The Portrait of a Lady [Volume 1]
Part 2 out of 7
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 disciplines of her sex
and age. She had had everything a girl could have: kindness,
admiration, bonbons, bouquets, the sense of exclusion from none of
the privileges of the world she lived in, abundant opportunity
for dancing, plenty of new dresses, the London Spectator, the
latest publications, the music of Gounod, the poetry of Browning,
the prose of George Eliot.
These things now, as memory played over them, resolved themselves
into a multitude of scenes and figures. Forgotten things came
back to her; many others, which she had lately thought of great
moment, dropped out of sight. The result was kaleidoscopic, but
the movement of the instrument was checked at last by the
servant's coming in with the name of a gentleman. The name of the
gentleman was Caspar Goodwood; he was a straight young man from
Boston, who had known Miss Archer for the last twelvemonth and
who, thinking her the most beautiful young woman of her time, had
pronounced the time, according to the rule I have hinted at, a
foolish period of history. He sometimes wrote to her and had
within a week or two written from New York. She had thought it
very possible he would come in--had indeed all the rainy day been
vaguely expecting him. Now that she learned he was there,
nevertheless, she felt no eagerness to 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.
Ralph Touchett was a philosopher, but nevertheless he knocked at
his mother's door (at a quarter to seven) with a good deal of
eagerness. Even philosophers have their preferences, and it must
be admitted that of his progenitors his father ministered most to
his sense of the sweetness of filial dependence. His father, as
he had often said to himself, was the more motherly; his mother,
on the other hand, was paternal, and even, according to the slang
of the day, gubernatorial. She was nevertheless very fond of her
only child and had always insisted on his spending three months
of the year with her. Ralph rendered perfect justice to her
affection and knew that in her thoughts and her thoroughly
arranged and servanted life his turn always came after the other
nearest subjects of her solicitude, the various punctualities of
performance of the workers of her will. He found her completely
dressed for dinner, but she embraced her boy with her gloved
hands and made him sit on the sofa beside her. She enquired
scrupulously about her husband's health and about the young man's
own, and, receiving no very brilliant account of either, remarked
that she was more than ever convinced of her wisdom in not
exposing herself to the English climate. In this case she also
might have given way. Ralph smiled at the idea of his mother's
giving way, but made no point of reminding her that his own
infirmity was not the result of the English climate, from which
he absented himself for a considerable part of each year.
He had been a very small boy when his father, Daniel Tracy
Touchett, a native of Rutland, in the State of Vermont, came to
England as subordinate partner in a banking-house where some ten
years later he gained preponderant control. Daniel Touchett saw
before him a life-long residence in his adopted country, of
which, from the first, he took a simple, sane and accommodating
view. But, as he said to himself, he had no intention of
disamericanising, nor had he a desire to teach his only son any
such subtle art. It had been for himself so very soluble a
problem to live in England assimilated yet 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 fraternise, and
his "social position," on which he had never wasted a care, had
the firm perfection of an unthumbed fruit. It was perhaps his
want of imagination and of what is called the historic
consciousness; but to many of the impressions usually made by
English life upon the cultivated stranger his sense was
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
Ralph, on leaving Oxford, had spent a couple of years in
travelling; after which he had found himself perched on a high
stool in his father's bank. The responsibility and honour of such
positions is not, I believe, measured by the height of the stool,
which depends upon other considerations: Ralph, indeed, who had
very long legs, was fond of standing, and even of walking about,
at his work. To this exercise, however, he was obliged to devote
but a limited period, for at the end of some eighteen months he
had become aware of his being seriously out of health. He had
caught a violent cold, which fixed itself on his lungs and threw
them into dire confusion. He had to give up work and apply, to
the letter, the sorry injunction to take care of himself. At
first he slighted the task; it appeared to him it was not himself
in the least he was taking care of, but an uninteresting and
uninterested person with whom he had nothing in common. This
person, however, improved on acquaintance, and Ralph grew at last
to have a certain grudging tolerance, even an undemonstrative
respect, for him. Misfortune makes strange bedfellows, and our
young man, feeling that he had something at stake in the matter--
it usually struck him as his reputation for ordinary wit--
devoted to his graceless charge an amount of attention of which
note was duly taken and which had at least the effect of keeping
the poor fellow alive. One of his lungs began to heal, the other
promised to follow its example, and he was assured he might
outweather a dozen winters if he would betake himself to those
climates in which consumptives chiefly congregate. As he had
grown extremely fond of London, he cursed the flatness of exile:
but at the same time that he cursed he conformed, and gradually,
when he found his sensitive organ grateful even for grim favours,
he conferred them with a lighter hand. He wintered abroad, as the
phrase is; basked in the sun, stopped at home when the wind blew,
went to bed when it rained, and once or twice, when it had snowed
overnight, almost never got up again.
A secret hoard of indifference--like a thick cake a fond old
nurse might have slipped into his first school outfit--came to
his aid and helped to reconcile him to sacrifice; since at the
best he was too ill for aught but that arduous game. As he said
to himself, there was really nothing he had wanted very much to
do, so that he had at least not renounced the field of valour. At
present, however, the fragrance of forbidden fruit seemed
occasionally to float past him and remind him that the finest of
pleasures is the rush of action. Living as he now lived was like
reading a good book in a poor translation--a meagre entertainment
for a young man who felt that he might have been an excellent
linguist. He had good winters and poor winters, and while the
former lasted he was sometimes the sport of a vision of virtual
recovery. But this vision was dispelled some three years before
the occurrence of the incidents with which this history opens: he
had on that occasion remained later than usual in England and had
been overtaken by bad weather before reaching Algiers. He arrived
more dead than alive and lay there for several weeks between life
and death. His convalescence was a miracle, but the first use he
made of it was to assure himself that such miracles happen but
once. He said to himself that his hour was in sight and that it
behoved him to keep his eyes upon it, yet that it was also open
to him to spend the interval as agreeably as might be consistent
with such a preoccupation. With the prospect of losing them the
simple use of his faculties became an exquisite pleasure; it
seemed to him the joys of contemplation had never been sounded.
He was far from the time when he had found it hard that he should
be obliged to give up the idea of distinguishing himself; an idea
none the less importunate for being vague and none the less
delightful for having had to struggle in the same breast with
bursts of inspiring self-criticism. His friends at present judged
him more cheerful, and attributed it to a theory, over which they
shook their heads knowingly, that he would recover his health.
His serenity was but the array of wild flowers niched in his
It was very probably this sweet-tasting property of the observed
thing in itself that was mainly concerned in Ralph's
quickly-stirred interest in the advent of a young lady who was
evidently not insipid. If he was consideringly disposed,
something told him, here was occupation enough for a succession
of days. It may be added, in summary fashion, that the
imagination of loving--as distinguished from that of being loved
--had still a place in his reduced sketch. He had only forbidden
himself the riot of expression. However, he shouldn't inspire his
cousin with a passion, nor would she be able, even should she
try, to help him to one. "And now tell me about the young lady,"
he said to his mother. "What do you mean to do with her?"
Mrs. Touchett was prompt. "I mean to ask your father to invite
her to stay three or four weeks at Gardencourt."
"You needn't stand on any such ceremony as that," said Ralph.
"My father will ask her as a matter of course."
"I don't know about that. She's my niece; she's not his."
"Good Lord, dear mother; what a sense of property! That's all the
more reason for his asking her. But after that--I mean after
three months (for its absurd asking the poor girl to remain but
for three or four paltry weeks)--what do you mean to do with her?"
"I mean to take her to Paris. I mean to get her clothing."
"Ah yes, that's of course. But independently of that?"
"I shall invite her to spend the autumn with me in Florence."
"You don't rise above detail, dear mother," said Ralph. "I should
like to know what you mean to do with her in a general way."
"My duty!" Mrs. Touchett declared. "I suppose you pity her very
much," she added.
"No, I don't think I pity her. She doesn't strike me as inviting
compassion. I think I envy her. Before being sure, however, give
me a hint of where you see your duty."
"In showing her four European countries--I shall leave her the
choice of two of them--and in giving her the opportunity of
perfecting herself in French, which she already knows very well."
Ralph frowned a little. "That sounds rather dry--even allowing
her the choice of two of the countries."
"If it's dry," said his mother with a laugh, "you can leave
Isabel alone to water it! She is as good as a summer rain, any
"Do you mean she's a gifted being?"
"I don't know whether she's a gifted being, but she's a clever
girl--with a strong will and a high temper. She has no idea of
"I can imagine that," said Ralph; and then he added abruptly:
"How do you two get on?"
"Do you mean by that that I'm a bore? I don't think she finds me
one. Some girls might, I know; but Isabel's too clever for that.
I think I greatly amuse her. We get on because I understand her,
I know the sort of girl she is. She's very frank, and I'm very
frank: we know just what to expect of each other."
"Ah, dear mother," Ralph exclaimed, "one always knows what to
expect of you! You've never surprised me but once, and that's
to-day--in presenting me with a pretty cousin whose existence I
had never suspected."
"Do you think her so very pretty?"
"Very pretty indeed; but I don't insist upon that. It's her
general air of being some one in particular that strikes me. Who
is this rare creature, and what is she? Where did you find her,
and how did you make her acquaintance?"
"I found her in an old house at Albany, sitting in a dreary room
on a rainy day, reading a heavy book and boring herself to death.
She didn't know she was bored, but when I left her no doubt of it
she seemed very grateful for the service. You may say I shouldn't
have enlightened he--I should have let her alone. There's a good
deal in that, but I acted conscientiously; I thought she was
meant for something better. It occurred to me that it would be a
kindness to take her about and introduce her to the world. She
thinks she knows a great deal of it--like most American girls;
but like most American girls she's ridiculously mistaken. If you
want to know, I thought she would do me credit. I like to be well
thought of, and for a woman of my age there's no greater
convenience, in some ways, than an attractive niece. You know I
had seen nothing of my sister's children for years; I disapproved
entirely of the father. But I always meant to do something for
them when he should have gone to his reward. I ascertained where
they were to be found and, without any preliminaries, went and
introduced myself. There are two others of them, both of whom are
married; but I saw only the elder, who has, by the way, a very
uncivil husband. The wife, whose name is Lily, jumped at the idea
of my taking an interest in Isabel; she said it was just what her
sister needed--that some one should take an interest in her. She
spoke of her as you might speak of some young person of genius--
in want of encouragement and patronage. It may be that Isabel's a
genius; but in that case I've not yet learned her special line.
Mrs. Ludlow was especially keen about my taking her to Europe;
they all regard Europe over there as a land of emigration, of
rescue, a refuge for their superfluous population. Isabel herself
seemed very glad to come, and the thing was easily arranged.
There was a little difficulty about the money-question, as she
seemed averse to being under pecuniary obligations. But she has a
small income and she supposes herself to be travelling at her own
Ralph had listened attentively to this judicious report, by which
his interest in the subject of it was not impaired. "Ah, if she's
a genius," he said, "we must find out her special line. Is it by
chance for flirting?"
"I don't think so. You may suspect that at first, but you'll be
wrong. You won't, I think, in anyway, be easily right about her."
"Warburton's wrong then!" Ralph rejoicingly exclaimed. "He
flatters himself he has made that discovery."
His mother shook her head. "Lord Warburton won't understand her.
He needn't try."
"He's very intelligent," said Ralph; "but it's right he should be
puzzled once in a while."
"Isabel will enjoy puzzling a lord," Mrs. Touchett remarked.
Her son frowned a little. What does she know about lords?"
"Nothing at all: that will puzzle him all the more."
Ralph greeted these words with a laugh and looked out of the
window. Then, "Are you not going down to see my father?" he
"At a quarter to eight," said Mrs. Touchett.
Her son looked at his watch. "You've another quarter of an hour
then. Tell me some more about Isabel." After which, as Mrs.
Touchett declined his invitation, declaring that he must find out
for himself, "Well," he pursued, "she'll certainly do you credit.
But won't she also give you trouble?"
"I hope not; but if she does I shall not shrink from it. I never
"She strikes me as very natural," said Ralph.
"Natural people are not the most trouble."
"No," said Ralph; "you yourself are a proof of that. You're
extremely natural, and I'm sure you have never troubled any one.
It takes trouble to do that. But tell me this; it just occurs to
me. Is Isabel capable of making herself disagreeable?"
"Ah," cried his mother, "you ask too many questions! Find that
out for yourself."
His questions, however, were not exhausted. "All this time," he
said, "you've not told me what you intend to do with her."
"Do with her? You talk as if she were a yard of calico. I shall
do absolutely nothing with her, and she herself will do
everything she chooses. She gave me notice of that."
"What you meant then, in your telegram, was that her character's
"I never know what I mean in my telegrams--especially those I
send from America. Clearness is too expensive. Come down to your
"It's not yet a quarter to eight," said Ralph.
"I must allow for his impatience," Mrs. Touchett answered.
Ralph knew what to think of his father's impatience; but, making
no rejoinder, he offered his mother his arm. This put it in his
power, as they descended together, to stop her a moment on the
middle landing of the staircase--the broad, low, wide-armed
staircase of time-blackened oak which was one of the most
striking features of Gardencourt. "You've no plan of marrying
her?" he smiled.
"Marrying her? I should be sorry to play her such a trick! But
apart from that, she's perfectly able to marry herself. She has
"Do you mean to say she has a husband picked out?"
"I don't know about a husband, but there's a young man in
Ralph went on; he had no desire to hear about the young man in
Boston. "As my father says, they're always engaged!"
His mother had told him that he must satisfy his curiosity at the
source, and it soon became evident he should not want for
occasion. He had a good deal of talk with his young kinswoman
when the two had been left together in the drawing-room. Lord
Warburton, who had ridden over from his own house, some ten miles
distant, remounted and took his departure before dinner; and an
hour after this meal was ended Mr. and Mrs. Touchett, who
appeared to have quite emptied the measure of their 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 furthest 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: "Well, now
I know more than I did when I began!"
"You apparently have a great passion for knowledge," her cousin
"I think I have; most girls are horridly ignorant."
"You strike me as different from most girls."
"Ah, some of them would--but the way they're talked to!" murmured
Isabel, who preferred not to dilate just yet on herself. Then in
a moment, to change the subject, "Please tell me--isn't there a
ghost?" she went on.
"A castle-spectre, a thing that appears. We call them ghosts in
"So we do here, when we see them."
"You do see them then? You ought to, in this romantic old house."
"It's not a romantic old house," said Ralph. "You'll be
disappointed if you count on that. It's a dismally prosaic one;
there's no romance here but what you may have brought with you."
"I've brought a great deal; but it seems to me I've brought it to
the right place."
"To keep it out of harm, certainly; nothing will ever happen to
it here, between my father and me."
Isabel looked at him a moment. "Is there never any one here but
your father and you?"
"My mother, of course."
"Oh, I know your mother; she's not romantic. Haven't you other
"I'm sorry for that; I like so much to see people."
"Oh, we'll invite all the county to amuse you," said Ralph.
"Now you're making fun of me," the girl answered rather gravely.
"Who was the gentleman on the lawn when I arrived?"
"A county neighbour; he doesn't come very often."
"I'm sorry for that; I liked him," said Isabel.
"Why, it seemed to me that you barely spoke to him," Ralph
"Never mind, I like him all the same. I like your father too,
"You can't do better than that. He's the dearest of the dear."
"I'm so sorry he is ill," said Isabel.
"You must help me to nurse him; you ought to be a good nurse."
"I don't think I am; I've been told I'm not; I'm said to have too
many theories. But you haven't told me about the ghost," she
Ralph, however, gave no heed to this observation. "You like my
father and you like Lord Warburton. I infer also that you like my
"I like your mother very much, because--because--" And Isabel
found herself attempting to assign a reason for her affection for
"Ah, we never know why!" said her companion, laughing.
"I always know why," the girl answered. "It's because she doesn't
expect one to like her. She doesn't care whether one does or
"So you adore her--out of perversity? Well, I take greatly after
my mother," said Ralph.
"I don't believe you do at all. You wish people to like you, and
you try to make them do it."
"Good heavens, how you see through one!" he cried with a dismay
that was not altogether jocular.
"But I like you all the same," his cousin went on. "The way to
clinch the matter will be to show me the ghost."
Ralph shook his head sadly. "I might show it to you, but you'd
never see it. The privilege isn't given to every one; it's not
enviable. It has never been seen by a young, happy, innocent
person like you. You must have suffered first, have suffered
greatly, have gained some miserable knowledge. In that way your
eyes are opened to it. I saw it long ago," said Ralph.
"I told you just now I'm very fond of knowledge," Isabel
"Yes, of happy knowledge--of pleasant knowledge. But you haven't
suffered, and you're not made to suffer. I hope you'll never see
She had listened to him attentively, with a smile on her lips,
but with a certain gravity in her eyes. Charming as he found her,
she had struck him as rather presumptuous--indeed it was a part
of her charm; and he wondered what she would say. "I'm not
afraid, you know," she said: which seemed quite presumptuous
"You're not afraid of suffering?"
"Yes, I'm afraid of suffering. But I'm not afraid of ghosts. And
I think people suffer too easily," she added.
"I don't believe you do," said Ralph, looking at her with his
hands in his pockets.
"I don't think that's a fault," she answered. "It's not
absolutely necessary to suffer; we were not made for that."
"You were not, certainly."
"I'm not speaking of myself." And she wandered off a little.
"No, it isn't a fault," said her cousin. "It's a merit to be
"Only, if you don't suffer they call you hard," Isabel remarked.
They passed out of the smaller drawing-room, into which they had
returned from the gallery, and paused in the hall, at the foot of
the staircase. Here Ralph presented his companion with her
bedroom candle, which he had taken from a niche. "Never mind what
they call you. When you do suffer they call you an idiot. The
great point's to be as happy as possible."
She looked at him a little; she had taken her candle and placed
her foot on the oaken stair. "Well," she said, "that's what I
came to Europe for, to be as happy as possible. Good-night."
"Good-night! I wish you all success, and shall be very glad to
contribute to it!"
She turned away, and he watched her as she slowly ascended. Then,
with his hands always in his pockets, he went back to the empty
Isabel Archer was a young person of many theories; her
imagination was remarkably active. It had been her fortune to
possess a finer mind than most of the persons among whom her lot
was cast; to have a larger perception of surrounding facts and to
care for knowledge that was tinged with the unfamiliar. It is
true that among her contemporaries she passed for a young woman
of extraordinary profundity; for these excellent people never
withheld their admiration from a reach of intellect of which they
themselves were not conscious, and spoke of Isabel as a prodigy
of learning, a creature reported to have read the classic authors
--in translations. Her paternal aunt, Mrs. Varian, once spread
the rumour that Isabel was writing a book--Mrs. Varian having a
reverence for books, and averred that the girl would distinguish
herself in print. Mrs. Varian thought highly of literature, for
which she entertained that esteem that is connected with a sense
of privation. Her own large house, remarkable for its assortment
of mosaic tables and decorated ceilings, was unfurnished with a
library, and in the way of printed volumes contained nothing but
half a dozen novels in 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 organisation (she couldn't help knowing her organisation
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 recognised 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.
It was one of her theories that Isabel Archer was very fortunate
in being independent, and that she ought to make some very
enlightened use of that state. She never called it the state of
solitude, much less of singleness; she thought such descriptions
weak, and, besides, her sister Lily constantly urged her to come
and abide. She had a 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 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
England was a revelation to her, and she found herself as
diverted as a child at a pantomime. In her infantine excursions
to Europe she had seen only the Continent, and seen it from the
nursery window; Paris, not London, was her father's Mecca, and
into many of his interests there his children had naturally not
entered. The images of that time moreover had grown faint and
remote, and the old-world quality in everything that she now saw
had all the charm of strangeness. Her uncle's house seemed a
picture made real; no refinement of the agreeable was lost upon
Isabel; the rich perfection of Gardencourt at once revealed a
world and gratified a need. The large, low rooms, with brown
ceilings and dusky corners, the deep embrasures and curious
casements, the quiet light on dark, polished panels, the deep
greenness outside, that seemed always peeping in, the sense of
well-ordered privacy in the centre of a "property"--a place where
sounds were felicitously accidental, where the tread was muffed
by the earth itself and in the thick mild air all friction
dropped out of contact and all shrillness out of talk--these
things were much to the taste of our young 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.
"The books?" he once said; "well, I don't know much about the
books. You must ask Ralph about that. I've always ascertained for
myself--got my information in the natural form. I never asked
many questions even; I just kept quiet and took notice. Of course
I've had very good opportunities--better than what a young lady
would naturally have. I'm of an inquisitive disposition, though
you mightn't think it if you were to watch me: however much you
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. 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
"Do you suppose that if I'm successful I shall feel at home?"
"I should think it very probable, and you certainly will be
successful. They like American young ladies very much over here;
they show them a great deal of kindness. But you mustn't feel too
much at home, you know."
"Oh, I'm by no means sure it will satisfy me," Isabel judicially
emphasised. "I like the place very much, but I'm not sure I shall
like the people."
"The people are very good people; especially if you like them."
"I've no doubt they're good," Isabel rejoined; "but are they
pleasant in society? They won't rob me nor beat me; but will they
make themselves agreeable to me? That's what I like people to do.
I don't hesitate to say so, because I always appreciate it. I
don't believe they're very nice to girls; they're not nice to
them in the novels."
"I don't know about the novels," said Mr. Touchett. "I believe
the novels have a great deal 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."
"Gracious," Isabel exclaimed; "how many classes have they? About
fifty, I suppose."
"Well, I don't know that I ever counted them. I never took much
notice of the classes. That's the advantage of being an American
here; you don't belong to any class."
"I hope so," said Isabel. "Imagine one's belonging to an English
"Well, I guess some of them are pretty comfortable--especially
towards the top. But for me there are only two classes: the
people I trust and the people I don't. Of those two, my dear
Isabel, you belong to the first."
"I'm much obliged to you," said the girl quickly. Her way of
taking compliments seemed sometimes rather dry; she got rid of
them as rapidly as possible. But as regards this she was
sometimes misjudged; she was thought insensible to them, whereas
in fact she was simply unwilling to show how infinitely they
pleased her. To show that was to show too much. "I'm sure the
English are very conventional," she added.
"They've got everything pretty well fixed," Mr. Touchett
admitted. "It's all settled beforehand--they don't leave it to
the last moment."
"I don't like to have everything settled beforehand," said the
girl. "I like more unexpectedness."
Her uncle seemed amused at her distinctness of preference. "Well,
it's settled beforehand that you'll have great success," he
rejoined. "I suppose you'll like that."
"I shall not have success if they're too stupidly conventional.
I'm not in the least stupidly conventional. I'm just the
contrary. That's what they won't like."
"No, no, you're all wrong," said the old man. "You can't tell
what they'll like. They're very inconsistent; that's their
"Ah well," said Isabel, standing before her uncle with her hands
clasped about the belt of her black dress and looking up and down
the lawn--"that will suit me perfectly!"
The two amused themselves, time and again, with talking of the
attitude of the British public as if the young lady had been in a
position to appeal to it; but in fact the British public remained
for the present profoundly indifferent to Miss Isabel Archer,
whose fortune had dropped her, as her cousin said, into the
dullest house in England. Her gouty uncle received very little
company, and Mrs. Touchett, not having cultivated relations with
her husband's neighbours, was not warranted in expecting visits
from them. She had, however, a peculiar taste; she liked to
receive cards. For what is usually called social intercourse she
had very little relish; but nothing pleased her more than to find
her hall-table whitened with oblong morsels of symbolic
pasteboard. She flattered herself that she was a very just woman,
and had mastered the sovereign truth that nothing in this world
is got for nothing. She had played no social part as mistress of
Gardencourt, and it was not to be supposed that, in the
surrounding country, a minute account should be kept of her
comings and goings. But it is by no means certain that she did
not feel it to be wrong that so little notice was 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 her aunt might
make better use of her sharpness. She was very critical herself--
it was incidental to her age, her sex and her nationality; but
she was very sentimental as well, and there was something in Mrs.
Touchett's dryness that set her own moral fountains flowing.
"Now what's your point of view?" she asked of her aunt. "When you
criticise everything here you should have a point of view. Yours
doesn't seem to be American--you thought everything over there so
disagreeable. When I criticise I have mine; it's thoroughly
"My dear young lady," said Mrs. Touchett, "there are as many
points of view in the world as there are people of sense to take
them. You may say that doesn't make them very numerous! American?
Never in the world; that's shockingly narrow. My point of view,
thank God, is personal!"
Isabel thought this a better answer than she admitted; it was a
tolerable description of her own manner of judging, but it would
not have sounded well for her to say so. On the lips of a person
less advanced in life and less enlightened by experience than
Mrs. Touchett such a declaration would savour of immodesty, even
of arrogance. She risked it nevertheless in talking with Ralph,
with whom she talked a great deal and with whom her conversation
was of a sort that gave a large licence to 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 calling her "Columbia" and accusing her of a
patriotism so heated that it scorched. He drew a caricature of
her in which she was represented as a very pretty young woman
dressed, on the lines of the prevailing fashion, in the folds of
the national banner. Isabel's chief dread in life at this period
of her development was that she should appear narrow-minded; what
she feared next afterwards was that she should really be so. But
she nevertheless made no scruple of abounding in her cousin's
sense and pretending to sigh for the charms of her native land.
She would be as American as it pleased him to regard her, and if
he chose to laugh at her she would give him plenty of occupation.
She defended England against his mother, but when Ralph sang its
praises on purpose, as she said, to work her up, she found
herself able to differ from him on a variety of points. In fact,
the quality of this small ripe country seemed as sweet to her as
the taste of an October pear; and her satisfaction was at the
root of the good spirits which enabled her to take her cousin's
chaff and return it in kind. If her good-humour flagged at
moments it was not because she thought herself ill-used, but
because she suddenly felt sorry for Ralph. It seemed to her he
was talking as a blind and had little heart in what he said.
"I don't know what's the matter with you," she observed to him
once; "but I suspect you're a great humbug."
"That's your privilege," Ralph answered, who had not been used to
being so crudely addressed.
"I don't know what you care for; I don't think you care for
anything. You don't really care for England when you praise it;
you don't care for America even when you pretend to abuse it."
"I care for nothing but you, dear cousin," said Ralph.
"If I could believe even that, I should be very glad."
"Ah well, I should hope so!" the young man exclaimed.
Isabel might have believed it and not have been far from the
truth. He thought a great deal about her; she was constantly
present to his mind. At a time when his thoughts had been a good
deal of a burden to him her sudden arrival, which promised
nothing and was an open-handed gift of fate, had refreshed and
quickened them, given them wings and something to fly for. Poor
Ralph had been for many weeks steeped in melancholy; his outlook,
habitually sombre, lay under the shadow of a deeper cloud. He had
grown anxious about his father, whose gout, hitherto confined to
his legs, had begun to ascend into regions more vital. The old
man had been gravely ill in the spring, and the doctors had
whispered to Ralph that another attack would be less easy to deal
with. Just now he appeared disburdened of pain, but Ralph could
not rid himself of a suspicion that this was a subterfuge of the
enemy, who was waiting to take him off his guard. If the
manoeuvre should succeed there would be little hope of any great
resistance. Ralph had always taken for granted that his father
would survive him--that his own name would be the first grimly
called. The father and son had been close companions, and the
idea of being left alone with the remnant of a tasteless life on
his hands was not gratifying to the young man, who had always and
tacitly counted upon his elder's help in making the best of a
poor business. At the prospect of losing his great motive Ralph
lost indeed his one inspiration. If they might die at the same
time it would be all very well; but without the encouragement of
his father's society he should barely have patience to await his
own turn. He had not the incentive of feeling that he was
indispensable to his mother; it was a rule with his mother to
have no regrets. He bethought himself of course that it had been
a small kindness to his father to wish that, of the two, the
active rather than the passive party should know the felt wound;
he remembered that the old man had always treated his own
forecast of an early end as a clever fallacy, which he should be
delighted to discredit so far as he might by dying first. But of
the two triumphs, that of refuting a sophistical son and
that of holding on a while longer to a state of being which, with
all abatements, he enjoyed, Ralph deemed it no sin to hope the
latter might be vouchsafed to Mr. Touchett.
These were nice questions, but Isabel's arrival put a stop to his
puzzling over them. It even suggested there might be a
compensation for the intolerable ennui of surviving his genial
sire. He wondered whether he were harbouring "love" for this
spontaneous young woman from Albany; but he judged that on the
whole he was not. After he had known her for a week he quite made
up his mind to this, and every day he felt a little more sure.
Lord Warburton had been right about her; she was a really
interesting little figure. Ralph wondered how their neighbour had
found it out so soon; and then he said it was only another proof
of his friend's high abilities, which he had always greatly
admired. If his cousin were to be nothing more than an
entertainment to him, Ralph was conscious she was an entertainment
of a high order. "A character like that," he said to himself--
"a real little passionate force to see at play is the finest
thing in nature. It's finer than the finest work of art--than a
Greek bas-relief, than a great Titian, than a Gothic cathedral.
It's very pleasant to be so well treated where one had least
looked for it. I had never been more blue, more bored, than for a
week before she came; I had never expected less that anything
pleasant would happen. Suddenly I receive a Titian, by the post,
to hang on my wall--a Greek bas-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, in attitudes more or less gracefully passive, for a man
to come that way and furnish them with a destiny. Isabel's
originality was that she gave one an impression of having
intentions of her own. "Whenever she executes them," said Ralph,
"may I be there to see!"
It devolved upon him of course to do the honours of the place.
Mr. Touchett was confined to his chair, and his wife's position
was that of rather a grim visitor; so that in the line of conduct
that opened itself to Ralph duty and inclination were
harmoniously mixed. He was not a great walker, but he strolled
about the grounds with his cousin--a pastime for which the
weather remained favourable with a persistency not allowed for in
Isabel's somewhat lugubrious prevision of the climate; and in the
long afternoons, of which the length was but the measure of her
gratified eagerness, they took a boat on the river, the dear
little river, as Isabel called it, where the opposite shore
seemed still a part of the foreground of the landscape; or drove
over the country in a phaeton--a low, capacious, thick-wheeled
phaeton formerly much used by Mr. Touchett, but which he had now
ceased to enjoy. Isabel enjoyed it largely and, handling the
reins in a manner which approved itself to the groom as
"knowing," was never weary of driving her uncle's capital horses
through winding lanes and byways full of the rural incidents she
had confidently expected to find; past cottages thatched and
timbered, past ale-houses latticed and sanded, past patches of
ancient common and glimpses of empty parks, between hedgerows
made thick by midsummer. When they reached home they usually
found tea had been served on the lawn and that Mrs. Touchett had
not shrunk from the extremity of handing her husband his cup. But
the two for the most part sat silent; the old man with his head
back and his eyes closed, his wife occupied with her knitting and
wearing that appearance of rare profundity with which some ladies
consider the movement of their needles.
One day, however, a visitor had arrived. The two young persons,
after spending an hour on the river, strolled back to the house
and perceived Lord Warburton sitting under the trees and engaged
in conversation, of which even at a distance the desultory
character was appreciable, with Mrs. Touchett. He had driven over
from his own place with a portmanteau and had asked, as the
father and son often invited him to do, for a dinner and a
lodging. Isabel, seeing him for half an hour on the day of her
arrival, had discovered in this brief space that she liked him;
he had indeed rather sharply registered himself on her fine sense
and she had thought of him several times. She had hoped she
should see him again--hoped too that she should see a few others.
Gardencourt was not dull; the place itself was sovereign, her
uncle was more and more a sort of golden grandfather, and Ralph
was unlike any cousin she had ever encountered--her idea of
cousins having tended to gloom. Then her impressions were still
so fresh and so quickly renewed that there was as yet hardly a
hint of vacancy in the view. But Isabel had need to remind
herself that she was interested in human nature and that her
foremost hope in coming abroad had been that she should see a
great many people. When Ralph said to her, as he had done several
times, "I wonder you find this endurable; you ought to see some
of the neighbours and some of our friends, because we have really
got a few, though you would never suppose it"--when he offered to
invite what he called a "lot of people" and make her acquainted
with English society, she encouraged the hospitable impulse and
promised in advance to hurl herself into the fray. Little, however,
for the present, had come of his offers, and it may be confided
to the reader that if the young man delayed to carry them out it
was because he found the labour of providing for his companion
by no means so severe as to require extraneous help. Isabel had
spoken to him very often about "specimens;" it was a word that
played a considerable part in her vocabulary; she had given him
to understand that she wished to see English society
illustrated by eminent cases.
"Well now, there's a specimen," he said to her as they walked up
from the riverside and he recognised Lord Warburton.
"A specimen of what?" asked the girl.
"A specimen of an English gentleman."
"Do you mean they're all like him?"
"Oh no; they're not all like him."
"He's a favourable specimen then," said Isabel; "because I'm sure
"Yes, he's very nice. And he's very fortunate."
The fortunate Lord Warburton exchanged a handshake with our
heroine and hoped she was very well. "But I needn't ask that," he
said, "since you've been handling the oars."
"I've been rowing a little," Isabel answered; "but how should you
"Oh, I know he doesn't row; he's too lazy," said his lordship,
indicating Ralph Touchett with a laugh.
"He has a good excuse for his laziness," Isabel rejoined,
lowering her voice a little.
"Ah, he has a good excuse for everything!" cried Lord Warburton,
still with his sonorous mirth.
"My excuse for not rowing is that my cousin rows so well," said
Ralph. "She does everything well. She touches nothing that she
"It makes one want to be touched, Miss Archer," Lord Warburton
"Be touched in the right sense and you'll never look the worse
for it," said Isabel, who, if it pleased her to hear it said that
her accomplishments were numerous, was happily able to reflect
that such complacency was not the indication of a feeble mind,
inasmuch as there were several things in which she excelled. Her
desire to think well of herself had at least the element of
humility that it always needed to be supported by proof.
Lord Warburton not only spent the night at Gardencourt, but he
was persuaded to remain over the second day; and when the second
day was ended he determined to postpone his departure till the
morrow. During this period he addressed many of his remarks to
Isabel, who accepted this evidence of his esteem with a very good
grace. She found herself liking him extremely; the first
impression he had made on her had had weight, but at the end of
an evening spent in his society she scarce fell short of seeing
him--though quite without luridity--as a hero of romance. She
retired to rest with a sense of 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,
"Need I go, dear aunt? I'll come up in half an hour."
"It's impossible I should wait for you," Mrs. Touchett answered.
"Ah, you needn't wait! Ralph will light my candle," Isabel gaily
"I'll light your candle; do let me light your candle, Miss
Archer!" Lord Warburton exclaimed. "Only I beg it shall not be
Mrs. Touchett fixed her bright little eyes upon him a moment and
transferred them coldly to her niece. "You can't stay alone with
the gentlemen. You're not--you're not at your blest Albany, my
Isabel rose, blushing. "I wish I were," she said.
"Oh, I say, mother!" Ralph broke out.
"My dear Mrs. Touchett!" Lord Warburton murmured.
"I didn't make your country, my lord," Mrs. Touchett said
majestically. "I must take it as I find it."
"Can't I stay with my own cousin?" Isabel enquired.
"I'm not aware that Lord Warburton is your cousin."
"Perhaps I had better go to bed!" the visitor suggested. "That
will arrange it."
Mrs. Touchett gave a little look of despair and sat down again.
"Oh, if it's necessary I'll stay up till midnight."
Ralph meanwhile handed Isabel her candlestick. He had been
watching her; it had seemed to him her temper was involved--an
accident that might be interesting. But if he had expected
anything of a flare he was disappointed, for the girl simply
laughed a little, nodded good-night and withdrew accompanied by
her aunt. For himself he was annoyed at his mother, though he
thought she was right. Above-stairs the two ladies separated at
Mrs. Touchett's door. Isabel had said nothing on her way up.
"Of course you're vexed at my interfering with you," said Mrs.
Isabel considered. "I'm not vexed, but I'm surprised--and a good
deal mystified. Wasn't it proper I should remain in the
"Not in the least. Young girls here--in decent houses--don't sit
alone with the gentlemen late at night."
"You were very right to tell me then," said Isabel. "I don't
understand it, but I'm very glad to know it.
"I shall always tell you," her aunt answered, "whenever I see you
taking what seems to me too much liberty."
"Pray do; but I don't say I shall always think your remonstrance
"Very likely not. You're too fond of your own ways."
"Yes, I think I'm very fond of them. But I always want to know
the things one shouldn't do."
"So as to do them?" asked her aunt.
"So as to choose," said Isabel.
As she was devoted to romantic effects Lord Warburton ventured to
express a hope that she would come some day and see his house, a
very curious old place. He extracted from Mrs. Touchett a promise
that she would bring her niece to Lockleigh, and Ralph signified
his willingness to attend the ladies if his father should be able
to spare him. Lord Warburton assured our heroine that in the mean
time his sisters would come and see her. She knew something about
his sisters, having sounded him, during the hours they spent
together while he was at Gardencourt, on many points connected
with his family. When Isabel was interested she asked a great
many questions, and as her companion was a copious talker she
urged him on this occasion by no means in vain. He told her he
had four sisters and two brothers and had lost both his parents.
The brothers and sisters were very good people--"not particularly
clever, you know," he said, "but very decent and pleasant;" and
he was so good as to hope Miss Archer might know them well. One
of the brothers was in the Church, settled in the family living,
that of Lockleigh, which was a heavy, sprawling parish, and was
an excellent 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 medieval 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 experience--oh, so easily come by!--with a modesty at times
almost boyish; the sweet and wholesome savour of which--it was as
agreeable as something tasted--lost nothing from the addition of
a tone of responsible kindness.
"I like your specimen English gentleman very much," Isabel said
to Ralph after Lord Warburton had gone.
"I like him too--I love him well," Ralph returned. "But I pity
Isabel looked at him askance. "Why, that seems to me his only
fault--that one can't pity him a little. He appears to have
everything, to know everything, to be everything."
"Oh, he's in a bad way!" Ralph insisted.
"I suppose you don't mean in health?"
"No, as to that he's detestably sound. What I mean is that he's a
man with a great position who's playing all sorts of tricks with
it. He doesn't take himself seriously."
"Does he regard himself as a joke?"
"Much worse; he regards himself as an imposition--as an abuse."
"Well, perhaps he is," said Isabel.
"Perhaps he is--though on the whole I don't think so. But in that
case what's more pitiable than a sentient, self-conscious abuse
planted by other hands, deeply rooted but aching with a sense of
its injustice? For me, in his place, I could be as solemn as a
statue of Buddha. He occupies a position that appeals to my
imagination. Great responsibilities, great opportunities, great
consideration, great wealth, great power, a natural share in the
public affairs of a great country. But he's all in a muddle about
himself, his position, his power, and indeed about everything in
the world. He's the victim of a critical age; he has ceased to
believe in himself and he doesn't know what to believe in. When I
attempt to tell him (because if I were he I know very well what I
should believe in) he calls me a pampered bigot. I believe he
seriously thinks me an awful Philistine; he says I don't
understand my time. I understand it certainly better than he, who
can neither abolish himself as a nuisance nor maintain himself as
"He doesn't look very wretched," Isabel observed.
"Possibly not; though, being a man of a good deal of charming
taste, I think he often has uncomfortable hours. But what is it
to say of a being of his opportunities that he's not miserable?
Besides, I believe he is."
"I don't," said Isabel.
"Well," her cousin rejoined, "if he isn't he ought to be!"
In the afternoon she spent an hour with her uncle on the lawn,
where the old man sat, as usual, with his shawl over his legs and
his large cup of diluted tea in his hands. In the course of
conversation he asked her what she thought of their late visitor.
Isabel was prompt. "I think he's charming."
"He's a nice person," said Mr. Touchett, "but I don't recommend
you to fall in love with him."
"I shall not do it then; I shall never fall in love but on your
recommendation. Moreover," Isabel added, "my cousin gives me
rather a sad account of Lord Warburton."
"Oh, indeed? I don't know what there may be to say, but you must
remember that Ralph must talk."
"He thinks your friend's too subversive--or not subversive
enough! I don't quite understand which," said Isabel.
The old man shook his head slowly, smiled and put down his cup.
"I don't know which either. He goes very far, but it's quite
possible he doesn't go far enough. He seems to want to do away
with a good many things, but he seems to want to remain himself.
I suppose that's natural, but it's rather inconsistent."
"Oh, I hope he'll remain himself," said Isabel. "If he were to be
done away with his friends would miss him sadly."
"Well," said the old 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 revolution."
"Let me see," said her uncle, with a humorous intention; "I forget
whether you're on the side of the old or on the side of the new.
I've heard you take such opposite views."
"I'm on the side of both. I guess I'm a little on the side of
everything. In a revolution--after it was well begun--I think I
should be a high, proud loyalist. One sympathises more with them,
and they've a chance to behave so exquisitely. I mean so
"I don't know that I understand what you mean by behaving
picturesquely, but it seems to me that you do that always, my
"Oh, you lovely man, if I could believe that!" the girl
"I'm afraid, after all, you won't have the pleasure of going
gracefully to the guillotine here just now," Mr. Touchett went
on. "If you want to see a big outbreak you must pay us a long
visit. You see, when you come to the point it wouldn't suit them
to be taken at their word."
"Of whom are you speaking?"
"Well, I mean Lord Warburton and his friends--the radicals of the
upper class. Of course I only know the way it strikes me. They
talk about the changes, but I don't think they quite realise. You
and I, you know, we know what it is to have lived under democratic
institutions: I always thought them very comfortable, but I was
used to them from the first. And then I ain't a lord; you're a
lady, my dear, but I ain't a lord. Now over here I don't think it
quite comes home to them. It's a matter of every day and every
hour, and I don't think many of them would find it as pleasant as
what they've got. Of course if they want to try, it's their own
business; but I expect they won't try very hard."
"Don't you think they're sincere?" Isabel asked.
"Well, they want to FEEL earnest," Mr. Touchett allowed; "but it
seems as if they took it out in theories mostly. Their radical
views are a kind of amusement; they've got to have some
amusement, and they might have coarser tastes than that. You see
they're very luxurious, and these progressive ideas are about
their biggest luxury. They make them feel moral and yet don't
damage their position. They think a great deal of their position;
don't let one of them ever persuade you he doesn't, for if you
were to proceed on that basis you'd be pulled up very short."
Isabel followed her uncle's argument, which he unfolded with his
quaint distinctness, most attentively, and though she was
unacquainted with the British aristocracy she found it in harmony
with her general impressions of human nature. But she felt moved
to put in a protest on Lord Warburton's behalf. "I don't believe
Lord Warburton's a humbug; I don't care what the others are. I
should like to see Lord Warburton put to the test."
"Heaven deliver me from my friends!" Mr. Touchett answered. "Lord
Warburton's a very amiable young man--a very fine young man. He
has a hundred thousand a year. He owns fifty thousand acres of
the soil of this little island and ever so many other things
besides. He has half a dozen houses to live in. He has a seat in
Parliament as I have one at my own dinner-table. He has elegant
tastes--cares for 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 liked."
"Ah, he couldn't be a martyr even if he wished!" Isabel sighed.
"That's a very poor position."
"He'll never be a martyr unless you make him one," said the old
Isabel shook her head; there might have been something laughable
in the fact that she did it with a touch of melancholy. "I shall
never make any one a martyr."
"You'll never be one, I hope."
"I hope not. But you don't pity Lord Warburton then as Ralph
Her uncle looked at her a while with genial acuteness. "Yes, I
do, after all!"
The two Misses Molyneux, this nobleman's sisters, came presently
to call upon her, and Isabel took a fancy to the young ladies,
who appeared to her to show a most original stamp. It is true
that when she described them to her cousin by that term he
declared that no epithet could be less applicable than this to
the two Misses Molyneux, since there were fifty thousand young
women in England who exactly resembled them. Deprived of this
advantage, however, Isabel's visitors retained that of an extreme
sweetness and shyness of demeanour, and of having, as she thought,
eyes like the balanced basins, the circles of "ornamental water,"
set, in parterres, among the geraniums.
"They're not morbid, at any rate, whatever they are," our heroine
said to herself; and she deemed this a great charm, for two or
three of the friends of her girlhood had been regrettably open to
the charge (they would have been so nice without it), to say
nothing of Isabel's having occasionally suspected it as a
tendency of her own. The Misses Molyneux were not in their first
youth, but they had bright, fresh complexions and something of
the smile of childhood. Yes, their eyes, which Isabel admired,
were round, quiet and contented, and their figures, also of a
generous roundness, were encased in sealskin jackets. Their
friendliness was great, so great that they were almost
embarrassed to show it; they seemed somewhat afraid of the young
lady from the other side of the world and rather looked than
spoke their good wishes. But they made it clear to her that they
hoped she would come to luncheon at Lockleigh, where they lived
with their brother, and then they might see her very, very often.
They wondered if she wouldn't come over some day, and sleep: they
were expecting some people on the twenty-ninth, so perhaps she
would come while the people were there.
"I'm afraid it isn't any one very remarkable," said the elder
sister; "but I dare say you'll take us as you find us."
"I shall find you delightful; I think you're enchanting just as
you are," replied Isabel, who often praised profusely.
Her visitors flushed, and her cousin told her, after they were
gone, that if she said such things to those poor girls they would
think she was in some wild, free manner practising on them: he
was sure it was the first time they had been called enchanting.
"I can't help it," Isabel answered. "I think it's lovely to be so
quiet and reasonable and satisfied. I should like to be like
"Heaven forbid!" cried Ralph with ardour.
"I mean to try and imitate them," said Isabel. "I want very much
to see them at home."
She had this pleasure a few days later, when, with Ralph and his
mother, she drove over to Lockleigh. She found the Misses
Molyneux sitting in a vast drawing-room (she perceived afterwards
it was one of several) in a wilderness of faded chintz; they were
dressed on this occasion in black velveteen. Isabel liked them
even better at home than she had done at Gardencourt, and was
more than ever struck with the fact that they were not morbid. It
had seemed to her before that if they had a fault it was a want
of play of mind; but she presently saw they were capable of deep
emotion. Before luncheon she was alone with them for some time,
on one side of the room, while Lord Warburton, at a distance,
talked to Mrs. Touchett.
"Is it true your brother's such a great radical?" Isabel asked.
She knew it was true, but we have seen that her interest in human
nature was keen, and she had a desire to draw the Misses Molyneux
"Oh dear, yes; he's immensely advanced," said Mildred, the
"At the same time Warburton's very reasonable," Miss Molyneux
Isabel watched him a moment at the other side of the room; he was
clearly trying hard to make himself agreeable to Mrs. Touchett.
Ralph had met the frank advances of one of the dogs before the
fire that the temperature of an English August, in the ancient
expanses, had not made an impertinence. "Do you suppose your
brother's sincere?" Isabel enquired with a smile.
"Oh, he must be, you know!" Mildred exclaimed quickly, while the
elder sister gazed at our heroine in silence.
"Do you think he would stand the test?"
"I mean for instance having to give up all this."
"Having to give up Lockleigh?" said Miss Molyneux, finding her
"Yes, and the other places; what are they called?"
The two sisters exchanged an almost frightened glance. "Do you
mean--do you mean on account of the expense?" the younger one
"I dare say he might let one or two of his houses," said the
"Let them for nothing?" Isabel demanded.
"I can't fancy his giving up his property," said Miss Molyneux.
"Ah, I'm afraid he is an impostor!" Isabel returned. "Don't you
think it's a false position?"
Her companions, evidently, had lost themselves. "My brother's
position?" Miss Molyneux enquired.
"It's thought a very good position," said the younger sister.
"It's the first position in this part of the county."
"I dare say you think me very irreverent," Isabel took occasion
to remark. "I suppose you revere your brother and are rather
afraid of him."
"Of course one looks up to one's brother," said Miss Molyneux
"If you do that he must be very good--because you, evidently, are
"He's most kind. It will never be known, the good he does."
"His ability is known," Mildred added; "every one thinks it's
"Oh, I can see that," said Isabel. "But if I were he I should
wish to fight to the death: I mean for the heritage of the past.
I should hold it tight."
"I think one ought to be liberal," Mildred argued gently. "We've
always been so, even from the earliest times."
"Ah well," said Isabel, "you've made a great success of it; I
don't wonder you like it. I see you're very fond of crewels."
When Lord Warburton showed her the house, after luncheon, it
seemed to her a matter of course that it should be a noble
picture. Within, it had been a good deal modernised--some of its
best points had lost their purity; but as they saw it from the
gardens, a stout grey pile, of the softest, deepest, most
weather-fretted hue, rising from a broad, still moat, it 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 others.
"I wish you to see the place properly, seriously," he said. "You
can't do so if your attention is distracted by irrelevant
gossip." His own conversation (though he told Isabel a good deal
about the house, which had a very curious history) was not purely
archaeological; he reverted at intervals to matters more personal
--matters personal to the young lady as well as to himself. But
at last, after a pause of some duration, returning for a moment
to their ostensible theme, "Ah, well," he said, "I'm very glad
indeed you like the old barrack. I wish you could see more of it
--that you could stay here a while. My sisters have taken an
immense fancy to you--if that would be any inducement."
"There's no want of inducements," Isabel answered; "but I'm
afraid I can't make engagements. I'm quite in my aunt's hands."
"Ah, pardon me if I say I don't exactly believe that. I'm pretty
sure you can do whatever you want."
"I'm sorry if I make that impression on you; I don't think it's a
nice impression to make."
"It has the merit of permitting me to hope." And Lord Warburton
paused a moment.
"To hope what?"
"That in future I may see you often."
"Ah," said Isabel, "to enjoy that pleasure I needn't be so
"Doubtless not; and yet, at the same time, I don't think your
uncle likes me."
"You're very much mistaken. I've heard him speak very highly of
"I'm glad you have talked about me," said Lord Warburton. "But, I
nevertheless don't think he'd like me to keep coming to
"I can't answer for my uncle's tastes," the girl rejoined,
"though I ought as far as possible to take them into account. But
for myself I shall be very glad to see you."
"Now that's what I like to hear you say. I'm charmed when you
"You're easily charmed, my lord," said Isabel.
"No, I'm not easily charmed!" And then he stopped a moment. "But
you've charmed me, Miss Archer."
These words were uttered with an indefinable sound which startled
the girl; it struck her as the prelude to something grave: she
had heard the sound before and she recognised it. She had no
wish, however, that for the moment such a prelude should have a
sequel, and she said as gaily as possible and as quickly as an
appreciable degree of agitation would allow her: "I'm afraid
there's no prospect of my being able to come here again."
"Never?" said Lord Warburton.
"I won't say 'never'; I should feel very melodramatic."
"May I come and see you then some day next week?"
"Most assuredly. What is there to prevent it?"
"Nothing tangible. But with you I never feel safe. I've a sort of
sense that you're always summing people up."
"You don't of necessity lose by that."
"It's very kind of you to say so; but, even if I gain, stern
justice is not what I most love. Is Mrs. Touchett going to take
"I hope so."
"Is England not good enough for you?"
"That's a very Machiavellian speech; it doesn't deserve an
answer. I want to see as many countries as I can."
"Then you'll go on judging, I suppose."
"Enjoying, I hope, too."
"Yes, that's what you enjoy most; I can't make out what you're
up to," said Lord Warburton. "You strike me as having mysterious
"You're so good as to have a theory about me which I don't at all
fill out. Is there anything mysterious in a purpose entertained
and executed every year, in the most public manner, by fifty
thousand of my fellow-countrymen--the purpose of improving one's
mind by foreign travel?"
"You can't improve your mind, Miss Archer," her companion
declared. "It's already a most formidable instrument. It looks
down on us all; it despises us."
"Despises you? You're making fun of me," said Isabel seriously.
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