If youve not good servants youre miserable, Mrs Touchett serenely said. Theyre very bad in America, but Ive five perfect ones in Florence.
I dont see what you want with five, Henrietta couldnt help observing. I dont think I should like to see five persons surrounding me in that menial position.
I like them in that position better than in some others, proclaimed Mrs Touchett with much meaning.
Should you like me better if I were your butler, dear? her husband asked.
I dont think I should: you wouldnt at all have the tenue.1
The companions of freemenI like that, Miss Stackpole, said Ralph. Its a beautiful description.
When I said freemen I didnt mean you, sir!
And this was the only reward that Ralph got for his compliment. Miss Stackpole was baffled; she evidently thought there was something treasonable in Mrs Touchetts appreciation of a class which she privately judged to be a mysterious survival of feudalism. It was perhaps because her mind was oppressed with this image that she suffered some days to elapse before she took occasion to say to Isabel: My dear friend, I wonder if youre growing faithless.
Faithless? Faithless to you, Henrietta?
No, that would be a great pain; but its not that.
Faithless to my country then?
Ah, that I hope will never be. When I wrote to you from Liverpool I said I had something particular to tell you. Youve never asked me what it is. Is it because youve suspected?
Suspected what? As a rule I dont think I suspect, said Isabel. I remember now that phrase in your letter, but I confess I had forgotten it. What have you to tell me?
Henrietta looked disappointed, and her steady gaze betrayed it. You dont ask that rightas if you thought it important. Youre changedyoure thinking of other things.
Tell me what you mean, and Ill think of that.
Will you really think of it? Thats what I wish to be sure of.
Ive not much control of my thoughts, but Ill do my best, said Isabel. Henrietta gazed at her, in silence, for a period which tried Isabels patience, so that our heroine added at last: Do you mean that youre going to be married?
Not till Ive seen Europe! said Miss Stackpole. What are you laughing at? she went on. What I mean is that Mr Goodwood came out in the steamer with me.
Ah! Isabel responded.
You say that right. I had a good deal of talk with him; he has come after you.
Did he tell you so?
No, he told me nothing; thats how I knew it, said Henrietta cleverly. He said very little about you, but I spoke of you a good deal.
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