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Mrs. Touchett is a rather eccentric lady, and insists on things just as she likes them. For this reason, she keeps a house in Florence where she resides, while Mr. Touchett stays in England at Gardencourt.
Now that we’ve met our heroine, we get her back-story. Mrs. Touchett "discovered" Isabel at her deceased grandmother’s house in Albany, New York, where she spent most of her childhood. The house is next to a school, which a younger Isabel elected not to attend. She read a lot of books on her own instead. We begin to see that Isabel is as independent as her aunt, even as a child.
Isabel is sitting in the "office," a kind of quiet, informal room, when Mrs. Touchett unexpectedly arrives. She recognizes her as "crazy Aunt Lydia," whom she’d heard of from her late father.
Mrs. Touchett intrigues Isabel, and Isabel interests Mrs. Touchett as well.
The two ladies talk for about an hour, waiting for Isabel’s sister and brother-in-law, Lilian and Edmund, to return.
Mrs. Touchett offers Isabel the chance to go to Florence. Isabel is excited by the idea, but cannot promise to do everything Mrs. Touchett asks her to do.
Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel to ask Lilian to meet her at her hotel.