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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 9

The two Misses Molyneux, Lord Warburtonís sisters, come to see Isabel at Gardencourt. She finds them very sweet and is interested to see that they are not at all "morbid," a trait she has found to her distaste in some of her American friends and which she worries is present in her own nature. When she speaks of them to Ralph, he laughs at the idea of Isabel being so attracted to such a staid and simple life as that which the sisters live.

A few days later, Isabel, Mrs. Touchett, and Ralph visit Lockleigh. Isabel talks to the sisters and tries to bring out their ideas by asking provocative questions. They take their brotherís ideas very seriously and say that "one ought to be liberal" and that it is how the family has been for many years. Isabel also meets the Vicar and finds him likable, but she canít imagine going to him for spiritual help.

As they tour the grounds, Lord Warburton takes the chance to stroll alone with Isabel. He asks her if she will let him come to see her often. She tells him she is "quite in [her] auntís hands" and must follow what her aunt decides for her, but that she would like to see more of him. At one point, she realizes he is getting too serious, and she lightly rebuffs him. He tells her he never feels safe with her since she always seems to be "summing people up." She tells him she plans to go abroad with her aunt. He tells her he suspects her somehow of having mysterious plans. She replies that she is just like all the other Americans who hope to improve their minds with foreign travel. Lord Warburton tells her he gets the idea that she despises the English or, at least, that she finds them quaint. She realizes that he is again seeming to be on the verge of "turning romantic," and wonders if he will make a scene here, but he recovers his light tone and they return to the others.


Notes

The situation of Lockleigh, the site of English aristocracy in the novel, is best summed up in the attitude Isabel finds so attractive in the Misses Molyneux: "itís lovely to be so quiet and reasonable and satisfied." Isabel adds that she would like to be like this, but when she is approached by Lord Warburton, who seems to have fallen for her in the short time theyíve known each other, she pulls back and keeps him at an armís distance. It seems that Lord Warburton will be the first of Isabelís serious choices to make in Europe and that she will decline the offer. At this stage, however, the reader is given only the beginnings of this potential romance.

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