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Chapter 38

  • He went to see Madame Merle on the morrow, and to his surprise she let him of_ather easily. But she made him promise that he would stop there til_omething should have been decided. Mr. Osmond had had higher expectations; i_as very true that as he had no intention of giving his daughter a portio_uch 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 hi_oul in patience he might arrive at his felicity. Mr. Osmond was no_avourable to his suit, but it wouldn't be a miracle if he should graduall_ome round. Pansy would never defy her father, he might depend on that; s_othing was to be gained by precipitation. Mr. Osmond needed to accustom hi_ind to an offer of a sort that he had not hitherto entertained, and thi_esult must come of itself—it was useless to try to force it. Rosier remarke_hat his own situation would be in the meanwhile the most uncomfortable in th_orld, and Madame Merle assured him that she felt for him. But, as she justl_eclared, one couldn't have everything one wanted; she had learned that lesso_or herself. There would be no use in his writing to Gilbert Osmond, who ha_harged her to tell him as much. He wished the matter dropped for a few week_nd would himself write when he should have anything to communicate that i_ight 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, bu_on't go at all at odd times, and don't fret about Pansy. I'll see that sh_nderstands 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 wa_lready tolerably numerous. Osmond, as usual, was in the first room, near th_ire, 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 hi_een, 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, askin_imself how much a true lover ought to submit to. "Madame Merle gave me, as _nderstood it, a message from you— to the effect that you declined to give m_he opportunity I desire, the opportunity to explain my wishes to you." And h_lattered himself he spoke rather sternly.
  • "I don't see what Madame Merle has to do with it. Why did you apply to Madam_erle?"
  • "I asked her for an opinion—for nothing more. I did so because she had seeme_o 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 for hope."
  • Osmond stared into the fire a moment. "I set a great price on my daughter."
  • "You can't set a higher one than I do. Don't I prove it by wishing to marr_er?"
  • "I wish to marry her very well," Osmond went on with a dry impertinence which, in another mood, poor Rosier would have admired.
  • "Of course I pretend she'd marry well in marrying me. She couldn't marry a ma_ho 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"—an_smond 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 hi_yes to his boot-toes.
  • "I have her promise, sir!" cried Rosier with the sharpness of exasperation.
  • As their voices had been pitched very low before, such a note attracted som_ttention from the company. Osmond waited till this little movement ha_ubsided; then he said, all undisturbed: "I think she has no recollection o_aving given it."
  • They had been standing with their faces to the fire, and after he had uttere_hese 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—ha_ust come in, unannounced, according to the Roman custom, and was about t_resent 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 a_nglishman.
  • "You apparently don't recognise me," he said with a smile that expressed mor_han 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. H_ave his hostess no greeting—he was too righteously indignant, but said to he_rudely: "Your husband's awfully cold-blooded."
  • She gave the same mystical smile he had noticed before. "You can't expec_very one to be as hot as yourself."
  • "I don't pretend to be cold, but I'm cool. What has he been doing to hi_aughter?"
  • "I've no idea."
  • "Don't you take any interest?" Rosier demanded with his sense that she too wa_rritating.
  • For a moment she answered nothing; then, "No!" she said abruptly and with _uickened 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 intervenin_roups. He watched her, but her own attention was entirely given to he_ccupation. "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 a_im.
  • "Ah, thank you for that! Now I'll leave her alone as long as you thin_roper!"
  • He had hardly spoken when he saw her change colour, and became aware tha_smond was coming toward her accompanied by the gentleman who had jus_ntered. He judged the latter, in spite of the advantage of good looks an_vident social experience, a little embarrassed. "Isabel," said her husband,
  • "I bring you an old friend."
  • Mrs. Osmond's face, though it wore a smile, was, like her old friend's, no_erfectly confident. "I'm very happy to see Lord Warburton," she said. Rosie_urned away and, now that his talk with her had been interrupted, fel_bsolved from the little pledge he had just taken. He had a quick impressio_hat 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. Lor_arburton, however, now that he was face to face with her, was plainly quit_ure of his own sense of the matter; though his grey eyes had still their fin_riginal property of keeping recognition and attestation strictly sincere. H_as "heavier" than of yore and looked older; he stood there very solidly an_ensibly.
  • "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 comin_o 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 t_is 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," Osmon_ent on.
  • "The hotel seems very good; I think it's the same at which I saw you fou_ears since. You know it was here in Rome that we first met; it's a long tim_go. Do you remember where I bade you good-bye?" his lordship asked of hi_ostess. "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 t_ome back till to-day. But I knew you were living here," her old friend wen_n to Isabel, "and I assure you I've often thought of you. It must be _harming place to live in," he added with a look, round him, at he_stablished home, in which she might have caught the dim ghost of his ol_uefulness.
  • "We should have been glad to see you at any time," Osmond observed wit_ropriety.
  • "Thank you very much. I haven't been out of England since then. Till a mont_go I really supposed my travels over."
  • "I've heard of you from time to time," said Isabel, who had already, with he_are capacity for such inward feats, taken the measure of what meeting hi_gain meant for her.
  • "I hope you've heard no harm. My life has been a remarkably complete blank."
  • "Like the good reigns in history," Osmond suggested. He appeared to think hi_uties as a host now terminated—he had performed them so conscientiously.
  • Nothing could have been more adequate, more nicely measured, than his courtes_o his wife's old friend. It was punctilious, it was explicit, it wa_verything but natural—a deficiency which Lord Warburton, who, himself, had o_he whole a good deal of nature, may be supposed to have perceived. "I'l_eave you and Mrs. Osmond together," he added. "You have reminiscences int_hich I don't enter."
  • "I'm afraid you lose a good deal!" Lord Warburton called after him, as h_oved away, in a tone which perhaps betrayed overmuch an appreciation of hi_enerosity. Then the visitor turned on Isabel the deeper, the deepest, consciousness of his look, which gradually became more serious. "I'm reall_ery glad to see you."
  • "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 the better?"
  • "I think I shall have no scruple in saying that to YOU," she bravely returned.
  • "Ah well, for me—it's a long time. It would be a pity there shouldn't b_omething 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 question_s if they interested him, and in a few moments she saw—or believed sh_aw—that he would press with less of his whole weight than of yore. Time ha_reathed upon his heart and, without chilling it, given it a relieved sense o_aving 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 woul_ather like people, or like her at least, to know him for such. "There'_omething I must tell you without more delay," he resumed. "I've brought Ralp_ouchett 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 bed."
  • "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 o_im since your marriage, that in fact your relations were a—a little mor_ormal. That's why I hesitated—like an awkward Briton."
  • "I'm as fond of Ralph as ever," Isabel answered. "But why has he come t_ome?" The declaration was very gentle, the question a little sharp.
  • "Because he's very far gone, Mrs. Osmond."
  • "Rome then is no place for him. I heard from him that he had determined t_ive up his custom of wintering abroad and to remain in England, indoors, i_hat he called an artificial climate."
  • "Poor fellow, he doesn't succeed with the artificial! I went to see him thre_eeks ago, at Gardencourt, and found him thoroughly ill. He has been gettin_orse every year, and now he has no strength left. He smokes no mor_igarettes! He had got up an artificial climate indeed; the house was as ho_s Calcutta. Nevertheless he had suddenly taken it into his head to start fo_icily. I didn't believe in it—neither did the doctors, nor any of hi_riends. His mother, as I suppose you know, is in America, so there was no on_o prevent him. He stuck to his idea that it would be the saving of him t_pend the winter at Catania. He said he could take servants and furniture, could make himself comfortable, but in point of fact he hasn't brough_nything. I wanted him at least to go by sea, to save fatigue; but he said h_ated the sea and wished to stop at Rome. After that, though I thought it al_ubbish, I made up my mind to come with him. I'm acting as—what do you call i_n America?—as a kind of moderator. Poor Ralph's very moderate now. We lef_ngland a fortnight ago, and he has been very bad on the way. He can't kee_arm, and the further south we come the more he feels the cold. He has go_ather a good man, but I'm afraid he's beyond human help. I wanted him to tak_ith him some clever fellow—I mean some sharp young doctor; but he wouldn'_ear of it. If you don't mind my saying so, I think it was a mos_xtraordinary time for Mrs. Touchett to decide on going to America."
  • Isabel had listened eagerly; her face was full of pain and wonder. "My aun_oes that at fixed periods and lets nothing turn her aside. When the dat_omes 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, h_eemed particularly well; the idea of our reaching Rome—he's very fond o_ome, you know— gave him strength. An hour ago, when I bade him goodnight, h_old me he was very tired, but very happy. Go to him in the morning; that'_ll I mean. I didn't tell him I was coming here; I didn't decide to till afte_e had separated. Then I remembered he had told me you had an evening, an_hat it was this very Thursday. It occurred to me to come in and tell you he'_ere, and let you know you had perhaps better not wait for him to call. _hink he said he hadn't written to you." There was no need of Isabel'_eclaring that she would act upon Lord Warburton's information; she looked, a_he sat there, like a winged creature held back. "Let alone that I wanted t_ee you for myself," her visitor gallantly added.
  • "I don't understand Ralph's plan; it seems to me very wild," she said. "I wa_lad to think of him between those thick walls at Gardencourt."
  • "He was completely alone there; the thick walls were his only company."
  • "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 o_ou 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 apparentl_s 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 fro_ondon. I tell him he's the last of the Tories, and he calls me the King o_he Goths—says I have, down to the details of my personal appearance, ever_ign of the brute. So you see there's life in him yet."
  • Isabel had many questions to ask about Ralph, but she abstained from askin_hem all. She would see for herself on the morrow. She perceived that after _ittle Lord Warburton would tire of that subject—he had a conception of othe_ossible topics. She was more and more able to say to herself that he ha_ecovered, and, what is more to the point, she was able to say it withou_itterness. He had been for her, of old, such an image of urgency, o_nsistence, of something to be resisted and reasoned with, that hi_eappearance at first menaced her with a new trouble. But she was no_eassured; she could see he only wished to live with her on good terms, tha_he was to understand he had forgiven her and was incapable of the bad tast_f making pointed allusions. This was not a form of revenge, of course; sh_ad no suspicion of his wishing to punish her by an exhibition o_isillusionment; she did him the justice to believe it had simply occurred t_im that she would now take a good-natured interest in knowing he wa_esigned. It was the resignation of a healthy, manly nature, in whic_entimental wounds could never fester. British politics had cured him; she ha_nown they would. She gave an envious thought to the happier lot of men, wh_re always free to plunge into the healing waters of action. Lord Warburton o_ourse spoke of the past, but he spoke of it without implications; he eve_ent 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 marriag_nd that it was a great pleasure for him to make Mr. Osmond'_cquaintance—since he could hardly be said to have made it on the othe_ccasion. He had not written to her at the time of that passage in he_istory, but he didn't apologise to her for this. The only thing he implie_as that they were old friends, intimate friends. It was very much as a_ntimate friend that he said to her, suddenly, after a short pause which h_ad occupied in smiling, as he looked about him, like a person amused, at _rovincial entertainment, by some innocent game of guesses—
  • "Well now, I suppose you're very happy and all that sort of thing?"
  • Isabel answered with a quick laugh; the tone of his remark struck her almos_s 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 husband's."
  • "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 o_our own."
  • "I enjoy things when they're done, but I've no ideas. I can never propos_nything."
  • "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 _ertain initiative. I should like for instance to introduce you to some o_hese people."
  • "Oh, please don't; I prefer sitting here. Unless it be to that young lady i_he blue dress. She has a charming face."
  • "The one talking to the rosy young man? That's my husband's daughter."
  • "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 t_ook 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 presentl_ent 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 mil_aiety.
  • "It affects most people more than it has affected you. You see I haven't gon_n for that."
  • "It rather surprises me."
  • "You ought to understand it, Mrs. Osmond. But I do want to marry," he adde_ore simply.
  • "It ought to be very easy," Isabel said, rising—after which she reflected, with a pang perhaps too visible, that she was hardly the person to say this.
  • It was perhaps because Lord Warburton divined the pang that he generousl_orbore to call her attention to her not having contributed then to th_acility.
  • Edward Rosier had meanwhile seated himself on an ottoman beside Pansy's tea- table. He pretended at first to talk to her about trifles, and she asked hi_ho was the new gentleman conversing with her stepmother.
  • "He's an English lord," said Rosier. "I don't know more."
  • "I wonder if he'll have some tea. The English are so fond of tea."
  • "Never mind that; I've something particular to say to you."
  • "Don't speak so loud every one will hear," said Pansy.
  • "They won't hear if you continue to look that way: as if your only thought i_ife was the wish the kettle would boil."
  • "It has just been filled; the servants never know!"—and she sighed with th_eight of her responsibility.
  • "Do you know what your father said to me just now? That you didn't mean wha_ou said a week ago."
  • "I don't mean everything I say. How can a young girl do that? But I mean wha_ say to you."
  • "He told me you had forgotten me."
  • "Ah no, I don't forget," said Pansy, showing her pretty teeth in a fixe_mile.
  • "Then everything's just the very same?"
  • "Ah no, not the very same. Papa has been terribly severe."
  • "What has he done to you?"
  • "He asked me what you had done to me, and I told him everything. Then h_orbade me to marry you."
  • "You needn't mind that."
  • "Oh yes, I must indeed. I can't disobey papa."
  • "Not for one who loves you as I do, and whom you pretend to love?"
  • She raised the lid of the tea-pot, gazing into this vessel for a moment; the_he dropped six words into its aromatic depths. "I love you just as much."
  • "What good will that do me?"
  • "Ah," said Pansy, raising her sweet, vague eyes, "I don't know that."
  • "You disappoint me," groaned poor Rosier.
  • She was silent a little; she handed a tea-cup to a servant. "Please don't tal_ny more."
  • "Is this to be all my satisfaction?"
  • "Papa said I was not to talk with you."
  • "Do you sacrifice me like that? Ah, it's too much!"
  • "I wish you'd wait a little," said the girl in a voice just distinct enough t_etray a quaver.
  • "Of course I'll wait if you'll give me hope. But you take my life away."
  • "I'll not give you up—oh no!" Pansy went on.
  • "He'll try and make you marry some one else."
  • "I'll never do that."
  • "What then are we to wait for?"
  • She hesitated again. "I'll speak to Mrs. Osmond and she'll help us." It was i_his manner that she for the most part designated her stepmother.
  • "She won't help us much. She's afraid."
  • "Afraid of what?"
  • "Of your father, I suppose."
  • Pansy shook her little head. "She's not afraid of any one. We must hav_atience."
  • "Ah, that's an awful word," Rosier groaned; he was deeply disconcerted.
  • Oblivious of the customs of good society, he dropped his head into his hand_nd, supporting it with a melancholy grace, sat staring at the carpet.
  • Presently he became aware of a good deal of movement about him and, as h_ooked up, saw Pansy making a curtsey—it was still her little curtsey of th_onvent—to the English lord whom Mrs. Osmond had introduced.