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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 48

At the end of February, Ralph Touchett decides to leave for England. Henrietta Stackpole insists on going with him to care for him on the journey. Ralph is surprised at how pleased he is with this idea. He decides he will be "gratefully, luxuriously passive." Caspar Goodwood also comes to see him and tells him he plans to accompany him as well and that he is doing so at Isabelís request. Caspar adds that Isabel wants him out of Rome because he bores her and because he has obviously been watching her to see if sheís as happy as she pretends to be.

Henrietta sees the Countess Gemini one last time. It is a maddening conversation since the Countess insists on believing that Isabel had Lord Warburton around as her own lover and that she used Pansy as a cover for this. Henrietta Stackpole repeatedly corrects her in this assumption, but the Countess is unmoved.

Henrietta also visits Isabel and tells her of her plans to accompany Ralph. Isabel is very happy to hear this and says she wants to be alone. She says she will be left with people who are "part of the comedy." Henrietta, Ralph, and Caspar are spectators. She adds that their looking at her makes her uncomfortable. Henrietta asks Isabel to promise her that she will leave Osmond before the worst comes. Isabel says she will never make another promise since she has failed so miserably in her marriage vows.


Isabel sees Ralph for the last time. She tells him she feels bad that she isnít also accompanying him to England. He knows she isnít because Osmond would not like it. She says she is not coming with him so as to avoid a conflict with Osmond. She tells him sheís afraid of herself. They change the topic to the brighter subject of Henrietta as his caretaker. Then she tells him he has been her best friend. He says that it was for her that he wanted to live, but he is of no use to her. She realizes she will never see him again. She tells him that if he sends for her she will come. He objects that her husband wonít consent to it. She says she would arrange it.

That evening, Caspar Goodwood comes to her home to say good- bye. Gilbert Osmond greets him when he arrives and detains him with talk. Gilbert is in a rare high mood. He speaks the whole time with "we" instead of "I," saying that he and Isabel are so close that they can speak for each other. He tells Caspar that he likes him so much because he helps Osmond become reconciled to the future. He says Goodwood signifies the future for him. Until this point he has thought it horribly vulgar. Goodwood understands little of what Osmond is saying, but he senses that Osmond is being perverse with him. Until now, he has thought of Osmond as a "brilliant personage of the amateurish kind, afflicted with a redundancy of leisure which it amused him to work off in little refinements of conversation."

Finally, Osmond leaves and Caspar continues to hang around waiting to get a chance to speak to Isabel alone. He realizes that "there are some disappointments that last as long as life." He realizes that Osmond has a sort of "demonic imagination." Finally, he gets Isabel to go with him to another room to speak privately. He can see that she is a little afraid of what heíll say. He finally asks her what she has made of her life. He says heís frustrated because he "canít penetrate" her hard surface. He says sheís completely changed since she conceals everything. He goes on and on, sometimes almost incoherently, about how inscrutable she is, how confusing it is to her Osmond talk as if they were blissfully happy, saying he knows itís none of his business, saying he loves her. Finally he says he wants one satisfaction from her. He wants to know from her if he may pity her. He says, "That at least would be doing something. Iíd give my life to it." Isabel raises her fan to her face so it covers all but her eyes and says, "Donít give your life to it; but give a thought to it every now and then." Then she goes to say good-bye to her remaining guests.

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