"Oh, I can see that," said Isabel. "But if I were he I should wish to fight to the death: I mean for the heritage of the past. I should hold it tight."
"I think one ought to be liberal," Mildred argued gently. "We've always been so, even from the earliest times."
"Ah well," said Isabel, "you've made a great success of it; I don't wonder you like it. I see you're very fond of crewels."
When Lord Warburton showed her the house, after luncheon, it seemed to her a matter of course that it should be a noble picture. Within, it had been a good deal modernised — some of its best points had lost their purity; but as they saw it from the gardens, a stout grey pile, of the softest, deepest, most weather-fretted hue, rising from a broad, still moat, it affected the young visitor as a castle in a legend. The day was cool and rather lustreless; the first note of autumn had been struck, and the watery sunshine rested on the walls in blurred and desultory gleams, washing them, as it were, in places tenderly chosen, where the ache of antiquity was keenest. Her host's brother, the Vicar, had come to luncheon, and Isabel had had five minutes' talk with him — time enough to institute a search for a rich ecclesiasticism and give it up as vain. The marks of the Vicar of Lockleigh were a big, athletic figure, a candid, natural countenance, a capacious appetite and a tendency to indiscriminate laughter. Isabel learned afterwards from her cousin that before taking orders he had been a mighty wrestler and that he was still, on occasion — in the privacy of the family circle as it were — quite capable of flooring his man. Isabel liked him — she was in the mood for liking everything; but her imagination was a good deal taxed to think of him as a source of spiritual aid. The whole party, on leaving lunch, went to walk in the grounds; but Lord Warburton exercised some ingenuity in engaging his least familiar guest in a stroll apart from the others.
"I wish you to see the place properly, seriously," he said. "You can't do so if your attention is distracted by irrelevant gossip." His own conversation (though he told Isabel a good deal about the house, which had a very curious history) was not purely archaeological; he reverted at intervals to matters more personal — matters personal to the young lady as well as to himself. But at last, after a pause of some duration, returning for a moment to their ostensible theme, "Ah, well," he said, "I'm very glad indeed you like the old barrack. I wish you could see more of it — that you could stay here a while. My sisters have taken an immense fancy to you — if that would be any inducement."
"There's no want of inducements," Isabel answered; "but I'm afraid I can't make engagements. I'm quite in my aunt's hands."
"Ah, pardon me if I say I don't exactly believe that. I'm pretty sure you can do whatever you want."
"I'm sorry if I make that impression on you; I don't think it's a nice impression to make."
"It has the merit of permitting me to hope." And Lord Warburton paused a moment.
"To hope what?"
"That in future I may see you often."
"Ah," said Isabel, "to enjoy that pleasure I needn't be so terribly emancipated."
"Doubtless not; and yet, at the same time, I don't think your uncle likes me."
"You're very much mistaken. I've heard him speak very highly of you."
"I'm glad you have talked about me," said Lord Warburton. "But, I nevertheless don't think he'd like me to keep coming to Gardencourt."
"I can't answer for my uncle's tastes," the girl rejoined, "though I ought as far as possible to take them into account. But for myself I shall be very glad to see you."
"Now that's what I like to hear you say. I'm charmed when you say that."
"You're easily charmed, my lord," said Isabel.
"No, I'm not easily charmed!" And then he stopped a moment. "But you've charmed me, Miss Archer."
These words were uttered with an indefinable sound which startled the girl; it struck her as the prelude to something grave: she had heard the sound before and she recognised it. She had no wish, however, that for the moment such a prelude should have a sequel, and she said as gaily as possible and as quickly as an appreciable degree of agitation would allow her: "I'm afraid there's no prospect of my being able to come here again."
"Never?" said Lord Warburton.
"I won't say 'never'; I should feel very melodramatic."
"May I come and see you then some day next week?"
"Most assuredly. What is there to prevent it?"
"Nothing tangible. But with you I never feel safe. I've a sort of sense that you're always summing people up."
"You don't of necessity lose by that."
"It's very kind of you to say so; but, even if I gain, stern justice is not what I most love. Is Mrs. Touchett going to take you abroad?"
"I hope so."
"Is England not good enough for you?"