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The Portrait of a Lady

Chapter 9
The two Misses Molyneux, this nobleman's sisters, came presently to call upon
her, and Isabel took a fancy to the young ladies, who appeared to her to show a
most original stamp. It is true that when she described them to her cousin by that
term he declared that no epithet could be less applicable than this to the two
Misses Molyneux, since there were fifty thousand young women in England who
exactly resembled them. Deprived of this advantage, however, Isabel's visitors
retained that of an extreme sweetness and shyness of demeanour, and of
having, as she thought, eyes like the balanced basins, the circles of "ornamental
water," set, in parterres, among the geraniums.
"They're not morbid, at any rate, whatever they are," our heroine said to herself;
and she deemed this a great charm, for two or three of the friends of her girlhood
had been regrettably open to the charge (they would have been so nice without
it), to say nothing of Isabel's having occasionally suspected it as a tendency of
her own. The Misses Molyneux were not in their first youth, but they had bright,
fresh complexions and something of the smile of childhood. Yes, their eyes,
which Isabel admired, were round, quiet and contented, and their figures, also of
a generous roundness, were encased in sealskin jackets. Their friendliness was
great, so great that they were almost embarrassed to show it; they seemed
somewhat afraid of the young lady from the other side of the world and rather
looked than spoke their good wishes. But they made it clear to her that they
hoped she would come to luncheon at Lockleigh, where they lived with their
brother, and then they might see her very, very often. They wondered if she
wouldn't come over some day, and sleep: they were expecting some people on
the twenty-ninth, so perhaps she would come while the people were there.
"I'm afraid it isn't any one very remarkable," said the elder sister; "but I dare say
you'll take us as you find us."
"I shall find you delightful; I think you're enchanting just as you are," replied
Isabel, who often praised profusely.
Her visitors flushed, and her cousin told her, after they were gone, that if she said
such things to those poor girls they would think she was in some wild, free
manner practising on them: he was sure it was the first time they had been called
enchanting.
"I can't help it," Isabel answered. "I think it's lovely to be so quiet and reasonable
and satisfied. I should like to be like that."
"Heaven forbid!" cried Ralph with ardour.
"I mean to try and imitate them," said Isabel. "I want very much to see them at
home."
She had this pleasure a few days later, when, with Ralph and his mother, she
drove over to Lockleigh. She found the Misses Molyneux sitting in a vast
drawing-room (she perceived afterwards it was one of several) in a wilderness of
faded chintz; they were dressed on this occasion in black velveteen. Isabel liked
them even better at home than she had done at Gardencourt, and was more than
ever struck with the fact that they were not morbid. It had seemed to her before
 
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