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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 45

Isabel goes to see Ralph the next day. She is very worried lately about Gilbertís opposition to her seeing so much of Ralph. She sees as much of him as she can without causing Gilbert to forbid it. She knows Gilbert wants her away from Ralph because "he wished her to have no freedom of mind, and he knew perfectly well that Ralph was an apostle of freedom." Isabel wants very much to avoid an open rift with Gilbert. She believes in the sanctity of marriage and doesnít want to be forced to choose between abandoning the dying Ralph and betraying her promise.

At Ralphís she tells him right away that she wants to ask him something. He guesses what she wants to know and tells her it is true that Lord Warburton is in love. Then after some questioning, he reveals that he doesnít mean Warburton is in love with Pansy, but with Isabel. Ralph takes it all lightly and suddenly Isabel bursts out with "Ah, Ralph, you give me no help!" Itís the first time sheís asked for help and he feels as thought the gap between them suddenly disappeared. He says, "How unhappy you must be!" She acts like she didnít hear him. Isabel returns to the subject at hand and says she imagines that Lord Warburton will just let the matter of Pansy drop and, since he hasnít said anything to Pansy about his plans of marrying her, he can just leave with honor in tact. Ralph half listens to her. He wants her to tell him of her difficult marriage and wishes very much to let her know that he is quite aware of the very difficult position she is in with Osmond in terms of these marriage proposals. He finally tells her that Osmond will treat this news of Warburtonís withdrawal as her doing, and he will accuse her of putting an end to it out of jealousy. She blushes intensely and tells him heís not kind. He tells her to be frank with him and she will see. Instead she prepares to leave.

She goes straight home and to Pansyís room. She finds the task before her very distasteful and very perilous, but she wants to get it over with. She finds Pansy waiting for dinner. Pansy begs her for advice. Isabel says she should obey her father completely in everything. Pansy tells Isbel that the only thing in life she wants is to marry Edward Rosier. She says she wonít go against her father's wishes and will instead remain single. Isabel implies that Osmond doesnít want this but wants her instead to marry someone else. Isabel intimates that Osmond wants her to marry Warburton. Pansy is happy about his because she says there is no danger that Warburton will ask her to marry him. She doesnít want to tell her father this because Warburtonís presence will block another candidate from coming in to woo her.

Isabel is amazed at how clear thinking Pansy is. She returns to the thought that she must be loyal to Osmond no matter what. She tells Pansy that her father will insist that she marry an nobleman. Pansy answers that to her Rosier looks noble.


Notes

Isabelís interviews with Ralph and Pansy indicate that, though she is preparing the ground, she doesnít plan to break with Gilbert in going against his wishes. She seems naive in her attempt to act according to her conscience at the same time that she tries to follow Gilbertís plan to marry Pansy to his choice of a husbands even if itís against her will.

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