I know I’ve shared this before; but I just love it so much. So, here you go again with a brief excerpt from Henry James’ famous novel “The Portrait of a Lady”. Enjoy!
Mr Touchett went to bed at half-past nine o’clock, but his wife remained in the drawing-room with the other members of the party. She prolonged her vigil for something less than an hour, and then, rising, observed to Isabel that it was time to bid the gentlemen good-night. Isabel had as yet no desire to go to bed; the occasion wore, to her sense, a festive character, and feasts were not in the habit of terminating so early. So, without further thought, she replied very simply: ‘Need I go, dear aunt? I’ll come up in half an hour.’
‘It’s impossible I should wait for you,’ Mrs Touchett answered.
‘Ah, you needn’t wait! Ralph will light my candle,’ Isabel gaily engaged.
‘I’ll light your candle, do let me light your candle, Miss Archer!’ Lord Warburton exclaimed. ‘Only I beg it shall not be before midnight.’
Mrs Touchett fixed her little bright eyes upon him a moment and transferred them coldly to her niece. ‘You can’t stay alone with the gentlemen. You’re not- you’re not [at home], my dear.’
Isabel rose, blushing. ‘I wish I were.’ she said. […]
‘Can’t I stay with my own cousin?’ Isabel inquired.
‘I’m not aware that Lord Warburton is your cousin.’ […]
Mrs Touchett gave a little look of despair and sat down again. ‘Oh, if it’s necessary I’ll stay up till midnight.’
Ralph meanwhile handed Isabel her candlestick. He had been watching her; it had seemed to him her temper was involved- an accident that might be interesting. But if he had expected anything of a flare he was disappointed, for the girl simply laughed a little, nodded good-night and withdrew accompanied by her aunt. For himself, he was annoyed at his mother, though he thought she was right. Abovestairs the two ladies separated at Mrs Touchett’s door. Isabel had said nothing on her way up.
‘Of course you’re vexed at my interfering with you,’ said Mrs Touchett.
Isabel considered, ‘I’m not vexed, but I’m surprised- and a good deal mystified. Wasn’t it proper I should remain in the drawing-room?’
‘Not in the least. Young girls here- in decent houses- don’t sit alone with gentlemen late at night.’
‘You were very right to tell me then,’ said Isabel. ‘I don’t understand it, but I’m very glad to know it.’
‘I shall always tell you,’ her aunt answered, ‘whenever I see you taking what seems to me too much liberty.’
‘Pray, do; but I don’t say I shall always think your remonstrance just.’
‘Very likely not. You’re too fond of your own ways.’
‘Yes, I think I’m very fond of them. But I always want to know the things one shouldn’t do.’
‘So as to do them?’ asked the aunt.
‘So as to choose,’ said Isabel.