Part 2 out of 12
"It will do, I daresay, without your wringing your hands over it.
When, my dear," the Colonel pursued as he smoked, "have you ever
seen anything of yours--anything that you've done--NOT do?"
"Ah, I didn't do this!" It brought her answer straight. "I didn't
bring her back."
"Did you expect her to stay over there all her days to oblige
"Not a bit--for I shouldn't have minded her coming after their
marriage. It's her coming, this way, before." To which she added
with inconsequence: "I'm too sorry for her--of course she can't
enjoy it. But I don't see what perversity rides her. She needn't
have looked it all so in the face--as she doesn't do it, I
suppose, simply for discipline. It's almost--that's the bore of
it--discipline to ME."
"Perhaps then," said Bob Assingham, "that's what has been her
idea. Take it, for God's sake, as discipline to you and have done
with it. It will do," he added, "for discipline to me as well."
She was far, however, from having done with it; it was a
situation with such different sides, as she said, and to none of
which one could, in justice, be blind. "It isn't in the least,
you know, for instance, that I believe she's bad. Never, never,"
Mrs. Assingham declared. "I don't think that of her."
"Then why isn't that enough?"
Nothing was enough, Mrs. Assingham signified, but that she should
develop her thought. "She doesn't deliberately intend, she
doesn't consciously wish, the least complication. It's perfectly
true that she thinks Maggie a dear--as who doesn't? She's
incapable of any PLAN to hurt a hair of her head. Yet here she
is--and there THEY are," she wound up.
Her husband again, for a little, smoked in silence. "What in the
world, between them, ever took place?"
"Between Charlotte and the Prince? Why, nothing--except their
having to recognise that nothing COULD. That was their little
romance--it was even their little tragedy."
"But what the deuce did they DO?"
"Do? They fell in love with each other--but, seeing it wasn't
possible, gave each other up."
"Then where was the romance?"
"Why, in their frustration, in their having the courage to look
the facts in the face."
"What facts?" the Colonel went on.
"Well, to begin with, that of their neither of them having the
means to marry. If she had had even a little--a little, I mean,
for two--I believe he would bravely have done it." After which,
as her husband but emitted an odd vague sound, she corrected
herself. "I mean if he himself had had only a little--or a little
more than a little, a little for a prince. They would have done
what they could"--she did them justice"--if there had been a way.
But there wasn't a way, and Charlotte, quite to her honour, I
consider, understood it. He HAD to have money--it was a question
of life and death. It wouldn't have been a bit amusing, either,
to marry him as a pauper--I mean leaving him one. That was what
she had--as HE had--the reason to see."
"And their reason is what you call their romance?"
She looked at him a moment. "What do you want more?"
"Didn't HE," the Colonel inquired, "want anything more? Or
didn't, for that matter, poor Charlotte herself?"
She kept her eyes on him; there was a manner in it that half
answered. "They were thoroughly in love. She might have been
his--" She checked herself; she even for a minute lost herself.
"She might have been anything she liked--except his wife."
"But she wasn't," said the Colonel very smokingly.
"She wasn't," Mrs. Assingham echoed.
The echo, not loud but deep, filled for a little the room. He
seemed to listen to it die away; then he began again. "How are
She waited before saying, but when she spoke it was definite.
"There wasn't time."
He had a small laugh for her reason; he might have expected some
other. "Does it take so much time?"
She herself, however, remained serious. "It takes more than they
He was detached, but he wondered. "What was the matter with their
time?" After which, as, remembering it all, living it over and
piecing it together, she only considered, "You mean that you came
in with your idea?" he demanded.
It brought her quickly to the point, and as if also in a measure
to answer herself. "Not a bit of it--THEN. But you surely
recall," she went on, "the way, a year ago, everything took
place. They had parted before he had ever heard of Maggie."
"Why hadn't he heard of her from Charlotte herself?"
"Because she had never spoken of her."
"Is that also," the Colonel inquired, "what she has told you?"
"I'm not speaking," his wife returned, "of what she has told me.
That's one thing. I'm speaking of what I know by myself. That's
"You feel, in other words, that she lies to you?" Bob Assingham
more sociably asked.
She neglected the question, treating it as gross. "She never so
much, at the time, as named Maggie."
It was so positive that it appeared to strike him. "It's he then
who has told you?"
She after a moment admitted it. "It's he."
"And he doesn't lie?"
"No--to do him justice. I believe he absolutely doesn't. If I
hadn't believed it," Mrs. Assingham declared, for her general
justification, "I would have had nothing to do with him--that is
in this connection. He's a gentleman--I mean ALL as much of one
as he ought to be. And he had nothing to gain. That helps," she
added, "even a gentleman. It was I who named Maggie to him--a
year from last May. He had never heard of her before."
"Then it's grave," said the Colonel.
She hesitated. "Do you mean grave for me?"
"Oh, that everything's grave for 'you' is what we take for
granted and are fundamentally talking about. It's grave--it WAS--
for Charlotte. And it's grave for Maggie. That is it WAS--when he
did see her. Or when she did see HIM."
"You don't torment me as much as you would like," she presently
went on, "because you think of nothing that I haven't a thousand
times thought of, and because I think of everything that you
never will. It would all," she recognised, "have been grave if it
hadn't all been right. You can't make out," she contended, "that
we got to Rome before the end of February."
He more than agreed. "There's nothing in life, my dear, that I
CAN make out."
Well, there was nothing in life, apparently, that she, at real
need, couldn't. "Charlotte, who had been there, that year, from
early, quite from November, left suddenly, you'll quite remember,
about the 10th of April. She was to have stayed on--she was to
have stayed, naturally, more or less, for us; and she was to have
stayed all the more that the Ververs, due all winter, but
delayed, week after week, in Paris, were at last really coming.
They were coming--that is Maggie was--largely to see her, and
above all to be with her THERE. It was all altered--by
Charlotte's going to Florence. She went from one day to the
other--you forget everything. She gave her reasons, but I thought
it odd, at the time; I had a sense that something must have
happened. The difficulty was that, though I knew a little, I
didn't know enough. I didn't know her relation with him had been,
as you say, a 'near' thing--that is I didn't know HOW near. The
poor girl's departure was a flight--she went to save herself."
He had listened more than he showed--as came out in his tone.
"To save herself?"
"Well, also, really, I think, to save HIM too. I saw it
afterwards--I see it all now. He would have been sorry--he didn't
want to hurt her."
"Oh, I daresay," the Colonel laughed. "They generally don't!"
"At all events," his wife pursued, "she escaped--they both did;
for they had had simply to face it. Their marriage couldn't be,
and, if that was so, the sooner they put the Apennines between
them the better. It had taken them, it is true, some time to feel
this and to find it out. They had met constantly, and not always
publicly, all that winter; they had met more than was known--
though it was a good deal known. More, certainly," she said,
"than I then imagined--though I don't know what difference it
would after all have made with me. I liked him, I thought him
charming, from the first of our knowing him; and now, after more
than a year, he has done nothing to spoil it. And there are
things he might have done--things that many men easily would.
Therefore I believe in him, and I was right, at first, in knowing
I was going to. So I haven't"--and she stated it as she might
have quoted from a slate, after adding up the items, the sum of a
column of figures--"so I haven't, I say to myself, been a fool."
"Well, are you trying to make out that I've said you have? All
their case wants, at any rate," Bob Assingham declared, "is that
you should leave it well alone. It's theirs now; they've bought
it, over the counter, and paid for it. It has ceased to be
"Of which case," she asked, "are you speaking?"
He smoked a minute: then with a groan: "Lord, are there so many?"
"There's Maggie's and the Prince's, and there's the Prince's and
"Oh yes; and then," the Colonel scoffed, "there's Charlotte's and
"There's Maggie's and Charlotte's," she went on--"and there's
also Maggie's and mine. I think too that there's Charlotte's and
mine. Yes," she mused, "Charlotte's and mine is certainly a case.
In short, you see, there are plenty. But I mean," she said, "to
keep my head."
"Are we to settle them all," he inquired, "to-night?"
"I should lose it if things had happened otherwise--if I had
acted with any folly." She had gone on in her earnestness,
unheeding of his question. "I shouldn't be able to bear that now.
But my good conscience is my strength; no one can accuse me.
The Ververs came on to Rome alone--Charlotte, after their days
with her in Florence, had decided about America. Maggie, I
daresay, had helped her; she must have made her a present, and a
handsome one, so that many things were easy. Charlotte left them,
came to England, 'joined' somebody or other, sailed for New York.
I have still her letter from Milan, telling me; I didn't know at
the moment all that was behind it, but I felt in it nevertheless
the undertaking of a new life. Certainly, in any case, it cleared
THAT air--I mean the dear old Roman, in which we were steeped.
It left the field free--it gave me a free hand. There was no
question for me of anybody else when I brought the two others
together. More than that, there was no question for them. So you
see," she concluded, "where that puts me." She got up, on the
words, very much as if they were the blue daylight towards which,
through a darksome tunnel, she had been pushing her way, and the
elation in her voice, combined with her recovered alertness,
might have signified the sharp whistle of the train that shoots
at last into the open. She turned about the room; she looked out
a moment into the August night; she stopped, here and there,
before the flowers in bowls and vases. Yes, it was distinctly as
if she had proved what was needing proof, as if the issue of her
operation had been, almost unexpectedly, a success. Old
arithmetic had perhaps been fallacious, but the new settled the
question. Her husband, oddly, however, kept his place without
apparently measuring these results. As he had been amused at her
intensity, so he was not uplifted by her relief; his interest
might in fact have been more enlisted than he allowed. "Do you
mean," he presently asked, "that he had already forgot about
She faced round as if he had touched a spring. "He WANTED to,
naturally--and it was much the best thing he could do." She was
in possession of the main case, as it truly seemed; she had it
all now. "He was capable of the effort, and he took the best way.
Remember too what Maggie then seemed to us."
"She's very nice; but she always seems to me, more than anything
else, the young woman who has a million a year. If you mean that
that's what she especially seemed to him, you of course place the
thing in your light. The effort to forget Charlotte couldn't, I
grant you, have been so difficult."
This pulled her up but for an instant. "I never said he didn't
from the first--I never said that he doesn't more and more--like
"I never said I shouldn't have liked it myself," Bob Assingham
returned. He made no movement; he smoked another minute. "How
much did Maggie know?"
"How much?" She seemed to consider--as if it were between quarts
and gallons--how best to express the quantity. "She knew what
Charlotte, in Florence, had told her."
"And what had Charlotte told her?"
"What makes you so sure?"
"Why, this--that she couldn't tell her." And she explained a
little what she meant. "There are things, my dear--haven't you
felt it yourself, coarse as you are?--that no one could tell
Maggie. There are things that, upon my word, I shouldn't care to
attempt to tell her now."
The Colonel smoked on it. "She'd be so scandalised?"
"She'd be so frightened. She'd be, in her strange little way, so
hurt. She wasn't born to know evil. She must never know it."
Bob Assingham had a queer grim laugh; the sound of which, in
fact, fixed his wife before him. "We're taking grand ways to
But she stood there to protest. "We're not taking any ways. The
ways are all taken; they were taken from the moment he came up to
our carriage that day in Villa Borghese--the second or third of
her days in Rome, when, as you remember, you went off somewhere
with Mr. Verver, and the Prince, who had got into the carriage
with us, came home with us to tea. They had met; they had seen
each other well; they were in relation: the rest was to come of
itself and as it could. It began, practically, I recollect, in
our drive. Maggie happened to learn, by some other man's greeting
of him, in the bright Roman way, from a streetcorner as we
passed, that one of the Prince's baptismal names, the one always
used for him among his relations, was Amerigo: which (as you
probably don't know, however, even after a lifetime of ME), was
the name, four hundred years ago, or whenever, of the pushing man
who followed, across the sea, in the wake of Columbus and
succeeded, where Columbus had failed, in becoming godfather, or
name-father, to the new Continent; so that the thought of any
connection with him can even now thrill our artless breasts."
The Colonel's grim placidity could always quite adequately meet
his wife's not infrequent imputation of ignorances, on the score
of the land of her birth, unperturbed and unashamed; and these
dark depths were even at the present moment not directly lighted
by an inquiry that managed to be curious without being
apologetic. "But where does the connection come in?"
His wife was prompt. "By the women--that is by some obliging
woman, of old, who was a descendant of the pushing man, the
make-believe discoverer, and whom the Prince is therefore luckily
able to refer to as an ancestress. A branch of the other family
had become great--great enough, at least, to marry into his; and
the name of the navigator, crowned with glory, was, very
naturally, to become so the fashion among them that some son, of
every generation, was appointed to wear it. My point is, at any
rate, that I recall noticing at the time how the Prince was, from
the start, helped with the dear Ververs by his wearing it. The
connection became romantic for Maggie the moment she took it in;
she filled out, in a flash, every link that might be vague. 'By
that sign,' I quite said to myself, 'he'll conquer'--with his
good fortune, of course, of having the other necessary signs too.
It really," said Mrs. Assingham, "was, practically, the fine side
of the wedge. Which struck me as also," she wound up, "a lovely
note for the candour of the Ververs."
The Colonel took in the tale, but his comment was prosaic. "He
knew, Amerigo, what he was about. And I don't mean the OLD one."
"I know what you mean!" his wife bravely threw off.
"The old one"--he pointed his effect "isn't the only discoverer
in the family."
"Oh, as much as you like! If he discovered America--or got
himself honoured as if he had--his successors were, in due time,
to discover the Americans. And it was one of them in particular,
doubtless, who was to discover how patriotic we are."
"Wouldn't this be the same one," the Colonel asked, "who really
discovered what you call the connection?"
She gave him a look. "The connection's a true thing--the
connection's perfectly historic, Your insinuations recoil upon
your cynical mind. Don't you understand," she asked, "that the
history of such people is known, root and branch, at every moment
of its course?"
"Oh, it's all right," said Bob Assingham.
"Go to the British Museum," his companion continued with spirit.
"And what am I to do there?"
"There's a whole immense room, or recess, or department, or
whatever, filled with books written about his family alone. You
can see for yourself."
"Have you seen for YOUR self?"
She faltered but an instant. "Certainly--I went one day with
Maggie. We looked him up, so to say. They were most civil." And
she fell again into the current her husband had slightly ruffled.
"The effect was produced, the charm began to work, at all events,
in Rome, from that hour of the Prince's drive with us. My only
course, afterwards, had to be to make the best of it. It was
certainly good enough for that," Mrs. Assingham hastened to add,
"and I didn't in the least see my duty in making the worst. In
the same situation, to-day; I wouldn't act differently. I entered
into the case as it then appeared to me--and as, for the matter
of that, it still does. I LIKED it, I thought all sorts of good
of it, and nothing can even now," she said with some intensity,
"make me think anything else."
"Nothing can ever make you think anything you don't want to," the
Colonel, still in his chair, remarked over his pipe. "You've got
a precious power of thinking whatever you do want. You want also,
from moment to moment, to think such desperately different
things. What happened," he went on, "was that you fell violently
in love with the Prince yourself, and that as you couldn't get me
out of the way you had to take some roundabout course. You
couldn't marry him, any more than Charlotte could--that is not to
yourself. But you could to somebody else--it was always the
Prince, it was always marriage. You could to your little friend,
to whom there were no objections."
"Not only there were no objections, but there were reasons,
positive ones--and all excellent, all charming." She spoke with
an absence of all repudiation of his exposure of the spring of
her conduct; and this abstention, clearly and effectively
conscious, evidently cost her nothing. "It IS always the Prince;
and it IS always, thank heaven, marriage. And these are the
things, God grant, that it will always be. That I could help, a
year ago, most assuredly made me happy, and it continues to make
"Then why aren't you quiet?"
"I AM quiet," said Fanny Assingham.
He looked at her, with his colourless candour, still in his
place; she moved about again, a little, emphasising by her unrest
her declaration of her tranquillity. He was as silent, at first,
as if he had taken her answer, but he was not to keep it long.
"What do you make of it that, by your own show, Charlotte
couldn't tell her all? What do you make of it that the Prince
didn't tell her anything? Say one understands that there are
things she can't be told--since, as you put it, she is so easily
scared and shocked." He produced these objections slowly, giving
her time, by his pauses, to stop roaming and come back to him.
But she was roaming still when he concluded his inquiry. "If
there hadn't been anything there shouldn't have been between the
pair before Charlotte bolted--in order, precisely, as you say,
that there SHOULDN'T be: why in the world was what there HAD
been too bad to be spoken of?"
Mrs. Assingham, after this question, continued still to
circulate--not directly meeting it even when at last she stopped.
"I thought you wanted me to be quiet."
"So I do--and I'm trying to make you so much so that you won't
worry more. Can't you be quiet on THAT?"
She thought a moment--then seemed to try. "To relate that she had
to 'bolt' for the reasons we speak of, even though the bolting
had done for her what she wished--THAT I can perfectly feel
Charlotte's not wanting to do."
"Ah then, if it HAS done for her what she wished-!" But the
Colonel's conclusion hung by the "if" which his wife didn't take
up. So it hung but the longer when he presently spoke again. "All
one wonders, in that case, is why then she has come back to him."
"Say she hasn't come back to him. Not really to HIM."
"I'll say anything you like. But that won't do me the same good
as your saying it."
"Nothing, my dear, will do you good," Mrs. Assingham returned.
"You don't care for anything in itself; you care for nothing but
to be grossly amused because I don't keep washing my hands--!"
"I thought your whole argument was that everything is so right
that this is precisely what you do."
But his wife, as it was a point she had often made, could go on
as she had gone on before. "You're perfectly indifferent, really;
you're perfectly immoral. You've taken part in the sack of
cities, and I'm sure you've done dreadful things yourself. But I
DON'T trouble my head, if you like. 'So now there!'" she laughed.
He accepted her laugh, but he kept his way. "Well, I back poor
"To know what she wants."
"Ah then, so do I. She does know what she wants." And Mrs.
Assingham produced this quantity, at last, on the girl's behalf,
as the ripe result of her late wanderings and musings. She had
groped through their talk, for the thread, and now she had got
it. "She wants to be magnificent."
"She is," said the Colonel almost cynically.
"She wants"--his wife now had it fast "to be thoroughly superior,
and she's capable of that."
"Of wanting to?"
"Of carrying out her idea."
"And what IS her idea?"
"To see Maggie through."
Bob Assingham wondered. "Through what?"
"Through everything. She KNOWS the Prince."
"And Maggie doesn't. No, dear thing"--Mrs. Assingham had to
recognise it--"she doesn't."
"So that Charlotte has come out to give her lessons?"
She continued, Fanny Assingham, to work out her thought. "She has
done this great thing for him. That is, a year ago, she
practically did it. She practically, at any rate, helped him to
do it himself--and helped me to help him. She kept off, she
stayed away, she left him free; and what, moreover, were her
silences to Maggie but a direct aid to him? If she had spoken in
Florence; if she had told her own poor story; if she had, come
back at any time--till within a few weeks ago; if she hadn't gone
to New York and hadn't held out there: if she hadn't done these
things all that has happened since would certainly have been
different. Therefore she's in a position to be consistent now.
She knows the Prince," Mrs. Assingham repeated. It involved even
again her former recognition. "And Maggie, dear thing, doesn't."
She was high, she was lucid, she was almost inspired; and it was
but the deeper drop therefore to her husband's flat common sense.
"In other words Maggie is, by her ignorance, in danger? Then if
she's in danger, there IS danger."
"There WON'T be--with Charlotte's understanding of it. That's
where she has had her conception of being able to be heroic, of
being able in fact to be sublime. She is, she will be"--the good
lady by this time glowed. "So she sees it--to become, for her
best friend, an element of POSITIVE safety."
Bob Assingham looked at it hard. "Which of them do you call her
She gave a toss of impatience. "I'll leave you to discover!" But
the grand truth thus made out she had now completely adopted.
"It's for US, therefore, to be hers."
"You and I. It's for us to be Charlotte's. It's for us, on our
side, to see HER through."
"Through her sublimity?"
"Through her noble, lonely life. Only--that's essential--it
mustn't be lonely. It will be all right if she marries."
"So we're to marry her?"
"We're to marry her. It will be," Mrs. Assingham continued, "the
great thing I can do." She made it out more and more. "It will
"Make up for what?" As she said nothing, however, his desire for
lucidity renewed itself. "If everything's so all right what is
there to make up for?"
"Why, if I did do either of them, by any chance, a wrong. If I
made a mistake."
"You'll make up for it by making another?" And then as she again
took her time: "I thought your whole point is just that you're
"One can never be ideally sure of anything. There are always
"Then, if we can but strike so wild, why keep meddling?"
It made her again look at him. "Where would you have been, my
dear, if I hadn't meddled with YOU?"
"Ah, that wasn't meddling--I was your own. I was your own," said
the Colonel, "from the moment I didn't object."
"Well, these people won't object. They are my own too--in the
sense that I'm awfully fond of them. Also in the sense," she
continued, "that I think they're not so very much less fond of
me. Our relation, all round, exists--it's a reality, and a very
good one; we're mixed up, so to speak, and it's too late to
change it. We must live IN it and with it. Therefore to see that
Charlotte gets a good husband as soon as possible--that, as I
say, will be one of my ways of living. It will cover," she said
with conviction, "all the ground." And then as his own conviction
appeared to continue as little to match: "The ground, I mean, of
any nervousness I may ever feel. It will be in fact my duty
and I shan't rest till my duty's performed." She had arrived by
this time at something like exaltation. "I shall give, for the
next year or two if necessary, my life to it. I shall have done
in that case what I can."
He took it at last as it came. "You hold there's no limit to what
"I don't say there's no limit, or anything of the sort. I say
there are good chances--enough of them for hope. Why shouldn't
there be when a girl is, after all, all that she is?"
"By after 'all' you mean after she's in love with somebody else?"
The Colonel put his question with a quietude doubtless designed
to be fatal; but it scarcely pulled her up. "She's not too much
in love not herself to want to marry. She would now particularly
"Has she told you so?"
"Not yet. It's too soon. But she will. Meanwhile, however, I
don't require the information. Her marrying will prove the
"And what truth?"
"The truth of everything I say."
"Prove it to whom?"
"Well, to myself, to begin with. That will be enough for me--to
work for her. What it will prove," Mrs. Assingham presently went
on, "will be that she's cured. That she accepts the situation."
He paid this the tribute of a long pull at his pipe. "The
situation of doing the one thing she can that will really seem to
cover her tracks?"
His wife looked at him, the good dry man, as if now at last he
was merely vulgar. "The one thing she can do that will really
make new tracks altogether. The thing that, before any other,
will be wise and right. The thing that will best give her her
chance to be magnificent."
He slowly emitted his smoke. "And best give you, by the same
token, yours to be magnificent with her?"
"I shall be as magnificent, at least, as I can."
Bob Assingham got up. "And you call ME immoral?"
She hesitated. "I'll call you stupid if you prefer. But stupidity
pushed to a certain point IS, you know, immorality. Just so what
is morality but high intelligence?" This he was unable to tell
her; which left her more definitely to conclude. "Besides, it's
all, at the worst, great fun."
"Oh, if you simply put it at THAT--!"
His implication was that in this case they had a common ground;
yet even thus he couldn't catch her by it. "Oh, I don't mean,"
she said from the threshold, "the fun that you mean. Good-night."
In answer to which, as he turned out the electric light, he gave
an odd, short groan, almost a grunt. He HAD apparently meant some
"Well, now I must tell you, for I want to be absolutely honest."
So Charlotte spoke, a little ominously, after they had got into
the Park. "I don't want to pretend, and I can't pretend a moment
longer. You may think of me what you will, but I don't care. I
knew I shouldn't and I find now how little. I came back for this.
Not really for anything else. For this," she repeated as, under
the influence of her tone, the Prince had already come to a
"For 'this'?" He spoke as if the particular thing she indicated
were vague to him--or were, rather, a quantity that couldn't, at
the most, be much.
It would be as much, however, as she should be able to make it.
"To have one hour alone with you." It had rained heavily in the
night, and though the pavements were now dry, thanks to a
cleansing breeze, the August morning, with its hovering,
thick-drifting clouds and freshened air, was cool and grey. The
multitudinous green of the Park had been deepened, and a
wholesome smell of irrigation, purging the place of dust and of
odours less acceptable, rose from the earth. Charlotte had looked
about her, with expression, from the first of their coming in,
quite as if for a deep greeting, for general recognition: the day
was, even in the heart of London, of a rich, low-browed,
weatherwashed English type. It was as if it had been waiting for
her, as if she knew it, placed it, loved it, as if it were in
fact a part of what she had come back for. So far as this was the
case the impression of course could only be lost on a mere vague
Italian; it was one of those for which you had to be, blessedly,
an American--as indeed you had to be, blessedly, an American for
all sorts of things: so long as you hadn't, blessedly or not, to
remain in America. The Prince had, by half-past ten--as also by
definite appointment--called in Cadogan Place for Mrs.
Assingham's visitor, and then, after brief delay, the two had
walked together up Sloane Street and got straight into the Park
from Knightsbridge. The understanding to this end had taken its
place, after a couple of days, as inevitably consequent on the
appeal made by the girl during those first moments in Mrs.
Assingham's drawing-room. It was an appeal the couple of days had
done nothing to invalidate--everything, much rather, to place in
a light, and as to which, obviously, it wouldn't have fitted that
anyone should raise an objection. Who was there, for that matter,
to raise one, from the moment Mrs. Assingham, informed and
apparently not disapproving, didn't intervene? This the young man
had asked himself--with a very sufficient sense of what would
have made him ridiculous. He wasn't going to begin--that at least
was certain--by showing a fear. Even had fear at first been sharp
in him, moreover, it would already, not a little, have dropped;
so happy, all round, so propitious, he quite might have called
it, had been the effect of this rapid interval.
The time had been taken up largely by his active reception of his
own wedding-guests and by Maggie's scarce less absorbed
entertainment of her friend, whom she had kept for hours together
in Portland Place; whom she had not, as wouldn't have been
convenient, invited altogether as yet to migrate, but who had
been present, with other persons, his contingent, at luncheon, at
tea, at dinner, at perpetual repasts--he had never in his life,
it struck him, had to reckon with so much eating--whenever he had
looked in. If he had not again, till this hour, save for a
minute, seen Charlotte alone, so, positively, all the while, he
had not seen even Maggie; and if, therefore, he had not seen even
Maggie, nothing was more natural than that he shouldn't have seen
Charlotte. The exceptional minute, a mere snatch, at the tail of
the others, on the huge Portland Place staircase had sufficiently
enabled the girl to remind him--so ready she assumed him to be--
of what they were to do. Time pressed if they were to do it at
all. Everyone had brought gifts; his relations had brought
wonders--how did they still have, where did they still find, such
treasures? She only had brought nothing, and she was ashamed; yet
even by the sight of the rest of the tribute she wouldn't be put
off. She would do what she could, and he was, unknown to Maggie,
he must remember, to give her his aid. He had prolonged the
minute so far as to take time to hesitate, for a reason, and then
to risk bringing his reason out. The risk was because he might
hurt her--hurt her pride, if she had that particular sort. But
she might as well be hurt one way as another; and, besides, that
particular sort of pride was just what she hadn't. So his slight
resistance, while they lingered, had been just easy enough not to
"I hate to encourage you--and for such a purpose, after all--to
spend your money."
She had stood a stair or two below him; where, while she looked
up at him beneath the high, domed light of the hall, she rubbed
with her palm the polished mahogany of the balustrade, which was
mounted on fine ironwork, eighteenth-century English. "Because
you think I must have so little? I've enough, at any rate--enough
for us to take our hour. Enough," she had smiled, "is as good as
a feast! And then," she had said, "it isn't of course a question
of anything expensive, gorged with treasure as Maggie is; it
isn't a question of competing or outshining. What, naturally, in
the way of the priceless, hasn't she got? Mine is to be the
offering of the poor--something, precisely, that--no rich person
COULD ever give her, and that, being herself too rich ever to buy
it, she would therefore never have." Charlotte had spoken as if
after so much thought. "Only, as it can't be fine, it ought to be
funny--and that's the sort of thing to hunt for. Hunting in
London, besides, is amusing in itself."
He recalled even how he had been struck with her word. "'Funny'?"
"Oh, I don't mean a comic toy--I mean some little thing with a
charm. But absolutely RIGHT, in its comparative cheapness. That's
what I call funny," she had explained. "You used," she had also
added, "to help me to get things cheap in Rome. You were splendid
for beating down. I have them all still, I needn't say--the
little bargains I there owed you. There are bargains in London in
"Ah, but I don't understand your English buying, and I confess I
find it dull." So much as that, while they turned to go up
together, he had objected. "I understood my poor dear Romans."
"It was they who understood you--that was your pull," she had
laughed. "Our amusement here is just that they don't understand
us. We can make it amusing. You'll see."
If he had hesitated again it was because the point permitted.
"The amusement surely will be to find our present."
"Certainly--as I say."
"Well, if they don't come down--?"
"Then we'll come up. There's always something to be done.
Besides, Prince," she had gone on, "I'm not, if you come to that,
absolutely a pauper. I'm too poor for some things," she had
said--yet, strange as she was, lightly enough; "but I'm not too
poor for others." And she had paused again at the top. "I've been
He had really challenged it. "In America?"
"Yes, even there--with my motive. And we oughtn't, you know," she
had wound up, "to leave it beyond to-morrow."
That, definitely, with ten words more, was what had passed--he
feeling all the while how any sort of begging-off would only
magnify it. He might get on with things as they were, but he must
do anything rather than magnify. Besides which it was pitiful to
make her beg of him. He WAS making her--she had begged; and this,
for a special sensibility in him, didn't at all do. That was
accordingly, in fine, how they had come to where they were: he
was engaged, as hard as possible, in the policy of not
magnifying. He had kept this up even on her making a point--and
as if it were almost the whole point--that Maggie of course was
not to have an idea. Half the interest of the thing at least
would be that she shouldn't suspect; therefore he was completely
to keep it from her--as Charlotte on her side would--that they
had been anywhere at all together or had so much as seen each
other for five minutes alone. The absolute secrecy of their
little excursion was in short of the essence; she appealed to his
kindness to let her feel that he didn't betray her. There had
been something, frankly, a little disconcerting in such an appeal
at such an hour, on the very eve of his nuptials: it was one
thing to have met the girl casually at Mrs. Assingham's and
another to arrange with her thus for a morning practically as
private as their old mornings in Rome and practically not less
intimate. He had immediately told Maggie, the same evening, of
the minutes that had passed between them in Cadogan Place--though
not mentioning those of Mrs. Assingham's absence any more than he
mentioned the fact of what their friend had then, with such small
delay, proposed. But what had briefly checked his assent to any
present, to any positive making of mystery--what had made him,
while they stood at the top of the stairs, demur just long enough
for her to notice it--was the sense of the resemblance of the
little plan before him to occasions, of the past, from which he
was quite disconnected, from which he could only desire to be.
This was like beginning something over, which was the last thing
he wanted. The strength, the beauty of his actual position was in
its being wholly a fresh start, was that what it began would be
new altogether. These items of his consciousness had clustered so
quickly that by the time Charlotte read them in his face he was
in presence of what they amounted to. She had challenged them as
soon as read them, had met them with a "Do you want then to go
and tell her?" that had somehow made them ridiculous. It had made
him, promptly, fall back on minimizing it--that is on minimizing
"fuss." Apparent scruples were, obviously, fuss, and he had on
the spot clutched, in the light of this truth, at the happy
principle that would meet every case.
This principle was simply to be, with the girl, always simple--
and with the very last simplicity. That would cover everything.
It had covered, then and there, certainly, his immediate
submission to the sight of what was clearest. This was, really,
that what she asked was little compared to what she gave. What
she gave touched him, as she faced him, for it was the full tune
of her renouncing. She really renounced--renounced everything,
and without even insisting now on what it had all been for her.
Her only insistence was her insistence on the small matter of
their keeping their appointment to themselves. That, in exchange
for "everything," everything she gave up, was verily but a
trifle. He let himself accordingly be guided; he so soon
assented, for enlightened indulgence, to any particular turn she
might wish the occasion to take, that the stamp of her preference
had been well applied to it even while they were still in the
Park. The application in fact presently required that they should
sit down a little, really to see where they were; in obedience to
which propriety they had some ten minutes, of a quality quite
distinct, in a couple of penny-chairs under one of the larger
trees. They had taken, for their walk, to the cropped,
rain-freshened grass, after finding it already dry; and the
chairs, turned away from the broad alley, the main drive and the
aspect of Park Lane, looked across the wide reaches of green
which seemed in a manner to refine upon their freedom. They
helped Charlotte thus to make her position--her temporary
position--still more clear, and it was for this purpose,
obviously, that, abruptly, on seeing her opportunity, she sat
down. He stood for a little before her, as if to mark the
importance of not wasting time, the importance she herself had
previously insisted on; but after she had said a few words it was
impossible for him not to resort again to good-nature. He marked
as he could, by this concession, that if he had finally met her
first proposal for what would be "amusing" in it, so any idea she
might have would contribute to that effect. He had consequently--
in all consistency--to treat it as amusing that she reaffirmed,
and reaffirmed again, the truth that was HER truth.
"I don't care what you make of it, and I don't ask anything
whatever of you--anything but this. I want to have said it--
that's all; I want not to have failed to say it. To see you once
and be with you, to be as we are now and as we used to be, for
one small hour--or say for two--that's what I have had for weeks
in my head. I mean, of course, to get it BEFORE--before what
you're going to do. So, all the while, you see," she went on with
her eyes on him, "it was a question for me if I should be able to
manage it in time. If I couldn't have come now I probably
shouldn't have come at all--perhaps even ever. Now that I'm here
I shall stay, but there were moments, over there, when I
despaired. It wasn't easy--there were reasons; but it was either
this or nothing. So I didn't struggle, you see, in vain. AFTER--
oh, I didn't want that! I don't mean," she smiled, "that it
wouldn't have been delightful to see you even then--to see you at
any time; but I would never have come for it. This is different.
This is what I wanted. This is what I've got. This is what I
shall always have. This is what I should have missed, of course,"
she pursued, "if you had chosen to make me miss it. If you had
thought me horrid, had refused to come, I should, naturally, have
been immensely 'sold.' I had to take the risk. Well, you're all I
could have hoped. That's what I was to have said. I didn't want
simply to get my time with you, but I wanted you to know. I
wanted you"--she kept it up, slowly, softly, with a small tremor
of voice, but without the least failure of sense or sequence--"I
wanted you to understand. I wanted you, that is, to hear. I don't
care, I think, whether you understand or not. If I ask nothing of
you I don't--I mayn't--ask even so much as that. What you may
think of me--that doesn't in the least matter. What I want is
that it shall always be with you--so that you'll never be able
quite to get rid of it--that I DID. I won't say that you did--you
may make as little of that as you like. But that I was here with
you where we are and as we are--I just saying this. Giving
myself, in other words, away--and perfectly willing to do it for
nothing. That's all."
She paused as if her demonstration was complete--yet, for the
moment, without moving; as if in fact to give it a few minutes to
sink in; into the listening air, into the watching space, into
the conscious hospitality of nature, so far as nature was, all
Londonised, all vulgarised, with them there; or even, for that
matter, into her own open ears, rather than into the attention of
her passive and prudent friend. His attention had done all that
attention could do; his handsome, slightly anxious, yet still
more definitely "amused" face sufficiently played its part. He
clutched, however, at what he could best clutch at--the fact that
she let him off, definitely let him off. She let him off, it
seemed, even from so much as answering; so that while he smiled
back at her in return for her information he felt his lips remain
closed to the successive vaguenesses of rejoinder, of objection,
that rose for him from within. Charlotte herself spoke again at
last--"You may want to know what I get by it. But that's my own
affair." He really didn't want to know even this--or continued,
for the safest plan, quite to behave as if he didn't; which
prolonged the mere dumbness of diversion in which he had taken
refuge. He was glad when, finally--the point she had wished to
make seeming established to her satisfaction--they brought to
what might pass for a close the moment of his life at which he
had had least to say. Movement and progress, after this, with
more impersonal talk, were naturally a relief; so that he was not
again, during their excursion, at a loss for the right word. The
air had been, as it were, cleared; they had their errand itself
to discuss, and the opportunities of London, the sense of the
wonderful place, the pleasures of prowling there, the question of
shops, of possibilities, of particular objects, noticed by each
in previous prowls. Each professed surprise at the extent of the
other's knowledge; the Prince in especial wondered at his
friend's possession of her London. He had rather prized his own
possession, the guidance he could really often give a cabman; it
was a whim of his own, a part of his Anglomania, and congruous
with that feature, which had, after all, so much more surface
than depth. When his companion, with the memory of other visits
and other rambles, spoke of places he hadn't seen and things he
didn't know, he actually felt again--as half the effect--just a
shade humiliated. He might even have felt a trifle annoyed--if it
hadn't been, on this spot, for his being, even more, interested.
It was a fresh light on Charlotte and on her curious
world-quality, of which, in Rome, he had had his due sense, but
which clearly would show larger on the big London stage. Rome
was, in comparison, a village, a family-party, a little old-world
spinnet for the fingers of one hand. By the time they reached the
Marble Arch it was almost as if she were showing him a new side,
and that, in fact, gave amusement a new and a firmer basis. The
right tone would be easy for putting himself in her hands. Should
they disagree a little--frankly and fairly--about directions and
chances, values and authenticities, the situation would be quite
gloriously saved. They were none the less, as happened, much of
one mind on the article of their keeping clear of resorts with
which Maggie would be acquainted. Charlotte recalled it as a
matter of course, named it in time as a condition--they would
keep away from any place to which he had already been with
This made indeed a scant difference, for though he had during the
last month done few things so much as attend his future wife on
her making of purchases, the antiquarii, as he called them with
Charlotte, had not been the great affair. Except in Bond Street,
really, Maggie had had no use for them: her situation indeed, in
connection with that order of traffic, was full of consequences
produced by her father's. Mr. Verver, one of the great collectors
of the world, hadn't left his daughter to prowl for herself; he
had little to do with shops, and was mostly, as a purchaser,
approached privately and from afar. Great people, all over
Europe, sought introductions to him; high personages, incredibly
high, and more of them than would ever be known, solemnly sworn
as everyone was, in such cases, to discretion, high personages
made up to him as the one man on the short authentic list likely
to give the price. It had therefore been easy to settle, as they
walked, that the tracks of the Ververs, daughter's as well as
father's, were to be avoided; the importance only was that their
talk about it led for a moment to the first words they had as yet
exchanged on the subject of Maggie. Charlotte, still in the Park,
proceeded to them--for it was she who began--with a serenity of
appreciation that was odd, certainly, as a sequel to her words of
ten minutes before. This was another note on her--what he would
have called another light--for her companion, who, though without
giving a sign, admired, for what it was, the simplicity of her
transition, a transition that took no trouble either to trace or
to explain itself. She paused again an instant, on the grass, to
make it; she stopped before him with a sudden "Anything of
course, dear as she is, will do for her. I mean if I were to give
her a pin-cushion from the Baker-Street Bazaar."
"That's exactly what _I_ meant"--the Prince laughed out this
allusion to their snatch of talk in Portland Place. "It's just
what I suggested."
She took, however, no notice of the reminder; she went on in her
own way. "But it isn't a reason. In that case one would never do
anything for her. I mean," Charlotte explained, "if one took
advantage of her character."
"Of her character?"
"We mustn't take advantage of her character," the girl, again
unheeding, pursued. "One mustn't, if not for HER, at least for
one's self. She saves one such trouble."
She had spoken thoughtfully, with her eyes on her friend's; she
might have been talking, preoccupied and practical, of someone
with whom he was comparatively unconnected. "She certainly GIVES
one no trouble," said the Prince. And then as if this were
perhaps ambiguous or inadequate: "She's not selfish--God forgive
"That's what I mean," Charlotte instantly said. "She's not
selfish enough. There's nothing, absolutely, that one NEED do for
her. She's so modest," she developed--"she doesn't miss things. I
mean if you love her--or, rather, I should say, if she loves you.
She lets it go."
The Prince frowned a little--as a tribute, after all, to
seriousness. "She lets what--?"
"Anything--anything that you might do and that you don't. She
lets everything go but her own disposition to be kind to you.
It's of herself that she asks efforts--so far as she ever HAS to
ask them. She hasn't, much. She does everything herself. And
The Prince had listened; but, always with propriety, he didn't
commit himself. "Terrible?"
"Well, unless one is almost as good as she. It makes too easy
terms for one. It takes stuff, within one, so far as one's
decency is concerned, to stand it. And nobody," Charlotte
continued in the same manner, "is decent enough, good enough, to
stand it--not without help from religion, or something of that
kind. Not without prayer and fasting--that is without taking
great care. Certainly," she said, "such people as you and I are
The Prince, obligingly, thought an instant. "Not good enough to
"Well, not good enough not rather to feel the strain. We happen
each, I think, to be of the kind that are easily spoiled."
Her friend, again, for propriety, followed the argument. "Oh, I
don't know. May not one's affection for her do something more for
one's decency, as you call it, than her own generosity--her own
affection, HER 'decency'--has the unfortunate virtue to undo?"
"Ah, of course it must be all in that."
But she had made her question, all the same, interesting to him.
"What it comes to--one can see what you mean--is the way she
believes in one. That is if she believes at all."
"Yes, that's what it comes to," said Charlotte Stant.
"And why," he asked, almost soothingly, "should it be terrible?"
He couldn't, at the worst, see that.
"Because it's always so--the idea of having to pity people."
"Not when there's also, with it, the idea of helping them."
"Yes, but if we can't help them?"
"We CAN--we always can. That is," he competently added, "if we
care for them. And that's what we're talking about."
"Yes"--she on the whole assented. "It comes back then to our
absolutely refusing to be spoiled."
"Certainly. But everything," the Prince laughed as they went on--
"all your 'decency,' I mean--comes back to that."
She walked beside him a moment. "It's just what _I_ meant," she
then reasonably said.
The man in the little shop in which, well after this, they
lingered longest, the small but interesting dealer in the
Bloomsbury street who was remarkable for an insistence not
importunate, inasmuch as it was mainly mute, but singularly,
intensely coercive--this personage fixed on his visitors an
extraordinary pair of eyes and looked from one to the other while
they considered the object with which he appeared mainly to hope
to tempt them. They had come to him last, for their time was
nearly up; an hour of it at least, from the moment of their
getting into a hansom at the Marble Arch, having yielded no
better result than the amusement invoked from the first. The
amusement, of course, was to have consisted in seeking, but it
had also involved the idea of finding; which latter necessity
would have been obtrusive only if they had found too soon. The
question at present was if they were finding, and they put it to
each other, in the Bloomsbury shop, while they enjoyed the
undiverted attention of the shopman. He was clearly the master,
and devoted to his business--the essence of which, in his
conception, might precisely have been this particular secret that
he possessed for worrying the customer so little that it fairly
made for their relations a sort of solemnity. He had not many
things, none of the redundancy of "rot" they had elsewhere seen,
and our friends had, on entering, even had the sense of a muster
so scant that, as high values obviously wouldn't reign, the
effect might be almost pitiful. Then their impression had
changed; for, though the show was of small pieces, several taken
from the little window and others extracted from a cupboard
behind the counter--dusky, in the rather low-browed place,
despite its glass doors--each bid for their attention spoke,
however modestly, for itself, and the pitch of their
entertainer's pretensions was promptly enough given. His array
was heterogeneous and not at all imposing; still, it differed
agreeably from what they had hitherto seen.
Charlotte, after the incident, was to be full of impressions, of
several of which, later on, she gave her companion--always in the
interest of their amusement--the benefit; and one of the
impressions had been that the man himself was the greatest
curiosity they had looked at. The Prince was to reply to this
that he himself hadn't looked at him; as, precisely, in the
general connection, Charlotte had more than once, from other
days, noted, for his advantage, her consciousness of how, below a
certain social plane, he never SAW. One kind of shopman was just
like another to him--which was oddly inconsequent on the part of
a mind that, where it did notice, noticed so much. He took
throughout, always, the meaner sort for granted--the night of
their meanness, or whatever name one might give it for him, made
all his cats grey. He didn't, no doubt, want to hurt them, but he
imaged them no more than if his eyes acted only for the level of
his own high head. Her own vision acted for every relation--this
he had seen for himself: she remarked beggars, she remembered
servants, she recognised cabmen; she had often distinguished
beauty, when out with him, in dirty children; she had admired
"type" in faces at hucksters' stalls. Therefore, on this
occasion, she had found their antiquario interesting; partly
because he cared so for his things, and partly because he cared--
well, so for them. "He likes his things--he loves them," she was
to say; "and it isn't only--it isn't perhaps even at all--that he
loves to sell them. I think he would love to keep them if he
could; and he prefers, at any rate, to sell them to right people.
We, clearly, were right people--he knows them when he sees them;
and that's why, as I say, you could make out, or at least _I_
could, that he cared for us. Didn't you see"--she was to ask it
with an insistence--"the way he looked at us and took us in? I
doubt if either of us have ever been so well looked at before.
Yes, he'll remember us"--she was to profess herself convinced of
that almost to uneasiness. "But it was after all"--this was
perhaps reassuring--"because, given his taste, since he HAS
taste, he was pleased with us, he was struck--he had ideas about
us. Well, I should think people might; we're beautiful--aren't
we?--and he knows. Then, also, he has his way; for that way of
saying nothing with his lips when he's all the while pressing you
so with his face, which shows how he knows you feel it--that is a
Of decent old gold, old silver, old bronze, of old chased and
jewelled artistry, were the objects that, successively produced,
had ended by numerously dotting the counter, where the shopman's
slim, light fingers, with neat nails, touched them at moments,
briefly, nervously, tenderly, as those of a chess-player rest, a
few seconds, over the board, on a figure he thinks he may move
and then may not: small florid ancientries, ornaments, pendants,
lockets, brooches, buckles, pretexts for dim brilliants,
bloodless rubies, pearls either too large or too opaque for
value; miniatures mounted with diamonds that had ceased to
dazzle; snuffboxes presented to--or by--the too-questionable
great; cups, trays, taper-stands, suggestive of pawn-tickets,
archaic and brown, that would themselves, if preserved, have been
prized curiosities. A few commemorative medals, of neat outline
but dull reference; a classic monument or two, things of the
first years of the century; things consular, Napoleonic, temples,
obelisks, arches, tinily re-embodied, completed the discreet
cluster; in which, however, even after tentative reinforcement
from several quaint rings, intaglios, amethysts, carbuncles, each
of which had found a home in the ancient sallow satin of some
weakly-snapping little box, there was, in spite of the due
proportion of faint poetry, no great force of persuasion. They
looked, the visitors, they touched, they vaguely pretended to
consider, but with scepticism, so far as courtesy permitted, in
the quality of their attention. It was impossible they shouldn't,
after a little, tacitly agree as to the absurdity of carrying to
Maggie a token from such a stock. It would be--that was the
difficulty--pretentious without being "good"; too usual, as a
treasure, to have been an inspiration of the giver, and yet too
primitive to be taken as tribute welcome on any terms. They had
been out more than two hours and, evidently, had found nothing.
It forced from Charlotte a kind of admission.
"It ought, really, if it should be a thing of this sort, to take
its little value from having belonged to one's self."
"Ecco!" said the Prince--just triumphantly enough. "There you
Behind the dealer were sundry small cupboards in the wall. Two or
three of these Charlotte had seen him open, so that her eyes
found themselves resting on those he had not visited. But she
completed her admission. "There's nothing here she could wear."
It was only after a moment that her companion rejoined. "Is there
anything--do you think--that you could?"
It made her just start. She didn't, at all events, look at the
objects; she but looked for an instant very directly at him.
"Ah!" the Prince quietly exclaimed.
"Would it be," Charlotte asked, "your idea to offer me
"Well, why not--as a small ricordo."
"But a ricordo of what?"
"Why, of 'this'--as you yourself say. Of this little hunt."
"Oh, I say it--but hasn't my whole point been that I don't ask
you to. Therefore," she demanded--but smiling at him now--
"where's the logic?"
"Oh, the logic--!" he laughed.
"But logic's everything. That, at least, is how I feel it. A
ricordo from you--from you to me--is a ricordo of nothing. It
has no reference."
"Ah, my dear!" he vaguely protested. Their entertainer,
meanwhile, stood there with his eyes on them, and the girl,
though at this minute more interested in her passage with her
friend than in anything else, again met his gaze. It was a
comfort to her that their foreign tongue covered what they said--
and they might have appeared of course, as the Prince now had one
of the snuffboxes in his hand, to be discussing a purchase.
"You don't refer," she went on to her companion. "_I_ refer."
He had lifted the lid of his little box and he looked into it
hard. "Do you mean by that then that you would be free--?"
"To offer me something?"
This gave her a longer pause, and when she spoke again she might
have seemed, oddly, to be addressing the dealer. "Would you allow
"No," said the Prince into his little box.
"You wouldn't accept it from me?"
"No," he repeated in the same way.
She exhaled a long breath that was like a guarded sigh. "But
you've touched an idea that HAS been mine. It's what I've
wanted." Then she added: "It was what I hoped."
He put down his box--this had drawn his eyes. He made nothing,
clearly, of the little man's attention. "It's what you brought me
"Well, that's, at any rate," she returned, "my own affair. But
it won't do?"
"It won't do, cara mia."
"It's impossible." And he took up one of the brooches.
She had another pause, while the shopman only waited. "If I were
to accept from you one of these charming little ornaments as you
suggest, what should I do with it?"
He was perhaps at last a little irritated; he even--as if HE
might understand--looked vaguely across at their host. "Wear it,
"Where then, please? Under my clothes?"
"Wherever you like. But it isn't then, if you will," he added,
"worth talking about."
"It's only worth talking about, mio caro," she smiled, "from your
having begun it. My question is only reasonable--so that your
idea may stand or fall by your answer to it. If I should pin one
of these things on for you would it be, to your mind, that I
might go home and show it to Maggie as your present?"
They had had between them often in talk the refrain, jocosely,
descriptively applied, of "old Roman." It had been, as a
pleasantry, in the other time, his explanation to her of
everything; but nothing, truly, had even seemed so old-Roman as
the shrug in which he now indulged. "Why in the world not?"
"Because--on our basis--it would be impossible to give her an
account of the pretext."
"The pretext--?" He wondered.
"The occasion. This ramble that we shall have had together and
that we're not to speak of."
"Oh yes," he said after a moment "I remember we're not to speak
"That of course you're pledged to. And the one thing, you see,
goes with the other. So you don't insist."
He had again, at random, laid back his trinket; with which he
quite turned to her, a little wearily at last--even a little
impatiently. "I don't insist."
It disposed for the time of the question, but what was next
apparent was that it had seen them no further. The shopman, who
had not stirred, stood there in his patience--which, his mute
intensity helping, had almost the effect of an ironic comment.
The Prince moved to the glass door and, his back to the others,
as with nothing more to contribute, looked--though not less
patiently--into the street. Then the shopman, for Charlotte,
momentously broke silence. "You've seen, disgraziatamente,
signora principessa," he sadly said, "too much"--and it made the
Prince face about. For the effect of the momentous came, if not
from the sense, from the sound of his words; which was that of
the suddenest, sharpest Italian. Charlotte exchanged with her
friend a glance that matched it, and just for the minute they
were held in check. But their glance had, after all, by that
time, said more than one thing; had both exclaimed on the
apprehension, by the wretch, of their intimate conversation, let
alone of her possible, her impossible, title, and remarked, for
mutual reassurance, that it didn't, all the same, matter. The
Prince remained by the door, but immediately addressing the
speaker from where he stood.
"You're Italian then, are you?"
But the reply came in English. "Oh dear no."
To which the answer was this time, with a smile, in briefest
Italian. "Che!" The dealer waived the question--he practically
disposed of it by turning straightway toward a receptacle to
which he had not yet resorted and from which, after unlocking it,
he extracted a square box, of some twenty inches in height,
covered with worn-looking leather. He placed the box on the
counter, pushed back a pair of small hooks, lifted the lid and
removed from its nest a drinking-vessel larger than a common cup,
yet not of exorbitant size, and formed, to appearance, either of
old fine gold or of some material once richly gilt. He handled it
with tenderness, with ceremony, making a place for it on a small
satin mat. "My Golden Bowl," he observed--and it sounded, on his
lips, as if it said everything. He left the important object--for
as "important" it did somehow present itself--to produce its
certain effect. Simple, but singularly elegant, it stood on a
circular foot, a short pedestal with a slightly spreading base,
and, though not of signal depth, justified its title by the charm
of its shape as well as by the tone of its surface. It might have
been a large goblet diminished, to the enhancement of its happy
curve, by half its original height. As formed of solid gold it
was impressive; it seemed indeed to warn off the prudent admirer.
Charlotte, with care, immediately took it up, while the Prince,
who had after a minute shifted his position again, regarded it
from a distance.
It was heavier than Charlotte had thought. "Gold, really gold?"
she asked of their companion.
He hesitated. "Look a little, and perhaps you'll make out."
She looked, holding it up in both her fine hands, turning it to
the light. "It may be cheap for what it is, but it will be dear,
I'm afraid, for me."
"Well," said the man, "I can part with it for less than its
value. I got it, you see, for less."
"For how much then?"
Again he waited, always with his serene stare. "Do you like it
Charlotte turned to her friend. "Do YOU like it?" He came no
nearer; he looked at their companion. "cos'e?"
"Well, signori miei, if you must know, it's just a perfect
"Of course we must know, per Dio!" said the Prince. But he turned
away again--he went back to his glass door.
Charlotte set down the bowl; she was evidently taken. "Do you
mean it's cut out of a single crystal?"
"If it isn't I think I can promise you that you'll never find any
joint or any piecing."
She wondered. "Even if I were to scrape off the gold?"
He showed, though with due respect, that she amused him. "You
couldn't scrape it off--it has been too well put on; put on I
don't know when and I don't know how. But by some very fine old
worker and by some beautiful old process."
Charlotte, frankly charmed with the cup, smiled back at him now.
"A lost art?"
"Call it a lost art,"
"But of what time then is the whole thing?"
"Well, say also of a lost time."
The girl considered. "Then if it's so precious, how comes it to
Her interlocutor once more hung fire, but by this time the Prince
had lost patience. "I'll wait for you out in the air," he said to
his companion, and, though he spoke without irritation, he
pointed his remark by passing immediately into the street, where,
during the next minutes, the others saw him, his back to the
shopwindow, philosophically enough hover and light a fresh
cigarette. Charlotte even took, a little, her time; she was aware
of his funny Italian taste for London street-life.
Her host meanwhile, at any rate, answered her question. "Ah, I've
had it a long time without selling it. I think I must have been
keeping it, madam, for you."
"You've kept it for me because you've thought I mightn't see
what's the matter with it?"
He only continued to face her--he only continued to appear to
follow the play of her mind. "What IS the matter with it?"
"Oh, it's not for me to say; it's for you honestly to tell me. Of
course I know something must be."
"But if it's something you can't find out, isn't it as good as if
it were nothing?"
"I probably SHOULD find out as soon as I had paid for it."
"Not," her host lucidly insisted, "if you hadn't paid too much."
"What do you call," she asked, "little enough?"
"Well, what should you say to fifteen pounds?"
"I should say," said Charlotte with the utmost promptitude, "that
it's altogether too much."
The dealer shook his head slowly and sadly, but firmly. "It's my
price, madam--and if you admire the thing I think it really might
be yours. It's not too much. It's too little. It's almost
nothing. I can't go lower."
Charlotte, wondering, but resisting, bent over the bowl again.
"Then it's impossible. It's more than I can afford."
"Ah," the man returned, "one can sometimes afford for a present
more than one can afford for one's self." He said it so coaxingly
that she found herself going on without, as might be said,
putting him in his place. "Oh, of course it would be only for a
"Then it would be a lovely one."
"Does one make a present," she asked, "of an object that
contains, to one's knowledge, a flaw?"
"Well, if one knows of it one has only to mention it. The good
faith," the man smiled, "is always there."
"And leave the person to whom one gives the thing, you mean, to
"He wouldn't discover it--if you're speaking of a gentleman."
"I'm not speaking of anyone in particular," Charlotte said.
"Well, whoever it might be. He might know--and he might try. But
he wouldn't find."
She kept her eyes on him as if, though unsatisfied, mystified,
she yet had a fancy for the bowl. "Not even if the thing should
come to pieces?" And then as he was silent: "Not even if he
should have to say to me 'The Golden Bowl is broken'?"
He was still silent; after which he had his strangest smile. "Ah,
if anyone should WANT to smash it--!"
She laughed; she almost admired the little man's expression. "You
mean one could smash it with a hammer?"
"Yes; if nothing else would do. Or perhaps even by dashing it
with violence--say upon a marble floor."
"Oh, marble floors!" But she might have been thinking--for they
were a connection, marble floors; a connection with many things:
with her old Rome, and with his; with the palaces of his past,
and, a little, of hers; with the possibilities of his future,
with the sumptuosities of his marriage, with the wealth of the
Ververs. All the same, however, there were other things; and they
all together held for a moment her fancy. "Does crystal then
break--when it IS crystal? I thought its beauty was its
Her friend, in his way, discriminated. "Its beauty is its BEING
crystal. But its hardness is certainly, its safety. It doesn't
break," he went on, "like vile glass. It splits--if there is a
"Ah!"--Charlotte breathed with interest. "If there is a split."
And she looked down again at the bowl. "There IS a split, eh?
Crystal does split, eh?"
"On lines and by laws of its own."
"You mean if there's a weak place?"
For all answer, after an hesitation, he took the bowl up again,
holding it aloft and tapping it with a key. It rang with the
finest, sweetest sound. "Where is the weak place?"
She then did the question justice. "Well, for ME, only the price.
I'm poor, you see--very poor. But I thank you and I'll think."
The Prince, on the other side of the shop-window, had finally
faced about and, as to see if she hadn't done, was trying to
reach, with his eyes, the comparatively dim interior. "I like
it," she said--"I want it. But I must decide what I can do."
The man, not ungraciously, resigned himself. "Well, I'll keep it
The small quarter-of-an-hour had had its marked oddity--this she
felt even by the time the open air and the Bloomsbury aspects had
again, in their protest against the truth of her gathered
impression, made her more or less their own. Yet the oddity might
have been registered as small as compared to the other effect
that, before they had gone much further, she had, with her
companion, to take account of. This latter was simply the effect
of their having, by some tacit logic, some queer inevitability,
quite dropped the idea of a continued pursuit. They didn't say
so, but it was on the line of giving up Maggie's present that
they practically proceeded--the line of giving it up without more
reference to it. The Prince's first reference was in fact quite
independently made. "I hope you satisfied yourself, before you
had done, of what was the matter with that bowl."
"No indeed, I satisfied myself of nothing. Of nothing at least
but that the more I looked at it the more I liked it, and that if
you weren't so unaccommodating this would be just the occasion
for your giving me the pleasure of accepting it."
He looked graver for her, at this, than he had looked all the
morning. "Do you propose it seriously--without wishing to play me
She wondered. "What trick would it be?"
He looked at her harder. "You mean you really don't know?"
"But know what?"
"Why, what's the matter with it. You didn't see, all the while?"
She only continued, however, to stare. "How could you see--out in
"I saw before I went out. It was because I saw that I did go out.
I didn't want to have another scene with you, before that rascal,
and I judged you would presently guess for yourself."
"Is he a rascal?" Charlotte asked. "His price is so moderate. She
waited but a moment. "Five pounds. Really so little."
He continued to look at her. "Five pounds."
He might have been doubting her word, but he was only, it
appeared, gathering emphasis. "It would be dear--to make a gift
of--at five shillings. If it had cost you even but five pence I
wouldn't take it from you."
"Then," she asked, "what IS the matter?"
"Why, it has a crack."
It sounded, on his lips, so sharp, it had such an authority, that
she almost started, while her colour, at the word, rose. It was
as if he had been right, though his assurance was wonderful. "You
answer for it without having looked?"
"I did look. I saw the object itself. It told its story. No
wonder it's cheap."
"But it's exquisite," Charlotte, as if with an interest in it now
made even tenderer and stranger, found herself moved to insist.
"Of course it's exquisite. That's the danger." Then a light
visibly came to her--a light in which her friend suddenly and
intensely showed. The reflection of it, as she smiled at him, was
in her own face. "The danger--I see--is because you're
"Per Dio, I'm superstitious! A crack is a crack--and an omen's an
"You'd be afraid--?"
"For your happiness?"
"For my happiness."
"For your safety?"
"For my safety."
She just paused. "For your marriage?"
"For my marriage. For everything."
She thought again. "Thank goodness then that if there BE a crack
we know it! But if we may perish by cracks in things that we
don't know--!" And she smiled with the sadness of it. "We can
never then give each other anything."
He considered, but he met it. "Ah, but one does know. _I_ do, at
least--and by instinct. I don't fail. That will always protect
It was funny, the way he said such things; yet she liked him,
really, the more for it. They fell in for her with a general, or
rather with a special, vision. But she spoke with a mild despair.
"What then will protect ME?"
"Where I'm concerned _I_ will. From me at least you've nothing to
fear," he now quite amiably responded. "Anything you consent to
accept from me--" But he paused.
"Well, shall be perfect."
"That's very fine," she presently answered. "It's vain, after
all, for you to talk of my accepting things when you'll accept
nothing from me."
Ah, THERE, better still, he could meet her. "You attach an
impossible condition. That, I mean, of my keeping your gift so to
Well, she looked, before him there, at the condition--then,
abruptly, with a gesture, she gave it up. She had a headshake of
disenchantment--so far as the idea had appealed to her. It all
appeared too difficult. "Oh, my 'condition'--I don't hold to it.
You may cry it on the housetops--anything I ever do."
"Ah well, then--!" This made, he laughed, all the difference.
But it was too late. "Oh, I don't care now! I SHOULD have liked
the Bowl. But if that won't do there's nothing."
He considered this; he took it in, looking graver again; but
after a moment he qualified. "Yet I shall want some day to give
She wondered at him. "What day?"
"The day you marry. For you WILL marry. You must--SERIOUSLY--
She took it from him, but it determined in her the only words she
was to have uttered, all the morning, that came out as if a
spring had been pressed. "To make you feel better?"
"Well," he replied frankly, wonderfully--"it will. But here," he
added, "is your hansom."
He had signalled--the cab was charging. She put out no hand for
their separation, but she prepared to get in. Before she did so,
however, she said what had been gathering while she waited.
"Well, I would marry, I think, to have something from you in all
Adam Verver, at Fawns, that autumn Sunday, might have been
observed to open the door of the billiard-room with a certain
freedom--might have been observed, that is, had there been a
spectator in the field. The justification of the push he had
applied, however, and of the push, equally sharp, that, to shut
himself in, he again applied--the ground of this energy was
precisely that he might here, however briefly, find himself
alone, alone with the handful of letters, newspapers and other
unopened missives, to which, during and since breakfast, he had
lacked opportunity to give an eye. The vast, square, clean
apartment was empty, and its large clear windows looked out into
spaces of terrace and garden, of park and woodland and shining
artificial lake, of richly-condensed horizon, all dark blue
upland and church-towered village and strong cloudshadow, which
were, together, a thing to create the sense, with everyone else
at church, of one's having the world to one's self. We share this
world, none the less, for the hour, with Mr. Verver; the very
fact of his striking, as he would have said, for solitude, the
fact of his quiet flight, almost on tiptoe, through tortuous
corridors, investing him with an interest that makes our
attention--tender indeed almost to compassion--qualify his
achieved isolation. For it may immediately be mentioned that this
amiable man bethought himself of his personal advantage, in
general, only when it might appear to him that other advantages,
those of other persons, had successfully put in their claim. It
may be mentioned also that he always figured other persons--such
was the law of his nature--as a numerous array, and that, though
conscious of but a single near tie, one affection, one duty
deepest-rooted in his life, it had never, for many minutes
together, been his portion not to feel himself surrounded and
committed, never quite been his refreshment to make out where the
many-coloured human appeal, represented by gradations of tint,
diminishing concentric zones of intensity, of importunity, really
faded to the blessed impersonal whiteness for which his vision
sometimes ached. It shaded off, the appeal--he would have
admitted that; but he had as yet noted no point at which it
Thus had grown in him a little habit--his innermost secret, not
confided even to Maggie, though he felt she understood it, as she
understood, to his view, everything--thus had shaped itself the
innocent trick of occasionally making believe that he had no
conscience, or at least that blankness, in the field of duty, did
reign for an hour; a small game to which the few persons near
enough to have caught him playing it, and of whom Mrs. Assingham,
for instance, was one, attached indulgently that idea of
quaintness, quite in fact that charm of the pathetic, involved in
the preservation by an adult of one of childhood's toys. When he
took a rare moment "off," he did so with the touching, confessing
eyes of a man of forty-seven caught in the act of handling a
relic of infancy--sticking on the head of a broken soldier or
trying the lock of a wooden gun. It was essentially, in him, the
IMITATION of depravity--which, for amusement, as might have been,
he practised "keeping up." In spite of practice he was still
imperfect, for these so artlessly-artful interludes were
condemned, by the nature of the case, to brevity. He had fatally
stamped himself--it was his own fault--a man who could be
interrupted with impunity. The greatest of wonders, moreover, was
exactly in this, that so interrupted a man should ever have got,
as the phrase was, should above all have got so early, to where
he was. It argued a special genius; he was clearly a case of
that. The spark of fire, the point of light, sat somewhere in his
inward vagueness as a lamp before a shrine twinkles in the dark
perspective of a church; and while youth and early middle-age,
while the stiff American breeze of example and opportunity were
blowing upon it hard, had made of the chamber of his brain a
strange workshop of fortune. This establishment, mysterious and
almost anonymous, the windows of which, at hours of highest
pressure, never seemed, for starers and wonderers, perceptibly to
glow, must in fact have been during certain years the scene of an
unprecedented, a miraculous white-heat, the receipt for producing
which it was practically felt that the master of the forge could
not have communicated even with the best intentions.
The essential pulse of the flame, the very action of the cerebral
temperature, brought to the highest point, yet extraordinarily
contained--these facts themselves were the immensity of the
result; they were one with perfection of machinery, they had
constituted the kind of acquisitive power engendered and applied,
the necessary triumph of all operations. A dim explanation of
phenomena once vivid must at all events for the moment suffice
us; it being obviously no account of the matter to throw on our
friend's amiability alone the weight of the demonstration of his
economic history. Amiability, of a truth, is an aid to success;
it has even been known to be the principle of large
accumulations; but the link, for the mind, is none the less
fatally missing between proof, on such a scale, of continuity, if
of nothing more insolent, in one field, and accessibility to
distraction in every other. Variety of imagination--what is that
but fatal, in the world of affairs, unless so disciplined as not
to be distinguished from monotony? Mr. Verver then, for a fresh,
full period, a period betraying, extraordinarily, no wasted year,
had been inscrutably monotonous behind an iridescent cloud. The
cloud was his native envelope--the soft looseness, so to say, of
his temper and tone, not directly expressive enough, no doubt, to
figure an amplitude of folds, but of a quality unmistakable for
sensitive feelers. He was still reduced, in fine, to getting his
rare moments with himself by feigning a cynicism. His real
inability to maintain the pretence, however, had perhaps not
often been better instanced than by his acceptance of the
inevitable to-day--his acceptance of it on the arrival, at the
end of a quarter-of-an hour, of that element of obligation with
which he had all the while known he must reckon. A quarter-of-an-
hour of egoism was about as much as he, taking one situation with
another, usually got. Mrs. Rance opened the door--more
tentatively indeed than he himself had just done; but on the
other hand, as if to make up for this, she pushed forward even
more briskly on seeing him than he had been moved to do on seeing
nobody. Then, with force, it came home to him that he had,
definitely, a week before, established a precedent. He did her at
least that justice--it was a kind of justice he was always doing
someone. He had on the previous Sunday liked to stop at home, and
he had exposed himself thereby to be caught in the act. To make
this possible, that is, Mrs. Rance had only had to like to do the
same--the trick was so easily played. It had not occurred to him
to plan in any way for her absence--which would have destroyed,
somehow, in principle, the propriety of his own presence. If
persons under his roof hadn't a right not to go to church, what
became, for a fair mind, of his own right? His subtlest manoeuvre
had been simply to change from the library to the billiard-room,
it being in the library that his guest, or his daughter's, or the
guest of the Miss Lutches--he scarce knew in which light to
regard her--had then, and not unnaturally, of course, joined him.
It was urged on him by his memory of the duration of the visit
she had that time, as it were, paid him, that the law of
recurrence would already have got itself enacted. She had spent
the whole morning with him, was still there, in the library, when
the others came back--thanks to her having been tepid about their
taking, Mr. Verver and she, a turn outside. It had been as if she
looked on that as a kind of subterfuge--almost as a form of
disloyalty. Yet what was it she had in mind, what did she wish to
make of him beyond what she had already made, a patient,
punctilious host, mindful that she had originally arrived much as
a stranger, arrived not at all deliberately or yearningly
invited?--so that one positively had her possible
susceptibilities the MORE on one's conscience. The Miss Lutches,
the sisters from the middle West, were there as friends of
Maggie's, friends of the earlier time; but Mrs. Rance was there--
or at least had primarily appeared--only as a friend of the Miss
This lady herself was not of the middle West--she rather insisted
on it--but of New Jersey, Rhode Island or Delaware, one of the
smallest and most intimate States: he couldn't remember which,
though she insisted too on that. It was not in him--we may say it
for him--to go so far as to wonder if their group were next to be
recruited by some friend of her own; and this partly because she
had struck him, verily, rather as wanting to get the Miss Lutches
themselves away than to extend the actual circle, and partly, as
well as more essentially, because such connection as he enjoyed
with the ironic question in general resided substantially less in
a personal use of it than in the habit of seeing it as easy to
others. He was so framed by nature as to be able to keep his
inconveniences separate from his resentments; though indeed if
the sum of these latter had at the most always been small, that
was doubtless in some degree a consequence of the fewness of the
former. His greatest inconvenience, he would have admitted, had
he analyzed, was in finding it so taken for granted that, as he
had money, he had force. It pressed upon him hard, and all round,
assuredly, this attribution of power. Everyone had need of one's
power, whereas one's own need, at the best, would have seemed to
be but some trick for not communicating it. The effect of a
reserve so merely, so meanly defensive would in most cases,
beyond question, sufficiently discredit the cause; wherefore,
though it was complicating to be perpetually treated as an
infinite agent, the outrage was not the greatest of which a brave
man might complain. Complaint, besides, was a luxury, and he
dreaded the imputation of greed. The other, the constant
imputation, that of being able to "do," would have no ground if
he hadn't been, to start with--this was the point--provably
luxurious. His lips, somehow, were closed--and by a spring
connected moreover with the action of his eyes themselves. The
latter showed him what he had done, showed him where he had come
out; quite at the top of his hill of difficulty, the tall sharp
spiral round which he had begun to wind his ascent at the age of
twenty, and the apex of which was a platform looking down, if one
would, on the kingdoms of the earth and with standing-room for
but half-a-dozen others.
His eyes, in any case, now saw Mrs. Rance approach with an
instant failure to attach to the fact any grossness of avidity of
Mrs. Rance's own--or at least to descry any triumphant use even
for the luridest impression of her intensity. What was virtually
supreme would be her vision of his having attempted, by his
desertion of the library, to mislead her--which in point of fact
barely escaped being what he had designed. It was not easy for
him, in spite of accumulations fondly and funnily regarded as of
systematic practice, not now to be ashamed; the one thing
comparatively easy would be to gloss over his course. The
billiard-room was NOT, at the particular crisis, either a natural
or a graceful place for the nominally main occupant of so large a
house to retire to--and this without prejudice, either, to the
fact that his visitor wouldn't, as he apprehended, explicitly
make him a scene. Should she frankly denounce him for a sneak he
would simply go to pieces; but he was, after an instant, not
afraid of that. Wouldn't she rather, as emphasising their
communion, accept and in a manner exploit the anomaly, treat it
perhaps as romantic or possibly even as comic?--show at least
that they needn't mind even though the vast table, draped in
brown holland, thrust itself between them as an expanse of desert
sand. She couldn't cross the desert, but she could, and did,
beautifully get round it; so that for him to convert it into an
obstacle he would have had to cause himself, as in some childish
game or unbecoming romp, to be pursued, to be genially hunted.
This last was a turn he was well aware the occasion should on no
account take; and there loomed before him--for the mere moment--
the prospect of her fairly proposing that they should knock about
the balls. That danger certainly, it struck him, he should manage
in some way to deal with. Why too, for that matter, had he need
of defences, material or other?--how was it a question of dangers
really to be called such? The deep danger, the only one that made
him, as an idea, positively turn cold, would have been the
possibility of her seeking him in marriage, of her bringing up
between them that terrible issue. Here, fortunately, she was
powerless, it being apparently so provable against her that she
had a husband in undiminished existence.
She had him, it was true, only in America, only in Texas, in
Nebraska, in Arizona or somewhere--somewhere that, at old Fawns
House, in the county of Kent, scarcely counted as a definite
place at all; it showed somehow, from afar, as so lost, so
indistinct and illusory, in the great alkali desert of cheap
Divorce. She had him even in bondage, poor man, had him in
contempt, had him in remembrance so imperfect as barely to assert
itself, but she had him, none the less, in existence unimpeached:
the Miss Lutches had seen him in the flesh--as they had appeared
eager to mention; though when they were separately questioned
their descriptions failed to tally. He would be at the worst,
should it come to the worst, Mrs. Rance's difficulty, and he
served therefore quite enough as the stout bulwark of anyone
else. This was in truth logic without a flaw, yet it gave Mr.
Verver less comfort than it ought. He feared not only danger--he
feared the idea of danger, or in other words feared, hauntedly,
himself. It was above all as a symbol that Mrs. Rance actually
rose before him--a symbol of the supreme effort that he should
have sooner or later, as he felt, to make. This effort would be
to say No--he lived in terror of having to. He should be proposed
to at a given moment--it was only a question of time--and then he
should have to do a thing that would be extremely disagreeable.
He almost wished, on occasion, that he wasn't so sure he WOULD do
it. He knew himself, however, well enough not to doubt: he knew
coldly, quite bleakly, where he would, at the crisis, draw the
line. It was Maggie's marriage and Maggie's finer happiness--
happy as he had supposed her before--that had made the
difference; he hadn't in the other time, it now seemed to him,
had to think of such things. They hadn't come up for him, and it
was as if she, positively, had herself kept them down. She had
only been his child--which she was indeed as much as ever; but
there were sides on which she had protected him as if she were
more than a daughter. She had done for him more than he knew--
much, and blissfully, as he always HAD known. If she did at
present more than ever, through having what she called the change
in his life to make up to him for, his situation still, all the
same, kept pace with her activity--his situation being simply
that there was more than ever to be done.
There had not yet been quite so much, on all the showing, as
since their return from their twenty months in America, as since
their settlement again in England, experimental though it was,
and the consequent sense, now quite established for him, of a
domestic air that had cleared and lightened, producing the
effect, for their common personal life, of wider perspectives and
large waiting spaces. It was as if his son-in-law's presence,
even from before his becoming his son-in-law, had somehow filled
the scene and blocked the future--very richly and handsomely,
when all was said, not at all inconveniently or in ways not to
have been desired: inasmuch as though the Prince, his measure now
practically taken, was still pretty much the same "big fact," the
sky had lifted, the horizon receded, the very foreground itself
expanded, quite to match him, quite to keep everything in
comfortable scale. At first, certainly, their decent little
old-time union, Maggie's and his own, had resembled a good deal
some pleasant public square, in the heart of an old city, into
which a great Palladian church, say--something with a grand
architectural front--had suddenly been dropped; so that the rest
of the place, the space in front, the way round, outside, to the
east end, the margin of street and passage, the quantity of
over-arching heaven, had been temporarily compromised. Not even
then, of a truth, in a manner disconcerting--given, that is, for
the critical, or at least the intelligent, eye, the great style
of the facade and its high place in its class. The phenomenon
that had since occurred, whether originally to have been
pronounced calculable or not, had not, naturally, been the
miracle of a night, but had taken place so gradually, quietly,
easily, that from this vantage of wide, wooded Fawns, with its
eighty rooms, as they said, with its spreading park, with its
acres and acres of garden and its majesty of artificial lake--