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The Golden Bowl by Henry James

Part 10 out of 12

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think what he would--there had been three or four minutes during
which, while she asked him question upon question, she had
doubtless too little cared. And he had spoken, for his
remembrance, as fully as she could have wished; he had spoken,
oh, delightedly, for the "terms" on which his other visitors had
appeared to be with each other, and in fact for that conviction
of the nature and degree of their intimacy under which, in spite
of precautions, they hadn't been able to help leaving him. He had
observed and judged and not forgotten; he had been sure they were
great people, but no, ah no, distinctly, hadn't "liked" them as
he liked the Signora Principessa. Certainly--she had created no
vagueness about that--he had been in possession of her name and
address, for sending her both her cup and her account. But the
others he had only, always, wondered about--he had been sure they
would never come back. And as to the time of their visit, he
could place it, positively, to a day--by reason of a transaction
of importance, recorded in his books, that had occurred but a few
hours later. He had left her, in short, definitely rejoicing that
he had been able to make up to her for not having been quite
"square" over their little business by rendering her, so
unexpectedly, the service of this information. His joy, moreover,
was--as much as Amerigo would!--a matter of the personal interest
with which her kindness, gentleness, grace, her charming
presence and easy humanity and familiarity, had inspired him. All
of which, while, in thought, Maggie went over it again and again
--oh, over any imputable rashness of her own immediate passion
and pain, as well as over the rest of the straight little story
she had, after all, to tell--might very conceivably make a long
sum for the Prince to puzzle out.

There were meanwhile, after the Castledeans and those invited to
meet them had gone, and before Mrs. Rance and the Lutches had
come, three or four days during which she was to learn the full
extent of her need not to be penetrable; and then it was indeed
that she felt all the force, and threw herself upon all the help,
of the truth she had confided, several nights earlier, to Fanny
Assingham. She had known it in advance, had warned herself of it
while the house was full: Charlotte had designs upon her of a
nature best known to herself, and was only waiting for the better
opportunity of their finding themselves less companioned. This
consciousness had been exactly at the bottom of Maggie's wish to
multiply their spectators; there were moments for her,
positively, moments of planned postponement, of evasion scarcely
less disguised than studied, during which she turned over with
anxiety the different ways--there being two or three possible
ones--in which her young stepmother might, at need, seek to work
upon her. Amerigo's not having "told" her of his passage with his
wife gave, for Maggie, altogether a new aspect to Charlotte's
consciousness and condition--an aspect with which, for
apprehension, for wonder, and even, at moments, inconsequently
enough, for something like compassion, the Princess had now to
reckon. She asked herself--for she was capable of that--what he
had MEANT by keeping the sharer of his guilt in the dark about a
matter touching her otherwise so nearly; what he had meant, that
is, for this unmistakably mystified personage herself. Maggie
could imagine what he had meant for her--all sorts of thinkable
things, whether things of mere "form" or things of sincerity,
things of pity or things of prudence: he had meant, for instance,
in all probability, primarily, to conjure away any such
appearance of a changed relation between the two women as his
father-in-law might notice and follow up. It would have been open
to him however, given the pitch of their intimacy, to avert this
danger by some more conceivable course with Charlotte; since an
earnest warning, in fact, the full freedom of alarm, that of his
insisting to her on the peril of suspicion incurred, and on the
importance accordingly of outward peace at any price, would have
been the course really most conceivable. Instead of warning and
advising he had reassured and deceived her; so that our young
woman, who had been, from far back, by the habit, if her nature,
as much on her guard against sacrificing others as if she felt
the great trap of life mainly to be set for one's doing so, now
found herself attaching her fancy to that side of the situation
of the exposed pair which involved, for themselves at least, the
sacrifice of the least fortunate.

She never, at present, thought of what Amerigo might be
intending, without the reflection, by the same stroke, that,
whatever this quantity, he was leaving still more to her own
ingenuity. He was helping her, when the thing came to the test,
only by the polished, possibly almost too polished surface his
manner to his wife wore for an admiring world; and that, surely,
was entitled to scarcely more than the praise of negative
diplomacy. He was keeping his manner right, as she had related to
Mrs. Assingham; the case would have been beyond calculation,
truly, if, on top of everything, he had allowed it to go wrong.
She had hours of exaltation indeed when the meaning of all this
pressed in upon her as a tacit vow from him to abide without
question by whatever she should be able to achieve or think fit
to prescribe. Then it was that, even while holding her breath for
the awe of it, she truly felt almost able enough for anything. It
was as if she had passed, in a time incredibly short, from being
nothing for him to being all; it was as if, rightly noted, every
turn of his head, every tone of his voice, in these days, might
mean that there was but one way in which a proud man reduced to
abjection could hold himself. During those of Maggie's vigils in
which that view loomed largest, the image of her husband that it
thus presented to her gave out a beauty for the revelation of
which she struck herself as paying, if anything, all too little.
To make sure of it--to make sure of the beauty shining out of the
humility, and of the humility lurking in all the pride of his
presence--she would have gone the length of paying more yet, of
paying with difficulties and anxieties compared to which those
actually before her might have been as superficial as headaches
or rainy days.

The point at which these exaltations dropped, however, was the
point at which it was apt to come over her that if her
complications had been greater the question of paying would have
been limited still less to the liabilities of her own pocket. The
complications were verily great enough, whether for ingenuities
or sublimities, so long as she had to come back to it so often
that Charlotte, all the while, could only be struggling with
secrets sharper than her own. It was odd how that certainty again
and again determined and coloured her wonderments of detail; the
question, for instance, of HOW Amerigo, in snatched opportunities
of conference, put the haunted creature off with false
explanations, met her particular challenges and evaded--if that
was what he did do!--her particular demands. Even the conviction
that Charlotte was but awaiting some chance really to test her
trouble upon her lover's wife left Maggie's sense meanwhile open
as to the sight of gilt wires and bruised wings, the spacious but
suspended cage, the home of eternal unrest, of pacings, beatings,
shakings, all so vain, into which the baffled consciousness
helplessly resolved itself. The cage was the deluded condition,
and Maggie, as having known delusion--rather!--understood the
nature of cages. She walked round Charlotte's--cautiously and in
a very wide circle; and when, inevitably, they had to communicate
she felt herself, comparatively, outside, on the breast of
nature, and saw her companion's face as that of a prisoner
looking through bars. So it was that through bars, bars richly
gilt, but firmly, though discreetly, planted, Charlotte finally
struck her as making a grim attempt; from which, at first, the
Princess drew back as instinctively as if the door of the cage
had suddenly been opened from within.


They had been alone that evening--alone as a party of six, and
four of them, after dinner, under suggestion not to be resisted,
sat down to "bridge" in the smoking-room. They had passed
together to that apartment, on rising from table, Charlotte and
Mrs. Assingham alike indulgent, always, to tobacco, and in fact
practising an emulation which, as Fanny said, would, for herself,
had the Colonel not issued an interdict based on the fear of her
stealing his cigars, have stopped only at the short pipe. Here
cards had with inevitable promptness asserted their rule, the
game forming itself, as had often happened before, of Mr. Verver
with Mrs. Assingham for partner and of the Prince with Mrs.
Verver. The Colonel, who had then asked of Maggie license to
relieve his mind of a couple of letters for the earliest post out
on the morrow, was addressing himself to this task at the other
end of the room, and the Princess herself had welcomed the
comparatively hushed hour--for the bridge-players were serious
and silent--much in the mood of a tired actress who has the good
fortune to be "off," while her mates are on, almost long enough
for a nap on the property sofa in the wing. Maggie's nap, had she
been able to snatch forty winks, would have been of the spirit
rather than of the sense; yet as she subsided, near a lamp, with
the last salmon-coloured French periodical, she was to fail, for
refreshment, even of that sip of independence.

There was no question for her, as she found, of closing her eyes
and getting away; they strayed back to life, in the stillness,
over the top of her Review; she could lend herself to none of
those refinements of the higher criticism with which its pages
bristled; she was there, where her companions were, there again
and more than ever there; it was as if, of a sudden, they had
been made, in their personal intensity and their rare complexity
of relation, freshly importunate to her. It was the first evening
there had been no one else. Mrs. Rance and the Lutches were due
the next day; but meanwhile the facts of the situation were
upright for her round the green cloth and the silver flambeaux;
the fact of her father's wife's lover facing his mistress; the
fact of her father sitting, all unsounded and unblinking, between
them; the fact of Charlotte keeping it up, keeping up everything,
across the table, with her husband beside her; the fact of Fanny
Assingham, wonderful creature, placed opposite to the three and
knowing more about each, probably, when one came to think, than
either of them knew of either. Erect above all for her was the
sharp-edged fact of the relation of the whole group, individually
and collectively, to herself--herself so speciously eliminated
for the hour, but presumably more present to the attention of
each than the next card to be played.

Yes, under that imputation, to her sense, they sat--the
imputation of wondering, beneath and behind all their apparently
straight play, if she weren't really watching them from her
corner and consciously, as might be said, holding them in her
hand. She was asking herself at last how they could bear it--for,
though cards were as nought to her and she could follow no move,
so that she was always, on such occasions, out of the party, they
struck her as conforming alike, in the matter of gravity and
propriety, to the stiff standard of the house. Her father, she
knew, was a high adept, one of the greatest--she had been ever,
in her stupidity, his small, his sole despair; Amerigo excelled
easily, as he understood and practised every art that could
beguile large leisure; Mrs. Assingham and Charlotte, moreover,
were accounted as "good" as members of a sex incapable of the
nobler consistency could be. Therefore, evidently, they were not,
all so up to their usual form, merely passing it off, whether for
her or for themselves; and the amount of enjoyed, or at least
achieved, security represented by so complete a conquest of
appearances was what acted on her nerves, precisely, with a kind
of provocative force. She found herself, for five minutes,
thrilling with the idea of the prodigious effect that, just as
she sat there near them, she had at her command; with the sense
that if she were but different--oh, ever so different!--all this
high decorum would hang by a hair. There reigned for her,
absolutely, during these vertiginous moments, that fascination of
the monstrous, that temptation of the horribly possible, which we
so often trace by its breaking out suddenly, lest it should go
further, in unexplained retreats and reactions.

After it had been thus vividly before her for a little that,
springing up under her wrong and making them all start, stare and
turn pale, she might sound out their doom in a single sentence, a
sentence easy to choose among several of the lurid--after she had
faced that blinding light and felt it turn to blackness, she rose
from her place, laying aside her magazine, and moved slowly round
the room, passing near the card-players and pausing an instant
behind the chairs in turn. Silent and discreet, she bent a vague
mild face upon them, as if to signify that, little as she
followed their doings, she wished them well; and she took from
each, across the table, in the common solemnity, an upward
recognition which she was to carry away with her on her moving
out to the terrace, a few minutes later. Her father and her
husband, Mrs. Assingham and Charlotte, had done nothing but meet
her eyes; yet the difference in these demonstrations made each a
separate passage--which was all the more wonderful since, with
the secret behind every face, they had alike tried to look at her
THROUGH it and in denial of it.

It all left her, as she wandered off, with the strangest of
impressions--the sense, forced upon her as never yet, of an
appeal, a positive confidence, from the four pairs of eyes, that
was deeper than any negation, and that seemed to speak, on the
part of each, of some relation to be contrived by her, a relation
with herself, which would spare the individual the danger, the
actual present strain, of the relation with the others. They
thus tacitly put it upon her to be disposed of, the whole
complexity of their peril, and she promptly saw why because she
was there, and there just as she was, to lift it off them and
take it; to charge herself with it as the scapegoat of old, of
whom she had once seen a terrible picture, had been charged with
the sins of the people and had gone forth into the desert to sink
under his burden and die. That indeed wasn't THEIR design and
their interest, that she should sink under hers; it wouldn't be
their feeling that she should do anything but live, live on
somehow for their benefit, and even as much as possible in their
company, to keep proving to them that they had truly escaped and
that she was still there to simplify. This idea of her
simplifying, and of their combined struggle, dim as yet but
steadily growing, toward the perception of her adopting it from
them, clung to her while she hovered on the terrace, where the
summer night was so soft that she scarce needed the light shawl
she had picked up. Several of the long windows of the occupied
rooms stood open to it, and the light came out in vague shafts
and fell upon the old smooth stones. The hour was moonless and
starless and the air heavy and still--which was why, in her
evening dress, she need fear no chill and could get away, in the
outer darkness, from that provocation of opportunity which had
assaulted her, within, on her sofa, as a beast might have leaped
at her throat.

Nothing in fact was stranger than the way in which, when she had
remained there a little, her companions, watched by her through
one of the windows, actually struck her as almost consciously and
gratefully safer. They might have been--really charming as they
showed in the beautiful room, and Charlotte certainly, as always,
magnificently handsome and supremely distinguished--they might
have been figures rehearsing some play of which she herself was
the author; they might even, for the happy appearance they
continued to present, have been such figures as would, by the
strong note of character in each, fill any author with the
certitude of success, especially of their own histrionic. They
might in short have represented any mystery they would; the point
being predominantly that the key to the mystery, the key that
could wind and unwind it without a snap of the spring, was there
in her pocket--or rather, no doubt, clasped at this crisis in her
hand and pressed, as she walked back and forth, to her breast.
She walked to the end and far out of the light; she returned and
saw the others still where she had left them; she passed round
the house and looked into the drawing-room, lighted also, but
empty now, and seeming to speak the more, in its own voice, of
all the possibilities she controlled. Spacious and splendid, like
a stage again awaiting a drama, it was a scene she might people,
by the press of her spring, either with serenities and dignities
and decencies, or with terrors and shames and ruins, things as
ugly as those formless fragments of her golden bowl she was
trying so hard to pick up.

She continued to walk and continued to pause; she stopped afresh
for the look into the smoking-room, and by this time--it was as
if the recognition had of itself arrested her--she saw as in a
picture, with the temptation she had fled from quite extinct, why
it was she had been able to give herself so little, from the
first, to the vulgar heat of her wrong. She might fairly, as she
watched them, have missed it as a lost thing; have yearned for
it, for the straight vindictive view, the rights of resentment,
the rages of jealousy, the protests of passion, as for something
she had been cheated of not least: a range of feelings which for
many women would have meant so much, but which for HER husband's
wife, for HER father's daughter, figured nothing nearer to
experience than a wild eastern caravan, looming into view with
crude colours in the sun, fierce pipes in the air, high spears
against the sky, all a thrill, a natural joy to mingle with, but
turning off short before it reached her and plunging into other
defiles. She saw at all events why horror itself had almost
failed her; the horror that, foreshadowed in advance, would, by
her thought, have made everything that was unaccustomed in her
cry out with pain; the horror of finding evil seated, all at its
ease, where she had only dreamed of good; the horror of the thing
HIDEOUSLY behind, behind so much trusted, so much pretended,
nobleness, cleverness, tenderness. It was the first sharp falsity
she had known in her life, to touch at all, or be touched by; it
had met her like some bad-faced stranger surprised in one of the
thick-carpeted corridors of a house of quiet on a Sunday
afternoon; and yet, yes, amazingly, she had been able to look at
terror and disgust only to know that she must put away from her
the bitter-sweet of their freshness. The sight, from the window,
of the group so constituted, TOLD her why, told her how, named to
her, as with hard lips, named straight AT her, so that she must
take it full in the face, that other possible relation to the
whole fact which alone would bear upon her irresistibly. It was
extraordinary: they positively brought home to her that to feel
about them in any of the immediate, inevitable, assuaging ways,
the ways usually open to innocence outraged and generosity
betrayed, would have been to give them up, and that giving them
up was, marvellously, not to be thought of. She had never, from
the first hour of her state of acquired conviction, given them up
so little as now; though she was, no doubt, as the consequence of
a step taken a few minutes later, to invoke the conception of
doing that, if might be, even less. She had resumed her walk--
stopping here and there, while she rested on the cool smooth
stone balustrade, to draw it out; in the course of which, after a
little, she passed again the lights of the empty drawing-room and
paused again for what she saw and felt there.

It was not at once, however, that this became quite concrete;
that was the effect of her presently making out that Charlotte
was in the room, launched and erect there, in the middle, and
looking about her; that she had evidently just come round to it,
from her card-table, by one of the passages--with the
expectation, to all appearance, of joining her stepdaughter. She
had pulled up at seeing the great room empty--Maggie not having
passed out, on leaving the group, in a manner to be observed. So
definite a quest of her, with the bridge-party interrupted or
altered for it, was an impression that fairly assailed the
Princess, and to which something of attitude and aspect, of the
air of arrested pursuit and purpose, in Charlotte, together with
the suggestion of her next vague movements, quickly added its
meaning. This meaning was that she had decided, that she had been
infinitely conscious of Maggie's presence before, that she knew
that she would at last find her alone, and that she wanted her,
for some reason, enough to have presumably called on Bob
Assingham for aid. He had taken her chair and let her go, and the
arrangement was for Maggie a signal proof of her earnestness; of
the energy, in fact, that, though superficially commonplace in a
situation in which people weren't supposed to be watching each
other, was what affected our young woman, on the spot, as a
breaking of bars. The splendid shining supple creature was out of
the cage, was at large; and the question now almost grotesquely
rose of whether she mightn't by some art, just where she was and
before she could go further, be hemmed in and secured. It would
have been for a moment, in this case, a matter of quickly closing
the windows and giving the alarm--with poor Maggie's sense that,
though she couldn't know what she wanted of her, it was enough
for trepidation that, at these firm hands, anything should be to
say nothing of the sequel of a flight taken again along the
terrace, even under the shame of the confessed feebleness of such
evasions on the part of an outraged wife. It was to this
feebleness, none the less, that the outraged wife had presently
resorted; the most that could be said for her being, as she felt
while she finally stopped short, at a distance, that she could at
any rate resist her abjection sufficiently not to sneak into the
house by another way and safely reach her room. She had literally
caught herself in the act of dodging and ducking, and it told her
there, vividly, in a single word, what she had all along been
most afraid of.

She had been afraid of the particular passage with Charlotte that
would determine her father's wife to take him into her confidence
as she couldn't possibly as yet have done, to prepare for him a
statement of her wrong, to lay before him the infamy of what she
was apparently suspected of. This, should she have made up her
mind to do it, would rest on a calculation the thought of which
evoked, strangely, other possibilities and visions. It would show
her as sufficiently believing in her grasp of her husband to be
able to assure herself that, with his daughter thrown on the
defensive, with Maggie's cause and Maggie's word, in fine,
against her own, it wasn't Maggie's that would most certainly
carry the day. Such a glimpse of her conceivable idea, which
would be founded on reasons all her own, reasons of experience
and assurance, impenetrable to others, but intimately familiar to
herself--such a glimpse opened out wide as soon as it had come
into view; for if so much as this was still firm ground between
the elder pair, if the beauty of appearances had been so
consistently preserved, it was only the golden bowl as Maggie
herself knew it that had been broken. The breakage stood not for
any wrought discomposure among the triumphant three--it stood
merely for the dire deformity of her attitude toward them. She
was unable at the minute, of course, fully to measure the
difference thus involved for her, and it remained inevitably an
agitating image, the way it might be held over her that if she
didn't, of her own prudence, satisfy Charlotte as to the
reference, in her mocking spirit, of so much of the unuttered and
unutterable, of the constantly and unmistakably implied, her
father would be invited without further ceremony to recommend her
to do so. But ANY confidence, ANY latent operating insolence,
that Mrs. Verver should, thanks to her large native resources,
continue to be possessed of and to hold in reserve, glimmered
suddenly as a possible working light and seemed to offer, for
meeting her, a new basis and something like a new system.
Maggie felt, truly, a rare contraction of the heart on making
out, the next instant, what the new system would probably have to
be--and she had practically done that before perceiving that the
thing she feared had already taken place. Charlotte, extending
her search, appeared now to define herself vaguely in the
distance; of this, after an instant, the Princess was sure,
though the darkness was thick, for the projected clearness of the
smoking-room windows had presently contributed its help. Her
friend came slowly into that circle--having also, for herself, by
this time, not indistinguishably discovered that Maggie was on
the terrace. Maggie, from the end, saw her stop before one of the
windows to look at the group within, and then saw her come nearer
and pause again, still with a considerable length of the place
between them.

Yes, Charlotte had seen she was watching her from afar, and had
stopped now to put her further attention to the test. Her face
was fixed on her, through the night; she was the creature who had
escaped by force from her cage, yet there was in her whole motion
assuredly, even as so dimly discerned, a kind of portentous
intelligent stillness. She had escaped with an intention, but
with an intention the more definite that it could so accord with
quiet measures. The two women, at all events, only hovered there,
for these first minutes, face to face over their interval and
exchanging no sign; the intensity of their mutual look might have
pierced the night, and Maggie was at last to start with the
scared sense of having thus yielded to doubt, to dread, to
hesitation, for a time that, with no other proof needed, would
have completely given her away. How long had she stood staring?--
a single minute or five? Long enough, in any case, to have felt
herself absolutely take from her visitor something that the
latter threw upon her, irresistibly, by this effect of silence,
by this effect of waiting and watching, by this effect,
unmistakably, of timing her indecision and her fear. If then,
scared and hanging back, she had, as was so evident, sacrificed
all past pretences, it would have been with the instant knowledge
of an immense advantage gained that Charlotte finally saw her
come on. Maggie came on with her heart in her hands; she came on
with the definite prevision, throbbing like the tick of a watch,
of a doom impossibly sharp and hard, but to which, after looking
at it with her eyes wide open, she had none the less bowed her
head. By the time she was at her companion's side, for that
matter, by the time Charlotte had, without a motion, without a
word, simply let her approach and stand there, her head was
already on the block, so that the consciousness that everything
had now gone blurred all perception of whether or no the axe had
fallen. Oh, the "advantage," it was perfectly enough, in truth,
with Mrs. Verver; for what was Maggie's own sense but that of
having been thrown over on her back, with her neck, from the
first, half broken and her helpless face staring up? That
position only could account for the positive grimace of weakness
and pain produced there by Charlotte's dignity.

"I've come to join you--I thought you would be here."

"Oh yes, I'm here," Maggie heard herself return a little flatly.
"It's too close in-doors."

"Very--but close even here." Charlotte was still and grave--she
had even uttered her remark about the temperature with an
expressive weight that verged upon solemnity; so that Maggie,
reduced to looking vaguely about at the sky, could only feel her
not fail of her purpose. "The air's heavy as if with thunder--I
think there'll be a storm." She made the suggestion to carry off
an awkwardness--which was a part, always, of her companion's
gain; but the awkwardness didn't diminish in the silence that
followed. Charlotte had said nothing in reply; her brow was dark
as with a fixed expression, and her high elegance, her handsome
head and long, straight neck testified, through the dusk, to
their inveterate completeness and noble erectness. It was as if
what she had come out to do had already begun, and when, as a
consequence, Maggie had said helplessly, "Don't you want
something? won't you have my shawl?" everything might have
crumbled away in the comparative poverty of the tribute. Mrs.
Verver's rejection of it had the brevity of a sign that they
hadn't closed in for idle words, just as her dim, serious face,
uninterruptedly presented until they moved again, might have
represented the success with which she watched all her message
penetrate. They presently went back the way she had come, but she
stopped Maggie again within range of the smoking-room window and
made her stand where the party at cards would be before her. Side
by side, for three minutes, they fixed this picture of quiet
harmonies, the positive charm of it and, as might have been said,
the full significance--which, as was now brought home to Maggie,
could be no more, after all, than a matter of interpretation,
differing always for a different interpreter. As she herself had
hovered in sight of it a quarter-of-an-hour before, it would have
been a thing for her to show Charlotte--to show in righteous
irony, in reproach too stern for anything but silence. But now it
was she who was being shown it, and shown it by Charlotte, and
she saw quickly enough that, as Charlotte showed it, so she must
at present submissively seem to take it.

The others were absorbed and unconscious, either silent over
their game or dropping remarks unheard on the terrace; and it was
to her father's quiet face, discernibly expressive of nothing
that was in his daughter's mind, that our young woman's attention
was most directly given. His wife and his daughter were both
closely watching him, and to which of them, could he have been
notified of this, would his raised eyes first, all impulsively,
have responded; in which of them would he have felt it most
important to destroy--for HIS clutch at the equilibrium--any germ
of uneasiness? Not yet, since his marriage, had Maggie so sharply
and so formidably known her old possession of him as a thing
divided and contested. She was looking at him by Charlotte's
leave and under Charlotte's direction; quite in fact as if the
particular way she should look at him were prescribed to her;
quite, even, as if she had been defied to look at him in any
other. It came home to her too that the challenge wasn't, as
might be said, in his interest and for his protection, but,
pressingly, insistently, in Charlotte's, for that of HER security
at any price. She might verily, by this dumb demonstration, have
been naming to Maggie the price, naming it as a question for
Maggie herself, a sum of money that she, properly, was to find.
She must remain safe and Maggie must pay--what she was to pay
with being her own affair.

Straighter than ever, thus, the Princess again felt it all put
upon her, and there was a minute, just a supreme instant, during
which there burned in her a wild wish that her father would only
look up. It throbbed for these seconds as a yearning appeal to
him--she would chance it, that is, if he would but just raise his
eyes and catch them, across the larger space, standing in the
outer dark together. Then he might be affected by the sight,
taking them as they were; he might make some sign--she scarce
knew what--that would save her; save her from being the one, this
way, to pay all. He might somehow show a preference--
distinguishing between them; might, out of pity for her, signal
to her that this extremity of her effort for him was more than he
asked. That represented Maggie's one little lapse from
consistency--the sole small deflection in the whole course of her
scheme. It had come to nothing the next minute, for the dear
man's eyes had never moved, and Charlotte's hand, promptly passed
into her arm, had already, had very firmly drawn her on--quite,
for that matter, as from some sudden, some equal perception on
her part too of the more ways than one in which their impression
could appeal. They retraced their steps along the rest of the
terrace, turning the corner of the house, and presently came
abreast of the other windows, those of the pompous drawing-room,
still lighted and still empty. Here Charlotte again paused, and
it was again as if she were pointing out what Maggie had observed
for herself, the very look the place had of being vivid in its
stillness, of having, with all its great objects as ordered and
balanced as for a formal reception, been appointed for some high
transaction, some real affair of state. In presence of this
opportunity she faced her companion once more; she traced in her
the effect of everything she had already communicated; she
signified, with the same success, that the terrace and the sullen
night would bear too meagre witness to the completion of her
idea. Soon enough then, within the room, under the old lustres of
Venice and the eyes of the several great portraits, more or less
contemporary with these, that awaited on the walls of Fawns their
final far migration--soon enough Maggie found herself staring,
and at first all too gaspingly, at the grand total to which each
separate demand Mrs. Verver had hitherto made upon her, however
she had made it, now amounted.

"I've been wanting--and longer than you'd perhaps believe--to put
a question to you for which no opportunity has seemed to me yet
quite so good as this. It would have been easier perhaps if you
had struck me as in the least disposed ever to give me one. I
have to take it now, you see, as I find it." They stood in the
centre of the immense room, and Maggie could feel that the scene
of life her imagination had made of it twenty minutes before was
by this time sufficiently peopled. These few straight words
filled it to its uttermost reaches, and nothing was now absent
from her consciousness, either, of the part she was called upon
to play in it. Charlotte had marched straight in, dragging her
rich train; she rose there beautiful and free, with her whole
aspect and action attuned to the firmness of her speech. Maggie
had kept the shawl she had taken out with her, and, clutching it
tight in her nervousness, drew it round her as if huddling in it
for shelter, covering herself with it for humility. She looked
out as from under an improvised hood--the sole headgear of some
poor woman at somebody's proud door; she waited even like the
poor woman; she met her friend's eyes with recognitions she
couldn't suppress. She might sound it as she could--"What
question then?"--everything in her, from head to foot, crowded it
upon Charlotte that she knew. She knew too well--that she was
showing; so that successful vagueness, to save some scrap of her
dignity from the imminence of her defeat, was already a lost
cause, and the one thing left was if possible, at any cost, even
that of stupid inconsequence, to try to look as if she weren't
afraid. If she could but appear at all not afraid she might
appear a little not ashamed--that is not ashamed to be afraid,
which was the kind of shame that could be fastened on her, it
being fear all the while that moved her. Her challenge, at any
rate, her wonder, her terror--the blank, blurred surface,
whatever it was that she presented became a mixture that ceased
to signify; for to the accumulated advantage by which Charlotte
was at present sustained her next words themselves had little to

"Have you any ground of complaint of me? Is there any wrong you
consider I've done you? I feel at last that I've a right to ask

Their eyes had to meet on it, and to meet long; Maggie's avoided
at least the disgrace of looking away. "What makes you want to
ask it?"

"My natural desire to know. You've done that, for so long, little

Maggie waited a moment. "For so long? You mean you've

"I mean, my dear, that I've seen. I've seen, week after week,
that YOU seemed to be thinking--of something that perplexed or
worried you. Is it anything for which I'm in any degree

Maggie summoned all her powers. "What in the world SHOULD it be?"

"Ah, that's not for me to imagine, and I should be very sorry to
have to try to say! I'm aware of no point whatever at which I may
have failed you," said Charlotte; "nor of any at which I may have
failed any one in whom I can suppose you sufficiently interested
to care. If I've been guilty of some fault I've committed it all
unconsciously, and am only anxious to hear from you honestly
about it. But if I've been mistaken as to what I speak of--the
difference, more and more marked, as I've thought, in all your
manner to me--why, obviously, so much the better. No form of
correction received from you could give me greater satisfaction."

She spoke, it struck her companion, with rising, with
extraordinary ease; as if hearing herself say it all, besides
seeing the way it was listened to, helped her from point to
point. She saw she was right--that this WAS the tone for her to
take and the thing for her to do, the thing as to which she was
probably feeling that she had in advance, in her delays and
uncertainties, much exaggerated the difficulty. The difficulty
was small, and it grew smaller as her adversary continued to
shrink; she was not only doing as she wanted, but had by this
time effectively done it and hung it up. All of which but
deepened Maggie's sense of the sharp and simple need, now, of
seeing her through to the end. "'If' you've been mistaken, you
say?"--and the Princess but barely faltered. "You HAVE been

Charlotte looked at her splendidly hard. "You're perfectly sure
it's ALL my mistake?"

"All I can say is that you've received a false impression."

"Ah then--so much the better! From the moment I HAD received it I
knew I must sooner or later speak of it--for that, you see, is,
systematically, my way. And now," Charlotte added, "you make me
glad I've spoken. I thank you very much."

It was strange how for Maggie too, with this, the difficulty
seemed to sink. Her companion's acceptance of her denial was like
a general pledge not to keep things any worse for her than they
essentially had to be; it positively helped her to build up her
falsehood--to which, accordingly, she contributed another block.
"I've affected you evidently--quite accidentally--in some way of
which I've been all unaware. I've NOT felt at any time that
you've wronged me."

"How could I come within a mile," Charlotte inquired, "of such a

Maggie, with her eyes on her more easily now, made no attempt to
say; she said, after a little, something more to the present
point. "I accuse you--I accuse you of nothing."

"Ah, that's lucky!"

Charlotte had brought this out with the richness, almost, of
gaiety; and Maggie, to go on, had to think, with her own
intensity, of Amerigo--to think how he, on his side, had had to
go through with his lie to her, how it was for his wife he had
done so, and how his doing so had given her the clue and set her
the example. He must have had his own difficulty about it, and
she was not, after all, falling below him. It was in fact as if,
thanks to her hovering image of him confronted with this
admirable creature even as she was confronted, there glowed upon
her from afar, yet straight and strong, a deep explanatory light
which covered the last inch of the ground. He had given her
something to conform to, and she hadn't unintelligently turned on
him, "gone back on" him, as he would have said, by not
conforming. They were together thus, he and she, close, close
together--whereas Charlotte, though rising there radiantly before
her, was really off in some darkness of space that would steep
her in solitude and harass her with care. The heart of the
Princess swelled, accordingly, even in her abasement; she had
kept in tune with the right, and something, certainly, something
that might be like a rare flower snatched from an impossible
ledge, would, and possibly soon, come of it for her. The right,
the right--yes, it took this extraordinary form of her
humbugging, as she had called it, to the end. It was only a
question of not, by a hair's breadth, deflecting into the truth.
So, supremely, was she braced. "You must take it from me that
your anxiety rests quite on a misconception. You must take it
from me that I've never at any moment fancied I could suffer by
you." And, marvellously, she kept it up--not only kept it up, but
improved on it. "You must take it from me that I've never thought
of you but as beautiful, wonderful and good. Which is all, I
think, that you can possibly ask."

Charlotte held her a moment longer: she needed--not then to have
appeared only tactless--the last word. "It's much more, my dear,
than I dreamed of asking. I only wanted your denial."

"Well then, you have it."

"Upon your honour?"

"Upon my honour:"

And she made a point even, our young woman, of not turning away.
Her grip of her shawl had loosened--she had let it fall behind
her; but she stood there for anything more and till the weight
should be lifted. With which she saw soon enough what more was to
come. She saw it in Charlotte's face, and felt it make between
them, in the air, a chill that completed the coldness of their
conscious perjury. "Will you kiss me on it then?"

She couldn't say yes, but she didn't say no; what availed her
still, however, was to measure, in her passivity, how much too
far Charlotte had come to retreat. But there was something
different also, something for which, while her cheek received the
prodigious kiss, she had her opportunity--the sight of the
others, who, having risen from their cards to join the absent
members of their party, had reached the open door at the end of
the room and stopped short, evidently, in presence of the
demonstration that awaited them. Her husband and her father were
in front, and Charlotte's embrace of her--which wasn't to be
distinguished, for them, either, she felt, from her embrace of
Charlotte--took on with their arrival a high publicity.


Her father had asked her, three days later, in an interval of
calm, how she was affected, in the light of their reappearance
and of their now perhaps richer fruition, by Dotty and Kitty, and
by the once formidable Mrs. Rance; and the consequence of this
inquiry had been, for the pair, just such another stroll
together, away from the rest of the party and off into the park,
as had asserted its need to them on the occasion of the previous
visit of these anciently more agitating friends--that of their
long talk, on a sequestered bench beneath one of the great trees,
when the particular question had come up for them the then
purblind discussion of which, at their enjoyed leisure, Maggie
had formed the habit of regarding as the "first beginning" of
their present situation. The whirligig of time had thus brought
round for them again, on their finding themselves face to face
while the others were gathering for tea on the terrace, the same
odd impulse quietly to "slope"--so Adam Verver himself, as they
went, familiarly expressed it--that had acted, in its way, of
old; acted for the distant autumn afternoon and for the sharpness
of their since so outlived crisis. It might have been funny to
them now that the presence of Mrs. Rance and the Lutches--and
with symptoms, too, at that time less developed--had once, for
their anxiety and their prudence, constituted a crisis; it might
have been funny that these ladies could ever have figured, to
their imagination, as a symbol of dangers vivid enough to
precipitate the need of a remedy. This amount of entertainment
and assistance they were indeed disposed to extract from their
actual impressions; they had been finding it, for months past, by
Maggie's view, a resource and a relief to talk, with an approach
to intensity, when they met, of all the people they weren't
really thinking of and didn't really care about, the people with
whom their existence had begun almost to swarm; and they closed
in at present round the spectres of their past, as they permitted
themselves to describe the three ladies, with a better imitation
of enjoying their theme than they had been able to achieve,
certainly, during the stay, for instance, of the Castledeans. The
Castledeans were a new joke, comparatively, and they had had--
always to Maggie's view--to teach themselves the way of it;
whereas the Detroit, the Providence party, rebounding so from
Providence, from Detroit, was an old and ample one, of which the
most could be made and as to which a humorous insistence could be

Sharp and sudden, moreover, this afternoon, had been their
well-nigh confessed desire just to rest together, a little, as
from some strain long felt but never named; to rest, as who
should say, shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand, each pair of
eyes so yearningly--and indeed what could it be but so wearily?--
closed as to render the collapse safe from detection by the other
pair. It was positively as if, in short, the inward felicity of
their being once more, perhaps only for half-an-hour, simply
daughter and father had glimmered out for them, and they had
picked up the pretext that would make it easiest. They were
husband and wife--oh, so immensely!--as regards other persons;
but after they had dropped again on their old bench, conscious
that the party on the terrace, augmented, as in the past, by
neighbours, would do beautifully without them, it was wonderfully
like their having got together into some boat and paddled off
from the shore where husbands and wives, luxuriant complications,
made the air too tropical. In the boat they were father and
daughter, and poor Dotty and Kitty supplied abundantly, for their
situation, the oars or the sail. Why, into the bargain, for that
matter--this came to Maggie--couldn't they always live, so far as
they lived together, in a boat? She felt in her face, with the
question, the breath of a possibility that soothed her; they
needed only KNOW each other, henceforth, in the unmarried
relation. That other sweet evening, in the same place, he had
been as unmarried as possible--which had kept down, so to speak,
the quantity of change in their state. Well then, that other
sweet evening was what the present sweet evening would resemble;
with the quite calculable effect of an exquisite inward
refreshment. They HAD, after all, whatever happened, always and
ever each other; each other--that was the hidden treasure and the
saving truth--to do exactly what they would with: a provision
full of possibilities. Who could tell, as yet, what, thanks to
it, they wouldn't have done before the end?

They had meanwhile been tracing together, in the golden air that,
toward six o'clock of a July afternoon, hung about the massed
Kentish woods, several features of the social evolution of her
old playmates, still beckoned on, it would seem, by unattainable
ideals, still falling back, beyond the sea, to their native
seats, for renewals of the moral, financial, conversational--one
scarce knew what to call it--outfit, and again and for ever
reappearing like a tribe of Wandering Jewesses. Our couple had
finally exhausted, however, the study of these annals, and Maggie
was to take up, after a drop, a different matter, or one at least
with which the immediate connection was not at first apparent.
"Were you amused at me just now--when I wondered what other
people could wish to struggle for? Did you think me," she asked
with some earnestness--"well, fatuous?"

"'Fatuous'?"--he seemed at a loss.

"I mean sublime in OUR happiness--as if looking down from a
height. Or, rather, sublime in our general position--that's what
I mean." She spoke as from the habit of her anxious conscience
something that disposed her frequently to assure herself, for her
human commerce, of the state of the "books" of the spirit.
"Because I don't at all want," she explained, "to be blinded, or
made 'sniffy,' by any sense of a social situation." Her father
listened to this declaration as if the precautions of her general
mercy could still, as they betrayed themselves, have surprises
for him--to say nothing of a charm of delicacy and beauty; he
might have been wishing to see how far she could go and where she
would, all touchingly to him, arrive. But she waited a little--as
if made nervous, precisely, by feeling him depend too much on
what she said. They were avoiding the serious, standing off,
anxiously, from the real, and they fell, again and again, as if
to disguise their precaution itself, into the tone of the time
that came back to them from their other talk, when they had
shared together this same refuge. "Don't you remember," she went
on, "how, when they were here before, I broke it to you that I
wasn't so very sure we, ourselves had the thing itself?"

He did his best to do so. "Had, you mean a social situation?"

"Yes--after Fanny Assingham had first broken it to me that, at
the rate we were going, we should never have one."

"Which was what put us on Charlotte?" Oh yes, they had had it
over quite often enough for him easily to remember.

Maggie had another pause--taking it from him that he now could
both affirm and admit without wincing that they had been, at
their critical moment, "put on" Charlotte. It was as if this
recognition had been threshed out between them as fundamental to
the honest view of their success. "Well," she continued, "I
recall how I felt, about Kitty and Dotty, that even if we had
already then been more 'placed,' or whatever you may call what we
are now, it still wouldn't have been an excuse for wondering why
others couldn't obligingly leave me more exalted by having,
themselves, smaller ideas. For those," she said, "were the
feelings we used to have."

"Oh yes," he responded philosophically--"I remember the feelings
we used to have."

Maggie appeared to wish to plead for them a little, in tender
retrospect--as if they had been also respectable. "It was bad
enough, I thought, to have no sympathy in your heart when you HAD
a position. But it was worse to be sublime about it--as I was so
afraid, as I'm in fact still afraid of being--when it wasn't even
there to support one." And she put forth again the earnestness
she might have been taking herself as having outlived; became for
it--which was doubtless too often even now her danger--almost
sententious. "One must always, whether or no, have some
imagination of the states of others--of what they may feel
deprived of. However," she added, "Kitty and Dotty couldn't
imagine we were deprived of anything. And now, and now--!" But
she stopped as for indulgence to their wonder and envy.

"And now they see, still more, that we can have got everything,
and kept everything, and yet not be proud."

"No, we're not proud," she answered after a moment. "I'm not sure
that we're quite proud enough." Yet she changed the next instant
that subject too. She could only do so, however, by harking
back--as if it had been a fascination. She might have been
wishing, under this renewed, this still more suggestive
visitation, to keep him with her for remounting the stream of
time and dipping again, for the softness of the water, into the
contracted basin of the past. "We talked about it--we talked
about it; you don't remember so well as I. You too didn't know--
and it was beautiful of you; like Kitty and Dotty you too thought
we had a position, and were surprised when _I_ thought we ought
to have told them we weren't doing for them what they supposed.
In fact," Maggie pursued, "we're not doing it now. We're not, you
see, really introducing them. I mean not to the people they

"Then what do you call the people with whom they're now having

It made her quite spring round. "That's just what you asked me
the other time--one of the days there was somebody. And I told
you I didn't call anybody anything."

"I remember--that such people, the people we made so welcome,
didn't 'count'; that Fanny Assingham knew they didn't." She had
awakened, his daughter, the echo; and on the bench there, as
before, he nodded his head amusedly, he kept nervously shaking
his foot. "Yes, they were only good enough--the people who came--
for US. I remember," he said again: "that was the way it all

"That was the way--that was the way. And you asked me," Maggie
added, "if I didn't think we ought to tell them. Tell Mrs. Rance,
in particular, I mean, that we had been entertaining her up to
then under false pretences."

"Precisely--but you said she wouldn't have understood."

"To which you replied that in that case you were like her. YOU
didn't understand."

"No, no--but I remember how, about our having, in our benighted
innocence, no position, you quite crushed me with your

"Well then," said Maggie with every appearance of delight, "I'll
crush you again. I told you that you by yourself had one--there
was no doubt of that. You were different from me--you had the
same one you always had."

"And THEN I asked you," her father concurred, "why in that case
you hadn't the same."

"Then indeed you did." He had brought her face round to him
before, and this held it, covering him with its kindled
brightness, the result of the attested truth of their being able
thus, in talk, to live again together. "What I replied was that I
had lost my position by my marriage. THAT one--I know how I
saw it--would never come back. I had done something TO it--I
didn't quite know what; given it away, somehow, and yet not, as
then appeared, really got my return. I had been assured--always
by dear Fanny--that I COULD get it, only I must wake up. So I was
trying, you see, to wake up--trying very hard."

"Yes--and to a certain extent you succeeded; as also in waking
me. But you made much," he said, "of your difficulty." To which
he added: "It's the only case I remember, Mag, of you ever making
ANYTHING of a difficulty."

She kept her eyes on him a moment. "That I was so happy as I

"That you were so happy as you were."

"Well, you admitted"--Maggie kept it up--"that that was a good
difficulty. You confessed that our life did seem to be

He thought a moment. "Yes--I may very well have confessed it, for
so it did seem to me." But he guarded himself with his dim, his
easier smile. "What do you want to put on me now?"

"Only that we used to wonder--that we were wondering then--if our
life wasn't perhaps a little selfish." This also for a time, much
at his leisure, Adam Verver retrospectively fixed. "Because Fanny
Assingham thought so?"

"Oh no; she never thought, she couldn't think, if she would,
anything of that sort. She only thinks people are sometimes
fools," Maggie developed; "she doesn't seem to think so much
about their being wrong--wrong, that is, in the sense of being
wicked. She doesn't," the Princess further adventured, "quite so
much mind their being wicked."

"I see--I see." And yet it might have been for his daughter that
he didn't so very vividly see. "Then she only thought US fools?"

"Oh no--I don't say that. I'm speaking of our being selfish."

"And that comes under the head of the wickedness Fanny condones?"

"Oh, I don't say she CONDONES--!" A scruple in Maggie raised its
crest. "Besides, I'm speaking of what was."

Her father showed, however, after a little, that he had not been
reached by this discrimination; his thoughts were resting for the
moment where they had settled. "Look here, Mag," he said
reflectively--"I ain't selfish. I'll be blowed if I'm selfish."

Well, Maggie, if he WOULD talk of that, could also pronounce.
"Then, father, _I_ am."

"Oh shucks!" said Adam Verver, to whom the vernacular, in moments
of deepest sincerity, could thus come back. "I'll believe it," he
presently added, "when Amerigo complains of you."

"Ah, it's just he who's my selfishness. I'm selfish, so to speak,
FOR him. I mean," she continued, "that he's my motive--in

Well, her father could, from experience, fancy what she meant.
"But hasn't a girl a right to be selfish about her husband?"

"What I DON'T mean," she observed without answering, "is that I'm
jealous of him. But that's his merit--it's not mine."

Her father again seemed amused at her. "You COULD be--otherwise?"

"Oh, how can I talk," she asked, "of otherwise? It ISN'T, luckily
for me, otherwise. If everything were different"--she further
presented her thought--"of course everything WOULD be." And then
again, as if that were but half: "My idea is this, that when you
only love a little you're naturally not jealous--or are only
jealous also a little, so that it doesn't matter. But when you
love in a deeper and intenser way, then you are, in the same
proportion, jealous; your jealousy has intensity and, no doubt,
ferocity. When, however, you love in the most abysmal and
unutterable way of all--why then you're beyond everything, and
nothing can pull you down."

Mr. Verver listened as if he had nothing, on these high lines, to
oppose. "And that's the way YOU love?"

For a minute she failed to speak, but at last she answered: "It
wasn't to talk about that. I do FEEL, however, beyond everything
--and as a consequence of that, I dare say," she added with a
turn to gaiety, "seem often not to know quite WHERE I am."

The mere fine pulse of passion in it, the suggestion as of a
creature consciously floating and shining in a warm summer sea,
some element of dazzling sapphire and silver, a creature cradled
upon depths, buoyant among dangers, in which fear or folly, or
sinking otherwise than in play, was impossible--something of all
this might have been making once more present to him, with his
discreet, his half shy assent to it, her probable enjoyment of a
rapture that he, in his day, had presumably convinced no great
number of persons either of his giving or of his receiving. He
sat awhile as if he knew himself hushed, almost admonished, and
not for the first time; yet it was an effect that might have
brought before him rather what she had gained than what he had

Besides, who but himself really knew what he, after all, hadn't,
or even had, gained? The beauty of her condition was keeping him,
at any rate, as he might feel, in sight of the sea, where, though
his personal dips were over, the whole thing could shine at him,
and the air and the plash and the play become for him too a
sensation. That couldn't be fixed upon him as missing; since if
it wasn't personally floating, if it wasn't even sitting in the
sand, it could yet pass very well for breathing the bliss, in a
communicated irresistible way--for tasting the balm. It could
pass, further, for knowing--for knowing that without him nothing
might have been: which would have been missing least of all.

"I guess I've never been jealous," he finally remarked. And it
said more to her, he had occasion next to perceive, than he was
intending; for it made her, as by the pressure of a spring, give
him a look that seemed to tell of things she couldn't speak.

But she at last tried for one of them. "Oh, it's you, father, who
are what I call beyond everything. Nothing can pull YOU down."

He returned the look as with the sociability of their easy
communion, though inevitably throwing in this time a shade of
solemnity. He might have been seeing things to say, and others,
whether of a type presumptuous or not, doubtless better kept
back. So he settled on the merely obvious. "Well then, we make a
pair. We're all right."

"Oh, we're all right!" A declaration launched not only with all
her discriminating emphasis, but confirmed by her rising with
decision and standing there as if the object of their small
excursion required accordingly no further pursuit. At this
juncture, however--with the act of their crossing the bar, to
get, as might be, into port--there occurred the only approach to
a betrayal of their having had to beat against the wind. Her
father kept his place, and it was as if she had got over first
and were pausing for her consort to follow. If they were all
right; they were all right; yet he seemed to hesitate and wait
for some word beyond. His eyes met her own, suggestively, and it
was only after she had contented herself with simply smiling at
him, smiling ever so fixedly, that he spoke, for the remaining
importance of it, from the bench; where he leaned back, raising
his face to her, his legs thrust out a trifle wearily and his
hands grasping either side of the seat. They had beaten against
the wind, and she was still fresh; they had beaten against the
wind, and he, as at the best the more battered vessel, perhaps
just vaguely drooped. But the effect of their silence was that
she appeared to beckon him on, and he might have been fairly
alongside of her when, at the end of another minute, he found
their word. "The only thing is that, as for ever putting up again
with your pretending that you're selfish--!"

At this she helped him out with it. "You won't take it from me?"

"I won't take it from you."

"Well, of course you won't, for that's your way. It doesn't
matter, and it only proves--! But it doesn't matter, either, what
it proves. I'm at this very moment," she declared, "frozen stiff
with selfishness."

He faced her awhile longer in the same way; it was, strangely, as
if, by this sudden arrest, by their having, in their acceptance
of the unsaid, or at least their reference to it, practically
given up pretending--it was as if they were "in" for it, for
something they had been ineffably avoiding, but the dread of
which was itself, in a manner, a seduction, just as any
confession of the dread was by so much an allusion. Then she
seemed to see him let himself go. "When a person's of the nature
you speak of there are always other persons to suffer. But you've
just been describing to me what you'd take, if you had once a
good chance, from your husband."

"Oh, I'm not talking about my husband!"

"Then whom, ARE you talking about?"

Both the retort and the rejoinder had come quicker than anything
previously exchanged, and they were followed, on Maggie's part,
by a momentary drop. But she was not to fall away, and while her
companion kept his eyes on her, while she wondered if he weren't
expecting her to name his wife then, with high hypocrisy, as
paying for his daughter's bliss, she produced something that she
felt to be much better. "I'm talking about YOU."

"Do you mean I've been your victim?"

"Of course you've been my victim. What have you done, ever done,
that hasn't been FOR me?"

"Many things; more than I can tell you--things you've only to
think of for yourself. What do you make of all that I've done for

"'Yourself'?--" She brightened out with derision.

"What do you make of what I've done for American City?"

It took her but a moment to say. "I'm not talking of you as a
public character--I'm talking of you on your personal side."

"Well, American City--if 'personalities' can do it--has given me
a pretty personal side. What do you make," he went on, "of what
I've done for my reputation?"

"Your reputation THERE? You've given it up to them, the awful
people, for less than nothing; you've given it up to them to tear
to pieces, to make their horrible vulgar jokes against you with."

"Ah, my dear, I don't care for their horrible vulgar jokes," Adam
Verver almost artlessly urged.

"Then there, exactly, you are!" she triumphed. "Everything that
touches you, everything that surrounds you, goes on--by your
splendid indifference and your incredible permission--at your

Just as he had been sitting he looked at her an instant longer;
then he slowly rose, while his hands stole into his pockets, and
stood there before her. "Of course, my dear, YOU go on at my
expense: it has never been my idea," he smiled, "that you should
work for your living. I wouldn't have liked to see it." With
which, for a little again, they remained face to face. "Say
therefore I HAVE had the feelings of a father. How have they made
me a victim?"

"Because I sacrifice you."

"But to what in the world?"

At this it hung before her that she should have had as never yet
her opportunity to say, and it held her for a minute as in a
vise, her impression of his now, with his strained smile, which
touched her to deepest depths, sounding her in his secret unrest.
This was the moment, in the whole process of their mutual
vigilance, in which it decidedly most hung by a hair that their
thin wall might be pierced by the lightest wrong touch. It shook
between them, this transparency, with their very breath; it was
an exquisite tissue, but stretched on a frame, and would give way
the next instant if either so much as breathed too hard. She held
her breath, for she knew by his eyes, the light at the heart of
which he couldn't blind, that he was, by his intention, making
sure--sure whether or no her certainty was like his. The
intensity of his dependence on it at that moment--this itself was
what absolutely convinced her so that, as if perched up before
him on her vertiginous point and in the very glare of his
observation, she balanced for thirty seconds, she almost rocked:
she might have been for the time, in all her conscious person,
the very form of the equilibrium they were, in their different
ways, equally trying to save. And they were saving it--yes, they
were, or at least she was: that was still the workable issue, she
could say, as she felt her dizziness drop. She held herself hard;
the thing was to be done, once for all, by her acting, now, where
she stood. So much was crowded into so short a space that she
knew already she was keeping her head. She had kept it by the
warning of his eyes; she shouldn't lose it again; she knew how
and why, and if she had turned cold this was precisely what
helped her. He had said to himself "She'll break down and name
Amerigo; she'll say it's to him she's sacrificing me; and its by
what that will give me--with so many other things too--that my
suspicion will be clinched." He was watching her lips, spying for
the symptoms of the sound; whereby these symptoms had only to
fail and he would have got nothing that she didn't measure out to
him as she gave it. She had presently in fact so recovered
herself that she seemed to know she could more easily have made
him name his wife than he have made her name her husband. It was
there before her that if she should so much as force him just NOT
consciously to avoid saying "Charlotte, Charlotte" he would have
given himself away. But to be sure of this was enough for her,
and she saw more clearly with each lapsing instant what they were
both doing. He was doing what he had steadily been coming to; he
was practically OFFERING himself, pressing himself upon her, as a
sacrifice--he had read his way so into her best possibility; and
where had she already, for weeks and days past, planted her feet
if not on her acceptance of the offer? Cold indeed, colder and
colder she turned, as she felt herself suffer this close personal
vision of his attitude still not to make her weaken. That was her
very certitude, the intensity of his pressure; for if something
dreadful hadn't happened there wouldn't, for either of them, be
these dreadful things to do. She had meanwhile, as well, the
immense advantage that she could have named Charlotte without
exposing herself--as, for that matter, she was the next minute
showing him.

"Why, I sacrifice you, simply, to everything and to every one. I
take the consequences of your marriage as perfectly natural."

He threw back his head a little, settling with one hand his
eyeglass. "What do you call, my dear, the consequences?"

"Your life as your marriage has made it."

"Well, hasn't it made it exactly what we wanted?" She just
hesitated, then felt herself steady--oh, beyond what she had
dreamed. "Exactly what _I_ wanted--yes."

His eyes, through his straightened glasses, were still on hers,
and he might, with his intenser fixed smile, have been knowing
she was, for herself, rightly inspired. "What do you make then of
what I wanted?"

"I don't make anything, any more than of what you've got. That's
exactly the point. I don't put myself out to do so--I never have;
I take from you all I can get, all you've provided for me, and I
leave you to make of your own side of the matter what you can.
There you are--the rest is your own affair. I don't even pretend
to concern myself--!"

"To concern yourself--?" He watched her as she faintly faltered,
looking about her now so as not to keep always meeting his face.

"With what may have REALLY become of you. It's as if we had
agreed from the first not to go into that--such an arrangement
being of course charming for ME. You can't say, you know, that I
haven't stuck to it."

He didn't say so then--even with the opportunity given him of her
stopping once more to catch her breath. He said instead: "Oh, my
dear--oh, oh!"

But it made no difference, know as she might what a past--still
so recent and yet so distant--it alluded to; she repeated her
denial, warning him off, on her side, from spoiling the truth of
her contention. "I never went into anything, and you see I don't;
I've continued to adore you--but what's that, from a decent
daughter to such a father? what but a question of convenient
arrangement, our having two houses, three houses, instead of one
(you would have arranged for fifty if I had wished!) and my
making it easy for you to see the child? You don't claim, I
suppose, that my natural course, once you had set up for
yourself, would have been to ship you back to American City?"

These were direct inquiries, they quite rang out, in the soft,
wooded air; so that Adam Verver, for a minute, appeared to meet
them with reflection. She saw reflection, however, quickly enough
show him what to do with them. "Do you know, Mag, what you make
me wish when you talk that way?" And he waited again, while she
further got from him the sense of something that had been behind,
deeply in the shade, coming cautiously to the front and just
feeling its way before presenting itself. "You regularly make me
wish that I had shipped back to American City. When you go on as
you do--" But he really had to hold himself to say it.

"Well, when I go on--?"

"Why, you make me quite want to ship back myself. You make me
quite feel as if American City would be the best place for us."

It made her all too finely vibrate. "For 'us'--?"

"For me and Charlotte. Do you know that if we should ship, it
would serve you quite right?" With which he smiled--oh he smiled!
"And if you say much more we WILL ship."

Ah, then it was that the cup of her conviction, full to the brim,
overflowed at a touch! THERE was his idea, the clearness of which
for an instant almost dazzled her. It was a blur of light, in the
midst of which she saw Charlotte like some object marked, by
contrast, in blackness, saw her waver in the field of vision, saw
her removed, transported, doomed. And he had named Charlotte,
named her again, and she had MADE him--which was all she had
needed more: it was as if she had held a blank letter to the fire
and the writing had come out still larger than she hoped. The
recognition of it took her some seconds, but she might when she
spoke have been folding up these precious lines and restoring
them to her pocket. "Well, I shall be as much as ever then the
cause of what you do. I haven't the least doubt of your being up
to that if you should think I might get anything out of it; even
the little pleasure," she laughed, "of having said, as you call
it, 'more.' Let my enjoyment of this therefore, at any price,
continue to represent for you what _I_ call sacrificing you."

She had drawn a long breath; she had made him do it ALL for her,
and had lighted the way to it without his naming her husband.
That silence had been as distinct as the sharp, the inevitable
sound, and something now, in him, followed it up, a sudden air as
of confessing at last fully to where she was and of begging the
particular question. "Don't you think then I can take care of

"Ah, it's exactly what I've gone upon. If it wasn't for that--!"

But she broke off, and they remained only another moment face to
face. "I'll let you know, my dear, the day _I_ feel you've begun
to sacrifice me."

"'Begun'?" she extravagantly echoed.

"Well, it will be, for me, the day you've ceased to believe in

With which, his glasses still fixed on her, his hands in his
pockets, his hat pushed back, his legs a little apart, he seemed
to plant or to square himself for a kind of assurance it had
occurred to him he might as well treat her to, in default of
other things, before they changed their subject. It had the
effect, for her, of a reminder--a reminder of all he was, of all
he had done, of all, above and beyond his being her perfect
little father, she might take him as representing, take him as
having, quite eminently, in the eyes of two hemispheres, been
capable of, and as therefore wishing, not--was it?--
illegitimately, to call her attention to. The "successful,"
beneficent person, the beautiful, bountiful, original,
dauntlessly wilful great citizen, the consummate collector and
infallible high authority he had been and still was--these things
struck her, on the spot, as making up for him, in a wonderful
way, a character she must take into account in dealing with him
either for pity or for envy. He positively, under the impression,
seemed to loom larger than life for her, so that she saw him
during these moments in a light of recognition which had had its
brightness for her at many an hour of the past, but which had
never been so intense and so almost admonitory. His very
quietness was part of it now, as always part of everything, of
his success, his originality, his modesty, his exquisite public
perversity, his inscrutable, incalculable energy; and this
quality perhaps it might be--all the more too as the result, for
the present occasion, of an admirable, traceable effort--that
placed him in her eyes as no precious a work of art probably had
ever been placed in his own. There was a long moment, absolutely,
during which her impression rose and rose, even as that of the
typical charmed gazer, in the still museum, before the named and
dated object, the pride of the catalogue, that time has polished
and consecrated. Extraordinary, in particular, was the number of
the different ways in which he thus affected her as showing. He
was strong--that was the great thing. He was sure--sure for
himself, always, whatever his idea: the expression of that in him
had somehow never appeared more identical with his proved taste
for the rare and the true. But what stood out beyond everything
was that he was always, marvellously, young--which couldn't but
crown, at this juncture, his whole appeal to her imagination.
Before she knew it she was lifted aloft by the consciousness that
he was simply a great and deep and high little man, and that to
love him with tenderness was not to be distinguished, a whit,
from loving him with pride. It came to her, all strangely, as a
sudden, an immense relief. The sense that he wasn't a failure,
and could never be, purged their predicament of every meanness--
made it as if they had really emerged, in their transmuted union,
to smile almost without pain. It was like a new confidence, and
after another instant she knew even still better why. Wasn't it
because now, also, on his side, he was thinking of her as his
daughter, was TRYING her, during these mute seconds, as the child
of his blood? Oh then, if she wasn't with her little conscious
passion, the child of any weakness, what was she but strong
enough too? It swelled in her, fairly; it raised her higher,
higher: she wasn't in that case a failure either--hadn't been,
but the contrary; his strength was her strength, her pride was
his, and they were decent and competent together. This was all in
the answer she finally made him.

"I believe in you more than any one."

"Than any one at all?"

She hesitated, for all it might mean; but there was--oh a
thousand times!--no doubt of it. "Than any one at all." She kept
nothing of it back now, met his eyes over it, let him have the
whole of it; after which she went on: "And that's the way, I
think, you believe in me."

He looked at her a minute longer, but his tone at last was right.
"About the way--yes."

"Well then--?" She spoke as for the end and for other matters--
for anything, everything, else there might be. They would never
return to it.

"Well then--!" His hands came out, and while her own took them he
drew her to his breast and held her. He held her hard and kept
her long, and she let herself go; but it was an embrace that,
august and almost stern, produced, for all its intimacy, no
revulsion and broke into no inconsequence of tears.


Maggie was to feel, after this passage, how they had both been
helped through it by the influence of that accident of her having
been caught, a few nights before, in the familiar embrace of her
father's wife. His return to the saloon had chanced to coincide
exactly with this demonstration, missed moreover neither by her
husband nor by the Assinghams, who, their card-party suspended,
had quitted the billiard-room with him. She had been conscious
enough at the time of what such an impression, received by the
others, might, in that extended state, do for her case; and none
the less that, as no one had appeared to wish to be the first to
make a remark about it, it had taken on perceptibly the special
shade of consecration conferred by unanimities of silence. The
effect, she might have considered, had been almost awkward--the
promptitude of her separation from Charlotte, as if they had been
discovered in some absurdity, on her becoming aware of
spectators. The spectators, on the other hand--that was the
appearance--mightn't have supposed them, in the existing
relation, addicted to mutual endearments; and yet, hesitating
with a fine scruple between sympathy and hilarity, must have felt
that almost any spoken or laughed comment could be kept from
sounding vulgar only by sounding, beyond any permitted measure,
intelligent. They had evidently looked, the two young wives, like
a pair of women "making up" effusively, as women were supposed to
do, especially when approved fools, after a broil; but taking
note of the reconciliation would imply, on her father's part, on
Amerigo's, and on Fanny Assingham's, some proportionate vision of
the grounds of their difference. There had been something, there
had been but too much, in the incident, for each observer; yet
there was nothing any one could have said without seeming
essentially to say: "See, see, the dear things--their quarrel's
blissfully over!" "Our quarrel? What quarrel?" the dear things
themselves would necessarily, in that case, have demanded; and
the wits of the others would thus have been called upon for some
agility of exercise. No one had been equal to the flight of
producing, off-hand, a fictive reason for any estrangement--to
take, that is, the place of the true, which had so long, for the
finer sensibility, pervaded the air; and every one, accordingly,
not to be inconveniently challenged, was pretending, immediately
after, to have remarked nothing that any one else hadn't.

Maggie's own measure had remained, all the same, full of the
reflection caught from the total inference; which had acted,
virtually, by enabling every one present--and oh Charlotte not
least!--to draw a long breath. The message of the little scene
had been different for each, but it had been this, markedly, all
round, that it reinforced--reinforced even immensely--the general
effort, carried on from week to week and of late distinctly more
successful, to look and talk and move as if nothing in life were
the matter. Supremely, however, while this glass was held up to
her, had Maggie's sense turned to the quality of the success
constituted, on the spot, for Charlotte. Most of all, if she was
guessing how her father must have secretly started, how her
husband must have secretly wondered, how Fanny Assingham must
have secretly, in a flash, seen daylight for herself--most of all
had she tasted, by communication, of the high profit involved for
her companion. She FELT, in all her pulses, Charlotte feel it,
and how publicity had been required, absolutely, to crown her own
abasement. It was the added touch, and now nothing was wanting--
which, to do her stepmother justice, Mrs. Verver had appeared but
to desire, from that evening, to show, with the last vividness,
that she recognised. Maggie lived over again the minutes in
question--had found herself repeatedly doing so; to the degree
that the whole evening hung together, to her aftersense, as a
thing appointed by some occult power that had dealt with her,
that had for instance--animated the four with just the right
restlessness too, had decreed and directed and exactly timed it
in them, making their game of bridge--however abysmal a face it
had worn for her--give way, precisely, to their common unavowed
impulse to find out, to emulate Charlotte's impatience; a
preoccupation, this latter, attached detectedly to the member of
the party who was roaming in her queerness and was, for all their
simulated blindness, not roaming unnoted.

If Mrs. Verver meanwhile, then, had struck her as determined in a
certain direction by the last felicity into which that night had
flowered, our young woman was yet not to fail of appreciating the
truth that she had not been put at ease, after all, with absolute
permanence. Maggie had seen her, unmistakably, desire to rise to
the occasion and be magnificent--seen her decide that the right
way for this would be to prove that the reassurance she had
extorted there, under the high, cool lustre of the saloon, a
twinkle of crystal and silver, had not only poured oil upon the
troubled waters of their question, but had fairly drenched their
whole intercourse with that lubricant. She had exceeded the limit
of discretion in this insistence on her capacity to repay in
proportion a service she acknowledged as handsome. "Why
handsome?" Maggie would have been free to ask; since if she had
been veracious the service assuredly would not have been huge. It
would in that case have come up vividly, and for each of them
alike, that the truth, on the Princess's lips, presented no
difficulty. If the latter's mood, in fact, could have turned
itself at all to private gaiety it might have failed to resist
the diversion of seeing so clever a creature so beguiled.
Charlotte's theory of a generous manner was manifestly to express
that her stepdaughter's word, wiping out, as she might have said,
everything, had restored them to the serenity of a relation
without a cloud. It had been, in short, in this light, ideally
conclusive, so that no ghost of anything it referred to could
ever walk again. What was the ecstasy of that, however, but in
itself a trifle compromising?--as truly, within the week, Maggie
had occasion to suspect her friend of beginning, and rather
abruptly, to remember. Convinced as she was of the example
already given her by her husband, and in relation to which her
profession of trust in his mistress had been an act of conformity
exquisitely calculated, her imagination yet sought in the hidden
play of his influence the explanation of any change of surface,
any difference of expression or intention. There had been,
through life, as we know, few quarters in which the Princess's
fancy could let itself loose; but it shook off restraint when it
plunged into the figured void of the detail of that relation.
This was a realm it could people with images--again and again
with fresh ones; they swarmed there like the strange combinations
that lurked in the woods at twilight; they loomed into the
definite and faded into the vague, their main present sign for
her being, however, that they were always, that they were
duskily, agitated. Her earlier vision of a state of bliss made
insecure by the very intensity of the bliss--this had dropped
from her; she had ceased to see, as she lost herself, the pair of
operatic, of high Wagnerian lovers (she found, deep within her,
these comparisons) interlocked in their wood of enchantment, a
green glade as romantic as one's dream of an old German forest.
The picture was veiled, on the contrary, with the dimness of
trouble; behind which she felt, indistinguishable, the procession
of forms that had lost, all so pitifully, their precious
confidence. Therefore, though there was in these days, for her,
with Amerigo, little enough even of the imitation, from day to
day, of unembarrassed references--as she had foreseen, for that
matter, from the first, that there would be--her active
conception of his accessibility to their companion's own private
and unextinguished right to break ground was not much less active
than before. So it was that her inner sense, in spite of
everything, represented him as still pulling wires and
controlling currents, or rather indeed as muffling the whole
possibility, keeping it down and down, leading his accomplice
continually on to some new turn of the road. As regards herself
Maggie had become more conscious from week to week of his
ingenuities of intention to make up to her for their forfeiture,
in so dire a degree, of any reality of frankness--a privation
that had left on his lips perhaps a little of the same thirst
with which she fairly felt her own distorted, the torment of the
lost pilgrim who listens in desert sands for the possible, the
impossible, plash of water. It was just this hampered state in
him, none the less, that she kept before her when she wished most
to find grounds of dignity for the hard little passion which
nothing he had done could smother. There were hours enough,
lonely hours, in which she let dignity go; then there were others
when, clinging with her winged concentration to some deep cell of
her heart, she stored away her hived tenderness as if she had
gathered it all from flowers. He was walking ostensibly beside
her, but in fact given over, without a break, to the grey medium
in which he helplessly groped; a perception on her part which was
a perpetual pang and which might last what it would--for ever if
need be--but which, if relieved at all, must be relieved by his
act alone. She herself could do nothing more for it; she had done
the utmost possible. It was meantime not the easier to bear for
this aspect under which Charlotte was presented as depending on
him for guidance, taking it from him even in doses of bitterness,
and yet lost with him in devious depths. Nothing was thus more
sharply to be inferred than that he had promptly enough warned
her, on hearing from her of the precious assurance received from
his wife, that she must take care her satisfaction didn't betray
something of her danger. Maggie had a day of still waiting, after
allowing him time to learn how unreservedly she had lied for
him--of waiting as for the light of she scarce knew what slow-
shining reflection of this knowledge in his personal attitude.
What retarded evolution, she asked herself in these hours,
mightn't poor Charlotte all unwittingly have precipitated? She
was thus poor Charlotte again for Maggie even while Maggie's own
head was bowed, and the reason for this kept coming back to our
young woman in the conception of what would secretly have passed.
She saw her, face to face with the Prince, take from him the
chill of his stiffest admonition, with the possibilities of
deeper difficulty that it represented for each. She heard her
ask, irritated and sombre, what tone, in God's name--since her
bravery didn't suit him--she was then to adopt; and, by way of a
fantastic flight of divination, she heard Amerigo reply, in a
voice of which every fine note, familiar and admirable, came home
to her, that one must really manage such prudences a little for
one's self. It was positive in the Princess that, for this, she
breathed Charlotte's cold air--turned away from him in it with
her, turned with her, in growing compassion, this way and that,
hovered behind her while she felt her ask herself where then she
should rest. Marvellous the manner in which, under such
imaginations, Maggie thus circled and lingered--quite as if she
were, materially, following her unseen, counting every step she
helplessly wasted, noting every hindrance that brought her to a

A few days of this, accordingly, had wrought a change in that
apprehension of the instant beatitude of triumph--of triumph
magnanimous and serene--with which the upshot of the night-scene
on the terrace had condemned our young woman to make terms. She
had had, as we know, her vision of the gilt bars bent, of the
door of the cage forced open from within and the creature
imprisoned roaming at large--a movement, on the creature's part,
that was to have even, for the short interval, its impressive
beauty, but of which the limit, and in yet another direction, had
loomed straight into view during her last talk under the great
trees with her father. It was when she saw his wife's face
ruefully attached to the quarter to which, in the course of their
session, he had so significantly addressed his own--it was then
that Maggie could watch for its turning pale, it was then she
seemed to know what she had meant by thinking of her, in she
shadow of his most ominous reference, as "doomed." If, as I say,
her attention now, day after day, so circled and hovered, it
found itself arrested for certain passages during which she
absolutely looked with Charlotte's grave eyes. What she
unfailingly made out through them was the figure of a little
quiet gentleman who mostly wore, as he moved, alone, across the
field of vision, a straw hat, a white waistcoat and a blue
necktie, keeping a cigar in his teeth and his hands in his
pockets, and who, oftener than not, presented a somewhat
meditative back while he slowly measured the perspectives of the
park and broodingly counted (it might have appeared) his steps.
There were hours of intensity, for a week or two, when it was for
all the world as if she had guardedly tracked her stepmother, in
the great house, from room to room and from window to window,
only to see her, here and there and everywhere, TRY her uneasy
outlook, question her issue and her fate. Something,
unmistakably, had come up for her that had never come up before;
it represented a new complication and had begotten a new
anxiety--things, these, that she carried about with her done up
in the napkin of her lover's accepted rebuke, while she vainly
hunted for some corner where she might put them safely down. The
disguised solemnity, the prolonged futility of her search might
have been grotesque to a more ironic eye; but Maggie's provision
of irony, which we have taken for naturally small, had never been
so scant as now, and there were moments while she watched with
her, thus unseen, when the mere effect of being near her was to
feel her own heart in her throat, was to be almost moved to
saying to her: "Hold on tight, my poor dear--without TOO MUCH
terror--and it will all come out somehow."

Even to that indeed, she could reflect, Charlotte might have
replied that it was easy to say; even to that no great meaning
could attach so long as the little meditative man in the straw
hat kept coming into view with his indescribable air of weaving
his spell, weaving it off there by himself. In whatever quarter
of the horizon the appearances were scanned he was to be noticed
as absorbed in this occupation; and Maggie was to become aware of
two or three extraordinary occasions of receiving from him the
hint that he measured the impression he produced. It was not
really till after their recent long talk in the park that she
knew how deeply, how quite exhaustively, they had then
communicated--so that they were to remain together, for the time,
in consequence, quite in the form of a couple of sociable
drinkers who sit back from the table over which they have been
resting their elbows, over which they have emptied to the last
drop their respective charged cups. The cups were still there on
the table, but turned upside down; and nothing was left for the
companions but to confirm by placid silences the fact that the
wine had been good. They had parted, positively, as if, on either
side, primed with it--primed for whatever was to be; and
everything between them, as the month waned, added its touch of
truth to this similitude. Nothing, truly, WAS at present between
them save that they were looking at each other in infinite trust;
it fairly wanted no more words, and when they met, during the
deep summer days, met even without witnesses, when they kissed at
morning and evening, or on any of the other occasions of contact
that they had always so freely celebrated, a pair of birds of the
upper air could scarce have appeared less to invite each other to
sit down and worry afresh. So it was that in the house itself,
where more of his waiting treasures than ever were provisionally
ranged, she sometimes only looked at him--from end to end of the
great gallery, the pride of the house, for instance--as if, in
one of the halls of a museum, she had been an earnest young woman
with a Baedeker and he a vague gentleman to whom even Baedekers
were unknown. He had ever, of course, had his way of walking
about to review his possessions and verify their condition; but
this was a pastime to which he now struck her as almost
extravagantly addicted, and when she passed near him and he
turned to give her a smile she caught--or so she fancied--the
greater depth of his small, perpetual hum of contemplation. It
was as if he were singing to himself, sotto voce, as he went--and
it was also, on occasion, quite ineffably, as if Charlotte,
hovering, watching, listening, on her side too, kept sufficiently
within earshot to make it out as song, and yet, for some reason
connected with the very manner of it, stood off and didn't dare.

One of the attentions she had from immediately after her marriage
most freely paid him was that of her interest in his rarities,
her appreciation of his taste, her native passion for beautiful
objects and her grateful desire not to miss anything he could
teach her about them. Maggie had in due course seen her begin
to "work" this fortunately natural source of sympathy for all it
was worth. She took possession of the mound throughout its
extent; she abounded, to odd excess, one might have remarked, in
the assumption of its being for her, with her husband, ALL the
ground, the finest, clearest air and most breathable medium
common to them. It had been given to Maggie to wonder if she
didn't, in these intensities of approbation, too much shut him up
to his province; but this was a complaint he had never made his
daughter, and Charlotte must at least have had for her that,
thanks to her admirable instinct, her range of perception
marching with his own and never falling behind, she had probably
not so much as once treated him to a rasping mistake or a
revealing stupidity. Maggie, wonderfully, in the summer days,
felt it forced upon her that that was one way, after all, of
being a genial wife; and it was never so much forced upon her as
at these odd moments of her encountering the sposi, as Amerigo
called them, under the coved ceilings of Fawns while, so
together, yet at the same time so separate, they were making
their daily round. Charlotte hung behind, with emphasised
attention; she stopped when her husband stopped, but at the
distance of a case or two, or of whatever other succession of
objects; and the likeness of their connection would not have been
wrongly figured if he had been thought of as holding in one of
his pocketed hands the end of a long silken halter looped round
her beautiful neck. He didn't twitch it, yet it was there; he
didn't drag her, but she came; and those indications that I have
described the Princess as finding extraordinary in him were two
or three mute facial intimations which his wife's presence didn't
prevent his addressing his daughter--nor prevent his daughter, as
she passed, it was doubtless to be added, from flushing a little
at the receipt of. They amounted perhaps only to a wordless,
wordless smile, but the smile was the soft shake of the twisted
silken rope, and Maggie's translation of it, held in her breast
till she got well away, came out only, as if it might have been
overheard, when some door was closed behind her. "Yes, you see--I
lead her now by the neck, I lead her to her doom, and she doesn't
so much as know what it is, though she has a fear in her heart
which, if you had the chances to apply your ear there that I, as
a husband, have, you would hear thump and thump and thump. She
thinks it MAY be, her doom, the awful place over there--awful for
HER; but she's afraid to ask, don't you see? just as she's afraid
of not asking; just as she's afraid of so many other things that
she sees multiplied round her now as portents and betrayals.
She'll know, however--when she does know."

Charlotte's one opportunity, meanwhile, for the air of confidence
she had formerly worn so well and that agreed so with her firm
and charming type, was the presence of visitors, never, as the
season advanced, wholly intermitted--rather, in fact, so
constant, with all the people who turned up for luncheon and for
tea and to see the house, now replete, now famous, that
Maggie grew to think again of this large element of "company" as
of a kind of renewed water-supply for the tank in which, like a
party of panting gold-fish, they kept afloat. It helped them,
unmistakably, with each other, weakening the emphasis of so many
of the silences of which their intimate intercourse would
otherwise have consisted. Beautiful and wonderful for her, even,
at times, was the effect of these interventions--their effect
above all in bringing home to each the possible heroism of
perfunctory things. They learned fairly to live in the
perfunctory; they remained in it as many hours of the day as
might be; it took on finally the likeness of some spacious
central chamber in a haunted house, a great overarched and
overglazed rotunda, where gaiety might reign, but the doors of
which opened into sinister circular passages. Here they turned up
for each other, as they said, with the blank faces that denied
any uneasiness felt in the approach; here they closed numerous
doors carefully behind them--all save the door that connected the
place, as by a straight tented corridor, with the outer world,
and, encouraging thus the irruption of society, imitated the
aperture through which the bedizened performers of the circus are
poured into the ring. The great part Mrs. Verver had socially
played came luckily, Maggie could make out, to her assistance;
she had "personal friends"--Charlotte's personal friends had ever
been, in London, at the two houses, one of the most convenient
pleasantries--who actually tempered, at this crisis, her aspect
of isolation; and it wouldn't have been hard to guess that her
best moments were those in which she suffered no fear of becoming
a bore to restrain her appeal to their curiosity. Their curiosity
might be vague, but their clever hostess was distinct, and she
marched them about, sparing them nothing, as if she counted, each
day, on a harvest of half crowns. Maggie met her again, in the
gallery, at the oddest hours, with the party she was
entertaining; heard her draw out the lesson, insist upon the
interest, snub, even, the particular presumption and smile for
the general bewilderment--inevitable features, these latter, of
almost any occasion--in a manner that made our young woman,
herself incurably dazzled, marvel afresh at the mystery by which
a creature who could be in some connexions so earnestly right
could be in others so perversely wrong. When her father, vaguely
circulating, was attended by his wife, it was always Charlotte
who seemed to bring up the rear; but he hung in the background
when she did cicerone, and it was then perhaps that, moving
mildly and modestly to and fro on the skirts of the exhibition,
his appearance of weaving his spell was, for the initiated
conscience, least to be resisted. Brilliant women turned to him
in vague emotion, but his response scarce committed him more than
if he had been the person employed to see that, after the
invading wave was spent, the cabinets were all locked and the
symmetries all restored.

There was a morning when, during the hour before luncheon and
shortly after the arrival of a neighbourly contingent--
neighbourly from ten miles off--whom Mrs. Verver had taken in
charge, Maggie paused on the threshold of the gallery through
which she had been about to pass, faltered there for the very
impression of his face as it met her from an opposite door.
Charlotte, half-way down the vista, held together, as if by
something almost austere in the grace of her authority, the
semi-scared (now that they were there!) knot of her visitors,
who, since they had announced themselves by telegram as yearning
to inquire and admire, saw themselves restricted to this
consistency. Her voice, high and clear and a little hard, reached
her husband and her step-daughter while she thus placed beyond
doubt her cheerful submission to duty. Her words, addressed to
the largest publicity, rang for some minutes through the place,
every one as quiet to listen as if it had been a church ablaze
with tapers and she were taking her part in some hymn of praise.
Fanny Assingham looked rapt in devotion--Fanny Assingham who
forsook this other friend as little as she forsook either her
host or the Princess or the Prince or the Principino; she
supported her, in slow revolutions, in murmurous attestations of
presence, at all such times, and Maggie, advancing after a first
hesitation, was not to fail of noting her solemn, inscrutable
attitude, her eyes attentively lifted, so that she might escape
being provoked to betray an impression. She betrayed one,
however, as Maggie approached, dropping her gaze to the latter's
level long enough to seem to adventure, marvellously, on a mute
appeal. "You understand, don't you, that if she didn't do this
there would be no knowing what she might do?" This light Mrs.
Assingham richly launched while her younger friend, unresistingly
moved, became uncertain again, and then, not too much to show
it--or, rather, positively to conceal it, and to conceal
something more as well--turned short round to one of the windows
and awkwardly, pointlessly waited. "The largest of the three
pieces has the rare peculiarity that the garlands, looped round
it, which, as you see, are the finest possible vieux Saxe, are
not of the same origin or period, or even, wonderful as they are,
of a taste quite so perfect. They have been put on at a later
time, by a process of which there are very few examples, and none
so important as this, which is really quite unique--so that,
though the whole thing is a little baroque, its value as a
specimen is, I believe, almost inestimable."

So the high voice quavered, aiming truly at effects far over the
heads of gaping neighbours; so the speaker, piling it up,
sticking at nothing, as less interested judges might have said,
seemed to justify the faith with which she was honoured. Maggie
meanwhile, at the window, knew the strangest thing to be
happening: she had turned suddenly to crying, or was at least on
the point of it--the lighted square before her all blurred and
dim. The high voice went on; its quaver was doubtless for
conscious ears only, but there were verily thirty seconds during
which it sounded, for our young woman, like the shriek of a soul
in pain. Kept up a minute longer it would break and collapse--so
that Maggie felt herself, the next thing, turn with a start to
her father. "Can't she be stopped? Hasn't she done it ENOUGH?"--
some such question as that she let herself ask him to suppose in
her. Then it was that, across half the gallery--for he had not
moved from where she had first seen him--he struck her as
confessing, with strange tears in his own eyes, to sharp identity
of emotion. "Poor thing, poor thing"--it reached straight--
"ISN'T she, for one's credit, on the swagger?" After which, as,
held thus together they had still another strained minute, the
shame, the pity, the better knowledge, the smothered protest, the
divined anguish even, so overcame him that, blushing to his eyes,
he turned short away. The affair but of a few muffled moments,
this snatched communion yet lifted Maggie as on air--so much, for
deep guesses on her own side too, it gave her to think of. There
was, honestly, an awful mixture in things, and it was not closed
to her aftersense of such passages--we have already indeed, in
other cases, seen it open--that the deepest depth of all, in a
perceived penalty, was that you couldn't be sure some of your
compunctions and contortions wouldn't show for ridiculous.
Amerigo, that morning, for instance, had been as absent as he at
this juncture appeared to desire he should mainly be noted as
being; he had gone to London for the day and the night--a
necessity that now frequently rose for him and that he had more
than once suffered to operate during the presence of guests,
successions of pretty women, the theory of his fond interest in
whom had been publicly cultivated. It had never occurred to his
wife to pronounce him ingenuous, but there came at last a high
dim August dawn when she couldn't sleep and when, creeping
restlessly about and breathing at her window the coolness of
wooded acres, she found the faint flush of the east march with
the perception of that other almost equal prodigy. It rosily
coloured her vision that--even such as he was, yes--her husband
could on occasion sin by excess of candour. He wouldn't otherwise
have given as his reason for going up to Portland Place in the
August days that he was arranging books there. He had bought a
great many of late, and he had had others, a large number, sent
from Rome--wonders of old print in which her father had been
interested. But when her imagination tracked him to the dusty
town, to the house where drawn blinds and pale shrouds, where a
caretaker and a kitchenmaid were alone in possession, it wasn't
to see him, in his shirtsleeves, unpacking battered boxes.

She saw him, in truth, less easily beguiled--saw him wander, in
the closed dusky rooms, from place to place, or else, for long
periods, recline on deep sofas and stare before him through the
smoke of ceaseless cigarettes. She made him out as liking better
than anything in the world just now to be alone with his
thoughts. Being herself connected with his thoughts, she
continued to believe, more than she had ever been, it was thereby
a good deal as if he were alone with HER. She made him out as
resting so from that constant strain of the perfunctory to which
he was exposed at Fawns; and she was accessible to the impression
of the almost beggared aspect of this alternative. It was like
his doing penance in sordid ways--being sent to prison or being
kept without money; it wouldn't have taken much to make her think
of him as really kept without food. He might have broken away,
might easily have started to travel; he had a right--thought
wonderful Maggie now--to so many more freedoms than he took! His
secret was of course that at Fawns he all the while winced, was
all the while in presences in respect to which he had thrown
himself back, with a hard pressure, on whatever mysteries of
pride, whatever inward springs familiar to the man of the world,
he could keep from snapping. Maggie, for some reason, had that
morning, while she watched the sunrise, taken an extraordinary
measure of the ground on which he would have HAD to snatch at
pretexts for absence. It all came to her there--he got off to
escape from a sound. The sound was in her own ears still--that of
Charlotte's high coerced quaver before the cabinets in the hushed
gallery; the voice by which she herself had been pierced the day
before as by that of a creature in anguish and by which, while
she sought refuge at the blurred window, the tears had been
forced into her eyes. Her comprehension soared so high that the
wonder for her became really his not feeling the need of wider
intervals and thicker walls. Before THAT admiration she also
meditated; consider as she might now, she kept reading not less
into what he omitted than into what he performed a beauty of
intention that touched her fairly the more by being obscure. It
was like hanging over a garden in the dark; nothing was to be
made of the confusion of growing things, but one felt they were
folded flowers, and their vague sweetness made the whole air
their medium. He had to turn away, but he wasn't at least a
coward; he would wait on the spot for the issue of what he had
done on the spot. She sank to her knees with her arm on the ledge
of her window-seat, where she blinded her eyes from the full
glare of seeing that his idea could only be to wait, whatever
might come, at her side. It was to her buried face that she thus,
for a long time, felt him draw nearest; though after a while,
when the strange wail of the gallery began to repeat its
inevitable echo, she was conscious of how that brought out his
pale hard grimace.


The resemblance had not been present to her on first coming out
into the hot, still brightness of the Sunday afternoon--only the
second Sunday, of all the summer, when the party of six, the
party of seven including the Principino, had practically been
without accessions or invasions; but within sight of Charlotte,
seated far away, very much where she had expected to find her,
the Princess fell to wondering if her friend wouldn't be affected
quite as she herself had been, that night on the terrace, under
Mrs. Verver's perceptive pursuit. The relation, to-day, had
turned itself round; Charlotte was seeing her come, through
patches of lingering noon, quite as she had watched Charlotte
menace her through the starless dark; and there was a moment,
that of her waiting a little as they thus met across the
distance, when the interval was bridged by a recognition not less
soundless, and to all appearance not less charged with strange
meanings, than that of the other occasion. The point, however,
was that they had changed places; Maggie had from her window,
seen her stepmother leave the house--at so unlikely an hour,
three o'clock of a canicular August, for a ramble in garden or
grove--and had thereupon felt her impulse determined with the
same sharpness that had made the spring of her companion's three
weeks before. It was the hottest day of the season, and the
shaded siesta, for people all at their ease, would certainly
rather have been prescribed; but our young woman had perhaps not
yet felt it so fully brought home that such refinements of

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