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COPYRIGHT 2013 International Education Institute,
ATTN: Ken Harvey, 2027 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick
WA 99336, USA
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
by Henry James
certain circumstances there are few
hours in life more agreeable than the hour
dedicated to the ceremony known as
afternoon tea. There are circumstances in which,
whether you partake of the tea
or not- some people of course never do- the
situation is in itself delightful.
Those that I have in mind in beginning to unfold
this simple history offered an
admirable setting to an innocent pastime. The
implements of the little feast
had been disposed upon the lawn of an old
English country-house, in what I
should call the perfect middle of a splendid
summer afternoon. Part of the
afternoon had waned, but much of it was left,
and what was left was of the
finest and rarest quality. Real dusk would not
arrive for many hours; but the
flood of summer light had begun to ebb, the air
had grown mellow, the shadows
were long upon the smooth, dense turf. They
lengthened slowly, however, and the
scene expressed that sense of leisure still to
come which is perhaps the chief
source of one's enjoyment of such a scene at
such an hour. From five o'clock to
eight is on certain occasions a little eternity;
but on such an occasion as
this the interval could be only an eternity of
pleasure. The persons concerned
in it were taking their pleasure quietly, and
they were not of the sex which is
supposed to furnish the regular votaries of the
ceremony I have mentioned. The
shadows on the perfect lawn were straight and
angular; they were the shadows of
an old man sitting in a deep wicker-chair near
the low table on which the tea
had been served, and of two younger men
strolling to and fro, in desultory
talk, in front of him. The old man had his cup
in his hand; it was an unusually
large cup, of a different pattern from the rest
of the set and painted in
brilliant colours. He disposed of its contents
with much circumspection,
holding it for a long time close to his chin,
with his face turned to the
house. His companions had either finished their
tea or were indifferent to
their privilege; they smoked cigarettes as they
continued to stroll. One of
them, from time to time, as he passed, looked
with a certain attention at the
elder man, who, unconscious of observation,
rested his eyes upon the rich red
front of his dwelling. The house that rose
beyond the lawn was a structure to
repay such consideration and was the most
characteristic object in the
peculiarly English picture I have attempted to
upon a low hill, above the river-
the river being the Thames at some forty miles
from London. A long gabled front
of red brick, with the complexion of which time
and the weather had played all
sorts of pictorial tricks, only, however, to
improve and refine it, presented
to the lawn its patches of ivy, its clustered
chimneys, its windows smothered
in creepers. The house had a name and a history;
the old gentleman taking his
tea would have been delighted to tell you these
things: how it had been built
under Edward the Sixth, had offered a night's
hospitality to the great
Elizabeth (whose august person had extended
itself upon a huge, magnificent,
and terribly angular bed which still formed the
principal honour of the
sleeping apartments), had been a good deal
bruised and defaced in Cromwell's
wars, and then, under the Restoration, repaired
and much enlarged; and how,
finally, after having been remodelled and
disfigured in the eighteenth century,
it had passed into the careful keeping of a
shrewd American banker, who had
bought it originally because (owing to
circumstances too complicated to set
forth) it was offered at a great bargain: bought
it with much grumbling at its
ugliness, its antiquity, its incommodity, and
who now, at the end of twenty
years, had become conscious of a real aesthetic
passion for it, so that he knew
all its points and would tell you just where to
stand to see them in
combination and just the hour when the shadows
of its various protuberances-
which fell so softly upon the warm, weary
brickwork- were of the right measure.
Besides this, as I have said, he could have
counted off most of the successive
owners and occupants, several of whom were known
to general fame; doing so,
however, with an undemonstrative conviction that
the latest phase of its
destiny was not the least honourable. The front
of the house overlooking that
portion of the lawn with which we are concerned
was not the entrance-front;
this was in quite another quarter. Privacy here
reigned supreme, and the wide
carpet of turf that covered the level hill-top
seemed but the extension of a
luxurious interior. The great still oaks and
beeches flung down a shade as
dense as that of velvet curtains; and the place
was furnished, like a room,
with cushioned seats, with rich-coloured rugs,
with the books and papers that
lay upon the grass. The river was at some
distance; where the ground began to
slope, the lawn, properly speaking, ceased. But
it was none the less a charming
walk down to the water.
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. It was evidently a face in which the
range of representation was not
large, so that the air of contented shrewdness
was all the more of a merit. It
seemed to tell that he had been successful in
life, yet it seemed to tell also
that his success had not been exclusive and
invidious, but had had much of the
inoffensiveness of failure. He had certainly had
a great experience of men, but
there was an almost rustic simplicity in the
faint smile that played upon his
lean, spacious cheek and lighted up his humorous
eye as he at last slowly and
carefully deposited his big tea-cup upon the
table. He was neatly dressed, in
well-brushed black; but a shawl was folded upon
his knees, and his feet were
encased in thick, embroidered slippers. A
beautiful collie dog lay upon the
grass near his chair, watching the master's face
almost as tenderly as the
master took in the still more magisterial
physiognomy of the house; and a
little bristling, bustling terrier bestowed a
desultory attendance upon the
these was a remarkably well-made man
of five-and-thirty, with a face as English as
that of the old gentleman I have
just sketched was something else; a noticeably
handsome face, fresh-coloured,
fair and frank, with firm, straight features, a
lively grey eye and the rich
adornment of a chestnut beard. This person had a
certain fortunate, brilliant
exceptional look- the air of a happy temperament
fertilized by a high
civilization- which would have made almost any
observer envy him at a venture.
He was booted and spurred, as if he had
dismounted from a long ride; he wore a
white hat, which looked too large for him; he
held his two hands behind him,
and in one of them- a large, white, well-shaped
fist- was crumpled a pair of
soiled dog-skin gloves.
companion, measuring the length of the
lawn beside him, was a person of quite a
different pattern, who, although he
might have excited grave curiosity, would not,
like the other, have provoked
you to wish yourself, almost blindly, in his
place. Tall, lean, loosely and
feebly put together, he had an ugly, sickly,
witty, charming face, furnished,
but by no means decorated, with a straggling
moustache and whisker. He looked
clever and ill- a combination by no means
felicitous; and he wore a brown
velvet jacket. He carried his hands in his
pockets, and there was something in
the way he did it that showed the habit was
inveterate. His gait had a
shambling, wandering quality; he was not very
firm on his legs. As I have said,
whenever he passed the old man in the chair he
rested his eyes upon him; and at
this moment, with their faces brought into
relation, you would easily have seen
they were father and son. The father caught his
son's eye at last and gave him
a mild, responsive smile.
getting on very well," he
drunk your tea?" asked
give you some more?"
man considered, placidly.
"Well, I guess I'll wait and see." He had, in
speaking, the American
cold?" the son enquired.
father slowly rubbed his legs.
"Well, I don't know. I can't tell till I feel."
some one might feel for
you," said the younger man, laughing.
hope some one will always feel
for me! Don't you feel for me, Lord Warburton?"
immensely," said the
gentleman addressed as Lord Warburton, promptly.
"I'm bound to say you
look wonderfully comfortable."
suppose I am, in most
respects." And the old man looked down at his
green shawl and smoothed it
over his knees. "The fact is I've been
comfortable so many years that I
suppose I've got so used to it I don't know it."
that's the bore of
comfort," said Lord Warburton. "We only know
strikes me we're rather
particular," his companion remarked.
there's no doubt we're
particular," Lord Warburton murmured. And then
the three men remained
silent a while; the two younger ones standing
looking down at the other, who
presently asked for more tea. "I should think
you would be very unhappy
with that shawl," Lord Warburton resumed while
his companion filled the
old man's cup again.
he must have the shawl!"
cried the gentleman in the velvet coat. "Don't
put such ideas as that into
belongs to my wife," said the
old man simply.
it's for sentimental
reasons-" And Lord Warburton made a gesture of
suppose I must give it to her when
she comes," the old man went on.
please to do nothing of the
kind. You'll keep it to cover your poor old
you mustn't abuse my
legs," said the old man. "I guess they are as
good as yours."
you're perfectly free to abuse
mine," his son replied, giving him his tea.
we're two lame ducks; I don't
think there's much difference."
obliged to you for calling
me a duck. How's your tea?"
it's rather hot."
intended to be a merit."
there's a great deal of
merit," murmured the old man, kindly. "He's a
very good nurse, Lord
a bit clumsy?" asked
he's not clumsy- considering
that he's an invalid himself. He's a very good
nurse- for a sick-nurse. I call
him my sick-nurse because he's sick himself."
come, daddy!" the ugly young
you are; I wish you weren't.
But I suppose you can't help it."
try: that's an idea,"
said the young man.
ever sick, Lord
Warburton?" his father asked.
Warburton considered a moment.
"Yes, sir, once, in the Persian Gulf."
making light of you, daddy," said
the other young man. "That's a sort of joke."
there seem to be so many sorts
now," daddy replied, serenely. "You don't look
as if you had been
sick, any way, Lord Warburton."
sick of life; he was just
telling me so; going on fearfully about it,"
said Lord Warburton's friend.
true, sir?" asked the
old man gravely.
is, your son gave me no
consolation. He's a wretched fellow to talk to-
a regular cynic. He doesn't seem
to believe in anything."
another sort of joke,"
said the person accused of cynicism.
because his health is so
poor," his father explained to Lord Warburton.
"It affects his mind
and colours his way of looking at things; he
seems to feel as if he had never
had a chance. But it's almost entirely
theoretical, you know; it doesn't seem
to affect his spirits. I've hardly ever seen him
when he wasn't cheerful- about
as he is at present. He often cheers me up."
man so described looked at Lord
Warburton and laughed. "Is it a glowing eulogy
or an accusation of levity?
Should you like me to carry out my theories,
we should see some queer
things!" cried Lord Warburton.
you haven't taken up that sort
of tone," said the old man.
tone is worse than mine;
he pretends to be bored. I'm not in the least
bored; I find life only too
interesting; you shouldn't
allow it to be that, you know!"
never bored when I come
here," said Lord Warburton. "One gets such
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."
have developed very
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."
say," cried Lord
Warburton, "you're hardly the person to accuse a
fellow-creature of being
mean because I'm a
banker?" asked the old man.
of that, if you like; and
because you have- haven't you?- such unlimited
very rich," the other
young man mercifully pleaded. "He has given away
an immense deal of
suppose it was his own,"
said Lord Warburton; "and in that case could
there be a better proof of
wealth? Let not a public benefactor talk of
one's being too fond of
very fond of pleasure- of
man shook his head. "I don't
pretend to have contributed anything to the
amusement of my
father, you're too
kind of joke, sir,"
said Lord Warburton.
young men have too many jokes.
When there are no jokes you've nothing left."
there are always more
jokes," the ugly young man remarked.
believe it- I believe things
are getting more serious. You young men will
find that out."
increasing seriousness of things,
then- that's the great opportunity of jokes."
have to be grim jokes,"
said the old man. "I'm convinced there will be
great changes; and not all
for the better."
agree with you, sir,"
Lord Warburton declared. "I'm very sure there
will be great changes, and
that all sorts of queer things will happen.
That's why I find so much
difficulty in applying your advice; you know you
told me the other day that I
ought to 'take hold' of something. One hesitates
to take hold of a thing that
may the next moment be knocked sky-high."
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.
pretty women themselves may be
sent flying!" Lord Warburton exclaimed.
they'll be firm," the
old man rejoined; "they'll not be affected by
the social and political
changes I just referred to."
they won't be abolished?
Very well, then, I'll lay my hands on one as
soon as possible and tie her round
my neck as a life-preserver."
ladies will save us," said
the old man; "that is the best of them will- for
I make a difference
between them. Make up to a good one and marry
her, and your life will become
much more interesting."
momentary silence marked perhaps on the
part of his auditors a sense of the magnanimity
of this speech, for it was a
secret neither for his son nor for his visitor
that his own experiment in
matrimony had not been a happy one. As he said,
however, he made a difference;
and these words may have been intended as a
confession of personal error;
though of course it was not in place for either
of his companions to remark
that apparently the lady of his choice had not
been one of the best.
marry an interesting woman I
shall be interested: is that what you say?" Lord
"I'm not at all keen about marrying- your son
misrepresented me; but
there's no knowing what an interesting woman
might do with me."
like to see your idea of an
interesting woman," said his friend.
fellow, you can't see ideas-
especially such highly ethereal ones as mine. If
I could only see myself- that
would be a great step in advance."
you may fall in love with
whomsoever you please; but you mustn't fall in
love with my niece," said
the old man.
broke into a laugh. "He'll
think you mean that as a provocation! My dear
father, you've lived with the
English for thirty years, and you've picked up a
good many of the things they
say. But you've never learned the things they
what I please," the old
man returned with all his serenity.
haven't the honour of knowing your
niece," Lord Warburton said. "I think it's the
first time I've heard
niece of my wife's; Mrs.
Touchett brings her to England."
young Mr. Touchett explained. "My
mother, you know, has been spending the winter
in America, and we're expecting
her back. She writes that she has discovered a
niece and that she has invited
her to come out with her."
very kind of her," said
Lord Warburton. "Is the young lady interesting?"
hardly know more about her than
you; my mother has not gone into details. She
chiefly communicates with us by
means of telegrams, and her telegrams are rather
inscrutable. They say women
don't know how to write them, but my mother has
thoroughly mastered the art of
condensation. 'Tired America, hot weather awful,
return England with niece,
first steamer decent cabin.' That's the sort of
message we get from her- that
was the last that came. But there had been
another before, which I think
contained the first mention of the niece.
'Changed hotel, very bad, impudent
clerk, address here. Taken sister's girl, died
last year, go to Europe, two
sisters, quite independent.' Over that my father
and I have scarcely stopped
puzzling; it seems to admit of so many
one thing very clear in it,"
said the old man; "she has given the hotel-clerk
sure even of that, since he
has driven her from the field. We thought at
first that the sister mentioned
might be the sister of the clerk; but the
subsequent mention of a niece seems
to prove that the allusion is to one of my
aunts. There there was a question as
to whose the two other sisters were; they are
probably two of my late aunt's
daughters. But who's 'quite independent,' and in
what sense is the term used?-
that point's not yet settled. Does the
expression apply more particularly to
the young lady my mother has adopted, or does it
characterize her sisters
equally?- and is it used in a moral or in a
financial sense? Does it mean that
they've been left well off, or that they wish to
be under no obligations? or
does it simply mean that they're fond of their
else it means, it's pretty
sure to mean that," Mr. Touchett remarked.
see for yourself," said
Lord Warburton. "When does Mrs. Touchett
quite in the dark; as soon as
she can find a decent cabin. She may be waiting
for it yet; on the other hand
she may already have disembarked in England."
case she would probably have
telegraphed to you."
never telegraphs when you would
expect it- only when you don't," said the old
man. "She likes to drop
in on me suddenly; she thinks she'll find me
doing something wrong. She has
never done so yet, but she's not discouraged."
share in the family trait,
the independence she speaks of." Her son's
appreciation of the matter was
more favourable. "Whatever the high spirit of
those young ladies may be,
her own is a match for it. She likes to do
everything for herself and has no
belief in any one's power to help her. She
thinks me of no more use than a
postage-stamp without gum, and she would never
forgive me if I should presume
to go to Liverpool to meet her."
at least let me know when
your cousin arrives?" Lord Warburton asked.
the condition I've mentioned-
that you don't fall in love with her!" Mr.
strikes me as hard. Don't you
think me good enough?"
you too good- because I
shouldn't like her to marry you. She hasn't come
here to look for a husband, I
hope; so many young ladies are doing that, as if
there were no good ones at
home. Then she's probably engaged; American
girls are usually engaged, I
believe. Moreover I'm not sure, after all, that
you'd be a remarkable
likely she's engaged; I've known
a good many American girls, and they always
were; but I could never see that it
made any difference, upon my word! As for my
being a good husband," Mr.
Touchett's visitor pursued, "I'm not sure of
that either. One can but
much as you please, but don't
try on my niece," smiled the old man, whose
opposition to the idea was
well," said Lord Warburton
with a humour broader still, "perhaps after all,
she's not worth trying
this exchange of pleasantries took
place between the two Ralph Touchett wandered
away a little, with his usual
slouching gait, his hands in his pockets and his
little rowdyish terrier at his
heels. His face was turned toward the house, but
his eyes were bent musingly on
the lawn; so that he had been an object of
observation to a person who had just
made her appearance in the ample doorway for
some moments before he perceived
her. His attention was called to her by the
conduct of his dog, who had
suddenly darted forward with a little volley of
shrill barks, in which the note
of welcome, however, was more sensible than that
of defiance. The person in
question was a young lady, who seemed
immediately to interpret the greeting of
the small beast. He advanced with great rapidity
and stood at her feet, looking
up and barking hard; whereupon, without
hesitation, she stooped and caught him
in her hands, holding him face to face while he
continued his quick chatter.
His master now had had time to follow and to see
that Bunchie's new friend was
a tall girl in a black dress, who at first sight
looked pretty. She was
bareheaded, as if she were staying in the house-
a fact which conveyed
perplexity to the son of its master, conscious
of that immunity from visitors
which had for some time been rendered necessary
by the latter's ill-health.
Meantime the two other gentlemen had also taken
note of the new-comer.
who's that strange
woman?" Mr. Touchett had asked.
it's Mrs. Touchett's niece-
the independent young lady," Lord Warburton
suggested. "I think she
must be, from the way she handles the dog."
collie, too, had now allowed his
attention to be diverted, and he trotted toward
the young lady in the doorway,
slowly setting his tail in motion as he went.
where's my wife then?"
murmured the old man.
suppose the young lady has left her
somewhere: that's a part of the independence."
spoke to Ralph, smiling, while she
still held up the terrier. "Is this your little
mine a moment ago; but you've
suddenly acquired a remarkable air of property
we share him?" asked
the girl. "He's such a perfect little darling."
looked at her a moment; she was
unexpectedly pretty. "You may have him
altogether," he then replied.
lady seemed to have a great deal
of confidence, both in herself and in others;
but this abrupt generosity made
her blush. "I ought to tell you that I'm
probably your cousin," she
brought out, putting down the dog. "And here's
another!" she added
quickly, as the collie came up.
the young man
exclaimed, laughing. "I supposed it was quite
settled! Have you arrived
with my mother?
half an hour ago."
she deposited you and
went straight to her room,
and she told me that, if I should see you, I was
to say to you that you must
come to her there at a quarter to seven."
man looked at his watch.
"Thank you very much; I shall be punctual." And
then he looked at his
cousin. "You're very welcome here. I'm delighted
to see you."
looking at everything, with an eye
that denoted clear perception- at her companion,
at the two dogs, at the two
gentlemen under the trees, at the beautiful
scene that surrounded her.
"I've never seen anything so lovely as this
place. I've been all over the
house; it's too enchanting."
sorry you should have been
here so long without our knowing it."
mother told me that in England
people arrived very quietly; so I thought it was
all right. Is one of those
gentlemen your father?"
elder one- the one sitting
down," said Ralph.
gave a laugh. "I don't
suppose it's the other. Who's the other?"
friend of ours- Lord
hoped there would be a lord;
it's just like a novel!" And then, "Oh you
she suddenly cried, stooping down and picking up
the small dog again.
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
you come and make acquaintance
with my father?" he nevertheless ventured to
ask. "He's old and
infirm- he doesn't leave his chair."
man, I'm very sorry!"
the girl exclaimed, immediately moving forward.
"I got the impression from
your mother that he was rather- rather intensely
Touchett was silent a moment.
"She hasn't seen him for a year."
has a lovely place to sit.
Come along, little hound."
dear old place," said the
young man, looking sidewise at his neighbour.
his name?" she asked, her
attention having again reverted to the terrier.
said the young lady with
amusement; "but don't tell him I asked you.
come by this time to where old Mr.
Touchett was sitting, and he slowly got up from
his chair to introduce himself.
mother has arrived," said
Ralph, "and this is Miss Archer."
man placed his two hands on her
shoulders, looked at her a moment with extreme
benevolence and then gallantly
kissed her. "It's a great pleasure to me to see
you here; but I wish you
had given us a chance to receive you."
were received," said the
girl. "There were about a dozen servants in the
hall. And there was an old
woman curtseying at the gate."
do better than that- if we
have notice!" And the old man stood there
smiling, rubbing his hands and
slowly shaking his head at her. "But Mrs.
Touchett doesn't like
straight to her room."
locked herself in. She
always does that. Well, I suppose I shall see
her next week." And Mrs.
Touchett's husband slowly resumed his former
that," said Miss Archer.
"She's coming down to dinner- at eight o'clock.
Don't you forget a quarter
to seven," she added, turning with a smile to
to happen at a quarter to
see my mother," said
happy boy!" the old man
commented. "You must sit down- you must have
some tea," he observed
to his wife's niece.
gave me some tea in my room the
moment I got there," this young lady answered.
"I'm sorry you're out
of health," she added, resting her eyes upon her
an old man, my dear; it's
time for me to be old. But I shall be the better
for having you here."
been looking all round her again-
at the lawn, the great trees, the reedy, silvery
Thames, the beautiful old
house; and while engaged in this survey she had
made room in it for her
companions; a comprehensiveness of observation
easily conceivable on the part
of a young woman who was evidently both
intelligent and excited. She had seated
herself and had put away the little dog; her
white hands, in her lap, were
folded upon her black dress; her head was erect,
her eye lighted, her flexible
figure turned itself easily this way and that,
in sympathy with the alertness
with which she evidently caught impressions. Her
impressions were numerous, and
they were all reflected in a clear, still smile.
"I've never seen anything
so beautiful as this."
looking very well," said
Mr. Touchett. "I know the way it strikes you.
I've been through all that.
But you're very beautiful yourself," he added
with a politeness by no
means crudely jocular and with the happy
consciousness that his advanced age
gave him the privilege of saying such things-
even to young persons who might
possibly take alarm at them.
degree of alarm this young person took
need not be exactly measured; she instantly
rose, however, with a blush which
was not a refutation. "Oh yes, of course I'm
lovely!" she returned
with a quick laugh. "How old is your house? Is
early Tudor," said Ralph
turned toward him, watching his face.
"Early Tudor? How very delightful! And I suppose
there are a great many
are many much better ones."
say that, my son!" the old
man protested. "There's nothing better than
a very good one; I think in
some respects it's rather better," said Lord
Warburton, who as yet had not
spoken, but who had kept an attentive eye upon
Miss Archer. He slightly
inclined himself, smiling; he had an excellent
manner with women. The girl
appreciated it in an instant; she had not
forgotten that this was Lord
Warburton. "I should like very much to show it
to you," he added.
believe him," cried the
old man; "don't look at it! It's a wretched old
barrack- not to be
compared with this."
know- I can't judge,"
said the girl, smiling at Lord Warburton.
discussion Ralph Touchett took no
interest whatever; he stood with his hands in
his pockets, looking greatly as
if he should like to renew his conversation with
his new-found cousin.
"Are you very fond of dogs?" he enquired by way
of beginning. He
seemed to recognize that it was an awkward
beginning for a clever man.
fond of them indeed."
keep the terrier, you
know," he went on, still awkwardly.
keep him while I'm here, with
will be for a long time, I
very kind. I hardly know. My
aunt must settle that."
settle it with her- at a quarter
to seven." And Ralph looked at his watch again.
to be here at all,"
said the girl.
believe you allow things to
be settled for you."
if they're settled as I like
settle this as I like
it," said Ralph. "It's most unaccountable that
we should never have
there- you had only to come and
Where do you mean?"
United States: in New York and
Albany and other American places."
been there- all over, but I
never saw you. I can't make it out."
Archer just hesitated. "It was
because there had been some disagreement between
your mother and my father,
after my mother's death, which took place when I
was a child. In consequence of
it we never expected to see you."
I don't embrace all my
mother's quarrels- heaven forbid!" the young man
lately lost your father?" he went on more
more than a year ago. After that
my aunt was very kind to me; she came to see me
and proposed that I should come
with her to Europe."
said Ralph. "She
has adopted you."
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.
meant she has taken me up. Yes;
she likes to take people up. She has been very
kind to me; but," she added
with a certain visible eagerness of desire to be
explicit, "I'm very fond
of my liberty."
talking about Mrs.
Touchett?" the old man called out from his
chair. "Come here, my
dear, and tell me about her. I'm always thankful
hesitated again, smiling.
"She's really very benevolent," she answered;
after which she went
over to her uncle, whose mirth was excited by
Warburton was left standing with Ralph
Touchett, to whom in a moment he said: "You
wished a while ago to see my
idea of an interesting woman. There it is!"
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 motives. She was usually prepared to
explain these- when the
explanation was asked as a favour; and in such a
case they proved totally
different from those that had been attributed to
her. She was virtually
separated from her husband, but she appeared to
perceive nothing irregular in
the situation. It had become clear, at an early
stage of their community, that
they should never desire the same thing at the
same moment, and this appearance
had prompted her to rescue disagreement from the
vulgar realm of accident. She
did what she could to erect it into a law- a
much more edifying aspect of it-
by going to live in Florence, where she bought a
house and established herself;
and by leaving her husband to take care of the
English branch of his bank. This
arrangement greatly pleased her; it was so
felicitously definite. It struck her
husband in the same light, in a foggy square in
London, where it was at times
the most definite fact he discerned; but he
would have preferred that such
unnatural things should have a greater
vagueness. To agree to disagree had cost
him an effort; he was ready to agree to almost
anything but that, and saw no
reason why either assent or dissent should be so
terribly consistent. Mrs.
Touchett indulged in no regrets nor
speculations, and usually came once a year
to spend a month with her husband, a period
during which she apparently took
pains to convince him that she had adopted the
right system. She was not fond
of the English style of life, and had three or
four reasons for it to which she
currently alluded; they bore upon minor points
of that ancient order, but for
Mrs. Touchett they amply justified
non-residence. She detested bread-sauce,
which, as she said, looked like a poultice and
tasted like soap; she objected
to the consumption of beer by her maid-servants;
and she affirmed that the
British laundress (Mrs. Touchett was very
particular about the appearance of
her linen) was not a mistress of her art. At
fixed intervals she paid a visit
to her own country; but this last had been
longer than any of its predecessors.
taken up her niece- there was
little doubt of that. One wet afternoon, some
four months earlier than the
occurrence lately narrated, this young lady had
been seated alone with a book.
To say she was so occupied is to say that her
solitude did not press upon her;
for her love of knowledge had a fertilizing
quality and her imagination was
strong. There was at this time, however, a want
of fresh taste in her situation
which the arrival of an unexpected visitor did
much to correct. The visitor had
not been announced; the girl heard her at last
walking about the adjoining
room. It was in an old house at Albany, a large,
square, double house, with a
notice of sale in the windows of one of the
lower apartments. There were two
entrances, one of which had long been out of use
but had never been removed.
They were exactly alike- large white doors, with
an arched frame and wide
side-lights, perched upon little "stoops" of red
descended sidewise to the brick pavement of the
street. The two houses together
formed a single dwelling, the party-wall having
been removed and the rooms
placed in communication. These rooms,
above-stairs, were extremely numerous,
and were painted all over exactly alike, in a
yellowish white which had grown
sallow with time. On the third floor there was a
sort of arched passage,
connecting the two sides of the house, which
Isabel and her sisters used in
their childhood to call the tunnel and which,
though it was short and
well-lighted, always seemed to the girl to be
strange and lonely, especially on
winter afternoons. She had been in the house, at
different periods, as a child;
in those days her grandmother lived there. Then
there had been an absence of
ten years, followed by a return to Albany before
her father's death. Her
grandmother, old Mrs. Archer, had exercised,
chiefly within the limits of the
family, a large hospitality in the early period,
and the little girls often
spent weeks under her roof- weeks of which
Isabel had the happiest memory. The
manner of life was different from that of her
own home- larger, more plentiful,
practically more festal; the discipline of the
nursery was delightfully vague
and the opportunity of listening to the
conversation of one's elders (which
with Isabel was a highly-valued pleasure) almost
unbounded. There was a
constant coming and going; her grandmother's
sons and daughters and their
children appeared to be in the enjoyment of
standing invitations to arrive and
remain, so that the house offered to a certain
extent the appearance of a
bustling provincial inn kept by a gentle old
landlady who sighed a great deal
and never presented a bill.
course knew nothing about bills;
but even as a child she thought her
grandmother's home romantic. There was a
covered piazza behind it, furnished with a swing
which was a source of
tremulous interest; and beyond this was a long
garden, sloping down to the
stable and containing peach-trees of barely
credible familiarity. Isabel had
stayed with her grandmother at various seasons,
but somehow all her visits had
a flavour of peaches. On the other side, across
the street, was an old house that
was called the Dutch House- a peculiar structure
dating from the earliest
colonial time, composed of bricks that had been
painted yellow, crowned with a
gable that was pointed out to strangers,
defended by a rickety wooden paling
and standing sidewise to the street. It was
occupied by a primary school for
children of both sexes, kept or rather let go,
by a demonstrative lady of whom
Isabel's chief recollection was that her hair
was fastened with strange
bedroomy combs at the temples and that she was
the widow of some one of
consequence. The little girl had been offered
the opportunity of laying a
foundation of knowledge in this establishment;
but having spent a single day in
it, she had protested against its laws and had
been allowed to stay at home, where,
in the September days, when the windows of the
Dutch House were open, she used
to hear the hum of childish voices repeating the
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. The place owed much of its mysterious
melancholy to the fact that it
was properly entered from the second door of the
house, the door that had been
condemned, and that it was secured by bolts
which a particularly slender little
girl found it impossible to slide. She knew that
this silent, motionless portal
opened into the street; if the sidelights had
not been filled with green paper
she might have looked out upon the little brown
stoop and the well-worn brick
pavement. But she had no wish to look out, for
this would have interfered with
her theory that there was a strange, unseen
place on the other side- a place
which became to the child's imagination,
according to its different moods, a
region of delight of terror.
It was in
the "office" still that
Isabel was sitting on that melancholy afternoon
of early spring which I have
just mentioned. At this time she might have had
the whole house to choose from,
and the room she had selected was the most
depressed of its scenes. She had
never opened the bolted door nor removed the
green paper (renewed by other
hands) from its sidelights; she had never
assured herself that the vulgar
street lay beyond. A crude, cold rain fell
heavily; the spring-time was indeed
an appeal- and it seemed a cynical, insincere
appeal- to patience. Isabel,
however, gave as little heed as possible to
cosmic treacheries; she kept her
eyes on her book and tried to fix her mind. It
had lately occurred to her that
her mind was a good deal of a vagabond, and she
had spent much ingenuity in
training it to a military step and teaching it
to advance, to halt, to retreat,
to perform even more complicated manoeuvres, at
the word of command. Just now
she had given it marching orders and it had been
trudging over the sandy plains
of a history of German Thought. Suddenly she
became aware of a step very
different from her own intellectual pace; she
listened a little and perceived
that some one was moving in the library, which
communicated with the office. It
struck her first as the step of a person from
whom she was looking for a visit,
then almost immediately announced itself as the
tread of a woman and a
stranger- her possible visitor being neither. It
had an inquisitive,
experimental quality which suggested that it
would not stop short of the
threshold of the office; and in fact the doorway
of this apartment was
presently occupied by a lady who paused there
and looked very hard at our
heroine. She was a plain, elderly woman, dressed
in a comprehensive waterproof mantle;
she had a face with a good deal of rather
began, "is that
where you usually sit?" She looked about at the
heterogeneous chairs and
I have visitors," said
Isabel, getting up to receive the intruder.
directed their course back to the
library while the visitor continued to look
about her. "You seem to have
plenty of other rooms; they're in rather better
condition. But everything's
come to look at the
house?" Isabel asked. "The servant will show it
away; I don't want to buy
it. She has probably gone to look for you and is
wandering about upstairs; she
didn't seem at all intelligent. You had better
tell her it's no matter."
And then, since the girl stood there hesitating
and wondering, this unexpected
critic said to her abruptly: "I suppose you're
one of the daughters?"
thought she had very strange
manners. "It depends upon whose daughters you
Mr. Archer's- and my poor
said Isabel slowly,
"you must be our crazy Aunt Lydia!"
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?"
youngest of the three, and my
others are Lilian and Edith.
And are you the prettiest?"
haven't the least idea," said
you must be." And in
this way the aunt and the niece made friends.
The aunt had quarrelled years
before with her brother-in-law, after the death
of her sister, taking him to
task for the manner in which he brought up his
three girls. Being a
high-tempered man he had requested her to mind
her own business, and she had
taken him at his word. For many years she held
no communication with him and
after his death had addressed not a word to his
daughters, who had been bred in
that disrespectful view of her which we have
just seen Isabel betray. Mrs.
Touchett's behaviour was, as usual, perfectly
deliberate. She intended to go to
America to look after her investments (with
which her husband, in spite of his
great financial position, had nothing to do) and
would take advantage of this
opportunity to enquire into the condition of her
nieces. There was no need of
writing, for she should attach no importance to
any account of them she should
elicit by letter; she believed, always, in
seeing for one's self. Isabel found,
however, that she knew a good deal about them,
and knew about the marriage of
the two elder girls; knew that their poor father
had left very little money,
but that the house in Albany, which had passed
into his hands, was to be sold
for their benefit; knew, finally, that Edmund
Ludlow, Lilian's husband, had
taken upon himself to attend to this matter, in
consideration of which the
young couple, who had come to Albany during Mr.
Archer's illness, were
remaining there for the present and, as well as
Isabel herself, occupying the
money do you expect for
it?" Mrs. Touchett asked of her companion, who
had brought her to sit in
the front parlour, which she had inspected
haven't the least idea," said
the second time you have said
that to me," her aunt rejoined. "And yet you
don't look at all
stupid; but I don't know
anything about money."
that's the way you were brought
up- as if you were to inherit a million. What
have you in point of fact
can't tell you. You must ask
Edmund and Lilian; they'll be back in half an
Florence we should call it a very
bad house," said Mrs. Touchett; "but here, I
dare say, it will bring
a high price. It ought to make a considerable
sum for each of you. In addition
to that you must have something else; it's most
extraordinary your not knowing.
The position's of value, and they'll probably
pull it down and make a row of
shops. I wonder you don't do that yourself; you
might let the shops to great
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."
see what makes you fond of
it; your father died here."
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."
what you call being full of
full of experience- of
people's feelings and sorrows. And not of their
sorrows only, for I've been
very happy here as a child."
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."
old palace?" Isabel
dear; a very different affair
from this. This is very bourgeois."
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."
you'll be very good, and do
everything I tell you I'll take you there," Mrs.
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."
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."
to go to Florence," the
girl exclaimed in a moment, "I'd promise almost
and Lilian were slow to return, and
Mrs. Touchett had an hour's uninterrupted talk
with her niece, who found her a
strange and interesting figure: a figure
essentially- almost the first she had
ever met. She was as eccentric as Isabel had
always supposed; and hitherto, whenever
the girl had heard people described as
eccentric, she had thought of them as
offensive or alarming. The term had always
suggested to her something grotesque
and even sinister. But her aunt made it a matter
of high but easy irony, or
comedy, and led her to ask herself if the common
tone, which was all she had
known, had ever been as interesting. No one
certainly had on any occasion so
held her as this little thin-lipped,
bright-eyed, foreign-looking woman, who
retrieved an insignificant appearance by a
distinguished manner and, sitting
there in a well-worn waterproof, talked with
striking familiarity of the courts
of Europe. There was nothing flighty about Mrs.
Touchett, but she recognized no
social superiors, and, judging the great ones of
the earth in a way that spoke
of this, enjoyed the consciousness of making an
impression on a candid and
susceptible mind. Isabel at first had answered a
good many questions, and it
was from her answers apparently that Mrs.
Touchett derived a high opinion of
her intelligence. But after this she had asked a
good many, and her aunt's
answers, whatever turn they took, struck her as
food for deep reflexion. Mrs.
Touchett waited for the return of her other
niece as long as she thought
reasonable, but as at six o'clock Mrs. Ludlow
bad not come in she prepared to
take her departure.
sister must be a great gossip.
Is she accustomed to staying out so many hours?"
been out almost as long as
she," Isabel replied; "she can have left the
house but a short time
before you came in."
Touchett looked at the girl without
resentment; she appeared to enjoy a bold retort
and to be disposed to be
gracious. "Perhaps she hasn't had so good an
excuse as I. Tell her at any
rate that she must come and see me this evening
at that horrid hotel. She may
bring her husband if she likes, but she needn't
bring you. I shall see plenty
of you later."
Ludlow was the eldest of the three
sisters, and was usually thought the most
sensible; the classification being in
general that Lilian was the practical one, Edith
the beauty and Isabel the
"intellectual" superior. Mrs. Keyes, the second
of the group, was the
wife of an officer of the United States
Engineers, and as our history is not
further concerned with her it will suffice that
she was indeed very pretty and
that she formed the ornament of those various
military stations, chiefly in the
unfashionable West, to which, to her deep
chagrin, her husband was successively
relegated. Lilian had married a New York lawyer,
a young man with a loud voice
and an enthusiasm for his profession; the match
was not brilliant, any more
than Edith's, but Lilian had occasionally been
spoken of as a young woman who
might be thankful to marry at all- she was so
much plainer than her sisters. She
was, however, very happy, and now, as the mother
of two peremptory little boys
and the mistress of a wedge of brown stone
violently driven into Fifty-third
Street, seemed to exult in her condition as in a
bold escape. She was short and
solid, and her claim to figure was questioned,
but she was 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.
must say I should have no
particular desire to marry her," Edmund Ludlow
was accustomed to answer in
an extremely audible tone.
you say that for argument; you
always take the opposite ground. I don't see
what you've against her except
that she's so original."
don't like originals; I like
translations," Mr. Ludlow had more than once
written in a foreign tongue. I can't make her
out. She ought to marry an
Armenian or a Portuguese."
just what I'm afraid she'll
do!" cried Lilian, who thought Isabel capable of
listened with great interest to the
girl's account of Mrs. Touchett's appearance and
in the evening prepared to
comply with their aunt's commands. Of what
Isabel then said no report has
remained, but her sister's words had doubtless
prompted a word spoken to her
husband as the two were making ready for their
visit. "I do hope immensely
she'll do something handsome for Isabel; she has
evidently taken a great fancy
it you wish her to do?"
Edmund Ludlow asked. "Make her a big present?"
indeed; nothing of the sort. But
take an interest in her- sympathize with her.
She's evidently just the sort of
person to appreciate her. She has lived so much
in foreign society; she told
Isabel all about it. You know you've always
thought Isabel rather
her to give her a little
foreign sympathy, eh? Don't you think she gets
enough at home?"
she ought to go abroad,"
said Mrs. Ludlow. "She's just the person to go
want the old lady to take
her, is that it?"
offered to take her- she's
dying to have Isabel go. But what I want her to
do when she gets her there is
to give her all the advantages. I'm sure all
we've got to do," said Mrs.
Ludlow, "is to give her a chance."
Moses!" Edmund Ludlow
exclaimed. "I hope she isn't going to develop
were not sure you only said that
for argument I should feel very badly," his wife
replied. "But you
know you love her."
know I love you?" the
young man said, jocosely, to Isabel a little
later, while he brushed his hat.
I don't care whether you do
or not!" exclaimed the girl; whose voice and
smile, however, were less
haughty than her words.
feels so grand since Mrs.
Touchett's visit," said her sister.
Isabel challenged this assertion with a
good deal of seriousness. "You must not say
that, Lily. I don't feel grand
there's no harm," said
the conciliatory Lily.
there's nothing in Mrs.
Touchett's visit to make one feel grand."
"she's grander than ever!"
I feel grand," said the
girl, "it will be for a better reason."
she felt grand or no, she at any
rate felt different, felt as if something had
happened to her. Left to herself
for the evening she sat a while under the lamp,
her hands empty, her usual
avocations unheeded. Then she rose and moved
about the room, and from one room
to another, preferring the places where the
vague lamplight expired. She was
restless and even agitated; at moments she
trembled a little. The importance of
what had happened was out of proportion to its
appearance; there had really
been a change in her life. What it would bring
with it was as yet extremely
indefinite; but Isabel was in a situation that
gave a value to any change. She
had a desire to leave the past behind her and,
as she said to herself, to begin
afresh. This desire indeed was not a birth of
the present occasion; it was as
familiar as the sound of the rain upon the
window and it had led to her
beginning afresh a great many times. She closed
her eyes as she sat in one of
the dusky corners of the quiet parlour; but it
was not with a desire for dozing
forgetfulness. It was on the contrary because
she felt too wide-eyed and wished
to check the sense of seeing too many things at
once. Her imagination was by
habit ridiculously active; when the door was not
open it jumped out of the
window. She was not accustomed indeed to keep it
behind bolts; and at important
moments, when she would have been thankful to
make use of her judgement alone,
she paid the penalty of having given undue
encouragement to the faculty of
seeing without judging. At present, with her
sense that the note of change had
been struck, came gradually a host of images of
the things she was leaving
behind her. The years and hours of her life came
back to her, and for a long
time, in a stillness broken only by the ticking
of the big bronze clock, she
passed them in review. It had been a very happy
life and she had been a very
fortunate person- this was the truth that seemed
to emerge most vividly. She
had had the best of everything, and in a world
in which the circumstances of so
many people made them unenviable it was an
advantage never to have known
anything particularly unpleasant. It appeared to
Isabel that the unpleasant had
been even too absent from her knowledge, for she
had gathered from her
acquaintance with literature that it was often a
source of interest and even of
instruction. Her father had kept it away from
her- her handsome, much-loved
father, who always had such an aversion to it.
It was a great felicity to have
been his daughter; Isabel rose even to pride in
her parentage. Since his death
she had seemed to see him as turning his braver
side to his children and as not
having managed to ignore the ugly quite so much
in practice as in aspiration.
But this only made her tenderness for him
greater; it was scarcely even painful
to have to suppose him too generous, too
good-natured, too indifferent to
sordid considerations. Many persons had held
that he carried this indifference
too far, especially the large number of those to
whom he owed money. Of their
opinions Isabel was never very definitely
informed; but it may interest the
reader to know that, while they had recognized
in the late Mr. Archer a
remarkably handsome head and a very taking
manner (indeed, as one of them had
said, he was always taking something), they had
declared that he was making a
very poor use of his life. He had squandered a
substantial fortune, he had been
deplorably convivial, he was known to have
gambled freely. A few very harsh
critics went so far as to say that he had not
even brought up his daughters.
They had had no regular education and no
permanent home; they had been at once
spoiled and neglected; they had lived with
nursemaids and governesses (usually
very bad ones) or had been sent to superficial
schools, kept by the French,
from which, at the end of a month, they had been
removed in tears. This view of
the matter would have excited Isabel's
indignation, for to her own sense her
opportunities had been large. Even when her
father had left his daughters for
three months at Neufchatel with a French bonne
who had eloped with a Russian
nobleman staying at the same hotel- even in this
irregular situation (an
incident of the girl's eleventh year) she had
been neither frightened nor
ashamed, but had thought it a romantic episode
in a liberal education. Her
father had a large way of looking at life, of
which his restlessness and even
his occasional incoherency of conduct had been
only a proof. He wished his
daughters, even as children, to see as much of
the world as possible; and it
was for this purpose that, before Isabel was
fourteen, he had transported them
three times across the Atlantic, giving them on
each occasion, however, but a
few months' view of the subject proposed: a
course which had whetted our
heroine's curiosity without enabling her to
satisfy it. She ought to have been
a partisan of her father, for she was the member
of his trio who most
"made up" to him for the disagreeables he didn't
mention. In his last
days his general willingness to take leave of a
world in which the difficulty
of doing as one liked appeared to increase as
one grew older had been sensibly
modified by the pain of separation from his
clever, his superior, his
remarkable girl. Later, when the journeys to
Europe ceased, he still had shown
his children all sorts of indulgence, and if he
had been troubled about
money-matters nothing ever disturbed their
irreflective consciousness of many
possessions. Isabel, though she danced very
well, had not the recollection of
having been in New York a successful member of
the choregraphic circle; her
sister Edith was, as every one said, so very
much more fetching. Edith was so
striking an example of success that Isabel could
have no illusions as to what
constituted this advantage, or as to the limits
of her own power to frisk and
jump and shriek- above all with rightness of
effect. Nineteen persons out of
twenty (including the younger sister herself
pronounced Edith infinitely the
prettier of the two; but the twentieth, besides
reversing this judgement, had
the entertainment of thinking all the others
aesthetic vulgarians. Isabel had
in the depths of her nature an even more
unquenchable desire to please than
Edith; but the depths of this young lady's
nature were a very out-of-the-way
place, between which and the surface
communication was interrupted by a dozen
capricious forces. She saw the young men who
came in large numbers to see her
sister; but as a general thing they were afraid
of her; they had a belief that
some special preparation was required for
talking with her. Her reputation of
reading a great deal hung about her like the
cloudy envelope of a goddess in an
epic; it was supposed to engender difficult
questions and to keep the
conversation at a low temperature. The poor girl
liked to be thought clever,
but she hated to be thought bookish; she used to
read in secret and, though her
memory was excellent, to abstain from showy
reference. She had a great desire
for knowledge, but she really preferred almost
any source of information to the
printed page; she had an immense curiosity about
life and was constantly
staring and wondering. She carried within
herself a great fund of life, and her
deepest enjoyment was to feel the continuity
between the movements of her own
soul and the agitations of the world. For this
reason she was fond of seeing
great crowds and large stretches of country, of
reading about revolutions and
wars, of looking at historical pictures- a class
of efforts as to which she had
often committed the conscious solecism of
forgiving them much bad painting for
the sake of the subject. While the Civil War
went on she was still a very young
girl; but she passed months of this long period
in a state of almost passionate
excitement, in which she felt herself at times
(to her extreme confusion)
stirred almost indiscriminately by the valour of
either army. Of course the
circumspection of suspicious swains had never
gone the length of making her a
social proscript; for the number of those whose
hearts, as they approached her,
beat only just fast enough to remind them they
had heads as well, had kept her
unacquainted with the supreme discipline of her
sex and age. She had 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.
things now, as memory played over
them, resolved themselves into a multitude of
scenes and figures. Forgotten
things came back to her; many others, which she
had lately thought of great
moment, dropped out of sight. The result was
kaleidoscopic, but the movement of
the instrument was checked at last by the
servant's coming in with the name of
a gentleman. The name of the gentleman was
Caspar Goodwood; he was a straight
young man from Boston, who had known Miss Archer
for the last twelvemonth and
who, thinking her the most beautiful young woman
of her time, had pronounced
the time, according to the rule I have hinted
at, a foolish period of history.
He sometimes wrote to her and had within a week
or two written from New York.
She had thought it very possible he would come
in- had indeed all the rainy day
been vaguely expecting him. Now that she learned
he was there, nevertheless,
she felt no eagerness to receive him. He was the
finest young man she had ever
seen, was indeed quite a splendid young man; he
inspired her with a sentiment
of high, of rare respect. She had never felt
equally moved to it by any other
person. He was supposed by the world in general
to wish to marry her, but this
of course was between themselves. It at least
may be affirmed that he had
travelled from New York to Albany expressly to
see her; having learned in the
former city, where he was spending a few days
and where he had hoped to find
her, that she was still at the State capital.
Isabel delayed for some minutes
to go to him; she moved about the room with a
new sense of complications. But
at last she presented herself and found him
standing near the lamp. He was
tall, strong and somewhat stiff; he was also
lean and brown. He was not
romantically, he was much rather obscurely,
handsome; but his physiognomy had
an air of requesting your attention, which it
rewarded according to the charm
you found in blue eyes of remarkable fixedness,
the eyes of a complexion other
than his own, and a jaw of the somewhat angular
mould which is supposed to bespeak
resolution. Isabel said to herself that it
bespoke resolution to-night; in
spite of which, in half an hour, Caspar
Goodwood, who had arrived hopeful as
well as resolute, took his way back to his
lodging with the feeling of a man
defeated. He was not, it may be added, a man
weakly to accept defeat.
Touchett was a philosopher, but
nevertheless he knocked at his mother's door (at
a quarter to seven) with a
good deal of eagerness. Even philosophers have
their preferences, and it must be
admitted that of his progenitors his father
ministered most to his sense of the
sweetness of filial dependence. His father, as
he had often said to himself,
was the more motherly; his mother, on the other
hand, was paternal, and even,
according to the slang of the day,
gubernatorial. She was nevertheless very
fond of her only child and had always insisted
on his spending three months of
the year with her. Ralph rendered perfect
justice to her affection and knew
that in her thoughts and her thoroughly arranged
and servanted life his turn
always came after the other nearest subjects of
her solicitude, the various
punctualities of performance of the workers of
her will. He found her
completely dressed for dinner, but she embraced
her boy with her gloved hands
and made him sit on the sofa beside her. She
enquired scrupulously about her
husband's health and about the young man's own,
and, receiving no very
brilliant account of either, remarked that she
was more than ever convinced of
her wisdom in not exposing herself to the
English climate. In this case she
also might have given way. Ralph smiled at the
idea of his mother's giving way,
but made no point of reminding her that his own
infirmity was not the result of
the English climate, from which he absented
himself for a considerable part of
been a very small boy when his
father, Daniel Tracy Touchett, a native of
Rutland, in the State of Vermont,
came to England as subordinate partner in a
banking-house where some ten years
later he gained preponderant control. Daniel
Touchett saw before him a
life-long residence in his adopted country, of
which, from the first, he took a
simple, sane and accommodating view. But, as he
said to himself, he had no
intention of dis-americanizing, nor had he a
desire to teach his only son any
such subtle art. It had been for himself so very
soluble a problem to live in
England assimilated yet unconverted that it
seemed to him equally simple his
lawful heir should after his death carry on the
grey old bank in the white
American light. He was at pains to intensify
this light, however, by sending
the boy home for his education. Ralph spent
several terms at an American school
and took a degree at an American university,
after which, as he struck his
father on his return as even redundantly native,
he was placed for some three
years in residence at Oxford. Oxford swallowed
up Harvard, and Ralph became at
last English enough. His outward conformity to
the manners that surrounded him
was none the less the mask of a mind that
greatly enjoyed its independence, on
which nothing long imposed itself, and which,
naturally inclined to adventure
and irony, indulged in a boundless liberty of
appreciation. He began with being
a young man of promise; at Oxford he
distinguished himself, to his father's
ineffable satisfaction, and the people about him
said it was a thousand pities
so clever a fellow should be shut out from a
career. He might have had a career
by returning to his own country (though this
point is shrouded in uncertainty)
and even if Mr. Touchett had been willing to
part with him (which was not the
case) it would have gone hard with him to put a
watery waste permanently
between himself and the old man whom he regarded
as his best friend. Ralph was
not only fond of his father, he admired him- he
enjoyed the opportunity of
observing him. Daniel Touchett, to his
perception, was a man of genius, and
though he himself had no aptitude for the
banking mystery he made a point of
learning enough of it to measure the great
figure his father had played. It was
not this, however, he mainly relished; it was
the fine ivory surface, polished
as by the English air, that the old man had
opposed to possibilities of
penetration. Daniel Touchett had been neither at
Harvard nor at Oxford, and it
was his own fault if he had placed in his son's
hands the key to modern
criticism. Ralph, whose head was full of ideas
which his father had never
guessed, had a high esteem for the latter's
originality. Americans, rightly or
wrongly, are commended for the ease with which
they adapt themselves to foreign
conditions; but Mr. Touchett had made of the
very limits of his pliancy half
the ground of his general success. He had
retained in their freshness most of
his marks of primary pressure; his tone, as his
son always noted with pleasure,
was that of the more luxuriant parts of New
England. At the end of his life he
had become, on his own ground, as mellow as he
was rich; he combined consummate
shrewdness with the disposition superficially to
fraternize, and his "social
position," on which he had never wasted a care,
had the firm perfection of
an unthumbed fruit. It was perhaps his want of
imagination and of what is
called the historic consciousness; but to many
of the impressions usually made
by English life upon the cultivated stranger his
sense was completely closed.
There were certain differences he had never
perceived, certain habits he had
never formed, 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
leaving Oxford, had spent a
couple of years in travelling; after which he
had found himself perched on a
high stool in his father's bank. The
responsibility and honour of such
positions is not, I believe, measured by the
height of the stool, which depends
upon other considerations: Ralph, indeed, who
had very long legs, was fond of
standing, and even of walking about, at his
work. To this exercise, however, he
was obliged to devote but a limited period, for
at the end of some eighteen
months he had become aware of his being
seriously out of health. He had caught
a violent cold, which fixed itself on his lungs
and threw them into dire
confusion. He had to give up work and apply, to
the letter, the sorry injunction
to take care of himself. At first he slighted
the task; it appeared to him it
was not himself in the least he was taking care
of, but an uninteresting and
uninterested person with whom he had nothing in
common. This person, however,
improved on acquaintance, and Ralph grew at last
to have a certain grudging
tolerance, even an undemonstrative respect, for
him. Misfortune makes strange
bedfellows, and our young man, feeling that he
had something at stake in the
matter- it usually struck him as his reputation
for ordinary wit- devoted to
his graceless charge an amount of attention of
which note was duly taken and
which had at least the effect of keeping the
poor fellow alive. One of his
lungs began to heal, the other promised to
follow its example, and he was assured
he might outweather a dozen winters if he would
betake himself to those
climates in which consumptives chiefly
congregate. As he had grown extremely
fond of London, he cursed the flatness of exile:
but at the same time that he
cursed he conformed, and gradually, when he
found his sensitive organ grateful
even for grim favours, he conferred them with a
lighter hand. He wintered
abroad, as the phrase is; basked in the sun,
stopped at home when the wind
blew, went to bed when it rained, and once or
twice, when it had snowed
overnight, almost never got up again.
hoard of indifference- like a
thick cake a fond old nurse might have slipped
into his first school outfit-
came to his aid and helped to reconcile him to
sacrifice; since at the best he
was too ill for aught but that arduous game. As
he said to himself, there was
really nothing he had wanted very much to do, so
that he had at least not
renounced the field of valour. At present,
however, the fragrance of forbidden
fruit seemed occasionally to float past him and
remind him that the finest of
pleasures is the rush of action. Living as he
now lived was like reading a good
book in a poor translation- a meagre
entertainment for a young man who felt
that he might have been an excellent linguist.
He had good winters and poor
winters, and while the former lasted he was
sometimes the sport of a vision of
virtual recovery. But this vision was dispelled
some three years before the
occurrence of the incidents with which this
history opens: he had on that
occasion remained later than usual in England
and had been overtaken by bad
weather before reaching Algiers. He arrived more
dead than alive and lay there
for several weeks between life and death. His
convalescence was a miracle, but
the first use he made of it was to assure
himself that such miracles happen but
once. He said to himself that his hour was in
sight and that it behoved him to
keep his eyes upon it, yet that it was also open
to him to spend the interval
as agreeably as might be consistent with such a
preoccupation. With the
prospect of losing them the simple use of his
faculties became an exquisite
pleasure; it seemed to him the joys of
contemplation had never been sounded. He
was far from the time when he had found it hard
that he should be obliged to
give up the idea of distinguishing himself; an
idea none the less importunate
for being vague and none the less delightful for
having had to struggle in the
same breast with bursts of inspiring
self-criticism. His friends at present
judged him more cheerful, and attributed it to a
theory, over which they shook
their heads knowingly, that he would recover his
health. His serenity was but
the array of wild flowers niched in his ruin.
very probably this sweet-tasting
property of the observed thing in itself that
was mainly concerned in Ralph's
quickly-stirred interest in the advent of a
young lady who was evidently not
insipid. If he was consideringly disposed,
something told him, here was
occupation enough for a succession of days. It
may be added, in summary
fashion, that the imagination of loving- as
distinguished from that of being
loved- had still a place in his reduced sketch.
He had only forbidden himself
the riot of expression. However, he shouldn't
inspire his cousin with a
passion, nor would she be able, even should she
try, to help him to one.
"And now tell me about the young lady," he said
to his mother.
"What do you mean to do with her?"
Touchett was prompt. "I mean to
ask your father to invite her to stay three or
four weeks at Gardencourt."
needn't stand on any such
ceremony as that," said Ralph. "My father will
ask her as a matter of
know about that. She's my
niece; she's not his."
Lord, dear mother; what a sense
of property! That's all the more reason for his
asking her. But after that- I
mean after three months (for it's absurd asking
the poor girl to remain but for
three or four paltry weeks)- what do you mean to
do with her?"
to take her to Paris. I mean
to get her clothing."
that's of course. But
independently of that?"
invite her to spend the
autumn with me in Florence."
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."
duty!" Mrs. Touchett
declared. "I suppose you pity her very much,"
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
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
frowned a little. "That sounds
rather dry- even allowing her the choice of two
of the countries."
dry," said his mother
with a laugh, "you can leave Isabel alone to
water it! She is as good as a
summer rain, any day."
mean she's a gifted
know whether she's a gifted
being, but she's a clever girl- with a strong
will and a high temper. She has
no idea of being bored."
imagine that," said Ralph;
and then he added abruptly: "How do you two get
mean by that that I'm a bore?
I don't think she finds me one. Some girls
might, I know; but Isabel's too
clever for that. I think I greatly amuse her. We
get on because I understand
her; I know the sort of girl she is. She's very
frank, and I'm very frank: we
know just what to expect of each other."
exclaimed, "one always knows what to expect of
you! You've never surprised
me but once, and that's to-day- in presenting me
with a pretty cousin whose
existence I had never suspected."
think her so very
pretty indeed; but I don't
insist upon that. It's her general air of being
some one in particular that
strikes me. Who is this rare creature, and what
is she? Where did you find her,
and how did you make her acquaintance?"
her in an old house at
Albany, sitting in a dreary room on a rainy day,
reading a heavy book and
boring herself to death. She didn't know she was
bored, but when I left her no
doubt of it she seemed very grateful for the
service. You may say I shouldn't
have enlightened her- I should have let her
alone. There's a good deal in that,
but I acted conscientiously; I thought she was
meant for something better. It
occurred to me that it would be a kindness to
take her about and introduce her
to the world. She thinks she knows a great deal
of it- like most American
girls; but like most American girls she's
ridiculously mistaken. If you want to
know, I thought she would do me credit. I like
to be well thought of, and for a
woman of my age there's no greater convenience,
in some ways, than an
attractive niece. You know I had seen nothing of
my sister's children for
years; I disapproved entirely of the father. But
I always meant to do something
for them when he should have gone to his reward.
I ascertained where they were
to be found and, without any preliminaries, went
and introduced myself. There
are two others of them, both of whom are
married; but I saw only the elder, who
has, by the way, a very uncivil husband. The
wife, whose name is Lily, jumped
at the idea of my taking an interest in Isabel;
she said it was just what her sister
needed- that some one should take an interest in
her. She spoke of her as you
might speak of some young person of genius- in
want of encouragement and
patronage. It may be that Isabel's a genius; but
in that case I've not yet
learned her special line. Mrs. Ludlow was
especially keen about my taking her
to Europe; they all regard Europe over there as
a land of emigration, of
rescue, a refuge for their superfluous
population. Isabel herself seemed very
glad to come, and the thing was easily arranged.
There was a little difficulty
about the money-question, as she seemed averse
to being under pecuniary
obligations. But she has a small income and she
supposes herself to be
travelling at her own expense."
listened attentively to this
judicious report, by which his interest in the
subject of it was not impaired.
"Ah, if she's a genius," he said, "we must find
out her special
line. Is it by chance for flirting?"
think so. You may suspect
that at first, but you'll be wrong. You won't, I
think, in any way, be easily
right about her."
wrong then!" Ralph
rejoicingly exclaimed. "He flatters himself he
has made that
mother shook her head. "Lord
Warburton won't understand her. He needn't try."
very intelligent," said
Ralph; "but it's right he should be puzzled once
in a while."
will enjoy puzzling a
lord," Mrs. Touchett remarked.
frowned a little. "What does
she know about lords?"
at all: that will puzzle him
all the more."
greeted these words with a laugh and
looked out of the window. Then, "Are you not
going down to see my
father?" he asked.
quarter to eight," said
looked at his watch. "You've
another quarter of an hour then. Tell me some
more about Isabel." After
which, as Mrs. Touchett declined his invitation,
declaring that he must find
out for himself, "Well," he pursued, "she'll
certainly do you
credit. But won't she also give you trouble?"
not; but if she does I shall
not shrink from it. I never do that."
strikes me as very natural,"
people are not the most
said Ralph; "you
yourself are a proof of that. You're extremely
natural, and I'm sure you have
never troubled any one. It takes trouble to do
that. But tell me this; it just
occurs to me. Is Isabel capable of making
cried his mother, "you
ask too many questions! Find that out for
questions, however, were not exhausted.
"All this time," he said, "you've not told me
what you intend to
do with her."
her? You talk as if she were
a yard of calico. I shall do absolutely nothing
with her, and she herself will
do everything she chooses. She gave me notice of
meant then, in your
telegram, was that her character's independent."
know what I mean in my
telegrams- especially those I send from America.
Clearness is too expensive.
Come down to your father."
yet a quarter to
eight," said Ralph.
allow for his
impatience," Mrs. Touchett answered.
knew what to think of his father's
impatience; but, making no rejoinder, he offered
his mother his arm. This put
it in his power, as they descended together, to
stop her a moment on the middle
landing of the staircase- the broad, low,
wide-armed staircase of
time-blackened oak which was one of the most
striking features of Gardencourt.
"You've no plan of marrying her?" he smiled.
her? I should be sorry to
play her such a trick! But apart from that,
she's perfectly able to marry
herself. She has every facility."
mean to say she has a husband
know about a husband, but
there's a young man in Boston-!"
went on; he had no desire to hear
about the young man in Boston. "As my father
says, they're always
mother had told him that he must
satisfy his curiosity at the source, and it soon
became evident he should not
want for occasion. He had a good deal of talk
with his young kinswoman when the
two had been left together in the drawing-room.
Lord Warburton, who had ridden
over from his own house, some ten miles distant,
remounted and took his
departure before dinner; and an hour after this
meal was ended Mr. and Mrs.
Touchett, who appeared to have quite emptied the
measure of their forms,
withdrew, under the valid pretext of fatigue, to
their respective apartments.
The young man spent an hour with his cousin;
though she had been travelling
half the day she appeared in no degree spent.
She was really tired; she knew
it, and knew she should pay for it on the
morrow; but it was her habit at this
period to carry exhaustion to the furtherest
point and confess to it only when
dissimulation broke down. A fine hypocrisy was
for the present possible; she
was interested; she was, as she said to herself,
floated. She asked Ralph to
show her the pictures; there were a great many
in the house, most of them of
his own choosing. The best were arranged in an
oaken gallery, of charming
proportions, which had a sitting-room at either
end of it and which in the
evening was usually lighted. The light was
insufficient to show the pictures to
advantage, and the visit might have stood over
to the morrow. This suggestion
Ralph had ventured to make; but Isabel looked
disappointed- smiling still,
however- and said: "If you please I should like
to see them just a
little." She was eager, she knew she was eager
and now seemed so; she
couldn't help it. "She doesn't take
suggestions," Ralph said to
himself; but he said it without irritation; her
pressure amused and even
pleased him. The lamps were on brackets, at
intervals, and if the light was
imperfect it was genial. It fell upon the vague
squares of rich colour and on
the faded gilding of heavy frames; it made a
sheen on the polished floor of the
gallery. Ralph took a candlestick and moved
about, pointing out the things he
liked; Isabel, inclining to one picture after
another, indulged in little
exclamations and murmurs. She was evidently a
judge; she had a natural taste;
he was struck with that. She took a candlestick
herself and held it slowly here
and there; she lifted it high, and as she did so
he found himself pausing in
the middle of the place and bending his eyes
much less upon the pictures than
on her presence. He lost nothing, in truth, by
these wandering glances, for she
was better worth looking at than most works of
art. She was undeniably spare,
and ponderably light, and proveably tall; when
people had wished to distinguish
her from the other two Miss Archers they had
always called her the willowy one.
Her hair, which was dark even to blackness, had
been an object of envy to many
women; her light grey eyes, a little too firm
perhaps in her graver moments,
had an enchanting range of concession. They
walked slowly up one side of the
gallery and down the other, and then she said:
now I know more than I did when
apparently have a great passion
for knowledge," her cousin returned.
I have; most girls are
strike me as different from most
of them would- but the way
they're talked to!" murmured Isabel, who
preferred not to dilate just yet
on herself. Then in a moment, to change the
subject, "Please tell me-
isn't there a ghost?" she went on.
castle-spectre, a thing that
appears. We call them ghosts in America."
"So we do
here, when we see
see them then? You ought to,
in this romantic old house."
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
brought a great deal; but it
seems to me I've brought it to the right place."
it out of harm, certainly;
nothing will ever happen to it here, between my
father and me."
looked at him a moment. "Is
there never any one here but your father and
mother, of course."
know your mother; she's not
romantic. Haven't you other people?"
sorry for that; I like so much to
we'll invite all the county to
amuse you," said Ralph.
you're making fun of me,"
the girl answered rather gravely. "Who was the
gentleman on the lawn when
neighbour; he doesn't come
sorry for that; I liked
him," said Isabel.
seemed to me that you barely
spoke to him," Ralph objected.
mind, I like him all the same.
I like your father too, immensely."
can't do better than that. He's
the dearest of the dear."
sorry he is ill," said
help me to nurse him; you
ought to be a good nurse."
think I am; I've been told
I'm not; I'm said to have too many theories. But
you haven't told me about the
ghost," she added.
however, gave no heed to this
observation. "You like my father and you like
Lord Warburton. I infer also
that you like my mother."
your mother very much,
because- because-" And Isabel found herself
attempting to assign a reason
for her affection for Mrs. Touchett.
never know why!" said her
know why," the girl
answered. "It's because she doesn't expect one
to like her. She doesn't
care whether one does or not."
adore her- out of perversity?
Well, I take greatly after my mother," said
believe you do at all. You
wish people to like you, and you try to make
them do it."
heavens, how you see through
one!" he cried with a dismay that was not
like you all the same,"
his cousin went on. "The way to clinch the
matter will be to show me the
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.
you just now I'm very fond of
knowledge," Isabel answered.
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!"
listened to him attentively, with a
smile on her lips, but with a certain gravity in
her eyes. Charming as he found
her, she had struck him as rather presumptuous-
indeed it was a part of her
charm; and he wondered what she would say. "I'm
not afraid, you
know," she said: which seemed quite presumptuous
not afraid of suffering?"
afraid of suffering. But I'm
not afraid of ghosts. And I think people suffer
too easily," she added.
believe you do," said
Ralph, looking at her with his hands in his
think that's a fault,"
she answered. "It's not absolutely necessary to
suffer; we were not made
speaking of myself." And
she wandered off a little.
isn't a fault," said her
cousin. "It's a merit to be strong."
you don't suffer they call
you hard," Isabel remarked.
passed out of the smaller
drawing-room, into which they had returned from
the gallery, and paused in the
hall, at the foot of the staircase. Here Ralph
presented his companion with her
bedroom candle, which he had taken from a niche.
"Never mind what they
call you. When you do suffer they call you an
idiot. The great point's to be as
happy as possible."
looked at him a little; she had taken
her candle and placed her foot on the oaken
stair. "Well," she said,
"that's what I came to Europe for, to be as
happy as possible.
I wish you all success,
and shall be very glad to contribute to it!"
turned away, and he watched her as she
slowly ascended. Then, with his hands always in
his pockets, he went back to
the empty drawing-room.
Archer was a young person of many
theories; her imagination was remarkably active.
It had been her fortune to
possess a finer mind than most of the persons
among whom her lot was cast; to
have a larger perception of surrounding facts
and to care for knowledge that
was tinged with the unfamiliar. It is true that
among her contemporaries she
passed for a young woman of extraordinary
profundity; for these excellent
people never withheld their admiration from a
reach of intellect of which they
themselves were not conscious, and spoke of
Isabel as a prodigy of learning, a
creature reported to have read the classic
authors- in translations. Her
paternal aunt, Mrs. Varian, once spread the
rumour that Isabel was writing a
book- Mrs. Varian having a reverence for books,
and averred that the girl would
distinguish herself in print. Mrs. Varian
thought highly of literature, for
which she entertained that esteem that is
connected with a sense of privation.
Her own large house, remarkable for its
assortment of mosaic tables and
decorated ceilings, was unfurnished with a
library, and in the way of printed
volumes contained nothing but half a dozen
novels in paper on a shelf in the
apartment of one of the Miss Varians.
Practically, Mrs. Varian's acquaintance
with literature was confined to The New York
Interviewer; as she very justly
said, after you had read the Interviewer you had
lost all faith in culture. Her
tendency, with this, was rather to keep the
Interviewer out of the way of her
daughters; she was determined to bring them up
properly, and they read nothing
at all. Her impression with regard to Isabel's
labours was quite illusory; the
girl had never attempted to write a book and had
no desire for the laurels of
authorship. She had no talent for expression and
too little of the
consciousness of genius; she only had a general
idea that people were right
when they treated her as if she were rather
superior. Whether or no she were
superior, people were right in admiring her if
they thought her so; for it
seemed to her often that her mind moved more
quickly than theirs, and this
encouraged an impatience that might easily be
confounded with superiority. It
may be affirmed without delay that Isabel was
probably very liable to the sin
of self-esteem; she often surveyed with
complacency the field of her own
nature; she was in the habit of taking for
granted, on scanty evidence, that
she was right; she treated herself to occasions
of homage. Meanwhile her errors
and delusions were frequently such as a
biographer interested in preserving the
dignity of his subject must shrink from
specifying. Her thoughts were a tangle
of vague outlines which had never been corrected
by the judgement of people
speaking with authority. In matters of opinion
she had had her own way, and it
had led her into a thousand ridiculous zigzags.
At moments she discovered she
was grotesquely wrong, and then she treated
herself to a week of passionate
humility. After this she held her head higher
than ever again; for it was of no
use, she had an unquenchable desire to think
well of herself. She had a theory
that it was only under this provision life was
worth living; that one should be
one of the best, should be conscious of a fine
organization (she couldn't help knowing
her organization was fine), should move in a
realm of light, of natural wisdom,
of happy impulse, of inspiration gracefully
chronic. It was almost as
unnecessary to cultivate doubt of one's self as
to cultivate doubt of one's
best friend: one should try to be one's own best
friend and to give one's self,
in this manner, distinguished company. The girl
had a certain nobleness of
imagination which rendered her a good many
services and played her a great many
tricks. She spent half her time in thinking of
beauty and bravery and
magnanimity; she had a fixed determination to
regard the world as a place of
brightness, of free expansion, of irresistible
action: she held it must be
detestable to be afraid or ashamed. She had an
infinite hope that she should never
do anything wrong. She had resented so strongly,
after discovering them, her
mere errors of feeling (the discovery always
made her tremble as if she had
escaped from a trap which might have caught her
and smothered her) that the
chance of inflicting a sensible injury upon
another person, presented only as a
contingency, caused her at moments to hold her
breath. That always struck her
as the worst thing that could happen to her. On
the whole, reflectively, she
was in no uncertainty about the things that were
wrong. She had no love of
their look, but when she fixed them hard she
recognized them. It was wrong to
be mean, to be jealous, to be false, to be
cruel; she had seen very little of
the evil of the world, but she had seen women
who lied and who tried to hurt
each other. Seeing such things had quickened her
high spirit; it seemed
indecent not to scorn them. Of course the danger
of a high spirit was the
danger of inconsistency- the danger of keeping
up the flag after the place has
surrendered; a sort of behaviour so crooked as
to be almost a dishonour to the
flag. But Isabel, who knew little of the sorts
of artillery to which young
women are exposed, flattered herself that such
contradictions would never be
noted in her own conduct. Her life should always
be in harmony with the most
pleasing impression she should produce; she
would be what she appeared, and she
would appear what she was. Sometimes she went so
far as to wish that she might
find herself some day in a difficult position,
so that she should have the
pleasure of being as heroic as the occasion
demanded. Altogether, with her
meagre knowledge, her inflated ideals, her
confidence at once innocent and
dogmatic, her temper at once exacting and
indulgent, her mixture of curiosity
and fastidiousness, of vivacity and
indifference, her desire to look very well
and to be if possible even better, her
determination to see, to try, to know,
her combination of the delicate, desultory,
flame-like spirit and the eager and
personal creature of conditions: she would be an
easy victim of scientific
criticism if she were not intended to awaken on
the reader's part an impulse
more tender and more purely expectant.
one of her theories that Isabel
Archer was very fortunate in being independent,
and that she ought to make some
very enlightened use of that state. She never
called it the state of solitude,
much less of singleness; she thought such
descriptions weak, and, besides, her
sister Lily constantly urged her to come and
abide. She had a friend whose
acquaintance she had made shortly before her
father's death, who offered so
high an example of useful activity that Isabel
always thought of her as a
model. Henrietta Stackpole had the advantage of
an admired ability; she was
thoroughly launched in journalism, and her
letters to the Interviewer, from
Washington, Newport, the White Mountains and
other places, were universally
quoted. Isabel pronounced them with confidence
"ephemeral," but she
esteemed the courage, energy and good-humour of
the writer, who, without parents
and without property, had adopted three of the
children of an infirm and
widowed sister and was paying their school-bills
out of the proceeds of her
literary labour. Henrietta was in the van of
progress and had clear-cut views
on most subjects; her cherished desire had long
been to come to Europe and
write a series of letters to the Interviewer
from the radical point of view- an
enterprise the less difficult as she knew
perfectly in advance what her
opinions would be and to how many objections
most European institutions lay
open. When she heard that Isabel was coming she
wished to start at once;
thinking, naturally, that it would be delightful
the two should travel
together. She had been obliged, however, to
postpone this enterprise. She
thought Isabel a glorious creature, and had
spoken of her covertly in some of
her letters, though she never mentioned the fact
to her friend, who would not
have taken pleasure in it and was not a regular
student of the Interviewer.
Henrietta, for Isabel, was chiefly a proof that
a woman might suffice to
herself and be happy. Her resources were of the
obvious kind; but even if one
had not the journalistic talent and a genius for
guessing, as Henrietta said,
what the public was going to want, one was not
therefore to conclude that one
had no vocation, no beneficent aptitude of any
sort, and resign one's self to
being frivolous and hollow. Isabel was stoutly
determined not to be hollow. If
one should wait with the right patience one
would find some happy work to one's
hand. Of course, among her theories, this young
lady was not without a
collection of views on the subject of marriage.
The first on the list was a
conviction of the vulgarity of thinking too much
of it. From lapsing into
eagerness on this point she earnestly prayed she
might be delivered; she held
that a woman ought to be able to live to
herself, in the absence of exceptional
flimsiness, and that it was perfectly possible
to be happy without the society
of a more or less coarse-minded person of
another sex. The girl's prayer was
very sufficiently answered; something pure and
proud that there was in her-
something cold and dry an unappreciated suitor
with a taste for analysis might
have called it- had hitherto kept her from any
great vanity of conjecture on
the article of possible husbands. Few of the men
she saw seemed worth a ruinous
expenditure, and it made her smile to think that
one of them should present
himself as an incentive to hope and a reward of
patience. Deep in her soul- it
was the deepest thing there- lay a belief that
if a certain light should dawn
she could give herself completely; but this
image, on the whole, was too
formidable to be attractive. Isabel's thoughts
hovered about it, but they
seldom rested on it long; after a little it
ended in alarms. It often seemed to
her that she thought too much about herself; you
could have made her colour,
any day in the year, by calling her a rank
egoist. She was always planning out
her development, desiring her perfection,
observing her progress. Her nature had,
in her conceit, a certain garden-like quality, a
suggestion of perfume and
murmuring boughs, of shady bowers and
lengthening vistas, which made her feel
that introspection was, after all, an exercise
in the open air, and that a
visit to the recesses of one's spirit was
harmless when one returned from it
with a lapful of roses. But she was often
reminded that there were other
gardens in the world than those of her
remarkable soul, and that there were
moreover a great many places which were not
gardens at all- only dusky
pestiferous tracts, planted thick with ugliness
and misery. In the current of
that repaid episode on curiosity on which she
had lately been floating, which
had conveyed her to this beautiful old England
and might carry her much further
still, she often checked herself with the
thought of the thousands of people
who were less happy than herself- a thought
which for the moment made her fine,
full consciousness appear a kind of immodesty.
What should one do with the
misery of the world in a scheme of the agreeable
for one's self? It must be
confessed that this question never held her
long. She was too young, too
impatient to live, too unacquainted with pain.
She always returned to her
theory that a young woman whom after all every
one thought clever should begin
by getting a general impression of life. This
impression was necessary to
prevent mistakes, and after it should be secured
she might make the unfortunate
condition of others a subject of special
was a revelation to her, and she
found herself as diverted as a child at a
pantomime. In her infantine
excursions to Europe she had seen only the
Continent, and seen it from the
nursery window; Paris, not London, was her
father's Mecca, and into many of his
interests there his children had naturally not
entered. The images of that time
moreover had grown faint and remote, and the
old-world quality in everything
that she now saw had all the charm of
strangeness. Her uncle's house seemed a
picture made real; no refinement of the
agreeable was lost upon Isabel; the
rich perfection of Gardencourt at once revealed
a world and gratified a need.
The large, low rooms, with brown ceilings and
dusky corners, the deep
embrasures and curious casements, the quiet
light on dark, polished panels, the
deep greenness outside, that seemed always
peeping in, the sense of
well-ordered privacy in the centre of a
"property"- a place where
sounds were felicitously accidental, where the
tread was muffled by the earth
itself and in the thick mild air all friction
dropped out of contact and all
shrillness out of talk- these things were much
to the taste of our young lady,
whose taste played a considerable part in her
emotions. She formed a fast
friendship with her uncle, and often sat by his
chair when he had had it moved
out to the lawn. He passed hours in the open
air, sitting with folded hands
like a placid, homely household god, a god of
service, who had done his work
and received his wages and was trying to grow
used to weeks and months made up
only of off-days. Isabel amused him more than
she suspected- the effect she
produced upon people was often different from
what she supposed- and he
frequently gave himself the pleasure of making
her chatter. It was by this term
that he qualified her conversation, which had
much of the "point"
observable in that of the young ladies of her
country, to whom the ear of the
world is more directly presented than to their
sisters in other lands. Like the
mass of American girls Isabel had been
encouraged to express herself; her
remarks had been attended to; she had been
expected to have emotions and
opinions. Many of her opinions had doubtless but
a slender value, many of her
emotions passed away in the utterance; but they
had left a trace in giving her
the habit of seeming at least to feel and think,
and in imparting moreover to
her words when she was really moved that prompt
vividness which so many people
had regarded as a sign of superiority. Mr.
Touchett used to think that she
reminded him of his wife when his wife was in
her teens. It was because she was
fresh and natural and quick to understand, to
speak- so many characteristics of
her niece- that he had fallen in love with Mrs.
Touchett. He never expressed
this analogy to the girl herself, however; for
if Mrs. Touchett had once been
like Isabel, Isabel was not at all like Mrs.
Touchett. The old man was full of
kindness for her; it was a long time, as he
said, since they had had any young
life in the house; and our rustling,
quickly-moving, clear-voiced heroine was as
agreeable to his sense as the sound of flowing
water. He wanted to do something
for her and wished she would ask it of him. She
would ask nothing but
questions; it is true that of these she asked a
quantity. Her uncle had a great
fund of answers, though her pressure sometimes
came in forms that puzzled him.
She questioned him immensely about England,
about the British constitution, the
English character, the state of politics, the
manners and customs of the royal
family, the peculiarities of the aristocracy,
the way of living and thinking of
his neighbours; and in begging to be enlightened
on these points she usually
enquired whether they corresponded with the
descriptions in the books. The old
man always looked at her a little with his fine
dry smile while he smoothed
down the shawl spread across his legs.
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 might watch
me I should be watching you
more. I've been watching these people for
upwards of thirty-five years, and I
don't hesitate to say that I've acquired
considerable information. It's a very
fine country on the whole- finer perhaps than
what we give it credit for on the
other side. There are several improvements I
should like to see introduced; but
the necessity of them doesn't seem to be
generally felt as yet. When the
necessity of a thing is generally felt they
usually manage to accomplish it;
but they seem to feel pretty comfortable about
waiting till then. I certainly
feel more at home among them than I expected to
when I first came over; I
suppose it's because I've had a considerable
degree of success. When you're
successful you naturally feel more at home."
suppose that if I'm successful
I shall feel at home?" Isabel asked.
think it very probable, and
you certainly will be successful. They like
American young ladies very much
over here; they show them a great deal of
kindness. But you mustn't feel too
much at home, you know."
by no means sure it will
satisfy me," Isabel judicially emphasized. "I
like the place very
much, but I'm not sure I shall like the people."
people are very good people;
especially if you like them."
doubt they're good,"
Isabel rejoined; "but are they pleasant in
society? They won't rob me nor
beat me; but will they make themselves agreeable
to me? That's what I like
people to do. I don't hesitate to say so,
because I always appreciate it. I
don't believe they're very nice to girls;
they're not nice to them in the
know about the novels,"
said Mr. Touchett. "I believe the novels have a
great deal of ability, but
I don't suppose they're very accurate. We once
had a lady who wrote novels
staying here; she was a friend of Ralph's and he
asked her down. She was very
positive, quite up to everything; but she was
not the sort of person you could
depend on for evidence. Too free a fancy- I
suppose that was it. She afterwards
published a work of fiction in which she was
understood to have given a
representation- something in the nature of a
caricature, as you might say- of
my unworthy self. I didn't read it, but Ralph
just handed me the book with the
principal passages marked. It was understood to
be a description of my
conversation; American peculiarities, nasal
twang, Yankee notions, stars and
stripes. Well, it was not at all accurate; she
couldn't have listened very
attentively. I had no objection to her giving a
report of my conversation, if
she liked; but I didn't like the idea that she
hadn't taken the trouble to
listen to it. Of course I talk like an American-
I can't talk like a Hottentot.
However I talk, I've made them understand me
pretty well over here. But I don't
talk like the old gentleman in that lady's
novel. He wasn't an American; we
wouldn't have him over there at any price. I
just mention that fact to show you
that they're not always accurate. Of course, as
I've no daughters, and as Mrs.
Touchett resides in Florence, I haven't had much
chance to notice about the
young ladies. It sometimes appears as if the
young women in the lower class
were not very well treated; but I guess their
position is better in the upper
and even to some extent in the middle."
"how many classes have they? About fifty, I
don't know that I ever
counted them. I never took much notice of the
classes. That's the advantage of
being an American here; you don't belong to any
so," said Isabel.
"Imagine one's belonging to an English class!"
guess some of them are pretty
comfortable- especially towards the top. But for
me there are only two classes:
the people I trust and the people I don't. Of
those two, my dear Isabel, you
belong to the first."
obliged to you," said
the girl quickly. Her way of taking compliments
seemed sometimes rather dry;
she got rid of them as rapidly as possible. But
as regards this she was
sometimes misjudged, she was thought insensible
to them, whereas in fact she
was simply unwilling to show how infinitely they
pleased her. To show that was
to show too much. "I'm sure the English are very
got everything pretty well
fixed," Mr. Touchett admitted. "It's all settled
don't leave it to the last moment."
like to have everything
settled beforehand," said the girl. "I like more
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
not have success if they're
too stupidly conventional. I'm not in the least
stupidly conventional. I'm just
the contrary. That's what they won't like."
you're all wrong," said
the old man. "You can't tell what they'll like.
They're very inconsistent;
that's their principal interest."
well," said Isabel, standing
before her uncle with her hands clasped about
the belt of her black dress and
looking up and down the lawn- "that will suit me
amused themselves, time and again,
with talking of the attitude of the British
public as if the young lady had
been in a position to appeal to it; but in fact
the British public remained for
the present profoundly indifferent to Miss
Isabel Archer, whose fortune had
dropped her, as her cousin said, into the
dullest house in England. Her gouty
uncle received very little company, and Mrs.
Touchett, not having cultivated
relations with her husband's neighbours, was not
warranted in expecting visits
from them. She had, however, a peculiar taste;
she liked to receive cards. For
what is usually called social intercourse she
had very little relish; but
nothing pleased her more than to find her
hall-table whitened with oblong
morsels of symbolic pasteboard. She flattered
herself that she was a very just
woman, and had mastered the sovereign truth that
nothing in this world is got
for nothing. She had played no social part as
mistress of Gardencourt, and it
was not to be supposed that, in the surrounding
country, a minute account
should be kept of her comings and goings. But it
is by no means certain that
she did not feel it to be wrong that so little
notice was taken of them and
that her failure (really very gratuitous) to
make herself important in the
neighbourhood had, not much to do with the
acrimony of her allusions to her
husband's adopted country. Isabel presently
found herself in the singular
situation of defending the British constitution
against her aunt; Mrs. Touchett
having formed the habit of sticking pins into
this venerable instrument. Isabel
always felt an impulse to pull out the pins; not
that she imagined they
inflicted any damage on the tough old parchment,
but because it seemed to her
aunt might make better use of her sharpness. She
was very critical herself- it
was incidental to her age, her sex and her
nationality; but she was very
sentimental as well, and there was something in
Mrs. Touchett's dryness that
set her own moral fountains flowing.
what's your point of view?"
she asked of her aunt. "When you criticize
everything here you should have
a point of view. Yours doesn't seem to be
American- you thought everything over
there so disagreeable. When I criticize I have
mine; it's thoroughly American!"
young lady," said Mrs.
Touchett, "there are as many points of view in
the world as there are
people of sense to take them. You may say that
doesn't make them very numerous!
American? Never in the world; that's shockingly
narrow. My point of view, thank
God, is personal!"
thought this a better answer than
she admitted; it was a tolerable description of
her own manner of judging, but
it would not have sounded well for her to say
so. On the lips of a person less
advanced in life and less enlightened by
experience than Mrs. Touchett such a
declaration would savour of immodesty, even of
arrogance. She risked it
nevertheless in talking with Ralph, with whom
she talked a great deal and with
whom her conversation was of a sort that gave a
large license to extravagance.
Her cousin used, as the phrase is, to chaff her;
he very soon established with
her a reputation for treating everything as a
joke, and he was not a man to
neglect the privileges such a reputation
conferred. She accused him of an odious
want of seriousness, of laughing at all things,
beginning with himself. Such
slender faculty of reverence as he possessed
centred wholly upon his father;
for the rest, he exercised his wit indifferently
upon his father's son, this
gentleman's weak lungs, his useless life, his
fantastic mother, his friends
(Lord Warburton in especial), his adopted, and
his native country, his charming
new-found cousin. "I keep a band of music in my
ante-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
"Columbia" and accusing her of a patriotism so
heated that it
scorched. He drew a caricature of her in which
she was represented as a very
pretty young woman dressed, on the lines of the
prevailing fashion, in the
folds of the national banner. Isabel's chief
dread in life at this period of
her development was that she should appear
narrow-minded; what she feared next
afterwards was that she should really be so. But
she nevertheless made no
scruple of abounding in her cousin's sense and
pretending to sigh for the
charms of her native land. She would be as
American as it pleased him to regard
her, and if he chose to laugh at her she would
give him plenty of occupation.
She defended England against his mother, but
when Ralph sang its praises on
purpose, as she said, to work her up, she found
herself able to differ from him
on a variety of points. In fact, the quality of
this small ripe country seemed
as sweet to her as the taste of an October pear;
and her satisfaction was at
the root of the good spirits which enabled her
to take her cousin's chaff and
return it in kind. If her good-humour flagged at
moments it was not because she
thought herself ill-used, but because she
suddenly felt sorry for Ralph. It
seemed to her he was talking as a blind and had
little heart in what he said.
know what's the matter with
you," she observed to him once; "but I suspect
you're a great
your privilege," Ralph
answered, who had not been used to being so
know what you care for; I
don't think you care for anything. You don't
really care for England when you
praise it; you don't care for America even when
you pretend to abuse it."
for nothing but you, dear
cousin," said Ralph.
could believe even that, I
should be very glad."
I should hope so!" the
young man exclaimed.
might have believed it and not have
been far from the truth. He thought a great deal
about her; she was constantly
present to his mind. At a time when his thoughts
had been a good deal of a
burden to him her sudden arrival, which promised
nothing and was an open-handed
gift of fate, had refreshed and quickened them,
given them wings and something
to fly for. Poor Ralph had been for many weeks
steeped in melancholy; his
outlook, habitually sombre, lay under the shadow
of a deeper cloud. He had
grown anxious about his father, whose gout,
hitherto confined to his legs, had
begun to ascend into regions more vital. The old
man had been gravely ill in
the spring, and the doctors had whispered to
Ralph that another attack would be
less easy to deal with. Just now he appeared
disburdened of pain, but Ralph
could not rid himself of a suspicion that this
was a subterfuge of the enemy,
who was waiting to take him off his guard. If
the manoeuvre should succeed
there would be little hope of any great
resistance. Ralph had always taken for
granted that his father would survive him- that
his own name would be the first
grimly called. The father and son had been close
companions, and the idea of
being left alone with the remnant of a tasteless
life on his hands was not
gratifying to the young man, who had always and
tacitly counted upon his
elder's help in making the best of a poor
business. At the prospect of losing
his great motive Ralph lost indeed his one
inspiration. If they might die at
the same time it would be all very well; but
without the encouragement of his
father's society he should barely have patience
to await his own turn. He had
not the incentive of feeling that he was
indispensable to his mother; it was a
rule with his mother to have no regrets. He
bethought himself of course that it
had been a small kindness to his father to wish
that, of the two, the active
rather than the passive party should know the
felt wound; he remembered that
the old man had always treated his own forecast
of an early end as a clever
fallacy, which he should be delighted to
discredit so far as he might by dying
first. But of the two triumphs, that of refuting
a sophistical son and that of
holding on a while longer to a state of being
which, with all abatements, he
enjoyed, Ralph deemed it no sin to hope the
latter might be vouchsafed to Mr.
were nice questions, but Isabel's
arrival put a stop to his puzzling over them. It
even suggested there might be
a compensation for the intolerable ennui of
surviving his genial sire. He
wondered whether he were harbouring "love" for
this spontaneous young
woman from Albany; but he judged that on the
whole he was not. After he had
known her for a week he quite made up his mind
to this, and every day he felt a
little more sure. Lord Warburton had been right
about her; she was a really
interesting little figure. Ralph wondered how
their neighbour had found it out
so soon; and then he said it was only another
proof of his friend's high
abilities, which he had always greatly admired.
If his cousin were to be
nothing more than an entertainment to him, Ralph
was conscious she was an
entertainment of a high order. "A character like
that," he said to
himself,- "a real little passionate force to see
at play is the finest
thing in nature." It's finer than the finest
work of art- than a Greek
bas-relief, than a great Titian, than a Gothic
cathedral. It's very pleasant to
be so well treated where one had least looked
for it. I had never been more
blue, more bored, than for a week before she
came; I had never expected less
that anything pleasant would happen. Suddenly I
receive a Titian, by the post,
to hang on my wall- a Greek bas-relief to stick
over my chimney-piece. The key
of a beautiful edifice is thrust into my hand,
and I'm told to walk in and
admire. My poor boy, you've been sadly
ungrateful, and now you had better keep
very quiet and never grumble again." The
sentiment of these reflexions was
very just; but it was not exactly true that
Ralph Touchett had had a key put
into his hand. His cousin was a very brilliant
girl, who would take, as he
said, a good deal of knowing; but she needed the
knowing, and his attitude with
regard to her, though it was contemplative and
critical, was not judicial. He
surveyed the edifice from the outside and
admired it greatly; he looked in at
the windows and received an impression of
proportions equally fair. But he felt
that he saw it only by glimpses and that he had
not yet stood under the roof.
The door was fastened, and though he had keys in
his pocket he had a conviction
that none of them would fit. She was intelligent
and generous; it was a fine
free nature; but what was she going to do with
herself? This question was
irregular, for with most women one had no
occasion to ask it. Most women did
with themselves nothing at all; they waited,
attitudes more or less gracefully
passive, for a man to come that way and furnish
them with a destiny. Isabel's
originality was that she gave one an impression
of having intentions of her
own. "Whenever she executes them," said Ralph,
"may I be there
devolved upon him of course to do the
honours of the place. Mr. Touchett was confined
to his chair, and his wife's
position was that of rather a grim visitor; so
that in the line of conduct that
opened itself to Ralph duty and inclination were
harmoniously mixed. He was not
a great walker, but he strolled about the
grounds with his cousin- a pastime
for which the weather remained favourable with a
persistency not allowed for in
Isabel's somewhat lugubrious prevision of the
climate; and in the long
afternoons, of which the length was but the
measure of her gratified eagerness,
they took a boat on the river, the dear little
river, as Isabel called it,
where the opposite shore seemed still a part of
the foreground of the
landscape; or drove over the country in a
phaeton- a low, capacious,
thick-wheeled phaeton formerly much used by Mr.
Touchett, but which he had now
ceased to enjoy. Isabel enjoyed it largely and,
handling the reins in a manner
which approved itself to the groom as "knowing,"
was never weary of
driving her uncle's capital horses through
winding lanes and byways full of the
rural incidents she had confidently expected to
find; past cottages thatched
and timbered, past ale-houses latticed and
sanded, past patches of ancient
common and glimpses of empty parks, between
hedgerows made thick by midsummer.
When they reached home they usually found tea
had been served on the lawn and
that Mrs. Touchett had not shrunk from the
extremity of handing her husband his
cup. But the two for the most part sat silent;
the old man with his head back
and his eyes closed, his wife occupied with her
knitting and wearing that
appearance of rare profundity with which some
ladies consider the movement of
however, a visitor had arrived.
The two young persons, after spending an hour on
the river, strolled back to
the house and perceived Lord Warburton sitting
under the trees and engaged in
conversation, of which even at a distance the
desultory character was
appreciable, with Mrs. Touchett. He had driven
over from his own place with a
portmanteau and had asked, as the father and son
often invited him to do, for a
dinner and a lodging. Isabel, seeing him for
half an hour on the day of her
arrival, had discovered in this brief space that
she liked him; he had indeed
rather sharply registered himself on her fine
sense and she had thought of him
several times. She had hoped she should see him
again- hoped too that she
should see a few others. Gardencourt was not
dull; the place itself was
sovereign, her uncle was more and more a sort of
golden grandfather, and Ralph
was unlike any cousin she had ever encountered-
her idea of cousins having
tended to gloom. Then her impressions were still
so fresh and so quickly
renewed that there was as yet hardly a hint of
vacancy in the view. But Isabel
had need to remind herself that she was
interested in human nature and that her
foremost hope in coming abroad had been that she
should see a great many
people. When Ralph said to her, as he had done
several times, "I wonder
you find this endurable; you ought to see some
of the neighbours and some of
our friends, because we have really got a few,
though you would never suppose
it"- when he offered to invite what he called a
"lot of people"
and make her acquainted with English society,
she encouraged the hospitable
impulse and promised in advance to hurl herself
into the fray. Little, however,
for the present, had come of his offers, and it
may be confided to the reader
that if the young man delayed to carry them out
it was because he found the
labour of providing for his companion by no
means so severe as to require
extraneous help. Isabel had spoken to him very
"specimens"; it was a word that played a
considerable part in her
vocabulary; she had given him to understand that
she wished to see English
society illustrated by eminent cases.
now, there's a specimen,"
he said to her as they walked up from the
riverside and he recognized Lord
specimen of what?" asked the
specimen of an English
mean they're all like
they're not all like
then," said Isabel; "because I'm sure he's
he's very nice. And he's very
fortunate Lord Warburton exchanged a
handshake with our heroine and hoped she was
very well. "But I needn't ask
that," he said, "since you've been handling the
been rowing a little,"
Isabel answered; "but how should you know it?"
know he doesn't row; he's too
lazy," said his lordship, indicating Ralph
Touchett with a laugh.
"He has a
good excuse for his
laziness," Isabel rejoined, lowering her voice a
has a good excuse for
everything!" cried Lord Warburton, still with
his sonorous mirth.
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!"
one want to be touched, Miss
Archer," Lord Warburton declared.
touched in the right sense and
you'll never look the worse for it," said
Isabel, who, if it pleased her
to hear it said that her accomplishments were
numerous, was happily able to
reflect that such complacency was not the
indication of a feeble mind, inasmuch
as there were several things in which she
excelled. Her desire to think well of
herself had at least the element of humility
that it always needed to be
supported by proof.
Warburton not only spent the night at
Gardencourt, but he was persuaded to remain over
the second day; and when the
second day was ended he determined to postpone
his departure till the morrow.
During this period he addressed many of his
remarks to Isabel, who accepted
this evidence of his esteem with a very good
grace. She found herself liking
him extremely; the first impression he had made
on her had had weight, but at
the end of an evening spent in his society she
scarce fell short of seeing him-
though quite without luridity- as a hero of
romance. She retired to rest with a
sense of good fortune, with a quickened
consciousness of possible felicities.
"It's very nice to know two such charming people
as those," she said,
meaning by "those" her cousin and her cousin's
friend. It must be
added moreover that an incident had occurred
which might have seemed to put her
good-humour to the test. Mr. Touchett went to
bed at half-past nine o'clock,
but his wife remained in the drawing-room with
the other members of the party.
She prolonged her vigil for something less than
an hour, and then, rising,
observed to Isabel that it was time they should
bid the gentlemen good-night.
Isabel had as yet no desire to go to bed; the
occasion wore, to her sense, a
festive character, and feasts were not in the
habit of terminating so early.
So, without further thought, she replied, very
go, dear aunt? I'll come up in
half an hour."
impossible I should wait for
you," Mrs. Touchett answered.
needn't wait! Ralph will
light my candle," Isabel gaily engaged.
light your candle; do let me
light your candle, Miss Archer!" Lord Warburton
exclaimed. "Only I
beg it shall not be before midnight."
Touchett fixed her bright little eyes
upon him a moment and transferred them coldly to
her niece. "You can't
stay alone with the gentlemen. You're not-
you're not at your blest Albany, my
rose, blushing. "I wish I
were," she said.
say, mother!" Ralph broke
Mrs. Touchett!" Lord
make your country, my
lord," Mrs. Touchett said majestically. "I must
take it as I find
stay with my own
cousin?" Isabel enquired.
aware that Lord Warburton is
I had better go to bed!"
the visitor suggested. "That will arrange it."
Touchett gave a little look of despair
and sat down again. "Oh, if it's necessary I'll
stay up till
meanwhile handed Isabel her
candlestick. He had been watching her; it had
seemed to him her temper was
involved- an accident that might be interesting.
But if he had expected
anything of a flare he was disappointed, for the
girl simply laughed a little,
nodded good-night and withdrew accompanied by
her aunt. For himself he was
annoyed at his mother, though he thought she was
right. Above-stairs the two
ladies separated at Mrs. Touchett's door. Isabel
had said nothing on her way
course you're vexed at my
interfering with you," said Mrs. Touchett.
considered. "I'm not vexed, but
I'm surprised- and a good deal mystified. Wasn't
it proper I should remain in
the least. Young girls here-
in decent houses- don't sit alone with the
gentlemen late at night."
very right to tell me
then," said Isabel. "I don't understand it, but
I'm very glad to know
always tell you," her
aunt answered, "whenever I see you taking what
seems to me too much
but I don't say I shall
always think your remonstrance just."
likely not. You're too fond of
your own ways."
think I'm very fond of them.
But I always want to know the things one
"So as to
do them?" asked her
"So as to
choose," said Isabel.
was devoted to romantic effects Lord
Warburton ventured to express a hope that she
would come some day and see his house,
a very curious old place. He extracted from Mrs.
Touchett a promise that she
bring her niece to Lockleigh, and Ralph
signified his willingness to attend the
ladies if his father should be able to spare
him. Lord Warburton assured our
heroine that in the mean time his sisters, would
come and see her. She knew
something about his sisters, having sounded him,
during the hours they spent
together while he was at Gardencourt, on many
points connected with his family.
When Isabel was interested she asked a great
many questions, and as her
companion was a copious talker she urged him on
this occasion by no means in
vain. He told her he had four sisters and two
brothers and had lost both his
parents. The brothers and sisters were very good
people- "not particularly
clever, you know," he said, "but very decent and
he was so good as to hope Miss Archer might know
them well. One of the brothers
was in the Church, settled in the family living,
that of Lockleigh, which was a
heavy, sprawling parish, and was an excellent
fellow in spite of his thinking
differently from himself on every conceivable
topic. And then Lord Warburton
mentioned some of the opinions held by his
brother, which were opinions Isabel
had often heard expressed and that she supposed
to be entertained by a
considerable portion of the human family. Many
of them indeed she supposed she
had held herself, till he assured her she was
quite mistaken, that it was
really impossible, that she had doubtless
imagined she entertained them, but that
she might depend that, if she thought them over
a little, she would find there
was nothing in them. When she answered that she
had already thought several of
the questions involved over very attentively he
declared that she was only
another example of what he had often been struck
with- the fact that, of all
the people in the world, the Americans were the
most grossly superstitious.
They were rank Tories and bigots, every one of
them; there were no
conservatives like American conservatives. Her
uncle and her cousin were there
to prove it; nothing could be more mediaeval
than many of their views; they had
ideas that people in England nowadays were
ashamed to confess to; and they had
the impudence moreover, said his lordship,
laughing, to pretend they knew more
about the needs and dangers of this poor dear
stupid old England than he who
was born in it and owned a considerable slice of
it- the more shame to him!
From all of which Isabel gathered that Lord
Warburton was a nobleman of the
newest pattern, a reformer, a radical, a
contemner of ancient ways. His other
brother, who was in the army in India, was
rather wild and pig-headed and had
not been of much use as yet but to make debts
for Warburton to pay- one of the
most precious privileges of an elder brother. "I
don't think I shall pay
any more," said her friend; "he lives a
monstrous deal better than I
do, enjoys unheard-of luxuries and thinks
himself a much finer gentleman than
I. As I'm a consistent radical I go in only for
equality; I don't go in for the
superiority of the younger brothers." Two of his
four sisters, the second
and fourth, were married, one of them having
done very well, as they said, the
other only so-so. The husband of the elder, Lord
Haycock, was a very good
fellow, but unfortunately a horrid Tory; and his
wife, like all good English
wives, was worse than her husband. The other had
espoused a smallish squire in
Norfolk and, though married but the other day,
had already five children. This
information and much more Lord Warburton
imparted to his young American
listener, taking pains to make many things clear
and to lay bare to her
apprehension the peculiarities of English life.
Isabel was often amused at his
explicitness and at the small allowance he
seemed to make either for her own
experience or for her imagination. "He thinks
I'm a barbarian," she
said, "and that I've never seen forks and
spoons"; and she used to
ask him artless questions for the pleasure of
hearing him answer seriously.
Then when he had fallen into the trap, "It's a
pity you can't see me in my
war-paint and feathers," she remarked; "if I had
known how kind you
are to the poor savages I would have brought
over my native costume!" Lord
Warburton had travelled through the United
States and knew much more about them
than Isabel; he was so good as to say that
America was the most charming
country in the world, but his recollections of
it appeared to encourage the
idea that Americans in England would need to
have a great many things explained
to them. "If I had only had you to explain
things to me in America!"
he said. "I was rather puzzled in your country;
in fact I was quite
bewildered, and the trouble was that the
explanations only puzzled me more. You
know I think they often gave me the wrong ones
on purpose; they're rather
clever about that over there. But when I explain
you can trust me; about what I
tell you there's no mistake." There was no
mistake at least about his
being very intelligent and cultivated and
knowing almost everything in the
world. Although he gave the most interesting and
thrilling glimpses Isabel felt
he never did it to exhibit himself, and though
he had had rare chances and had
tumbled in, as she put it, for high prizes, he
was as far as possible from
making a merit of it. He had enjoyed the best
things of life, but they had not
spoiled his sense of proportion. His quality was
a mixture of the effect of
rich experienced, so easily come by!- with a
modesty at times almost boyish;
the sweet and wholesome savour of which- it was
as agreeable as something tasted-
lost nothing from the addition of a tone of
your specimen English
gentleman very much," Isabel said to Ralph after
Lord Warburton had gone.
him too- I love him
well," Ralph returned. "But I pity him more."
looked at him askance. "Why,
that seems to me his only fault- that one can't
pity him a little. He appears
to have everything, to know everything, to be
in a bad way!" Ralph
suppose you don't mean in
to that he's detestably sound.
What I mean is that he's a man with a great
position who's playing all sorts of
tricks with it. He doesn't take himself
regard himself as a
worse; he regards himself as an
imposition- as an abuse."
perhaps he is," said
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
doesn't look very wretched,"
not; though, being a man of
a good deal of charming taste, I think he often
has uncomfortable hours. But
what is it to say of a being of his
opportunities that he's not miserable?
Besides, I believe he is."
don't," said Isabel.
her cousin rejoined,
"if he isn't he ought to be!"
afternoon she spent an hour with her
uncle on the lawn, where the old man sat, as
usual, with his shawl over his
legs and his large cup of diluted tea in his
hands. In the course of
conversation he asked her what she thought of
their late visitor.
was prompt. "I think he's
nice person," said Mr.
Touchett, "but I don't recommend you to fall in
love with him."
not do it then; I shall never
fall in love but on your recommendation.
Moreover," Isabel added, "my
cousin gives me rather a sad account of Lord
indeed? I don't know what there
may be to say, but you must remember that Ralph
thinks your friend's too
subversive- or not subversive enough! I don't
quite understand which,"
man shook his head slowly, smiled
and put down his cup. "I don't know which
either. He goes very far, but
it's quite possible he doesn't go far enough. He
seems to want to do away with
a good many things, but he seems to want to
remain himself. I suppose that's
natural, but rather inconsistent."
hope he'll remain
himself," said Isabel. "If he were to be done
away with his friends
would miss him sadly."
said the old man, "I
guess he'll stay and amuse his friends. I should
certainly miss him very much
here at Gardencourt. He always amuses me when he
comes over, and I think he
amuses himself as well. There's a considerable
number like him, round in
society; they're very fashionable just now. I
don't know what they're trying to
do- whether they're trying to get up a
revolution. I hope at any rate they'll
put it off till after I'm gone. You see they
want to disestablish everything;
but I'm a pretty big landowner here, and I don't
want to be disestablished. I
wouldn't have come over if I had thought they
were going to behave like
that," Mr. Touchett went on with expanding
hilarity. "I came over
because I thought England was a safe country. I
call it a regular fraud if they
are going to introduce any considerable changes;
there'll be a large number
disappointed in that case."
"Oh, I do
hope they'll make a
revolution!" Isabel exclaimed "I should delight
in seeing a
see," said her uncle,
with a humorous intention; "I forget whether
you're on the side of the old
or on the side of the new. I've heard you take
such opposite views."
the side of both. I guess I'm
a little on the side of everything. In a
revolution- after it was well begun- I
think I should be a high, proud loyalist. One
sympathizes more with them, and
they've a chance to behave so exquisitely. I
mean so picturesquely."
know that I understand what
you mean by behaving picturesquely, but it seems
to me that you do that always,
lovely man, if I could
believe that!" the girl interrupted.
afraid, after all, you won't have
the pleasure of going gracefully to the
guillotine here just now," Mr.
Touchett went on. "If you want to see a big
outbreak you must pay us a
long visit. You see, when you come to the point
it wouldn't suit them to be
taken at their word."
are you speaking?"
mean Lord Warburton and his
friends- the radicals of the upper class. Of
course I only know the way it
strikes me. They talk about the changes, but I
don't think they quite realize.
You and I, you know, we know what it is to have
lived under democratic
institutions: I always thought them very
comfortable, but I was used to them
from the first. And then I ain't a lord; you're
a lady, my dear, but I ain't a
lord. Now over here I don't think it quite comes
home to them. It's a matter of
every day and every hour, and I don't think many
of them would find it as
pleasant as what they've got. Of course if they
want to try, it's their own
business; but I expect they won't try very
you think they're
sincere?" Isabel asked.
they want to feel
earnest," Mr. Touchett allowed; "but it seems as
if they took it out
in theories mostly. Their radical views are a
kind of amusement; they've got to
have some amusement, and they might have coarser
tastes than that. You see
they're very luxurious, and these progressive
ideas are about their biggest
luxury. They make them feel moral and yet don't
damage their position. They
think a great deal of their position; don't let
one of them ever persuade you
he doesn't, for if you were to proceed on that
basis you'd be pulled up very
followed her uncle's argument, which
he unfolded with his quaint distinctness, most
attentively, and though she wag
unacquainted with the British aristocracy she
found it in harmony with her
general impressions of human nature. But she
felt moved to put in a protest on
Lord Warburton's behalf. "I don't believe Lord
Warburton's a humbug; I
don't care what the others are. I should like to
see Lord Warburton put to the
deliver me from my
friends!" Mr. Touchett answered. "Lord
Warburton's a very amiable
young man- a very fine young man. He has a
hundred thousand a year. He owns
fifty thousand acres of the soil of this little
island and ever so many other
things besides. He has half a dozen houses to
live in. He has a seat in
Parliament as I have one at my own dinner-table.
He has elegant tastes- cares
for literature, for art, for science, for
charming young ladies. The most
elegant is his taste for the new views. It
affords him a great deal of
pleasure- more perhaps than anything else,
except the young ladies. His old
house over there- what does he call it,
Lockleigh?- is very attractive; but I
don't think it's as pleasant as this. That
doesn't matter, however- he has so
many others. His views don't hurt any one as far
as I can see; they certainly
don't hurt himself. And if there were to be a
revolution he would come off very
easily. They wouldn't touch him, they'd leave
him as he is: he's too much
couldn't be a martyr even if
he wished!" Isabel sighed. "That's a very poor
never be a martyr unless you
make him one," said the old man.
shook her head; there might have
been something laughable in the fact that she
did it with a touch of
melancholy. "I shall never make any one a
never be one, I hope."
not. But you don't pity Lord
Warburton then as Ralph does?
looked at her a while with genial
acuteness. "Yes, I do, after all!"
Misses Molyneux, this nobleman's
sisters, came presently to call upon her, and
Isabel took a fancy to the young
ladies, who appeared to her to show a most
original stamp. It is true that when
she described them to her cousin by that term he
declared that no epithet could
be less applicable than this to the two Misses
Molyneux, since there were fifty
thousand young women in England who exactly
resembled them. Deprived of this
advantage, however, Isabel's visitors retained
that of an extreme sweetness and
shyness of demeanour, and of having, as she
thought, eyes like the balanced
basins, the circles of "ornamental water," set,
in parterres, among
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. Their friendliness
was great, so great that they were almost
embarrassed to show it; they seemed
somewhat afraid of the young lady from the other
side of the world and rather
looked than spoke their good wishes. But they
made it clear to her that they
hoped she would come to luncheon at Lockleigh,
where they lived with their
brother, and then they might see her very, very
often. They wondered if she
wouldn't come over some day and sleep: they were
expecting some people on the
twenty-ninth, so perhaps she would come while
the people were there.
afraid it isn't any one very
remarkable," said the elder sister; "but I dare
say you'll take us as
you find us."
find you delightful; I think
you're enchanting just as you are," replied
Isabel, who often praised
visitors flushed, and her cousin told
her, after they were gone, that if she said such
things to those poor girls
they would think she was in some wild, free
manner practising on them: he was
sure it was the first time they had been called
help it," Isabel
answered. "I think it's lovely to be so quiet
and reasonable and
satisfied. I should like to be like that."
forbid!" cried Ralph with
to try and imitate them,"
said Isabel. "I want very much to see them at
this pleasure a few days later,
when, with Ralph and his mother, she drove over
to Lockleigh. She found the
Misses Molyneux sitting in a vast drawing-room
(she perceived afterwards it was
one of several) in a wilderness of faded chintz;
they were dressed on this
occasion in black velveteen. Isabel liked them
even better at home than she had
done at Gardencourt, and was more than ever
struck with the fact that they were
not morbid. It had seemed to her before that if
they had a fault it was a want
of play of mind; but she presently saw they were
capable of deep emotion.
Before luncheon she was alone with them for some
time, on one side of the room,
while Lord Warburton, at a distance, talked to
true your brother's such a
great radical?" Isabel asked. She knew it was
true, but we have seen that
her interest in human nature was keen, and she
had a desire to draw the Misses
yes; he's immensely
advanced," said Mildred, the younger sister.
same time Warburton's very
reasonable." Miss Molyneux observed.
watched him a moment at the other
side of the room; he was clearly trying hard to
make himself agreeable to Mrs.
Touchett. Ralph had met the frank advances of
one of the dogs before the fire
that the temperature of an English August, in
the ancient expanses, had not
made an impertinence. "Do you suppose your
brother's sincere?" Isabel
enquired with a smile.
must be, you know!"
Mildred exclaimed quickly, while the elder
sister gazed at our heroine in silence.
think he would stand the
for instance having to give up
to give up Lockleigh?"
said Miss Molyneux, finding her voice.
the other places; what are
sisters exchanged an almost
frightened glance. "Do you mean- do you mean on
account of the
expense?" the younger one asked.
say he might let one or two of
his houses," said the other.
for nothing?" Isabel
fancy his giving up his
property," said Miss Molyneux.
afraid he is an
impostor!" Isabel returned. "Don't you think
it's a false
companions, evidently, had lost
themselves. "My brother position?" Miss Molyneux
thought a very good
position," said the younger sister. "It's the
first position in this
part of the country."
say you think me very
irreverent," Isabel took occasion to remark. "I
suppose you revere
your brother and are rather afraid of him."
course one looks up to one's
brother," said Miss Molyneux simply.
do that he must be very good-
because you, evidently, are beautifully good."
most kind. It will never be
known, the good he does."
ability is known," Mildred
added; "every one thinks it's immense."
can see that," said
Isabel. "But if I were he I should wish to fight
to the death: I mean for
the heritage of the past. I should hold it
one ought to be
liberal," Mildred argued gently. "We've always
been so, even from the
well," said Isabel,
"you've made a great success of it; I don't
wonder you like it. I see
you're very fond of crewels."
Warburton showed her the house,
after luncheon, seemed to her a matter of course
that it should be a noble
picture. Within, it had been a good deal
modernized- some of its best points
had lost their purity; but as they saw it from
the gardens, a stout grey pile,
of the softest, deepest, most weather-fretted
hue, rising from a broad, still
moat, it affected the young visitor as a castle
in a legend. The day was cool
and rather lustreless; the first note of autumn
had been struck, and the watery
sunshine rested on the walls in blurred and
desultory gleams, washing them, as
it were, in places tenderly chosen, where the
ache of antiquity was keenest.
Her host's brother, the Vicar, had come to
luncheon, and Isabel had had five
minutes' talk with him- time enough to institute
a search for a rich
ecclesiasticism and give it up as vain. The
marks of the Vicar of Lockleigh
were a big, athletic figure, a candid, natural
countenance, a capacious
appetite and a tendency to indiscriminate
laughter. Isabel learned afterwards
from her cousin that before taking orders he had
been a mighty wrestler and
that he was still, on occasion- in the privacy
of the family circle as it were-
quite capable of flooring his man. Isabel liked
him- she was in the mood for
liking everything; but her imagination was a
good deal taxed to think of him as
a source of spiritual aid. The whole party, on
leaving lunch, went to walk in
the grounds; but Lord Warburton exercised some
ingenuity in engaging his least
familiar guest in a stroll apart from the
you to see the place properly,
seriously," he said. "You can't do so if your
attention is distracted
by irrelevant gossip." His own conversation
(though he told Isabel a good
deal about the house, which had a very curious
history) was not purely
archaeological; he reverted at intervals to
matters more personal- matters
personal to the young lady as well as to
himself. But at last, after a pause of
some duration, returning for a moment to their
ostensible theme, "Ah,
well," he said, "I'm very glad indeed you like
the old barrack. I
wish you could see more of it- that you could
stay here a while. My sisters
have taken an immense fancy to you- if that
would be any inducement."
no want of inducements,"
Isabel answered; "but I'm afraid I can't make
engagements. I'm quite in my
pardon me if I say I don't
exactly believe that. I'm pretty sure you can do
whatever you want."
sorry if I make that impression
on you; I don't think it's a nice impression to
the merit of permitting me to
hope." And Lord Warburton paused a moment.
future I may see you
said Isabel, "to enjoy
that pleasure I needn't be so terribly
not; and yet, at the same
time, I don't think your uncle likes me."
very much mistaken. I've heard
him speak very highly of you."
you have talked about
me," said Lord Warburton. "But, I nevertheless
don't think he'd like
me to keep coming to Gardencourt."
answer for my uncle's
tastes," the girl rejoined, "though I ought as
far as possible to
take them into account. But for myself I shall
be very glad to see you."
that's what I like to hear you
say. I'm charmed when you say that."
easily charmed, my lord,"
not easily charmed!" And
then he stopped a moment. "But you've charmed
me, Miss Archer."
words were uttered with an
indefinable sound which startled the girl; it
struck her as the prelude to
something grave: she had heard the sound before
and she recognized it. She had
no wish, however, that for the moment such a
prelude should have a sequel, and
she said as gaily as possible and as quickly as
an appreciable degree of
agitation would allow her: "I'm afraid there's
no prospect of my being
able to come here again."
said Lord Warburton.
say 'never'; I should feel
come and see you then some day
assuredly. What is there to
tangible. But with you I
never feel safe. I've a sort of sense that
you're always summing people
don't of necessity lose by
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?"
England not good enough for
very Machiavellian speech;
it doesn't deserve an answer. I want to see as
many countries as I can."
you'll go on judging, I
I hope, too."
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."
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
can't improve your mind, Miss
Archer," her companion declared. "It's already a
instrument. It looks down on us all; it despises
you? You're making fun of
me," said Isabel seriously.
you think us 'quaint'- that's
the same thing. I won't be thought 'quaint,' to
begin with; I'm not so in the
least. I protest."
protest is one of the quaintest
things I've ever heard," Isabel answered with a
Warburton was briefly silent.
"You judge only from the outside- you don't
care," he said presently.
"You only care to amuse yourself." The note she
had heard in his
voice a moment before reappeared, and mixed with
it now was an audible strain
of bitterness- a bitterness so abrupt and
inconsequent that the girl was afraid
she had hurt him. She had often heard that the
English are a highly eccentric
people, and she had even read in some ingenious
author that they are at bottom
the most romantic of races. Was Lord Warburton
suddenly turning romantic- was
he going to make her a scene, in his own house,
only the third time they had
met? She was reassured quickly enough by her
sense of his great good manners,
which was not impaired by the fact that he had
already touched the furthest
limit of good taste in expressing his admiration
of a young lady who had
confided in his hospitality. She was right in
trusting to his good manners, for
he presently went on, laughing a little and
without a trace of the accent that
had discomposed her: "I don't mean of course
that you amuse yourself with
trifles. You select great materials; the
foibles, the afflictions of human
nature, the peculiarities of nations!"
regards that," said Isabel,
"I should find in my own nation entertainment
for a lifetime. But we've a
long drive, and my aunt will soon wish to
start." She turned back toward
the others and Lord Warburton walked beside her
in silence. But before they
reached the others, "I shall come and see you
next week," he said.
received an appreciable shock, but
as it died away she felt that she couldn't
pretend to herself that it was
altogether a painful one. Nevertheless she made
answer to his declaration,
coldly enough, "Just as you please." And her
coldness was not the
calculation of her effect- a game she played in
a much smaller degree than
would have seemed probable to many critics. It
came from a certain fear.
after her visit to Lockleigh she
received a note from her friend Miss Stackpole-
a note of which the envelope,
exhibiting in conjunction the postmark of
Liverpool and the neat calligraphy of
the quick-fingered Henrietta, caused her some
liveliness of emotion. "Here
I am, my lovely friend," Miss Stackpole wrote;
"I managed to get off
at last. I decided only the night before I left
New York- the Interviewer
having come round to my figure. I put a few
things into a bag, like a veteran
journalist, and came down to the steamer in a
street-car. Where are you and
where can we meet? I suppose you're visiting at
some castle or other and have
already acquired the correct accent. Perhaps
even you have married a lord; I
almost hope you have, for I want some
introductions to the first people and
shall count on you for a few. The Interviewer
wants some light on the nobility.
My first impressions (of the people at large)
are not rose-coloured; but I wish
to talk them over with you, and you know that,
whatever I am, at least I'm not
superficial. I've also something very particular
to tell you. Do appoint a
meeting as quickly as you can; come to London (I
should like so much to visit
the sights with you) or else let me come to you,
wherever you are. I will do so
with pleasure; for you know everything interests
me and I wish to see as much
as possible of the inner life."
judged best not to show this letter
to her uncle; but she acquainted him with its
purport, and, as she expected, he
begged her instantly to assure Miss Stackpole,
in his name, that he should be
delighted to receive her at Gardencourt. "Though
she's a literary
lady," he said, "I suppose that, being an
American, she won't show me
up, as that other one did. She has seen others
seen no other so
delightful!" Isabel answered; but she was not
altogether at ease about
Henrietta's reproductive instincts, which
belonged to that side of her friend's
character which she regarded with least
complacency. She wrote to Miss
Stackpole, however, that she would be very
welcome under Mr. Touchett's roof;
and this alert young woman lost no time in
announcing her prompt approach. She
had gone up to London, and it was from that
centre that she took the train for
the station nearest to Gardencourt, where Isabel
and Ralph were in waiting to
love her or shall I hate
her?" Ralph asked while they moved along the
you do will matter very
little to her," said Isabel. "She doesn't care a
straw what men think
"As a man
I'm bound to dislike her
then. She must be a kind of monster. Is she very
she's decidedly pretty."
interviewer- a reporter in
petticoats? I'm very curious to see her," Ralph
very easy to laugh at her but it
is not easy to be as brave as she."
think not; crimes of
violence and attacks on the person require more
or less pluck. Do you suppose
she'll interview me?"
the world. She'll not think
you of enough importance."
see," said Ralph.
"She'll send a description of us all, including
Bunchie, to her newspaper."
ask her not to," Isabel
think she's capable of it
you've made her your
made her my bosom-friend;
but I like her in spite of her faults."
well," said Ralph, "I'm
afraid I shall dislike her in spite of her
probably fall in love with her
at the end of three days."
my love-letters published in
the Interviewer? Never!" cried the young man.
presently arrived, and Miss
Stackpole, promptly descending, proved, as
Isabel had promised, quite
delicately, even though rather provincially,
fair. She was a neat, plump
person, of medium stature, with a round face, a
small mouth, a delicate
complexion, a bunch of light brown ringlets at
the back of her head and a
peculiarly open, surprised-looking eye. The most
striking point in her
appearance was the remarkable fixedness of this
organ, which rested without
impudence or defiance, but as if in
conscientious exercise of a natural right,
upon every object it happened to encounter. It
rested in this manner upon Ralph
himself, a little arrested by Miss Stackpole's
gracious and comfortable aspect,
which hinted that it wouldn't be so easy as he
had assumed to disapprove of
her. She rustled, she shimmered, in fresh,
dove-coloured draperies, and Ralph
saw at a glance that she was as crisp and new
and comprehensive as a first
issue before the folding. From top to toe she
had probably no misprint. She
spoke in a clear, high voice- a voice not rich
but loud; yet after she had
taken her place with her companions in Mr.
Touchett's carriage she struck him
as not all in the large type, the type of horrid
"headings," that he
had expected. She answered the enquiries made of
her by Isabel, however, and in
which the young man ventured to join, with
copious lucidity; and later, in the
library at Gardencourt, when she had made the
acquaintance of Mr. Touchett (his
wife not having thought it necessary to appear)
did more to give the measure of
her confidence in her powers.
should like to know whether
you consider yourselves American or English,"
she broke out. "If once
I knew I could talk to you accordingly."
us anyhow and we shall be
thankful," Ralph liberally answered.
her eyes on him, and there was
something in their character that reminded him
of large polished buttons-
buttons that might have fixed the elastic loops
of some tense receptacle: he
seemed to see the reflection of surrounding
objects on the pupil. The
expression of a button is not usually deemed
human, but there was something in
Miss Stackpole's gaze that made him, as a very
modest man, feel vaguely
embarrassed- less inviolate, more dishonoured,
than he liked. This sensation,
it must be added, after he had spent a day or
two in her company, sensibly
diminished, though it never wholly lapsed. "I
don't suppose that you're
going to undertake to persuade me that you're an
American," she said.
please you I'll be an Englishman,
I'll be a Turk!"
you can change about that
way you're very welcome," Miss Stackpole
you understand everything
and that differences of nationality are no
barrier to you," Ralph went on.
Stackpole gazed at him still. "Do
you mean the foreign languages?"
languages are nothing. I mean the
spirit- the genius."
sure that I understand
you," said the correspondent of the Interviewer;
"but I expect I
shall before I leave."
what's called a
cosmopolite," Isabel suggested.
means he's a little of everything
and not much of any. I must say I think
patriotism is like charity- it begins
where does home begin, Miss
Stackpole?" Ralph enquired.
know where it begins, but I
know where it ends. It ended a long time before
I got here."
you like it over here?"
asked Mr. Touchett with his aged, innocent
sir, I haven't quite made up my
mind what ground I shall take. I feel a good
deal cramped. I felt it on the
journey from Liverpool to London."
you were in a crowded
carriage," Ralph suggested.
it was crowded with friends-
a party of Americans whose acquaintance I had
made upon the steamer; a lovely
group from Little Rock, Arkansas. In spite of
that I felt cramped- I felt
something pressing upon me; I couldn't tell what
it was. I felt at the very
commencement as if I were not going to accord
with the atmosphere. But I
suppose I shall make my own atmosphere. That's
the true way- then you can
breathe. Your surroundings seem very
too are a lovely group!"
said Ralph. "Wait a little and you'll see.
Stackpole showed every disposition to
wait and evidently was prepared to make a
considerable stay at Gardencourt. She
occupied herself in the mornings with literary
labour; but in spite of this
Isabel spent many hours with her friend, who,
once her daily task performed,
deprecated, in fact defied, isolation. Isabel
speedily found occasion to desire
her to desist from celebrating the charms of
their common sojourn in print,
having discovered, on the second morning of Miss
Stackpole's visit, that she
was engaged on a letter to the Interviewer, of
which the title, in her
exquisitely neat and legible hand (exactly that
of the copybooks which our
heroine remembered at school) was "Americans and
Tudors- Glimpses of
Gardencourt." Miss Stackpole, with the best
conscience in the world,
offered to read her letter to Isabel, who
immediately put in her protest.
think you ought to do that. I
don't think you ought to describe the place."
gazed at her as usual. "Why,
it's just what the people want, and it's a
lovely to be put in the
newspapers, and it's not what my uncle wants."
you believe that!" cried
Henrietta. "They're always delighted
won't be delighted- nor my
cousin either. They'll consider it a breach of
Stackpole showed no sense of
confusion; she simply wiped her pen, very
neatly, upon an elegant little
implement which she kept for the purpose, and
put away her manuscript. "Of
course if you don't approve I won't do it; but I
sacrifice a beautiful
are plenty of other subjects,
there are subjects all round you. We'll take
some drives; I'll show you some
not my department; I always
need a human interest. You know I'm deeply
human, Isabel; I always was,"
Miss Stackpole rejoined. "I was going to bring
in your cousin- the
alienated American. There's a great demand just
now for the alienated American,
and your cousin's a beautiful specimen. I should
have handled him
have died of it!"
Isabel exclaimed. "Not of the severity, but of
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."
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 were suffused, while Isabel
found her more than ever
inconsequent. "You do me great injustice," said
Miss Stackpole with
dignity. "I've never written a word about
sure of that; but it seems
to me one should be modest for others also!"
that's very good!" cried
Henrietta, seizing her pen again. "Just let me
make a note of it and I'll
put it in somewhere." She was a thoroughly
good-natured woman, and half an
hour later she was in as cheerful a mood as
should have been looked for in a
newspaper-lady in want of matter. "I've promised
to do the social side,"
she said to Isabel; "and how can I do it unless
I get ideas? If I can't
describe this place don't you know some place I
can describe?" Isabel
promised she would bethink herself, and the next
day, in conversation with her
friend, she happened to mention her visit to
Lord Warburton's ancient house.
"Ah, you must take me there- that's just the
place for me!" Miss
Stackpole cried. "I must get a glimpse of the
take you," said Isabel;
"but Lord Warburton's coming here, and you'll
have a chance to see him and
observe him. Only if you intend to repeat his
conversation I shall certainly
give him warning."
that," her companion
pleaded; "I want him to be natural."
Englishman's never so natural as
when he's holding his tongue," Isabel declared.
not apparent, at the end of three
days, that her cousin had, according to her
prophecy, lost his heart to their
visitor, though he had spent a good deal of time
in her society. They strolled
about the park together and sat under the trees,
and in the afternoon, when it
was delightful to float along the Thames, Miss
Stackpole occupied a place in
the boat in which hitherto Ralph had had but a
single companion. Her presence
proved somehow less irreducible to soft
particles than Ralph had expected in
the natural perturbation of his sense of the
perfect solubility of that of his
cousin; for the correspondent of the Interviewer
prompted mirth in him, and he
had long since decided that the crescendo of
mirth should be the flower of his
declining days. Henrietta, on her side, failed a
little to justify Isabel's
declaration with regard to her indifference to
masculine opinion; for poor
Ralph appeared to have presented himself to her
as an irritating problem, which
it would be almost immoral not to work out.
does he do for a living?"
she asked of Isabel the evening of her arrival.
"Does he go round all day
with his hands in his pockets?"
nothing," smiled Isabel;
"he's a gentleman of large leisure."
call that a shame- when I
have to work like a car-conductor," Miss
Stackpole replied. "I should
like to show him up."
wretched health; he's quite
unfit for work," Isabel urged.
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.
said Ralph, "I keep
my victims for a slower torture. And you'd be
such an interesting one!"
you do torture me; I may say
that. But I shock all your prejudices; that's
prejudices? I haven't a prejudice
to bless myself with. There's intellectual
poverty for you."
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."
draw me out!" Ralph
exclaimed. "So few people will take the
Stackpole, in this undertaking,
appeared to shrink from no effort; resorting
largely, whenever the opportunity
offered, to the natural expedient of
interrogation. On the following day the
weather was bad, and in the afternoon the young
man, by way of providing indoor
amusement, offered to show her the pictures.
Henrietta strolled through the
long gallery in his society, while he pointed
out its principal ornaments and
mentioned the painters and subjects. Miss
Stackpole looked at the pictures in
perfect silence, committing herself to no
opinion, and Ralph was gratified by
the fact that she delivered herself of none of
the little ready-made
ejaculations of delight of which the visitors to
Gardencourt were so frequently
lavish. This young lady indeed, to do her
justice, was but little addicted to
the use of conventional terms; there was
something earnest and inventive in her
tone, which at times, in its strained
deliberation, suggested a person of high
culture speaking a foreign language. Ralph
Touchett subsequently learned that
she had at one time officiated as art-critic to
a journal of the other world;
but she appeared, in spite of this fact, to
carry in her pocket none of the
small change of admiration. Suddenly, just after
he had called her attention to
a charming Constable, she turned and looked at
him as if he himself had been a
always spend your time like
this?" she demanded.
spend it so agreeably."
you know what I mean- without
any regular occupation."
said Ralph, "I'm the
idlest man living."
Stackpole directed her gaze to the
Constable again, and Ralph bespoke her attention
for a small Lancret hanging
near it, which represented a gentleman in a pink
doublet and hose and a ruff,
leaning against the pedestal of the statue of a
nymph in a garden and playing
the guitar to two ladies seated on the grass.
"That's my ideal of a
regular occupation," he said.
Stackpole turned to him again, and,
though her eyes had rested upon the picture, he
saw she had missed the subject.
She was thinking of something much more serious.
"I don't see how you can
reconcile it to your conscience."
lady, I have no
advise you to cultivate one.
You'll need it the next time you go to America."
probably never go again."
ashamed to show
meditated with a mild smile. "I
suppose that if one has no conscience one has no
you've got plenty of
assurance," Henrietta declared. "Do you consider
it right to give up
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."
suppose that means that you've
tried and been worsted. What do they think of
you over here?"
delight in me."
because you truckle to
it down a little to my
natural charm!" Ralph sighed.
know anything about your
natural charm. If you've got any charm it's
quite unnatural. It's wholly
acquired- or at least you've tried hard to
acquire it, living over here. I
don't say you've succeeded. It's a charm that I
don't appreciate, anyway. Make
yourself useful in some way, and then we'll talk
now, tell me what I shall
do," said Ralph.
home, to begin with."
see. And then?"
right hold of something."
now, what sort of thing?"
you please, so long as you
take hold. Some new idea, some big work."
very difficult to take
hold?" Ralph enquired.
you put your heart into
heart," said Ralph.
"If it depends upon my heart-!"
you got a heart?"
one a few days ago, but I've
lost it since."
not serious," Miss
Stackpole remarked; "that's what's the matter
with you." But for all
this, in a day or two, she again permitted him
to fix her attention and on the
later occasion assigned a different cause to her
what's the matter with you,
Mr. Touchett," she said. "You think you're too
good to get
thought so till I knew you, Miss
Stackpole," Ralph answered; "and then I suddenly
pshaw!" Henrietta groaned.
seemed to me," said
Ralph, "that I was not good enough."
improve you. Besides, it's
cried the young man,
"one has so many duties! Is that a duty too?"
course it is- did you never know
that before? It's every one's duty to get
meditated a moment; he was
disappointed. There was something in Miss
Stackpole he had begun to like; it
seemed to him that if she was not a charming
woman she was at least a very good
"sort." She was wanting in distinction, but, as
Isabel had said, she
was brave: she went into cages, she flourished
lashes, like a spangled
lion-tamer. He had not supposed her to be
capable of vulgar arts, but these
last words struck him as a false note. When a
marriageable young woman urges
matrimony on an unencumbered young man the most
obvious explanation of her
conduct is not the altruistic impulse.
now, there's a good deal to
be said about that," Ralph rejoined.
may be, but that's the
principal thing. I must say I think it looks
very exclusive, going round all
alone, as if you thought no woman was good
enough for you. Do you think you're
better than any one else in the world? In
America it's usual for people to
my duty," Ralph asked,
"is it not, by analogy, yours as well?"
Stackpole's ocular surfaces
unwinkingly caught the sun. "Have you the fond
hope of finding a flaw in
my reasoning? Of course I've as good a right to
marry as any one else."
then," said Ralph, "I
won't say it vexes me to see you single. It
delights me rather."
not serious yet. You never
you not believe me to be so on
the day I tell you I desire to give up the
practice of going around
Stackpole looked at him for a moment
in a manner which seemed to announce a reply
that might technically be called
encouraging. But to his great surprise this
expression suddenly resolved itself
into an appearance of alarm and even of
resentment. "No, not even
then," she answered dryly. After which she
conceived a passion for your
friend," Ralph said that evening to Isabel,
"though we talked some
time this morning about it."
said something she didn't
like," the girl replied.
stared. "Has she complained of
me she thinks there's
something very low in the tone of Europeans
call me a European?"
the worst. She told me you had
said to her something that an American never
would have said. But she didn't
treated himself to a luxury of
laughter. "She's an extraordinary combination.
Did she think I was making
love to her?"
believe even Americans do that.
But she apparently thought you mistook the
intention of something she had said,
and put an unkind construction on it."
thought she was proposing marriage
to me and I accepted her. Was that unkind?"
smiled. "It was unkind to me. I
don't want you to marry."
cousin, what's one to do
among you all?" Ralph demanded. "Miss Stackpole
tells me it's my
bounden duty, and that it's hers, in general, to
see I do mine!"
a great sense of duty,"
said Isabel gravely. "She has indeed, and it's
the motive of everything
she says. That's what I like her for. She thinks
it's unworthy of you to keep
so many things to yourself. That's what she
wanted to express. If you thought
she was trying to- to attract you, you were very
true it was an odd way, but I
did think she was trying to attract me. Forgive
very conceited. She had no
interested views, and never supposed you would
think she had."
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."
Isabel admitted, "she
doesn't sufficiently recognize the existence of
knockers; and indeed I'm not
sure that she doesn't think them rather a
pretentious ornament. She thinks
one's door should stand ajar. But I persist in
persist in thinking her too
familiar," Ralph rejoined, naturally somewhat
uncomfortable under the
sense of having been doubly deceived in Miss
said Isabel, smiling,
"I'm afraid it's because she's rather vulgar
that I like her."
would be flattered by your
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."
you know about the people?
and what does she, for that matter?"
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
her then for patriotic
reasons. I'm afraid it is on those very grounds
I object to her."
said Isabel with a kind of
joyous sigh, "I like so many things! If a thing
strikes me with a certain
intensity I accept it. I don't want to swagger,
but I suppose I'm rather
versatile. I like people to be totally different
from Henrietta- in the style
of Lord Warburton's sisters for instance. So
long as I look at the Misses
Molyneux they seem to me to answer a kind of
ideal. Then Henrietta presents
herself, and I'm straightway convinced by her;
not so much in respect to
herself as in respect to what masses behind
mean the back view of
her," Ralph suggested.
says is true," his
cousin answered; "you'll never be serious. I
like the great country
stretching away beyond the rivers and across the
prairies, blooming and
smiling, and spreading till it stops at the
green Pacific! A strong, sweet,
fresh odour seems to rise from it, and
Henrietta- pardon my simile- has
something of that odour in her garments."
blushed a little as she concluded
this speech, and the blush, together with the
momentary ardour she had thrown
into it, was so becoming to her that Ralph stood
smiling at her for a moment
after she had ceased speaking. "I'm not sure the
Pacific's so green as
that," he said; "but you're a young woman of
however, does smell of the Future- it almost
knocks one down!"
He took a
resolve after this not to
misinterpret her words even when Miss Stackpole
appeared to strike the personal
note most strongly. He bethought himself that
persons, in her view, were simple
and homogeneous organisms, and that he, for his
own part, was too perverted a
representative of the nature of man to have a
right to deal with her in strict
reciprocity. He carried out his resolve with a
great deal of tact, and the
young lady found in renewed contact with him no
obstacle to the exercise of her
genius for unshrinking enquiry, the general
application of her confidence. Her
situation at Gardencourt therefore, appreciated
as we have seen her to be by
Isabel and full of appreciation herself of that
free play of intelligence
which, to her sense, rendered Isabel's character
a sister-spirit, and of the
easy venerableness of Mr. Touchett, whose noble
tone, as she said, met with her
full approval- her situation at Gardencourt
would have been perfectly
comfortable had she not conceived an
irresistible mistrust of the little lady
for whom she had at first supposed herself
obliged to "allow" as
mistress of the house. She presently discovered,
in truth, that this obligation
was of the lightest and that Mrs. Touchett cared
very little how Miss Stackpole
behaved. Mrs. Touchett had defined her to Isabel
as both an adventuress and a
bore- adventuresses usually giving one more of a
thrill; she had expressed some
surprise at her niece's having selected such a
friend, yet had immediately
added that she knew Isabel's friends were her
own affair and that she had never
undertaken to like them all or to restrict the
girl to those she liked.
could see none but the people
I like, my dear, you'd have a very small
society," Mrs. Touchett frankly
admitted; "and I don't think I like any man or
woman well enough to
recommend them to you. When it comes to
recommending it's a serious affair. I
don't like Miss Stackpole- everything about her
displeases me; she talks so
much too loud and looks at one as if one wanted
to look at her- which one
doesn't. I'm sure she has lived all her life in
a boarding-house, and I detest
the manners and the liberties of such places. If
you ask me if I prefer my own
manners, which you doubtless think very bad,
I'll tell you that I prefer them
immensely. Miss Stackpole knows I detest
boarding-house civilization, and she
detests me for detesting it, because she thinks
it the highest in the world.
She'd like Gardencourt a great deal better if it
were a boarding-house. For me,
I find it almost too much of one! We shall never
get on together therefore, and
there's no use trying."
Touchett was right in guessing that
Henrietta disapproved of her, but she had not
quite put her finger on the
reason. A day or two after Miss Stackpole's
arrival she had made some invidious
reflexions on American hotels, which excited a
vein of counterargument on the
part of the correspondent of the Interviewer,
who in the exercise of her
profession had acquainted herself, in the
western world, with every form of
caravansary. Henrietta expressed the opinion
that American hotels were the best
in the world, and Mrs. Touchett, fresh from a
renewed struggle with them,
recorded a conviction that they were the worst.
Ralph, with his experimental
geniality, suggested, by way of healing the
breach, that the truth lay between
the two extremes and that the establishments in
question ought to be described
as fair middling. This contribution to the
discussion, however, Miss Stackpole
rejected with scorn. Middling indeed! If they
were not the best in the world
they were the worst, but there was nothing
middling about an American hotel.
from different points of
view, evidently," said Mrs. Touchett. "I like to
be treated as an
individual; you like to be treated as a
know what you mean,"
Henrietta replied. "I like to be treated as an
American ladies!" cried
Mrs. Touchett with a laugh. "They're the slaves
the companions of
freemen," Henrietta retorted.
the companions of their
servants- the Irish chambermaid and the negro
waiter. They share their
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."
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
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
them in that position better
than in some others," proclaimed Mrs. Touchett
with much meaning.
you like me better if I were
your butler, dear?" her husband asked.
think I should: you wouldn't
at all have the tenue."
companions of freemen- I like
that, Miss Stackpole," said Ralph. "It's a
said freemen I didn't mean
was the only reward that Ralph got
for his compliment. Miss Stackpole was baffled;
she evidently thought there was
something treasonable in Mrs. Touchett's
appreciation of a class which she
privately judged to be a mysterious survival of
feudalism. It was perhaps
because her mind was oppressed with this image
that she suffered some days to
elapse before she took occasion to say to
Isabel: "My dear friend, I
wonder if you're growing faithless."
Faithless to you,
would be a great pain; but
it's not that."
to my country then?"
I hope will never be. When I
wrote to you from Liverpool I said I had
something particular to tell you.
You've never asked me what it is. Is it because
what? As a rule I don't
think I suspect," said Isabel. "I remember now
that phrase in your
letter, but I confess I had forgotten it. What
have you to tell me?"
looked disappointed, and her
steady gaze betrayed it. "You don't ask that
right- as if you thought it
important. You're changed- you're thinking of
what you mean, and I'll think
really think of it? That's
what I wish to be sure of."
much control of my thoughts,
but I'll do my best," said Isabel. Henrietta
gazed at her, in silence, for
a period which tried Isabel's patience, so that
our heroine added at last:
"Do you mean that you're going to be married?"
I've seen Europe!" said
Miss Stackpole. "What are you laughing at?" she
went on. "What I
mean is that Mr. Goodwood came out in the
steamer with me."
that right. I had a good deal
of talk with him; he has come after you."
tell you so?"
told me nothing; that's how I
knew it," said Henrietta cleverly. "He said very
little about you,
but I spoke of you a good deal."
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."
you say about me?"
you were on the whole the
finest creature I know."
sorry for that. He thinks
too well of me already; he oughtn't to be
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
very simple-minded," said
Isabel. "And he's not so ugly."
nothing so simplifying as a
a grand passion; I'm very
sure it's not that."
don't say that as if you were
gave rather a cold smile. "I
shall say it better to Mr. Goodwood himself."
soon give you a chance,"
said Henrietta. Isabel offered no answer to this
assertion, which her companion
made with an air of great confidence. "He'll
find you changed," the
latter pursued. "You've been affected by your
likely. I'm affected by
everything but Mr. Goodwood!"
Miss Stackpole exclaimed with a slightly harsh
failed even to smile back and in a
moment she said: "Did he ask you to speak to
so many words. But his eyes
asked it- and his handshake, when he bade me
you for doing so." And
Isabel turned away.
you're changed; you've got new
ideas over here," her friend continued.
so," said Isabel;
"one should get as many new ideas as possible."
they shouldn't interfere
with the old ones when the old ones have been
the right ones."
turned about again. "If you
mean that I had any idea with regard to Mr.
Goodwood-!" But she faltered
before her friend's implacable glitter.
child, you certainly
made for the moment as if to deny
this charge; instead of which, however, she
presently answered: "It's very
true. I did encourage him." And then she asked
if her companion had
learned from Mr. Goodwood what he intended to
do. It was a concession to her
curiosity, for she disliked discussing the
subject and found Henrietta wanting
him, and he said he meant to
do nothing," Miss Stackpole answered. "But I
don't believe that; he's
not a man to do nothing. He is a man of high,
bold action. Whatever happens to
him he'll always do something, and whatever he
does will always be right."
believe that." Henrietta
might be wanting in delicacy, but it touched the
girl, all the same, to hear
do care for him!" her
visitor rang out.
he does will always be
right," Isabel repeated. "When a man's of that
infallible mould what
does it matter to him what one feels?"
not matter to him, but it
matters to one's self."
it matters to me- that's not
what we're discussing," said Isabel with a cold
her companion was grave.
"Well, I don't care; you have changed. You're
not the girl you were a few
short weeks ago, and Mr. Goodwood will see it. I
expect him here any day."
he'll hate me then," said
believe you hope it about as much
as I believe him capable of it."
observation our heroine made no
return; she was absorbed in the alarm given her
by Henrietta's intimation that
Caspar Goodwood would present himself at
Gardencourt. She pretended to herself,
however, that she thought the event impossible,
and, later, she communicated
her disbelief to her friend. For the next
forty-eight hours, nevertheless, she
stood prepared to hear the young man's name
announced. The feeling pressed upon
her; it made the air sultry, as if there were to
be a change of weather; and
the weather, socially speaking, had been so
agreeable during Isabel's stay at
Gardencourt that any change would be for the
worse. Her suspense indeed was
dissipated the second day. She had walked into
the park in company with the
sociable Bunchie, and after strolling about for
some time, in a manner at once
listless and restless, had seated herself on a
garden bench, within sight of
the house, beneath a spreading beech, where, in
a white dress ornamented with
black ribbons, she formed among the flickering
shadows a graceful and
harmonious image. She entertained herself for
some moments with talking to the
little terrier, as to whom the proposal of an
ownership divided with her cousin
had been applied as impartially as possible-
impartially as Bunchie's own somewhat
fickle and inconstant sympathies would allow.
But she was notified for the
first time, on this occasion, of the finite
character of Bunchie's intellect;
hitherto she had been mainly struck with its
extent. It seemed to her at last
that she would do well to take a book; formerly,
when heavy-hearted, she had
been able, with the help of some well-chosen
volume, to transfer the seat of
consciousness to the organ of pure reason. Of
late, it was not to be denied,
literature had seemed a fading light, and even
after she had reminded herself
that her uncle's library was provided with a
complete set of those authors
which no gentleman's collection should be
without, she sat motionless and
empty-handed, her eyes bent on the cool green
turf of the lawn. Her meditations
were presently interrupted by the arrival of a
servant who handed her a letter.
The letter bore the London postmark and was
addressed in a hand she knew- that
came into her vision, already so held by him,
with the vividness of the
writer's voice or his face. This document proved
short and may be given entire.
MISS ARCHER- I don't know whether
you will have heard of my coming to England, but
even if you have not it will
scarcely be a surprise to you. You will remember
that when you gave me my
dismissal at Albany, three months ago, I did not
accept it. I protested against
it. You in fact appeared to accept my protest
and to admit that I had the right
on my side. I had come to see you with the hope
that you would let me bring you
over to my conviction; my reasons for
entertaining this hope had been of the
best. But you disappointed it; I found you
changed, and you were able to give
me no reason for the change. You admitted that
you were unreasonable, and it
was the only concession you would make; but it
was a very cheap one, because
that's not your character. No, you are not, and
you never will be, arbitrary or
capricious. Therefore it is that I believe you
will let me see you again. You
told me that I'm not disagreeable to you, and I
believe it; for I don't see why
that should be. I shall always think of you; I
shall never think of any one
else. I came to England simply because you are
here; I couldn't stay at home
after you had gone: I hated the country because
you were not in it. If I like this
country at present it is only because it holds
you. I have been to England
before, but have never enjoyed it much. May I
not come and see you for half an
hour? This at present is the dearest wish of
read this missive with such deep
attention that she had not perceived an
approaching tread on the soft grass.
Looking up, however, as she mechanically folded
it she saw Lord Warburton
standing before her.
the letter into her pocket and
offered her visitor a smile of welcome,
exhibiting no trace of discomposure and
half surprised at her coolness.
told me you were out here,"
said Lord Warburton; "and as there was no one in
the drawing-room and it's
really you that I wish to see, I came out with
no more ado."
had got up; she felt a wish, for the
moment, that he should not sit down beside her.
"I was just going
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
walk about a little then,"
said Isabel, who could not divest herself of the
sense of an intention on the
part of her visitor and who wished both to elude
the intention and to satisfy
her curiosity about it. It had flashed upon her
vision once before, and it had
given her on that occasion, as we know, a
certain alarm. This alarm was
composed of several elements, not all of which
were disagreeable; she had
indeed spent some days in analyzing them and had
succeeded in separating the
pleasant part of the idea of Lord Warburton's
"making up" to her from
the painful. It may appear to some readers that
the young lady was both
precipitate and unduly fastidious; but the
latter of these facts, if the charge
be true, may serve to exonerate her from the
discredit of the former. She was
not eager to convince herself that a territorial
magnate, as she had heard Lord
Warburton called, was smitten with her charms;
the fact of a declaration from
such a source carrying with it really more
questions than it would answer. She
had received a strong impression of his being a
"personage," and she
had occupied herself in examining the image so
conveyed. At the risk of adding
to the evidence of her self-sufficiency it must
be said that there had been
moments when this possibility of admiration by a
personage represented to her
an aggression almost to the degree of an
affront, quite to the degree of an
inconvenience. She had never yet known a
personage; there had been no
personages, in this sense, in her life; there
were probably none such at all in
her native land. When she had thought of
individual eminence she had thought of
it on the basis of character and wit- of what
one might like in a gentleman's
mind and in his talk. She herself was a
character- she couldn't help being
aware of that; and hitherto her visions of a
completed consciousness had
connected themselves largely with moral images-
things as to which the question
would be whether they pleased her sublime soul.
Lord Warburton loomed up before
her, largely and brightly, as a collection of
attributes and powers which were
not to be measured by this simple rule, but
which demanded a different sort of
appreciation- an appreciation that the girl,
with her habit of judging quickly
and freely, felt she lacked patience to bestow.
He appeared to demand of her
something that no one else, as it were, had
presumed to do. What she felt was
that a territorial, a political, a social
magnate had conceived the design of
drawing her into the system in which he rather
invidiously lived and moved. A
certain instinct, not imperious, but persuasive,
told her to resist- murmured
to her that virtually she had a system and an
orbit of her own. It told her
other things besides- things which both
contradicted and confirmed each other;
that a girl might do much worse than trust
herself to such a man and that it
would be very interesting to see something of
his system from his own point of
view; that on the other hand, however, there was
evidently a great deal of it
which she should regard only as a complication
of every hour, and that even in
the whole there was something stiff and stupid
which would make it a burden.
Furthermore there was a young man lately come
from America who had no system at
all, but who had a character of which it was
useless for her to try to persuade
herself that the impression on her mind had been
light. The letter she carried
in her pocket all sufficiently reminded her of
the contrary. Smile not,
however, I venture to repeat, at this simple
young woman from Albany who
debated whether she should accept an English
peer before he had offered himself
and who was disposed to believe that on the
whole she could do better. She was
a person of great good faith, and if there was a
great deal of folly in her
wisdom those who judge her severely may have the
satisfaction of finding that,
later, she became consistently wise only at the
cost of an amount of folly
which will constitute almost a direct appeal to
Warburton seemed quite ready to walk,
to sit or to do anything that Isabel should
propose, and he gave her this
assurance with his usual air of being
particularly pleased to exercise a social
virtue. But he was, nevertheless, not in command
of his emotions, and as he
strolled beside her for a moment, in silence,
looking at her without letting her
know it, there was something embarrassed in his
glance and his misdirected
laughter. Yes, assuredly- as we have touched on
the point, we may return to it
for a moment again- the English are the most
romantic people in the world and
Lord Warburton was about to give an example of
it. He was about to take a step
which would astonish all his friends and
displease a great many of them, and
which had superficially nothing to recommend it.
The young lady who trod the
turf beside him had come from a queer country
across the sea which he knew a
good deal about; her antecedents, her
associations were very vague to his mind
except in so far as they were generic, and in
this sense they showed as
distinct and unimportant. Miss Archer had
neither a fortune nor the sort of
beauty that justifies a man to the multitude,
and he calculated that he had
spent about twenty-six hours in her company. He
had summed up all this- the
perversity of the impulse, which had declined to
avail itself of the most
liberal opportunities to subside, and the
judgement of mankind, as exemplified
particularly in the more quickly-judging half of
it: he had looked these things
well in the face and then had dismissed them
from his thoughts. He cared no
more for them than for the rosebud in his
buttonhole. It is the good fortune of
a man who for the greater part of a lifetime has
abstained without effort from
making himself disagreeable to his friends, that
when the need comes for such a
course it is not discredited by irritating
you had a pleasant ride,"
said Isabel, who observed her companion's
have been pleasant if for
nothing else than that it brought me here."
so fond of Gardencourt?"
the girl asked, more and more sure that he meant
to make some appeal to her;
wishing not to challenge him if he hesitated,
and yet to keep all the quietness
of her reason if he proceeded. It suddenly came
upon her that her situation was
one which a few weeks ago she would have deemed
deeply romantic: the park of an
old English country-house, with the foreground
embellished by a
"great" (as she supposed) nobleman in the act of
making love to a
young lady who, on careful inspection, should be
found to present remarkable
analogies with herself. But if she was now the
heroine of the situation she
succeeded scarcely the less in looking at it
from the outside.
nothing for Gardencourt,"
said her companion. "I care only for you.
known me too short a time to
have a right to say that, and I can't believe
words of Isabel's were not perfectly
sincere, for she had no doubt whatever that he
himself was. They were simply a
tribute to the fact, of which she was perfectly
aware, that those he had just
uttered would have excited surprise on the part
of a vulgar world. And,
moreover, if anything beside the sense she had
already acquired that Lord
Warburton was not a loose thinker had been
needed to convince her, the tone in
which he replied would quite have served the
right in such a matter is not
measured by the time, Miss Archer; it's measured
by the feeling itself. If I
were to wait three months it would make no
difference; I shall not be more sure
of what I mean than I am to-day. Of course I've
seen you very little, but my
impression dates from the very first hour we
met. I lost no time, I fell in
love with you then. It was at first sight, as
the novels say; I know now that's
not a fancy-phrase, and I shall think better of
novels for evermore. Those two
days I spent here settled it; I don't know
whether you suspected I was doing
so, but I paid- mentally speaking I mean- the
greatest possible attention to
you. Nothing you said, nothing you did, was lost
upon me. When you came to
Lockleigh the other day- or rather when you went
away- I was perfectly sure.
Nevertheless I made up my mind to think it over
and to question myself
narrowly. I've done so; all these days I've done
nothing else. I don't make
mistakes about such things; I'm a very judicious
animal. I don't go off easily,
but when I'm touched, it's for life. It's for
life, Miss Archer, it's for
life," Lord Warburton repeated in the kindest,
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.
consent, as he talked, they had
walked more and more slowly, and at last they
stopped and he took her hand.
"Ah, Lord Warburton, how little you know me!"
Isabel said very
gently. Gently too she drew her hand away.
taunt me with that, that I
don't know you better makes me unhappy enough
already; it's all my loss. But
that's what I want, and it seems to me I'm
taking the best way. If you'll be my
wife, then I shall know you, and when I tell you
all the good I think of you
you'll not be able to say it's from ignorance."
know me little I know you even
less," said Isabel.
that, unlike yourself, I may
not improve on acquaintance? Ah, of course
that's very possible. But think, to
speak to you as I do, how determined I must be
to try and give satisfaction!
You do like me rather, don't you?"
you very much, Lord
Warburton," she answered; and at this moment she
liked him immensely.
you for saying that; it shows
you don't regard me as a stranger. I really
believe I've filled all the other
relations of life very creditably, and I don't
see why I shouldn't fill this
one- in which I offer myself to you- seeing that
I care so much more about it.
Ask the people who know me well; I've friends
who'll speak for me."
need the recommendation of
your friends," said Isabel.
that's delightful of you. You
believe in me yourself."
She quite glowed there, inwardly, with the
pleasure of feeling she did.
in her companion's eyes turned
into a smile, and he gave a long exhalation of
joy. "If you're mistaken,
Miss Archer, let me lose all I possess!"
wondered whether he meant this for a
reminder that he was rich, and, on the instant,
felt sure that he didn't. He
was sinking that, as he would have said himself;
and indeed he might safely
leave it to the memory of any interlocutor,
especially of one to whom he was
offering his hand. Isabel had prayed that she
might not be agitated, and her
mind was tranquil enough, even while she
listened and asked herself what it was
best she should say, to indulge in this
incidental criticism. What she should
say, had she asked herself? Her foremost wish
was to say something if possible
not less kind than what he had said to her. His
words had carried perfect
conviction with them; she felt she did, all so
mysteriously, matter to him.
"I thank you more than I can say for your
offer," she returned at
last. "It does me great honour."
don't say that!" he broke
out. "I was afraid you'd say something like
that. I don't see what you've
to do with that sort of thing. I don't see why
you should thank me- it's I who
ought to thank you for listening to me: a man
you know so little coming down to
you with such a thumper! Of course it's a great
question; I must tell you that
I'd rather ask it than have it to answer myself.
But the way you've listened-
or at least your having listened at all- gives
me some hope."
hope too much," Isabel
Archer!" her companion
murmured, smiling again, in his seriousness, as
if such a warning might perhaps
be taken but as the play of high spirits, the
exuberance of elation.
you be greatly surprised if I
were to beg you not to hope at all?" Isabel
I don't know what you mean
by surprise. It wouldn't be that; it would be a
feeling very much worse."
walked on again; she was silent for
some minutes. "I'm very sure that, highly as I
already think of you, my
opinion of you, if I should know you well, would
only rise. But I'm by no means
sure that you wouldn't be disappointed. And I
say that not in the least out of
conventional modesty; it's perfectly sincere."
willing to risk it, Miss
Archer," her companion replied.
great question, as you say.
It's a very difficult question."
expect you of course to
answer it outright. Think it over as long as may
be necessary. If I can gain by
waiting I'll gladly wait a long time. Only
remember that in the end my dearest
happiness depends on your answer."
be very sorry to keep you in
suspense," said Isabel.
don't mind. I'd much rather have
a good answer six months hence than a bad one
very probable that even six
months hence I shouldn't be able to give you one
that you'd think good."
since you really like
must never doubt that,"
then, I don't see what more you
what I ask; it's what I can
give. I don't think I should suit you; I really
don't think I should."
needn't worry about that. That's
my affair. You needn't be a better royalist than
only that," said
Isabel; "but I'm not sure I wish to marry any
likely you don't. I've no doubt
a great many women begin that way," said his
lordship, who, be it averred,
did not in the least believe in the axiom he
thus beguiled his anxiety by
uttering. "But they're frequently persuaded."
that's because they want to
be!" And Isabel lightly laughed.
suitor's countenance fell, and he
looked at her for a while in silence. "I'm
afraid it's my being an
Englishman that makes you hesitate," he said
presently. "I know your
uncle thinks you ought to marry in your own
listened to this assertion with some
interest; it had never occurred to her that Mr.
Touchett was likely to discuss
her matrimonial prospects with Lord Warburton.
"Has he told you that?"
remember his making the remark. He
spoke perhaps of Americans generally."
appears himself to have found it
very pleasant to live in England." Isabel spoke
in a manner that might
have seemed a little perverse, but which
expressed both her constant perception
of her uncle's outward felicity and her general
disposition to elude any
obligation to take a restricted view.
her companion hope, and he
immediately cried with warmth: "Ah, my dear Miss
Archer, old England's a
very good sort of country, you know! And it will
be still better when we've
furbished it up a little."
don't furbish it, Lord Warburton;
leave it alone. I like it this way.
then, if you like it, I'm more
and more unable to see your objection to what I
afraid I can't make 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."
words were uttered with a breadth of
candour that was like the embrace of strong
arms- that was like the fragrance
straight in her face, and by his clean,
breathing lips, of she knew not what
strange gardens, what charged airs. She would
have given her little finger at that
moment to feel strongly and simply the impulse
to answer: "Lord Warburton,
it's impossible for me to do better in this
wonderful world, I think, than
commit myself, very gratefully, to your
loyalty." But though she was lost
in admiration of her opportunity she managed to
move back into the deepest
shade of it, even as some wild, caught creature
in a vast cage. The
"splendid" security so offered her was not the
greatest she could
conceive. What she finally bethought herself of
saying was something very
different- something that deferred the need of
really facing her crisis.
"Don't think me unkind if I ask you to say no
more about this
companion cried. "I wouldn't bore you for the
given me a great deal to think
about, and I promise you to do it justice."
all I ask of you, of course-
and that you'll remember how absolutely my
happiness is in your hands."
listened with extreme respect to
this admonition, but she said after a minute: "I
must tell you that what I
shall think about is some way of letting you
know that what you ask is
impossible- letting you know it without making
no way to do that, Miss
Archer. I won't say that if you refuse me you'll
kill me; I shall not die of
it. But I shall do worse; I shall live to no
live to marry a better woman
say that, please," said
Lord Warburton very gravely. "That's fair to
neither of us."
a worse one then."
are better women than you I
prefer the bad ones. That's all I can say," he
went on with the same
earnestness. "There's no accounting for tastes."
gravity made her feel equally grave,
and she showed it by again requesting him to
drop the subject for the present.
"I'll speak to you myself- very soon. Perhaps I
shall write to you."
convenience, yes," he
replied. "Whatever time you take, it must seem
to me long, and I suppose I
must make the best of that."
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?"
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
compassion was not stirred, however;
all he possessed of the faculty of pity was
needed at home. "Ah! be
merciful, be merciful," he murmured.
you had better go," said
Isabel. "I'll write to you."
good; but whatever you write
I'll come and see you, you know." And then he
stood reflecting, his eyes
fixed on the observant countenance of Bunchie,
who had the air of having
understood all that had been said and of
pretending to carry off the
indiscretion by a simulated fit of curiosity as
to the roots of an ancient oak.
"There's one thing more," he went on. "You know,
if you don't
like Lockleigh- if you think it's damp or
anything of that sort- you need never
go within fifty miles of it. It's not damp, by
the way; I've had the house
thoroughly examined; it's perfectly safe and
right. But if you shouldn't fancy
it you needn't dream of living in it. There's no
difficulty whatever about
that; there are plenty of houses. I thought I'd
just mention it; some people
don't like a moat, you know. Good-bye."
a moat," said Isabel.
out his hand, and she gave him hers
a moment- a moment long enough for him to bend
his handsome bared head and kiss
it. Then, still agitating, in his mastered
emotion, his implement of the chase,
he walked rapidly away. He was evidently much
herself was upset, but she had not
been affected as she would have imagined. What
she felt was not a great
responsibility, a great difficulty of choice; it
appeared to her there had been
no choice in the question. She couldn't marry
Lord Warburton; the idea failed
to support any enlightened prejudice in favour
of the free exploration of life
that she had hitherto entertained or was now
capable of entertaining. She must
write this to him, she must convince him, and
that duty was comparatively
simple. But what disturbed her, in the sense
that it struck her with
wonderment, was this very fact that it cost her
so little to refuse a
magnificent "chance." With whatever
qualifications one would, Lord
Warburton had offered her a great opportunity;
the situation might have
discomforts, might contain oppressive, might
contain narrowing elements, might
prove really but a stupefying anodyne; but she
did her sex no injustice in
believing that nineteen women out of twenty
would have accommodated themselves
to it without a pang. Why then upon her also
should it not irresistibly impose
itself? Who was she, what was she, that she
should hold herself superior? What
view of life, what design upon fate, what
conception of happiness, had she that
pretended to be larger than these large, these
fabulous occasions? If she
wouldn't do such a thing as that then she must
do great things, she must do
something greater. Poor Isabel found ground to
remind herself from time to time
that she must not be too proud, and nothing
could be more sincere than her
prayer to be delivered from such a danger: the
isolation and loneliness of
pride had for her mind the horror of a desert
place. If it had been pride that
interfered with her accepting Lord Warburton
such a betise was singularly
misplaced; and she was so conscious of liking
him that she ventured to assure
herself it was the very softness, and the fine
intelligence, of sympathy. She
liked him too much to marry him, that was the
truth; something assured her
there was a fallacy somewhere in the glowing
logic of the proposition- as he
saw it- even though she mightn't put her very
finest finger-point on it; and to
inflict upon a man who offered so much a wife
with a tendency to criticize
would be a peculiarly discreditable act. She had
promised him she would
consider his question, and when, after he had
left her, she wandered back to
the bench where he had found her and lost
herself in meditation, it might have
seemed that she was keeping her vow. But this
was not the case; she was
wondering if she were not a cold, hard, priggish
person, and, on her at last
getting up and going rather quickly back to the
house, felt, as she had said to
her friend, really frightened at herself.
this feeling and not the wish to ask
advice- she had no desire whatever for that-
that led her to speak to her uncle
of what had taken place. She wished to speak to
some one; she should feel more
natural, more human, and her uncle, for this
purpose, presented himself in a
more attractive light than either her aunt or
her friend Henrietta. Her cousin
of course was a possible confidant; but she
would have had to do herself
violence to air this special secret to Ralph. So
the next day, after breakfast,
she sought her occasion. Her uncle never left
his apartment till the afternoon,
but he received his cronies, as he said, in his
dressing-room. Isabel had quite
taken her place in the class so designated,
which, for the rest, included the
old man's son, his physician, his personal
servant, and even Miss Stackpole.
Mrs. Touchett did not figure in the list, and
this was an obstacle the less to
Isabel's finding her host alone. He sat in a
complicated mechanical chair, at
the open window of his room, looking westward
over the park and the river, with
his newspapers and letters piled up beside him,
his toilet freshly and minutely
made, and his smooth, speculative face composed
to benevolent expectation.
approached her point directly. "I
think I ought to let you know that Lord
Warburton has asked me to marry him. I
suppose I ought to tell my aunt; but it seems
best to tell you first."
man expressed no surprise, but
thanked her for the confidence she showed him.
mind telling me whether you
accepted him?" he then enquired.
answered him definitely yet;
I've taken a little time to think of it, because
that seems more respectful.
But I shall not accept him."
Touchett made no comment upon this; he
had the air of thinking that, whatever interest
he might take in the matter
from the point of view of sociability, he had no
active voice in it.
"Well, I told you you'd be a success over here.
Americans are highly
highly indeed," said
Isabel. "But at the cost of seeming both
tasteless and ungrateful, I don't
think I can marry Lord Warburton."
her uncle went on,
"of course an old man can't judge for a young
lady. I'm glad you didn't
ask me before you made up your mind. I suppose I
ought to tell you," he
added slowly, but as it were not of much
consequence, "that I've known all
about it these three days."
Lord Warburton's state of
his intentions, as they say
here. He wrote me a very pleasant letter,
telling me all about them. Should you
like to see his letter?" the old man obligingly
you; I don't think I care about
that. But I'm glad he wrote to you; it was right
that he should, and he would
be certain to do what was right."
I guess you do like
him!" Mr. Touchett declared. "You needn't
pretend you don't."
him extremely; I'm very free
to admit that. But I don't wish to marry any one
think some one may come along
whom you may like better. Well, that's very
likely," said Mr. Touchett,
who appeared to wish to show his kindness to the
girl by easing off her
decision, as it were, and finding cheerful
reasons for it.
care if I don't meet any one
else. I like Lord Warburton quite well enough."
She fell into that
appearance of a sudden change of point of view
with which she sometimes
startled and even displeased her interlocutors.
uncle, however, seemed proof against
either of these impressions. "He's a very fine
man," he resumed in a
tone which might have passed for that of
encouragement. "His letter was
one of the pleasantest I've received for some
weeks. I suppose one of the
reasons I like it was that it was all about you;
that is all except the part
that was about himself. I suppose he told you
have told me everything I
wished to ask him," Isabel said.
didn't feel curious?"
curiosity would have been idle-
once I had determined to decline his offer."
didn't find it sufficiently
attractive?" Mr. Touchett enquired.
silent a little. "I suppose it
was that," she presently admitted. "But I don't
ladies are not obliged to
give reasons," said her uncle. "There's a great
attractive about such an idea; but I don't see
why the English should want to
entice us away from our native land. I know that
we try to attract them over
there, but that's because our population is
insufficient. Here, you know,
they're rather crowded. However, I presume
there's room for charming young
seems to have been room here
for you," said Isabel, whose eyes had been
wandering over the large
pleasure-spaces of the park.
Touchett gave a shrewd, conscious
smile. "There's room everywhere, my dear, if
you'll pay for it. I
sometimes think I've paid too much for this.
Perhaps you also might have to pay
I might," the girl
suggestion gave her something more
definite to rest on than she had found in her
own thoughts, and the fact of
this association of her uncle's mild acuteness
with her dilemma seemed to prove
that she was concerned with the natural and
reasonable emotions of life and not
altogether a victim to intellectual eagerness
and vague ambitions- ambitions
reaching beyond Lord Warburton's beautiful
appeal, reaching to something
indefinable and possibly not commendable. In so
far as the indefinable had an
influence upon Isabel's behaviour at this
juncture, it was not the conception,
even unformulated, of a union with Caspar
Goodwood; for however she might have
resisted conquest at her English suitor's large
quiet hands she was at least as
far removed from the disposition to let the
young man from Boston take positive
possession of her. The sentiment in which she
sought refuge after reading his
letter was a critical view of his having come
abroad; for it was part of the
influence he had upon her that he seemed to
deprive her of the sense of
freedom. There was a disagreeably strong push, a
kind of hardness of presence,
in his way of rising before her. She had been
haunted at moments by the image,
by the danger, of his disapproval and had
wondered- a consideration she had
never paid in equal degree to any one else-
whether he would like what she did.
The difficulty was that more than any man she
had ever known, more than poor
Lord Warburton (she had begun now to give his
lordship the benefit of this
epithet), Caspar Goodwood expressed for her an
energy- and she had already felt
it as a power- that was of his very nature. It
was in no degree a matter of his
"advantages"- it was a matter of the spirit that
sat in his
clear-burning eyes like some tireless watcher at
a window. She might like it or
not, but he insisted, ever, with his whole
weight and force: even in one's
usual contact with him one had to reckon with
that. The idea of a diminished
liberty was particularly disagreeable to her at
present, since she had just
given a sort of personal accent to her
independence by looking so straight at
Lord Warburton's big bribe and yet turning away
from it. Sometimes Caspar
Goodwood had seemed to range himself on the side
of her destiny, to be the
stubbornest fact she knew; she said to herself
at such moments that she might
evade him for a time, but that she must make
terms with him at last- terms
which would be certain to be favourable to
himself. Her impulse had been to
avail herself of the things that helped her to
resist such an obligation; and
this impulse had been much concerned in her
eager acceptance of her aunt's
invitation, which had come to her at an hour
when she expected from day to day
to see Mr. Goodwood and when she was glad to
have an answer ready for something
she was sure he would say to her. When she had
told him at Albany, on the
evening of Mrs. Touchett's visit, that she
couldn't then discuss difficult
questions, dazzled as she was by the great
immediate opening of her aunt's
offer of "Europe," he declared that this was no
answer at all; and it
was now to obtain a better one that he was
following her across the sea. To say
to herself that he was a kind of grim fate was
well enough for a fanciful young
woman who was able to take much for granted in
him; but the reader has a right
to a nearer and a clearer view.
the son of a proprietor of
well-known cotton-mills in Massachusetts- a
gentleman who had accumulated a
considerable fortune in the exercise of this
industry. Caspar at present
managed the works, and with a judgement and a
temper which, in spite of keen
competition and languid years, had kept their
prosperity from dwindling. He had
received the better part of his education at
Harvard College, where, however,
he had gained renown rather as a gymnast and an
oarsman than as a gleaner of
more dispersed knowledge. Later on he had
learned that the finer intelligence
too could vault and pull and strain- might even,
breaking the record, treat
itself to rare exploits. He had thus discovered
in himself a sharp eye for the
mystery of mechanics, and had invented an
improvement in the cotton-spinning
process which was now largely used and was known
by his name. You might have
seen it in the newspapers in connection with
this fruitful contrivance;
assurance of which he had given to Isabel by
showing her in the columns of the
New York Interviewer an exhaustive article on
the Goodwood patent- an article
not prepared by Miss Stackpole, friendly as she
had proved herself to his more
sentimental interests. There were intricate,
bristling things he rejoiced in;
he liked to organize, to contend, to administer;
he could make people work his
will, believe in him, march before him and
justify him. This was the art, as
they said, of managing men- which rested, in
him, further, on a bold though
brooding ambition. It struck those who knew him
well that he might do greater
things than carry on a cotton-factory; there was
nothing cottony about Caspar
Goodwood, and his friends took for granted that
he would somehow and somewhere
write himself in bigger letters. But it was as
if something large and confused,
something dark and ugly, would have to call upon
him: he was not after all in
harmony with mere smug peace and greed and gain,
an order of things of which
the vital breath was ubiquitous advertisement.
It pleased Isabel to believe
that he might have ridden, on a plunging steed,
the whirlwind of a great war- a
war like the Civil strife that had overdarkened
her conscious childhood and his
at any rate this idea of his
being by character and in fact a mover of men-
liked it much better than some
other points in his nature and aspect. She cared
nothing for his cotton-mill-
the Goodwood patent left her imagination
absolutely cold. She wished him no
ounce less of his manhood, but she sometimes
thought he would be rather nicer
if he looked, for instance, a little
differently. His jaw was too square and
set and his figure too straight and stiff: these
things suggested a want of
easy consonance with the deeper rhythms of life.
Then she viewed with reserve a
habit he had of dressing always in the same
manner; it was not apparently that
he wore the same clothes continually, for, on
the contrary, his garments had a
way of looking rather too new. But they all
seemed of the same piece; the
figure, the stuff, was so drearily usual. She
had reminded herself more than
once that this was a frivolous objection to a
person of his importance; and
then she had amended the rebuke by saying that
it would be a frivolous
objection only if she were in love with him. She
was not in love with him and
therefore might criticize his small defects as
well as his great- which latter
consisted in the collective reproach of his
being too serious, or, rather, not
of his being so, since one could never be, but
certainly of his seeming so. He
showed his appetites and designs too simply and
artlessly; when one was alone
with him he talked too much about the same
subject, and when other people were
present he talked too little about anything. And
yet he was of supremely
strong, clean make- which was so much: she saw
the different fitted parts of
him as she had seen, in museums and portraits,
the different fitted parts of
armoured warriors- in plates of steel handsomely
inlaid with gold. It was very
strange: where, ever, was any tangible link
between her impression and her act?
Caspar Goodwood had never corresponded to her
idea of a delightful person, and she
supposed that this was why he left her so
harshly critical. When, however, Lord
Warburton, who not only did correspond with it,
but gave an extension to the
term, appealed to her approval, she found
herself still unsatisfied. It was
of her incoherence was not a help
to answering Mr. Goodwood's letter, and Isabel
determined to leave it a while
unhonoured. If he had determined to persecute
her he must take the
consequences; foremost among which was his being
left to perceive how little it
charmed her that he should come down to
Gardencourt. She was already liable to
the incursions of one suitor at this place, and
though it might be pleasant to
be appreciated in opposite quarters there was a
kind of grossness in
entertaining two such passionate pleaders at
once, even in a case where the
entertainment should consist of dismissing them.
She made no reply to Mr.
Goodwood; but at the end of three days she wrote
to Lord Warburton, and the
letter belongs to our history.
LORD WARBURTON- A great deal of earnest thought
has not led me to change my
mind about the suggestion you were so kind as to
make me the other day. I am
not, I am really and truly not, able to regard
you in the light of a companion
for life; or to think of your home- your various
homes- as settled seat of my
existence. These things cannot be reasoned
about, and I very earnestly entreat
you not to return to the subject we discussed so
exhaustively. We see our lives
from our own point of view; that is the
privilege of the weakest and humblest
of us; and I shall never be able to see mine in
the manner you proposed. Kindly
let this suffice you, and do me the justice to
believe that I have given your
proposal the deeply respectful consideration it
deserves. It is with this very
great regard that I remain sincerely yours,
author of this missive was making
up her mind to despatch it Henrietta Stackpole
formed a resolve which was
accompanied by no demur. She invited Ralph
Touchett to take a walk with her in
the garden, and when he had assented with that
alacrity which seemed constantly
to testify to his high expectations, she
informed him that she had a favour to
ask of him. It may be admitted that at this
information the young man flinched;
for we know that Miss Stackpole had struck him
as apt to push an advantage. The
alarm was unreasoned, however; for he was clear
about the area of her
indiscretion as little as advised of its
vertical depth, and he made a very
civil profession of the desire to serve her. He
was afraid of her and presently
told her so. "When you look at me in a certain
way my knees knock
together, my faculties desert me; I'm filled
with trepidation and I ask only
for strength to execute your commands. You've an
address that I've never
encountered in any woman."
good-humouredly, "if I had not known before that
you were trying somehow
to abash me I should know it now. Of course I'm
easy game- I was brought up
with such different customs and ideas. I'm not
used to your arbitrary
standards, and I've never been spoken to in
America as you have spoken to me.
If a gentleman conversing with me over there
were to speak to me like that I
shouldn't know what to make of it. We take
everything more naturally over
there, and, after all, we're a great deal more
simple. I admit that; I'm very
simple myself. Of course if you choose to laugh
at me for it you're very
welcome; but I think on the whole I would rather
be myself than you. I'm quite
content to be myself; I don't want to change.
There are plenty of people that
appreciate me just as I am. It's true they're
nice fresh free-born
Americans!" Henrietta had lately taken up the
tone of helpless innocence
and large concession. "I want you to assist me a
little," she went
on. "I don't care in the least whether I amuse
you while you do so; or,
rather, I'm perfectly willing your amusement
should be your reward. I want you
to help me about Isabel."
injured you?" Ralph
had I shouldn't mind, and I
should never tell you. What I'm afraid of is
that she'll injure herself."
that's very possible,"
companion stopped in the garden-walk,
fixing on him perhaps the very gaze that
unnerved him. "That too would
amuse you, I suppose. The way you do things! I
never heard any one so
Isabel? Ah, not that!"
you're not in love with her, I
that be, when I'm in love
in love with yourself, that's
the Other!" Miss Stackpole declared. "Much good
may it do you! But if
you wish to be serious once in your life here's
a chance; and if you really
care for your cousin here's an opportunity to
prove it. I don't expect you to
understand her; that's too much to ask. But you
needn't do that to grant my
favour. I'll supply the necessary intelligence."
enjoy that immensely!"
Ralph exclaimed. "I'll be Caliban and you shall
not at all like Caliban,
because you're sophisticated, and Caliban was
not. But I'm not talking about imaginary
characters; I'm talking about Isabel. Isabel's
intensely real. What I wish to
tell you is that I find her fearfully changed."
you came, do you mean?"
came and before I came. She's
not the same as she once so beautifully was."
was in America?"
America. I suppose you know
she comes from there. She can't help it, but she
want to change her back
course I do, and I want you to
said Ralph, "I'm only
Caliban; I'm not Prospero."
Prospero enough to make her
what she has become. You've acted on Isabel
Archer since she came here, Mr.
dear Miss Stackpole? Never in
the world. Isabel Archer has acted on me- yes;
she acts on every one. But I've
been absolutely passive."
too passive then. You had
better stir yourself and be careful. Isabel's
changing every day; she's
drifting away- right out to sea. I've watched
her and I can see it. She's not
the bright American girl she was. She's taking
different views, a different
colour, and turning away from her old ideals. I
want to save those ideals, Mr.
Touchett, and that's where you come in."
surely as an ideal?"
hope not," Henrietta
replied promptly. "I've got a fear in my heart
that she's going to marry
one of these fell Europeans, and I want to
see," cried Ralph;
"and to prevent it you want me to step in and
quite; that remedy would be as
bad as the disease, for you're the typical, the
fell European from whom I wish
to rescue her. No; I wish you to take an
interest in another person- a young
man to whom she once gave great encouragement
and whom she now doesn't seem to
think good enough. He's a thoroughly grand man
and a very dear friend of mine,
and I wish very much you would invite him to pay
a visit here."
puzzled by this appeal, and it is
perhaps not to the credit of his purity of mind
that he failed to look at it at
first in the simplest light. It wore, to his
eyes, a tortuous air, and his
fault was that he was not quite sure that
anything in the world could really be
as candid as this request of Miss Stackpole's
appeared. That a young woman
should demand that a gentleman whom she
described as her very dear friend
should be furnished with an opportunity to make
himself agreeable to another
young woman, a young woman whose attention had
wandered and whose charms were
greater- this was an anomaly which for the
moment challenged all his ingenuity
of interpretation. To read between the lines was
easier than to follow the
text, and to suppose that Miss Stackpole wished
the gentleman invited to
Gardencourt on her own account was the sign not
so much of a vulgar as of an
embarrassed mind. Even from this venial act of
vulgarity, however, Ralph was
saved, and saved by a force that I can only
speak of as inspiration. With no
more outward light on the subject than he
already possessed he suddenly
acquired the conviction that it would be a
sovereign injustice to the
correspondent of the Interviewer to assign a
dishonourable motive to any act of
hers. This conviction passed into his mind with
extreme rapidity; it was
perhaps kindled by the pure radiance of the
young lady's imperturbable gaze. He
returned this challenge a moment, consciously,
resisting an inclination to
frown as one frowns in the presence of larger
luminaries. "Who's the
gentleman you speak of?"
Caspar Goodwood- of Boston. He
has been extremely attentive to Isabel- just as
devoted to her as he can live.
He has followed her out here and he's at present
in London. I don't know his
address, but I guess I can obtain it."
never heard of him," said
suppose you haven't heard of
every one. I don't believe he has ever heard of
you; but that's no reason why
Isabel shouldn't marry him."
gave a mild ambiguous laugh.
"What a rage you have for marrying people! Do
you remember how you wanted
to marry me the other day?"
over that. You don't know
how to take such ideas. Mr. Goodwood does,
however; and that's what I like
about him. He's a splendid man and a perfect
gentleman, and Isabel knows
very fond of him?"
isn't she ought to be. He's
simply wrapped up in her."
wish me to ask him
here," said Ralph reflectively.
be an act of true
continued- "it's rather a striking name."
care anything about his name.
It might be Ezekiel Jenkins, and I should say
the same. He's the only man I
have ever seen whom I think worthy of Isabel."
very devoted friend,"
course I am. If you say that to
pour scorn on me I don't care."
say it to pour scorn on you;
I'm very much struck with it."
more satiric than ever, but I
advise you not to laugh at Mr. Goodwood."
you I'm very serious; you
ought to understand that," said Ralph.
moment his companion understood it.
"I believe you are; now you're too serious."
difficult to please."
you're very serious indeed. You
won't invite Mr. Goodwood."
know," said Ralph.
"I'm capable of strange things. Tell me a little
about Mr. Goodwood.
What's he like?"
just the opposite of you. He's
at the head of a cotton-factory; a very fine
pleasant manners?" asked
manners- in the American
be an agreeable member of
our little circle?"
think he'd care much about
our little circle. He'd concentrate on Isabel."
would my cousin like
possibly not at all. But it will
be good for her. It will call back her
them back- from where?"
foreign parts and other
unnatural places. Three months ago she gave Mr.
Goodwood every reason to
suppose he was acceptable to her, and it's not
worthy of Isabel to go back on a
real friend simply because she has changed the
scene. I've changed the scene
too, and the effect of it has been to make me
care more for my old associations
than ever. It's my belief that the sooner Isabel
changes it back again the better.
I know her well enough to know that she would
never be truly happy over here,
and I wish her to form some strong American tie
that will act as a
you perhaps a little too much
in a hurry?" Ralph enquired. "Don't you think
you ought to give her
more of a chance in poor old England?"
to ruin her bright young
life? One's never too much in a hurry to save a
precious human creature from
understand it then," said
Ralph, "you wish me to push Mr. Goodwood
overboard after her. Do you
know," he added, "that I've never heard her
mention his name?"
gave a brilliant smile. "I'm
delighted to hear that; it proves how much she
thinks of him."
appeared to allow that there was a
good deal in this, and he surrendered to thought
while his companion watched
him askance. "If I should invite Mr. Goodwood,"
he finally said,
"it would be to quarrel with him."
that; he'd prove the better
certainly are doing your best to
make me hate him! I really don't think I can ask
him. I should be afraid of
being rude to, him."
just as you please,"
Henrietta returned. "I had no idea you were in
love with her
really believe that?" the
young man asked with lifted eyebrows.
the most natural speech I've
ever heard you make! Of course I believe it,"
Miss Stackpole ingeniously
Ralph concluded, "to
prove to you that you're wrong I'll invite him.
It must be of course as a
friend of yours."
not be as a friend of mine
that he'll come; and it will not be to prove to
me that I'm wrong that you'll
ask him- but to prove it to yourself!"
last words of Miss Stackpole's (on
which the two presently separated) contained an
amount of truth which Ralph
Touchett was obliged to recognize; but it so far
took the edge from too sharp a
recognition that, in spite of his suspecting it
would be rather more indiscreet
to keep than to break his promise, he wrote Mr.
Goodwood a note of six lines,
expressing the pleasure it would give Mr.
Touchett the elder that he should
join a little party at Gardencourt, of which
Miss Stackpole was a valued
member. Having sent his letter (to the care of a
banker whom Henrietta
suggested) he waited in some suspense. He had
heard this fresh formidable
figure named for the first time; for when his
mother had mentioned on her
arrival that there was a story about the girl's
having an "admirer"
at home, the idea had seemed deficient in
reality and he had taken no pains to
ask questions the answers to which would involve
only the vague or the
disagreeable. Now, however, the native
admiration of which his cousin was the
object had become more concrete; it took the
form of a young man who had
followed her to London, who was interested in a
cotton-mill and had manners in
the most splendid of the American styles. Ralph
had two theories about this
intervener. Either his passion was a sentimental
fiction of Miss Stackpole's
(there was always a sort of tacit understanding
among women, born of the solidarity
of the sex, that they should discover or invent
lovers for each other), in
which case he was not to be feared and would
probably not accept the
invitation; or else he would accept the
invitation and in this event prove
himself a creature too irrational to demand
further consideration. The latter
clause of Ralph's argument might have seemed
incoherent; but it embodied his
conviction that if Mr. Goodwood were interested
in Isabel in the serious manner
described by Miss Stackpole he would not care to
present himself at Gardencourt
on a summons from the latter lady. "On this
supposition," said Ralph,
"he must regard her as a thorn on the stem of
his rose; as an intercessor
he must find her wanting in tact."
after he had sent his invitation
he received a very short note from Caspar
Goodwood, thanking him for it,
regretting that other engagements made a visit
to Gardencourt impossible and
presenting many compliments to Miss Stackpole.
Ralph handed the note to
Henrietta, who, when she had read it, exclaimed:
"Well, I never have heard
of anything so stiff!"
afraid he doesn't care so much
about my cousin as you suppose," Ralph observed.
not that; it's some subtler
motive. His nature's very deep. But I'm
determined to fathom it, and I shall
write to him to know what he means."
refusal of Ralph's overtures was
vaguely disconcerting; from the moment he
declined to come to Gardencourt our
friend began to think him of importance. He
asked himself what it signified to
him whether Isabel's admirers should be
desperadoes or laggards; they were not
rivals of his and were perfectly welcome to act
out their genius. Nevertheless
he felt much curiosity as to the result of Miss
Stackpole's promised enquiry
into the causes of Mr. Goodwood's stiffness- a
curiosity for the present
ungratified, inasmuch as when he asked her three
days later if she had written
to London she was obliged to confess she had
written in vain. Mr. Goodwood had
suppose he's thinking it
over," she said; "he thinks everything over;
he's not really at all
impetuous. But I'm accustomed to having my
letters answered the same day."
She presently proposed to Isabel, at all events,
that they should make an
excursion to London together. "If I must tell
the truth," she
observed, "I'm not seeing much at this place,
and I shouldn't think you
were either. I've not even seen that aristocrat-
what's his name?- Lord
Washburton. He seems to let you severely alone."
Warburton's coming to-morrow, I
happen to know," replied her friend, who had
received a note from the
master of Lockleigh in answer to her own letter.
"You'll have every
opportunity of turning him inside out."
may do for one letter, but
what's one letter when you want to write fifty?
I've described all the scenery
in this vicinity and raved about all the old
women and donkeys. You may say
what you please, scenery doesn't make a vital
letter. I must go back to London
and get some impressions of real life. I was
there but three days before I came
away, and that's hardly time to get in touch."
Isabel, on her journey from New York to
Gardencourt, had seen even less of the British
capital than this, it appeared a
happy suggestion of Henrietta's that the two
should go thither on a visit of
pleasure. The idea struck Isabel as charming;
she was curious of the thick
detail of London, which had always loomed large
and rich to her. They turned
over their schemes together and indulged in
visions of romantic hours. They
would stay at some picturesque old inn- one of
the inns described by Dickens-
and drive over the town in those delightful
hansoms. Henrietta was a literary
woman, and the great advantage of being a
literary woman was that you could go
everywhere and do everything. They would dine at
a coffee-house and go
afterwards to the play; they would frequent the
Abbey and the British Museum
and find out where Doctor Johnson had lived, and
Goldsmith and Addison. Isabel
grew eager and presently unveiled the bright
vision to Ralph, who burst into a
fit of laughter which scarce expressed the
sympathy she had desired.
delightful plan," he
said. "I advise you to go to the Duke's Head in
Covent Garden, an easy,
informal, old-fashioned place, and I'll have you
put down at my club."
mean it's improper?"
Isabel asked. "Dear me, isn't anything proper
here? With Henrietta surely
I may go anywhere; she isn't hampered in that
way. She has travelled over the
whole American continent and can at least find
her way about this minute
then," said Ralph, "let
me take advantage of her protection to go up to
town as well. I may never have
a chance to travel so safely!"
Stackpole would have prepared to start
immediately; but Isabel, as we have seen, had
been notified that Lord Warburton
would come again to Gardencourt, and she
believed it her duty to remain there
and see him. For four or five days he had made
no response to her letter; then
he had written, very briefly, to say he would
come to luncheon two days later.
There was something in these delays and
postponements that touched the girl and
renewed her sense of his desire to be
considerate and patient, not to appear to
urge her too grossly; a consideration the more
studied that she was so sure he
"really liked" her. Isabel told her uncle she
had written to him,
mentioning also his intention of coming; and the
old man, in consequence, left
his room earlier than usual and made his
appearance at the two o'clock repast.
This was by no means an act of vigilance on his
part, but the fruit of a
benevolent belief that his being of the company
might help to cover any
conjoined straying away in case Isabel should
give their noble visitor another
hearing. That personage drove over from
Lockleigh and brought the elder of his
sisters with him, a measure presumably dictated
by reflexions of the same order
as Mr. Touchett's. The two visitors were
introduced to Miss Stackpole, who, at
luncheon, occupied a seat adjoining Lord
Warburton's. Isabel, who was nervous
and had no relish for the prospect of again
arguing the question he had so
prematurely opened, could not help admiring his
which quite disguised the symptoms of that
preoccupation with her presence it
was natural she should suppose him to feel. He
neither looked at her nor spoke
to her, and the only sign of his emotion was
that he avoided meeting her eyes.
He had plenty of talk for the others, however,
and he appeared to eat his
luncheon with discrimination and appetite. Miss
Molyneux, who had a smooth,
nun-like forehead and wore a large silver cross
suspended from her neck, was
evidently preoccupied with Henrietta Stackpole,
upon whom her eyes constantly
rested in a manner suggesting a conflict between
deep alienation and yearning
wonder. Of the two ladies from Lockleigh she was
the one Isabel had liked best;
there was such a world of hereditary quiet in
her. Isabel was sure moreover
that her mild forehead and silver cross referred
to some weird Anglican
mystery- some delightful reinstitution perhaps
of the quaint office of the
canoness. She wondered what Miss Molyneux would
think of her if she knew Miss
Archer had refused her brother; and then she
felt sure that Miss Molyneux would
never know- that Lord Warburton never told her
such things. He was fond of her
and kind to her, but on the whole he told her
little. Such, at least, was
Isabel's theory; when, at table, she was not
occupied in conversation she was
usually occupied in forming theories about her
neighbours. According to Isabel,
if Miss Molyneux should ever learn what had
passed between Miss Archer and Lord
Warburton she would probably be shocked at such
a girl's failure to rise; or
no, rather (this was our heroine's last
position) she would impute to the young
American but a due consciousness of inequality.
Isabel might have made of her
opportunities, at all events, Henrietta
Stackpole was by no means disposed to
neglect those in which she now found herself
immersed. "Do you know you're
the first lord I've ever seen?" she said very
promptly to her neighbour.
"I suppose you think I'm awfully benighted."
escaped seeing some very ugly
men," Lord Warburton answered, looking a trifle
absently about the table.
very ugly? They try to make
us believe in America that they're all handsome
and magnificent and that they
wear wonderful robes and crowns."
robes and crowns are gone out
of fashion," said Lord Warburton, "like your
sorry for that; I think an
aristocracy ought to be splendid," Henrietta
declared. "If it's not
that, what is it?"
know, it isn't much, at the
best," her neighbour allowed. "Won't you have a
care much for these European
potatoes. I shouldn't know you from an ordinary
to me as if I were one,"
said Lord Warburton. "I don't see how you manage
to get on without
potatoes; you must find so few things to eat
was silent a little; there was a
chance he was not sincere. "I've had hardly any
appetite since I've been
here," she went on at last; "so it doesn't much
matter. I don't
approve of you, you know; I feel as if I ought
to tell you that."
approve of me?"
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."
do I. I don't approve of
myself in the least. Sometimes it comes over me-
how I should object to myself
if I were not myself, don't you know? But that's
rather good, by the way- not
to be vainglorious."
don't you give it up then?"
Miss Stackpole enquired.
a-?" asked Lord
Warburton, meeting her harsh inflexion with a
very mellow one.
being a lord."
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."
like to see you do it!"
Henrietta exclaimed rather grimly.
invite you to the ceremony;
we'll have a supper and a dance."
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
little, as you see!"
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."
only looking for those
explain about that young lady-
your sister- then. I don't understand about her.
Is she a Lady?"
capital good girl."
like the way you say that- as
if you wanted to change the subject. Is her
position inferior to yours?"
neither of us have any position to
speak of; but she's better off than I, because
she has none of the
doesn't look as if she had
much bother. I wish I had as little bother as
that. You do produce quiet people
over here, whatever else you may do."
see one takes life easily, on
the whole," said Lord Warburton. "And then you
know we're very dull.
Ah, we can be dull when we try!"
advise you to try something
else. I shouldn't know what to talk to your
sister about; she looks so
different. Is that silver cross a badge?"
Warburton's glance had wandered a good
deal, but at this it met the gaze of his
neighbour. "Oh yes," he
answered in a moment; "the women go in for those
things. The silver cross
is worn by the eldest daughters of Viscounts."
Which was his harmless
revenge for having occasionally had his
credulity too easily engaged in
America. After luncheon he proposed to Isabel to
come into the gallery and look
at the pictures; and though she knew he had seen
the pictures twenty times she
complied without criticizing this pretext. Her
conscience now was very easy;
ever since she sent him her letter she had felt
particularly light of spirit.
He walked slowly to the end of the gallery,
staring at its contents and saying
nothing; and then he suddenly broke out: "I
hoped you wouldn't write to me
the only way, Lord
Warburton," said the girl. "Do try and believe
could believe it of course I
should let you alone. But we can't believe by
willing it; and I confess I don't
understand. I could understand your disliking
me; that I could understand well.
But that you should admit you do-"
have I admitted?" Isabel
interrupted, turning slightly pale.
think me a good fellow;
isn't that it?" She said nothing, and he went
on: "You don't seem to
have any reason, and that gives me a sense of
"I have a
Warburton." She said it in a tone that made his
like very much to know
tell you some day when there's
more to show for it."
my saying that in the mean
time I must doubt of it."
me very unhappy," said
sorry for that; it may help
you to know how I feel. Will you kindly answer
me a question?" Isabel made
no audible assent, but he apparently saw in her
eyes something that gave him
courage to go on. "Do you prefer some one else?"
question I'd rather not
do then!" her suitor
murmured with bitterness.
bitterness touched her, and she cried
out: "You're mistaken! I don't."
down on a bench, unceremoniously,
doggedly, like a man in trouble; leaning his
elbows on his knees and staring at
the floor. "I can't even be glad of that," he
said at last, throwing
himself back against the wall; "for that would
be an excuse."
raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"An excuse? Must I excuse myself?"
however, no answer to the
question. Another idea had come into his head.
"Is it my political
opinions? Do you think I go too far?"
object to your political
opinions, because I don't understand them."
don't care what I think!" he
cried, getting up. "It's all the same to you.
walked to the other side of the
gallery and stood there showing him her charming
back, her light slim figure, the
length of her white neck as she bent her head,
and the density of her dark
braids. She stopped in front of a small picture
as if for the purpose of
examining it; and there was something so young
and free in her movement that
her very pliancy seemed to mock at him. Her
eyes, however, saw nothing; they
had suddenly been suffused with tears. In a
moment he followed her, and by this
time she had brushed her tears away; but when
she turned round her face was
pale and the expression of her eyes strange.
"That reason that I wouldn't
tell you- I'll tell it you after all. It's that
I can't escape my fate."
try to escape it if I were
to marry you."
understand. Why should not
that be your fate as well as anything else?"
it's not," said Isabel
femininely. "I know it's not. It's not my fate
to give up- I know it can't
Warburton stared, an
interrogative point in either eye. "Do you call
marrying me giving
the usual sense. It's getting-
getting- getting a great deal. But it's giving
up other chances."
chances for what?"
mean chances to marry,"
said Isabel, her colour quickly coming back to
her. And then she stopped,
looking down with a deep frown, as if it were
hopeless to attempt to make her
think it presumptuous in me
to suggest that you'll gain more than you'll
lose," her companion
said Isabel. "In marrying you I shall be trying
know whether you'd try to,
but you certainly would: that I must in candour
admit!" he exclaimed with
an anxious laugh.
mustn't- I can't!" cried the
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."
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 yourself from
life. From the usual chances and
dangers, from what most people know and suffer."
Warburton broke into a smile that
almost denoted hope. "Why, my dear Miss Archer,"
he began to explain
with the most considerate eagerness, "I don't
offer you any exoneration
from life or from any chances or dangers
whatever. I wish I could; depend upon
it I would! For what do you take me, pray?
Heaven help me, I'm not the Emperor
of China! All I offer you is the chance of
taking the common lot in a
comfortable sort of way. The common lot? Why,
I'm devoted to the common lot!
Strike an alliance with me, and I promise you
that you shall have plenty of it.
You shall separate from nothing whatever- not
even from your friend Miss
never approve of it," said
Isabel, trying to smile and take advantage of
this side-issue; despising
herself too, not a little, for doing so.
speaking of Miss
Stackpole?" his lordship asked impatiently. "I
never saw a person
judge things on such theoretic grounds."
suppose you're speaking of
me," said Isabel with humility; and she turned
away again, for she saw
Miss Molyneux enter the gallery, accompanied by
Henrietta and by Ralph.
Warburton's sister addressed him with
a certain timidity and reminded him she ought to
return home in time for tea,
as she was expecting company to partake of it.
He made no answer- apparently
not having heard her; he was preoccupied, and
with good reason. Miss Molyneux-
as if he had been Royalty- stood like a
never, Miss Molyneux!"
said Henrietta Stackpole. "If I wanted to go
he'd have to go. If I wanted
my brother to do a thing he'd have to do it."
Warburton does everything one
wants," Miss Molyneux answered with a quick, shy
laugh. "How very
many pictures you have!" she went on, turning to
look a good many, because
they're all put together," said Ralph. "But it's
really a bad
think it's so nice. I wish we
had a gallery at Lockleigh. I'm so very fond of
pictures," Miss Molyneux
went on, persistently, to Ralph, as if she were
afraid Miss Stackpole would
address her again. Henrietta appeared at once to
fascinate and to frighten her.
pictures are very
convenient," said Ralph, who appeared to know
better what style of
reflexion was acceptable to her.
so very pleasant when it
rains," the young lady continued. "It has rained
of late so very
sorry you're going away, Lord
Warburton," said Henrietta. "I wanted to get a
great deal more out of
going away," Lord
sister says you must. In America
the gentlemen obey the ladies."
afraid we have some people to
tea," said Miss Molyneux, looking at her
good, my dear. We'll go."
you would resist!"
Henrietta exclaimed. "I wanted to see what Miss
Molyneux would do."
do anything," said this
suppose in your position it's
sufficient for you to exist!" Miss Stackpole
returned. "I should like
very much to see you at home."
come to Lockleigh
again," said Miss Molyneux, very sweetly, to
Isabel, ignoring this remark
of Isabel's friend.
looked into her quiet eyes a moment,
and for that moment seemed to see in their grey
depths the reflexion of
everything she had rejected in rejecting Lord
Warburton- the peace, the
kindness, the honour, the possessions, a deep
security and a great exclusion.
She kissed Miss Molyneux and then she said: "I'm
afraid I can never come
afraid I'm going away."
so very sorry," said
Miss Molyneux. "I think that's so very wrong of
Warburton watched this little passage;
then he turned away and stared at a picture.
Ralph, leaning against the rail
before the picture with his hands in his
pockets, had for the moment been
like to see you at
home," said Henrietta, whom Lord Warburton found
beside him. "I
should like an hour's talk with you; there are a
great many questions I wish to
be delighted to see
you," the proprietor of Lockleigh answered; "but
I'm certain not to
be able to answer many of your questions. When
will you come?"
Miss Archer will take me.
We're thinking of going to London, but we'll go
and see you first. I'm
determined to get some satisfaction out of you."
depends upon Miss Archer I'm
afraid you won't get much. She won't come to
Lockleigh; she doesn't like the
me it was lovely!" said
Warburton hesitated. "She won't
come, all the same. You had better come alone,"
straightened herself, and her
large eyes expanded. "Would you make that remark
to an English lady?"
she enquired with soft asperity.
Warburton stared. "Yes, if I
liked her enough."
careful not to like her
enough. If Miss Archer won't visit your place
again it's because she doesn't
want to take me. I know what she thinks of me,
and I suppose you think the
same- that I oughtn't to bring in individuals."
Lord Warburton was at a
loss; he had not been made acquainted with Miss
character and failed to catch her allusion.
"Miss Archer has been warning
you!" she therefore went on.
that why she came off alone
with you here- to put you on your guard?"
no," said Lord
Warburton brazenly; "our talk had no such solemn
character as that."
you've been on your guard-
intensely. I suppose it's natural to you; that's
just what I wanted to observe.
And so, too, Miss Molyneux- she wouldn't commit
herself. You have been warned,
anyway," Henrietta continued, addressing this
young lady; "but for
you it wasn't necessary."
not," said Miss Molyneux
Stackpole takes notes,"
Ralph soothingly explained. "She's a great
satirist; she sees through us
all and she works us up."
must say I never have had
such a collection of had material!" Henrietta
declared, looking from
Isabel to Lord Warburton and from this nobleman
to his sister and to Ralph.
"There's something the matter with you all;
you're as dismal as if you had
got a bad cable."
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
came behind these two; Miss
Molyneux, who decidedly liked her immensely, had
taken her arm, to walk beside
her over the polished floor. Lord Warburton
strolled on the other side with his
hands behind him and his eyes lowered. For some
moments he said nothing; and
then, "Is it true you're going to London?" he
believe it has been arranged."
shall you come back?"
"In a few
days; but probably for a
very short time. I'm going to Paris with my
then, shall I see you
a good while," said
Isabel. "But some day or other, I hope."
really hope it?"
He went a
few steps in silence; then he
stopped and put out his hand. "Good-bye."
Molyneux kissed her again, and she let
the two depart. After it, without rejoining
Henrietta and Ralph, she retreated
to her own room; in which apartment, before
dinner, she was found by Mrs.
Touchett, who had stopped on her way to the
saloon. "I may as well tell
you," said that lady, "that your uncle has
informed me of your
relations with Lord Warburton."
considered. "Relations? They're
hardly relations. That's the strange part of it:
he has seen me but three or
you tell your uncle rather
than me?" Mrs. Touchett dispassionately asked.
girl hesitated. "Because he
knows Lord Warburton better."
I know you better."
sure of that," said
am I, after all; especially
when you give me that rather conceited look. One
would think you were awfully
pleased with yourself and had carried off a
prize! I suppose that when you refuse
an offer like Lord Warburton's it's because you
expect to do something
uncle didn't say that!"
cried Isabel, smiling still.
been arranged that the two young
ladies should proceed to London under Ralph's
escort, though Mrs. Touchett
looked with little favour on the plan. It was
just the sort of plan, she said,
that Miss Stackpole would be sure to suggest,
and she enquired if the
correspondent of the Interviewer was to take the
party to stay at a
care where she takes us to
stay, so long as there's local colour," said
Isabel. "That's what
we're going to London for."
suppose that after a girl has
refused an English lord she may do anything,"
her aunt rejoined.
"After that one needn't stand on trifles."
you have liked me to marry
Lord Warburton?" Isabel enquired.
course I should."
thought you disliked the English so
"So I do;
but it's all the greater
reason for making use of them."
your idea of marriage?"
And Isabel ventured to add that her aunt
appeared to her to have made very
little use of Mr. Touchett.
uncle's not an English
nobleman," said Mrs. Touchett, "though even if
he had been I should
still probably have taken up my residence in
think Lord Warburton could
make me any better than I am?" the girl asked
with some animation. "I
don't mean I'm too good to improve. I mean- I
mean that I don't love Lord
Warburton enough to marry him."
right to refuse him
then," said Mrs. Touchett in her smallest,
sparest voice. "Only, the
next great offer you get, I hope you'll manage
to come up to your
better wait till the offer
comes before we talk about it. I hope very much
I may have no more offers for
the present. They upset me completely."
probably won't be troubled with
them if you adopt permanently the Bohemian
manner of life. However, I've
promised Ralph not to criticize."
whatever Ralph says is
right," Isabel returned. "I've unbounded
confidence in Ralph."
mother's much obliged to
you!" this lady dryly laughed.
to me indeed she ought to
feel it!" Isabel irrepressibly answered.
assured her that there would be
no violation of decency in their paying a visit-
the little party of three- to
the sights of the metropolis; but Mrs. Touchett
took a different view. Like
many ladies of her country who had lived a long
time in Europe, she had
completely lost her native tact on such points,
and in her reaction, not in
itself deplorable, against the liberty allowed
to young persons beyond the
seas, had fallen into gratuitous and exaggerated
scruples. Ralph accompanied
their visitors to town and established them at a
quiet inn in a street that ran
at right angles to Piccadilly. His first idea
had been to take them to his
father's house in Winchester Square, a large,
dull mansion which at this period
of the year was shrouded in silence and brown
holland; but he bethought himself
that, the cook being at Gardencourt, there was
no one in the house to get them
their meals, and Pratt's Hotel accordingly
became their resting-place. Ralph,
on his side, found quarters in Winchester
Square, having a "den"
there of which he was very fond and being
familiar with deeper fears than that of
a cold kitchen. He availed himself largely
indeed of the resources of Pratt's
Hotel, beginning his day with an early visit to
his fellow travellers, who had
Mr. Pratt in person, in a large bulging white
waistcoat, to remove their
dishcovers. Ralph turned up, as he said, after
breakfast, and the little party
made out a scheme of entertainment for the day.
As London wears in the month of
September a face blank but for its smears of
prior service, the young man, who
occasionally took an apologetic tone, was
obliged to remind his companion, to
Miss Stackpole's high derision, that there
wasn't a creature in town.
suppose you mean the aristocracy
are absent," Henrietta answered; "but I don't
think you could have a
better proof that if they were absent altogether
they wouldn't be missed. It
seems to me the place is about as full as it can
be. There's no one here, of
course, but three or four millions of people.
What is it you call them- the
lower-middle class? They're only the population
of London, and that's of no consequence."
declared that for him the aristocracy
left no void that Miss Stackpole herself didn't
fill, and that a more contented
man was nowhere at that moment to be found. In
this he spoke the truth, for the
stale September days, in the huge half-empty
town, had a charm wrapped in them
as a coloured gem might be wrapped in a dusty
cloth. When he went home at night
to the empty house in 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. The
party went more than once to the
British Museum and to that brighter palace of
art which reclaims for antique
variety so large an area of a monotonous suburb;
they spent a morning in the
Abbey and went on a penny-steamer to the Tower;
they looked at pictures both in
public and private collections and sat on
various occasions beneath the great
trees in Kensington Gardens. Henrietta proved an
indestructible sight-seer and
a more lenient judge than Ralph had ventured to
hope. She had indeed many
disappointments, and London at large suffered
from her vivid remembrance of the
strong points of the American civic idea; but
she made the best of its dingy
dignities and only heaved an occasional sigh and
uttered a desultory
"Well!" which led no further and lost itself in
retrospect. The truth
was that, as she said herself, she was not in
her element. "I've not a
sympathy with inanimate objects," she remarked
to Isabel at the National
Gallery; and she continued to suffer from the
meagreness of the glimpse that
had as yet been vouchsafed to her of the inner
life. Landscapes by Turner and
Assyrian bulls were a poor substitute for the
literary dinner-parties at which
she had hoped to meet the genius and renown of
are your public men, where are
your men and women of intellect?" she enquired
of Ralph, standing in the
middle of Trafalgar Square as if she had
supposed this to be a place where she
would naturally meet a few. "That's one of them
on the top of the column,
you say- Lord Nelson? Was he a lord too? Wasn't
he high enough, that they had
to stick him a hundred feet in the air? That's
the past- I don't care about the
past; I want to see some of the leading minds of
the present. I won't say of
the future, because I don't believe much in your
future." Poor Ralph had
few leading minds among his acquaintance and
rarely enjoyed the pleasure of
button-holing a celebrity; a state of things
which appeared to Miss Stackpole
to indicate a deplorable want of enterprise. "If
I were on the other side
I should call," she said, "and tell the
gentleman, whoever he might
be, that I had heard a great deal about him and
had come to see for myself. But
I gather from what you say that this is not the
custom here. You seem to have
plenty of meaningless customs, but none of those
that would help along. We are
in advance, certainly. I suppose I shall have to
give up the social side
altogether"; and Henrietta, though she went
about with her guidebook and
pencil and wrote a letter to the Interviewer
about the Tower (in which she
described the execution of Lady Jane Grey), had
a sad sense of falling below
incident that had preceded Isabel's
departure from Gardencourt left a painful trace
in our young woman's mind: when
she felt again in her face, as from a recurrent
wave, the cold breath of her
last suitor's surprise, she could only muffle
her head till the air cleared.
She could not have done less than what she did;
this was certainly true. But
her necessity, all the same, had been as
graceless as some physical act in a
strained attitude, and she felt no desire to
take credit for her conduct. Mixed
with this imperfect pride, nevertheless, was a
feeling of freedom which in
itself was sweet and which, as she wandered
through the great city with her
ill-matched companions, occasionally throbbed
into odd demonstrations. When she
walked in Kensington Gardens she stopped the
children (mainly of the poorer
sort) whom she saw playing on the grass; she
asked them their names and gave
them sixpence and, when they were pretty, kissed
them. Ralph noticed these
quaint charities; he noticed everything she did.
One afternoon, that his
companions might pass the time, he invited them
to tea in Winchester Square,
and he had the house set in order as much as
possible for their visit. There
was another guest to meet them, an amiable
bachelor, an old friend of Ralph's
who happened to be in town and for whom prompt
commerce with Miss Stackpole
appeared to have neither difficulty nor dread.
Mr. Bantling, a stout, sleek,
smiling man of forty, wonderfully dressed,
universally informed and
incoherently amused, laughed immoderately at
everything Henrietta said, gave her
several cups of tea, examined in her society the
bric-a-brac, of which Ralph
had a considerable collection, and afterwards,
when the host proposed they
should go out into the square and pretend it was
a fete-champetre, walked round
the limited enclosure several times with her
and, at a dozen turns of their
talk, bounded responsive- as with a positive
passion for argument- to her
remarks upon the inner life.
see; I dare say you found it
very quiet at Gardencourt. Naturally there's not
much going on there when
there's such a lot of illness about. Touchett's
very bad, you know; the doctors
have forbidden his being in England at all, and
he has only come back to take
care of his father. The old man, I believe, has
half a dozen things the matter
with him. They call it gout, but to my certain
knowledge he has organic disease
so developed that you may depend upon it he'll
go, some day soon, quite
quickly. Of course that sort of thing makes a
dreadfully dull house; I wonder
they have people when they can do so little for
them. Then I believe Mr.
Touchett's always squabbling with his wife; she
lives away from her husband,
you know, in that extraordinary American way of
yours. If you want a house
where there's always something going on, I
recommend you to go down and stay
with my sister, Lady Pensil, in Bedfordshire.
I'll write to her tomorrow and
I'm sure she'll be delighted to ask you. I know
just what you want- you want a
house where they go in for theatricals and
picnics and that sort of thing. My
sister's just that sort of woman; she's always
getting up something or other
and she's always glad to have the sort of people
who help her. I'm sure she'll
ask you down by return of post: she's
tremendously fond of distinguished people
and writers. She writes herself, you know; but I
haven't read everything she
has written. It's usually poetry, and I don't go
in much for poetry- unless
it's Byron. I suppose you think a great deal of
Byron in America," Mr.
Bantling continued, expanding in the stimulating
air of Miss Stackpole's
attention, bringing up his sequences promptly
and changing his topic with an
easy turn of hand. Yet he none the less
gracefully kept in sight of the idea,
dazzling to Henrietta, of her going to stay with
Lady Pensil in Bedfordshire.
"I understand what you want; you want to see
some genuine English sport.
The Touchetts aren't English at all, you know;
they have their own habits,
their own language, their own food- some odd
religion even, I believe, of their
own. The old man thinks it's wicked to hunt, I'm
told. You must get down to my
sister's in time for the theatricals, and I'm
sure she'll be glad to give you a
part. I'm sure you act well; I know you're very
clever. My sister's forty years
old and has seven children, but she's going to
play the principal part. Plain
as she is she makes up awfully well- I will say
for her. Of course you needn't
act if you don't want to."
manner Mr. Bantling delivered
himself while they strolled over the grass in
Winchester Square, which,
although it had been peppered by the London
soot, invited the tread to linger.
Henrietta thought her blooming, easy-voiced
bachelor, with his impressibility
to feminine merit and his splendid range of
suggestion, a very agreeable man,
and she valued the opportunity he offered her.
"I don't know but I would
go, if your sister should ask me. I think it
would be my duty. What do you call
It's an odd name, but it
isn't a bad one."
one name's as good as
another. But what's her rank?"
she's a baron's wife; a
convenient sort of rank. You're fine enough and
you're not too fine."
know but what she'd be too
fine for me. What do you call the place she
lives in- Bedfordshire?"
lives away in the northern corner
of it. It's a tiresome country, but I dare say
you won't mind it. I'll try and
run down while you're there."
was very pleasant to Miss
Stackpole, and she was sorry to be obliged to
separate from Lady Pensil's
obliging brother. But it happened that she had
met the day before, in
Piccadilly, some friends whom she had not seen
for a year: the Miss Climbers,
two ladies from Wilmington, Delaware, who had
been travelling on the Continent
and were now preparing to re-embark. Henrietta
had had a long interview with
them on the Piccadilly pavement, and though the
three ladies all talked at once
they had not exhausted their store. It had been
agreed therefore that Henrietta
should come and dine with them in their lodgings
in Jermyn Street at six
o'clock on the morrow, and she now bethought
herself of this engagement. She
prepared to start for Jermyn Street, taking
leave first of Ralph Touchett and
Isabel, who, seated on garden chairs in another
part of the enclosure, were
occupied- if the term may be used- with an
exchange of amenities less pointed
than the practical colloquy of Miss Stackpole
and Mr. Bantling. When it had
been settled between Isabel and her friend that
they should be reunited at some
reputable hour at Pratt's Hotel, Ralph remarked
that the latter must have a cab.
She couldn't walk all the way to Jermyn Street.
suppose you mean it's improper for
me to walk alone!" Henrietta exclaimed.
"Merciful powers, have I come
not the slightest need of
your walking alone," Mr. Bantling gaily
interposed. "I should be
greatly pleased to go with you."
meant that you'd be late for
dinner," Ralph returned. "Those poor ladies may
easily believe that
we refuse, at the last, to spare you."
better have a hansom,
Henrietta," said Isabel.
you a hansom if you'll trust
me," Mr. Bantling went on. "We might walk a
little till we meet
see why I shouldn't trust
him, do you?" Henrietta enquired of Isabel.
see what Mr. Bantling could
do to you," Isabel obligingly answered; "but, if
you like, we'll walk
with you till you find your cab."
mind; we'll go alone. Come on,
Mr. Bantling, and take care you get me a good
Bantling promised to do his best, and
the two took their departure, leaving the girl
and her cousin together in the
square, over which a clear September twilight
had now begun to gather. It was
perfectly still; the wide quadrangle of dusky
houses showed lights in none of
the windows, where the shutters and blinds were
closed; the pavements were a
vacant expanse, and, putting aside two small
children from a neighbouring slum,
who, attracted by symptoms of abnormal animation
in the interior, poked their
faces between the rusty rails of the enclosure,
the most vivid object within
sight was the big red pillar-post on the
will ask him to get into
the cab and go with her to Jermyn Street," Ralph
observed. He always spoke
of Miss Stackpole as Henrietta.
possibly," said his
rather, no, she won't," he
went on. "But Bantling will ask leave to get
likely again. I'm very glad
they're such good friends."
made a conquest. He thinks
her a brilliant woman. It may go far," said
was briefly silent. "I call
Henrietta a very brilliant woman, but I don't
think it will go far. They would
never really know each other. He has not the
least idea what she really is, and
she has no just comprehension of Mr. Bantling."
no more usual basis of union
than a mutual misunderstanding. But it ought not
to be so difficult to
understand Bob Bantling," Ralph added. "He is a
Henrietta's a simpler one
still. And, pray, what am I to do?" Isabel
asked, looking about her
through the fading light, in which the limited
landscape-gardening of the
square took on a large and effective appearance.
"I don't imagine that
you'll propose that you and I, for our
amusement, shall drive about London in a
no reason we shouldn't stay
here- if you don't dislike it. It's very warm;
there will be half an hour yet
before dark; and if you permit it I'll light a
do what you please,"
said Isabel, "if you'll amuse me till seven
o'clock. I propose at that
hour to go back and partake of a simple and
solitary repast- two poached eggs
and a muffin- at Pratt's Hotel."
dine with you?" Ralph
you'll dine at your club."
wandered back to their chairs in
the centre of the square again, and Ralph had
lighted his cigarette. It would
have given him extreme pleasure to be present in
person at the modest little
feast she had sketched; but in default of this
he liked even being forbidden.
For the moment, however, he liked immensely
being alone with her, in the
thickening dusk, in the centre of the
multitudinous town; it made her seem to
depend upon him and to be in his power. This
power he could exert but vaguely;
the best exercise of it was to accept her
decisions submissively- which indeed
there was already an emotion in doing. "Why
won't you let me dine with
you?" he demanded after a pause.
I don't care for it."
suppose you're tired of me."
be an hour hence. You see I
have the gift of foreknowledge."
shall be delightful
meanwhile," said Ralph. But he said nothing
more, and as she made no
rejoinder they sat sometime in a stillness which
seemed to contradict his
promise of entertainment. It seemed to him she
was preoccupied, and he wondered
what she was thinking about; there were two or
three very possible subjects. At
last he spoke again. "Is your objection to my
society this evening caused
by your expectation of another visitor?"
turned her head with a glance of her
clear, fair eyes. "Another visitor? What visitor
should I have?"
none to suggest; which made his
question seem to himself silly as well as
brutal. "You've a great many
friends that I don't know. You've a whole past
from which I was perversely
reserved for my future. You
must remember that my past is over there across
the water. There's none of it
here in London."
good, then, since your future is
seated beside you. Capital thing to have your
future so handy." And Ralph
lighted another cigarette and reflected that
Isabel probably meant she had
received news that Mr. Caspar Goodwood had
crossed to Paris. After he had
lighted his cigarette he puffed it a while, and
then he resumed. "I
promised just now to be very amusing; but you
see I don't come up to the mark,
and the fact is there's a good deal of temerity
in one's undertaking to amuse a
person like you. What do you care for my feeble
attempts? You've grand ideas-
you've a high standard in such matters. I ought
at least to bring in a band of
music or a company of mountebanks."
mountebank's enough, and you do
very well. Pray go on, and in another ten
minutes I shall begin to laugh."
you I'm very serious,"
said Ralph. "You do really ask a great deal."
know what you mean. I ask
accept nothing," said Ralph.
She coloured, and now suddenly it seemed to her
that she guessed his meaning.
But why should he speak to her of such things?
He hesitated a little and then
he continued: "There's something I should like
very much to say to you.
It's a question I wish to ask. It seems to me
I've a right to ask it, because
I've a kind of interest in the answer."
you will," Isabel
replied gently, "and I'll try to satisfy you."
then, I hope you won't mind my
saying that Warburton has told me of something
that has passed between
suppressed a start; he sat looking
at her open fan. "Very good; I suppose it was
natural he should tell
his leave to let you know he
has done so. He has some hope still," said
it a few days ago."
believe he has any now,"
said the girl.
sorry for him then; he's
such an honest man."
did he ask you to talk to
that. But he told me because
he couldn't help it. We're old friends, and he
was greatly disappointed. He
sent me a line asking me to come and see him,
and I drove over to Lockleigh the
day before he and his sister lunched with us. He
was very heavy-hearted; he had
just got a letter from you."
show you the letter?"
asked Isabel with momentary loftiness.
means. But he told me it was a
neat refusal. I was very sorry for him," Ralph
moments Isabel said nothing; then
at last, "Do you know how often he had seen me?"
"Five or six times."
to your glory."
for that I say it."
then do you say it for? Not to
prove that poor Warburton's state of mind's
superficial, because I'm pretty
sure you don't think that."
certainly was unable to say she
thought it but presently she said something
else. "If you've not been
requested by Lord Warburton to argue with me,
then you're doing it
disinterestedly- or for the love of argument."
wish to argue with you at
all. I only wish to leave you alone. I'm simply
greatly interested in your own
greatly obliged to you!"
cried Isabel with a slightly nervous laugh.
course you mean that I'm meddling
in what doesn't concern me. But why shouldn't I
speak to you of this matter
without annoying you or embarrassing myself?
What's the use of being your
cousin if I can't have a few privileges? What's
the use of adoring you without
hope of a reward if I can't have a few
compensations? What's the use of being
ill and disabled and restricted to mere
spectatorship at the game of life if I
really can't see the show when I've paid so much
for my ticket? Tell me
this," Ralph went on while she listened to him
with quickened attention.
"What had you in mind when you refused Lord
I in mind?"
the logic- the view of your
situation- that dictated so remarkable an act?"
wish to marry him- if that's
that's not logic- and I knew that
before. It's really nothing, you know. What was
it you said to yourself? You
certainly said more than that?"
reflected a moment, then answered
with a question of her own. "Why do you call it
a remarkable act? That's
what your mother thinks too.
such a thorough good
sort; as a man, I consider he has hardly a
fault. And then he's what they call
here no end of a swell. He has immense
possessions, and his wife would be
thought a superior being. He unites the
intrinsic and the extrinsic
watched her cousin as to see how far
he would go. "I refused him because he was too
perfect then. I'm not
perfect myself, and he's too good for me.
Besides, his perfection would
ingenious rather than
candid," said Ralph. "As a fact you think
nothing in the world too
perfect for you."
think I'm so good?"
you're exacting, all the
same, without the excuse of thinking yourself
good. Nineteen women out of
twenty, however, even of the most exacting sort,
would have managed to do with
Warburton. Perhaps you don't know how he has
wish to know. But it seems to
me," said Isabel, "that one day when we talked
of him you mentioned
odd things in him."
smokingly considered. "I hope
that what I said then had no weight with you;
for they were not faults, the
things I spoke of: they were simply
peculiarities of his position. If I had
known he wished to marry you I'd never have
alluded to them. I think I said
that as regards that position he was rather a
sceptic. It would have been in
your power to make him a believer."
not. I don't understand the
matter, and I'm not conscious of any mission of
that sort. You're evidently
disappointed," Isabel added, looking at her
cousin with rueful gentleness.
"You'd have liked me to make such a marriage."
the least. I'm absolutely without
a wish on the subject. I don't pretend to advise
you, and I content myself with
watching you- with the deepest interest."
rather a conscious sigh. "I
wish I could be as interesting to myself as I am
you're not candid again; you're
extremely interesting to yourself. Do you know,
however," said Ralph,
"that if you've really given Warburton his final
answer I'm rather glad it
has been what it was. I don't mean I'm glad for
you, and still less of course
for him. I'm glad for myself."
thinking of proposing to
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."
what your mother counts upon
too," said Isabel.
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."
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
do so only by disappointing
yourself- and that will go hard with you!"
she made no direct reply; there was
an amount of truth in it that would bear
consideration. At last she said
abruptly: "I don't see what harm there is in my
wishing not to tie myself.
I don't want to begin life by marrying. There
are other things a woman can
nothing she can do so well.
But you're of course so many-sided."
two-sided it's enough,"
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
think I want to see it as the
young men want to see it. But I do want to look
to drain the cup of
don't wish to touch the cup of
experience. It's a poisoned drink! I only want
to see for myself."
to see, but not to
feel," Ralph remarked.
think that if one's a
sentient being one can make the distinction. I'm
a good deal like Henrietta.
The other day when I asked her if she wished to
marry she said: 'Not till I've
seen Europe!' I too don't wish to marry till
I've seen Europe."
evidently expect a crowned head
will be struck with you."
would be worse than marrying
Lord Warburton. But it's getting very dark,"
Isabel continued, "and I
must go home." She rose from her place, but
Ralph only sat still and
looked at her. As he remained there she stopped,
and they exchanged a gaze that
was full on either side, but especially on
Ralph's, of utterances too vague for
answered my question," he
said at last. "You've told me what I wanted. I'm
greatly obliged to
to me I've told you very
told me the great thing: that
the world interests you and that you want to
throw yourself into it."
silvery eyes shone a moment in the
dusk. "I never said that."
you meant it. Don't repudiate
it. It's so fine!"
know what you're trying to
fasten upon me, for I'm not in the least an
adventurous spirit. Women are not
slowly rose from his seat and they
walked together to the gate of the square. "No,"
he said; "women
rarely boast of their courage. Men do so with a
it to boast of!
have it too. You've a great deal."
to go home in a cab to Pratt's
Hotel, but not more."
unlocked the gate, and after they had
passed out he fastened it. "We'll find your
cab," he said; and as
they turned toward a neighbouring street in
which this quest might avail he
asked her again if he mightn't see her safely to
means," she answered;
"you're very tired; you must go home and go to
was found, and he helped her into
it, standing a moment at the door. "When people
forget I'm a poor creature
I'm often incommoded," he said. "But it's worse
when they remember
had no hidden motive in wishing him
not to take her home; it simply struck her that
for some days past she had
consumed an inordinate quantity of his time, and
the independent spirit of the
American girl whom extravagance of aid places in
an attitude that she ends by
finding "affected" had made her decide that for
these few hours she
must suffice to herself. She had moreover a
great fondness for intervals of
solitude, which since her arrival in England had
been but meagrely met. It was
a luxury she could always command at home and
she had wittingly missed it. That
evening, however, an incident occurred which-
had there been a critic to note
it- would have taken all colour from the theory
that the wish to be quite by
herself had caused her to dispense with her
cousin's attendance. Seated toward
nine o'clock in the dim illumination of Pratt's
Hotel and trying with the aid
of two tall candles to lose herself in a volume
she had brought from
Gardencourt, she succeeded only to the extent of
reading other words than those
printed on the page- words that Ralph had spoken
to her that afternoon.
Suddenly the well-muffled knuckle of the waiter
was applied to the door, which presently
gave way to his exhibition, even as a glorious
trophy, of the card of a
visitor. When this memento had offered to her
fixed sight the name of Mr.
Caspar Goodwood she let the man stand before her
without signifying her wishes.
show the gentleman up,
ma'am?" he asked with a slightly encouraging
hesitated still and while she
hesitated glanced at the mirror. "He may come
in," she said at last;
and waited for him not so much smoothing her
hair as girding her spirit.
Goodwood was accordingly the next
moment shaking hands with her, but saying
nothing till the servant had left the
room. "Why didn't you answer my letter?" he then
asked in a quick,
full, slightly peremptory tone- the tone of a
man whose questions were habitually
pointed and who was capable of much insistence.
answered by a ready question, "How
did you know I was here?"
Stackpole let me know,"
said Caspar Goodwood. "She told me you would
probably be at home alone
this evening and would be willing to see me."
did she see you- to tell you
didn't see me; she wrote to
me." Isabel was silent; neither had sat down;
they stood there with an air
of defiance, or at least of contention.
"Henrietta never told me she was
writing to you," she said at last. "This is not
kind of her."
"Is it so
disagreeable to you to see
me?" asked the young man.
expect it. I don't like such
knew I was in town; it was
natural we should meet."
call this meeting? I hoped I
shouldn't see you. In so big a place as London
it seemed very possible."
apparently repugnant to you
even to write to me," her visitor went on.
made no reply; the sense of
Henrietta Stackpole's treachery, as she
momentarily qualified it, was strong
within her. "Henrietta's certainly not a model
of all the
delicacies!" she exclaimed with bitterness: "It
was a great liberty
suppose I'm not a model either- of
those virtues or of any others. The fault's mine
as much as hers."
looked at him it seemed to her
that his jaw had never been more square. This
might have displeased her, but
she took a different turn. "No, it's not your
fault so much as hers. What
you've done was inevitable, I suppose, for you."
indeed!" cried Caspar
Goodwood with a voluntary laugh. "And now that
I've come, at any rate,
mayn't I stay?"
sit down, certainly."
back to her chair again, while her
visitor took the first place that offered, in
the manner of a man accustomed to
pay little thought to that sort of furtherance.
"I've been hoping every
day for an answer to my letter. You might have
written me a few lines."
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
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 triumph.
Goodwood raised his eyes to her own
again; they seemed to shine through the vizard
of a helmet. He had a strong
sense of justice and was ready any day in the
year- over and above this- to
argue the question of his rights. "You said you
hoped never to hear from
me again; I know that. But I never accepted any
such rule as my own. I warned
you that you should hear very soon."
say I hoped never to hear
from you," said Isabel.
five years then; for ten
years; twenty years. It's the same thing."
find it so? It seems to me
there's a great difference. I can imagine that
at the end of ten years we might
have a very pleasant correspondence. I shall
have matured my epistolary
She looked away while she spoke these words, knowing them of so much less earnest a cast than the countenance of her listener. Her eyes, however, at last came back