Part 2 out of 7
"And how little you trust me!"
There was a moment's silence; the warm noontide seemed to listen.
"I trust you, but I don't trust him," said Ralph.
She raised her eyes and gave him a wide, deep look. "You've said
it now, and I'm glad you've made it so clear. But you'll suffer by
"Not if you're just."
"I'm very just," said Isabel. "What better proof of it can there
be than that I'm not angry with you? I don't know what's the
matter with me, but I'm not. I was when you began, but it has
passed away. Perhaps I ought to be angry, but Mr. Osmond wouldn't
think so. He wants me to know everything; that's what I like him
for. You've nothing to gain, I know that. I've never been so nice
to you, as a girl, that you should have much reason for wishing me
to remain one. You give very good advice; you've often done so.
No, I'm very quiet; I've always believed in your wisdom," she went
on, boasting of her quietness, yet speaking with a kind of
contained exaltation. It was her passionate desire to be just; it
touched Ralph to the heart, affected him like a caress from a
creature he had injured. He wished to interrupt, to reassure her;
for a moment he was absurdly inconsistent; he would have retracted
what he had said. But she gave him no chance; she went on, having
caught a glimpse, as she thought, of the heroic line and desiring
to advance in that direction. "I see you've some special idea; I
should like very much to hear it. I'm sure it's disinterested; I
feel that. It seems a strange thing to argue about, and of course
I ought to tell you definitely that if you expect to dissuade me
you may give it up. You'll not move me an inch; it's too late. As
you say, I'm caught. Certainly it won't be pleasant for you to
remember this, but your pain will be in your own thoughts. I shall
never reproach you."
"I don't think you ever will," said Ralph. "It's not in the least
the sort of marriage I thought you'd make."
"What sort of marriage was that, pray?"
"Well, I can hardly say. I hadn't exactly a positive view of it,
but I had a negative. I didn't think you'd decide for--well, for
"What's the matter with Mr. Osmond's type, if it be one? His being
so independent, so individual, is what I most see in him," the
girl declared. "What do you know against him? You know him
scarcely at all."
"Yes," Ralph said, "I know him very little, and I confess I
haven't facts and items to prove him a villain. But all the same I
can't help feeling that you're running a grave risk."
"Marriage is always a grave risk, and his risk's as grave as
"That's his affair! If he's afraid, let him back out. I wish to
God he would."
Isabel reclined in her chair, folding her arms and gazing a while
at her cousin. "I don't think I understand you," she said at last
coldly. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I believed you'd marry a man of more importance."
Cold, I say, her tone had been, but at this a colour like a flame
leaped into her face. "Of more importance to whom? It seems to me
enough that one's husband should be of importance to one's self!"
Ralph blushed as well; his attitude embarrassed him. Physically
speaking he proceeded to change it; he straightened himself, then
leaned forward, resting a hand on each knee. He fixed his eyes on
the ground; he had an air of the most respectful deliberation.
"I'll tell you in a moment what I mean," he presently said. He
felt agitated, intensely eager; now that he had opened the
discussion he wished to discharge his mind. But he wished also to
be superlatively gentle.
Isabel waited a little--then she went on with majesty. "In
everything that makes one care for people Mr. Osmond is
pre-eminent. There may be nobler natures, but I've never had the
pleasure of meeting one. Mr. Osmond's is the finest I know; he's
good enough for me, and interesting enough, and clever enough. I'm
far more struck with what he has and what he represents than with
what he may lack."
"I had treated myself to a charming vision of your future," Ralph
observed without answering this; "I had amused myself with
planning out a high destiny for you. There was to be nothing of
this sort in it. You were not to come down so easily or so soon."
"Come down, you say?"
"Well, that renders my sense of what has happened to you. You
seemed to me to be soaring far up in the blue--to be, sailing in
the bright light, over the heads of men. Suddenly some one tosses
up a faded rosebud--a missile that should never have reached
you--and straight you drop to the ground. It hurts me," said Ralph
audaciously, "hurts me as if I had fallen myself!"
The look of pain and bewilderment deepened in his companion's
face. "I don't understand you in the least," she repeated. "You
say you amused yourself with a project for my career--I don't
understand that. Don't amuse yourself too much, or I shall think
you're doing it at my expense."
Ralph shook his head. "I'm not afraid of your not believing that
I've had great ideas for you."
"What do you mean by my soaring and sailing?" she pursued.
"I've never moved on a higher plane than I'm moving on now.
There's nothing higher for a girl than to marry a--a person she
likes," said poor Isabel, wandering into the didactic.
"It's your liking the person we speak of that I venture to
criticise, my dear cousin. I should have said that the man for you
would have been a more active, larger, freer sort of nature."
Ralph hesitated, then added: "I can't get over the sense that
Osmond is somehow--well, small." He had uttered the last word with
no great assurance; he was afraid she would flash out again. But
to his surprise she was quiet; she had the air of considering.
"Small?" She made it sound immense.
"I think he's narrow, selfish. He takes himself so seriously!"
"He has a great respect for himself; I don't blame him for that,"
said Isabel. "It makes one more sure to respect others."
Ralph for a moment felt almost reassured by her reasonable tone.
"Yes, but everything is relative; one ought to feel one's relation
to things--to others. I don't think Mr. Osmond does that."
"I've chiefly to do with his relation to me. In that he's
"He's the incarnation of taste," Ralph went on, thinking hard how
he could best express Gilbert Osmond's sinister attributes without
putting himself in the wrong by seeming to describe him coarsely.
He wished to describe him impersonally, scientifically. "He judges
and measures, approves and condemns, altogether by that."
"It's a happy thing then that his taste should be exquisite."
"It's exquisite, indeed, since it has led him to select you as his
bride. But have you ever seen such a taste--a really exquisite
"I hope it may never be my fortune to fail to gratify my
At these words a sudden passion leaped to Ralph's lips. "Ah,
that's wilful, that's unworthy of you! You were not meant to be
measured in that way--you were meant for something better than to
keep guard over the sensibilities of a sterile dilettante!"
Isabel rose quickly and he did the same, so that they stood for a
moment looking at each other as if he had flung down a defiance or
an insult. But "You go too far," she simply breathed.
"I've said what I had on my mind--and I've said it because I love
Isabel turned pale: was he too on that tiresome list? She had a
sudden wish to strike him off. "Ah then, you're not disinterested!"
"I love you, but I love without hope," said Ralph quickly, forcing
a smile and feeling that in that last declaration he had expressed
more than he intended.
Isabel moved away and stood looking into the sunny stillness of
the garden; but after a little she turned back to him. "I'm afraid
your talk then is the wildness of despair! I don't understand it
--but it doesn't matter. I'm not arguing with you; it's impossible
I should; I've only tried to listen to you. I'm much obliged to
you for attempting to explain," she said gently, as if the anger
with which she had just sprung up had already subsided. "It's very
good of you to try to warn me, if you're really alarmed; but I
won't promise to think of what you've said: I shall forget it as
soon as possible. Try and forget it yourself; you've done your
duty, and no man can do more. I can't explain to you what I feel,
what I believe, and I wouldn't if I could." She paused a moment
and then went on with an inconsequence that Ralph observed even in
the midst of his eagerness to discover some symptom of concession.
"I can't enter into your idea of Mr. Osmond; I can't do it
justice, because I see him in quite another way. He's not
important--no, he's not important; he's a man to whom importance
is supremely indifferent. If that's what you mean when you call
him 'small,' then he's as small as you please. I call that
large--it's the largest thing I know. I won't pretend to argue
with you about a person I'm going to marry," Isabel repeated.
"I'm not in the least concerned to defend Mr. Osmond; he's not so
weak as to need my defence. I should think it would seem strange
even to yourself that I should talk of him so quietly and coldly,
as if he were any one else. I wouldn't talk of him at all to any
one but you; and you, after what you've said--I may just answer
you once for all. Pray, would you wish me to make a mercenary
marriage--what they call a marriage of ambition? I've only one
ambition--to be free to follow out a good feeling. I had others
once, but they've passed away. Do you complain of Mr. Osmond
because he's not rich? That's just what I like him for. I've
fortunately money enough; I've never felt so thankful for it as
to-day. There have been moments when I should like to go and
kneel down by your father's grave: he did perhaps a better thing
than he knew when he put it into my power to marry a poor man--a
man who has borne his poverty with such dignity, with such
indifference. Mr. Osmond has never scrambled nor struggled--he
has cared for no worldly prize. If that's to be narrow, if that's
to be selfish, then it's very well. I'm not frightened by such
words, I'm not even displeased; I'm only sorry that you should
make a mistake. Others might have done so, but I'm surprised that
you should. You might know a gentleman when you see one--you
might know a fine mind. Mr. Osmond makes no mistakes! He knows
everything, he understands everything, he has the kindest,
gentlest, highest spirit. You've got hold of some false idea.
It's a pity, but I can't help it; it regards you more than me."
Isabel paused a moment, looking at her cousin with an eye
illumined by a sentiment which contradicted the careful calmness
of her manner--a mingled sentiment, to which the angry pain
excited by his words and the wounded pride of having needed to
justify a choice of which she felt only the nobleness and purity,
equally contributed. Though she paused Ralph said nothing; he saw
she had more to say. She was grand, but she was highly
solicitous; she was indifferent, but she was all in a passion.
"What sort of a person should you have liked me to marry?" she
asked suddenly. "You talk about one's soaring and sailing, but if
one marries at all one touches the earth. One has human feelings
and needs, one has a heart in one's bosom, and one must marry a
particular individual. Your mother has never forgiven me for not
having come to a better understanding with Lord Warburton, and
she's horrified at my contenting myself with a person who has
none of his great advantages--no property, no title, no honours,
no houses, nor lands, nor position, nor reputation, nor brilliant
belongings of any sort. It's the total absence of all these
things that pleases me. Mr. Osmond's simply a very lonely, a very
cultivated and a very honest man--he's not a prodigious
Ralph had listened with great attention, as if everything she said
merited deep consideration; but in truth he was only half thinking
of the things she said, he was for the rest simply accommodating
himself to the weight of his total impression--the impression of
her ardent good faith. She was wrong, but she believed; she was
deluded, but she was dismally consistent. It was wonderfully
characteristic of her that, having invented a fine theory, about
Gilbert Osmond, she loved him not for what he really possessed,
but for his very poverties dressed out as honours. Ralph
remembered what he had said to his father about wishing to put it
into her power to meet the requirements of her imagination. He
had done so, and the girl had taken full advantage of the luxury.
Poor Ralph felt sick; he felt ashamed. Isabel had uttered her
last words with a low solemnity of conviction which virtually
terminated the discussion, and she closed it formally by turning
away and walking back to the house. Ralph walked beside her, and
they passed into the court together and reached the big
staircase. Here he stopped and Isabel paused, turning on him a
face of elation--absolutely and perversely of gratitude. His
opposition had made her own conception of her conduct clearer to
her. "Shall you not come up to breakfast?" she asked.
"No; I want no breakfast; I'm not hungry."
"You ought to eat," said the girl; "you live on air."
"I do, very much, and I shall go back into the garden and take
another mouthful. I came thus far simply to say this. I told you
last year that if you were to get into trouble I should feel
terribly sold. That's how I feel to-day."
"Do you think I'm in trouble?"
"One's in trouble when one's in error."
"Very well," said Isabel; "I shall never complain of my trouble
to you!" And she moved up the staircase.
Ralph, standing there with his hands in his pockets, followed her
with his eyes; then the lurking chill of the high-walled court
struck him and made him shiver, so that he returned to the garden
to breakfast on the Florentine sunshine.
Isabel, when she strolled in the Cascine with her lover, felt no
impulse to tell him how little he was approved at Palazzo
Crescentini. The discreet opposition offered to her marriage by
her aunt and her cousin made on the whole no great impression upon
her; the moral of it was simply that they disliked Gilbert Osmond.
This dislike was not alarming to Isabel; she scarcely even
regretted it; for it served mainly to throw into higher relief the
fact, in every way so honourable, that she married to please
herself. One did other things to please other people; one did this
for a more personal satisfaction; and Isabel's satisfaction was
confirmed by her lover's admirable good conduct. Gilbert Osmond
was in love, and he had never deserved less than during these
still, bright days, each of them numbered, which preceded the
fulfilment of his hopes, the harsh criticism passed upon him by
Ralph Touchett. The chief impression produced on Isabel's spirit
by this criticism was that the passion of love separated its
victim terribly from every one but the loved object. She felt
herself disjoined from every one she had ever known before--from
her two sisters, who wrote to express a dutiful hope that she
would be happy, and a surprise, somewhat more vague, at her not
having chosen a consort who was the hero of a richer accumulation
of anecdote; from Henrietta, who, she was sure, would come out,
too late, on purpose to remonstrate; from Lord Warburton, who
would certainly console himself, and from Caspar Goodwood, who
perhaps would not; from her aunt, who had cold, shallow ideas
about marriage, for which she was not sorry to display her
contempt; and from Ralph, whose talk about having great views for
her was surely but a whimsical cover for a personal disappointment.
Ralph apparently wished her not to marry at all--that was what it
really meant--because he was amused with the spectacle of her
adventures as a single woman. His disappointment made him say
angry things about the man she had preferred even to him: Isabel
flattered herself that she believed Ralph had been angry. It was
the more easy for her to believe this because, as I say, she had
now little free or unemployed emotion for minor needs, and
accepted as an incident, in fact quite as an ornament, of her lot
the idea that to prefer Gilbert Osmond as she preferred him was
perforce to break all other ties. She tasted of the sweets of
this preference, and they made her conscious, almost with awe, of
the invidious and remorseless tide of the charmed and
possessed condition, great as was the traditional honour and
imputed virtue of being in love. It was the tragic part of
happiness; one's right was always made of the wrong of some one
The elation of success, which surely now flamed high in Osmond,
emitted meanwhile very little smoke for so brilliant a blaze.
Contentment, on his part, took no vulgar form; excitement, in the
most self-conscious of men, was a kind of ecstasy of self-control.
This disposition, however, made him an admirable lover; it gave
him a constant view of the smitten and dedicated state. He never
forgot himself, as I say; and so he never forgot to be graceful
and tender, to wear the appearance--which presented indeed no
difficulty--of stirred senses and deep intentions. He was
immensely pleased with his young lady; Madame Merle had made him a
present of incalculable value. What could be a finer thing to live
with than a high spirit attuned to softness? For would not the
softness be all for one's self, and the strenuousness for society,
which admired the air of superiority? What could be a happier
gift in a companion than a quick, fanciful mind which saved one
repetitions and reflected one's thought on a polished, elegant
surface? Osmond hated to see his thought reproduced literally--
that made it look stale and stupid; he preferred it to be
freshened in the reproduction even as "words" by music. His
egotism had never taken the crude form of desiring a dull wife;
this lady's intelligence was to be a silver plate, not an earthen
one--a plate that he might heap up with ripe fruits, to which it
would give a decorative value, so that talk might become for him a
sort of served dessert. He found the silver quality in this
perfection in Isabel; he could tap her imagination with his
knuckle and make it ring. He knew perfectly, though he had not
been told, that their union enjoyed little favour with the girl's
relations; but he had always treated her so completely as an
independent person that it hardly seemed necessary to express
regret for the attitude of her family. Nevertheless, one morning,
he made an abrupt allusion to it. "It's the difference in our
fortune they don't like," he said. "They think I'm in love with
"Are you speaking of my aunt--of my cousin?" Isabel asked. "How
do you know what they think?"
"You've not told me they're pleased, and when I wrote to Mrs.
Touchett the other day she never answered my note. If they had
been delighted I should have had some sign of it, and the fact of
my being poor and you rich is the most obvious explanation of
their reserve. But of course when a poor man marries a rich girl
he must be prepared for imputations. I don't mind them; I only
care for one thing--for your not having the shadow of a doubt. I
don't care what people of whom I ask nothing think--I'm not even
capable perhaps of wanting to know. I've never so concerned
myself, God forgive me, and why should I begin to-day, when I have
taken to myself a compensation for everything? I won't pretend
I'm sorry you're rich; I'm delighted. I delight in everything
that's yours--whether it be money or virtue. Money's a horrid
thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet. It seems to me,
however, that I've sufficiently proved the limits of my itch for
it: I never in my life tried to earn a penny, and I ought to be
less subject to suspicion than most of the people one sees
grubbing and grabbing. I suppose it's their business to
suspect--that of your family; it's proper on the whole they should.
They'll like me better some day; so will you, for that matter.
Meanwhile my business is not to make myself bad blood, but
simply to be thankful for life and love." "It has made me better,
loving you," he said on another occasion; "it has made me wiser
and easier and--I won't pretend to deny--brighter and nicer and
even stronger. I used to want a great many things before and to be
angry I didn't have them. Theoretically I was satisfied, as I
once told you. I flattered myself I had limited my wants. But I
was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid, sterile, hateful
fits of hunger, of desire. Now I'm really satisfied, because I
can't think of anything better. It's just as when one has been
trying to spell out a book in the twilight and suddenly the lamp
comes in. I had been putting out my eyes over the book of life and
finding nothing to reward me for my pains; but now that I can read
it properly I see it's a delightful story. My dear girl, I can't
tell you how life seems to stretch there before us--what a long
summer afternoon awaits us. It's the latter half of an Italian day
--with a golden haze, and the shadows just lengthening, and that
divine delicacy in the light, the air, the landscape, which I have
loved all my life and which you love to-day. Upon my honour, I
don't see why we shouldn't get on. We've got what we like--to say
nothing of having each other. We've the faculty of admiration and
several capital convictions. We're not stupid, we're not mean,
we're not under bonds to any kind of ignorance or dreariness. You're
remarkably fresh, and I'm remarkably well-seasoned. We've my poor
child to amuse us; we'll try and make up some little life for her.
It's all soft and mellow--it has the Italian colouring."
They made a good many plans, but they left themselves also a good
deal of latitude; it was a matter of course, however, that they
should live for the present in Italy. It was in Italy that they
had met, Italy had been a party to their first impressions of
each other, and Italy should be a party to their happiness.
Osmond had the attachment of old acquaintance and Isabel the
stimulus of new, which seemed to assure her a future at a high
level of consciousness of the beautiful. The desire for unlimited
expansion had been succeeded in her soul by the sense that life
was vacant without some private duty that might gather one's
energies to a point. She had told Ralph she had "seen life" in a
year or two and that she was already tired, not of the act of
living, but of that of observing. What had become of all her
ardours, her aspirations, her theories, her high estimate of her
independence and her incipient conviction that she should never
marry? These things had been absorbed in a more primitive need--
a need the answer to which brushed away numberless questions, yet
gratified infinite desires. It simplified the situation at a
stroke, it came down from above like the light of the stars, and
it needed no explanation. There was explanation enough in the
fact that he was her lover, her own, and that she should be able
to be of use to him. She could surrender to him with a kind of
humility, she could marry him with a kind of pride; she was not
only taking, she was giving.
He brought Pansy with him two or three times to the Cascine--
Pansy who was very little taller than a year before, and not much
older. That she would always be a child was the conviction
expressed by her father, who held her by the hand when she was in
her sixteenth year and told her to go and play while he sat down
a little with the pretty lady. Pansy wore a short dress and a
long coat; her hat always seemed too big for her. She found
pleasure in walking off, with quick, short steps, to the end of
the alley, and then in walking back with a smile that seemed an
appeal for approbation. Isabel approved in abundance, and the
abundance had the personal touch that the child's affectionate
nature craved. She watched her indications as if for herself also
much depended on them--Pansy already so represented part of the
service she could render, part of the responsibility she could
face. Her father took so the childish view of her that he had not
yet explained to her the new relation in which he stood to the
elegant Miss Archer. "She doesn't know," he said to Isabel; "she
doesn't guess; she thinks it perfectly natural that you and I
should come and walk here together simply as good friends. There
seems to me something enchantingly innocent in that; it's the way
I like her to be. No, I'm not a failure, as I used to think; I've
succeeded in two things. I'm to marry the woman I adore, and I've
brought up my child, as I wished, in the old way."
He was very fond, in all things, of the "old way"; that had
struck Isabel as one of his fine, quiet, sincere notes. "It
occurs to me that you'll not know whether you've succeeded until
you've told her," she said. "You must see how she takes your
news, She may be horrified--she may be jealous."
"I'm not afraid of that; she's too fond of you on her own
account. I should like to leave her in the dark a little longer
--to see if it will come into her head that if we're not engaged
we ought to be."
Isabel was impressed by Osmond's artistic, the plastic view, as
it somehow appeared, of Pansy's innocence--her own appreciation
of it being more anxiously moral. She was perhaps not the less
pleased when he told her a few days later that he had
communicated the fact to his daughter, who had made such a pretty
little speech--"Oh, then I shall have a beautiful sister!" She
was neither surprised nor alarmed; she had not cried, as he
"Perhaps she had guessed it," said Isabel.
"Don't say that; I should be disgusted if I believed that. I
thought it would be just a little shock; but the way she took it
proves that her good manners are paramount. That's also what I
wished. You shall see for yourself; to-morrow she shall make you
her congratulations in person."
The meeting, on the morrow, took place at the Countess Gemini's,
whither Pansy had been conducted by her father, who knew that
Isabel was to come in the afternoon to return a visit made her by
the Countess on learning that they were to become sisters-in-law.
Calling at Casa Touchett the visitor had not found Isabel at
home; but after our young woman had been ushered into the
Countess's drawing-room Pansy arrived to say that her aunt would
presently appear. Pansy was spending the day with that lady, who
thought her of an age to begin to learn how to carry herself in
company. It was Isabel's view that the little girl might have
given lessons in deportment to her relative, and nothing could
have justified this conviction more than the manner in which
Pansy acquitted herself while they waited together for the
Countess. Her father's decision, the year before, had finally
been to send her back to the convent to receive the last graces,
and Madame Catherine had evidently carried out her theory that
Pansy was to be fitted for the great world.
"Papa has told me that you've kindly consented to marry him,"
said this excellent woman's pupil. "It's very delightful; I think
you'll suit very well."
"You think I shall suit YOU?"
"You'll suit me beautifully; but what I mean is that you and papa
will suit each other. You're both so quiet and so serious. You're
not so quiet as he--or even as Madame Merle; but you're more
quiet than many others. He should not for instance have a wife
like my aunt. She's always in motion, in agitation--to-day
especially; you'll see when she comes in. They told us at the
convent it was wrong to judge our elders, but I suppose there's
no harm if we judge them favourably. You'll be a delightful
companion for papa."
"For you too, I hope," Isabel said.
"I speak first of him on purpose. I've told you already what I
myself think of you; I liked you from the first. I admire you so
much that I think it will be a good fortune to have you always
before me. You'll be my model; I shall try to imitate you though
I'm afraid it will be very feeble. I'm very glad for papa--he
needed something more than me. Without you I don't see how he
could have got it. You'll be my stepmother, but we mustn't use
that word. They're always said to be cruel; but I don't think
you'll ever so much as pinch or even push me. I'm not afraid at
"My good little Pansy," said Isabel gently, "I shall be ever so
kind to you." A vague, inconsequent vision of her coming in some
odd way to need it had intervened with the effect of a chill.
"Very well then, I've nothing to fear," the child returned with
her note of prepared promptitude. What teaching she had had, it
seemed to suggest--or what penalties for non-performance she
Her description of her aunt had not been incorrect; the Countess
Gemini was further than ever from having folded her wings. She
entered the room with a flutter through the air and kissed Isabel
first on the forehead and then on each cheek as if according to
some ancient prescribed rite. She drew the visitor to a sofa and,
looking at her with a variety of turns of the head, began to talk
very much as if, seated brush in hand before an easel, she were
applying a series of considered touches to a composition of
figures already sketched in. "If you expect me to congratulate
you I must beg you to excuse me. I don't suppose you care if I do
or not; I believe you're supposed not to care--through being so
clever--for all sorts of ordinary things. But I care myself if I
tell fibs; I never tell them unless there's something rather good
to be gained. I don't see what's to be gained with you--
especially as you wouldn't believe me. I don't make professions
any more than I make paper flowers or flouncey lampshades--I
don't know how. My lampshades would be sure to take fire, my
roses and my fibs to be larger than life. I'm very glad for my
own sake that you're to marry Osmond; but I won't pretend I'm
glad for yours. You're very brilliant--you know that's the way
you're always spoken of; you're an heiress and very good-looking
and original, not banal; so it's a good thing to have you in the
family. Our family's very good, you know; Osmond will have told
you that; and my mother was rather distinguished--she was called
the American Corinne. But we're dreadfully fallen, I think, and
perhaps you'll pick us up. I've great confidence in you; there
are ever so many things I want to talk to you about. I never
congratulate any girl on marrying; I think they ought to make it
somehow not quite so awful a steel trap. I suppose Pansy
oughtn't to hear all this; but that's what she has come to me for
--to acquire the tone of society. There's no harm in her knowing
what horrors she may be in for. When first I got an idea that my
brother had designs on you I thought of writing to you, to
recommend you, in the strongest terms, not to listen to him. Then
I thought it would be disloyal, and I hate anything of that kind.
Besides, as I say, I was enchanted for myself; and after all I'm
very selfish. By the way, you won't respect me, not one little
mite, and we shall never be intimate. I should like it, but you
won't. Some day, all the same, we shall be better friends than
you will believe at first. My husband will come and see you,
though, as you probably know, he's on no sort of terms with
Osmond. He's very fond of going to see pretty women, but I'm not
afraid of you. In the first place I don't care what he does. In
the second, you won't care a straw for him; he won't be a bit, at
any time, your affair, and, stupid as he is, he'll see you're not
his. Some day, if you can stand it, I'll tell you all about him.
Do you think my niece ought to go out of the room? Pansy, go and
practise a little in my boudoir."
"Let her stay, please," said Isabel. "I would rather hear nothing
that Pansy may not!"
One afternoon of the autumn of 1876, toward dusk, a young man of
pleasing appearance rang at the door of a small apartment on the
third floor of an old Roman house. On its being opened he
enquired for Madame Merle; whereupon the servant, a neat, plain
woman, with a French face and a lady's maid's manner, ushered him
into a diminutive drawing-room and requested the favour of his
name. "Mr. Edward Rosier," said the young man, who sat down to
wait till his hostess should appear.
The reader will perhaps not have forgotten that Mr. Rosier was an
ornament of the American circle in Paris, but it may also be
remembered that he sometimes vanished from its horizon. He had
spent a portion of several winters at Pau, and as he was a
gentleman of constituted habits he might have continued for years
to pay his annual visit to this charming resort. In the summer of
1876, however, an incident befell him which changed the current
not only of his thoughts, but of his customary sequences. He
passed a month in the Upper Engadine and encountered at Saint
Moritz a charming young girl. To this little person he began to
pay, on the spot, particular attention: she struck him as exactly
the household angel he had long been looking for. He was never
precipitate, he was nothing if not discreet, so he forbore for
the present to declare his passion; but it seemed to him when
they parted--the young lady to go down into Italy and her admirer
to proceed to Geneva, where he was under bonds to join other
friends--that he should be romantically wretched if he were not
to see her again. The simplest way to do so was to go in the
autumn to Rome, where Miss Osmond was domiciled with her family.
Mr. Rosier started on his pilgrimage to the Italian capital and
reached it on the first of November. It was a pleasant thing to
do, but for the young man there was a strain of the heroic in the
enterprise. He might expose himself, unseasoned, to the poison of
the Roman air, which in November lay, notoriously, much in wait.
Fortune, however, favours the brave; and this adventurer, who
took three grains of quinine a day, had at the end of a month no
cause to deplore his temerity. He had made to a certain extent
good use of his time; he had devoted it in vain to finding a flaw
in Pansy Osmond's composition. She was admirably finished; she
had had the last touch; she was really a consummate piece. He
thought of her in amorous meditation a good deal as he might have
thought of a Dresden-china shepherdess. Miss Osmond, indeed, in
the bloom of her juvenility, had a hint of the rococo which
Rosier, whose taste was predominantly for that manner, could not
fail to appreciate. That he esteemed the productions of
comparatively frivolous periods would have been apparent from the
attention he bestowed upon Madame Merle's drawing-room, which,
although furnished with specimens of every style, was especially
rich in articles of the last two centuries. He had immediately
put a glass into one eye and looked round; and then "By Jove, she
has some jolly good things!" he had yearningly murmured. The room
was small and densely filled with furniture; it gave an impression
of faded silk and little statuettes which might totter if one
moved. Rosier got up and wandered about with his careful tread,
bending over the tables charged with knick-knacks and the cushions
embossed with princely arms. When Madame Merle came in she found
him standing before the fireplace with his nose very close to the
great lace flounce attached to the damask cover of the mantel. He
had lifted it delicately, as if he were smelling it.
"It's old Venetian," she said; "it's rather good."
"It's too good for this; you ought to wear it."
"They tell me you have some better in Paris, in the same
"Ah, but I can't wear mine," smiled the visitor.
"I don't see why you shouldn't! I've better lace than that to
His eyes wandered, lingeringly, round the room again. "You've
some very good things."
"Yes, but I hate them."
"Do you want to get rid of them?" the young man quickly asked.
"No, it's good to have something to hate: one works it off!"
"I love my things," said Mr. Rosier as he sat there flushed with
all his recognitions. "But it's not about them, nor about yours,
that I came to talk to you." He paused a moment and then, with
greater softness: "I care more for Miss Osmond than for all the
bibelots in Europe!"
Madame Merle opened wide eyes. "Did you come to tell me that?"
"I came to ask your advice."
She looked at him with a friendly frown, stroking her chin with
her large white hand. "A man in love, you know, doesn't ask
"Why not, if he's in a difficult position? That's often the case
with a man in love. I've been in love before, and I know. But
never so much as this time--really never so much. I should like
particularly to know what you think of my prospects. I'm afraid
that for Mr. Osmond I'm not--well, a real collector's piece."
"Do you wish me to intercede?" Madame Merle asked with her fine
arms folded and her handsome mouth drawn up to the left.
"If you could say a good word for me I should be greatly obliged.
There will be no use in my troubling Miss Osmond unless I have
good reason to believe her father will consent."
"You're very considerate; that's in your favour. But you assume in
rather an off-hand way that I think you a prize."
"You've been very kind to me," said the young man. "That's why I
"I'm always kind to people who have good Louis Quatorze. It's very
rare now, and there's no telling what one may get by it." With
which the left-hand corner of Madame Merle's mouth gave expression
to the joke.
But he looked, in spite of it, literally apprehensive and
consistently strenuous. "Ah, I thought you liked me for myself!"
"I like you very much; but, if you please, we won't analyse.
Pardon me if I seem patronising, but I think you a perfect little
gentleman. I must tell you, however, that I've not the marrying of
"I didn't suppose that. But you've seemed to me intimate with her
family, and I thought you might have influence."
Madame Merle considered. "Whom do you call her family?"
"Why, her father; and--how do you say it in English?--her
"Mr. Osmond's her father, certainly; but his wife can scarcely be
termed a member of her family. Mrs. Osmond has nothing to do with
"I'm sorry for that," said Rosier with an amiable sigh of good
faith. "I think Mrs. Osmond would favour me."
"Very likely--if her husband doesn't."
He raised his eyebrows. "Does she take the opposite line from
"In everything. They think quite differently."
"Well," said Rosier, "I'm sorry for that; but it's none of my
business. She's very fond of Pansy."
"Yes, she's very fond of Pansy."
"And Pansy has a great affection for her. She has told me how she
loves her as if she were her own mother."
"You must, after all, have had some very intimate talk with the
poor child," said Madame Merle. "Have you declared your
"Never!" cried Rosier, lifting his neatly-gloved hand. "Never till
I've assured myself of those of the parents."
"You always wait for that? You've excellent principles; you
observe the proprieties."
"I think you're laughing at me," the young man murmured, dropping
back in his chair and feeling his small moustache. "I didn't
expect that of you, Madame Merle."
She shook her head calmly, like a person who saw things as she saw
them. "You don't do me justice. I think your conduct in excellent
taste and the best you could adopt. Yes, that's what I think."
"I wouldn't agitate her--only to agitate her; I love her too
much for that," said Ned Rosier.
"I'm glad, after all, that you've told me," Madame Merle went on.
"Leave it to me a little; I think I can help you."
"I said you were the person to come to!" her visitor cried with
"You were very clever," Madame Merle returned more dryly. "When I
say I can help you I mean once assuming your cause to be good. Let
us think a little if it is."
"I'm awfully decent, you know," said Rosier earnestly. "I won't
say I've no faults, but I'll say I've no vices."
"All that's negative, and it always depends, also, on what people
call vices. What's the positive side? What's the virtuous? What
have you got besides your Spanish lace and your Dresden teacups?"
"I've a comfortable little fortune--about forty thousand francs a
year. With the talent I have for arranging, we can live
beautifully on such an income."
"Beautifully, no. Sufficiently, yes. Even that depends on where
"Well, in Paris. I would undertake it in Paris."
Madame Merle's mouth rose to the left. "It wouldn't be famous;
you'd have to make use of the teacups, and they'd get broken."
"We don't want to be famous. If Miss Osmond should have everything
pretty it would be enough. When one's as pretty as she one can
afford--well, quite cheap faience. She ought never to wear
anything but muslin--without the sprig," said Rosier reflectively.
"Wouldn't you even allow her the sprig? She'd be much obliged to
you at any rate for that theory."
"It's the correct one, I assure you; and I'm sure she'd enter into
it. She understands all that; that's why I love her."
"She's a very good little girl, and most tidy--also extremely
graceful. But her father, to the best of my belief, can give her
Rosier scarce demurred. "I don't in the least desire that he
should. But I may remark, all the same, that he lives like a rich
"The money's his wife's; she brought him a large fortune."
"Mrs. Osmond then is very fond of her stepdaughter; she may do
"For a love-sick swain you have your eyes about you!" Madame
Merle exclaimed with a laugh.
"I esteem a dot very much. I can do without it, but I esteem it."
"Mrs. Osmond," Madame Merle went on, "will probably prefer to keep
her money for her own children."
"Her own children? Surely she has none."
"She may have yet. She had a poor little boy, who died two years
ago, six months after his birth. Others therefore may come."
"I hope they will, if it will make her happy. She's a splendid
Madame Merle failed to burst into speech. "Ah, about her there's
much to be said. Splendid as you like! We've not exactly made out
that you're a parti. The absence of vices is hardly a source of
"Pardon me, I think it may be," said Rosier quite lucidly.
"You'll be a touching couple, living on your innocence!"
"I think you underrate me."
"You're not so innocent as that? Seriously," said Madame Merle,
"of course forty thousand francs a year and a nice character are a
combination to be considered. I don't say it's to be jumped at,
but there might be a worse offer. Mr. Osmond, however, will
probably incline to believe he can do better."
"HE can do so perhaps; but what can his daughter do? She can't do
better than marry the man she loves. For she does, you know,"
Rosier added eagerly.
"She does--I know it."
"Ah," cried the young man, "I said you were the person to come to."
"But I don't know how you know it, if you haven't asked her,"
Madame Merle went on.
"In such a case there's no need of asking and telling; as you say,
we're an innocent couple. How did YOU know it?"
"I who am not innocent? By being very crafty. Leave it to me; I'll
find out for you."
Rosier got up and stood smoothing his hat. "You say that rather
coldly. Don't simply find out how it is, but try to make it as it
"I'll do my best. I'll try to make the most of your advantages."
"Thank you so very much. Meanwhile then I'll say a word to Mrs.
"Gardez-vous-en bien!" And Madame Merle was on her feet. "Don't
set her going, or you'll spoil everything."
Rosier gazed into his hat; he wondered whether his hostess HAD
been after all the right person to come to. "I don't think I
understand you. I'm an old friend of Mrs. Osmond, and I think she
would like me to succeed."
"Be an old friend as much as you like; the more old friends she
has the better, for she doesn't get on very well with some of her
new. But don't for the present try to make her take up the cudgels
for you. Her husband may have other views, and, as a person who
wishes her well, I advise you not to multiply points of difference
Poor Rosier's face assumed an expression of alarm; a suit for the
hand of Pansy Osmond was even a more complicated business than his
taste for proper transitions had allowed. But the extreme good
sense which he concealed under a surface suggesting that of a
careful owner's "best set" came to his assistance. "I don't see
that I'm bound to consider Mr. Osmond so very much!" he exclaimed.
"No, but you should consider HER. You say you're an old friend.
Would you make her suffer?"
"Not for the world."
"Then be very careful, and let the matter alone till I've taken a
"Let the matter alone, dear Madame Merle? Remember that I'm in
"Oh, you won't burn up! Why did you come to me, if you're not to
heed what I say?"
"You're very kind; I'll be very good," the young man promised.
"But I'm afraid Mr. Osmond's pretty hard," he added in his mild
voice as he went to the door.
Madame Merle gave a short laugh. "It has been said before. But his
wife isn't easy either."
"Ah, she's a splendid woman!" Ned Rosier repeated, for departure.
He resolved that his conduct should be worthy of an aspirant who
was already a model of discretion; but he saw nothing in any
pledge he had given Madame Merle that made it improper he should
keep himself in spirits by an occasional visit to Miss Osmond's
home. He reflected constantly on what his adviser had said to
him, and turned over in his mind the impression of her rather
circumspect tone. He had gone to her de confiance, as they
put it in Paris; but it was possible he had been precipitate. He
found difficulty in thinking of himself as rash--he had incurred
this reproach so rarely; but it certainly was true that he had
known Madame Merle only for the last month, and that his thinking
her a delightful woman was not, when one came to look into it, a
reason for assuming that she would be eager to push Pansy Osmond
into his arms, gracefully arranged as these members might be to
receive her. She had indeed shown him benevolence, and she was a
person of consideration among the girl's people, where she had a
rather striking appearance (Rosier had more than once wondered how
she managed it) of being intimate without being familiar. But
possibly he had exaggerated these advantages. There was no
particular reason why she should take trouble for him; a charming
woman was charming to every one, and Rosier felt rather a fool
when he thought of his having appealed to her on the ground that
she had distinguished him. Very likely--though she had appeared to
say it in joke--she was really only thinking of his bibelots. Had
it come into her head that he might offer her two or three of the
gems of his collection? If she would only help him to marry Miss
Osmond he would present her with his whole museum. He could hardly
say so to her outright; it would seem too gross a bribe. But he
should like her to believe it.
It was with these thoughts that he went again to Mrs. Osmond's,
Mrs. Osmond having an "evening"--she had taken the Thursday of
each week--when his presence could be accounted for on general
principles of civility. The object of Mr. Rosier's well-regulated
affection dwelt in a high house in the very heart of Rome; a dark
and massive structure overlooking a sunny piazzetta in the
neighbourhood of the Farnese Palace. In a palace, too, little
Pansy lived--a palace by Roman measure, but a dungeon to poor
Rosier's apprehensive mind. It seemed to him of evil omen that the
young lady he wished to marry, and whose fastidious father he
doubted of his ability to conciliate, should be immured in a kind
of domestic fortress, a pile which bore a stern old Roman name,
which smelt of historic deeds, of crime and craft and violence,
which was mentioned in "Murray" and visited by tourists who
looked, on a vague survey, disappointed and depressed, and which
had frescoes by Caravaggio in the piano nobile and a row of
mutilated statues and dusty urns in the wide, nobly-arched
loggia overhanging the damp court where a fountain gushed out
of a mossy niche. In a less preoccupied frame of mind he could
have done justice to the Palazzo Roccanera; he could have entered
into the sentiment of Mrs. Osmond, who had once told him that on
settling themselves in Rome she and her husband had chosen this
habitation for the love of local colour. It had local colour
enough, and though he knew less about architecture than about
Limoges enamels he could see that the proportions of the windows
and even the details of the cornice had quite the grand air. But
Rosier was haunted by the conviction that at picturesque periods
young girls had been shut up there to keep them from their true
loves, and hen, under the threat of being thrown into convents,
had been forced into unholy marriages. There was one point,
however, to which he always did justice when once he found
himself in Mrs. Osmond's warm, rich-looking reception-rooms,
which were on the second floor. He acknowledged that these people
were very strong in "good things." It was a taste of Osmond's
own--not at all of hers; this she had told him the first time he
came to the house, when, after asking himself for a quarter of an
hour whether they had even better "French" than he in Paris, he
was obliged on the spot to admit that they had, very much, and
vanquished his envy, as a gentleman should, to the point of
expressing to his hostess his pure admiration of her treasures.
He learned from Mrs. Osmond that her husband had made a large
collection before their marriage and that, though he had annexed
a number of fine pieces within the last three years, he had
achieved his greatest finds at a time when he had not the
advantage of her advice. Rosier interpreted this information
according to principles of his own. For "advice" read "cash," he
said to himself; and the fact that Gilbert Osmond had landed his
highest prizes during his impecunious season confirmed his most
cherished doctrine--the doctrine that a collector may freely be
poor if he be only patient. In general, when Rosier presented
himself on a Thursday evening, his first recognition was for the
walls of the saloon; there were three or four objects his eyes
really yearned for. But after his talk with Madame Merle he felt
the extreme seriousness of his position; and now, when he came
in, he looked about for the daughter of the house with such
eagerness as might be permitted a gentleman whose smile, as he
crossed a threshold, always took everything comfortable for
Pansy was not in the first of the rooms, a large apartment with a
concave ceiling and walls covered with old red damask; it was here
Mrs. Osmond usually sat--though she was not in her most customary
place to-night--and that a circle of more especial intimates
gathered about the fire. The room was flushed with subdued,
diffused brightness; it contained the larger things and--almost
always--an odour of flowers. Pansy on this occasion was
presumably in the next of the series, the resort of younger
visitors, where tea was served. Osmond stood before the chimney,
leaning back with his hands behind him; he had one foot up and
was warming the sole. Half a dozen persons, scattered near him,
were talking together; but he was not in the conversation; his
eyes had an expression, frequent with them, that seemed to
represent them as engaged with objects more worth their while
than the appearances actually thrust upon them. Rosier, coming in
unannounced, failed to attract his attention; but the young man,
who was very punctilious, though he was even exceptionally
conscious that it was the wife, not the husband, he had come to
see, went up to shake hands with him. Osmond put out his left
hand, without changing his attitude.
"How d'ye do? My wife's somewhere about."
"Never fear; I shall find her," said Rosier cheerfully.
Osmond, however, took him in; he had never in his life felt
himself so efficiently looked at. "Madame Merle has told him, and
he doesn't like it," he privately reasoned. He had hoped Madame
Merle would be there, but she was not in sight; perhaps she was in
one of the other rooms or would come later. He had never
especially delighted in Gilbert Osmond, having a fancy he gave
himself airs. But Rosier was not quickly resentful, and where
politeness was concerned had ever a strong need of being quite in
the right. He looked round him and smiled, all without help, and
then in a moment, "I saw a jolly good piece of Capo di Monte
to-day," he said.
Osmond answered nothing at first; but presently, while he warmed
his boot-sole, "I don't care a fig for Capo di Monte!" he
"I hope you're not losing your interest?"
"In old pots and plates? Yes, I'm losing my interest."
Rosier for an instant forgot the delicacy of his position. "You're
not thinking of parting with a--a piece or two?"
"No, I'm not thinking of parting with anything at all, Mr.
Rosier," said Osmond, with his eyes still on the eyes of his
"Ah, you want to keep, but not to add," Rosier remarked brightly.
"Exactly. I've nothing I wish to match."
Poor Rosier was aware he had blushed; he was distressed at his
want of assurance. "Ah, well, I have!" was all he could murmur;
and he knew his murmur was partly lost as he turned away. He took
his course to the adjoining room and met Mrs. Osmond coming out of
the deep doorway. She was dressed in black velvet; she looked high
and splendid, as he had said, and yet oh so radiantly gentle! We
know what Mr. Rosier thought of her and the terms in which, to
Madame Merle, he had expressed his admiration. Like his
appreciation of her dear little stepdaughter it was based partly
on his eye for decorative character, his instinct for
authenticity; but also on a sense for uncatalogued values, for
that secret of a "lustre" beyond any recorded losing or
rediscovering, which his devotion to brittle wares had still not
disqualified him to recognise. Mrs. Osmond, at present, might well
have gratified such tastes. The years had touched her only to
enrich her; the flower of her youth had not faded, it only hung
more quietly on its stem. She had lost something of that quick
eagerness to which her husband had privately taken exception--she
had more the air of being able to wait. Now, at all events, framed
in the gilded doorway, she struck our young man as the picture of
a gracious lady. "You see I'm very regular," he said. "But who
should be if I'm not?"
"Yes, I've known you longer than any one here. But we mustn't
indulge in tender reminiscences. I want to introduce you to a
"Ah, please, what young lady?" Rosier was immensely obliging;
but this was not what he had come for.
"She sits there by the fire in pink and has no one to speak to."
Rosier hesitated a moment. "Can't Mr. Osmond speak to her? He's
within six feet of her."
Mrs. Osmond also hesitated. "She's not very lively, and he
doesn't like dull people."
"But she's good enough for me? Ah now, that's hard!"
"I only mean that you've ideas for two. And then you're so
"No, he's not--to me." And Mrs. Osmond vaguely smiled.
"That's a sign he should be doubly so to other women.
"So I tell him," she said, still smiling.
"You see I want some tea," Rosier went on, looking wistfully
"That's perfect. Go and give some to my young lady."
"Very good; but after that I'll abandon her to her fate. The
simple truth is I'm dying to have a little talk with Miss
"Ah," said Isabel, turning away, "I can't help you there!"
Five minutes later, while he handed a tea-cup to the damsel in
pink, whom he had conducted into the other room, he wondered
whether, in making to Mrs. Osmond the profession I have just
quoted, he had broken the spirit of his promise to Madame Merle.
Such a question was capable of occupying this young man's mind
for a considerable time. At last, however, he became--
comparatively speaking--reckless; he cared little what promises
he might break. The fate to which he had threatened to abandon
the damsel in pink proved to be none so terrible; for Pansy
Osmond, who had given him the tea for his companion--Pansy was as
fond as ever of making tea--presently came and talked to her.
Into this mild colloquy Edward Rosier entered little; he sat by
moodily, watching his small sweetheart. If we look at her now
through his eyes we shall at first not see much to remind us of
the obedient little girl who, at Florence, three years before,
was sent to walk short distances in the Cascine while her father
and Miss Archer talked together of matters sacred to elder
people. But after a moment we shall perceive that if at nineteen
Pansy has become a young lady she doesn't really fill out the
part; that if she has grown very pretty she lacks in a deplorable
degree the quality known and esteemed in the appearance of
females as style; and that if she is dressed with great freshness
she wears her smart attire with an undisguised appearance of
saving it--very much as if it were lent her for the occasion.
Edward Rosier, it would seem, would have been just the man to
note these defects; and in point of fact there was not a quality
of this young lady, of any sort, that he had not noted. Only he
called her qualities by names of his own--some of which indeed
were happy enough. "No, she's unique--she's absolutely unique,"
he used to say to himself; and you may be sure that not for an
instant would he have admitted to you that she was wanting in
style. Style? Why, she had the style of a little princess; if you
couldn't see it you had no eye. It was not modern, it was not
conscious, it would produce no impression in Broadway; the small,
serious damsel, in her stiff little dress, only looked like an
Infanta of Velasquez. This was enough for Edward Rosier, who
thought her delightfully old-fashioned. Her anxious eyes, her
charming lips, her slip of a figure, were as touching as a
childish prayer. He had now an acute desire to know just to what
point she liked him--a desire which made him fidget as he sat in
his chair. It made him feel hot, so that he had to pat his
forehead with his handkerchief; he had never been so uncomfortable.
She was such a perfect jeune fille, and one couldn't make of a
jeune fille the enquiry requisite for throwing light on such a
point. A jeune fille was what Rosier had always dreamed of--a
jeune fille who should yet not be French, for he had felt that
this nationality would complicate the question. He was sure Pansy
had never looked at a newspaper and that, in the way of novels,
if she had read Sir Walter Scott it was the very most. An
American jeune fille--what could be better than that? She would
be frank and gay, and yet would not have walked alone, nor have
received letters from men, nor have been taken to the theatre to
see the comedy of manners. Rosier could not deny that, as the
matter stood, it would be a breach of hospitality to appeal
directly to this unsophisticated creature; but he was now in
imminent danger of asking himself if hospitality were the most
sacred thing in the world. Was not the sentiment that he
entertained for Miss Osmond of infinitely greater importance? Of
greater importance to him--yes; but not probably to the master of
the house. There was one comfort; even if this gentleman had been
placed on his guard by Madame Merle he would not have extended
the warning to Pansy; it would not have been part of his policy
to let her know that a prepossessing young man was in love with
her. But he WAS in love with her, the prepossessing young man;
and all these restrictions of circumstance had ended by
irritating him. What had Gilbert Osmond meant by giving him two
fingers of his left hand? If Osmond was rude, surely he himself
might be bold. He felt extremely bold after the dull girl in so
vain a disguise of rose-colour had responded to the call of her
mother, who came in to say, with a significant simper at Rosier,
that she must carry her off to other triumphs. The mother and
daughter departed together, and now it depended only upon him
that he should be virtually alone with Pansy. He had never been
alone with her before; he had never been alone with a jeune
fille. It was a great moment; poor Rosier began to pat his
forehead again. There was another room beyond the one in which
they stood--a small room that had been thrown open and lighted,
but that, the company not being numerous, had remained empty all
the evening. It was empty yet; it was upholstered in pale yellow;
there were several lamps; through the open door it looked the
very temple of authorised love. Rosier gazed a moment through
this aperture; he was afraid that Pansy would run away, and felt
almost capable of stretching out a hand to detain her. But she
lingered where the other maiden had left them, making no motion to
join a knot of visitors on the far side of the room. For a little
it occurred to him that she was frightened--too frightened
perhaps to move; but a second glance assured him she was not, and
he then reflected that she was too innocent indeed for that.
After a supreme hesitation he asked her if he might go and look
at the yellow room, which seemed so attractive yet so virginal.
He had been there already with Osmond, to inspect the furniture,
which was of the First French Empire, and especially to admire
the clock (which he didn't really admire), an immense classic
structure of that period. He therefore felt that he had now begun
"Certainly, you may go," said Pansy; "and if you like I'll show
you." She was not in the least frightened.
"That's just what I hoped you'd say; you're so very kind," Rosier
They went in together; Rosier really thought the room very ugly,
and it seemed cold. The same idea appeared to have struck Pansy.
"It's not for winter evenings; it's more for summer," she said.
"It's papa's taste; he has so much."
He had a good deal, Rosier thought; but some of it was very bad.
He looked about him; he hardly knew what to say in such a
situation. "Doesn't Mrs. Osmond care how her rooms are done? Has
she no taste?" he asked.
"Oh yes, a great deal; but it's more for literature," said Pansy
--"and for conversation. But papa cares also for those things. I
think he knows everything."
Rosier was silent a little. "There's one thing I'm sure he
knows!" he broke out presently. "He knows that when I come here
it's, with all respect to him, with all respect to Mrs. Osmond,
who's so charming--it's really," said the young man, "to see
"To see me?" And Pansy raised her vaguely troubled eyes.
"To see you; that's what I come for," Rosier repeated, feeling
the intoxication of a rupture with authority.
Pansy stood looking at him, simply, intently, openly; a blush was
not needed to make her face more modest. "I thought it was for
"And it was not disagreeable to you?"
"I couldn't tell; I didn't know. You never told me," said Pansy.
"I was afraid of offending you."
"You don't offend me," the young girl murmured, smiling as if an
angel had kissed her.
"You like me then, Pansy?" Rosier asked very gently, feeling very
"Yes--I like you."
They had walked to the chimney-piece where the big cold Empire
clock was perched; they were well within the room and beyond
observation from without. The tone in which she had said these
four words seemed to him the very breath of nature, and his only
answer could be to take her hand and hold it a moment. Then he
raised it to his lips. She submitted, still with her pure,
trusting smile, in which there was something ineffably passive.
She liked him--she had liked him all the while; now anything
might happen! She was ready--she had been ready always, waiting
for him to speak. If he had not spoken she would have waited for
ever; but when the word came she dropped like the peach from the
shaken tree. Rosier felt that if he should draw her toward him
and hold her to his heart she would submit without a murmur,
would rest there without a question. It was true that this would
be a rash experiment in a yellow Empire salottino. She had
known it was for her he came, and yet like what a perfect little
lady she had carried it off!
"You're very dear to me," he murmured, trying to believe that
there was after all such a thing as hospitality.
She looked a moment at her hand, where he had kissed it. "Did you
say papa knows?"
"You told me just now he knows everything."
"I think you must make sure," said Pansy.
"Ah, my dear, when once I'm sure of YOU!" Rosier murmured in her
ear; whereupon she turned back to the other rooms with a little
air of consistency which seemed to imply that their appeal should
The other rooms meanwhile had become conscious of the arrival of
Madame Merle, who, wherever she went, produced an impression when
she entered. How she did it the most attentive spectator could
not have told you, for she neither spoke loud, nor laughed
profusely, nor moved rapidly, nor dressed with splendour, nor
appealed in any appreciable manner to the audience. Large, fair,
smiling, serene, there was something in her very tranquillity
that diffused itself, and when people looked round it was
because of a sudden quiet. On this occasion she had done the
quietest thing she could do; after embracing Mrs. Osmond, which
was more striking, she had sat down on a small sofa to commune
with the master of the house. There was a brief exchange of
commonplaces between these two--they always paid, in public, a
certain formal tribute to the commonplace--and then Madame Merle,
whose eyes had been wandering, asked if little Mr. Rosier had
come this evening.
"He came nearly an hour ago--but he has disappeared," Osmond
"And where's Pansy?"
"In the other room. There are several people there."
"He's probably among them," said Madame Merle.
"Do you wish to see him?" Osmond asked in a provokingly
Madame Merle looked at him a moment; she knew each of his tones
to the eighth of a note. "Yes, I should like to say to him that
I've told you what he wants, and that it interests you but
"Don't tell him that. He'll try to interest me more--which is
exactly what I don't want. Tell him I hate his proposal."
"But you don't hate it."
"It doesn't signify; I don't love it. I let him see that, myself,
this evening; I was rude to him on purpose. That sort of thing's
a great bore. There's no hurry."
"I'll tell him that you'll take time and think it over."
"No, don't do that. He'll hang on."
"If I discourage him he'll do the same."
"Yes, but in the one case he'll try to talk and explain--which
would be exceedingly tiresome. In the other he'll probably hold
his tongue and go in for some deeper game. That will leave me
quiet. I hate talking with a donkey."
"Is that what you call poor Mr. Rosier?"
"Oh, he's a nuisance--with his eternal majolica."
Madame Merle dropped her eyes; she had a faint smile. "He's a
gentleman, he has a charming temper; and, after all, an income of
forty thousand francs!"
"It's misery--'genteel' misery," Osmond broke in. "It's not what
I've dreamed of for Pansy."
"Very good then. He has promised me not to speak to her."
"Do you believe him?" Osmond asked absentmindedly.
"Perfectly. Pansy has thought a great deal about him; but I don't
suppose you consider that that matters."
"I don't consider it matters at all; but neither do I believe she
has thought of him."
"That opinion's more convenient," said Madame Merle quietly.
"Has she told you she's in love with him?"
"For what do you take her? And for what do you take me?" Madame
Merle added in a moment.
Osmond had raised his foot and was resting his slim ankle on the
other knee; he clasped his ankle in his hand familiarly--his
long, fine forefinger and thumb could make a ring for it--and
gazed a while before him. "This kind of thing doesn't find me
unprepared. It's what I educated her for. It was all for this--
that when such a case should come up she should do what I
"I'm not afraid that she'll not do it."
"Well then, where's the hitch?"
"I don't see any. But, all the same, I recommend you not to get
rid of Mr. Rosier. Keep him on hand; he may be useful."
"I can't keep him. Keep him yourself."
"Very good; I'll put him into a corner and allow him so much a
day." Madame Merle had, for the most part, while they talked,
been glancing about her; it was her habit in this situation, just
as it was her habit to interpose a good many blank-looking
pauses. A long drop followed the last words I have quoted; and
before it had ended she saw Pansy come out of the adjoining room,
followed by Edward Rosier. The girl advanced a few steps and then
stopped and stood looking at Madame Merle and at her father.
"He has spoken to her," Madame Merle went on to Osmond.
Her companion never turned his head. "So much for your belief in
his promises. He ought to be horsewhipped."
"He intends to confess, poor little man!"
Osmond got up; he had now taken a sharp look at his daughter. "It
doesn't matter," he murmured, turning away.
Pansy after a moment came up to Madame Merle with her little
manner of unfamiliar politeness. This lady's reception of her was
not more intimate; she simply, as she rose from the sofa, gave
her a friendly smile.
"You're very late," the young creature gently said.
"My dear child, I'm never later than I intend to be."
Madame Merle had not got up to be gracious to Pansy; she moved
toward Edward Rosier. He came to meet her and, very quickly, as
if to get it off his mind, "I've spoken to her!" he whispered.
"I know it, Mr. Rosier."
"Did she tell you?"
"Yes, she told me. Behave properly for the rest of the evening,
and come and see me to-morrow at a quarter past five." She was
severe, and in the manner in which she turned her back to him
there was a degree of contempt which caused him to mutter a
He had no intention of speaking to Osmond; it was neither the
time nor the place. But he instinctively wandered toward Isabel,
who sat talking with an old lady. He sat down on the other side
of her; the old lady was Italian, and Rosier took for granted she
understood no English. "You said just now you wouldn't help me,"
he began to Mrs. Osmond. "Perhaps you'll feel differently when
you know--when you know--!"
Isabel met his hesitation. "When I know what?"
"That she's all right."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, that we've come to an understanding."
"She's all wrong," said Isabel. "It won't do."
Poor Rosier gazed at her half-pleadingly, half-angrily; a sudden
flush testified to his sense of injury. "I've never been treated
so," he said. "What is there against me, after all? That's not
the way I'm usually considered. I could have married twenty
"It's a pity you didn't. I don't mean twenty times, but once,
comfortably," Isabel added, smiling kindly. "You're not rich
enough for Pansy."
"She doesn't care a straw for one's money."
"No, but her father does."
"Ah yes, he has proved that!" cried the young man.
Isabel got up, turning away from him, leaving her old lady
without ceremony; and he occupied himself for the next ten
minutes in pretending to look at Gilbert Osmond's collection of
miniatures, which were neatly arranged on a series of small
velvet screens. But he looked without seeing; his cheek burned;
he was too full of his sense of injury. It was certain that he
had never been treated that way before; he was not used to being
thought not good enough. He knew how good he was, and if such a
fallacy had not been so pernicious he could have laughed at it.
He searched again for Pansy, but she had disappeared, and his
main desire was now to get out of the house. Before doing so he
spoke once more to Isabel; it was not agreeable to him to reflect
that he had just said a rude thing to her--the only point that
would now justify a low view of him.
"I referred to Mr. Osmond as I shouldn't have done, a while ago,"
he began. "But you must remember my situation."
"I don't remember what you said," she answered coldly.
"Ah, you're offended, and now you'll never help me."
She was silent an instant, and then with a change of tone: "It's
not that I won't; I simply can't!" Her manner was almost
"If you COULD, just a little, I'd never again speak of your
husband save as an angel."
"The inducement's great," said Isabel gravely--inscrutably, as he
afterwards, to himself, called it; and she gave him, straight in
the eyes, a look which was also inscrutable. It made him remember
somehow that he had known her as a child; and yet it was keener
than he liked, and he took himself off.
He went to see Madame Merle on the morrow, and to his surprise
she let him off rather easily. But she made him promise that he
would stop there till something should have been decided. Mr.
Osmond had had higher expectations; it was very true that as he
had no intention of giving his daughter a portion such
expectations were open to criticism or even, if one would, to
ridicule. But she would advise Mr. Rosier not to take that tone;
if he would possess his soul in patience he might arrive at his
felicity. Mr. Osmond was not favourable to his suit, but it
wouldn't be a miracle if he should gradually come round. Pansy
would never defy her father, he might depend on that; so nothing
was to be gained by precipitation. Mr. Osmond needed to accustom
his mind to an offer of a sort that he had not hitherto
entertained, and this result must come of itself--it was useless
to try to force it. Rosier remarked that his own situation would
be in the meanwhile the most uncomfortable in the world, and
Madame Merle assured him that she felt for him. But, as she
justly declared, one couldn't have everything one wanted; she had
learned that lesson for herself. There would be no use in his
writing to Gilbert Osmond, who had charged her to tell him as
much. He wished the matter dropped for a few weeks and would
himself write when he should have anything to communicate that it
might please Mr. Rosier to hear.
"He doesn't like your having spoken to Pansy, Ah, he doesn't like
it at all," said Madame Merle.
"I'm perfectly willing to give him a chance to tell me so!"
"If you do that he'll tell you more than you care to hear. Go to
the house, for the next month, as little as possible, and leave
the rest to me."
"As little as possible? Who's to measure the possibility?"
"Let me measure it. Go on Thursday evenings with the rest of the
world, but don't go at all at odd times, and don't fret about
Pansy. I'll see that she understands everything. She's a calm
little nature; she'll take it quietly."
Edward Rosier fretted about Pansy a good deal, but he did as he
was advised, and awaited another Thursday evening before returning
to Palazzo Roccanera. There had been a party at dinner, so that
though he went early the company was already tolerably numerous.
Osmond, as usual, was in the first room, near the fire, staring
straight at the door, so that, not to be distinctly uncivil,
Rosier had to go and speak to him.
"I'm glad that you can take a hint," Pansy's father said, slightly
closing his keen, conscious eyes.
"I take no hints. But I took a message, as I supposed it to be."
"You took it? Where did you take it?"
It seemed to poor Rosier he was being insulted, and he waited a
moment, asking himself how much a true lover ought to submit to.
"Madame Merle gave me, as I understood it, a message from you--
to the effect that you declined to give me the opportunity I
desire, the opportunity to explain my wishes to you." And he
flattered himself he spoke rather sternly.
"I don't see what Madame Merle has to do with it. Why did you
apply to Madame Merle?"
"I asked her for an opinion--for nothing more. I did so because
she had seemed to me to know you very well."
"She doesn't know me so well as she thinks," said Osmond.
"I'm sorry for that, because she has given me some little ground
Osmond stared into the fire a moment. "I set a great price on my
"You can't set a higher one than I do. Don't I prove it by wishing
to marry her?"
"I wish to marry her very well," Osmond went on with a dry
impertinence which, in another mood, poor Rosier would have
"Of course I pretend she'd marry well in marrying me. She
couldn't marry a man who loves her more--or whom, I may venture to
add, she loves more."
"I'm not bound to accept your theories as to whom my daughter
loves"--and Osmond looked up with a quick, cold smile.
"I'm not theorising. Your daughter has spoken."
"Not to me," Osmond continued, now bending forward a little and
dropping his eyes to his boot-toes.
"I have her promise, sir!" cried Rosier with the sharpness of
As their voices had been pitched very low before, such a note
attracted some attention from the company. Osmond waited till
this little movement had subsided; then he said, all undisturbed:
"I think she has no recollection of having given it."
They had been standing with their faces to the fire, and after he
had uttered these last words the master of the house turned round
again to the room. Before Rosier had time to reply he perceived
that a gentleman--a stranger--had just come in, unannounced,
according to the Roman custom, and was about to present himself
to his host. The latter smiled blandly, but somewhat blankly; the
visitor had a handsome face and a large, fair beard, and was
evidently an Englishman.
"You apparently don't recognise me," he said with a smile that
expressed more than Osmond's.
"Ah yes, now I do. I expected so little to see you."
Rosier departed and went in direct pursuit of Pansy. He sought
her, as usual, in the neighbouring room, but he again encountered
Mrs. Osmond in his path. He gave his hostess no greeting--he was
too righteously indignant, but said to her crudely: "Your
husband's awfully cold-blooded."
She gave the same mystical smile he had noticed before. "You
can't expect every one to be as hot as yourself."
"I don't pretend to be cold, but I'm cool. What has he been doing
to his daughter?"
"I've no idea."
"Don't you take any interest?" Rosier demanded with his sense
that she too was irritating.
For a moment she answered nothing; then, "No!" she said abruptly
and with a quickened light in her eyes which directly
contradicted the word.
"Pardon me if I don't believe that. Where's Miss Osmond?"
"In the corner, making tea. Please leave her there."
Rosier instantly discovered his friend, who had been hidden by
intervening groups. He watched her, but her own attention was
entirely given to her occupation. "What on earth has he done to
her?" he asked again imploringly. "He declares to me she has
given me up."
"She has not given you up," Isabel said in a low tone and without
looking at him.
"Ah, thank you for that! Now I'll leave her alone as long as you
He had hardly spoken when he saw her change colour, and became
aware that Osmond was coming toward her accompanied by the
gentleman who had just entered. He judged the latter, in spite of
the advantage of good looks and evident social experience, a
little embarrassed. "Isabel," said her husband, "I bring you an
Mrs. Osmond's face, though it wore a smile, was, like her old
friend's, not perfectly confident. "I'm very happy to see Lord
Warburton," she said. Rosier turned away and, now that his talk
with her had been interrupted, felt absolved from the little
pledge he had just taken. He had a quick impression that Mrs.
Osmond wouldn't notice what he did.
Isabel in fact, to do him justice, for some time quite ceased to
observe him. She had been startled; she hardly knew if she felt a
pleasure or a pain. Lord Warburton, however, now that he was face
to face with her, was plainly quite sure of his own sense of the
matter; though his grey eyes had still their fine original
property of keeping recognition and attestation strictly sincere.
He was "heavier" than of yore and looked older; he stood there
very solidly and sensibly.
"I suppose you didn't expect to see me," he said; "I've but just
arrived. Literally, I only got here this evening. You see I've
lost no time in coming to pay you my respects. I knew you were at
home on Thursdays."
"You see the fame of your Thursdays has spread to England,"
Osmond remarked to his wife.
"It's very kind of Lord Warburton to come so soon; we're greatly
flattered," Isabel said.
"Ah well, it's better than stopping in one of those horrible
inns," Osmond went on.
"The hotel seems very good; I think it's the same at which I saw
you four years since. You know it was here in Rome that we first
met; it's a long time ago. Do you remember where I bade you
good-bye?" his lordship asked of his hostess. "It was in the
Capitol, in the first room."
"I remember that myself," said Osmond. "I was there at the time."
"Yes, I remember you there. I was very sorry to leave Rome--so
sorry that, somehow or other, it became almost a dismal memory,
and I've never cared to come back till to-day. But I knew you
were living here," her old friend went on to Isabel, "and I
assure you I've often thought of you. It must be a charming place
to live in," he added with a look, round him, at her established
home, in which she might have caught the dim ghost of his old
"We should have been glad to see you at any time," Osmond
observed with propriety.
"Thank you very much. I haven't been out of England since then.
Till a month ago I really supposed my travels over."
"I've heard of you from time to time," said Isabel, who had
already, with her rare capacity for such inward feats, taken the
measure of what meeting him again meant for her.
"I hope you've heard no harm. My life has been a remarkably
"Like the good reigns in history," Osmond suggested. He appeared
to think his duties as a host now terminated--he had performed
them so conscientiously. Nothing could have been more adequate,
more nicely measured, than his courtesy to his wife's old friend.
It was punctilious, it was explicit, it was everything but
natural--a deficiency which Lord Warburton, who, himself, had on
the whole a good deal of nature, may be supposed to have
perceived. "I'll leave you and Mrs. Osmond together," he added.
"You have reminiscences into which I don't enter."
"I'm afraid you lose a good deal!" Lord Warburton called after
him, as he moved away, in a tone which perhaps betrayed overmuch
an appreciation of his generosity. Then the visitor turned on
Isabel the deeper, the deepest, consciousness of his look,
which gradually became more serious. "I'm really very glad to see
"It's very pleasant. You're very kind."
"Do you know that you're changed--a little?"
She just hesitated. "Yes--a good deal."
"I don't mean for the worse, of course; and yet how can I say for
"I think I shall have no scruple in saying that to YOU," she
"Ah well, for me--it's a long time. It would be a pity there
shouldn't be something to show for it." They sat down and she
asked him about his sisters, with other enquiries of a somewhat
perfunctory kind. He answered her questions as if they interested
him, and in a few moments she saw--or believed she saw--that he
would press with less of his whole weight than of yore. Time had
breathed upon his heart and, without chilling it, given it a
relieved sense of having taken the air. Isabel felt her usual
esteem for Time rise at a bound. Her friend's manner was
certainly that of a contented man, one who would rather like
people, or like her at least, to know him for such. "There's
something I must tell you without more delay," he resumed. "I've
brought Ralph Touchett with me."
"Brought him with you?" Isabel's surprise was great.
"He's at the hotel; he was too tired to come out and has gone to
"I'll go to see him," she immediately said.
"That's exactly what I hoped you'd do. I had an idea you hadn't
seen much of him since your marriage, that in fact your relations
were a--a little more formal. That's why I hesitated--like an
"I'm as fond of Ralph as ever," Isabel answered. "But why has he
come to Rome?" The declaration was very gentle, the question a
"Because he's very far gone, Mrs. Osmond."
"Rome then is no place for him. I heard from him that he had
determined to give up his custom of wintering abroad and to
remain in England, indoors, in what he called an artificial
"Poor fellow, he doesn't succeed with the artificial! I went to
see him three weeks ago, at Gardencourt, and found him thoroughly
ill. He has been getting worse every year, and now he has no
strength left. He smokes no more cigarettes! He had got up an
artificial climate indeed; the house was as hot as Calcutta.
Nevertheless he had suddenly taken it into his head to start for
Sicily. I didn't believe in it--neither did the doctors, nor any
of his friends. His mother, as I suppose you know, is in America,
so there was no one to prevent him. He stuck to his idea that it
would be the saving of him to spend the winter at Catania. He
said he could take servants and furniture, could make himself
comfortable, but in point of fact he hasn't brought anything. I
wanted him at least to go by sea, to save fatigue; but he said he
hated the sea and wished to stop at Rome. After that, though I
thought it all rubbish, I made up my mind to come with him. I'm
acting as--what do you call it in America?--as a kind of
moderator. Poor Ralph's very moderate now. We left England a
fortnight ago, and he has been very bad on the way. He can't keep
warm, and the further south we come the more he feels the cold.
He has got rather a good man, but I'm afraid he's beyond human
help. I wanted him to take with him some clever fellow--I mean
some sharp young doctor; but he wouldn't hear of it. If you don't
mind my saying so, I think it was a most extraordinary time for
Mrs. Touchett to decide on going to America."
Isabel had listened eagerly; her face was full of pain and
wonder. "My aunt does that at fixed periods and lets nothing turn
her aside. When the date comes round she starts; I think she'd
have started if Ralph had been dying."
"I sometimes think he IS dying," Lord Warburton said.
Isabel sprang up. "I'll go to him then now."
He checked her; he was a little disconcerted at the quick effect
of his words. "I don't mean I thought so to-night. On the
contrary, to-day, in the train, he seemed particularly well; the
idea of our reaching Rome--he's very fond of Rome, you know--
gave him strength. An hour ago, when I bade him goodnight, he
told me he was very tired, but very happy. Go to him in the
morning; that's all I mean. I didn't tell him I was coming here;
I didn't decide to till after we had separated. Then I remembered
he had told me you had an evening, and that it was this very
Thursday. It occurred to me to come in and tell you he's here,
and let you know you had perhaps better not wait for him to call.
I think he said he hadn't written to you." There was no need of
Isabel's declaring that she would act upon Lord Warburton's
information; she looked, as she sat there, like a winged creature
held back. "Let alone that I wanted to see you for myself," her
visitor gallantly added.
"I don't understand Ralph's plan; it seems to me very wild," she
said. "I was glad to think of him between those thick walls at
"He was completely alone there; the thick walls were his only
"You went to see him; you've been extremely kind."
"Oh dear, I had nothing to do," said Lord Warburton.
"We hear, on the contrary, that you're doing great things. Every
one speaks of you as a great statesman, and I'm perpetually
seeing your name in the Times, which, by the way, doesn't
appear to hold it in reverence. You're apparently as wild a
radical as ever."
"I don't feel nearly so wild; you know the world has come round
to me. Touchett and I have kept up a sort of parliamentary debate
all the way from London. I tell him he's the last of the Tories,
and he calls me the King of the Goths--says I have, down to the
details of my personal appearance, every sign of the brute. So
you see there's life in him yet."
Isabel had many questions to ask about Ralph, but she abstained
from asking them all. She would see for herself on the morrow.
She perceived that after a little Lord Warburton would tire of
that subject--he had a conception of other possible topics. She
was more and more able to say to herself that he had recovered,
and, what is more to the point, she was able to say it without
bitterness. He had been for her, of old, such an image of
urgency, of insistence, of something to be resisted and reasoned
with, that his reappearance at first menaced her with a new
trouble. But she was now reassured; she could see he only wished
to live with her on good terms, that she was to understand he had
forgiven her and was incapable of the bad taste of making pointed
allusions. This was not a form of revenge, of course; she had no
suspicion of his wishing to punish her by an exhibition of
disillusionment; she did him the justice to believe it had simply
occurred to him that she would now take a good-natured interest
in knowing he was resigned. It was the resignation of a healthy,
manly nature, in which sentimental wounds could never fester.
British politics had cured him; she had known they would. She
gave an envious thought to the happier lot of men, who are always
free to plunge into the healing waters of action. Lord Warburton
of course spoke of the past, but he spoke of it without
implications; he even went so far as to allude to their former
meeting in Rome as a very jolly time. And he told her he had been
immensely interested in hearing of her marriage and that it was a
great pleasure for him to make Mr. Osmond's acquaintance--since
he could hardly be said to have made it on the other occasion. He
had not written to her at the time of that passage in her
history, but he didn't apologise to her for this. The only thing
he implied was that they were old friends, intimate friends. It
was very much as an intimate friend that he said to her,
suddenly, after a short pause which he had occupied in smiling,
as he looked about him, like a person amused, at a provincial
entertainment, by some innocent game of guesses--
"Well now, I suppose you're very happy and all that sort of
Isabel answered with a quick laugh; the tone of his remark struck
her almost as the accent of comedy. "Do you suppose if I were not
I'd tell you?"
"Well, I don't know. I don't see why not."
"I do then. Fortunately, however, I'm very happy."
"You've got an awfully good house."
"Yes, it's very pleasant. But that's not my merit--it's my
"You mean he has arranged it?"
"Yes, it was nothing when we came."
"He must be very clever."
"He has a genius for upholstery," said Isabel.
"There's a great rage for that sort of thing now. But you must
have a taste of your own."
"I enjoy things when they're done, but I've no ideas. I can never
"Do you mean you accept what others propose?"
"Very willingly, for the most part."
"That's a good thing to know. I shall propose to you something."
"It will be very kind. I must say, however, that I've in a few
small ways a certain initiative. I should like for instance to
introduce you to some of these people."
"Oh, please don't; I prefer sitting here. Unless it be to that
young lady in the blue dress. She has a charming face."
"The one talking to the rosy young man? That's my husband's
"Lucky man, your husband. What a dear little maid!"
"You must make her acquaintance."
"In a moment--with pleasure. I like looking at her from here." He
ceased to look at her, however, very soon; his eyes constantly
reverted to Mrs. Osmond. "Do you know I was wrong just now in
saying you had changed?" he presently went on. "You seem to me,
after all, very much the same."
"And yet I find it a great change to be married," said Isabel
with mild gaiety.
"It affects most people more than it has affected you. You see I
haven't gone in for that."
"It rather surprises me."