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The Portrait of a Lady

Chapter 15
It had been arranged that the two young ladies should proceed to London under
Ralph's escort, though Mrs. Touchett looked with little favour on the plan. It was
just the sort of plan, she said, that Miss Stackpole would be sure to suggest, and
she enquired if the correspondent of the Interviewer was to take the party to stay
at her favourite boarding-house.
"I don't care where she takes us to stay, so long as there's local colour," said
Isabel. "That's what we're going to London for."
"I suppose that after a girl has refused an English lord she may do anything," her
aunt rejoined. "After that one needn't stand on trifles."
"Should you have liked me to marry Lord Warburton?" Isabel enquired.
"Of course I should."
"I thought you disliked the English so much."
"So I do; but it's all the greater reason for making use of them."
"Is that your idea of marriage?" And Isabel ventured to add that her aunt
appeared to her to have made very little use of Mr. Touchett.
"Your uncle's not an English nobleman," said Mrs. Touchett, "though even if he
had been I should still probably have taken up my residence in Florence."
"Do you think Lord Warburton could make me any better than I am?" the girl
asked with some animation. "I don't mean I'm too good to improve. I mean that I
don't love Lord Warburton enough to marry him."
"You did right to refuse him then," said Mrs. Touchett in her smallest, sparest
voice. "Only, the next great offer you get, I hope you'll manage to come up to
your standard."
"We had better wait till the offer comes before we talk about it. I hope very much I
may have no more offers for the present. They upset me completely."
"You probably won't be troubled with them if you adopt permanently the
Bohemian manner of life. However, I've promised Ralph not to criticise."
"I'll do whatever Ralph says is right," Isabel returned. "I've unbounded confidence
in Ralph."
"His mother's much obliged to you!" this lady dryly laughed.
"It seems to me indeed she ought to feel it!" Isabel irrepressibly answered.
Ralph had assured her that there would be no violation of decency in their paying
a visit--the little party of three--to the sights of the metropolis; but Mrs. Touchett
took a different view. Like many ladies of her country who had lived a long time in
Europe, she had completely lost her native tact on such points, and in her
reaction, not in itself deplorable, against the liberty allowed to young persons
beyond the seas, had fallen into gratuitous and exaggerated scruples. Ralph
accompanied their visitors to town and established them at a quiet inn in a street
that ran at right angles to Piccadilly. His first idea had been to take them to his
father's house in Winchester Square, a large, dull mansion which at this period of
the year was shrouded in silence and brown holland; but he bethought himself
that, the cook being at Gardencourt, there was no one in the house to get them
their meals, and Pratt's Hotel accordingly became their resting-place. Ralph, on
 
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