Three nights after this she took Pansy to a great party, to which Osmond, who never went to dances, did not accompany them. Pansy was as ready for a dance as ever; she was not of a generalizing turn and had not extended to other pleasures the interdict she had seen placed on those of love. If she was biding her time or hoping to circumvent her father she must have had a prevision of success. Isabel thought this unlikely; it was much more likely that Pansy had simply determined to be a good girl. She had never had such a chance, and she had a proper esteem for chances. She carried herself no less attentively than usual and kept no less anxious an eye upon her vaporous skirts; she held her bouquet very tight and counted over the flowers for the twentieth time. She made Isabel feel old; it seemed so long since she had been in a flutter about a ball. Pansy, who was greatly admired, was never in want of partners, and very soon after their arrival she gave Isabel, who was not dancing, her bouquet to hold. Isabel had rendered her this service for some minutes when she became aware of the near presence of Edward Rosier. He stood before her; he had lost his affable smile and wore a look of almost military resolution. The change in his appearance would have made Isabel smile if she had not felt his case to be at bottom a hard one: he had always smelt so much more of heliotrope than of gunpowder. He looked at her a moment somewhat fiercely, as if to notify her he was dangerous, and then dropped his eyes on her bouquet. After he had inspected it his glance softened and he said quickly: Its all pansies; it must be hers!
Isabel smiled kindly. Yes, its hers; she gave it to me to hold.
May I hold it a little, Mrs Osmond? the poor young man asked.
No, I cant trust you; Im afraid you wouldnt give it back.
Im not sure that I should; I should leave the house with it instantly. But may I not at least have a single flower?
Isabel hesitated a moment, and then, smiling still, held out the bouquet. Choose one yourself. Its frightful what Im doing for you.
Ah, if you do no more than this, Mrs Osmond! Rosier exclaimed with his glass1 in one eye, carefully choosing his flower.
Dont put it into your button-hole, she said. Dont for the world!
I should like her to see it. She has refused to dance with me, but I wish to show her that I believe in her still.
Its very well to show it to her, but its out of place to show it to others. Her father has told her not to dance with you.
And is that all you can do for me? I expected more from you, Mrs Osmond, said the young man in a tone of fine general reference. You know our acquaintance goes back very farquite into the days of our innocent childhood.
Dont make me out too old, Isabel patiently answered. You come back to that very often, and Ive never denied it. But I must tell you that, old friends as we are, if you had done me the honour to ask me to marry you I should have refused you on the spot.
Ah, you dont esteem me then. Say at once that you think me a mere Parisian trifler!
I esteem you very much, but Im not in love with you. What I mean by that, of course, is that Im not in love with you for Pansy.
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