The Portrait of a Lady HTML version

Chapter 16
She had had no hidden motive in wishing him not to take her home; it simply
struck her that for some days past she had consumed an inordinate quantity of
his time, and the independent spirit of the American girl whom extravagance of
aid places in an attitude that she ends by finding "affected" had made her decide
that for these few hours she must suffice to herself. She had moreover a great
fondness for intervals of solitude, which since her arrival in England had been but
meagrely met. It was a luxury she could always command at home and she had
wittingly missed it. That evening, however, an incident occurred which--had there
been a critic to note it--would have taken all colour from the theory that the wish
to be quite by herself had caused her to dispense with her cousin's attendance.
Seated toward nine o'clock in the dim illumination of Pratt's Hotel and trying with
the aid of two tall candles to lose herself in a volume she had brought from
Gardencourt, she succeeded only to the extent of reading other words than those
printed on the page--words that Ralph had spoken to her that afternoon.
Suddenly the well-muffed knuckle of the waiter was applied to the door, which
presently gave way to his exhibition, even as a glorious trophy, of the card of a
visitor. When this memento had offered to her fixed sight the name of Mr. Caspar
Goodwood she let the man stand before her without signifying her wishes.
"Shall I show the gentleman up, ma'am?" he asked with a slightly encouraging
Isabel hesitated still and while she hesitated glanced at the mirror. "He may come
in," she said at last; and waited for him not so much smoothing her hair as girding
her spirit.
Caspar Goodwood was accordingly the next moment shaking hands with her, but
saying nothing till the servant had left the room. "Why didn't you answer my
letter?" he then asked in a quick, full, slightly peremptory tone--the tone of a man
whose questions were habitually pointed and who was capable of much
She answered by a ready question, "How did you know I was here?"
"Miss Stackpole let me know," said Caspar Goodwood. "She told me you would
probably be at home alone this evening and would be willing to see me."
"Where did she see you--to tell you that?"
"She didn't see me; she wrote to me."
Isabel was silent; neither had sat down; they stood there with an air of defiance,
or at least of contention. "Henrietta never told me she was writing to you," she
said at last. "This is not kind of her."
"Is it so disagreeable to you to see me?" asked the young man.
"I didn't expect it. I don't like such surprises."
"But you knew I was in town; it was natural we should meet."
"Do you call this meeting? I hoped I shouldn't see you. In so big a place as
London it seemed very possible."
"It was apparently repugnant to you even to write to me," her visitor went on.