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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 2

Ralph Touchett wanders away from his father and Lord Warburton as they chat. Suddenly his dog begins to bark excitedly at a young woman who has just stepped out of the door of the house. The dog is more welcoming than threatening in its bark and the woman immediately picks the dog up. Ralph is struck by the young woman’s prettiness. While he is meeting her, Mr. Touchett and Lord Warburton are also wondering who she is. Meanwhile, the woman asks Ralph if this is his dog. He says it seems to have transferred its loyalty to her and gives her the dog. The young woman clearly has a great sense of confidence in herself and in others, but she blushes at Ralph’s generous offer. She tells him they must be cousins. She tells him she just arrived with his mother, who has gone straight to her room and has requested that he come see her before seven in the evening. While they talk, the woman looks around her with great interest. She says she has never seen anything so lovely and that the house is also "enchanting." She asks which of the two men on the lawn is his father. When he tells her which is his father and which is Lord Warburton, she exclaims that she was hoping there would be a lord because "it’s just like a novel!" Ralph asks her to come meet his father. She is surprised that Mr. Touchett is an invalid since Mrs. Touchett has given her the impression that he is "intensely active."

When she meets Mr. Touchett, he kisses her on the head and apologizes that they didn’t receive her properly. He wonders where Mrs. Touchett is. Isabel says she has gone straight to her room. Mr. Touchett says he will probably not see her till next week. Isabel corrects him and says Mrs. Touchett plans to come down to dinner. As they talk, Isabel looks around with "a comprehensiveness of observation." It is clear that she is experiencing numerous impressions of the scene. She says again that she hasn’t ever seen anything so beautiful. Mr. Touchett tells her she too is very beautiful. Isabel rises immediately and says she knows she’s lovely and then asks how old his house is. He says it’s early Tudor and at this point Lord Warburton comes into the conversation and says he too has a Tudor house and would like to show it to her. He and Mr. Touchett get into a joking conversation about whose house is the best.


While they do so, Ralph Touchett stands aside looking like he wants to find a way to return to his conversation with his cousin. He asks her if she likes dogs. Then he tells her she must keep his dog. She tells him she’ll keep him while she stays at the house. She says her aunt must settle the decision of how long she will be able to stay at the house. Ralph tells her he doesn’t believe she lets things be settled for her. Isabel replies that she does as long as they’re settled in a way she likes. Ralph promises to settle this matter as he likes. Ralph can’t understand why they’ve never known each other. Isabel explains that there was a quarrel between her father and Ralph’s mother after her mother’s death. When her father died a little over a year ago, Mrs. Touchett came to her and proposed that she come to Europe. Ralph concludes that his mother thus adopted Isabel. She blushes and says no one adopts her. He apologizes profusely. Isabel excuses him and says she is very "fond of [her] liberty."

At this point, Mr. Touchett calls to them asking if they’re talking about Mrs. Touchett. He calls Isabel to his side to tell him all about his wife whom he hasn’t seen in a year. She tells him Mrs. Touchett is very benevolent. As they talk, Ralph and Lord Warburton step aside. Lord Warburton tells Ralph this is his idea of an interesting woman.

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