As Isabel looked at him it seemed to her that his jaw had never been more square. This might have displeased her, but she took a different turn. ‘No, it’s not your fault so much as hers. What you’ve done was inevitable, I suppose, for you.’

‘It was indeed!’ cried Caspar Goodwood with a voluntary laugh. ‘And now that I’ve come, at any rate, mayn’t I stay?’

‘You may sit down, certainly.’

She went back to her chair again, while her visitor took the first place that offered, in the manner of a man accustomed to pay little thought to that sort of furtherance. ‘I’ve been hoping every day for an answer to my letter. You might have written me a few lines.’

‘It wasn’t the trouble of writing that prevented me; I could as easily have written you four pages as one. But my silence was an intention,’ Isabel said. ‘I thought it the best thing.’

He sat with his eyes fixed on hers while she spoke; then he lowered them and attached them to a spot in the carpet as if he were making a strong effort to say nothing but what he ought. He was a strong man in the wrong, and he was acute enough to see that an uncompromising exhibition of his strength would only throw the falsity of his position into relief. Isabel was not incapable of tasting any advantage of position over a person of this quality, and though little desirous to flaunt it in his face she could enjoy being able to say ‘You know you oughtn’t to have written to me yourself!’ and to say it with an air of triumph.

Caspar Goodwood raised his eyes to her own again; they seemed to shine through the vizard1 of a helmet. He had a strong sense of justice and was ready any day in the year—over and above this—to argue the question of his rights. ‘You said you hoped never to hear from me again; I know that. But I never accepted any such rule as my own. I warned you that you should hear very soon.’

‘I didn’t say I hoped never to hear from you,’ said Isabel.

‘Not for five years then; for ten years; twenty years. It’s the same thing.’

‘Do you find it so? It seems to me there’s a great difference. I can imagine that at the end of ten years we might have a very pleasant correspondence. I shall have matured my epistolary style.’

She looked away while she spoke these words, knowing them of so much less earnest a cast than the countenance of her listener. Her eyes, however, at last came back to him, just as he said very irrelevantly: ‘Are you enjoying your visit to your uncle?’

‘Very much indeed.’ She dropped, but then she broke out. ‘What good do you expect to get by insisting?’

‘The good of not losing you.’

‘You’ve no right to talk of losing what’s not yours. And even from your own point of view,’ Isabel added, ‘you ought to know when to let one alone.’

‘I disgust you very much,’ said Caspar Goodwood gloomily; not as if to provoke her to compassion for a man conscious of this blighting fact, but as if to set it well before himself, so that he might endeavour to act with his eyes on it.

‘Yes, you don’t at all delight me, you don’t fit in, not in any way, just now, and the worst is that your putting it to the proof in this manner is quite unnecessary.’ It wasn’t certainly as if his nature had been soft, so that pin-pricks would draw blood from it; and from the first of her acquaintance with him, and of her having to defend herself against a certain air that he had of knowing better what was good for her than she knew herself, she had recognized the fact that perfect frankness was her best weapon. To attempt

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