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The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 4




The Portraıt Of A Lady - Chapter 4








Isabel, accompanied by Ralph, had gone to London for a few days. While they were there Ralph received a telegram from his mother saying that his father had had another sharp attack, that she was much alarmed, and that she begged he would return at once to Gardencourt.


The purpose of Isabel’s trip to London was to see the city and also to meet with an old friend, Miss Henrietta Stackpole, an American newspaperwoman whom Isabel had known for some time. Ralph’s first idea was to take them to his father’s town house, a large and rather unattractive place which at this season of the year was always completely closed; but he re­membered that the cook was at Gardencourt, and they would have to get their own meals. He therefore established the two young ladies in a quiet hotel in a street that ran at right angles to Picadilly; he accompanied them everywhere. He himself found quarters on Winchester Street in a men’s club with which he was familiar.


Isabel found London interesting and had already spent three days in viewing its sights when Mrs. Touchett’s telegram ar­rived. There was no need for her to return to Gardencourt, and Ralph encouraged her to remain in London a few days longer and complete her visit with Miss Stackpole. Isabel, however, insisted on returning.


I shall certainly go with you,” she ex­plained. “I don’t suppose I can be of use to my uncle, but if he’s sick, I shall like to be near him.”


I think you’re really fond of him,” said Ralph.


He’s a wonderful old man. I love him dearly.”

That’s very nice. After his son, he’s your greatest admirer.” Isabel welcomed these words, but she secretly felt some re­lief at the thought that Mr. Touchett, fortunately, was one of those admirers who couldn’t propose to marry her. It was true that she was very fond of her uncle, in whose company she had spent much time recently, and a great deal of true affection had grown up between them.


Isabel and Ralph made the return trip to Gardencourt in almost unbroken silence, and the servant who met them at the station had no better news to give them of Mr. Touchett. Mrs. Touchett, they learned on reaching home, had been continu­ously with her husband and was with him at the moment. This fact made Ralph say to himself that, after all, what his mother needed was only the opportunity to show the real affection which she held for her family.


Mr. Touchett was conscious only a small part of the time; he slept a great deal and seldom spoke and he continued in this condition during the next few days. Though two doctors attended him, one from the town and another who was brought down specially from London, they could do little for him. Isa­bel had a great desire to be useful and was allowed to stay with him at hours when the others (of whom Mrs. Touchett was one of the most regular) went to take their rest. He never seemed to know her, and she always said to herself, “Suppose he should die while I’m sitting here?” an idea which excited her and kept her awake. Once he opened his eyes and fixed them upon her intelligently, but when she went to him, hoping he would recog­nize her, he closed them and fell again into a deep sleep. The day after this, however, he woke for a longer time. On this oc­casion Ralph was with him. The old man began to talk, much to his son’s satisfaction, who assured him that they should pres­ently have him sitting up.


No, my boy,” said Mr. Touchett, “unless you bury me in a sitting position, as some of the ancients used to do.”

Ah, daddy, don’t talk about that,” Ralph said. “You mustn’t deny that you’re getting better.”

There will be no need of denying it if you don’t mention it,” the old man answered. “Why should we lie to each other just at the last? We never lied before. I’ve got to die sometime, and it’s better to die when one’s sick than when one’s well. I’m very sick as sick as I shall ever be.”

Having made this excellent point, the old man became quiet but the next time Ralph was with him he again addressed himself to conversation.


Who’s that with me is it my son?” he asked.


Yes, it’s your son, daddy.”


And is there no one else?”


No one else.”


Mr. Touchett said nothing for a while; and then,


I want to talk a little.” He went on to speak of the future and of his plans for Ralph. Ralph protested that there was no need for worry on this point, that he and his mother would take care of themselves and that they got on well together.


You get on by always being apart; that’s not natural,” said Mr. Touchett.


If you leave us, we shall probably see more of each other.” “Well,” the old man observed, “it can’t be said that my death will make much difference in your mother’s life.”


It will probably make more than you think.”


Well, she’ll have more money,” said Mr. Touchett. “I’ve left her a good wife’s share just as if she had been a good wife.” “She has been one, daddy, according to her own ideas. She has never troubled you.”


Ah, some troubles are pleasant,” Mr. Touchett answered. “Those you have given me, for example.” Mr. Touchett also spoke of the money Ralph might expect to receive after his death. Ralph objected that it had been decided long ago be­tween them that he wanted little money and that he preferred that his father leave him only what he needed, making some better use of the rest.

I understand,” said the father, “but there’ll be more than enough for you, in any case. There will be enough for two. What I should like to see you do after I’m gone is to marry.” Ralph had seen what his father was coming to; the sugges­tion was by no means a new one. It had long been Mr. Touch- ett’s innocent way of taking the most cheerful view of Ralph’s health and of the few years that still remained to his son to live. After a pause, Mr. Touchett continued: “What do you think of your young cousin in this regard?”


At this Ralph started, meeting the question with a strained smile. “Do I understand you to propose that I marry Isabel?” “She’s the most charming young lady I’ve ever seen. And she would be good to you. She likes you very much. She has told me so. I have thought a great deal about this matter.”


So have I,” said Ralph. “I don’t mind telling you that. But the fact is I’m not in love with Isabel though I easily might be, if things were different.”


What things, for example?”


Well, daddy, I haven’t many fixed ideas, as you know—but there are three or four which I strongly hold. One is that peo­ple, on the whole, had better not marry their cousins. Another is that people like me, suffering from tuberculosis, had better not marry at all.”


The old man raised his weak hand and moved it before his face. “What do you mean by that,” he said. “You look at things in a way that would make everything wrong. What kind of a cousin is a cousin that you had never seen for more than twenty years of her life? We’re all each other’s cousins, and if we stopped at that the human race would die out. It’s just the same with your bad lung. You’re a great deal better than you used to be.”


Ralph, instead of protesting these points, motioned to his father to be silent. The old man began to show evidence of growing tired. They therefore sat in silence for some minutes. Then Ralph himself opened the conversation again. “It is true that I take a great interest in my cousin,” he said, “but not the interest you might wish me to take. I shall not live many years, but I hope I shall live long enough to see what she does with herself. I should like to do something for her.”


What would you like to do, my son?”


I should like to put a little wind in her sails. I should like to put it into her power to do some of the things she wants. She wants to see the world, for example. I should like to put some money in her pocketbook.”


You may be pleased to know, then, that I’ve already ar­ranged in my will to leave her five thousand pounds.”


That’s fine; it’s very kind of you. But I should like to do a little more. You tell me I shall have money enough for two. What would you say if I asked you to relieve me of half of my share and give it over to her?”


To do what she likes with?”


Exactly what she likes.”


And without any condition of any kind such as might con­cern her marrying someone or other?”


Her marrying—someone or other? It’s just to prevent any­thing of that kind that I made my suggestion. If she has her own money she’ll never have to marry anyone for support. That’s what I cleverly hope to arrange. She wishes to be free, and your giving her the money will make her so.”


But why can’t you simply give her the money yourself, my son? After all, it will be all yours.”

Ralph openly stared. “Ah, dear father, I can’t offer Isabel money.”


The old man gave a groan. “Don’t tell me you’re not in love with her. What a foolish plan! But of course if that’s the way you want things arranged, I’ll do exactly as you wish. We must call Mr. Hilary tomorrow; I can do nothing without my lawyer. I must say, however, that young men are very different from what I was. When I cared for a girl when I was young I wanted to do more than look at her. You’ve ideas that I never should have had. In a sense, it seems wrong to give over so much money to a young person and to make everything so easy for her.”


It surely depends upon the person. When the person’s good, your making things easy for her is a good and noble act. It’s rather like helping a struggling young artist to express himself.” This was a little difficult to follow, and Mr. Touchett con­sidered it for a while. At last he said: “Isabel’s a sweet young thing but do you think she’s as good as that?”


She’s as good as her best opportunities,” Ralph returned. “Well,” answered Mr. Touchett, “she should have a great many opportunities for sixty thousand pounds.”



Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review


  1. 1. Why did Ralph have to return to Gardencourt from Lon­


       2. Why had he taken Isabel to London?

Why couldn’t the women stay at Mr. Touchett’s London town house? Where did they stay?

  1. Why did Isabel return to Gardencourt with Ralph?

  2. What was Mr. Touchett’s condition when they returned?

  3. How did Mr. Touchett think his death would affect Mrs. Touchett and Ralph?

  4. How did Ralph answer his father’s suggestion that he marry Isabel?

  5. What was wrong with Ralph physically?

  6. What did Ralph say that he would like to do for Isabel?

  7. Why did Ralph suggest that his father leave more money to Isabel?

  8. Why didn’t Mr. Touchett entirely approve of Ralph’s idea?

  9. How much money did Mr. Touchett finally plan to leave to Isabel?


  1. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:







be fond of


make a trip


take care of


make use of

insist on

on the whole

be of use

die out