The Portrait of a Lady [Volume 1]
Part 3 out of 7
"Well, you think us 'quaint'--that's the same thing. I won't be
thought 'quaint,' to begin with; I'm not so in the least. I
"That protest is one of the quaintest things I've ever heard,"
Isabel answered with a smile.
Lord Warburton was briefly silent. "You judge only from the
outside--you don't care," he said presently. "You only care to
amuse yourself." The note she had heard in his voice a moment
before reappeared, and mixed with it now was an audible strain of
bitterness--a bitterness so abrupt and inconsequent that the girl
was afraid she had hurt him. She had often heard that the English
are a highly eccentric people, and she had even read in some
ingenious author that they are at bottom the most romantic of
races. Was Lord Warburton suddenly turning romantic--was he going
to make her a scene, in his own house, only the third time they
had met? She was reassured quickly enough by her sense of his
great good manners, which was not impaired by the fact that he
had already touched the furthest limit of good taste in
expressing his admiration of a young lady who had confided in his
hospitality. She was right in trusting to his good manners, for
he presently went on, laughing a little and without a trace of
the accent that had discomposed her: "I don't mean of course that
you amuse yourself with trifles. You select great materials; the
foibles, the afflictions of human nature, the peculiarities of
"As regards that," said Isabel, "I should find in my own nation
entertainment for a lifetime. But we've a long drive, and my aunt
will soon wish to start." She turned back toward the others and
Lord Warburton walked beside her in silence. But before they
reached the others, "I shall come and see you next week," he
She had received an appreciable shock, but as it died away she
felt that she couldn't pretend to herself that it was altogether
a painful one. Nevertheless she made answer to his declaration,
coldly enough, "Just as you please." And her coldness was not the
calculation of her effect--a game she played in a much smaller
degree than would have seemed probable to many critics. It came
from a certain fear.
The day after her visit to Lockleigh she received a note from her
friend Miss Stackpole--a note of which the envelope, exhibiting
in conjunction the postmark of Liverpool and the neat calligraphy
of the quick-fingered Henrietta, caused her some liveliness of
emotion. "Here I am, my lovely friend," Miss Stackpole wrote; "I
managed to get off at last. I decided only the night before I
left New York--the Interviewer having come round to my figure. I
put a few things into a bag, like a veteran journalist, and came
down to the steamer in a street-car. Where are you and where can
we meet? I suppose you're visiting at some castle or other and
have already acquired the correct accent. Perhaps even you have
married a lord; I almost hope you have, for I want some
introductions to the first people and shall count on you for a
few. The Interviewer wants some light on the nobility. My first
impressions (of the people at large) are not rose-coloured; but I
wish to talk them over with you, and you know that, whatever I
am, at least I'm not superficial. I've also something very
particular to tell you. Do appoint a meeting as quickly as you
can; come to London (I should like so much to visit the sights
with you) or else let me come to you, wherever you are. I will do
so with pleasure; for you know everything interests me and I wish
to see as much as possible of the inner life."
Isabel judged best not to show this letter to her uncle; but she
acquainted him with its purport, and, as she expected, he begged
her instantly to assure Miss Stackpole, in his name, that he
should be delighted to receive her at Gardencourt. "Though she's
a literary lady," he said, "I suppose that, being an American,
she won't show me up, as that other one did. She has seen others
"She has seen no other so delightful!" Isabel answered; but she
was not altogether at ease about Henrietta's reproductive
instincts, which belonged to that side of her friend's character
which she regarded with least complacency. She wrote to Miss
Stackpole, however, that she would be very welcome under Mr.
Touchett's roof; and this alert young woman lost no time in
announcing her prompt approach. She had gone up to London, and it
was from that centre that she took the train for the station
nearest to Gardencourt, where Isabel and Ralph were in waiting to
"Shall I love her or shall I hate her?" Ralph asked while they
moved along the platform.
"Whichever you do will matter very little to her," said Isabel.
"She doesn't care a straw what men think of her."
"As a man I'm bound to dislike her then. She must be a kind of
monster. Is she very ugly?"
"No, she's decidedly pretty."
"A female interviewer--a reporter in petticoats? I'm very curious
to see her," Ralph conceded.
"It's very easy to laugh at her but it is not easy to be as brave
"I should think not; crimes of violence and attacks on the person
require more or less pluck. Do you suppose she'll interview me?"
"Never in the world. She'll not think you of enough importance."
"You'll see," said Ralph. "She'll send a description of us all,
including Bunchie, to her newspaper."
"I shall ask her not to," Isabel answered.
"You think she's capable of it then?"
"And yet you've made her your bosom-friend?"
"I've not made her my bosom-friend; but I like her in spite of
"Ah well," said Ralph, "I'm afraid I shall dislike her in spite
of her merits."
"You'll probably fall in love with her at the end of three days."
"And have my love-letters published in the Interviewer? Never!"
cried the young man.
The train presently arrived, and Miss Stackpole, promptly
descending, proved, as Isabel had promised, quite delicately,
even though rather provincially, fair. She was a neat, plump
person, of medium stature, with a round face, a small mouth, a
delicate complexion, a bunch of light brown ringlets at the back
of her head and a peculiarly open, surprised-looking eye. The
most striking point in her appearance was the remarkable
fixedness of this organ, which rested without impudence or
defiance, but as if in conscientious exercise of a natural right,
upon every object it happened to encounter. It rested in this
manner upon Ralph himself, a little arrested by Miss Stackpole's
gracious and comfortable aspect, which hinted that it wouldn't be
so easy as he had assumed to disapprove of her. She rustled, she
shimmered, in fresh, dove-coloured draperies, and Ralph saw at a
glance that she was as crisp and new and comprehensive as a first
issue before the folding. From top to toe she had probably no
misprint. She spoke in a clear, high voice--a voice not rich but
loud; yet after she had taken her place with her companions in
Mr. Touchett's carriage she struck him as not all in the large
type, the type of horrid "headings," that he had expected. She
answered the enquiries made of her by Isabel, however, and in
which the young man ventured to join, with copious lucidity; and
later, in the library at Gardencourt, when she had made the
acquaintance of Mr. Touchett (his wife not having thought it
necessary to appear) did more to give the measure of her
confidence in her powers.
"Well, I should like to know whether you consider yourselves
American or English," she broke out. "If once I knew I could talk
to you accordingly."
"Talk to us anyhow and we shall be thankful," Ralph liberally
She fixed her eyes on him, and there was something in their
character that reminded him of large polished buttons--buttons
that might have fixed the elastic loops of some tense receptacle:
he seemed to see the reflection of surrounding objects on the
pupil. The expression of a button is not usually deemed human,
but there was something in Miss Stackpole's gaze that made him,
as a very modest man, feel vaguely embarrassed--less inviolate,
more dishonoured, than he liked. This sensation, it must be
added, after he had spent a day or two in her company, sensibly
diminished, though it never wholly lapsed. "I don't suppose that
you're going to undertake to persuade me that you're an
American," she said.
"To please you I'll be an Englishman, I'll be a Turk!"
"Well, if you can change about that way you're very welcome,"
Miss Stackpole returned.
"I'm sure you understand everything and that differences of
nationality are no barrier to you," Ralph went on.
Miss Stackpole gazed at him still. "Do you mean the foreign
"The languages are nothing. I mean the spirit--the genius."
"I'm not sure that I understand you," said the correspondent of
the Interviewer; "but I expect I shall before I leave."
"He's what's called a cosmopolite," Isabel suggested.
"That means he's a little of everything and not much of any. I
must say I think patriotism is like charity--it begins at home."
"Ah, but where does home begin, Miss Stackpole?" Ralph enquired.
"I don't know where it begins, but I know where it ends. It ended
a long time before I got here."
"Don't you like it over here?" asked Mr. Touchett with his aged,
"Well, sir, I haven't quite made up my mind what ground I shall
take. I feel a good deal cramped. I felt it on the journey from
Liverpool to London."
"Perhaps you were in a crowded carriage," Ralph suggested.
"Yes, but it was crowded with friends--party of Americans whose
acquaintance I had made upon the steamer; a lovely group from
Little Rock, Arkansas. In spite of that I felt cramped--I felt
something pressing upon me; I couldn't tell what it was. I felt
at the very commencement as if I were not going to accord with
the atmosphere. But I suppose I shall make my own atmosphere.
That's the true way--then you can breathe. Your surroundings seem
"Ah, we too are a lovely group!" said Ralph. "Wait a little and
Miss Stackpole showed every disposition to wait and evidently was
prepared to make a considerable stay at Gardencourt. She occupied
herself in the mornings with literary labour; but in spite of
this Isabel spent many hours with her friend, who, once her daily
task performed, deprecated, in fact defied, isolation. Isabel
speedily found occasion to desire her to desist from celebrating
the charms of their common sojourn in print, having discovered,
on the second morning of Miss Stackpole's visit, that she was
engaged on a letter to the Interviewer, of which the title, in
her exquisitely neat and legible hand (exactly that of the
copybooks which our heroine remembered at school) was "Americans
and Tudors--Glimpses of Gardencourt." Miss Stackpole, with
the best conscience in the world, offered to read her letter to
Isabel, who immediately put in her protest.
"I don't think you ought to do that. I don't think you ought to
describe the place."
Henrietta gazed at her as usual. "Why, it's just what the people
want, and it's a lovely place."
"It's too lovely to be put in the newspapers, and it's not what
my uncle wants."
"Don't you believe that!" cried Henrietta. "They're always
"My uncle won't be delighted--nor my cousin either. They'll
consider it a breach of hospitality."
Miss Stackpole showed no sense of confusion; she simply wiped her
pen, very neatly, upon an elegant little implement which she kept
for the purpose, and put away her manuscript. "Of course if you
don't approve I won't do it; but I sacrifice a beautiful
"There are plenty of other subjects, there are subjects all round
you. We'll take some drives; I'll show you some charming
"Scenery's not my department; I always need a human interest. You
know I'm deeply human, Isabel; I always was," Miss Stackpole
rejoined. "I was going to bring in your cousin--the alienated
American. There's a great demand just now for the alienated
American, and your cousin's a beautiful specimen. I should have
handled him severely."
"He would have died of it!" Isabel exclaimed. "Not of the
severity, but of the publicity."
"Well, I should have liked to kill him a little. And I should
have delighted to do your uncle, who seems to me a much nobler
type--the American faithful still. He's a grand old man; I don't
see how he can object to my paying him honour."
Isabel looked at her companion in much wonderment; it struck her
as strange that a nature in which she found so much to esteem
should break down so in spots. "My poor Henrietta," she said,
"you've no sense of privacy."
Henrietta coloured deeply, and for a moment her brilliant eyes
were suffused, while Isabel found her more than ever
inconsequent. "You do me great injustice," said Miss Stackpole
with dignity. "I've never written a word about myself!"
"I'm very sure of that; but it seems to me one should be modest
for others also!"
"Ah, that's very good!" cried Henrietta, seizing her pen again.
"Just let me make a note of it and I'll put it in somewhere." she
was a thoroughly good-natured woman, and half an hour later she
was in as cheerful a mood as should have been looked for in a
newspaper-lady in want of matter. "I've promised to do the social
side," she said to Isabel; "and how can I do it unless I get
ideas? If I can't describe this place don't you know some place I
can describe?" Isabel promised she would bethink herself, and the
next day, in conversation with her friend, she happened to
mention her visit to Lord Warburton's ancient house. "Ah, you
must take me there--that's just the place for me!" Miss Stackpole
cried. "I must get a glimpse of the nobility."
"I can't take you," said Isabel; "but Lord Warburton's coming
here, and you'll have a chance to see him and observe him. Only
if you intend to repeat his conversation I shall certainly give
"Don't do that," her companion pleaded; "I want him to be
"An Englishman's never so natural as when he's holding his
tongue," Isabel declared.
It was not apparent, at the end of three days, that her cousin
had, according to her prophecy, lost his heart to their visitor,
though he had spent a good deal of time in her society. They
strolled about the park together and sat under the trees, and in
the afternoon, when it was delightful to float along the Thames,
Miss Stackpole occupied a place in the boat in which hitherto
Ralph had had but a single companion. Her presence proved somehow
less irreducible to soft particles than Ralph had expected in the
natural perturbation of his sense of the perfect solubility of
that of his cousin; for the correspondent of the Interviewer
prompted mirth in him, and he had long since decided that the
crescendo of mirth should be the flower of his declining days.
Henrietta, on her side, failed a little to justify Isabel's
declaration with regard to her indifference to masculine opinion;
for poor Ralph appeared to have presented himself to her as an
irritating problem, which it would be almost immoral not to work
"What does he do for a living?" she asked of Isabel the evening
of her arrival. "Does he go round all day with his hands in his
"He does nothing," smiled Isabel; "he's a gentleman of large
"Well, I call that a shame--when I have to work like a
car-conductor," Miss Stackpole replied. "I should like to show
"He's in wretched health; he's quite unfit for work," Isabel
"Pshaw! don't you believe it. I work when I'm sick," cried her
friend. Later, when she stepped into the boat on joining the
water-party, she remarked to Ralph that she supposed he hated her
and would like to drown her.
"Ah no," said Ralph, "I keep my victims for a slower torture. And
you'd be such an interesting one!"
"Well, you do torture me; I may say that. But I shock all your
prejudices; that's one comfort."
"My prejudices? I haven't a prejudice to bless myself with.
There's intellectual poverty for you."
"The more shame to you; I've some delicious ones. Of course I
spoil your flirtation, or whatever it is you call it, with your
cousin; but I don't care for that, as I render her the service of
drawing you out. She'll see how thin you are."
"Ah, do draw me out!" Ralph exclaimed. "So few people will take
Miss Stackpole, in this undertaking, appeared to shrink from no
effort; resorting largely, whenever the opportunity offered, to
the natural expedient of interrogation. On the following day the
weather was bad, and in the afternoon the young man, by way of
providing indoor amusement, offered to show her the pictures.
Henrietta strolled through the long gallery in his society, while
he pointed out its principal ornaments and mentioned the painters
and subjects. Miss Stackpole looked at the pictures in perfect
silence, committing herself to no opinion, and Ralph was
gratified by the fact that she delivered herself of none of the
little ready-made ejaculations of delight of which the visitors
to Gardencourt were so frequently lavish. This young lady indeed,
to do her justice, was but little addicted to the use of
conventional terms; there was something earnest and inventive in
her tone, which at times, in its strained deliberation, suggested
a person of high culture speaking a foreign language. Ralph
Touchett subsequently learned that she had at one time officiated
as art critic to a journal of the other world; but she appeared,
in spite of this fact, to carry in her pocket none of the small
change of admiration. Suddenly, just after he had called her
attention to a charming Constable, she turned and looked at him
as if he himself had been a picture.
"Do you always spend your time like this?" she demanded.
"I seldom spend it so agreeably."
"Well, you know what I mean--without any regular occupation."
"Ah," said Ralph, "I'm the idlest man living."
Miss Stackpole directed her gaze to the Constable again, and
Ralph bespoke her attention for a small Lancret hanging near it,
which represented a gentleman in a pink doublet and hose and a
ruff, leaning against the pedestal of the statue of a nymph in a
garden and playing the guitar to two ladies seated on the grass.
"That's my ideal of a regular occupation," he said.
Miss Stackpole turned to him again, and, though her eyes had
rested upon the picture, he saw she had missed the subject. She
was thinking of something much more serious. "I don't see how you
can reconcile it to your conscience."
"My dear lady, I have no conscience!"
"Well, I advise you to cultivate one. You'll need it the next
time you go to America."
"I shall probably never go again."
"Are you ashamed to show yourself?"
Ralph meditated with a mild smile. "I suppose that if one has no
conscience one has no shame."
"Well, you've got plenty of assurance," Henrietta declared. "Do
you consider it right to give up your country?"
"Ah, one doesn't give up one's country any more than one gives UP
one's grandmother. They're both antecedent to choice--elements of
one's composition that are not to be eliminated."
"I suppose that means that you've tried and been worsted. What do
they think of you over here?"
"They delight in me."
"That's because you truckle to them."
"Ah, set it down a little to my natural charm!" Ralph sighed.
"I don't know anything about your natural charm. If you've got
any charm it's quite unnatural. It's wholly acquired--or at least
you've tried hard to acquire it, living over here. I don't say
you've succeeded. It's a charm that I don't appreciate, anyway.
Make yourself useful in some way, and then we'll talk about it."
"Well, now, tell me what I shall do," said Ralph.
"Go right home, to begin with."
"Yes, I see. And then?"
"Take right hold of something."
"Well, now, what sort of thing?"
"Anything you please, so long as you take hold. Some new idea,
some big work."
"Is it very difficult to take hold?" Ralph enquired.
"Not if you put your heart into it."
"Ah, my heart," said Ralph. "If it depends upon my heart--!"
"Haven't you got a heart?"
"I had one a few days ago, but I've lost it since."
"You're not serious," Miss Stackpole remarked; "that's what's the
matter with you." But for all this, in a day or two, she again
permitted him to fix her attention and on the later occasion
assigned a different cause to her mysterious perversity. "I know
what's the matter with you, Mr. Touchett," she said. "You think
you're too good to get married."
"I thought so till I knew you, Miss Stackpole," Ralph answered;
"and then I suddenly changed my mind."
"Oh pshaw!" Henrietta groaned.
"Then it seemed to me," said Ralph, "that I was not good enough."
"It would improve you. Besides, it's your duty."
"Ah," cried the young man, "one has so many duties! Is that a
"Of course it is--did you never know that before? It's every
one's duty to get married."
Ralph meditated a moment; he was disappointed. There was
something in Miss Stackpole he had begun to like; it seemed to
him that if she was not a charming woman she was at least a very
good "sort." She was wanting in distinction, but, as Isabel had
said, she was brave: she went into cages, she flourished lashes,
like a spangled lion-tamer. He had not supposed her to be capable
of vulgar arts, but these last words struck him as a false note.
When a marriageable young woman urges matrimony on an
unencumbered young man the most obvious explanation of her
conduct is not the altruistic impulse.
"Ah, well now, there's a good deal to be said about that," Ralph
"There may be, but that's the principal thing. I must say I think
it looks very exclusive, going round all alone, as if you thought
no woman was good enough for you. Do you think you're better than
any one else in the world? In America it's usual for people to
"If it's my duty," Ralph asked, "is it not, by analogy, yours as
Miss Stackpole's ocular surfaces unwinkingly caught the sun.
"Have you the fond hope of finding a flaw in my reasoning? Of
course I've as good a right to marry as any one else."
"Well then," said Ralph, "I won't say it vexes me to see you
single. It delights me rather."
"You're not serious yet. You never will be."
"Shall you not believe me to be so on the day I tell you I desire
to give up the practice of going round alone?"
Miss Stackpole looked at him for a moment in a manner which
seemed to announce a reply that might technically be called
encouraging. But to his great surprise this expression suddenly
resolved itself into an appearance of alarm and even of
resentment. "No, not even then," she answered dryly. After which
she walked away.
"I've not conceived a passion for your friend," Ralph said that
evening to Isabel, "though we talked some time this morning about
"And you said something she didn't like," the girl replied.
Ralph stared. "Has she complained of me?"
"She told me she thinks there's something very low in the tone of
Europeans towards women."
"Does she call me a European?"
"One of the worst. She told me you had said to her something that
an American never would have said. But she didn't repeat it."
Ralph treated himself to a luxury of laughter. "She's an
extraordinary combination. Did she think I was making love to
"No; I believe even Americans do that. But she apparently thought
you mistook the intention of something she had said, and put an
unkind construction on it."
"I thought she was proposing marriage to me and I accepted her.
Was that unkind?"
Isabel smiled. "It was unkind to me. I don't want you to marry."
"My dear cousin, what's one to do among you all?" Ralph demanded.
"Miss Stackpole tells me it's my bounden duty, and that it's
hers, in general, to see I do mine!"
"She has a great sense of duty," said Isabel gravely. "She has
indeed, and it's the motive of everything she says. That's what I
like her for. She thinks it's unworthy of you to keep so many
things to yourself. That's what she wanted to express. If you
thought she was trying to--to attract you, you were very wrong."
"It's true it was an odd way, but I did think she was trying to
attract me. Forgive my depravity."
"You're very conceited. She had no interested views, and never
supposed you would think she had."
"One must be very modest then to talk with such women," Ralph
said humbly. "But it's a very strange type. She's too personal--
considering that she expects other people not to be. She walks in
without knocking at the door."
"Yes," Isabel admitted, "she doesn't sufficiently recognise the
existence of knockers; and indeed I'm not sure that she doesn't
think them rather a pretentious ornament. She thinks one's door
should stand ajar. But I persist in liking her."
"I persist in thinking her too familiar," Ralph rejoined,
naturally somewhat uncomfortable under the sense of having been
doubly deceived in Miss Stackpole.
"Well," said Isabel, smiling, "I'm afraid it's because she's
rather vulgar that I like her."
"She would be flattered by your reason!"
"If I should tell her I wouldn't express it in that way. I should
say it's because there's something of the 'people' in her."
"What do you know about the people? and what does she, for that
"She knows a great deal, and I know enough to feel that she's a
kind of emanation of the great democracy--of the continent, the
country, the nation. I don't say that she sums it all up, that
would be too much to ask of her. But she suggests it; she vividly
"You like her then for patriotic reasons. I'm afraid it is on
those very grounds I object to her."
"Ah," said Isabel with a kind of joyous sigh, "I like so many
things! If a thing strikes me with a certain intensity I accept
it. I don't want to swagger, but I suppose I'm rather versatile.
I like people to be totally different from Henrietta--in the
style of Lord Warburton's sisters for instance. So long as I look
at the Misses Molyneux they seem to me to answer a kind of ideal.
Then Henrietta presents herself, and I'm straightway convinced by
her; not so much in respect to herself as in respect to what
masses behind her."
"Ah, you mean the back view of her," Ralph suggested.
"What she says is true," his cousin answered; "you'll never be
serious. I like the great country stretching away beyond the
rivers and across the prairies, blooming and smiling and
spreading till it stops at the green Pacific! A strong, sweet,
fresh odour seems to rise from it, and Henrietta--pardon my
simile--has something of that odour in her garments."
Isabel blushed a little as she concluded this speech, and the
blush, together with the momentary ardour she had thrown into it,
was so becoming to her that Ralph stood smiling at her for a
moment after she had ceased speaking. "I'm not sure the Pacific's
so green as that," he said; "but you're a young woman of
imagination. Henrietta, however, does smell of the Future--it
almost knocks one down!"
He took a resolve after this not to misinterpret her words even
when Miss Stackpole appeared to strike the personal note most
strongly. He bethought himself that persons, in her view, were
simple and homogeneous organisms, and that he, for his own part,
was too perverted a representative of the nature of man to have a
right to deal with her in strict reciprocity. He carried out his
resolve with a great deal of tact, and the young lady found in
renewed contact with him no obstacle to the exercise of her
genius for unshrinking enquiry, the general application of her
confidence. Her situation at Gardencourt therefore, appreciated
as we have seen her to be by Isabel and full of appreciation
herself of that free play of intelligence which, to her sense,
rendered Isabel's character a sister-spirit, and of the easy
venerableness of Mr. Touchett, whose noble tone, as she said, met
with her full approval--her situation at Gardencourt would have
been perfectly comfortable had she not conceived an irresistible
mistrust of the little lady for whom she had at first supposed
herself obliged to "allow" as mistress of the house. She
presently discovered, in truth, that this obligation was of the
lightest and that Mrs. Touchett cared very little how Miss
Stackpole behaved. Mrs. Touchett had defined her to Isabel as
both an adventuress and a bore--adventuresses usually giving one
more of a thrill; she had expressed some surprise at her niece's
having selected such a friend, yet had immediately added that she
knew Isabel's friends were her own affair and that she had never
undertaken to like them all or to restrict the girl to those she
"If you could see none but the people I like, my dear, you'd have
a very small society," Mrs. Touchett frankly admitted; "and I
don't think I like any man or woman well enough to recommend them
to you. When it comes to recommending it's a serious affair. I
don't like Miss Stackpole--everything about her displeases me;
she talks so much too loud and looks at one as if one wanted to
look at her--which one doesn't. I'm sure she has lived all her
life in a boarding-house, and I detest the manners and the
liberties of such places. If you ask me if I prefer my own
manners, which you doubtless think very bad, I'll tell you that I
prefer them immensely. Miss Stackpole knows I detest
boarding-house civilisation, and she detests me for detesting it,
because she thinks it the highest in the world. She'd like
Gardencourt a great deal better if it were a boarding-house. For
me, I find it almost too much of one! We shall never get on
together therefore, and there's no use trying."
Mrs. Touchett was right in guessing that Henrietta disapproved of
her, but she had not quite put her finger on the reason. A day or
two after Miss Stackpole's arrival she had made some invidious
reflexions on American hotels, which excited a vein of
counter-argument on the part of the correspondent of the
Interviewer, who in the exercise of her profession had acquainted
herself, in the western world, with every form of caravansary.
Henrietta expressed the opinion that American hotels were
the best in the world, and Mrs. Touchett, fresh from a renewed
struggle with them, recorded a conviction that they were the
worst. Ralph, with his experimental geniality, suggested, by way
of healing the breach, that the truth lay between the two
extremes and that the establishments in question ought to be
described as fair middling. This contribution to the discussion,
however, Miss Stackpole rejected with scorn. Middling indeed! If
they were not the best in the world they were the worst, but
there was nothing middling about an American hotel.
"We judge from different points of view, evidently," said Mrs.
Touchett. "I like to be treated as an individual; you like to be
treated as a 'party.'"
"I don't know what you mean," Henrietta replied. "I like to be
treated as an American lady."
"Poor American ladies!" cried Mrs. Touchett with a laugh. "They're
the slaves of slaves."
"They're the companions of freemen," Henrietta retorted.
"They're the companions of their servants--the Irish chambermaid
and the negro waiter. They share their work."
"Do you call the domestics in an American household 'slaves'?"
Miss Stackpole enquired. "If that's the way you desire to treat
them, no wonder you don't like America."
"If you've not good servants you're miserable," Mrs. Touchett
serenely said. "They're very bad in America, but I've five
perfect ones in Florence."
"I don't see what you want with five," Henrietta couldn't help
observing. "I don't think I should like to see five persons
surrounding me in that menial position."
"I like them in that position better than in some others,"
proclaimed Mrs. Touchett with much meaning.
"Should you like me better if I were your butler, dear?" her
"I don't think I should: you wouldn't at all have the tenue."
"The companions of freemen--I like that, Miss Stackpole," said
Ralph. "It's a beautiful description."
"When I said freemen I didn't mean you, sir!"
And this was the only reward that Ralph got for his compliment.
Miss Stackpole was baffled; she evidently thought there was
something treasonable in Mrs. Touchett's appreciation of a class
which she privately judged to be a mysterious survival of
feudalism. It was perhaps because her mind was oppressed with
this image that she suffered some days to elapse before she took
occasion to say to Isabel: "My dear friend, I wonder if you're
"Faithless? Faithless to you, Henrietta?"
"No, that would be a great pain; but it's not that."
"Faithless to my country then?"
"Ah, that I hope will never be. When I wrote to you from
Liverpool I said I had something particular to tell you. You've
never asked me what it is. Is it because you've suspected?"
"Suspected what? As a rule I don't think I suspect," said Isabel.
"I remember now that phrase in your letter, but I confess I had
forgotten it. What have you to tell me?"
Henrietta looked disappointed, and her steady gaze betrayed it.
"You don't ask that right--as if you thought it important. You're
changed--you're thinking of other things."
"Tell me what you mean, and I'll think of that."
"Will you really think of it? That's what I wish to be sure of."
"I've not much control of my thoughts, but I'll do my best," said
Isabel. Henrietta gazed at her, in silence, for a period which
tried Isabel's patience, so that our heroine added at last: "Do
you mean that you're going to be married?"
"Not till I've seen Europe!" said Miss Stackpole. "What are you
laughing at?" she went on. "What I mean is that Mr. Goodwood came
out in the steamer with me."
"Ah!" Isabel responded.
"You say that right. I had a good deal of talk with him; he has
come after you."
"Did he tell you so?"
"No, he told me nothing; that's how I knew it," said Henrietta
cleverly. "He said very little about you, but I spoke of you a
Isabel waited. At the mention of Mr. Goodwood's name she had
turned a little pale. "I'm very sorry you did that,"
she observed at last.
"It was a pleasure to me, and I liked the way he listened. I
could have talked a long time to such a listener; he was so
quiet, so intense; he drank it all in."
"What did you say about me?" Isabel asked.
"I said you were on the whole the finest creature I know."
"I'm very sorry for that. He thinks too well of me already; he
oughtn't to be encouraged."
"He's dying for a little encouragement. I see his face now, and
his earnest absorbed look while I talked. I never saw an ugly man
look so handsome."
"He's very simple-minded," said Isabel. "And he's not so ugly."
"There's nothing so simplifying as a grand passion."
"It's not a grand passion; I'm very sure it's not that."
"You don't say that as if you were sure."
Isabel gave rather a cold smile. "I shall say it better to Mr.
"He'll soon give you a chance," said Henrietta. Isabel offered no
answer to this assertion, which her companion made with an air of
great confidence. "He'll find you changed," the latter pursued.
"You've been affected by your new surroundings."
"Very likely. I'm affected by everything."
"By everything but Mr. Goodwood!" Miss Stackpole exclaimed with a
slightly harsh hilarity.
Isabel failed even to smile back and in a moment she said: "Did
he ask you to speak to me?"
"Not in so many words. But his eyes asked it--and his handshake,
when he bade me good-bye."
"Thank you for doing so." And Isabel turned away.
"Yes, you're changed; you've got new ideas over here," her friend
"I hope so," said Isabel; "one should get as many new ideas as
"Yes; but they shouldn't interfere with the old ones when the old
ones have been the right ones."
Isabel turned about again. "If you mean that I had any idea with
regard to Mr. Goodwood--!" But she faltered before her friend's
"My dear child, you certainly encouraged him."
Isabel made for the moment as if to deny this charge; instead of
which, however, she presently answered: "It's very true. I did
encourage him." And then she asked if her companion had learned
from Mr. Goodwood what he intended to do. It was a concession to
her curiosity, for she disliked discussing the subject and found
Henrietta wanting in delicacy.
"I asked him, and he said he meant to do nothing," Miss Stackpole
answered. "But I don't believe that; he's not a man to do
nothing. He is a man of high, bold action. Whatever happens to
him he'll always do something, and whatever he does will always
"I quite believe that." Henrietta might be wanting in delicacy,
but it touched the girl, all the same, to hear this declaration.
"Ah, you do care for him!" her visitor rang out.
"Whatever he does will always be right," Isabel repeated. "When a
man's of that infallible mould what does it matter to him what
"It may not matter to him, but it matters to one's self."
"Ah, what it matters to me--that's not what we're discussing,"
said Isabel with a cold smile.
This time her companion was grave. "Well, I don't care; you have
changed. You're not the girl you were a few short weeks ago, and
Mr. Goodwood will see it. I expect him here any day."
"I hope he'll hate me then," said Isabel.
"I believe you hope it about as much as I believe him capable of
To this observation our heroine made no return; she was absorbed
in the alarm given her by Henrietta's intimation that Caspar
Goodwood would present himself at Gardencourt. She pretended to
herself, however, that she thought the event impossible, and,
later, she communicated her disbelief to her friend. For the next
forty-eight hours, nevertheless, she stood prepared to hear the
young man's name announced. The feeling pressed upon her; it made
the air sultry, as if there were to be a change of weather; and
the weather, socially speaking, had been so agreeable during
Isabel's stay at Gardencourt that any change would be for the
worse. Her suspense indeed was dissipated the second day. She had
walked into the park in company with the sociable Bunchie, and
after strolling about for some time, in a manner at once listless
and restless, had seated herself on a garden-bench, within sight
of the house, beneath a spreading beech, where, in a white dress
ornamented with black ribbons, she formed among the flickering
shadows a graceful and harmonious image. She entertained herself
for some moments with talking to the little terrier, as to whom
the proposal of an ownership divided with her cousin had been
applied as impartially as possible--as impartially as Bunchie's
own somewhat fickle and inconstant sympathies would allow. But
she was notified for the first time, on this occasion, of the
finite character of Bunchie's intellect; hitherto she had been
mainly struck with its extent. It seemed to her at last that she
would do well to take a book; formerly, when heavy-hearted, she
had been able, with the help of some well-chosen volume, to
transfer the seat of consciousness to the organ of pure reason.
Of late, it was not to be denied, literature had seemed a fading
light, and even after she had reminded herself that her uncle's
library was provided with a complete set of those authors which
no gentleman's collection should be without, she sat motionless
and empty-handed, her eyes bent on the cool green turf of the
lawn. Her meditations were presently interrupted by the arrival
of a servant who handed her a letter. The letter bore the London
postmark and was addressed in a hand she knew--that came into her
vision, already so held by him, with the vividness of the
writer's voice or his face. This document proved short and may be
MY DEAR MISS ARCHER--I don't know whether you will have heard of
my coming to England, but even if you have not it will scarcely
be a surprise to you. You will remember that when you gave me my
dismissal at Albany, three months ago, I did not accept it. I
protested against it. You in fact appeared to accept my protest
and to admit that I had the right on my side. I had come to see
you with the hope that you would let me bring you over to my
conviction; my reasons for entertaining this hope had been of the
best. But you disappointed it; I found you changed, and you were
able to give me no reason for the change. You admitted that you
were unreasonable, and it was the only concession you would make;
but it was a very cheap one, because that's not your character.
No, you are not, and you never will be, arbitrary or capricious.
Therefore it is that I believe you will let me see you again. You
told me that I'm not disagreeable to you, and I believe it; for I
don't see why that should be. I shall always think of you; I
shall never think of any one else. I came to England simply
because you are here; I couldn't stay at home after you had gone:
I hated the country because you were not in it. If I like this
country at present it is only because it holds you. I have been
to England before, but have never enjoyed it much. May I not come
and see you for half an hour? This at present is the dearest wish
of yours faithfully
Isabel read this missive with such deep attention that she had
not perceived an approaching tread on the soft grass. Looking up,
however, as she mechanically folded it she saw Lord Warburton
standing before her.
She put the letter into her pocket and offered her visitor a
smile of welcome, exhibiting no trace of discomposure and half
surprised at her coolness.
"They told me you were out here," said Lord Warburton; "and as
there was no one in the drawing-room and it's really you that I
wish to see, I came out with no more ado."
Isabel had got up; she felt a wish, for the moment, that he
should not sit down beside her. "I was just going indoors."
"Please don't do that; it's much jollier here; I've ridden over
from Lockleigh; it's a lovely day." His smile was peculiarly
friendly and pleasing, and his whole person seemed to emit that
radiance of good-feeling and good fare which had formed the charm
of the girl's first impression of him. It surrounded him like a
zone of fine June weather.
"We'll walk about a little then," said Isabel, who could not
divest herself of the sense of an intention on the part of her
visitor and who wished both to elude the intention and to satisfy
her curiosity about it. It had flashed upon her vision once
before, and it had given her on that occasion, as we know, a
certain alarm. This alarm was composed of several elements, not
all of which were disagreeable; she had indeed spent some days in
analysing them and had succeeded in separating the pleasant part
of the idea of Lord Warburton's "making up" to her from the
painful. It may appear to some readers that the young lady was
both precipitate and unduly fastidious; but the latter of these
facts, if the charge be true, may serve to exonerate her from the
discredit of the former. She was not eager to convince herself
that a territorial magnate, as she had heard Lord Warburton
called, was smitten with her charms; the fact of a declaration
from such a source carrying with it really more questions than it
would answer. She had received a strong impression of his being a
"personage," and she had occupied herself in examining the image
so conveyed. At the risk of adding to the evidence of her
self-sufficiency it must be said that there had been moments
when this possibility of admiration by a personage represented to
her an aggression almost to the degree of an affront, quite to
the degree of an inconvenience. She had never yet known a
personage; there had been no personages, in this sense, in her
life; there were probably none such at all in her native land.
When she had thought of individual eminence she had thought of it
on the basis of character and wit--of what one might like in a
gentleman's mind and in his talk. She herself was a character
--she couldn't help being aware of that; and hitherto her visions
of a completed consciousness had concerned themselves largely
with moral images--things as to which the question would be
whether they pleased her sublime soul. Lord Warburton loomed up
before her, largely and brightly, as a collection of attributes
and powers which were not to be measured by this simple rule,
but which demanded a different sort of appreciation--an
appreciation that the girl, with her habit of judging quickly and
freely, felt she lacked patience to bestow. He appeared to demand
of her something that no one else, as it were, had presumed to
do. What she felt was that a territorial, a political, a social
magnate had conceived the design of drawing her into the system
in which he rather invidiously lived and moved. A certain
instinct, not imperious, but persuasive, told her to resist--
murmured to her that virtually she had a system and an orbit of
her own. It told her other things besides--things which both
contradicted and confirmed each other; that a girl might do much
worse than trust herself to such a man and that it would be very
interesting to see something of his system from his own point of
view; that on the other hand, however, there was evidently a
great deal of it which she should regard only as a complication
of every hour, and that even in the whole there was something
stiff and stupid which would make it a burden. Furthermore there
was a young man lately come from America who had no system at
all, but who had a character of which it was useless for her to
try to persuade herself that the impression on her mind had been
light. The letter she carried in her pocket all sufficiently
reminded her of the contrary. Smile not, however, I venture to
repeat, at this simple young woman from Albany who debated
whether she should accept an English peer before he had offered
himself and who was disposed to believe that on the whole she
could do better. She was a person of great good faith, and
if there was a great deal of folly in her wisdom those who judge
her severely may have the satisfaction of finding that, later,
she became consistently wise only at the cost of an amount of
folly which will constitute almost a direct appeal to charity.
Lord Warburton seemed quite ready to walk, to sit or to do
anything that Isabel should propose, and he gave her this
assurance with his usual air of being particularly pleased to
exercise a social virtue. But he was, nevertheless, not in
command of his emotions, and as he strolled beside her for a
moment, in silence, looking at her without letting her know it,
there was something embarrassed in his glance and his misdirected
laughter. Yes, assuredly--as we have touched on the point, we may
return to it for a moment again--the English are the most
romantic people in the world and Lord Warburton was about to give
an example of it. He was about to take a step which would
astonish all his friends and displease a great many of them, and
which had superficially nothing to recommend it. The young lady
who trod the turf beside him had come from a queer country across
the sea which he knew a good deal about; her antecedents, her
associations were very vague to his mind except in so far as they
were generic, and in this sense they showed as distinct and
unimportant. Miss Archer had neither a fortune nor the sort of
beauty that justifies a man to the multitude, and he
calculated that he had spent about twenty-six hours in her
company. He had summed up all this--the perversity of the impulse,
which had declined to avail itself of the most liberal
opportunities to subside, and the judgement of mankind, as
exemplified particularly in the more quickly-judging half of it:
he had looked these things well in the face and then had
dismissed them from his thoughts. He cared no more for them than
for the rosebud in his buttonhole. It is the good fortune of a
man who for the greater part of a lifetime has abstained without
effort from making himself disagreeable to his friends, that when
the need comes for such a course it is not discredited by
"I hope you had a pleasant ride," said Isabel, who observed her
"It would have been pleasant if for nothing else than that it
brought me here."
"Are you so fond of Gardencourt?" the girl asked, more and more
sure that he meant to make some appeal to her; wishing not to
challenge him if he hesitated, and yet to keep all the quietness
of her reason if he proceeded. It suddenly came upon her that her
situation was one which a few weeks ago she would have deemed
deeply romantic: the park of an old English country-house, with
the foreground embellished by a "great" (as she supposed)
nobleman in the act of making love to a young lady who, on careful
inspection, should be found to present remarkable analogies with
herself. But if she was now the heroine of the situation she
succeeded scarcely the less in looking at it from the outside.
"I care nothing for Gardencourt," said her companion. "I care
only for you."
"You've known me too short a time to have a right to say that,
and I can't believe you're serious."
These words of Isabel's were not perfectly sincere, for she had
no doubt whatever that he himself was. They were simply a tribute
to the fact, of which she was perfectly aware, that those he had
just uttered would have excited surprise on the part of a vulgar
world. And, moreover, if anything beside the sense she had
already acquired that Lord Warburton was not a loose thinker had
been needed to convince her, the tone in which he replied would
quite have served the purpose.
"One's right in such a matter is not measured by the time, Miss
Archer; it's measured by the feeling itself. If I were to wait
three months it would make no difference; I shall not be more
sure of what I mean than I am to-day. Of course I've seen you
very little, but my impression dates from the very first hour we
met. I lost no time, I fell in love with you then. It was at
first sight, as the novels say; I know now that's not a
fancy-phrase, and I shall think better of novels for evermore.
Those two days I spent here settled it; I don't know whether you
suspected I was doing so, but I paid-mentally speaking I mean--
the greatest possible attention to you. Nothing you said, nothing
you did, was lost upon me. When you came to Lockleigh the other
day--or rather when you went away--I was perfectly sure.
Nevertheless I made up my mind to think it over and to question
myself narrowly. I've done so; all these days I've done nothing
else. I don't make mistakes about such things; I'm a very
judicious animal. I don't go off easily, but when I'm touched,
it's for life. It's for life, Miss Archer, it's for life," Lord
Warburton repeated in the kindest, tenderest, pleasantest voice
Isabel had ever heard, and looking at her with eyes charged with
the light of a passion that had sifted itself clear of the baser
parts of emotion--the heat, the violence, the unreason--and that
burned as steadily as a lamp in a windless place.
By tacit consent, as he talked, they had walked more and more
slowly, and at last they stopped and he took her hand. "Ah, Lord
Warburton, how little you know me!" Isabel said very gently.
Gently too she drew her hand away.
"Don't taunt me with that; that I don't know you better makes me
unhappy enough already; it's all my loss. But that's what I want,
and it seems to me I'm taking the best way. If you'll be my wife,
then I shall know you, and when I tell you all the good I think
of you you'll not be able to say it's from ignorance."
"If you know me little I know you even less," said Isabel.
"You mean that, unlike yourself, I may not improve on
acquaintance? Ah, of course that's very possible. But think, to
speak to you as I do, how determined I must be to try and give
satisfaction! You do like me rather, don't you?"
"I like you very much, Lord Warburton," she answered; and at this
moment she liked him immensely.
"I thank you for saying that; it shows you don't regard me as a
stranger. I really believe I've filled all the other relations of
life very creditably, and I don't see why I shouldn't fill this
one--in which I offer myself to you--seeing that I care so much
more about it. Ask the people who know me well; I've friends
who'll speak for me."
"I don't need the recommendation of your friends," said Isabel.
"Ah now, that's delightful of you. You believe in me yourself."
"Completely," Isabel declared. She quite glowed there, inwardly,
with the pleasure of feeling she did.
The light in her companion's eyes turned into a smile, and he
gave a long exhalation of joy. "If you're mistaken, Miss Archer,
let me lose all I possess!"
She wondered whether he meant this for a reminder that he was
rich, and, on the instant, felt sure that he didn't. He was
thinking that, as he would have said himself; and indeed he
might safely leave it to the memory of any interlocutor,
especially of one to whom he was offering his hand. Isabel had
prayed that she might not be agitated, and her mind was tranquil
enough, even while she listened and asked herself what it was
best she should say, to indulge in this incidental criticism.
What she should say, had she asked herself? Her foremost wish was
to say something if possible not less kind than what he had said
to her. His words had carried perfect conviction with them; she
felt she did, all so mysteriously, matter to him. "I thank you
more than I can say for your offer," she returned at last. "It
does me great honour."
"Ah, don't say that!" he broke out. "I was afraid you'd say
something like that. I don't see what you've to do with that sort
of thing. I don't see why you should thank me--it's I who ought
to thank you for listening to me: a man you know so little coming
down on you with such a thumper! Of course it's a great question;
I must tell you that I'd rather ask it than have it to answer
myself. But the way you've listened--or at least your having
listened at all--gives me some hope."
"Don't hope too much," Isabel said.
"Oh Miss Archer!" her companion murmured, smiling again, in his
seriousness, as if such a warning might perhaps be taken but as
the play of high spirits, the exuberance of elation.
"Should you be greatly surprised if I were to beg you not to hope
at all?" Isabel asked.
"Surprised? I don't know what you mean by surprise. It wouldn't
be that; it would be a feeling very much worse."
Isabel walked on again; she was silent for some minutes. "I'm
very sure that, highly as I already think of you, my opinion of
you, if I should know you well, would only rise. But I'm by no
means sure that you wouldn't be disappointed. And I say that not
in the least out of conventional modesty; it's perfectly
"I'm willing to risk it, Miss Archer," her companion replied.
"It's a great question, as you say. It's a very difficult
"I don't expect you of course to answer it outright. Think it
over as long as may be necessary. If I can gain by waiting I'll
gladly wait a long time. Only remember that in the end my dearest
happiness depends on your answer."
"I should be very sorry to keep you in suspense," said Isabel.
"Oh, don't mind. I'd much rather have a good answer six months
hence than a bad one to-day."
"But it's very probable that even six months hence I shouldn't be
able to give you one that you'd think good."
"Why not, since you really like me?"
"Ah, you must never doubt that," said Isabel.
"Well then, I don't see what more you ask!"
"It's not what I ask; it's what I can give. I don't think I
should suit you; I really don't think I should."
"You needn't worry about that. That's my affair. You needn't be a
better royalist than the king."
"It's not only that," said Isabel; "but I'm not sure I wish to
marry any one."
"Very likely you don't. I've no doubt a great many women begin
that way," said his lordship, who, be it averred, did not in the
least believe in the axiom he thus beguiled his anxiety by
uttering. "But they're frequently persuaded."
"Ah, that's because they want to be!" And Isabel lightly laughed.
Her suitor's countenance fell, and he looked at her for a while
in silence. "I'm afraid it's my being an Englishman that makes
you hesitate," he said presently. "I know your uncle thinks you
ought to marry in your own country."
Isabel listened to this assertion with some interest; it had
never occurred to her that Mr. Touchett was likely to discuss her
matrimonial prospects with Lord Warburton. "Has he told you
"I remember his making the remark. He spoke perhaps of Americans
"He appears himself to have found it very pleasant to live in
England." Isabel spoke in a manner that might have seemed a
little perverse, but which expressed both her constant perception
of her uncle's outward felicity and her general disposition to
elude any obligation to take a restricted view.
It gave her companion hope, and he immediately cried with warmth:
"Ah, my dear Miss Archer, old England's a very good sort of
country, you know! And it will be still better when we've
furbished it up a little."
"Oh, don't furbish it, Lord Warburton--, leave it alone. I like it
"Well then, if you like it, I'm more and more unable to see your
objection to what I propose."
"I'm afraid I can't make you understand."
"You ought at least to try. I've a fair intelligence. Are you
afraid--afraid of the climate? We can easily live elsewhere, you
know. You can pick out your climate, the whole world over."
These words were uttered with a breadth of candour that was like
the embrace of strong arms--that was like the fragrance straight
in her face, and by his clean, breathing lips, of she knew not
what strange gardens, what charged airs. She would have given her
little finger at that moment to feel strongly and simply the
impulse to answer: "Lord Warburton, it's impossible for me to do
better in this wonderful world, I think, than commit myself, very
gratefully, to your loyalty." But though she was lost in
admiration of her opportunity she managed to move back into the
deepest shade of it, even as some wild, caught creature in a vast
cage. The "splendid" security so offered her was not the greatest
she could conceive. What she finally bethought herself of saying
was something very different--something that deferred the need of
really facing her crisis. "Don't think me unkind if I ask you to
say no more about this to-day."
"Certainly, certainly!" her companion cried. "I wouldn't bore you
for the world."
"You've given me a great deal to think about, and I promise you
to do it justice."
"That's all I ask of you, of course--and that you'll remember how
absolutely my happiness is in your hands."
Isabel listened with extreme respect to this admonition, but she
said after a minute: "I must tell you that what I shall think
about is some way of letting you know that what you ask is
impossible--letting you know it without making you miserable."
"There's no way to do that, Miss Archer. I won't say that if you
refuse me you'll kill me; I shall not die of it. But I shall do
worse; I shall live to no purpose."
"You'll live to marry a better woman than I."
"Don't say that, please," said Lord Warburton very gravely.
"That's fair to neither of us."
"To marry a worse one then."
"If there are better women than you I prefer the bad ones. That's
all I can say," he went on with the same earnestness. "There's no
accounting for tastes."
His gravity made her feel equally grave, and she showed it by
again requesting him to drop the subject for the present. "I'll
speak to you myself--very soon. Perhaps I shall write to you."
"At your convenience, yes," he replied. "Whatever time you take,
it must seem to me long, and I suppose I must make the best of
"I shall not keep you in suspense; I only want to collect my mind
He gave a melancholy sigh and stood looking at her a moment, with
his hands behind him, giving short nervous shakes to his
hunting-crop. "Do you know I'm very much afraid of it--of that
remarkable mind of yours?"
Our heroine's biographer can scarcely tell why, but the question
made her start and brought a conscious blush to her cheek. She
returned his look a moment, and then with a note in her voice
that might almost have appealed to his compassion, "So am I, my
lord!" she oddly exclaimed.
His compassion was not stirred, however; all he possessed of the
faculty of pity was needed at home. "Ah! be merciful, be
merciful," he murmured.
"I think you had better go," said Isabel. "I'll write to you."
"Very good; but whatever you write I'll come and see you, you
know." And then he stood reflecting, his eyes fixed on the
observant countenance of Bunchie, who had the air of having
understood all that had been said and of pretending to carry off
the indiscretion by a simulated fit of curiosity as to the roots
of an ancient oak. "There's one thing more," he went on. "You
know, if you don't like Lockleigh--if you think it's damp or
anything of that sort--you need never go within fifty miles of
it. It's not damp, by the way; I've had the house thoroughly
examined; it's perfectly safe and right. But if you shouldn't
fancy it you needn't dream of living in it. There's no difficulty
whatever about that; there are plenty of houses. I thought I'd
just mention it; some people don't like a moat, you know.
"I adore a moat," said Isabel. "Good-bye."
He held out his hand, and she gave him hers a moment--a moment
long enough for him to bend his handsome bared head and kiss it.
Then, still agitating, in his mastered emotion, his implement of
the chase, he walked rapidly away. He was evidently much upset.
Isabel herself was upset, but she had not been affected as she
would have imagined. What she felt was not a great responsibility,
a great difficulty of choice; it appeared to her there had been no
choice in the question. She couldn't marry Lord Warburton; the idea
failed to support any enlightened prejudice in favour of the free
exploration of life that she had hitherto entertained or was now
capable of entertaining. She must write this to him, she must
convince him, and that duty was comparatively simple. But what
disturbed her, in the sense that it struck her with wonderment, was
this very fact that it cost her so little to refuse a magnificent
"chance." With whatever qualifications one would, Lord Warburton
had offered her a great opportunity; the situation might have
discomforts, might contain oppressive, might contain narrowing
elements, might prove really but a stupefying anodyne; but she did
her sex no injustice in believing that nineteen women out of twenty
would have accommodated themselves to it without a pang. Why then
upon her also should it not irresistibly impose itself? Who was
she, what was she, that she should hold herself superior? What view
of life, what design upon fate, what conception of happiness, had
she that pretended to be larger than these large these fabulous
occasions? If she wouldn't do such a thing as that then she must do
great things, she must do something greater. Poor Isabel found
ground to remind herself from time to time that she must not be too
proud, and nothing could be more sincere than her prayer to be
delivered from such a danger: the isolation and loneliness of pride
had for her mind the horror of a desert place. If it had been pride
that interfered with her accepting Lord Warburton such a betise
was singularly misplaced; and she was so conscious of liking him
that she ventured to assure herself it was the very softness, and
the fine intelligence, of sympathy. She liked him too much to marry
him, that was the truth; something assured her there was a fallacy
somewhere in the glowing logic of the proposition--as he saw it--
even though she mightn't put her very finest finger-point on it;
and to inflict upon a man who offered so much a wife with a
tendency to criticise would be a peculiarly discreditable act. She
had promised him she would consider his question, and when, after
he had left her, she wandered back to the bench where he had found
her and lost herself in meditation, it might have seemed that she
was keeping her vow. But this was not the case; she was wondering
if she were not a cold, hard, priggish person, and, on her at last
getting up and going rather quickly back to the house, felt, as she
had said to her friend, really frightened at herself.
It was this feeling and not the wish to ask advice--she had no
desire whatever for that--that led her to speak to her uncle of
what had taken place. She wished to speak to some one; she should
feel more natural, more human, and her uncle, for this purpose,
presented himself in a more attractive light than either her aunt
or her friend Henrietta. Her cousin of course was a possible
confidant; but she would have had to do herself violence to air
this special secret to Ralph. So the next day, after breakfast,
she sought her occasion. Her uncle never left his apartment till
the afternoon, but he received his cronies, as he said, in his
dressing-room. Isabel had quite taken her place in the class so
designated, which, for the rest, included the old man's son, his
physician, his personal servant, and even Miss Stackpole. Mrs.
Touchett did not figure in the list, and this was an obstacle the
less to Isabel's finding her host alone. He sat in a complicated
mechanical chair, at the open window of his room, looking
westward over the park and the river, with his newspapers and
letters piled up beside him, his toilet freshly and minutely
made, and his smooth, speculative face composed to benevolent
She approached her point directly. "I think I ought to let you
know that Lord Warburton has asked me to marry him. I suppose I
ought to tell my aunt; but it seems best to tell you first."
The old man expressed no surprise, but thanked her for the
confidence she showed him. "Do you mind telling me whether you
accepted him?" he then enquired.
"I've not answered him definitely yet; I've taken a little time
to think of it, because that seems more respectful. But I shall
not accept him."
Mr. Touchett made no comment upon this; he had the air of
thinking that, whatever interest he might take in the matter from
the point of view of sociability, he had no active voice in it.
"Well, I told you you'd be a success over here. Americans are
"Very highly indeed," said Isabel. "But at the cost of seeming
both tasteless and ungrateful, I don't think I can marry Lord
"Well," her uncle went on, "of course an old man can't judge for
a young lady. I'm glad you didn't ask me before you made up your
mind. I suppose I ought to tell you," he added slowly, but as if
it were not of much consequence, "that I've known all about it
these three days."
"About Lord Warburton's state of mind?"
"About his intentions, as they say here. He wrote me a very
pleasant letter, telling me all about them. Should you like to
see his letter?" the old man obligingly asked.
"Thank you; I don't think I care about that. But I'm glad he
wrote to you; it was right that he should, and he would be
certain to do what was right."
"Ah well, I guess you do like him!" Mr. Touchett declared. "You
needn't pretend you don't."
"I like him extremely; I'm very free to admit that. But I don't
wish to marry any one just now."
"You think some one may come along whom you may like better.
Well, that's very likely," said Mr. Touchett, who appeared to
wish to show his kindness to the girl by easing off her decision,
as it were, and finding cheerful reasons for it.
"I don't care if I don't meet any one else. I like Lord Warburton
quite well enough." she fell into that appearance of a sudden
change of point of view with which she sometimes startled and
even displeased her interlocutors.
Her uncle, however, seemed proof against either of these
impressions. "He's a very fine man," he resumed in a tone which
might have passed for that of encouragement. "His letter was one
of the pleasantest I've received for some weeks. I suppose one of
the reasons I liked it was that it was all about you; that is all
except the part that was about himself. I suppose he told you all
"He would have told me everything I wished to ask him," Isabel
"But you didn't feel curious?"
"My curiosity would have been idle--once I had determined to
decline his offer."
"You didn't find it sufficiently attractive?" Mr. Touchett
She was silent a little. "I suppose it was that," she presently
admitted. "But I don't know why."
"Fortunately ladies are not obliged to give reasons," said her
uncle. "There's a great deal that's attractive about such an
idea; but I don't see why the English should want to entice us
away from our native land. I know that we try to attract them
over there, but that's because our population is insufficient.
Here, you know, they're rather crowded. However, I presume
there's room for charming young ladies everywhere."
"There seems to have been room here for you," said Isabel, whose
eyes had been wandering over the large pleasure-spaces of the
Mr. Touchett gave a shrewd, conscious smile. "There's room
everywhere, my dear, if you'll pay for it. I sometimes think I've
paid too much for this. Perhaps you also might have to pay too
"Perhaps I might," the girl replied.
That suggestion gave her something more definite to rest on than
she had found in her own thoughts, and the fact of this
association of her uncle's mild acuteness with her dilemma seemed
to prove that she was concerned with the natural and reasonable
emotions of life and not altogether a victim to intellectual
eagerness and vague ambitions--ambitions reaching beyond Lord
Warburton's beautiful appeal, reaching to something indefinable
and possibly not commendable. In so far as the indefinable had an
influence upon Isabel's behaviour at this juncture, it was not
the conception, even unformulated, of a union with Caspar
Goodwood; for however she might have resisted conquest at her
English suitor's large quiet hands she was at least as far
removed from the disposition to let the young man from Boston
take positive possession of her. The sentiment in which
She sought refuge after reading his letter was a critical view of
his having come abroad; for it was part of the influence he had
upon her that he seemed to deprive her of the sense of freedom.
There was a disagreeably strong push, a kind of hardness of
presence, in his way of rising before her. She had been haunted
at moments by the image, by the danger, of his disapproval and
had wondered--a consideration she had never paid in equal degree
to any one else--whether he would like what she did. The
difficulty was that more than any man she had ever known,
more than poor Lord Warburton (she had begun now to give his
lordship the benefit of this epithet), Caspar Goodwood expressed
for her an energy--and she had already felt it as a power that was
of his very nature. It was in no degree a matter of his
"advantages"--it was a matter of the spirit that sat in his
clear-burning eyes like some tireless watcher at a window. She
might like it or not, but he insisted, ever, with his whole
weight and force: even in one's usual contact with him one had to
reckon with that. The idea of a diminished liberty was
particularly disagreeable to her at present, since she had just
given a sort of personal accent to her independence by
looking so straight at Lord Warburton's big bribe and yet turning
away from it. Sometimes Caspar Goodwood had seemed to range
himself on the side of her destiny, to be the stubbornest fact
she knew; she said to herself at such moments that she might
evade him for a time, but that she must make terms with him at
last--terms which would be certain to be favourable to himself.
Her impulse had been to avail herself of the things that helped
her to resist such an obligation; and this impulse had
been much concerned in her eager acceptance of her aunt's
invitation, which had come to her at an hour when she expected
from day to day to see Mr. Goodwood and when she was glad to have
an answer ready for something she was sure he would say to her.
When she had told him at Albany, on the evening of Mrs.
Touchett's visit, that she couldn't then discuss difficult
questions, dazzled as she was by the great immediate opening of
her aunt's offer of "Europe," he declared that this was no answer
at all; and it was now to obtain a better one that he was
following her across the sea. To say to herself that he was a
kind of grim fate was well enough for a fanciful young woman who
was able to take much for granted in him; but the reader has a
right to a nearer and a clearer view.
He was the son of a proprietor of well-known cotton-mills in
Massachusetts--a gentleman who had accumulated a considerable
fortune in the exercise of this industry. Caspar at present
managed the works, and with a judgement and a temper which,
in spite of keen competition and languid years, had kept their
prosperity from dwindling. He had received the better part of his
education at Harvard College, where, however, he had gained
renown rather as a gymnast and an oarsman than as a gleaner of
more dispersed knowledge. Later on he had learned that the finer
intelligence too could vault and pull and strain--might even,
breaking the record, treat itself to rare exploits. He had thus
discovered in himself a sharp eye for the mystery of mechanics,
and had invented an improvement in the cotton-spinning process
which was now largely used and was known by his name. You might
have seen it in the newspapers in connection with this fruitful
contrivance; assurance of which he had given to Isabel by showing
her in the columns of the New York Interviewer an exhaustive
article on the Goodwood patent--an article not prepared by Miss
Stackpole, friendly as she had proved herself to his more
sentimental interests. There were intricate, bristling things he
rejoiced in; he liked to organise, to contend, to administer; he
could make people work his will, believe in him, march before him
and justify him. This was the art, as they said, of managing men
--which rested, in him, further, on a bold though brooding
ambition. It struck those who knew him well that he might do
greater things than carry on a cotton-factory; there was nothing
cottony about Caspar Goodwood, and his friends took for granted
that he would somehow and somewhere write himself in bigger
letters. But it was as if something large and confused, something
dark and ugly, would have to call upon him: he was not after all
in harmony with mere smug peace and greed and gain, an order of
things of which the vital breath was ubiquitous advertisement. It
pleased Isabel to believe that he might have ridden, on a
plunging steed, the whirlwind of a great war--a war like the
Civil strife that had overdarkened her conscious childhood
and his ripening youth.
She liked at any rate this idea of his being by character and in
fact a mover of men--liked it much better than some other points
in his nature and aspect. She cared nothing for his cotton-mill--
the Goodwood patent left her imagination absolutely cold. She
wished him no ounce less of his manhood, but she sometimes
thought he would be rather nicer if he looked, for instance, a
little differently. His jaw was too square and set and his figure
too straight and stiff: these things suggested a want of easy
consonance with the deeper rhythms of life. Then she viewed with
reserve a habit he had of dressing always in the same manner; it
was not apparently that he wore the same clothes continually,
for, on the contrary, his garments had a way of looking rather
too new. But they all seemed of the same piece; the figure, the
stuff, was so drearily usual. She had reminded herself more than
once that this was a frivolous objection to a person of his
importance; and then she had amended the rebuke by saying that it
would be a frivolous objection only if she were in love with him.
She was not in love with him and therefore might criticise his
small defects as well as his great--which latter consisted in the
collective reproach of his being too serious, or, rather, not of
his being so, since one could never be, but certainly of his
seeming so. He showed his appetites and designs too simply and
artlessly; when one was alone with him he talked too much about
the same subject, and when other people were present he talked
too little about anything. And yet he was of supremely strong,
clean make--which was so much she saw the different fitted parts
of him as she had seen, in museums and portraits, the different
fitted parts of armoured warriors--in plates of steel handsomely
inlaid with gold. It was very strange: where, ever, was any
tangible link between her impression and her act? Caspar Goodwood
had never corresponded to her idea of a delightful person, and
she supposed that this was why he left her so harshly critical.
When, however, Lord Warburton, who not only did correspond with
it, but gave an extension to the term, appealed to her approval,
she found herself still unsatisfied. It was certainly strange.
The sense of her incoherence was not a help to answering Mr.
Goodwood's letter, and Isabel determined to leave it a while
unhonoured. If he had determined to persecute her he must take
the consequences; foremost among which was his being left to
perceive how little it charmed her that he should come down to
Gardencourt. She was already liable to the incursions of one
suitor at this place, and though it might be pleasant to be
appreciated in opposite quarters there was a kind of grossness in
entertaining two such passionate pleaders at once, even in a case
where the entertainment should consist of dismissing them. She
made no reply to Mr. Goodwood; but at the end of three days she
wrote to Lord Warburton, and the letter belongs to our history.
DEAR LORD WARBURTON--A great deal of earnest thought has not led
me to change my mind about the suggestion you were so kind as to
make me the other day. I am not, I am really and truly not, able
to regard you in the light of a companion for life; or to think
of your home--your various homes--as the settled seat of my
existence. These things cannot be reasoned about, and I very
earnestly entreat you not to return to the subject we discussed
so exhaustively. We see our lives from our own point of view;
that is the privilege of the weakest and humblest of us; and I
shall never be able to see mine in the manner you proposed.
Kindly let this suffice you, and do me the justice to believe
that I have given your proposal the deeply respectful
consideration it deserves. It is with this very great regard that
I remain sincerely yours,
While the author of this missive was making up her mind to
dispatch it Henrietta Stackpole formed a resolve which was
accompanied by no demur. She invited Ralph Touchett to take a
walk with her in the garden, and when he had assented with that
alacrity which seemed constantly to testify to his high
expectations, she informed him that she had a favour to ask of
him. It may be admitted that at this information the young man
flinched; for we know that Miss Stackpole had struck him as apt
to push an advantage. The alarm was unreasoned, however; for he
was clear about the area of her indiscretion as little as advised
of its vertical depth, and he made a very civil profession of the
desire to serve her. He was afraid of her and presently told
her so. "When you look at me in a certain way my knees knock
together, my faculties desert me; I'm filled with trepidation
and I ask only for strength to execute your commands. You've an
address that I've never encountered in any woman."
"Well," Henrietta replied good-humouredly, "if I had not known
before that you were trying somehow to abash me I should know it
now. Of course I'm easy game--I was brought up with such
different customs and ideas. I'm not used to your arbitrary
standards, and I've never been spoken to in America as you have
spoken to me. If a gentleman conversing with me over there were
to speak to me like that I shouldn't know what to make of it. We
take everything more naturally over there, and, after all, we're
a great deal more simple. I admit that; I'm very simple
myself. Of course if you choose to laugh at me for it you're very
welcome; but I think on the whole I would rather be myself than
you. I'm quite content to be myself; I don't want to change.
There are plenty of people that appreciate me just as I am. It's
true they're nice fresh free-born Americans!" Henrietta had
lately taken up the tone of helpless innocence and large
concession. "I want you to assist me a little," she went on. "I
don't care in the least whether I amuse you while you do so; or,
rather, I'm perfectly willing your amusement should be your
reward. I want you to help me about Isabel."
"Has she injured you?" Ralph asked.
"If she had I shouldn't mind, and I should never tell you. What
I'm afraid of is that she'll injure herself."
"I think that's very possible," said Ralph.
His companion stopped in the garden-walk, fixing on him perhaps
the very gaze that unnerved him. "That too would amuse you, I
suppose. The way you do say things! I never heard any one so
"To Isabel? Ah, not that!"
"Well, you're not in love with her, I hope."
"How can that be, when I'm in love with Another?"
"You're in love with yourself, that's the Other!" Miss Stackpole
declared. "Much good may it do you! But if you wish to be serious
once in your life here's a chance; and if you really care for
your cousin here's an opportunity to prove it. I don't expect you
to understand her; that's too much to ask. But you needn't do
that to grant my favour. I'll supply the necessary intelligence."
"I shall enjoy that immensely!" Ralph exclaimed. "I'll be Caliban
and you shall be Ariel."
"You're not at all like Caliban, because you're sophisticated,
and Caliban was not. But I'm not talking about imaginary
characters; I'm talking about Isabel. Isabel's intensely real.
What I wish to tell you is that I find her fearfully changed."
"Since you came, do you mean?"
"Since I came and before I came. She's not the same as she once
so beautifully was."
"As she was in America?"
"Yes, in America. I suppose you know she comes from there. She
can't help it, but she does."
"Do you want to change her back again?"
"Of course I do, and I want you to help me."
"Ah," said Ralph, "I'm only Caliban; I'm not Prospero."
"You were Prospero enough to make her what she has become. You've
acted on Isabel Archer since she came here, Mr. Touchett."
"I, my dear Miss Stackpole? Never in the world. Isabel Archer has
acted on me--yes; she acts on every one. But I've been absolutely
"You're too passive then. You had better stir yourself and be
careful. Isabel's changing every day; she's drifting away--
right out to sea. I've watched her and I can see it. She's not
the bright American girl she was. She's taking different views, a
different colour, and turning away from her old ideals. I want to
save those ideals, Mr. Touchett, and that's where you come in."
"Not surely as an ideal?"
"Well, I hope not," Henrietta replied promptly. "I've got a
fear in my heart that she's going to marry one of these fell
Europeans, and I want to prevent it.
"Ah, I see," cried Ralph; "and to prevent it you want me to step
in and marry her?"
"Not quite; that remedy would be as bad as the disease, for
you're the typical, the fell European from whom I wish to
rescue her. No; I wish you to take an interest in another person--
a young man to whom she once gave great encouragement and whom she
now doesn't seem to think good enough. He's a thoroughly grand
man and a very dear friend of mine, and I wish very much you
would invite him to pay a visit here."
Ralph was much puzzled by this appeal, and it is perhaps not to
the credit of his purity of mind that he failed to look at it at
first in the simplest light. It wore, to his eyes, a tortuous
air, and his fault was that he was not quite sure that anything
in the world could really be as candid as this request of Miss
Stackpole's appeared. That a young woman should demand that a
gentleman whom she described as her very dear friend should be
furnished with an opportunity to make himself agreeable to another
young woman, a young woman whose attention had wandered and whose
charms were greater--this was an anomaly which for the moment
challenged all his ingenuity of interpretation. To read between
the lines was easier than to follow the text, and to suppose that
Miss Stackpole wished the gentleman invited to Gardencourt on her
own account was the sign not so much of a vulgar as of an
embarrassed mind. Even from this venial act of vulgarity, however,
Ralph was saved, and saved by a force that I can only speak of as
inspiration. With no more outward light on the subject than he
already possessed he suddenly acquired the conviction that it
would be a sovereign injustice to the correspondent of the
Interviewer to assign a dishonourable motive to any act of hers.
This conviction passed into his mind with extreme rapidity; it was
perhaps kindled by the pure radiance of the young lady's
imperturbable gaze. He returned this challenge a moment,
consciously, resisting an inclination to frown as one frowns in
the presence of larger luminaries. "Who's the gentleman you speak
"Mr. Caspar Goodwood--of Boston. He has been extremely attentive
to Isabel--just as devoted to her as he can live. He has
followed her out here and he's at present in London. I don't know
his address, but I guess I can obtain it."
"I've never heard of him," said Ralph.
"Well, I suppose you haven't heard of every one. I don't believe
he has ever heard of you; but that's no reason why
Isabel shouldn't marry him."
Ralph gave a mild ambiguous laugh. "What a rage you have for
marrying people! Do you remember how you wanted to marry me the
"I've got over that. You don't know how to take such ideas. Mr.
Goodwood does, however; and that's what I like about him. He's
a splendid man and a perfect gentleman, and Isabel knows it."
"Is she very fond of him?"
"If she isn't she ought to be. He's simply wrapped up in her."
"And you wish me to ask him here," said Ralph reflectively.
"It would be an act of true hospitality."
"Caspar Goodwood," Ralph continued--"it's rather a striking
"I don't care anything about his name. It might be Ezekiel
Jenkins, and I should say the same. He's the only man I have
ever seen whom I think worthy of Isabel."
"You're a very devoted friend," said Ralph.
"Of course I am. If you say that to pour scorn on me I don't
"I don't say it to pour scorn on you; I'm very much struck with
"You're more satiric than ever, but I advise you not to laugh at
"I assure you I'm very serious; you ought to understand that,"
In a moment his companion understood it. "I believe you are;
now you're too serious."
"You're difficult to please."
"Oh, you're very serious indeed. You won't invite Mr. Goodwood."
"I don't know," said Ralph. "I'm capable of strange things. Tell
me a little about Mr. Goodwood. What's he like?"
"He's just the opposite of you. He's at the head of a
cotton-factory; a very fine one."
"Has he pleasant manners?" asked Ralph.
"Splendid manners--in the American style."
"Would he be an agreeable member of our little circle?"
"I don't think he'd care much about our little circle. He'd
concentrate on Isabel."
"And how would my cousin like that?"
"Very possibly not at all. But it will be good for her. It will
call back her thoughts."
"Call them back--from where?"
"From foreign parts and other unnatural places. Three months
ago she gave Mr. Goodwood every reason to suppose he was
acceptable to her, and it's not worthy of Isabel to go back on a
real friend simply because she has changed the scene. I've
changed the scene too, and the effect of it has been to make me
care more for my old associations than ever. It's my belief that
the sooner Isabel changes it back again the better. I know her
well enough to know that she would never be truly happy over
here, and I wish her to form some strong American tie that will
act as a preservative."
"Aren't you perhaps a little too much in a hurry?" Ralph
enquired. "Don't you think you ought to give her more of a chance
in poor old England?"
"A chance to ruin her bright young life? One's never too much in
a hurry to save a precious human creature from drowning."
"As I understand it then," said Ralph, "you wish me to push Mr.
Goodwood overboard after her. Do you know," he added, "that I've
never heard her mention his name?"
Henrietta gave a brilliant smile. "I'm delighted to hear that; it
proves how much she thinks of him."
Ralph appeared to allow that there was a good deal in this, and
he surrendered to thought while his companion watched him askance.
"If I should invite Mr. Goodwood," he finally said, "it would be
to quarrel with him."
"Don't do that; he'd prove the better man."
"You certainly are doing your best to make me hate him! I really
don't think I can ask him. I should be afraid of being rude to
"It's just as you please," Henrietta returned. "I had no idea you
were in love with her yourself."
"Do you really believe that?" the young man asked with lifted
"That's the most natural speech I've ever heard you make! Of
course I believe it," Miss Stackpole ingeniously said.
"Well," Ralph concluded, "to prove to you that you're wrong I'll
invite him. It must be of course as a friend of yours."
"It will not be as a friend of mine that he'll come; and it will
not be to prove to me that I'm wrong that you'll ask him--but to
prove it to yourself!"
These last words of Miss Stackpole's (on which the two presently
separated) contained an amount of truth which Ralph Touchett was
obliged to recognise; but it so far took the edge from too sharp
a recognition that, in spite of his suspecting it would be rather
more indiscreet to keep than to break his promise, he wrote Mr.
Goodwood a note of six lines, expressing the pleasure it would
give Mr. Touchett the elder that he should join a little party at
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