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The Portrait of a Lady

Chapter 35
Isabel, when she strolled in the Cascine with her lover, felt no impulse to tell him how
little he was approved at Palazzo Crescentini. The discreet opposition offered to her
marriage by her aunt and her cousin made on the whole no great impression upon her; the
moral of it was simply that they disliked Gilbert Osmond. This dislike was not alarming
to Isabel; she scarcely even regretted it; for it served mainly to throw into higher relief the
fact, in every way so honourable, that she married to please herself. One did other things
to please other people; one did this for a more personal satisfaction; and Isabel's
satisfaction was confirmed by her lover's admirable good conduct. Gilbert Osmond was
in love, and he had never deserved less than during these still, bright days, each of them
numbered, which preceded the fulfilment of his hopes, the harsh criticism passed upon
him by Ralph Touchett. The chief impression produced on Isabel's spirit by this criticism
was that the passion of love separated its victim terribly from every one but the loved
object. She felt herself disjoined from every one she had ever known before--from her
two sisters, who wrote to express a dutiful hope that she would be happy, and a surprise,
somewhat more vague, at her not having chosen a consort who was the hero of a richer
accumulation of anecdote; from Henrietta, who, she was sure, would come out, too late,
on purpose to remonstrate; from Lord Warburton, who would certainly console himself,
and from Caspar Goodwood, who perhaps would not; from her aunt, who had cold,
shallow ideas about marriage, for which she was not sorry to display her contempt; and
from Ralph, whose talk about having great views for her was surely but a whimsical
cover for a personal disappointment. Ralph apparently wished her not to marry at all--that
was what it really meant--because he was amused with the spectacle of her adventures as
a single woman. His disappointment made him say angry things about the man she had
preferred even to him: Isabel flattered herself that she believed Ralph had been angry. It
was the more easy for her to believe this because, as I say, she had now little free or
unemployed emotion for minor needs, and accepted as an incident, in fact quite as an
ornament, of her lot the idea that to prefer Gilbert Osmond as she preferred him was
perforce to break all other ties. She tasted of the sweets of this preference, and they made
her conscious, almost with awe, of the invidious and remorseless tide of the charmed and
possessed condition, great as was the traditional honour and imputed virtue of being in
love. It was the tragic part of happiness; one's right was always made of the wrong of
some one else.
The elation of success, which surely now flamed high in Osmond, emitted meanwhile
very little smoke for so brilliant a blaze. Contentment, on his part, took no vulgar form;
excitement, in the most self-conscious of men, was a kind of ecstasy of self-control. This
disposition, however, made him an admirable lover; it gave him a constant view of the
smitten and dedicated state. He never forgot himself, as I say; and so he never forgot to
be graceful and tender, to wear the appearance--which presented indeed no difficulty--of
stirred senses and deep intentions. He was immensely pleased with his young lady;
Madame Merle had made him a present of incalculable value. What could be a finer thing
to live with than a high spirit attuned to softness? For would not the softness be all for