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The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 3

 

The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 3



As he had promised, Lord Warburton came to Gardencourt the following week. Isabel was sitting in the garden at the time, where she had gone to read. Yet the book which shfe had brought with her lay in her hands unopened. Her mind was on other matters. She had received that morning a letter from America from Caspar Goodwood in which he again ex­pressed his love for her. He still held the right to marry her, he wrote, and he was considering a trip to Europe in order to talk with her once more. His words were passionate and, as Isabel well knew, he was not a man whom it was easy to put off. She had hoped, after their last meeting in Albany, that she  had seen the last of him for some time, but the subject for him was far from closed. Isabel had a strange sensation that, though she might continue to struggle against him, Caspar Goodwood formed somehow a part of her destiny. At the moment, how­ever, as she looked up, she saw Lord Warburton standing be­fore her. Her expression changed suddenly and she gave him a quick smile of welcome.
 
“They told me you were here,” said Lord Warburton, “and as there was no one in the drawing room and it’s really you I wish to see, I came out at once.”
 
Isabel hoped that he would not sit down beside her. “I was just going in,” she said, rising.
 
“Please don’t do that; it’s much nicer here. I’ve ridden over from Lockleigh. It’s such a fine day.”
 
“We’ll walk about a little, then,” said Isabel, who could not help but feel a serious purpose on the part of her visitor. She wished to avoid this purpose, yet at the same time she wanted to satisfy her curiosity about it. As before, she felt a certain alarm and she had spent some days in thinking about this. Cer­tainly, the idea of Lord Warburton “making up” to her was far from unpleasant. He was a most attractive person and he was also rich and important. She had never before known so dis­tinguished a man. Yet a certain instinct told her to resist, that they were from different worlds, and that she might not fit or be happy within the particular circle in which he lived.
 
Lord Warburton, for his part, seemed quite ready to walk, to sit, or to do anything that Isabel might wish. Yet it was read­ily obvious that he was not in complete control of his emotions either. As he walked beside Isabel, there was something em­barrassed in his manner and in his way of looking at her. Yes, it would seem, as has been said, that the English are at bottom the most romantic of peoples and that Lord Warburton was about to give an example of this. He was about to take a step which would surprise all of his friends and please very few of them. The young lady who walked beside him came from a strange country across the seas which he little understood. Her family, her education, her past life were similarly unknown to him. Neither did she possess a great fortune nor the striking kind of beauty that might justify his sudden interest in her. He had spent in all, he remembered, about twenty-six hours in her company. He had considered all of these facts and yet had put them out of his mind, caring little about them.
 
“I hope you had a pleasant ride,” said Isabel, who observed her companion’s nervous manner.
 
“It would have been pleasant if for no other reason than that it brought me here.”
 
“Are you so fond of Gardencourt?” the girl asked, more and more sure that he meant to propose something of a serious na­ture, yet wondering how she should react to it if he did so. It suddenly came upon her that her situation was one which a few weeks ago she would have considered deeply romantic: the garden of an old English countryhouse, a great English lord and aristocrat in the act of making love to her.
 
“I care nothing for Gardencourt,” said Lord Warburton. “I care only for you.”
 
Lord Warburton, having made this start, went on to express himself more freely. Once the doors of his emotions were opened, his words poured forth liberally. When Isabel objected that he had known her too short a time, he answered that if he were to wait for months it would not make any difference. He had fallen in love with her the first time he had seen her and, since then, each time they had been together, nothing that she had said, nothing she did, was lost upon him. He wanted her to become his wife. Isabel had prayed that she might not be overexcited at this moment; her mind was quiet enough even while she listened and asked herself what was best for her to say. Her first wish was to say something, if possible, not less kind than what he had said to her. 
 
“I thank you more than I can say for your offer,” she returned at last. “It does me great honor.”
 
“Ah, don’t say that,” Lord Warburton broke out. “I was afraid you’d say something like that. You have nothing to thank me for. It is I who should thank you for listening to me. Of course, it’s a difficult question to answer. I must say I’d rather ask it than have to answer it. The way you’ve listened gives me some hope.”
 
“Don’t hope too much,” said Isabel. She paused a'moment and then went on. “In fact, should you be greatly surprised if I were to ask you not to hope at all?”
 
“Surprised? It would be a feeling much worse.”
 
“Highly as I already think of you, I’m very sure,” Isabel went on, “that my opinion of you, after I should come to know you well, would only rise. But I’m not so sure you yourself would not be disappointed in me. I don’t think I should suit you.”
 
“You needn’t worry about that. That’s my concern,” an­swered her companion quickly.
 
“It’s not only that,” Isabel added. “But I’m not sure I wish to marry anyone.”
 
“Possibly you don’t. I’ve no doubt a great many women be­gin that way but later they change. Is it my being an English­man that makes you hesitate? We do not necessarily have to live in England.”
 
“As I’ve told you before, I like England very much,” said Isabel. “But I’m afraid I cannot make you understand.”
 
 This was really the truth; she would have given her little finger at that moment to explain clearly and simply how she felt, but the words would not come. What she finally said was something very different from what she was thinking something that put off the need of really facing the problem. 
 
“Don’t think me un­kind if I ask you to say no more about this today. You’ve given me a great deal to think about, and I promise to do it justice.”
 
 “That’s all I can ask, I suppose,” said Lord Warburton, readily sensing the direction of Isabel’s feelings. “Yet whatever time you take, it will seem too long.”
 
“I shall not keep you waiting. I only want to collect my thoughts,” said Isabel. They walked on in silence again for a few minutes, then Isabel turned and added: “I think you had better go now. I’ll write to you.”
 
He held out his hand, and she gave him hers for a moment  a moment long enough for him to lean over and kiss it. Then, still obviously nervous and embarrassed, he walked quickly away. Isabel too was nervous. She had not, however, been as affected as she had imagined she might be. What she felt was not any great obligation; it was not difficult for her to decide. She couldn’t marry Lord Warburton. The idea was completely opposed to the free exploration of life which she had always  planned and which she was now on the point of carrying out. She must write and explain this to him carefully.
 
This she did a few days later. She sent him a short note po­litely refusing his offer and explaining in simple terms that each of us must see his life from his own point of view, and that she was unable to see hers in the manner he had proposed. The only thing which gave Isabel cause for concern was the fact that it cost her so little to refuse such a wonderful chance. Lord Warburton had given her an opportunity which nineteen out of twenty young women would have accepted immediately. Who was she, and what was she, that she should hold herself so su­perior? What ambitious view of life, what strange idea of hap­piness did she have which pretended to be larger and more im­portant than the opportunity that had just been offered her? These thoughts, as she turned them over in her mind, fright­ened her.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What was Isabel thinking about while she sat in the garden?
2. How did Isabel feel about Caspar Goodwood?
3. Who came up to her while she was sitting in the garden?
4. Why did Isabel feel that she should resist Lord Warburton?
5. How did Lord Warburton behave?
6. What ideas did he put out of his mind?
7. What did Lord Warburton finally say to Isabel?
8. How did Isabel answer him?
9. Why couldn’t she marry Lord Warburton?
10. What did she say in the note that she sent him?
11. What gave Isabel cause for concern?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
passionate        put on
destiny                put off
resist                   put out
exploration         put away