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The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 2

 

The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 2
 
Isabel Archer was a young woman of many ideas and a strong imagination. It had been her good fortune to possess a finer mind than most people, and among those who knew her well she enjoyed the reputation of being a very superior per­son. She had read widely and was eager to learn. She also gave the impression of being very self-confident. Like most intelli­gent persons, she had her moments of doubt, yet she did her best to hide these, for it was one of her ideas that she should always present her best front to the world.
 
It was wrong, she felt, to be afraid or ashamed. It was also wrong to be mean or jealous, false or cruel. She had seen wom­en who lied, who deceived their friends and their husbands, who tried to hurt each other. Her character, she assured herself, would be above such things. It is true that her life up to this point had been limited in experience. She had grown up safely and comfortably within the circle of her own family. Her moth­er had died when she was very young, but her father, a charm­ing and generous, if not a very practical man, had done his best to raise his three daughters as well as he could. They had had little schooling, but had studied with private teachers and had been taken to Europe several times. Isabel had been very young at the time and remembered little of these trips.
 
It was said that the father had spent or thrown away a whole fortune in gambling and loose living. He was, however, always affectionate with his children and had protected them carefully against whatever evil influences existed in his own life and in the world outside. Isabel’s two sisters had married young. She herself, despite her twenty-three years, still remained single. Her opportunities in this respect had not been very great. After the death of her father, there had been little money left for any of the children, and her social life was rather limited. She was also much more exacting than her sisters in choosing her com­panions. Her reputation for reading a great deal, and of being very intelligent, also hung about her like a cloud and rather kept the young men away. They seemed almost afraid of her.
 
Only one young man, a Mr. Caspar Goodwood, had dared to court her in any serious manner. He had known her some twelve months, and thinking her the most beautiful young wom­an of her time, wanted to marry her. He had come up to Al­bany from New York to tell her so just before she left for Eu­rope with Mrs. Touchett. But Isabel refused him. He was a fine young man. Isabel respected him highly. She had never been so moved by any other person. Yet she was not in love with him, and when it came to choosing between him, and accom­panying Mrs. Touchett to Europe, she did not hesitate for a moment. She felt that she was still too young to marry. She wished to live first, and to know something of the world. It was another of her ideas that a young woman whom everyone thought so clever should begin by getting a deep impression of life. Later there would be time enough to settle down.
 
It fell upon Ralph, during the days that followed, to do the honors of the place. Mr. Touchett seldom left his wheelchair, and his wife’s position was more like that of a visitor. So that it became Ralph’s pleasant duty to entertain Isabel. He was not a great walker because of his health; yet he walked around the grounds with her or, in the afternoons, they took a boat on the river Thames which flowed nearby, each taking turns at rowing. He told her something of the long history of Garden- court how it had been built centuries ago in the period of King Edward the Sixth, and how the great Elizabeth had passed a night there. The bed on which she had rested was still standing in one of the sleeping rooms. His father had bought the place some twenty years ago for a very low price. At first, they considered it old and ugly, but as time passed, father and son had come to love the great old house with its huge, gabled front, and broad rolling lawns. They knew all of its fine points and could tell you just where to stand, and at what hours of the day, to see these in their best light.
 
Ralph had offered to invite a “lot of people” so as to make Isabel acquainted with English social life—but little, for the present, had come of his offers. It is quite probable that he found the care of her so pleasant that he had no need of out­side help. Yet Isabel often spoke of wanting to see at least some good “examples” of such life. One day, as they were walking together near the river, they looked up to see Lord Warburton approaching from a distance and Ralph said:
 
“Well, now, here comes a particularly good example.”
 
“An example of what?” asked Isabel.
 
“An example of an English gentleman.”
 
“Do you mean they’re all like him?”
 
“Oh no! They’re not all like him. I would say that he’s a rather superior kind. But of course he is an English lord and naturally has many of their characteristics. He is rich, owns a great deal of land .. .”
 
“Yes, .your father told me that he owns some fifty thousand acres, has at least a half dozen houses in which to live, and is a member of Parliament.”
 
“He is1 also a fine person. He has elegant tastes and takes an interest in art and such things. At the same time he is simple and unaffected. By instinct, he is a liberal. He is opposed to many of the things he represents but the traditions by which such men and their families have lived for centuries make change difficult.”
 
Lord Warburton, by this time, had walked up to them. He shook hands with Isabel, and said he hoped she was well.
 
“But I needn’t ask that, since you’ve been handling the oars,” he said.
 
“I’ve been rowing a little but how should you know that?” asked Isabel.
 
“Oh, I know he doesn’t row. He’s too lazy,” said Lord War­burton with a good-natured laugh, pointing towards Ralph.
 
“He has a good excuse for being lazy,” said Isabel, lowering her voice a little.
 
“Oh, he has a good excuse for everything,” cried Lord War- burton. “He is a very clever fellow, as you’ve no doubt discov­ered.”
 
“My excuse for not rowing is that my cousin rows so well,” said Ralph. “She does everything well. She touches nothing that she doesn’t immediately improve.”
 
“It almost makes one wish to be touched,” added Lord Warburton, jokingly.
Lord Warburton not only spent the night at Gardencourt but readily agreed to remain over the second day. When the second day was ended, he decided to postpone leaving until the following morning. During this period he addressed most of his remarks to Isabel, who gracefully accepted this evidence of his high regard for her. He had made a good first impression upon her, and now, after several days spent in his company, she began to think of him as quite a romantic hero.
 
He invited Isabel to come soon and see his home, which was described as a curious old place, and he succeeded in getting from Mrs. Touchett a promise that she would shortly bring her niece to Lockleigh. Ralph also agreed to attend. Lord Warbur­ton assured Isabel that in the meantime his two sisters would come and see her. The two sisters came after a few days. Isabel found them quiet and shy but she liked them greatly and en­joyed talking with them. Not long after this, Isabel, accom­panied by Ralph and his mother, drove over to Lockleigh, the home of Lord Warburton. She found his two sisters waiting for them in the huge drawing room. They were dressed in black, and looked more shy and charming than ever. They all had a few minutes pleasant conversation together, and then Lord Warburton appeared and drew Isabel away from the group.
 
“I wish you to see the place properly,” he said. “You can’t do so if your attention is attracted by other matters of conver­sation.” His own conversation, however, (though he told Isabel many interesting things about the place) was not limited to the history of Lockleigh. His remarks turned to more personal mat­ters matters personal to the young lady as well as to himself. He said he hoped that Isabel might visit Lockleigh soon again, and when Isabel agreed to do so he answered that he was charmed to hear it.
“I’m afraid you’re easily charmed, my lord,” said Isabel. “No, I’m not easily charmed.” And then he stopped a mo­ment. “But you’ve quite charmed me.”
 
These words were spoken in a way that rather surprised and even frightened the young girl. They seemed like the introduc­tion to something more serious; she had heard remarks of this kind before, and recognized them. Their conversation contin­ued along the same general lines, and several times Lord War- burton’s remarks became even more pointed and significant. Isabel was confused. She had heard that the English were a dif­ficult people to understand that at bottom they were the most romantic of races. Was Lord Warburton becoming romantic was he going to make a scene in his own home, only the third time they had met?
 
Yet she had little reason for such fears. Her companion’s naturally good manners prevented him from going too far in this direction. Finally Lord Warburton said that he found Isa­bel something of a mystery and was trying seriously to under­stand her better.
 
“I don’t know quite how to express it,” he said, “but you seem to hold yourself above and apart from everyone. You judge coldly and care only to amuse yourself. Your interest in traveling about Europe with your aunt is a case in point. I can’t see why you don’t wish to remain right here in England. Isn’t England good enough for you?”
 
 
“England is wonderful,” returned Isabel. “But I want to see as many other countries as I can. Is there any mystery in a plan that is carried out by fifty thousand of my fellow-Americans every year—a plan, the purpose of which is to improve one’s mind by travel in Europe?”
 
“Except that in your case you can’t improve your mind, Miss Archer. It’s already fine and sharp,” said Lord Warbur­ton, looking at her closely. Then he returned to his earlier re­mark. “I don’t mean to suggest, by what I’ve said, that you amuse yourself with trifles. You choose great materials the problems of human nature, the differences between peoples and countries.”
 
"Now you are trying to flatter me,” said Isabel pleasantly.
 
“But perhaps you are right. It may be that I am too serious for my own good.” There still remained, however, a sensation of fear in her heart. After a moment she added, “We’ve a long drive ahead of us. My aunt will soon wish to start for home.” She turned back toward the others, and Lord Warburton walked beside her in silence. But before they reached the oth­ers, he said:
 
“I shall come and see you next week.”
 
“Just as you please,” said Isabel.
 
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What was Isabel Archer’s character?
2. What was her family history?
3. Why had Isabel refused to marry Caspar Goodwood:
4. Why was it Ralph who entertained Isabel?
5. What did he tell her about the history of Gardencourt?
6. What did he say about Lord Warburton?
7. Why did Lord Warburton postpone leaving Gardencourt?
8. What did Isabel think of Lord Warburton’s sisters?
9. How did Lord Warburton treat Isabel when she visited Lockleigh?
10. 10.Why was Isabel rather alarmed at some of his remarks?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
 
jealous         give the impression
 
entertain       grow up
 
liberal            throw away
 
tradition        a great deal
 
regard          settle down
 
personal      carry out a plan