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The Golden Bowl by Henry James

Part 12 out of 12

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cessation of a sustained rattle. Stillness, when the Prince and
Princess returned from attending the visitors to their carriage,
might have been said to be not so much restored as created; so
that whatever next took place in it was foredoomed to remarkable
salience. That would have been the case even with so natural,
though so futile, a movement as Maggie's going out to the balcony
again to follow with her eyes her father's departure. The
carriage was out of sight--it had taken her too long solemnly to
reascend, and she looked awhile only at the great grey space, on
which, as on the room still more, the shadow of dusk had fallen.
Here, at first, her husband had not rejoined her; he had come up
with the boy, who, clutching his hand, abounded, as usual, in
remarks worthy of the family archives; but the two appeared then
to have proceeded to report to Miss Bogle. It meant something for
the Princess that her husband had thus got their son out of the
way, not bringing him back to his mother; but everything now, as
she vaguely moved about, struck her as meaning so much that the
unheard chorus swelled. Yet THIS above all--her just being there
as she was and waiting for him to come in, their freedom to be
together there always--was the meaning most disengaged: she stood
in the cool twilight and took in, all about her, where it lurked,
her reason for what she had done. She knew at last really why--
and how she had been inspired and guided, how she had been
persistently able, how, to her soul, all the while, it had been
for the sake of this end. Here it was, then, the moment, the
golden fruit that had shone from afar; only, what were these
things, in the fact, for the hand and for the lips, when tested,
when tasted--what were they as a reward? Closer than she had ever
been to the measure of her course and the full face of her act,
she had an instant of the terror that, when there has been
suspense, always precedes, on the part of the creature to be
paid, the certification of the amount. Amerigo knew it, the
amount; he still held it, and the delay in his return, making her
heart beat too fast to go on, was like a sudden blinding light on
a wild speculation. She had thrown the dice, but his hand was
over her cast.

He opened the door, however, at last--he hadn't been away ten
minutes; and then, with her sight of him renewed to intensity,
she seemed to have a view of the number. His presence alone, as
he paused to look at her, somehow made it the highest, and even
before he had spoken she had begun to be paid in full. With that
consciousness, in fact, an extraordinary thing occurred; the
assurance of her safety so making her terror drop that already,
within the minute, it had been changed to concern for his own
anxiety, for everything that was deep in his being and everything
that was fair in his face. So far as seeing that she was "paid"
went, he might have been holding out the money-bag for her to
come and take it. But what instantly rose, for her, between the
act and her acceptance was the sense that she must strike him as
waiting for a confession. This, in turn, charged her with a new
horror: if that was her proper payment she would go without
money. His acknowledgment hung there, too monstrously, at the
expense of Charlotte, before whose mastery of the greater style
she had just been standing dazzled. All she now knew,
accordingly, was that she should be ashamed to listen to the
uttered word; all, that is, but that she might dispose of it on
the spot forever.

"Isn't she too splendid?" she simply said, offering it to explain
and to finish.

"Oh, splendid!" With which he came over to her.

"That's our help, you see," she added--to point further her

It kept him before her therefore, taking in--or trying to--what
she so wonderfully gave. He tried, too clearly, to please her--to
meet her in her own way; but with the result only that, close to
her, her face kept before him, his hands holding her shoulders,
his whole act enclosing her, he presently echoed: "'See'? I see
nothing but you." And the truth of it had, with this force, after
a moment, so strangely lighted his eyes that, as for pity and
dread of them, she buried her own in his breast.

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