"I shall write to her, and then she'll write to me and scold me," Isabel declared, trying to smile again.
Caspar, however, remained sternly grave. "I guess she'll come right out," he said.
"On purpose to scold me?"
"I don't know. She seemed to think she had not seen Europe thoroughly."
"I'm glad you tell me that," Isabel said. "I must prepare for her."
Mr. Goodwood fixed his eyes for a moment on the floor; then at last, raising them, "Does she know Mr. Osmond?" he enquired.
"A little. And she doesn't like him. But of course I don't marry to please Henrietta," she added. It would have been better for poor Caspar if she had tried a little more to gratify Miss Stackpole; but he didn't say so; he only asked, presently, when her marriage would take place. To which she made answer that she didn't know yet. "I can only say it will be soon. I've told no one but yourself and one other person — an old friend of Mr. Osmond's."
"Is it a marriage your friends won't like?" he demanded.
"I really haven't an idea. As I say, I don't marry for my friends."
He went on, making no exclamation, no comment, only asking questions, doing it quite without delicacy. "Who and what then is Mr. Gilbert Osmond?"
"Who and what? Nobody and nothing but a very good and very honourable man. He's not in business," said Isabel. "He's not rich; he's not known for anything in particular."
She disliked Mr. Goodwood's questions, but she said to herself that she owed it to him to satisfy him as far as possible. The satisfaction poor Caspar exhibited was, however, small; he sat very upright, gazing at her. "Where does he come from? Where does he belong?"
She had never been so little pleased with the way he said "belawng." "He comes from nowhere. He has spent most of his life in Italy."
"You said in your letter he was American. Hasn't he a native place?"
"Yes, but he has forgotten it. He left it as a small boy."
"Has he never gone back?"
"Why should he go back?" Isabel asked, flushing all defensively. "He has no profession."
"He might have gone back for his pleasure. Doesn't he like the United States?"
"He doesn't know them. Then he's very quiet and very simple — he contents himself with Italy."
"With Italy and with you," said Mr. Goodwood with gloomy plainness and no appearance of trying to make an epigram. "What has he ever done?" he added abruptly.
"That I should marry him? Nothing at all," Isabel replied while her patience helped itself by turning a little to hardness. "If he had done great things would you forgive me any better? Give me up, Mr. Goodwood; I'm marrying a perfect nonentity. Don't try to take an interest in him. You can't."
"I can't appreciate him; that's what you mean. And you don't mean in the least that he's a perfect nonentity. You think he's grand, you think he's great, though no one else thinks so."
Isabel's colour deepened; she felt this really acute of her companion, and it was certainly a proof of the aid that passion might render perceptions she had never taken for fine. "Why do you always comeback to what others think? I can't discuss Mr. Osmond with you."
"Of course not," said Caspar reasonably. And he sat there with his air of stiff helplessness, as if not only this were true, but there were nothing else that they might discuss.
"You see how little you gain," she accordingly broke out — "how little comfort or satisfaction I can give you."
"I didn't expect you to give me much."
"I don't understand then why you came."
"I came because I wanted to see you once more — even just as you are."
"I appreciate that; but if you had waited a while, sooner or later we should have been sure to meet, and our meeting would have been pleasanter for each of us than this."
"Waited till after you're married? That's just what I didn't want to do. You'll be different then."
"Not very. I shall still be a great friend of yours. You'll see."
"That will make it all the worse," said Mr. Goodwood grimly.
"Ah, you're unaccommodating! I can't promise to dislike you in order to help you to resign yourself."
"I shouldn't care if you did!"