The Portrait of a Lady HTML version

Chapter 29
Ralph Touchett, in talk with his excellent friend, had rather markedly qualified, as
we know, his recognition of Gilbert Osmond's personal merits; but he might really
have felt himself illiberal in the light of that gentleman's conduct during the rest of
the visit to Rome. Osmond spent a portion of each day with Isabel and her
companions, and ended by affecting them as the easiest of men to live with. Who
wouldn't have seen that he could command, as it were, both tact and gaiety?--
which perhaps was exactly why Ralph had made his old-time look of superficial
sociability a reproach to him. Even Isabel's invidious kinsman was obliged to
admit that he was just now a delightful associate. His good humour was
imperturbable, his knowledge of the right fact, his production of the right word, as
convenient as the friendly flicker of a match for your cigarette. Clearly he was
amused--as amused as a man could be who was so little ever surprised, and that
made him almost applausive. It was not that his spirits were visibly high--he
would never, in the concert of pleasure, touch the big drum by so much as a
knuckle: he had a mortal dislike to the high, ragged note, to what he called
random ravings. He thought Miss Archer sometimes of too precipitate a
readiness. It was pity she had that fault, because if she had not had it she would
really have had none; she would have been as smooth to his general need of her
as handled ivory to the palm. If he was not personally loud, however, he was
deep, and during these closing days of the Roman May he knew a complacency
that matched with slow irregular walks under the pines of the Villa Borghese,
among the small sweet meadow-flowers and the mossy marbles. He was
pleased with everything; he had never before been pleased with so many things
at once. Old impressions, old enjoyments, renewed themselves; one evening,
going home to his room at the inn, he wrote down a little sonnet to which he
prefixed the title of "Rome Revisited." A day or two later he showed this piece of
correct and ingenious verse to Isabel, explaining to her that it was an Italian
fashion to commemorate the occasions of life by a tribute to the muse.
He took his pleasures in general singly; he was too often--he would have
admitted that--too sorely aware of something wrong, something ugly; the
fertilising dew of a conceivable felicity too seldom descended on his spirit. But at
present he was happy-- happier than he had perhaps ever been in his life, and
the feeling had a large foundation. This was simply the sense of success--the
most agreeable emotion of the human heart. Osmond had never had too much of
it; in this respect he had the irritation of satiety, as he knew perfectly well and
often reminded himself. "Ah no, I've not been spoiled; certainly I've not been
spoiled," he used inwardly to repeat. "If I do succeed before I die I shall
thoroughly have earned it." He was too apt to reason as if "earning" this boon
consisted above all of covertly aching for it and might be confined to that
exercise. Absolutely void of it, also, his career had not been; he might indeed
have suggested to a spectator here and there that he was resting on vague
laurels. But his triumphs were, some of them, now too old; others had been too
easy. The present one had been less arduous than might have been expected,