Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 38

By Henry James

Chapter 38

  • Madame Merle again convinces Rosier to be patient, and to only call on Pansy on Thursday evenings, when the Osmonds have a sort of open house for all of their acquaintances.
  • On such a Thursday, Rosier goes to the Osmonds’ and greets Gilbert Osmond again. Once more, Osmond is a perfectly rude you-know-what. Osmond finds out that Rosier has been taking advice from Madame Merle, and warns him that she does not always know Osmond’s mind.
  • Rosier tries to convince Osmond that his daughter loves him as much as he loves her, but Osmond doesn’t care. He coldly states that Pansy will feel whatever Osmond wants her to feel.
  • Rosier talks with Isabel next. Isabel pretends not to care about his pursuit of Pansy.
  • Osmond presents Isabel with a visiting friend: the ubiquitous Lord Warburton.
  • Osmond stays long enough to have some superficial conversation with his wife and her old friend. Then, he leaves the two of them alone. Rosier, left to his own puppy-like devices, goes on to find Pansy.
  • Lord Warburton tells Isabel that he accompanied Ralph to Rome (en route to Sicily), and that they will be around for a while.
  • He also tells Isabel that Ralph’s health is much worse, and he hopes she’ll come to visit him soon. Isabel is prepared to leave immediately, but Lord Warburton tells her that the next morning will be fine.
  • Lately, Ralph’s health has been declining rapidly. He had been staying alone at Gardencourt, but it wasn’t good for him. Mrs. Touchett is in America, and, as is her way, won’t let anything ruin her trip, not even her son’s illness.
  • Isabel has read that Lord Warburton is something of a political big-shot. She has read in the papers about his radical stance.
  • Isabel is relieved that Lord Warburton does not make any mention of their unsuccessful romantic past.
  • Lord Warburton asks if Isabel is happy, and, after some stalling, she replies that she is very happy.
  • Isabel suggests that she is more accommodating now, and that she will accept other people’s ideas and proposals.
  • Isabel offers to introduce Lord Warburton to people, but he says that the only person who captures his fancy is a certain small, dainty maiden: Pansy.
  • Lord Warburton comments that marriage has not changed Isabel as much as he had thought.
  • Isabel voices her surprise at the fact that Lord Warburton has yet to marry. He says that he still hopes to.
  • Pansy has been talking with Rosier all the while, and asks who Lord Warburton is. Rosier knows nothing other than his rank as a lord.
  • Pansy says that she will not disobey her father’s wishes; however, she loves Rosier as much as she loves her father.
  • Rosier worries that her father will change Pansy’s mind, but Pansy claims that will never happen. She will ask Isabel for help. She seems to have great faith in the powers of her step-mother.
  • Ned worries that Isabel won’t do anything because she is afraid of Osmond. Pansy states that Isabel is not afraid of anything…. We hope that she’s right.
  • Pansy curtseys to Lord Warburton from across the room.