‘Is it that Mr Osmond isn’t rich? Is that what you’re talking about?’ Isabel asked.

‘He has no money; he has no name; he has no importance. I value such things and I have the courage to say it; I think they’re very precious. Many other people think the same, and they show it. But they give some other reason.’

Isabel hesitated a little. ‘I think I value everything that’s valuable. I care very much for money, and that’s why I wish Mr Osmond to have a little.’

‘Give it to him then; but marry some one else.’

‘His name’s good enough for me,’ the girl went on. ‘It’s a very pretty name. Have I such a fine one myself?’

‘All the more reason you should improve on it. There are only a dozen American names. Do you marry him out of charity?’

‘It was my duty to tell you, Aunt Lydia, but I don’t think it’s my duty to explain to you. Even if it were I shouldn’t be able. So please don’t remonstrate; in talking about it you have me at a disadvantage. I can’t talk about it.’

‘I don’t remonstrate, I simply answer you: I must give some sign of intelligence. I saw it coming, and I said nothing. I never meddle.’

‘You never do, and I’m greatly obliged to you. You’ve been very considerate.’

‘It was not considerate—it was convenient,’ said Mrs Touchett. ‘But I shall talk to Madame Merle.’

‘I don’t see why you keep bringing her in. She has been a very good friend to me.’

‘Possibly; but she has been a poor one to me.’

‘What has she done to you?’

‘She has deceived me. She had as good as promised me to prevent your engagement.’

‘She couldn’t have prevented it.’

‘She can do anything; that’s what I’ve always liked her for. I knew she could play any part; but I understood that she played them one by one. I didn’t understand that she would play two at the same time.’

‘I don’t know what part she may have played to you,’ Isabel said; ‘that’s between yourselves. To me she has been honest and kind and devoted.’

‘Devoted, of course; she wished you to marry her candidate. She told me she was watching you only in order to interpose.’

‘She said that to please you,’ the girl answered; conscious, however, of the inadequacy of the explanation.

‘To please me by deceiving me? She knows me better. Am I pleased today?’

‘I don’t think you’re ever much pleased,’ Isabel was obliged to reply. ‘If Madame Merle knew you would learn the truth what had she to gain by insincerity?’

‘She gained time, as you see. While I waited for her to interfere you were marching away, and she was really beating the drum.’

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