Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
-- THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY --
-- By Henry James --
-- PREFACE --
"The Portrait of a Lady" was, like "Roderick Hudson," begun in Florence,
during three months spent there in the spring of 1879. Like "Roderick"
and like "The American," it had been designed for publication in "The
Atlantic Monthly," where it began to appear in 1880. It differed from
its two predecessors, however, in finding a course also open to it, from
month to month, in "Macmillan's Magazine"; which was to be for me one of
the last occasions of simultaneous "serialisation" in the two countries
that the changing conditions of literary intercourse between England and
the United States had up to then left unaltered. It is a long novel, and
I was long in writing it; I remember being again much occupied with it,
the following year, during a stay of several weeks made in Venice. I had
rooms on Riva Schiavoni, at the top of a house near the passage leading
off to San Zaccaria; the waterside life, the wondrous lagoon spread
before me, and the ceaseless human chatter of Venice came in at my
windows, to which I seem to myself to have been constantly driven, in
the fruitless fidget of composition, as if to see whether, out in the
blue channel, the ship of some right suggestion, of some better phrase,
of the next happy twist of my subject, the next true touch for my
canvas, mightn't come into sight. But I recall vividly enough that the
response most elicited, in general, to these restless appeals was the
rather grim admonition that romantic and historic sites, such as
the land of Italy abounds in, offer the artist a questionable aid to
concentration when they themselves are not to be the subject of it. They
are too rich in their own life and too charged with their own meanings
merely to help him out with a lame phrase; they draw him away from his
small question to their own greater ones; so that, after a little, he
feels, while thus yearning toward them in his difficulty, as if he were
asking an army of glorious veterans to help him to arrest a peddler who
has given him the wrong change.
There are pages of the book which, in the reading over, have seemed
to make me see again the bristling curve of the wide Riva, the large
colour-spots of the balconied houses and the repeated undulation of the
little hunchbacked bridges, marked by the rise and drop again, with the
wave, of foreshortened clicking pedestrians. The Venetian footfall and
the Venetian cry--all talk there, wherever uttered, having the pitch of
a call across the water--come in once more at the window, renewing one's
old impression of the delighted senses and the divided, frustrated mind.
How can places that speak IN GENERAL so to the imagination not give
it, at the moment, the particular thing it wants? I recollect again
and again, in beautiful places, dropping into that wonderment. The
real truth is, I think, that they express, under this appeal, only too
much--more than, in the given case, one has use for; so that one
finds one's self working less congruously, after all, so far as the
surrounding picture is concerned, than in presence of the moderate and
the neutral, to which we may lend something of the light of our vision.
Such a place as Venice is too proud for such charities; Venice doesn't
borrow, she but all magnificently gives. We profit by that enormously,
but to do so we must either be quite off duty or be on it in her service
alone. Such, and so rueful, are these reminiscences; though on the
whole, no doubt, one's book, and one's "literary effort" at large, were
to be the better for them. Strangely fertilising, in the long run, does
a wasted effort of attention often prove. It all depends on HOW the
attention has been cheated, has been squandered. There are high-handed
insolent frauds, and there are insidious sneaking ones. And there is,
I fear, even on the most designing artist's part, always witless enough
good faith, always anxious enough desire, to fail to guard him against
Trying to recover here, for recognition, the germ of my idea, I see that
it must have consisted not at all in any conceit of a "plot," nefarious
name, in any flash, upon the fancy, of a set of relations, or in any one
of those situations that, by a logic of their own, immediately fall, for
the fabulist, into movement, into a march or a rush, a patter of quick
steps; but altogether in the sense of a single character, the character
and aspect of a particular engaging young woman, to which all the usual
elements of a "subject," certainly of a setting, were to need to be
super added. Quite as interesting as the young woman herself at her
best, do I find, I must again repeat, this projection of memory upon the
whole matter of the growth, in one's imagination, of some such apology
for a motive. These are the fascinations of the fabulist's art, these
lurking forces of expansion, these necessities of upspringing in
the seed, these beautiful determinations, on the part of the idea
entertained, to grow as tall as possible, to push into the light and
the air and thickly flower there; and, quite as much, these fine
possibilities of recovering, from some good standpoint on the ground
gained, the intimate history of the business--of retracing and
reconstructing its steps and stages. I have always fondly remembered a
remark that I heard fall years ago from the lips of Ivan Turgenieff in
regard to his own experience of the usual origin of the fictive picture.
It began for him almost always with the vision of some person or
persons, who hovered before him, soliciting him, as the active or
passive figure, interesting him and appealing to him just as they were
and by what they were. He saw them, in that fashion, as disponibles,
saw them subject to the chances, the complications of existence, and saw
them vividly, but then had to find for them the right relations, those
that would most bring them out; to imagine, to invent and select and
piece together the situations most useful and favourable to the sense of
the creatures themselves, the complications they would be most likely to
produce and to feel.
"To arrive at these things is to arrive at my story," he said, "and
that's the way I look for it. The result is that I'm often accused
of not having 'story' enough. I seem to myself to have as much as I
need--to show my people, to exhibit their relations with each other;
for that is all my measure. If I watch them long enough I see them come
together, I see them PLACED, I see them engaged in this or that act and
in this or that difficulty. How they look and move and speak and behave,
always in the setting I have found for them, is my account of them--of
which I dare say, alas, que cela manque souvent d'architecture. But I
would rather, I think, have too little architecture than too much--when
there's danger of its interfering with my measure of the truth. The
French of course like more of it than I give--having by their own genius
such a hand for it; and indeed one must give all one can. As for the
origin of one's wind-blown germs themselves, who shall say, as you ask,
where THEY come from? We have to go too far back, too far behind,
to say. Isn't it all we can say that they come from every quarter
of heaven, that they are THERE at almost any turn of the road? They
accumulate, and we are always picking them over, selecting among them.
They are the breath of life--by which I mean that life, in its own
way, breathes them upon us. They are so, in a manner prescribed and
imposed--floated into our minds by the current of life. That reduces to
imbecility the vain critic's quarrel, so often, with one's subject, when
he hasn't the wit to accept it. Will he point out then which other it
should properly have been?--his office being, essentially to point out.
Il en serait bien embarrasse. Ah, when he points out what I've done or
failed to do with it, that's another matter: there he's on his ground. I
give him up my 'sarchitecture,'" my distinguished friend concluded, "as
much as he will."
So this beautiful genius, and I recall with comfort the gratitude I drew
from his reference to the intensity of suggestion that may reside in the
stray figure, the unattached character, the image en disponibilite.
It gave me higher warrant than I seemed then to have met for just
that blest habit of one's own imagination, the trick of investing some
conceived or encountered individual, some brace or group of individuals,
with the germinal property and authority. I was myself so much more
antecedently conscious of my figures than of their setting--a too
preliminary, a preferential interest in which struck me as in general
such a putting of the cart before the horse. I might envy, though I
couldn't emulate, the imaginative writer so constituted as to see his
fable first and to make out its agents afterwards. I could think so
little of any fable that didn't need its agents positively to launch
it; I could think so little of any situation that didn't depend for its
interest on the nature of the persons situated, and thereby on their
way of taking it. There are methods of so-called presentation, I believe
among novelists who have appeared to flourish--that offer the situation
as indifferent to that support; but I have not lost the sense of the
value for me, at the time, of the admirable Russian's testimony to my
not needing, all superstitiously, to try and perform any such gymnastic.
Other echoes from the same source linger with me, I confess, as
unfadingly--if it be not all indeed one much-embracing echo. It was
impossible after that not to read, for one's uses, high lucidity into
the tormented and disfigured and bemuddled question of the objective
value, and even quite into that of the critical appreciation, of
"subject" in the novel.
One had had from an early time, for that matter, the instinct of the
right estimate of such values and of its reducing to the inane the
dull dispute over the "immoral" subject and the moral. Recognising so
promptly the one measure of the worth of a given subject, the question
about it that, rightly answered, disposes of all others--is it valid,
in a word, is it genuine, is it sincere, the result of some direct
impression or perception of life?--I had found small edification,
mostly, in a critical pretension that had neglected from the first
all delimitation of ground and all definition of terms. The air of
my earlier time shows, to memory, as darkened, all round, with that
vanity--unless the difference to-day be just in one's own final
impatience, the lapse of one's attention. There is, I think, no more
nutritive or suggestive truth in this connexion than that of the perfect
dependence of the "moral" sense of a work of art on the amount of felt
life concerned in producing it. The question comes back thus, obviously,
to the kind and the degree of the artist's prime sensibility, which is
the soil out of which his subject springs. The quality and capacity of
that soil, its ability to "grow" with due freshness and straightness any
vision of life, represents, strongly or weakly, the projected morality.
That element is but another name for the more or less close connexion of
the subject with some mark made on the intelligence, with some sincere
experience. By which, at the same time, of course, one is far from
contending that this enveloping air of the artist's humanity--which
gives the last touch to the worth of the work--is not a widely and
wondrously varying element; being on one occasion a rich and magnificent
medium and on another a comparatively poor and ungenerous one. Here we
get exactly the high price of the novel as a literary form--its power
not only, while preserving that form with closeness, to range
through all the differences of the individual relation to its general
subject-matter, all the varieties of outlook on life, of disposition to
reflect and project, created by conditions that are never the same from
man to man (or, so far as that goes, from man to woman), but positively
to appear more true to its character in proportion as it strains, or
tends to burst, with a latent extravagance, its mould.
The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million--a
number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather; every one of
which has been pierced, or is still pierceable, in its vast front, by
the need of the individual vision and by the pressure of the individual
will. These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hang so, all
together, over the human scene that we might have expected of them a
greater sameness of report than we find. They are but windows at the
best, mere holes in a dead wall, disconnected, perched aloft; they are
not hinged doors opening straight upon life. But they have this mark of
their own that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyes,
or at least with a field-glass, which forms, again and again, for
observation, a unique instrument, insuring to the person making use of
it an impression distinct from every other. He and his neighbours are
watching the same show, but one seeing more where the other sees less,
one seeing black where the other sees white, one seeing big where the
other sees small, one seeing coarse where the other sees fine. And
so on, and so on; there is fortunately no saying on what, for the
particular pair of eyes, the window may NOT open; "fortunately" by
reason, precisely, of this incalculability of range. The spreading
field, the human scene, is the "choice of subject"; the pierced
aperture, either broad or balconied or slit-like and low-browed, is the
"literary form"; but they are, singly or together, as nothing without
the posted presence of the watcher--without, in other words, the
consciousness of the artist. Tell me what the artist is, and I will tell
you of what he has BEEN conscious. Thereby I shall express to you at
once his boundless freedom and his "moral" reference.
All this is a long way round, however, for my word about my dim first
move toward "The Portrait," which was exactly my grasp of a single
character--an acquisition I had made, moreover, after a fashion not
here to be retraced. Enough that I was, as seemed to me, in complete
possession of it, that I had been so for a long time, that this had made
it familiar and yet had not blurred its charm, and that, all urgently,
all tormentingly, I saw it in motion and, so to speak, in transit. This
amounts to saying that I saw it as bent upon its fate--some fate or
other; which, among the possibilities, being precisely the question.
Thus I had my vivid individual--vivid, so strangely, in spite of being
still at large, not confined by the conditions, not engaged in the
tangle, to which we look for much of the impress that constitutes an
identity. If the apparition was still all to be placed how came it to
be vivid?--since we puzzle such quantities out, mostly, just by the
business of placing them. One could answer such a question beautifully,
doubtless, if one could do so subtle, if not so monstrous, a thing as to
write the history of the growth of one's imagination. One would describe
then what, at a given time, had extraordinarily happened to it, and one
would so, for instance, be in a position to tell, with an approach to
clearness, how, under favour of occasion, it had been able to take over
(take over straight from life) such and such a constituted, animated
figure or form. The figure has to that extent, as you see, BEEN
placed--placed in the imagination that detains it, preserves,
protects, enjoys it, conscious of its presence in the dusky, crowded,
heterogeneous back-shop of the mind very much as a wary dealer in
precious odds and ends, competent to make an "advance" on rare objects
confided to him, is conscious of the rare little "piece" left in deposit
by the reduced, mysterious lady of title or the speculative amateur,
and which is already there to disclose its merit afresh as soon as a key
shall have clicked in a cupboard-door.
That may he, I recognise, a somewhat superfine analogy for the
particular "value" I here speak of, the image of the young feminine
nature that I had had for so considerable a time all curiously at my
disposal; but it appears to fond memory quite to fit the fact--with the
recall, in addition, of my pious desire but to place my treasure right.
I quite remind myself thus of the dealer resigned not to "realise,"
resigned to keeping the precious object locked up indefinitely rather
than commit it, at no matter what price, to vulgar hands. For there
ARE dealers in these forms and figures and treasures capable of that
refinement. The point is, however, that this single small corner-stone,
the conception of a certain young woman affronting her destiny, had
begun with being all my outfit for the large building of "The Portrait
of a Lady." It came to be a square and spacious house--or has at least
seemed so to me in this going over it again; but, such as it is, it
had to be put up round my young woman while she stood there in perfect
isolation. That is to me, artistically speaking, the circumstance of
interest; for I have lost myself once more, I confess, in the curiosity
of analysing the structure. By what process of logical accretion was
this slight "personality," the mere slim shade of an intelligent but
presumptuous girl, to find itself endowed with the high attributes of a
Subject?--and indeed by what thinness, at the best, would such a subject
not be vitiated? Millions of presumptuous girls, intelligent or not
intelligent, daily affront their destiny, and what is it open to their
destiny to be, at the most, that we should make an ado about it? The
novel is of its very nature an "ado," an ado about something, and the
larger the form it takes the greater of course the ado. Therefore,
consciously, that was what one was in for--for positively organising an
ado about Isabel Archer.
One looked it well in the face, I seem to remember, this extravagance;
and with the effect precisely of recognising the charm of the problem.
Challenge any such problem with any intelligence, and you immediately
see how full it is of substance; the wonder being, all the while, as we
look at the world, how absolutely, how inordinately, the Isabel Archers,
and even much smaller female fry, insist on mattering. George Eliot has
admirably noted it--"In these frail vessels is borne onward through the
ages the treasure of human affection." In "Romeo and Juliet" Juliet has
to be important, just as, in "Adam Bede" and "The Mill on the Floss" and
"Middlemarch" and "Daniel Deronda," Hetty Sorrel and Maggie Tulliver and
Rosamond Vincy and Gwendolen Harleth have to be; with that much of firm
ground, that much of bracing air, at the disposal all the while of
their feet and their lungs. They are typical, none the less, of a class
difficult, in the individual case, to make a centre of interest; so
difficult in fact that many an expert painter, as for instance Dickens
and Walter Scott, as for instance even, in the main, so subtle a hand
as that of R. L. Stevenson, has preferred to leave the task unattempted.
There are in fact writers as to whom we make out that their refuge
from this is to assume it to be not worth their attempting; by which
pusillanimity in truth their honour is scantly saved. It is never an
attestation of a value, or even of our imperfect sense of one, it is
never a tribute to any truth at all, that we shall represent that value
badly. It never makes up, artistically, for an artist's dim feeling
about a thing that he shall "do" the thing as ill as possible. There are
better ways than that, the best of all of which is to begin with less
It may be answered meanwhile, in regard to Shakespeare's and to George
Eliot's testimony, that their concession to the "importance" of their
Juliets and Cleopatras and Portias (even with Portia as the very type
and model of the young person intelligent and presumptuous) and to that
of their Hettys and Maggies and Rosamonds and Gwendolens, suffers the
abatement that these slimnesses are, when figuring as the main props of
the theme, never suffered to be sole ministers of its appeal, but have
their inadequacy eked out with comic relief and underplots, as the
playwrights say, when not with murders and battles and the great
mutations of the world. If they are shown as "mattering" as much as
they could possibly pretend to, the proof of it is in a hundred other
persons, made of much stouter stuff; and each involved moreover in a
hundred relations which matter to THEM concomitantly with that one.
Cleopatra matters, beyond bounds, to Antony, but his colleagues,
his antagonists, the state of Rome and the impending battle also
prodigiously matter; Portia matters to Antonio, and to Shylock, and
to the Prince of Morocco, to the fifty aspiring princes, but for these
gentry there are other lively concerns; for Antonio, notably, there
are Shylock and Bassanio and his lost ventures and the extremity of
his predicament. This extremity indeed, by the same token, matters to
Portia--though its doing so becomes of interest all by the fact that
Portia matters to US. That she does so, at any rate, and that almost
everything comes round to it again, supports my contention as to this
fine example of the value recognised in the mere young thing. (I say
"mere" young thing because I guess that even Shakespeare, preoccupied
mainly though he may have been with the passions of princes, would
scarce have pretended to found the best of his appeal for her on her
high social position.) It is an example exactly of the deep difficulty
braved--the difficulty of making George Eliot's "frail vessel," if not
the all-in-all for our attention, at least the clearest of the call.
Now to see deep difficulty braved is at any time, for the really
addicted artist, to feel almost even as a pang the beautiful incentive,
and to feel it verily in such sort as to wish the danger intensified.
The difficulty most worth tackling can only be for him, in these
conditions, the greatest the case permits of. So I remember feeling
here (in presence, always, that is, of the particular uncertainty of my
ground), that there would be one way better than another--oh, ever so
much better than any other!--of making it fight out its battle. The
frail vessel, that charged with George Eliot's "treasure," and thereby
of such importance to those who curiously approach it, has likewise
possibilities of importance to itself, possibilities which permit of
treatment and in fact peculiarly require it from the moment they are
considered at all. There is always the escape from any close account
of the weak agent of such spells by using as a bridge for evasion, for
retreat and flight, the view of her relation to those surrounding her.
Make it predominantly a view of THEIR relation and the trick is played:
you give the general sense of her effect, and you give it, so far as the
raising on it of a superstructure goes, with the maximum of ease. Well,
I recall perfectly how little, in my now quite established connexion,
the maximum of ease appealed to me, and how I seemed to get rid of it
by an honest transposition of the weights in the two scales. "Place the
centre of the subject in the young woman's own consciousness," I said to
myself, "and you get as interesting and as beautiful a difficulty as you
could wish. Stick to THAT--for the centre; put the heaviest weight
into THAT scale, which will be so largely the scale of her relation
to herself. Make her only interested enough, at the same time, in the
things that are not herself, and this relation needn't fear to be too
limited. Place meanwhile in the other scale the lighter weight (which is
usually the one that tips the balance of interest): press least hard, in
short, on the consciousness of your heroine's satellites, especially the
male; make it an interest contributive only to the greater one. See, at
all events, what can be done in this way. What better field could there
be for a due ingenuity? The girl hovers, inextinguishable, as a charming
creature, and the job will be to translate her into the highest terms
of that formula, and as nearly as possible moreover into ALL of them. To
depend upon her and her little concerns wholly to see you through will
necessitate, remember, your really 'doing' her."
So far I reasoned, and it took nothing less than that technical rigour,
I now easily see, to inspire me with the right confidence for erecting
on such a plot of ground the neat and careful and proportioned pile of
bricks that arches over it and that was thus to form, constructionally
speaking, a literary monument. Such is the aspect that to-day "The
Portrait" wears for me: a structure reared with an "architectural"
competence, as Turgenieff would have said, that makes it, to the
author's own sense, the most proportioned of his productions after "The
Ambassadors" which was to follow it so many years later and which has,
no doubt, a superior roundness. On one thing I was determined; that,
though I should clearly have to pile brick upon brick for the creation
of an interest, I would leave no pretext for saying that anything is
out of line, scale or perspective. I would build large--in fine embossed
vaults and painted arches, as who should say, and yet never let it
appear that the chequered pavement, the ground under the reader's
feet, fails to stretch at every point to the base of the walls. That
precautionary spirit, on re-perusal of the book, is the old note that
most touches me: it testifies so, for my own ear, to the anxiety of my
provision for the reader's amusement. I felt, in view of the possible
limitations of my subject, that no such provision could be excessive,
and the development of the latter was simply the general form of that
earnest quest. And I find indeed that this is the only account I can
give myself of the evolution of the fable it is all under the head thus
named that I conceive the needful accretion as having taken place, the
right complications as having started. It was naturally of the essence
that the young woman should be herself complex; that was rudimentary--or
was at any rate the light in which Isabel Archer had originally dawned.
It went, however, but a certain way, and other lights, contending,
conflicting lights, and of as many different colours, if possible, as
the rockets, the Roman candles and Catherine-wheels of a "pyrotechnic
display," would be employable to attest that she was. I had, no doubt, a
groping instinct for the right complications, since I am quite unable
to track the footsteps of those that constitute, as the case stands, the
general situation exhibited. They are there, for what they are worth,
and as numerous as might be; but my memory, I confess, is a blank as to
how and whence they came.
I seem to myself to have waked up one morning in possession of them--of
Ralph Touchett and his parents, of Madame Merle, of Gilbert Osmond and
his daughter and his sister, of Lord Warburton, Caspar Goodwood and
Miss Stackpole, the definite array of contributions to Isabel Archer's
history. I recognised them, I knew them, they were the numbered pieces
of my puzzle, the concrete terms of my "plot." It was as if they had
simply, by an impulse of their own, floated into my ken, and all in
response to my primary question: "Well, what will she DO?" Their answer
seemed to be that if I would trust them they would show me; on which,
with an urgent appeal to them to make it at least as interesting as
they could, I trusted them. They were like the group of attendants and
entertainers who come down by train when people in the country give a
party; they represented the contract for carrying the party on. That was
an excellent relation with them--a possible one even with so broken a
reed (from her slightness of cohesion) as Henrietta Stackpole. It is a
familiar truth to the novelist, at the strenuous hour, that, as certain
elements in any work are of the essence, so others are only of the
form; that as this or that character, this or that disposition of the
material, belongs to the subject directly, so to speak, so this or that
other belongs to it but indirectly--belongs intimately to the treatment.
This is a truth, however, of which he rarely gets the benefit--since it
could be assured to him, really, but by criticism based upon perception,
criticism which is too little of this world. He must not think of
benefits, moreover, I freely recognise, for that way dishonour lies:
he has, that is, but one to think of--the benefit, whatever it may be,
involved in his having cast a spell upon the simpler, the very simplest,
forms of attention. This is all he is entitled to; he is entitled to
nothing, he is bound to admit, that can come to him, from the reader, as
a result on the latter's part of any act of reflexion or discrimination.
He may ENJOY this finer tribute--that is another affair, but on
condition only of taking it as a gratuity "thrown in," a mere miraculous
windfall, the fruit of a tree he may not pretend to have shaken. Against
reflexion, against discrimination, in his interest, all earth and air
conspire; wherefore it is that, as I say, he must in many a case have
schooled himself, from the first, to work but for a "living wage." The
living wage is the reader's grant of the least possible quantity of
attention required for consciousness of a "spell." The occasional
charming "tip" is an act of his intelligence over and beyond this, a
golden apple, for the writer's lap, straight from the wind-stirred tree.
The artist may of course, in wanton moods, dream of some Paradise (for
art) where the direct appeal to the intelligence might be legalised; for
to such extravagances as these his yearning mind can scarce hope ever
completely to close itself. The most he can do is to remember they ARE
All of which is perhaps but a gracefully devious way of saying that
Henrietta Stackpole was a good example, in "The Portrait," of the truth
to which I just adverted--as good an example as I could name were it not
that Maria Gostrey, in "The Ambassadors," then in the bosom of time,
may be mentioned as a better. Each of these persons is but wheels to the
coach; neither belongs to the body of that vehicle, or is for a moment
accommodated with a seat inside. There the subject alone is ensconced,
in the form of its "hero and heroine," and of the privileged high
officials, say, who ride with the king and queen. There are reasons
why one would have liked this to be felt, as in general one would like
almost anything to be felt, in one's work, that one has one's self
contributively felt. We have seen, however, how idle is that pretension,
which I should be sorry to make too much of. Maria Gostrey and Miss
Stackpole then are cases, each, of the light ficelle, not of the true
agent; they may run beside the coach "for all they are worth," they may
cling to it till they are out of breath (as poor Miss Stackpole all so
visibly does), but neither, all the while, so much as gets her foot on
the step, neither ceases for a moment to tread the dusty road. Put it
even that they are like the fishwives who helped to bring back to Paris
from Versailles, on that most ominous day of the first half of the
French Revolution, the carriage of the royal family. The only thing
is that I may well be asked, I acknowledge, why then, in the present
fiction, I have suffered Henrietta (of whom we have indubitably too
much) so officiously, so strangely, so almost inexplicably, to pervade.
I will presently say what I can for that anomaly--and in the most
A point I wish still more to make is that if my relation of confidence
with the actors in my drama who WERE, unlike Miss Stackpole, true
agents, was an excellent one to have arrived at, there still remained my
relation with the reader, which was another affair altogether and as to
which I felt no one to be trusted but myself. That solicitude was to be
accordingly expressed in the artful patience with which, as I have
said, I piled brick upon brick. The bricks, for the whole
counting-over--putting for bricks little touches and inventions and
enhancements by the way--affect me in truth as well-nigh innumerable and
as ever so scrupulously fitted together and packed-in. It is an effect
of detail, of the minutest; though, if one were in this connexion to say
all, one would express the hope that the general, the ampler air of the
modest monument still survives. I do at least seem to catch the key to
a part of this abundance of small anxious, ingenious illustration as I
recollect putting my finger, in my young woman's interest, on the most
obvious of her predicates. "What will she 'do'? Why, the first thing
she'll do will be to come to Europe; which in fact will form, and all
inevitably, no small part of her principal adventure. Coming to
Europe is even for the 'frail vessels,' in this wonderful age, a mild
adventure; but what is truer than that on one side--the side of their
independence of flood and field, of the moving accident, of battle and
murder and sudden death--her adventures are to be mild? Without her
sense of them, her sense FOR them, as one may say, they are next to
nothing at all; but isn't the beauty and the difficulty just in showing
their mystic conversion by that sense, conversion into the stuff of
drama or, even more delightful word still, of 'story'?" It was all
as clear, my contention, as a silver bell. Two very good instances, I
think, of this effect of conversion, two cases of the rare chemistry,
are the pages in which Isabel, coming into the drawing-room at
Gardencourt, coming in from a wet walk or whatever, that rainy
afternoon, finds Madame Merle in possession of the place, Madame
Merle seated, all absorbed but all serene, at the piano, and deeply
recognises, in the striking of such an hour, in the presence there,
among the gathering shades, of this personage, of whom a moment before
she had never so much as heard, a turning-point in her life. It is
dreadful to have too much, for any artistic demonstration, to dot one's
i's and insist on one's intentions, and I am not eager to do it now; but
the question here was that of producing the maximum of intensity with
the minimum of strain.
The interest was to be raised to its pitch and yet the elements to be
kept in their key; so that, should the whole thing duly impress, I might
show what an "exciting" inward life may do for the person leading it
even while it remains perfectly normal. And I cannot think of a more
consistent application of that ideal unless it be in the long statement,
just beyond the middle of the book, of my young woman's extraordinary
meditative vigil on the occasion that was to become for her such a
landmark. Reduced to its essence, it is but the vigil of searching
criticism; but it throws the action further forward that twenty
"incidents" might have done. It was designed to have all the vivacity
of incidents and all the economy of picture. She sits up, by her dying
fire, far into the night, under the spell of recognitions on which she
finds the last sharpness suddenly wait. It is a representation simply
of her motionlessly SEEING, and an attempt withal to make the mere still
lucidity of her act as "interesting" as the surprise of a caravan or the
identification of a pirate. It represents, for that matter, one of the
identifications dear to the novelist, and even indispensable to him;
but it all goes on without her being approached by another person and
without her leaving her chair. It is obviously the best thing in the
book, but it is only a supreme illustration of the general plan. As to
Henrietta, my apology for whom I just left incomplete, she exemplifies,
I fear, in her superabundance, not an element of my plan, but only
an excess of my zeal. So early was to begin my tendency to OVERTREAT,
rather than undertreat (when there was choice or danger) my subject.
(Many members of my craft, I gather, are far from agreeing with me, but
I have always held overtreating the minor disservice.) "Treating" that
of "The Portrait" amounted to never forgetting, by any lapse, that the
thing was under a special obligation to be amusing. There was the danger
of the noted "thinness"--which was to be averted, tooth and nail,
by cultivation of the lively. That is at least how I see it to-day.
Henrietta must have been at that time a part of my wonderful notion of
the lively. And then there was another matter. I had, within the few
preceding years, come to live in London, and the "international" light
lay, in those days, to my sense, thick and rich upon the scene. It was
the light in which so much of the picture hung. But that IS another
matter. There is really too much to say.
-- HENRY JAMES --
-- THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY --
-- CHAPTER I --
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable
than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. There
are circumstances in which, whether you partake of the tea or not--some
people of course never do,--the situation is in itself delightful. Those
that I have in mind in beginning to unfold this simple history offered
an admirable setting to an innocent pastime. The implements of
the little feast had been disposed upon the lawn of an old English
country-house, in what I should call the perfect middle of a splendid
summer afternoon. Part of the afternoon had waned, but much of it was
left, and what was left was of the finest and rarest quality. Real dusk
would not arrive for many hours; but the flood of summer light had begun
to ebb, the air had grown mellow, the shadows were long upon the smooth,
dense turf. They lengthened slowly, however, and the scene expressed
that sense of leisure still to come which is perhaps the chief source
of one's enjoyment of such a scene at such an hour. From five o'clock to
eight is on certain occasions a little eternity; but on such an occasion
as this the interval could be only an eternity of pleasure. The persons
concerned in it were taking their pleasure quietly, and they were not
of the sex which is supposed to furnish the regular votaries of the
ceremony I have mentioned. The shadows on the perfect lawn were straight
and angular; they were the shadows of an old man sitting in a deep
wicker-chair near the low table on which the tea had been served, and
of two younger men strolling to and fro, in desultory talk, in front of
him. The old man had his cup in his hand; it was an unusually large cup,
of a different pattern from the rest of the set and painted in brilliant
colours. He disposed of its contents with much circumspection, holding
it for a long time close to his chin, with his face turned to the house.
His companions had either finished their tea or were indifferent to
their privilege; they smoked cigarettes as they continued to stroll.
One of them, from time to time, as he passed, looked with a certain
attention at the elder man, who, unconscious of observation, rested his
eyes upon the rich red front of his dwelling. The house that rose beyond
the lawn was a structure to repay such consideration and was the most
characteristic object in the peculiarly English picture I have attempted
It stood upon a low hill, above the river--the river being the Thames at
some forty miles from London. A long gabled front of red brick, with
the complexion of which time and the weather had played all sorts of
pictorial tricks, only, however, to improve and refine it, presented
to the lawn its patches of ivy, its clustered chimneys, its windows
smothered in creepers. The house had a name and a history; the old
gentleman taking his tea would have been delighted to tell you these
things: how it had been built under Edward the Sixth, had offered a
night's hospitality to the great Elizabeth (whose august person had
extended itself upon a huge, magnificent and terribly angular bed which
still formed the principal honour of the sleeping apartments), had been
a good deal bruised and defaced in Cromwell's wars, and then, under the
Restoration, repaired and much enlarged; and how, finally, after having
been remodelled and disfigured in the eighteenth century, it had passed
into the careful keeping of a shrewd American banker, who had bought it
originally because (owing to circumstances too complicated to set forth)
it was offered at a great bargain: bought it with much grumbling at its
ugliness, its antiquity, its incommodity, and who now, at the end of
twenty years, had become conscious of a real aesthetic passion for it,
so that he knew all its points and would tell you just where to stand
to see them in combination and just the hour when the shadows of
its various protuberances which fell so softly upon the warm, weary
brickwork--were of the right measure. Besides this, as I have said,
he could have counted off most of the successive owners and occupants,
several of whom were known to general fame; doing so, however, with an
undemonstrative conviction that the latest phase of its destiny was not
the least honourable. The front of the house overlooking that portion
of the lawn with which we are concerned was not the entrance-front; this
was in quite another quarter. Privacy here reigned supreme, and the wide
carpet of turf that covered the level hill-top seemed but the extension
of a luxurious interior. The great still oaks and beeches flung down a
shade as dense as that of velvet curtains; and the place was furnished,
like a room, with cushioned seats, with rich-coloured rugs, with
the books and papers that lay upon the grass. The river was at some
distance; where the ground began to slope the lawn, properly speaking,
ceased. But it was none the less a charming walk down to the water.
The old gentleman at the tea-table, who had come from America thirty
years before, had brought with him, at the top of his baggage, his
American physiognomy; and he had not only brought it with him, but he
had kept it in the best order, so that, if necessary, he might have
taken it back to his own country with perfect confidence. At present,
obviously, nevertheless, he was not likely to displace himself; his
journeys were over and he was taking the rest that precedes the
great rest. He had a narrow, clean-shaven face, with features evenly
distributed and an expression of placid acuteness. It was evidently a
face in which the range of representation was not large, so that the air
of contented shrewdness was all the more of a merit. It seemed to tell
that he had been successful in life, yet it seemed to tell also that his
success had not been exclusive and invidious, but had had much of the
inoffensiveness of failure. He had certainly had a great experience of
men, but there was an almost rustic simplicity in the faint smile that
played upon his lean, spacious cheek and lighted up his humorous eye
as he at last slowly and carefully deposited his big tea-cup upon the
table. He was neatly dressed, in well-brushed black; but a shawl was
folded upon his knees, and his feet were encased in thick, embroidered
slippers. A beautiful collie dog lay upon the grass near his chair,
watching the master's face almost as tenderly as the master took in the
still more magisterial physiognomy of the house; and a little bristling,
bustling terrier bestowed a desultory attendance upon the other
One of these was a remarkably well-made man of five-and-thirty, with a
face as English as that of the old gentleman I have just sketched was
something else; a noticeably handsome face, fresh-coloured, fair and
frank, with firm, straight features, a lively grey eye and the rich
adornment of a chestnut beard. This person had a certain fortunate,
brilliant exceptional look--the air of a happy temperament fertilised by
a high civilisation--which would have made almost any observer envy him
at a venture. He was booted and spurred, as if he had dismounted from a
long ride; he wore a white hat, which looked too large for him; he
held his two hands behind him, and in one of them--a large, white,
well-shaped fist--was crumpled a pair of soiled dog-skin gloves.
His companion, measuring the length of the lawn beside him, was a person
of quite a different pattern, who, although he might have excited
grave curiosity, would not, like the other, have provoked you to wish
yourself, almost blindly, in his place. Tall, lean, loosely and feebly
put together, he had an ugly, sickly, witty, charming face, furnished,
but by no means decorated, with a straggling moustache and whisker. He
looked clever and ill--a combination by no means felicitous; and he wore
a brown velvet jacket. He carried his hands in his pockets, and there
was something in the way he did it that showed the habit was inveterate.
His gait had a shambling, wandering quality; he was not very firm on
his legs. As I have said, whenever he passed the old man in the chair he
rested his eyes upon him; and at this moment, with their faces brought
into relation, you would easily have seen they were father and son.
The father caught his son's eye at last and gave him a mild, responsive
"I'm getting on very well," he said.
"Have you drunk your tea?" asked the son.
"Yes, and enjoyed it."
"Shall I give you some more?"
The old man considered, placidly. "Well, I guess I'll wait and see." He
had, in speaking, the American tone.
"Are you cold?" the son enquired.
The father slowly rubbed his legs. "Well, I don't know. I can't tell
till I feel."
"Perhaps some one might feel for you," said the younger man, laughing.
"Oh, I hope some one will always feel for me! Don't you feel for me,
"Oh yes, immensely," said the gentleman addressed as Lord Warburton,
promptly. "I'm bound to say you look wonderfully comfortable."
"Well, I suppose I am, in most respects." And the old man looked down at
his green shawl and smoothed it over his knees. "The fact is I've been
comfortable so many years that I suppose I've got so used to it I don't
"Yes, that's the bore of comfort," said Lord Warburton. "We only know
when we're uncomfortable."
"It strikes me we're rather particular," his companion remarked.
"Oh yes, there's no doubt we're particular," Lord Warburton murmured.
And then the three men remained silent a while; the two younger ones
standing looking down at the other, who presently asked for more tea. "I
should think you would be very unhappy with that shawl," Lord Warburton
resumed while his companion filled the old man's cup again.
"Oh no, he must have the shawl!" cried the gentleman in the velvet coat.
"Don't put such ideas as that into his head."
"It belongs to my wife," said the old man simply.
"Oh, if it's for sentimental reasons--" And Lord Warburton made a
gesture of apology.
"I suppose I must give it to her when she comes," the old man went on.
"You'll please to do nothing of the kind. You'll keep it to cover your
poor old legs."
"Well, you mustn't abuse my legs," said the old man. "I guess they are
as good as yours."
"Oh, you're perfectly free to abuse mine," his son replied, giving him
"Well, we're two lame ducks; I don't think there's much difference."
"I'm much obliged to you for calling me a duck. How's your tea?"
"Well, it's rather hot."
"That's intended to be a merit."
"Ah, there's a great deal of merit," murmured the old man, kindly. "He's
a very good nurse, Lord Warburton."
"Isn't he a bit clumsy?" asked his lordship.
"Oh no, he's not clumsy--considering that he's an invalid himself. He's
a very good nurse--for a sick-nurse. I call him my sick-nurse because
he's sick himself."
"Oh, come, daddy!" the ugly young man exclaimed.
"Well, you are; I wish you weren't. But I suppose you can't help it."
"I might try: that's an idea," said the young man.
"Were you ever sick, Lord Warburton?" his father asked.
Lord Warburton considered a moment. "Yes, sir, once, in the Persian
"He's making light of you, daddy," said the other young man. "That's a
sort of joke."
"Well, there seem to be so many sorts now," daddy replied, serenely.
"You don't look as if you had been sick, any way, Lord Warburton."
"He's sick of life; he was just telling me so; going on fearfully about
it," said Lord Warburton's friend.
"Is that true, sir?" asked the old man gravely.
"If it is, your son gave me no consolation. He's a wretched fellow to
talk to--a regular cynic. He doesn't seem to believe in anything."
"That's another sort of joke," said the person accused of cynicism.
"It's because his health is so poor," his father explained to Lord
Warburton. "It affects his mind and colours his way of looking at
things; he seems to feel as if he had never had a chance. But it's
almost entirely theoretical, you know; it doesn't seem to affect his
spirits. I've hardly ever seen him when he wasn't cheerful--about as he
is at present. He often cheers me up."
The young man so described looked at Lord Warburton and laughed. "Is it
a glowing eulogy or an accusation of levity? Should you like me to carry
out my theories, daddy?"
"By Jove, we should see some queer things!" cried Lord Warburton.
"I hope you haven't taken up that sort of tone," said the old man.
"Warburton's tone is worse than mine; he pretends to be bored. I'm not
in the least bored; I find life only too interesting."
"Ah, too interesting; you shouldn't allow it to be that, you know!"
"I'm never bored when I come here," said Lord Warburton. "One gets such
uncommonly good talk."
"Is that another sort of joke?" asked the old man. "You've no excuse for
being bored anywhere. When I was your age I had never heard of such a
"You must have developed very late."
"No, I developed very quick; that was just the reason. When I was twenty
years old I was very highly developed indeed. I was working tooth and
nail. You wouldn't be bored if you had something to do; but all you
young men are too idle. You think too much of your pleasure. You're too
fastidious, and too indolent, and too rich."
"Oh, I say," cried Lord Warburton, "you're hardly the person to accuse a
fellow-creature of being too rich!"
"Do you mean because I'm a banker?" asked the old man.
"Because of that, if you like; and because you have--haven't you?--such
"He isn't very rich," the other young man mercifully pleaded. "He has
given away an immense deal of money."
"Well, I suppose it was his own," said Lord Warburton; "and in that case
could there be a better proof of wealth? Let not a public benefactor
talk of one's being too fond of pleasure."
"Daddy's very fond of pleasure--of other people's."
The old man shook his head. "I don't pretend to have contributed
anything to the amusement of my contemporaries."
"My dear father, you're too modest!"
"That's a kind of joke, sir," said Lord Warburton.
"You young men have too many jokes. When there are no jokes you've
"Fortunately there are always more jokes," the ugly young man remarked.
"I don't believe it--I believe things are getting more serious. You
young men will find that out."
"The increasing seriousness of things, then that's the great opportunity
"They'll have to be grim jokes," said the old man. "I'm convinced there
will be great changes, and not all for the better."
"I quite agree with you, sir," Lord Warburton declared. "I'm very sure
there will be great changes, and that all sorts of queer things will
happen. That's why I find so much difficulty in applying your advice;
you know you told me the other day that I ought to 'take hold' of
something. One hesitates to take hold of a thing that may the next
moment be knocked sky-high."
"You ought to take hold of a pretty woman," said his companion. "He's
trying hard to fall in love," he added, by way of explanation, to his
"The pretty women themselves may be sent flying!" Lord Warburton
"No, no, they'll be firm," the old man rejoined; "they'll not be
affected by the social and political changes I just referred to."
"You mean they won't be abolished? Very well, then, I'll lay hands on
one as soon as possible and tie her round my neck as a life-preserver."
"The ladies will save us," said the old man; "that is the best of them
will--for I make a difference between them. Make up to a good one and
marry her, and your life will become much more interesting."
A momentary silence marked perhaps on the part of his auditors a sense
of the magnanimity of this speech, for it was a secret neither for his
son nor for his visitor that his own experiment in matrimony had not
been a happy one. As he said, however, he made a difference; and these
words may have been intended as a confession of personal error; though
of course it was not in place for either of his companions to remark
that apparently the lady of his choice had not been one of the best.
"If I marry an interesting woman I shall be interested: is that what you
say?" Lord Warburton asked. "I'm not at all keen about marrying--your
son misrepresented me; but there's no knowing what an interesting woman
might do with me."
"I should like to see your idea of an interesting woman," said his
"My dear fellow, you can't see ideas--especially such highly ethereal
ones as mine. If I could only see it myself--that would be a great step
"Well, you may fall in love with whomsoever you please; but you mustn't
fall in love with my niece," said the old man.
His son broke into a laugh. "He'll think you mean that as a provocation!
My dear father, you've lived with the English for thirty years, and
you've picked up a good many of the things they say. But you've never
learned the things they don't say!"
"I say what I please," the old man returned with all his serenity.
"I haven't the honour of knowing your niece," Lord Warburton said. "I
think it's the first time I've heard of her."
"She's a niece of my wife's; Mrs. Touchett brings her to England."
Then young Mr. Touchett explained. "My mother, you know, has been
spending the winter in America, and we're expecting her back. She writes
that she has discovered a niece and that she has invited her to come out
"I see,--very kind of her," said Lord Warburton. Is the young lady
"We hardly know more about her than you; my mother has not gone into
details. She chiefly communicates with us by means of telegrams, and her
telegrams are rather inscrutable. They say women don't know how to write
them, but my mother has thoroughly mastered the art of condensation.
'Tired America, hot weather awful, return England with niece, first
steamer decent cabin.' That's the sort of message we get from her--that
was the last that came. But there had been another before, which I think
contained the first mention of the niece. 'Changed hotel, very bad,
impudent clerk, address here. Taken sister's girl, died last year, go to
Europe, two sisters, quite independent.' Over that my father and I
have scarcely stopped puzzling; it seems to admit of so many
"There's one thing very clear in it," said the old man; "she has given
the hotel-clerk a dressing."
"I'm not sure even of that, since he has driven her from the field. We
thought at first that the sister mentioned might be the sister of the
clerk; but the subsequent mention of a niece seems to prove that the
allusion is to one of my aunts. Then there was a question as to whose
the two other sisters were; they are probably two of my late aunt's
daughters. But who's 'quite independent,' and in what sense is the term
used?--that point's not yet settled. Does the expression apply more
particularly to the young lady my mother has adopted, or does it
characterise her sisters equally?--and is it used in a moral or in a
financial sense? Does it mean that they've been left well off, or
that they wish to be under no obligations? or does it simply mean that
they're fond of their own way?"
"Whatever else it means, it's pretty sure to mean that," Mr. Touchett
"You'll see for yourself," said Lord Warburton. "When does Mrs. Touchett
"We're quite in the dark; as soon as she can find a decent cabin.
She may be waiting for it yet; on the other hand she may already have
disembarked in England."
"In that case she would probably have telegraphed to you."
"She never telegraphs when you would expect it--only when you don't,"
said the old man. "She likes to drop on me suddenly; she thinks she'll
find me doing something wrong. She has never done so yet, but she's not
"It's her share in the family trait, the independence she speaks of."
Her son's appreciation of the matter was more favourable. "Whatever the
high spirit of those young ladies may be, her own is a match for it. She
likes to do everything for herself and has no belief in any one's power
to help her. She thinks me of no more use than a postage-stamp without
gum, and she would never forgive me if I should presume to go to
Liverpool to meet her."
"Will you at least let me know when your cousin arrives?" Lord Warburton
"Only on the condition I've mentioned--that you don't fall in love with
her!" Mr. Touchett replied.
"That strikes me as hard, don't you think me good enough?"
"I think you too good--because I shouldn't like her to marry you. She
hasn't come here to look for a husband, I hope; so many young ladies are
doing that, as if there were no good ones at home. Then she's probably
engaged; American girls are usually engaged, I believe. Moreover I'm not
sure, after all, that you'd be a remarkable husband."
"Very likely she's engaged; I've known a good many American girls, and
they always were; but I could never see that it made any difference,
upon my word! As for my being a good husband," Mr. Touchett's visitor
pursued, "I'm not sure of that either. One can but try!"
"Try as much as you please, but don't try on my niece," smiled the old
man, whose opposition to the idea was broadly humorous.
"Ah, well," said Lord Warburton with a humour broader still, "perhaps,
after all, she's not worth trying on!"
While this exchange of pleasantries took place between the two Ralph
Touchett wandered away a little, with his usual slouching gait, his
hands in his pockets and his little rowdyish terrier at his heels. His
face was turned toward the house, but his eyes were bent musingly on the
lawn; so that he had been an object of observation to a person who had
just made her appearance in the ample doorway for some moments before
he perceived her. His attention was called to her by the conduct of
his dog, who had suddenly darted forward with a little volley of shrill
barks, in which the note of welcome, however, was more sensible than
that of defiance. The person in question was a young lady, who seemed
immediately to interpret the greeting of the small beast. He advanced
with great rapidity and stood at her feet, looking up and barking hard;
whereupon, without hesitation, she stooped and caught him in her hands,
holding him face to face while he continued his quick chatter. His
master now had had time to follow and to see that Bunchie's new friend
was a tall girl in a black dress, who at first sight looked pretty.
She was bareheaded, as if she were staying in the house--a fact which
conveyed perplexity to the son of its master, conscious of that immunity
from visitors which had for some time been rendered necessary by the
latter's ill-health. Meantime the two other gentlemen had also taken
note of the new-comer.
"Dear me, who's that strange woman?" Mr. Touchett had asked.
"Perhaps it's Mrs. Touchett's niece--the independent young lady," Lord
Warburton suggested. "I think she must be, from the way she handles the
The collie, too, had now allowed his attention to be diverted, and he
trotted toward the young lady in the doorway, slowly setting his tail in
motion as he went.
"But where's my wife then?" murmured the old man.
"I suppose the young lady has left her somewhere: that's a part of the
The girl spoke to Ralph, smiling, while she still held up the terrier.
"Is this your little dog, sir?"
"He was mine a moment ago; but you've suddenly acquired a remarkable air
of property in him."
"Couldn't we share him?" asked the girl. "He's such a perfect little
Ralph looked at her a moment; she was unexpectedly pretty. "You may have
him altogether," he then replied.
The young lady seemed to have a great deal of confidence, both in
herself and in others; but this abrupt generosity made her blush. "I
ought to tell you that I'm probably your cousin," she brought out,
putting down the dog. "And here's another!" she added quickly, as the
collie came up.
"Probably?" the young man exclaimed, laughing. "I supposed it was quite
settled! Have you arrived with my mother?"
"Yes, half an hour ago."
"And has she deposited you and departed again?"
"No, she went straight to her room, and she told me that, if I should
see you, I was to say to you that you must come to her there at a
quarter to seven."
The young man looked at his watch. "Thank you very much; I shall be
punctual." And then he looked at his cousin. "You're very welcome here.
I'm delighted to see you."
She was looking at everything, with an eye that denoted clear
perception--at her companion, at the two dogs, at the two gentlemen
under the trees, at the beautiful scene that surrounded her. "I've never
seen anything so lovely as this place. I've been all over the house;
it's too enchanting."
"I'm sorry you should have been here so long without our knowing it."
"Your mother told me that in England people arrived very quietly; so I
thought it was all right. Is one of those gentlemen your father?"
"Yes, the elder one--the one sitting down," said Ralph.
The girl gave a laugh. "I don't suppose it's the other. Who's the
"He's a friend of ours--Lord Warburton."
"Oh, I hoped there would be a lord; it's just like a novel!" And then,
"Oh you adorable creature!" she suddenly cried, stooping down and
picking up the small dog again.
She remained standing where they had met, making no offer to advance or
to speak to Mr. Touchett, and while she lingered so near the threshold,
slim and charming, her interlocutor wondered if she expected the old man
to come and pay her his respects. American girls were used to a great
deal of deference, and it had been intimated that this one had a high
spirit. Indeed Ralph could see that in her face.
"Won't you come and make acquaintance with my father?" he nevertheless
ventured to ask. "He's old and infirm--he doesn't leave his chair."
"Ah, poor man, I'm very sorry!" the girl exclaimed, immediately moving
forward. "I got the impression from your mother that he was rather
Ralph Touchett was silent a moment. "She hasn't seen him for a year."
"Well, he has a lovely place to sit. Come along, little hound."
"It's a dear old place," said the young man, looking sidewise at his
"What's his name?" she asked, her attention having again reverted to the
"My father's name?"
"Yes," said the young lady with amusement; "but don't tell him I asked
They had come by this time to where old Mr. Touchett was sitting, and he
slowly got up from his chair to introduce himself.
"My mother has arrived," said Ralph, "and this is Miss Archer."
The old man placed his two hands on her shoulders, looked at her a
moment with extreme benevolence and then gallantly kissed her. "It's
a great pleasure to me to see you here; but I wish you had given us a
chance to receive you."
"Oh, we were received," said the girl. "There were about a dozen
servants in the hall. And there was an old woman curtseying at the
"We can do better than that--if we have notice!" And the old man stood
there smiling, rubbing his hands and slowly shaking his head at her.
"But Mrs. Touchett doesn't like receptions."
"She went straight to her room."
"Yes--and locked herself in. She always does that. Well, I suppose I
shall see her next week." And Mrs. Touchett's husband slowly resumed his
"Before that," said Miss Archer. "She's coming down to dinner--at eight
o'clock. Don't you forget a quarter to seven," she added, turning with a
smile to Ralph.
"What's to happen at a quarter to seven?"
"I'm to see my mother," said Ralph.
"Ah, happy boy!" the old man commented. "You must sit down--you must
have some tea," he observed to his wife's niece.
"They gave me some tea in my room the moment I got there," this young
lady answered. "I'm sorry you're out of health," she added, resting her
eyes upon her venerable host.
"Oh, I'm an old man, my dear; it's time for me to be old. But I shall be
the better for having you here."
She had been looking all round her again--at the lawn, the great trees,
the reedy, silvery Thames, the beautiful old house; and while engaged
in this survey she had made room in it for her companions; a
comprehensiveness of observation easily conceivable on the part of a
young woman who was evidently both intelligent and excited. She had
seated herself and had put away the little dog; her white hands, in
her lap, were folded upon her black dress; her head was erect, her eye
lighted, her flexible figure turned itself easily this way and that, in
sympathy with the alertness with which she evidently caught impressions.
Her impressions were numerous, and they were all reflected in a clear,
still smile. "I've never seen anything so beautiful as this."
"It's looking very well," said Mr. Touchett. "I know the way it strikes
you. I've been through all that. But you're very beautiful yourself," he
added with a politeness by no means crudely jocular and with the happy
consciousness that his advanced age gave him the privilege of saying
such things--even to young persons who might possibly take alarm at
What degree of alarm this young person took need not be exactly
measured; she instantly rose, however, with a blush which was not a
refutation. "Oh yes, of course I'm lovely!" she returned with a quick
laugh. "How old is your house? Is it Elizabethan?"
"It's early Tudor," said Ralph Touchett.
She turned toward him, watching his face. "Early Tudor? How very
delightful! And I suppose there are a great many others."
"There are many much better ones."
"Don't say that, my son!" the old man protested. "There's nothing better
"I've got a very good one; I think in some respects it's rather better,"
said Lord Warburton, who as yet had not spoken, but who had kept an
attentive eye upon Miss Archer. He slightly inclined himself, smiling;
he had an excellent manner with women. The girl appreciated it in an
instant; she had not forgotten that this was Lord Warburton. "I should
like very much to show it to you," he added.
"Don't believe him," cried the old man; "don't look at it! It's a
wretched old barrack--not to be compared with this."
"I don't know--I can't judge," said the girl, smiling at Lord Warburton.
In this discussion Ralph Touchett took no interest whatever; he stood
with his hands in his pockets, looking greatly as if he should like to
renew his conversation with his new-found cousin.
"Are you very fond of dogs?" he enquired by way of beginning. He seemed
to recognise that it was an awkward beginning for a clever man.
"Very fond of them indeed."
"You must keep the terrier, you know," he went on, still awkwardly.
"I'll keep him while I'm here, with pleasure."
"That will be for a long time, I hope."
"You're very kind. I hardly know. My aunt must settle that."
"I'll settle it with her--at a quarter to seven." And Ralph looked at
his watch again.
"I'm glad to be here at all," said the girl.
"I don't believe you allow things to be settled for you."
"Oh yes; if they're settled as I like them."
"I shall settle this as I like it," said Ralph. "It's most unaccountable
that we should never have known you."
"I was there--you had only to come and see me."
"There? Where do you mean?"
"In the United States: in New York and Albany and other American
"I've been there--all over, but I never saw you. I can't make it out."
Miss Archer just hesitated. "It was because there had been some
disagreement between your mother and my father, after my mother's death,
which took place when I was a child. In consequence of it we never
expected to see you."
"Ah, but I don't embrace all my mother's quarrels--heaven forbid!"
the young man cried. "You've lately lost your father?" he went on more
"Yes; more than a year ago. After that my aunt was very kind to me; she
came to see me and proposed that I should come with her to Europe."
"I see," said Ralph. "She has adopted you."
"Adopted me?" The girl stared, and her blush came back to her, together
with a momentary look of pain which gave her interlocutor some alarm. He
had underestimated the effect of his words. Lord Warburton, who appeared
constantly desirous of a nearer view of Miss Archer, strolled toward the
two cousins at the moment, and as he did so she rested her wider eyes on
"Oh no; she has not adopted me. I'm not a candidate for adoption."
"I beg a thousand pardons," Ralph murmured. "I meant--I meant--" He
hardly knew what he meant.
"You meant she has taken me up. Yes; she likes to take people up.
She has been very kind to me; but," she added with a certain visible
eagerness of desire to be explicit, "I'm very fond of my liberty."
"Are you talking about Mrs. Touchett?" the old man called out from his
chair. "Come here, my dear, and tell me about her. I'm always thankful
The girl hesitated again, smiling. "She's really very benevolent,"
she answered; after which she went over to her uncle, whose mirth was
excited by her words.
Lord Warburton was left standing with Ralph Touchett, to whom in a
moment he said: "You wished a while ago to see my idea of an interesting
woman. There it is!"
Mrs. Touchett was certainly a person of many oddities, of which her
behaviour on returning to her husband's house after many months was a
noticeable specimen. She had her own way of doing all that she did, and
this is the simplest description of a character which, although by no
means without liberal motions, rarely succeeded in giving an impression
of suavity. Mrs. Touchett might do a great deal of good, but she
never pleased. This way of her own, of which she was so fond, was not
intrinsically offensive--it was just unmistakeably distinguished from
the ways of others. The edges of her conduct were so very clear-cut that
for susceptible persons it sometimes had a knife-like effect. That hard
fineness came out in her deportment during the first hours of her return
from America, under circumstances in which it might have seemed that
her first act would have been to exchange greetings with her husband
and son. Mrs. Touchett, for reasons which she deemed excellent, always
retired on such occasions into impenetrable seclusion, postponing the
more sentimental ceremony until she had repaired the disorder of dress
with a completeness which had the less reason to be of high importance
as neither beauty nor vanity were concerned in it. She was a plain-faced
old woman, without graces and without any great elegance, but with an
extreme respect for her own motives. She was usually prepared to explain
these--when the explanation was asked as a favour; and in such a case
they proved totally different from those that had been attributed to
her. She was virtually separated from her husband, but she appeared to
perceive nothing irregular in the situation. It had become clear, at an
early stage of their community, that they should never desire the same
thing at the same moment, and this appearance had prompted her to rescue
disagreement from the vulgar realm of accident. She did what she could
to erect it into a law--a much more edifying aspect of it--by going to
live in Florence, where she bought a house and established herself; and
by leaving her husband to take care of the English branch of his bank.
This arrangement greatly pleased her; it was so felicitously definite.
It struck her husband in the same light, in a foggy square in London,
where it was at times the most definite fact he discerned; but he
would have preferred that such unnatural things should have a greater
vagueness. To agree to disagree had cost him an effort; he was ready to
agree to almost anything but that, and saw no reason why either assent
or dissent should be so terribly consistent. Mrs. Touchett indulged in
no regrets nor speculations, and usually came once a year to spend a
month with her husband, a period during which she apparently took pains
to convince him that she had adopted the right system. She was not fond
of the English style of life, and had three or four reasons for it to
which she currently alluded; they bore upon minor points of that ancient
order, but for Mrs. Touchett they amply justified non-residence. She
detested bread-sauce, which, as she said, looked like a poultice
and tasted like soap; she objected to the consumption of beer by
her maid-servants; and she affirmed that the British laundress (Mrs.
Touchett was very particular about the appearance of her linen) was not
a mistress of her art. At fixed intervals she paid a visit to her own
country; but this last had been longer than any of its predecessors.
She had taken up her niece--there was little doubt of that. One wet
afternoon, some four months earlier than the occurrence lately narrated,
this young lady had been seated alone with a book. To say she was so
occupied is to say that her solitude did not press upon her; for her
love of knowledge had a fertilising quality and her imagination was
strong. There was at this time, however, a want of fresh taste in
her situation which the arrival of an unexpected visitor did much to
correct. The visitor had not been announced; the girl heard her at last
walking about the adjoining room. It was in an old house at Albany, a
large, square, double house, with a notice of sale in the windows of one
of the lower apartments. There were two entrances, one of which had
long been out of use but had never been removed. They were exactly
alike--large white doors, with an arched frame and wide side-lights,
perched upon little "stoops" of red stone, which descended sidewise
to the brick pavement of the street. The two houses together formed a
single dwelling, the party-wall having been removed and the rooms placed
in communication. These rooms, above-stairs, were extremely numerous,
and were painted all over exactly alike, in a yellowish white which had
grown sallow with time. On the third floor there was a sort of arched
passage, connecting the two sides of the house, which Isabel and her
sisters used in their childhood to call the tunnel and which, though it
was short and well lighted, always seemed to the girl to be strange and
lonely, especially on winter afternoons. She had been in the house,
at different periods, as a child; in those days her grandmother lived
there. Then there had been an absence of ten years, followed by a return
to Albany before her father's death. Her grandmother, old Mrs. Archer,
had exercised, chiefly within the limits of the family, a large
hospitality in the early period, and the little girls often spent weeks
under her roof--weeks of which Isabel had the happiest memory. The
manner of life was different from that of her own home--larger, more
plentiful, practically more festal; the discipline of the nursery was
delightfully vague and the opportunity of listening to the conversation
of one's elders (which with Isabel was a highly-valued pleasure) almost
unbounded. There was a constant coming and going; her grandmother's
sons and daughters and their children appeared to be in the enjoyment of
standing invitations to arrive and remain, so that the house offered to
a certain extent the appearance of a bustling provincial inn kept by a
gentle old landlady who sighed a great deal and never presented a bill.
Isabel of course knew nothing about bills; but even as a child she
thought her grandmother's home romantic. There was a covered piazza
behind it, furnished with a swing which was a source of tremulous
interest; and beyond this was a long garden, sloping down to the stable
and containing peach-trees of barely credible familiarity. Isabel had
stayed with her grandmother at various seasons, but somehow all her
visits had a flavour of peaches. On the other side, across the street,
was an old house that was called the Dutch House--a peculiar structure
dating from the earliest colonial time, composed of bricks that had been
painted yellow, crowned with a gable that was pointed out to strangers,
defended by a rickety wooden paling and standing sidewise to the street.
It was occupied by a primary school for children of both sexes, kept
or rather let go, by a demonstrative lady of whom Isabel's chief
recollection was that her hair was fastened with strange bedroomy combs
at the temples and that she was the widow of some one of consequence.
The little girl had been offered the opportunity of laying a foundation
of knowledge in this establishment; but having spent a single day in it,
she had protested against its laws and had been allowed to stay at home,
where, in the September days, when the windows of the Dutch House
were open, she used to hear the hum of childish voices repeating the
multiplication table--an incident in which the elation of liberty and
the pain of exclusion were indistinguishably mingled. The foundation
of her knowledge was really laid in the idleness of her grandmother's
house, where, as most of the other inmates were not reading people,
she had uncontrolled use of a library full of books with frontispieces,
which she used to climb upon a chair to take down. When she had found
one to her taste--she was guided in the selection chiefly by the
frontispiece--she carried it into a mysterious apartment which lay
beyond the library and which was called, traditionally, no one knew
why, the office. Whose office it had been and at what period it had
flourished, she never learned; it was enough for her that it contained
an echo and a pleasant musty smell and that it was a chamber of disgrace
for old pieces of furniture whose infirmities were not always apparent
(so that the disgrace seemed unmerited and rendered them victims
of injustice) and with which, in the manner of children, she had
established relations almost human, certainly dramatic. There was an old
haircloth sofa in especial, to which she had confided a hundred childish
sorrows. The place owed much of its mysterious melancholy to the fact
that it was properly entered from the second door of the house, the
door that had been condemned, and that it was secured by bolts which a
particularly slender little girl found it impossible to slide. She
knew that this silent, motionless portal opened into the street; if the
sidelights had not been filled with green paper she might have looked
out upon the little brown stoop and the well-worn brick pavement. But
she had no wish to look out, for this would have interfered with her
theory that there was a strange, unseen place on the other side--a place
which became to the child's imagination, according to its different
moods, a region of delight or of terror.
It was in the "office" still that Isabel was sitting on that melancholy
afternoon of early spring which I have just mentioned. At this time
she might have had the whole house to choose from, and the room she had
selected was the most depressed of its scenes. She had never opened the
bolted door nor removed the green paper (renewed by other hands) from
its sidelights; she had never assured herself that the vulgar street lay
beyond. A crude, cold rain fell heavily; the spring-time was indeed an
appeal--and it seemed a cynical, insincere appeal--to patience. Isabel,
however, gave as little heed as possible to cosmic treacheries; she kept
her eyes on her book and tried to fix her mind. It had lately occurred
to her that her mind was a good deal of a vagabond, and she had spent
much ingenuity in training it to a military step and teaching it
to advance, to halt, to retreat, to perform even more complicated
manoeuvres, at the word of command. Just now she had given it marching
orders and it had been trudging over the sandy plains of a history of
German Thought. Suddenly she became aware of a step very different from
her own intellectual pace; she listened a little and perceived that some
one was moving in the library, which communicated with the office. It
struck her first as the step of a person from whom she was looking for a
visit, then almost immediately announced itself as the tread of a
woman and a stranger--her possible visitor being neither. It had an
inquisitive, experimental quality which suggested that it would not stop
short of the threshold of the office; and in fact the doorway of this
apartment was presently occupied by a lady who paused there and looked
very hard at our heroine. She was a plain, elderly woman, dressed in
a comprehensive waterproof mantle; she had a face with a good deal of
rather violent point.
"Oh," she began, "is that where you usually sit?" She looked about at
the heterogeneous chairs and tables.
"Not when I have visitors," said Isabel, getting up to receive the
She directed their course back to the library while the visitor
continued to look about her. "You seem to have plenty of other rooms;
they're in rather better condition. But everything's immensely worn."
"Have you come to look at the house?" Isabel asked. "The servant will
show it to you."
"Send her away; I don't want to buy it. She has probably gone to
look for you and is wandering about upstairs; she didn't seem at all
intelligent. You had better tell her it's no matter." And then, since
the girl stood there hesitating and wondering, this unexpected critic
said to her abruptly: "I suppose you're one of the daughters?"
Isabel thought she had very strange manners. "It depends upon whose
daughters you mean."
"The late Mr. Archer's--and my poor sister's."
"Ah," said Isabel slowly, "you must be our crazy Aunt Lydia!"
"Is that what your father told you to call me? I'm your Aunt Lydia, but
I'm not at all crazy: I haven't a delusion! And which of the daughters
"I'm the youngest of the three, and my name's Isabel."
"Yes; the others are Lilian and Edith. And are you the prettiest?"
"I haven't the least idea," said the girl.
"I think you must be." And in this way the aunt and the niece made
friends. The aunt had quarrelled years before with her brother-in-law,
after the death of her sister, taking him to task for the manner in
which he brought up his three girls. Being a high-tempered man he had
requested her to mind her own business, and she had taken him at his
word. For many years she held no communication with him and after his
death had addressed not a word to his daughters, who had been bred in
that disrespectful view of her which we have just seen Isabel betray.
Mrs. Touchett's behaviour was, as usual, perfectly deliberate. She
intended to go to America to look after her investments (with which her
husband, in spite of his great financial position, had nothing to
do) and would take advantage of this opportunity to enquire into the
condition of her nieces. There was no need of writing, for she should
attach no importance to any account of them she should elicit by letter;
she believed, always, in seeing for one's self. Isabel found, however,
that she knew a good deal about them, and knew about the marriage of the
two elder girls; knew that their poor father had left very little money,
but that the house in Albany, which had passed into his hands, was to
be sold for their benefit; knew, finally, that Edmund Ludlow,
Lilian's husband, had taken upon himself to attend to this matter, in
consideration of which the young couple, who had come to Albany during
Mr. Archer's illness, were remaining there for the present and, as well
as Isabel herself, occupying the old place.
"How much money do you expect for it?" Mrs. Touchett asked of her
companion, who had brought her to sit in the front parlour, which she
had inspected without enthusiasm.
"I haven't the least idea," said the girl.
"That's the second time you have said that to me," her aunt rejoined.
"And yet you don't look at all stupid."
"I'm not stupid; but I don't know anything about money."
"Yes, that's the way you were brought up--as if you were to inherit a
million. What have you in point of fact inherited?"
"I really can't tell you. You must ask Edmund and Lilian; they'll be
back in half an hour."
"In Florence we should call it a very bad house," said Mrs. Touchett;
"but here, I dare say, it will bring a high price. It ought to make
a considerable sum for each of you. In addition to that you must have
something else; it's most extraordinary your not knowing. The position's
of value, and they'll probably pull it down and make a row of shops.
I wonder you don't do that yourself; you might let the shops to great
Isabel stared; the idea of letting shops was new to her. "I hope they
won't pull it down," she said; "I'm extremely fond of it."
"I don't see what makes you fond of it; your father died here."
"Yes; but I don't dislike it for that," the girl rather strangely
returned. "I like places in which things have happened--even if they're
sad things. A great many people have died here; the place has been full
"Is that what you call being full of life?"
"I mean full of experience--of people's feelings and sorrows. And not of
their sorrows only, for I've been very happy here as a child."
"You should go to Florence if you like houses in which things have
happened--especially deaths. I live in an old palace in which three
people have been murdered; three that were known and I don't know how
many more besides."
"In an old palace?" Isabel repeated.
"Yes, my dear; a very different affair from this. This is very
Isabel felt some emotion, for she had always thought highly of her
grandmother's house. But the emotion was of a kind which led her to say:
"I should like very much to go to Florence."
"Well, if you'll be very good, and do everything I tell you I'll take
you there," Mrs. Touchett declared.
Our young woman's emotion deepened; she flushed a little and smiled at
her aunt in silence. "Do everything you tell me? I don't think I can
"No, you don't look like a person of that sort. You're fond of your own
way; but it's not for me to blame you."
"And yet, to go to Florence," the girl exclaimed in a moment, "I'd
promise almost anything!"
Edmund and Lilian were slow to return, and Mrs. Touchett had an
hour's uninterrupted talk with her niece, who found her a strange and
interesting figure: a figure essentially--almost the first she had ever
met. She was as eccentric as Isabel had always supposed; and hitherto,
whenever the girl had heard people described as eccentric, she had
thought of them as offensive or alarming. The term had always suggested
to her something grotesque and even sinister. But her aunt made it a
matter of high but easy irony, or comedy, and led her to ask herself
if the common tone, which was all she had known, had ever been as
interesting. No one certainly had on any occasion so held her as this
little thin-lipped, bright-eyed, foreign-looking woman, who retrieved an
insignificant appearance by a distinguished manner and, sitting there in
a well-worn waterproof, talked with striking familiarity of the courts
of Europe. There was nothing flighty about Mrs. Touchett, but she
recognised no social superiors, and, judging the great ones of the earth
in a way that spoke of this, enjoyed the consciousness of making
an impression on a candid and susceptible mind. Isabel at first had
answered a good many questions, and it was from her answers apparently
that Mrs. Touchett derived a high opinion of her intelligence. But after
this she had asked a good many, and her aunt's answers, whatever turn
they took, struck her as food for deep reflexion. Mrs. Touchett waited
for the return of her other niece as long as she thought reasonable, but
as at six o'clock Mrs. Ludlow had not come in she prepared to take her
"Your sister must be a great gossip. Is she accustomed to staying out so
"You've been out almost as long as she," Isabel replied; "she can have
left the house but a short time before you came in."
Mrs. Touchett looked at the girl without resentment; she appeared to
enjoy a bold retort and to be disposed to be gracious. "Perhaps she
hasn't had so good an excuse as I. Tell her at any rate that she must
come and see me this evening at that horrid hotel. She may bring her
husband if she likes, but she needn't bring you. I shall see plenty of
Mrs. Ludlow was the eldest of the three sisters, and was usually thought
the most sensible; the classification being in general that Lilian
was the practical one, Edith the beauty and Isabel the "intellectual"
superior. Mrs. Keyes, the second of the group, was the wife of an
officer of the United States Engineers, and as our history is not
further concerned with her it will suffice that she was indeed very
pretty and that she formed the ornament of those various military
stations, chiefly in the unfashionable West, to which, to her deep
chagrin, her husband was successively relegated. Lilian had married a
New York lawyer, a young man with a loud voice and an enthusiasm for
his profession; the match was not brilliant, any more than Edith's, but
Lilian had occasionally been spoken of as a young woman who might be
thankful to marry at all--she was so much plainer than her sisters.
She was, however, very happy, and now, as the mother of two peremptory
little boys and the mistress of a wedge of brown stone violently driven
into Fifty-third Street, seemed to exult in her condition as in a bold
escape. She was short and solid, and her claim to figure was questioned,
but she was conceded presence, though not majesty; she had moreover, as
people said, improved since her marriage, and the two things in life
of which she was most distinctly conscious were her husband's force in
argument and her sister Isabel's originality. "I've never kept up with
Isabel--it would have taken all my time," she had often remarked;
in spite of which, however, she held her rather wistfully in sight;
watching her as a motherly spaniel might watch a free greyhound. "I want
to see her safely married--that's what I want to see," she frequently
noted to her husband.
"Well, I must say I should have no particular desire to marry her,"
Edmund Ludlow was accustomed to answer in an extremely audible tone.
"I know you say that for argument; you always take the opposite ground.
I don't see what you've against her except that she's so original."
"Well, I don't like originals; I like translations," Mr. Ludlow had more
than once replied. "Isabel's written in a foreign tongue. I can't make
her out. She ought to marry an Armenian or a Portuguese."
"That's just what I'm afraid she'll do!" cried Lilian, who thought
Isabel capable of anything.
She listened with great interest to the girl's account of Mrs.
Touchett's appearance and in the evening prepared to comply with their
aunt's commands. Of what Isabel then said no report has remained, but
her sister's words had doubtless prompted a word spoken to her husband
as the two were making ready for their visit. "I do hope immensely
she'll do something handsome for Isabel; she has evidently taken a great
fancy to her."
"What is it you wish her to do?" Edmund Ludlow asked. "Make her a big
"No indeed; nothing of the sort. But take an interest in her--sympathise
with her. She's evidently just the sort of person to appreciate her. She
has lived so much in foreign society; she told Isabel all about it. You
know you've always thought Isabel rather foreign."
"You want her to give her a little foreign sympathy, eh? Don't you think
she gets enough at home?"
"Well, she ought to go abroad," said Mrs. Ludlow. "She's just the person
to go abroad."
"And you want the old lady to take her, is that it?"
"She has offered to take her--she's dying to have Isabel go. But what
I want her to do when she gets her there is to give her all the
advantages. I'm sure all we've got to do," said Mrs. Ludlow, "is to give
her a chance."
"A chance for what?"
"A chance to develop."
"Oh Moses!" Edmund Ludlow exclaimed. "I hope she isn't going to develop
"If I were not sure you only said that for argument I should feel very
badly," his wife replied. "But you know you love her."
"Do you know I love you?" the young man said, jocosely, to Isabel a
little later, while he brushed his hat.
"I'm sure I don't care whether you do or not!" exclaimed the girl; whose
voice and smile, however, were less haughty than her words.
"Oh, she feels so grand since Mrs. Touchett's visit," said her sister.
But Isabel challenged this assertion with a good deal of seriousness.
"You must not say that, Lily. I don't feel grand at all."
"I'm sure there's no harm," said the conciliatory Lily.
"Ah, but there's nothing in Mrs. Touchett's visit to make one feel
"Oh," exclaimed Ludlow, "she's grander than ever!"
"Whenever I feel grand," said the girl, "it will be for a better
Whether she felt grand or no, she at any rate felt different, as if
something had happened to her. Left to herself for the evening she sat
a while under the lamp, her hands empty, her usual avocations unheeded.
Then she rose and moved about the room, and from one room to another,
preferring the places where the vague lamplight expired. She was
restless and even agitated; at moments she trembled a little. The
importance of what had happened was out of proportion to its appearance;
there had really been a change in her life. What it would bring with it
was as yet extremely indefinite; but Isabel was in a situation that gave
a value to any change. She had a desire to leave the past behind her
and, as she said to herself, to begin afresh. This desire indeed was not
a birth of the present occasion; it was as familiar as the sound of the
rain upon the window and it had led to her beginning afresh a great many
times. She closed her eyes as she sat in one of the dusky corners of the
quiet parlour; but it was not with a desire for dozing forgetfulness. It
was on the contrary because she felt too wide-eyed and wished to check
the sense of seeing too many things at once. Her imagination was by
habit ridiculously active; when the door was not open it jumped out of
the window. She was not accustomed indeed to keep it behind bolts; and
at important moments, when she would have been thankful to make use
of her judgement alone, she paid the penalty of having given undue
encouragement to the faculty of seeing without judging. At present, with
her sense that the note of change had been struck, came gradually a host
of images of the things she was leaving behind her. The years and hours
of her life came back to her, and for a long time, in a stillness broken
only by the ticking of the big bronze clock, she passed them in
review. It had been a very happy life and she had been a very fortunate
person--this was the truth that seemed to emerge most vividly. She had
had the best of everything, and in a world in which the circumstances
of so many people made them unenviable it was an advantage never to have
known anything particularly unpleasant. It appeared to Isabel that the
unpleasant had been even too absent from her knowledge, for she had
gathered from her acquaintance with literature that it was often a
source of interest and even of instruction. Her father had kept it
away from her--her handsome, much loved father, who always had such
an aversion to it. It was a great felicity to have been his daughter;
Isabel rose even to pride in her parentage. Since his death she had
seemed to see him as turning his braver side to his children and as
not having managed to ignore the ugly quite so much in practice as in
aspiration. But this only made her tenderness for him greater; it
was scarcely even painful to have to suppose him too generous, too
good-natured, too indifferent to sordid considerations. Many persons
had held that he carried this indifference too far, especially the large
number of those to whom he owed money. Of their opinions Isabel was
never very definitely informed; but it may interest the reader to know
that, while they had recognised in the late Mr. Archer a remarkably
handsome head and a very taking manner (indeed, as one of them had said,
he was always taking something), they had declared that he was making a
very poor use of his life. He had squandered a substantial fortune, he
had been deplorably convivial, he was known to have gambled freely.
A few very harsh critics went so far as to say that he had not even
brought up his daughters. They had had no regular education and no
permanent home; they had been at once spoiled and neglected; they had
lived with nursemaids and governesses (usually very bad ones) or had
been sent to superficial schools, kept by the French, from which, at the
end of a month, they had been removed in tears. This view of the matter
would have excited Isabel's indignation, for to her own sense her
opportunities had been large. Even when her father had left his
daughters for three months at Neufchatel with a French bonne who had
eloped with a Russian nobleman staying at the same hotel--even in this
irregular situation (an incident of the girl's eleventh year) she had
been neither frightened nor ashamed, but had thought it a romantic
episode in a liberal education. Her father had a large way of looking at
life, of which his restlessness and even his occasional incoherency
of conduct had been only a proof. He wished his daughters, even as
children, to see as much of the world as possible; and it was for this
purpose that, before Isabel was fourteen, he had transported them three
times across the Atlantic, giving them on each occasion, however, but a
few months' view of the subject proposed: a course which had whetted
our heroine's curiosity without enabling her to satisfy it. She ought to
have been a partisan of her father, for she was the member of his trio
who most "made up" to him for the disagreeables he didn't mention. In
his last days his general willingness to take leave of a world in which
the difficulty of doing as one liked appeared to increase as one grew
older had been sensibly modified by the pain of separation from his
clever, his superior, his remarkable girl. Later, when the journeys to
Europe ceased, he still had shown his children all sorts of indulgence,
and if he had been troubled about money-matters nothing ever disturbed
their irreflective consciousness of many possessions. Isabel, though she
danced very well, had not the recollection of having been in New York a
successful member of the choreographic circle; her sister Edith was,
as every one said, so very much more fetching. Edith was so striking
an example of success that Isabel could have no illusions as to what
constituted this advantage, or as to the limits of her own power to
frisk and jump and shriek--above all with rightness of effect. Nineteen
persons out of twenty (including the younger sister herself) pronounced
Edith infinitely the prettier of the two; but the twentieth, besides
reversing this judgement, had the entertainment of thinking all the
others aesthetic vulgarians. Isabel had in the depths of her nature an
even more unquenchable desire to please than Edith; but the depths of
this young lady's nature were a very out-of-the-way place, between which
and the surface communication was interrupted by a dozen capricious
forces. She saw the young men who came in large numbers to see her
sister; but as a general thing they were afraid of her; they had a
belief that some special preparation was required for talking with her.
Her reputation of reading a great deal hung about her like the cloudy
envelope of a goddess in an epic; it was supposed to engender difficult
questions and to keep the conversation at a low temperature. The poor
girl liked to be thought clever, but she hated to be thought bookish;
she used to read in secret and, though her memory was excellent, to
abstain from showy reference. She had a great desire for knowledge, but
she really preferred almost any source of information to the printed
page; she had an immense curiosity about life and was constantly staring
and wondering. She carried within herself a great fund of life, and her
deepest enjoyment was to feel the continuity between the movements of
her own soul and the agitations of the world. For this reason she was
fond of seeing great crowds and large stretches of country, of reading
about revolutions and wars, of looking at historical pictures--a class
of efforts as to which she had often committed the conscious solecism of
forgiving them much bad painting for the sake of the subject. While the
Civil War went on she was still a very young girl; but she passed months
of this long period in a state of almost passionate excitement, in which
she felt herself at times (to her extreme confusion) stirred
almost indiscriminately by the valour of either army. Of course the
circumspection of suspicious swains had never gone the length of making
her a social proscript; for the number of those whose hearts, as they
approached her, beat only just fast enough to remind them they had heads
as well, had kept her unacquainted with the supreme disciplines of
her sex and age. She had had everything a girl could have: kindness,
admiration, bonbons, bouquets, the sense of exclusion from none of the
privileges of the world she lived in, abundant opportunity for dancing,
plenty of new dresses, the London Spectator, the latest publications,
the music of Gounod, the poetry of Browning, the prose of George Eliot.
These things now, as memory played over them, resolved themselves into a
multitude of scenes and figures. Forgotten things came back to her; many
others, which she had lately thought of great moment, dropped out of
sight. The result was kaleidoscopic, but the movement of the instrument
was checked at last by the servant's coming in with the name of a
gentleman. The name of the gentleman was Caspar Goodwood; he was a
straight young man from Boston, who had known Miss Archer for the last
twelvemonth and who, thinking her the most beautiful young woman of her
time, had pronounced the time, according to the rule I have hinted at,
a foolish period of history. He sometimes wrote to her and had within a
week or two written from New York. She had thought it very possible he
would come in--had indeed all the rainy day been vaguely expecting him.
Now that she learned he was there, nevertheless, she felt no eagerness
to receive him. He was the finest young man she had ever seen, was
indeed quite a splendid young man; he inspired her with a sentiment of
high, of rare respect. She had never felt equally moved to it by any
other person. He was supposed by the world in general to wish to marry
her, but this of course was between themselves. It at least may be
affirmed that he had travelled from New York to Albany expressly to see
her; having learned in the former city, where he was spending a few
days and where he had hoped to find her, that she was still at the State
capital. Isabel delayed for some minutes to go to him; she moved about
the room with a new sense of complications. But at last she presented
herself and found him standing near the lamp. He was tall, strong and
somewhat stiff; he was also lean and brown. He was not romantically, he
was much rather obscurely, handsome; but his physiognomy had an air of
requesting your attention, which it rewarded according to the charm you
found in blue eyes of remarkable fixedness, the eyes of a complexion
other than his own, and a jaw of the somewhat angular mould which is
supposed to bespeak resolution. Isabel said to herself that it bespoke
resolution to-night; in spite of which, in half an hour, Caspar
Goodwood, who had arrived hopeful as well as resolute, took his way back
to his lodging with the feeling of a man defeated. He was not, it may be
added, a man weakly to accept defeat.
Ralph Touchett was a philosopher, but nevertheless he knocked at his
mother's door (at a quarter to seven) with a good deal of eagerness.
Even philosophers have their preferences, and it must be admitted
that of his progenitors his father ministered most to his sense of the
sweetness of filial dependence. His father, as he had often said to
himself, was the more motherly; his mother, on the other hand, was
paternal, and even, according to the slang of the day, gubernatorial.
She was nevertheless very fond of her only child and had always insisted
on his spending three months of the year with her. Ralph rendered
perfect justice to her affection and knew that in her thoughts and her
thoroughly arranged and servanted life his turn always came after the
other nearest subjects of her solicitude, the various punctualities of
performance of the workers of her will. He found her completely dressed
for dinner, but she embraced her boy with her gloved hands and made
him sit on the sofa beside her. She enquired scrupulously about her
husband's health and about the young man's own, and, receiving no
very brilliant account of either, remarked that she was more than ever
convinced of her wisdom in not exposing herself to the English climate.
In this case she also might have given way. Ralph smiled at the idea of
his mother's giving way, but made no point of reminding her that his
own infirmity was not the result of the English climate, from which he
absented himself for a considerable part of each year.
He had been a very small boy when his father, Daniel Tracy Touchett,
a native of Rutland, in the State of Vermont, came to England as
subordinate partner in a banking-house where some ten years later he
gained preponderant control. Daniel Touchett saw before him a life-long
residence in his adopted country, of which, from the first, he took a
simple, sane and accommodating view. But, as he said to himself, he had
no intention of disamericanising, nor had he a desire to teach his
only son any such subtle art. It had been for himself so very soluble a
problem to live in England assimilated yet unconverted that it seemed to
him equally simple his lawful heir should after his death carry on the
grey old bank in the white American light. He was at pains to intensify
this light, however, by sending the boy home for his education. Ralph
spent several terms at an American school and took a degree at an
American university, after which, as he struck his father on his return
as even redundantly native, he was placed for some three years in
residence at Oxford. Oxford swallowed up Harvard, and Ralph became
at last English enough. His outward conformity to the manners that
surrounded him was none the less the mask of a mind that greatly enjoyed
its independence, on which nothing long imposed itself, and which,
naturally inclined to adventure and irony, indulged in a boundless
liberty of appreciation. He began with being a young man of promise; at
Oxford he distinguished himself, to his father's ineffable satisfaction,
and the people about him said it was a thousand pities so clever a
fellow should be shut out from a career. He might have had a career
by returning to his own country (though this point is shrouded in
uncertainty) and even if Mr. Touchett had been willing to part with
him (which was not the case) it would have gone hard with him to put
a watery waste permanently between himself and the old man whom he
regarded as his best friend. Ralph was not only fond of his father,
he admired him--he enjoyed the opportunity of observing him. Daniel
Touchett, to his perception, was a man of genius, and though he himself
had no aptitude for the banking mystery he made a point of learning
enough of it to measure the great figure his father had played. It was
not this, however, he mainly relished; it was the fine ivory surface,
polished as by the English air, that the old man had opposed to
possibilities of penetration. Daniel Touchett had been neither at
Harvard nor at Oxford, and it was his own fault if he had placed in his
son's hands the key to modern criticism. Ralph, whose head was full
of ideas which his father had never guessed, had a high esteem for the
latter's originality. Americans, rightly or wrongly, are commended for
the ease with which they adapt themselves to foreign conditions; but Mr.
Touchett had made of the very limits of his pliancy half the ground
of his general success. He had retained in their freshness most of
his marks of primary pressure; his tone, as his son always noted with
pleasure, was that of the more luxuriant parts of New England. At the
end of his life he had become, on his own ground, as mellow as he
was rich; he combined consummate shrewdness with the disposition
superficially to fraternise, and his "social position," on which he had
never wasted a care, had the firm perfection of an unthumbed fruit. It
was perhaps his want of imagination and of what is called the historic
consciousness; but to many of the impressions usually made by English
life upon the cultivated stranger his sense was completely closed. There
were certain differences he had never perceived, certain habits he had
never formed, certain obscurities he had never sounded. As regards these
latter, on the day he had sounded them his son would have thought less
well of him.
Ralph, on leaving Oxford, had spent a couple of years in travelling;
after which he had found himself perched on a high stool in his father's
bank. The responsibility and honour of such positions is not, I
believe, measured by the height of the stool, which depends upon other
considerations: Ralph, indeed, who had very long legs, was fond of
standing, and even of walking about, at his work. To this exercise,
however, he was obliged to devote but a limited period, for at the end
of some eighteen months he had become aware of his being seriously out
of health. He had caught a violent cold, which fixed itself on his lungs
and threw them into dire confusion. He had to give up work and apply,
to the letter, the sorry injunction to take care of himself. At first he
slighted the task; it appeared to him it was not himself in the least
he was taking care of, but an uninteresting and uninterested person
with whom he had nothing in common. This person, however, improved
on acquaintance, and Ralph grew at last to have a certain grudging
tolerance, even an undemonstrative respect, for him. Misfortune makes
strange bedfellows, and our young man, feeling that he had something
at stake in the matter--it usually struck him as his reputation for
ordinary wit--devoted to his graceless charge an amount of attention of
which note was duly taken and which had at least the effect of keeping
the poor fellow alive. One of his lungs began to heal, the other
promised to follow its example, and he was assured he might outweather
a dozen winters if he would betake himself to those climates in which
consumptives chiefly congregate. As he had grown extremely fond of
London, he cursed the flatness of exile: but at the same time that he
cursed he conformed, and gradually, when he found his sensitive organ
grateful even for grim favours, he conferred them with a lighter hand.
He wintered abroad, as the phrase is; basked in the sun, stopped at home
when the wind blew, went to bed when it rained, and once or twice, when
it had snowed overnight, almost never got up again.
A secret hoard of indifference--like a thick cake a fond old nurse might
have slipped into his first school outfit--came to his aid and helped to
reconcile him to sacrifice; since at the best he was too ill for aught
but that arduous game. As he said to himself, there was really nothing
he had wanted very much to do, so that he had at least not renounced the
field of valour. At present, however, the fragrance of forbidden fruit
seemed occasionally to float past him and remind him that the finest of
pleasures is the rush of action. Living as he now lived was like reading
a good book in a poor translation--a meagre entertainment for a young
man who felt that he might have been an excellent linguist. He had good
winters and poor winters, and while the former lasted he was sometimes
the sport of a vision of virtual recovery. But this vision was dispelled
some three years before the occurrence of the incidents with which this
history opens: he had on that occasion remained later than usual in
England and had been overtaken by bad weather before reaching Algiers.
He arrived more dead than alive and lay there for several weeks between
life and death. His convalescence was a miracle, but the first use he
made of it was to assure himself that such miracles happen but once. He
said to himself that his hour was in sight and that it behoved him to
keep his eyes upon it, yet that it was also open to him to spend the
interval as agreeably as might be consistent with such a preoccupation.
With the prospect of losing them the simple use of his faculties became
an exquisite pleasure; it seemed to him the joys of contemplation had
never been sounded. He was far from the time when he had found it hard
that he should be obliged to give up the idea of distinguishing himself;
an idea none the less importunate for being vague and none the less
delightful for having had to struggle in the same breast with bursts
of inspiring self-criticism. His friends at present judged him more
cheerful, and attributed it to a theory, over which they shook their
heads knowingly, that he would recover his health. His serenity was but
the array of wild flowers niched in his ruin.
It was very probably this sweet-tasting property of the observed thing
in itself that was mainly concerned in Ralph's quickly-stirred interest
in the advent of a young lady who was evidently not insipid. If he was
consideringly disposed, something told him, here was occupation enough
for a succession of days. It may be added, in summary fashion, that the
imagination of loving--as distinguished from that of being loved--had
still a place in his reduced sketch. He had only forbidden himself the
riot of expression. However, he shouldn't inspire his cousin with a
passion, nor would she be able, even should she try, to help him to one.
"And now tell me about the young lady," he said to his mother. "What do
you mean to do with her?"
Mrs. Touchett was prompt. "I mean to ask your father to invite her to
stay three or four weeks at Gardencourt."
"You needn't stand on any such ceremony as that," said Ralph. "My father
will ask her as a matter of course."
"I don't know about that. She's my niece; she's not his."
"Good Lord, dear mother; what a sense of property! That's all the more
reason for his asking her. But after that--I mean after three months
(for its absurd asking the poor girl to remain but for three or four
paltry weeks)--what do you mean to do with her?"
"I mean to take her to Paris. I mean to get her clothing."
"Ah yes, that's of course. But independently of that?"
"I shall invite her to spend the autumn with me in Florence."
"You don't rise above detail, dear mother," said Ralph. "I should like
to know what you mean to do with her in a general way."
"My duty!" Mrs. Touchett declared. "I suppose you pity her very much,"
"No, I don't think I pity her. She doesn't strike me as inviting
compassion. I think I envy her. Before being sure, however, give me a
hint of where you see your duty."
"In showing her four European countries--I shall leave her the choice of
two of them--and in giving her the opportunity of perfecting herself in
French, which she already knows very well."
Ralph frowned a little. "That sounds rather dry--even allowing her the
choice of two of the countries."
"If it's dry," said his mother with a laugh, "you can leave Isabel alone
to water it! She is as good as a summer rain, any day."
"Do you mean she's a gifted being?"
"I don't know whether she's a gifted being, but she's a clever
girl--with a strong will and a high temper. She has no idea of being
"I can imagine that," said Ralph; and then he added abruptly: "How do
you two get on?"
"Do you mean by that that I'm a bore? I don't think she finds me one.
Some girls might, I know; but Isabel's too clever for that. I think I
greatly amuse her. We get on because I understand her, I know the sort
of girl she is. She's very frank, and I'm very frank: we know just what
to expect of each other."
"Ah, dear mother," Ralph exclaimed, "one always knows what to expect
of you! You've never surprised me but once, and that's to-day--in
presenting me with a pretty cousin whose existence I had never
"Do you think her so very pretty?"
"Very pretty indeed; but I don't insist upon that. It's her general
air of being some one in particular that strikes me. Who is this rare
creature, and what is she? Where did you find her, and how did you make
"I found her in an old house at Albany, sitting in a dreary room on a
rainy day, reading a heavy book and boring herself to death. She didn't
know she was bored, but when I left her no doubt of it she seemed very
grateful for the service. You may say I shouldn't have enlightened he--I
should have let her alone. There's a good deal in that, but I acted
conscientiously; I thought she was meant for something better. It
occurred to me that it would be a kindness to take her about and
introduce her to the world. She thinks she knows a great deal of
it--like most American girls; but like most American girls she's
ridiculously mistaken. If you want to know, I thought she would do me
credit. I like to be well thought of, and for a woman of my age there's
no greater convenience, in some ways, than an attractive niece. You
know I had seen nothing of my sister's children for years; I disapproved
entirely of the father. But I always meant to do something for them when
he should have gone to his reward. I ascertained where they were to be
found and, without any preliminaries, went and introduced myself. There
are two others of them, both of whom are married; but I saw only the
elder, who has, by the way, a very uncivil husband. The wife, whose name
is Lily, jumped at the idea of my taking an interest in Isabel; she
said it was just what her sister needed--that some one should take
an interest in her. She spoke of her as you might speak of some young
person of genius--in want of encouragement and patronage. It may be that
Isabel's a genius; but in that case I've not yet learned her special
line. Mrs. Ludlow was especially keen about my taking her to Europe;
they all regard Europe over there as a land of emigration, of rescue, a
refuge for their superfluous population. Isabel herself seemed very
glad to come, and the thing was easily arranged. There was a little
difficulty about the money-question, as she seemed averse to being
under pecuniary obligations. But she has a small income and she supposes
herself to be travelling at her own expense."
Ralph had listened attentively to this judicious report, by which his
interest in the subject of it was not impaired. "Ah, if she's a genius,"
he said, "we must find out her special line. Is it by chance for
"I don't think so. You may suspect that at first, but you'll be wrong.
You won't, I think, in anyway, be easily right about her."
"Warburton's wrong then!" Ralph rejoicingly exclaimed. "He flatters
himself he has made that discovery."
His mother shook her head. "Lord Warburton won't understand her. He
"He's very intelligent," said Ralph; "but it's right he should be
puzzled once in a while."
"Isabel will enjoy puzzling a lord," Mrs. Touchett remarked.
Her son frowned a little. "What does she know about lords?"
"Nothing at all: that will puzzle him all the more."
Ralph greeted these words with a laugh and looked out of the window.
Then, "Are you not going down to see my father?" he asked.
"At a quarter to eight," said Mrs. Touchett.
Her son looked at his watch. "You've another quarter of an hour then.
Tell me some more about Isabel." After which, as Mrs. Touchett declined
his invitation, declaring that he must find out for himself, "Well," he
pursued, "she'll certainly do you credit. But won't she also give you
"I hope not; but if she does I shall not shrink from it. I never do
"She strikes me as very natural," said Ralph.
"Natural people are not the most trouble."
"No," said Ralph; "you yourself are a proof of that. You're extremely
natural, and I'm sure you have never troubled any one. It takes trouble
to do that. But tell me this; it just occurs to me. Is Isabel capable of
making herself disagreeable?"
"Ah," cried his mother, "you ask too many questions! Find that out for
His questions, however, were not exhausted. "All this time," he said,
"you've not told me what you intend to do with her."
"Do with her? You talk as if she were a yard of calico. I shall do
absolutely nothing with her, and she herself will do everything she
chooses. She gave me notice of that."
"What you meant then, in your telegram, was that her character's
"I never know what I mean in my telegrams--especially those I send from
America. Clearness is too expensive. Come down to your father."
"It's not yet a quarter to eight," said Ralph.
"I must allow for his impatience," Mrs. Touchett answered. Ralph knew
what to think of his father's impatience; but, making no rejoinder, he
offered his mother his arm. This put it in his power, as they
descended together, to stop her a moment on the middle landing of the
staircase--the broad, low, wide-armed staircase of time-blackened oak
which was one of the most striking features of Gardencourt. "You've no
plan of marrying her?" he smiled.
"Marrying her? I should be sorry to play her such a trick! But apart
from that, she's perfectly able to marry herself. She has every
"Do you mean to say she has a husband picked out?"
"I don't know about a husband, but there's a young man in Boston--!"
Ralph went on; he had no desire to hear about the young man in Boston.
"As my father says, they're always engaged!"
His mother had told him that he must satisfy his curiosity at the
source, and it soon became evident he should not want for occasion. He
had a good deal of talk with his young kinswoman when the two had been
left together in the drawing-room. Lord Warburton, who had ridden over
from his own house, some ten miles distant, remounted and took his
departure before dinner; and an hour after this meal was ended Mr. and
Mrs. Touchett, who appeared to have quite emptied the measure of their
forms, withdrew, under the valid pretext of fatigue, to their respective
apartments. The young man spent an hour with his cousin; though she had
been travelling half the day she appeared in no degree spent. She was
really tired; she knew it, and knew she should pay for it on the morrow;
but it was her habit at this period to carry exhaustion to the furthest
point and confess to it only when dissimulation broke down. A fine
hypocrisy was for the present possible; she was interested; she was, as
she said to herself, floated. She asked Ralph to show her the pictures;
there were a great many in the house, most of them of his own choosing.
The best were arranged in an oaken gallery, of charming proportions,
which had a sitting-room at either end of it and which in the evening
was usually lighted. The light was insufficient to show the pictures
to advantage, and the visit might have stood over to the morrow.
This suggestion Ralph had ventured to make; but Isabel looked
disappointed--smiling still, however--and said: "If you please I should
like to see them just a little." She was eager, she knew she was eager
and now seemed so; she couldn't help it. "She doesn't take suggestions,"
Ralph said to himself; but he said it without irritation; her pressure
amused and even pleased him. The lamps were on brackets, at intervals,
and if the light was imperfect it was genial. It fell upon the vague
squares of rich colour and on the faded gilding of heavy frames; it made
a sheen on the polished floor of the gallery. Ralph took a candlestick
and moved about, pointing out the things he liked; Isabel, inclining to
one picture after another, indulged in little exclamations and murmurs.
She was evidently a judge; she had a natural taste; he was struck with
that. She took a candlestick herself and held it slowly here and there;
she lifted it high, and as she did so he found himself pausing in the
middle of the place and bending his eyes much less upon the pictures
than on her presence. He lost nothing, in truth, by these wandering
glances, for she was better worth looking at than most works of art.
She was undeniably spare, and ponderably light, and proveably tall; when
people had wished to distinguish her from the other two Miss Archers
they had always called her the willowy one. Her hair, which was dark
even to blackness, had been an object of envy to many women; her light
grey eyes, a little too firm perhaps in her graver moments, had an
enchanting range of concession. They walked slowly up one side of the
gallery and down the other, and then she said: "Well, now I know more
than I did when I began!"
"You apparently have a great passion for knowledge," her cousin
"I think I have; most girls are horridly ignorant."
"You strike me as different from most girls."
"Ah, some of them would--but the way they're talked to!" murmured
Isabel, who preferred not to dilate just yet on herself. Then in a
moment, to change the subject, "Please tell me--isn't there a ghost?"
she went on.
"A castle-spectre, a thing that appears. We call them ghosts in
"So we do here, when we see them."
"You do see them then? You ought to, in this romantic old house."
"It's not a romantic old house," said Ralph. "You'll be disappointed if
you count on that. It's a dismally prosaic one; there's no romance here
but what you may have brought with you."
"I've brought a great deal; but it seems to me I've brought it to the
"To keep it out of harm, certainly; nothing will ever happen to it here,
between my father and me."
Isabel looked at him a moment. "Is there never any one here but your
father and you?"
"My mother, of course."
"Oh, I know your mother; she's not romantic. Haven't you other people?"
"I'm sorry for that; I like so much to see people."
"Oh, we'll invite all the county to amuse you," said Ralph.
"Now you're making fun of me," the girl answered rather gravely. "Who
was the gentleman on the lawn when I arrived?"
"A county neighbour; he doesn't come very often."
"I'm sorry for that; I liked him," said Isabel.
"Why, it seemed to me that you barely spoke to him," Ralph objected.
"Never mind, I like him all the same. I like your father too,
"You can't do better than that. He's the dearest of the dear."
"I'm so sorry he is ill," said Isabel.
"You must help me to nurse him; you ought to be a good nurse."
"I don't think I am; I've been told I'm not; I'm said to have too many
theories. But you haven't told me about the ghost," she added.
Ralph, however, gave no heed to this observation. "You like my father
and you like Lord Warburton. I infer also that you like my mother."
"I like your mother very much, because--because--" And Isabel found
herself attempting to assign a reason for her affection for Mrs.
"Ah, we never know why!" said her companion, laughing.
"I always know why," the girl answered. "It's because she doesn't expect
one to like her. She doesn't care whether one does or not."
"So you adore her--out of perversity? Well, I take greatly after my
mother," said Ralph.
"I don't believe you do at all. You wish people to like you, and you try
to make them do it."
"Good heavens, how you see through one!" he cried with a dismay that was
not altogether jocular.
"But I like you all the same," his cousin went on. "The way to clinch
the matter will be to show me the ghost."
Ralph shook his head sadly. "I might show it to you, but you'd never see
it. The privilege isn't given to every one; it's not enviable. It has
never been seen by a young, happy, innocent person like you. You must
have suffered first, have suffered greatly, have gained some miserable
knowledge. In that way your eyes are opened to it. I saw it long ago,"
"I told you just now I'm very fond of knowledge," Isabel answered.
"Yes, of happy knowledge--of pleasant knowledge. But you haven't
suffered, and you're not made to suffer. I hope you'll never see the
She had listened to him attentively, with a smile on her lips, but with
a certain gravity in her eyes. Charming as he found her, she had struck
him as rather presumptuous--indeed it was a part of her charm; and he
wondered what she would say. "I'm not afraid, you know," she said: which
seemed quite presumptuous enough.
"You're not afraid of suffering?"
"Yes, I'm afraid of suffering. But I'm not afraid of ghosts. And I think
people suffer too easily," she added.
"I don't believe you do," said Ralph, looking at her with his hands in
"I don't think that's a fault," she answered. "It's not absolutely
necessary to suffer; we were not made for that."
"You were not, certainly."
"I'm not speaking of myself." And she wandered off a little.
"No, it isn't a fault," said her cousin. "It's a merit to be strong."
"Only, if you don't suffer they call you hard," Isabel remarked.
They passed out of the smaller drawing-room, into which they had
returned from the gallery, and paused in the hall, at the foot of the
staircase. Here Ralph presented his companion with her bedroom candle,
which he had taken from a niche. "Never mind what they call you. When
you do suffer they call you an idiot. The great point's to be as happy
She looked at him a little; she had taken her candle and placed her foot
on the oaken stair. "Well," she said, "that's what I came to Europe for,
to be as happy as possible. Good-night."
"Good-night! I wish you all success, and shall be very glad to
contribute to it!"
She turned away, and he watched her as she slowly ascended. Then, with
his hands always in his pockets, he went back to the empty drawing-room.
Isabel Archer was a young person of many theories; her imagination was
remarkably active. It had been her fortune to possess a finer mind
than most of the persons among whom her lot was cast; to have a larger
perception of surrounding facts and to care for knowledge that was
tinged with the unfamiliar. It is true that among her contemporaries
she passed for a young woman of extraordinary profundity; for these
excellent people never withheld their admiration from a reach of
intellect of which they themselves were not conscious, and spoke of
Isabel as a prodigy of learning, a creature reported to have read the
classic authors--in translations. Her paternal aunt, Mrs. Varian, once
spread the rumour that Isabel was writing a book--Mrs. Varian having a
reverence for books, and averred that the girl would distinguish herself
in print. Mrs. Varian thought highly of literature, for which she
entertained that esteem that is connected with a sense of privation.
Her own large house, remarkable for its assortment of mosaic tables and
decorated ceilings, was unfurnished with a library, and in the way of
printed volumes contained nothing but half a dozen novels in paper on
a shelf in the apartment of one of the Miss Varians. Practically, Mrs.
Varian's acquaintance with literature was confined to The New York
Interviewer; as she very justly said, after you had read the Interviewer
you had lost all faith in culture. Her tendency, with this, was rather
to keep the Interviewer out of the way of her daughters; she was
determined to bring them up properly, and they read nothing at all. Her
impression with regard to Isabel's labours was quite illusory; the girl
had never attempted to write a book and had no desire for the laurels
of authorship. She had no talent for expression and too little of the
consciousness of genius; she only had a general idea that people were
right when they treated her as if she were rather superior. Whether or
no she were superior, people were right in admiring her if they thought
her so; for it seemed to her often that her mind moved more quickly
than theirs, and this encouraged an impatience that might easily be
confounded with superiority. It may be affirmed without delay that
Isabel was probably very liable to the sin of self-esteem; she often
surveyed with complacency the field of her own nature; she was in the
habit of taking for granted, on scanty evidence, that she was right;
she treated herself to occasions of homage. Meanwhile her errors and
delusions were frequently such as a biographer interested in preserving
the dignity of his subject must shrink from specifying. Her thoughts
were a tangle of vague outlines which had never been corrected by the
judgement of people speaking with authority. In matters of opinion
she had had her own way, and it had led her into a thousand ridiculous
zigzags. At moments she discovered she was grotesquely wrong, and then
she treated herself to a week of passionate humility. After this she
held her head higher than ever again; for it was of no use, she had an
unquenchable desire to think well of herself. She had a theory that it
was only under this provision life was worth living; that one should
be one of the best, should be conscious of a fine organisation (she
couldn't help knowing her organisation was fine), should move in a realm
of light, of natural wisdom, of happy impulse, of inspiration gracefully
chronic. It was almost as unnecessary to cultivate doubt of one's self
as to cultivate doubt of one's best friend: one should try to be one's
own best friend and to give one's self, in this manner, distinguished
company. The girl had a certain nobleness of imagination which rendered
her a good many services and played her a great many tricks. She spent
half her time in thinking of beauty and bravery and magnanimity; she had
a fixed determination to regard the world as a place of brightness, of
free expansion, of irresistible action: she held it must be detestable
to be afraid or ashamed. She had an infinite hope that she should never
do anything wrong. She had resented so strongly, after discovering them,
her mere errors of feeling (the discovery always made her tremble as if
she had escaped from a trap which might have caught her and smothered
her) that the chance of inflicting a sensible injury upon another
person, presented only as a contingency, caused her at moments to hold
her breath. That always struck her as the worst thing that could happen
to her. On the whole, reflectively, she was in no uncertainty about
the things that were wrong. She had no love of their look, but when
she fixed them hard she recognised them. It was wrong to be mean, to be
jealous, to be false, to be cruel; she had seen very little of the evil
of the world, but she had seen women who lied and who tried to hurt
each other. Seeing such things had quickened her high spirit; it seemed
indecent not to scorn them. Of course the danger of a high spirit was
the danger of inconsistency--the danger of keeping up the flag after the
place has surrendered; a sort of behaviour so crooked as to be almost
a dishonour to the flag. But Isabel, who knew little of the sorts of
artillery to which young women are exposed, flattered herself that such
contradictions would never be noted in her own conduct. Her life should
always be in harmony with the most pleasing impression she should
produce; she would be what she appeared, and she would appear what she
was. Sometimes she went so far as to wish that she might find herself
some day in a difficult position, so that she should have the pleasure
of being as heroic as the occasion demanded. Altogether, with her meagre
knowledge, her inflated ideals, her confidence at once innocent and
dogmatic, her temper at once exacting and indulgent, her mixture of
curiosity and fastidiousness, of vivacity and indifference, her desire
to look very well and to be if possible even better, her determination
to see, to try, to know, her combination of the delicate, desultory,
flame-like spirit and the eager and personal creature of conditions: she
would be an easy victim of scientific criticism if she were not intended
to awaken on the reader's part an impulse more tender and more purely
It was one of her theories that Isabel Archer was very fortunate in
being independent, and that she ought to make some very enlightened use
of that state. She never called it the state of solitude, much less of
singleness; she thought such descriptions weak, and, besides, her sister
Lily constantly urged her to come and abide. She had a friend whose
acquaintance she had made shortly before her father's death, who offered
so high an example of useful activity that Isabel always thought of her
as a model. Henrietta Stackpole had the advantage of an admired ability;
she was thoroughly launched in journalism, and her letters to the
Interviewer, from Washington, Newport, the White Mountains and other
places, were universally quoted. Isabel pronounced them with confidence
"ephemeral," but she esteemed the courage, energy and good-humour of the
writer, who, without parents and without property, had adopted three
of the children of an infirm and widowed sister and was paying their
school-bills out of the proceeds of her literary labour. Henrietta was
in the van of progress and had clear-cut views on most subjects; her
cherished desire had long been to come to Europe and write a series of
letters to the Interviewer from the radical point of view--an enterprise
the less difficult as she knew perfectly in advance what her opinions
would be and to how many objections most European institutions lay
open. When she heard that Isabel was coming she wished to start at once;
thinking, naturally, that it would be delightful the two should travel
together. She had been obliged, however, to postpone this enterprise.
She thought Isabel a glorious creature, and had spoken of her covertly
in some of her letters, though she never mentioned the fact to her
friend, who would not have taken pleasure in it and was not a regular
student of the Interviewer. Henrietta, for Isabel, was chiefly a proof
that a woman might suffice to herself and be happy. Her resources were
of the obvious kind; but even if one had not the journalistic talent and
a genius for guessing, as Henrietta said, what the public was going to
want, one was not therefore to conclude that one had no vocation,
no beneficent aptitude of any sort, and resign one's self to being
frivolous and hollow. Isabel was stoutly determined not to be hollow. If
one should wait with the right patience one would find some happy work
to one's hand. Of course, among her theories, this young lady was not
without a collection of views on the subject of marriage. The first on
the list was a conviction of the vulgarity of thinking too much of it.
From lapsing into eagerness on this point she earnestly prayed she might
be delivered; she held that a woman ought to be able to live to herself,
in the absence of exceptional flimsiness, and that it was perfectly
possible to be happy without the society of a more or less coarse-minded
person of another sex. The girl's prayer was very sufficiently answered;
something pure and proud that there was in her--something cold and dry
an unappreciated suitor with a taste for analysis might have called
it--had hitherto kept her from any great vanity of conjecture on the
article of possible husbands. Few of the men she saw seemed worth a
ruinous expenditure, and it made her smile to think that one of them
should present himself as an incentive to hope and a reward of patience.
Deep in her soul--it was the deepest thing there--lay a belief that if
a certain light should dawn she could give herself completely; but
this image, on the whole, was too formidable to be attractive. Isabel's
thoughts hovered about it, but they seldom rested on it long; after a
little it ended in alarms. It often seemed to her that she thought too
much about herself; you could have made her colour, any day in the
year, by calling her a rank egoist. She was always planning out her
development, desiring her perfection, observing her progress. Her nature
had, in her conceit, a certain garden-like quality, a suggestion of
perfume and murmuring boughs, of shady bowers and lengthening vistas,
which made her feel that introspection was, after all, an exercise
in the open air, and that a visit to the recesses of one's spirit was
harmless when one returned from it with a lapful of roses. But she was
often reminded that there were other gardens in the world than those of
her remarkable soul, and that there were moreover a great many places
which were not gardens at all--only dusky pestiferous tracts, planted
thick with ugliness and misery. In the current of that repaid curiosity
on which she had lately been floating, which had conveyed her to this
beautiful old England and might carry her much further still, she often
checked herself with the thought of the thousands of people who were
less happy than herself--a thought which for the moment made her fine,
full consciousness appear a kind of immodesty. What should one do with
the misery of the world in a scheme of the agreeable for one's self? It
must be confessed that this question never held her long. She was too
young, too impatient to live, too unacquainted with pain. She always
returned to her theory that a young woman whom after all every one
thought clever should begin by getting a general impression of life.
This impression was necessary to prevent mistakes, and after it should
be secured she might make the unfortunate condition of others a subject
of special attention.
England was a revelation to her, and she found herself as diverted as a
child at a pantomime. In her infantine excursions to Europe she had
seen only the Continent, and seen it from the nursery window; Paris, not
London, was her father's Mecca, and into many of his interests there his
children had naturally not entered. The images of that time moreover had
grown faint and remote, and the old-world quality in everything that
she now saw had all the charm of strangeness. Her uncle's house seemed a
picture made real; no refinement of the agreeable was lost upon
Isabel; the rich perfection of Gardencourt at once revealed a world and
gratified a need. The large, low rooms, with brown ceilings and dusky
corners, the deep embrasures and curious casements, the quiet light on
dark, polished panels, the deep greenness outside, that seemed always
peeping in, the sense of well-ordered privacy in the centre of a
"property"--a place where sounds were felicitously accidental, where
the tread was muffed by the earth itself and in the thick mild air all
friction dropped out of contact and all shrillness out of talk--these
things were much to the taste of our young lady, whose taste played a
considerable part in her emotions. She formed a fast friendship with her
uncle, and often sat by his chair when he had had it moved out to the
lawn. He passed hours in the open air, sitting with folded hands like
a placid, homely household god, a god of service, who had done his work
and received his wages and was trying to grow used to weeks and months
made up only of off-days. Isabel amused him more than she suspected--the
effect she produced upon people was often different from what she
supposed--and he frequently gave himself the pleasure of making her
chatter. It was by this term that he qualified her conversation, which
had much of the "point" observable in that of the young ladies of her
country, to whom the ear of the world is more directly presented than to
their sisters in other lands. Like the mass of American girls Isabel had
been encouraged to express herself; her remarks had been attended
to; she had been expected to have emotions and opinions. Many of her
opinions had doubtless but a slender value, many of her emotions passed
away in the utterance; but they had left a trace in giving her the habit
of seeming at least to feel and think, and in imparting moreover to
her words when she was really moved that prompt vividness which so many
people had regarded as a sign of superiority. Mr. Touchett used to think
that she reminded him of his wife when his wife was in her teens. It was
because she was fresh and natural and quick to understand, to speak--so
many characteristics of her niece--that he had fallen in love with Mrs.
Touchett. He never expressed this analogy to the girl herself, however;
for if Mrs. Touchett had once been like Isabel, Isabel was not at all
like Mrs. Touchett. The old man was full of kindness for her; it was a
long time, as he said, since they had had any young life in the house;
and our rustling, quickly-moving, clear-voiced heroine was as agreeable
to his sense as the sound of flowing water. He wanted to do something
for her and wished she would ask it of him. She would ask nothing but
questions; it is true that of these she asked a quantity. Her uncle had
a great fund of answers, though her pressure sometimes came in forms
that puzzled him. She questioned him immensely about England, about the
British constitution, the English character, the state of politics,
the manners and customs of the royal family, the peculiarities of the
aristocracy, the way of living and thinking of his neighbours; and in
begging to be enlightened on these points she usually enquired whether
they corresponded with the descriptions in the books. The old man always
looked at her a little with his fine dry smile while he smoothed down
the shawl spread across his legs.
"The books?" he once said; "well, I don't know much about the books. You
must ask Ralph about that. I've always ascertained for myself--got my
information in the natural form. I never asked many questions even;
I just kept quiet and took notice. Of course I've had very good
opportunities--better than what a young lady would naturally have. I'm
of an inquisitive disposition, though you mightn't think it if you were
to watch me: however much you might watch me I should be watching you
more. I've been watching these people for upwards of thirty-five years,
and I don't hesitate to say that I've acquired considerable information.
It's a very fine country on the whole--finer perhaps than what we give
it credit for on the other side. Several improvements I should like to
see introduced; but the necessity of them doesn't seem to be generally
felt as yet. When the necessity of a thing is generally felt they
usually manage to accomplish it; but they seem to feel pretty
comfortable about waiting till then. I certainly feel more at home among
them than I expected to when I first came over; I suppose it's because
I've had a considerable degree of success. When you're successful you
naturally feel more at home."
"Do you suppose that if I'm successful I shall feel at home?" Isabel
"I should think it very probable, and you certainly will be successful.
They like American young ladies very much over here; they show them
a great deal of kindness. But you mustn't feel too much at home, you
"Oh, I'm by no means sure it will satisfy me," Isabel judicially
emphasised. "I like the place very much, but I'm not sure I shall like
"The people are very good people; especially if you like them."
"I've no doubt they're good," Isabel rejoined; "but are they pleasant
in society? They won't rob me nor beat me; but will they make themselves
agreeable to me? That's what I like people to do. I don't hesitate to
say so, because I always appreciate it. I don't believe they're very
nice to girls; they're not nice to them in the novels."
"I don't know about the novels," said Mr. Touchett. "I believe the
novels have a great deal but I don't suppose they're very accurate.
We once had a lady who wrote novels staying here; she was a friend
of Ralph's and he asked her down. She was very positive, quite up to
everything; but she was not the sort of person you could depend on
for evidence. Too free a fancy--I suppose that was it. She afterwards
published a work of fiction in which she was understood to have given
a representation--something in the nature of a caricature, as you might
say--of my unworthy self. I didn't read it, but Ralph just handed me
the book with the principal passages marked. It was understood to be
a description of my conversation; American peculiarities, nasal twang,
Yankee notions, stars and stripes. Well, it was not at all accurate;
she couldn't have listened very attentively. I had no objection to her
giving a report of my conversation, if she liked but I didn't like the
idea that she hadn't taken the trouble to listen to it. Of course I talk
like an American--I can't talk like a Hottentot. However I talk, I've
made them understand me pretty well over here. But I don't talk like the
old gentleman in that lady's novel. He wasn't an American; we wouldn't
have him over there at any price. I just mention that fact to show you
that they're not always accurate. Of course, as I've no daughters,
and as Mrs. Touchett resides in Florence, I haven't had much chance
to notice about the young ladies. It sometimes appears as if the young
women in the lower class were not very well treated; but I guess their
position is better in the upper and even to some extent in the middle."
"Gracious," Isabel exclaimed; "how many classes have they? About fifty,
"Well, I don't know that I ever counted them. I never took much notice
of the classes. That's the advantage of being an American here; you
don't belong to any class."
"I hope so," said Isabel. "Imagine one's belonging to an English class!"
"Well, I guess some of them are pretty comfortable--especially towards
the top. But for me there are only two classes: the people I trust and
the people I don't. Of those two, my dear Isabel, you belong to the
"I'm much obliged to you," said the girl quickly. Her way of taking
compliments seemed sometimes rather dry; she got rid of them as rapidly
as possible. But as regards this she was sometimes misjudged; she was
thought insensible to them, whereas in fact she was simply unwilling to
show how infinitely they pleased her. To show that was to show too much.
"I'm sure the English are very conventional," she added.
"They've got everything pretty well fixed," Mr. Touchett admitted. "It's
all settled beforehand--they don't leave it to the last moment."
"I don't like to have everything settled beforehand," said the girl. "I
like more unexpectedness."
Her uncle seemed amused at her distinctness of preference. "Well, it's
settled beforehand that you'll have great success," he rejoined. "I
suppose you'll like that."
"I shall not have success if they're too stupidly conventional. I'm not
in the least stupidly conventional. I'm just the contrary. That's what
they won't like."
"No, no, you're all wrong," said the old man. "You can't tell what
they'll like. They're very inconsistent; that's their principal
"Ah well," said Isabel, standing before her uncle with her hands
clasped about the belt of her black dress and looking up and down the
lawn--"that will suit me perfectly!"
The two amused themselves, time and again, with talking of the attitude
of the British public as if the young lady had been in a position to
appeal to it; but in fact the British public remained for the present
profoundly indifferent to Miss Isabel Archer, whose fortune had dropped
her, as her cousin said, into the dullest house in England. Her gouty
uncle received very little company, and Mrs. Touchett, not having
cultivated relations with her husband's neighbours, was not warranted
in expecting visits from them. She had, however, a peculiar taste; she
liked to receive cards. For what is usually called social intercourse
she had very little relish; but nothing pleased her more than to find
her hall-table whitened with oblong morsels of symbolic pasteboard. She
flattered herself that she was a very just woman, and had mastered the
sovereign truth that nothing in this world is got for nothing. She had
played no social part as mistress of Gardencourt, and it was not to be
supposed that, in the surrounding country, a minute account should be
kept of her comings and goings. But it is by no means certain that she
did not feel it to be wrong that so little notice was taken of them and
that her failure (really very gratuitous) to make herself important in
the neighbourhood had not much to do with the acrimony of her allusions
to her husband's adopted country. Isabel presently found herself in the
singular situation of defending the British constitution against her
aunt; Mrs. Touchett having formed the habit of sticking pins into this
venerable instrument. Isabel always felt an impulse to pull out the
pins; not that she imagined they inflicted any damage on the tough old
parchment, but because it seemed to her her aunt might make better use
of her sharpness. She was very critical herself--it was incidental to
her age, her sex and her nationality; but she was very sentimental as
well, and there was something in Mrs. Touchett's dryness that set her
own moral fountains flowing.
"Now what's your point of view?" she asked of her aunt. "When you
criticise everything here you should have a point of view. Yours doesn't
seem to be American--you thought everything over there so disagreeable.
When I criticise I have mine; it's thoroughly American!"
"My dear young lady," said Mrs. Touchett, "there are as many points of
view in the world as there are people of sense to take them. You may
say that doesn't make them very numerous! American? Never in the world;
that's shockingly narrow. My point of view, thank God, is personal!"
Isabel thought this a better answer than she admitted; it was a
tolerable description of her own manner of judging, but it would not
have sounded well for her to say so. On the lips of a person less
advanced in life and less enlightened by experience than Mrs. Touchett
such a declaration would savour of immodesty, even of arrogance. She
risked it nevertheless in talking with Ralph, with whom she talked a
great deal and with whom her conversation was of a sort that gave a
large licence to extravagance. Her cousin used, as the phrase is, to
chaff her; he very soon established with her a reputation for treating
everything as a joke, and he was not a man to neglect the privileges
such a reputation conferred. She accused him of an odious want of
seriousness, of laughing at all things, beginning with himself. Such
slender faculty of reverence as he possessed centred wholly upon his
father; for the rest, he exercised his wit indifferently upon his
father's son, this gentleman's weak lungs, his useless life, his
fantastic mother, his friends (Lord Warburton in especial), his adopted,
and his native country, his charming new-found cousin. "I keep a band
of music in my ante-room," he said once to her. "It has orders to play
without stopping; it renders me two excellent services. It keeps the
sounds of the world from reaching the private apartments, and it makes
the world think that dancing's going on within." It was dance-music
indeed that you usually heard when you came within ear-shot of Ralph's
band; the liveliest waltzes seemed to float upon the air. Isabel often
found herself irritated by this perpetual fiddling; she would have liked
to pass through the ante-room, as her cousin called it, and enter the
private apartments. It mattered little that he had assured her they were
a very dismal place; she would have been glad to undertake to sweep them
and set them in order. It was but half-hospitality to let her remain
outside; to punish him for which Isabel administered innumerable taps
with the ferule of her straight young wit. It must be said that her wit
was exercised to a large extent in self-defence, for her cousin amused
himself with calling her "Columbia" and accusing her of a patriotism so
heated that it scorched. He drew a caricature of her in which she was
represented as a very pretty young woman dressed, on the lines of the
prevailing fashion, in the folds of the national banner. Isabel's chief
dread in life at this period of her development was that she should
appear narrow-minded; what she feared next afterwards was that she
should really be so. But she nevertheless made no scruple of abounding
in her cousin's sense and pretending to sigh for the charms of her
native land. She would be as American as it pleased him to regard her,
and if he chose to laugh at her she would give him plenty of occupation.
She defended England against his mother, but when Ralph sang its praises
on purpose, as she said, to work her up, she found herself able to
differ from him on a variety of points. In fact, the quality of this
small ripe country seemed as sweet to her as the taste of an October
pear; and her satisfaction was at the root of the good spirits which
enabled her to take her cousin's chaff and return it in kind. If her
good-humour flagged at moments it was not because she thought herself
ill-used, but because she suddenly felt sorry for Ralph. It seemed to
her he was talking as a blind and had little heart in what he said. "I
don't know what's the matter with you," she observed to him once; "but I
suspect you're a great humbug."
"That's your privilege," Ralph answered, who had not been used to being
so crudely addressed.
"I don't know what you care for; I don't think you care for anything.
You don't really care for England when you praise it; you don't care for
America even when you pretend to abuse it."
"I care for nothing but you, dear cousin," said Ralph.
"If I could believe even that, I should be very glad."
"Ah well, I should hope so!" the young man exclaimed.
Isabel might have believed it and not have been far from the truth. He
thought a great deal about her; she was constantly present to his mind.
At a time when his thoughts had been a good deal of a burden to him her
sudden arrival, which promised nothing and was an open-handed gift of
fate, had refreshed and quickened them, given them wings and something
to fly for. Poor Ralph had been for many weeks steeped in melancholy;
his outlook, habitually sombre, lay under the shadow of a deeper cloud.
He had grown anxious about his father, whose gout, hitherto confined to
his legs, had begun to ascend into regions more vital. The old man had
been gravely ill in the spring, and the doctors had whispered to
Ralph that another attack would be less easy to deal with. Just now
he appeared disburdened of pain, but Ralph could not rid himself of a
suspicion that this was a subterfuge of the enemy, who was waiting to
take him off his guard. If the manoeuvre should succeed there would be
little hope of any great resistance. Ralph had always taken for granted
that his father would survive him--that his own name would be the first
grimly called. The father and son had been close companions, and the
idea of being left alone with the remnant of a tasteless life on his
hands was not gratifying to the young man, who had always and tacitly
counted upon his elder's help in making the best of a poor business.
At the prospect of losing his great motive Ralph lost indeed his one
inspiration. If they might die at the same time it would be all very
well; but without the encouragement of his father's society he should
barely have patience to await his own turn. He had not the incentive of
feeling that he was indispensable to his mother; it was a rule with his
mother to have no regrets. He bethought himself of course that it had
been a small kindness to his father to wish that, of the two, the active
rather than the passive party should know the felt wound; he remembered
that the old man had always treated his own forecast of an early end as
a clever fallacy, which he should be delighted to discredit so far as
he might by dying first. But of the two triumphs, that of refuting a
sophistical son and that of holding on a while longer to a state of
being which, with all abatements, he enjoyed, Ralph deemed it no sin to
hope the latter might be vouchsafed to Mr. Touchett.
These were nice questions, but Isabel's arrival put a stop to his
puzzling over them. It even suggested there might be a compensation for
the intolerable ennui of surviving his genial sire. He wondered whether
he were harbouring "love" for this spontaneous young woman from Albany;
but he judged that on the whole he was not. After he had known her for
a week he quite made up his mind to this, and every day he felt a little
more sure. Lord Warburton had been right about her; she was a really
interesting little figure. Ralph wondered how their neighbour had
found it out so soon; and then he said it was only another proof of his
friend's high abilities, which he had always greatly admired. If his
cousin were to be nothing more than an entertainment to him, Ralph was
conscious she was an entertainment of a high order. "A character like
that," he said to himself--"a real little passionate force to see at
play is the finest thing in nature. It's finer than the finest work
of art--than a Greek bas-relief, than a great Titian, than a Gothic
cathedral. It's very pleasant to be so well treated where one had least
looked for it. I had never been more blue, more bored, than for a week
before she came; I had never expected less that anything pleasant would
happen. Suddenly I receive a Titian, by the post, to hang on my wall--a
Greek bas-relief to stick over my chimney-piece. The key of a beautiful
edifice is thrust into my hand, and I'm told to walk in and admire. My
poor boy, you've been sadly ungrateful, and now you had better keep very
quiet and never grumble again." The sentiment of these reflexions was
very just; but it was not exactly true that Ralph Touchett had had a key
put into his hand. His cousin was a very brilliant girl, who would take,
as he said, a good deal of knowing; but she needed the knowing, and his
attitude with regard to her, though it was contemplative and critical,
was not judicial. He surveyed the edifice from the outside and admired
it greatly; he looked in at the windows and received an impression of
proportions equally fair. But he felt that he saw it only by glimpses
and that he had not yet stood under the roof. The door was fastened, and
though he had keys in his pocket he had a conviction that none of them
would fit. She was intelligent and generous; it was a fine free nature;
but what was she going to do with herself? This question was irregular,
for with most women one had no occasion to ask it. Most women did
with themselves nothing at all; they waited, in attitudes more or less
gracefully passive, for a man to come that way and furnish them with
a destiny. Isabel's originality was that she gave one an impression of
having intentions of her own. "Whenever she executes them," said Ralph,
"may I be there to see!"
It devolved upon him of course to do the honours of the place. Mr.
Touchett was confined to his chair, and his wife's position was that of
rather a grim visitor; so that in the line of conduct that opened itself
to Ralph duty and inclination were harmoniously mixed. He was not a
great walker, but he strolled about the grounds with his cousin--a
pastime for which the weather remained favourable with a persistency not
allowed for in Isabel's somewhat lugubrious prevision of the climate;
and in the long afternoons, of which the length was but the measure of
her gratified eagerness, they took a boat on the river, the dear little
river, as Isabel called it, where the opposite shore seemed still a
part of the foreground of the landscape; or drove over the country in a
phaeton--a low, capacious, thick-wheeled phaeton formerly much used by
Mr. Touchett, but which he had now ceased to enjoy. Isabel enjoyed it
largely and, handling the reins in a manner which approved itself to
the groom as "knowing," was never weary of driving her uncle's capital
horses through winding lanes and byways full of the rural incidents she
had confidently expected to find; past cottages thatched and timbered,
past ale-houses latticed and sanded, past patches of ancient common and
glimpses of empty parks, between hedgerows made thick by midsummer. When
they reached home they usually found tea had been served on the lawn
and that Mrs. Touchett had not shrunk from the extremity of handing her
husband his cup. But the two for the most part sat silent; the old
man with his head back and his eyes closed, his wife occupied with her
knitting and wearing that appearance of rare profundity with which some
ladies consider the movement of their needles.
One day, however, a visitor had arrived. The two young persons, after
spending an hour on the river, strolled back to the house and perceived
Lord Warburton sitting under the trees and engaged in conversation, of
which even at a distance the desultory character was appreciable, with
Mrs. Touchett. He had driven over from his own place with a portmanteau
and had asked, as the father and son often invited him to do, for a
dinner and a lodging. Isabel, seeing him for half an hour on the day of
her arrival, had discovered in this brief space that she liked him; he
had indeed rather sharply registered himself on her fine sense and
she had thought of him several times. She had hoped she should see him
again--hoped too that she should see a few others. Gardencourt was not
dull; the place itself was sovereign, her uncle was more and more a
sort of golden grandfather, and Ralph was unlike any cousin she had
ever encountered--her idea of cousins having tended to gloom. Then her
impressions were still so fresh and so quickly renewed that there was as
yet hardly a hint of vacancy in the view. But Isabel had need to remind
herself that she was interested in human nature and that her foremost
hope in coming abroad had been that she should see a great many people.
When Ralph said to her, as he had done several times, "I wonder you find
this endurable; you ought to see some of the neighbours and some of
our friends, because we have really got a few, though you would never
suppose it"--when he offered to invite what he called a "lot of people"
and make her acquainted with English society, she encouraged the
hospitable impulse and promised in advance to hurl herself into the
fray. Little, however, for the present, had come of his offers, and it
may be confided to the reader that if the young man delayed to carry
them out it was because he found the labour of providing for his
companion by no means so severe as to require extraneous help. Isabel
had spoken to him very often about "specimens;" it was a word that
played a considerable part in her vocabulary; she had given him to
understand that she wished to see English society illustrated by eminent
"Well now, there's a specimen," he said to her as they walked up from
the riverside and he recognised Lord Warburton.
"A specimen of what?" asked the girl.
"A specimen of an English gentleman."
"Do you mean they're all like him?"
"Oh no; they're not all like him."
"He's a favourable specimen then," said Isabel; "because I'm sure he's
"Yes, he's very nice. And he's very fortunate."
The fortunate Lord Warburton exchanged a handshake with our heroine
and hoped she was very well. "But I needn't ask that," he said, "since
you've been handling the oars."
"I've been rowing a little," Isabel answered; "but how should you know
"Oh, I know he doesn't row; he's too lazy," said his lordship,
indicating Ralph Touchett with a laugh.
"He has a good excuse for his laziness," Isabel rejoined, lowering her
voice a little.
"Ah, he has a good excuse for everything!" cried Lord Warburton, still
with his sonorous mirth.
"My excuse for not rowing is that my cousin rows so well," said Ralph.
"She does everything well. She touches nothing that she doesn't adorn!"
"It makes one want to be touched, Miss Archer," Lord Warburton declared.
"Be touched in the right sense and you'll never look the worse for
it," said Isabel, who, if it pleased her to hear it said that her
accomplishments were numerous, was happily able to reflect that such
complacency was not the indication of a feeble mind, inasmuch as there
were several things in which she excelled. Her desire to think well of
herself had at least the element of humility that it always needed to be
supported by proof.
Lord Warburton not only spent the night at Gardencourt, but he was
persuaded to remain over the second day; and when the second day was
ended he determined to postpone his departure till the morrow. During
this period he addressed many of his remarks to Isabel, who accepted
this evidence of his esteem with a very good grace. She found herself
liking him extremely; the first impression he had made on her had had
weight, but at the end of an evening spent in his society she scarce
fell short of seeing him--though quite without luridity--as a hero
of romance. She retired to rest with a sense of good fortune, with a
quickened consciousness of possible felicities. "It's very nice to know
two such charming people as those," she said, meaning by "those" her
cousin and her cousin's friend. It must be added moreover that an
incident had occurred which might have seemed to put her good-humour to
the test. Mr. Touchett went to bed at half-past nine o'clock, but his
wife remained in the drawing-room with the other members of the party.
She prolonged her vigil for something less than an hour, and then,
rising, observed to Isabel that it was time they should bid the
gentlemen good-night. Isabel had as yet no desire to go to bed; the
occasion wore, to her sense, a festive character, and feasts were not
in the habit of terminating so early. So, without further thought, she
replied, very simply--
"Need I go, dear aunt? I'll come up in half an hour."
"It's impossible I should wait for you," Mrs. Touchett answered.
"Ah, you needn't wait! Ralph will light my candle," Isabel gaily
"I'll light your candle; do let me light your candle, Miss Archer!" Lord
Warburton exclaimed. "Only I beg it shall not be before midnight."
Mrs. Touchett fixed her bright little eyes upon him a moment and
transferred them coldly to her niece. "You can't stay alone with the
gentlemen. You're not--you're not at your blest Albany, my dear."
Isabel rose, blushing. "I wish I were," she said.
"Oh, I say, mother!" Ralph broke out.
"My dear Mrs. Touchett!" Lord Warburton murmured.
"I didn't make your country, my lord," Mrs. Touchett said majestically.
"I must take it as I find it."
"Can't I stay with my own cousin?" Isabel enquired.
"I'm not aware that Lord Warburton is your cousin."
"Perhaps I had better go to bed!" the visitor suggested. "That will
Mrs. Touchett gave a little look of despair and sat down again. "Oh, if
it's necessary I'll stay up till midnight."
Ralph meanwhile handed Isabel her candlestick. He had been watching her;
it had seemed to him her temper was involved--an accident that might
be interesting. But if he had expected anything of a flare he was
disappointed, for the girl simply laughed a little, nodded good-night
and withdrew accompanied by her aunt. For himself he was annoyed at his
mother, though he thought she was right. Above-stairs the two ladies
separated at Mrs. Touchett's door. Isabel had said nothing on her way
"Of course you're vexed at my interfering with you," said Mrs. Touchett.
Isabel considered. "I'm not vexed, but I'm surprised--and a good deal
mystified. Wasn't it proper I should remain in the drawing-room?"
"Not in the least. Young girls here--in decent houses--don't sit alone
with the gentlemen late at night."
"You were very right to tell me then," said Isabel. "I don't understand
it, but I'm very glad to know it.
"I shall always tell you," her aunt answered, "whenever I see you taking
what seems to me too much liberty."
"Pray do; but I don't say I shall always think your remonstrance just."
"Very likely not. You're too fond of your own ways."
"Yes, I think I'm very fond of them. But I always want to know the
things one shouldn't do."
"So as to do them?" asked her aunt.
"So as to choose," said Isabel.
As she was devoted to romantic effects Lord Warburton ventured to
express a hope that she would come some day and see his house, a very
curious old place. He extracted from Mrs. Touchett a promise that she
would bring her niece to Lockleigh, and Ralph signified his willingness
to attend the ladies if his father should be able to spare him. Lord
Warburton assured our heroine that in the mean time his sisters would
come and see her. She knew something about his sisters, having sounded
him, during the hours they spent together while he was at Gardencourt,
on many points connected with his family. When Isabel was interested she
asked a great many questions, and as her companion was a copious talker
she urged him on this occasion by no means in vain. He told her he
had four sisters and two brothers and had lost both his parents. The
brothers and sisters were very good people--"not particularly clever,
you know," he said, "but very decent and pleasant;" and he was so good
as to hope Miss Archer might know them well. One of the brothers was in
the Church, settled in the family living, that of Lockleigh, which was
a heavy, sprawling parish, and was an excellent fellow in spite of his
thinking differently from himself on every conceivable topic. And then
Lord Warburton mentioned some of the opinions held by his brother, which
were opinions Isabel had often heard expressed and that she supposed to
be entertained by a considerable portion of the human family. Many of
them indeed she supposed she had held herself, till he assured her
she was quite mistaken, that it was really impossible, that she had
doubtless imagined she entertained them, but that she might depend that,
if she thought them over a little, she would find there was nothing
in them. When she answered that she had already thought several of the
questions involved over very attentively he declared that she was only
another example of what he had often been struck with--the fact that,
of all the people in the world, the Americans were the most grossly
superstitious. They were rank Tories and bigots, every one of them;
there were no conservatives like American conservatives. Her uncle and
her cousin were there to prove it; nothing could be more medieval than
many of their views; they had ideas that people in England nowadays were
ashamed to confess to; and they had the impudence moreover, said his
lordship, laughing, to pretend they knew more about the needs and
dangers of this poor dear stupid old England than he who was born in it
and owned a considerable slice of it--the more shame to him! From all of
which Isabel gathered that Lord Warburton was a nobleman of the newest
pattern, a reformer, a radical, a contemner of ancient ways. His other
brother, who was in the army in India, was rather wild and pig-headed
and had not been of much use as yet but to make debts for Warburton to
pay--one of the most precious privileges of an elder brother. "I don't
think I shall pay any more," said her friend; "he lives a monstrous deal
better than I do, enjoys unheard-of luxuries and thinks himself a much
finer gentleman than I. As I'm a consistent radical I go in only for
equality; I don't go in for the superiority of the younger brothers."
Two of his four sisters, the second and fourth, were married, one of
them having done very well, as they said, the other only so-so.
The husband of the elder, Lord Haycock, was a very good fellow, but
unfortunately a horrid Tory; and his wife, like all good English wives,
was worse than her husband. The other had espoused a smallish squire
in Norfolk and, though married but the other day, had already five
children. This information and much more Lord Warburton imparted to his
young American listener, taking pains to make many things clear and to
lay bare to her apprehension the peculiarities of English life. Isabel
was often amused at his explicitness and at the small allowance he
seemed to make either for her own experience or for her imagination. "He
thinks I'm a barbarian," she said, "and that I've never seen forks and
spoons;" and she used to ask him artless questions for the pleasure of
hearing him answer seriously. Then when he had fallen into the trap,
"It's a pity you can't see me in my war-paint and feathers," she
remarked; "if I had known how kind you are to the poor savages I would
have brought over my native costume!" Lord Warburton had travelled
through the United States and knew much more about them than Isabel; he
was so good as to say that America was the most charming country in the
world, but his recollections of it appeared to encourage the idea that
Americans in England would need to have a great many things explained
to them. "If I had only had you to explain things to me in America!"
he said. "I was rather puzzled in your country; in fact I was quite
bewildered, and the trouble was that the explanations only puzzled me
more. You know I think they often gave me the wrong ones on purpose;
they're rather clever about that over there. But when I explain you
can trust me; about what I tell you there's no mistake." There was no
mistake at least about his being very intelligent and cultivated and
knowing almost everything in the world. Although he gave the most
interesting and thrilling glimpses Isabel felt he never did it to
exhibit himself, and though he had had rare chances and had tumbled in,
as she put it, for high prizes, he was as far as possible from making
a merit of it. He had enjoyed the best things of life, but they had not
spoiled his sense of proportion. His quality was a mixture of the effect
of rich experience--oh, so easily come by!--with a modesty at times
almost boyish; the sweet and wholesome savour of which--it was as
agreeable as something tasted--lost nothing from the addition of a tone
of responsible kindness.
"I like your specimen English gentleman very much," Isabel said to Ralph
after Lord Warburton had gone.
"I like him too--I love him well," Ralph returned. "But I pity him
Isabel looked at him askance. "Why, that seems to me his only
fault--that one can't pity him a little. He appears to have everything,
to know everything, to be everything."
"Oh, he's in a bad way!" Ralph insisted.
"I suppose you don't mean in health?"
"No, as to that he's detestably sound. What I mean is that he's a man
with a great position who's playing all sorts of tricks with it. He
doesn't take himself seriously."
"Does he regard himself as a joke?"
"Much worse; he regards himself as an imposition--as an abuse."
"Well, perhaps he is," said Isabel.
"Perhaps he is--though on the whole I don't think so. But in that case
what's more pitiable than a sentient, self-conscious abuse planted by
other hands, deeply rooted but aching with a sense of its injustice?
For me, in his place, I could be as solemn as a statue of Buddha.
He occupies a position that appeals to my imagination. Great
responsibilities, great opportunities, great consideration, great
wealth, great power, a natural share in the public affairs of a great
country. But he's all in a muddle about himself, his position, his
power, and indeed about everything in the world. He's the victim of a
critical age; he has ceased to believe in himself and he doesn't know
what to believe in. When I attempt to tell him (because if I were he I
know very well what I should believe in) he calls me a pampered bigot.
I believe he seriously thinks me an awful Philistine; he says I don't
understand my time. I understand it certainly better than he, who
can neither abolish himself as a nuisance nor maintain himself as an
"He doesn't look very wretched," Isabel observed.
"Possibly not; though, being a man of a good deal of charming taste, I
think he often has uncomfortable hours. But what is it to say of a being
of his opportunities that he's not miserable? Besides, I believe he is."
"I don't," said Isabel.
"Well," her cousin rejoined, "if he isn't he ought to be!"
In the afternoon she spent an hour with her uncle on the lawn, where the
old man sat, as usual, with his shawl over his legs and his large cup
of diluted tea in his hands. In the course of conversation he asked her
what she thought of their late visitor.
Isabel was prompt. "I think he's charming."
"He's a nice person," said Mr. Touchett, "but I don't recommend you to
fall in love with him."
"I shall not do it then; I shall never fall in love but on your
recommendation. Moreover," Isabel added, "my cousin gives me rather a
sad account of Lord Warburton."
"Oh, indeed? I don't know what there may be to say, but you must
remember that Ralph must talk."
"He thinks your friend's too subversive--or not subversive enough! I
don't quite understand which," said Isabel.
The old man shook his head slowly, smiled and put down his cup. "I don't
know which either. He goes very far, but it's quite possible he doesn't
go far enough. He seems to want to do away with a good many things, but
he seems to want to remain himself. I suppose that's natural, but it's
"Oh, I hope he'll remain himself," said Isabel. "If he were to be done
away with his friends would miss him sadly."
"Well," said the old man, "I guess he'll stay and amuse his friends.
I should certainly miss him very much here at Gardencourt. He always
amuses me when he comes over, and I think he amuses himself as well.
There's a considerable number like him, round in society; they're very
fashionable just now. I don't know what they're trying to do--whether
they're trying to get up a revolution. I hope at any rate they'll put it
off till after I'm gone. You see they want to disestablish everything;
but I'm a pretty big landowner here, and I don't want to be
disestablished. I wouldn't have come over if I had thought they
were going to behave like that," Mr. Touchett went on with expanding
hilarity. "I came over because I thought England was a safe country. I
call it a regular fraud if they are going to introduce any considerable
changes; there'll be a large number disappointed in that case."
"Oh, I do hope they'll make a revolution!" Isabel exclaimed. "I should
delight in seeing a revolution."
"Let me see," said her uncle, with a humorous intention; "I forget
whether you're on the side of the old or on the side of the new. I've
heard you take such opposite views."
"I'm on the side of both. I guess I'm a little on the side of
everything. In a revolution--after it was well begun--I think I should
be a high, proud loyalist. One sympathises more with them, and they've a
chance to behave so exquisitely. I mean so picturesquely."
"I don't know that I understand what you mean by behaving picturesquely,
but it seems to me that you do that always, my dear."
"Oh, you lovely man, if I could believe that!" the girl interrupted.
"I'm afraid, after all, you won't have the pleasure of going gracefully
to the guillotine here just now," Mr. Touchett went on. "If you want to
see a big outbreak you must pay us a long visit. You see, when you come
to the point it wouldn't suit them to be taken at their word."
"Of whom are you speaking?"
"Well, I mean Lord Warburton and his friends--the radicals of the upper
class. Of course I only know the way it strikes me. They talk about the
changes, but I don't think they quite realise. You and I, you know, we
know what it is to have lived under democratic institutions: I always
thought them very comfortable, but I was used to them from the first.
And then I ain't a lord; you're a lady, my dear, but I ain't a lord. Now
over here I don't think it quite comes home to them. It's a matter of
every day and every hour, and I don't think many of them would find it
as pleasant as what they've got. Of course if they want to try, it's
their own business; but I expect they won't try very hard."
"Don't you think they're sincere?" Isabel asked.
"Well, they want to FEEL earnest," Mr. Touchett allowed; "but it seems
as if they took it out in theories mostly. Their radical views are a
kind of amusement; they've got to have some amusement, and they might
have coarser tastes than that. You see they're very luxurious, and these
progressive ideas are about their biggest luxury. They make them feel
moral and yet don't damage their position. They think a great deal of
their position; don't let one of them ever persuade you he doesn't, for
if you were to proceed on that basis you'd be pulled up very short."
Isabel followed her uncle's argument, which he unfolded with his quaint
distinctness, most attentively, and though she was unacquainted with the
British aristocracy she found it in harmony with her general impressions
of human nature. But she felt moved to put in a protest on Lord
Warburton's behalf. "I don't believe Lord Warburton's a humbug; I don't
care what the others are. I should like to see Lord Warburton put to the
"Heaven deliver me from my friends!" Mr. Touchett answered. "Lord
Warburton's a very amiable young man--a very fine young man. He has a
hundred thousand a year. He owns fifty thousand acres of the soil of
this little island and ever so many other things besides. He has half a
dozen houses to live in. He has a seat in Parliament as I have one at my
own dinner-table. He has elegant tastes--cares for literature, for art,
for science, for charming young ladies. The most elegant is his taste
for the new views. It affords him a great deal of pleasure--more
perhaps than anything else, except the young ladies. His old house over
there--what does he call it, Lockleigh?--is very attractive; but I don't
think it's as pleasant as this. That doesn't matter, however--he has
so many others. His views don't hurt any one as far as I can see; they
certainly don't hurt himself. And if there were to be a revolution he
would come off very easily. They wouldn't touch him, they'd leave him as
he is: he's too much liked."
"Ah, he couldn't be a martyr even if he wished!" Isabel sighed. "That's
a very poor position."
"He'll never be a martyr unless you make him one," said the old man.
Isabel shook her head; there might have been something laughable in the
fact that she did it with a touch of melancholy. "I shall never make any
one a martyr."
"You'll never be one, I hope."
"I hope not. But you don't pity Lord Warburton then as Ralph does?"
Her uncle looked at her a while with genial acuteness. "Yes, I do, after
The two Misses Molyneux, this nobleman's sisters, came presently to call
upon her, and Isabel took a fancy to the young ladies, who appeared to
her to show a most original stamp. It is true that when she described
them to her cousin by that term he declared that no epithet could be
less applicable than this to the two Misses Molyneux, since there
were fifty thousand young women in England who exactly resembled them.
Deprived of this advantage, however, Isabel's visitors retained that
of an extreme sweetness and shyness of demeanour, and of having, as
she thought, eyes like the balanced basins, the circles of "ornamental
water," set, in parterres, among the geraniums.
"They're not morbid, at any rate, whatever they are," our heroine said
to herself; and she deemed this a great charm, for two or three of the
friends of her girlhood had been regrettably open to the charge (they
would have been so nice without it), to say nothing of Isabel's having
occasionally suspected it as a tendency of her own. The Misses Molyneux
were not in their first youth, but they had bright, fresh complexions
and something of the smile of childhood. Yes, their eyes, which Isabel
admired, were round, quiet and contented, and their figures, also of a
generous roundness, were encased in sealskin jackets. Their friendliness
was great, so great that they were almost embarrassed to show it; they
seemed somewhat afraid of the young lady from the other side of the
world and rather looked than spoke their good wishes. But they made it
clear to her that they hoped she would come to luncheon at Lockleigh,
where they lived with their brother, and then they might see her very,
very often. They wondered if she wouldn't come over some day, and sleep:
they were expecting some people on the twenty-ninth, so perhaps she
would come while the people were there.
"I'm afraid it isn't any one very remarkable," said the elder sister;
"but I dare say you'll take us as you find us."
"I shall find you delightful; I think you're enchanting just as you
are," replied Isabel, who often praised profusely.
Her visitors flushed, and her cousin told her, after they were gone,
that if she said such things to those poor girls they would think she
was in some wild, free manner practising on them: he was sure it was the
first time they had been called enchanting.
"I can't help it," Isabel answered. "I think it's lovely to be so quiet
and reasonable and satisfied. I should like to be like that."
"Heaven forbid!" cried Ralph with ardour.
"I mean to try and imitate them," said Isabel. "I want very much to see
them at home."
She had this pleasure a few days later, when, with Ralph and his mother,
she drove over to Lockleigh. She found the Misses Molyneux sitting in a
vast drawing-room (she perceived afterwards it was one of several) in a
wilderness of faded chintz; they were dressed on this occasion in black
velveteen. Isabel liked them even better at home than she had done at
Gardencourt, and was more than ever struck with the fact that they were
not morbid. It had seemed to her before that if they had a fault it was
a want of play of mind; but she presently saw they were capable of deep
emotion. Before luncheon she was alone with them for some time, on one
side of the room, while Lord Warburton, at a distance, talked to Mrs.
"Is it true your brother's such a great radical?" Isabel asked. She
knew it was true, but we have seen that her interest in human nature was
keen, and she had a desire to draw the Misses Molyneux out.
"Oh dear, yes; he's immensely advanced," said Mildred, the younger
"At the same time Warburton's very reasonable," Miss Molyneux observed.
Isabel watched him a moment at the other side of the room; he was
clearly trying hard to make himself agreeable to Mrs. Touchett. Ralph
had met the frank advances of one of the dogs before the fire that the
temperature of an English August, in the ancient expanses, had not
made an impertinence. "Do you suppose your brother's sincere?" Isabel
enquired with a smile.
"Oh, he must be, you know!" Mildred exclaimed quickly, while the elder
sister gazed at our heroine in silence.
"Do you think he would stand the test?"
"I mean for instance having to give up all this."
"Having to give up Lockleigh?" said Miss Molyneux, finding her voice.
"Yes, and the other places; what are they called?"
The two sisters exchanged an almost frightened glance. "Do you mean--do
you mean on account of the expense?" the younger one asked.
"I dare say he might let one or two of his houses," said the other.
"Let them for nothing?" Isabel demanded.
"I can't fancy his giving up his property," said Miss Molyneux.
"Ah, I'm afraid he is an impostor!" Isabel returned. "Don't you think
it's a false position?"
Her companions, evidently, had lost themselves. "My brother's position?"
Miss Molyneux enquired.
"It's thought a very good position," said the younger sister. "It's the
first position in this part of the county."
"I dare say you think me very irreverent," Isabel took occasion to
remark. "I suppose you revere your brother and are rather afraid of
"Of course one looks up to one's brother," said Miss Molyneux simply.
"If you do that he must be very good--because you, evidently, are
"He's most kind. It will never be known, the good he does."
"His ability is known," Mildred added; "every one thinks it's immense."
"Oh, I can see that," said Isabel. "But if I were he I should wish to
fight to the death: I mean for the heritage of the past. I should hold
"I think one ought to be liberal," Mildred argued gently. "We've always
been so, even from the earliest times."
"Ah well," said Isabel, "you've made a great success of it; I don't
wonder you like it. I see you're very fond of crewels."
When Lord Warburton showed her the house, after luncheon, it seemed to
her a matter of course that it should be a noble picture. Within, it
had been a good deal modernised--some of its best points had lost their
purity; but as they saw it from the gardens, a stout grey pile, of the
softest, deepest, most weather-fretted hue, rising from a broad, still
moat, it affected the young visitor as a castle in a legend. The day was
cool and rather lustreless; the first note of autumn had been struck,
and the watery sunshine rested on the walls in blurred and desultory
gleams, washing them, as it were, in places tenderly chosen, where the
ache of antiquity was keenest. Her host's brother, the Vicar, had come
to luncheon, and Isabel had had five minutes' talk with him--time enough
to institute a search for a rich ecclesiasticism and give it up as
vain. The marks of the Vicar of Lockleigh were a big, athletic figure,
a candid, natural countenance, a capacious appetite and a tendency to
indiscriminate laughter. Isabel learned afterwards from her cousin
that before taking orders he had been a mighty wrestler and that he
was still, on occasion--in the privacy of the family circle as it
were--quite capable of flooring his man. Isabel liked him--she was in
the mood for liking everything; but her imagination was a good deal
taxed to think of him as a source of spiritual aid. The whole party, on
leaving lunch, went to walk in the grounds; but Lord Warburton exercised
some ingenuity in engaging his least familiar guest in a stroll apart
from the others.
"I wish you to see the place properly, seriously," he said. "You can't
do so if your attention is distracted by irrelevant gossip." His own
conversation (though he told Isabel a good deal about the house, which
had a very curious history) was not purely archaeological; he reverted
at intervals to matters more personal--matters personal to the young
lady as well as to himself. But at last, after a pause of some duration,
returning for a moment to their ostensible theme, "Ah, well," he said,
"I'm very glad indeed you like the old barrack. I wish you could see
more of it--that you could stay here a while. My sisters have taken an
immense fancy to you--if that would be any inducement."
"There's no want of inducements," Isabel answered; "but I'm afraid I
can't make engagements. I'm quite in my aunt's hands."
"Ah, pardon me if I say I don't exactly believe that. I'm pretty sure
you can do whatever you want."
"I'm sorry if I make that impression on you; I don't think it's a nice
impression to make."
"It has the merit of permitting me to hope." And Lord Warburton paused a
"To hope what?"
"That in future I may see you often."
"Ah," said Isabel, "to enjoy that pleasure I needn't be so terribly
"Doubtless not; and yet, at the same time, I don't think your uncle
"You're very much mistaken. I've heard him speak very highly of you."
"I'm glad you have talked about me," said Lord Warburton. "But, I
nevertheless don't think he'd like me to keep coming to Gardencourt."
"I can't answer for my uncle's tastes," the girl rejoined, "though I
ought as far as possible to take them into account. But for myself I
shall be very glad to see you."
"Now that's what I like to hear you say. I'm charmed when you say that."
"You're easily charmed, my lord," said Isabel.
"No, I'm not easily charmed!" And then he stopped a moment. "But you've
charmed me, Miss Archer."
These words were uttered with an indefinable sound which startled the
girl; it struck her as the prelude to something grave: she had heard the
sound before and she recognised it. She had no wish, however, that for
the moment such a prelude should have a sequel, and she said as gaily
as possible and as quickly as an appreciable degree of agitation would
allow her: "I'm afraid there's no prospect of my being able to come here
"Never?" said Lord Warburton.
"I won't say 'never'; I should feel very melodramatic."
"May I come and see you then some day next week?"
"Most assuredly. What is there to prevent it?"
"Nothing tangible. But with you I never feel safe. I've a sort of sense
that you're always summing people up."
"You don't of necessity lose by that."
"It's very kind of you to say so; but, even if I gain, stern justice is
not what I most love. Is Mrs. Touchett going to take you abroad?"
"I hope so."
"Is England not good enough for you?"
"That's a very Machiavellian speech; it doesn't deserve an answer. I
want to see as many countries as I can."
"Then you'll go on judging, I suppose."
"Enjoying, I hope, too."
"Yes, that's what you enjoy most; I can't make out what you're up to,"
said Lord Warburton. "You strike me as having mysterious purposes--vast
"You're so good as to have a theory about me which I don't at all fill
out. Is there anything mysterious in a purpose entertained and
executed every year, in the most public manner, by fifty thousand of
my fellow-countrymen--the purpose of improving one's mind by foreign
"You can't improve your mind, Miss Archer," her companion declared.
"It's already a most formidable instrument. It looks down on us all; it
"Despises you? You're making fun of me," said Isabel seriously.
"Well, you think us 'quaint'--that's the same thing. I won't be thought
'quaint,' to begin with; I'm not so in the least. I protest."
"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 said.
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 like me."
"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 receive her.
"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 as
"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 her
"Ah well," said Ralph, "I'm afraid I shall dislike her in spite of her
"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
"Talk to us anyhow and we shall be thankful," Ralph liberally answered.
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
"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 languages?"
"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
"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 very attractive."
"Ah, we too are a lovely group!" said Ralph. "Wait a little and you'll
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
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
"Don't you believe that!" cried Henrietta. "They're always delighted
"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 subject."
"There are plenty of other subjects, there are subjects all round you.
We'll take some drives; I'll show you some charming scenery."
"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
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
"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 him warning."
"Don't do that," her companion pleaded; "I want him to be natural."
"An Englishman's never so natural as when he's holding his tongue,"
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 out.
"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 pockets?"
"He does nothing," smiled Isabel; "he's a gentleman of large leisure."
"Well, I call that a shame--when I have to work like a car-conductor,"
Miss Stackpole replied. "I should like to show him up."
"He's in wretched health; he's quite unfit for work," Isabel urged.
"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
"Ah no," said Ralph, "I keep my victims for a slower torture. And you'd
be such an interesting one!"
"Well, you do torture me; I may say that. But I shock all your
prejudices; that's one comfort."
"My prejudices? I haven't a prejudice to bless myself with. There's
intellectual poverty for you."
"The more shame to you; I've some delicious ones. Of course I spoil your
flirtation, or whatever it is you call it, with your cousin; but I don't
care for that, as I render her the service of drawing you out. She'll
see how thin you are."
"Ah, do draw me out!" Ralph exclaimed. "So few people will take the
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
"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
"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 duty too?"
"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 marry."
"If it's my duty," Ralph asked, "is it not, by analogy, yours as well?"
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 it."
"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 her?"
"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
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
"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 matter?"
"She knows a great deal, and I know enough to feel that she's a kind
of emanation of the great democracy--of the continent, the country, the
nation. I don't say that she sums it all up, that would be too much to
ask of her. But she suggests it; she vividly figures it."
"You like her then for patriotic reasons. I'm afraid it is on those very
grounds I object to her."
"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
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 liked.
"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
"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
"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 husband
"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 growing faithless."
"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
"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 good deal."
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
"He's very simple-minded," said Isabel. "And he's not so ugly."
"There's nothing so simplifying as a grand passion."
"It's not a grand passion; I'm very sure it's not that."
"You don't say that as if you were sure."
Isabel gave rather a cold smile. "I shall say it better to Mr. Goodwood
"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 implacable
"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 be right."
"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 one feels?"
"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 it."
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 given entire.
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
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
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
"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
"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 irritating associations.
"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
"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'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
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
"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 sincere."
"I'm willing to risk it, Miss Archer," her companion replied.
"It's a great question, as you say. It's a very difficult question."
"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
"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
"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
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 that?"
"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
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 this
"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
"You've given me a great deal to think about, and I promise you to do it
"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
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 that."
"I shall not keep you in suspense; I only want to collect my mind a
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. Good-bye."
"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 expectation.
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
"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 highly appreciated."
"Very highly indeed," said Isabel. "But at the cost of seeming both
tasteless and ungrateful, I don't think I can marry Lord Warburton."
"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
"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
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 that."
"He would have told me everything I wished to ask him," Isabel said.
"But you didn't feel curious?"
"My curiosity would have been idle--once I had determined to decline his
"You didn't find it sufficiently attractive?" Mr. Touchett enquired.
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 park.
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 much."
"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 indifferent."
"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
"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 passive."
"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
"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 of?"
"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 other day?"
"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 name."
"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 care."
"I don't say it to pour scorn on you; I'm very much struck with it."
"You're more satiric than ever, but I advise you not to laugh at Mr.
"I assure you I'm very serious; you ought to understand that," said
In a moment his companion understood it. "I believe you are; now you're
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 him."
"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 eyebrows.
"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
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 Gardencourt, of which Miss Stackpole
was a valued member. Having sent his letter (to the care of a banker
whom Henrietta suggested) he waited in some suspense. He had heard this
fresh formidable figure named for the first time; for when his mother
had mentioned on her arrival that there was a story about the girl's
having an "admirer" at home, the idea had seemed deficient in reality
and he had taken no pains to ask questions the answers to which would
involve only the vague or the disagreeable. Now, however, the native
admiration of which his cousin was the object had become more concrete;
it took the form of a young man who had followed her to London, who was
interested in a cotton-mill and had manners in the most splendid of the
American styles. Ralph had two theories about this intervenes. Either
his passion was a sentimental fiction of Miss Stackpole's (there was
always a sort of tacit understanding among women, born of the solidarity
of the sex, that they should discover or invent lovers for each other),
in which case he was not to be feared and would probably not accept the
invitation; or else he would accept the invitation and in this event
prove himself a creature too irrational to demand further consideration.
The latter clause of Ralph's argument might have seemed incoherent;
but it embodied his conviction that if Mr. Goodwood were interested in
Isabel in the serious manner described by Miss Stackpole he would not
care to present himself at Gardencourt on a summons from the latter
lady. "On this supposition," said Ralph, "he must regard her as a thorn
on the stem of his rose; as an intercessor he must find her wanting in
Two days after he had sent his invitation he received a very short
note from Caspar Goodwood, thanking him for it, regretting that other
engagements made a visit to Gardencourt impossible and presenting many
compliments to Miss Stackpole. Ralph handed the note to Henrietta, who,
when she had read it, exclaimed: "Well, I never have heard of anything
"I'm afraid he doesn't care so much about my cousin as you suppose,"
"No, it's not that; it's some subtler motive. His nature's very deep.
But I'm determined to fathom it, and I shall write to him to know what
His refusal of Ralph's overtures was vaguely disconcerting; from the
moment he declined to come to Gardencourt our friend began to think
him of importance. He asked himself what it signified to him whether
Isabel's admirers should be desperadoes or laggards; they were not
rivals of his and were perfectly welcome to act out their genius.
Nevertheless he felt much curiosity as to the result of Miss Stackpole's
promised enquiry into the causes of Mr. Goodwood's stiffness--a
curiosity for the present ungratified, inasmuch as when he asked her
three days later if she had written to London she was obliged to confess
she had written in vain. Mr. Goodwood had not replied.
"I suppose he's thinking it over," she said; "he thinks everything
over; he's not really at all impetuous. But I'm accustomed to having my
letters answered the same day." She presently proposed to Isabel, at
all events, that they should make an excursion to London together. "If I
must tell the truth," she observed, "I'm not seeing much at this
place, and I shouldn't think you were either. I've not even seen that
aristocrat--what's his name?--Lord Washburton. He seems to let you
"Lord Warburton's coming to-morrow, I happen to know," replied her
friend, who had received a note from the master of Lockleigh in answer
to her own letter. "You'll have every opportunity of turning him inside
"Well, he may do for one letter, but what's one letter when you want to
write fifty? I've described all the scenery in this vicinity and raved
about all the old women and donkeys. You may say what you please,
scenery doesn't make a vital letter. I must go back to London and get
some impressions of real life. I was there but three days before I came
away, and that's hardly time to get in touch."
As Isabel, on her journey from New York to Gardencourt, had seen even
less of the British capital than this, it appeared a happy suggestion of
Henrietta's that the two should go thither on a visit of pleasure. The
idea struck Isabel as charming; he was curious of the thick detail of
London, which had always loomed large and rich to her. They turned over
their schemes together and indulged in visions of romantic hours. They
would stay at some picturesque old inn--one of the inns described by
Dickens--and drive over the town in those delightful hansoms. Henrietta
was a literary woman, and the great advantage of being a literary woman
was that you could go everywhere and do everything. They would dine at
a coffee-house and go afterwards to the play; they would frequent the
Abbey and the British Museum and find out where Doctor Johnson had
lived, and Goldsmith and Addison. Isabel grew eager and presently
unveiled the bright vision to Ralph, who burst into a fit of laughter
which scarce expressed the sympathy she had desired.
"It's a delightful plan," he said. "I advise you to go to the Duke's
Head in Covent Garden, an easy, informal, old-fashioned place, and I'll
have you put down at my club."
"Do you mean it's improper?" Isabel asked. "Dear me, isn't anything
proper here? With Henrietta surely I may go anywhere; she isn't hampered
in that way. She has travelled over the whole American continent and can
at least find her way about this minute island."
"Ah then," said Ralph, "let me take advantage of her protection to go up
to town as well. I may never have a chance to travel so safely!"
Miss Stackpole would have prepared to start immediately; but Isabel, as
we have seen, had been notified that Lord Warburton would come again to
Gardencourt, and she believed it her duty to remain there and see him.
For four or five days he had made no response to her letter; then he had
written, very briefly, to say he would come to luncheon two days later.
There was something in these delays and postponements that touched the
girl and renewed her sense of his desire to be considerate and patient,
not to appear to urge her too grossly; a consideration the more studied
that she was so sure he "really liked" her. Isabel told her uncle she
had written to him, mentioning also his intention of coming; and the
old man, in consequence, left his room earlier than usual and made his
appearance at the two o'clock repast. This was by no means an act of
vigilance on his part, but the fruit of a benevolent belief that his
being of the company might help to cover any conjoined straying away
in case Isabel should give their noble visitor another hearing. That
personage drove over from Lockleigh and brought the elder of his sisters
with him, a measure presumably dictated by reflexions of the same order
as Mr. Touchett's. The two visitors were introduced to Miss Stackpole,
who, at luncheon, occupied a seat adjoining Lord Warburton's. Isabel,
who was nervous and had no relish for the prospect of again arguing
the question he had so prematurely opened, could not help admiring his
good-humoured self-possession, which quite disguised the symptoms of
that preoccupation with her presence it was natural she should suppose
him to feel. He neither looked at her nor spoke to her, and the only
sign of his emotion was that he avoided meeting her eyes. He had plenty
of talk for the others, however, and he appeared to eat his luncheon
with discrimination and appetite. Miss Molyneux, who had a smooth,
nun-like forehead and wore a large silver cross suspended from her neck,
was evidently preoccupied with Henrietta Stackpole, upon whom her
eyes constantly rested in a manner suggesting a conflict between deep
alienation and yearning wonder. Of the two ladies from Lockleigh she
was the one Isabel had liked best; there was such a world of hereditary
quiet in her. Isabel was sure moreover that her mild forehead and
silver cross referred to some weird Anglican mystery--some delightful
reinstitution perhaps of the quaint office of the canoness. She wondered
what Miss Molyneux would think of her if she knew Miss Archer had
refused her brother; and then she felt sure that Miss Molyneux would
never know--that Lord Warburton never told her such things. He was fond
of her and kind to her, but on the whole he told her little. Such, at
least, was Isabel's theory; when, at table, she was not occupied in
conversation she was usually occupied in forming theories about her
neighbours. According to Isabel, if Miss Molyneux should ever learn what
had passed between Miss Archer and Lord Warburton she would probably be
shocked at such a girl's failure to rise; or no, rather (this was our
heroine's last position) she would impute to the young American but a
due consciousness of inequality.
Whatever Isabel might have made of her opportunities, at all events,
Henrietta Stackpole was by no means disposed to neglect those in which
she now found herself immersed. "Do you know you're the first lord I've
ever seen?" she said very promptly to her neighbour. "I suppose you
think I'm awfully benighted."
"You've escaped seeing some very ugly men," Lord Warburton answered,
looking a trifle absently about the table.
"Are they very ugly? They try to make us believe in America that they're
all handsome and magnificent and that they wear wonderful robes and
"Ah, the robes and crowns are gone out of fashion," said Lord Warburton,
"like your tomahawks and revolvers."
"I'm sorry for that; I think an aristocracy ought to be splendid,"
Henrietta declared. "If it's not that, what is it?"
"Oh, you know, it isn't much, at the best," her neighbour allowed.
"Won't you have a potato?"
"I don't care much for these European potatoes. I shouldn't know you
from an ordinary American gentleman."
"Do talk to me as if I were one," said Lord Warburton. "I don't see how
you manage to get on without potatoes; you must find so few things to
eat over here."
Henrietta was silent a little; there was a chance he was not sincere.
"I've had hardly any appetite since I've been here," she went on at
last; "so it doesn't much matter. I don't approve of you, you know; I
feel as if I ought to tell you that."
"Don't approve of me?"
"Yes; I don't suppose any one ever said such a thing to you before, did
they? I don't approve of lords as an institution. I think the world has
got beyond them--far beyond."
"Oh, so do I. I don't approve of myself in the least. Sometimes it comes
over me--how I should object to myself if I were not myself, don't you
know? But that's rather good, by the way--not to be vainglorious."
"Why don't you give it up then?" Miss Stackpole enquired.
"Give up--a--?" asked Lord Warburton, meeting her harsh inflexion with a
very mellow one.
"Give up being a lord."
"Oh, I'm so little of one! One would really forget all about it if you
wretched Americans were not constantly reminding one. However, I do
think of giving it up, the little there is left of it, one of these
"I should like to see you do it!" Henrietta exclaimed rather grimly.
"I'll invite you to the ceremony; we'll have a supper and a dance."
"Well," said Miss Stackpole, "I like to see all sides. I don't approve
of a privileged class, but I like to hear what they have to say for
"Mighty little, as you see!"
"I should like to draw you out a little more," Henrietta continued. "But
you're always looking away. You're afraid of meeting my eye. I see you
want to escape me."
"No, I'm only looking for those despised potatoes."
"Please explain about that young lady--your sister--then. I don't
understand about her. Is she a Lady?"
"She's a capital good girl."
"I don't like the way you say that--as if you wanted to change the
subject. Is her position inferior to yours?"
"We neither of us have any position to speak of; but she's better off
than I, because she has none of the bother."
"Yes, she doesn't look as if she had much bother. I wish I had as little
bother as that. You do produce quiet people over here, whatever else you
"Ah, you see one takes life easily, on the whole," said Lord Warburton.
"And then you know we're very dull. Ah, we can be dull when we try!"
"I should advise you to try something else. I shouldn't know what to
talk to your sister about; she looks so different. Is that silver cross
"A sign of rank."
Lord Warburton's glance had wandered a good deal, but at this it met the
gaze of his neighbour. "Oh yes," he answered in a moment; "the women go
in for those things. The silver cross is worn by the eldest daughters of
Viscounts." Which was his harmless revenge for having occasionally had
his credulity too easily engaged in America. After luncheon he proposed
to Isabel to come into the gallery and look at the pictures; and though
she knew he had
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