Had it been up to Miss Stackpole they would have left the confines of Gardencourt immediately, but it was not up to Miss Stackpole; the decision was Isabel Archer’s, and Miss Archer was of the decided opinion that her discourse with Lord Warburton had not been concluded, not to either’s satisfaction; so they waited for something happen, waited while Warburton prevaricated, waited while he dithered, waited for Warburton to arrive…
At least this was Miss Stackpole’s opinion.
Isabel, on the contrary, rather felt that Lord Warburton’s delay was understandable, that it corresponded with his desire not to appear aristocratic and arbitrary. She felt it both established his concern for her feelings and credited his need to let some time pass while he mastered his own difficult emotions. It was, in short, appropriate to Warburton’s situation whether Miss Stackpole thought so or not, and her uncle silently agreed with her, for when Warburton did finally come to lunch, Mr. Touchett made it his business to be present, providing a kind of umbrella of support and camouflage to both Isabel and his good friend.
Isabel was at first surprised that Lord Warburton brought his sister with him. Was Miss Molyneux there for support or camouflage? The two visitors were introduced to Miss Stackpole, who sat next to Warburton and questioned him avidly. Isabel couldn’t help but admire his self-possession, for while Warburton neither looked nor spoke to her, he conversed freely with the rest of the table and seemed to enjoy his meal. Miss Molyneux was wearing a simple silver cross that bespoke deep Anglican mysteries. She appeared to be quite taken with Miss Stackpole, and while they talked, Isabel took in her smooth features and quite demeanor, her almost nun-like self-possession. Isabel wondered what Miss Molyneux would think if she knew she had refused his brother’s marriage proposal, but quickly realized Miss Molyneux would never know of this event. Lord Warburton did not tell his sister such things. Miss Molyneux would find the act difficult to comprehend, and surely see the situation as a failure of Isabel’s—of Isabel’s own comprehension—and not that of her brother’s heredity certainties.
Despite her friend’s pensive state, Henrietta Stackpole was not inclined to miss her opportunity. ”Do you know you’re the first lord I’ve ever seen?” she stated to Warburton. “I suppose you think I’m awfully benighted.”
“Then you’ve escaped seeing some very ugly men,” he answered, glancing briefly at Miss Archer.
“In America, you know, they try to make us think they are all handsome and magnificent, and that they all wear robes and crowns.” She reflected: “They can’t all be ugly.”
“Ah, the robes and crowns are gone out of fashion, I’m afraid—like your tomahawks and revolvers.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Miss Stackpole replied. “An aristocracy ought to be grand. I can’t see any other use for…”
“Potatoes?” Warburton interrupted. He was holding a plate of boiled potatoes. “They’re awfully good.”