The Portrait of a Lady HTML version

Chapter 14
Miss Stackpole would have prepared to start immediately; but Isabel, as we have
seen, had been notified that Lord Warburton would come again to Gardencourt,
and she believed it her duty to remain there and see him. For four or five days he
had made no response to her letter; then he had written, very briefly, to say he
would come to luncheon two days later. There was something in these delays
and postponements that touched the girl and renewed her sense of his desire to
be considerate and patient, not to appear to urge her too grossly; a consideration
the more studied that she was so sure he "really liked" her. Isabel told her uncle
she had written to him, mentioning also his intention of coming; and the old man,
in consequence, left his room earlier than usual and made his appearance at the
two o'clock repast. This was by no means an act of vigilance on his part, but the
fruit of a benevolent belief that his being of the company might help to cover any
conjoined straying away in case Isabel should give their noble visitor another
hearing. That personage drove over from Lockleigh and brought the elder of his
sisters with him, a measure presumably dictated by reflexions of the same order
as Mr. Touchett's. The two visitors were introduced to Miss Stackpole, who, at
luncheon, occupied a seat adjoining Lord Warburton's. Isabel, who was nervous
and had no relish for the prospect of again arguing the question he had so
prematurely opened, could not help admiring his good-humoured self-
possession, which quite disguised the symptoms of that preoccupation with her
presence it was natural she should suppose him to feel. He neither looked at her
nor spoke to her, and the only sign of his emotion was that he avoided meeting
her eyes. He had plenty of talk for the others, however, and he appeared to eat
his luncheon with discrimination and appetite. Miss Molyneux, who had a
smooth, nun-like forehead and wore a large silver cross suspended from her
neck, was evidently preoccupied with Henrietta Stackpole, upon whom her eyes
constantly rested in a manner suggesting a conflict between deep alienation and
yearning wonder. Of the two ladies from Lockleigh she was the one Isabel had
liked best; there was such a world of hereditary quiet in her. Isabel was sure
moreover that her mild forehead and silver cross referred to some weird Anglican
mystery--some delightful reinstitution perhaps of the quaint office of the
canoness. She wondered what Miss Molyneux would think of her if she knew
Miss Archer had refused her brother; and then she felt sure that Miss Molyneux
would never know--that Lord Warburton never told her such things. He was fond
of her and kind to her, but on the whole he told her little. Such, at least, was
Isabel's theory; when, at table, she was not occupied in conversation she was
usually occupied in forming theories about her neighbours. According to Isabel, if
Miss Molyneux should ever learn what had passed between Miss Archer and
Lord Warburton she would probably be shocked at such a girl's failure to rise; or
no, rather (this was our heroine's last position) she would impute to the young
American but a due consciousness of inequality.
Whatever Isabel might have made of her opportunities, at all events, Henrietta
Stackpole was by no means disposed to neglect those in which she now found