Portrait of a Lady (version 3) | Henry James | Literary Fiction | Book | English | 11/15

chapter 40 of the portrait of a lady by Henry James this LibriVox recording is in the public domain Isabel had not seen much of madam Merrill since her marriage this lady having indulged in frequent absences from Rome but one time she had spent six months in England but another she had passed a portion of a winter in Paris she had made numerous visits to distant friends and gave countenance to the idea that for the future she should be a less inveterate Roman than in the past though she had been inveterate in the past only in the sense of constantly having an apartment in one of the sunniest niches of the Pynchon an apartment which often stood empty this suggested the prospect of almost constant absence a danger which Isabel at one period had been much inclined to deplore familiarity had modified in some degree her first impression of madam Merrill but he did not essentially altered it there was still much wonder of admiration in it that personage was armed at all points it was a pleasure to see a character so completely equipped for the social battle she carried her flag discreetly but her weapons were polished steel and she used them with a skill which struck Isabelle as more and more that of a veteran she was never weary never overcome with disgust she never appeared to need rest or consolation she had her own ideas she had of old exposed to great many of them to Isabel who knew also that under an appearance of extreme self control her highly cultivated friend concealed a rich Sensibility but her will was mistress of her life there was something gallant in the way she kept going It was as if she had learned the secret of it as if the art of life was some clever trick she had guessed Isabel as she herself grew older became acquainted with her avulsions with disgusts there were days when the world looked black and she asked herself with some sharpness what it was that she was pretending to live for her old habit had been to live by enthusiasm to fall in love with suddenly perceived possibilities with the idea of some new adventure as a younger person she had been used to proceed from one little exaltation to the other there was scarcely any dull places between but mother Merrill had suppressed enthusiasm she fell in love nowadays with nothing she lived entirely by reason and by wisdom there were hours when Isabelle would have given anything for lessons in this heart if her brilliant friend had been near she would have made an appeal to her she had become aware more than before of the advantage of being like that of having made oneself a firm surface a sort of course lot of silver but as I say it was not till the winter during which we lately renewed acquaintance with our heroine that the personage in question made again a continuous stay in Rome Isabelle now saw more of her than she had done since her marriage but by this time Isabelle's needs and inclinations had considerably changed it was not at present a matter Merrill that she would have applied for instruction she had lost the desire to know this lady's clever trick if she had troubles she must keep them to herself and if life was difficult it would not make it easier to confess herself beaten Madame Merrill was doubtless of great use to herself and an ornament to any circle but was she would she be of use to others in periods of refined embarrassment the best way to profit by her friend this indeed Isabelle had always thought was to imitate her to be as firm and bright as she she recognized no embarrassments and Isabelle considering this fact determined for the 50th time to brush aside her own it seemed to her to on the renewal of an intercourse which had virtually been interrupted that her old Ally was different was almost detached pushing to the extreme a certain rather artificial fear of being indiscreet Ralph touchid we know had been of the opinion that she was prone to exaggeration to forcing the note was apt in the vulgar phrase to overdo it Isabelle had never admitted this charge had never indeed quite understood it madam ales conduct to her perception always bored the stamp of good taste was always quiet but in this matter of not wishing to intrude upon the inner life of the Osmond family it had last occurred to our young woman that she overdid it a little that of course was not the best taste that was rather violent she remembered too much that Isabelle was married that she now had other interests that though she Madame Errol had known Gilbert Osmond and his little pansy very well better almost than anyone she was not after all of the inner circle she was on her guard she never spoke of their affairs till she was asked even pressed as when her opinion was wanted she had a dread of seeming to meddle Madame Errol was as candid as we know and one day she candidly expressed this dread to Isabelle I must be on my guard she said I might so easily without suspecting it offend you you would be right to be offended even if my intention should have been of the purest I must not forget that I knew your husband long before you did I must not let that betray me if you were a silly woman you might be jealous you're not a silly woman I know that perfectly but neither am i therefore i'm determined not to get into trouble a little harm is very soon done a mistakes made before one knows it of course if I had wish to make love to your husband I had ten years to do it in and nothing to prevent it so it isn't likely I shall begin today when I'm so much less attractive than I was but if I were to annoy you by seeming you take a place that doesn't belong to me you wouldn't make that reflection you'd simply say I was getting certain differences I'm determined not to forget them certainly a good friend isn't always thinking of that one doesn't suspect ones friends have injustice I don't suspect you my dear in the least but I suspect human nature don't think I make myself uncomfortable I'm not always watching myself I think I sufficiently prove it in talking to you as I do now all I wish to say is however that if you were to be jealous that's the form it would take I should be sure to think it was a little my fault it certainly wouldn't be your husband's Isabelle had had three years to think over mrs. touch it's theory that Madame al had made Gilbert Osmonds marriage we know how she had first received it Madame Errol might have made Gilbert Osmonds marriage but she had certainly not made Isabelle arches that was the work of Isabelle scarcely knew what of nature providence fortune of the eternal mystery of things it was true her aunt's complaint had not been so much of Madame else activity as of her duplicity she had brought about the strange event and then she had denied her guilt such guilt would not have been great to his Abele's mind she couldn't make a crime out of matter males having been the producing cause of the most important friendship she had ever formed this had occurred to her just before her marriage after her little discussion with her aunt and at the time when she was still capable of that large inward reference the tone almost of the philosophic historian to her scant young annals if Madame Errol had desired her change of state she could only say it had been a very happy thought with her moreover she had been perfectly straightforward she had never concealed her high opinion of Gilbert Osmond after their union Isabelle discovered that her husband took a less convenient view of the matter he seldom consented to finger in talk this roundest and smoothest be of their social rosary don't you like madam Errol Isabelle had once said to him she thinks a great deal of you I'll tell you once for all husband advancing I liked her once better than I do today I'm tired of her and I rather ashamed of it she's so almost unnaturally good I'm glad she's not in Italy it makes for relaxation for a sort of moral they taunt don't talk of her too much it seems to bring her back she'll come back in plenty of time madam Errol in fact had come back before it was too late too late I mean to recover whatever advantage she might have lost but meantime if as I have said she was sensibly different Isabelle's feelings were also not quite the same her consciousness of the situation was as acute as of old but it was much less satisfying a dissatisfied mind whatever else it may miss is rarely in water reasons they bloom is thickest buttercups in June the fact of madame males having had a hand in gilbert Osmonds marriage ceased to be one of her titles to consideration it might have been written after all that there was not so much to thank her for as time went on there was less and less and Isabelle once said to herself that perhaps without her these things would not have been that reflection indeed was instantly stifled she knew an immediate horror at having made it whatever happens to me let me not be unjust she said let me bear my burden as myself and not shift them upon others this disposition was tested eventually by that ingenious apology for her present conduct which Madame Errol saw a fit to make a knob which I have given a sketch for there was something irritating there was almost an air of mockery in her neat discriminations and clear convictions in Isabelle's mind today there was nothing clear there was a confusion of regrets a complication phears she felt helpless as she turned away from her friend who had just made the statements I have quoted Madame Merrill knew so little what she was thinking of she was herself moreover so unable to explain jealous of her jealous of her with Gilbert the idea just then suggested no near reality she almost wished jealousy had been possible it would have made in a manner for refreshment wasn't it in a manner one of the symptoms of happiness madam mayor however was wise so wise that she might have been pretending to know Isabel better than Isabel knew herself this young woman had always been fertile in resolutions many of them of an elevated character but at no period had they flourished in the privacy of her heart more richly than today it is true that they all had a family like this they might have been summed up in the determination that if she was to be unhappy it should not be by a fault of her own her poor wicked spirit had always had a great desire to do its best and it had not as yet been seriously discouraged it wished therefore to hold fast to justice not to pay itself by petty revenge's to associate my rimmel with its disappointment would be a petty revenge especially is the pleasure to be derived from that would be perfectly insincere it might feed her sense of bitterness but it would not loosen her bonds it was impossible to pretend that she had not acted with her eyes open if ever a girl was a free agent she had been a girl in love was doubtless not a free agent but the sole source of her mistake had been within herself there had been no plot no snare she had looked and considered and chosen when a woman had made such a mistake there was only one way to repair it just immensely Oh with the highest grandeur to accept it one folly was enough especially when it was to last forever a second one would not so much set it off in this vow of reticence there was a certain nobleness which kept Isabel going but Madame Al had been right for all that in taking her precautions one day about a month after Ralph touch its arrival in Rome Isabel came back from a walk with pansy it was not only a part of her general determination to be just that she was at present very thankful for pansy it was also a part of her tenderness for things that were pure and weak pansy was dear to her and there was nothing else in her life that had the rightness of the young creatures attachment or the sweetness of her own clearness about it it was like a soft presence like a small hand in her own on pansies part it was more than affection it was a kind of ardent coercive faith on her own side her sense of the girls dependence was more than a pleasure it operated as a definite reason when motives threatened to failed her she had said to herself that we must take our duty where we find it and that we must look for it as much as possible pansy sympathy was a direct admonition it seemed to say that here was an opportunity not eminent perhaps but unmistakable you have an opportunity for what Isabel could hardly have said in general to be more for the child that the child was able to be for herself Isabel could have smiled in these days to remember that her little companion had once been ambiguous for she now perceived that pansies ambiguities were simply her own grow sness of vision she had been unable to believe anyone could care so much so extraordinarily much to please but since then she had seen this delicate faculty in operation and now she knew what to think of it it was the whole creature it was a sort of genius pansy had no pride to interfere with it and though she was conscious and Lee extending her conquests she took no credit for them the two were constantly together mrs. Osmond was rarely seen without her stepdaughter Isabelle liked her company it had the effect of once carrying a nosegay composed all of the same flower and then not the neglect pansy not under any provocation to neglect her this she made an article of religion the young girl had every appearance of being happier in Isabel society than in that of any one save her father who she admired with an intensity justified by the fact that as paternity was an exquisite pleasure to Gilbert Osmond he had always been luxuriously mild Isabel knew how pansy liked to be with her and how she studied the means of pleasing her she had decided that the best way of pleasing her was negative and consisted in not giving her trouble a conviction which certainly could have had no reference to trouble already existing she was therefore ingeniously passive and almost imaginative ly docile she was careful even to moderate the eagerness with which he assented the Isabel's propositions and which might have implied that she could have thought otherwise she never interrupted never asked social questions and although she delighted an approbation to the point of turning pale when it came to her never held out her hand for it she only looked toward it wistfully an attitude which as she grew older made her eyes the prettiest in the world when during the second winter a Palazzo Rock an era she began to go to parties to dances she always at a reasonable hour unless mrs. Osmond should be tired was the first to propose departure Isabel appreciated the sacrifice of the late dances for she knew her little companion had a passionate pleasure in this exercise taking her steps to the music like a conscientious fairy society moreover had no drawbacks for her her she liked even the tiresome parts the heat of ballrooms the dullness of the dinners the crush at the door the akward waiting for the carriage during the day in this vehicle beside her stepmother she sat at a small fixed appreciative posture bending forward and faintly smiling as if she had been taken to drive for the first time on the day I speak of they had been driven out of one of the gates of the city and at the end of half an hour had left the carriage to await them by the roadside while they walked away over the short grass of the Campania which even in the winter months is sprinkled with delicate flowers this was an almost daily habit with Isabelle who was fond of a walk and had a swift length of step though not so swifter one is on her first coming to Europe it was not the form of exercise that pansy loved best but she liked it because she liked everything and she moved with the shorter undulation beside her father's wife who afterwards on their return to Rome paid a tribute to her preferences by making the circuit of the pension or the villa borghese she had gathered a handful of flowers in a sunny Hollow far from the walls of Rome and on reaching Palazzo Rocca Neda she went straight to her room to put them into water Isabelle passed into the drawing room the one she herself usually occupied the second and order from the large antechamber which was entered from the staircase an in which even Gilbert Osmonds rich devices had not been able to correct the look of rather grand new d'they just beyond the threshold of the drawing-room she stopped short the reason for her doing so being that she had received an impression the impression had in strictness nothing unprecedented but she felt it is something new and the sound business of her step gave her time to take in the scene before she interrupted it Madame Mara was there in her bonnet and Gilbert Osmond was talking to her for a minute they were where she had come in Isabel had often seen that before certainly but what she had not seen or at least had not noticed was that their colloquy had for the moment converted itself into a sort of familiar silence from which she instantly perceived that her entrance would startle them mother Merrill was standing on the rug a little way from the fire Osmund was in a deep chair leaning back and looking at her her head was erect as usual but her eyes were bent on his what struck Isabel first that he was sitting while madam Merrill stood there was an anomaly in this that arrested her then she perceived that they had arrived at a desultory pause in their exchange of ideas and were musing face to face with the freedom of old friends who sometimes exchanged ideas without uttering lemma there was nothing to shock in this they were old friends in fact but the thing made an image lasting only a moment like a sudden flicker of light their relative positions their absorbed mutual gaze struck her as something detected but it was all over by the time she had fairly seen it Madame Errol had seen her and had welcomed her without moving her husband on the other hand and instantly jumped up he presently murmured something about wanting a walk and after having asked her visitor to excuse him left the room I came to see you thinking you would have come in and as you hadn't I waited for you Madame Merrill said didn't he ask you to sit down Isabelle asked with a smile mother Maher looked about her ah it's very true I was going away you must stay now certainly I came for a reason I've something on my mind I've told you that before Isabelle said that it takes something extraordinary to bring you to this house and you know what I've told you that whether I come or whether I stay away I've always the same motive the affection I bear you yes you've told me that you look just now as if you didn't believe it said Madame mayor ah Isabel answered the profundity of your motives that's the last thing I doubt you doubt sooner the sincerity of my words Isabelle shook her head gravely I know you've always been kind to me as often as you would let me you don't always take it then one has to let you alone it's not to do you a kindness however that I've come today it's quite another affair I've come to get rid of the trouble of my own to make it over to you I've been talking to your husband about it I'm surprised at that he doesn't like troubles especially other people's I know very well but neither do you I suppose at any rate whether you knew or not you must help me it's about poor mr. rosier ah said Isabelle reflectively it's his trouble then not yours he has succeeded in saddling me with it he comes to see me 10 times a week to talk about pansy yes he wants to marry her I know all about it Madame Errol hesitated I gathered from your husband that perhaps you didn't how should he know what I know he has never spoken to me of the matter it's probably because he doesn't know how to speak of it it's nevertheless the sort of question in which he's rarely at fault yes because there's a general thing he knows perfectly well what to think today he doesn't haven't you been telling him Isabelle asked Madame al give a bright voluntary smile do you know you're a little dry yes I can't help it mr. Boger has also talked to me in that there's some reason you're so near the child ah San Isabel for all the comfort I've given him if you think me dry I what he thinks I believe he thinks you can do more than you have done I can do nothing you can do more at least than I I don't know what mysterious connection he may have discovered between me and pansy but he came to me from the first as if I held his fortunate in my hand now he keeps coming back to spur me up to know what hope there is to pour out his feelings he's very much in love said Isabelle very much for him very much for pansy you might say as well Madame Errol dropped her eyes a moment don't you think she's attractive the dearest little person possible but very limited she ought to be all the easier for mr. Rossiter love mr. Roche is not unlimited no said Isabelle he has about the extent of one's pocket-handkerchief the small ones with lace borders her humour had lately turned a good deal to sarcasm but in her moment she was ashamed of exercising it on so innocent and object as pansy suitor he's very kind very honest she presently added and he's not such a fool as he seems he assures me that she delights in him said Madame Errol I don't know I've not asked her you've never sounded her a little it's not my place it's her father's oh you're too literal said Madame Errol I misjudged for myself mother mail gave her smile again it isn't easy to help you to help me said Isabelle very seriously what do you mean it's easy to displease you don't you see how wise I am to be careful I notify you at any rate as I notified Osmond that I wash my hands of the love affairs of miss pansy and mr. Edward rosier Jeanne Polly a moi I can't talk to Pansear about him especially added madam ale as I don't think him a paragon of husbands Isabelle reflected a little after which with a smile you don't wash your hands then she said after which again she added in another tone you can't you're too much interested mara mara slowly rose she had given Isabelle a look as rapid as the intimation that had gleamed before our heroine a few moments before only this time the latter saw nothing ask him the next time and you'll see I can't ask him he has ceased to come to the house Gilbert has let him know that he's not welcome ah yes said mother mail I forgot that though it's the burden of his lamentation he says Osmund has insulted him all the same she went on Osman doesn't dislike him so much as he thinks she had got up as if to close the conversation but she lingered looking about her and had evidently more to say Isabel perceived this and even saw the point she had in view but Isabel also had her own reasons for not opening the way that must have pleased him if you told him she answered smiling certainly I've told him as far as that goes I've encouraged him I preached patience have said that his case isn't desperate if he'll only hold his tongue and be quiet unfortunately he has taken it into his head to be jealous jealous jealous of Lord Warburton who he says is always here Isabel who was tired had remained sitting but at this she also rose ah she exclaimed simply moving slowly to the fireplace mother Meir observed her she passed and while she stood a moment before the mantel glass and pushed into its place a wandering dress of hair poor mr. rose who keeps saying there's nothing impossible in Lord Warburton is falling in love with pansy mother Merrill went on Isabelle was silent a little she turned away from the glass it's true there's nothing impossible she returned at last gravely and more gently so I've had to admit to mr. brochure so – your husband thinks that I don't know ask him and you'll see I shall not ask him I said Isabelle pardon me I forgot you had pointed that out of course madam L added you've had infinitely more observation of Lord Warburton's behaviour than I I see no reason why I shouldn't tell you that he likes my stepdaughter very much madam Errol gave one of her quick looks again likes her you mean as mr. rosier means I don't know how mr. Roesch a means but Lord Warburton has let me know that he's charmed with pansy had you never told Osmond this observation was immediate precipitate it almost bursts from Madame Merrill's lips Isabelle's eyes rested on her I suppose he'll know in time Lord Warburton has a tongue and knows how to express himself Madame mayor instantly became conscious that she had spoken more quickly than usual and the reflection brought the colour to her cheek she gave the treacherous impulse time to subside and then said as if she had been thinking it over a little that would be better than marrying poor mr. rosier much better I think it would be very delightful it would be a great marriage it's really very kind of him very kind of him to drop his eyes on a simple little girl I don't see that it's very good of you but after all pansy Osmond after all pansy osment's the most attractive person he has ever known Isabel exclaimed Madame al stared and indeed she was justly bewildered ah a moment ago I thought you seemed rather to disparage her I said she was limited and so she is and so is lord Warburton so are we all if you come to that if it's no more than pan she deserves all the better but if she fixes their affections on mr. rosier I won't admit that she deserves it that will be too perverse mr. Brosius and nuisance Isabel cried abruptly I quite agree with you and I'm delighted to know that I'm not expected to feed his flame for the future when he calls on me my door shall be close to him and gathering her mantle together but a male prepared to depart she was checked however on her progress to the door by an in consequence of El all the same you know be kind to him she lifted her shoulders and eyebrows and stood looking at her friend I don't understand your contradictions decidedly I shan't be kind to him for it will be a false kindness I want to see her married to Lord Warburton you had better wait till he asks her if what you say is true he'll ask her especially said by the mayor in a moment if you make him if I make him it's quite in your power you've great influence with him Isabel frowned a little where did you learn that mrs. touch' told me not you never said madam Merrill smiling I certainly never told you anything of the sort you might have done so so far as opportunity went when we were by way of being confidential with each other but you really told me very little I've often thought so since Isabel had thought so too and sometimes with a certain satisfaction but she didn't admit it now perhaps because she wished not appear to exult in it you seem to have had an excellent informant in my aunt she simply returned she let me know you had declined an offer of marriage from Lord Warburton because she was greatly vexed and was full of the subject of course I think you've done better in doing as you did but if you wouldn't marry Lord Warburton yourself make him the reparation of helping him to marry someone else Isabel listen to this with a face that persisted in not reflecting the bright expressiveness of modern males but in a moment she said reasonably and gently enough I should be very glad indeed if as regards pansy it could be arranged upon which her companion who seemed to regard this as a speech of good omen embraced her more tenderly than might have been expected and triumphantly withdrew end of chapter 40 chapters 41 and 42 of the portrait of a lady by Henry James this LibriVox recording is in the public domain chapter 41 Osman touched on this matter that evening for the first time coming very late into the drawing-room where she was sitting alone they had spent the evening at home and pansy had gone to bed he himself had been sitting since dinner in a small apartment in which he had arranged his books and which he called his study a 10 o'clock Lord Warburton had come in as he always did when he knew from Isobel that she was to be at home he was going somewhere else and he sat for half an hour Isabel after asking him for news at Ralph said very little to him on purpose she wished him to talk with his stepdaughter she pretended to read she even went after a little to the piano she asked herself if she might leave the room she had come little by little to think well of the idea of pansies becoming the wife of the master of beautiful Lockley though at first it had not presented itself in a manner to excite her enthusiasm Madame mayor that afternoon had applied the match to an accumulation of inflammable material when Isabel was unhappy she always looked about her partly from impulse and partly by theory for some form of positive exertion she could never rid herself of the sense that unhappiness was the state of disease of suffering as opposed to doing to do it hardly matter and what were there for being escaped perhaps in some degree a remedy besides she wished to convince herself that she had done everything possible to content her husband she was determined not to be haunted by visions of his wife's limpness under appeal it will please him greatly to see pansy married to an English nobleman and justly please him since this nobleman was so sound a character it seemed Isabel that if she could make it her duty to bring about such an event she should play the part of a good wife she wanted to be that she wanted to be able to believe sincerely and with proof of it that she had been that then such an undertaking had other recommendations it would occupy her and she desired occupation it would even amuse her and if she could really amuse herself she perhaps might be saved lastly it would be a service to Lord Warburton who evidently pleased himself greatly with the charming girl it was a little weird that he should being what he was but there was no accounting for such impressions pansy might captivate anyone anyone at least would Lord Warburton Isabel would have thought her too small too slight perhaps even too artificial for that it was always a little of the doll about her and that was not what he had been looking for still who could say what men ever were looking for they looked for what they found they knew would please them only when they saw it no theory was valid in such matters and nothing was more unaccountable or more natural than anything else if he had cared for her it might seem odd that he should care for fancy who was so different but he had not cared for her so much as he had supposed or if he had he had completely got over it and it was natural that as that affair had failed he should think something of quite another sort might succeed enthusiasm as I say had not come at first to Isabel but it came today and made her feel almost happy it was astonishing what happiness she could still find in the idea of procuring a pleasure for her husband it was a pity however then edward rosier had crossed the path at this reflection the light that had suddenly gleamed upon that path lost something of its brightness isabel was unfortunately as sure that pansy thought mr. rosier the nicest of all the young men for sure as if she had held an interview with her on the subject it was very tiresome she should be so sure when she had carefully abstained from informing herself almost is tiresome as that poor mr. Rocha should have taken it into his own head he was certainly inferior to Lord Warburton it was not the difference in fortune so much as the difference in men the young American was really so lighter weight he was much more the type of the useless fine gentleman than the English nobleman it was true that there was no particular reason why pansy should marry a statesman still if a statesman admired her that was his affair and she would make a perfect little pearl of Epirus it may seem to the reader that mrs. Osmond had grown of a sudden strangely cynical for she ended by saying to herself that this difficulty could probably be arranged an impediment that was embodied and poor rosier could not anyhow present itself as a dangerous one there were always means of leveling secondary obstacles Isabel was perfectly aware that she had not taken the measure of pansies tenacity which might prove to be inconveniently great but she inclined to see her as rather letting go under suggestion that is clutching under deprecation since she had certainly the Faculty of ascendant developed in a very much higher degree than that of protest she would cling yes she would cling but it really mattered to her very little what she clung to Lord Warburton would do as well as mr. rosier especially if she seemed quite to like him she had expressed this sentiment to Isabel without a single reservation she had said she thought his conversation most interesting he had told her all about India his manner to pansy had been of the rightest and easiest Isabel noticed that for herself as she also observed that he talked to her not in the least in a patronizing way reminding her himself of her youth and simplicity but quite as if she understood his subjects with that sufficiency with which he followed those of the fashionable operas this went far enough for attention to the music and the bear toan he was careful only to be kind he was as kind as he had been to another fluttered young at Garden Court a girl might well be touched by that she remembered how she herself had been touched and said to herself that if she had been as simple as fancy the impression would have been deeper still she had not been simple when she refused him that operation had been as complicated as later her acceptance of Osmond had been pansy however in spite of her simplicity really did understand and was glad that Lord Warburton should talk to her not about her partners in bouquets but about the state of Italy the condition of the peasantry the famous Grist tax the pellagra his impressions of Roman society she looked at him as she drew her needle through her tapestry with sweet submissive eyes and when she lowered them she gave little quiet oblique glances of his person his hands his feet his clothes as if she were considering him even his person Isabel might have reminded her was better than mr. Odgers but Isabelle contented herself in such moments with wondering where this gentleman was he came no more to Palazzo de manera it was surprising as I say the hold it had taken of her the idea of assisting her husband to be pleased it was surprising for a variety of reasons which I shall presently touch upon on the evening I speak of my lord Warburton sat there she had been on the point of taking the great step of going out of the room and leaving her companions alone I say the great step because it was in this light the Gilbert Osmond would have regarded it and Isabella was trying as much as possible to take her husband's view she succeeded after a fashion but she fell short of the point I mentioned after all she couldn't rise to it something held her and made this impossible it was not exactly that it would be baser insidious for women as the Jan thing practiced such maneuvers with the perfectly good conscience an Isabel was instinctively much more true than false to the common genius of her sex there was a vague doubt that interposed a sense that she was not quite sure so she remained in the drawing room and after a while Lord Warburton went off to his party of which he promised to give pansy a full account on the morrow after he had gone she wondered if she had prevented something which would have happened if she had absenting herself for a quarter of an hour and then she pronounced always mentally that when their distinguished visitor should wish her to go away he would easily find means to let her know it pains he said nothing whatever about him after he had gone and Isabel studiously said nothing but she had taken a vow of reserve until after he should have declared himself he was a little longer in coming to this than might seem to accord with the description he had given Isabel of his feelings pansy went to bed and Isabel had to admit that she could not now guess what her stepdaughter was thinking of her transparent little companion was for the moment not to be seen through she remained alone looking at the fire until at the end of half an hour her husband came in he moved about a while in silence and then sat down he looked at the fire like herself but she now had transferred her eyes from the flickering flame and the chimney to Osmonds face and she watched him while he kept his silence covert observation had become a habit with her an instinct of which it is not an exaggeration to say that it was allied to that of self-defence had made it habitual she wished as much as possible to know his thoughts to know what he would say beforehand so that she might prepare her answer preparing answers had not been her strong point of old she had rarely in this respect got further than thinking afterwards of clever things she might have said but she had learned caution learned it in a measure from her husband's very countenance it was the same face she had look into with eyes equally earnest perhaps but less penetrating on the terrace of a Florentine villa except that Osmond had grown slightly stout who since his marriage he still however might strike one is very distinguished as Lord Warburton been here he presently asked yes he stayed half an hour did he see pansy yes he sat on the sofa beside her did he talk with her much he talked almost only to her it seems to me he's attentive isn't that what you call it I don't call it anything said Isabelle I waited for you to give it a name that's a consideration you don't always show awesome and answered after a moment I've determined this time to try and act as you'd like I've so often failed of that awesome and turned his head slowly looking at her are you trying to quarrel with me no I'm trying to live at peace nothing's more easy you know I don't quarrel myself what do you call it when you try to make me angry Isabelle asked I don't try if I've done so it has been the most natural thing in the world moreover I'm not in the least trying now Isabelle smiled it doesn't matter I've determined never to be angry again that's an excellent resolve your temper isn't good no it's not good she pushed away the book she had been reading and took up the band of tapestry pansy had left on the table that's partly why I've not spoken to you about this business of my daughter's Osmond said designating pansy in the manner that was most frequent with him I was afraid I should encounter opposition that you two would have views on the subject I've sent little rosier about his business you were afraid I plead for mr. brochure haven't you noticed that I've never spoken to you of him I've never given you a chance we've so little conversation in these days I know he was an old friend of yours yes he's an old friend of mine Isabelle cared little more for him than for the tapestry that she held in her hand but it was true that he was an old friend and that with her husband she felt a desire not to extenuate such ties he had a way of expressing contempt for them which fortified her loyalty to them even when as in the present case they were in themselves insignificant she sometimes felt a sort of passion of tenderness for memories which had no other merit then that they belong to her unmarried life but as regards pansy she added in a moment I've given him no encouragement that's fortunate Osmund observed fortunate for me I suppose you mean for him it matters little there's no use talking of him Osmond said as I tell you I've turned him out yes but a lover outsides always a lover he sometimes even more one mr. rose you still has hope he's welcome to the comfort of it my daughter has only to sit perfectly quiet to become lady Warburton should you like that Isobel asked with the simplicity which was not so affected as it may appear she was resolved to assume nothing for Osmond had a way of unexpectedly turning her assumptions against her the intensity with which he would like his daughter to become lady Warburton had been the very basis of her own recent reflections but that was for herself she would recognize nothing until Osmond should have put it into words she would not take for granted with him that he thought Lord Warburton a prize worth an amount of effort that was unusual among the Osmonds it was Gilbert's Khan than titillation that for him nothing in life was surprised that he treated as from equal to equal with the most distinguished people in the world and that his daughter had only to look about her to pick out a prince it cost him therefore elapsed from consistency to say explicitly that he yearned for Lord Warburton and that if this nobleman should escape his equivalent might not be found with which moreover it was another of his customary implications that he was never inconsistent he would have liked his wife to glide over the point but strangely enough now that she was face to face with him and although an hour before she had almost invented a scheme for pleasing him Isabelle was not accommodating would not glide and yet she knew exactly the effect on his mind of her question it would operate as the humiliation never mind he was terribly capable of humiliating her all the more so that he was also capable of waiting for great opportunities and of showing sometimes an almost unaccountable indifference to small ones Isabel perhaps took a small opportunity because she would not have availed herself of a great one ultimate at present acquitted himself very honorably I should like it extremely it will be a great marriage and then Lord Warburton has another advantage he's an old friend of yours it would be pleasant for him to come into the family it's very odd Pansy's admirers should all be your old friends it's natural that they should come to see me in coming to see me they see pansy seeing her it's natural they should fall in love with her so I think but you're not bound to do so if she should marry Lord Warburton I should be very glad Isobel went on frankly he's an excellent man you say however that she is only to sit perfectly still perhaps she won't sit perfectly still if she loses mr. Rocha she may jump up Osment appeared to give no heed to this he sat gazing at the fire pants II would like to be a great lady he remarked in a moment with a certain tenderness of tone she wishes above all to please he added – please mr. Rocha perhaps no – please me me – a little I think said Isabelle yes she has a great opinion of you but you'll do what I like if you're sure of that it's very well she went on meantime said Osmond I should like our distinguished visitor to speak he has spoken to me he told me that it would be a great pleasure to him to believe she could care for him Osmond turned his head quickly but at first he said nothing then why didn't you tell me that he asked sharply there was no opportunity you know how we live I've taken the first chance that is offered did you speak to him a brochure oh yes a little that was hardly necessary I thought it best he should know so that so that an Isabel paused so that what so that he might act accordingly so that he might back out you mean know so that he might advance while there's yet time that's not the effect it seems to have had you should have patience that Isabel you know Englishmen are shy this one's not he was not when he made love to you she had been afraid Osmund would speak of that it was disagreeable to her I beg your pardon he was extremely so she returned he answered nothing for some time he took up a book and fingered the pages while she sat silent and occupied herself with pansies tapestry you must have a great deal of influence with him husband went on at last the moment you really wish you can bring him to the point this was more offensive still but she felt the great naturalness of his saying it and it was after all extremely like what she had said to herself why should I have influence she asked what have I ever done to put him under an obligation to me you refused to marry him sin Ostman with his eyes on this book I must not presume too much on that she replied he threw down the book presently and got up standing before the fire with his hands behind him well I hold that it lies in your hands I shall leave it there with a little goodwill you may manage it think that over and remember how much I count on you he waited a little to give her time to answer but she answered nothing and he presently strolled out of the room end of chapter 41 chapter 42 she had answered nothing because his words have put the situation before her and she was absorbed in looking at it there was something in them that suddenly made vibrations deep so that she had been afraid to trust herself to speak after he had gone she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes and for a long time far end of the night and still further she sat in the still drawing room given up to her meditation a servant came in to attend to the fire and she bad him bring fresh candles and then go to bed Osmund had told her to think of what he had said and she did so indeed and of many other things too suggestion from another that she had a definite influence on Lord Warburton this had given her the start that accompanies unexpected recognition was it true that there was something still between them that might be a handle to make him declare himself to fancy a susceptibility on his part to approval a desire to do what would please her Isabelle had hitherto not asked yourself the question because she had not been forced but now that it was directly presented to her she saw the answer and the answer frightened her yes there was something something on Lord Warburton's part when he had first come to Rome she believed the link that United them to be completely snapped but little by little she had been reminded that it had yet a palpable existence it was as thin as a hair but there were moments when she seemed to hear it vibrate for herself nothing was changed what she once thought of him she always thought it was needless this feeling should change it seemed to her in fact a better feeling than ever but he had he still the idea that she might be more to him than other women and he's a wish to profit by the memory of the few moments of intimacy through which they had once passed Isabel knew she had read some of the signs of such a disposition but what were his hopes his pretensions and in what strange way were they mingled with his evidently very sincere appreciation of poor pansy was he in love with Gilbert Ozma's wife and if so what comfort did he expect to derive from it if he was in love with pansy he was not in love with her stepmother and if he was in love with her stepmother he was not in love with pansy was she to cultivate the advantage she possessed in order to make him commit himself to pansy knowing he would do so for her sake and not for the small creatures own was this the service her husband had asked of her this is any rate was the duty with which she found herself confronted from the moment she admitted to herself that her old friend had still an unaccredited it was not an agreeable task it was in fact a repulsive one she asked herself with dismay whether Lord War Britain were pretending to be in love with pansy in order to cultivate and love the satisfaction and what might be called other chances of this refinement of duplicity she presently acquitted him she preferred to believe him in perfect good faith but if his admiration for pansy were a delusion this was scarcely better than its being an affectation Isabelle wandered among these ugly possibilities until she had completely lost her way some of them as she suddenly encountered them seemed ugly enough then she broke out of the labyrinth rubbing her eyes and declared that her imagination surely did her little honor and that her husband's did him even less Lord Warburton was as disinterested as he need be and she was no more to him than she need wish she would rest upon this till the contrary should be proved proved more effectually than by a cynical animation of Osmonds such a resolution however brought her this evening but little peace for her soul was haunted with terrors which crowded to the foreground of thought as quickly as the place was made for them what had suddenly set them into lively emotion she hardly knew and listed with a strange impression she had received in the afternoon of her husband's being in more direct communication with Madame era than she suspected that impression came back to her from time to time and now she wondered it had never come before besides this her short interview with Osmond half an hour ago was a striking example of his faculty for making everything whither that he touched spoiling everything for her that he looked at it was very well to undertake to give him a proof of loyalty the real fact was that the knowledge of his expecting a thing raised a presumption against it It was as if he had had the evil eye as if his presence were a blight and his favor a misfortune was the fault in himself or only in the deep mistrust she had conceived for him this mistrust was now the clearest result of their short married life a Gulf had opened between them over which they looked at each other with eyes that were on either side a declaration of the deception suffered it was a strange opposition of the like of which he had never dreamed an opposition in which the vital principle of the one was the thing of contempt to the other it was not her fault she had practiced no deception she had only admired and believed she had taken all the first steps in the purest confidence and then she had suddenly found the infinite Vista of a multiplied life to be a dark narrow alley with the dead wall at the end instead of leading to high places of happiness from which the world would seem to lie below one so that one could look down with a sense of exaltation and advantage and judge and choose and pity it led rather downward and earthward into realms of restriction and depression where the sound of other lives easier and freer was heard as from above and where it served to deepen the feeling of failure it was her deep distrust of her husband this was what darkened the world that is a sentiment easily indicated but not so easily explained and so composite in his character that much time and still more suffering had been needed to bring it to its actual perfection suffering with Isabel was an active condition it was not a chill a stupor a despair it was a passion of thought of speculation of response to every pressure she flattered herself that she had kept her failing faith to herself however but no one suspected it but osmond oh he knew it and there were times when she thought he enjoyed it it had come gradually it was not till the first year of their life together so admirably intimate at first and closed that she had taken the alarm then the shadows had begun to gather It was as if Osmond deliberately almost malignantly had put out the lights one by one the dusk at first was vague and thin and she could still see her way in it but it's steadily deepened and if now and again it had occasionally lifted there were certain corners of her prospect that were impenetrably black these shadows were not an emanation from her own mind she was very sure of that she had done her best to be just and temperate to see only the truth they were apart they were a kind of creation and consequence of her husband's very presence they were not his misdeeds his turpitude she accused him of nothing that is but of one thing which was not a crime she knew of no wrong he had done he was not violent he was not cruel she simply believed he hated her that was all she accused him of and the miserable part of it was precisely that it was not a crime for against a crime she might have found redress he had discovered that she was so different that she was not what he had believed she would prove to be he had thought at first he could change her and she had done her best to be what he would like but she was after all herself she couldn't help that and now there was no use pretending wearing a mask or a dress for he knew her and had made up his mind she was not afraid of him she had no apprehension he would hurt her for the ill will he bore her was not of that sort he would if possible never give her a pretext never put himself in the wrong Isabel scanning the future with dry fixed eyes so that he would have the better of her there she would give him many protects she would often put herself in the wrong there were times when she almost pitied him for if she had not deceived him in intention she understood how completely she must have done so in fact she had effaced herself when he first knew her she had made herself small pretending there was less of her than there really was it was because she had been under the extraordinary charm that he on his side had taken pains to put forth he was not changed he had not disguised himself during the year of his courtship any more than she but she had seen only half his nature then as one saw the disc of the moon when it was partly masked by the shadow of the earth she saw the full moon now she saw the whole man she had kept still as it were so that he should have a free field and yet in spite of this she had mistaken a part with a whole ah she had been immensely under the charm it had not passed away it was there still she still knew perfectly what it was that made Osmund delightful when he chose to be he had wished to be when he made love to her and as she had wished to be charmed it was not wonderful he had succeeded he had succeeded because he had been sincere it never occurred to her now to deny him that he admired her he had told her why because she was the most imaginative woman he had known it might very well have been true for during those months she had imagined a world of things that had no substance she had had a more wondrous vision of him fed through charmed senses and Oh such a stirred fancy she had not read him write a certain combination of features had touched her and in them she had seen the most striking of figures that he was poor and lonely and yet that somehow he was Noble left was what an interested her and seemed to give her her opportunity there had been an indefinable beauty about him in his situation in his mind in his face she had felt at the same time that he was helpless and ineffectual but the feeling had taken the form of a tenderness which was the very flower of Specht he was like a skeptical voyager strolling on the beach while he waited for the tide looking seaward yet not putting to sea it was in all this she had found her occasion she would launch his boat for him she would be his Providence it would be a good thing to love him and she had loved him she had so anxiously and yet so ardently given herself a good deal for what she founded him but a good deal also for what she brought him and what might enrich the gift but she looked back at the passion of those four weeks she perceived in it a kind of maternal strain the happiness of a woman who felt that she was a contributor that she came with charged hands but for her money as she saw today she would never have done it and then her mind wandered off to poor mr. touchid sleeping under the English turf the beneficent author of infinite woe for this was the fantastic fact at bottom her money had been a burden had been on her mind which was filled with the desire to transfer the weight of it to some other conscience to some more prepared receptacle what would lighten her own conscience more effectually there to make it over to the man with the best taste in the world unless she should have given it to a hospital there would have been nothing better she could do with it and there was no charitable institution in which she had been as much interested as in Gilbert Osmond he would use her fortune in a way that would make her think better of it and rub off a certain grow sness attaching to the good luck of an unexpected inheritance there had been nothing very delicate in inheriting 70,000 pounds the delicacy had been all in mr. touch ships leaving them to her but to marry Gilbert Osmond and bring him such a portion in that there would be delicacy for her as well there would be less for him that was true but that was his affair and if he loved her he wouldn't object to her being rich had he not had the courage to say he was glad she was rich Isabel's cheek burned when she asked herself if she had really married on a factitious theory in order to do something finally appreciable with her money but he was able to answer quickly enough that this was only half the story it was because the certain order took possession of her a sense of the earnestness of his affection and a delight and his personal qualities he was better than anyone else this supreme conviction had filled her life for months and enough of it still remained to prove to her that she could not have done otherwise the finest in the sense of being the subtlest manly organism she had ever known had become her property and the recognition of her having but to put out her hands and take it had been originally a sort of act of devotion she had not been mistaken about the beauty of his mind she knew that organ perfectly now she had lived with it she had lived in it almost it appeared to have become her habitation if she had been captured it had taken a firm hand to Caesar that reflection perhaps had some worth a mind more ingenious more pliant more cultivated more trained to admirable exercises she had not encountered and it was this exquisite instrument she had now to reckon with she lost herself an infinite dismay when she thought of the magnitude of his deception it was a wonder perhaps in view of this that he didn't hate her more she remembered perfectly the first sign he had given of it it had been like the bell that was to ring up the curtain upon the real drama of their life he said to her one day that she had too many ideas and that she must get rid of them he had told her that already before their marriage but then she had not noticed it it had come back to her only afterwards this time she might well have noticed it because he had really meant it the words had been nothing superficially but when in the light of deepening expand she had looked into them they had appeared portentous he had really meant it he would have had liked her to have nothing of her own but her pretty appearance she had known she had too many ideas she had more even than he had supposed many more than she had expressed to him when he had asked her to marry him yes she hadn't been hypocritical she had liked him so much she had too many ideas for herself but that was just what one married for to share them with someone else one couldn't pluck them up by the roots though of course one might suppress them be careful not to utter them it had not been this however his objecting to her opinions this had been nothing she had no opinions none that she would not have been eager to sacrifice in the satisfaction of feeling herself loved for it what he had meant had been the whole thing her character the way she felt the way she judged this was what she had kept in reserve this was what he had not known until he had found himself with the door closed behind as it were set down face to face with it she had a certain way of looking at life which he took as a personal offence heaven knew that now at least it was a very humble accommodating way the strange thing was that she should not have suspected from the first that his own had been so different she had thought it so large so enlightened so perfectly that of an honest man and a gentleman hadn't he assured her that he had no superstitions no dull limitations no prejudices that had lost their freshness hadn't he all the appearance of a man living in the open air of the world indifferent to small considerations caring only for truth and knowledge and believing the two intelligent people ought to look for them together and whether they found them or not find at least some happiness in the search he had told her he loved the conventional but there was a sense in which they seemed a noble death Larry in that sense that of the love of harmony and order and decency and of all the stately offices of life she went with him freely and his warning had contained nothing ominous but when as the months had elapsed she had followed him further and he had led her into the mansion of his own habitation then then she had seen where she really was she could live it over again the incredulous terror with which he had taken the measure of her dwelling between those four walls she had lived ever since they were to surround her for the rest of her life it was the house of darkness the house of dumbness the house of suffocation Ottomans Beautiful Mind he gave it neither light nor air Osmonds beautiful mind indeed seemed to peep down from a small high window and marketer of course it had not been physical suffering for physical suffering there might have been a remedy she could come and go she had her Liberty her husband was perfectly polite he took himself so seriously it was something appalling under all his culture his cleverness his amenity under his good-nature his facility his knowledge of life is ëget ism lay hidden like a serpent in a bank of flowers she had taken him seriously but she had not taken him so seriously as that how could she especially when she had known him better she wished to think of him as he thought of himself as the first gentleman in Europe so it was that she had thought of him at first and that indeed was the reason she had married him but when she began to see what it implied she drew back there was more in the bond that she had meant to put her name to it implied a sovereign contempt for everyone but some three or four very exalted people whom he envied and for everything in the world but half a dozen ideas of his own that was very well she would have gone with him even there long distance for he pointed out to her so much of the baseness and shabby nosov life opened her eyes so wide to the stupidity the depravity the ignorance of mankind that she had been properly impressed with the infinite vulgarity of things and of the virtue of keeping oneself unspotted by it but this base ignoble world had appeared was after all what one was to live for one was to keep it forever in one's eye in order not to enlighten or convert or redeem it but to extract from it some recognition of one's own superiority on the one hand it was despicable but on the other it afforded a standard Osment had talked to Isabel about his renunciation his indifference the ease with which he dispensed with the usual age to success and all this had seemed to her admirable she had thought at a grand indifference an exquisite independence but indifference was really the last of his qualities she had never seen anyone who thought so much of others for herself avowedly the world had always interested her and the study of her fellow creatures had been her constant passion she would have been willing however to renounce all her curiosities and sympathies for the sake of a personal life if the person concerned had only been able to make her believe it was again this at least was her prescient conviction and the thing certainly would have been easier than to care for society as awesome and cared for it he was unable to live without it and she saw that he had never really done so he had looked at it out of his window even when he appeared to be most attached from it he had his ideal just as she had tried to have hers only it was strange that people should seek for justice in such different quarters his ideal was the conception of high prosperity and propriety of the aristocratic life which he now saw he deemed himself all in essence at least to have led he had never lapsed from it for an hour he would never have recovered from the shame of doing so that again was very well here too she would have agreed but they attached such different ideas such different associations and desires to the same formulas her notion of the aristocratic life was simply the union of great knowledge with great liberty the knowledge that would give one a sense of duty and the Liberty a sense of enjoyment but for Osment it was altogether a thing of forms a conscious calculated attitude he was fond of the old the consecrated the transmitted so was she but she pretended to do what she chose with it he had an immense esteem for tradition he had told her once that the best thing in the world was to have it but that if one was so unfortunate as not to have it one must immediately proceed to make it she knew that he meant by this that she hadn't it but that he was better off though from what source he had derived his traditions she never learned he had a very large collection of them however that was very certain and after a little she began to see the great thing was to act in accordance with them the great thing not only for him but for her Isabel had an undefined conviction that to serve for another person than their proprietor traditions must be of a thoroughly superior kind but she nevertheless assented to this intimation that she too must march to the stately music that floated down from unknown periods and her husband's past she who of old had been so free of step so desultory so devious so much the reverse of processional there were certain things they must do a certain posture they must take certain people they must know and not know when she saw this rigid system close about her draped though it was in pictured tapestries that sense of darkness and suffocation of which I have spoken took possession of her she seemed shut up with an odor of mold and decay she had resisted of course at first very humorously ironically tenderly then as the situation grew more serious eagerly passionately pleadingly she had pleaded the course of freedom of going as they chose of not caring for the aspect and denomination of their life the cause of other instincts and longings of quite another ideal then it was that her husband's personality touched as it ever had been stepped forth and stood erect the things she had said were answered only by his scorn and she could see he was inevitably ashamed of her what did he think of her that she was base vulgar ignoble he at least knew now that she had no traditions it had not been in his provision of things but she should reveal such flatness her sentiments were worthy of a radical newspaper or a Unitarian preacher the real offence as she ultimately perceived was her having a mind of her own at all her mind was to be his attached to his own like a small garden plot to a deer park he would rake the soil gently and water the flowers he would weed the beds and gather an occasional nosegay it would be a pretty piece of property for a proprietor already far-reaching he didn't wish her to be stupid on the contrary it was because she was clever that she had pleased him but he expected her intelligence to operate altogether in his favor and so far from desiring her mind to be a blank he had flattered himself that it would be richly receptive he had expected his wife to feel with him and for him to enter into his opinions his ambitions his preferences and Isabel was obliged to confess that this was no great insolence on the part of a man so accomplished and a husband originally at least so tender but there were certain things she could never take in to begin with they were hideously unclean she was not a daughter of the Puritans but for all that she believed in such a thing as chastity and even as decency it would appear that Osman was far from doing anything of the sort some of his traditions made her push back her skirts did all women have lovers did they all lie and even the best have their price were there only three or four that didn't deceive their husbands when Isabelle heard such things she felt a greater scorn for them than for the gossip of a village parlor a scorn that kept its freshness in a very tainted air there was the taint of her sister-in-law did her husband judge only by the countess jaimini this lady very often lied and she had practiced deceptions that were not simply verbal it was enough to find these facts assumed among Osmonds traditions it was enough without giving them such a general extension it was her scorn of his assumptions it was this that made him draw himself up he had plenty of contempt and it was proper his wife should be as well furnished but that she should turn the hot light of her disdain upon his own conception of things this was the danger he had not allowed for he believed he should have regulated her emotions before she came to it and Isabelle could easily imagine how his ears had scorched on his discovering that he had been too confident when one had a wife who gave one that sensation there was nothing left but to hate her she was morally certain now that this feeling of hatred which at first had been a refuge and a refreshment had become the occupation and comfort of his life the feeling was deep because it was sincere he had had the revelation that she could after all dispense with him if to herself the idea was startling if it presented itself at first as a kind of infidelity a capacity for pollution what infinite effect might it not be expected to have had upon him it was very simple he despised her she had no traditions and the moral horizon of a Unitarian minister poor Isabelle who had never been able to understand Unitarianism this was the certitude she had been living with now for a time that she had ceased to measure what was coming what was before them that was her constant question what would he do what was she to do when a man hated his wife what did it lead to she didn't hate him that she was sure of for every little while she felt a passionate wish to give him a pleasant surprise very often however she felt afraid and it used to come over her as I have intimated that she had deceived him at the very first they were strangely married at all events and it was a horrible life until that morning he had scarcely spoken to her for a week his manner was as dry as a burned-out fire she knew there was a special reason he was displeased and Ralph touchid staying on in Rome he thought she saw too much of her cousin he had told her a week before it was indecent she should go to him at his hotel he would have said more than this if Ralph's invalid state had not appeared to make it brutal to denounce him but having had to contain himself but only deepened his disgust Isabelle read all this as she would have read the hour on the clock face she was as perfectly aware that the sight of her interest in her cousin stirred her husband's rage as if Osmond had locked her into a room which she was sure was what he wanted to do it was her honest belief that on the whole she was not defiant but she certainly couldn't pretend to be indifferent to Ralph she believed he was dying at last and that she should never see him again and this gave her a tenderness for him that she had never known before nothing was a pleasure to her now how could anything be a pleasure to a woman who knew that she had thrown away her life there was an everlasting weight on her heart there was a vivid light on everything but Ralph's little visit was a lamp in the darkness for the hour that she sat with him her ache for herself became somehow her ache for him she felt today as if he had been her brother she had never had a brother but if she had and she were in trouble and he were dying he would be dear to her as ralph was oh yes if Gilbert was jealous of her there was perhaps some reason it didn't make Gilbert look better to sit for half an hour with Ralph it was not that they talked of him it was not that she complained his name was never uttered between them it was simply that ralph was generous and that her husband was not there was something in Ralph's talk in his smile in the mere fact of his being in Rome that made the blasted circle around which he walked more spacious he made her feel the good of the world he made her feel what might have been he was after all as intelligent as osmond quite apart from his being better and thus it seemed to her an act of devotion to conceal her misery from him she concealed it elaborately she was perpetually in their talk hanging out curtains and arranging screams it lived before her again it had never had time to die that morning in the garden at Florence when he had warned her against Osmond she had only to close her eyes to see the place to hear his voice to feel the warm sweet air how could he have known what a mystery what a wonder of wisdom this intelligence is Gilbert he was much more intelligent to arrive at such a judgement as that Gilbert had never been so deep so just she had told him then that from her at least he should never know if he was right and this was what she was taking care of now it gave her plenty to do there was passion exaltation religion in it women find their religion sometimes in strange exercises an Isabel at present and playing a part before her cousin had an idea that she was doing him a kindness it would have been a kindness perhaps if he had been for a single instant Anoop as it was the kindness consisted mainly in trying to make him believe that he had once wounded her greatly and that the event had put him to shame but that as she was very generous and he was so ill she bore him no grudge and even considerately forbore to flaunt her happiness in his face Ralph smiled to himself as he lay on his sofa at this extraordinary form of consideration but he forgave her for having forgiven him she didn't wish him to have the pain of knowing she was unhappy that was the great thing and it didn't matter that such knowledge would have rather righted him for herself she lingered in the soundless saloon long after the fire had gone out there was no danger of her feeling the cold she was in a fever she heard the small hour strike and then the great ones but her vigil took no heed of time her mind assailed by visions within a state of extraordinary activity and her visions might as well come to her there where she sat up to meet them was on her pillow to make a mockery of rest as I have said she believed she was not defiant and what could be a better proof of it than that she should linger there half the night trying to persuade herself that there was no reason why pansy shouldn't be married as you would put a letter in the post office when the clock struck four she got up she was going to bed at last for the lamp had long since gone out and the candles burned down to their sockets but even then she stopped again in the middle of the room and stood there gazing at a remembrance that of her husband and not a Meryl unconsciously and familiarly associated end of chapter 42

1 thought on “Portrait of a Lady (version 3) | Henry James | Literary Fiction | Book | English | 11/15

  1. Portrait of a Lady (version 3) | Henry James | Literary Fiction | Book | English | 11/15

    26: [00:00:00] – chp. 40

    27: [00:34:23] – chps. 41-42

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