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The Portrait of a Lady

Chapter 13
It was this feeling and not the wish to ask advice--she had no desire whatever for
that--that led her to speak to her uncle of what had taken place. She wished to
speak to some one; she should feel more natural, more human, and her uncle,
for this purpose, presented himself in a more attractive light than either her aunt
or her friend Henrietta. Her cousin of course was a possible confidant; but she
would have had to do herself violence to air this special secret to Ralph. So the
next day, after breakfast, she sought her occasion. Her uncle never left his
apartment till the afternoon, but he received his cronies, as he said, in his
dressing-room. Isabel had quite taken her place in the class so designated,
which, for the rest, included the old man's son, his physician, his personal
servant, and even Miss Stackpole. Mrs. Touchett did not figure in the list, and this
was an obstacle the less to Isabel's finding her host alone. He sat in a
complicated mechanical chair, at the open window of his room, looking westward
over the park and the river, with his newspapers and letters piled up beside him,
his toilet freshly and minutely made, and his smooth, speculative face composed
to benevolent expectation.
She approached her point directly. "I think I ought to let you know that Lord
Warburton has asked me to marry him. I suppose I ought to tell my aunt; but it
seems best to tell you first."
The old man expressed no surprise, but thanked her for the confidence she
showed him. "Do you mind telling me whether you accepted him?" he then
enquired.
"I've not answered him definitely yet; I've taken a little time to think of it, because
that seems more respectful. But I shall not accept him."
Mr. Touchett made no comment upon this; he had the air of thinking that,
whatever interest he might take in the matter from the point of view of sociability,
he had no active voice in it. "Well, I told you you'd be a success over here.
Americans are highly appreciated."
"Very highly indeed," said Isabel. "But at the cost of seeming both tasteless and
ungrateful, I don't think I can marry Lord Warburton."
"Well," her uncle went on, "of course an old man can't judge for a young lady. I'm
glad you didn't ask me before you made up your mind. I suppose I ought to tell
you," he added slowly, but as if it were not of much consequence, "that I've
known all about it these three days."
"About Lord Warburton's state of mind?"
"About his intentions, as they say here. He wrote me a very pleasant letter, telling
me all about them. Should you like to see his letter?" the old man obligingly
asked.
"Thank you; I don't think I care about that. But I'm glad he wrote to you; it was
right that he should, and he would be certain to do what was right."
"Ah well, I guess you do like him!" Mr. Touchett declared. "You needn't pretend
you don't."
 
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