Page images

" I sup

testimony. Too much imagination-I taking compliments seemed sometimes suppose, that was it. She afterwards rather dry; she got rid of them as published a work of fiction in which rapidly as possible. But as regards she was understood to have given a re- this, she was sometimes misjudged; presentation-something in the nature she was thought insensible to them, of a caricature, as you might say-of whereas in fact she was simply unmy unworthy self, I didn't read it, willing to show how infinitely they but Ralph just handed me the book, pleased her. To show that was to show with the principal passages marked. too much. “I am sure the English It was understood to be a description are very conventional,” she added. of my conversation ; American pecu- "They have got everything pretty liarities, nasal twang, Yankee notions, well fixed,” Mr. Touchett admitted. stars and stripes. Well, it was not at “It's all settled beforehand-they all accurate; she couldn't have listened don't leave it to the last moment." very attentively. I had no objection “I don't like to have everything to her giving a report of my conversa- settled beforehand,” said the girl. “I tion, if she liked; but I didn't like like more unexpectedness.” the idea that she hadn't taken the Her uncle seemed amused at her trouble to listen to it. Of course I distinctness of preference. “Well, it's talk like an American-I can't talk settled beforehand that you will have like a Hottentot. However I talk, great success," he rejoined. I have made them understand me

pose you will like that.” pretty well over here. But I don't “I shall not have success if they talk like the old gentleman in that are conventional. I am not in the lady's novel. He wasn't an American; least conventional. I am just the we wouldn't have him over there ! I just contrary. That's what they won't mention that fact to show

you that they like." are not always accurate. Of course, No, no, you are all wrong," said as I have no daughters, and as Mrs. the old man. “ You can't tell what Touchett resides in Florence, I haven't they will like. They are very inconhad much chance to notice about the sistent; that's their principal interest." young ladies. It sometimes appears as

"Ah well,” said Isabel, standing if the young women in the lower class before her uncle with her hands clasped were not very well treated; but I about the belt of her black dress, and guess their position is better in the looking up and down the lawn—"that upper class."

will suit me perfectly!” ** Dear me !” Isabel exclaimed ; how

many classes have they? About fifty, I suppose."

VII. "Well, I don't know that I ever counted them. I never took much The two amused themselves, time notice of the classes. That's the ad- and again, with talking of the attitude vantage of being an American here; of the British public, as if the young you don't belong to any class."

lady had been in a position to appeal "I hope so," said Isabel. “Imagine to it; but in fact the British public one's belonging to an English class !" remained for the present profoundly

Well, I guess some of them are indifferent to Miss Isabel Archer, pretty comfortable--especially towards whose fortune had dropped her, as her the top. But for me there are only cousin said, into the dullest house in two classes : the people I trust, and England. Her gouty uncle received the people I don't. Of those two, my very little company, and Mrs. Touchett, dear Isabel, you belong to the first." not having cultivated relations with

“I am much obliged to you," said her husband's neighbours, was not the young girl, quickly. Her way of warranted in expecting visits from them. ,

She had, however, a peculiar American ? Never in the world ; that's taste; she liked to receive cards. For shockingly narrow. My point of view, what is usually called social inter- thank God, is personal!” course she had very little relish ; but Isabel thought this a better answer nothing pleased her more than to find than she admitted ; it was a tolerable her hall-table whitened with oblong description of her own manner of morsels of symbolic pasteboard. She judging, and it would not have sounded flattered herself that she was a very well for her to say it; on the lips of a just woman and had mastered the person less advanced in life, and less sovereign truth that nothing in this enlightened by experience than Mrs. world is got for nothing. She had Touchett, such a declaration would played no social part as mistress of savour of immodesty, even of arroGardencourt, and it was not to be sup- gance. She risked it nevertheless, in posed that, in the surrounding country, talking with Ralph, with whom she a minute account should be kept of talked a great deal, and with whom her comings and goings. But it is by her conversation was of a sort that no means certain that she did not feel it gave a large licence to violent stateto be wrong that so little notice was ments. Her cousin used, as the phrase taken of them, and that her failure is, to chaff her; he very soon estab(really very gratuitous) to make her- lished with her a reputation for treatself important in the neighbourhood ing everything as a joke, and he was bad not much to do with the acrimony not a man to neglect the privileges of her allusions to her husband's such a reputation conferred. She adopted country.

country. Isabel presently accused him of an odious want of found herself in the singular situation seriousness, of laughing at all things, of defending the British constitution beginning with herself. Such slender against her aunt; Mrs. Touchett faculty of reverence as he possessed having formed the habit of sticking centred wholly upon his father; for pins into this venerable instrument. the rest, he exercised his wit indisIsabel always felt an impulse to re- criminately upon himself, his weak move the pins ; not that she imagined lungs, his useless life, his anomalous they inflicted any damage on the tough

damage on the tough mother, his friends (Lord Warburton old parchment, but because it seemed in especial), his adopted and his to her that her aunt might make better native country, his charming newuse of her sharpness. She was very

found cousin. “I keep a band of critical herself—it was incidental to music in my ante-room,” he said once her age, her sex, and her nationality; to her. “It has orders to play withbut she was very sentimental as well, out stopping; it renders me two and there was something in Mrs. excellent services. It keeps the sounds Touchett's dryness that set her own of the world from reaching the private moral fountains flowing.

apartments, and it makes the world “Now what is your point of view?" think that dancing is going on within.” she asked of her aunt. “When you It was dance-music indeed that you criticise everything here, you should usually heard when you came within have a point of view. Yours doesn't ear-shot of Ralph's band; the liveliest seem to be American-you thought waltzes seemed to float upon the air. everything over there so disagreeable. Isabel often found herself irritated by When I criticise, I have mine; it's this barrier of sound ; she would have thoroughly American !”

liked to pass through the ante-room, My dear young lady," said Mrs. as her cousin called it, and enter the Touchett, “there are as many points private apartments. It mattered little of view in the world as there are that he had assured her that they were people of sense. You may say that a very dismal place; she would have doesn't make them very numerous ! been glad to undertake to sweep them

and set them in order. It was but when you praise it; you don't care for half-hospitality to let her remain out- America even when you pretend to side; to punish him for which, Isabel abuse it." administered innumerable taps with "I care for nothing but you, dear the ferrule of her straight young wit. cousin," said Ralph. It must be said that her wit was exer- “If I could believe even that, I cised to a large extent in self-defence, should be very glad." for her cousin amused himself with “Ah, well, I should hope so !” the calling her “ Columbia,” and accusing young man exclaimed. her of a patriotism so fervid that it Isabel might have believed it, and scorched, He drew a caricature of not have been far from the truth. her, in which she was represented as a He thought a great deal about her ; very pretty young woman, dressed, in she was constantly present to his the height of the prevailing fashion,

mind. At a time when his thoughts in the folds of the national banner. had been a good deal of a burden to Isabel's chief dread in life, at this him, her sudden arrival, which had period of her development, was that promised nothing and was an openshe should appear narrow-minded ; handed gift of fate, had refreshed and what she feared next afterwards was quickened them, given them wings that she should be so. But she never- and something to fly for. Poor Ralph theless made no scruple of abounding for many weeks had been steeped in in her cousin's sense, and pretending melancholy; his out-look, habitually to sigh for the charms of her native sombre, lay under the shadow of a land. She would be as American as deeper cloud. He had grown anxious it pleased him to regard her, and if he about his father, whose gout, hitherto chose to laugh at her, she would give confined to his legs, had begun to him plenty of occupation. She de- ascend into regions more perilous. fended England against his mother, The old man had been gravely ill in but when Ralph sang its praises, on the spring, and the doctors had whispurpose, as she said, to torment ber; d., pered to Ralph that another attack she found herself able to differ from would be less easy to deal with. Just him on a variety of points. In reality now he appeared tolerably comfortthe quality of this small ripe country able, but Ralph could not rid himself seemed as sweet to her as the taste of of a suspicion that this was a subteran October pear; and her satisfaction fuge of the enemy, who was waiting was at the root of the good spirits to take him off his guard. If this which enabled her to take her cousin's maneuvre should succeed, there would chaff and return it in kind. If her be little hope of any great resistance. good-humour flagged at moments, it Ralph had always taken for granted was not because she thought herself that his father would survive himill-used, but because she suddenly felt that his own name would be the first sorry for Ralph. It seemed to her called. The father and son had been that he was talking as a blind, and had close companions, and the idea of little heart in what he said.

being left alone with the remnant of " I don't know what is the matter an alienated life on his hands was with you," she said to him once, not gratifying to the young man, who “ but I suspect you are a great had always and tacitly counted upon humbug.”

his elder's help in making the best of “That's your privilege,” Ralph an- a poor business. At the prospect of swered, who had not been used to losing his great motive, Ralph was being so crudely addressed.

indeed mightily disgusted. If they I don't know what you care for; might die at the same time, it would I don't think you care for anything. be all very well; but without the You don't really care for England encouragement of his father's society,

he should barely have patience to I had never been more blue, more await his own turn. He had not the bored, than for a week before she incentive of feeling that be was ab- came; I had never expected less that solutely indispensable to his mother; something

something agreeable would happen. . it was a rule with his mother to have Suddenly I receive a Titian, by the no regrets. He bethought himself, post, to hang on my wall-a Greek of course, that it had been a small bas-relief to stick over my chimneykindness to his father to wish that, of piece. The key of a beautiful edifice the two, the active, rather than the is thrust into my hand, and I am told passive, party should know the pain of to walk in and admire.

My poor loss; he remembered that the old boy, you have been sadly ungrateful, man had always treated his own and now you had better keep very forecast of an uncompleted career as a quiet, and never grumble again." clever fallacy, which he should be The sentiment of these reflections was delighted to discredit, so far as he very just; but it was not exactly true might, by dying first. But of the two that Ralph Touchett had had a key triumphs, that of refuting a sophis- put into his hand. His cousin was a tical son and that of holding on a very brilliant girl, who would take, as while longer to a state of being which, he said, a good deal of knowing ; but with all abatements, he enjoyed, she needed the knowing, and his Ralph deemed it no sin to hope that attitude with regard to her, though it the latter might be vouchsafed to was contemplative and critical, was Mr. Touchett.

not judicial. He surveyed the edifice These were nice questions, but from the outside, and admired it Isabel's arrival put a stop to his greatly; he looked in at the windows, puzzling over them. It even sug- and received an impression of progested that there might be a com- portions equally fair. But he felt pensation for the intolerable ennui that he saw it only by glimpses, and of surviving his genial sire. He that he had not yet stood under the wondered whether he were falling in roof;—the door was fastened, and love with this spontaneous young though he had keys in his pocket, he woman from Albany; but he de- had a conviction that none of them cided that on the whole he was not. would fit. She was intelligent and After he had known her for a week, generous; it was a fine free nature; he quite made up his mind to this, and but what was she going to do with every day he felt a little more sure. herself? This question was irregular, Lord Warburton had been right about for with most

one had no her; she was a thoroughly interesting occasion to ask it. Most women did woman. Ralph wondered how Lord with themselves nothing at all; they Warburton had found it out so soon; waited, in attitudes more and then he said it was only another gracefully, passive for a man to come proof of his friend's high abilities, along and furnish them with a which he had always greatly admired. destiny. Isabel's originality was that If his cousin were to be nothing more she gave one an impression of having than an entertainment to him, Ralph intuitions of her own. “Whenever was conscious that she was an enter- she executes them,” said Ralph, “may tainment of a high order. “A I be there to see!character like that,” he said to him- It devolved upon him of course to self, “is the finest thing in nature. do the honours of the place. Mr. It is finer than the finest work of art Touchett was confined to his chair, -than a Greek bas-relief, than a and his wife's position was that of great Titian, than a Gothic cathedral. a rather grim visitor; so that in It is very pleasant to be so well- the line of conduct that opened itself treated where one least looked for it. to Ralph, duty and inclination were


or less

[ocr errors]

harmoniously mingled. He was not and son had often invited him to do, a great walker, but he strolled about for a dinner and a lodging. Isabel, the grounds with his cousin—a pas- seeing him for half an hour on the time for which the weather remained day of her arrival, had discovered in favourable with a persistency not this brief space that she liked him ; allowed for in Isabel's somewhat he had made indeed a tolerably vivid lugubrious prevision of the climate; impression on her mind, and she had and in the long afternoons, of which thought of him several times. She the length was but the measure of had hoped that she should see him her gratified eagerness, they took a again-hoped too that she should see boat on the river, the dear little river, a few others. Gardencourt was not as Isabel called it, when the opposite dull; the place itself was so delightshore seemed still a part of the fore- ful, her uncle was such a perfection of ground of the landscape ; or drove an uncle, and Ralph was so unlike any over the country in a phaeton-a low, cousin she had ever encountered—ber capacious, thick-wheeled phaeton, for- view of cousins being rather momerly much used by Mr. Touchett, notonous. Then her impressions were but which he had now ceased to enjoy. still so fresh and so quickly reIsabel enjoyed it largely, and, handling newed that there was as yet hardly a the reins in a manner which approved sense of vacancy in the prospect. But itself to the groom as “knowing,” Isabel had need to remind herself was never weary of driving her that she was interested in human uncle's capital horses through winding nature and that her foremost hope in lanes and byways full of the rural coming abroad had been that she incidents she had confidently ex- should see a great many people. When pected to find, past cottages thatched Ralph said to her, as he had done and timbered, past ale-houses latticed several times—“I wonder you find and sanded, past patches of ancient this endurable ; you ought to see common and glimpses of empty parks, some of the neighbours and some of between hedgerows made thick by our friends—because we have really midsummer. When they reached got a few, though you would never home, they usually found that tea had suppose it” — when he offered to been served upon the lawn, and that invite what he called a “lot of Mrs. Touchett had not absolved her- people," and make the young girl self from the obligation of handing acquainted with English society, she her husband his cup. But the two encouraged the hospitable impulse for the most part sat silent; the old and promised, in advance, to be deman with his head back and his eyes lighted. Little, however, for the closed, his wife occupied with her present, had come of Ralph's offers, knitting, and wearing that appearance and it may be confided to the reader of extraordinary meditation with

with that, if the young man delayed to which some ladies contemplate the carry them out, it was because he movement of their needles.

found the labour of entertaining his One day, however, a visitor had cousin by no means so severe as to arrived. The two young people, after require extraneous help. Isabel had spending an hour upon the river, spoken to him very often about strolled back to the house and per- specimens”; it was a word that ceived Lord Warburton sitting under played a considerable part in her the trees and engaged in conversation, vocabulary; she had given him to of which even at a distance the de- understand that she wished to see as sultory character was

was appreciable, many specimens as į possible, and with Mrs. Touchett. He had driven specimens of everything. over from his own place with a port- “Wellnow, there's a specimen,” manteau, and had asked, as the father he said to her, as they walked up

« PreviousContinue »