the  platform  at  the  Euston  station,  on  one  of 
the  latter  days  of  November,  after  the  departure  of  the  train 
which  was  to  convey  poor  Lily,  her  husband,  and  her  children, 
to  their  ship  at  Liverpool.  It  had  been  good  for  her  to  have 
them  with  her ; she  was  very  conscious  of  that ; she  was  very 
observant,  as  we  know,  of  what  was  good  for  her,  and  her  effort 
was  constantly  to  find  something  that  was  good  enough.  To 
profit  by  the  present  advantage  till  the  latest  moment,  she  had 
made  the  journey  from  Paris  with  the  unenvied  travellers.  She 
would  have  accompanied  them  to  Liverpool  as  well,  only  Edmund 
Ludlow  had  asked  her,  as  a favour,  not  to  do  so ; it  made  Lily 


282 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


so  fidgety,  and  she  asked  such  impossible  questions.  Tsabej 
watched  the  train  move  away ; she  kissed  her  hand  to  Ihe  elder 
of  her  small  nephews,  a demonstrative  child  who  leaned  danger- 
ously far  out  of  the  window  of  the  carriage  and  made  separation 
an  occasion  of  violent  hilarity,  and  then  she  walked  back  into 
the  foggy  London  street.  The  world  lay  before  her — she  could 
do  whatever  she  chose.  There  was  something  exciting  in  the 
feeling,  but  for  the  present  her  choice  was  tolerably  discreet ; 
she  chose  simply  to  walk  back  from  Euston  Square  to  her  hotel. 
The  early  dusk  of  a November  afternoon  had  already  closed  in ; 
the  street-lamps,  in  the  thick,  brown  air,  looked  weak  and  red ; 
our  young  lady  was  unattended,  and  Euston  Square  was  a long 
way  from  Piccadilly.  But  Isabel  performed  the  journey  with  a 
positive  enjoyment  of  its  dangers,  and  lost  her  way  almost  on 
purpose,  in  order  to  get  more  sensations,  so  that  she  was  dis- 
appointed when  an  obliging  policeman  easily  set  her  right  again. 
She  was  so  fond  of  the  spectacle  of  human  life  that  she  enjoyed 
even  the  aspect  of  gathering  dusk  in  the  London  streets — the  mov- 
ing crowds,  the  hurrying  cabs,  the  lighted  shops,  the  flaring  stalls, 
the  dark,  shining  dampness  of  everything.  That  evening,  at 
her  hotel,  she  wrote  to  Madame  Merle  that  she  should  start  in  a 
day  or  two  for  Rome.  She  made  her  way  down  to  Rome  without 
touching  at  Florence — having  gone  first  to  Venice  and  then 
proceeded  southward  by  Ancona.  She  accomplished  this  journey 
without  other  assistance  than  that  of  her  servant,  for  her  natural 
protectors  were  not  now  on  the  ground.  Ralph  Touchett  was 
spending  the  winter  at  Corfu,  and  Miss  Stackpole,  in  the 
September  previous,  had  been  recalled  to  America  by  a telegram 
from  the  Interviewer.  This  journal  offered  its  brilliant  corre- 
spondent a fresher  field  for  her  talents  than  the  mouldering  cities 
of  Europe,  and  Henrietta  was  cheered  on  her  way  by  a promise 
from  Mr.  Bantling  that  he  would  soon  come  over  and  see  her. 
Isabel  wrote  to  Mrs.  Touchett  to  apologise  for  not  coming  just 
then  to  Florence,  and  her  aunt  replied  characteristically  enough. 
Apologies,  Mrs.  Touchett  intimated,  were  of  no  more  use  than 
3)&p-bubbles,  and  she  herself  never  dealt  in  such  articles.  One 
either  did  the  thing  or  one  didn’t,  and  what  one  would  have 
done  belonged  to  the  sphere  of  the  irrelevant,  like  the  idea  of  a 
future  life  or  of  the  origin  of  things.  Her  letter  was  frank,  but 
(a  rare  case  with  Mrs.  Touchett)  it  was  not  so  frank  as  it  seemed. 
She  easily  forgave  her  niece  for  not  stopping  at  Florence,  because 
she  thought  it  was  a sign  that  there  was  nothing  going  on  with 
Gilbert  Osmond.  She  watched,  of  course,  to  see  whether  Mr. 
Osmond  would  now  go  to  Rome,  and  took  some  comfort  in 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


288 


learning  that  he  was  not  guilty  of  an  absence.  Tsa  bel,  on  her 
Bide,  had  not  been  a fortnight  in  Rome  before  she  proposed  to 
Madame  Merle  that  they  should  make  a little  pilgrimage  to  the 
East.  Madame  Merle  remarked  that  her  friend  was  restless,  but 
she  added  that  she  herself  had  always  been  consumed  with  the 
desire  to  visit  Athens  and  Constantinople.  The  two  ladies 
accordingly  embarked  on  this  expedition,  and  spent  three  months 
in  Greece,  in  Turkey,  in  Egypt.  Isabel  found  much  to  interest 
her  in  these  countries,  though  Madame  Merle  continued  to 
remark  that  even  among  the  most  classic  sites,  the  scenes  most 
calculated  to  suggest  repose  and  reflection,  her  restlessness  pre- 
vailed. Isabel  travelled  rapidly,  eagerly,  audaciously  ; she  was 
like  a thirsty  person  draining  cup  after  cup.  Madame  Merle, 
for  the  present,  was  a most  efficient  duenna.  It  was  on  Isabel’s 
invitation  she  had  come,  and  she  imparted  all  necessary  dignity 
to  the  girl’s  uncountenanced  condition.  She  played  her  part 
with  the  sagacity  that  might  have  been  expected  of  her ; she 
effaced  herself,  she  accepted  the  position  of  a companion  whose 
expenses  were  profusely  paid.  The  situation,  however,  had  no 
hardships,  and  people  who  met  this  graceful  pair  on  their  travels 
would  not  have  been  able  to  tell  you  which  was  the  patroness 
and  which  the  client.  To  say  that  Madame  Merle  improved  on 
acquaintance  would  misrepresent  the  impression  she  made  upon 
Isabel,  who  had  thought  her  from  the  first  a perfectly  enlightened 
woman.  At  the  end  of  an  intimacy  of  three  months  Isabel  felt 
that  she  knew  her  better  ; her  character  had  revealed  itself,  and 
Madame  Merle  had  also  at  last  redeemed  her  promise  of  relating 
her  history  from  her  own  point  of  view — a consummation  the 
more  desirable  as  Isabel  had  already  heard  it  related  from  the 
point  of  view  of  others.  This  history  was  so  sad  a one  (in  so 
far  as  it  concerned  the  late  M.  Merle,  an  adventurer  of  the 
lowest  class,  who  had  taken  advantage,  years  before,  of  her 
youth,  and  of  an  inexperience  in  which  doubtless  those  who 
knew  her  only  now  would  find  it  difficult  to  believe) ; At 
abounded  so  in  startling  and  lamentable  incidents,  that  Isabel 
wondered  the  poor  lady  had  kept  so  much  of  her  freshness,  he* 
interest  in  life.  Into  this  freshness  of  Madame  Merle’s  she 
obtained  a considerable  insight ; she  saw  that  it  was,  after  all,  a 
tolerably  artificial  bloom.  Isabel  liked  her  as  much  as  ever,  but 
there  was  a certain  corner  of  the  curtain  that  never  was  lifted ; 
it  was  as  if  Madame  Merle  had  remained  after  all  a foreigner. 
JShe  had  once  said  that  she  came  from  a distance,  that  she 
belonged  to  the  old  world,  and  Isabel  never  lost  the  impression 
vhat  she  was  the  product  of  a different  clime  from  her  own  that 


184 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


slie  had  grown  up  under  other  stars.  Isabel  believed  that  at 
bottom  she  had  a different  morality.  Of  course  the  morality 
of  civilised  persons  has  always  much  in  common  ; but  Isabel 
suspected  that  her  friend  had  esoteric  views.  She  believed, 
with  the  presumption  of  youth,  that  a morality  which  differed 
from  her  own  must  be  inferior  to  it ; and  this  conviction  was  an 
aid,  tn,. detecting  an  occasional  flash  of^crueltj^ 
from  candour,  in  the  conversation  of  a woman  who  had  raised 
delicate  kindness  to  an  art,  and  whose  nature  was  too  large  for 
thejuarroncways  of  deception.  Her  conception  of  human  motives 
was  different  from  Isabel^  and  there  were  several  in  her  list  of 
which  our  heroine  had  not  even  heard.  She  had  not  heard  of 
everything,  that  was  very  plain  ; and  there  were  evidently 
things  in  the  world  of  which  it  was  not  advantageous  to 
hear.  Once  or  twice  Isabel  had  a sort  of  fright,  but  the 
reader  will  be  amused  at  the  cause  of  it.  Madame  Merle,  as  we 
know,  comprehended,  responded,  sympathised,  with  wonderful 
readiness ; yet  it  had  nevertheless  happened  that  her  young 
friend  mentally  exclaimed  — “ Heaven  forgive  her,  she  doesn’t 
understand  me  ! ” Absurd  as  it  may  seem,  this  discovery  operated 
as  a shock ; it  left  Isabel  with  a vague  horror,  in  which  there 
was  even  an  element  of  foreboding.  The  horror  of  course  sub- 
sided, in  the  light  of  some  sudden  proof  of  Madame  Merle’s 
remarkable  intelligence ; but  it  left  a sort  of  high- water-mark 
in  the  development  of  this  delightful  intimacy.  Madame  Merle 
had  once  said  that,  in  her  belief,  when  a friendship  ceased  to 
grow,  it  immediately  began  to  decline — there  was  no  point  of 
equilibrium  between  liking  a person  more  and  liking  him  less. 
A stationary  affection,  in  other  words,  was  impossible — it  must 
move  one  way  or  the  other.  Without  estimating  the  value  of 
this  doctrine,  I may  say  that  if  Isabel’s  imagination,  which  had 
hitherto  been  so  actively  engaged  on  her  friend’s  behalf,  began 
at  last  to  languish,  she  enjoyed  her  society  not  a particle  less 
than  before.  If  their  friendship  had  declined,  it  had  declined 
to  a very  comfortable  level.  The  truth  is  that  in  these  days 
the  girl  had  other  uses  for  her  imagination,  which  was  better 
occupied  than  it  had  ever  been.  I do  not  allude  to  the  impulse 
it  received  as  she  gazed  at  the  Pyramids  in  the  course  of  an 
excursion  from  Cairo,  or  as  she  stood  among  the  broken  columns 
of  the  Acropolis  and  fixed  her  eyes  upon  the  point  designated 
to  her  as  the  Strait  of  Salamis ; deep  and  memorable  as  these 
emotions  had  been.  She  came  back  by  the  last  of  March  from 
Egypt  and  Greece,  and  made  another  stay  in  Rome.  A few 
days  after  her  arrival  Gilbert  Osmond  came  down  from  Florence 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


285 


and  remained  three  weeks,  during  which  the  fact  of  1 er  being 
with  his  old  friend,  Madame  Merle,  in  whose  house  she  had 
gone  to  lodge,  made  it  virtually  inevitable  that  he  should  see 
her  every  day.  When  the  last  of  April  came  she  wrote  to  Mrs. 
Touchett  that  she  should  now  be  very  happy  to  accept  an  invit- 
ation given  long  before,  and  went  to  pay  a visit  at  the  Palazzo 
Crescentini,  Madame  Merle  on  this  occasion  remaining  in  Rome. 
Isabel  found  her  aunt  alone;  her  cousin  was  still  at  Corfu. 
Ralph,  however,  was  expected  in  Florence  from  day  to  day,  and 
Isabel,  who  had  not  seen  him  for  upwards  of  a year,  was  prepared 
to  give  him  the  most  affectionate  welcome. 


XXXII. 

It  was  not  of  him,  nevertheless,  that  she  was  thinking  while 
she  stood  at  the  window,  where  we  found  her  a while  ago,  and 
it  was  not  of  any  of  the  matters  that  I have  just  rapidly  sketched. 
She  was  not  thinking  of  the  past,  but  of  the  future ; of  the 
immediate,  impending  hour.  She  had  reason  to  expect  a scene, 
and  she  was  not  fond  of  scenes.  She  was  not  asking  herself 
what  she  should  say  to  her  visitor  ; this  question  had  already 
been  answered.  What  he  would  say  to  her — that  was  the 
interesting  speculation.  It  could  be  nothing  agreeable  ; Isabel 
was  convinced  of  this,  and  the  conviction  had  something  to  do 
with  her  being  rather  paler  than  usual.  For  the  rest,  however, 
she  wore  her  natural  brightness  of  aspect ; even  deep  grief,  with 
this  vivid  young  lady,  would  have  had  a certain  soft  effulgence. 
She  had  laid  aside  her  mourning,  but  she  was  still  very  simply 
dressed,  and  as  she  felt  a good  deal  older  than  she  had  done  a 
year  before,  it  is  probable  that  to  a certain  extent  she  looked  so. 
She  was  not  left  indefinitely  jbo  her  apprehensions,  for  the  servant 
at  last  came  in  and  presented  her  a card. 

“ Let  the  gentleman  come  in,”  said  Isabel,  who  continued  to 
gaze  out  of  the  window  after  the  footman  had  retired.  It  waa 
only  when  she  had  heard  the  door  close  behind  the  person  who 
presently  entered  that  she  looked  round. 

Caspar  Goodwood  stood  there — stood  and  received  a moment, 
from  head  to  foot,  the  bright,  dry  gaze  with  which  she  rather 
withheld  than  offered  a greeting.  Whether  on  his  side  Mr. 
Goodwood  felt  himself  older  than  on  the  first  occasion  of  our 
meeting  him,  is  a point  which  we  shall  perhaps  presently  ascer- 
tain ; let  me  say  meanwhile  that  to  Isabel's  critical  glance  he 


986 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY 


showed  nothing  of  the  injury  of  time.  Straight,  strong,  and 
fresh,  there  was  nothing  in  his  appearance  that  spoke  posi- 
tively either  of  youth  or  of  age ; he  looked  too  deliberate,  too 
serious  to  be  young,  and  too  eager,  too  active  to  be  old.  Old  he 
would  never  be,  and  this  would  serve  as  a compensation  for  his 
never  having  known  the  age  of  chubbiness.  Isabel  perceived 
that  his  jaw  had  quite  the  same  voluntary  look  that  it  had  worn 
in  earlier  days;  but  she  was  prepared  to  admit  that  such  a 
moment  as  the  present  was  not  a time  for  relaxation.  He  had 
the  air  of  a man  who  had  travelled  hard ; he  said  nothing  at 
first,  as  if  he  had  been  out  of  breath.  This  gave  Isabel  time  to 
make  a reflection.  u Poor  fellow,”  she  mentally  murmured, 
“ what  great  things  he  is  capable  of,  and  what  a pity  that  he 
should  waste  his  splendid  force  ! What  a pity,  too,  that  one  can’t, 
satisfy  everybody  ! ” It  gave  her  time  to  do  more — to  say  at 
the  end  of  a minute, 

“ I can’t  tell  you  how  I hoped  that  you  wouldn’t  come.” 

“ I have  no  doubt  of  that.”  And  Caspar  Goodwood  looked 
about  him  for  a seat.  Hot  only  had  he  come,  but  he  meant  to 
stay  a little. 

“ You  must  be  very  tired,”  said  Isabel,  seating  herself,  gener- 
ously, as  she  thought,  to  give  him  his  opportunity. 

“ Ho,  I am  not  at  all  tired.  Did  you  ever  know  me  to  be 
tired  1 ” 

“ Hever  ; I wish  I had.  When  did  you  arrive  here  1 ” 

“ Last  night,  very  late  ; in  a kind  of  snail-train  they  call  the 
express.  These  Italian  trains  go  at  about  the  rate  of  an  American 
funeral.” 

“That  is  in  keeping — you  must  have  felt  as  if  you  were 
coming  to  a funeral,”  Isabel  said,  forcing  a smile,  in  order  to 
offer  such  encouragement  as  she  might  to  an  easy  treatment  of 
their  situation.  She  had  reasoned  out  the  matter  elaborately ; 
she  had  made  it  perfectly  clear  that  she  broke  no  faith,  that  she 
falsified  no  contract ; but  for  all  this  she  was  afraid  of  him.  She 
was  ashamed  of  her  fear ; but  she  was  devoutly  thankful  there 
was  nothing  else  to  be  ashamed  of.  He  looked  at  her  with  his 
stiff  persistency — a persistency  in  which  there  was  almost  a want 
of  tact ; especially  as  there  was  a dull  dark  beam  in  his  eye 
which  rested  on  her  almost  like  a physical  weight. 

“ Ho,  I didn’t  feel  that ; because  I couldn’t  thinK  of  you  as 
dead.  I wish  I could  ! ” said  Caspar  Goodwood,  plainly. 

“ I thank  you  immensely.” 

“ I would  rather  think  of  you  as  dead  than  as  married  t* 
another  matt.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


287 


“ That  is  very  selfish  of  you  ! ” Isabel  cried,  with  the  ardour 
of  a real  conviction.  44  If  you  are  not  happy  yourself,  others 
have  a right  to  be.” 

44  Very  likely  it  is  selfish ; but  I don’t  in  the  least  mind  your 
saying  so.  I don’t  mind  anything  you  can  say  now — I don’t 
feel  it.  The  cruellest  things  you  could  think  of  would  be  mere  pin- 
pricks. After  what  you  have  done  I shall  never  feel  anything. 
I mean  anything  but  that.  That  I shall  feel  all  my  life.” 

Mr.  Goodwood  made  these  detached  assertions  with  a sort 
of  dry  deliberateness,  in  his  hard,  slow  American  tone,  which 
flung  no  atmospheric  colour  over  propositions  intrinsically  crude. 
The  tone  made  Isabel  angry  rather  than  touched  her ; but  her 
anger  perhaps  was  fortunate,  inasmuch  as  it  gave  her  a further 
reason  for  controlling  herself.  It  was  under  the  pressure  of  this 
control  that  she  said,  after  a little,  irrelevantly,  by  way  of 
answer  to  Mr.  Goodwood’s  speech — 44  When  did  you  leave  New 
York?” 

He  threw  up  his  head  a moment,  as  if  he  were  calculating. 
u Seventeen  days  ago.” 

“ You  must  have  travelled  fast  in  spite  of  your  slow  trains.” 

44  I came  as  fast  as  I could.  I would  have  come  five  days  ago 
if  I had  been  able.” 

“It  wouldn’t  have  made  any  difference,  Mr.  Goodwood,” 
Baid  Isabel,  smiling. 

“Not  to  you — no.  But  to  me.” 

44  You  gain  nothing  that  I see.” 

“ That  is  for  me  to  judge  ! ” 

“ Of  course.  To  me  it  seems  that  you  only  torment  yourself.” 
And  then,  to  change  the  subject,  Isabel  asked  him  if  he  had 
Been  Henrietta  Stackpole. 

He  looked  as  if  he  had  not  come  from  Boston  to  Florence  to 
talk  about  Henrietta  Stackpole ; but  he  answered  distinctly 
enough,  that  this  young  lady  had  come  to  see  him  just  before  he 
left  America. 

44  She  came  to  see  you  ? ’ 

44  Yes,  she  was  in  Boston,  and  she  called  at  my  office.  It  waas 
the  day  I had  got  your  letter.” 

“ Did  you  tell  her  ? ” Isabel  asked,  with  a certain  anxiety. 

“Oh  no,”  said  Caspar  Goodwood,  simply  ; 44 1 didn’t  want  to. 
She  will  hear  it  soon  enough ; she  hears  everything.” 

44 1 shall  write  to  her ; and  then  she  will  write  to  me  and 
scold  me,”  Isabel  declared,  trying  to  smile  again. 

Caspar,  however^  remained  sternly  grave.  44 1 guess  shell 
•ome  out,”  he  said/ 


233 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


“ On  purpose  to  scold  me  1 ” 

“I  don’t  know.  She  seemed  to  think  she  had  not  seen 
Europe  thoroughly.” 

“ I am  glad  you  tell  me  that,”  Isabel  said.  “ I must  prepare 
for  her.” 

Mr.  Goodwood  fixed  his  eyes  for  a moment  on  the  floor ; then 
at  last,  raising  them — “ Does  she  know  Mr.  Osmond  1 ” he 
asked. 

“ A little.  And  she  doesn’t  like  him.  But  of  course  I don’t 
marry  to  please  Henrietta,”  Isabel  added. 

It  would  have  been  better  for  poor  Caspar  if  she  had  tried 
a little  more  to  gratify  Miss  Stackpole;  but  he  did  not  say 
so;  he  only  asked,  presently,  when  her  marriage  would  take 
place. 

“ I don’t  know  yet.  I can  only  say  it  will  be  soon.  I have 
told  no  one  but  yourself  and  one  other  person — an  old  friend 
of  Mr.  Osmond’s.” 

“ Is  it  a marriage  your  friends  won’t  like  1 ” Caspar  Goodwood 
asked. 

“ I really  haven’t  an  idea.  As  I say,  I don’t  marry  for  my 
friends.” 

He  went  on,  making  no  exclamation,  no  comment,  only  asking 
questions. 

“ What  is  Mr.  Osmond  ? ” 

“ What  is  h el  Nothing  at  all  but  a very  good  man.  He  is 
not  in  business,”  said  Isabel.  “ He  is  not  rich  ; he  is  not  known 
for  anything  in  particular.” 

She  disliked  Mr.  Goodwood’s  questions,  but  she  said  to  her- 
self that  she  owed  it  to  him  to  satisfy  him  as  far  as  possible. 

The  satisfaction  poor  Caspar  exhibited  was  certainly  small ; he 
sat  very  upright,  gazing  at  her. 

“ Where  does  he  come  from  % ” he  went  on. 

“ From  nowhere.  He  has  spent  most  of  his  life  in  Italy.” 

“ You  said  in  your  letter  that  he  was  an  American.  Hasn’t 
he  a native  place  ? ” 

“Yes,  but  he  has  forgotten  it.  He  left  it  as  a small  boy.” 

“ Has  he  never  gone  back  1 ” 

“ Why  should  he  go  back  % ” Isabel  asked,  flushing  a little, 
and  defensively.  “ He  has  no  profession.” 

“ He  might  have  gone  back  for  his  pleasure.  Doesn’t  he  like 
the  United  States  1 ” 

“ He  doesn’t  know  them.  Then  he  is  very  simple — he  con 
*ents  himself  with  Italy.” 

“ With  Italy  and  with  you,”  said  Mr.  Goodwood,  with  gloomy 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


281 


plainness,  and  no  appearance  of  trying  to  make  an  epigram* 
“ What  has  he  ever  done?”  he  added,  abruptly. 

“ That  I should  marry  him  ? Nothing  at  all,”  Isabel  replied, 
with  a smile  that  had  gradually  become  a trifle  defiant.  “ If  he 
had  done  great  things  would  you  forgive  me  any  better?  Give 
me  up,  Mr.  Goodwood  ; I am  marrying  a nonentity.  Don't  try 
to  take  an  interest  in  him  ; you  can't.” 

“ I can't  appreciate  him ; that's  what  you  mean.  And  you 
don’t  mean  in  the  least  that  he  is  a nonentity.  You  think  he  is 
a great  man,  though  no  one  else  thinks  so.” 

Isabel’s  colour  deepened  ; she  thought  this  very  clever  of  her 
companion,  and  it  was  certainly  a proof  of  the  clairvoyance  of 
such  a feeling  as  his. 

“ Why  do  you  always  come  back  to  what  others  think  ? I 
can’t  discuss  Mr.  Osmond  with  you.” 

“ Of  course  not,”  said  Caspar,  reasonably. 

And  he  sat  there  with  his  air  of  stiff  helplessness,  as  if  not 
only  this  were  true,  but  there  were  nothing  else  that  they  might 
discuss. 

“You  see  how  little  you  gain,”  Isabel  broke  out — “ how  little 
comfort  or  satisfaction  I can  give  you.” 

“ I didn't  expect  you  to  give  me  much.” 

“ I don't  understand,  then,  why  you  came.” 

“ I came  because  I wanted  to  see  you  once  more — as  you  are.” 

“ I appreciate  that ; but  if  you  had  waited  a while,  sooner  or 
later  we  should  have  been  sure  to  meet,  and  our  meeting  would 
have  been  pleasanter  for  each  of  us  than  this.” 

“Waited  till  after  you  are  married?  That  is  just  what  I 
didn’t  want  to  do.  You  will  be  different  then.” 

“Wot  very.  I shall  still  be  a great  friend  of  yours.  You 
will  see.” 

“ That  will  make  it  all  the  worse,”  said  Mr.  Goodwood,  grimly. 

“ Ah,  you  are  unaccommodating  ! I can't  promise  to  dislike 
you,  in  order  to  help  you  to  resign  yourself.” 

“ I shouldn't  care  if  you  did  ! ” 

Isabel  got  up,  with  a movement  of  repressed  impatience,  and 
walked  to  the  window,  where  she  remained  a moment,  looking 
out.  When  she  turned  round,  her  visitor  was  still  motionless  in 
his  place.  She  came  towards  him  again  and  stopped,  resting 
her  hand  on  the  back  of  the  chair  she  had  just  quitted. 

“ Do  you  mean  you'bame  simply  to  look  at  me  ? That’s  better 
Cor  you,  perhaps,  than  for  me.” 

“ I wished  to  hear  the  sound  of  your  voice,”  said  Caspar. 

••  You  have  heard  it,  and  you  see  it  says  nothing  very  sweet* 

u 


too 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADF. 


“ It  gives  me  pleasure,  all  the  same/’ 

And  with  this  he  got  up. 

She  had  felt  pain  and  displeasure  when  she  received  that 
morning  the  note  in  which  he  told  her  that  he  was  in  Florence, 
and,  with  her  permission,  would  come  within  an  hour  to  see  her. 
She  had  been  vexed  and  distressed,  though  she  had  sent  hack  woid 
by  his  messenger  that  he  might  come  when  he  would.  She  had 
not  been  better  pleased  when  she  saw  him ; his  being  there  at 
all  was  so  full  of  implication.  It  implied  things  she  could  never 
assent  to — rights,  reproaches,  remonstrance,  rebuke,  the  expecta- 
tion of  making  her  change  her  purpose.  These  things,  however, 
if  implied,  had  not  been  expressed ; and  now  our  young  lady, 
strangely  enough,  began  to  resent  her  visitor’s  remarkable  self- 
control.  There  was  a dumb  misery  about  him  which  irritated 
her ; there  was  a manly  staying  of  his  hand  which  made  her 
heart  beat  faster.  She  felt  her  agitation  rising,  and  she  said  to 
herself  that  she  was  as  angry  as  a woman  who  had  been  in  the 
wrong.  She  was  not  in  the  wrong ; she  had  fortunately  not 
that  bitterness  to  swallow ; but,  all  the  same,  she  wished  he 
would  denounce  her  a little.  She  had  wished  his  visit  would  be 
short ; it  had  no  purpose,  no  propriety ; yet  now  that  he  seemed 
to  be  turning  away,  she  felt  a sudden  horror  of  his  leaving  her 
without  uttering  a word  that  would  give  her  an  opportunity  to 
defend  herself  more  than  she  had  done  in  writing  to  him  a 
month  before,  in  a few  carefully  chosen  words,  to  announce  her 
engagement.  If  she  were  not  in  the  wrong,  however,  why 
should  she  desire  to  defend  herself  ? It  was  an  excess  of  gener- 
osity on  Isabel’s  part  to  desire  that  Mr.  Goodwood  should  be 
angry. 

If  he  had  not  held  himself  hard  it  might  have  made  him  so  to 
hear  the  tone  in  which  she  suddenly  exclaimed,  as  if  she  were 
accusing  him  of  having  accused  her, 

“ 1 have  not  deceived  you  ! I was  perfectly  free  ! ” 

" Yes,  I know  that,”  said  Caspar. 

“I  gave  you  full  warning  that  I would  do  as  I chose.” 

“ You  said  you  would  probably  never  marry,  and  you  said  it 
bo  positively  that  I pretty  well  believed  it.” 

Isabel  was  silent  an  instant. 

“ No  one  can  be  more  surprised  than  myself  at  my  present 
Intention.” 

u You  told  me  that  if  I heard  you  were  engaged,  I was  not-  to 
believe  it,”  Caspar  went  on.  “ I heard  it  twenty  days  ago  from 
yourself,  but  I remembered  what  you  had  said.  I thought  then 
might  be  some  mistake,  and  that  is  partly  why  I came.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY.  1 


281 


4 If  yon  wish  me  to  repeat  it  by  word  of  mouth,  that  is  soai 
done.  There  is  no  mistake  at  all.” 

44  I saw  that  as  soon  as  I came  into  the  room.” 

44  What  good  would  it  do  you  that  I shouldn’t  marry  f * Isabel 
asked,  with  a certain  fierceness. 

44  I should  like  it  better  than  this.” 

44  You  are  very  selfish,  as  I said  before.” 

44 1 know  that.  I am  selfish  as  iron.” 

44  Even  iron  sometimes  melts.  If  you  will  be  reasonable  I 
wm  see  you  again.” 

44  Don’t  you  call  me  reasonable  now  1 ” 

44 1 don’t  know  what  to  say  to  you,”  she  answered,  with 
eudden  humility. 

44  I sha’n’t  trouble  you  for  a long  time,”  the  young  man  went 
on.  He  made  a step  towards  the  door,  but  he  stopped.  44  An- 
other reason  why  I came  was  that  I wanted  to  hear  what  you 
would  say  in  explanation  of  your  having  changed  your  mind.” 

Isabel’s  humbleness  as  suddenly  deserted  her. 

44  In  explanation  ] Do  you  think  I am  bound  to  explain  ? ” 

Caspar  gave  her  one  of  his  long  dumb  looks. 

44  You  were  very  positive.  I did  believe  it.” 

44  So  did  I.  Do  you  think  I could  explain  if  I would  1 ” 

44  Ho,  I suppose  not.  Well,”  he  added, 44 1 have  done  what  I 
wished.  • I have  seen  you.” 

44  How  little  you  make  of  these  terrible  journeys,”  Isabel 
murmured. 

44  If  you  are  afraid  I am  tired,  you  may  be  at  your  ease  about 
that.”  He  turned  away,  this  time  in  earnest,  and  no  hand- 
shake, no  sign  of  parting,  was  exchanged  between  them.  At 
the  door  he  stopped,  with  his  hand  on  the  knob.  44 1 shall 
leave  Florence  to-morrow,”  he  said. 

44 1 am  delighted  to  hear  it ! ” she  answered,  passionately. 
And  he  went  out.  Five  minutes  after  he  had  gone  she  burst 
into  tears. 


XXXIII. 

Her  fit  of  weeping,  however,  was  of  brief  duration,  and  the 
signs  of  it  had  vanished  when,  an  hour  later,  she  broke  the  news 
\o  her  aunt.  I use  this  expression  because  she  had  been  sure 
Mrs.  Touchett  would  not  be  pleased  ; Isabel  had  only  waited 
b tell  her  till  she  had  seen  Mr.  Goodwood.  She  had  an  odd 
Impression  that  it  would  not  be  honourable  to  make  the  fact 

U 2 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


public  before  she  should  have  heard  what  Mr.  Goodwccd  would 
say  about  it.  He  had  said  rather  less  than  she  expected,  and 
she  now  had  a somewhat  angry  sense  of  having  lost  time.  But 
she  would  lose  no  more;  she  waited  till  Mrs.  Touchett  came 
into  the  drawing-room  before  the  mid-day  breakfast,  and  then 
she  said  to  her — 

“Aunt  Lydia,  I have  something  to  tell  you.” 

Mrs.  Touchett  gave  a little  jump  and  looked  at  the  girl  almost 
fiercely. 

“ You  needn’t  tell  me ; I know  what  it  is.” 

“ I don’t  know  how  you  know.” 

“ The  same  way  that  I know  when  the  window  is  open — by 
feeling  a draught.  You  are  going  to  marry  that  man.” 

“ What  man  do  you  mean  1”  Isabel  inquired,  with  great  dignity. 

“ Madame  Merle’s  friend — Mr.  Osmond.” 

“ I don’t  know  why  you  call  him  Madame  Merle’s  friend.  Is 
that  the  principal  thing  he  is  known  by  ? ” 

“If  he  is  not  her  friend  he  ought  to  be— after  what  she  has 
done  for  him ! ” cried  Mrs.  Touchett.  “ I shouldn’t  have 
expected  it  of  her ; I am  disappointed.  ” 

“ If  you  mean  that  Madame  Merle  has  had  anything  to  do 
with  my  engagement  you  are  greatly  mistaken,”  Isabel  declared, 
with  a sort  of  ardent  coldness. 

“You  mean  that  your  attractions  were  sufficient,  without 
the  gentleman  being  urged  1 You  are  quite  right.  They  are 
immense,  your  attractions,  and  he  would  never  have  presumed 
to  think  of  you  if  she  had  not  put  him  up  to  it.  He  has  a very 
good  opinion  of  himself,  but  he  was  not  a man  to  take  trouble. 
Madame  Merle  took  the  trouble  for  him.” 

“ He  has  taken  a great  deal  for  himself  ! ” cried  Isabel,  with  a 
voluntary  laugh. 

Mrs.  Touchett  gave  a sharp  nod. 

“ I think  he  must,  after  all,  to  have  made  you  like  him.” 

“ I thought  you  liked  him  yourself.” 

“ I did,  and  that  is  why  I am  angry  with  him.” 

“ Be  angry  with  me,  not  with  him,”  said  the  girl. 

“ Oh,  I am  always  angry  with  you ; that’s  no  satisfaction ! 
Was  it  for  this  that  you  refused  Lord  Warburton  ? ” 

“ Please  don’t  go  back  to  that.  Why  shouldn’t  I like  Mi. 
Osmond,  since  you  did  ? ” 

“ I never  wanted  to  marry  him  ; there  is  nothing  of  him.” 

“ Then  he  can’t  hurt  me,”  said  Isabel. 

“Ho  you  think  you  are  going  to  be  happy?  one  ia 

happy.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


m 


" I shall  set  the  fashion  then.  What  does  one  mairy  for?  ” 

“ What  you  will  marry  for,  heaven  only  knows.  People 
usually  marry  as  they  go  into  partnership — to  set  up  a house. 
But  in  your  partnership  you  will  bring  everything.” 

“ Is  it  that  Mr.  Osmond  is  not  rich  ? Is  that  what  you  are 
talking  about  ? ” Isabel  asked. 

“ He  has  no  money ; he  has  no  name ; he  has  no  importance. 
I value  such  things  and  I have  the  courage  to  say  it ; I think 
they  are  very  precious.  Many  other  people  think  the  same,  and 
they  show  it.  But  they  give  some  other  reason  ! ” 

Isabel  hesitated  a little. 

“ I think  I value  everything  that  is  valuable.  I care  very  much 
for  money,  and  that  is  why  I wish  Mr.  Osmond  to  have  some.” 

“ Give  it  to  him,  then ; but  marry  some  one  else.” 

“ His  name  is  good  enough  for  me,”  the  girl  went  on.  “ It’s 
a very  pretty  name.  Have  I such  a fine  one  myself  ? ” 

“ All  the  more  reason  you  should  improve  on  it.  There  are 
only  a dozen  American  names.  Do  you  marry  him  out  of 
charity  ? ” 

“ It  was  my  duty  to  tell  you,  Aunt  Lydia,  but  I don’t  think 
it  is  my  duty  to  explain  to  you.  Even  if  it  were,  I shouldn’t 
be  able.  So  please  don’t  remonstrate  ; in  talking  about  it  you 
have  me  at  a disadvantage.  I can’t  talk  about  it.” 

“ I don’t  remonstrate,  I simply  answer  you ; I must  give 
some  sign  of  intelligence.  I saw  it  coming,  and  I said  nothing. 
I never  meddle.” 

“ You  never  do,  and  I am  greatly  obliged  to  you.  You  have 
been  very  considerate.” 

“It  was  not  considerate — it  was  convenient,”  said  Mrs. 
Touchett.  " But  I shall  talk  to  Madame  Merle.” 

“ I don’t  see  why  you  keep  bringing  her  in.  She  has  been  a 
very  good  friend  to  me.” 

“ Possibly  ; but  she  has  been  a poor  one  to  me.” 

“ What  has  she  done  to  you  ? ” 

“ She  has  deceived  me.  She  had  as  good  as  promised  me  to 
prevent  your  engagement.” 

“ She  couldn’t  have  prevented  it.” 

“ She  can  do  anything ; that  is  what  I have  always  liked  her 
for.  I knew  she  could  play  any  part;  but  I understood  that 
she  played  them  one  by  one.  1 didn’t  understand  that  she 
would  play  two  at  the  same  time.” 

“ I don’t  know  what  part  she  may  have  played  to  you,”  Isabel 
laid  ; “ that  is  between  yourselves.  To  me  she  has  been  honesty 
wad  kind,  and  devoted.” 


294 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


“ Devoted,  of  course ; she  wished  you  to  marry  her  candi 
date.  She  told  me  that  she  was  watching  you  only  in  order 
interpose.” 

“ She  said  that  to  please  you,”  the  girl  answered ; conscious 
however,  of  the  inadequacy  of  the  explanation. 

“ To  please  me  by  deceiving  met  She  know?  me  better.  Am 
I pleased  to-day  1 ” 

“ I don’t  think  you  are  ever  much  pleased,”  Isabel  wag 
obliged  to  reply.  “ If  Madame  Merle  knew  you  would  learn 
the  truth,  what  had  she  to  gain  by  insincerity  1 ” 

“ She  gained  time,  as  you  see.  While  I waited  for  her  to 
interfere  you  were  marching  away,  and  she  was  really  beating 
the  drum.” 

“ That  is  very  well.  But  by  your  own  admission  you  saw  I 
was  marching,  and  even  if  she  had  given  the  alarm  you  would 
not  have  tried  to  stop  me.” 

“ No,  but  some  one  else  would.” 

“ Whom  do  you  mean  1 ” Isabel  asked,  looking  very  hard  at 
her  aunt. 

Mrs.  Touchett’s  little  bright  eyes,  active  as  they  usually  were, 
sustained  her  gaze  rather  than  returned  it. 

“ Would  you  have  listened  to  Balph  1 ” 

“ Not  if  he  had  abused  Mr.  Osmond.” 

“ Balph  doesn’t  abuse  people ; you  know  that  perfectly.  He 
cares  very  much  for  you.”  s 

“ I know  he  does,”  said  Isabel ; “ and  I shall  feel  the  value  of 
it  now,  for  he  knows  that  whatever  I do  I do  with  reason/ * 
lt  He  never  believed  you  would  do  this.  I told  him  you  were 
capable  of  it,  and  he  argued  the  other  way.” 

“ He  did  it  for  the  sake  of  argument,”  said  Isabel,  smiling. 
‘ You  don’t  accuse  him  of  having  deceived  you ; why  should 
you  accuse  Madame  Merle  ? ” 

“ He  never  pretended  he  would  prevent  it.” 

“ I am  glad  of  that ! ” cried  the  girl,  gaily.  “ I wish  very 
much,”  she  presently  added,  “ that  when  he  comes  you  would 
tell  him  first  of  my  engagement.” 

“ Of  course  I will  mention  it,”  said  Mrs.  Touchett.  “ I will 
gay  nothing  more  to  you  about  it,  but  I give  you  notice  I will 
talk  to  others. ” 

“ That’s  as  you  please.  I only  meant  that  it  is  rather  better 
the  announcement  should  come  from  you  than  from  me.” 

“ I quite  agree  with  you ; it  is  much  more  proper ! ” 

And  on  this  the  two  ladies  went  to  breakfast,  where  Mrs. 
Touchett  was  as  good  as  her  word,  and  made  no  allusim  t« 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


205 


Gilbert  Osmond.  After  an  interval  of  silence,  however,  she 
asked  her  companion  from  whom  she  had  received  a visit  an 
hour  before. 

44  From  an  old  friend — an  American  gentleman,”  Isabel  said, 
with  a colour  in  her  cheek. 

“ An  American,  of  course.  It  is  only  an  American  that  calls 
at  ten  o’clock  in  the  morning.” 

44  It  was  half-past  ten ; he  was  in  a great  hurry ; he  goes 
away  this  evening.” 

44  Couldn’t  he  have  come  yesterday,  at  the  usual  time  ? ” 

44  He  only  arrived  last  night.” 

44  He  spends  but  twenty-four  hours  in  Florence?”  Mrs. 
Touchett  cried.  44  He’s  an  American  truly.” 

44  He  is  indeed,”  said  Isabel,  thinking  with  a perverse  admir- 
ation of  what  Caspar  Goodwood  had  done  for  her. 

Two  days  afterward  Ealph  arrived;  but  though  Isabel  was 
sure  that  Mrs.  Touchett  had  lost  no  time  in  telling  him  the 
news,  he  betrayed  at  first  no  knowledge  of  the  great  fact.  Their 
first  talk  was  naturally  about  his  health ; Isabel  had  many  ques- 
tions to  ask  about  Corfu.  She  had  been  shocked  by  his  appear- 
ance when  he  came  into  the  room  ; she  had  forgotten  how  ill  he 
looked.  In  spite  of  Corfu,  he  looked  very  ill  to-day,  and  Isabel 
wondered  whether  he  were  really  worse  or  whether  she  was 
simply  disaccustomed  to  living  with  an  invalid.  Poor  Ealph. 
grew  no  handsomer  as  he  advanced  in  life,  and  the  now  ap- 
parently complete  loss  of  his  health  had  done  little  to  mitigate 
the  natural  oddity  of  his  person.  His  face  wore  its  pleasant 
perpetual  smile,  which  perhaps  suggested  wit  rather  than  achieved 
it ; his  thin  whisker  languished  upon  a lean  cheek ; the  exor- 
bitant curve  of  his  nose  defined  itself  more  sharply.  Lean  he 
was  altogether ; lean  and  long  and  loose-jointed ; an  accidental 
cohesion  of  relaxed  angles.  Ifis  brown  velvet  jacket  had 
become  perennial ; his  hands  had  fixed  themselves  in  his 
pockets ; he  shambled,  and  stumbled,  and  shuffled,  in  a manner 
that  denoted  great  physical  helplessness.  It  was  perhaps  this 
whimsical  gait  that  helped  to  mark  his  character  more  than 
ever  as  that  of  the  humorous  invalid — the  invalid  for  whom 
even  his  own  disabilities  are  part  of  the  general  joke.  They 
might'  well  indeed  with  Ealph  have  been  the  chief  cause  of 
the  want  of  seriousness  with  which  he  appeared  to  regard  a 
world  in  which  the  reason  for  his  own  presence  was  past 
finding  out.  Isabel  had  grown  fond  of  his  ugliness ; his 
awkwardness  had  become  dear  to  her.  These  things  were 
endeared  by  association;  they  struck  her  as  the  conditions  of 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


his  being  so  charming.  Ralph  was  so  charming  that  her  sense 
of  his  being  ill  had  hitherto  had  a sort  of  comfort  in  it;  the 
state  of  his  health  had  seemed  not  a limitation,  but  a kind  of 
intellectual  advantage;  it  absolved  him  from  all  professional 
and  official  emotions  and  left  him  the  luxury  of  being  simply 
personal.  This  personality  of  Ralph's  was  delightful ; it  had 
none  of  the  staleness  of  disease ; it  was  always  easy  and  fresh 
and  genial.  Such  had  been  the  girl's  impression  of  her  cousin  ; 
and  when  she  had  pitied  him  it  was  only  on  reflection.  As  she 
reflected  a good  deal  she  had  given  him  a certain  amount  of 
compassion ; but  Isabel  always  had  a dread  of  wasting  compassion 
— a precious  article,  worth  more  to  the  giver  than  to  any  one  else. 
"Now,  however,  it  took  no  great  ingenuity  to  discover  that  poor 
Ralph's  tenure  of  life  was  less  elastic  than  it  should  be.  He  was 
a dear,  bright,  generous  fellow ; he  had  all  the  illumination  of 
wisdom  and  none  of  its  pedantry,  and  yet  he  was  dying.  Isabel 
said  to  herself  that  life  was  certainly  hard  for  some  people,  and 
she  felt  a delicate  glow  of  shame  as  she  thought  how  easy  it  now 
promised  to  become  for  herself.  She  was  prepared  to  learn  that 
Ralph  was  not  pleased  with  her  engagement ; but  she  was  not  pre- 
pared, in  spite  of  her  affection  for  her  cousin,  to  let  this  fact  spoil 
the  situation.  She  was  not  even  prepared — or  so  she  thought — 
to  resent  his  want  of  sympathy ; for  it  would  be  his  privilege — 
it  would  be  indeed  his  natural  line — to  find  fault  with  any  step 
she  might  take  toward  marriage.  One’s  cousin  always  pretended 
to  hate  one's  husband ; that  was  traditional,  classical ; it  was  a 
part  of  one’s  cousin’s  always  pretending  to  adore  one.  Ralph  was 
nothing  if  not  critical ; and  though  she  would  certainly,  other 
things  being  equal,  have  been  as  glad  to  marry  to  please  Ralph 
as  to  please  any  one,  it  would  be  absurd  to  think  it  important 
that  her  choice  should  square  with  his  views.  What  were  his 
views,  after  all?  He  had  pretended  to  think  she  had  better 
marry  Lord  Warburton ; but  this  was  only  because  she  had  re- 
fused that  excellent  man.  If  she  had  accepted  him  Ralph  would 
certainly  have  taken  another  tone ; he  always  took  the  opposite 
one.  You  could  criticise  any  marriage  ; it  was  the  essence  of 
a marriage  to  be  open  to  criticism.  How  well  she  herself,  if  she 
would  only  give  her  mind  to  it,  might  criticise  this  union  of 
her  own  1 She  had  other  employment,  however,  and  Ralph  was 
welcome  to  relieve  her  of  the  care.  Isabel  was  prepared  to  be 
wonderfully  good-humoured. 

He  must  have  seen  that,  and  this  made  it  the  more  odd  that 
he  snould  say  nothing.  After  three  days  had  elapsed  without 
his  speaking,  Isabel  became  impatient;  dislike  it  as  he  would 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY  ’ 


297 

he  might  at  least  go  through  the  form.  We  who  know  more 
about  poor  Ealph  than  his  cousin,  may  easily  believe  that  during 
the  hours  that  followed  his  arrival  at  the  Palazzo  Crescentini, 
he  had  privately  gone  through  many  forms.  His  mother  had 
literally  greeted  him  with  the  great  news,  which  was  even  more 
sensibly  chilling  than  Mrs.  Touchett’s  maternal  kiss.  Ealph 
was  shocked  and  humiliated  ; his  calculations  had  been  false, 
and  his  cousin  was  lost.  He  drifted  about  the  house  like  a 
rudderless  vessel  in  a rocky  stream,  or  sat  in  the  garden  of  the 
palace  in  a great  cane  chair,  with  his  long  legs  extended,  his 
head  thrown  back,  and  his  hat  pulled  over  his  eyes.  He  felt 
cold  about  the  heart ; he  had  never  liked  anything  less.  What 
could  he  do,  what  could  he  say  1 If  Isabel  were  irreclaimable, 
could  he  pretend  to  like  it  1 To  attempt  to  reclaim  her  was 
permissible  only  if  the  attempt  should  succeed.  To  try  to  per* 
suade  her  that  the  man  to  whom  she  had  pledged  her  faith  was 
a humbug  would  be  decently  discreet  only  in  the  event  of  her 
being  persuaded.  Otherwise  he  should  simply  have  damned 
himself.  It  cost  him  an  equal  effort  to  speak  his  thought  and 
to  dissemble ; he  oould  neither  assent  with  sincerity  nor  protest 
with  hope.  Meanwhile  he  knew — or  rather  he  supposed — that 
the  affianced  pair  were  daily  renewing  their  mutual  vows. 
Osmond,  at  this  moment,  showed  himself  little  at  the  Palazzo 
Crescentini;  but  Isabel  met  him  every  day  elsewhere,  as  she 
was  free  to  do  after  their  engagement  had  been  made  public. 
She  had  taken  a carriage  by  the  month,  so  as  not  to  be  indebted 
to  her  aunt  for  the  means  of  pursuing  a course  of  which  Mrs. 
Touchett  disapproved,  and  she  drove  in  the  morning  to  the 
Cascine.  This  suburban  wilderness,  during  the  early  hours,  was 
void  of  all  intruders,  and  our  young  lady,  joined  by  her  lover  in 
its  quietest  part,  strolled  with  him  a while  in  the  grey  Italian 
shade  and  listened  to  the  nightingales. 


XXXIV. 


One  morning,  on  her  return  from  her  drive,  some  half-hour 
before  luncheon,  she  quitted  her  vehicle  in  the  court  of  the 
palace,  and  instead  of  ascending  the  great  staircase,  crossed  the 
court,  passed  beneath  another  archway,  and  entered  the  garden. 
A sweeter  spot,  at  this  moment,  could  not  have  been  imagined. 
The  stillness  of  noontide  hung  over  it ; the  warm  shade  was 
motionless,  and  the  hot  light  made  it  pleasant.  Ealph  waa 


898 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


sitting  there  in  the  clear  gloom,  at  the  base  of  a statue  of 
Terpsichore — a dancing  nymph  with  taper  fingers  and  inflated 
draperies,  in  the  manner  of  Bernini ; the  extreme  relaxation  of 
his  attitude  suggested  at  first  to  Isabel  that  he  was  asleep.  Her 
light  footstep  on  the  grass  had  not  roused  him,  and  before  turn- 
ing away  she  stood  for  a moment  looking  at  him.  During  this 
instant  he  opened  his  eyes  ; upon  which  she  sat  down  on  a rustic 
chair  that  matched  with  his  own.  Though  in  her  irritation  she 
had  accused  him  of  indifference,  she  was  not  blind  to  the  fact 
that  he  was  visibly  preoccupied.  But  she  had  attributed  his 
long  reveries  partly  to  the  languor  of  his  increased  weakness, 
partly  to  his  being  troubled  about  certain  arrangements  he  had 
made  as  to  the  property  inherited  from  his  father — arrangements 
of  which  Mrs.  Touchett  disapproved,  and  which,  as  she  had  told 
Isabel,  now  encountered  opposition  from  the  other  partners  in 
the  bank.  He  ought  to  have  gone  to  England,  his  mother  said, 
instead  of  coming  to  Florence  ; he  had  not  been  there  for  months, 
and  he  took  no  more  interest  in  the  bank  than  in  the  state  of 
Patagonia. 

“ I am  sorry  I waked  you,”  Isabel  said  ; “ you  look  tired.” 

“I  feel  tired.  But  I was  not  asleep.  I was  thinking  of 
jcu.” 

“ Are  you  tired  of  that  1 ” 

“ Very  much  so.  It  leads  to  nothing.  The  road  is  long  and 
I never  arrive.” 

“What  do  you  wish  to  arrive  at?”  Isabel  said,  closing  her 
parasol 

“ At  the  point  of  expressing  to  myself  properly  what  I think 
of  your  engagement.” 

“ Don’t  think  too  much  of  it,”  said  Isabel,  lightly. 

“ Do  you  mean  that  it’s  none  of  my  business  1 ” 

“ Beyond  a certain  point,  yes.” 

“ That’s  the  point  I wish  to  fix.  I had  an  idea  that  you  have 
found  me  wanting  in  good  manners ; I have  never  congratulated 
you.” 

“ Of  course  I have  noticed  that ; I wondered  why  you  were 
silent.” 

“ There  have  been  a good  many  reasons ; I will  tell  you 
now,”  said  Ralph. 

He  pulled  off  his  hat  and  laid  it  on  the  ground ; then  he  sat 
looking  at  her.  He  leaned  back,  with  his  head  against  the 
marble  pedestal  of  Terpsichore,  his  arms  dropped  on  either  side 
of  him,  his  hands  laid  upon  the  sides  of  his  wide  chair.  He 
looked  awkward,  uncomfortable ; he  hesitated  for  a long  time. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


299 


Isabel  said  nothing;  when  people  were  embarrassed  she  was 
usually  sorry  for  them ; hut  she  was  determined  not  to  help 
Ralph  to  utter  a word  that  should  not  he  to  the  honour  of  her 
ingenious  purpose. 

“ I think  I have  hardly  got  over  my  surprise,”  he  said  at  last. 
“ You  were  the  last  person  I expected  to  see  caught.” 

“ I don’t  know  why  you  call  it  caught.” 

“ Because  you  are  going  to  he  put  into  a cage.” 

“ If  I like  my  cage,  that  needn’t  trouble  you,”  said  Isabel. 

“That’s  what  I wonder  at;  that’s  what  I have  been  thinking  of.” 

“If  you  have  been  thinking,  you  may  imagine  how  I have 
thought ! I am  satisfied  that  I am  doing  well.” 

“ You  must  have  changed  immensely.  A year  ago  you 
valued  your  liberty  beyond  everything.  You  wanted  only  to 
eee  life.” 

“ I have  seen  it,”  said  Isabel.  “ It  doesn’t  seem  to  me  so 
charming.” 

“ I don’t  pretend  it  is  ; only  I had  an  idea  that  you  took  a 
genial  view  of  it  and  wanted  to  survey  the  whole  field.” 

“ I have  seen  that  one  can’t  do  that.  One  must  choose  a 
corner  and  cultivate  that.” 

“ That’s  what  I think.  And  one  must  choose  a good  corner. 
I had  no  idea,  all  winter,  while  I read  your  delightful  letters, 
that  you  were  choosing.  You  said  nothing  about  it,  and  your 
silence  put  me  off  my  guard.” 

“ It  was  not  a matter  I was  likely  to  write  to  you  about. 
Besides,  I knew  nothing  of  the  future.  It  has  all  come  lately. 
If  you  had  been  on  your  guard,  however,”  Isabel  asked,  “ what 
would  you  have  done  ? ” 

“ I should  have  said — ‘ Wait  a little  longer.’  ” 

“ Wait  for  what  1 ” 

“Well,  for  a little  more  light,”  said  Ralph,  with  a rather 
absurd  smile,  while  his  hands  found  their  way  into  his  pockets, 

“Where  should  my  light  have  come  from?  From  you?” 

“ I might  have  struck  a spark  or  two  ! ” 

Isabel  had  drawn  off  her  gloves ; she  smoothed  them  out  aa 
they  lay  upon  her  knee.  The  gentleness  of  this  movement  was 
accidental,  for  her  expression  was  not  conciliatory. 

“You  are  beating  about  the  bush,  Ralph.  You  wish  to  say 
that  you  don’t  like  Mr.  Osmond,  and  yet  you  are  afraid.” 

“ 1 am  afraid  of  you,  not  of  him.  If  you  marry  him  it  won’t 
be  a nice  thing  to  have  said.” 

“If  I marry  him  ! Have  you  had  any  expectation  of  dissu&d 
teg  ms  1 ” 


800 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


•*  Of  course  that  seems  to  you  too  fatuous.” 

“ No,”  said  Isabel,  after  a little  ; “ it  seems  to  me  touching  n 

“ That’s  the  same  thing.  It  makes  me  so  ridiculous  that  you 
pity  me.” 

Isabel  stroked  out  her  long  gloves  again. 

‘ 1 1 know  you  have  a great  affection  for  me.  I can’t  get  rid  oi 
that.” 

“ For  heaven’s  sake  don’t  try.  Keep  that  well  in  sight.  It 
will  convince  you  how  intensely  I want  you  to  do  well.” 

“ And  how  little  you  trust  me  ! ” 

There  was  a moment’s  silence  ; the  warm  noon-tide  seemed  to 
listen. 

“ I trust  you,  but  I don’t  trust  him,”  said  Ralph. 

Isabel  raised  her  eyes  and  gave  him  a wide,  deep  look. 

“ You  have  said  it  now;  you  will  suffer  for  it.” 

“ Not  if  you  are  just.” 

“ I am  very  just,”  said  Isabel.  “ What  better  proof  of  it  can 
there  be  than  that  I am  not  angry  with  you]  I don’t  know 
what  is  the  matter  with  me,  but  I am  not.  I was  when  you 
began,  but  it  has  passed  away.  Perhaps  I ought  to  be  angry, 
but  Mr.  Osmond  wouldn’t  think  so.  He  wants  me  to  know 
everything ; that’s  what  I like  him  for.  You  have  nothing  to 
gain,  I know  that.  I have  never  been  so  nice  to  you,  as  a girl, 
that  you  should  have  much  reason  for  wishing  me  to  remain  one. 
You  give  very  good  advice ; you  have  often  done  so.  No,  I am 
very  quiet ; I have  always  believed  in  your  wisdom,”  Isabel 
went  on,  boasting  of  her  quietness,  yet  speaking  with  a kind  of 
contained  exaltation.  It  was  her  passionate  desire  to  be  just ; 
it  touched  Ralph  to  the  heart,  affected  him  like  a caress  from  a 
creature  he  had  injured.  He  wished  to  interrupt,  to  reassure, 
her ; for  a moment  he  was  absurdly  inconsistent ; he  would  have 
retracted  what  he  had  said.  But  she  gave  him  no  chance  ; she 
went  on,  having  caught  a glimpse,  as  she  thought,  of  the  heroic 
line,  and  desiring  to  advance  in  that  direction.  “ I see  you  have 
got  some  idea ; I should  like  very  much  to  hear  it.  I am  sure 
it’s  disinterested ; I feel  that.  It  seems  a strange  thing  to  argue 
about,  and  of  course  I ought  to  tell  you  definitely  that  if  you 
expect  to  dissuade  me  you  may  give  it  up.  You  will  not  move 
me  at  all ; it  is  too  late.  As  you  say,  I am  caught.  Certainly 
it  won’t  be  pleasant  for  you  to  remember  this,  but  your  pain 
will  be  in  your  own  thoughts.  I shall  never  reproach  you.” 

“ I don’t  think  you  ever  will,”  said  Ralph.  “It  is  not  in  the 
least  the  sort  of  marriage  I thought  you  would  make.” 

“ What  sort  of  marriage  was  that,  pray  I ” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


301 


“,Well,  I can  hardly  say.  I hadn’t  exactly  a positive  view 
of  it,  but  I had  a negative.  I didn’t  think  you  would  marry  % 
man  like  Mr.  Osmond.” 

“ What  do  you  know  against  him  ? You  know  him  scarcely 
at  all.” 

“ Yes,”  Ralph  said,  “I  know  him  very  little,  and  I know 
nothing  against  him.  But  all  the  same  I can’t  help  feeling  that 
you  are  running  a risk.” 

“ Marriage  is  always  a risk,  and  his  risk  is  as  great  as  mine.” 

“ That’s  his  affair ! If  he  is  afraid,  let  him  recede ; I wish 
he  would.” 

Isabel  leaned  back  in  her  chair,  folded  her  arms,  and  gazed  a 
while  at  her  cousin. 

“ I don’t  think  I understand  you,”  she  said  at  last,  coldly, 
1 I don’t  know  what  you  are  talking  about.” 

“ I thought  you  would  marry  a man  of  more  importance.” 

Cold,  I say,  her  tone  had  been,  but  at  this  a colour  like  a 
flame  leaped  into  her  face. 

“ Of  more  importance  to  whom?  It  seems  to  me  enough  that 
one’s  husband  should  be  important  to  one’s  self ! ” 

Ralph  blushed  as  well ; his  attitude  embarrassed  him.  Physic- 
ally speaking,  he  proceeded  to  change  it ; he  straightened  him- 
self, then  leaned  forward,  resting  a hand  on  each  knee.  He 
fixed  his  eyes  on  the  ground ; he  had  an  air  of  the  most  respectful 
deliberation. 

“ I will  tell  you  in  a moment  what  I mean,”  he  presently 
said.  He  felt  agitated,  intensely  eager  ; now  that  he  had  opened 
the  discussion  he  wished  to  discharge  his  mind.  But  he  wished 
also  to  be  superlatively  gentle. 

Isabel  waited  a little,  and  then  she  went  on,  with  majesty. 

“ In  everything  that  makes  one  care  for  people,  Mr.  Osmond 
is  pre-eminent.  There  may  be  nobler  natures,  but  I have  never 
had  the  pleasure  of  meeting  one.  Mr.  Osmond  is  the  best  I 
know  ; he  is  important  enough  for  me.” 

“ I had  a sort  of  vision  of  your  future,”  Ralph  said,  without 
answering  this  ; “I  amused  myself  with  planning  out  a kind  of 
destiny  for  you.  There  was  to  be  nothing  of  this  sort  in  it. 
You  were  not  to  come  down  so  easily,  so  soon.” 

“To  come  down  ? What  strange  expressions  you  use  ! Ia 
that  your  description  of  my  marriage  ? ” 

“ It  expresses  my  idea  of  it.  You  seemed  to  me  to  be  soaring 
far  up  in  the  blue — to  be  sailing  in  the  bright  light,  over  the 
neads  of  men.  Suddenly  some  one  tosses  up  a faded  rosebud — * 
a missile  that  should  never  have  reached  you — and  down  you 


m 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


drop  to  the  ground.  It  hurts  me,”  said  Ralph,  audaciously,  44  as 
if  l had  fallen  myself ! ” 

The  look  of  pain  and  bewilderment  deepened  in  hijg  com- 
panion’s face. 

“ I don’t  understand  you  in  the  least,”  she  repeated.  44  You 
say  you  amused  yourself  with  planning  out  my  future — I don’t 
understand  that.  Don’t  amuse  yourself  too  much,  or  I shall 
think  you  are  doing  it  at  my  expense.” 

Ralph  shook  his  head. 

44  I am  not  afraid  of  your  not  believing  that  I have  had  great 
ideas  for  you.” 

4 4 What  do  you  mean  by  my  soaring  and  sailing?”  the  girl 
asked.  44 1 have  never  moved  on  a higher  line  than  I am  moving 
cn  now.  There  is  nothing  higher  for  a girl  than  to  marry  a — a 
person  she  likes,”  said  poor  Isabel,  wandering  into  the  didactic. 

44  It’s  your  liking  the  person  we  speak  of  that  I venture  to 
criticise,  my  dear  Isabel ! I should  have  said  that  the  man  for 
you  would  have  been  a more  active,  larger,  freer  sort  of  nature.” 
Ralph  hesitated  a moment,  then  he  added,  44 1 can’t  get  over  the 
belief  that  there’s  something  small  in  Osmond.” 

He  had  uttered  these  last  words  with  a tremor  of  the  voice ; 
he  was  afraid  that  she  would  flash  out  again.  But  to  his  surprise 
she  was  quiet : she  had  the  air  of  considering. 

44  Something  small  ? ” she  said  reflectively. 

44 1 think  he’s  narrow,  selfish.  He  takes  himself  so  seriously!” 

44  He  has  a great  respect  for  himself ; I don’t  blame  him  for 
that,”  said  Isabel.  44  It’s  the  proper  way  to  respect  others.” 

Ralph  for  a moment  felt  almost  reassured  by  her  reasonable 
tone. 

44  Yes,  but  everything  is  relative ; one  ought  to  feel  cue’s 
relations.  I don’t  think  Mr.  Osmond  does  that.” 

44 1 have  chiefly  to  do  with  the  relation  in  which  he  stands  to 
me.  In  that  he  is  excellent.” 

44  He  is  the  incarnation  of  taste,*  Ralph  went  on,  thinking 
hard  how  he  could  best  express  Gilbert  Osmond’s  sinister  attri- 
butes without  putting  himself  in  the  wrong  by  seeming  to 
describe  him  coarsely.  He  wished  to  describe  him  impersonally, 
scientifically.  44  He  j udges  and  measures,  approves  and  condemns, 
altogether  by  that.” 

44  It  is  a happy  thing  then  that  his  tastes  should  be  exquisite." 

44  It  is  exquisite,  indeed,  since  it  has  led  him  to  select  you  as 
his  wife.  But  have  you  ever  seen  an  exquisite  taste  ruffled  ? ” 

44 1 hope  it  may  never  be  my  fortune  to  fail  to  gratify  mj 
husband’s.” 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


m 

At  these  words  a sudden  passion  leaped  to  Ealph’s  lips,  “Ah, 
that’s  wilful,  that’s  unworthy  of  you  ! ” he  cried.  “ You  were 
not  meant  to  be  measured  in  that  way — you  were  meant  foi 
something  better  than  to  keep  guard  over  the  sensibilities  of  a 
sterile  dilettante  ! ” 

Isabel  rose  quickly  and  Ealph  did  the  same,  so  that  they  stood 
for  a moment  looking  at  each  other  as  if  he  had  flung  down  a 
dsfiance  or  an  insult. 

“ You  go  too  far,”  she  murmured. 

“ I have  said  what  I had  on  my  mind — and  I have  said  it 
because  I love  you  ! ” 

Isabel  turned  pale : was  he  too  on  that  tiresome  list  ? She 
had  a sudden  wish  to  strike  him  off.  “ Ah  then,  you  are  not 
disinterested ! ” 

“ I love  you,  but  I love  without  hope,”  said  Ealph,  quickly, 
forcing  a smile,  and  feeling  that  in  that  last  declaration  he  had 
expressed  more  than  he  intended. 

Isabel  moved  away  and  stood  looking  into  the  sunny  stillness 
of  the  garden  ; but  after  a little  she  turned  back  to  him.  “ I 
am  afraid  your  talk,  then,  is  the  wildness  of  despair.  I don’t 
understand  it — but  it  doesn’t  matter.  I am  not  arguing  with 
you  ; it  is  impossible  that  I should ; I have  only  tried  to  listen 
to  you.  I am  much  obliged  to  you  for  attempting  to  explain,” 
she  said  gently,  as  if  the  anger  with  which  she  had  just  sprung 
up  had  already  subsided.  “It  is  very  good  of  you  to  try  to 
warn  me,  if  you  are  really  alarmed.  But  I won’t  promise  to 
think  of  what  you  have  said  ; I shall  forget  it  as  soon  as  possible. 
Try  and  forget  it  yourself ; you  have  done  your  duty,  and  no 
man  can  do  more.  I can’t  explain  to  you  what  I feel,  what  I 
believe,  and  I wouldn’t  if  I could.”  She  paused  a moment,  and 
then  she  went  on,  with  an  inconsequence  that  Ealph  observed 
even  in  the  midst  of  his  eagerness  to  discover  some  symptom  of 
concession.  “ I can’t  enter  into  your  idea  of  Mr.  Osmond ; I 
can’t  do  it  justice,  because  I see  him  in  quite  another  way.  He 
is  not  important— no,  he  is  not  important ; he  is  a man  to  whom 
importance  is  supremely  indifferent.  If  that  is  what  you  mean 
when  you  call  him  4 small,’  then  he  is  as  small  as  you  please.  I 
call  that  large — it’s  the  largest  thing  I know.  I won’t  pretend 
to  argue  with  you  about  a person  I am  going  to  marry,”  Isabel 
repeated.  44  I am  not  in  the  least  concerned  to  defend  Mr. 
Osmond  ; he  is  not  so  weak  as  to  need  my  defence.  I should 
think  it  would  seem  strange,  even  to  yourself,  that  I should  talk 
of  him  so  quietly  and  coldly,  as  if  he  weie  any  one  else.  I would 
not  tai  k of  him  at  all,  to  any  one  but  you ; and  you,  after  what 


$04 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


you  have  said  -x  may  just  answer  you  once  for  all.  Pray,  would 
you  wish  me  to  make  a mercenary  marriage — what  they  call  a 
marriage  of  ambition  ] I have  only  one  ambition — to  be  free  to 
follow  out  a good  feeling.  I had  others  once  ; but  they  have 
passed  away.  Do  you  complain  of  Mr.  Osmond  because  he  is 
not  rich  ? That  is  just  what  I like  him  for.  I have  fortunately 
money  enough ; I have  never  felt  so  thankful  for  it  as  to-day. 
There  have  been  moments  when  I should  like  to  go  and  kneel 
down  by  your  father’s  grave ; he  did  perhaps  a better  thing  than 
he  knew  when  he  put  it  into  my  power  to  marry  a poor  man — a 
man  who  has  borne  his  poverty  with  such  dignity,  with  such 
indifference.  Mr.  Osmond  has  never  scrambled  nor  struggled — 
he  has  cared  for  no  worldly  prize.  If  that  is  to  be  narrow,  if 
that  is  to  be  selfish,  then  it’s  very  well.  I am  not  frightened  by 
such  words,  I am  not  even  displeased  ; I am  only  sorry  that  you 
should  make  a mistake.  Others  might  have  done  so,  but  I am 
surprised  that  you  should.  You  might  know  a gentleman  when 
you  see  one — you  might  know  a fine  mind.  Mr.  Osmond  makes 
no  mistakes  ! He  knows  everything,  he  understands  everything, 
he  has  the  kindest,  gentlest,  highest  spirit.  You  have  got  hold 
of  some  false  idea  ; it’s  a pity,  but  I can’t  help  it ; it  regards  you 
more  than  me.”  Isabel  paused  a moment,  looking  at  her  cousin 
with  an  eye  illuminated  by  a sentiment  which  contradicted  the 
careful  calmness  of  her  manner — a mingled  sentiment,  to  which 
the  angry  pain  excited  by  his  words  and  the  wounded  pride  of 
having  needed  to  justify  a choice  of  which  she  felt  only  the 
nobleness  and  purity,  equally  contributed.  Though  she  paused, 
Ralph  said  nothing ; he  saw  she  had  more  to  say.  She  was 
superb,  but  she  was  eager;  she  was  indifferent,  but  she  was 
secretly  trembling.  “ What  sort  of  a person  should  you  have 
liked  me  to  marry  $ ” she  asked,  suddenly.  “ You  talk  about 
one’s  soaring  and  sailing,  but  if  one  marries  at  all  one  touches 
the  earth.  One  has  human  feelings  and  needs,  one  has  a heart 
in  one’s  bosom,  and  one  must  marry  a particular  individual. 
Your  mother  has  never  forgiven  me  for  not  having  come  to  a 
better  understanding  with  Lord  Warburton,  and  she  is  horrified 
at  my  contenting  myself  with  a person  who  has  none  of  Lord 
Warburton’s  great  advantages — no  property,  no  title,  no  honours, 
no  houses,  nor  lands,  nor  position,  nor  reputation,  nor  brilliant 
belongings  of  any  sort.  It  is  the  total  absence jrf^all  these 
fehings  that  pleases  me.  Mr.  Osmond  is  plylaljman— he  is 
aoLik  proprietor ! ” 

Ralph  had  listened  with  great  attention,  as  if  everything  she 
§aid  merited  deep  consideration ; but  in  reality  he  was  only  half 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


SOS 


thinking  of  the  things  she  said,  he  was  for  the  rest  simply 
accommodating  himself  to  the  weight  of  his  total  impression — 
the  impression  of  her  passionate  good  faith.  She  was  wrong, 
hut  she  believed;  she  was  deluded,  but  she  was  consistent.  It 
was  wonderfully  characteristic  of  her  that  she  had  invented  a 
fine  theory  about  Gilbert  Osmond,  and  loved  him,  not  for  what 
he  really  possessed,  but  for  his  very  poverties  dressed  out  as 
honours.  Ralph  remembered  what  he  had  said  to  his  father 
about  wishing  to  put  it  into  Isabel's  power  to  gratify  her  imagin- 
ation. He  had  done  so,  and  the  girl  had  taken  full  advantage 
of  the  privilege.  Poor  Ralph  felt  sick  ; he  felt  ashamed.  Isabel 
had  uttered  her  last  words  with  a low  solemnity  of  conviction 
which  virtually  terminated  the  discussion,  and  she  closed  it 
formally  by  turning  away  and  walking  back  to  the  house. 
Ralph  walked  beside  her,  and  they  passed  into  the  court  to- 
gether and  reached  the  big  staircase.  Here  Ralph  stopped,  and 
Isabel  paused,  turning  on  him  a face  full  of  a deep  elation  at 
his  opposition  having  made  her  own  conception  of  her  conduct 
more  clear  to  her. 

“ Shall  you  not  come  up  to  breakfast  ? 99  she  asked. 

“ Ho ; I want  no  breakfast,  I am  not  hungry.” 

“ You  ought  to  eat,”  said  the  girl ; “ you  live  on  air.” 

“ I do,  very  much,  and  I shall  go  back  into  the  garden  and 
take  another  mouthful  of  it.  I came  thus  far  simply  to  say  this. 
I said  to  you  last  year  that  if  you  were  to  get  into  trouble  I 
should  feel  terribly  sold.  That's  how  I feel  to-day.” 

“ Do  you  think  I am  in  trouble  1 ” 

“ One  is  in  trouble  when  one  is  in  error.” 

“Very  well,”  said  Isabel;  “I  shall  never  complain  of  my 
trouble  to  you  ! ” And  she  moved  up  the  staircase. 

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


XXXV. 

Isabel,  when  she  strolled  in  the  Cascine  with  her  lover,  felt 
no  impulse  to  tell  him  that  he  was  not  thought  well  of  at  the 
Palazzo  Crescentini.  The  discreet  opposition  offered  to  her 
marriage  by  her  aunt  and  her  cousin  made  on  the  whole 
little  impression  upon  her ; the  moral  of  it  was  simply  that  they 

x 


306 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


disliked  Gilbert — Qsxnpnd.  This  dislike  was  not  alarming  to 
Isabel ; she  scarcely  even  regretted  it ; for  it  served  mainly  to 
throw  into  higher  relief  the  fact,  in  every  way  so  honourable,  that 
sha married.  Jo  please  herself.  One  did  other  things  to  please 
other  people ; one  did  this  for  a more  personal  satisfaction ; and 
Isabel's  satisfaction  was  confirmed  by  her  lover’s  admirable  good 
conduct,  Gilbert  Osmond  was  in  love,  and  he  had  never 
deserved  less  than  during  these  still,  bright  days,  each  of  them 
numbered,  which  preceded  the  fulfilment  of  his  hopes,  the  harsh 
criticism  passed  upon  him  by  Ealph  Touchett.  The  chief 
impression  produced  upon  Isabel’s  mind  by  this  criticism  was 
that  the  passion  of  love  separated  its  victim  terribly  from  every 
one  but  the  loved  object.  She  felt  herself  disjoined  from  every 
one  she  had  ever  known  before — from  her  two  sisters,  who  wrote 
to  express  a dutiful  hope  that  she  would  be  happy,  and  a sur- 
prise, somewhat  more  vague,  at  her  not  having  chosen  a consort 
who  wa,$  the  hero  of  a richer  accumulation  of  anecdote ; from 
Henrietta,  who,  she  was  sure,  would  come  out,  too  late,  on  pur- 
pose to  remonstrate  ; from  Lord  Warburton,  who  would  certainly 
console  himself,  and  from  Caspar  Goodwood,  who  perhaps  would 
not ; from  her  aunt,  who  had  cold,  shallow  ideas  about  marriage, 
for  which  she  was  not  sorry  to  manifest  her  contempt ; and  from 
Ealph,  whose  talk  about  having  great  views  for  her  was  surely 
but  a whimsical  cover  for  a personal  disappointment.  Ealph 
apparently  wished  her  not  to  marry  at  all — that  was  what  it 
really  meant — because  he  was  amused  with  the  spectacle  of  her 
adventures  as  a single  woman.  His  disappointment  made  him 
say  angry  things  about  the  man  she  had  preferred  even  to  him  : 
Isabel  flattered  herself  that  she  believed  Ealph  had  been  angry. 
It  was  the  more  easy  for  her  to  believe  this,  because,  as  I say, 
she  thought  on  the  whole  but  little  about  it,  and  accepted  as  an 
incident  of  her  lot  the  idea  that  to  prefer  Gilbert  Osmond  as  she 
preferred  him  was  perforce  to  break  all  other  ties.  She  tasted  of 
the  sweets  of  this  preference,  and  they  made  her  feel  that  there 
was  after  all  something  very  invidious  in  being  in  love ; much 
as  the  sentiment  was  theoretically  approved  of.  It  was  the 
tragical  side  of  happiness ; one’s  right  was  always  made  of  the 
wrong  of  some  one  else.  Gilbert  Osmond  was  not  demonstra- 
tive ; the  consciousness  of  success,  which  must  now  have  flamed 
high  within  him,  emitted  very  little  smoke  for  so  brilliant  a 
blaze.  Contentment,  on  his  part,  never  took  a vulgar  form  ; 
excitement,  in  the  most  self-conscious  of  men,  was  a kind  of 
ecstasy  of  self-control.  This  disposition,  however,  made  him  an 
admirable  lover ; it  gave  him  a constant  view  of  the  amorous 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


30? 


character,  He  never  forgot  himself,  as  I say ; and  so  he  never 
forgot  to  he  graceful  and  tender,  to  wear  the  appearance  of 
devoted  intention.  He  was  immensely  pleased  with  his  young 
lady ; Madame  Merle  had  made  him  a present  of  incalculable 
value.  What  could  he  a finer  thing  to  live  with  than  a high 
spirit  attuned  to  softness?  Eor  would  not  the  softness  he  all  for 
one’s  self,  and  the  strenuousness  for  society,  which  admired  the 
air  of  superiority  ? What  could  he  a happier  gift  in  a companion 
than  a quick,  fanciful  mind,  which  saved  one  repetitions,  and 
reflected  one’s  thought  upon  a scintillating  surface  ? Osmond 
disliked  to  see  his  thought  reproduced  literally — that  made  it 
look  stale  and  stupid ; he  preferred  it  to  he  brightened  in  the 
reproduction.  His  egotism,  if  egotism  it  was,  had  never  taken 
the  crude  form  of  wishing  for  a dull  wife  ; this  lady’s  intelligence 
was  to  he  a silver  plate,  not  an  earthen  one — a plate  that  he 
might  heap  up  with  ripe  fruits,  to  which  it  would  give  a decora- 
tive value,  so  that  conversation  might  become  a sort  of  perpetual 
dessert.  He  found  the  silvery  quality  in  perfection  in  Isabel ; 
he  could  tap  her  imagination  with  his  knuckle  and  make  it  ring. 
He  knew  perfectly,  though  he  had  not  been  told,  that  the  union 
found  little  favour  among  the  girl’s  relations ; but  he  had  always 
treated  her  so  completely  as  an  independent  person  that  it 
hardly  seemed  necessary  to  express  regret  for  the  attitude  of  her 
family.  Nevertheless,  one  morning,  he  made  an  abrupt  allusion 
to  it. 

“ It’s  the  difference  in  our  fortune  they  don’t  like,”  he  said. 
u They  think  I am  in  love  with  your  money.” 

“ Are  you  speaking  of  my  aunt — of  my  cousin  ? ” Isabel  asked. 
" How  do  you  know  what  they  think  ? ” 

“ You  have  not  told  me  that  they  are  pleased,  and  when  I 
wrote  to  Mrs.  Touchett  the  other  day  she  never  answered  my 
note.  If  they  had  been  delighted  I should  have  learnt  it,  and 
the  fact  of  my  being  poor  and  you  rich  is  the  most  obvious 
explanation  of  their  want  of  delight.  But,  of  course,  when  a 
poor  man  marries  a rich  girl  he  must  be  prepared  for  imputations. 
I don’t  mind  them ; I only  care  for  one  thing — your  thinking 
it’s  all  right.  I don’t  care  what  others  think.  I have  never 
cared  much,  and  why  should  I begin  to-day,  when  I have  taken 
to  myself  a compensation  for  everything  ? I won’t  pretend  that 
I am  sorry  you  are  rich ; I am  delighted.  I delight  in  every- 
thing that  is  yours — whether  it  be  money  or  virtue.  Money  is 
a great  advantage.  It  seems  to  me,  however,  that  I have  suffl 
ciently  proved  that  I can  get  on  without  it ; I never  in  my  life 
tiled  to  earn  a penny,  and  I ought  to  be  less  subject  to  suspicion 

X 2 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


808 

than  most  people.  I suppose  it  is  their  business  to  suspect— 
that  of  your  own  family ; it’s  proper  on  the  whole  they  should, 
They  will  like  me  better  some  day ; so  will  you,  for  that  matter. 
Meanwhile  my  business  is  not  to  bother,  but  simply  to  be  thank- 
ful for  life  and  love.  It  has  made  me  better,  loving  you,”  he 
said  on  another  occasion;  “it  has  made  me  wiser,  and  easier, 
and  brighter.  I used  to  want  a great  many  things  before,  and 
to  be  angry  that  I didn't  have  them.  Theoretically,  I was 
satisfied,  as  I once  told  you.  I flattered  myself  that  I had 
limited  my  wants.  But  I was  subject  to  irritation ; I used  to 
have  morbid,  sterile,  hateful  fits  of  hunger,  of  desire.  Now  I 
am  really  satisfied,  because  I can't  think  of  anything  better.  It 
is  just  as  when  one  has  been  trying  to  spell  out  a book  in  the 
twilight,  and  suddenly  the  lamp  comes  in.  I had  been  putting 
out  my  eyes  over  the  book  of  life,  and  finding  nothing  to  reward 
me  for  my  pains  ; but  now  that  I can  read  it  properly  I see  that 
it’s  a delightful  story.  My  dear  girl,  I can't  tell  you  how  life 
seems  to  stretch  there  before  us — what  a long  summer  afternoon 
awaits  us.  It's  the  latter  half  of  an  Italian  day — with  a golden 
haze,  and  the  shadows  just  lengthening,  and  that  divine  delicacy 
in  the  light,  the  air,  the  landscape,  which  I have  loved  all  my 
life,  and  which  you  love  to-day.  Upon  my  word,  I don't  see 
why  we  shouldn't  get  on.  We  have  got  what  we  like — to  say 
nothing  of  having  each  other.  We  have  the  faculty  of  admir- 
ation, and  several  excellent  beliefs.  We  are  not  stupid,  we  are 
not  heavy,  we  are  not  under  bonds  to  any  dull  limitations.  You 
are  very  fresh,  and  I am  well-seasoned.  We  have  got  my  poor 
child  to  amuse  us ; we  will  try  and  make  up  some  little  life  for 
her.  It  is  all  soft  and  mellow — it  has  the  Italian  colouring.” 

They  made  a good  many  plans,  but  they  left  themselves  also 
a good  deal  of  latitude ; it  was  a matter  of  course,  however,  that 
they  should  live  for  the  present  in  Italy.  It  was  in  Italy  that 
they  had  met,  Italy  had  been  a party  to  their  first  impressions 
of  each  other,  and  Italy  should  be  a party  to  their  happiness. 
Osmond  had  the  attachment  of  old  acquaintance,  and  Isabel  the 
stimulus  of  new,  which  seemed  to  assure  her  a future  of  beautiful 
hours.  The  desire  for  unlimited  expansion  had  been  succeeded 
in  her  mind  by  the  sense  that  life  was  vacant  without  some 
private  duty  which  gathered  one’s  energies  to  a point.  She  told 
Ralph  that  she  had  “seen  life  ” in  a year  or  two,  and  that  she 
was  already  tired,  not  of  life,  but  of  observation.  What  had 
become  of  all  her  ardours,  her  aspirations,  her  theories,  her  high 
estimate  of  her  independence,  and  her  incipient  conviction  that 
she  should  never  marry  ] These  things  had  been  absorbed  in  a 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


309 


more  primitive  sentiment  — a sentiment  which  answered  all 
questions,  satisfied  all  needs,  solved  all  difficulties.  It  sim- 
plified the  future  at  a stroke,  it  came  down  from  above,  like 
the  light  of  the  stars,  and  it  needed  no  explanation.  There 
was  explanation  enough  in  the  fact  that  he  was  her  lover,  her 
own,  and  that  she  was  able  to  be  of  use  to  him.  She  could 
marry  him  with  a kind  of  pride;  she  was  not  only  taking, 
hut  giving. 

He  brought  Pansy  with  him  two  or  three  times  to  the  Cascine 
— Pansy  who  was  very  little  taller  than  a year  before,  and  not 
much  older.  That  she  would  always  be  a child  was  the  convic- 
tion expressed  by  her  father,  who  held  her  by  the  hand  when 
she  was  in  her  sixteenth  year,  and  told  her  to  go  and  play  while 
he  sat  down  a while  with  the  pretty  lady.  Pansy  wore  a short 
dress  and  a long  coat ; her  hat  always  seemed  too  big  for  her. 
She  amused  herself  with  walking  off,  with  quick,  short  steps,  to 
the  end  of  the  alley,  and  then  walking  back  with  a smile  that 
seemed  an  appeal  for  approbation.  Isabel  gave  her  approbation 
in  abundance,  and  it  was  of  that  demonstrated  personal  kind 
which  the  child’s  affectionate  nature  craved.  She  watched  her 
development  with  a kind  of  amused  suspense ; Pansy  had  already 
become  a little  daughter.  She  was  treated  so  completely  as  a 
child  that  Osmond  had  not  yet  explained  to  her  the  new  relation 
in  which  he  stood  to  the  elegant  Miss  Archer.  “ She  doesn’t 
know,”  he  said  to  Isabel;  “she  doesn’t  suspect;  she  thinks  it 
perfectly  natural  that  you  and  I should  come  and  walk  here 
together,  simply  as  good  friends.  There  seems  to  me  something 
enchantingly  innocent  in  that;  it’s  the  way  I like  her  to  be. 
Ho,  I am  not  a failure,  as  I used  to  think ; I have  succeeded  in 
two  things.  I am  to  marry  the  woman  I adore,  and  I have 
brought  up  my  child  as  I wished,  in  the  old  way.” 

He  was  very  fond,  in  all  things,  of  the  “ old  way ; ” that 
had  struck  Isabel  as  an  element  in  the  refinement  of  his 
character. 

“ It  seems  to  me  you  will  not  know  whether  you  have  suc- 
ceeded until  you  have  told  her,”  she  said.  “ You  must  see  how 
ahe  takes  your  news.  She  may  be  horrified  — she  may  be 
jealous.” 

“ I am  not  afraid  of  that ; she  is  too  fond  of  you  on  her  own 
account.  I should  like  to  leave  her  in  the  dark  a little  long6i — 
to  see  if  it  will  come  into  her  head  that  if  we  are  not  engaged 
we  ought  to  be.” 

Isabel  was  impressed  by  Osmond’s  aesthetic  relish  of  Pansy’s 
innocence — her  own  appreciation  of  it  being  more  moral.  She 


510 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


was  perhaps  not  the  less  pleased  when  he  told  her  a few  days 
later  that  he  had  broken  the  news  to  his  daughter,  who  made 
such  a pretty  little  speech.  “ Oh,  then  I shall  have  a sister  ! ” 
She  was  neither  surprised  nor  alarmed ; she  had  not  cried,  as  he 
expected. 

“ Perhaps  she  had  guessed  it,”  said  Isabel. 

“ Don't  say  that ; I should  be  disgusted  if  I believed  that.  I 
thought  it  would  be  just  a little  shock ; but  the  way  she  took  it 
proves  that  her  good  manners  are  paramount.  That  is  also  what 
I wished.  You  shall  see  for  yourself;  to-morrow  she  shall 
make  you  her  congratulations  in  person." 

The  meeting,  on  the  morrow,  took  place  at  the  Countess 
Gemini's,  whither  Pansy  had  been  conducted  by  her  father,  who 
knew  that  Isabel  was  to  come  in  the  afternoon  to  return  a visit 
made  her  by  the  Countess  on  learning  that  they  were  to  become 
sister-in-law.  Calling  at  Casa  Touchett,  the  visitor  had  not 
found  Isabel  at  home  ; but  after  our  young  lady  had  been 
ushered  into  the  Countess's  drawing-room,  Pansy  came  in  to  say 
that  her  aunt  would  presently  appear.  Pansy  was  spending  the 
day  with  her  aunt,  who  thought  she  was  of  an  age  when  she  should 
begin  to  learn  how  to  carry  herself  in  company.  It  was  Isabel's 
view  that  the  little  girl  might  have  given  lessons  in  deportment 
to  the  elder  lady,  and  nothing  could  have  justified  this  conviction 
more  than  the  manner  in  which  Pansy  acquitted  herself  while 
they  waited  together  for  the  Countess.  Her  father's  decision, 
the  year  before,  had  finally  been  to  send  her  back  to  the  convent 
to  receive  the  last  graces,  and  Madame  Catherine  had  evidently 
carried  out  her  theory  that  Pansy  was  to  be  fitted  for  the  great 
world. 

“ Papa  has  told  me  that  you  have  kindly  consented  to  marry 
him,”  said  the  good  woman's  pupil.  “ It  is  very  delightful;  I 
think  you  will  suit  very  well." 

“ You  think  I shall  suit  you  h " 

“ You  will  suit  me  beautifully;  but  what  I mean  is  that  you 
and  papa  will  suit  each  other.  You  are  both  so  quiet  and  so 
serious.  You  are  not  so  quiet  as  he — or  even  as  Madame  Merle  ; 
but  you  are  more  quiet  than  many  others.  Ho  should  not,  for 
instance,  have  a wife  like  my  aunt.  She  is  always  moving; 
to-day  especially;  you  will  see  when  she  comes  in.  They 
told  us  at  the  convent  it  was  wrong  to  judge  our  elders,  but 
I suppose  there  is  no  harm  if  we  judge  them  favourably.  You 
will  be  a delightful  companion  for  papa.” 

“ For  you  too,  I hope,”  Isabel  said. 

H I speak  firsi  of  him  on  purpose.  I have  told  you  already 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


an 

what  I myself  think  of  you  ; I liked  you  from  the  fimt.  I admire 
you  so  much  that  I think  it  will  be  a great  good  fortune  to  have 
you  always  before  me.  You  will  be  my  model ; I shall  try 
to  imitate  you — though  I am  afraid  it  will  be  very  feeble.  I 
am  very  glad  for  papa — he  needed  something  more  than  me. 
Without  you,  I don’t  see  how  he  could  have  got  it.  You  will 
be  my  stepmother ; but  we  must  not  use  that  word.  You  don’t 
look  at  all  like  the  word  ; it  is  somehow  so  ugly.  They  are 
always  said  to  be  cruel ; but  I think  you  will  never  be  crueL 
I am  not  afraid.” 

“My  good  little  Pansy,”  said  Isabel,  gently,  “I  shall  be 
very  kind  to  you.” 

“ Very  well  then ; I have  nothing  to  fear,”  the  child  declared, 
lightly. 

Her  description  of  her  aunt  had  not  been  incorrect;  the 
Countess  Gemini  was  less  than  ever  in  a state  of  repose.  She 
entered  the  room  with  a great  deal  of  expression,  and  kissed 
Isabel,  first  on  her  lips,  and  then  on  each  cheek,  in  the  short, 
quick  manner  of  a bird  drinking.  She  made  Isabel  sit  down  on 
the  sofa  beside  her,  and  looking  at  our  heroine  with  a variety  of 
turns  of  the  head,  delivered  herself  of  a hundred  remarks,  from 
which  I offer  the  reader  but  a brief  selection. 

“ If  you  expect  me  to  congratulate  you,  I must  beg  you 
to  excuse  me.  I don’t  suppose  you  care  whether  I do  or  not ; I 
believe  you  are  very  proud.  But  I care  myself  whether  I tell 
fibs  or  not ; I never  tell  them  unless  there  is  something  to  be 
gained.  I don’t  see  what  there  is  to  be  gained  with  you — 
especially  as  you  would  not  believe  me.  I don’t  make  phrases 
— I never  made  a phrase  in  my  life.  My  fibs  are  always  very 
crude.  I am  very  glad,  for  my  own  sake,  that  you  are  going  to 
marry  Osmond ; but  I won’t  pretend  I am  glad  for  yours.  You 
are  very  remarkable — you  know  that’s  what  people  call  you ; you 
are  an  heiress,  and  very  good-looking  and  clever,  very  original ; 
bo  it’s  a good  thing  to  have  you  in  the  family.  Our  family  is 
very  good,  you  know ; Osmond  will  have  told  you  that ; and  my 
mother  was  rather  distinguished — she  was  called  the  American 
Corinne.  But  we  are  rather  fallen,  I think,  and  perhaps  you 
will  pick  us  up.  I have  great  confidence  in  you ; there  are  ever 
so  many  things  I want  to  talk  to  you  about.  I never  congratu- 
late any  girl  on  marrying ; I think  it’s  the  worst  thing  she  can 
do.  I suppose  Pansy  oughtn’t  to  hear  all  this  ; but  that’s  what 
she  has  come  to  me  for — to  acquire  the  tone  of  society.  There 
is  no  harm  in  her  knowing  that  it  isn’t  such  a blessing  to  get 
married.  When  first  I got  an  idea  that  my  brother  had  designs 


312 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


upon  you,  I thought  of  writing  to  yc  u,  to  recommend  you,  in 
the  strongest  terms,  not  to  listen  to  him.  Then  I thought  it 
would  be  disloyal,  and  I hate  anything  of  that  kind.  Besides, 
as  I say,  I was  enchanted,  for  myself ; and  after  all,  I am  very 
selfish.  By  the  way,  you  won’t  respect  me,  and  we  shall  never 
be  intimate.  I should  like  it,  but  you  won’t.  Some  day,  all  the 
name,  we  shall  be  better  friends  than  you  will  believe  at  first. 
My  husband  will  come  and  see  you,  though,  as  you  probably 
know,  he  is  on  no  sort  of  terms  with  Osmond.  He  is  very  fond 
of  going  to  see  pretty  women,  but  I am  not  afraid  of  you.  In 
the  first  place,  I don’t  care  what  he  does.  In  the  second,  you 
won’t  care  a straw  for  him;  you  will  take  his  measure  at  a 
glance.  Some  day  I will  tell  you  all  about  him.  Do  you  think 
my  niece  ought  to  go  out  of  the  room  ? Pansy,  go  and  practise 
a little  in  my  boudoir.” 

“ Let  her  stay,  please,”  said  Isabel.  “ I would  rather  hoar 
nothing  that  Pansy  may  not ! ” 


XXXVI. 

One  afternoon,  towards  dusk,  in  the  autumn  of  1876,  a young 
man  of  pleasing  appearance  rang  at  the  door  of  a small  apartment 
on  the  third  floor  of  an  old  Roman  house.  On  its  being  opened 
he  inquired  for  Madame  Merle,  whereupon  the  servant,  a neat, 
plain  woman,  with  a French  face  and  a lady’s  maid’s  manner, 
ushered  him  into  a diminutive  drawing-room  and  requested  the 
favour  of  his  name. 

“ Mr.  Edward  Rosier,”  said  the  young  man,  who  sat  down  to 
wait  till  his  hostess  should  appear. 

The  reader  will  perhaps  not  have  forgotten  that  Mr.  Rosier 
was  an  ornament  of  the  American  circle  in  Paris,  but  it  may 
also  be  remembered  that  he  sometimes  vanished  from  its  horizon. 
He  had  spent  a portion  of  several  winters  at  Pau,  and  as  he  was 
\ gentleman  of  tolerably  inveterate  habits  he  might  have  con- 
tinued for  years  to  pay  his  annual  visit  to  this  charming  resort. 
In  the  summer  of  1876,  however,  an  incident  befell  him  which 
changed  the  current,  not  only  of  his  thoughts,  but  of  his  pro- 
ceedings. He  passed  a month  in  the  Upper  Engadine,  and 
encountered  at  St.  Moritz  a charming  young  girl.  For  this 
young  lady  he  conceived  a peculiar  admiration ; she  was  exactly 
the  household  angel  he  had  long  been  looking  for.  He  was 
never  precipitate  : he  was  nothing  if  not  discreet ; so  he  forbore 


!THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


818 


for  the  present  to  declare  his  passion  ; but  it  seemed  to  him 
whon  they  parted — the  young  lady  to  go  down  into  Italy,  and 
her  admirer  to  proceed  to  Geneva,  where  he  was  under  bonds  to 
join  some  friends — that  he  should  be  very  unhappy  if  he  were 
not  to  see  her  again.  The  simplest  way  to  do  so  was  to  go  in 
the  autumn  to  Some,  where  Miss  Osmond  was  domiciled  with 
her  family.  Eosier  started  on  his  pilgrimage  to  the  Italian 
capital  and  reached  it  on  the  first  of  November.  It  was  a pleasant 
thing  to  do  ; but  for  the  young  man  there  was  a strain  of  the 
heroic  in  the  enterprise.  He  was  nervous  about  the  fever,  and 
November,  after  all,  was  rather  early  in  the  season.  Fortune, 
however,  favours  the  brave  ; and  Mr.  Eosier,  who  took  three 
grains  of  quinine  every  day,  had  at  the  end  of  a month  no  cause 
to  deplore  his  temerity.  He  had  made  to  a certain  extent  good 
use  of  his  time  ; that  is,  he  had  perceived  that  Miss  Pansy 
Osmond  had  not  a flaw  in  her  composition.  She  was  admirably 
finished — she  was  in  excellent  style.  He  thought  of  her  in 
amorous  meditation  a good  deal  as  he  might  have  thought  of  a 
DresiciL-chin a shepherdess.  Miss  Osmond,  indeed,  in  the  bloom 
of  her  juvenility,  had  a touch  of  th&.rococoT  which  Eosier,  whose 
taste  was  predominantly  for  that  manner,  could  not  fail  to 
appreciate.  That  he  esteemed  the  productions  of  comparatively 
frivolous  periods  would  have  been  apparent  from  the  attention 
he  bestowed  upon  Madame  Merle's  drawing-room,  which,  although 
furnished  with  specimens  of  every  style,  was  especially  rich  in 
articles  of  the  last  two  centuries.  He  had  immediately  put  a 
glass  into  one  eye  and  looked  round  * and  then — “ By  Jove  ! 
she  has  some  jolly  good  things  ! ” he  had  murmured  to  himself. 
The  room  was  small,  and  densely  filled  with  furniture  ; it  gave 
an  impression  of  faded  silk  and  little  statuettes  which  might 
totter  if  one  moved.  Eosier  got  up  and  wandered  about  with 
his  careful  tread,  bending  over  the  tables  charged  with  knick- 
knacks  and  the  cushions  embossed  with  princely  arms.  When 
Madame  Merle  came  in  she  found  him  standing  before  the  fire- 
place, with  his  nose  very  close  to  the  great  lace  flounce  attached 
to  the  damask  cover  of  the  mantel.  He  had  lifted  it  delicately, 
as  if  he  were  smelling  it. 

“ It’s  old  Venetian,”  she  said  ; “ it’s  rather  good." 

“ It’s  too  good  for  this  ; you  ought  to  wear  it.” 

u They  tell  me  you  have  some  better  in  Paris,  in  the  same 
situation.” 

4 ‘Ah,  but  I can’t  wear  mine,”  said  Rosier,  smiling. 

I don’t  see  why  you  shouldn’t  ! I have  better  lace  tlia® 
that  to  wear." 


S14 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


Hosier’s  eyes  wandered,  lingeringly,  round  the  room  again. 

“ You  have  some  very  good  things.” 

“ Yes,  but  I hate  them.” 

“ Do  you  want  to  get  rid  of  them  ? ” the  young  man  asked 
quickly. 

“Ko,  it’s  good  to  have  something  to  hate ; one  works  it  off.” 

“I  love  my  things,”  said  Rosier,  as  he  sat  there  smiling. 
(!  But  it’s  not  about  them — nor  about  yours,  that  I came  to  talk 
to  you.”  He  paused  a moment,  and  then,  with  greater  softness 
• — “ I care  more  for  Miss  Osmond  than  for  all  the  bibelots  in 
Europe  ! ” 

Madame  Merle  started  a little. 

“ Did  you  come  to  tell  me  that  ? ” 

“ I came  to  ask  your  advice.” 

She  looked  at  him  with  a little  frown,  stroking  her  chin. 

“ A man  in  love,  you  know,  doesn’t  ask  advice.” 

“Why  not,  if  he  is  in  a difficult  position?  That’s  often  the 
case  with  a man  in  love.  I have  been  in  love  before,  and  I 
know.  But  never  so  much  as  this  time — really,  never  so  much. 
I should  like  particularly  to  know  what  you  think  of  my  pros- 
pects. I’m  afraid  Mr.  Osmond  doesn’t  think  me  a phoenix.” 

“ Do  you  wish  me  to  intercede  ? ” Madame  Merle  asked,  with 
her  fine  arms  folded,  and  her  mouth  drawn  up  to  the  left. 

“ If  you  could  say  a good  word  for  me,  I should  be  greatly 
obliged.  There  wilL  be  no  use  in  my  troubling  Miss  Osmond 
unless  I have  good  reason  to  believe  her  father  will  consent.” 

“ You  are  very  considerate  ; that’s  in  your  favour.  But  you 
assume,  in  rather  an  off-hand  way,  that  I think  you  a prize.” 

“You  have  been  very  kind  to  me,”  said  the  young  man. 
‘ That’s  why  I came.” 

“ I am  always  kind  to  people  who  have  good  bibelots  there 
is  no  telling  what  one  may  get  by  it.” 

And  the  left-hand  corner  of  Madame  Merle’s  mouth  gave 
expression  to  the  joke. 

Edward  Rosier  stared  and  blushed ; his  correct  features  were 
suffused  with  disappointment. 

“ Ah,  I thought  you  liked  me  for  myself  ! ” 

“ I like  you  very  much ; but,  if  you  please,  we  won’t  analyse. 
Excuse  me  if  I seem  patronising;  but  I think  you  a perfect 
little  gentleman.  I must  tell  you,  however,  that  I have  not  the 
marrying  of  Pansy  Osmond.” 

“ I didn’t  suppose  that.  But  you  Lave  seemed  to  me  intimate 
with  her  family,  and  I thought  you  might  have  influence.” 

Madame  Merle  was  silent  a moment. 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY. 


815 


“ Whom  do  you  call  her  family  ? ” 

“ Why,  her  father ; and — how  do  you  say  it  in  English  1 — 
her  belle-mere” 

“Mr.  Osmond  is  her  father,  certainly;  hut  his  wife  can 
scarcely  be  termed  a member  of  her  family.  Mrs.  Osmond  has 
nothing  to  do  with  marrying  her.” 

<(I  am  sorry  for  that,”  said  Rosier,  with  an  amiable  sigh.  “ I 
think  Mrs.  Osmond  would  favour  me.” 

“ Very  likely — if  her  husband  does  not.” 

Edward  Rosier  raised  his  eyebrows. 

“ Does  she  take  the  opposite  line  from  him  ?” 

“ In  everything.  They  think  very  differently.” 

“Well,”  said  Rosier,  “I  am  sorry  for  that;  but  it’s  none  of 
my  business.  She  is  very  fond  of  Pansy  ” 

“Yes,  she  is  very  fond  of  Pansy.” 

“And  Pansy  has  a great  affection  for  her.  She  has  told  me 
that  she  loves  her  as  if  she  were  her  own  mother.” 

“ You  must,  after  all,  have  had  some  very  intimate  talk  with 
the  poor  child,”  said  Madame  Merle.  “ Have  you  declared  youi 
sentiments  'l  ” 

“ Never ! ” cried  Rosier,  lifting  his  neatly -gloved  hand 
“ Never,  until  I have  assured  myself  of  those  of  the  parents.” 

“ You  always  wait  for  that  h You  have  excellent  principles; 
your  conduct  is  most  estimable.” 

“ I think  you  are  laughing  at  me,”  poor  Rosier  murmured, 
dropping  back  in  his  chair,  and  feeling  his  small  moustache. 
‘I  didn’t  expect  that  of  you,  Madame  Merle.” 

She  shook  her  head  calmly,  like  a person  who  saw  things 
clearly. 

“You  don’t  do  me  justice.  I think  your  conduct  is  in 
excellent  taste  and  the  best  you  could  adopt.  Yes,  that’s  what 
I think.” 

“ I wouldn’t  agitate  her — only  to  agitate  her ; I love  her  too 
much  for  that,”  said  Ned  Rosier. 

“ I am  glad,  after  all,  that  you  have  told  me,”  Madame  Merle 
went  on.  “ Leave  it  to  me  a little ; I think  I can  help  you.” 

“ I said  you  were  the  person  to  come  to ! ” cried  the  young 
man,  with  an  ingenuous  radiance  in  his  face. 

‘You  were  very  clever,”  Madame  Merle  returned,  more  drily. 

When  I say  I can  help  you,  I mean  once  assuming  that  your 
eause  is  good.  Let  us  think  a little  whether  it  is.” 

“ I’m  a dear  little  fellow,”  said  Rosier,  earnestly.  “ I won’t 
lay  I have  no  faults,  but  I will  say  I have  no  vices.” 

“All  that  is  negative.  What  is  the  positive  side i Wh&t 


516 


THE  PORTRAIT  OF  A LADY, 


have  you  got  besides  your  Spanish  lace  and  your  Dresden 
tea-cups  *1  ” 

“ I have  got  a comfortable  little  fortune — about  forty  thousand 
francs  a year.  With  the  talent  that  I have  for  arranging,  we 
<gan  live  beautifully  on  such  an  income.” 

44  Beautifully,  no.  Sufficiently,  yes.  Even  that  depends  on 
where  you  live.” 

45  Well,  in  Paris.  I would  undertake  it  in  Paris.” 

Madame  Merle’s  mouth  rose  to  the  left. 

44  It  wouldn’t  be  splendid ; you  would  have  to  make  use  of  the 
tea-cups,  and  they  would  get  broken.” 

44  We  don’t  want  to  be  splendid.  If  Miss  Osmond  should 
have  everythin