Chapter 33

Her fit of weeping, however, was soon smothered, and the signs of it had vanished when, an hour later, she broke the news to her aunt. I use this expression because she had been sure Mrs Touchett would not be pleased; Isabel had only waited to tell her till she had seen Mr Goodwood. She had an odd impression that it would not be honourable to make the fact public before she should have heard what Mr Goodwood would say about it. He had said rather less than she expected, and she now had a somewhat angry sense of having lost time. But she would lose no more; she waited till Mrs Touchett came into the drawing- room before the mid-day breakfast, and then she began. ‘Aunt Lydia, I’ve something to tell you.’

Mrs Touchett gave a little jump and looked at her almost fiercely. ‘You needn’t tell me; I know what it is.’

‘I don’t know how you know.’

‘The same way that I know when the window’s open—by feeling a draught. You’re going to marry that man.’

‘What man do you mean?’ Isabel enquired with great dignity.

‘Madame Merle’s friend—Mr Osmond.’

‘I don’t know why you call him Madame Merle’s friend. Is that the principal thing he’s known by?’

‘If he’s not her friend he ought to be—after what she has done for him!’ cried Mrs Touchett. ‘I shouldn’t have expected it of her; I’m disappointed.’

‘If you mean that Madame Merle has had anything to do with my engagement you’re greatly mistaken,’ Isabel declared with a sort of ardent coldness.

‘You mean that your attractions were sufficient, without the gentleman’s having had to be lashed up? You’re quite right. They’re immense, your attractions, and he would never have presumed to think of you if she hadn’t put him up to it. He has a very good opinion of himself, but he was not a man to take trouble. Madame Merle took the trouble for him.’

‘He has taken a great deal for himself!’ cried Isabel with a voluntary laugh.

Mrs Touchett gave a sharp nod. ‘I think he must, after all, to have made you like him so much.’

‘I thought he even pleased you.’

‘He did, at one time; and that’s why I’m angry with him.’

‘Be angry with me, not with him,’ said the girl.

‘Oh, I’m always angry with you; that’s no satisfaction! Was it for this that you refused Lord Warburton?’

‘Please don’t go back to that. Why shouldn’t I like Mr Osmond, since others have done so?’

‘Others, at their wildest moments, never wanted to marry him. There’s nothing of him,’ Mrs Touchett explained.

‘Then he can’t hurt me,’ said Isabel.

‘Do you think you’re going to be happy? No one’s happy, in such doings, you should know.’

‘I shall set the fashion then. What does one marry for?’

‘What you will marry for, heaven only knows. People usually marry as they go into partnership—to set up a house. But in your partnership you’ll bring everything.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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