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Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI

He took a resolve after this not to misinterpret her words even
when Miss Stackpole appeared to strike the personal note most
strongly. He bethought himself that persons, in her view, were
simple and homogeneous organisms, and that he, for his own part,
was too perverted a representative of the nature of man to have a
right to deal with her in strict reciprocity. He carried out his
resolve with a great deal of tact, and the young lady found in
renewed contact with him no obstacle to the exercise of her
genius for unshrinking enquiry, the general application of her
confidence. Her situation at Gardencourt therefore, appreciated
as we have seen her to be by Isabel and full of appreciation
herself of that free play of intelligence which, to her sense,
rendered Isabel's character a sister-spirit, and of the easy
venerableness of Mr. Touchett, whose noble tone, as she said, met
with her full approval--her situation at Gardencourt would have
been perfectly comfortable had she not conceived an irresistible
mistrust of the little lady for whom she had at first supposed
herself obliged to "allow" as mistress of the house. She
presently discovered, in truth, that this obligation was of the
lightest and that Mrs. Touchett cared very little how Miss
Stackpole behaved. Mrs. Touchett had defined her to Isabel as
both an adventuress and a bore--adventuresses usually giving one
more of a thrill; she had expressed some surprise at her niece's
having selected such a friend, yet had immediately added that she
knew Isabel's friends were her own affair and that she had never
undertaken to like them all or to restrict the girl to those she
liked.

"If you could see none but the people I like, my dear, you'd have
a very small society," Mrs. Touchett frankly admitted; "and I
don't think I like any man or woman well enough to recommend them
to you. When it comes to recommending it's a serious affair. I
don't like Miss Stackpole--everything about her displeases me;
she talks so much too loud and looks at one as if one wanted to
look at her--which one doesn't. I'm sure she has lived all her
life in a boarding-house, and I detest the manners and the
liberties of such places. If you ask me if I prefer my own
manners, which you doubtless think very bad, I'll tell you that I
prefer them immensely. Miss Stackpole knows I detest
boarding-house civilisation, and she detests me for detesting it,
because she thinks it the highest in the world. She'd like
Gardencourt a great deal better if it were a boarding-house. For
me, I find it almost too much of one! We shall never get on
together therefore, and there's no use trying."

Mrs. Touchett was right in guessing that Henrietta disapproved of
her, but she had not quite put her finger on the reason. A day or
two after Miss Stackpole's arrival she had made some invidious
reflexions on American hotels, which excited a vein of
counter-argument on the part of the correspondent of the
Interviewer, who in the exercise of her profession had acquainted
herself, in the western world, with every form of caravansary.
Henrietta expressed the opinion that American hotels were
the best in the world, and Mrs. Touchett, fresh from a renewed
struggle with them, recorded a conviction that they were the
worst. Ralph, with his experimental geniality, suggested, by way
of healing the breach, that the truth lay between the two
extremes and that the establishments in question ought to be
described as fair middling. This contribution to the discussion,
however, Miss Stackpole rejected with scorn. Middling indeed! If
they were not the best in the world they were the worst, but
there was nothing middling about an American hotel.

"We judge from different points of view, evidently," said Mrs.
Touchett. "I like to be treated as an individual; you like to be
treated as a 'party.'"

"I don't know what you mean," Henrietta replied. "I like to be
treated as an American lady."

"Poor American ladies!" cried Mrs. Touchett with a laugh. "They're
the slaves of slaves."

"They're the companions of freemen," Henrietta retorted.

"They're the companions of their servants--the Irish chambermaid
and the negro waiter. They share their work."

"Do you call the domestics in an American household 'slaves'?"
Miss Stackpole enquired. "If that's the way you desire to treat
them, no wonder you don't like America."

"If you've not good servants you're miserable," Mrs. Touchett
serenely said. "They're very bad in America, but I've five
perfect ones in Florence."

"I don't see what you want with five," Henrietta couldn't help
observing. "I don't think I should like to see five persons
surrounding me in that menial position."

"I like them in that position better than in some others,"
proclaimed Mrs. Touchett with much meaning.

"Should you like me better if I were your butler, dear?" her
husband asked.

"I don't think I should: you wouldn't at all have the tenue."

"The companions of freemen--I like that, Miss Stackpole," said
Ralph. "It's a beautiful description."

"When I said freemen I didn't mean you, sir!"

And this was the only reward that Ralph got for his compliment.
Miss Stackpole was baffled; she evidently thought there was
something treasonable in Mrs. Touchett's appreciation of a class
which she privately judged to be a mysterious survival of
feudalism. It was perhaps because her mind was oppressed with
this image that she suffered some days to elapse before she took
occasion to say to Isabel: "My dear friend, I wonder if you're
growing faithless."

"Faithless? Faithless to you, Henrietta?"

"No, that would be a great pain; but it's not that."

"Faithless to my country then?"

"Ah, that I hope will never be. When I wrote to you from
Liverpool I said I had something particular to tell you. You've
never asked me what it is. Is it because you've suspected?"

"Suspected what? As a rule I don't think I suspect," said Isabel.

"I remember now that phrase in your letter, but I confess I had
forgotten it. What have you to tell me?"

Henrietta looked disappointed, and her steady gaze betrayed it.
"You don't ask that right--as if you thought it important. You're
changed--you're thinking of other things."

"Tell me what you mean, and I'll think of that."

"Will you really think of it? That's what I wish to be sure of."

"I've not much control of my thoughts, but I'll do my best," said
Isabel. Henrietta gazed at her, in silence, for a period which
tried Isabel's patience, so that our heroine added at last: "Do
you mean that you're going to be married?"

"Not till I've seen Europe!" said Miss Stackpole. "What are you
laughing at?" she went on. "What I mean is that Mr. Goodwood came
out in the steamer with me."

"Ah!" Isabel responded.

"You say that right. I had a good deal of talk with him; he has
come after you."

"Did he tell you so?"

"No, he told me nothing; that's how I knew it," said Henrietta
cleverly. "He said very little about you, but I spoke of you a
good deal."

Isabel waited. At the mention of Mr. Goodwood's name she had
turned a little pale. "I'm very sorry you did that,"
she observed at last.

"It was a pleasure to me, and I liked the way he listened. I
could have talked a long time to such a listener; he was so
quiet, so intense; he drank it all in."

"What did you say about me?" Isabel asked.

"I said you were on the whole the finest creature I know."

"I'm very sorry for that. He thinks too well of me already; he
oughtn't to be encouraged."

"He's dying for a little encouragement. I see his face now, and
his earnest absorbed look while I talked. I never saw an ugly man
look so handsome."

"He's very simple-minded," said Isabel. "And he's not so ugly."

"There's nothing so simplifying as a grand passion."

"It's not a grand passion; I'm very sure it's not that."

"You don't say that as if you were sure."

Isabel gave rather a cold smile. "I shall say it better to Mr.
Goodwood himself."

"He'll soon give you a chance," said Henrietta. Isabel offered no
answer to this assertion, which her companion made with an air of
great confidence. "He'll find you changed," the latter pursued.
"You've been affected by your new surroundings."

"Very likely. I'm affected by everything."

"By everything but Mr. Goodwood!" Miss Stackpole exclaimed with a
slightly harsh hilarity.

Isabel failed even to smile back and in a moment she said: "Did
he ask you to speak to me?"

"Not in so many words. But his eyes asked it--and his handshake,
when he bade me good-bye."

"Thank you for doing so." And Isabel turned away.

"Yes, you're changed; you've got new ideas over here," her friend
continued.

"I hope so," said Isabel; "one should get as many new ideas as
possible."

"Yes; but they shouldn't interfere with the old ones when the old
ones have been the right ones."

Isabel turned about again. "If you mean that I had any idea with
regard to Mr. Goodwood--!" But she faltered before her friend's
implacable glitter.

"My dear child, you certainly encouraged him."

Isabel made for the moment as if to deny this charge; instead of
which, however, she presently answered: "It's very true. I did
encourage him." And then she asked if her companion had learned
from Mr. Goodwood what he intended to do. It was a concession to
her curiosity, for she disliked discussing the subject and found
Henrietta wanting in delicacy.

"I asked him, and he said he meant to do nothing," Miss Stackpole
answered. "But I don't believe that; he's not a man to do
nothing. He is a man of high, bold action. Whatever happens to
him he'll always do something, and whatever he does will always
be right."

"I quite believe that." Henrietta might be wanting in delicacy,
but it touched the girl, all the same, to hear this declaration.

"Ah, you do care for him!" her visitor rang out.

"Whatever he does will always be right," Isabel repeated. "When a
man's of that infallible mould what does it matter to him what
one feels?"

"It may not matter to him, but it matters to one's self."

"Ah, what it matters to me--that's not what we're discussing,"
said Isabel with a cold smile.

This time her companion was grave. "Well, I don't care; you have
changed. You're not the girl you were a few short weeks ago, and
Mr. Goodwood will see it. I expect him here any day."

"I hope he'll hate me then," said Isabel.

"I believe you hope it about as much as I believe him capable of
it."

To this observation our heroine made no return; she was absorbed
in the alarm given her by Henrietta's intimation that Caspar
Goodwood would present himself at Gardencourt. She pretended to
herself, however, that she thought the event impossible, and,
later, she communicated her disbelief to her friend. For the next
forty-eight hours, nevertheless, she stood prepared to hear the
young man's name announced. The feeling pressed upon her; it made
the air sultry, as if there were to be a change of weather; and
the weather, socially speaking, had been so agreeable during
Isabel's stay at Gardencourt that any change would be for the
worse. Her suspense indeed was dissipated the second day. She had
walked into the park in company with the sociable Bunchie, and
after strolling about for some time, in a manner at once listless
and restless, had seated herself on a garden-bench, within sight
of the house, beneath a spreading beech, where, in a white dress
ornamented with black ribbons, she formed among the flickering
shadows a graceful and harmonious image. She entertained herself
for some moments with talking to the little terrier, as to whom
the proposal of an ownership divided with her cousin had been
applied as impartially as possible--as impartially as Bunchie's
own somewhat fickle and inconstant sympathies would allow. But
she was notified for the first time, on this occasion, of the
finite character of Bunchie's intellect; hitherto she had been
mainly struck with its extent. It seemed to her at last that she
would do well to take a book; formerly, when heavy-hearted, she
had been able, with the help of some well-chosen volume, to
transfer the seat of consciousness to the organ of pure reason.
Of late, it was not to be denied, literature had seemed a fading
light, and even after she had reminded herself that her uncle's
library was provided with a complete set of those authors which
no gentleman's collection should be without, she sat motionless
and empty-handed, her eyes bent on the cool green turf of the
lawn. Her meditations were presently interrupted by the arrival
of a servant who handed her a letter. The letter bore the London
postmark and was addressed in a hand she knew--that came into her
vision, already so held by him, with the vividness of the
writer's voice or his face. This document proved short and may be
given entire.

MY DEAR MISS ARCHER--I don't know whether you will have heard of
my coming to England, but even if you have not it will scarcely
be a surprise to you. You will remember that when you gave me my
dismissal at Albany, three months ago, I did not accept it. I
protested against it. You in fact appeared to accept my protest
and to admit that I had the right on my side. I had come to see
you with the hope that you would let me bring you over to my
conviction; my reasons for entertaining this hope had been of the
best. But you disappointed it; I found you changed, and you were
able to give me no reason for the change. You admitted that you
were unreasonable, and it was the only concession you would make;
but it was a very cheap one, because that's not your character.
No, you are not, and you never will be, arbitrary or capricious.
Therefore it is that I believe you will let me see you again. You
told me that I'm not disagreeable to you, and I believe it; for I
don't see why that should be. I shall always think of you; I
shall never think of any one else. I came to England simply
because you are here; I couldn't stay at home after you had gone:
I hated the country because you were not in it. If I like this
country at present it is only because it holds you. I have been
to England before, but have never enjoyed it much. May I not come
and see you for half an hour? This at present is the dearest wish
of yours faithfully

CASPAR GOODWOOD.

Isabel read this missive with such deep attention that she had
not perceived an approaching tread on the soft grass. Looking up,
however, as she mechanically folded it she saw Lord Warburton
standing before her.

Henry James