The Portrait of a Lady HTML version

Chapter 41
Osmond touched on this matter that evening for the first time; coming very late into the
drawing-room, where she was sitting alone. They had spent the evening at home, and
Pansy had gone to bed; he himself had been sitting since dinner in a small apartment in
which he had arranged his books and which he called his study. At ten o'clock Lord
Warburton had come in, as he always did when he knew from Isabel that she was to be at
home; he was going somewhere else and he sat for half an hour. Isabel, after asking him
for news of Ralph, said very little to him, on purpose; she wished him to talk with her
stepdaughter. She pretended to read; she even went after a little to the piano; she asked
herself if she mightn't leave the room. She had come little by little to think well of the
idea of Pansy's becoming the wife of the master of beautiful Lockleigh, though at first it
had not presented itself in a manner to excite her enthusiasm. Madame Merle, that
afternoon, had applied the match to an accumulation of inflammable material. When
Isabel was unhappy she always looked about her--partly from impulse and partly by
theory--for some form of positive exertion. She could never rid herself of the sense that
unhappiness was a state of disease--of suffering as opposed to doing. To "do"--it hardly
mattered what--would therefore be an escape, perhaps in some degree a remedy. Besides,
she wished to convince herself that she had done everything possible to content her
husband; she was determined not to be haunted by visions of his wife's limpness under
appeal. It would please him greatly to see Pansy married to an English nobleman, and
justly please him, since this nobleman was so sound a character. It seemed to Isabel that
if she could make it her duty to bring about such an event she should play the part of a
good wife. She wanted to be that; she wanted to be able to believe sincerely, and with
proof of it, that she had been that. Then such an undertaking had other recommendations.
It would occupy her, and she desired occupation. It would even amuse her, and if she
could really amuse herself she perhaps might be saved. Lastly, it would be a service to
Lord Warburton, who evidently pleased himself greatly with the charming girl. It was a
little "weird" he should--being what he was; but there was no accounting for such
impressions. Pansy might captivate any one--any one at least but Lord Warburton. Isabel
would have thought her too small, too slight, perhaps even too artificial for that. There
was always a little of the doll about her, and that was not what he had been looking for.
Still, who could say what men ever were looking for? They looked for what they found;
they knew what pleased them only when they saw it. No theory was valid in such matters,
and nothing was more unaccountable or more natural than anything else. If he had cared
for HER it might seem odd he should care for Pansy, who was so different; but he had
not cared for her so much as he had supposed. Or if he had, he had completely got over it,
and it was natural that, as that affair had failed, he should think something of quite
another sort might succeed. Enthusiasm, as I say, had not come at first to Isabel, but it
came to-day and made her feel almost happy. It was astonishing what happiness she
could still find in the idea of procuring a pleasure for her husband. It was a pity, however,
that Edward Rosier had crossed their path!
At this reflection the light that had suddenly gleamed upon that path lost something of its
brightness. Isabel was unfortunately as sure that Pansy thought Mr. Rosier the nicest of