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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 38

Edward Rosier goes to see Madame Merle the next day and is surprised that she doesn’t scold him for going against her advice. She tells him to be very patient and to visit Pansy only on Thursday evenings when everyone else does. He agrees. The next Thursday he enters the Osmonds and greets Mr. Osmond who tells him he is glad to see he can take a hint. He adds that he sets a "great price on [his] daughter." He tells Edward that Pansy never gave him her pledge of love and that she will not marry him.

Lord Warburton enters and greets Mr. Osmond who chats with him. Meanwhile, Rosier goes to speak briefly to Isabel who tells him Pansy has not given up on him as Mr. Osmond has asserted. He notices Isabel change color and sees that Mr. Osmond is approaching with Lord Warburton. They greet each other warmly and after a brief time of conversation, Osmond leaves them to talk alone. Warburton tells Isabel she has changed a bit since he last saw her in Rome. She says she’s changed a good deal. He says he has come to Rome with Ralph Touchett who is in a very bad way and has decided unaccountably to spend the winter in Catania, Sicily against the advice of all the medical authorities. Ralph wanted to stop in Rome on the way. Isabel is alarmed but Warburton tells her she should go see Ralph in the morning, that when he left him that night, Ralph had said he was happy.

Isabel tells Warburton she has heard that he has been doing good things with his reform plans. He tells her he keeps up a constant debate with Ralph, who is a conservative. She sees that he is contented with his life and realizes he has had the luxury of a man to plunge himself into his work. He asks her if she’s happy and she says she is very happy after asking him if he really thinks she would tell him if she weren’t. He compliments her on her house and she says it’s all Osmond’s doing. She says, "I’ve no ideas. I can never propose anything." Isabel wants to introduce him to some of her guests and he says he only wants to speak to her. Then he notices Pansy and says he wouldn’t mind meeting her. Isabel tells him who Pansy is. Warburton tells Isabel she hasn’t changed after all. Isabel says marriage has changed her a great deal. Warburton says he does wish to marry.

Meanwhile, Edward Rosier is speaking to Pansy who is busy pouring tea. She assures him that she hasn’t forgotten him as her father said she had. She says she won’t give him up, but that she’ll appeal to Mrs. Osmond for help. He says Mrs. Osmond can do nothing since she’s afraid of Mr. Osmond, and Pansy says Mrs. Osmond isn’t afraid of anyone.


Notes

The character of Pansy is given a bit more fullness in this chapter. Hitherto she has seemed almost vacant. Here, she seems almost vacant as well, but she does say some fairly surprising things. She seems to have a plan to get to marry the man she loves and she plans to use Isabel as an ally.

Here, Isabel is finally given more than just a few lines. James has made a very gradual approach to describing Isabel in her present state in the last few chapters. Here, she speaks to Lord Warburton and seems more of her old self, caring for Ralph and hoping for good things for her old friend Lord Warburton.

With the entry of Lord Warburton just at the moment when Gilbert Osmond is fending off Edward Rosier, the suitor with insufficient income for his daughter, it seems clear that James is setting up a new plot complication. Gilbert Osmond will likely set his sights on Lord Warburton for his daughter.

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