it, for high prizes, he was as far as possible from making a merit of it. He had enjoyed the best things of life, but they had not spoiled his sense of proportion. His quality was a mixture of the effect of rich experience—oh, so easily come by!—with a modesty at times almost boyish; the sweet and wholesome savour of which—it was as agreeable as something tasted—lost nothing from the addition of a tone of responsible kindness.

‘I like your specimen English gentleman very much,’ Isabel said to Ralph after Lord Warburton had gone.

‘I like him too—I love him well,’ Ralph returned. ‘But I pity him more.’

Isabel looked at him askance. ‘Why, that seems to me his only fault—that one can’t pity him a little. He appears to have everything, to know everything, to be everything.’

‘Oh, he’s in a bad way!’ Ralph insisted.

‘I suppose you don’t mean in health?’

‘No, as to that he’s detestably sound. What I mean is that he’s a man with a great position who’s playing all sorts of tricks with it. He doesn’t take himself seriously.’

‘Does he regard himself as a joke?’

‘Much worse; he regards himself as an imposition—as an abuse.’

‘Well, perhaps he is,’ said Isabel.

‘Perhaps he is—though on the whole I don’t think so. But in that case what’s more pitiable than a sentient, self-conscious abuse planted by other hands, deeply rooted but aching with a sense of its injustice? For me, in his place, I could be as solemn as a statue of Buddha. He occupies a position that appeals to my imagination. Great responsibilities, great opportunities, great consideration, great wealth, great power, a natural share in the public affairs of a great country.2 But he’s all in a muddle about himself, his position, his power, and indeed about everything in the world. He’s the victim of a critical age; he has ceased to believe in himself and he doesn’t know what to believe in. When I attempt to tell him (because if I were he I know very well what I should believe in) he calls me a pampered bigot. I believe he seriously thinks me an awful Philistine; he says I don’t understand my time. I understand it certainly better than he, who can neither abolish himself as a nuisance nor maintain himself as an institution.’

‘He doesn’t look very wretched,’ Isabel observed.

‘Possibly not; though, being a man of a good deal of charming taste, I think he often has uncomfortable hours. But what is to say of a being of his opportunities that he’s not miserable? Besides, I believe he is.’

‘I don’t,’ said Isabel.

‘Well,’ her cousin rejoined, ‘if he isn’t he ought to be!’

In the afternoon she spent an hour with her uncle on the lawn, where the old man sat, as usual, with his shawl over his legs and his large cup of diluted tea in his hands. In the course of conversation he asked her what she thought of their late visitor.

Isabel was prompt. ‘I think he’s charming.’

‘He’s a nice person,’ said Mr Touchett, ‘but I don’t recommend you to fall in love with him.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.