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“How much money do you expect to get for it?” Mrs. Touchett asked the girl, who had brought her to sit in the front parlor, 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. In point of fact what have you inherited?”

“I really can’t tell you. You must ask Edmund and Lilian; they will be back in half an hour.”

“In Florence we should call it a very bad house,” said Mrs. Touchett; “but here, I suspect, 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 is of value, and they will 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 advantage.”

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,” said the girl rather strangely. “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 of life.”

“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 have 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 bourgeois.”

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 will be very good and do everything I tell you, I will take you there,” Mrs. Touchett rejoined.

The girl’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 promise that.”

“No, you don’t look like a young lady of that sort. You are 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 would 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 person. 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 disagreeable. To her imagination the term had always suggested something grotesque and inharmonious. But her aunt infused a new vividness into the idea, and gave her so many fresh impressions that it seemed to her she had overestimated the charms of conformity. She had never met any one so entertaining as the 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 European courts. There was nothing flighty about Mrs. Touchett, but she 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 they were, struck her as deeply interesting. 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 departure.

“Your sister must be a great gossip,” she said. “Is she accustomed to staying out for hours?”

“You have been out almost as long as she,” Isabel answered; “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 to her niece.

“Perhaps she has not 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 you later.”

IV.

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” one. Mrs. Keyes, the second sister, was the wife of an officer in the United States Engineers, and as our history is not further concerned with her, it will be enough to say 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 had been, 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 houose which presented a narrowness of brown stone to Fifty-third Street, she had justified her claim to matrimony. She was short and plump, and as people said, had improved since her marriage; 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 felt like Isabel’s sister, and I am sure I never shall,” she had said to an intimate friend; a declaration which made it all the more creditable that she should be prolific in sisterly offices.

“I want to see her safely married, — that’s what I want to see,” she frequently remarked 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 have against her, except that she is so original.”

“Well, I don’t like originals; I like translations,” Mr. Ludlow had more than once replied. “Isabel is 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 am afraid she will do!” cried Lilian, who thought Isabel capable of anything.

She listened with great interest to the girl’s account of Mrs. Touchett’s visit and in the evening prepared to comply with her commands.

Of what Isabel said to her no report has remained, but her sister’s words must have prompted a remark that she made to her husband in the conjugal chamber as the two were making ready to go to the hotel.

“I do hope immensely she will 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 present?”

“No indeed; nothing of the sort. But take an interest in her, — sympathize with her. She is evidently just the sort of person to appreciate Isabel. She has lived so much in foreign society; she told Isabel all about it. You know you have 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?” her husband asked.

“She has offered to take her; she is 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 am sure all we have got to do,” said Mrs. Ludlow, “is to give her a chance!”

“A chance for what?”

“A chance to develop.”

“Oh, Jupiter!” Edmund Ludlow exclaimed. “I hope she isn’t going to develop any more!”

“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 sweeter than the words she uttered.

“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 am sure there is no harm,” said the conciliatory Lily.

“Ah, but there is nothing in Mrs. Touchett’s visit to make one feel grand.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Ludlow, “she is grander than ever!”

“Whenever I feel grand,” said the girl, “it will be for a better reason!”

Whether she felt grand or no, she at any rate felt busy; busy, I mean, with her thoughts. Left to herself for the evening, she sat a while under the lamp with empty hands, heedless of her usual avocations. 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 excited; at moments she trembled a little. She felt that something had happened to her, which the importance was of the 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 to take a nap. On the contrary, it was because she felt too wide-awake and wished to check the sense of seeing too many things at once. Her imagination was by habit ridiculously active; if the door were not opened to it, 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 girl, — 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 disagreeable. It appeared to Isabel that the disagreeable 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 good fortune to have been his daughter; Isabel was even proud in her parentage. Since his death she had gathered a vague impression that he turned his brighter side to his children, and that he had not eluded discomfort 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 think that he was too generous, too good-natured, too indifferent to sordid considerations. Many persons thought 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 admitted that 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 had made 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 strange schools kept by the foreigners, 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 abundant. Even when her father had left his daughters for three months at Neufchatel with a French bonne, who eloped with a Russian nobleman staying at the same hotel, — even in this irregular situation (an incident of the girl’s thirteenth year) she had been neither frightened nor ashamed, but had thought it a picturesque 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 foreign lands; 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 among his three daughters she was quite his favorite, and 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 was 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 choregraphic circle; her sister Edith was, as every one said, so very much more popular. Edith was so striking an example of success that Isabel would have no illusions as to what constituted this advantage, or as to the moderate character of her own. 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 a parcel of fools. 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, the most important being an excitable pride and a restless conscience. 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 quotation. 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 heart 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 gone so far as to forgive 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 reserve practiced towards her by the local youth had never gone the length of making her a social postscript; for the proportion of those whose hearts, as they approached her, beat only just faster enough to make it a sensible pleasure was sifficient to redeem her maidenly career from failure. She had had everything a girl could have: kindness, admiration, flattery, 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, and a glimpse of contemporary aesthetics.

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 Isabel and he had lately written to her from New York. She had thought it very possible he would come in, — had, indeed all the rainy day been vaguely expecting him. Nevertheless, now that she learned he was there, she felt no eagerness to receive him. He was the finest young man she had ever seen, was, indeed, quite a magnificant young man; he filled her with a certain feeling of which she had never entertained from anyone else. 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 capital. Isabel delayed for some minutes to go to him; she moved about the room with certain feelings of embarrasement. 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 especially good-looking, but his physiognomy had an air of requesting your attention, which it rewarded or not, according to the charm you found in blue eye of remarkable fixedness, and a jaw of the somewhat angular mould which is supposed to bespeak resolution. Isabel said to herself that it bespoke resolution tonight; but nevertheless, an hour later, 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, however, a man to be discouraged by a defeat.

V.

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 his turn always came after the care of her house and her conservatory (she was extremely fond of flowers). 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, she 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 broken down. Ralph smiled at the idea of his mother breaking down, but made no point of reminding her that his own enfeebled condition 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, who was a native of Rutland, in the State of Vermont, came to England as subordinate partner in a banking-house, in which some ten years later he argued a preponderant interest. Daniel Touchett saw before him a life-long residence in his adopted country, of which from the first he took a simple, cheerful and eminently practical view. But, as he said to himself, he had no intention of turning Englishmen, nor had any desire to convert his only son to the same sturdy faith. It had been for himself so very soluble a problem to live in England and yet not be of that it seemed to him equally simple that after his deth his lawful heirs shoudl carry on in a pure American spirit. He took pains to cultivate this spirit, however, by sending the boy home for his education. Ralph spent several terms at an American school, and took a degree at an American college, after which, as he struck his father on his return as even redundantly national, he was placed for some three years in residence at Oxford. Oxford swallowed up Harvard, and Ralph became at least 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 jocosity 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) but 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 the ocean (which he detested) permanently between himself and the old man whom he regarded as his best friend. Ralph was not only fond of his father, but 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 great fancy for the banking business, 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 old man’s effective simplicity. Daniel Touchett had been neither at Harvard nor at Oxford, and it was his own fault if he had put into his son’s hands the key to modern criticism. Ralph, whose head was full of ideas which his father had never guessed at, 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 given evidence of this talent only up to a certain point. He had made himself thoroughly comfortable in England, but he had never attempted to pitch his toughts in the English key. He had retained many characteristics of Rutland, Vermont; 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, especially, he was a gentle, refined, fastidious old man, who combined consumate shrewdness with a sort of fraternizing good humor, and whose feeling about his own position in the world was quite of the democratic sort. 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 never perceived, certain habits he never formed, certain mysteries he never understood. As regards these latter, on the day he had understood them his son would have thought less well of him.

Ralph, on leaving Oxford, spent a couple of years in traveling, after which he had found himself mounted on a high stool in his father’s bank. The responsibility and honor 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 became conscious that he was seriously out of health. He had caught a violent cold, which fixed itself on his lungs and threw them into extreme embarrassment. He had to give up work and embrace the sorry occupation known as taking care of one’s self. At first he was greatly disgusted; it appeared to him that 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 least 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 seemed to him to be his reputation for common sense, — devoted to his unattractive protege 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. He had grown extremely fond of London, he cursed this unmitigable necessity; but at the same time that he cursed, he conformed, and gradually, when he found that his sensitive organ was really grateful for those grim favours, he conferred them with a better grace. 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, almost never got up again. A certain fund of indolence that he possessed came to his aid and helped reconcile him to doing nothing; for at the best he was too ill for anything but a passive life. As he said to himself, there was really nothing he had wanted very much to do, so that he had given up nothing. At present, however, the perfume of forbidden fruit seemed occasionally to float past him, to remind him that the finest pleasures of life are to be found in the world 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 this occasion remained later than usual in England and had been overtaken by bad weather before reaching Algiers. He reached it 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 behooved him to keep his eyes upon it, but 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 delights of observation had never been suspected. 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 with a good deal of native indifference. His friends at present found him much more cheerful, and attributed it to a theory, over which they shook their heads knowingly, that he would recover his health. The truth was that he had simply accepted the situation.

It was very probably this sweet-tasting property of observation (for he found himself in these last years much more inclined to notice the pleasant things of the world than the others) that was mainly concerned in Ralph’s quickly-stirred interest in the arrival of a young lady who was evidently not insipid. If he were observantly disposed, something told him, here was occupation enough for a succession of days. It may be added, somewhat crudely, that the liberty of falling in love had a place in Ralph Touchett’s programme. This was of course a liberty to be very temperately used; for though the safest turn of any sentiment is that which is conditioned upon silence, it is not always the most comfortable, and Ralph had forbidden himself the arts of demonstration. But interested observation of a lovely woman had stuck him as the finest entertainment that hte world now had to offer him, and if the interest should become poignant, he flattered himself that he could carry it off quietly, as he had carried other discomforts. He speedily aquired a conviction, however, that he was not destined to fall in love with his cousin. 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 hesitated a little. “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 is my niece; she is 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 it’s 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 to get her clothes.”

“Ah yes, that’s of course. But independently of that?”

“I shall invite her to spend the autumn with me in Florence.”

“You don’t rise above detail, dear mother,” said Ralph. “I should like to know what you mean to do with her in a general way.”

“My duty!” Mrs. Touchett declared. “I suppose you pity her very much,” she added.

“No, I don’t think I pity her. She doesn’t strike me as inviting compassion. I think I envy her. Before being sure, however, give me a hint of where you see your duty.”

“It will direct me to show her four European countries—I shall leave her the choice of two of them—and to give 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 that she is a gifted being?”

“I don’t know whether she is a gifted being, but she is a clever girl with a strong will and a high temper. She has no idea of being bored.”

“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 this one is too clever for that. I think I amuse her a great deal. We get on very well because I understand her; I know the sort of girl she is. She is very frank, and I am 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 have never surprised me but once, and that’s to-day—in presenting me with a pretty cousin whose existence I had never suspected.”

“Do you think her so very pretty?”

“Very pretty indeed; but I don’t insist upon that. It’s her general air of being some one in particular that strikes me. Who is this particular someone, and what is she? Where did you find her, and how did you make her acquaintance?”

“I found her in an old house at Albany, sitting in a dreary room on a rainy day, reading a heavy book and boring herself to death. She didn’t know she was bored, but when I told her, she seemed very grateful for the hint. You may say I shouldn’t have told her—I should have let her alone. There is 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 very much 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 more becoming ornament 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 been removed from the scene. I ascertained where they were to be found, and, without any preliminaries, went and introduced myself. There are two other sisters, both of whom are married; but I saw only the elder, who has, by the way, a very illuminated 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 is a genius; but in that case I have 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 obligations in that respect. But she has a small income of her own, and she supposes herself to be travelling at her own expense.”

Ralph had listened attentively to this judicious amount of his pretty cousin, by which his interest in her was not impaired. “Ah, if she’s a genius,” he said, “we must find out her special line. Is it, by chance, for flirting?”

“I don’t think so. You may suspect that at first, but you will be wrong.”

“Warburton is wrong then!” Ralph Touchett declared. “He flatters himself he has made that discovery.”

His mother shook her head. “Lord Warburton won’t understand her. He needn’t try.”

“He is 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 have another quarter of an hour then. Tell me some more about Isabel.” But Mrs. Touchett declined his invitation, declaring that he must find out for himself.

“Well,” said Ralph, “she will certainly do you credit. But won’t she also give you trouble?”

“I hope not; but if she does I shall not shrink from it. I never do that.”

“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 are extremely natural, and I am sure you have never troubled any one. But tell me this; it just occurs to me. Is Isabel capable of making herself disagreeable?”

“Ah,” cried his mother, “you ask too many questions! Find that out for yourself.”

His questions, however, were not exhausted. “All this time,” he said, “you have 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 independent.”

“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-stained oak which was one of the most striking ornaments of Gardencourt.

“You have no plan of marrying her?” he said, smiling.

“Marry 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 facility.”

“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,” he exclaimed, “they are always engaged!”

His mother had told him that he must extract hs information about his cousin from the girl herself, and it soon became evident to him he should not want for opportunity. He had, for instance, a good deal of talk with her that same evening, 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 concluded Mr. and Mrs. Touchett, who appeared to have exhausted each other’s conversation, 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 to have no sense of weariness. 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 furtherest point, and confess to it only when dissimulation had become impossible. For the present it was perfectly possible; she was interested and excited. She asked Ralph to show her the pictures; there were a great many other in the house, most of them of his own choosing. The best of them 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 been deferred till 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; but she could not help it. “She doesn’t take suggestions,” Ralph said to himself; but he said it without irritation; her eagerness amused and even pleased him. The lamps were on brackets, at intervals, and if the light was imperfect, it was mellow. It fell upon the vague squares of rich color and on the faded gilding of heavy frames; it made a shining on the polished floor of the gallery. Ralph took a candlestick and moved about, pointing out the things he liked; Isabel, bending toward 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 gallery and bending his eyes much less upon the pictures than on her figure. He lost nothing, in truth, by this inconsistency of vision; for she was better worth looking at than most works of art. She was thin, and middling tall; when people had wished to distinguish her from the other two Miss Archers they had always called her the thin one. Her hair, which was dark even to blackness, had been an object of envy to many women; her light grey eye, a little too, keen perhaps, in her graver moments, had an enchanting softness when she smiled. 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 answered, laughing.

“I think I have; most girls seem to me so ignorant.”

“You strike me as different from most girls.”

“Ah, some girls are so nice,” murmured Isabel, who preferred not to talk about herself. Then, in a moment, to change the subject, she went on, “Please tell me—isn’t there a ghost?” she went on.

“A ghost?”

“A spectre, a phantom; we call them ghosts in America.”

“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 will be disappointed if you count on that. It’s dismally prosaic; there’s no romance here but what you may have brought with you.”

“I’ve brought a great deal; but it seems to me I’ve brought it to the right place.”

“To keep it out of harm, certainly; nothing will ever happen to it here, between my father and me.”

Isabel looked at him a moment.

“Is there never any one here but your father and you?”

“My mother, of course.”

“Oh, I know your mother; she is not romantic. Haven’t you other people?”

“Very few.”

“I’m sorry for that; I like so much to see people.”

“Oh, we will invite all the county to amuse you,” said Ralph.

“Now you are 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 am 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, immensely.”

“You can’t do better than that; he is a dear old man.”

“I am 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 have been told I am not; I am said to be too theoretic. 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. Touchett.

“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 would never see it. The privilege isn’t given to every one; it’s not enviable. It has never been seen by a young, happy, innocent person like you. You must have suffered first, have suffered greatly, have gained some miserable knowledge. In that way your eyes are opened to it. I saw it long ago,” said Ralph, smiling.

“I told you just now I was very fond of knowledge,” the girl answered.

“Yes, of happy knowledge, of pleasant knowledge. But you haven’t suffered, and you are not made to suffer. I hope you’ll never see the ghost!”

Isabel 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 am afraid of suffering. But I am not afraid of ghosts. And I think people suffer too easily,” she added.

“I don’t believe you do,” said Ralph, looking at her with his hands in his pockets.

“I don’t think that’s a fault,” she answered. “It is not absolutely necessary to suffer! we were not made for that.”

“You were not, certainly.”

“I am not speaking of myself.” And she turned away 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 suggested. 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,” he said. “When you do suffer they call you an idiot. The great point is to be as happy as possible.”

She looked at him a little; she had taken her candle and placed her foot on the oaken stair.

“Well,” she said, “that’s what I came to Europe for, to be as happy as possible. Good-night.”

“Good-night! I wish you all success, and shall be very glad to contribute to it!”

She turned away, and he watched her as she slowly ascended. Then, with his hands always in his pockets, he went back to the empty drawing-room.

This is source I found from another site, main source you can find in last paragraph

Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1880/11/portrait-of-a-lady/306251/

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