The Portrait of a Lady
Pansy was not in the first of the rooms, a large apartment with a concave ceiling and
walls covered with old red damask; it was here Mrs. Osmond usually sat--though she was
not in her most customary place to-night--and that a circle of more especial intimates
gathered about the fire. The room was flushed with subdued, diffused brightness; it
contained the larger things and--almost always--an odour of flowers. Pansy on this
occasion was presumably in the next of the series, the resort of younger visitors, where
tea was served. Osmond stood before the chimney, leaning back with his hands behind
him; he had one foot up and was warming the sole. Half a dozen persons, scattered near
him, were talking together; but he was not in the conversation; his eyes had an
expression, frequent with them, that seemed to represent them as engaged with objects
more worth their while than the appearances actually thrust upon them. Rosier, coming in
unannounced, failed to attract his attention; but the young man, who was very
punctilious, though he was even exceptionally conscious that it was the wife, not the
husband, he had come to see, went up to shake hands with him. Osmond put out his left
hand, without changing his attitude.
"How d'ye do? My wife's somewhere about."
"Never fear; I shall find her," said Rosier cheerfully.
Osmond, however, took him in; he had never in his life felt himself so efficiently looked
at. "Madame Merle has told him, and he doesn't like it," he privately reasoned. He had
hoped Madame Merle would be there, but she was not in sight; perhaps she was in one of
the other rooms or would come later. He had never especially delighted in Gilbert
Osmond, having a fancy he gave himself airs. But Rosier was not quickly resentful, and
where politeness was concerned had ever a strong need of being quite in the right. He
looked round him and smiled, all without help, and then in a moment, "I saw a jolly good
piece of Capo di Monte to-day," he said.
Osmond answered nothing at first; but presently, while he warmed his boot-sole, "I don't
care a fig for Capo di Monte!" he returned.
"I hope you're not losing your interest?"
"In old pots and plates? Yes, I'm losing my interest."
Rosier for an instant forgot the delicacy of his position. "You're not thinking of parting
with a--a piece or two?"
"No, I'm not thinking of parting with anything at all, Mr. Rosier," said Osmond, with his
eyes still on the eyes of his visitor.
"Ah, you want to keep, but not to add," Rosier remarked brightly.