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The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 12

 

The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 12
 
PART I
 
Ralph Touchett remained in Rome for another two months and then in February, to be exact, returned to England. Lord Warburton, when he himself had left, had been concerned how Ralph would make the return trip alone, but two other friends of Isabel’s—Henrietta Stackpole and Caspar Goodwood—soon appeared in Rome, and later accompanied Ralph back to Eng­land. The Countess Gemini had once remarked that all of Isabel’s friends, once they came to know her well, became for­ever devoted to her. This was quite true. Not long after Lord Warburton had left, Miss Stackpole arrived in Rome in the company of Mr. Goodwood. The two had met quite by accident in Florence and decided to take the train together to Rome. Miss Stackpole had only recently left America for Europe on special work for her newspaper; she had come to Rome ex­pressly to see Isabel. Mr. Goodwood had previously been travel­ing in other parts of Europe and came to Rome with the excuse of wishing to see the city like any other American traveler. It was to be supposed, of course, that he was still interested in Isabel and eager to learn how she was getting along. He had heard vague stories even back in Boston that Isabel was not completely happy. Yet he did not visit her at once—there seemed to be some question at first whether he planned to call upon her at all.
 
Isabel and Henrietta, who spent considerable time together during this period, saw him twice in the street, but he did not seem to see them. They were driving, and he had the habit of looking straight in front of him, as though he preferred to take in but one object at a time. It seemed to Isabel that she had seen him only the day before. It was with just such a face and step that he had walked out of Mrs. Touchett’s door in Florence, at the close of their last meeting. He was dressed just as he was dressed on that day—even to the color of his tie. Still, he looked somehow bigger than before, more American in manner, and a little more frightening—even in those days he certainly reached high enough. She noticed that the people whom he passed looked back at him; but he went straight forward, lifting above them a face like a February sky.
 
Apparently, his curiosity later got the better of him, for Caspar Goodwood came at last to Palazzo Roccanera; he had written Isabel a note first, to ask leave. This was granted im­mediately, and at six o’clock the same afternoon, he appeared. Isabel had rather feared the meeting, just as she had feared their last meeting together. Yet she felt obliged to see him and talk with him. Not only was he a very old friend, but she felt that he had suffered at her hands more than he deserved, while, unlike Lord Warburton, he had not the great resources of char­acter and position to turn his mind readily to other matters. Their conversation, however, proved more pleasant than Isabel had expected. Mr. Goodwood did not talk much—he had never talked very much—but he was not bitter. He did not refer even once to the past or to Isabel’s marriage. He visited Isabel at Palazzo Rocannera several times after thiş and continued to be equally polite and impersonal.
 
On one of these occasions Isabel asked him whether he would do her the favor of going to visit Ralph Touchett, who was alone so much of the time in his hotel room. Mr. Good­wood readily agreed and on several of his visits to Ralph’s hotel met Henrietta Stackpole there, who had also taken to visiting with Ralph in an effort to help him pass the time. So in this way it happened that, when Ralph was ready to leave Rome, both Mr. Goodwood and Henrietta agreed to accompany him back to London. Henrietta had already completed her stay
 
in Rome by this time. Mr. Goodwood was free to do as he pleased, but admitted to Ralph that he was now ready to leave Rome, because he had already seen what he had come to see.
 
Only on his last visit to Palazzo Roccanera, when he went to say good-bye to Isabel, did Mr. Goodwood show himself rather more emotional. He admitted to Isabel that he still felt toward her as he had always felt, and he pressed her to tell him the truth about her own situation.
 
“Tell you about what?” Isabel had said finally, having done her best to avoid his earlier questions and eager now to escape from him.
 
“Whether you are really unhappy—whether I may not pity you a little?”
 
“Should you like that?” she asked.
 
“To pity you? Most certainly. That at least would be some satisfaction for me to carry away. I’d give my life to it.”
 
Isabel had looked at him, studying him carefully for a moment and then, lifting the curtain on her true feelings for just a moment, answered. “Don’t give your life to it—but you may give a thought to it now and then.”
 
With Henrietta, of course, Isabel had been more free. She had long felt a need to talk with someone. When, therefore, the same subject came up one day, Isabel spoke more freely. Henrietta was a woman—she was almost a sister—she was not Ralph, nor Lord Warburton, nor Caspar Goodwood—and Isabel could speak.
 
“What does Osmond do to you to make you unhappy?” Henrietta had asked her.
 
“He does nothing—but he doesn’t like me.”
 
“Apparently he’s very hard to please. Why don’t you leave him?”
 
“I can’t change that way.”
 
“Why not, I should like to know. You simply don’t want to admit that you’ve made a mistake. You’re too proud.”
 
“I don’t know whether I’m too proud. But I can’t publicly announce my mistake. I don’t think that’s decent. I’d rather die first. Besides, it seems to me that one must accept one’s deeds. I married Osmond before all the world; I was perfectly free. One can’t change that way.”
 
“You have changed already,” said Miss Stackpole. “I hope you don’t mean to tell me that you still love him.”
Isabel hesitated. “No, I don’t love him. I can tell you, be­cause I am tired of trying to keep it a secret. But that’s enough. I can’t announce it from the house-tops.”
Henrietta gave a little laugh. “Don’t you think you’re rather too considerate?”
 
“It’s not of him that I’m considerate now,” Isabel had said finally. “It’s of myself.”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. Who accompanied Ralph back to England?
2. What had the Countess Gemini once remarked about Isabel?
3. How did Henrietta and Caspar happen to be in Rome?
4. How did Caspar appear to Isabel when she saw him again?
5. Why did Isabel feel that she had to see Caspar?
6. Why did his visit prove more pleasant than she expected?
7. What did Isabel ask Caspar to do?
8. What did Isabel say about her marriage to Caspar?
9. When she was talking to Henrietta about her marriage;, what reason did Isabel give for not leaving Osmond?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
 
resource                    considerate by 
refer                           accident get 
impersonal                along call upon
emotional                  get the better 
announce                   of
 
PART II
 
Henrietta Stackpole later sent Isabel a detailed report of her trip to London with her patient. Ralph had arrived more dead than alive, but she had managed to get him to Gardencourt, where he had taken to his bed, which, as Miss Stackpole wrote, he apparently would never leave again. She added that she had really two patients on her hands instead of one since Mr. Good-
 
wood, who had been of little use on the trip, was as much a problem in his own way as Mr. Touchett. Finally, she wrote that she had been obliged to surrender the field to Mrs. Tou­chett, who had just returned from America and had soon given Henrietta to understand that she herself would now take com­plete charge of Ralph.
 
Isabel was thus well prepared for the telegram which ar­rived a few weeks after this from Mrs. Touchett and which bore all the marks of her aunt’s particular style. “Ralph can­not last many days,” it ran, “and if convenient would like to see you. Wishes me to say that you must come only if you’ve not other duties. Say, for myself, that you used to talk a good deal about your duty and to wonder what it was; shall be curi­ous to see whether you’ve found it out.”
 
The news, though expected, was still something of a shock to Isabel. She was naturally concerned about Ralph—but her own plans were also affected. She had rather hoped for more time. She had wanted to put her own house in order, to be alone in Rome for a while and think things through. Ralph’s long stay in Rome had been a source of great annoyance to Osmond. He disliked Ralph and resented his close friendship with Isabel. Osmond also found Miss Stackpole little to his liking. Isabel’s newspaper friend, running all around the world by herself, struck him as a most strange and awful kind of modern woman. “One doesn’t have a nerve in one’s body that she doesn’t set trembling,” he once said.
 
While these friends of Isabel’s were in Rome and she con­tinued to see them, Osmond could hardly be expected to be other than unpleasant toward her. But after they had all gone, Isabel had hoped for a period of peace at Palazzo Roccanera. The Countess Gemini, Osmond’s sister, had recently come to visit them, but she would do nothing to disturb their everyday relations. Isabel felt that there might even be an opportunity for herself and Osmond to meet again on their former basis and arrive at some understanding. It gave her some comfort at least to think along these lines. Now, however, this new prob­lem had presented itself. Despite what Mrs. Touchett believed, Isabel felt it her duty to go at once and see Ralph before he died. She immediately went to discuss the matter with Osmond.
 
Osmond was in his study, working on a painting. A box of water-colors lay before him. His back was turned toward the door but he recognized his wife without turning around. 
 
“Excuse me for disturbing you,” Isabel said.
 
“When I come to your room, I always knock,” Osmond re­turned.
 
“I forgot. I have something else to think about. My cousin’s dying.”
 
“Ah, I don’t believe it,” said Osmond, continuing to look at his drawing. “He was dying when we got married. He’ll live longer than any of us.”
 
Isabel gave no time, no thought to Osmond’s bitter remark; she simply went on quickly, full of her own intentions. “My aunt has sent me a telegram. I must go to Gardencourt.” 
 
“Why must you go to Gardencourt?”
 
“To see Ralph before he dies.”
 
“I don’t see the need of it,” Osmond said with decision. “He came to see you here. I didn’t like that. I thought his being in Rome a great mistake. But I accepted it because it was to be the last time you would see him. Now you tell me that it’s not to be the last. Obviously you don’t appreciate the fact that I didn’t interfere while he was here.”
 
“Oh, yes, I do. I remember perfectly how often you let me know you didn’t like it. I was relieved when Ralph went away.” 
 
“Leave him alone then. Don’t run after him.
 
Isabel turned her eyes away from him. Then after a time, she said, rather firmly, “Anyway, I must go to England.”
 
“I shall not like it if you do,” remarked Osmond.
 
“Why should I mind that? You don’t like it if I don’t. You like nothing I do or don’t do. You pretend to think I lie.” 
Osmond turned slightly pale; he gave a cold smile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about—but perhaps it is better if I make one thing perfectly clear. If you leave Rome today it will be a piece of the most studied, most calculated opposition.” 
 
“How can you call it calculated? I received my aunt’s tele­gram only three minutes ago.”
 
“You calculate rapidly. You’re very clever that way. I don’t see why we should continue this conversation. You know my wish.”
 
“You’ve no reason for such a wish,” Isabel answered stub­bornly. “And I’ve every reason for going. I can’t tell you how unjust you seem to me. But I think you know. It’s your own opposition that’s calculated. It’s evil.”
 
Though Isabel had never expressed this, her worst thought, to him before, Osmond showed no surprise. He spoke calmly, casually. “This is a very important matter,” he said. Isabel knew him to be right. They were, between them, approaching a climax in their relations. “I dislike from the bottom of my heart what you intend to do,” continued Osmond. “It is neither honorable nor delicate—nor decent. Your cousin is nothing to me at all, and I’m under no obligation to put myself out for him. Your relations with him, while he was here, kept me on pins and needles; but I let that pass because from week to week I expected him to go. I’ve never liked him and he’s never liked me. That’s why you like him—because he hates me.” Osmond’s voice trembled just a little at this point. Then he went on, “I’ve very definite ideas about what my wife should do and should not do. She should not travel across Europe alone—against my wishes—to sit beside the bed of another man. Your cousin’s nothing to you; he’s nothing to us. You smile when I talk about us, but I assure you that we, we, Mrs. Osmond, is all that mat­ters to me. I take our marriage seriously. You apparently do not. I’m not aware that we’ve yet separated and, though we may feel little affection for each other, I think we should ac­cept the results of our actions, and what I value most is the honor of the thing—and appearances.”
 
Osmond spoke gravely and almost gently; his tone was no longer bitter—and Isabel listened carefully. What he said was partly true. In a sense, his words echoed her own feeling that marriage was a sacred institution and should not be lightly set aside. True, she and Osmond were as far apart in feeling as two angry lovers had ever been; but they had not yet separated in fact. Ten minutes before she had been ready to leave for England; now she hesitated. Still, she couldn’t let Osmond know that she had surrendered so easily. “But what kind of marriage do we have when you accuse me of being false,” she said, “—when you have nothing but suspicions of me in your heart?”
 
“We at least live together decently in spite of our difficul­ties.”
 
“We don’t live together decently,” said Isabel. “But I sup­pose that if I go away you’ll not expect me to come back.” Osmond turned quickly around, and she could see that this movement at least was not studied. He looked at her a little and then, “Are you out of your mind?”
 
“How can it be anything else but a complete break—especial­ly if all you say is true?” Isabel asked. She really wished to know what his answer to this question might be.
 
But Osmond sat down before his table and took up his paint­ing again. “I really can’t argue with you about the possibility of your opposing my wishes,” he said. His manner and tone showed clearly that he considered their conversation to be at an end.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What did Henrietta say in her letter to Isabel?
2. What did Mrs. Touchett’s telegram say?
3. How did Osmond feel about Ralph and Henrietta?
4. Why had Isabel hoped for a period of peace?
5. What did Isabel feel that it was her duty to do?
6. What was Osmond’s reaction to Isabel’s idea of going to see Ralph?
7. What did Osmond say about her relations with Ralph?
8. What did Osmond say was important to him?
9. Why did Isabel hesitate to go to England against her hus­band’s wishes?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
own:
 
convenient       taken to his bed
disturb             take charge of
basis                 put in order
calculate          at least
opposition       turn around
sacred             be on pins and needles
possibility        put yourself out for