Portrait o a Lady: Chapters 43-45
Summary – Chapters Forty Three, Forty Four and Forty Five
Isabel takes Pansy to a great party three nights later and holds Pansy’s flowers when she dances. Rosier talks to Isabel and asks if he may hold the flowers or take one. She allows him to take one and she notices some similarities between his unhappiness and her own. She asks him to leave as Pansy approaches and she notes that Pansy counts the flowers when she takes the bouquet back.
Pansy returns to the dance and Lord Warburton talks to Isabel. He asks ‘where is the little maid?’ and then asks Isabel to dance. She says she would prefer it if he danced with ‘the little maid’ and thinks again that it is strange that he likes her; he then says he would rather dance with Isabel, but will talk to her instead.
When Pansy goes to dance again, Isabel reminds him that he told her 10 days ago that he would like to marry her step-daughter and he says that he had a change of heart and that he wrote to Mr. Osmond this morning, but did not send it. He says he will that night.
As they walk over to a quieter place to talk, they pass Rosier and she implies he is a rival and suggests Pansy will marry Lord Warburton for her father’s sake rather than her own. Later, Isabel tells Rosier that she will help him; however, when she and Pansy leave, she reminds Lord Warburton to send the letter.
Chapter Forty Four shifts to the Countess and how she has been invited by Osmond to stay with them for several weeks. Before leaving, Henrietta visits and says Osmond tried to break her relations with Isabel. The Countess is as indiscreet as ever and tells her not to permit it. She continues to gossip and says Lord Warburton is ‘making love’ to Isabel, so she is told, but ‘Isabel’s pretty safe’.
Henrietta leaves the Countess saying she will go to Rome tomorrow and then drops off a note for Caspar Goodwood asking him to see her that evening. She then visits the Uffizi and decides to see her favorite painting (The Little Correggio of the Tribune) but before she reaches it she encounters Goodwood. He is civil, but not enthusiastic when she says she wants to talk to him. They look at the painting together (of the Virgin kneeling before the infant, clapping her hands as he laughs) and she turns the conversation to Rome. She asks him to be a true friend to Isabel.
In Chapter Forty Five, Isabel continues to visit Ralph even though she knows this displeases her husband. She feels sure that unless Ralph departs soon, Osmond will formally forbid her to see him. She knows he cannot leave yet, though, as the weather makes it impossible.
The thought of repudiating ‘the single sacred act’ of her life (her marriage) appears to make the whole future hideous and she knows that to break with Osmond once will be to break with him forever.
She asks Ralph if Lord Warburton is ‘really in love’ and Ralph says he is, but with Isabel. He adds that Lord Warburton denies this and then prevaricates about what the lord’s opinion is of Pansy. She cries abruptly for him to help her and Ralph feels at last that the gulf between them has been bridged. He exclaims, ‘how unhappy you must be!’, but she regains her self-possession immediately and says Lord Warburton should leave Pansy alone as she cares for another person.
They talk further and Ralph tries to make her betray Osmond but fails. Before she leaves, he shows he knows what Osmond is about as he will see her ‘want of zeal’ as a form of jealousy of his daughter. She blushes and accuses him of being unkind and he asks her to be frank. She leaves without a reply.
At home, Isabel goes to Pansy in her room to hear from her about her opinions of Lord Warburton. She tells Pansy that her father’s advice is more important than her own and Pansy replies that she prefers hers as she is a lady and a lady can advise a girl better than a man. She then finally reveals that the only thing she wants in life is to marry Mr Rosier. She has told him she will if her father will allow it (but he will not). Isabel tells her she should not think of Rosier anymore and explains the consequences of disobeying her father. Pansy assures her she will obey him and says serenely that she will never stop thinking of Rosier and accepts the idea of being single.
Isabel feels insincere, but tries to do as Osmond would wish in his bid to have his daughter make a better marriage. Pansy asks what she would like her to do and does she mean she should marry someone else simply as a result of a proposal. Isabel hears herself say yes. Pansy quavers out, ‘well, I hope no one will ask me’. Isabel refers to Lord Warburton and Pansy says he will not propose to please Papa as he is kind and knows the thought of marrying him does not please her.
Isabel is touched at the depths of her perception and says that she must tell her father so he does not have false hopes. Pansy implies that it is better if she does not as then he will not propose anybody else for her. Isabel feels relieved of a heavy responsibility after seeing Pansy’s lucidity.
Analysis – Chapters Forty Three, Forty Four and Forty Five
It is specified in Chapter Forty Five that Isabel is reluctant to repudiate her marriage vow and knows that one rupture with Osmond’s beliefs will be the end of it. This loyalty to the man who she thinks hates her is embedded in the idea of marriage being a ‘sacred act’ and explains her adherence to his views despite his hatefulness to her. Once more, the act of marriage is put under scrutiny and the negative effect on the female (of wife and daughter) is reiterated.
Up to this point, Isabel has been trying to do what she thinks Osmond would expect her to do, however when she realizes that Lord Warburton still loves her and might marry Pansy just to be near her, she tells Rosier that she will help him.
Up to this point, Pansy has been depicted as overly eager to please, but her perception of the dangers of marriage (if the partner is not suitable) proves to be more insightful than Isabel was.