‘Granting that, she’s kind,’ smiled Ralph.

‘To get people to go with you? Yes, that’s a sort of kindness,’ Goodwood answered without lending himself to the joke. ‘For myself, however,’ he added, ‘I’ll go so far as to say that I would much rather travel with you and Miss Stackpole than with Miss Stackpole alone.’

‘And you’d rather stay here than do either,’ said Ralph. ‘There’s really no need of your coming. Henrietta’s extraordinarily efficient.’

‘I’m sure of that. But I’ve promised Mrs Osmond.’

‘You can easily get her to let you off.’

‘She wouldn’t let me off for the world. She wants me to look after you, but that isn’t the principal thing. The principal thing is that she wants me to leave Rome.’

‘Ah, you see too much in it,’ Ralph suggested.

‘I bore her,’ Goodwood went on; ‘she has nothing to say to me, so she invented that.’

‘Oh then, if it’s a convenience to her I certainly will take you with me. Though I don’t see why it should be a convenience,’ Ralph added in a moment.

‘Well,’ said Caspar Goodwood simply, ‘she thinks I’m watching her.’

‘Watching her?’

‘Trying to make out if she’s happy.’

‘That’s easy to make out,’ said Ralph. ‘She’s the most visibly happy woman I know.’

‘Exactly so; I’m satisfied,’ Goodwood answered dryly. For all his dryness, however, he had more to say. ‘I’ve been watching her; I was an old friend and it seemed to me I had the right. She pretends to be happy; that was what she undertook to be; and I thought I should like to see for myself what it amounts to. I’ve seen,’ he continued with a harsh ring in his voice, ‘and I don’t want to see any more. I’m now quite ready to go.’

‘Do you know it strikes me as about time you should?’ Ralph rejoined. And this was the only conversation these gentlemen had about Isabel Osmond.

Henrietta made her preparations for departure, and among them she found it proper to say a few words to the Countess Gemini, who returned at Miss Stackpole’s pension the visit which this lady had paid her in Florence.

‘You were very wrong about Lord Warburton,’ she remarked to the Countess. ‘I think it right you should know that.’

‘About his making love to Isabel? My poor lady, he was at her house three times a day. He has left traces of his passage!’ the Countess cried.

‘He wished to marry your niece; that’s why he came to the house.’

The Countess stared, and then with an inconsiderate laugh: ‘Is that the story that Isabel tells? It isn’t bad, as such things go. If he wishes to marry my niece, pray why doesn’t he do it? Perhaps he has gone to buy the wedding-ring and will come back with it next month, after I’m gone.’

‘No, he’ll not come back. Miss Osmond doesn’t wish to marry him.’

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