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The Portrait of a Lady

Chapter 17
She was not praying; she was trembling--trembling all over. Vibration was easy
to her, was in fact too constant with her, and she found herself now humming like
a smitten harp. She only asked, however, to put on the cover, to case herself
again in brown holland, but she wished to resist her excitement, and the attitude
of devotion, which she kept for some time, seemed to help her to be still. She
intensely rejoiced that Caspar Goodwood was gone; there was something in
having thus got rid of him that was like the payment, for a stamped receipt, of
some debt too long on her mind. As she felt the glad relief she bowed her head a
little lower; the sense was there, throbbing in her heart; it was part of her
emotion, but it was a thing to be ashamed of--it was profane and out of place. It
was not for some ten minutes that she rose from her knees, and even when she
came back to the sitting-room her tremor had not quite subsided. It had had,
verily, two causes: part of it was to be accounted for by her long discussion with
Mr. Goodwood, but it might be feared that the rest was simply the enjoyment she
found in the exercise of her power. She sat down in the same chair again and
took up her book, but without going through the form of opening the volume. She
leaned back, with that low, soft, aspiring murmur with which she often uttered her
response to accidents of which the brighter side was not superficially obvious,
and yielded to the satisfaction of having refused two ardent suitors in a fortnight.
That love of liberty of which she had given Caspar Goodwood so bold a sketch
was as yet almost exclusively theoretic; she had not been able to indulge it on a
large scale. But it appeared to her she had done something; she had tasted of
the delight, if not of battle, at least of victory; she had done what was truest to her
plan. In the glow of this consciousness the image of Mr. Goodwood taking his
sad walk homeward through the dingy town presented itself with a certain
reproachful force; so that, as at the same moment the door of the room was
opened, she rose with an apprehension that he had come back. But it was only
Henrietta Stackpole returning from her dinner.
Miss Stackpole immediately saw that our young lady had been "through"
something, and indeed the discovery demanded no great penetration. She went
straight up to her friend, who received her without a greeting. Isabel's elation in
having sent Caspar Goodwood back to America presupposed her being in a
manner glad he had come to see her; but at the same time she perfectly
remembered Henrietta had had no right to set a trap for her. "Has he been here,
dear?" the latter yearningly asked.
Isabel turned away and for some moments answered nothing. "You acted very
wrongly," she declared at last.
"I acted for the best. I only hope you acted as well."
"You're not the judge. I can't trust you," said Isabel.
This declaration was unflattering, but Henrietta was much too unselfish to heed
the charge it conveyed; she cared only for what it intimated with regard to her
friend. "Isabel Archer," she observed with equal abruptness and solemnity, "if you
marry one of these people I'll never speak to you again!"
 
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