and then angry for being angry. Verdi’s music did little to comfort him, and he left the theatre and walked homeward, without knowing his way, through the tortuous, tragic streets of Rome, where heavier sorrows than his had been carried under the stars.

‘What’s the character of that gentleman?’ Osmond asked of Isabel after he had retired.

‘Irreproachable—don’t you see it?’

‘He owns about half England; that’s his character,’ Henrietta remarked. ‘That’s what they call a free country!’

‘Ah, he’s a great proprietor? Happy man!’ said Gilbert Osmond.

‘Do you call that happiness—the ownership of wretched human beings?’ cried Miss Stackpole. ‘He owns his tenants and has thousands of them. It’s pleasant to own something, but inanimate objects are enough for me. I don’t insist on flesh and blood and minds and consciences.’

‘It seems to me you own a human being or two,’ Mr Bantling suggested jocosely. ‘I wonder if Warburton orders his tenants about as you do me.’

‘Lord Warburton’s a great radical,’ Isabel said. ‘He has very advanced opinions.’

‘He has very advanced stone walls. His park’s enclosed by a gigantic iron fence, some thirty miles round,’ Henrietta announced for the information of Mr Osmond. ‘I should like him to converse with a few of our Boston radicals.’

‘Don’t they approve of iron fences?’ asked Mr Bantling.

‘Only to shut up wicked conservatives. I always feel as if I were talking to you over something with a neat top-finish of broken glass.’

‘Do you know him well, this unreformed reformer?’ Osmond went on, questioning Isabel.

‘Well enough for all the use I have for him.’

‘And how much of a use is that?’

‘Well, I like to like him.’

“‘Liking to like”—why, it makes a passion!’ said Osmond.

‘No’—she considered—‘keep that for liking to dislike.’

‘Do you wish to provoke me then,’ Osmond laughed, ‘to a passion for him?’

She said nothing for a moment, but then met the light question with a disproportionate gravity. ‘No, Mr Osmond; I don’t think I should ever dare to provoke you. Lord Warburton, at any rate,’ she more easily added, ‘is a very nice man.’

‘Of great ability?’ her friend enquired.

‘Of excellent ability, and as good as he looks.’

‘As good as he’s good-looking do you mean? He’s very good-looking. How detestably fortunate!—to be a great English magnate, to be clever and handsome into the bargain, and, by way of finishing off, to enjoy your high favour! That’s a man I could envy.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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