‘I don’t see why I should tell you anything; as I said to you just now, I can’t trust you. But since you’re so much interested in Mr Goodwood I won’t conceal from you that he returns immediately to America.’

‘You don’t mean to say you’ve sent him off?’ Henrietta almost shrieked.

‘I asked him to leave me alone; and I ask you the same, Henrietta.’ Miss Stackpole glittered for an instant with dismay, and then passed to the mirror over the chimney-piece and took off her bonnet.1 ‘I hope you’ve enjoyed your dinner,’ Isabel went on.

But her companion was not to be diverted by frivolous propositions. ‘Do you know where you’re going, Isabel Archer?’

‘Just now I’m going to bed,’ said Isabel with persistent frivolity.

‘Do you know where you’re drifting?’ Henrietta pursued, holding out her bonnet delicately.

‘No, I haven’t the least idea, and I find it very pleasant not to know. A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four horses over roads that one can’t see—that’s my idea of happiness.’

‘Mr Goodwood certainly didn’t teach you to say such things as that—like the heroine of an immoral novel,’ said Miss Stackpole. ‘You’re drifting to some great mistake.’

Isabel was irritated by her friend’s interference, yet she still tried to think what truth this declaration could represent. She could think of nothing that diverted her from saying: ‘You must be very fond of me, Henrietta, to be willing to be so aggressive.’

‘I love you intensely, Isabel,’ said Miss Stackpole with feeling.

‘Well, if you love me intensely let me as intensely alone. I asked that of Mr Goodwood, and I must also ask it of you.’

‘Take care you’re not let alone too much.’

‘That’s what Mr Goodwood said to me. I told him I must take the risks.’

‘You’re a creature of risks—you make me shudder!’ cried Henrietta. ‘When does Mr Goodwood return to America?’

‘I don’t know—he didn’t tell me.’

‘Perhaps you didn’t enquire,’ said Henrietta with the note of righteous irony.

‘I gave him too little satisfaction to have the right to ask questions of him.’

This assertion seemed to Miss Stackpole for a moment to bid defiance to comment; but at last she exclaimed: ‘Well, Isabel, if I didn’t know you I might think you were heartless!’

‘Take care,’ said Isabel; ‘you’re spoiling me.’

‘I’m afraid I’ve done that already. I hope, at least,’ Miss Stackpole added, ‘that he may cross with Annie Climber!’

Isabel learned from her the next morning that she had determined not to return to Gardencourt (where old Mr Touchett had promised her a renewed welcome), but to await in London the arrival of the invitation that Mr Bantling had promised her from his sister Lady Pensil. Miss Stackpole related very freely her conversation with Ralph Touchett’s sociable friend and declared to Isabel that she really believed she

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