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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 25

As Osmond and Isabel are chatting, Madame Merle and the Countess Gemini sit silently. Then the Countess starts up agitation, telling Madame Merle that she plans to interfere in her plan to get Isabel to marry her brother. She says she likes Isabel and wants to save her from their scheme. Madame Merle tells her she is running up against three people who have stronger wills than she does. She includes Isabel Archer in this group. She tells the Countess that she is sure that Isabel has already fallen in love with Gilbert Osmond.

Pansy comes up to them and asks if they think her father would like her to serve tea. The Countess answers ironically about not knowing Gilbert Osmondís desires and Madame Merle says she should make the tea since her father would think it was exactly the thing a young daughter of the house should do. They continue their conversation. The Countess says Gilbert Osmond wonít be a good husband. Madame Merle says he will probably be a gentleman. She says itís better that they should always act together. The Countess takes this as a threat. The countess looks at her brother and says he is a nobody. He has never done anything and there is nothing grand in his origin. Madame Merle says the Osmonds are a fine race and Gilbert has just perceived this whether or not he has had proof. She adds that Pansy is clearly a young princess. She says Gilbert Osmond is the cleverest of men. The Countess comes back to Isabel, saying it is a shame she is being sacrificed just for her money since any girl would do; they donít have to have such a superior one. Madame Merle says Gilbert Osmond wouldnít have looked at any one inferior. The Countess says that since her brother is so hard to please, she trembles for Isabelís happiness.


Notes

In stark contrast to Isabelís romantic musings of the previous chapter, this chapter gives us the jaded views of the two other women in Gilbert Osmondís life. His sister proves to be just as Ralph said she was--kinder than her brother. She recognizes the plot hatched by Madame Merle to marry Osmond to a rich young woman and she wants to find a way to stop it because she has taken a liking to Isabel. However, in the conversation itself, it is clear that she will prove ineffectual. Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond seem to be much the superiors of the Countess Gemini in accomplishing their goals.

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