for the time as a presence. That effect had never been so marked as now. ‘I think you accuse me of something very base,’ she returned.

‘I accuse you of not being trustworthy. If he doesn’t after all come forward it will be because you’ve kept him off. I don’t know that it’s base: it is the kind of thing a woman always thinks she may do. I’ve no doubt you’ve the finest ideas about it.’

‘I told you I would do what I could,’ she went on.

‘Yes, that gained you time.’

It came over her, after he had said this, that she had once thought him beautiful. ‘How much you must want to make sure of him!’ she exclaimed in a moment.

She had no sooner spoken than she perceived the full reach of her words, of which she had not been conscious in uttering them. They made a comparison between Osmond and herself, recalled the fact that she had once held this coveted treasure in her hand and felt herself rich enough to let it fall. A momentary exultation took possession of her—a horrible delight in having wounded him; for his face instantly told her that none of the force of her exclamation was lost. He expressed nothing otherwise, however; he only said quickly: ‘Yes, I want it immensely.’

At this moment a servant came in to usher a visitor, and he was followed the next by Lord Warburton, who received a visible check on seeing Osmond. He looked rapidly from the master of the house to the mistress; a movement that seemed to denote a reluctance to interrupt or even a perception of ominous conditions. Then he advanced, with his English address, in which a vague shyness seemed to offer itself as an element of good-breeding; in which the only defect was a difficulty in achieving transitions. Osmond was embarrassed; he found nothing to say; but Isabel remarked, promptly enough, that they had been in the act of talking about their visitor. Upon this her husband added that they hadn’t known what was become of him—they had been afraid he had gone away. ‘No,’ he explained, smiling and looking at Osmond; ‘I’m only on the point of going.’ And then he mentioned that he found himself suddenly recalled to England: he should start on the morrow or the day after. ‘I’m awfully sorry to leave poor Toughest!’ he ended by exclaiming.

For a moment neither of his companions spoke; Osmond only leaned back in his chair, listening. Isabel didn’t look at him; she could only fancy how he looked. Her eyes were on their visitor’s face, where they were the more free to rest that those of his lordship carefully avoided them. Yet Isabel was sure that had she met his glance she would have found it expressive. ‘You had better take poor Toughest with you,’ she heard her husband say, lightly enough, in a moment.

‘He had better wait for warmer weather,’ Lord Warburton answered. ‘I shouldn’t advise him to travel just now.’

He sat there a quarter of an hour, talking as if he might not soon see them again—unless indeed they should come to England, a course he strongly recommended. Why shouldn’t they come to England in the autumn?—that struck him as a very happy thought. It would give him such pleasure to do what he could for them—to have them come and spend a month with him. Osmond, by his own admission, had been to England but once; which was an absurd state of things for a man of his leisure and intelligence. It was just the country for him—he would be sure to get on well there. Then Lord Warburton asked Isabel if she remembered what a good time she had had there and if she didn’t want to try it again. Didn’t she want to see Gardencourt once more? Gardencourt was really very good. Touchett didn’t take proper care of it, but it was the sort of place you could hardly spoil by letting it alone. Why didn’t they come and pay Touchett a visit? He surely must have asked them. Hadn’t asked them? What an ill-mannered wretch!—and Lord Warburton promised to give the master of Gardencourt a piece of his mind. Of course it was a mere accident; he would be delighted to have them. Spending a month with Touchett and a month with himself, and seeing all the rest of the people they must know there, they

  By PanEris using Melati.

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