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The Portrait Of A Lady - Chapter 7

 

 
 
Gilbert Osmond came to see Isabel again
 
 
PARTI
 
Gilbert Osmond came to see Isabel again; that is, he came to Palazzo Crescentini, where he had other friends as well. But Mrs. Touchett noted that in the course of two weeks he called five times, and she remembered that in earlier years he had visited her once or twice at most, even during those periods when Madame Merle was with her. No, Isabel was the attrac­tion and apparently a very satisfying one. Osmond was a lover of the beautiful and the elegant, and was naturally curi­ous ababout so interesting a subject.
 
 
Mrs. Touchett was not long in remarking to Ralph that it was plain what Mr. Osmond was thinking of and Ralph answered that he too had recently come to the same conclusion. Personal­ly, Mrs. Touchett had nothing against Mr. Osmond. For some years she had numbered him among her acquaintances without knowing by what act or means he had gained this place. Pos­sibly, he was recommended to her by his appearance of being well able to do without her as she was able to do without him. It now gave her little satisfaction, on the other hand, that he had taken it into his head to marry her niece. She easily re­membered that the girl had refused an English lord; and a young lady who had successfully resisted the many attractions of Lord Warburton should not waste her time on anyone so little dis­tinguished as Gilbert Osmond.
 
“I trust she won’t be so foolish as to listen to him,” 
 
Mrs. Touchett said to Ralph—to which Ralph returned that Isabel’s listening was one thing, and her answering, quite another. He said that Isabel had already listened to several parties, but had made them listen in return. Ralph, in fact, seemed to be enter­tained by the whole idea, and he looked forward, he said, to a fourth, a fifth, a tenth gentleman asking for Isabel’s hand. He was sure she would not stop at a third.
 
“She’ll please herself, of course,” 
 
Ralph said, 
 
“but she’ll do so by studying human nature first at close quarters, and yet keeping her freedom. She has started on an exploration of such matters, and I don’t think she’ll change her course at any slight signal from Gilbert Osmond.”
 
Yet this explanation failed to satisfy Mrs. Touchett, and so she also spoke to Madame Merle on the same subject. 
 
Madame Merle expressed great surprise and said that such a thought had never occurred to her.
 
“Then I shall ask Isabel directly,” said Mrs. Touchett.
 
“Ah, no,” said Madame Merle, after a pause. “I wouldn’t do that. It may only put the idea into her head. The thing to do is to ask Mr. Osmond.”
 
“I can’t do that,” said Mrs. Touchett. “I won’t have him ask me with that air of his what business it is of mine.” 
 
“Then I myself shall ask him,” said Madame Merle bravely.
 
 
“But what business is it as far as he is concerned of yours?” asked Mrs. Touchett.
 
 
“Since it is none of my business, for that reason I can speak to him better than anyone else. He can put me off with any explanation he chooses but it will be by the way he does this that I shall know his real intentions.”
 
“Let me know, then, how you make out,” said Mrs. Tou­chett.
 
Yet, when a few more weeks passed in the same way, she continued to be little pleased by what she felt was the studied manner in which Mr. Osmond went on paying his respects to her pretty young niece.
 
Toward the end of May Isabel made a trip to Rome. Miss Henrietta Stackpole, her American newspaper friend, whom she had seen in London and also during her stay in Paris later, had worked her way down, as she said, through the cities of North Italy, and arrived at last in Florence. She had spent a few days with Isabel at Palazzo Crescentini and then the two friends decided to visit Rome together. Ralph accompanied them to the ancient city. Naturally, Isabel enjoyed Rome great­ly, and her impressions were such as one might expect from a young person of her fresh and eager character. She had always been fond of history, and here there was history even in the stones of the streets.
 
Gilbert Osmond managed to make a visit to Rome at this same time. Isabel had first suggested to him rather casually that he try to come while she was there, and although he had hesi­tated about leaving Pansy alone in Florence he had finally made arrangements as to her care. He arrived a few days after the others but immediately joined company with them. His knowledge of Rome and of its many art treasures naturally helped to make the whole visit much more enjoyable. 
 
Even Ralph had to admit that, under the circumstances, Gilbert Os­mond made a most pleasant companion. He spent a part of each day with Isabel, Ralph, and Miss Stackpole, and ended by affecting them all as the easiest of men to live with. His good humor never changed; his knowledge of the right fact, his use of just the right word, always proved proper to what­ever the occasion. Clearly, he himself was amused and happy.
 
He was pleased with everything; he was never pleased with so many things at once; old pleasures seemed mixed with new. Some of the emotion which he felt was finally expressed in a piece of poetry which he wrote, as he said, in honor of the oc­casion and gave to Isabel; he called it “Rome Revisited.”
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. Why did Mrs. Touchett know that Isabel was the attraction
when Osmond called at the Palazzo Crescentini?
2. Why wasn’t Mrs. Touchett pleased that Osmond was think­ing about marrying Isabel?
3. Why did Ralph think that Isabel would refuse Osmond?
4. Why didn’t Madame Merle think that Mrs. Touchett should ask Isabel about Mr. Osmond’s intentions?
5. Why didn’t Mrs. Touchett want to ask Osmond himself about his intentions?
6. Why did Madame Merle think that she was the right person to speak to Osmond?
7. Who came to visit Isabel in Florence?
8. What did Isabel and Henrietta decide to do?
9. Who accompanied them to Rome?
10. Why did Isabel enjoy Rome?
11. Who made a visit to Rome at the same time?
12. How did he make the visit more enjoyable?
13. What did Osmond express in a piece of poetry that he wrote and gave to Isabel?
 
B.Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
 
own:
casual             take into his head
 
enjoyable       look forward put 
 
mix                 off make a visit
 
come to a conclusion
 
 
 
PART II
 
Though her stay in Rome was pleasant in every way, shortly before the day fixed for her return to Florence, Isabel received from Mrs. Touchett a telegram running as follows: “Leave  Florence June 4th for Bellaggio, and take you if you have no other plans. But can’t wait if you delay in Rome.”
 
To delay in Rome was very pleasant, but Isabel let her aunt know she would immediately join her. She told Gilbert Os­mond she had done so, and he answered that, having made the trip to Rome, he planned to stay there a little longer. He would therefore not return to Florence for ten days more, and in that time she would have started for Bellaggio. It might be months in this case before he should see her again. 
 
They were alone at the time in the sitting room of the hotel where Isabel and Miss Stackpole were staying. Miss Stackpole had made the ac­quaintance of some other Americans staying at the same hotel and was visiting with them at the moment. Ralph had gone to make the arrangements for their return trip to Florence the fol­lowing morning. The conversation passed lightly from one sub­ject to another, but it was almost inevitable that Osmond should say finally:
 
“You have said that you will come back sometime to Flor­ence but who knows? I think it more probable you’ll start your trip around the world and perhaps never come back to us.” 
 
“Well, Italy’s a part of the world,” Isabel answered. 
 
“I can stop here on the way.”
 
“On the way around the world? No, don’t do that. I don’t want to see you on your travels. I’d rather see you when they’re over. I should like to see you when you’re tired and satisfied.” 
 
“You still have no respect for my travels do you?” remarked Isabel. 
 
 
“You think it foolish for a woman to travel and see the world.”
 
“I think that what you propose is excellent,” objected Os­mond at once. 
 
“You know my opinions I’ve treated you to enough of them. Don’t you remember my telling you that one should make one’s life a work of art? My only concern is that you may go away and never come back.”
 
 
Isabel was thinking at the moment that this pleasant period of her life so happy had been these last few days in Rome was coming to an end. Therefore, she paid little attention to the grave tone that had suddenly crept into Osmond’s words. She said to herself that if there was a danger that they should not meet again, perhaps after all it would be as well. Happy   things don’t repeat themselves, and her adventure seemed al­ready to be running its course. She might come back to Italy and find Osmond different this strange man who pleased her just as he was; and it would be better not to come back than to run this risk. 
 
On the other hand, if she was not to return, then it was a great pity to think that this chapter in her life was about to close. This thought made her sad, and she felt almost a desire to cry; the sensation kept her silent. Gilbert Osmond had also grown silent for the moment but then she heard him say, 
 
“You are perfectly within your right in wanting to go ev­erywhere, do everything, get everything out of life. But, as I said before, you’ll be tired some day and I don’t know whether I had better not wait till then for something I wish to say to you.”
 
“Ah, I can’t advise you as to that without knowing what it is,” said Isabel suddenly, giving him her attention once more. 
 
“But I warn you that I’m very unpleasant when I am tired.”
 
“I don’t believe it,” said Osmond. 
 
“You may be angry at times that is quite possible. But I am sure you are never ‘cross.’ ” He leaned forward, a hand on each knee; for some moments he looked down at the floor. “Anyway, I may as well tell you now,” he said at last. 
 
“What I wish to say is that I find I’m in love with you.”
 
She rose at once. “Ah, keep that till I am tired.”
 
“Tired of hearing it from others?” He sat there raising his eyes to hers. 
 
“No, you may consider it now or never, as you please. But after all I must say it now.”
 
Isabel had turned away, but in the movement, stopped her­self and again looked toward him. Soon he got up and came near her, deeply respectful, as if he were afraid he had been too familiar.
 
 “I’m completely in love with you,” he said.
 
“Don’t say that, please,” said Isabel. Her emotions were con­fused, and, for some reason she could not understand, tears seemed to be forcing themselves into her eyes.
 
“I haven’t the idea that it will matter much to you,” Os­mond said. 
 
“I’ve so little to offer you. What I have it’s enough for me, but it’s not enough for you. I’ve neither fortune nor ad­vantages of any kind. So I offer nothing. I only tell you because I feel I will not offend you by doing so, and some day or other  it may give you pleasure. It gives me pleasure, I assure you, be­cause it’s perfectly simple. For me you’ll always be the most important woman in the world.”
 
 
Osmond spoke these words simply, almost innocently. His tone was that of a man who expected little from what he said, but who spoke for his own needed relief. Isabel was, of course, deeply affected; his words seemed to her, as he stood there, both beautiful and generous. Yet at the same time something within her made her draw back just as she had done before in situations of a similar kind.
 
“I’m not at all offended, as you rightly supposed,” she finally managed to say, though her words hardly mirrored her true emotions. 
 
 “I am pleased, I suppose but I am also troubled. In any case, I think I’m glad we’re separating that I leave Rome tomorrow.”
 
“Of course, I don’t agree with you there,” said Osmond.
 
“I don’t at all know you,” Isabel added suddenly and then colored as she heard herself saying what she had said almost a year before to Lord Warburton.
 
“If you were not going away, you would know me better,” Osmond returned.
 
“I shall do that some other time,” said Isabel. And when Os­mond remarked that he was really an easy person to know, she answered that she hardly agreed with this.
 
“But you are wise enough to understand anyone easily,” Os­mond continued.
 
“I don’t feel so just now,” said Isabel. “Still, I’m wise enough to think you had better go. Good-bye.”
 
“Good-bye,” Osmond said, and then added, “If we meet again you’ll find me as you leave me. If we don’t, I shall be so all the same.”
 
He did not leave immediately, but first asked Isabel whether she would kindly call on his daughter before she left Florence. Isabel said she would do this with great pleasure. They then talked for a moment or two longer about Pansy, after which Osmond took a rapid, respectful leave. 
 
When he was gone, Isa­bel stood a moment looking about her and then seated herself slowly with the air of a person in deep thought. What had hap­pened was something that for a week her imagination had been going forward to meet. But here, when it came, she stopped and drew back in fear. The workings of this young woman’s mind and spirit were, in truth, sometimes strange even to her­self. It seemed to her more difficult each day to decide upon the course her life should take.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
. 1. Why did Isabel decide to leave Rome?
2. Why would it be a long time before Osmond saw Isabel again?
3. What was Isabel thinking about while Osmond was talking to her?
4. How did Osmond say that he felt toward Isabel?
5. Why did he say that he was telling her his feelings?
6. What answer did Isabel make to Osmond?
7. What did Osmond ask Isabel to do before she left Florence?
8. What did Isabel think about when Osmond had left?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
 
own:
 
inevitable              be ever
                        be in love with
 
offend                  made the acquaintance of
 
on the way run a risk   draw back