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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 55

Isabel remembers that when she first came to Gardencourt, she asked Ralph to show her its ghost. He had told her that she would have to suffer before she could see the ghost. On this night, she finally sees it. She has been in bed, half asleep, but fully clothed, because she’s expected Ralph to die during the night. Suddenly, she wakes to see that Ralph is standing beside her bed with his kind face. She rushes to his room and finds that he has died. Lydia Touchett says, "Go and thank God you’ve no child."

At the funeral, she is surprised to see Caspar Goodwood. He seems to have some "complex intention" in being there and it makes Isabel uneasy. She spends the next days wandering around Gardencourt worrying over what to do about returning to Rome. She tires to postpone dealing with it, closing her eyes and trying not to think. Mrs. Touchett tells her about Ralph’s behest. He has given his money all away, some to charitable institutions, his library to Henrietta Stackpole, his house to his mother, and nothing whatsoever to Isabel.

One day Isabel is at home when she hears that Lord Warburton has arrived to visit. She goes out to the garden, hoping to avoid him. After a while, she sees Mrs. Touchett and Lord Warburton coming out to join them. he looks very solemn and tells her he must leave soon. He invites her to come see his sisters. She congratulates him on his marriage and he blushes. Then he leaves. Mrs. Touchett has already gone inside, so Isabelle wanders around the garden longer. She comes upon the same bench that she had been sitting on six years before when she had gotten word that Caspar Goodwood was in London. At the same bench, Lord Warburton had proposed marriage to her. Just as she’s standing there, Caspar Goodwood approaches. He takes her wrist and pulls her down on the bench with him. She feels frightened at his forcefulness. He tells her he spoke with Ralph about her and Ralph asked him to help her in any way he could. He tells her he wants her to come away with him and forget about going back to her hellish existence in Rome. Then he kisses her with great passion. Isabel feels overwhelmed as if she is dying. She feels like she sees all the images of her life flashing in front of her eyes. When he releases her, she rushes back to the house.

The next day, Caspar Goodwood knocks on Henrietta Stackpole’s door. She is just leaving. He says he is looking for Isabelle whom he has found out has left Gardencourt.

Henrietta tells him Isabel has already gone back to Rome. He is shocked at the news. Henrietta tells him not to worry that he just has to wait. At first he thinks she’s trying to give him hope about Isabel, but then he realizes she is just being glib about his being young. He feels like he ages thirty years just standing there being consoled with such a "cheap comfort." Henrietta takes his arm and leads him down the street "as if she had given him now the key to patience."


Notes

Henry James’s sense of the dramatic helps him set the stage of the last scene of the novel. He places Isabel at the same bench in the gardens of Gardencourt at which she received Caspar Goodwood’s telegram announcing he had followed her to Europe, and at which she had received Lord Warburton’s proposal. Here again, she sees the two men. Here again, she sends them both away and goes to the alternative, Gilbert Osmond. It seems that at the end of the novel, these choices are still fixed. She still finds Lord Warburton kind but less than compelling and she still finds Caspar Goodwood too compelling. In fact, here, he kisses her against her will, sending her running for the house and, very soon, back to Rome and Gilbert Osmond.

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