The Portrait Of A Lady


Chapter 1

Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more
agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as
afternoon tea. There are circumstances in which, whether you
partake of the tea or not--some people of course never do,--the
situation is in itself delightful. Those that I have in mind in
beginning to unfold this simple history offered an admirable
setting to an innocent pastime. The implements of the little
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
. 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

....bought it with much grumbling at its ugliness, its antiquity,
its incommodity, and who now, at the end of twenty years, had become
conscious of a real aesthetic passion for it, so that he knew all
its points and would tell you just where to stand to see them in
combination and just the hour when the shadows of its various
--which fell so softly upon the warm, weary brickwork
--were of the right measure.

Privacy here reigned supreme, and the wide carpet of turf that
covered the level hill-top seemed but the extension of a luxurious
interior. The great still oaks and beeches flung down a shade as
dense as that of velvet curtains
; and the place was furnished,
like a room, with cushioned seats, with rich-coloured rugs,
with the books and papers that lay upon the grass.

The old gentleman at the tea-table, who had come from America
thirty years before, had brought with him, at the top of his
baggage, his American physiognomy
; and he had not only brought it
with him, but he had kept it in the best order, so that, if
necessary, he might have taken it back to his own country with
perfect confidence
. At present, obviously, nevertheless, he was
not likely to displace himself; his journeys were over and he was
taking the rest that precedes the great rest. He had a narrow,
clean-shaven face, with features evenly distributed and an
expression of placid acuteness

He had certainly had a great experience of men, but there was an
almost rustic simplicity in the faint smile that played upon his
lean, spacious cheek
and lighted up his humorous eye as he at
last slowly and carefully deposited his big tea-cup upon the table.
He was neatly dressed, in well-brushed black; but a shawl was folded
upon his knees, and his feet were encased in thick, embroidered slippers.
A beautiful collie dog lay upon the grass near his chair, watching
the master's face almost as tenderly as the master took in the
still more magisterial physiognomy of the house; and
a little
bristling, bustling terrier bestowed a desultory attendance upon

the other gentlemen.

This person had a certain fortunate, brilliant exceptional
look--the air of a happy temperament fertilised by a high
--which would have made almost any observer
envy him at a venture.

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.


"Are you cold?" the son enquired.

The father slowly rubbed his legs. "Well, I don't know. I can't
tell till I

"Perhaps some one might feel for you," said the younger man,

"Oh, I hope some one will always feel for me! Don't you feel for
me, Lord Warburton?"


"The fact is I've been comfortable so many years that I suppose I've got
so used to it I don't know it."

"Yes, that's the bore of comfort," said Lord Warburton. "We only
know when we're uncomfortable


"Is that another sort of joke?" asked the old man. "You've no
excuse for being bored anywhere. When I was your age I had never
heard of such a thing."

"You must have developed very late."

"No, I developed very quick; that was just the reason. When I was
twenty years old I was very highly developed indeed. I was
working tooth and nail. You wouldn't be bored if you had
something to do; but all you young men are too idle. You think
too much of your pleasure. You're too fastidious, and too
indolent, and too rich."

"Oh, I say," cried Lord Warburton, "you're hardly the person to
accuse a fellow-creature of being too rich!"


"You young men have too many jokes. When there are no jokes
you've nothing left."

"Fortunately there are always more jokes," the ugly young man

"I don't believe it--I believe things are getting more serious.
You young men will find that out."

"The increasing seriousness of things, then that's the great
opportunity of jokes."

"They'll have to be grim jokes
," said the old man. "I'm convinced
there will be great changes, and not all for the better."


"That's why I find so much difficulty in applying your advice;
you know you told me the other day that I ought to 'take hold'
of something
. One hesitates to take hold of a thing that may
the next moment be knocked sky-high."

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

"The pretty women themselves may be sent flying!" Lord Warburton

"No, no, they'll be firm," the old man rejoined; "they'll not be
affected by the social and political changes I just referred to."

"You mean they won't be abolished? Very well, then, I'll lay
hands on
one as soon as possible and tie her round my neck as a


"As for my being a good husband," Mr. Touchett's visitor pursued,
"I'm not sure of that either. One can but try!"

"Try as much as you please, but don't try on my niece," smiled
the old man, whose opposition to the idea was broadly humorous.

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


Chapter 2


The girl spoke to Ralph, smiling, while she still held up the
terrier. "Is this your little dog, sir?"

"He was mine a moment ago; but you've suddenly acquired a
remarkable air of property in him."

"Couldn't we share him?" asked the girl. "He's such a perfect
little darling."

Ralph looked at her a moment; she was unexpectedly pretty. "You
may have him altogether," he then replied.


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

"Won't you come and make acquaintance with my father?" he
nevertheless ventured to ask. "He's old and infirm--he doesn't
leave his chair."

"Ah, poor man, I'm very sorry!" the girl exclaimed, immediately
moving forward. "I got the impression from your mother that he
was rather intensely active."


She had been looking all round her again--at the lawn, the great
trees, the reedy, silvery Thames, the beautiful old house; and
while engaged in this survey she had made room in it for her
companions; a comprehensiveness of observation easily conceivable
on the part of a young woman who was evidently both intelligent
and excited. She had seated herself and had put away the little
dog; her white hands, in her lap, were folded upon her black
; her head was erect, her eye lighted, her flexible figure
turned itself easily this way and that, in sympathy with the
alertness with which she evidently caught impressions. Her
impressions were numerous, and they were all reflected in a
clear, still smile


"Are you very fond of dogs?" he enquired by way of beginning. He
seemed to recognise that it was an awkward beginning for a clever

"Very fond of them indeed."

"You must keep the terrier, you know," he went on, still

"I'll keep him while I'm here, with pleasure."

"That will be for a long time, I hope."

"You're very kind. I hardly know. My aunt must settle that."

"I'll settle it with her--at a quarter to seven." And Ralph
looked at his watch again.

"I'm glad to be here at all," said the girl.

"I don't believe you allow things to be settled for you."

"Oh yes; if they're settled as I like them."

"I shall settle this as I like it," said Ralph. It's most
unaccountable that we should never have known you."

"I was there--you had only to come and see me."

"There? Where do you mean?"

"In the United States: in New York and Albany and other American

"I've been there--all over, but I never saw you. I can't make it


"I see," said Ralph. "She has adopted you."

"Adopted me?" The girl stared, and her blush came back to her,
together with a momentary look of pain which gave her
interlocutor some alarm
. He had underestimated the effect of his
words. Lord Warburton, who appeared constantly desirous of a
nearer view
of Miss Archer, strolled toward the two cousins at
the moment, and as he did so she rested her wider eyes on him.

"Oh no; she has not adopted me. I'm not a candidate for adoption."

"I beg a thousand pardons," Ralph murmured. "I meant--I meant--"
He hardly knew what he meant.

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


Chapter 3

Mrs. Touchett was certainly a person of many oddities, of which
her behaviour on returning to her husband's house after many
months was a noticeable specimen. She had her own way of doing
all that she did, and this is the simplest description of a
character which, although by no means without liberal motions,
rarely succeeded in giving an impression of suavity. Mrs.
Touchett might do a great deal of good, but she never pleased.
This way of her own, of which she was so fond, was not
intrinsically offensive--it was just unmistakeably distinguished
from the ways of others. The edges of her conduct were so very
clear-cut that for susceptible persons it sometimes had a
knife-like effect. That hard fineness came out in her deportment
during the first hours of her return from America, under
circumstances in which it might have seemed that her first act
would have been to exchange greetings with her husband and son.
Mrs. Touchett, for reasons which she deemed excellent, always
retired on such occasions into impenetrable seclusion, postponing
the more sentimental ceremony until she had repaired the disorder
of dress
with a completeness which had the less reason to be of
high importance as neither beauty nor vanity were concerned in
it. She was a plain-faced old woman, without graces and without
any great elegance
, but with an extreme respect for her own

It had become clear, at an early stage of their community, that
they should never desire the same thing at the same moment,
and this appearance had prompted her to rescue disagreement from
the vulgar realm of accident
. She did what she could to erect it
into a law
--a much more edifying aspect of it--by going to live
in Florence, where she bought a house and established herself;
and by leaving her husband to take care of the English branch
of his bank. This arrangement greatly pleased her; it was so
felicitously definite
. It struck her husband in the same light,
in a foggy square in London, where it was at times the most
definite fact he discerned; but he would have preferred that
such unnatural things should have a greater vagueness
. To agree
to disagree had cost him an effort; he was ready to agree to
almost anything but that, and saw no reason why either
dissent should be soterribly consistent.

She had taken up her niece--there was little doubt of that. One
wet afternoon, some four months earlier than the occurrence
lately narrated, this young lady had been seated alone with a
book. To say she was so occupied is to say that her solitude did
press upon her; for her love of knowledge had a fertilising
and her imagination was strong. There was at this time,
however, a want of fresh taste in her situation which the arrival
of an unexpected visitor did much to correct.

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

in the September days, when the windows of the Dutch
House were open, she used to hear the hum of childish voices
repeating the multiplication table
--an incident in which the
elation of liberty and the pain of exclusion were indistinguishably
mingled. The foundation of her knowledge was really laid in the
idleness of her grandmother's house, where, as most of the other
inmates were not reading people, she had uncontrolled use of a
library full of books with frontispieces, which she used to climb
upon a chair to take down. When she had found one to her taste--
she was guided in the selection chiefly by the frontispiece-- she
carried it into a mysterious apartment which lay beyond the
library and which was called, traditionally, no one knew why, the
office. Whose office it had been and at what period it had

flourished, she never learned; it was enough for her that it
contained an echo and a pleasant musty smell and that it was a
chamber of disgrace for old pieces of furniture whose infirmities
were not always apparent (so that the disgrace seemed unmerited
and rendered them victims of injustice) and with which, in the
manner of children, she had established relations almost human,
certainly dramatic. There was an old haircloth sofa in especial,
to which she had confided a hundred childish sorrows

Isabel, however, gave as little heed as possible to cosmic
; 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
training it to a military stepand teaching it to advance,
to halt, to retreat, to perform even more complicated manoeuvres,
at the word of command. Just now she had given it marching orders
and it had been
trudging over the sandy plains of a history of
German Thought
. Suddenly she became aware of a step very different
from her own intellectual pace; she listened a little and perceived
that some one was moving in the library, which communicated with
the office.


"I suppose you're one of the daughters?"

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

"The late Mr. Archer's--and my poor sister's."

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

"Is that what your father told you to call me? I'm your Aunt
Lydia, but I'm not at all crazy: I haven't a delusion! And which
of the daughters are you?"

"I'm the youngest of the three, and my name's Isabel."

"Yes; the others are Lilian and Edith. And are you the prettiest?"

"I haven't the least idea," said the girl.

"I think you must be." And in this way the aunt and the niece
made friends.


Isabel stared; the idea of letting shops was new to her. "I hope
they won't pull it down," she said; "I'm extremely fond of it."

"I don't see what makes you fond of it; your father died here."

"Yes; but I don't dislike it for that," the girl rather strangely
returned. "I like places in which things have happened--even if
they're sad things. A great many people have died here; the place
has been full of life."

"Is that what you call being full of life?"

"I mean full of experience--of people's feelings and sorrows. And
not of their sorrows only, for I've been very happy here as a

"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

Isabel felt some emotion, for she had always thought highly of
her grandmother's house. But the emotion was of a kind which led
her to say: "I should like very much to go to Florence."

"Well, if you'll be very good, and do everything I tell you I'll
take you there," Mrs. Touchett declared.

Our young woman's emotion deepened; she flushed a little and
smiled at her aunt in silence. "Do everything you tell me? I
don't think I can
promise that."

"No, you don't look like a person of that sort. You're fond of
your own way
; but it's not for me to blame you."


She was as eccentric as Isabel had always supposed; and hitherto,
whenever the girl had heard people described as eccentric,
she had thought of them as offensive or alarming. The term had
always suggested to her something grotesque and even sinister.
But her aunt made it a matter of high but easy irony, or comedy,
and led her to ask herself if the common tone, which was all
she had known, had ever been as interesting. No one certainly
had on any occasion so held her as this little thin-lipped,
bright-eyed, foreign-looking
woman, who retrieved an insignificant
appearance by a
distinguished manner and, sitting there in a
well-worn waterproof, talked with striking familiarity of the
courts of Europe.

Isabel at first had answered a good many questions, and it
was from her answers apparently that Mrs. Touchett derived
a high opinion of her intelligence
. But after this she had
asked a good many, and her aunt's answers, whatever turn
they took, struck her as food for deep reflexion.


"Your sister must be a great gossip. Is she accustomed to staying
out so many hours?"

"You've been out almost as long as she," Isabel replied; "she can
have left the house but a short time before you came in."

Mrs. Touchett looked at the girl without resentment; she appeared
to enjoy a bold retort and to be disposed to be gracious.


Chapter 4

She was, however, very happy, and now, as the mother of two
peremptory little boys and the mistress of a wedge of brown
stone violently driven into Fifty-third Street
, seemed to
exult in her condition as in a bold escape. She was short
and solid, and her claim to figure was questioned, but she
conceded presence, though not majesty; she had moreover,
as people said, improved since her marriage, and the two
things in life of which she was most distinctly conscious
were her husband's force in argument and her sister Isabel's
originality. "I've never kept up with Isabel--it would have
taken all my time," she had often remarked; in spite of which,
however, she held her rather wistfully in sight; watching her
as a motherly spaniel might watch a free greyhound. "I want
to see her safely married--that's what I want to see," she
frequently noted to her husband.

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

"I know you say that for argument; you always take the opposite
ground. I don't see what you've against her except that she's so

"Well, I don't like originals; I like translations," Mr. Ludlow
had more than once replied. "Isabel's written in a foreign
tongue. I can't make her out. She ought to marry an Armenian or a


"I'm sure all we've got to do," said Mrs. Ludlow,
"is to give her a chance."

"A chance for what?"

"A chance to develop."

"Oh Moses!" Edmund Ludlow exclaimed. "I hope she isn't going to
develop any more!"

"If I were not sure you only said that for argument I should feel
very badly," his wife replied. "But you know you love her."

"Do you know I love you?" the young man said, jocosely, to Isabel
a little later, while he brushed his hat.

"I'm sure I don't care whether you do or not!" exclaimed the
girl; whose voice and smile, however, were less haughty than her


Whether she felt grand or no, she at any rate felt different, as
if something had happened to her. Left to herself for the evening
she sat a while under the lamp, her hands empty, her usual
unheeded. Then she rose and moved about the room, and
from one room to another, preferring the places where the vague
lamplight expired
. She was restless and even agitated; at moments
she trembled a little. The importance of what had happened was
out of proportion to its appearance; there had really been a
change in her life.

She closed her eyes as she sat in one of the dusky corners of
quiet parlour; but it was not with a desire for dozing
. It was on the contrary because she felt too
and wished to check the sense of seeing too many
things at once. Her imagination was by habit ridiculously
active; when the door was not open it jumped out of the
. She was not accustomed indeed to keep it behind
; and at important moments, when she would have been
thankful to make use of her judgement alone, she paid the
penalty of having given undue encouragement to the faculty
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
, she passed them in review. It had been a very happy
life and she had been a very fortunate person--this was the
truth that seemed to emerge most vividly. She had had the
best of everything, and in a world in which the circumstances
of so many people made them unenviable it was an advantage
never to have known anything particularly unpleasant. It
appeared to Isabel that the unpleasant had been even too
absent from her knowledge, for she had gathered from her
acquaintance with literature
that it was often a source of
interest and even of instruction.

Isabel had in the depths of her nature an even more unquenchable
to please than Edith; but the depths of this young lady's
nature were a very out-of-the-way place, between which and the
surface communication was interrupted by a dozen capricious
. 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
her like the cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic; it
was supposed to engender difficult questions and to keep the
conversation at a low temperature. The poor girl liked to be
thought clever, but she hated to be thought bookish; she used to
read in secret and, though her memory was excellent, to abstain
from showy reference. She had a great desire for knowledge, but
she really preferred almost any source of information to the
printed page; she had an
immense curiosityabout life and was
constantly staring and wondering
. She carried within herself a
great fund of life, and her deepest enjoyment was to feel the
continuity between the movements of her own soul and the
agitations of the world
. For this reason she was fond of seeing
great crowdsand large stretches of country, of reading about
revolutions and wars, of looking at
historical pictures--a class
of efforts as to which she had often committed the conscious
solecism of forgiving them much bad painting for the sake of the
subject. While the Civil War went on she was still a very young
girl; but she passed months of this long period in a state of
almost passionate excitement, in which she felt herself at times
(to her extreme confusion) stirred almost indiscriminately by the
valour of either army. Of course the circumspection of suspicious
had never gone the length of making her a social proscript;
for the number of those whose hearts, as they approached her,
beat only just fast enough to remind them they had heads as well,
had kept her unacquainted with the supreme disciplines of her sex
and age. She had had everything a girl could have: kindness,
admiration, bonbons, bouquets, the sense of exclusion from none of
the privileges of the world she lived in, abundant opportunity
for dancing, plenty of new dresses, the London Spectator, the
latest publications, the music of Gounod, the poetry of Browning,
the prose of George Eliot.

Chapter 5

Ralph rendered perfect justice to her affection and knew
that in her thoughts and her thoroughly arranged and
servanted life his turn always came after the other
nearest subjects of her solicitude, the various punctualities
of performance
of the workers of her will.

But, as he said to himself, he had no intention of
disamericanising, nor had he a desire to teach his only
son any such subtle art. It had been for himself so very
soluble a problem to live in England assimilated yet
that it seemed to him equally simple his lawful
heir should after his death carry on the grey old bank in the
white American light. He was at pains to intensify this light,
however, by sending the boy home for his education. Ralph spent
several terms at an American school and took a degree at an
American university, after which, as he struck his father on
his return as even redundantly native, he was placed for some
three years in residence at Oxford. Oxford swallowed up Harvard,
and Ralph became at last English enough.

It was not this, however, he mainly relished; it was the
fine ivory surface, polished as by the English air, that the
old man had opposed to possibilities of penetration
. Daniel
Touchett had been neither at Harvard nor at Oxford, and it was
his own fault if he had placed in his son's hands the key to
criticism. Ralph, whose head was full of ideas which his
father had never guessed, had a high esteem for the latter's
originality. Americans, rightly or wrongly, are commended for the
ease with which they adapt themselves to foreign conditions; but
Mr. Touchett had made of the very limits of his pliancy half the
ground of his general success. He had retained in their freshness
most of his marks of primary pressure
; his tone, as his son
always noted with pleasure, was that of the more luxuriant parts
of New England. At the end of his life he had become, on his own
ground, as mellow as he was rich; he combined consummate
with the disposition superficially to fraternise, and
his "social position," on which he had never wasted a care, had
the firm perfection of an unthumbed fruit
. It was perhaps his
want of imagination and of what is called the historic
consciousness; but to many of the impressions usually made by
English life upon the cultivated stranger his sense was
closed. There were certain differences he had never
perceived, certain habits he had never formed, certain
obscurities he had never sounded. As regards these latter, on the
day he had sounded them his son would have thought less well of

He had to give up work and apply, to the letter, the sorry
to take care of himself. At first he slighted the
; it appeared to him it was not himself in the least he
was taking care of, but an uninteresting and uninterested
person with whom he had nothing in common
. This person,
however, improved on acquaintance, and Ralph grew at last
to have a certain grudging tolerance, even an undemonstrative
, for him. Misfortune makes strange bedfellows, and our
young man, feeling that he had something at stake in the matter--
it usually struck him as his reputation for ordinary wit--
devoted to his graceless charge an amount of attention of which
note was duly taken and which had at least the effect of keeping
the poor fellow alive. One of his lungs began to heal, the other
promised to follow its example, and he was assured he might
outweather a dozen winters if he would betake himself to those
climates in which consumptives chiefly congregate. As he had
grown extremely fond of London, he cursed the flatness of exile:
but at the same time that he cursed he conformed, and gradually,
when he found his sensitive organ grateful even for grim favours,
he conferred them with a lighter hand

With the prospect of losing them the simple use of his
became an exquisite pleasure; it seemed to him
the joys of contemplation had never been sounded. He was
far from the time when he had found it hard that he should
be obliged to give up the idea of distinguishing himself;
an idea none the less importunate for being vague and none
the less delightful for having had to struggle in the same
with bursts of inspiring self-criticism. His friends
at present judged him more cheerful, and attributed it to a
theory, over which they shook their heads knowingly, that
he would recover his health. His serenity was but the
array of wild flowers niched in his ruin

It may be added, in summary fashion, that the imagination
loving--as distinguished from that of being loved --had
still a place in his reduced sketch. He had only forbidden
himself the riot of expression. However, he shouldn't inspire
his cousin with a passion, nor would she be able, even should
she try, to help him to one.


"I mean to take her to Paris. I mean to get her clothing."

"Ah yes, that's of course. But independently of that?"

"I shall invite her to spend the autumn with me in Florence."

"You don't rise above detail, dear mother," said Ralph. "I should
like to know what you mean to do with her in a general way."

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

"No, I don't think I pity her. She doesn't strike me as inviting
compassion. I think I envy her. Before being sure, however, give
me a hint of where you see your duty."

"In showing her four European countries--I shall leave her the
choice of two of them--and in giving her the opportunity of
perfecting herself in French, which she already knows very well."

Ralph frowned a little. "That sounds rather dry--even allowing
her the choice of two of the countries."

"If it's dry," said his mother with a laugh, "you can leave
Isabel alone to water it! She is as good as a summer rain, any

"Do you mean she's a gifted being?"

"I don't know whether she's a gifted being, but she's a clever
girl--with a strong will and a high temper. She has no idea of


"I found her in an old house at Albany, sitting in a dreary room
on a rainy day, reading a heavy book and boring herself to death.
She didn't know she was bored, but when I left her no doubt of it
she seemed very
grateful for the service. You may say I shouldn't
have enlightened he--I should have let her alone. There's a good
deal in that, but I acted conscientiously; I thought she was
meant for something better. It occurred to me that it would be a
kindness to take her about and introduce her to the world. She
thinks she knows a great deal of it--like most American girls;
but like most American girls she's ridiculously mistaken. If you
want to know, I thought she would do me credit. I like to be well
thought of, and for a woman of my age there's no greater
convenience, in some ways, than an attractive niece."


His questions, however, were not exhausted. "All this time," he
said, "you've not told me what you intend to do with her."

"Do with her? You talk as if she were a yard of calico. I shall
do absolutely nothing with her, and she herself will do
she chooses. She gave me notice of that."

"What you meant then, in your telegram, was that her character's

"I never know what I mean in my telegrams--especially those I
send from America. Clearness is too expensive.


"She doesn't take suggestions," Ralph said to himself; but
he said it without irritation; her pressure amused and even
pleased him. The lamps were on brackets, at intervals, and
if the light was imperfect it was genial. It fell upon the
vague squares of rich colour and on the faded gilding of
heavy frames; it made a sheen on the polished floor of the
gallery. Ralph took a candlestick and moved about, pointing
out the things he liked; Isabel, inclining to one picture
after another, indulged in little exclamations and murmurs.
She was evidently a judge; she had a natural taste; he was
struck with that. She took a candlestick herself and held
it slowly here and there; she lifted it high, and as she did
so he found himself pausing in the middle of the place and
bending his eyes much less upon the pictures than on her
presence. He lost nothing, in truth, by these wandering
, for she was better worth looking at than most works
of art. She was undeniably spare, and ponderably light, and
proveably tall
; when people had wished to distinguish her
from the other two Miss Archers they had always called her
the willowy one. Her hair, which was dark even to blackness,
had been an object of envy to many women; her light grey
eyes, a little too firm perhaps in her graver moments, had
an enchanting range of concession


"Please tell me--isn't there a ghost?" she went on.

"A ghost?"

"A castle-spectre, a thing that appears. We call them ghosts in

"So we do here, when we see them."

"You do see them then? You ought to, in this romantic old house."

"It's not a romantic old house," said Ralph. "You'll be
disappointed if you count on that. It's a dismally prosaic one;
there's no romance here but what you may have brought with you."

"I've brought a great deal; but it seems to me I've brought it to
the right place

"To keep it out of harm, certainly; nothing will ever happen to
it here, between my father and me."


"Now you're making fun of me," the girl answered rather gravely.
"Who was the gentleman on the lawn when I arrived?"

"A county neighbour; he doesn't come very often."

"I'm sorry for that; I liked him," said Isabel.

"Why, it seemed to me that you barely spoke to him," Ralph

"Never mind, I like him all the same. I like your father too,

"You can't do better than that. He's the dearest of the dear."


"I like your mother very much, because--because--" And Isabel
found herself attempting to assign a reason for her affection for
Mrs. Touchett.

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

"I always know why," the girl answered. "It's because she doesn't
expect one to like her. She doesn't care whether one does or

you adore her--out of perversity? Well, I take greatly after
my mother," said Ralph.

"I don't believe you do at all. You wish people to like you, and
you try to make them do it."

"Good heavens, how you see through one!" he cried with a dismay
that was not altogether jocular.

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

Ralph shook his head sadly. "I might show it to you, but you'd
never see it. The privilege isn't given to every one; it's not
enviable. It has never been seen by a young, happy, innocent
person like you. You must have suffered first, have suffered
greatly, have gained some miserable knowledge. In that way your
eyes are opened to it. I saw it long ago," said Ralph.

"I told you just now I'm very fond of knowledge," Isabel

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

Chapter 6

Isabel Archer was a young person of many theories; her
imagination was remarkably active. It had been her fortune to
possess a finer mind than most of the persons among whom her lot
was cast; to have a larger perception of surrounding facts and to
care for knowledge that was tinged with the unfamiliar.

It may be affirmed without delay that Isabel was probably very
liable to the sin of self-esteem; she often surveyed with
complacency the field of her own nature; she was in the habit
of taking for granted, on scanty evidence, that she was right;
she treated herself to occasions of homage. Meanwhile her
errors and delusions were frequently such as a biographer
interested in preserving the dignity of his subject must shrink
from specifying. Her thoughts were a tangle of vague outlines
which had never been corrected by the judgement of people
speaking with authority. In matters of opinion she had had her
own way, and it had led her into a thousand ridiculous zigzags.
At moments she discovered she was grotesquely wrong, and then she
treated herself to a week of passionate humility. After this she
held her head higher than ever again; for it was of no use, she
had an unquenchable desire to think well of herself. She had a
theory that it was only under this provision life was worth
living; that one should be one of the best, should be conscious
of a fine organisation (she couldn't help knowing her organsation
was fine), should move in a realm of light, of natural wisdom, of
happy impulse, of inspiration gracefully chronic
. It was almost
as unnecessary to cultivate doubt of one's self as to cultivate
doubt of one's best friend: one should try to be one's own best
friend and to give one's self, in this manner, distinguished
company. The girl had a certain nobleness of imagination which
rendered her a good many services and played her a great many
tricks. She spent half her time in thinking of beauty and bravery
and magnanimity; she had a fixed determination to regard the
world as a place of brightness, of free expansion, of
irresistible action

Henrietta was in the van of progress and had clear-cut views
on most subjects; her cherished desire had long been to come
to Europe and write a series of letters to the Interviewer
from the radical point of view--an enterprise the less difficult
as she knew perfectly in advance what her opinions would be and
to how many objections most European institutions lay open.

It often seemed to her that she thought too much about herself;
you could have made her colour, any day in the year, by calling
her a rank egoist. She was always planning out her development,
desiring her perfection, observing her progress. Her nature had,
in her conceit, a certain
garden-like quality, a suggestion of
perfume and murmuring boughs, of shady bowers and lengthening
vistas, which made her feel that introspection was, after all,
an exercise in the open air, and that a visit to the recesses
of one's spirit was harmless when one returned from it with a
lapful of roses
. But she was often reminded that there were
other gardens in the world than those of her remarkable soul,
and that there were moreover a great many places which were
not gardens at all--only dusky pestiferous tracts, planted
thick with ugliness and misery. In the current of that repaid
curiosity on which she had lately been floating
, which had
conveyed her to this beautiful old England and might carry
her much further still, she often checked herself with the
thought of the thousands of people who were less happy than
herself--a thought which for the moment made her fine, full
appear a kind of immodesty. What should one do
with the misery of the world in a scheme of the agreeable
for one's self

Her uncle's house seemed a picture made real; no refinement
of the
agreeable was lost upon Isabel; the rich perfection
of Gardencourt at once revealed a world and gratified a need.
The large, low rooms, with brown ceilings and dusky corners,
the deep embrasures and curious casements, the quiet light
on dark, polished panels, the deep greenness outside, that
seemed always peeping in, the sense of well-ordered privacy
in the centre of a "property"--a place where sounds were
felicitously accidental, where the tread was muffed by the
earth itself and in the thick mild air all friction dropped
out of contac
t and all shrillness out of talk--these things
were much to the taste of our young lady, whose taste played
a considerable part in her emotions.

Like the mass of American girls Isabel had been encouraged to
express herself; her remarks had been attendedto; she had been
expected to have emotions and opinions. Many of her opinions had
doubtless but a
slender value, many of her emotions passed away
in the utterance
; but they had left a trace in giving her the
habit of seeming at least to feel and think, and in imparting
moreover to her words when she was really moved that prompt
vividness which so many people had regarded as a sign of

"The books?" he once said; "well, I don't know much about the
books. You must ask Ralph about that. I've always ascertained for
myself--got my information in the
natural form. I never asked
many questions even; I just kept quiet and took notice. Of course
I've had very good opportunities--better than what a young lady
would naturally have. I'm of an inquisitive disposition, though
you mightn't think it if you were to watch me: however much you
watch me I should be watching you more. I've been watching
these people for upwards of thirty-five years
, and I don't
hesitate to say that I've acquired considerable information. It's
a very fine country on the whole--finer perhaps than what we give
it credit for on the other side. several improvements I should
like to see introduced; but the necessity of them doesn't seem to
be generally felt as yet. When the necessity of a thing
is generally felt they usually manage to accomplish it;


"I'm sure the English are very conventional," she added.

"They've got everything pretty well fixed," Mr. Touchett
admitted. "It's all settled beforehand--they don't leave it to
the last moment."

"I don't like to have everything settled beforehand," said the
girl. "I like more unexpectedness."

Her uncle seemed amused at her distinctness of preference. "Well,
it's settled beforehand that you'll have great success," he
rejoined. "I suppose you'll like that."


Chapter 7

She had, however, a peculiar taste; she liked to receive
cards. For what is usually called social intercourse she
had very little relish; but nothing pleased her more than
to find her hall-table whitened with oblong morsels of
symbolic pasteboard

Isabel presently found herself in the singular situation of
defending the British constitution against her aunt; Mrs.
Touchett having formed the habit of sticking pins into this
venerable instrument. Isabel always felt an impulse to pull out
the pins
; not that she imagined they inflicted any damage on the
tough old parchment, but because it seemed to her her aunt might
make better use of her sharpness. She was very critical herself--
it was incidental to her age, her sex and her nationality; but
she was very sentimental as well, and there was something in Mrs.
Touchett's dryness that set her own moral fountains flowing

"Now what's your point of view?" she asked of her aunt. "When you
criticise everything here you should have a point of view. Yours
doesn't seem to be American--you thought everything over there so
disagreeable. When I criticise I have mine; it's thoroughly

"My dear young lady," said Mrs. Touchett, "there are as many
points of view
in the world as there are people of sense to take
. You may say that doesn't make them very numerous! American?
Never in the world; that's shockingly narrow. My point of view,
thank God, is personal!"


She accused him of an odious want of seriousness, of laughing
at all things, beginning with himself. Such slender faculty of
reverence as he possessed centred wholly upon his father; for
the rest, he exercised his wit indifferently upon his father's
son, this gentleman's weak lungs, his useless life, his fantastic
mother, his friends (Lord Warburton in especial), his adopted,
and his native country, his charming new-found cousin. "I keep
a band of music in my ante-room," he said once to her. "It has
orders to play without stopping; it renders me two excellent
services. It keeps the sounds of the world from reaching the
private apartments, and it makes the world think that dancing's
going on within."
It was dance-music indeed that you usually
heard when you came within ear-shot of Ralph's band; the
liveliest waltzes seemed to float upon the air. Isabel often
found herself irritated by this perpetual fiddling; she would
have liked to pass through the ante-room, as her cousin called
it, and enter the private apartments. It mattered little that
he had assured her they were a very dismal place; she would
have been glad to undertake to sweep them and set them in order.
It was but half-hospitality to let her remain outside; to punish
him for which Isabel administered innumerable taps with the
ferule of her straight young wit. It must be said that her wit
was exercised to a large extent in self-defence, for her cousin
amused himself with calling her "Columbia " and accusing her of a
patriotism so heated that it scorched. He drew a caricature of
her in which she was represented as a very pretty young woman
dressed, on the lines of the prevailing fashion, in the folds of
the national banner.

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.

At a time when his thoughts had been a good deal of a burden
to him her sudden arrival, which promised nothing and was an
open-handed gift of fate, had refreshed and quickened them,
given them wings and something to fly for.

Ralph had always taken for granted that his father would survive
him--that his own name would be the first grimly called. The
father and son had been close companions, and the idea of
being left alone with the remnant of a tasteless life on his
hands was not gratifying to the young man, who had always and
tacitly counted upon his elder's help in making the best of a
poor business. At the prospect of losing his great motive Ralph
lost indeed his one inspiration. If they might die at the same
time it would be all very well; but without the encouragement of
his father's society he should barely have patience to await his
own turn.

If his cousin were to be nothing more than an entertainment
to him, Ralph was conscious she was an entertainment of a
high order. "A character like that," he said to himself--
"a real little
passionate force to see at play is the finest
thing in nature. It's finer than the finest work of art--than a
Greek bas-relief, than a great Titian, than a Gothic cathedral
It's very pleasant to be so well treated where one had least
looked for it. I had never been more blue, more bored, than for a
week before she came; I had never expected less that anything
pleasant would happen. Suddenly I receive a Titian, by the post,
to hang on my wall--a Greek bas-relief to stick over my
chimney-piece. The key of a beautiful edifice is thrust into my
hand, and I'm told to walk in and admire. My poor boy, you've
been sadly ungrateful, and now you had better keep very quiet and
never grumble again."

He surveyed the edifice from the outside and admired it
greatly; he looked in at the windows and received an
impression of proportions equally fair. But he felt that
he saw it only by glimpses and that he had not yet stood
under the roof. The door was fastened, and though he had
keys in his pocket he had a conviction that none of them
would fit. She was intelligent and generous; it was a fine
nature; but what was she going to do with herself?
This question was irregular, for with most women one had
no occasion to ask it. Most women did with themselves
nothing at all; they waited, in attitudes more or less
gracefully passive, for a man to come that way and furnish
them with a destiny. Isabel's originality was that she gave
one an impression of having intentions of her own. "Whenever
she executes them," said Ralph, "may I be there to see!"


"He has a good excuse for his laziness," Isabel rejoined,
lowering her voice a little.

"Ah, he has a good excuse for everything!" cried Lord Warburton,
still with his sonorous mirth.

"My excuse for not rowing is that my cousin rows so well," said
Ralph. "She does everything well. She touches nothing that she
doesn't adorn!"

"It makes one want to be touched, Miss Archer," Lord Warburton

"Be touched in the right sense and you'll never look the worse
for it," said Isabel..


"You were very right to tell me then," said Isabel. "I don't
understand it, but I'm very glad to know it.

"I shall always tell you," her aunt answered, "whenever I see you
taking what seems to me too much liberty."

"Pray do; but I don't say I shall always think your remonstrance

"Very likely not. You're too fond of your own ways."

"Yes, I think I'm very fond of them. But I always want to know
the things one shouldn't do."

"So as to do them?" asked her aunt.

"So as to choose," said Isabel.


Chapter 8

Isabel was often amused at his explicitness and at the small
allowance he seemed to make either for her own experience or for
her imagination. "He thinks I'm a barbarian," she said, "and that
I've never seen forks and spoons;" and she used to ask him
artless questions for the pleasure of hearing him answer
seriously. Then when he had fallen into the trap, "It's a pity
you can't see me in my war-paint and feathers," she remarked; "if
I had known how kind you are to the poor savages I would have
brought over my native costume!"

"Does he regard himself as a joke?"

"Much worse; he regards himself as an imposition--as an abuse."

"Well, perhaps he is," said Isabel.

"Perhaps he is--though on the whole I don't think so. But in that
case what's more pitiable than a sentient, self-conscious abuse
planted by other hands, deeply rooted but aching with a sense of
its injustice?
For me, in his place, I could be as solemn as a
statue of Buddha. He occupies a position that appeals to my
imagination. Great responsibilities, great opportunities, great
consideration, great wealth, great power, a natural share in the
public affairs of a great country. But he's all in a muddle about
himself, his position, his power, and indeed about everything in
the world. He's the victim of a critical age; he has ceased to
believe in himself and he doesn't know what to believe in
. When I
attempt to tell him (because if I were he I know very well what I
should believe in) he calls me a pampered bigot. I believe he
seriously thinks me an awful Philistine; he says I don't
understand my time. I understand it certainly better than he, who
can neither abolish himself as a nuisance nor maintain himself as
an institution.


"Don't you think they're sincere?" Isabel asked.

"Well, they want to FEEL earnest," Mr. Touchett allowed; "but it
seems as if they took it out in theories mostly. Their radical
are a kind of amusement; they've got to have some
amusement, and they might have
coarser tastes than that. You see
they're very luxurious, and these progressive ideas are about
their biggest luxury. They make them feel moral and yet don't
damage their position


Chapter 9

Isabel's visitors retained that of an extreme sweetness and shyness
of demeanour, and of having, as she thought, eyes like the balanced
basins, the circles of "ornamental water,"set, in parterres, among the

"They're not morbid, at any rate, whatever they are," our heroine
said to herself; and she deemed this a great charm, for two or
three of the friends of her girlhood had been regrettably open to
the charge (they would have been so nice without it), to say
nothing of Isabel's having occasionally suspected it as a
tendency of her own. The Misses Molyneux were not in their first
youth, but they had bright, fresh complexions and something of
the smile of childhood. Yes, their eyes, which Isabel admired,
were round, quiet and contented, and their figures, also of a
generous roundness, were encased in sealskin jackets.


"May I come and see you then some day next week?"

"Most assuredly. What is there to prevent it?"

"Nothing tangible. But with you I never feel safe. I've a sort of
sense that you're always summing people up."

"You don't of necessity lose by that."

"It's very kind of you to say so; but, even if I gain, stern
justice is not what I most love
. Is Mrs. Touchett going to take
you abroad?"

"I hope so."

"Is England not good enough for you?"

"That's a very Machiavellian speech; it doesn't deserve an
answer. I want to see as many countries as I can."

"Then you'll go on judging, I suppose."

"Enjoying, I hope, too."

"Yes, that's what you enjoy most; I can't make out what you're
up to," said Lord Warburton. "You strike me as having mysterious
purposes--vast designs."

"You're so good as to have a theory about me which I don't at all
fill out
. Is there anything mysterious in a purpose entertained
and executed every year, in the most public manner, by fifty
thousand of my fellow-countrymen--the purpose of improving one's
mind by foreign travel?"

"You can't improve your mind, Miss Archer," her companion
declared. "It's already a most formidable instrument. It looks
down on us all; it despises us."

"Despises you? You're making fun of me," said Isabel seriously.

"Well, you think us 'quaint'--that's the same thing. I won't be
thought 'quaint,' to begin with; I 'm not so in the least. I

"That protest is one of the quaintest things I've ever heard,"
Isabel answered with a smile.

"I don't mean of course that you amuse yourself with trifles. You
select great materials; the foibles, the afflictions of human nature,
peculiarities of nations!"

"As regards that," said Isabel, "I should find in my own nation
entertainment for a lifetime.


Chapter 10

She was a neat, plump person, of medium stature, with a round
face, a small mouth, a delicate complexion, a bunch of light brown
at the back of her head and a peculiarly open,
surprised-looking eye
. The most striking point in her appearance
was the remarkable fixedness of this organ, which rested without
impudence or defiance, but as if in conscientious exercise of a
natural right
, upon every object it happened to encounter. It rested
in this manner upon Ralph himself, a little arrested by Miss Stackpole's
gracious and comfortable aspect, which hinted that it wouldn't be
so easy as he had assumed to disapprove of her. She rustled, she
shimmered, in fresh, dove-coloured draperies, and Ralph saw at a
glance that she was as crisp and new and comprehensive as a first
issue before the folding. From top to toe she had probably no
. She spoke in a clear, high voice--a voice not rich but
loud; yet after she had taken her place with her companions in
Mr. Touchett's carriage she struck him as not all in the large
type, the type of horrid "headings,"
that he had expected.


"There are plenty of other subjects, there are subjects all round
you. We'll take some drives; I'll show you some charming

"Scenery's not my department; I always need a human interest. You
know I'm deeply human
, Isabel; I always was," Miss Stackpole
rejoined. "I was going to bring in your cousin--the alienated
. There's a great demand just now for the alienated
American, and your cousin's a beautiful specimen. I should have
handled him

"He would have died of it!" Isabel exclaimed. "Not of the
severity, but of the publicity."

"Well, I should have liked to kill him a little.
And I should
have delighted to do your uncle, who seems to me a much nobler
type--the American faithful still. He's a grand old man; I don't
see how he can object to my paying him honour."

Isabel looked at her companion in much wonderment; it struck her
as strange that a nature in which she found so much to esteem
should break down so in spots. "My poor Henrietta," she said,
"you've no sense of privacy."

coloured deeply, and for a moment her brilliant eyes
suffused, while Isabel found her more than ever
inconsequent. "You do me great injustice," said Miss Stackpole
with dignity. "I've never written a word about myself!"

"I'm very sure of that; but it seems to me one should be modest
for others also!"

"Ah, that's very good!" cried Henrietta, seizing her pen again.
"Just let me make a note of it and I'll put it in somewhere."


Miss Stackpole occupied a place in the boat in which hitherto
Ralph had had but a single companion. Her presence proved somehow
less irreducible to soft particles than Ralph had expected in the
natural perturbation of his sense of the perfect solubility
that of his cousin; for the correspondent of the Interviewer
prompted mirth in him, and he had long since decided that the
crescendo of mirth should be the flower of his declining days.
Henrietta, on her side, failed a little to justify Isabel's
declaration with regard to her indifference to masculine opinion;
for poor Ralph appeared to have presented himself to her as an
irritating problem, which it would be almost immoral not to work

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

"He does nothing," smiled Isabel; "he's a gentleman of large

"Well, I call that a shame--when I have to work like a
car-conductor," Miss Stackpole replied. "I should like to show
him up."

"He's in wretched health; he's quite unfit for work," Isabel

"Pshaw! don't you believe it. I work when I'm sick," cried her
friend. Later, when she stepped into the boat on joining the
water-party, she remarked to Ralph that she supposed he hated her
and would like to drown her.

"Ah no," said Ralph, "I keep my victims for a slower torture. And
you'd be such an interesting one

"Well, you do torture me; I may say that. But I shock all your
prejudices; that's one comfort."

"My prejudices? I haven't a prejudice to bless myself with.
There's intellectual poverty for you

"The more shame to you; I've some delicious ones. Of course I
spoil your flirtation, or whatever it is you call it, with your
cousin; but I don't care for that, as I render her the service of
drawing you out. She'll see how thin you are."

"Ah, do draw me out!" Ralph exclaimed. "So few people will take
the trouble


Miss Stackpole looked at the pictures in perfect silence,
committing herself to no opinion, and Ralph was gratified
by the fact that she delivered herself of none of the little
ready-made ejaculations of delight of which the visitors to
Gardencourt were so frequently lavish. This young lady indeed,
to do her justice, was but little addicted to the use of
conventional terms; there was something earnest and inventive
in her tone, which at times, in its strained deliberation,
suggested a person of high culture speaking a foreign language.
Ralph Touchett subsequently learned that she had at one time
officiated as art critic to a journal of the other world; but
she appeared, in spite of this fact, to carry in her pocket
none of the small change of admiration

"Do you consider it right to give up your country?"

"Ah, one doesn't give up one's country any more than one gives up
one's grandmother. They're both antecedent to choice--elements of
one's composition that are not to be eliminated

"One must be very modest then to talk with such women," Ralph
said humbly. "But it's a very strange type. She's too personal--
considering that she expects other people not to be. She walks in
without knocking at the door."

"Yes," Isabel admitted, "she doesn't sufficiently recognise the
existence of knockers
; and indeed I'm not sure that she doesn't
think them rather a pretentious ornament. She thinks one's door
should stand ajar.

"If I should tell her I wouldn't express it in that way. I should
say it's because there's something of the 'people' in her."

"What do you know about the people? and what does she, for that

"She knows a great deal, and I know enough to feel that she's a
kind of emanation of the great democracy
--of the continent, the
country, the nation. I don't say that she sums it all up, that
would be too much to ask of her. But she suggests it; she vividly
figures it."

"You like her then for patriotic reasons. I'm afraid it is on
those very grounds I object to her."


Chapter 11

"Poor American ladies!" cried Mrs. Touchett with a laugh. "They're
the slaves of slaves."

"They're the companions of freemen," Henrietta retorted.

"They're the companions of their servants--the Irish chambermaid
and the negro waiter
. They share their work."

"Do you call the domestics in an American household 'slaves'?"
Miss Stackpole enquired. "If that's the way you desire to treat
them, no wonder you don't like America."

"If you've not good servants you're miserable," Mrs. Touchett
serenely said. "They're very bad in America, but I've five
perfect ones in Florence."

"I don't see what you want with five," Henrietta couldn't help
observing. "I don't think I should like to see five persons
surrounding me in that menial position

"I like them in that position better than in some others,"
proclaimed Mrs. Touchett with much meaning.


Isabel waited. At the mention of Mr. Goodwood's name she had
turned a little pale. "I'm very sorry you did that,"
she observed at last.

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

"What did you say about me?" Isabel asked.

"I said you were on the whole the finest creature I know."

"I'm very sorry for that. He thinks too well of me already; he
oughtn't to be encouraged."

"He's dying for a little encouragement. I see his face now, and
his earnest absorbed look while I talked. I never saw an ugly man
look so handsome."

"He's very simple-minded," said Isabel. "And he's not so ugly."

"There's nothing so simplifying as a grand passion."

"It's not a grand passion; I'm very sure it's not that."

"You don't say that as if you were sure."

Isabel gave rather a cold smile. "I shall say it better to Mr.
Goodwood himself


It seemed to her at last that she would do well to take a book;
formerly, when heavy-hearted, she had been able, with the help
of some well-chosen volume, to transfer the seat of consciousness
to the organ of pure reason
. Of late, it was not to be denied,
literature had seemed a fading light, and even after she had
reminded herself that her uncle's library was provided with a
complete set of those authors which no gentleman's collection
should be without, she sat motionless and empty-handed, her
eyes bent on the cool green turf of the lawn.

I shall never think of any one else. I came to England simply
because you are here; I couldn't stay at home after you had gone:
I hated the country because you were not in it. If I like this
country at present it is only because it holds you.

Chapter 12

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

"We'll walk about a little then," said Isabel, who could not
divest herself of the sense of an intention on the part of her
visitor and who wished both to elude the intention and to satisfy
curiosity about it.

When she had thought of individual eminence she had thought of it
on the basis of character and wit--of what one might like in a
gentleman's mind and in his talk. She herself was a character
--she couldn't help being aware of that; and hitherto her visions
of a completed consciousness had concerned themselves largely
with moral images--things as to which the question would be
whether they pleased her sublime soul. Lord Warburton loomed up
before her, largely and brightly, as a collection of attributes
and powers which were not to be measured by this simple rule,
but which demanded a different sort of appreciation--an
appreciation that the girl, with her habit of judging quickly and
freely, felt she lacked patience to bestow

He had summed up all this--the perversity of the impulse,
which had declined to avail itself of the most liberal
opportunities to subside
, and the judgement of mankind, as
exemplified particularly in the more quickly-judging half of it:
he had looked these things well in the face and then had
dismissed them from his thoughts. He cared no more for them than
for the rosebud in his buttonhole


"I don't make mistakes about such things; I'm a very judicious
animal. I don't go off easily, but when I'm touched, it's for
life. It's for life, Miss Archer, it's for life
," Lord Warburton
repeated in the kindest, tenderest, pleasantest voice Isabel had
ever heard
, and looking at her with eyes charged with the light
of a passion that had
sifted itself clear of the baser parts of
emotion--the heat, the violence, the unreason--and that burned
as steadily as a lamp in a windless place


"If you know me little I know you even less," said Isabel.

"You mean that, unlike yourself, I may not improve on
acquaintance? Ah, of course that's very possible. But think, to
speak to you as I do, how determined I must be to try and give
You do like me rather, don't you?"

"I like you very much, Lord Warburton," she answered; and at this
moment she liked him immensely.

"I thank you for saying that; it shows you don't regard me as a
stranger. I really believe I've filled all the other relations of
life very creditably, and I don't see why I shouldn't fill this
--in which I offer myself to you--seeing that I care so much
more about it. Ask the people who know me well; I've friends
who'll speak for me."

"I don't need the recommendation of your friends," said Isabel.

"Ah now, that's delightful of you. You believe in me yourself."

"Completely," Isabel declared. She quite glowed there, inwardly,
with the pleasure of feeling she did


"I'm afraid I can't make you understand."

"You ought at least to try. I've a fair intelligence. Are you
afraid--afraid of the climate? We can easily live elsewhere, you
know. You can pick out your climate, the whole world over."

These words were uttered with a breadth of candour that was like
the embrace of strong arms--that was like the fragrance straight
in her face, and by his clean, breathing lips, of she knew not
what strange gardens, what charged airs.
She would have given her
little finger at that moment to feel strongly and simply the
impulse to answer: "Lord Warburton, it's impossible for me to do
better in this wonderful world, I think, than commit myself, very
gratefully, to your loyalty
." But though she was lost in
admiration of her opportunity she managed to move back into the
deepest shade of it, even as some wild, caught creature in a vast
. The "splendid" security so offered her was not the greatest
she could conceive.


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

He gave a melancholy sigh and stood looking at her a moment, with
his hands behind him, giving short nervous shakes to his
hunting-crop. "Do you know I'm very much afraid of it--of that
remarkable mind of yours?

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


But what disturbed her, in the sense that it struck her with
wonderment, was this very fact that it cost her so little to
refuse a magnificent "chance."
With whatever qualifications
one would, Lord Warburton had offered her a great opportunity;
the situation might have discomforts, might contain oppressive,
might contain narrowing elements, might prove really but a
stupefying anodyne; but she did her sex no injustice in believing
that nineteen women out of twenty would have accommodated themselves
to it without a pang
. Why then upon her also should it not irresistibly
impose itself? Who was she, what was she, that she should hold herself
superior? What view of life, what design upon fate, what conception
of happiness, had she that pretended to be larger than these large
these fabulous occasions?

she was wondering if she were not a cold, hard, priggish person,
and, on her at last getting up and going rather quickly back to
the house, felt, as she had said to her friend, really frightened
at herself.

Chapter 13

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

He had received the better part of his education at Harvard
College, where, however, he had gained renown rather as a
gymnast and an oarsman than as a gleaner of more dispersed
. Later on he had learned that the finer intelligence
too could
vault and pull and strain -

There were intricate, bristling things he rejoiced in; he liked
organise, to contend, to administer; he could make people work
his will, believe in him,
march before him and justify him. This
was the art, as they said, of managing men
--which rested, in
him, further, on a bold though brooding ambition. It struck those
who knew him well that he might do greater things than carry on
a cotton-factory; there was nothing cottony about Caspar Goodwood,
and his friends took for granted that he would somehow and somewhere
write himself in bigger letters.
But it was as if something large
confused, something dark and ugly, would have to call upon him:
he was not after all in harmony with mere
smug peace and greed and
gain, an order of things of which the vital breath was ubiquitous

She wished him no ounce less of his manhood, but she sometimes
thought he would be rather nicer if he looked, for instance, a
little differently. His jaw was too square and set and his figure
straight and stiff: these things suggested a want of easy
consonance with the deeper rhythms of life

He showed his appetites and designs too simply and artlessly;
when one was alone with him he talked too much about the same
subject, and when other people were present he talked too little
about anything. And yet he was of supremely strong, clean make--
which was so much she saw the different fitted parts of him as
she had seen, in museums and portraits, the different fitted
parts of
armoured warriors--in plates of steel handsomely inlaid
with gold


I am not, I am really and truly not, able to regard you in
the light of a companion for life; or to think of your home--
your various homes--as the
settled seat of my existence.
These things cannot be reasoned about, and I very earnestly
entreat you not to return to the subject we discussed so
exhaustively. We see our lives from our own point of view;
that is the privilege of the
weakest and humblest of us; and I
shall never be able to see mine in the manner you proposed


With no more outward light on the subject than he already
possessed he suddenly acquired the conviction that it
would be a sovereign injustice to the correspondent of the
Interviewer to assign a dishonourable motive to any act of hers.
This conviction passed into his mind with extreme rapidity; it was
perhaps kindled by the pure radiance of the young lady's
imperturbable gaze.

Chapter 14

Miss Molyneux, who had a smooth, nun-like forehead and wore
a large silver cross suspended from her neck, was evidently
preoccupied with Henrietta Stackpole, upon whom her eyes
constantly rested in a manner suggesting a conflict between
alienation and yearning wonder. Of the two ladies from
Lockleigh she was the one Isabel had liked best; there was
such a world of hereditary quiet in her
. Isabel was sure
moreover that her mild forehead and silver cross referred
to some weird Anglican mystery--some delightful reinstitution
perhaps of the quaint office of the canoness.


"Don't approve of me?"

"Yes; I don't suppose any one ever said such a thing to you
before, did they? I don't approve of lords as an institution. I
think the world has got beyond them--far beyond."

"Oh, so do I.
I don't approve of myself in the least. Sometimes
it comes over me--how I should object to myself if I were not
myself, don't you know
? But that's rather good, by the way--not
to be

"Why don't you give it up then?" Miss Stackpole enquired.

"Give up--a--?" asked Lord Warburton, meeting her harsh inflexion
with a very mellow one.

"Give up being a lord."

"Oh, I'm so little of one! One would really forget all about it
if you wretched Americans were not constantly reminding one
However, I do think of giving it up, the little there is left of
it, one of these days."

"I should like to see you do it!" Henrietta exclaimed rather

"I'll invite you to the ceremony; we'll have a supper and a

"Well," said Miss Stackpole, "I like to see all sides. I don't
approve of a privileged class, but I like to hear what they have
to say for themselves."

"Mighty little, as you see!"

"I should like to draw you out a little more," Henrietta
continued. "But you're always looking away. You're afraid of
meeting my eye. I see you want to escape me."

"No, I'm only looking for those despised potatoes."


"I don't know whether you'd try to, but you certainly would: that
I must in candour admit!" he exclaimed with an anxious laugh.

"I mustn't--I can't!" cried the girl.

"Well, if you're bent on being miserable I don't see why you
should make me so. Whatever charms a life of misery may have for
you, it has none for me.

"I'm not bent on a life of misery," said Isabel. "I've always
been intensely determined to be happy, and I've often believed I
should be. I've told people that; you can ask them. But it comes
over me every now and then that I can never be happy in any
extraordinary way; not by turning away, by separating myself."

"By separating yourself from what?"

"From life. From the usual chances and dangers, from what most
people know and suffer."

Lord Warburton broke into a smile that almost denoted hope. "Why,
my dear Miss Archer," he began to explain with the most
considerate eagerness, "I don't offer you any exoneration from
life or from any chances or dangers whatever. I wish I could;
depend upon it I would! For what do you take me, pray? Heaven
help me, I'm not the Emperor of China!"


"Miss Stackpole takes notes," Ralph soothingly explained. "She's
a great satirist; she sees through us all and she works us up."

"Well, I must say I never have had such a collection of bad
" Henrietta declared, looking from Isabel to Lord
Warburton and from this nobleman to his sister and to Ralph.
"There's something the matter with you all; you're as dismal as
if you had got a bad cable."

"You do see through us, Miss Stackpole," said Ralph in a low
tone, giving her a little intelligent nod as he led the party out
of the gallery. "There's something the matter with us all."

Chapter 15

When he went home at night to the empty house in Winchester
Square, after a chain of hours with his comparatively
ardent friends, he wandered into the big dusky dining-room, where
the candle he took from the hall-table, after letting himself in,
constituted the only illumination. The square was still, the
house was still; when he raised one of the windows of the
dining-room to let in the air he heard the slow creak of the
boots of a
lone constable. His own step, in the empty place,
seemed loud and sonorous; some of the carpets had been raised,
and whenever he moved he roused a melancholy echo. He sat down in
one of the armchairs; the big dark dining table twinkled here and
there in the small candle-light; the pictures on the wall, all of
them very brown, looked vague and incoherent. There was a ghostly
presence as of dinners long since digested, of table-talk that
had lost its actuality
. This hint of the supernatural perhaps had
something to do with the fact that his imagination took a flight
and that he remained in his chair a long time beyond the hour at
which he should have been in bed; doing nothing, not even reading
the evening paper. I say he did nothing, and I maintain the
phrase in the face of the fact that he thought at these moments
of Isabel. To think of Isabel could only be for him an idle
pursuit, leading to nothing and profiting little to any one. His
cousin had not yet seemed to him so charming as during these days
spent in sounding, tourist-fashion, the deeps and shallows of the
metropolitan element
. Isabel was full of premises, conclusions,
emotions; if she had come in search of local colour she found it
everywhere. She asked more questions than he could answer, and
launched brave theories, as to historic cause and social effect,
that he was equally unable to accept or to refute.

Henrietta proved an indestructible sight-seer and
a more lenient judge than Ralph had ventured to hope.
She had indeed many disappointments, and London at
large suffered from her vivid remembrance of the
strong points of the American civic idea
; but she made
the best of its dingy dignities and only heaved an occasional
sigh and uttered a desultory "Well!" which led no further and
lost itself in retrospect.
The truth was that, as she said
herself, she was not in her element. "I've not a sympathy with
inanimate objects," she remarked to Isabel at the National
Gallery; and she continued to suffer from the meagreness of
the glimpse that had as yet been
vouchsafed to her of the
inner life.

"Where are your public men, where are your men and women of
intellect?" she enquired of Ralph, standing in the middle of
Trafalgar Square as if she had supposed this to be a place where
she would naturally meet a few. "That's one of them on the top of
the column, you say--Lord Nelson. Was he a lord too? Wasn't he
high enough, that they had to stick him a hundred feet in the
air? That's the past--I don't care about the past; I want to see
some of the leading minds of the present. I won't say of the
future, because I don't believe much in your future."
Poor Ralph
had few leading minds among his acquaintance and rarely enjoyed
the pleasure of buttonholing a celebrity; a state of things which
appeared to Miss Stackpole to indicate a deplorable want of

Mixed with this imperfect pride, nevertheless, was a feeling of
freedom which in itself was sweet and which, as she wandered
through the great city with her ill-matched companions,
occasionally throbbed into odd demonstrations. When she walked in
Kensington Gardens she stopped the children (mainly of the poorer
sort) whom she saw playing on the grass; she asked them their
names and gave them sixpence and, when they were pretty, kissed
them. Ralph noticed these quaint charities; he noticed everything
she did.

Mr. Bantling, a stout, sleek, smiling man of forty,
wonderfully dressed, universally informed and incoherently
amused, laughed immoderately at everything Henrietta said


"Are you thinking of proposing to me?"

"By no means. From the point of view I speak of that would be
fatal; I should kill the goose that supplies me with the material
of my
inimitable omelettes. I use that animal as the symbol of my
insane illusions. What I mean is that I shall have the thrill of
seeing what a young lady does who won't marry Lord Warburton."

"That's what your mother counts upon too," said Isabel.

"Ah, there will be plenty of spectators! We shall hang on the
rest of your career
. I shall not see all of it, but I shall
probably see the most interesting years. Of course if you were to
marry our friend you'd still have a career--a very decent, in
fact a very brilliant one. But relatively speaking it would be a
little prosaic. It would be definitely marked out in advance; it
would be wanting in the unexpected. You know I'm extremely fond
of the unexpected
, and now that you've kept the game in your
hands I depend on your giving us some grand example of it."

"I don't understand you very well," said Isabel, "but I do so
well enough to be able to say that if you look for grand examples
of anything from me I shall disappoint you

"You'll do so only by disappointing yourself and that will go
hard with you


"There's nothing she can do so well. But you're of course so

"If one's two-sided it's enough," said Isabel.

"You're the most charming of polygons!" her companion broke out.
At a glance from his companion, however, he became grave, and to
prove it went on: "You want to see life--you'll be hanged if you
don't, as the young men say."

"I don't think I want to see it as the young men want to see it.
But I do want to look about me."

"You want to drain the cup of experience."

"No, I don't wish to touch the cup of experience. It's a poisoned
I only want to see for myself."

"You want to see, but not to feel," Ralph remarked.

"I don't think that if one's a sentient being one can make the


"It seems to me I've told you very little."

"You've told me the great thing: that the world interests you and
that you want to throw yourself into it

Her silvery eyes shone a moment in the dusk. "I never said that."

"I think you meant it. Don't repudiate it. It's so fine!"

"I don't know what you're trying to fasten upon me, for I'm not
in the least an adventurous spirit
. Women are not like men."

Ralph slowly rose from his seat and they walked together to the
gate of the square. "No," he said; "women rarely boast of their
. Men do so with a certain frequency."

"Men have it to boast of!"

"Women have it too. You've a great deal."

"Enough to go home in a cab to Pratt's Hotel, but not more."

Chapter 16

She had moreover a great fondness for intervals of solitude,
which since her arrival in England had been but meagrely met.
It was a luxury she could always command at home and she had
wittingly missed it.


"I've been hoping every day for an answer to my letter. You
might have written me a few lines."

"It wasn't the trouble of writing that prevented me; I could
as easily have written you four pages as one. But my silence
was an intention
," Isabel said. "I thought it the best thing."

He sat with his eyes fixed on hers while she spoke; then he
lowered them and attached them to a spot in the carpet as
if he were making a strong effort to say nothing but what he
ought. He was a strong man in the wrong, and he was acute enough
to see that an uncompromising exhibition of his strength would
only throw the falsity of his position into relief. Isabel was
not incapable of tasting any advantage of position over a person
of this quality, and though little desirous to flaunt it in his
face she could enjoy being able to say "You know you oughtn't to
have written to me yourself!" and to say it with an air of

Caspar Goodwood raised his eyes to her own again; they seemed to
shine through the vizard of a helmet. He had a strong sense of
and was ready any day in the year--over and above this--
to argue the question of his rights. "You said you hoped never to
hear from me again; I know that. But I never accepted any such
rule as my own. I warned you that you should hear very soon."


"I disgust you very much," said Caspar Goodwood gloomily; not as
if to provoke her to compassion for a man conscious of this
blighting fact, but as if to set it well before himself, so that
he might endeavour to act with his eyes on it.

"Yes, you don't at all delight me, you don't fit in, not in any
way, just now, and the worst is that your putting it to the proof
in this manner is quite unnecessary." It wasn't certainly as if
his nature had been soft, so that pin-pricks would draw blood
from it;
and from the first of her acquaintance with him, and of
her having to defend herself against a certain air that he had of
knowing better what was good for her than she knew herself, she
had recognised the fact that perfect frankness was her best
weapon. To attempt to spare his sensibility or to escape from him
edgewise, as one might do from a man who had barred the way less
sturdily--this, in dealing with Caspar Goodwood, who would grasp
at everything of every sort that one might give him, was wasted
agility. It was not that he had not susceptibilities, but his
passive surface, as well as his active, was large and hard
, and
he might always be trusted to dress his wounds, so far as they
required it, himself. She came back, even for her measure of
possible pangs and aches in him, to her old sense that he was
naturally plated and steeled, armed essentially for aggression.


"If you'd only try to banish me from your mind for a few months
we should be on good terms again."

"I see. If I should cease to think of you at all for a prescribed
time, I should find I could keep it up indefinitely.

"Indefinitely is more than I ask. It's more even than I should

"You know that what you ask is impossible," said the young man,
taking his adjective for granted in a manner she found

"Aren't you capable of making a calculated effort?" she demanded.
"You're strong for everything else; why shouldn't you be strong
for that?"

"An effort calculated for what?" And then as she hung fire, "I'm
capable of nothing with regard to you," he went on, "but just of
being infernally in love with you. If one's strong one loves only
the more strongly

"There's a good deal in that;" and indeed our young lady felt the
force of it--felt it thrown off, into the vast of truth and
poetry, as practically a bait to her imagination


Caspar Goodwood bent his eyes again and gazed a while into the
crown of his hat. A deep flush overspread his face; she could
see her
sharpness had at last penetrated. This immediately had
a value --
classic, romantic, redeeming, what did she know? for
her; "the strong man in pain" was one of the categories of the
human appeal
, little charm as he might exert in the given case.
"Why do you make me say such things to you?" she cried in a
trembling voice. "I only want to be gentle--to be thoroughly kind.
It's not delightful to me to feel people care for me and yet to
have to try and reason them out of it. "


"Do you think I'm so very easily pleased?" she asked suddenly,
changing her tone.

"No--I don't; I shall try to console myself with that. But there
are a certain number of very dazzling men in the world, no doubt;
and if there were only one it would be enough. The most dazzling
of all will make straight for you. You'll be sure to take no one
who isn't dazzling."

"If you mean by dazzling brilliantly clever," Isabel said--"and I
can't imagine what else you mean--I don't need the aid of a
clever man to teach me how to live. I can find it out for

"Find out how to live alone? I wish that, when you have, you'd
teach me!"

She looked at him a moment; then with a quick smile, "Oh, you
ought to marry!" she said.

He might be pardoned if for an instant this exclamation seemed to
him to sound the
infernal note, and it is not on record that her
motive for
discharging such a shaft had been of the clearest. He
oughtn't to stride about
lean and hungry, however--she certainly
felt THAT for him. "God forgive you!" he murmured between his
teeth as he turned away.

Her accent had put her slightly in the wrong, and after a moment
she felt the need to right herself. The easiest way to do it was
to place him where she had been. "You do me great injustice--you
say what you don't know!" she broke out. "I shouldn't be an easy
victim--I've proved it."

"Oh, to me, perfectly."

"I've proved it to others as well." And she paused a moment. "I
refused a proposal of marriage last week; what they call--no
doubt--a dazzling one."

"I'm very glad to hear it," said the young man gravely.


"If there's a thing in the world I'm fond of," she went on with a
slight recurrence of grandeur, "it's my personal independence."

But whatever there might be of the too superior in this speech
moved Caspar Goodwood's admiration
; there was nothing he winced
at in the large air of it. He had never supposed she hadn't wings
and the need of beautiful free movements--he wasn't, with his own
long arms and strides, afraid of any force in her.
words, if they had been meant to shock him, failed of the mark
and only made him smile with the sense that he
re was common
ground. "Who would wish less to curtail your liberty than I? What
can give me greater pleasure than to see you perfectly
independent--doing whatever you like? It's to make you
independent that I want to marry you

"That's a beautiful sophism," said the girl with a smile more
beautiful still.


"I'm not in my first youth--I can do what I choose--I
belong quite to the independent class. I've neither father nor
mother; I'm poor and of a serious disposition; I'm not pretty. I
therefore am not bound to be timid and conventional; indeed I
can't afford such luxuries. Besides, I try to judge things for
myself; to judge wrong, I think, is more honourable than not to
judge at all. I don't wish to be a mere sheep in the flock; I
wish to choose my fate and know something of human affairs beyond
what other people think it compatible with propriety to tell me
She paused a moment, but not long enough for her companion to
reply. He was apparently on the point of doing so when she went
on: "Let me say this to you, Mr. Goodwood. You're so kind as to
speak of being afraid of my marrying. If you should hear a rumour
that I'm on the point of doing so--girls are liable to have such
things said about them--remember what I have told you about my
love of liberty and venture to doubt it

There was something passionately positive in the tone in which
she gave him this advice, and he saw a shining candour in her
eyes that helped him to believe her. On the whole he felt


As she took his hand she felt a great respect for him; she knew
how much he cared for her and she thought him magnanimous. They
stood so for a moment, looking at each other, united by a
hand-clasp which was not merely passive on her side
. "That's
right," she said very kindly, almost tenderly. "You'll lose
nothing by being a reasonable man."

"But I'll come back, wherever you are, two years hence," he
returned with characteristic grimness.


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 and a sore
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
sent up through the window from the court of the hotel,
and Isabel could make out the masses of the furniture, the dim
of the mirror and the looming of the big four-posted bed.
She stood still a moment, listening, and at last she heard Caspar
Goodwood walk out of the sitting-room and close the door behind
him. She stood still a little longer, and then, by an irresistible impulse,
dropped on her knees before her bed and hid her face in her arms.

Chapter 17

She was not praying; she was trembling--trembling all over.
Vibration was easy to her, was in fact too constant with her, and
she found herself now humming like a smitten harp
. She only
asked, however, to put on the cover, to case herself again in
brown holland, but she wished to resist her excitement, and the
attitude of devotion, which she kept for some time, seemed to
help her to be still
. She intensely rejoiced that Caspar Goodwood
was gone; there was something in having thus got rid of him that
was like the payment, for a stamped receipt, of some debt too
long on her mind. As she felt the glad relief she bowed her head
a little lower; the sense was there, throbbing in her heart; it
was part of her emotion, but it was a thing to be ashamed of--it
was profane and out of place.

She leaned back, with that low, soft, aspiring murmur with which
she often uttered her response to accidents of which the brighter
side was not superficially obvious, and yielded to the
satisfaction of having refused two ardent suitors in a fortnight.
That love of liberty of which she had given Caspar Goodwood so
bold a sketch was as yet almost exclusively theoretic; she had
not been able to indulge it on a large scale. But it appeared to
her she had done something; she had tasted of the delight, if not
of battle, at least of victory; she had done what was truest to
her plan. In the glow of this consciousness the image of Mr.
Goodwood taking his sad walk homeward through the dingy town
presented itself with a certain reproachful force;


"I asked him to leave me alone; and I ask you the same,
Henrietta." Miss Stackpole glittered for an instant with dismay,
and then passed to the mirror over the chimney-piece and took off
her bonnet. "I hope you've enjoyed your dinner," Isabel went on.

But her companion was not to be diverted by frivolous
propositions. "Do you know where you're going, Isabel Archer?"

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

"Do you know where you're drifting?" Henrietta pursued, holding
out her bonnet delicately.

"No, I haven't the least idea, and I find it very pleasant not to
know. A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four
horses over roads that one can't see--that's my idea of

"Mr. Goodwood certainly didn't teach you to say such things as
that--like the heroine of an immoral novel," said Miss Stackpole.
"You're drifting to some great mistake."

Isabel was irritated by her friend's interference, yet she still
tried to think what truth this declaration could represent. She
could think of nothing that diverted her from saying: "You must
be very fond of me, Henrietta, to be willing to be so

"I love you intensely, Isabel," said Miss Stackpole with feeling,

"Well, if you love me intensely let me as intensely alone."


Chapter 18

She knew her aunt never touched the piano, and the musician was
therefore probably Ralph, who played for his own amusement. That
he should have resorted to this recreation at the present time
indicated apparently that his anxiety about his father had been
relieved; so that the girl took her way, almost with restored
cheer, toward the source of the harmony.

Isabel had already learned, however, with what treasures of
the function of receiving orders may be accompanied,
and she was particularly conscious of having been treated with
dryness by her aunt's maid, through whose hands she had slipped
perhaps a little too mistrustfully and
with an effect of plumage
but the more lustrous
. The advent of a guest was in itself far
from disconcerting; she had not yet divested herself of a young
faith that each new acquaintance would exert some momentous
influence on her life.


"I hope my uncle's doing well," Isabel added. "I should think
that to hear such lovely music as that would really make him
feel better."

The lady smiled and discriminated. "I'm afraid there are moments
in life when even Schubert has nothing to say to us. We must
admit, however, that they are our worst


A servant had come in with lamps and was presently followed by
another bearing the tea-tray. On the appearance of this repast
Mrs. Touchett had apparently been notified, for she now arrived
and addressed herself to the tea-pot. Her greeting to her niece
did not differ materially from her manner of raising the lid of
this receptacle in order to glance at the contents: in neither
act was it becoming to make a show of avidity


"I know nothing about you but that you're a great musician," Isabel
said to the visitor.

"There's a good deal more than that to know," Mrs. Touchett
affirmed in her little dry tone.

"A very little of it, I am sure, will content Miss Archer!" the
lady exclaimed with a light laugh. "I'm an old friend of your
aunt's. I've lived much in Florence. I'm Madame Merle." She made
this last announcement as if she were referring to a person of
tolerably distinct identity.
For Isabel, however, it represented
little; she could only continue to feel that Madame Merle had as
charming a manner as any she had ever encountered.

"She's not a foreigner in spite of her name," said Mrs. Touchett.

"She was born--I always forget where you were born."

"It's hardly worth while then I should tell you."

"On the contrary," said Mrs. Touchett, who rarely missed a
logical point; "if I remembered your telling me would be quite

Madame Merle glanced at Isabel with a sort of world-wide smile, a
thing that over-reached frontiers. "I was born under the shadow
of the national banner."

"She's too fond of mystery," said Mrs. Touchett; "that's her
great fault


Her grey eyes were small but full of light and incapable of
--incapable, according to some people, even of tears;
she had a liberal, full-rimmed mouth which when she smiled drew
itself upward to the left side in a manner that most people thought
very odd, some very affected and a few very graceful. Isabel inclined
to range herself in the last category. Madame Merle had thick,
hair, arranged somehow "classically" and as if she were a
Bust, Isabel judged--a Juno or a Niob
e; and large white hands, of
a perfect shape, a shape so perfect that their possessor,
preferring to leave them unadorned, wore no jewelled ring

It was true that the national banner had floated immediately over
her cradle, and the breezy freedom of the stars and stripes might
have shed an influence upon the attitude she there took towards
life. And yet she had evidently nothing of the fluttered, flapping
quality of a morsel of bunting in the wind
; her manner expressed
the repose and confidence which come from a large experience.
Experience, however, had not quenched her youth; it had simply
made her sympathetic and supple. She was in a word a woman of
strong impulses kept in admirable order. This commended itself to
Isabel as an ideal combination.


"You say you've so many interests; but I can't make them out."

Ralph leaned back in his chair with folded arms; his eyes were
fixed for some time in meditation. At last, with the air of a man
fairly mustering courage, "I take a great interest in my cousin,"
he said, "but not the sort of interest you desire. I shall not
live many years; but I hope I shall live long enough to see what
she does with herself. She's entirely independent of me; I can
exercise very little influence upon her life. But I should like
to do something for her."

"What should you like to do?"

"I should like to put a little wind in her sails."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I should like to put it into her power to do some of the things
she wants. She wants to see the world for instance. I should like
to put money in her purse."


"Isabel's poor then. My mother tells me that she has but a few
hundred dollars a year. I should like to make her rich."

"What do you mean by rich?"

"I call people rich when they're able to meet the requirements of
their imagination. Isabel has a great deal of imagination.

"So have you, my son," said Mr. Touchett, listening very
attentively but a little confusedly.

"You tell me I shall have money enough for two. What I want is
that you should kindly relieve me of my superfluity and make it
over to Isabel. Divide my inheritance into two equal halves and
give her the second."

"To do what she likes with?"

"Absolutely what she likes."

"And without an equivalent?"

"What equivalent could there be?"

"The one I've already mentioned."

"Her marrying--some one or other? It's just to do away with
anything of that sort that I make my suggestion. If she has an
easy income she'll never have to marry for a support. That's what
I want cannily to prevent. She wishes to be free, and your
bequest will make her free."


"He'll think we've quarrelled, you and I," said the old man.

"Very probably; I shall like him to think it," said Ralph,
smiling; "and, to carry out the idea, I give you notice that I
shall be very sharp, quite horrid and strange, with you."

The humour of this appeared to touch his father, who lay a little
while taking it in. "I'll do anything you like," Mr. Touchett
said at last; "but I'm not sure it's right. You say you want to
put wind in her sails; but aren't you afraid of putting too

"I should like to see her going before the breeze!" Ralph

"You speak as if it were for your mere amusement."

"So it is, a good deal."


"But she has less money than she has ever had before. Her father
then gave her everything, because he used to spend his capital.
She has nothing but the crumbs of that feast to live on, and she
doesn't really know how meagre they are
--she has yet to learn it.
My mother has told me all about it. Isabel will learn it when she's
really thrown upon the world, and it would be very painful to me
to think of her coming to the consciousness of a lot of wants she
should be unable to satisfy


"Well, I don't know," Mr. Touchett answered. "I don't think I
enter into your spirit. It seems to me immoral."

"Immoral, dear daddy?"

"Well, I don't know that it's right to make everything so easy
for a person."

"It surely depends upon the person. When the person's good, your
making things easy is all to the credit of virtue
. To facilitate
the execution of good impulses, what can be a nobler act

This was a little difficult to follow, and Mr. Touchett
considered it for a while. At last he said: "Isabel's a sweet
young thing; but do you think she's so good as that?"

"She's as good as her best opportunities," Ralph returned


Chapter 19

She had never met a person having less of that fault which is
the principal obstacle to friendship--the air of reproducing
the more tiresome, the stale, the too-familiar parts of one's
own character
. The gates of the girl's confidence were opened
wider than they had ever been;
she said things to this amiable
auditress that she had not yet said to any one. Sometimes she
took alarm at her candour: it was as if she had given to a
comparative stranger the key to her cabinet of jewels. These
spiritual gems were the only ones of any magnitude that Isabel

Of course, too, she knew how to feel; Isabel couldn't have
spent a week with her without being sure of that. This was
indeed Madame Merle's great talent, her most perfect gift.
Life had told upon her
; she had felt it strongly, and it was
part of the satisfaction to be taken in her society that
when the girl talked of what she was pleased to call serious
matters this lady understood her so seasily and quickly.
Emotion, it is true, had become with her rather historic;
she made no secret of the fact that the fount of passion,
thanks to having been rather violently tapped at one period,
didn't flow quite so freely as of yore
. She proposed moreover,
as well as expected, to cease feeling; she freely admitted
that of old she had been a little mad, and now she pretended
to be perfectly sane

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

She declared that in England the pleasures of smell were great--
that in this inimitable island there was
a certain mixture of
fog and beer and soot which, however odd it might sound, was
the national aroma, and was most agreeable to the nostril
; and
she used to lift the sleeve of her British overcoat and bury
her nose in it, inhaling the clear, fine scent of the wool

Isabel admired and envied her rigid possession of her morning.
Our heroine had always passed for a person of resources and
had taken a certain pride in being one; but she wandered, as
by the wrong side of the wall of a private garden, round the
enclosed talents, accomplishments, aptitudes of Madame Merle
She found herself desiring to emulate them, and in twenty such
ways this lady presented herself as a model

She sometimes asked herself what Henrietta Stackpole would say
to her thinking so much of this perverted product of their common
soil, and had a conviction that it would be severely judged.
Henrietta would not at all subscribe to Madame Merle; for reasons
she could not have defined this truth came home to the girl. On
the other hand she was equally sure that, should the occasion
offer, her new friend would strike off some happy view of her
old: Madame Merle was too humorous, too observant, not to do
justice to Henrietta, and on becoming acquainted with her would
probably give the measure of a tact which Miss Stackpole couldn't
hope to emulate
. She appeared to have in her experience a touchstone
for everything, and somewhere in the capacious pocket of her genial
memory she would find the key to Henrietta's value
. "That's the
great thing," Isabel solemnly pondered; "that's the supreme good
fortune: to be in a better position for appreciating people than
they are for appreciating you

If for Isabel she had a fault it was that she was not natural;
by which the girl meant, not that she was either affected or
pretentious, since from these vulgar vices no woman could have
been more exempt, but that her nature had been too much overlaid
by custom and her angles too much rubbed away. She had become
too flexible, too useful, was too ripe and too final. She was
in a word too perfectly the social animal
that man and woman are
supposed to have been intended to be; and she had rid herself of
every remnant of that
tonic wildness which we may assume to have
belonged even to the most amiable persons in the ages before
country-house life was the fashion. Isabel found it difficult
to think of her in any detachment or privacy, she existed only
in her relations, direct or indirect, with her fellow mortals
One might wonder what commerce she could possibly hold with her
own spirit


"I haven't always been happy," said Madame Merle, smiling still,
but with a mock gravity, as if she were telling a child a secret.
"Such a wonderful thing!"

But Isabel rose to the irony. "A great many people give me the
impression of never having for a moment felt anything."

"It's very true; there are many more iron pots certainly than
. But you may depend on it that every one bears some
mark; even the hardest iron pots have a little bruise, a little
hole somewhere. I flatter myself that I'm rather stout, but if I
must tell you the truth I've been shockingly chipped and
cracked. I do very well for service yet, because I've been
cleverly mended; and I try to remain in the cupboard--the quiet,
cupboard where there's an odour of stale spices--as much as
I can. But when I've to come out and into a strong light--then,
my dear, I'm a horror!"


Isabel after this observed to their companion that she hoped she
knew Mrs. Touchett considered she hadn't a speck on her
. On which "I'm obliged to you," Madame Merle replied,
"but I'm afraid your aunt imagines, or at least alludes to, no
aberrations that the clock-face doesn't register

"So that you mean you've a wild side that's unknown to her?"

"Ah no, I fear my darkest sides are my tamest. I mean that having
no faults, for your aunt, means that one's never late for dinner
--that is for her dinner. I was not late, by the way, the other
day, when you came back from London; the clock was just at eight
when I came into the drawing-room: it was the rest of you that
were before the time. It means that one answers a letter the day
one gets it and that when one comes to stay with her one doesn't
bring too much luggage and is careful not to be taken ill
. For
Mrs. Touchett those things constitute virtue; it's a blessing to
be able to reduce it to its elements

Madame Merle's own conversation, it will be perceived, was
enriched with bold, free touches of criticism, which, even when
they had a restrictive effect, never struck Isabel as


"I'm old and stale and faded," she said more than once; "I'm of
no more interest than last week's newspaper. You're young and
fresh and of to-day; you've the great thing--you've actuality. I
once had it--we all have it for an hour. You, however, will have
it for longer. Let us talk about you then; you can say nothing I
shall not care to hear. It's a sign that I'm growing old--that I
like to talk with younger people. I think it's a very pretty
compensation. If we can't have youth within us we can have it
, and I really think we see it and feel it better that
way. Of course we must be in sympathy with it--that I shall
always be. I don't know that I shall ever be ill-natured with old
people--I hope not; there are certainly some old people I adore.
But I shall never be anything but abject with the young; they
touch me and appeal to me too much. I give you carte blanche
then; you can even be impertinent if you like; I shall let it
pass and horribly spoil you. "


"If we're not good Americans we're certainly poor Europeans;
we've no natural place here. We're mere parasites, crawling
over the surface; we haven't our feet in the soil
. At least
one can know it and not have illusions. A woman perhaps can
get on; a woman, it seems to me, has no natural place anywhere;
wherever she finds herself she has to remain on the surface and,
more or less, to crawl
. You protest, my dear? you're horrified?
you declare you'll never crawl? It's very true that I don't see
you crawling; you stand more upright than a good many poor
creatures. Very good; on the whole, I don't think you'll crawl.
But the men, the Americans; je vous demande un peu, what do
they make of it over here? I don't envy them trying to arrange
themselves. Look at poor Ralph Touchett: what sort of a figure
do you call that? Fortunately he has a consumption; I say
fortunately, because it gives him something to do. His
consumption's his carriere it's a kind of position."

With all her love of knowledge she had a natural shrinking from
raising curtains and looking into unlighted corners. The love of
knowledge coexisted in her mind with the finest capacity for ignorance.
  But Madame Merle sometimes said things that startled her, made
her raise her clear eyebrows at the time and think of the words
afterwards. "I'd give a great deal to be your age again," she
broke out once with a bitterness which, though diluted in her
customary amplitude of ease, was imperfectly disguised by it.


"What has he? An ugly brick house in Fortieth Street? Don't tell
me that; I refuse to recognise that as an ideal."

"I don't care anything about his house," said Isabel.

"That's very crude of you. When you've lived as long as I you'll
see that every human being has his shell and that you must take
the shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of
. There's no such thing as an isolated man or
woman; we're each of us made up of some cluster of appurtenances.
What shall we call our 'self'? Where does it begin? where does it
end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us--and then it
flows back again.
I know a large part of myself is in the clothes
I choose to wear. I've a great respect for THINGS! One's self--
for other people--is one's expression of one's self; and one's
house, one's furniture, one's garments, the books one reads, the
company one keeps--these things are all expressive."


"I don't agree with you. I think just the other way. I don't know
whether I succeed in expressing myself, but I know that nothing
else expresses me.Nothing that belongs to me is any measure of
me; everything's on the contrary a limit, a barrier
, and a perfectly
arbitrary one. Certainly the clothes which, as you say, I choose
to wear, don't express me; and heaven forbid they should!"

"You dress very well," Madame Merle lightly interposed.

"Possibly; but I don't care to be judged by that. My clothes may
express the dressmaker, but they don't express me. To begin with
it's not my own choice that I wear them; they're imposed upon me
by society."

"Should you prefer to go without them?" Madame Merle enquired in
a tone which virtually terminated the discussion.


Chapter 20

But it had been one thing to foresee such a matter mentally
and another to stand among its massive records. The idea of
a distribution of property--she would almost have said of
spoils--just now pressed upon her senses and irritated her
with a sense of exclusion.
I am far from wishing to picture
her as one of the hungry mouths or envious hearts of the general
herd, but we have already learned of her having desires that had
never been satisfied.

This failure to rise to immediate joy was indeed but brief; the
girl presently made up her mind that to be rich was a virtue
because it was to be able to do, and that to do could only be
It was the graceful contrary of the stupid side of
weakness--especially the feminine variety. To be weak was,
for a delicate young person, rather graceful, but, after all,
as Isabel said to herself, there was a larger grace than that.
Just now, it is true, there was not much to do--once she had
sent off a cheque to Lily and another to poor Edith; but she
was thankful for the quiet months which her mourning robes and
her aunt's fresh widowhood compelled them to spend together.
The acquisition of power made her serious; she scrutinised her
power with a kind of
tender ferocity, but was not eager to
exercise it

With many of these amiable colonists Mrs. Touchett was intimate;
she shared their expatriation, their convictions, their pastimes,
their ennui. Isabel saw them arrive with a good deal of assiduity
at her aunt's hotel, and pronounced on them with a trenchancy
doubtless to be accounted for by the temporary exaltation of her
sense of human duty. She made up her mind that their lives were,
though luxurious, inane, and incurred some disfavour by expressing
this view on bright Sunday afternoons, when the American absentees
were engaged in calling on each other. Though her listeners passed
for people kept exemplarily genial by their cooks and dressmakers,
two or three of them thought her cleverness, which was generally
admitted, inferior to that of the new theatrical pieces. "You all
live here this way, but what does it lead to?" she was pleased to
ask. "It doesn't seem to lead to anything, and I should think
you'd get very tired of it."

In fact she was at home at all times, and reproduced with
wondrous truth in her well-cushioned little corner of the
brilliant city, the domestic tone of her native Baltimore.
This reduced Mr. Luce, her worthy husband, a tall, lean,
grizzled, well-brushed gentleman who wore a gold eye-glass
and carried his hat a little too much on the back of his
head, to mere platonic praise of the "distractions" of Paris
--they were his great word--since you would never have guessed
from what cares he escaped to them. One of them was that he went
every day to the American banker's, where he found a post-office
that was almost as sociable and colloquial an institution as in
an American country town. He passed an hour (in fine weather) in
a chair in the Champs Elysees, and he dined uncommonly well at
his own table, seated above a waxed floor which it was Mrs.
Luce's happiness to believe had a finer polish than any other in
the French capital
. Occasionally he dined with a friend or two at
the Cafe Anglais, where his talent for ordering a dinner was a
source of felicity to his companions and an object of admiration
even to the headwaiter of the establishment. These were his only
known pastimes, but they had beguiled his hours for upwards of
half a century, and they doubtless justified his frequent
declaration that there was no place like Paris. In no other
place, on these terms, could Mr. Luce
flatter himself that
he was enjoying life


"They want to be kept down, sir, to be kept down; nothing but
the strong hand--the iron heel -will do for them," he would
frequently say of the French people; and his ideal of a fine
showy clever
rule was that of the superseded Empire. "Paris
is much less attractive than in the days of the Emperor; he
knew how to make a city pleasant," Mr. Luce had often remarked
to Mrs. Touchett, who was quite of his own way of thinking and
wished to know what one had crossed that odious Atlantic for
but to get away from republics


Isabel remembered perfectly the neat little male child whose hair
smelt of a delicious cosmetic and who had a bonne all his own,
warranted to lose sight of him under no provocation. Isabel took
a walk with the pair beside the lake and thought little Edward as
pretty as an angel--a comparison by no means conventional in her
mind, for she had a very definite conception of a type of features
which she supposed to be angelic and which her new friend perfectly
illustrated. A small pink face surmounted by a blue velvet bonnet
and set off by a stiff embroidered collar had become the
countenance of her childish dreams; and she had firmly believed
for some time afterwards that the heavenly hosts conversed among
themselves in a queer little dialect of French-English,
expressing the properest sentiments
, as when Edward told her that
he was "defended" by his bonne to go near the edge of the lake,
and that one must always obey to one's bonne.

He seemed to recognise this same tendency in the subversive
enquiry that I quoted a moment ago, and set himself to answer
our heroine's question with greater urbanity than it perhaps
deserved. "What does it lead to, Miss Archer? Why Paris leads
. 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 I'm a mere trifler; I can tell by the expression of your
face--you've got a wonderfully expressive face. I hope you don't
mind my saying that; I mean it as a kind of warning. You think I
ought to do something, and so do I, so long as you leave it vague.
But when you come to the point you see you have to stop. I can't
go home and be a shopkeeper. You think I'm very well fitted? Ah,
Miss Archer, you overrate me. I can buy very well, but I can't
sell; you should see when I sometimes try to get rid of my things.
It takes much more ability to make other people buy than to buy
. 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 convictions
. And then I can't pronounce the names
right in the Bible. They're very difficult, in the Old Testament
particularly. I can't be a lawyer; I don't understand--how do
you call it?--the American procedure."


"I hope it won't ruin you; but it will certainly confirm your
dangerous tendencies."

"Do you mean the love of luxury--of extravagance?"

"No, no," said Henrietta; "I mean your exposure on the moral
side. I approve of luxury; I think we ought to be as elegant as
. Look at the luxury of our western cities; I've seen
nothing over here to compare with it. I hope you'll never become
grossly sensual; but I'm not afraid of that. The peril for you is
that you live too much in the world of your own dreams. You're
not enough in contact with reality--with the toiling, striving,
suffering, I may even say sinning, world that surrounds you.
You're too fastidious; you've too many graceful illusions. Your
newly-acquired thousands will shut you up more and more to the
society of a few selfish and heartless people who will be
interested in keeping them up."

Isabel's eyes expanded as she gazed at this lurid scene. "What
are my illusions?" she asked. "I try so hard not to have any."

"Well," said Henrietta, "you think you can lead a romantic life,
that you can live by pleasing yourself and pleasing others.
You'll find you're mistaken. Whatever life you lead you must put
your soul in it--to make any sort of success of it; and from the
moment you do that it ceases to be romance, I assure you: it
becomes grim reality!
And you can't always please yourself; you
must sometimes please other people. That, I admit, you're very
ready to do; but there's another thing that's still more
important--you must often displease others. You must always be
ready for that--you must never shrink from it.


Each of these groping celibates supplied at any rate a want of
which the other was impatiently conscious. Mr. Bantling, who was
of rather a slow and a discursive habit, relished a prompt, keen,
positive woman, who charmed him by the influence of a shining,
challenging eye and a kind of bandbox freshness, and who kindled
a perception of raciness in a mind to which the usual fare of
life seemed unsalted.
Henrietta, on the other hand, enjoyed the
society of a gentleman who appeared somehow, in his way, made,
by expensive, roundabout, almost "quaint" processes, for her
use, and whose leisured state, though generally indefensible,
was a decided boon to a breathless mate
, and who was furnished
with an easy, traditional, though by no means exhaustive, answer
to almost any social or practical question that could come up.

Isabel continued to warn her good-humouredly; Lady Pensil's
obliging brother was sometimes, on our heroine's lips, an
object of irreverent and facetious allusion. Nothing, however,
could exceed Henrietta's amiability on this point; she used to
abound in the sense of Isabel's irony and to enumerate with
elation the hours she had spent with this perfect man of the
world--a term that had ceased to make with her, as previously,
for opprobrium.

Chapter 21

Apart from this, Mrs. Touchett had a great merit; she was
as honest as a pair of compasses. There was a comfort in her
stiffness and firmness; you knew exactly where to find her and
were never liable to chance encounters and concussions. On her own
ground she was perfectly present, but was never over-inquisitive as
regards the territory of her neighbour
. Isabel came at last to
have a kind of undemonstrable pity for her; there seemed
something so dreary in the condition of a person whose nature
had, as it were, so little surface--offered so limited a face to
the accretions of human contact. Nothing tender, nothing
sympathetic, had ever had a chance to fasten upon it--no
wind-sown blossom, no familiar softening moss. Her offered, her
passive extent, in other words, was about that of a knife-edge
Isabel had reason to believe none the less that as she advanced in
life she made more of those concessions to the sense of something
obscurely distinct from convenience--more of them than she
independently exacted. She was learning to sacrifice consistency
to considerations of that inferior order for which the excuse must
be found in the particular case.


Ralph stretched his legs a little further than usual and gazed a
little more fixedly at the Mediterranean.

"What does it matter, my dear Isabel, whether I knew? My father
was very obstinate."

"So," said the girl, "you did know."

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

"Why, as a kind of compliment."

"A compliment on what?"

"On your so beautifully existing."

"He liked me too much," she presently declared.

"That's a way we all have."

"If I believed that I should be very unhappy. Fortunately I don't
believe it. I want to be treated with justice; I want nothing but

"Very good. But you must remember that justice to a lovely being is
after all a florid sort of sentiment."

"I'm not a lovely being. How can you say that, at the very moment
when I'm asking such odious questions? I must seem to you


"You can't do that; I'm proof. Take things more easily. Don't ask
yourself so much whether this or that is good for you
. Don't
question your conscience so much--it will get out of tune like a
strummed piano. Keep it for great occasions. Don't try so much
to form your character--it's like trying to pull open a tight,
tender young rose
. Live as you like best, and your character will
take care of itself. Most things are good for you; the exceptions
are very rare, and a comfortable income's not one of them."
paused, smiling; Isabel had listened quickly. "You've too much power
of thought--above all too much conscience," Ralph added. "It's out
of all reason, the number of things you think wrong.
Put back
your watch. Diet your fever. Spread your wings; rise above the
ground. It's never wrong to do that."


The charm of the Mediterranean coast only deepened for our heroine
on acquaintance, for it was the threshold of Italy, the gate of
. 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

Madame Merle had predicted to Mrs. Touchett that after their young
friend had put her hand into her pocket half a dozen times she would
be reconciled to the idea that it had been filled by a munificent
; and the event justified, as it had so often justified before,
that lady's perspicacity. Ralph Touchett had praised his cousin for
being morally inflammable, that is for being quick to take a hint
that was meant as good advice. His advice had perhaps helped the
matter; she had at any rate before leaving San Remo grown used to
feeling rich. The consciousness in question found a proper place
in rather a dense little group of ideas that she had about herself,
and often it was by no means the least agreeable. It took perpetually
for granted a thousand good intentions. She lost herself in a maze
of visions; the fine things to be done by a rich, independent,
generous girl who took a large human view of occasions and
obligations were sublime in the mass.
Her fortune therefore became
to her mind a part of her better self; it gave her importance, gave
her even, to her own imagination, a certain ideal beauty.

It was strange how quickly these images of energy had fallen into
the background of our young lady's life. It was in her disposition
at all times to lose faith in the reality of absent things; she
could summon back her faith, in case of need, with an effort, but
the effort was often painful even when the reality had been pleasant.

The past was apt to look dead and its revival rather to show the
livid light of a judgement-day. The girl moreover was not prone
to take for granted that she herself lived in the mind of others--
she had not the fatuity to believe she left indelible traces. She
was capable of being wounded by the discovery that she had been
forgotten; but of all liberties the one she herself found sweetest
was the liberty to forget.

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

Chapter 22

this front, pierced with a few windows in irregular relations
and furnished with a stone bench lengthily adjusted to the
base of the structure and useful as a lounging-place to one
or two persons wearing more or less of that air of undervalued
merit which in Italy, for some reason or other, always gracefully
invests any one who confidently assumes a perfectly passive
--this antique, solid, weather-worn, yet imposing front
had a somewhat incommunicative character. It was the mask, not
the face of the house
. It had heavy lids, but no eyes; the house
in reality looked another way--looked off behind, into splendid
opennessand the range of the afternoon light. In that quarter
the villa overhung the slope of its hill and the long valley of
the Arno, hazy with Italian colour. It had a narrow garden, in
the manner of a terrace, productive chiefly of tangles of wild
roses and other old stone benches, mossy and sun-warmed.

The windows of the ground-floor, as you saw them from the piazza,
were, in their noble proportions, extremely architectural; but
their function seemed less to offer communication with the world
than to defy the world to look in
. They were massively
cross-barred, and placed at such a height that curiosity, even on
tiptoe, expired before it reached them

It was moreover a seat of ease, indeed of luxury, telling of
arrangements subtly studied and refinements frankly proclaimed,
and containing a variety of those faded hangings of damask and
tapestry, those chests and cabinets of carved and time-polished
oak, those angular specimens of pictorial art in frames as
pedantically primitive, those perverse-looking relics of medieval
brass and pottery, of which Italy has long been the not quite
exhausted storehouse. These things kept terms with articles of
modern furniture in which large allowance had been made for a
lounging generation
; it was to be noticed that all the chairs
were deep and well padded

their attitude expressed a final reserve and their faces
showed the glaze of prudence. They were plain, ample,
mild-featured women, with a kind of business-like modesty to
which the impersonal aspect of their stiffened linen and of the
serge that draped them as if nailed on frames gave an advantage.

If he had English blood in his veins it had probably received
some French or Italian commixture; but he suggested, fine gold
coin as he was, no stamp nor emblem of the common mintage that
provides for general circulation; he was the elegant complicated
medal struck off for a special occasion
. He had a light, lean,
rather languid-looking figure, and was apparently neither tall
nor short.


The girl glanced at the elder of the nuns. "May I, truly, ma

"Obey monsieur your father, my child," said the sister, blushing

The child, satisfied with this authorisation, descended from the
threshold and was presently lost to sight. "You don't spoil
them," said her father gaily.

"For everything they must ask leave. That's our system. Leave is
freely granted, but they must ask it.

"Oh, I don't quarrel with your system; I've no doubt it's
excellent. I sent you my daughter to see what you'd make of her.
I had faith."

"One must have faith," the sister blandly rejoined, gazing
through her spectacles.

"Well, has my faith been rewarded What have you made of her?"

The sister dropped her eyes a moment. "A good Christian,

Her host dropped his eyes as well; but it was probable that the
movement had in each case a different spring. "Yes, and what

He watched the lady from the convent, probably thinking she would
say that a good Christian was everything; but for all her
simplicity she was not so crude as that. "A charming young lady
--a real little woman--a daughter in whom you will have nothing
but contentment."


Pansy stared, disappointed, yet not protesting. She was evidently
impregnated with the idea of submission, which was due to any one
who took the tone of authority; and she was a passive spectator
of the
operation of her fate. "May I not see mamman Catherine get
into the carriage?" she nevertheless asked very gently.

"It would please me better if you'd remain with me," said Madame
Merle, while Mr. Osmond and his companions, who had bowed low
again to the other visitor, passed into the ante-chamber.

"Oh yes, I'll stay," Pansy answered; and she stood near Madame
Merle, surrendering her little hand, which this lady took. She
stared out of the window; her eyes had filled with tears.

"I'm glad they've taught you to obey," said Madame Merle. "That's
what good little girls should do."

"Oh yes, I obey very well," cried Pansy with soft eagerness,
almost with
boastfulness, as if she had been speaking of her
piano-playing. And then she gave a faint, just audible sigh.

Madame Merle, holding her hand, drew it across her own fine palm
and looked at it. The gaze was critical, but it found nothing to
deprecate; the child's small hand was delicate and fair. "I hope
they always see that you wear gloves," she said in a moment.
"Little girls usually dislike them."

"I used to dislike them, but I like them now," the child made

"Very good, I'll make you a present of a dozen."

"I thank you very much. What colours will they be?" Pansy
demanded with interest.

Madame Merle meditated. "Useful colours."

"But very pretty?"

"Are you very fond of pretty things?"

"Yes; but--but not too fond," said Pansy with a trace of

"Well, they won't be too pretty," Madame Merle returned with a


She looked a moment longer, then turned away. "You know I
don't care for your drawings

"I know it, yet I'm always surprised at it. They're really so much
better than most people's."

"That may very well be. But as the only thing you do--well, it's
so little.
I should have liked you to do so many other things:
those were my ambitions."

"Yes; you've told me many times--things that were impossible."

"Things that were impossible," said Madame Merle. And then in
quite a different tone: "In itself your little picture's very
good." She looked about the room--at the old cabinets, pictures,
tapestries, surfaces of faded silk. "Your rooms at least are
I'm struck with that afresh whenever I come back; I know
none better anywhere. You understand this sort of thing as nobody
anywhere does. You've such adorable taste."

"I'm sick of my adorable taste," said Gilbert Osmond.

"You must nevertheless let Miss Archer come and see it. I've told
her about it."

"I don't object to showing my things--when people are not

"You do it delightfully. As cicerone of your museum you appear to
particular advantage."


"I don't object to her," said Osmond; "I rather like Mrs.
Touchett. She has a sort of old-fashioned character that's
passing away--a vivid identity. But that long jackanapes the
son--is he about the place?"

"He's there, but he won't trouble you."

"He's a good deal of a donkey."

"I think you're mistaken. He's a very clever man. But he's not
fond of being about when I'm there, because he doesn't like me."

"What could he be more asinine than that?


Chapter 23

"You ought to see a great many men," Madame Merle remarked;
"you ought to see as many as possible, so as to get used to them."

"Used to them?" Isabel repeated with that solemn stare which
sometimes seemed to proclaim her deficient in the sense of comedy.
"Why, I'm not afraid of them--I'm as used to them as the cook to
the butcher-boys.

"Used to them, I mean, so as to despise them. That's what one
comes to with most of them. You'll pick out, for your society, the
few whom you don't despise."

This was a note of cynicism that Madame Merle didn't often allow
herself to
sound; but Isabel was not alarmed, for she had never
supposed that as one saw more of the world the sentiment of
respect became the most active of one's emotions

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

This was no matter for once; even if more had been involved she
could have made no attempt to shine. There was something in the
visitor that checked her and held her in suspense--made it more
important she should get an impression of him than that she should
produce one herself
. Besides, she had little skill in producing an
impression which she knew to be expected: nothing could be happier,
in general, than to seem dazzling, but
she had a perverse
unwillingness to glitter by arrangement


"You were charming, my dear; you were just as one would have
wished you. You're never disappointing."

A rebuke might possibly have been irritating, though it is much
more probable that Isabel would have taken it in good part; but,
strange to say, the words that Madame Merle actually used caused
her the first feeling of displeasure she had known this ally to
excite. "That's more than I intended," she answered coldly. "I'm
under no obligation that I know of to charm Mr. Osmond."

Madame Merle perceptibly flushed, but we know it was not her
habit to retract.


Do I know him?" said her cousin. "Oh, yes, I 'know' him; not
well, but on the whole enough. I've never cultivated his society,
and he apparently has never found mine indispensable to his
. Who is he, what is he? He's a vague, unexplained
American who has been living these thirty years, or less, in
Italy. Why do I call him unexplained? Only as a cover for my
ignorance; I don't know his antecedents, his family, his origin.
For all I do know he may be a prince in disguise; he rather looks
like one, by the way--like a prince who has abdicated in a fit of
fastidiousness and has been in a state of disgust ever since
. He
used to live in Rome; but of late years he has taken up his abode
here; I remember hearing him say that Rome has grown vulgar. He
has a great dread of vulgarity; that's his special line; he
hasn't any other that I know of


"The more information one has about one's dangers the better."

"I don't agree to that--it may make them dangers. We know too much
about people in these days; we hear too much
. Our ears, our minds,
our mouths, are stuffed with personalities
. Don't mind anything
any one tells you about any one else. Judge everyone and
everything for yourself."


"You put your finger on it," Ralph interrupted. "Her modesty's
exaggerated. She has no business with small claims--she has a
perfect right to make large ones."

"Her merits are large then. You contradict yourself."

"Her merits are immense," said Ralph. "She's indescribably
blameless; a pathless desert of virtue
; the only woman I know who
never gives one a chance."

"A chance for what?"

"Well, say to call her a fool! She's the only woman I know who
has but that one little fault."

Isabel turned away with impatience. "I don't understand you;
you're too paradoxical for my plain mind."

"Let me explain. When I say she exaggerates I don't mean it in
the vulgar sense--that she boasts, overstates, gives too fine an
account of herself. I mean literally that she pushes the search
for perfection too far
--that her merits are in themselves
overstrained. She's too good, too kind, too clever, too learned,
too accomplished, too everything. She's too complete, in a word.
I confess to you that she acts on my nerves and that I feel about
her a good deal as that intensely human Athenian felt about
Aristides the Just."

Isabel looked hard at her cousin; but the mocking spirit, if it
lurked in his words, failed on this occasion to peep from his
face. "Do you wish Madame Merle to be banished?"

"By no means. She's much too good company. I delight in Madame
Merle," said Ralph Touchett simply.

"You're very odious, sir!" Isabel exclaimed. And then she asked
him if he knew anything that was not to the honour of her
brilliant friend.

"Nothing whatever. Don't you see that's just what I mean? On the
character of everyone
else you may find some little black speck;
if I were to take half an hour to it, some day, I've no doubt I
should be able to find one on yours. For my own, of course, I'm
spotted like a leopard
. But on Madame Merle's nothing, nothing,

"That's just what I think!" said Isabel with a toss of her head.
"That is why I like her so much."

"She's a capital person for you to know. Since you wish to see
the world you couldn't have a better guide."

"I suppose you mean by that that she's worldly?"

"Worldly? No," said Ralph, "she's the great round world itself!"


Ralph Touchett took his refreshment wherever he could find it,
and he would not have forgiven himself if he had been left wholly
unbeguiled by such a mistress of the social art. There are
deep-lying sympathies and antipathies, and it may have been that,
in spite of the administered justice she enjoyed at his hands,
her absence from his mother's house would not have made life
barren to him. But Ralph Touchett had learned more or less
inscrutably to attend, and there could have been nothing so
"sustained" to attend to as the general performance of Madame
Merle. He tasted her in sips, he let her stand, with an
opportuneness she herself could not have surpassed

Chapter 24

She was thin and dark and not at all pretty, having
features that suggested some tropical bird--a longbeak-like nose,
small, quickly-moving eyes and a mouth and chin that receded
extremely. Her expression, however, thanks to various intensities
of emphasis and wonder, of horror and joy, was not inhuman
, and,
as regards her appearance, it was plain she understood herself
and made the most of her points. Her attire, voluminous and
delicate, bristling with elegance, had the look of shimmering
plumage, and her attitudes were as light and sudden as those of a
creature who perched upon twigs. She had a great deal of manner;
Isabel, who had never known any one with so much manner,
immediately classed her as the most affected of women.

These remarks were delivered with a series of little jerks and
pecks, of roulades of shrillness, and in an accent that was as
some fond recall of good English, or rather of good American, in

Isabel made a rapid induction: perfect simplicity was not the
badge of his family. Even the little girl from the convent, who,
in her prim white dress, with her small submissive face and her
hands locked before her, stood there as if she were about to
partake of her first communion, even Mr. Osmond's diminutive
daughter had a kind of finish that was not entirely artless.

Isabel felt a certain need of being very direct, of pretending to
; there was something in the air, in her general impression
of things--she could hardly have said what it was--that deprived
her of all disposition to put herself forward. The place, the
occasion, the combination of people, signified more than lay on
the surface; she would try to understand--she would not simply
utter graceful platitudes. Poor Isabel was doubtless not aware
that many women would have uttered graceful platitudes to cover
the working of their observation.

Madame Merle and the Countess Gemini sat a little apart,
conversing in the effortless manner of persons who knew
each other well enough to take their ease; but every now
and then Isabel heard the Countess, at something said by
her companion, plunge into the latter's lucidity as a
poodle splashes after a thrown stick.

It met the case soothingly for the human, for the social failure--
by which he meant the people who couldn't "realise," as they said,
on their sensibility: they could keep it about them there, in their
poverty, without ridicule, as you might keep an heirloom or an
inconvenient entailed place that brought you in nothing
. Thus there
were advantages in living in the country which contained the greatest
sum of beauty. Certain impressions you could get only there.
favourable to life, you never got, and you got some that were very
bad. But from time to time you got one of a quality that made up
for everything. Italy, all the same, had spoiled a great many people;
he was even fatuous enough to believe at times that he himself might
have been a better man if he had spent less of his life there. It
made one idle and dilettantish and second-rate; it had no discipline
for the character, didn't cultivate in you, otherwise expressed,
the successful social and other "cheek" that flourished in Paris
and London.
"We're sweetly provincial," said Mr. Osmond, "and I'm
perfectly aware that I myself am as rusty as a key that has no
lock to fit it. It polishes me up a little to talk with you--not
that I venture to pretend I can turn that very complicated lock I
suspect your intellect of being!

Ah yes, your aunt's a sort of guarantee; I believe she may be
depended on. Oh, she's an old Florentine; I mean literally an
old one; not a modern outsider. She's a contemporary of the
Medici; she must have been present at the burning of Savonarola,
and I'm not sure she didn't throw a handful of chips into the
. 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 sometimes think we've got into a rather bad way, living off
here among things and people not our own, without responsibilities
or attachments
, with nothing to hold us together or keep us up;
marrying foreigners, forming artificial tastes, playing tricks
with our natural mission. Let me add, though, that I say that
much more for myself than for my sister. She's a very honest
lady--more so than she seems. She's rather unhappy, and as
she's not of a serious turn she doesn't tend to show it tragically:
she shows it comically instead. She has got a horrid husband,
though I'm not sure she makes the best of him. Of course,
however, a horrid husband's an awkward thing. Madame Merle gives
her excellent advice, but it's a good deal like giving a child
a dictionary to learn a language with. He can look out the words,
but he can't put them together
. My sister needs a grammar, but
unfortunately she's not grammatical.

She had never met a person of so fine a grain. The peculiarity
was physical, to begin with, and it extended to impalpabilities.
His dense, delicate hair, his overdrawn, retouched features,
his clear complexion, ripe without being coarse, the very evenness
of the growth of his beard, and that light, smooth slenderness
of structure which made the movement of a single one of his
fingers produce the effect of an expressive gesture
personal points struck our sensitive young woman as signs of
quality, of intensity, somehow as promises of interest. He
was certainly fastidious and critical; he was probably
irritable. His sensibility had governed him--possibly
governed him too much; it had made him impatient of vulgar
troubles and had led him to live by himself, in a sorted,
sifted, arranged world, thinking about art and beauty and
He had consulted his taste in everything--his taste
alone perhaps, as a sick man consciously incurable consults
at last only his lawyer
: that was what made him so different
from every one else. Ralph had something of this same quality,
this appearance of thinking that life was a matter of
connoisseurship; but in Ralph it was an anomaly, a kind of
humorous excrescence
, whereas in Mr. Osmond it was the
keynote, and everything was in harmony with it

A part of Isabel's fatigue came from the effort to appear as
intelligent as she believed Madame Merle had described her,
and from the fear (very unusual with her) of exposing--not
her ignorance; for that she cared comparatively little--but
her possible grossness of perception. It would have annoyed
her to express a liking for something he, in his superior
enlightenment, would think she oughtn't to like; or to pass
by something at which the truly initiated mind would arrest
. She had no wish to fall into that grotesqueness-- in
which she had seen women (and it was a warning) serenely,
yet ignobly, flounder. She was very careful therefore as to
what she said, as to what she noticed or failed to notice;
more careful than she had ever been before.

The sun had got low, the golden light took a deeper tone, and
on the mountains and the plain that stretched beneath them the
masses of purple shadow glowed as richly as the places that were
still exposed
. The scene had an extraordinary charm. The air
was almost solemnly still, and the large expanse of the landscape,

with its garden-like culture and nobleness of outline, its teeming
valley and delicately-fretted hills, its peculiarly human-looking
touches of habitation
, lay there in splendid harmony and classic


"It was very simple. It was to be as quiet as possible."

"As quiet?" the girl repeated.

"Not to worry--not to strive nor struggle. To resign myself. To
be content with little." He spoke these sentences slowly, with
short pauses between, and his intelligent regard was fixed on his
with the conscious air of a man who has brought himself
to confess something.

"Do you call that simple?" she asked with mild irony.

"Yes, because it's negative."

"Has your life been negative?"

"Call it affirmative if you like. Only it has affirmed my
indifference. Mind you, not my natural indifference--I HAD none.
But my studied, my wilful renunciation."

She scarcely understood him; it seemed a question whether he were
joking or not. Why should a man who struck her as having a great
fund of reserve
suddenly bring himself to be so confidential?
This was his affair, however, and his confidences were interesting.
"I don't see why you should have renounced," she said in a moment.

"Because I could do nothing. I had no prospects, I was poor, and
I was not a man of genius. I had no talents even
; I took my
measure early in life. I was simply the most fastidious young
gentleman living


So I've passed a great many years here on that quiet plan I spoke
of. I've not been at all unhappy. I don't mean to say I've cared
for nothing; but the things I've cared for have been definite--
limited. The events of my life have been absolutely unperceived
by any one save myself
; getting an old silver crucifix at a
bargain (I've never bought anything dear, of course), or
discovering, as I once did, a sketch by Correggio on a panel
daubed over by some inspired idiot."

Chapter 25

The Countess, moreover, by waiting, found the time ripe for
one of her pretty perversities
. She might have desired for some
minutes to place it. Her brother wandered with Isabel to the
end of the garden, to which point her eyes followed them.

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

"Very willingly, for I don't in the least know why you should."

"Haven't you a little plan that you think rather well of?" And
the Countess nodded at the sequestered couple.

Madame Merle's eyes took the same direction; then she looked
serenely at her neighbour. "You know I never understand you very
well," she smiled.

"No one can understand better than you when you wish. I see that
just now you don't wish

"You say things to me that no one else does," said Madame Merle
gravely, yet without bitterness.

"You mean things you don't like? Doesn't Osmond sometimes say
such things?"

"What your brother says has a point."

"Yes, a poisoned one sometimes. If you mean that I'm not so
clever as he you mustn't think I shall suffer from your sense of
our difference
. But it will be much better that you should
understand me."

"Why so?" asked Madame Merle. "To what will it conduce?"

"If I don't approve of your plan you ought to know it in order to
appreciate the danger of my interfering with it.

Madame Merle looked as if she were ready to admit that there
might be something in this; but in a moment she said quietly:
"You think me more calculating than I am."

"It's not your calculating I think ill of; it's your calculating
wrong. You've done so in this case."

"You must have made extensive calculations yourself to discover

"No, I've not had time. I've seen the girl but this once," said
the Countess, "and the conviction has suddenly come to me. I like
her very much."


"My dear lady," she finally resumed, "I advise you not to agitate
yourself. The matter you allude to concerns three persons much
stronger of purpose than yourself

"Three persons? You and Osmond of course. But is Miss Archer also
very strong of purpose?"

"Quite as much so as we."

"Ah then," said the Countess radiantly, "if I convince her it's
her interest to resist you she'll do so successfully!"

"Resist us? Why do you express yourself so coarsely? She's not
exposed to compulsion or deception."

"I'm not sure of that. You're capable of anything, you and
Osmond. I don't mean Osmond by himself, and I don't mean you by
yourself. But together you're dangerous--like some chemical

"You had better leave us alone then," smiled Madame Merle.

"I don't mean to touch you
--but I shall talk to that girl."

"My poor Amy," Madame Merle murmured, "I don't see what has got
into your head."

"I take an interest in her--that's what has got into my head. I
like her."

Madame Merle hesitated a moment. "I don't think she likes you."

The Countess's bright little eyes expanded and her face was set
in a grimace. "Ah, you are dangerous--even by yourself!"


Madame Merle smiled with her usual grace. "It's a weighty
question--let me think. It seems to me it would please your
father to see a careful little daughter making his tea
. It's the
proper duty of the daughter of the house--when she grows up."

"So it seems to me, Madame Merle!" Pansy cried. "You shall see
how well I'll make it. A spoonful for each." And she began to
busy herself at the table.

"Two spoonfuls for me," said the Countess, who, with Madame
Merle, remained for some moments watching her. "Listen to me,
Pansy," the Countess resumed at last. "I should like to know what
you think of your visitor."

"Ah, she's not mine--she's papa's," Pansy objected.

"Miss Archer came to see you as well," said Madame Merle.

"I'm very happy to hear that. She has been very polite to me."

"Do you like her then?" the Countess asked.

"She's charming--charming," Pansy repeated in her little neat
tone. "She pleases me thoroughly."


Chapter 26

She had carried away an image from her visit to his hill-top
which her subsequent knowledge of him did nothing to efface and
which put on for her a particular harmony with other supposed and
divined things, histories within histories: the image of a quiet,
clever, sensitive, distinguished man, strolling on a moss-grown
terrace above the sweet Val d'Arno and holding by the hand a
little girl whose bell-like clearness gave a new grace to
. The picture had no flourishes, but she liked its
lowness of tone and the atmosphere of summer twilight that
pervaded it
. It spoke of the kind of personal issue that touched
her most nearly; of the choice between objects, subjects,
contacts--what might she call them?--of a thin and those of a
rich association; of a lonely, studious life in a lovely land; of
an old sorrow that sometimes ached to-day; of a feeling of pride
that was perhaps exaggerated, but that had an element of
nobleness; of a care for beauty and perfection so natural and
so cultivated together that the career appeared to stretch
beneath it in the disposed vistas and with the ranges of steps
and terraces and fountains of a formal Italian garden
only for arid places freshened by the natural dews of a quaint
half-anxious, half-helpless fatherhood.

He uttered his ideas as if, odd as they often appeared, he
were used to them and had lived with them; old polished knobs
and heads and handles, of precious substance, that could be
fitted if necessary to new walking-sticks--not switches plucked
in destitution from the common tree and then too elegantly
waved about.

Pansy was so formed and finished for her tiny place in the world,
and yet in imagination, as one could see, so innocent and infantine.
She sat on the sofa by Isabel; she wore a small grenadine mantle
and a pair of the useful gloves that Madame Merle had given her--
little grey gloves with a single button. She was like a sheet of
blank paper--the ideal jeune fille of foreign fiction. Isabel
hoped that so fair and smooth a page would be covered with an
edifying text.

Naturally he couldn't like her style, her shrillness, her
egotism, her violations of taste and above all of truth: she
acted badly on his nerves, she was not his sort of woman. What
was his sort of woman? Oh, the very opposite of the Countess, a
woman to whom the truth should be habitually sacred. Isabel was
unable to estimate the number of times her visitor had, in half
an hour, profaned it: the Countess indeed had given her an
impression of rather silly sincerity.

Madame Merle surveyed her with a single glance, took her in
from head to foot, and after a pang of despair determined to
endure her. She determined indeed to delight in her. She
mightn't be inhaled as a rose, but she might be grasped
as a nettle
. Madame Merle genially squeezed her into
insignificance, and Isabel felt that in foreseeing this
liberality she had done justice to her friend's intelligence.

Chapter 27

She had always been fond of history, and here was history in
the stones of the street and the atoms of the sunshine
. She
had an imagination that kindled at the mention of great deeds,
and wherever she turned some great deed had been acted. These
things strongly moved her, but moved her all inwardly. It
seemed to her companions that she talked less than usual,
and Ralph Touchett, when he appeared to be looking listlessly
and awkwardly over her head, was really dropping on her an
intensity of observation
. By her own measure she was very
happy; she would even have been willing to take these hours
for the happiest she was ever to know. The sense of the
terrible human past was heavy to her, but that of something
altogether contemporary would
suddenly give it wings that
it could wave in the blue.

Rome, as Ralph said, confessed to the psychological moment.
The herd of reechoing tourists had departed and most of the
solemn places had relapsed into solemnity.
The sky was a blaze
of blue, and the plash of the fountains in their mossy niches
had lost its chill and doubled its music.

Henrietta Stackpole was struck with the fact that ancient Rome
had been paved a good deal like New York, and even found an
analogy between the deep chariot-ruts traceable in the antique
street and the overjangled iron grooves which express the
intensity of American

Keen as was her interest in the rugged relics of the Roman past
that lay scattered about her and in which the corrosion of
centuries had still left so much of individual life, her thoughts,
after resting a while on these things, had wandered, by a
concatenation of stages it might require some subtlety to trace,
to regions and objects charged with a more active appeal. From
the Roman past to Isabel Archer's future was a long stride, but
her imagination had taken it in a single flight and now hovered
in slow circles over the nearer and richer field.

He was splendidly sunburnt; even his multitudinous beard had
been burnished by the fire of Asia.
He was dressed in the
loose-fitting, heterogeneous garments in which the English
traveller in foreign lands is wont to consult his comfort and
affirm his nationality; and with his pleasant steady eyes, his
bronzed complexion, fresh beneath its seasoning, his manly
figure, his minimising manner and his general air of being a
gentleman 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 him. He had kept, evidently in
spite of shocks
, every one of his merits--properties these
partaking of the essence of great decent houses, as one might
put it; resembling their innermost fixtures and ornaments, not
subject to vulgar shifting and removable only by some whole


"I know what you're going to say. You hoped we should always
remain good friends." This formula, as Lord Warburton uttered it,
was certainly flat enough; but then he was interested in making
it appear so.

She found herself reduced simply to "Please don't talk of all
that"; a speech which hardly struck her as improvement on the

"It's a small consolation to allow me!" her companion exclaimed
with force.

"I can't pretend to console you," said the girl, who, all still
as she sat there, threw herself back with a sort of inward
on the answer that had satisfied him so little six months
before. He was pleasant, he was powerful, he was gallant; there
was no better man than he. But her answer remained.

"It's very well you don't try to console me; it wouldn't be in
your power," she heard him say through the medium of her strange

"I hoped we should meet again, because I had no fear you would
attempt to make me feel I had wronged you
. But when you do that--
the pain's greater than the pleasure." And she got up with a
small conscious majesty, looking for her companions.

"I don't want to make you feel that; of course I can't say that.
I only just want you to know one or two things--in fairness to
f, as it were. I won't return to the subject again. I felt
very strongly what I expressed to you last year; I couldn't think
of anything else. I tried to forget--energetically,
systematically. I tried to take an interest in somebody else. I
tell you this because I want you to know I did my duty. I didn't


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 rose
and dizzily rose. After this it never lacked space to soar
. She
gazed and wondered like a child or a peasant, she paid her silent
tribute to the seated sublime

Mr. Bantling emerged from the choir, cleaving the crowd with
British valour
and followed by Miss Stackpole and Ralph Touchett.
I say fortunately, but this is perhaps a superficial view of the
matter; since on perceiving the gentleman from Florence Ralph
Touchett appeared to take the case as not committing him to joy.


"What's your opinion of Saint Peter's?" Mr. Osmond was meanwhile
enquiring of our young lady.

"It's very large and very bright," she contented herself with

"It's too large; it makes one feel like an atom."

"Isn't that the right way to feel in the greatest of human
temples?" she asked with rather a liking for her phrase.

"I suppose it's the right way to feel everywhere, when one IS
nobody. But I like it in a church as little as anywhere else

"You ought indeed to be a Pope!" Isabel exclaimed, remembering
something he had referred to in Florence.

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


"Will she like him?"

"Do you mean will she accept him?"

"Yes," said Lord Warburton after an instant; "I suppose that's
what I
horribly mean."

"Perhaps not if one does nothing to prevent it," Ralph replied.

His lordship stared a moment, but apprehended. "Then we must be
perfectly quiet?"

"As quiet as the grave. And only on the chance!" Ralph added.


Chapter 28

Lord Warburton went to the box, where Isabel's welcome was as to
a friend so honourably old that he vaguely asked himself what
queer temporal province she was annexing
. He exchanged greetings
with Mr. Osmond, to whom he had been introduced the day before
and who, after he came in, sat blandly apart and silent, as if
repudiating competence in the subjects of allusion now probable.
It struck her second visitor that Miss Archer had, in operatic
conditions, a radiance, even a slight exaltation; as she was,
however, at all times a keenly-glancing, quickly-moving,
completely animated young woman, he may have been mistaken on
this point. Her talk with him moreover pointed to presence of
mind; it expressed a kindness so ingenious and deliberate as to
indicate that she was in undisturbed possession of her faculties.
Poor Lord Warburton had moments of bewilderment. She had
discouraged him, formally, as much as a woman could; what
business had she then with such arts and such felicities, above
all with such tones of reparation--preparation? Her voice had
tricks of sweetness, but why play them on him

Why should she mark so one of his values--quite the wrong one--
when she would have nothing to do with another, which was quite
the right? He was angry with himself for being puzzled, and then
angry for being angry. Verdi's music did little to comfort him,
and he left the theatre and walked homeward, without knowing his
way, through the tortuous, tragic streets of Rome, where heavier
sorrows than his had been carried under the stars


Ah, he's a great proprietor? Happy man!" said Gilbert Osmond.

"Do you call that happiness--the ownership of wretched human
?" cried Miss Stackpole. "He owns his tenants and has
thousands of them. It's pleasant to own something, but inanimate
objects are enough for me. I don't insist on flesh and blood and
minds and consciences."

"It seems to me you own a human being or two," Mr. Bantling
suggested jocosely. "I wonder if Warburton orders his tenants
about as you do me."

"Lord Warburton's a great radical," Isabel said. "He has very
advanced opinions."

"He has very advanced stone walls. His park's enclosed by a
gigantic iron fence, some thirty miles round," Henrietta
announced for the information of Mr. Osmond. "I should like him
to converse with a few of our Boston radicals."

"Don't they approve of iron fences?" asked Mr. Bantling.

"Only to shut up wicked conservatives. I always feel as if I were
talking to YOU over something with a neat top-finish of broken


She sat down in the centre of the circle of these presences,
regarding them vaguely, resting her eyes on their beautiful
blank faces; listening, as it were, to their eternal silence.
It is impossible, in Rome at least, to look long at a great
company of Greek sculptures without feeling the effect of their
noble quietude; which, as with a high door closed for the ceremony,
slowly drops on the spirit the large white mantle of peace. I
ay in Rome especially, because the Roman air is an exquisite
medium for such impressions. The golden sunshine mingles with
them, the deep stillness of the past, so vivid yet, though it
is nothing but a void full of names, seems to throw a solemn
spell upon them.

Chapter 29

His good humour was imperturbable, his knowledge of the right
fact, his production of the right word, as convenient as the
friendly flicker of a match for your cigarette. Clearly he was
amused--as amused as a man could be who was so little ever
surprised, and that made him almost applausive. It was not that
his spirits were visibly high--he would never, in the concert of
pleasure, touch the big drum by so much as a knuckle
: he had a
mortal dislike to the high, ragged note, to what he called random
ravings. He thought Miss Archer sometimes of too precipitate a
readiness. It was pity she had that fault, because if she had
not had it she would really have had none; she would have been
as smooth to his general need of her as handled ivory to the

He took his pleasures in general singly; he was too often--he
would have admitted that--too sorely aware of something wrong,
something ugly; the fertilising dew of a conceivable felicity too
seldom descended on his spirit
. 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 had too much of it; in this respect he had the
irritation of satiety, as he knew perfectly well and often
reminded himself. "Ah no, I've not been spoiled; certainly I've
not been spoiled," he used inwardly to repeat. "If I do succeed
before I die I shall thoroughly have earned it." He was too apt
to reason as if "earning" this boon consisted above all of
covertly aching for it
and might be confined to that exercise


"Well, Italy's a part of space," Isabel answered. "I can take it
on the way."

"On the way round the world? No, don't do that. Don't put us in a
parenthesis--give us a chapter to ourselves
. I don't want to see
you on your travels. I'd rather see you when they're over. I
should like to see you when you're tired and satiated," Osmond
added in a moment. "I shall prefer you in that state."


But she said to herself that if there were a danger they should
never meet again, perhaps after all it would be as well. Happy
things don't repeat themselves, and her adventure wore already
the changed, the seaward face of some romantic island from which,
after feasting on purple grapes, she was putting off while the
breeze rose
. She might come back to Italy and find him different
--this strange man who pleased her just as he was; and it would
be better not to come than run the risk of that. But if she was
not to come the greater the pity that the chapter was closed;
she felt for a moment a pang that touched the source of tears.
The sensation kept her silent, and Gilbert Osmond was silent too;
he was looking at her. "Go everywhere," he said at last, in a low,
kind voice; "do everything; get everything out of life. Be happy,
--be triumphant."

"What do you mean by being triumphant?"

"Well, doing what you like."

"To triumph, then, it seems to me, is to fail! Doing all the vain
things one likes is often very tiresome."

"Exactly," said Osmond with his quiet quickness. "As I intimated
just now, you'll be tired some day


The two remained a while in this situation, exchanging a long look
--the large, conscious look of the critical hours of life. Then he
got up and came near her, deeply respectful, as if he were afraid
he had been too familiar. "I'm absolutely in love with you."

He had repeated the announcement in a tone of almost impersonal
discretion, like a man who expected very little from it but who
spoke for his own needed relief. The tears came into her eyes:
this time they obeyed the sharpness of the pang that suggested to
her somehow the slipping of a fine bolt--backward, forward, she
couldn't have said which
. The words he had uttered made him, as
he stood there, beautiful and generous, invested him as with the
golden air of early autumn
; but, morally speaking, she retreated
before them--facing him still--as she had retreated in the other
cases before a like encounter. "Oh don't say that, please," she
answered with an intensity that expressed the dread of having, in
this case too, to choose and decide. What made her dread great
was precisely the force which, as it would seem, ought to have
banished all dread--the sense of something within herself, deep
down, that she supposed to be inspired and trustful passion. It
was there like a large sum stored in a bank--which there was a
terror in having to begin to spend. If she touched it, it would
all come out

Chapter 30

Once in a while, at large intervals, this lady, whose voyaging
discretion, as a general thing, was rather of the open sea than
of the risky channel, dropped a remark of ambiguous quality,
struck a note that sounded false. What cared Isabel Archer for
the vulgar judgements of obscure people? and did Madame Merle
suppose that she was capable of doing a thing at all if it had
to be sneakingly done? Of course not: she must have meant something
else--something which in the press of the hours that preceded her
departure she had not had time to explain. Isabel would return to
this some day; there were sorts of things as to which she liked
to be clear

Isabel wondered at her; she had never had so directly
presented to her nose the white flower of cultivated sweetness
How well the child had been taught, said our admiring young
woman; how prettily she had been directed and fashioned; and yet
how simple, how natural, how innocent she had been kept! Isabel
was fond, ever, of the question of character and quality, of
sounding, as who should say, the deep personal mystery, and it
had pleased her, up to this time, to be in doubt as to whether
this tender slip were not really all-knowing
. Was the extremity
of her candour but the perfection of self-consciousness?

Isabel listened to this assertion with an interest which she felt
it almost a torment to be obliged to conceal
. It was her pride
that obliged her, and a certain sense of decency; there were
still other things in her head which she felt a strong impulse,
instantly checked, to say to Pansy about her father; there were
things it would have given her pleasure to hear the child, to
make the child, say.
But she no sooner became conscious of these
things than her imagination was hushed with horror at the idea of
taking advantage of the little girl--it was of this she would
have accused herself--and of exhaling into that air where he
might still have a subtle sense for it any breath of her charmed

Chapter 31

Grave she found herself, and positively more weighted, as by the
experience of the lapse of the year she had spent in seeing the
world. She had ranged, she would have said, through space and
surveyed much of mankind, and was therefore now, in her own eyes,
a very different person from the frivolous young woman from Albany
who had begun to take the measure of Europe on the lawn at Gardencourt
a couple of years before. She flattered herself she had harvested
wisdom and learned a great deal more of life than this light-minded
creature had even suspected. If her thoughts just now had inclined
themselves to retrospect, instead of fluttering their wings
nervously about the present
, they would have evoked a multitude
of interesting pictures.

Lily and the babies had joined her in Switzerland in the month
of July, and they had spent a summer of fine weather in an
Alpine valley where the flowers were thick in the meadows and
the shade of great chestnuts made a resting-place for such
upward wanderings as might be undertaken by ladies and children
on warm afternoons. They had afterwards reached the French capital,
which was worshipped, and with costly ceremonies, by Lily, but
thought of as noisily vacant by Isabel, who in these days made
use of her memory of Rome as she might have done, in a hot and
crowded room, of a phial of something pungent hidden in her

The world lay before her--she could do whatever she chose. There
was a deep thrill in it all, but for the present her choice was
tolerably discreet; she chose simply to walk back from Euston
Square to her hotel. The early dusk of a November afternoon had
already closed in; the street-lamps, in the thick, brown air,
looked weak and red; our heroine was unattended and Euston Square
was a long way from Piccadilly. But Isabel performed the journey
with a positive enjoyment of its dangers and lost her way almost
on purpose
, in order to get more sensations, so that she was
disappointed when an obliging policeman easily set her right
again. She was so fond of the spectacle of human life that she
enjoyed even the aspect of gathering dusk in the London streets--
the moving crowds, the hurrying cabs, the lighted shops, the
flaring stalls, the dark, shining dampness of everything.

Apologies, Mrs. Touchett intimated, were of no more use to her
than bubbles
, and she herself never dealt in such articles.
One either did the thing or one didn't, and what one "would"
have done belonged to the sphere of the irrelevant, like the
idea of a future life or of the origin of things.

Isabel found much to interest her in these countries, though
Madame Merle continued to remark that even among the most
classic sites, the scenes most calculated to suggest repose
and reflexion, a certain incoherence prevailed in her. Isabel
travelled rapidly and recklessly
; she was like a thirsty person
draining cup after cup
. Madame Merle meanwhile, as lady-in-waiting
to a princess
circulating incognita, panted a little in her rear.

Into this freshness of Madame Merle's she obtained a considerable
insight; she seemed to see it as professional, as slightly
mechanical, carried about in its case like the fiddle of the
virtuoso, or blanketed and bridled like the "favourite" of the
. She liked her as much as ever, but there was a corner
of the curtain that never was lifted
; it was as if she had
remained after all something of a public performer, condemned
to emerge only in character and in costume.

She believed then that at bottom she had a different morality. Of
course the morality of civilised persons has always much in
common; but our young woman had a sense in her of values gone
wrong or,
as they said at the shops, marked down. She considered,
with the presumption of youth, that a morality differing from her
own must be inferior to it; and this conviction was an aid to
detecting an occasional flash of cruelty, an occasional lapse
candour, in the conversation of a person who had raised
delicate kindness to an art and whose pride was too high for the
narrow ways of deception. Her conception of human motives might,
in certain lights, have been acquired at the court of some
kingdom in decadence, and there were several in her list of which
our heroine had not even heard. She had not heard of everything,
that was very plain; and there were evidently things in the world
of which it was not advantageous to hear.She had once or twice
had a positive scare; since it so affected her to have to exclaim,
of her friend, "Heaven forgive her, she doesn't understand me!"
Absurd as it may seem this discovery operated as a shock, left
her with a vague dismay in which there was even an element of
foreboding. The dismay of course subsided, in the light of some
sudden proof of Madame Merle's remarkable intelligence; but it
stood for a high-water-mark in the ebb and flow of confidence.
Madame Merle had once declared her belief that when a friendship
ceases to grow it immediately begins to decline--
there being no
point of equilibrium between liking more and liking less. A stationary
affection, in other words, was impossible
--it must move one way or
the other.

Chapter 32

What he would say to her-- that was the interesting issue. It
could be nothing in the least soothing--she had warrant for
this, and the conviction doubtless showed in the cloud on her
. For the rest, however, all clearness reigned in her; she
had put away her mourning and she walked in no small shimmering
splendour. She only, felt older-- ever so much, and as if she
were "worth more" for it, like some curious piece in an
antiquary's collection.


"No, I'm not at all tired. Did you ever know me to be tired?"

"Never; I wish I had! When did you arrive?"

"Last night, very late; in a kind of snail-train they call the
express. These Italian trains go at about the rate of an American

"That's in keeping--you must have felt as if you were coming to
bury me!" And she forced a smile of encouragement to an easy view
of their situation. She had reasoned the matter well out, making
it perfectly clear that she broke no faith and falsified no
contract; but for all this she was afraid of her visitor. She was
ashamed of her fear; but she was devoutly thankful there was
nothing else to be ashamed of. He looked at her with his stiff
insistence, an insistence in which there was such a want of tact;
especially when the dull dark beam in his eye rested on her as a
physical weight.

"No, I didn't feel that; I couldn't think of you as dead. I wish
I could!" he candidly declared.

"I thank you immensely."

"I'd rather think of you as dead than as married to another man."

"That's very selfish of you!"
she returned with the ardour of a
real conviction. "If you're not happy yourself others have yet a
right to be."

"Very likely it's selfish; but I don't in the least mind your
saying so. I don't mind anything you can say now--I don't feel
it. The cruellest things you could think of would be mere
pin-pricks. After what you've done I shall never feel anything--
I mean anything but that. That I shall feel all my life."

Mr. Goodwood made these detached assertions with dry deliberateness,
in his hard, slow American tone, which flung no atmospheric colour
over propositions intrinsically crude.
The tone made Isabel angry
rather than touched her; but her anger perhaps was fortunate,
inasmuch as it gave her a further reason for controlling herself.


Isabel got up with a movement of repressed impatience and walked
to the window, where she remained a moment looking out. When she
turned round her visitor was still motionless in his place. She
came toward him again and stopped, resting her hand on the back
of the chair she had just quitted. "Do you mean you came simply
to look at me? That's better for you perhaps than for me."

"I wished to hear the sound of your voice," he said.

"You've heard it, and you see it says nothing very sweet."

"It gives me pleasure, all the same."
And with this he got up.
She had felt pain and displeasure on receiving early that day the
news he was in Florence and by her leave would come within an
hour to see her. She had been vexed and distressed, though she
had sent back word by his messenger that he might come when he
would. She had not been better pleased when she saw him; his
being there at all was so full of heavy implications. It implied
things she could never assent to--rights, reproaches,
remonstrance, rebuke, the expectation of making her change her
. These things, however, if implied, had not been
expressed; and now our young lady, strangely enough, began to
resent her visitor's remarkable self-control. There was a dumb
misery about him that irritated her; there was a manly staying of
his hand that made her heart beat faster
. She felt her agitation
rising, and she said to herself that she was angry in the way a
woman is angry when she has been in the wrong. She was not in the
wrong; she had fortunately not that bitterness to swallow; but,
all the same, she wished he would denounce her a little.

Her humbleness as suddenly deserted her. "In explanation? Do you
think I'm bound to explain?"

He gave her one of his long dumb looks. "You were very positive.
I did believe it."

"So did I. Do you think I could explain if I would?"

"No, I suppose not. Well," he added, "I've done what I wished.
I've seen you."

"How little you make of these terrible journeys," she felt the
poverty of her presently replying.

"If you're afraid I'm knocked up--in any such way as that--you
may be at your ease about it." He turned away, this time in
earnest, and no hand-shake, no sign of parting, was exchanged
between them.

At the door he stopped with his hand on the knob. "I shall leave
Florence to-morrow," he said without a quaver.

"I'm delighted to hear it!" she answered passionately. Five
minutes after he had gone out she burst into tears

Chapter 33

He had said rather less than she expected, and she now had a
somewhat angry sense of having lost time. But she would lose
no more; she waited till Mrs. Touchett came into the drawing-
room before the mid-day breakfast, and then she began. "Aunt
Lydia, I've something to tell you."

Mrs. Touchett gave a little jump and looked at her almost
fiercely. "You needn't tell me; I know what it is."

"I don't know how you know."

"The same way that I know when the window's open--by feeling a
You're going to marry that man."


"Be angry with me, not with him," said the girl.

"Oh, I'm always angry with you; that's no satisfaction! Was it
for this that you refused Lord Warburton?"

"Please don't go back to that. Why shouldn't I like Mr. Osmond,
since others have done so?"

"Others, at their wildest moments, never wanted to marry him.
There's nothing OF him," Mrs. Touchett explained.

"Then he can't hurt me," said Isabel.

"Do you think you're going to be happy? No one's happy, in such
doings, you should know."

"I shall set the fashion then. What does one marry for?"

"What YOU will marry for, heaven only knows. People usually marry
as they go into partnership--to set up a house. But in your
partnership you'll bring everything."

"Is it that Mr. Osmond isn't rich? Is that what you're talking
about?" Isabel asked.

"He has no money; he has no name; he has no importance. I value
such things and I have the courage to say it; I think they're very
. Many other people think the same, and they show it. But
they give some other reason."

Isabel hesitated a little. "I think I value everything that's
valuable. I care very much for money, and that's why I wish Mr.
Osmond to have a little."

"Give it to him then; but marry some one else


"She can do anything; that's what I've always liked her for. I
knew she could play any part; but I understood that she played
them one by one. I didn't understand that she would play two at
the same time."

"I don't know what part she may have played to you," Isabel said;
"that's between yourselves. To me she has been honest and kind
and devoted."

"Devoted, of course; she wished you to marry her candidate. She
told me she was watching you only in order to interpose."

"She said that to please you," the girl answered; conscious,
however, of the inadequacy of the explanation.

"To please me by deceiving me? She knows me better. Am I pleased

"I don't think you're ever much pleased," Isabel was obliged to
reply. "If Madame Merle knew you would learn the truth what had
she to gain by insincerity?"

"She gained time, as you see
. While I waited for her to interfere
you were marching away, and she was really beating the drum

Blighted and battered, but still responsive and still ironic,
his face was like a lighted lantern patched with paper and
unsteadily held; his thin whisker languished upon a lean cheek;
the exorbitant curve of his nose defined itself more sharply.
Lean he was altogether, lean and long and loose-jointed; an
accidental cohesion of relaxed angles
. His brown velvet jacket
had become perennial; his hands had fixed themselves in his
pockets; he shambled and stumbled and shuffled in a manner that
denoted great physical helplessness. It was perhaps this
whimsical gait that helped to mark his character more than ever
as that of the humorous invalid--the invalid for whom even his
own disabilities are part of the general joke.
They might well
indeed with Ralph have been the chief cause of the want of
seriousness marking his view of a world in which the reason for
his own continued presence was past finding out. Isabel had grown
fond of his ugliness; his awkwardness had become dear to her. They
had been sweetened by association; they struck her as the very
terms on which it had been given him to be charming. He was so
charming that her sense of his being ill had hitherto had a sort
of comfort in it; the state of his health had seemed not a
limitation, but a kind of intellectual advantage; it absolved him
from all professional and official emotions and left him the
luxury of being exclusively personal
. The personality so
resulting was delightful; he had remained proof against the
staleness of disease; he had had to consent to be deplorably ill,
yet had somehow escaped being formally
sick. Such had been the
girl's impression of her cousin; and when she had pitied him it
was only on reflection. As she reflected a good deal she had
allowed him a certain amount of compassion; but she always
had a dread of wasting that essence--a precious article, worth
more to the giver than to any one else. Now, however, it took no
great sensibility to feel that poor Ralph's tenure of life was
elastic than it should be. He was a bright, free, generous
spirit, he had all the
illumination of wisdom and none of its
pedantry, and yet he was distressfully dying.

Isabel noted afresh that life was certainly hard for some people,
and she felt a delicate glow of shame as she thought how easy it
now promised to become for herself.

His mother had literally greeted him with the great news,
which had been even more sensibly chilling than Mrs. Touchett's
maternal kiss. Ralph was shocked and humiliated; his calculations
had been false and the person in the world in whom he was most
interested was lost. He drifted about the house like a rudderless
vessel in a rocky stream, or sat in the garden of the palace on
a great cane chair, his long legs extended, his head thrown back
and his hat pulled over his eyes. He felt cold about the heart;
he had never liked anything less. What could he do, what could
he say? If the girl were irreclaimable could he pretend to like
it? To attempt to reclaim her was permissible only if the attempt
should succeed. To try to persuade her of anything sordid or
sinister in the man to whose deep art she had succumbed would
be decently discreet only in the event of her being persuaded.
Otherwise he should simply have damned himself. It cost him
an equal effort to speak his thought and to dissemble; he
could neither assent with sincerity nor protest with hope.

Chapter 34

A sweeter spot at this moment could not have been imagined.
The stillness of noontide hung over it, and the warm shade,
enclosed and still, made bowers like spacious caves.
was sitting there in the clear gloom, at the base of a statue
of Terpsichore--a dancing nymph with taper fingers and inflated
draperies in the manner of Bernini; the extreme relaxation of
his attitude suggested at first to Isabel that he was asleep.


"I'm sorry I waked you," Isabel said; "you look too tired."

"I feel too tired. But I was not asleep. I was thinking of you."

"Are you tired of that?"

"Very much so. It leads to nothing. The road's long and I never

"What do you wish to arrive at?" she put to him, closing her

"At the point of expressing to myself properly what I think of
your engagement

"Don't think too much of it," she lightly returned.

"Do you mean that it's none of my business?"

"Beyond a certain point, yes."

"That's the point
I want to fix. I had an idea you may have found
me wanting in good manners. I've never congratulated you."


"I think I've hardly got over my surprise," he went on at last.
"You were the last person I expected to see caught."

"I don't know why you call it caught."

"Because you're going to be put into a cage."

"If I like my cage, that needn't trouble you," she answered.

"That's what I wonder at; that's what I've been thinking of."

"If you've been thinking you may imagine how I've thought! I'm
satisfied that I'm doing well."

"You must have changed immensely. A year ago you valued your
liberty beyond everything. You wanted only to see life."

"I've seen it," said Isabel. "
It doesn't look to me now, I admit,
such an inviting expanse

"I don't pretend it is; only I had an idea that you took a genial
view of it and wanted
to survey the whole field."

I've seen that one can't do anything so general. One must choose
a corner and cultivate that

"That's what I think. And one must choose as good a corner as
. 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

"I should have said 'Wait a little longer.'"

"Wait for what?"

"Well, for a little more light," said Ralph with rather an absurd
smile, while his hands found their way into his pockets.

"Where should my light have come from? From you?"

"I might have struck a spark or two

Isabel had drawn off her gloves; she smoothed them out as they lay
upon her knee. The mildness of this movement was accidental, for
her expression was not conciliatory. "You're beating about the
bush, Ralph. You wish to say you don't like Mr. Osmond, and yet
you're afraid."

"Willing to wound and yet afraid to strike? I'm willing to
wound HIM, yes--but not to wound you. I'm afraid of you, not of
him. If you marry him it won't be a fortunate way for me to have

"IF I marry him! Have you had any expectation of dissuading me?"

"Of course that seems to you too fatuous."

"No," said Isabel after a little; "it seems to me too touching."

"That's the same thing. It makes me so ridiculous that you pity

She stroked out her long gloves again. "I know you've a great
affection for me. I can't get rid of that."

"For heaven's sake don't try. Keep that well in sight. It will
convince you how intensely I want you to do well."


"No, I'm very quiet; I've always believed in your wisdom," she went
on, boasting of her quietness, yet speaking with a kind of
contained exaltation. It was her passionate desire to be just; it
touched Ralph to the heart, affected him like a caress from a
creature he had injured
. He wished to interrupt, to reassure her;
for a moment he was absurdly inconsistent; he would have retracted
what he had said.


"I had treated myself to a charming vision of your future," Ralph
observed without answering this; "I had amused myself with
planning out a high destiny for you. There was to be nothing of
this sort in it. You were not to come down so easily or so soon."

"Come down, you say?"

"Well, that renders my sense of what has happened to you. You
seemed to me to be soaring far up in the blue--to be, sailing in
the bright light, over the heads of men. Suddenly
some one tosses
up a faded rosebud--a missile that should never have reached
--and straight you drop to the ground. It hurts me," said Ralph
audaciously, "hurts me as if I had fallen myself!"


"He's the incarnation of taste," Ralph went on, thinking hard how
he could best express Gilbert Osmond's sinister attributes without
putting himself in the wrong by seeming to describe him coarsely.
He wished to describe him impersonally, scientifically. "He judges
and measures, approves and condemns, altogether by that."

"It's a happy thing then that his taste should be exquisite."

"It's exquisite, indeed, since it has led him to select you as his
bride. But have you ever seen such a taste--a really exquisite

"I hope it may never be my fortune to fail to gratify my

At these words a sudden passion leaped to Ralph's lips. "Ah,
that's wilful, that's unworthy of you! You were not meant to be
measured in that way--you were meant for something better than to
keep guard over the sensibilities of a sterile dilettante!"


"I can't enter into your idea of Mr. Osmond; I can't do it
justice, because I see him in quite another way. He's not
important--no, he's not important; he's a man to whom importance
is supremely indifferent. If that's what you mean when you call
him 'small,' then he's as small as you please. I call that l
large--it's the largest thing I know

She was wrong, but she believed; she was deluded, but she was
dismally consistent. It was wonderfully characteristic of her
that, having invented a fine theory, about Gilbert Osmond, she
loved him not for what he really possessed, but for his very
poverties dressed out as honours. Ralph remembered what he had
said to his father about wishing to put it into her power to
meet the requirements of her imagination. He had done so, and
the girl had taken full advantage of the luxury. Poor Ralph
felt sick; he felt ashamed.

His opposition had made her own conception of her
conduct clearer to her. "Shall you not come up to
breakfast?" she asked.

"No; I want no breakfast; I'm not hungry."

"You ought to eat," said the girl; "you live on air."

"I do, very much, and I shall go back into the garden
and take another mouthfu
l. I came thus far simply to
say this. I told you last year that if you were to get
into trouble I should feel terribly sold. That's how
I feel to-day."

"Do you think I'm in trouble?"

"One's in trouble when one's in error."

"Very well," said Isabel; "I shall never complain of my
trouble to you!" And she moved up the staircase.

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

Chapter 35

The chief impression produced on Isabel's spirit by this
criticism was that the passion of love separated its victim
terribly from every one but the loved object. She felt herself
disjoined from every one she had ever known before--from her
two sisters, who wrote to express a dutiful hope that she would
be happy, and a surprise, somewhat more vague, at her not having
chosen a consort who was the hero of a richer accumulation of

Isabel flattered herself that she believed Ralph had been angry.
It was the more easy for her to believe this because, as I say,
she had now little free or unemployed emotion for minor needs,
and accepted as an incident, in fact quite as an ornament, of
her lot the idea that to prefer Gilbert Osmond as she preferred
him was perforce to break all other ties. She tasted of the sweets
of this preference, and they made her conscious, almost with awe,
of the invidious and remorseless tide of the charmed and
possessed condition, great as was the traditional honour and
imputed virtue of being in love. It was the tragic part of
happiness; one's right was always made of the wrong of some one

Madame Merle had made him a present of incalculable value.
What could be a finer thing to live with than a high spirit
attuned to softness? For would not the softness be all for
one's self, and the strenuousness for society, which admired
the air of superiority? What could be a happier gift in a
companion than a quick, fanciful mind which saved one
repetitions and
reflected one's thought on a polished, elegant
? Osmond hated to see his thought reproduced literally--
that made it look stale and stupid; he preferred it to be
freshened in the reproduction even as "words" by music. His
egotism had never taken the crude form of desiring a dull wife;
this lady's intelligence was to be a silver plate, not an earthen
one--a plate that he might heap up with ripe fruits, to which it
would give a decorative value, so that talk might become for him a
sort of served dessert. He found the silver quality in this
perfection in Isabel; he could tap her imagination with his
knuckle and make it ring.

"I won't pretend I'm sorry you're rich; I'm delighted. I
delight in everything that's yours--whether it be money or
virtue. Money's a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing
to meet
. It seems to me, however, that I've sufficiently proved
the limits of my itch for it
: I never in my life tried to earn
a penny, and I ought to be less subject to suspicion than most
of the people one sees grubbing and grabbing."

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

Osmond had the attachment of old acquaintance and Isabel the
stimulus of new, which seemed to assure her a future at a high
level of consciousness of the beautiful. The desire for unlimited
expansion had been succeeded in her soul by the sense that life
was vacant without some private duty that might gather one's
energies to a point

"You'll be my stepmother, but we mustn't use that word. They're
always said to be cruel; but I don't think you'll ever so much
as pinch or even push me. I'm not afraid at all."

"My good little Pansy," said Isabel gently, "I shall be ever so
kind to you." A vague, inconsequent vision of her coming in some
odd way to need it had intervened with the effect of a chill

"Very well then, I've nothing to fear," the child returned with
her note of prepared promptitude. What teaching she had had, it
seemed to suggest--or what penalties for non-performance she

Chapter 36

He had made to a certain extent good use of his time; he had
devoted it in vain to finding a flaw in Pansy Osmond's composition.
She was admirably finished; she had had the last touch; she was
really a consummate piece. He thought of her in amorous meditation
a good deal as he might have thought of a Dresden-china shepherdess.
Miss Osmond, indeed, in the bloom of her juvenility, had a hint of
rococo which Rosier, whose taste was predominantly for that
manner, could not fail to appreciate.


"I'm awfully decent, you know," said Rosier earnestly. "I won't
say I've no faults, but I'll say I've no vices."

"All that's negative, and it always depends, also, on what people
call vices. What's the positive side? What's the virtuous? What
have you got besides your Spanish lace and your Dresden teacups

"I've a comfortable little fortune--about forty thousand francs a
year. With the talent I have for arranging, we can live
beautifully on such an income."

"Beautifully, no. Sufficiently, yes. Even that depends on where
you live."

"Well, in Paris. I would undertake it in Paris."

Madame Merle's mouth rose to the left. "It wouldn't be famous;
you'd have to make use of the teacups, and they'd get broken."

"We don't want to be famous. If Miss Osmond should have everything
pretty it would be enough. When one's as pretty as she one can
afford--well, quite cheap faience. She ought never to wear
anything but muslin--without the sprig," said Rosier reflectively.

"Wouldn't you even allow her the sprig? She'd be much obliged to
you at any rate for that theory."

"It's the correct one, I assure you; and I'm sure she'd enter into
it. She understands all that; that's why I love her."


"We've not exactly made out that you're a parti. The absence
of vices is hardly a source of income

"Pardon me, I think it may be," said Rosier quite lucidly.

"You'll be a touching couple, living on your innocence!"

"I think you underrate me."

"You're not so innocent as that
? Seriously," said Madame Merle,
"of course forty thousand francs a year and a nice character are a
combination to be considered. I don't say it's to be jumped at,
but there might be a worse offer. Mr. Osmond, however, will
probably incline to believe he can do better."


"I who am not innocent? By being very crafty. Leave it to me; I'll
find out for you."

Rosier got up and stood smoothing his hat. "You say that rather
coldly. Don't simply find out how it is, but try to make it as it
should be

"I'll do my best. I'll try to make the most of your advantages."

"Thank you so very much. Meanwhile then I'll say a word to Mrs.

"Gardez-vous-en bien!" And Madame Merle was on her feet. "Don't
set her going, or you'll spoil everything."

Rosier gazed into his hat; he wondered whether his hostess HAD
been after all the right person to come to. "I don't think I
understand you. I'm an old friend of Mrs. Osmond, and I think she
would like me to succeed."

"Be an old friend as much as you like; the more old friends she
has the better, for she doesn't get on very well with some of her
new. But don't for the present try to make her take up the cudgels
for you. Her husband may have other views, and, as a person who
wishes her well, I advise you not to multiply points of difference
between them


It certainly was true that he had known Madame Merle only for
the last month, and that his thinking her a delightful woman
was not, when one came to look into it, a reason for assuming
that she would be eager to push Pansy Osmond into his arms,
gracefully arranged as these members might be to receive her

The object of Mr. Rosier's well-regulated affection dwelt
in a high house in the very heart of Rome; a dark and massive
structure overlooking a sunny piazzetta in the neighbourhood
of the Farnese Palace. In a palace, too, little Pansy lived--
a palace by Roman measure, but a dungeon to poor Rosier's
apprehensive mind. It seemed to him of evil omen that the
young lady he wished to marry, and whose fastidious father he
doubted of his ability to conciliate, should be immured in a kind
of domestic fortress, a pile which bore a stern old Roman name,
which smelt of historic deeds, of crime and craft and violence
which was mentioned in "Murray" and visited by tourists who
looked, on a vague survey, disappointed and depressed, and which
had frescoes by Caravaggio in the piano nobile and a row of
mutilated statues and dusty urns in the wide, nobly-arched
loggia overhanging the damp court where a fountain gushed out
of a mossy niche.

Chapter 37

Osmond stood before the chimney, leaning back with his
hands behind him; he had one foot up and was warming
the sole. Half a dozen persons, scattered near him,
were talking together; but he was not in the conversation;
his eyes had an expression, frequent with them, that seemed
to represent them as engaged with objects more worth their
while than the appearances actually thrust upon them.


Osmond answered nothing at first; but presently, while he warmed
his boot-sole, "I don't care a fig for Capo di Monte!" he

"I hope you're not losing your interest?"

"In old pots and plates? Yes, I'm losing my interest."

Rosier for an instant forgot the delicacy of his position. "You're
not thinking of parting with a--a piece or two?"

"No, I'm not thinking of parting with anything at all, Mr.
Rosier," said Osmond, with his eyes still on the eyes of his

"Ah, you want to keep, but not to add," Rosier remarked brightly.

"Exactly. I've nothing I wish to match."

Poor Rosier was aware he had blushed; he was distressed at his
want of assurance. "Ah, well, I have!" was all he could murmur;


Like his appreciation of her dear little stepdaughter it
was based partly on his eye for decorative character, his
instinct for authenticity
; but also on a sense for uncatalogued
, for that secret of a "lustre" beyond any recorded
losing or rediscovering, which his devotion to brittle wares

had still not disqualified him to recognise. Mrs. Osmond, at
present, might well have gratified such tastes. The years had
touched her only to enrich her;
the flower of her youth had
not faded, it only hung more quietly on its stem


"I want to introduce you to a young lady."

"Ah, please, what young lady?" Rosier was immensely obliging;
but this was not what he had come for.

"She sits there by the fire in pink and has no one to speak to."

Rosier hesitated a moment. "Can't Mr. Osmond speak to her? He's
within six feet of her."

Mrs. Osmond also hesitated. "She's not very lively, and he
doesn't like dull people."

"But she's good enough for me? Ah now, that's hard!"

I only mean that you've ideas for two. And then you're so

"No, he's not--to me." And Mrs. Osmond vaguely smiled.


Style? Why, she had the style of a little princess; if you
couldn't see it you had no eye. It was not modern, it was not
conscious, it would produce no impression in Broadway; the small,
damsel, in her stiff little dress, only looked like an
Infanta of Velasquez. This was enough for Edward Rosier, who
thought her delightfully old-fashioned. Her anxious eyes, her
charming lips, her slip of a figure, were as touching as a
childish prayer
. He had now an acute desire to know just to what
point she liked him--a desire which made him fidget as he sat in
his chair. It made him feel hot, so that he had to pat his
forehead with his handkerchief; he had never been so uncomfortable.
She was such a perfect jeune fille, and one couldn't make of a
jeune fille the enquiry requisite for throwing light on such a

He had never been alone with her before; he had never been
alone with a jeune fille. It was a great moment; poor Rosier
began to pat his forehead again. There was another room beyond
the one in which they stood--a small room that had been thrown
open and lighted, but that, the company not being numerous, had
remained empty all the evening. It was empty yet; it was upholstered
in pale yellow; there were several lamps; through the open door
it looked the very temple of authorised love.

"To see me?" And Pansy raised her vaguely troubled eyes.

"To see you; that's what I come for," Rosier repeated, feeling
the intoxication of a rupture with authority.

Pansy stood looking at him, simply, intently, openly; a blush was
not needed to make her face more modest. "I thought it was for

"And it was not disagreeable to you?"

"I couldn't tell; I didn't know. You never told me," said Pansy.

"I was afraid of offending you."

"You don't offend me," the young girl murmured, smiling as if an
angel had kissed her

"You like me then, Pansy?" Rosier asked very gently, feeling very

"Yes--I like you."

They had walked to the chimney-piece where the big cold Empire
was perched; they were well within the room and beyond
observation from without. The tone in which she had said these
four words seemed to him the very breath of nature, and his only
answer could be to take her hand and hold it a moment. Then he
raised it to his lips. She submitted, still with her pure,
smile, in which there was something ineffably passive.
She liked him--she had liked him all the while; now anything
might happen! She was ready--she had been ready always, waiting
for him to speak. If he had not spoken she would have waited for
ever; but when the word came she dropped like the peach from the
shaken tree


"Do you wish to see him?" Osmond asked in a provokingly
pointless tone.

Madame Merle looked at him a moment; she knew each of his tones
to the eighth of a note
. "Yes, I should like to say to him that
I've told you what he wants, and that it interests you but

"Don't tell him that. He'll try to interest me more--which is
exactly what I don't want. Tell him I hate his proposal."

"But you don't hate it."

"It doesn't signify; I don't love it. I let him see that, myself,
this evening; I was rude to him on purpose. That sort of thing's
a great bore. There's no hurry."

"I'll tell him that you'll take time and think it over."

"No, don't do that. He'll hang on."

"If I discourage him he'll do the same."

"Yes, but in the one case he'll try to talk and explain--which
would be exceedingly tiresome. In the other he'll probably hold
his tongue and go in for some deeper game. That will leave me
quiet. I hate talking with a donkey."

"Is that what you call poor Mr. Rosier?"

"Oh, he's a nuisance--with his eternal majolica."

Madame Merle dropped her eyes; she had a faint smile. "He's a
gentleman, he has a charming temper; and, after all, an income of
forty thousand francs!"

"It's misery--'genteel' misery," Osmond broke in. "It's not what
I've dreamed of for Pansy."


Chapter 38

"I'm glad that you can take a hint," Pansy's father said, slightly
closing his keen, conscious eyes.

"I take no hints. But I took a message, as I supposed it to be."

"You took it? Where did you take it?"

It seemed to poor Rosier he was being insulted, and he waited a
moment, asking himself how much a true lover ought to submit to.
"Madame Merle gave me, as I understood it, a message from you--
to the effect that you declined to give me the opportunity I
desire, the opportunity to explain my wishes to you." And he
flattered himself he spoke rather sternly.

"I don't see what Madame Merle has to do with it. Why did you
apply to Madame Merle?"

"I asked her for an opinion--for nothing more. I did so because
she had seemed to me to know you very well."

"She doesn't know me so well as she thinks," said Osmond.

"I'm sorry for that, because she has given me some little ground
for hope."

Osmond stared into the fire a moment. "I set a great price on my

"You can't set a higher one than I do. Don't I prove it by wishing
to marry her?"

"I wish to marry her very well," Osmond went on with a dry
impertinence which, in another mood, poor Rosier would have

"Of course I pretend she'd marry well in marrying me. She
couldn't marry a man who loves her more--or whom, I may venture to
add, she loves more."

"I'm not bound to accept your theories as to whom my daughter
loves"--and Osmond looked up with a quick, cold smile.

"I'm not theorising. Your daughter has spoken."

"Not to me," Osmond continued, now bending forward a little and
dropping his eyes to his boot-toes.

"I have her promise, sir!" cried Rosier with the sharpness of


"He told me you had forgotten me."

"Ah no, I don't forget," said Pansy, showing her pretty teeth in
a fixed smile.

"Then everything's just the very same?"

"Ah no, not the very same. Papa has been terribly severe."

"What has he done to you?"

"He asked me what you had done to me, and I told him everything.
Then he forbade me to marry you."

"You needn't mind that."

"Oh yes, I must indeed. I can't disobey papa."

"Not for one who loves you as I do, and whom you pretend to

She raised the lid of the tea-pot, gazing into this vessel for a
moment; then
she dropped six words into its aromatic depths. "I
love you just as much."

"What good will that do me?"

"Ah," said Pansy, raising her sweet, vague eyes, "I don't know

"You disappoint me," groaned poor Rosier.

She was silent a little; she handed a tea-cup to a servant.
"Please don't talk any more."

"Is this to be all my satisfaction?"

"Papa said I was not to talk with you."

"Do you sacrifice me like that? Ah, it's too much!"

"I wish you'd wait a little," said the girl in a voice just
distinct enough to betray a quaver.

"Of course I'll wait if you'll give me hope. But you take my life

"I'll not give you up--oh no!" Pansy went on.

Chapter 39

Isabel had been secretly disappointed at her husband's not seeing
his way simply to take the poor girl for funny. She even wondered
if his sense of fun, or of the funny--which would be his sense of
humour, wouldn't it?--were by chance defective
. Of course she
herself looked at the matter as a person whose present happiness
had nothing to grudge to Henrietta's violated conscience. Osmond
had thought their alliance a kind of monstrosity; he couldn't
imagine what they had in common. For him, Mr. Bantling's fellow
tourist was simply the most vulgar of women, and he had also
pronounced her the most abandoned. Against this latter clause
of the verdict Isabel had appealed with an ardour that had made
him wonder afresh at the oddity of some of his wife's tastes.
Isabel could explain it only by saying that she liked to know
people who were as different as possible from herself. "Why then
don't you make the acquaintance of your washerwoman?"

He had asked his mother what she was making of her life, and
his mother had simply answered that she supposed she was making
the best of it. Mrs. Touchett had not the imagination that
communes with the unseen
, and she now pretended to no intimacy
with her niece, whom she rarely encountered. This young woman
appeared to be living in a sufficiently honourable way, but
Mrs. Touchett still remained of the opinion that her marriage
had been a shabby affair. It had given her no pleasure to think
of Isabel's establishment, which she was sure was a very lame

Madame Merle's relations with Mrs. Touchett had undergone a
perceptible change. Isabel's aunt had told her, without
circumlocution, that she had played too ingenious a part; and
Madame Merle, who never quarrelled with any one, who appeared to
think no one worth it
, and who had performed the miracle of
living, more or less, for several years with Mrs. Touchett and
showing no symptom of irritation--Madame Merle now took a very
high tone and declared that this was an accusation from which she
couldn't stoop to defend herself.

Slender still, but lovelier than before, she had gained no
great maturity of aspect; yet there was an amplitude and a
brilliancy in her personal arrangements that gave a touch of
insolence to her beauty.Poor human-hearted Isabel, what
perversity had bitten her? Her light step drew a mass of
drapery behind it
; her intelligent head sustained a majesty of
. The free, keen girl had become quite another person;
what he saw was the fine lady who was supposed to represent
something. What did Isabel represent? Ralph asked himself; and he
could only answer by saying that she represented Gilbert Osmond.
"Good heavens, what a function!"
he then woefully exclaimed.

He recognised Osmond, as I say; he recognised him at every turn.
He saw how he kept all things within limits; how he adjusted,
regulated, animated their manner of life. Osmond was in his
element; at last he had material to work with. He always had an
eye to effect, and his effects were deeply calculated. They were
produced by no vulgar means, but
the motive was as vulgar as the
art was great. To surround his interior with a sort of invidious
sanctity, to tantalise society with a sense of exclusion
, to make
people believe his house was different from every other, to
impart to the face that he presented to the world a
--this was the ingenious effort of the personage to
whom Isabel had attributed a superior morality.

Osmond lived exclusively for the world. Far from being its
master as he pretended to be, he was its very humble servant,
and the degree of its attention was his only measure of
success. He lived with his eye on it from morning till night, and
the world was so stupid it never suspected the trick
. Everything
he did was pose--pose so subtly considered that if one were not
on the lookout one mistook it for impulse. Ralph had never met a
man who lived so much in the land of consideration. His tastes,
his studies, his accomplishments, his collections, were all for a
purpose. His life on his hill-top at Florence had been the
conscious attitude of years. His solitude, his ennui, his love
for his daughter, his good manners, his bad manners, were so many
features of a mental image constantly present to him as a model
of impertinence and mystification
. His ambition was not to please
the world, but to please himself by exciting the world's
curiosity and then declining to satisfy it.
It had made him feel
great, ever, to play the world a trick. The thing he had done in
his life most directly to please himself was his marrying Miss
Archer; though in this case indeed the gullible world was in a
manner embodied in poor Isabel, who had been mystified to the top
of her bent

He was not jealous--he had not that excuse; no one could
be jealous of Ralph. But he made Isabel pay for her old-time
, of which so much was still left; and as Ralph
had no idea of her paying too much, so when his suspicion had
become sharp, he had taken himself off. In doing so he had
deprived Isabel of a very interesting occupation: she had been
constantly wondering what fine principle was keeping him alive.
She had decided that it was his love of conversation
; his
conversation had been better than ever. He had given up walking;
be was no longer a humorous stroller. He sat all day in a chair
--almost any chair would serve
, and was so dependent on what you
would do for him that, had not his talk been highly
contemplative, you might have thought he was blind.


"In your place I should like it."

"Her husband won't like it."

"Ah well, I can fancy that; though it seems to me you're not
bound to mind his likings. They're his affair

"I don't want to make any more trouble between them," said Ralph.

"Is there so much already?"

"There's complete preparation for it. Her going off with me would
make the explosion. Osmond isn't fond of his wife's cousin."

"Then of course he'd make a row. But won't he make a row if you
stop here?"

"That's what I want to see. He made one the last time I was in
Rome, and then I thought it my duty to disappear. Now I think
it's my duty to stop and defend her."

"My dear Touchett, your defensive powers--!" Lord Warburton began
with a smile. But he saw something in his companion's face that
checked him. "Your duty, in these premises, seems to me rather a
nice question," he observed instead.

Ralph for a short time answered nothing. "It's true that my
defensive powers are small," he returned at last; "but as my
aggressive ones are still smaller Osmond may after all not think
me worth his gunpowder
. At any rate," he added, "there are things
I'm curious to see."


"Permit me to ask," Ralph went on, "whether it's to bring out the
fact that you don't mean to make love to her that you're so very
civil to the little girl?"

Lord Warburton gave a slight start; he got up and stood before
the fire, looking at it hard. "Does that strike you as very

"Ridiculous? Not in the least, if you really like her."

"I think her a delightful little person. I don't know when a girl
of that age has pleased me more."

"She's a charming creature. Ah, she at least is genuine."

"Of course there's the difference in our ages--more than twenty

"My dear Warburton," said Ralph, "are you serious?"

"Perfectly serious--as far as I've got."

"I'm very glad. And, heaven help us," cried Ralph, "how
cheered-up old Osmond will be!"

His companion frowned. "I say, don't spoil it. I shouldn't
propose for his daughter to please HIM."

"He'll have the
perversity to be pleased all the same."

"He's not so fond of me as that,"
said his lordship.

"As that? My dear Warburton, the drawback of your position is
that people needn't be
fond of you at all to wish to be connected
with you.
Now, with me in such a case, I should have the happy
confidence that they
loved me."

Chapter 40   

Familiarity had modified in some degree her first impression
of Madame Merle, but it had not essentially altered it; there
was still much wonder of admiration in it. That personage was
armed at all points; it was a pleasure to see a character so
completely equipped for the social battle. She carried her
discreetly, but her weapons were polished steel, and she
used them with a skill which struck Isabel as more and more
that of a veteran. She was never weary, never overcome with
disgust; she never appeared to need rest or consolation.

Isabel, as she herself grew older, became acquainted with
revulsions, with disgusts; there were days when the world
looked black and she asked herself with some sharpness what
it was that she was pretending to live for. Her old habit
had been to live by enthusiasm, to fall in love with suddenly-
perceived possibilities, with the idea of some new adventure.
As a younger person she had been used to proceed from one
little exaltation to the other: there were scarcely any dull
places between. But Madame Merle had suppressed enthusiasm;
she fell in love now-a-days with nothing; she lived entirely by
reason and by wisdom. There were hours when Isabel would have
given anything for lessons in this art; if her brilliant friend
had been near she would have made an appeal to her. She had
become aware more than before of the advantage of being like that
--of having made one's self a firm surface, a sort of corselet of

If she had troubles she must keep them to herself, and if
life was difficult it would not make it easier to confess
herself beaten. Madame Merle was doubtless of great use to
herself and an ornament to any circle; but was she--would she be
--of use to others in periods of refined embarrassment? The best
way to profit by her friend--this indeed Isabel had always
thought--was to imitate her, to be as firm and bright as she. She
recognised no embarrassments, and Isabel, considering this fact,
determined for the fiftieth time to brush aside her own.

This had occurred to her just before her marriage, after her
little discussion with her aunt and at a time when she was
still capable of that large inward reference, the tone almost
of the philosophic historian, to her scant young annals
. If
Madame Merle had desired her change of state she could only
say it had been a very happy thought. With her, moreover,
she had been perfectly straightforward; she had never concealed
her high opinion of Gilbert Osmond. After their union Isabel
discovered that her husband took a less convenient view of the
matter; he seldom consented to finger, in talk, this roundest
and smoothest bead of their social rosary

"Don't you like Madame Merle?" Isabel had once said to him. "She
thinks a great deal of you."

"I'll tell you once for all," Osmond had answered. "I liked her
once better than I do to-day. I'm tired of her, and I'm rather
ashamed of it. She's so almost unnaturally good! I'm glad she's
not in Italy; it makes for relaxation--for a sort of moral

it might have been written, after all, that there was not so
much to thank her for. As time went on there was less and less,
and Isabel once said to herself that perhaps without her these
things would not have been. That reflection indeed was instantly
stifled; she knew an immediate horror at having made it.
"Whatever happens to me let me not be unjust," she said; "let
me bear my burdens myself and not shift them upon others!" This
disposition was tested, eventually, by that ingenious apology for
her present conduct which Madame Merle saw fit to make and of
which I have given a sketch; for there was something irritating--
there was almost an air of mockery--in her neat discriminations
and clear convictions. In Isabel's mind to-day there was nothing
clear; there was a confusion of regrets, a complication of fears.

This young woman had always been fertile in resolutions--many
of them of an elevated character; but at no period had they
flourished (in the privacy of her heart) more richly than to-day.
It is true that they all had a family likeness; they might have
been summed up in the determination that if she was to be unhappy
it should not be by a fault of her own. Her poor winged spirit
had always had a great desire to do its best
, and it had not as
yet been seriously discouraged. It wished, therefore, to hold
fast to justice--not to pay itself by petty revenges.
associate Madame Merle with its disappointment would be a petty
revenge--especially as the pleasure to be derived from that would
be perfectly insincere. It might feed her sense of bitterness,
but it would not loosen her bonds.

She had been unable to believe any one could care so much--
so extraordinarily much--to please
. But since then she had
seen this delicate faculty in operation, and now she knew
what to think of it. It was the whole creature--it was a
sort of genius.
Pansy had no pride to interfere with it,
and though she was constantly extending her conquests she
took no credit for them. The two were constantly together;
Mrs. Osmond was rarely seen without her stepdaughter. Isabel
liked her company; it had the effect of one's carrying a
nosegay composed all of the same flower
. And then not to
neglect Pansy, not under any provocation to neglect her--
this she had made an article of religion. The young girl had
every appearance of being happier in Isabel's society than in
that of any one save her father,--whom she admired with an
intensity justified by the fact that, as paternity was an
exquisite pleasure to Gilbert Osmond, he had always been
luxuriously mild.

She was therefore ingeniously passive and almost imaginatively
docile; she was careful even to moderate the eagerness with
which she assented to Isabel's propositions and which might
have implied that she could have thought otherwise
. She never
interrupted, never asked social questions, and though she
delighted in approbation, to the point of turning pale when
it came to her, never held out her hand for it. She only
looked toward it wistfully--an attitude which, as she grew
older, made her eyes the prettiest in the world
. When during
the second winter at Palazzo Roccanera she began to go to
parties, to dances, she always, at a reasonable hour, lest Mrs.
Osmond should be tired, was the first to propose departure.
Isabel appreciated the sacrifice of the late dances, for she knew
her little companion had a passionate pleasure in this exercise,
taking her steps to the music like a conscientious fairy.

Isabel passed into the drawing-room, the one she herself usually
occupied, the second in order from the large ante-chamber which
was entered from the staircase and in which even Gilbert Osmond's
rich devices had not been able to correct a look of rather grand
Just beyond the threshold of the drawing-room she stopped
short, the reason for her doing so being that she had received an
impression. The impression had, in strictness, nothing
unprecedented; but she felt it as something new, and the
soundlessness of her step gave her time to take in the scene
before she interrupted it.
Madame Merle was there in her bonnet,
and Gilbert Osmond was talking to her; for a minute they were
unaware she had come in. Isabel had often seen that before,
certainly; but what she had not seen, or at least had not
noticed, was that their colloquy had for the moment converted
itself into a sort of familiar silence, from which she instantly
perceived that her entrance would startle them.
Madame Merle was
standing on the rug, a little way from the fire; Osmond was in a
deep chair, leaning back and looking at her. Her head was erect,
as usual, but her eyes were bent on his. What struck Isabel first
was that he was sitting while Madame Merle stood; there was an
anomaly in this that arrested her. Then she perceived that
had arrived at a desultory pause in their exchange of ideas and
were musing, face to face, with the freedom of old friends who
sometimes exchange ideas without uttering them.
There was nothing
to shock in this; they were old friends in fact. But
the thing
made an image, lasting only a moment, like a sudden flicker of
light. Their relative positions, their absorbed mutual gaze,
struck her as something detected.


"He's very much in love," said Isabel.

"Very much--for him."

"Very much for Pansy, you might say as well."

Madame Merle dropped her eyes a moment. "Don't you think she's

"The dearest little person possible--but very limited."

"She ought to be all the easier for Mr. Rosier to love. Mr.
Rosier's not

"No," said Isabel, "he has about the extent of one's
--the small ones with lace borders." Her
humour had lately turned a good deal to sarcasm, but in a moment
she was ashamed of exercising it on so innocent an object as
Pansy's suitor. "He's very kind, very honest," she presently
added; "and he's not such a fool as he seems."


But you're not in love."

"Ah, yes I am, Mrs. Osmond!"

Isabel shook her head. "You like to think you are while you sit
here with me. But that's not how you strike me."

"I'm not like the young man in the doorway. I admit that. But
what makes it so unnatural? Could any one in the world be more
loveable than Miss Osmond?"

"No one, possibly. But love has nothing to do with good reasons."

"I don't agree with you. I'm delighted to have good reasons."

"Of course you are. If you were really in love you wouldn't care
a straw for them."


She met his eyes, and for a moment they looked straight at each
other. If she wished to be satisfied she saw something that
satisfied her; she saw in his expression the gleam of an idea
that she was uneasy on her own account--that she was perhaps even
in fear. It showed a suspicion, not a hope, but such as it was it
told her what she wanted to know. Not for an instant should he
suspect her of detecting in his proposal of marrying her
step-daughter an implication of increased nearness to herself, or
of thinking it, on such a betrayal, ominous. In that brief,
extremely personal gaze, however, deeper meanings passed between
them than they were conscious of at the moment

Chapter 44

The Countess Gemini was often extremely bored--bored, in her own
phrase, to extinction
. She had not been extinguished, however,
and she struggled bravely enough with her destiny, which had been
to marry an unaccommodating Florentine who insisted upon living
in his native town, where he enjoyed such consideration as might
attach to a gentleman whose talent for losing at cards had not
the merit of being incidental to an obliging disposition.
Count Gemini was not liked even by those who won from him; and he
bore a name which, having a measurable value in Florence, was,
like the local coin of the old Italian states, without currency
in other parts of the peninsula. In Rome he was simply a very
dull Florentine,
and it is not remarkable that he should not have
cared to pay frequent visits to a place where, to carry it off,
his dulness needed more explanation than was convenient. The
Countess lived with her eyes upon Rome, and it was the constant
grievance of her life that she had not an habitation there.

She had always observed that she got on better with clever
women than with silly ones like herself; the silly ones could
never understand her wisdom, whereas the clever ones--the
really clever ones--always understood her silliness. It
appeared to her that, different as they were in appearance and
general style, Isabel and she had somewhere a patch of common
ground that they would set their feet upon at last. It was not
very large, but it was firm
, and they should both know it when
once they had really touched it.

The Countess seemed to her to have no soul; she was like a
bright rare shell, with a polished surface and a remarkably
lip, in which something would rattle when you shook it.
This rattle was apparently the Countess's spiritual principle,
a little loose nut that tumbled about inside of her
She was too odd for disdain, too anomalous for comparisons.
Isabel would have invited her again (there was no question of
inviting the Count); but Osmond, after his marriage, had not
scrupled to say frankly that Amy was a fool of the worst species
--a fool whose folly had the irrepressibility of genius. He said
at another time that she had no heart; and he added in a moment
she had given it all away--in small pieces, like a frosted

She was curious, moreover; for one of the impressions of her
former visit had been that her brother had found his match.
Before the marriage she had been sorry for Isabel, so sorry as to
have had serious thoughts--if any of the Countess's thoughts were
serious--of putting her on her guard. But she had let that pass,
and after a little she was reassured. Osmond was as lofty as
ever, but his wife would not be an easy victim.
The Countess was
not very exact at measurements, but it seemed to her that if
Isabel should draw herself up she would be the taller spirit of
the two. What she wanted to learn now was whether Isabel had
drawn herself up; it would give her immense pleasure to see
Osmond overtopped.

Her mother was not at all like Isabel's friend; the Countess
could see at a glance that this lady was much more contemporary;
and she received an impression of the improvements that were
taking place--chiefly in distant countries--in the character
(the professional character) of literary ladies. Her mother
had been used to wear a Roman scarf thrown over a pair of
shoulders timorously bared of their tight black velvet (oh
the old clothes!) and a gold laurel-wreath set upon a multitude
of glossy ringlets. She had spoken softly and vaguely, with
the accent of her "Creole" ancestors, as she always confessed;
she sighed a great deal and was not at all enterprising. But
Henrietta, the Countess could see, was always closely buttoned
and compactly braided; there was something brisk and business-like
in her appearance; her manner was almost conscientiously familiar.
It was as impossible to imagine her ever vaguely sighing as to
imagine a letter posted without its address.


"I'm not sure that I understand you about Lord Warburton."

"Understand me? I mean he's very nice, that's all."

"Do you consider it nice to make love to married women?"
Henrietta enquired with unprecedented

The Countess stared, and then with a little violent laugh:"It's
certain all the nice men do it. Get married and you'll see!"

"That idea would be enough to prevent me," said Miss Stackpole
"I should want my own husband; I shouldn't want any one else's.
Do you mean that Isabel's guilty--guilty--?" And she paused a
little, choosing her expression.

"Do I mean she's guilty? Oh dear no, not yet, I hope. I only mean
that Osmond's very tiresome and that Lord Warburton, as I hear,
is a great deal at the house. I'm afraid you're scandalised."


"What did she go and marry him for? If she had listened to me she'd
have got rid of him. I'll forgive her, however, if I find she has
made things
hot for him! If she has simply allowed him to trample
upon her I don't know that I shall even pity her. But I don't
think that's very likely. I count upon finding that if she's
miserable she has at least made HIM so."


She was on the whole rather disappointed in the Countess, whose
mind moved in a narrower circle than she had imagined, though
with a capacity for coarseness even there. "It will be better
if they love each other," she said for edification.

"They can't. He can't love any one."

"I presumed that was the case. But it only aggravates my fear
for Isabel. I shall positively start to-morrow."

"Isabel certainly has devotees," said the Countess, smiling very
vividly. "I declare I don't pity her."

"It may be I can't assist her," Miss Stackpole pursued, as if it
were well not to have illusions.

"You can have wanted to, at any rate; that's something. I
believe that's what you came from America for," the Countess
suddenly added.

"Yes, I wanted to look after her," Henrietta said serenely.

Her hostess stood there smiling at her with small bright eyes and
eager-looking nose; with cheeks into each of which a flush had
come. "Ah, that's very pretty c'est bien gentil! Isn't it what
they call friendship?"


She left the inn and pursued her course along the quay to the
severe portico of the Uffizi, through which she presently
reached the entrance of the famous gallery of paintings. Making
her way in, she ascended the high staircase which leads to the
upper chambers. The long corridor, glazed on one side and decorated
with antique busts
, which gives admission to these apartments,
presented an empty vista in which the bright winter light
twinkled upon the marble floor. The gallery is very cold and
during the midwinter weeks but
scantily visited.


"I want you to do me a favour," Miss Stackpole went on.

Caspar Goodwood frowned a little, but he expressed no
embarrassment at the sense of not looking eager. His face was
that of a much older man than our earlier friend. "I'm sure it's
something I shan't like," he said rather loudly.

"No, I don't think you'll like it. If you did it would be no

"Well, let's hear it," he went on in the tone of a man quite
conscious of his patience

"You may say there's no particular reason why you should do me a
favour. Indeed I only know of one: the fact that if you'd let me
I'd gladly do you one." Her soft, exact tone, in which there was
no attempt at effect, had an extreme sincerity; and her
companion, though he presented rather a hard surface, couldn't help
being touched by it. When he was touched he rarely showed it,
however, by the usual signs; he neither blushed, nor looked away,
nor looked conscious. He only fixed his attention more directly;
he seemed to consider with added firmness.

He thought her very remarkable, very brilliant, and he had, in
theory, no objection to the class to which she belonged. Lady
correspondents appeared to him a part of the natural scheme of
things in a progressive country
, and though he never read their
letters he supposed that they ministered somehow to social

He had no wish whatever to allude to Mrs. Osmond; he was NOT
always thinking of her; he was perfectly sure of that. He was
the most reserved, the least colloquial of men, and this
enquiring authoress was
constantly flashing her lantern
into the quiet darkness of his soul

He hated the European railway-carriages, in which one sat for
hours in a vise, knee to knee and nose to nose with a foreigner
to whom one presently found one's self objecting with all the
added vehemence of one's wish to have the window open;
and if
they were worse at night even than by day, at least at night
one could sleep and dream of an American saloon-car. But he
couldn't take a night-train when Miss Stackpole was starting
in the morning; it struck him that this would be an insult
to an
unprotected woman. Nor could he wait until after she
had gone unless he should wait longer than he had patience for.
It wouldn't do to start the next day. She worried him; she
oppressed him; the idea of spending the day in a European
railway-carriage with her offered a complication of irritations.
Still, she was a lady travelling alone; it was his duty to put
himself out for her.
There could be no two questions about
that; it was a perfectly clear necessity. He looked extremely
grave for some moments and then said, wholly without the flourish
of gallantry but in a tone of extreme distinctness
, "Of course if
you're going to-morrow I'll go too, as I may be of assistance to

Chapter 45

He wished her to have no freedom of mind, and he knew perfectly
well that Ralph was an
apostle of freedom. It was just because
he was this, Isabel said to herself, that it was a refreshment
to go and see him. It will be perceived that she partook of this
refreshment in spite of her husband's aversion to it, that is
partook of it, as she flattered herself, discreetly. She had not
as yet undertaken to act in direct opposition to his wishes; he
was her appointed and inscribed master; she gazed at moments
with a sort of
incredulous blankness at this fact. It weighed
upon her imagination
, however; constantly present to her mind
were all the traditionary decencies and sanctities of marriage.
The idea of violating them filled her with shame as well as
with dread, for on giving herself away she had lost sight of
this contingency in the perfect belief that her husband's
intentions were as generous as her own. She seemed to see,
none the less, the rapid approach of
the day when she should
have to
take back something she had solemnly bestown. Such a
ceremony would be
odious and monstrous;

Ralph never said a word against him, but Osmond's sore, mute
protest was none the less founded. If he should positively
interpose, if he should put forth his authority, she would have
to decide, and that wouldn't be easy. The prospect made her heart
beat and her cheeks burn, as I say, in advance; there were
moments when, in her wish to avoid an open rupture, she found
herself wishing Ralph would start even at a risk. And it was of
no use that, when catching herself in this state of mind, she
called herself a feeble spirit, a coward. It was not that she
loved Ralph less, but that almost anything seemed preferable to
repudiating the most serious act--the single sacred act--of her
life. That appeared to make the whole future hideous. To break
with Osmond once would be to break for ever; any open
acknowledgement of irreconcilable needs would be an admission
that their whole attempt had proved a failure. For them there
could be no condonement, no compromise, no easy forgetfulness, no
formal readjustment.
They had attempted only one thing, but that
one thing was to have been exquisite
. Once they missed it nothing
else would do; there was no conceivable substitute for that
For the moment, Isabel went to the Hotel de Paris as
often as she thought well; the measure of propriety was in the
canon of taste, and there couldn't have been a better proof that
morality was, so to speak, a matter of earnest appreciation


"I think I guess your question," Ralph answered from his
arm-chair, out of which his thin legs protruded at greater length
than ever.

"Very possibly you guess it. Please then answer it."

"Oh, I don't say I can do that."

"You're intimate with him," she said; "you've a great deal of
observation of him."

"Very true. But think how he must dissimulate!"

"Why should he dissimulate? That's not his nature."

"Ah, you must remember that the circumstances are peculiar," said
Ralph with an air of private amusement.

"To a certain extent--yes. But is he really in love?"

"Very much, I think. I can make that out."

"Ah!" said Isabel with a certain dryness.

Ralph looked at her as if his mild hilarity had been touched with
mystification. "You say that as if you were disappointed."

Isabel got up, slowly smoothing her gloves and eyeing them
thoughtfully. "It's after all no business of mine."

"You're very philosophic," said her cousin. And then in a moment:
"May I enquire what you're talking about?"

Isabel stared. "I thought you knew. Lord Warburton tells me he
wants, of all things in the world, to marry Pansy. I've told you
that before, without eliciting a comment from you. You might risk
one this morning, I think. Is it your belief that he really cares
for her?"

"Ah, for Pansy, no!" cried Ralph very positively.

"But you said just now he did."

Ralph waited a moment. "That he cared for you, Mrs. Osmond."

Isabel shook her head gravely. "That's nonsense, you know."

"Of course it is. But the nonsense is Warburton's, not mine."


"Does he really think it?"

"Ah, what Warburton really thinks--!" said Ralph.

Isabel fell to smoothing her gloves again;they were long, loose
gloves on which she could freely expend herself
. Soon, however,
she looked up, and then, "Ah, Ralph, you give me no help!" she
cried abruptly and passionately.

It was the first time she had alluded to the need for help, and
the words shook her cousin with their violence. He gave a long
murmur of relief, of pity, of tenderness; it seemed to him that
at last the gulf between them had been bridged. It was this that
made him exclaim in a moment: "How unhappy you must be!"


Isabel found herself able to smile as well as he. "He knows me
well enough not to have expected me to push. He himself has no
intention of pushing, I presume. I'm not afraid I shall not be
able to justify myself!" she said lightly.

Her mask had dropped for an instant, but she had put it on again,
to Ralph's
infinite disappointment. He had caught a glimpse of
her natural face and he
wished immensely to look into it. He had
an almost savage desire to hear her complain of her husband--hear
her say that she should be held accountable for Lord Warburton's
defection. Ralph was certain that this was her situation; he knew
by instinct, in advance, the form that in such an event Osmond's
displeasure would take. It could only take the meanest and

He tried and tried again to make her betray Osmond; he felt
cold-blooded, cruel, dishonourable almost, in doing so. But
it scarcely mattered, for be only failed. What had she come
for then, and why did she seem almost to offer him a chance to
violate their tacit convention? Why did she ask him his advice if
she gave him no liberty to answer her? How could they talk of her
domestic embarrassments, as it pleased her humorously to
designate them, if the principal factor was not to be mentioned?


Ralph took an inward resolution that she shouldn't leave him
without his letting her know that he knew everything: it seemed
too great an opportunity to lose. "Do you know what his interest
will make him say?" he asked as he took her hand. She shook her
head, rather dryly--not discouragingly--and he went on. "It will
make him say that your want of zeal is owing to jealousy." He
stopped a moment; her face made him afraid.

"To jealousy?"

"To jealousy of his daughter."

She blushed red and threw back her head. "You're not kind," she
said in a voice that he had never heard on her lips.

"Be frank with me and you'll see," he answered.

But she made no reply; she only pulled her hand out of his own,
which he tried still to hold, and rapidly withdrew from the room.


Pansy was already dressed; she was always in advance of the time:
it seemed to illustrate her pretty patience and the graceful
stillness with which she could sit and wait. At present she was
seated, in her fresh array, before the bed-room fire; she had
blown out her candles on the completion of her toilet, in
accordance with the economical habits in which she had been brought
up sand which she was now more careful than ever to observe; so that
the room was lighted only by a couple of logs. The rooms in
Palazzo Roccanera were as spacious as they were numerous, and
Pansy's virginal bower was an immense chamber with a dark,
heavily-timbered ceiling. Its diminutive mistress, in the midst
of it, appeared but
a speck of humanity


She felt no bitterness toward her father; there was no bitterness
in her heart; there was only the sweetness of fidelity to Edward
Rosier, and a strange, exquisite intimation that she could prove
it better by remaining single than even by marrying him.

"Your father would like you to make a better marriage," said
Isabel. "Mr. Rosier's fortune is not at all large."

"How do you mean better--if that would be good enough? And I have
myself so little money; why should I look for a fortune?"

"Your having so little is a reason for looking for more." With
which Isabel was grateful for the dimness of the room; she felt
as if her face were hideously insincere. It was what she was
doing for Osmond; it was what one had to do for Osmond! Pansy's
solemn eyes, fixed on her own, almost embarrassed her; she was
ashamed to think she had made so light of the girl's preference.

"What should you like me to do?" her companion softly demanded.

The question was a terrible one, and Isabel took refuge in
timorous vagueness. "To remember all the pleasure it's in your
power to give your father."

"To marry some one else, you mean--if he should ask me?"

For a moment Isabel's answer caused itself to be waited for; then
she heard herself utter it in the stillness that Pansy's
attention seemed to make. "Yes--to marry some one else."

The child's eyes grew more penetrating; Isabel believed she was
doubting her sincerity, and the impression took force from her
slowly getting up from her cushion. She stood there a moment with
her small hands unclasped and then quavered out: "Well, I hope no
one will ask me!"


Pansy said nothing for a moment; she only continued to smile as
if she were in possession of a bright assurance. "There's no
danger--no danger!" she declared at last.

There was a conviction in the way she said this, and a felicity
in her believing it, which conduced to Isabel's awkwardness. She
felt accused of dishonesty, and the idea was disgusting. To
repair her self-respect she was on the point of saying that Lord
Warburton had let her know that there was a danger. But she
didn't; she only said--in her embarrassment rather wide of the
mark--that he surely had been most kind, most friendly.

"Yes, he has been very kind," Pansy answered. "That's what I like
him for."

"Why then is the difficulty so great?"

"I've always felt sure of his knowing that I don't want--what did
you say I should do?--to encourage him. He knows I don't want to
marry, and he wants me to know that he therefore won't trouble
me. That's the meaning of his kindness. It's as if he said to me:
'I like you very much, but if it doesn't please you I'll never
say it again.' I think that's very kind, very noble," Pansy went
on with deepening positiveness. "That is all we've said to each
other. And he doesn't care for me either. Ah no, there's no

Isabel was touched with wonder at the depths of perception of
which this submissive little person was capable; she felt afraid
of Pansy's wisdom--began almost to retreat before it. "You must
tell your father that," she remarked reservedly.

"I think I'd rather not," Pansy unreservedly answered.

"You oughtn't to let him have false hopes."

"Perhaps not; but it will be good for me that he should. So long
as he believes that Lord Warburton intends anything of the kind
you say, papa won't propose any one else. And that will be an
advantage for me,
" said the child very lucidly.

There was something brilliant in her lucidity, and it made her
companion draw a long breath. It relieved this friend of a heavy
Pansy had a sufficient illumination of her own,
and Isabel felt that she herself just now had no light to spare
from her small stock
. Nevertheless it still clung to her that she
must be loyal to Osmond, that she was on her honour in dealing
with his daughter. Under the influence of this sentiment she
threw out another suggestion before she retired--a suggestion
with which it seemed to her that she should have done her utmost.

"Your father takes for granted at least that you would like to
marry a nobleman."

Pansy stood in the open doorway; she had drawn back the curtain
for Isabel to pass. "I think Mr. Rosier looks like one!" she
remarked very

Chapter 46

"As you say, he's an odd fish."

"Apparently he has forgotten it," said Osmond. "Be so good
as to remind him."

"Should you like me to write to him?" she demanded.

"I've no objection whatever."

"You expect too much of me."

"Ah yes, I expect a great deal of you."

"I'm afraid I shall disappoint you," said Isabel.

"My expectations have survived a good deal of disappointment."

"Of course I know that. Think how I must have disappointed
myself! If you really wish hands laid on Lord Warburton you must
lay them yourself

For a couple of minutes Osmond answered nothing; then he said:
"That won't be easy, with you working against me."

Isabel started; she felt herself beginning to tremble. He had a
way of looking at her through half-closed eyelids, as if he were
thinking of her but scarcely saw her, which seemed to her to have
a wonderfully cruel intention. It appeared to recognise her as a
disagreeable necessity of thought, but to ignore her for the time
as a presence.


"I told you I would do what I could," she went on.

"Yes, that gained you time."

It came over her, after he had said this, that she had once
thought him beautiful. "How much you must want to make sure of
him!" she exclaimed in a moment.

She had no sooner spoken than she perceived the full reach of her
words, of which she had not been conscious in uttering them. They
made a comparison between Osmond and herself, recalled the fact
she had once held this coveted treasure in her hand and felt
herself rich enough to let it fall
. A momentary exultation took
possession of her--a horrible
delight in having wounded him; for
his face instantly told her that none of the force of her
exclamation was lost. He expressed nothing otherwise, however; he
only said quickly:
"Yes, I want it immensely."

At this moment a servant came in to usher a visitor, and he was
followed the next by Lord Warburton, who received a visible check
on seeing Osmond. He looked rapidly from the master of the house
to the mistress; a movement that seemed to denote a reluctance to
interrupt or even a perception of ominous conditions. Then he
advanced, with his English address, in which a vague shyness
seemed to offer itself as an element of good-breeding; in which
the only defect was a difficulty in achieving transitions. Osmond
was embarrassed; he found nothing to say;

A complex operation, as she sat there, went on in her mind.
On one side she listened to their visitor; said what was
proper to him; read, more or less, between the lines of what
he said himself; and wondered how he would have spoken if he
had found her alone. On the other she had a perfect
consciousness of Osmond's emotion. She felt almost sorry for
him; he was condemned to the sharp pain of loss without the
relief of cursing. He had had a great hope, and now, as he saw
it vanish into smoke, he was obliged to sit and smile and twirl
his thumbs. Not that he troubled himself to smile very brightly;
he treated their friend on the whole to as vacant a countenance
as so clever a man could very well wear
. It was indeed a part
of Osmond's cleverness that he could look
consummately uncompromised.
His present appearance, however, was not a confession of
disappointment; it was simply a part of Osmond's habitual system,
which was to be
inexpressive exactly in proportion as he was
really intent


"Just now I wish to go to bed. I'm very tired."

"Sit down and rest; I shall not keep you long. Not there--take a
comfortable place." And he arranged a multitude of cushions that
were scattered in picturesque disorder upon a vast divan. This
was not, however, where she seated herself; she dropped into the
nearest chair. The fire had gone out; the lights in the great
room were few. She drew her cloak about her; she felt mortally
cold. "I think you're trying to
humiliate me," Osmond went on.
"It's a most
absurd undertaking."

"I haven't the least idea what you mean," she returned.

"You've played a very deep game; you've managed it beautifully."


"I don't insult you; I'm incapable of it. I merely speak of
certain facts, and if the allusion's an injury to you the fault's
not mine
. It's surely a fact that you have kept all this matter
quite in your own hands."

"Are you going back to Lord Warburton?" Isabel asked. "I'm very
tired of his name."

"You shall hear it again before we've done with it."

She had spoken of his insulting her, but it suddenly seemed to
her that this ceased to be a pain. He was going down--down; the
vision of such a fall made her almost giddy: that was the only
pain. He was too strange, too different; he didn't touch her.
the working of his morbid passion was extraordinary, and
she felt a rising curiosity to know in what light he saw himself
"I might say to you that I judge you've nothing to say
to me that's worth hearing," she returned in a moment. "But I
should perhaps be wrong. There's a thing that would be worth my
hearing--to know in the plainest words of what it is you accuse

"Of having prevented Pansy's marriage to Warburton.
Are those
words plain enough?

"On the contrary, I took a great interest in it. I told you so;
and when you told me that you counted on me--that I think was
what you said--I accepted the obligation. I was a fool to do so,
but I did it

"You pretended to do it, and you even pretended reluctance to
make me more willing to trust you. Then you began to use your
ingenuity to get him out of the way."

"I think I see what you mean," said Isabel.

"Where's the letter you told me he had written me?" her husband

"I haven't the least idea; I haven't asked him."

"You stopped it on the way," said Osmond.

Isabel slowly got up; standing there in her white cloak, which
covered her to her feet,
she might have represented the angel of
disdain, first cousin to that of pity.
"Oh, Gilbert, for a man
who was so fine--!" she exclaimed in a long murmur.

"I was never so fine as you. You've done everything you wanted.
You've got him out of the say without appearing to do so, and
you've placed me in the position in which you wished to see me--
that of a man who has tried to marry his daughter to a lord, but
grotesquely failed."

Chapter 47

Madame Merle had ceased to minister to Isabel's happiness,
who found herself wondering whether the most discreet
of women might not also by chance be the most
Sometimes, at night, she had strange visions;
she seemed to see
her husband and her friend--his friend--in dim, indistinguishable
. It seemed to her that she had not done with her;
this lady had something in reserve. Isabel's imagination applied
itself actively to this elusive point, but every now and then it
was checked by a nameless dread, so that when the charming woman
was away from Rome she had almost a consciousness of respite.

Since then he had been the most discordant survival of her
earlier time--the only one in fact with which a permanent
pain was associated. He had left her that morning with a sense
of the most
superfluous of shocks: it was like a collision between
vessels in broad daylight. There had been no mist, no hidden
current to excuse it, and she herself had only wished to steer
wide. He had bumped against her prow, however, while her hand was
on the tiller, and--to complete the metaphor--had given the
lighter vessel a strain which still occasionally betrayed itself
in a faint creaking.
It had been horrid to see him, because he
represented the only serious harm that (to her belief) she had
ever done in the world: he was the only person with an
unsatisfied claim on her.
She had made him unhappy, she couldn't
help it; and his unhappiness was a grim reality. She had cried
with rage, after he had left her, at--she hardly knew what: she
tried to think it had been at his want of consideration.
He had
come to her with his
unhappiness when her own bliss was so

She had no faith in Mr. Goodwood's compensations and no
esteem for them. A cotton factory was not a compensation for
anything--least of all for having failed to marry Isabel Archer.

And yet, beyond that, she hardly knew what he had--save of course
his intrinsic qualities. Oh, he was intrinsic enough; she never
thought of his even looking for artificial aids. If he extended
his business--that, to the best of her belief, was the only form
exertion could take with him--it would be because it was an
enterprising thing, or good for the business; not in the least
because he might hope it would overlay the past. This gave his
figure a kind of bareness and bleakness which made the accident
of meeting it in memory or in apprehension a peculiar concussion;
it was deficient in the social drapery commonly muffling, in an
overcivilized age, the sharpness of human contacts.
His perfect
silence, moreover, the fact that she never heard from him and
very seldom heard any mention of him,
deepened this impression of

Henrietta Stackpole, it may well be imagined, was more punctual,
and Isabel was largely favoured with the society of her friend.
She threw herself into it, for now that she had made such a point
of keeping her conscience clear, that was one way of proving she
had not been superficial--the more so as the years, in their
flight, had rather
enriched than blighted those peculiarities
which had been humorously criticised by persons less interested
than Isabel, and which were still marked enough to give loyalty a
spice of heroism
. Henrietta was as keen and quick and fresh as
ever, and as
neat and bright and fair. Her remarkably open eyes,
lighted like great glazed railway-stations, had put up no
shutters; her attire had lost none of its crispness, her opinions
none of their national reference
.She was by no means quite
unchanged, however it struck Isabel she had grown vague. Of old
she had never been vague; though undertaking many enquiries at
once, she had managed to be entire and pointed about each. She
had a reason for everything she did;
she fairly bristled with


"Yes, I'm wretched," she said very mildly. She hated to hear
herself say it; she tried to say it as judicially as possible.

"What does he do to you?" Henrietta asked, frowning as if she
enquiring into the operations of a quack doctor.

"He does nothing. But he doesn't like me."

"He's very hard to please! " cried Miss Stackpole. "Why don't you
leave him?"

"I can't change that way," Isabel said.

"Why not, I should like to know? You won't confess that you've
made a mistake. You're too proud."

"I don't know whether I'm too proud. But I can't publish my
mistake. I don't think that's
decent. I'd much rather die."

"You won't think so always," said Henrietta.

"I don't know what great unhappiness might bring me to; but it
seems to me I shall always be ashamed. One must accept one's
deeds. I married him before all the world; I was perfectly free;
it was impossible to do anything more deliberate.
One can't
change that way," Isabel repeated.

"You HAVE changed, in spite of the impossibility. I hope you
don't mean to say you like him."

Isabel debated. "No, I don't like him. I can tell you, because
I'm weary of my secret.
But that's enough; I can't announce it on
the housetops."

Henrietta gave a laugh. "Don't you think you're rather too

"It's not of him that I'm considerate--it's of myself!" Isabel


She complained to Isabel that Miss Osmond had a little look
as if she should remember everything one said. "I don't want
to be remembered that way," Miss Stackpole declared; "I
consider that my conversation refers only to the moment,
like the morning papers. Your stepdaughter, as she sits
there, looks as if she kept all the back numbers and would bring
them out some day against me."
She could not teach herself to
think favourably of Pansy, whose absence of initiative, of
conversation, of personal claims, seemed to her, in a girl of
twenty, unnatural and even uncanny.


"Your cousin I have always thought a conceited ass--besides his
being the most ill-favoured animal I know. Then it's insufferably
tiresome that one can't tell him so; one must spare him on account
of his health. His health seems to me the best part of him; it
gives him privileges enjoyed by no one else. If he's so desperately
ill there's only one way to prove it; but he seems to have no mind
for that
. I can't say much more for the great Warburton. When one
really thinks of it, the cool insolence of that performance was
something rare! He comes and looks at one's daughter as if she
were a suite of apartments; he tries the door-handles and looks
out of the windows, raps on the walls and almost thinks he'll
take the place. Will you be so good as to draw up a lease? Then,
on the whole, he decides that the rooms are too small; he
doesn't think he could live on a third floor; he must look out
for a piano nobile. And he goes away after having got a month's
lodging in the poor little apartment for nothing
. Miss Stackpole,
however, is your most wonderful invention. She strikes me as a
kind of monster. One hasn't a nerve in one's body that she
doesn't set quivering. You know I never have admitted that she's
a woman. Do you know what she reminds me of?
Of a new steel pen--
the most odious thing in nature. She talks as a steel pen writes
aren't her letters, by the way, on ruled paper?
She thinks and
moves and walks and looks exactly as she talks
. "

They met him twice in the street, but he had no appearance of
seeing them; they were driving, and he had a habit of looking
straight in front of him, as if he proposed to take in but one
object at a time
. Isabel could have fancied she had seen him
the day before; it must have been with just that face and step
that he had walked out of Mrs. Touchett's door at the close
of their last interview. He was dressed just as he had been
dressed on that day, Isabel remembered the colour of his
cravat; and yet in spite of this familiar look there was a
strangeness in his figure too, something that made her feel
it afresh to be rather
terrible he should have come to Rome.
He looked bigger and more overtopping than of old, and in
those days he certainly reached high enough. She noticed
that the people whom he passed looked back after him; but
he went straight forward
, lifting above them a face like a
February sky.

He got on much better with Osmond than had seemed probable.
Osmond had a great dislike to being counted on; in such a case
be had an irresistible need of disappointing you. It was in
virtue of this principle that he gave himself the entertainment
of taking a fancy to
a perpendicular Bostonian whom he bad been
depended upon to treat with
coldness. He asked Isabel if Mr.
Goodwood also had wanted to marry her, and expressed surprise
at her not having accepted him. It would have been an excellent
like living under some tall belfry which would strike all
the hours and make a queer vibration in the upper air.
declared he liked to talk with the great Goodwood; it wasn't
easy at first, you had to climb up an interminable steep
staircase up to the top of the tower; but when you got
there you had a big view and felt a little fresh breeze.

Gilbert said to Isabel that he was very original; he was as
strong and of as good a style as an English portmanteau,--he
had plenty of straps and buckles which would never wear out,
and a capital patent lock.

A singular change had in fact occurred in this lady's relations
with Ralph Touchett. She had not been asked by Isabel to go and
see him, but on hearing that he was too ill to come out had
immediately gone of her own motion. After this she had paid him a
daily visit--always under the conviction that they were great
enemies. "Oh yes, we're intimate enemies," Ralph used to say; and
he accused her freely--as freely as the humour of it would allow
--of coming to worry him to death. In reality they became
excellent friends, Henrietta much wondering that she should never
have liked him before. Ralph liked her exactly as much as he had
always done; he had never doubted for a moment that she was an
excellent fellow.

He felt very sorry for that unclassable personage; he couldn't
bear to see a pleasant man, so pleasant for all his queerness,
so beyond anything to be done.

She had a plan of making him travel northward with her cousin
as soon as the first mild weather should allow it. Lord Warburton
had brought Ralph to Rome and Mr. Goodwood should take him away.
There seemed a happy symmetry in this,
and she was now intensely
eager that Ralph should depart. She had a constant fear he would
die there before her eyes and a horror of the occurrence of this
event at an inn, by her door, which he had so rarely entered.
Ralph must sink to his last rest in his own dear house, in one
of those deep, dim chambers of Gardencourt where the dark ivy
would cluster round the edges of the glimmering window. There
seemed to Isabel in these days something sacred in Gardencourt;
no chapter of the past was more perfectly irrecoverable.
she thought of the months she had spent there the tears rose
to her eyes.

Chapter 48

"I notify you then that I submit. Oh, I submit!" And it was
perhaps a sign of submission that a few minutes after she had
left him alone he burst into a loud fit of laughter. It seemed to
him so inconsequent, such a conclusive proof of his having
abdicated all functions and renounced all exercise, that he
should start on a journey across Europe under the supervision of
Miss Stackpole. And the great oddity was that the prospect
pleased him; he was gratefully, luxuriously passive. He felt even
impatient to start; and indeed he had an immense longing to see
his own house again. The end of everything was at hand; it seemed
to him he could stretch out his arm and touch the goal. But he
wanted to die at home; it was the only wish he had left--to
extend himself in the large quiet room where he had last seen his
father lie, and close his eyes upon the summer dawn.


"I want to be alone," said Isabel.

"You won't be that so long as you've so much company at home."

"Ah, they're part of the comedy. You others are spectators."

"Do you call it a comedy, Isabel Archer?" Henrietta rather grimly

"The tragedy then if you like. You're all looking at me; it makes
me uncomfortable."

Henrietta engaged in this act for a while. "You're like the
stricken deer, seeking the innermost shade. Oh, you do give me
such a sense of helplessness!" she broke out.

"I'm not at all helpless. There are many things I mean to do."

"It's not you I'm speaking of; it's myself. It's too much, having
come on purpose, to leave you just as I find you

"You don't do that; you leave me much refreshed," Isabel said.

"Very mild refreshment--sour lemonade! I want you to promise me

"I can't do that. I shall never make another promise. I made such
a solemn one four years ago, and I've succeeded so ill in keeping

"You've had no encouragement. In this case I should give you the
greatest. Leave your husband before the worst comes; that's what
I want you to promise."

"The worst? What do you call the worst?"

"Before your character gets spoiled."

"Do you mean my disposition? It won't get spoiled," Isabel
answered, smiling. "I'm taking very good care of it. I'm
extremely struck," she added, turning away, "with the off-hand
way in which you speak of a woman's leaving her husband. It's
easy to see you've never had one!


"Fortunately I'm not married. When you come to see me in England
I shall be able to entertain you with all the freedom of a
bachelor." He continued to talk as if they should certainly meet
again, and succeeded in making the assumption appear almost just.
He made no allusion to his term being near, to the probability
that he should not outlast the summer
. If he preferred it so,
Isabel was willing enough; the reality was sufficiently distinct
without their
erecting finger-posts in conversation.


"Your husband wouldn't like that."

"No, he wouldn't like it. But I might go, all the same."

"I'm startled by the boldness of your imagination. Fancy my being
a cause of disagreement between a lady and her husband!"

"That's why I don't go," said Isabel simply--yet not very

Ralph understood well enough, however. "I should think so, with
all those occupations you speak of."

"It isn't that. I'm afraid," said Isabel. After a pause she
repeated, as if to make herself, rather than him, hear the words:
"I'm afraid."

Ralph could hardly tell what her tone meant; it was so strangely
deliberate--apparently so void of emotion. Did she wish to do
public penance for a fault of which she had not been convicted?
or were her words simply an attempt at enlightened self-analysis?
However this might be, Ralph could not resist so easy an
opportunity. "Afraid of your husband?"

"Afraid of myself!" she said, getting up. She stood there a
moment and then added: "If I were afraid of my husband that would
be simply my duty. That's what women are expected to be."

"Ah yes," laughed Ralph; "but to make up for it there's always
some man awfully afraid of some woman

She gave no heed to this pleasantry, but suddenly took a
different turn. "With Henrietta at the head of your little band,"
she exclaimed abruptly, "there will be nothing left for Mr.

"Ah, my dear Isabel," Ralph answered, "he's used to that. There
is nothing left for Mr. Goodwood."

She coloured and then observed, quickly, that she must leave him.
They stood together a moment; both her hands were in both of his.
"You've been my best friend," she said.

"It was for you that I wanted--that I wanted to live. But I'm of
no use to you.

Then it came over her more poignantly that she should not see him
She could not accept that; she could not part with him
that way. "If you should send for me I'd come," she said at last.

"Your husband won't consent to that."

"Oh yes, I can arrange it."

"I shall keep that for my last pleasure!" said Ralph.

In answer to which she simply kissed him.


They sat down together, and Osmond, talkative, communicative,
, seemed possessed with a kind of intellectual gaiety.
He leaned back with his legs crossed, lounging and chatting,
while Goodwood, more restless, but not at all lively, shifted
his position, played with his hat, made the little sofa creak
beneath him. Osmond's face wore a sharp, aggressive smile; he
was as a man whose perceptions have been quickened by good news.


"I'm very fond of Rome, you know," Osmond said; "but there's
nothing I like better than to meet people who haven't that
superstition. The modern world's after all very fine. Now you're
thoroughly modern and yet are not at all common. So many of the
moderns we see are such very
poor stuff. If they're the children
of the future we're willing to die young. Of course the
too are often very
tiresome. My wife and I like everything that's
really new--not the mere pretence of it. There's nothing new,
unfortunately, in ignorance and stupidity. We see plenty of that
in forms that offer themselves as a
revelation of progress, of
light. A
revelation of vulgarity! There's a certain kind of
vulgarity which I believe is really new; I don't think there ever
was anything like it before. Indeed I don't find
vulgarity, at
all, before the present century. You see a
faint menace of it
here and there in the last, but
to-day the air has grown so dense
that delicate things are literally not recognised
. Now, we've
liked you--!" With which he hesitated a moment, laying his hand
gently on Goodwood's knee and smiling with a mixture of assurance
and embarrassment. "I'm going to say something extremely offensive
and patronising, but you must let me have the satisfaction of it.
We've liked you because--because you've reconciled us a little to
the future
. If there are to be a certain number of people like
you--a la bonne heure!"


Goodwood had only a vague sense that he was laying it on somehow;
he scarcely knew where the mixture was applied. Indeed he scarcely
knew what Osmond was talking about; he wanted to be alone with
Isabel, and that idea spoke louder to him than her husband's
perfectly-pitched voice. He watched her talking with other people
and wondered when she would be at liberty and whether he might
ask her to go into one of the other rooms. His humour was not,
like Osmond's, of the best;
there was an element of dull rage in
his consciousness of things

He accepted him as rather a brilliant personage of the
amateurish kind, afflicted with a redundancy of leisure
which it amused him to work off in little refinements
of conversation.
But he only half trusted him; he could
never make out why the deuce Osmond should lavish
refinements of any sort upon HIM. It made him suspect that
he found some private entertainment in it, and it ministered
to a general impression that his triumphant rival had in his
composition a streak of
perversity. He knew indeed that Osmond
could have no reason to wish him evil; he had nothing to fear
from him. He had carried off a supreme advantage and could afford
to be kind to a man who had lost everything. It was true that
Goodwood had at times grimly wished he were dead and would have
liked to kill him; but Osmond had no means of knowing this, for
practice had made the younger man perfect in the art of appearing
inaccessible to-day to any
violent emotion. He cultivated this
art in order to deceive himself, but it was others that he
deceived first. He cultivated it, moreover, with very limited
success; of which there could be no better proof than the deep,
irritation that reigned in his soul when he heard Osmond
speak of his wife's feelings as if he were commissioned to answer
for them

Osmond made more of a point even than usual of referring to
the conjugal harmony prevailing at Palazzo Roccanera. He had
been more careful than ever to speak as if he and his wife
had all things in sweet community and it were as natural to
each of them to say "we" as to say "I
". In all this there was
an air of intention that had puzzled and angered our poor
who could only reflect for his comfort that Mrs.
Osmond's relations with her husband were none of his business.
He had no proof whatever that her husband misrepresented her,
and if he judged her by the surface of things was bound to
believe that she liked her life. She had never given him the
faintest sign of discontent.


"You're very accommodating. We're immensely obliged to you; you
must really let me say it. My wife has probably expressed to you
what we feel. Touchett has been on our minds all winter; it has
looked more than once as if he would never leave Rome. He ought
never to have come; it's worse than an
imprudence for people in
that state to travel; it's a kind of
indelicacy. I wouldn't for
the world be under such an
obligation to Touchett as he has been
to--to my wife and me.
Other people inevitably have to look after
him, and every one isn't so generous as you."

"I've nothing else to do," Caspar said dryly.

Osmond looked at him a moment askance. "You ought to marry, and
then you'd have plenty to do! It's true that in that case you
wouldn't be quite so available for deeds of mercy."

"Do you find that as a married man you're so much occupied?" the
young man
mechanically asked.

"Ah, you see, being married's in itself an occupation. It isn't
always active; it's often passive; but that takes even more
attention. Then my wife and I do so many things together. We
read, we study, we make music, we walk, we drive--we talk even,
as when we first knew each other. I delight, to this hour, in my
wife's conversation. If you're ever bored take my advice and get
married. Your wife indeed may bore you, in that case; but you'll
never bore yourself. You'll always have something to say to
yourself--always have a subject of reflection.

"I'm not bored," said Goodwood. "I've plenty to think about and
to say to myself."

"More than to say to others!" Osmond exclaimed with a light
laugh. "Where shall you go next? I mean after you've consigned
Touchett to his natural caretakers--I believe his mother's at
last coming back to look after him. That little lady's superb;
she neglects her duties with a finish--!
Perhaps you'll spend the
summer in England?"

"I don't know. I've no plans."

"Happy man! That's a little bleak, but it's very free."

"Oh yes, I'm very free."


There was something perverse in the inveteracy with which she
avoided him; his unquenchable rancour discovered an intention
where there was certainly no appearance of one. There was
absolutely no appearance of one. She met his eyes with her
clear hospitable smile, which seemed almost to ask that he
would come and help her to entertain some of her visitors.
To such suggestions, however, he opposed but a stiff impatience.

Isabel would not sit down; she stood in the middle of the room
slowly fanning herself; she had for him the same familiar grace.
She seemed to wait for him to speak. Now that he was alone with
her all the passion he had never stifled surged into his senses;
it hummed in his eyes and made things swim round him. The bright,
empty room grew dim and blurred, and through the heaving veil he
felt her hover before him with gleaming eyes and parted lips.
he had seen more distinctly he would have perceived her smile was
fixed and a trifle forced--that she was frightened at what she saw
in his own face


"I'm told you're unhappy, and if you are I should like to know
it. That would be something for me. But you yourself say you're
happy, and you're somehow so still, so smooth, so hard. You're
completely changed. You conceal everything; I haven't really
near you."

"You come very near," Isabel said gently, but in a tone of

"And yet I don't
touch you! I want to know the truth. Have you
done well?"

"You ask a great deal."

"Yes--I've always asked a great deal. Of course you won't tell
me. I shall never know if you can help it. And then it's none of
my business." He had spoken with a visible effort to control
himself, to give a considerate form to an inconsiderate state of
mind. But the sense that it was his last chance, that he loved
her and had lost her, that she would think him a fool whatever he
should say,
suddenly gave him a lash and added a deep vibration
to his low voice

Chapter 49

"Please don't talk of him," said Isabel for answer; "we've heard
so much of him of late."

Madame Merle bent her head on one side a little, protestingly,
smiled at the left corner of her mouth. "You've heard, yes.
But you must remember that I've not, in Naples. I hoped to find
him here and to be able to congratulate Pansy."

"You may congratulate Pansy still; but not on marrying Lord

"How you say that! Don't you know I had set my heart on it?"
Madame Merle asked with a great deal of spirit, but still with
the intonation of good-humour

Isabel was discomposed, but she was determined to be good-humoured
too. "You shouldn't have gone to Naples then. You should have
stayed here to watch the affair."


Madame Merle, as we know, had been very discreet hitherto; she
had never criticised; she had been markedly afraid of
intermeddling. But apparently she had only reserved herself for
this occasion, since she now had a dangerous quickness in her eye
and an air of
irritation which even her admirable ease was not
able to transmute
. She had suffered a disappointment which excited
Isabel's surprise--our heroine having no knowledge of her zealous
interest in Pansy's marriage; and she betrayed it in a manner
which quickened Mrs. Osmond's alarm. More clearly than ever before
Isabel heard a cold, mocking voice proceed from she knew not
where, in the
dim void that surrounded her, and declare that this
bright, strong, definite, worldly woman, this incarnation of the
practical, the personal, the immediate, was a powerful agent in
her destiny.
She was nearer to her than Isabel had yet discovered,
and her nearness was not the charming accident she had so long
supposed. The sense of accident indeed had died within her that
day when she happened to be struck with the manner in which the
wonderful lady and her own husband sat together in private.

What was it that brought home to her that Madame Merle's
intention had not been good
? Nothing but the mistrust which
had lately
taken body and which married itself now to the
fruitful wonder produced by her visitor's challenge on behalf
of poor Pansy. There was something in this challenge which had
at the very outset excited an answering defiance; a nameless
vitality which she could see to have been absent from her
friend's professions of delicacy and caution.


"You mean, of course," Madame Merle added, "that YOU are one
of the persons concerned."

"No; that's the last thing I mean. I'm very weary of it all."

Madame Merle hesitated a little. "Ah yes, your work's done."

"Take care what you say," said Isabel very gravely.

"Oh, I take care; never perhaps more than when it appears least.
Your husband judges you severely."

Isabel made for a moment no answer to this; she felt choked with
bitterness. It was not the insolence of Madame Merle's informing
her that Osmond had been
taking her into his confidence as
against his wife that struck her most
; for she was not quick to
believe that this was meant for insolence. Madame Merle was very
rarely insolent, and only when it was exactly right. It was not
right now, or at least it was not right yet. What touched Isabel
like a drop of
corosive acid upon an open wound was the knowledge
that Osmond
dishonoured her in his words as well as in his
"Should you like to know how I judge HIM? " she asked
at last.

"No, because you'd never tell me. And it would be painful for me
to know."

There was a pause, and for the first time since she had known her
Isabel thought Madame Merle disagreeable. She wished she would
leave her. "Remember how attractive Pansy is, and don't despair,"
she said abruptly, with a desire that this should close their

But Madame Merle's expansive presence underwent no contraction.
She only
gathered her mantle about her and, with the movement,
scattered upon the air a faint, agreeable fragrance


"Now don't be heroic, don't be unreasonable, don't take offence.
It seems to me I do you an honour in speaking so. I don't know
another woman to whom I would do it. I haven't the least idea
that any other woman would tell me the truth. And don't you see
how well it is that your husband should know it? It's true that
he doesn't appear to have had any tact whatever in trying to
extract it; he has indulged in gratuitous suppositions. But
that doesn't alter the fact that it would make a difference
in his view of his daughter's prospects to know distinctly
what really occurred. If Lord Warburton simply got tired of
the poor child, that's one thing, and it's a pity. If he
gave her up to please you it's another. That's a pity too, but in
a different way. Then, in the latter case, you'd perhaps resign
yourself to not being pleased--to simply seeing your
step-daughter married. Let him off--let us have him!"

Madame Merle had proceeded very deliberately, watching her
companion and apparently thinking she could proceed safely. As
she went on Isabel grew pale; she clasped her hands more tightly
in her lap. It was not that her visitor had at last thought it
the right time to be insolent; for this was not what was most
apparent. It was a worse horror than that. "Who are you--what are
you?" Isabel murmured. "What have you to do with my husband?"
It was strange that for the moment she drew as near to him as if
she had loved him.

"Ah then, you take it heroically! I'm very sorry. Don't think,
however, that I shall do so."

"What have you to do with me?" Isabel went on.

Madame Merle slowly got up, stroking her muff, but not removing
her eyes from Isabel's face. "Everything!" she answered.

Isabel sat there looking up at her, without rising; her face was
almost a prayer to be
enlightened. But the light of this woman's
eyes seemed only a darkness. "Oh
misery!" she murmured at last;
and she fell back, covering her face with her hands. It had come
over her like a high-surging wave that Mrs. Touchett was right.
Madame Merle had married her.

She had long before this taken old Rome into her confidence,
for in a world of ruins the ruin of her happiness seemed a
less unnatural catastrophe.
She rested her weariness upon
things that had crumbled for centuries and yet still were
upright; she dropped her secret sadness into the silence of
lonely places,
where its very modern quality detached itself
and grew objective, so that
as she sat in a sun-warmed
angle on a winter's day, or stood in a mouldy church to which no
one came,
she could almost smile at it and think of its
smallness. Small it was, in the large Roman record, and her
haunting sense of the continuity of the human lot easily carried
her from the less to the greater.
She had become deeply, tenderly
acquainted with Rome; it interfused and moderated her passion.

But she had grown to think of it chiefly as the place where
people had suffered. This was what came to her
in the starved
churches, where the marble columns, transferred from pagan ruins,
seemed to offer her a companionship in endurance and the musty
incense to be a compound of long-unanswered prayers.

After the departure of her cousin and his companions she roamed
more than usual; she carried her sombre spirit from one familiar
shrine to the other
. Even when Pansy and the Countess were with
her she felt the touch of a vanished world. The carriage, leaving
the walls of Rome behind, rolled through narrow lanes where the
wild honeysuckle had begun to tangle itself in the hedges, or
waited for her in quiet places where the fields lay near, while
she strolled further and further over
the flower-freckled turf, or
sat on a stone that had once had a use and
gazed through the veil
of her personal sadness at the splendid sadness of the scene--at
the dense, warm light, the far gradations and soft confusions of
colour, the motionless shepherds in lonely attitudes, the hills
where the cloud-shadows had the lightness of a blush.

She asked herself, with an almost childlike horror of the
supposition, whether to this intimate friend of several years the
great historical epithet of
wicked were to be applied. She knew
the idea only by the Bible and other literary works; to the best
of her belief she had had no personal acquaintance with
wickedness. She had desired a large acquaintance with human life,
and in spite of her having flattered herself that she cultivated
it with some success this elementary privilege had been denied
her. Perhaps it was not wicked--in the historic sense--to be even
deeply false; for that was what Madame Merle had been--deeply,
deeply, deeply. Isabel's Aunt Lydia had made this discovery long
before, and had mentioned it to her niece; but Isabel had
flattered herself at this time that she had a much richer view of
things, especially of the spontaneity of her own career and the
nobleness of her own interpretations, than poor stiffly-reasoning
Mrs. Touchett.


I should like to know what's the matter with you," he said
at last.

"The matter--the matter--!" And here Madame Merle stopped. Then
she went on with a sudden outbreak of passion, a burst of summer
thunder in a clear sky: "The matter is that I would give my right
hand to be able to
weep, and that I can't!"

"What good would it do you to weep?"

"It would make me feel as I felt before I knew you."

"If I've dried your tears, that's something. But I've seen you
shed them."

"Oh, I believe you'll make me cry still. I mean make me howl like
a wolf. I've a great hope, I've a great need, of that. I was vile
this morning; I was
horrid," she said.

"If Isabel was in the stupid state of mind you mention she
probably didn't perceive it," Osmond answered.

"It was precisely my deviltry that stupefied her. I couldn't help
it; I was full of something bad. Perhaps it was something good;
I don't know. You've not only dried up my tears; you've dried up
my soul

"It's not I then that am responsible for my wife's condition,"
Osmond said. "It's pleasant to think that I shall get the benefit
of your influence upon her. Don't you know the soul is an
immortal principle? How can it suffer

"I don't believe at all that it's an immortal principle. I
believe it can perfectly be
destroyed. That's what has happened
to mine, which was a very good one to start with; and it's you I
have to thank for it. You're VERY bad," she added with gravity in
her emphasis.

"Is this the way we're to end? " Osmond asked with the same
studied coldness.

"I don't know how we're to end. I wish I did--How do bad people
end?--especially as to their COMMON crimes. You have made me as
bad as yourself."


"I've seen better what you have been to your wife than I ever saw
what you were for me. Please be very careful of that precious

"It already has a
wee bit of a tiny crack," said Osmond dryly as
he put it down. "If you didn't understand me before I married it
was cruelly rash of you to put me into such a box. However, I
took a fancy to my box myself; I thought it would be a
comfortable fit. I asked very little; I only asked that she
should like me."

"That she should like you so much!"

"So much, of course; in such a case one asks the maximum. That
she should adore me, if you will. Oh yes, I wanted that."

Chapter 50

Rosier gave her a sharp look. "Do you mean that without my
bibelots I'm nothing? Do you mean they were the best thing about
me? That's what they told me in Paris; oh they were very frank
about it. But they hadn't seen HER!"

"My dear friend, you deserve to succeed," said Isabel very

"You say that so sadly that it's the same as if you said I
shouldn't." And he questioned her eyes with the clear trepidation
of his own. He had the air of a man who knows he has been the
talk of Paris for a week and is full half a head taller in
consequence, but who also has a painful suspicion that in spite
of this increase of stature one or two persons still have the
perversity to think him diminutive

Pansy, who faced her stepmother, at first kept her eyes fixed on
her lap; then she raised them and rested them on Isabel's. There
shone out of each of them a little melancholy ray--a spark of
timid passion which touched Isabel to the heart. At the same
time a wave of
envy passed over her soul, as she compared the
tremulous longing, the definite ideal of the child with her own
dry despair. "Poor little Pansy!" she affectionately said.

Her voice was strange, and her eyes, widely opened, had an
excited, frightened look. "You're not going away!" Isabel

"I'm going to the convent."

"To the convent?"

Pansy drew nearer, till she was near enough to put her arms round
Isabel and rest her head on her shoulder. She stood this way a
moment, perfectly still; but her companion could feel her
tremble. The quiver of her little body expressed everything she
was unable to say. Isabel nevertheless pressed her. "Why are you
going to the convent?"

"Because papa thinks it best. He says a young girl's better,
every now and then, for making a little retreat. He says the
world, always the world, is very bad for a young girl. This is
just a chance for a little seclusion--a little reflexion." Pansy
spoke in short detached sentences, as if she could scarce trust
herself; and then she added with a triumph of self-control: "I
think papa's right; I've been so much in the world this winter."


One's daughter should be fresh and fair; she should be
innocent and gentle. With the manners of the present
time she is liable to become so dusty and crumpled.
Pansy's a little dusty, a little dishevelled; she has knocked
about too much. This bustling, pushing rabble that calls itself
society--one should take her out of it occasionally. Convents are
very quiet, very convenient, very salutary. I like to think of
her there, in the old garden, under the arcade, among those
tranquil virtuous women. Many of them are gentlewomen born;
several of them are noble. She will have her books and her
drawing, she will have her piano. I've made the most liberal
arrangements. There is to be nothing ascetic; there's just to be
a certain little sense of sequestration. She'll have time to
think, and there's something I want her to think about." Osmond
spoke deliberately, reasonably, still with his head on one side,
as if he were looking at the basket of flowers. His tone,
however, was that of a man not so much offering an explanation as
putting a thing into words--almost into pictures--to see,
himself, how it would look
. He considered a while the picture he
had evoked and seemed greatly pleased with it. And then he went
on: "The Catholics are very wise after all. The convent is a
great institution; we can't do without it; it corresponds to an
essential need in families, in society. It's a school of good
manners; it's a school of

Isabel gave an extreme attention to this little sketch; she found
it indeed intensely interesting. It seemed to show her how far
her husband's desire to be effective was capable of going--to the
point of playing theoretic tricks on the delicate organism of his
. She could not understand his purpose, no--not wholly;
but she understood it better than he supposed or desired, inasmuch
as she was convinced that the whole proceeding was an elaborate
mystification, addressed to herself and destined to act upon her
. He had wanted to do something sudden and arbitrary,
something unexpected and refined; to mark the difference between
his sympathies and her own, and show that if he regarded his
daughter as a precious work of art it was natural he should be
more and more careful about the finishing touches. If he wished
to be effective he had succeeded; the incident struck a chill
into Isabel's heart.

Osmond took a sip of a glass of wine; he looked perfectly
good-humoured. "My dear Amy," he answered, smiling as if he were
uttering a piece of gallantry, "I don't know anything about your
convictions, but if I suspected that they interfere with mine it
would be much simpler to banish YOU."

Chapter 51

"Excuse me for disturbing you," she said.

"When I come to your room I always knock," he answered, going on
with his work.

"I forgot; I had something else to think of. My cousin's dying."

"Ah, I don't believe that," said Osmond, looking at his drawing
through a magnifying glass. "He was dying when we married; he'll
outlive us all."

Isabel gave herself no time, no thought, to appreciate the
careful cynicism of this declaration; she simply went on quickly,
full of her own intention "My aunt has telegraphed for me; I must
go to Gardencourt."


"Leave him alone then. Don't run after him."

Isabel turned her eyes away from him; they rested upon his little
drawing. "I must go to England," she said, with a full
consciousness that her tone might strike an irritable man of
taste as stupidly obstinate.

"I shall not like it if you do," Osmond remarked.

"Why should I mind that? You won't like it if I don't. You like
nothing I do or don't do. You pretend to think I lie."

Osmond turned slightly pale; he gave a cold smile. "That's why
you must go then? Not to see your cousin, but to take a revenge
on me."

"I know nothing about revenge."

"I do," said Osmond. "Don't give me an occasion."

"You're only too eager to take one. You wish immensely that I
would commit some folly."

"I should be gratified in that case if you disobeyed me."

"If I disobeyed you?" said Isabel in a low tone which had the
effect of mildness.

"Let it be clear. If you leave Rome to-day it will be a piece of
the most deliberate, the most calculated, opposition."

"How can you call it calculated? I received my aunt's telegram
but three minutes ago."

"You calculate rapidly; it's a great accomplishment. I don't see
why we should prolong our discussion; you know my wish." And he
stood there as if he expected to see her withdraw.

But she never moved; she couldn't move, strange as it may seem;
she still wished to justify herself; he had the power, in an
extraordinary degree, of making her feel this need. There was
something in her imagination he could always appeal to against
her judgement. "You've no reason for such a wish," said Isabel,
"and I've every reason for going. I can't tell you how unjust you
seem to me. But I think you know. It's your own opposition that's
calculated. It's malignant."


"You say I've no reason? I have the very best. I dislike,
from the bottom of my soul, what you intend to do. It's
dishonourable; it's indelicate; it's indecent. Your cousin
is nothing whatever to me, and I'm under no obligation to
make concessions to him. I've already made the very handsomest.
Your relations with him, while he was here, kept me on pins and
needles; but I let that pass, because from week to week I
expected him to go. I've never liked him and he has never liked
me. That's why you like him--because he hates me," said Osmond
with a
quick, barely audible tremor in his voice. "I've an ideal
of what my wife should do and should not do
. She should not
travel across Europe alone, in defiance of my deepest desire, to
sit at the bedside of other men. Your cousin's nothing to you;
he's nothing to us. You smile most expressively when I talk about
US, but I assure you that WE, WE, Mrs. Osmond, is all I know
. I
take our marriage seriously; you appear to have found a way of
not doing so. I'm not aware that we're divorced or separated; for
me we're indissolubly united. You are nearer to me than any human
creature, and I'm
nearer to you. It may be a disagreeable
proximity; it's one, at any rate, of our own
deliberate making.
You don't like to be reminded of that, I know; but I'm perfectly
willing, because--because--" And he paused a moment, looking as if
he had something to say which would be very much to the point.
"Because I think we should accept the consequences of our
actions, and what I value most in life is the honour of a thing!"

He spoke gravely and almost gently; the accent of sarcasm had
dropped out of his tone. It had a gravity which checked his
wife's quick emotion;
the resolution with which she had entered
the room found itself caught in a mesh of fine threads
. His last
words were not a command, they constituted a kind of appeal; and,
though she felt that any expression of respect on his part could
only be
a refinement of egotism, they represented something
transcendent and absolute, like the sign of the cross or the flag
of one's country. He spoke in the name of something sacred and
precious--the observance of a magnificent form. They were as
perfectly apart in feeling as two disillusioned lovers had ever
been; but they had never yet separated in act.
Isabel had not
changed; her old passion for justice still abode within her; and
now, in the very thick of her sense of her husband's blasphemous
sophistry, it began to throb to a tune which for a moment
promised him the victory
. It came over her that in his wish to
preserve appearances he was after all sincere, and that this, as
far as it went, was a merit.
Ten minutes before she had felt all
the joy of irreflective action--a joy to which she had so long
been a stranger; but action had been suddenly changed to slow
renunciation, transformed by the blight of Osmond's touch
. If she
must renounce, however, she would let him know she was a victim
rather than a dupe. "I know you're a master of the art of
mockery," she said. "How can you speak of an indissoluble union
--how can you speak of your being contented? Where's our union
when you
accuse me of falsity? Where's your contentment when you
have nothing but
hideous suspicion in your heart?"


"How can it be anything but a rupture?" she went on; "especially
if all you say is true?" She was unable to see how it could be
anything but a rupture; she sincerely wished to know what else it
might be.

He sat down before his table. "I really can't argue with you on
the hypothesis of your defying me," he said. And he took up one
of his little brushes again.

She lingered but a moment longer; long enough to embrace with her
his whole deliberately indifferent yet most expressive
figure; after which she quickly left the room. Her faculties, her
energy, her passion, were all dispersed again; she felt as if a
cold, dark mist had suddenly encompassed her


And then she cared enough for Isabel's trouble to forget
her own, and she saw that Isabel's trouble was deep. It
seemed deeper than the mere death of a cousin
, and the
Countess had no hesitation in connecting her exasperating
brother with the expression of her sister-in-law's eyes.
Her heart beat with an almost joyous expectation, for if
she had wished to see Osmond overtopped the conditions
looked favourable now.

It seemed to her that only now she fully measured the great
undertaking of matrimony.
Marriage meant that in such a case
as this, when one had to choose, one chose as a matter of
course for one's husband. "I'm afraid--yes, I'm afraid,"
she said to herself more than once, stopping short in her
walk. But what she was afraid of was not her husband--his
displeasure, his hatred, his revenge; it was not even her
own later judgement of her conduct a consideration which
had often held her in check; it was simply the violence there
would be in going when Osmond wished her to remain. A gulf of
difference had opened between them, but nevertheless it was his
desire that she should stay, it was a
horror to him that she
should go. She knew the
nervous fineness with which he could feel
objection. What he thought of her she knew, what he was
capable of saying to her she had felt; yet they were married, for
all that, and marriage meant that a woman should cleave to the
man with whom,
uttering tremendous vows, she had stood at the
. She sank down on her sofa at last and buried her head in a
pile of cushions.

She continued to smile, and there was something communicative
and exultant in her expression. She appeared to have a deal to
say, and it occurred to Isabel for the first time that her
sister-in-law might say something really human. She made play
with her glittering eyes, in which there was an unpleasant
fascination. "After all," she soon resumed, "I must tell you,
to begin with, that I don't understand your state of mind. You
seem to have so many scruples, so many reasons, so many ties.
When I discovered, ten years ago, that my husband's dearest
wish was to make me miserable--of late he has simply let me alone
--ah, it was a wonderful simplification! My poor Isabel, you're
not simple enough."

"No, I'm not simple enough," said Isabel.


"I've guessed nothing. What should I have suspected? I don't know
what you mean."

"That's because you've such a beastly pure mind. I never saw a
woman with such a pure mind!" cried the Countess.

Isabel slowly got up. "You're going to tell me something

"You can call it by whatever name you will!" And the Countess
rose also, while
her gathered perversity grew vivid and dreadful.
She stood a moment in a sort of
glare of intention and, as seemed
to Isabel even then, of ugliness;
after which she said: "My first
sister-in-law had no children."


"He never recognised Miss Pansy, nor, knowing what he was about,
would have anything to say to her; and there was no reason why
he should. Osmond did, and that was better; though he had to
fit on afterwards the whole rigmarole
of his own wife's having
died in childbirth, and of his having, in
grief and horror,
banished the little girl from his sight for as long as possible
before taking her home from nurse


"As for her veritable mother--!" But with this Pansy's
wonderful aunt dropped--as, involuntarily, from the
impression of her sister-in-law's face
, out of which
more eyes might have seemed to look at her than she
had ever had to meet

She had spoken no name, yet Isabel could but check, on her own
lips, an echo of the unspoken.
She sank to her seat again,
hanging her head
. "Why have you told me this?" she asked in a
voice the Countess hardly recognised.

"Because I've been so bored with your not knowing. I've been
bored, frankly, my dear, with not having told you; as if,
stupidly, all this time I couldn't have managed! Ca me depasse,
if you don't mind my saying so, the things, all round you, that
you've appeared
to succeed in not knowing. It's a sort of
assistance--aid to
innocent ignorance--that I've always been a
bad hand at rendering;
and in this connexion, that of keeping
quiet for my brother, my virtue has at any rate finally found
itself exhausted. It's not a black lie, moreover, you know," the
Countess inimitably added. "The facts are exactly what I tell

"I had no idea," said Isabel presently; and looked up at her in a
manner that doubtless matched the apparent
witlessness of this

"So I believed--though it was hard to believe. Had it never
occurred to you that he was for six or seven years her lover?"

"I don't know. Things HAVE occurred to me, and perhaps that was
what they all meant


She spoke as one troubled and puzzled, yet the poor Countess
seemed to have seen her revelation fall below its
possibilities of effect. She
had expected to kindle some
responsive blaze, but had barely extracted a spark
. Isabel showed
as scarce more impressed than she might have been, as a young
woman of approved imagination, with
some fine sinister passage of
public history
. "Don't you recognise how the child could never
pass for HER husband's?--that is with M. Merle himself," her
companion resumed. "They had been separated too long for that,
and he had gone to some far country--I think to South America. If
she had ever had children--which I'm not sure of--she had lost
them. The conditions happened to make it workable, under stress
(I mean at so awkward a pinch), that Osmond should acknowledge
the little girl.
His wife was dead--very true; but she had not
been dead too long to put a certain accommodation of dates out of
the question--from the moment, I mean, that suspicion wasn't
started; which was what they had to take care of. What was more
natural than that poor Mrs. Osmond, at a distance and for a world
not troubling about trifles, should have left behind her,
poverina, the pledge of her brief happiness that had cost her
her life?
With the aid of a change of residence--Osmond had been
living with her at Naples at the time of their stay in the Alps,
and he in due course left it for ever--the whole history was
successfully set going. My poor sister-in-law, in her grave,
couldn't help herself, and the real mother, to save HER skin,
renounced all visible property in the child."

"Ah, poor, poor woman!" cried Isabel, who herewith burst into
tears. It was a long time since she had shed any; she had
suffered a high reaction from
weeping. But now they flowed with
an abundance in which the Countess Gemini found only another

"It's very kind of you to pity her!" she
discordantly laughed.
"Yes indeed, you have a way of your own--!"

"He must have been false to his wife--and so very soon!" said
Isabel with a sudden check.

"That's all that's wanting--that you should take up her cause!"
the Countess went on. "I quite agree with you, however, that it
was much too soon."


Ah, my dear," cried the Countess,"why did you ever inherit
money?" She stopped a moment as if she saw something singular
in Isabel's face.
"Don't tell me now that you'll give her a
dot. You're capable of that, but I would refuse to believe it.
Don't try to be too good. Be a little easy and natural and
nasty; feel a little wicked, for the comfort of it, once in your life!"

"It's very strange. I suppose I ought to know, but I'm sorry,"
Isabel said. "I'm much obliged to you."

"Yes, you seem to be!" cried the Countess with a mocking laugh.
"Perhaps you are--perhaps you're not. You don't take it as I
should have thought."


Isabel rose from her sofa again; she felt bruised and scant of
breath; her head was
humming with new knowledge. "I'm much
obliged to you," she repeated. And then she added abruptly, in
quite a different tone: "How do you know all this?"

This enquiry appeared to ruffle the Countess more than Isabel's
expression of gratitude pleased her. She gave her companion a
bold stare, with which, "Let us assume that I've invented it!"
she cried. She too, however, suddenly changed her tone and,
laying her hand on Isabel's arm, said with the penetration of her
sharp bright smile: "Now will you give up your journey?"

Isabel started a little; she turned away. But she felt weak and
in a moment had to lay her arm upon the mantel-shelf for support.
She stood a minute so, and then upon her arm she dropped her
dizzy head, with closed eyes and pale lips.

"I've done wrong to speak--I've made you ill!" the Countess

"Ah, I must see Ralph!" Isabel wailed; not in resentment, not in
the quick passion her companion had looked for; but in a tone of
far-reaching, infinite sadness.

Chapter 52

She knew they were good women, and she saw that the large rooms
were clean and cheerful and that the well-used garden had sun
for winter and shade for spring. But she disliked the place,
which affronted and almost frightened her; not for the world
would she have spent a night there. It produced to-day more
than before the impression of a well-appointed prison; for it
was not possible to pretend Pansy was free to leave it. This
innocent creature had been presented to her in a new and violent
light, but the secondary effect of the revelation was to make
her reach out a hand.

The effect was strange, for Madame Merle was already so present
to her vision that her appearance in the flesh was like suddenly,
and rather awfully, seeing a painted picture move
. Isabel had
been thinking all day of her
falsity, her audacity, her ability,
her probable
suffering; and these dark things seemed to flash
with a sudden
light as she entered the room. Her being there at
had the character of ugly evidence, of handwritings, of
profaned relics, of grim things produced in court
. It made
Isabel feel


"I went afterwards to see Mother Catherine, who has a very good
room too; I assure you I don't find the poor sisters at all
monastic. Mother Catherine has a most coquettish little toilet-
, with something that looked uncommonly like a bottle of


So Madame Merle went on, with much of the brilliancy of a woman
who had long been a mistress of the art of conversation. But
there were phases and
gradations in her speech, not one of which
was lost upon Isabel's ear, though her eyes were absent from her
companion's face. She had not proceeded far before Isabel noted
sudden break in her voice, a lapse in her continuity, which was
in itself a complete drama. This subtle modulation marked a
momentous discovery
--the perception of an entirely new attitude
on the part of her listener. Madame Merle had guessed in the
space of an instant that everything was at end between them, and
in the space of another instant she had guessed the reason why.
The person who stood there was not the same one she had seen
hitherto, but was a very different person--a person who knew her
This discovery was tremendous, and from the moment she
made it the most accomplished of women faltered and lost her
courage. But only for that moment. Then
the conscious stream of
her perfect manner gathered itself again and flowed on as
smoothly as might be to the end
. But it was only because she had
the end in view that she was able to proceed. She had been
touched with a point that made her quiver, andshe needed all the
alertness of her will to repress her agitation. Her only safety
was in her not betraying herself. She resisted this, but
startled quality of her voice refused to improve
--she couldn't
help it--while she heard herself say she hardly knew what. The
tide of her confidence ebbed, and
she was able only just to glide
into port, faintly grazing the bottom.

She saw, in the crude light of that revelation which had already
become a part of experience and to which the very frailty of the
vessel in which it had been offered her only gave an intrinsic
price, the dry staring fact that she had been an applied handled
hung-up tool, as senseless and convenient as mere shaped wood and
All the bitterness of this knowledge surged into her soul
again; it was as if she felt on her lips the taste of dishonour.

There was a moment during which, if she had turned and spoken,
she would have
said something that would hiss like a lash.

Pansy wore, as Madame Merle had said, a little black dress; it
was perhaps this that made her look pale. "They're very good to
me--they think of everything!" she exclaimed with all her
customary eagerness to accommodate.

"We think of you always--you're a precious charge," Madame
Catherine remarked in the tone of a woman with whom benevolence
was a habit and whose conception of duty was the acceptance of
every care. It fell with a leaden weight on Isabel's ears; it
seemed to represent the surrender of a personality, the authority
of the Church.


"He thinks I've not had enough," said Pansy. "But I have. The
ladies are very kind to me and the little girls come to see me.
There are some very little ones--such charming children. Then my
room--you can see for yourself. All that's very delightful. But
I've had enough. Papa wished me to think a little--and I've
thought a great deal."

"What have you thought?"

"Well, that I must never displease papa."

"You knew that before."

"Yes; but I know it better. I'll do anything--I'll do anything,"
said Pansy. Then, as she heard her own words, a deep, pure blush
came into her face. Isabel read the meaning of it; she saw the
poor girl had been
vanquished. It was well that Mr. Edward Rosier
had kept his enamels! Isabel looked into her eyes and saw there
mainly a prayer to be treated easily.
She laid her hand on
Pansy's as if to let her know that her look conveyed no diminution
of esteem; for
the collapse of the girl's momentary resistance
mute and modest thought it had been) seemed only her tribute to
the truth of things.


Then they held each other a moment in a silent embrace, like two
sisters; and afterwards Pansy walked along the corridor with her
visitor to the top of the staircase. "Madame Merle has been
here," she remarked as they went; and as Isabel answered nothing
she added abruptly: "I don't like Madame Merle!"

Isabel hesitated, then stopped. "You must never say that--that
you don't like Madame Merle."

Pansy looked at her in wonder; but wonder with Pansy had never
been a reason for non-compliance. "I never will again," she said
exquisite gentleness.

Chapter 53

She had plenty to think about; but it was neither reflexion
nor conscious purpose that filled her mind. Disconnected visions
passed through it, and sudden dull gleams of memory, of expectation.
The past and the future came and went at their will, but she saw
them only in fitful images, which rose and fell by a logic of
their own.
It was extraordinary the things she remembered. Now
that she was in the secret, now that she knew something that so
much concerned her and the eclipse of which had made life resemble
an attempt to play whist with an imperfect pack of cards, the
truth of things, their mutual relations, their meaning, and for
the most part their horror,
rose before her with a kind of
architectural vastness
. She remembered a thousand trifles;
they started to life with the spontaneity of a shiver.

Gardencourt had been her starting-point, and to those muffled
chambers it was at least a temporary solution to return. She
had gone forth in her strength; she would come back in her
weakness, and if the place had been a rest to her before, it
would be a sanctuary now. She envied Ralph his dying, for if
one were thinking of rest that was the most perfect of all.
To cease utterly, to give it all up and not know anything
more--this idea was as sweet as the vision of a cool bath
in a marble tank, in a darkened chamber, in a hot land.

It concerned Isabel no more; she only had an impression that
she should never again see Madame Merle. This impression carried
her into the future, of which from time to time she had a

mutilated glimpse
. She saw herself, in the distant years,
still in the attitude of a woman who had her life to live,
and these intimations contradicted the spirit of the present
hour. It might be desirable to get quite away, really away,
further away than little grey-green England, but this privilege
was evidently to be denied her. Deep in her soul--deeper than any
appetite for
renunciation--was the sense that life would be her
business for a long time to come. And at moments there was
inspiring, almost enlivening, in the conviction. It was
a proof of strength--it was a proof she should some day be happy
again. It couldn't be she was to live only to suffer; she was
still young, after all, and a great many things might happen to
her yet. To live only to suffer--only to feel the injury of life
repeated and enlarged--it seemed to her she was too valuable, too
capable, for that. Then she wondered if it were vain and stupid
to think so well of herself.
When had it even been a guarantee to
be valuable? Wasn't all history full of the destruction of
precious things?
Wasn't it much more probable that if one were
fine one would suffer?It involved then perhaps an admission that
one had a certain grossness; but Isabel recognised, as it passed
before her eyes, the quick vague shadow of a long future. She
should never escape; she should last to the end.
Then the middle
years wrapped her about again and the grey curtain of her
indifference closed her in.


"One can't explain one's marriage," Isabel answered. "And yours
doesn't need to be explained. Mr. Bantling isn't a riddle."

"No, he isn't a bad pun--or even a high flight of American
He has a beautiful nature," Henrietta went on. "I've
studied him for many years and I see right through him.
He's as
clear as the style of a good prospectus.
He's not intellectual,
but he appreciates intellect.
On the other hand he doesn't
exaggerate its claims. I sometimes think we do in the United


Isabel was duly diverted, but there was a certain melancholy in
her view. Henrietta, after all, had confessed herself human and
feminine, Henrietta whom she had hitherto regarded as a light
keen flame, a disembodied voice.
It was a disappointment to find
she had personal susceptibilities, that she was subject to common
, and that her intimacy with Mr. Bantling had not been
completely original. There was a want of originality in her
marrying him--there was even a kind of stupidity; and for a
moment, to Isabel's sense,
the dreariness of the world took on a
deeper tinge


She thinks she knows everything; but she doesn't understand a woman
of my modern type. It would be so much easier for her if I were
only a little better or a little worse. She's so puzzled; I
believe she thinks it's my duty to go and do something immoral.

She thinks it's immoral that I should marry her brother; but,
after all, that isn't immoral enough. And she'll never understand
my mixture--never!"

"She's not so intelligent as her brother then," said Isabel. "He
appears to have understood."

"Oh no, he hasn't!" cried Miss Stackpole with decision. "I really
believe that's what he wants to marry me for--
just to find out
the mystery and the proportions of it
. That's a fixed idea--a
kind of fascination."

"It's very good in you to humour it."

"Oh well," said Henrietta, "I've something to find out too!" And
Isabel saw that
she had not renounced an allegiance, but planned
an attack. She was at last about to grapple in earnest with


Chapter 54

Mrs. Osmond was a stranger; so that instead of being conducted to
her own apartment she was coldly shown into the drawing-room and
left to wait while her name was carried up to her aunt. She waited
a long time; Mrs.Touchett appeared in no hurry to come to her. She
grew impatient at last; she grew nervous and scared--as scared as
if the objects about her had begun to show for conscious things,
watching her trouble with
grotesque grimaces.

Mrs. Touchett appeared at last, just after Isabel had returned to
the big uninhabited drawing-room. She looked a good deal older,
buther eye was as bright as ever and her head as erect;
her thin
lips seemed a repository of latent meanings
. She wore a little
grey dress of the most undecorated fashion, and
Isabel wondered,
as she had wondered the first time, if her remarkable kinswoman
resembled more a queen-regent or the
matron of a gaol. Her lips
felt very thin indeed on Isabel's hot cheek.


"Is there really no hope?" our young woman asked as she stood
before her.

"None whatever. There never has been. It has not been a
successful life

"No--it has only been a beautiful one." Isabel found herself
contradicting her aunt; she was irritated by her dryness.

"I don't know what you mean by that; there's no beauty without
health. That is a very odd dress to travel in."

Isabel glanced at her garment. "I left Rome at an hour's notice;
I took the first that came."


Here, after a little, Isabel saw her aunt not to be so dry as
she appeared, and her old pity for the poor woman's inexpressiveness,
her want of regret, of disappointment, came back to her.

Unmistakeably she would have found it a blessing to-day to be
able to feel a defeat, a mistake, even a shame or two. She wondered
if she were not even missing those enrichments of consciousness
and privately trying--reaching out for some aftertaste of life,
dregs of the banquet; the testimony of pain or the cold recreation
of remorse.
On the other hand perhaps she was afraid; if she should
begin to know remorse at all it might take her too far. Isabel
could perceive, however, how it had come over her dimly that she
had failed of something, that she saw herself in the future as an
old woman without memories.
Her little sharp face looked tragical.


Mrs. Touchett was silent; then she gave a sharp little shake of
the head. "Ah, my dear, you're beyond me!"
she cried suddenly.
They went on with their luncheon in silence; Isabel felt as if
she had heard of Lord Warburton's death. She had known him only
as a suitor, and now that was all over. He was dead for poor
Pansy; by Pansy he might have lived. A servant had been hovering
about; at last Mrs. Touchett requested him to leave them alone.
She had finished her meal; she sat with her hands folded on the
edge of the table. "I should like to ask you three questions,"
she observed when the servant had gone.

"Three are a great many."

"I can't do with less; I've been thinking. They're all very good

"That's what I'm afraid of. The best questions are the worst,"
Isabel answered. Mrs. Touchett had pushed back her chair, and as
her niece left the table and walked, rather consciously, to one
of the deep windows, she felt herself followed by her eyes.

"Have you ever been sorry you didn't marry Lord Warburton?" Mrs.
Touchett enquired.

Isabel shook her head slowly, but not heavily. "No, dear aunt."

"Good. I ought to tell you that I propose to believe what you

"Your believing me's an immense temptation," she declared,
smiling still.

"A temptation to lie? I don't recommend you to do that, for when
I'm misinformed I'm as
dangerous as a poisoned rat. I don't mean
crow over you."

"It's my husband who doesn't get on with me," said Isabel.

"I could have told him he wouldn't. I don't call that crowing
over YOU," Mrs. Touchett added. "Do you still like Serena Merle?"
she went on.

"Not as I once did. But it doesn't matter, for she's going to

"To America? She must have done something very bad."

"Yes--very bad."

"May I ask what it is?"

"She made a convenience of me."

"Ah," cried Mrs. Touchett, "so she did of me! She does of every

"She'll make a convenience of America," said Isabel, smiling
again and glad that her aunt's questions were over.


"I feel better to-night," he murmured, abruptly, in the soundless
dimness of her vigil; "I think I can say something." She sank
upon her knees beside his pillow; took his thin hand in her own;
begged him not to make an effort--not to tire himself. His face
was of necessity serious--
it was incapable of the muscular play
of a smile; but its owner apparently had not lost a perception of
incongruities."What does it matter if I'm tired when I've all
eternity to rest?
There's no harm in making an effort when it's
the very last of all.
Don't people always feel better just before
the end? I've often heard of that; it's what I was waiting for.
Ever since you've been here I thought it would come. I tried two
or three times; I was afraid you'd get tired of sitting there."
He spoke slowly, with painful breaks and long pauses; his voice
seemed to come from a distance. When he ceased he lay with his
face turned to Isabel and his large unwinking eyes open into her
own. "It was very good of you to come," he went on. "I thought
you would; but I wasn't sure."


"Not for you--no. There's nothing makes us feel so much alive as
to see others die
. That's the sensation of life--the sense that
we remain. I've had it--even I. But now
I'm of no use but to give
it to others
.With me it's all over." And then he paused. Isabel
bowed her head further, till it rested on the two hands that were
clasped upon his own. She couldn't see him now; but his far-away
voice was close to her ear. "Isabel," he went on suddenly, "I
wish it were over for you." She answered nothing; she had burst
into sobs; she remained so, with her buried face. He lay silent,
listening to her sobs; at last he gave a long groan. "Ah, what is
it you have done for me?

"What is it you did for me?" she cried, her now extreme agitation
half smothered by her attitude. She had lost all her shame, all
wish to hide things. Now he must know; she wished him to know,
for it brought them supremely together, and he was beyond the
reach of pain.
"You did something once--you know it. O Ralph,
you've been everything! What have I done for you--what can I do
to-day? I would die if you could live. But I don't wish you to
live; I would die myself, not to lose you." Her voice was as
broken as his own and full of tears and anguish.

"You won't lose me--you'll keep me. Keep me in your heart; I
shall be nearer to you than I've ever been. Dear Isabel,
life is
better; for in life there's love. Death is good--but there's no

"I never thanked you--I never spoke--I never was what I should
be!" Isabel went on. She felt a passionate need to cry out and
accuse herself, to let her sorrow possess her. All her troubles,
for the moment, became single and melted together into this
present pain.


"I always understood," said Ralph.

"I thought you did, and I didn't like it. But now I like it."

"You don't hurt me--you make me very happy." And as Ralph said
this there was an extraordinary gladness in his voice
. She bent
her head again, and pressed her lips to the back of his hand. "I
always understood," he continued, "though it was so strange--so
pitiful. You wanted to look at life for yourself--but you were
not allowed; you were punished for your wish. You were ground in
the very mill of the conventional!"


"I don't care for anything but you, and that's enough for the
present. It will last a little yet. Here on my knees, with
you dying in my arms, I'm happier than I have been for a long
time. And I want you to be happy--not to think of anything
sad; only to feel that I'm near you and I love you. Why should
there be pain--? In such hours as this what have we to do with
pain? That's not the deepest thing; there's something deeper.


Chapter 55

She heard no knock,but at the time the darkness began vaguely
to grow grey she started up from her pillow as abruptly as if
she had received a summons. It seemed to her for an instant
that he was standing there--a vague, hovering figure in the
vagueness of the room
. She stared a moment; she saw his white
face--his kind eyes; then she saw there was nothing. She was
not afraid; she was only sure. She quitted the place and in
her certainty passed through dark corridors and down a flight
of oaken steps that shone in the vague light of a hall-window.
Outside Ralph's door she stopped a moment, listening, but she
seemed to hear only the hush that filled it. She opened the
door with a hand as gentle
as if she were lifting a veil from
the face of the dead
, and saw Mrs. Touchett sitting motionless
and upright beside the couch of her son, with one of his hands
in her own. The doctor was on the other side, with poor Ralph's
further wrist resting in his professional fingers

She went to her aunt and put her arm around her; and Mrs.
Touchett, who as a general thing neither invited nor enjoyed
caresses, submitted for a moment to this one, rising, as might
be, to take it. But she was stiff and dry-eyed; her acute white
face was terrible.

"Dear Aunt Lydia," Isabel murmured.

"Go and thank God you've no child," said Mrs. Touchett,
disengaging herself.

Her errand was over; she had done what she had left her husband
to do. She had a husband in a foreign city, counting the hours
of her absence; in such a case one needed an excellent motive.
He was not one of the best husbands, but that didn't alter the
case. Certain obligations were involved in the very fact of marriage,
and were quite independent of
the quantity of enjoyment extracted
from it
. Isabel thought of her husband as little as might be; but
now that she was at a distance, beyond its spell, she thought
with a kind of
spiritual shudder of Rome. There was a penetrating
chill in the image
, and she drew back into the deepest shade of

Mrs. Touchett accepted Isabel's company, but offered her no
assistance; she appeared to be absorbed in considering, without
enthusiasm but with perfect lucidity, the new conveniences of her
own situation. Mrs. Touchett was not an optimist, but even from
painful occurrences she managed to
extract a certain utility.
This consisted in the reflexion that, after all, such things
happened to other people and not to herself. Death was
disagreeable, but in this case it was her son's death, not her
she had never flattered herself that her own would be
disagreeable to any one but Mrs. Touchett. She was better off
than poor Ralph, who had left all the commodities of life behind
him, and indeed all the security; since the worst of dying was,
to Mrs. Touchett's mind, that it exposed one to be taken
advantage of. For herself
she was on the spot; there was nothing
so good as that.

At the end of a few minutes she found herself near a rustic bench,
which, a moment after she had looked at it, struck her as an
object recognised. It was not simply that she had seen it before,
nor even that she had sat upon it; it was that on this spot
something important had happened to her--that the place had an
air of association.
Then she remembered that she had been sitting
there, six years before, when a servant brought her from the
house the letter in which Caspar Goodwood informed her that he
had followed her to Europe; and that when she had read the letter
she looked up to hear Lord Warburton announcing that he should
like to marry her. It was indeed an historical, an interesting,
bench; she stood and looked at it as if it might have something
to say to her. She wouldn't sit down on it now
--she felt rather
afraid of it
. She only stood before it, and while she stood the
past came back to her in one of those rushing waves of emotion
by which persons of sensibility are visited at odd hours.

She had a new sensation; he had never produced it before; it
was a feeling of danger. There was indeed something really
formidable in his resolution. She gazed straight before her;
he, with a hand on each knee, leaned forward, looking deeply
into her face.
The twilight seemed to darken round them. "I
want to speak to you," he repeated; "I've something particular
to say. I don't want to trouble you--as I did the other day
in Rome. That was of no use; it only distressed you. I
couldn't help it; I knew I was wrong. But I'm not wrong now;
please don't think I am," he went on with his hard, deep voice
melting a moment into entreaty. "I came here to-day for a
purpose. It's very different. It was vain for me to speak to
you then; but now I can help you."
She couldn't have told you whether it was because she was
afraid, or because
such a voice in the darkness seemed of
necessity a boon; but she listened to him as she had never
listened before; his words dropped deep into her soul. They
produced a sort of stillness in all her being;
and it was
with an effort,in a moment, that she answered him. "How can
you help me?" she asked in a low tone,
as if she were taking
what he had said seriously enough to make the enquiry in

She checked the movement she had made to leave him; she
was listening more than ever; it was true that he was not the
same as that last time. That had been aimless, fruitless
passion, but at present
he had an idea, which she scented in
all her being
. "But it doesn't matter!" he exclaimed, pressing
her still harder, though now without touching a hem of her
"If Touchett had never opened his mouth I should have
known all the same. I had only to look at you at your cousin's
funeral to see what's the matter with you. You can't deceive
me any more; for God's sake be honest with a man who's so
honest with you. You're the most unhappy of women, and your
husband's the deadliest of fiends

She turned on him as if he had struck her.
"Are you mad?" she

"I've never been so sane; I see the whole thing.
Don't think it's
necessary to defend him. But I won't say another word against
him; I'll speak only of you," Goodwood added quickly. "How can
you pretend you're not heart-broken? You don't know what to do--
you don't know where to turn. It's too late to play a part;
didn't you leave all that behind you in Rome? Touchett knew all
about it, and I knew it too--what it would cost you to come here.
It will have cost you your life? Say it will"--and he flared
almost into anger: "give me one word of truth!
When I know such a
horror as that, how can I keep myself from wishing to save you?
What would you think of me if I should stand still and see you go
back to your reward? 'It's awful, what she'll have to pay for
it!'--that's what Touchett said to me. I may tell you that,
mayn't I ?
He was such a near relation!" cried Goodwood, making
his queer grim point again.

"To think of 'you'?" Isabel said, standing before him in the
dusk. The idea of which she had caught a glimpse a few moments
before now loomed large.
She threw back her head a little; she
stared at it as if it had been a comet in the sky

"You don't know where to turn. Turn straight to me. I want to
persuade you to trust me," Goodwood repeated. And then
he paused
with his shining eyes
. "Why should you go back--why should you go
through that ghastly form

"To get away from you!" she answered. But this expressed only a
little of what she felt.
The rest was that she had never been
loved before. She had believed it, but this was different;this
was the hot wind of the desert, at the approach of which the
others dropped dead, like mere sweet airs of the garden. It
wrapped her about; it lifted her off her feet, while the very
taste of it, as of something potent, acrid and strange, forced
open her set teeth.

"I want to prevent that, and I think I may, if you'll only
for once listen to me. It's too monstrous of you to think of
sinking back into that misery, of going
to open your mouth to
that poisoned air.
It's you that are out of your mind. Trust
me as if I had the care of you. Why shouldn't we be happy--when
it's here before us, when it's so easy? I'm yours for ever--for
ever and ever. Here I stand; I'm as firm as a rock.
What have
you to care about? You've no children; that perhaps would be
an obstacle. As it is you've nothing to consider. You must save
what you can of your life; you mustn't lose it all simply because
you've lost a part.
It would be an insult to you to assume that
you care for the look of the thing, for what people will say,
for the bottomless idiocy of the world. We've nothing to do
with all that; we're quite out of it; we look at things as
they are. You took the great step in coming away; the next is
nothing; it's the natural one. I swear, as I stand here, that
a woman deliberately made to suffer is justified in anything
in life
--in going down into the streets if that will help her!
I know how you suffer, and that's why I'm here. We can do
absolutely as we please; to whom under the sun do we owe
anything? What is it that holds us, what is it that has the
smallest right to interfere in such a question as this? Such a
question is between ourselves--and to say that is to settle it!
Were we born to rot in our misery--were we born to be afraid? I
never knew YOU afraid! If you'll only trust me, how little you
will be disappointed! The world's all before us--and the world's
very big
. I know something about that."

Isabel gave a long murmur, like a creature in pain; it was as if
he were pressing something that hurt her.
"The world's very
small," she said at random; she had an immense desire to
appear to resist. She said it at random, to hear herself say
something; but it was not what she meant. The world, in
truth, had never seemed so large; it seemed to open out, all
round her, to take the form of a mighty sea, where she floated in
fathomless waters. She had wanted help, and here was help; it had
come in a rushing torrent. I know not whether she believed
everything he said; but
she believed just then that to let him
take her in his arms would be the next best thing to her dying.
This belief, for a moment, was a kind of rapture, in which she
felt herself sink and sink. In the movement she seemed to beat
with her feet, in order to catch herself, to feel something to
rest on.

"Ah, be mine as I'm yours!" she heard her companion cry. He had
suddenly given up argument, and
his voice seemed to come, harsh
and terrible
, through a confusion of vaguer sounds.

This however, of course, was but a subjective fact, as the
metaphysicians say; the confusion, the noise of waters, all the
rest of it, were in her own swimming head. In an instant she
became aware of this. "Do me the greatest kindness of all," she
panted. "I beseech you to go away!"

Ah, don't say that. Don't kill me!" he cried.

She clasped her hands; her eyes were streaming with tears. "As
you love me, as you pity me, leave me alone!"

He glared at her a moment through the dusk, and
the next instant
she felt his arms about her and his lips on her own lips. His
kiss was like white lightning, a flash that spread, and spread
again, and stayed; and it was extraordinarily as if, while she
took it, she felt each thing in his hard manhood that had least
pleased her, each aggressive fact of his face, his figure, his
presence, justified of its intense identity and made one with
this act of possession. So had she heard of those wrecked and
under water following a train of images before they sink. But
when darkness returned she was free.
She never looked about her;
she only darted from the spot. There were lights in the windows
of the house; they shone far across the lawn. In an
extraordinarily short time--for the distance was considerable--
she had moved through the darkness (for she saw nothing) and
reached the door. Here only she paused. She looked all about her;
she listened a little; then she put her hand on the latch. She
had not known where to turn; but she knew now. There was a very
straight path.

Henrietta kept him waiting a moment for her reply; but there was
a good deal of expression about Miss Stackpole even when she was
. "Pray what led you to suppose she was here?"

"I went down to Gardencourt this morning, and the servant told me
she had come to London. He believed she was to come to you."

Again Miss Stackpole held him--with an intention of perfect
kindness--in suspense
. "She came here yesterday, and spent the
night. But this morning she started for Rome."

Caspar Goodwood was not looking at her; his eyes were fastened on
the doorstep. "Oh, she started--?" he stammered. And without
finishing his phrase or looking up he stiffly averted himself.
But he couldn't otherwise move

Henrietta had come out, closing the door behind her, and now she
put out her hand and grasped his arm. "Look here, Mr. Goodwood,"
she said; "just you wait!"

On which he looked up at her--but only to guess, from her face,
with a revulsion, that she simply meant he was young
She stood
shining at him with that cheap comfort, and it added, on the spot,
thirty years to his life. She walked him away with her, however,
as if she had given him now the key to patience.



Isabel Archer 

The novel's protagonist, the Lady of the title. Isabel is a young woman from Albany, New York, who travels to Europe with her aunt, Mrs. Touchett. Isabel's experiences in Europe—she is wooed by an English lord, inherits a fortune, and falls prey to a villainous scheme to marry her to the sinister Gilbert Osmond—force her to confront the conflict between her desire for personal independence and her commitment to social propriety. Isabel is the main focus of Portrait of a Lady, and most of the thematic exploration of the novel occurs through her actions, thoughts, and experiences.


Gilbert Osmond 

A cruel, narcissistic gentleman of no particular social standing or wealth, who seduces Isabel and marries her for her money. An art collector, Osmond poses as a disinterested aesthete, but in reality he is desperate for the recognition and admiration of those around him. He treats everyone who loves him as simply an object to be used to fulfill his desires. Isabel's marriage to Osmond forces her to confront the conflict between her desire for independence and the painful social proprieties that force her to remain in her marriage.


Madame Merle 

An accomplished, graceful, and manipulative woman, Madame Merle is a popular lady who does not have a husband or a fortune. Motivated by her love for Gilbert Osmond, Merle manipulates Isabel into marrying Osmond, delivering Isabel's fortune into his hands and ruining Isabel's life in the process.


Ralph Touchett 

Isabel's wise, funny cousin, who is ill with lung disease throughout the entire novel. Ralph loves life, but he is kept from participating in it vigorously by his ailment; as a result, he acts as a dedicated spectator, resolving to live vicariously through his beloved cousin Isabel. It is Ralph who convinces Mr. Touchett to leave Isabel her fortune, and it is Ralph who is the staunchest advocate of Isabel remaining independent. Ralph serves as the moral center of Portrait of a Lady.


Lord Warburton 

An aristocratic neighbor of the Touchetts who falls in love with Isabel during her first visit to Gardencourt. Warburton remains in love with Isabel even after she rejects his proposal and later tries to marry Pansy simply to bring himself closer to Isabel's life.


Casper Goodwood 

The son of a prominent Boston mill owner, Isabel's most dedicated suitor in America. Goodwood's charisma, simplicity, capability, and lack of sophistication make him the book's purest symbol of James's conception of America.


Henrietta Stackpole 

Isabel's fiercely independent friend, a feminist journalist who does not believe that women need men in order to be happy. Like Caspar, Henrietta is a symbol of America's democratic values throughout he book. After Isabel leaves for Europe, Henrietta fights a losing battle to keep her true to her American outlook, constantly encouraging her to marry Caspar Goodwood. At the end of the book, Henrietta disappoints Isabel by giving up her independence in order to marry Mr. Bantling


Mrs. Touchett 

Isabel's aunt. Mrs. Touchett is an indomitable, independent old woman who first brings Isabel to Europe. The wife of Mr. Touchett and the mother of Ralph, Mrs. Touchett is separated from her husband, residing in Florence while he stays at Gardencourt. After Isabel inherits her fortune and falls under the sway of Merle and Osmond, Mrs. Touchett's importance in her life gradually declines.


Pansy Osmond 

Gilbert Osmond's placid, submissive daughter, raised in a convent to guarantee her obedience and docility. When Isabel becomes Pansy's stepmother, she learns to love the girl..


Edward Rosier

A hapless American art collector who lives in Paris, Rosier falls in love with Pansy Osmond and does his best to win Osmond's permission to marry her. But though he sells his art collection and appeals to Madame Merle, Isabel, and the Countess Gemini, Rosier is unable to change Gilbert's mind that Pansy should marry a high-born, wealthy nobleman, not an obscure American with little money and no social standing to speak of..


Mr. Touchett 

An elderly American banker who has made his life and his vast fortune in England who is Ralph's father and the proprietor of Gardencourt. Before Mr. Touchett dies, Ralph convinces him to leave half his fortune to his niece Isabel, which will enable her to preserve her independence and avoid having to marry for money.


Mr. Bantling 

The game Englishman who acts as Henrietta's escort across Europe, eventually persuading her to marry him at the end of the novel.


Countess Gemini

Osmond's vapid sister, who covers up her own marital infidelities by gossipping constantly about the affairs of other married women. The Countess seems to have a good heart, however, opposing Merle's scheme to marry Osmond and Isabel.