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The Golden Bowl by Henry James

Part 3 out of 12

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though that, for a person so familiar with the "great" ones,
might be rather ridiculous--no visibility of transition showed,
no violence of adjustment, in retrospect, emerged. The Palladian
church was always there, but the piazza took care of itself. The
sun stared down in his fulness, the air circulated, and the
public not less; the limit stood off, the way round was easy, the
east end was as fine, in its fashion, as the west, and there were
also side doors for entrance, between the two--large, monumental,
ornamental, in their style--as for all proper great churches. By
some such process, in fine, had the Prince, for his father-in-
law, while remaining solidly a feature, ceased to be, at all
ominously, a block.

Mr. Verver, it may further be mentioned, had taken at no moment
sufficient alarm to have kept in detail the record of his
reassurance; but he would none the less not have been unable, not
really have been indisposed, to impart in confidence to the right
person his notion of the history of the matter. The right
person--it is equally distinct--had not, for this illumination,
been wanting, but had been encountered in the form of Fanny
Assingham, not for the first time indeed admitted to his
counsels, and who would have doubtless at present, in any case,
from plenitude of interest and with equal guarantees, repeated
his secret. It all came then, the great clearance, from the one
prime fact that the Prince, by good fortune, hadn't proved
angular. He clung to that description of his daughter's husband
as he often did to terms and phrases, in the human, the social
connection, that he had found for himself: it was his way to have
times of using these constantly, as if they just then lighted the
world, or his own path in it, for him--even when for some of his
interlocutors they covered less ground. It was true that with
Mrs. Assingham he never felt quite sure of the ground anything
covered; she disputed with him so little, agreed with him so
much, surrounded him with such systematic consideration, such
predetermined tenderness, that it was almost--which he had once
told her in irritation as if she were nursing a sick baby. He
had accused her of not taking him seriously, and she had
replied--as from her it couldn't frighten him--that she took him
religiously, adoringly. She had laughed again, as she had laughed
before, on his producing for her that good right word about the
happy issue of his connection with the Prince--with an effect the
more odd perhaps as she had not contested its value. She couldn't
of course, however, be, at the best, as much in love with his
discovery as he was himself. He was so much so that he fairly
worked it--to his own comfort; came in fact sometimes near
publicly pointing the moral of what might have occurred if
friction, so to speak, had occurred. He pointed it frankly one
day to the personage in question, mentioned to the Prince the
particular justice he did him, was even explicit as to the danger
that, in their remarkable relation, they had thus escaped. Oh,
if he HAD been angular!--who could say what might THEN have
happened? He spoke--and it was the way he had spoken to Mrs.
Assingham too--as if he grasped the facts, without exception, for
which angularity stood.

It figured for him, clearly, as a final idea, a conception of the
last vividness. He might have been signifying by it the sharp
corners and hard edges, all the stony pointedness, the grand
right geometry of his spreading Palladian church. Just so, he was
insensible to no feature of the felicity of a contact that,
beguilingly, almost confoundingly, was a contact but with
practically yielding lines and curved surfaces. "You're round, my
boy," he had said--"you're ALL, you're variously and
inexhaustibly round, when you might, by all the chances, have
been abominably square. I'm not sure, for that matter," he had
added, "that you're not square in the general mass--whether
abominably or not. The abomination isn't a question, for you're
inveterately round--that's what I mean--in the detail. It's the
sort of thing, in you, that one feels--or at least I do--with
one's hand. Say you had been formed, all over, in a lot of little
pyramidal lozenges like that wonderful side of the Ducal Palace
in Venice--so lovely in a building, but so damnable, for rubbing
against, in a man, and especially in a near relation. I can see
them all from here--each of them sticking out by itself--all the
architectural cut diamonds that would have scratched one's softer
sides. One would have been scratched by diamonds--doubtless the
neatest way if one was to be scratched at all--but one would have
been more or less reduced to a hash. As it is, for living with,
you're a pure and perfect crystal. I give you my idea--I think
you ought to have it--just as it has come to me." The Prince had
taken the idea, in his way, for he was well accustomed, by this
time, to taking; and nothing perhaps even could more have
confirmed Mr. Verver's account of his surface than the manner in
which these golden drops evenly flowed over it. They caught in no
interstice, they gathered in no concavity; the uniform smoothness
betrayed the dew but by showing for the moment a richer tone. The
young man, in other words, unconfusedly smiled--though indeed as
if assenting, from principle and habit, to more than he
understood. He liked all signs that things were well, but he
cared rather less WHY they were.

In regard to the people among whom he had since his marriage been
living, the reasons they so frequently gave--so much oftener than
he had ever heard reasons given before--remained on the whole the
element by which he most differed from them; and his father-in-
law and his wife were, after all, only first among the people
among whom he had been living. He was never even yet sure of how,
at this, that or the other point, he would strike them; they felt
remarkably, so often, things he hadn't meant, and missed not less
remarkably, and not less often, things he had. He had fallen
back on his general explanation--"We haven't the same values;" by
which he understood the same measure of importance. His "curves"
apparently were important because they had been unexpected, or,
still more, unconceived; whereas when one had always, as in his
relegated old world, taken curves, and in much greater quantities
too, for granted, one was no more surprised at the resulting
feasibility of intercourse than one was surprised at being
upstairs in a house that had a staircase. He had in fact on this
occasion disposed alertly enough of the subject of Mr. Verver's
approbation. The promptitude of his answer, we may in fact well
surmise, had sprung not a little from a particular kindled
remembrance; this had given his acknowledgment its easiest turn.
"Oh, if I'm a crystal I'm delighted that I'm a perfect one, for I
believe that they sometimes have cracks and flaws--in which case
they're to be had very cheap!" He had stopped short of the
emphasis it would have given his joke to add that there had been
certainly no having HIM cheap; and it was doubtless a mark of the
good taste practically reigning between them that Mr. Verver had
not, on his side either, taken up the opportunity. It is the
latter's relation to such aspects, however, that now most
concerns us, and the bearing of his pleased view of this absence
of friction upon Amerigo's character as a representative precious
object. Representative precious objects, great ancient pictures
and other works of art, fine eminent "pieces" in gold, in silver,
in enamel, majolica, ivory, bronze, had for a number of years so
multiplied themselves round him and, as a general challenge to
acquisition and appreciation, so engaged all the faculties of his
mind, that the instinct, the particular sharpened appetite of the
collector, had fairly served as a basis for his acceptance of the
Prince's suit.

Over and above the signal fact of the impression made on Maggie
herself, the aspirant to his daughter's hand showed somehow the
great marks and signs, stood before him with the high
authenticities, he had learned to look for in pieces of the first
order. Adam Verver knew, by this time, knew thoroughly; no man in
Europe or in America, he privately believed, was less capable, in
such estimates, of vulgar mistakes. He had never spoken of
himself as infallible--it was not his way; but, apart from the
natural affections, he had acquainted himself with no greater
joy, of the intimately personal type, than the joy of his
originally coming to feel, and all so unexpectedly, that he had
in him the spirit of the connoisseur. He had, like many other
persons, in the course of his reading, been struck with Keats's
sonnet about stout Cortez in the presence of the Pacific; but few
persons, probably, had so devoutly fitted the poet's grand image
to a fact of experience. It consorted so with Mr. Verver's
consciousness of the way in which, at a given moment, he had
stared at HIS Pacific, that a couple of perusals of the immortal
lines had sufficed to stamp them in his memory. His "peak in
Darien" was the sudden hour that had transformed his life, the
hour of his perceiving with a mute inward gasp akin to the low
moan of apprehensive passion, that a world was left him to
conquer and that he might conquer it if he tried. It had been a
turning of the page of the book of life--as if a leaf long inert
had moved at a touch and, eagerly reversed, had made such a stir
of the air as sent up into his face the very breath of the Golden
Isles. To rifle the Golden Isles had, on the spot, become the
business of his future, and with the sweetness of it--what was
most wondrous of all--still more even in the thought than in the
act. The thought was that of the affinity of Genius, or at least
of Taste, with something in himself--with the dormant
intelligence of which he had thus almost violently become aware
and that affected him as changing by a mere revolution of the
screw his whole intellectual plane. He was equal, somehow, with
the great seers, the invokers and encouragers of beauty--and he
didn't after all perhaps dangle so far below the great producers
and creators. He had been nothing of that kind before-too
decidedly, too dreadfully not; but now he saw why he had been
what he had, why he had failed and fallen short even in huge
success; now he read into his career, in one single magnificent
night, the immense meaning it had waited for.

It was during his first visit to Europe after the death of his
wife, when his daughter was ten years old, that the light, in his
mind, had so broken--and he had even made out at that time why,
on an earlier occasion, the journey of his honeymoon year, it had
still been closely covered. He had "bought" then, so far as he
had been able, but he had bought almost wholly for the frail,
fluttered creature at his side, who had had her fancies,
decidedly, but all for the art, then wonderful to both of them,
of the Rue de la Paix, the costly authenticities of dressmakers
and jewellers. Her flutter--pale disconcerted ghost as she
actually was, a broken white flower tied round, almost
grotesquely for his present sense, with a huge satin "bow" of the
Boulevard--her flutter had been mainly that of ribbons, frills
and fine fabrics; all funny, pathetic evidence, for memory, of
the bewilderments overtaking them as a bridal pair confronted
with opportunity. He could wince, fairly, still, as he remembered
the sense in which the poor girl's pressure had, under his fond
encouragement indeed, been exerted in favour of purchase and
curiosity. These were wandering images, out of the earlier dusk,
that threw her back, for his pity, into a past more remote than
he liked their common past, their young affection, to appear.
It would have had to be admitted, to an insistent criticism, that
Maggie's mother, all too strangely, had not so much failed of
faith as of the right application of it; since she had exercised
it eagerly and restlessly, made it a pretext for innocent
perversities in respect to which philosophic time was at, last to
reduce all groans to gentleness. And they had loved each other so
that his own intelligence, on the higher line, had temporarily
paid for it. The futilities, the enormities, the depravities, of
decoration and ingenuity, that, before his sense was unsealed,
she had made him think lovely! Musing, reconsidering little man
that he was, and addicted to silent pleasures--as he was
accessible to silent pains--he even sometimes wondered what would
have become of his intelligence, in the sphere in which it was to
learn more and more exclusively to play, if his wife's influence
upon it had not been, in the strange scheme of things, so
promptly removed. Would she have led him altogether, attached as
he was to her, into the wilderness of mere mistakes? Would she
have prevented him from ever scaling his vertiginous Peak?--or
would she, otherwise, have been able to accompany him to that
eminence, where he might have pointed out to her, as Cortez to
HIS companions, the revelation vouchsafed? No companion of Cortez
had presumably been a real lady: Mr. Verver allowed that historic
fact to determine his inference.


What was at all events not permanently hidden from him was a
truth much less invidious about his years of darkness. It was the
strange scheme of things again: the years of darkness had been
needed to render possible the years of light. A wiser hand than
he at first knew had kept him hard at acquisition of one sort as
a perfect preliminary to acquisition of another, and the
preliminary would have been weak and wanting if the good faith of
it had been less. His comparative blindness had made the good
faith, which in its turn had made the soil propitious for the
flower of the supreme idea. He had had to LIKE forging and
sweating, he had had to like polishing and piling up his arms.
They were things at least he had had to believe he liked, just as
he had believed he liked transcendent calculation and imaginative
gambling all for themselves, the creation of "interests" that
were the extinction of other interests, the livid vulgarity,
even, of getting in, or getting out, first. That had of course
been so far from really the case--with the supreme idea, all the
while, growing and striking deep, under everything, in the warm,
rich earth. He had stood unknowing, he had walked and worked
where it was buried, and the fact itself, the fact of his
fortune, would have been a barren fact enough if the first sharp
tender shoot had never struggled into day. There on one side was
the ugliness his middle time had been spared; there on the other,
from all the portents, was the beauty with which his age might
still be crowned. He was happier, doubtless, than he deserved;
but THAT, when one was happy at all, it was easy to be. He had
wrought by devious ways, but he had reached the place, and what
would ever have been straighter, in any man's life, than his way,
now, of occupying it? It hadn't merely, his plan, all the
sanctions of civilization; it was positively civilization
condensed, concrete, consummate, set down by his hands as a house
on a rock--a house from whose open doors and windows, open to
grateful, to thirsty millions, the higher, the highest knowledge
would shine out to bless the land. In this house, designed as a
gift, primarily, to the people of his adoptive city and native
State, the urgency of whose release from the bondage of ugliness
he was in a position to measure--in this museum of museums, a
palace of art which was to show for compact as a Greek temple was
compact, a receptacle of treasures sifted to positive sanctity,
his spirit to-day almost altogether lived, making up, as he would
have said, for lost time and haunting the portico in anticipation
of the final rites.

These would be the "opening exercises," the august dedication of
the place. His imagination, he was well aware, got over the
ground faster than his judgment; there was much still to do for
the production of his first effect. Foundations were laid and
walls were rising, the structure of the shell all determined; but
raw haste was forbidden him in a connection so intimate with the
highest effects of patience and piety; he should belie himself by
completing without a touch at least of the majesty of delay a
monument to the religion he wished to propagate, the exemplary
passion, the passion for perfection at any price. He was far from
knowing as yet where he would end, but he was admirably definite
as to where he wouldn't begin. He wouldn't begin with a small
show--he would begin with a great, and he could scarce have
indicated, even had he wished to try, the line of division he had
drawn. He had taken no trouble to indicate it to his fellow-
citizens, purveyors and consumers, in his own and the
circumjacent commonwealths, of comic matter in large lettering,
diurnally "set up," printed, published, folded and delivered, at
the expense of his presumptuous emulation of the snail. The snail
had become for him, under this ironic suggestion, the loveliest
beast in nature, and his return to England, of which we are
present witnesses, had not been unconnected with the appreciation
so determined. It marked what he liked to mark, that he needed,
on the matter in question, instruction from no one on earth. A
couple of years of Europe again, of renewed nearness to changes
and chances, refreshed sensibility to the currents of the market,
would fall in with the consistency of wisdom, the particular
shade of enlightened conviction, that he wished to observe. It
didn't look like much for a whole family to hang about waiting-
they being now, since the birth of his grandson, a whole family;
and there was henceforth only one ground in all the world, he
felt, on which the question of appearance would ever really again
count for him. He cared that a work of art of price should "look
like" the master to whom it might perhaps be deceitfully
attributed; but he had ceased on the whole to know any matter of
the rest of life by its looks.

He took life in general higher up the stream; so far as he was
not actually taking it as a collector, he was taking it,
decidedly, as a grandfather. In the way of precious small pieces
he had handled nothing so precious as the Principino, his
daughter's first-born, whose Italian designation endlessly amused
him and whom he could manipulate and dandle, already almost toss
and catch again, as he couldn't a correspondingly rare morsel of
an earlier pate tendre. He could take the small clutching child
from his nurse's arms with an iteration grimly discountenanced,
in respect to their contents, by the glass doors of high
cabinets. Something clearly beatific in this new relation had,
moreover, without doubt, confirmed for him the sense that none of
his silent answers to public detraction, to local vulgarity, had
ever been so legitimately straight as the mere element of
attitude--reduce it, he said, to that--in his easy weeks at
Fawns. The element of attitude was all he wanted of these weeks,
and he was enjoying it on the spot, even more than he had hoped:
enjoying it in spite of Mrs. Rance and the Miss Lutches; in spite
of the small worry of his belief that Fanny Assingham had really
something for him that she was keeping back; in spite of his full
consciousness, overflowing the cup like a wine too generously
poured, that if he had consented to marry his daughter, and
thereby to make, as it were, the difference, what surrounded him
now was, exactly, consent vivified, marriage demonstrated, the
difference, in fine, definitely made. He could call back his
prior, his own wedded consciousness--it was not yet out of range
of vague reflection. He had supposed himself, above all he had
supposed his wife, as married as anyone could be, and yet he
wondered if their state had deserved the name, or their union
worn the beauty, in the degree to which the couple now before him
carried the matter. In especial since the birth of their boy, in
New York--the grand climax of their recent American period,
brought to so right an issue--the happy pair struck him as having
carried it higher, deeper, further; to where it ceased to concern
his imagination, at any rate, to follow them. Extraordinary,
beyond question, was one branch of his characteristic mute
wonderment--it characterised above all, with its subject before
it, his modesty: the strange dim doubt, waking up for him at the
end of the years, of whether Maggie's mother had, after all, been
capable of the maximum. The maximum of tenderness he meant--as
the terms existed for him; the maximum of immersion in the fact
of being married. Maggie herself was capable; Maggie herself at
this season, was, exquisitely, divinely, the maximum: such was
the impression that, positively holding off a little for the
practical, the tactful consideration it inspired in him, a
respect for the beauty and sanctity of it almost amounting to awe
--such was the impression he daily received from her. She was her
mother, oh yes--but her mother and something more; it becoming
thus a new light for him, and in such a curious way too, that
anything more than her mother should prove at this time of day

He could live over again at almost any quiet moment the long
process of his introduction to his present interests--an
introduction that had depended all on himself, like the "cheek"
of the young man who approaches a boss without credentials or
picks up an acquaintance, makes even a real friend, by speaking
to a passer in the street. HIS real friend, in all the business,
was to have been his own mind, with which nobody had put him in
relation. He had knocked at the door of that essentially private
house, and his call, in truth, had not been immediately answered;
so that when, after waiting and coming back, he had at last got
in, it was, twirling his hat, as an embarrassed stranger, or,
trying his keys, as a thief at night. He had gained confidence
only with time, but when he had taken real possession of the
place it had been never again to come away. All of which success
represented, it must be allowed, his one principle of pride.
Pride in the mere original spring, pride in his money, would have
been pride in something that had come, in comparison, so easily.
The right ground for elation was difficulty mastered, and his
difficulty--thanks to his modesty--had been to believe in his
facility. THIS was the problem he had worked out to its
solution--the solution that was now doing more than all else to
make his feet settle and his days flush; and when he wished to
feel "good," as they said at American City, he had but to retrace
his immense development. That was what the whole thing came back
to--that the development had not been somebody's else passing
falsely, accepted too ignobly, for his. To think how servile he
might have been was absolutely to respect himself, was in fact,
as much as he liked, to admire himself, as free. The very finest
spring that ever responded to his touch was always there to
press--the memory of his freedom as dawning upon him, like a
sunrise all pink and silver, during a winter divided between
Florence, Rome and Naples some three years after his wife's
death. It was the hushed daybreak of the Roman revelation in
particular that he could usually best recover, with the way that
there, above all, where the princes and Popes had been before
him, his divination of his faculty most went to his head. He was
a plain American citizen, staying at an hotel where, sometimes,
for days together, there were twenty others like him; but no
Pope, no prince of them all had read a richer meaning, he
believed, into the character of the Patron of Art. He was ashamed
of them really, if he wasn't afraid, and he had on the whole
never so climbed to the tip-top as in judging, over a perusal of
Hermann Grimm, where Julius II and Leo X were "placed" by their
treatment of Michael Angelo. Far below the plain American
citizen--in the case at least in which this personage happened
not to be too plain to be Adam Verver. Going to our friend's
head, moreover, some of the results of such comparisons may
doubtless be described as having stayed there. His freedom to
see--of which the comparisons were part--what could it do but
steadily grow and grow?

It came perhaps even too much to stand to him for ALL freedom--
since, for example, it was as much there as ever at the very time
of Mrs. Rance's conspiring against him, at Fawns, with the
billiard-room and the Sunday morning, on the occasion round which
we have perhaps drawn our circle too wide. Mrs. Rance at least
controlled practically each other license of the present and the
near future: the license to pass the hour as he would have found
convenient; the license to stop remembering, for a little, that,
though if proposed to--and not only by this aspirant but by any
other--he wouldn't prove foolish, the proof of wisdom was none
the less, in such a fashion, rather cruelly conditioned; the
license in especial to proceed from his letters to his journals
and insulate, orientate, himself afresh by the sound, over his
gained interval, of the many-mouthed monster the exercise of
whose lungs he so constantly stimulated. Mrs. Rance remained with
him till the others came back from church, and it was by that
time clearer than ever that his ordeal, when it should arrive,
would be really most unpleasant. His impression--this was the
point--took somehow the form not so much of her wanting to press
home her own advantage as of her building better than she knew;
that is of her symbolising, with virtual unconsciousness, his own
special deficiency, his unfortunate lack of a wife to whom
applications could be referred. The applications, the
contingencies with which Mrs. Rance struck him as potentially
bristling, were not of a sort, really, to be met by one's self.
And the possibility of them, when his visitor said, or as good as
said, "I'm restrained, you see, because of Mr. Rance, and also
because I'm proud and refined; but if it WASN'T for Mr. Rance and
for my refinement and my pride!"--the possibility of them, I say,
turned to a great murmurous rustle, of a volume to fill the
future; a rustle of petticoats, of scented, many-paged letters,
of voices as to which, distinguish themselves as they might from
each other, it mattered little in what part of the resounding
country they had learned to make themselves prevail. The
Assinghams and the Miss Lutches had taken the walk, through the
park, to the little old church, "on the property," that our
friend had often found himself wishing he were able to transport,
as it stood, for its simple sweetness, in a glass case, to one of
his exhibitory halls; while Maggie had induced her husband, not
inveterate in such practices, to make with her, by carriage, the
somewhat longer pilgrimage to the nearest altar, modest though it
happened to be, of the faith--her own as it had been her
mother's, and as Mr. Verver himself had been loosely willing,
always, to let it be taken for his--without the solid ease of
which, making the stage firm and smooth, the drama of her
marriage might not have been acted out.

What at last appeared to have happened, however, was that the
divided parties, coming back at the same moment, had met outside
and then drifted together, from empty room to room, yet not in
mere aimless quest of the pair of companions they had left at
home. The quest had carried them to the door of the billiard-
room, and their appearance, as it opened to admit them,
determined for Adam Verver, in the oddest way in the world, a new
and sharp perception. It was really remarkable: this perception
expanded, on the spot, as a flower, one of the strangest, might,
at a breath, have suddenly opened. The breath, for that matter,
was more than anything else, the look in his daughter's eyes--the
look with which he SAW her take in exactly what had occurred in
her absence: Mrs. Rance's pursuit of him to this remote locality,
the spirit and the very form, perfectly characteristic, of his
acceptance of the complication--the seal set, in short,
unmistakably, on one of Maggie's anxieties. The anxiety, it was
true, would have been, even though not imparted, separately
shared; for Fanny Assingham's face was, by the same stroke, not
at all thickly veiled for him, and a queer light, of a colour
quite to match, fairly glittered in the four fine eyes of the
Miss Lutches. Each of these persons--counting out, that is, the
Prince and the Colonel, who didn't care, and who didn't even see
that the others did--knew something, or had at any rate had her
idea; the idea, precisely, that this was what Mrs. Rance,
artfully biding her time, WOULD do. The special shade of
apprehension on the part of the Miss Lutches might indeed have
suggested the vision of an energy supremely asserted. It was
droll, in truth, if one came to that, the position of the Miss
Lutches: they had themselves brought, they had guilelessly
introduced Mrs. Rance, strong in the fact of Mr. Rance's having
been literally beheld of them; and it was now for them,
positively, as if their handful of flowers--since Mrs. Rance was
a handful!--had been but the vehicle of a dangerous snake. Mr.
Verver fairly felt in the air the Miss Lutches' imputation--in
the intensity of which, really, his own propriety might have been

That, none the less, was but a flicker; what made the real
difference, as I have hinted, was his mute passage with Maggie.
His daughter's anxiety alone had depths, and it opened out for
him the wider that it was altogether new. When, in their common
past, when till this moment, had she shown a fear, however
dumbly, for his individual life? They had had fears together,
just as they had had joys, but all of hers, at least, had been
for what equally concerned them. Here of a sudden was a question
that concerned him alone, and the soundless explosion of it
somehow marked a date. He was on her mind, he was even in a
manner on her hands--as a distinct thing, that is, from being,
where he had always been, merely deep in her heart and in her
life; too deep down, as it were, to be disengaged, contrasted or
opposed, in short objectively presented. But time finally had
done it; their relation was altered: he SAW, again, the
difference lighted for her. This marked it to himself--and it
wasn't a question simply of a Mrs. Rance the more or the less.
For Maggie too, at a stroke, almost beneficently, their visitor
had, from being an inconvenience, become a sign. They had made
vacant, by their marriage, his immediate foreground, his personal
precinct--they being the Princess and the Prince. They had made
room in it for others--so others had become aware. He became
aware himself, for that matter, during the minute Maggie stood
there before speaking; and with the sense, moreover, of what he
saw her see, he had the sense of what she saw HIM. This last, it
may be added, would have been his intensest perception had there
not, the next instant, been more for him in Fanny Assingham. Her
face couldn't keep it from him; she had seen, on top of
everything, in her quick way, what they both were seeing.


So much mute communication was doubtless, all this time,
marvellous, and we may confess to having perhaps read into the
scene, prematurely, a critical character that took longer to
develop. Yet the quiet hour of reunion enjoyed that afternoon by
the father and the daughter did really little else than deal with
the elements definitely presented to each in the vibration
produced by the return of the church-goers. Nothing allusive,
nothing at all insistent, passed between them either before or
immediately after luncheon--except indeed so far as their failure
soon again to meet might be itself an accident charged with
reference. The hour or two after luncheon--and on Sundays with
especial rigour, for one of the domestic reasons of which it
belonged to Maggie quite multitudinously to take account--were
habitually spent by the Princess with her little boy, in whose
apartment she either frequently found her father already
established or was sooner or later joined by him. His visit to
his grandson, at some hour or other, held its place, in his day,
against all interventions, and this without counting his
grandson's visits to HIM, scarcely less ordered and timed, and
the odd bits, as he called them, that they picked up together
when they could--communions snatched, for the most part, on the
terrace, in the gardens or the park, while the Principino, with
much pomp and circumstance of perambulator, parasol, fine lace
over-veiling and incorruptible female attendance, took the air.
In the private apartments, which, occupying in the great house
the larger part of a wing of their own, were not much more easily
accessible than if the place had been a royal palace and the
small child an heir-apparent--in the nursery of nurseries the
talk, at these instituted times, was always so prevailingly with
or about the master of the scene that other interests and other
topics had fairly learned to avoid the slighting and inadequate
notice there taken of them. They came in, at the best, but as
involved in the little boy's future, his past, or his
comprehensive present, never getting so much as a chance to plead
their own merits or to complain of being neglected. Nothing
perhaps, in truth, had done more than this united participation
to confirm in the elder parties that sense of a life not only
uninterrupted but more deeply associated, more largely combined,
of which, on Adam Verver's behalf, we have made some mention. It
was of course an old story and a familiar idea that a beautiful
baby could take its place as a new link between a wife and a
husband, but Maggie and her father had, with every ingenuity,
converted the precious creature into a link between a mamma and a
grandpapa. The Principino, for a chance spectator of this
process, might have become, by an untoward stroke, a hapless
half-orphan, with the place of immediate male parent swept bare
and open to the next nearest sympathy.

They had no occasion thus, the conjoined worshippers, to talk of
what the Prince might be or might do for his son--the sum of
service, in his absence, so completely filled itself out. It was
not in the least, moreover, that there was doubt of him, for he
was conspicuously addicted to the manipulation of the child, in
the frank Italian way, at such moments as he judged discreet in
respect to other claims: conspicuously, indeed, that is, for
Maggie, who had more occasion, on the whole, to speak to her
husband of the extravagance of her father than to speak to her
father of the extravagance of her husband. Adam Verver had, all
round, in this connection, his own serenity. He was sure of his
son-in-law's auxiliary admiration--admiration, he meant, of his
grand-son; since, to begin with, what else had been at work but
the instinct--or it might fairly have been the tradition--of the
latter's making the child so solidly beautiful as to HAVE to be
admired? What contributed most to harmony in this play of
relations, however, was the way the young man seemed to leave it
to be gathered that, tradition for tradition, the grandpapa's own
was not, in any estimate, to go for nothing. A tradition, or
whatever it was, that had flowered prelusively in the Princess
herself--well, Amerigo's very discretions were his way of taking
account of it. His discriminations in respect to his heir were,
in fine, not more angular than any others to be observed in him;
and Mr. Verver received perhaps from no source so distinct an
impression of being for him an odd and important phenomenon as he
received from this impunity of appropriation, these unchallenged
nursery hours. It was as if the grandpapa's special show of the
character were but another side for the observer to study,
another item for him to note. It came back, this latter personage
knew, to his own previous perception--that of the Prince's
inability, in any matter in which he was concerned, to CONCLUDE.
The idiosyncrasy, for him, at each stage, had to be
demonstrated--on which, however, he admirably accepted it. This
last was, after all, the point; he really worked, poor young man,
for acceptance, since he worked so constantly for comprehension.
And how, when you came to that, COULD you know that a horse
wouldn't shy at a brass-band, in a country road, because it
didn't shy at a traction-engine? It might have been brought up to
traction-engines without having been brought up to brass-bands.
Little by little, thus, from month to month, the Prince was
learning what his wife's father had been brought up to; and now
it could be checked off--he had been brought, up to the romantic
view of principini. Who would have thought it, and where would it
all stop? The only fear somewhat sharp for Mr. Verver was a
certain fear of disappointing him for strangeness. He felt that
the evidence he offered, thus viewed, was too much on the
positive side. He didn't know--he was learning, and it was funny
for him--to how many things he HAD been brought up. If the Prince
could only strike something to which he hadn't! This wouldn't, it
seemed to him, ruffle the smoothness, and yet MIGHT, a little,
add to the interest.

What was now clear, at all events, for the father and the
daughter, was their simply knowing they wanted, for the time, to
be together--at any cost, as it were; and their necessity so
worked in them as to bear them out of the house, in a quarter
hidden from that in which their friends were gathered, and cause
them to wander, unseen, unfollowed, along a covered walk in the
"old" garden, as it was called, old with an antiquity of formal
things, high box and shaped yew and expanses of brick wall that
had turned at once to purple and to pink. They went out of a door
in the wall, a door that had a slab with a date set above it,
1713, but in the old multiplied lettering, and then had before
them a small white gate, intensely white and clean amid all the
greenness, through which they gradually passed to where some of
the grandest trees spaciously clustered and where they would find
one of the quietest places. A bench had been placed, long ago,
beneath a great oak that helped to crown a mild eminence, and the
ground sank away below it, to rise again, opposite, at a distance
sufficient to enclose the solitude and figure a bosky horizon.
Summer, blissfully, was with them yet, and the low sun made a
splash of light where it pierced the looser shade; Maggie, coming
down to go out, had brought a parasol, which, as, over her
charming bare head, she now handled it, gave, with the big straw
hat that her father in these days always wore a good deal tipped
back, definite intention to their walk. They knew the bench; it
was "sequestered"--they had praised it for that together, before,
and liked the word; and after they had begun to linger there they
could have smiled (if they hadn't been really too serious, and if
the question hadn't so soon ceased to matter), over the probable
wonder of the others as to what would have become of them.

The extent to which they enjoyed their indifference to any
judgment of their want of ceremony, what did that of itself speak
but for the way that, as a rule, they almost equally had others
on their mind? They each knew that both were full of the
superstition of not "hurting," but might precisely have been
asking themselves, asking in fact each other, at this moment,
whether that was to be, after all, the last word of their
conscientious development. Certain it was, at all events, that,
in addition to the Assinghams and the Lutches and Mrs. Rance, the
attendance at tea, just in the right place on the west terrace,
might perfectly comprise the four or five persons--among them the
very pretty, the typically Irish Miss Maddock, vaunted, announced
and now brought--from the couple of other houses near enough, one
of these the minor residence Of their proprietor, established,
thriftily, while he hired out his ancestral home, within sight
and sense of his profit. It was not less certain, either, that,
for once in a way, the group in question must all take the case
as they found it. Fanny Assingham, at any time, for that matter,
might perfectly be trusted to see Mr. Verver and his daughter, to
see their reputation for a decent friendliness, through any
momentary danger; might be trusted even to carry off their
absence for Amerigo, for Amerigo's possible funny Italian
anxiety; Amerigo always being, as the Princess was well aware,
conveniently amenable to this friend's explanations,
beguilements, reassurances, and perhaps in fact rather more than
less dependent on them as his new life--since that was his own
name for it--opened out. It was no secret to Maggie--it was
indeed positively a public joke for her--that she couldn't
explain as Mrs. Assingham did, and that, the Prince liking
explanations, liking them almost as if he collected them, in the
manner of book-plates or postage-stamps, for themselves, his
requisition of this luxury had to be met. He didn't seem to want
them as yet for use--rather for ornament and amusement, innocent
amusement of the kind he most fancied and that was so
characteristic of his blessed, beautiful, general, slightly
indolent lack of more dissipated, or even just of more
sophisticated, tastes.

However that might be, the dear woman had come to be frankly and
gaily recognised--and not least by herself--as filling in the
intimate little circle an office that was not always a sinecure.
It was almost as if she had taken, with her kind, melancholy
Colonel at her heels, a responsible engagement; to be within
call, as it were, for all those appeals that sprang out of talk,
that sprang not a little, doubtless too, out of leisure. It
naturally led her position in the household, as, she called it,
to considerable frequency of presence, to visits, from the good
couple, freely repeated and prolonged, and not so much as under
form of protest. She was there to keep him quiet--it was
Amerigo's own description of her influence; and it would only
have needed a more visible disposition to unrest in him
to make the account perfectly fit. Fanny herself limited indeed,
she minimised, her office; you didn't need a jailor, she
contended, for a domesticated lamb tied up with pink ribbon. This
was not an animal to be controlled--it was an animal to be, at
the most, educated. She admitted accordingly that she was
educative--which Maggie was so aware that she herself,
inevitably, wasn't; so it came round to being true that what she
was most in charge of was his mere intelligence. This left,
goodness knew, plenty of different calls for Maggie to meet--in a
case in which so much pink ribbon, as it might be symbolically
named, was lavished on the creature. What it all amounted to, at
any rate, was that Mrs. Assingham would be keeping him quiet now,
while his wife and his father-in-law carried out their own little
frugal picnic; quite moreover, doubtless, not much less neededly
in respect to the members of the circle that were with them there
than in respect to the pair they were missing almost for the
first time. It was present to Maggie that the Prince could bear,
when he was with his wife, almost any queerness on the part of
people, strange English types, who bored him, beyond convenience,
by being so little as he himself was; for this was one of the
ways in which a wife was practically sustaining. But she was as
positively aware that she hadn't yet learned to see him as
meeting such exposure in her absence. How did he move and talk,
how above all did he, or how WOULD he, look--he who, with his so
nobly handsome face, could look such wonderful things--in case of
being left alone with some of the subjects of his wonder? There
were subjects for wonder among these very neighbours; only Maggie
herself had her own odd way--which didn't moreover the least
irritate him--of really liking them in proportion as they could
strike her as strange. It came out in her by heredity, he amused
himself with declaring, this love of chinoiseries; but she
actually this evening didn't mind--he might deal with her Chinese
as he could.

Maggie indeed would always have had for such moments, had they
oftener occurred, the impression made on her by a word of Mrs.
Assingham's, a word referring precisely to that appetite in
Amerigo for the explanatory which we have just found in our path.
It wasn't that the Princess could be indebted to another person,
even to so clever a one as this friend, for seeing anything in
her husband that she mightn't see unaided; but she had ever,
hitherto, been of a nature to accept with modest gratitude any
better description of a felt truth than her little limits--
terribly marked, she knew, in the direction of saying the right
things--enabled her to make. Thus it was, at any rate, that she
was able to live more or less in the light of the fact expressed
so lucidly by their common comforter--the fact that the Prince
was saving up, for some very mysterious but very fine eventual
purpose, all the wisdom, all the answers to his questions, all
the impressions and generalisations, he gathered; putting them
away and packing them down because he wanted his great gun to be
loaded to the brim on the day he should decide to let it off. He
wanted first to make sure of the whole of the subject that was
unrolling itself before him; after which the innumerable facts he
had collected would find their use. He knew what he was about---
trust him at last therefore to make, and to some effect, his big
noise. And Mrs. Assingham had repeated that he knew what he was
about. It was the happy form of this assurance that had remained
with Maggie; it could always come in for her that Amerigo knew
what he was about. He might at moments seem vague, seem absent,
seem even bored: this when, away from her father, with whom it
was impossible for him to appear anything but respectfully
occupied, he let his native gaiety go in outbreaks of song, or
even of quite whimsical senseless sound, either expressive of
intimate relaxation or else fantastically plaintive. He might at
times reflect with the frankest lucidity on the circumstance that
the case was for a good while yet absolutely settled in regard to
what he still had left, at home, of his very own; in regard to
the main seat of his affection, the house in Rome, the big black
palace, the Palazzo Nero, as he was fond of naming it, and also
on the question of the villa in the Sabine hills, which she had,
at the time of their engagement, seen and yearned over, and the
Castello proper, described by him always as the "perched" place,
that had, as she knew, formerly stood up, on the pedestal of its
mountain-slope, showing beautifully blue from afar, as the head
and front of the princedom. He might rejoice in certain moods
over the so long-estranged state of these properties, not indeed
all irreclaimably alienated, but encumbered with unending leases
and charges, with obstinate occupants, with impossibilities of
use--all without counting the cloud of mortgages that had, from
far back, buried them beneath the ashes of rage and remorse, a
shroud as thick as the layer once resting on the towns at the
foot of Vesuvius, and actually making of any present restorative
effort a process much akin to slow excavation. Just so he might
with another turn of his humour almost wail for these brightest
spots of his lost paradise, declaring that he was an idiot not to
be able to bring himself to face the sacrifices--sacrifices
resting, if definitely anywhere, with Mr. Verver--necessary for
winning them back.

One of the most comfortable things between the husband and the
wife meanwhile--one of those easy certitudes they could be merely
gay about--was that she never admired him so much, or so found
him heartbreakingly handsome, clever, irresistible, in the very
degree in which he had originally and fatally dawned upon her, as
when she saw other women reduced to the same passive pulp that
had then begun, once for all, to constitute HER substance. There
was really nothing they had talked of together with more intimate
and familiar pleasantry than of the license and privilege, the
boundless happy margin, thus established for each: she going so
far as to put it that, even should he some day get drunk and beat
her, the spectacle of him with hated rivals would, after no
matter what extremity, always, for the sovereign charm of it,
charm of it in itself and as the exhibition of him that most
deeply moved her, suffice to bring her round. What would
therefore be more open to him than to keep her in love with him?
He agreed, with all his heart, at these light moments, that his
course wouldn't then be difficult, inasmuch as, so simply
constituted as he was on all the precious question--and why
should he be ashamed of it?--he knew but one way with the fair.
They had to be fair--and he was fastidious and particular, his
standard was high; but when once this was the case what relation
with them was conceivable, what relation was decent, rudimentary,
properly human, but that of a plain interest in the fairness? His
interest, she always answered, happened not to be "plain," and
plainness, all round, had little to do with the matter, which was
marked, on the contrary, by the richest variety of colour; but
the working basis, at all events, had been settled--the Miss
Maddocks of life been assured of their importance for him. How
conveniently assured Maggie--to take him too into the joke--had
more than once gone so far as to mention to her father; since it
fell in easily with the tenderness of her disposition to remember
she might occasionally make him happy by an intimate confidence.
This was one of her rules-full as she was of little rules,
considerations, provisions. There were things she of course
couldn't tell him, in so many words, about Amerigo and herself, and
about their happiness and their union and their deepest depths--and
there were other things she needn't; but there were also those
that were both true and amusing, both communicable and real, and
of these, with her so conscious, so delicately cultivated scheme
of conduct as a daughter, she could make her profit at will.
A pleasant hush, for that matter, had fallen on most of the
elements while she lingered apart with her companion; it
involved, this serenity, innumerable complete assumptions: since
so ordered and so splendid a rest, all the tokens, spreading
about them, of confidence solidly supported, might have suggested
for persons of poorer pitch the very insolence of facility.
Still, they weren't insolent--THEY weren't, our pair could
reflect; they were only blissful and grateful and personally
modest, not ashamed of knowing, with competence, when great
things were great, when good things were good, and when safe
things were safe, and not, therefore, placed below their fortune
by timidity which would have been as bad as being below it by
impudence. Worthy of it as they were, and as each appears, under
our last possible analysis, to have wished to make the other feel
that they were, what they most finally exhaled into the evening
air as their eyes mildly met may well have been a kind of
helplessness in their felicity. Their rightness, the
justification of everything--something they so felt the pulse
of--sat there with them; but they might have been asking
themselves a little blankly to what further use they could
put anything so perfect. They had created and nursed and
established it; they had housed it here in dignity and crowned it
with comfort; but mightn't the moment possibly count for them--or
count at least for us while we watch them with their fate all
before them--as the dawn of the discovery that it doesn't always
meet ALL contingencies to be right? Otherwise why should Maggie
have found a word of definite doubt--the expression of the fine
pang determined in her a few hours before--rise after a time to
her lips? She took so for granted moreover her companion's
intelligence of her doubt that the mere vagueness of her question
could say it all. "What is it, after all, that they want to do to
you?" "They" were for the Princess too the hovering forces of
which Mrs. Rance was the symbol, and her father, only smiling
back now, at his ease, took no trouble to appear not to know what
she meant. What she meant--when once she had spoken--could come
out well enough; though indeed it was nothing, after they had
come to the point, that could serve as ground for a great
defensive campaign. The waters of talk spread a little, and
Maggie presently contributed an idea in saying: "What has really
happened is that the proportions, for us, are altered." He
accepted equally, for the time, this somewhat cryptic remark; he
still failed to challenge her even when she added that it
wouldn't so much matter if he hadn't been so terribly young. He
uttered a sound of protest only when she went to declare that she
ought as a daughter, in common decency, to have waited. Yet by
that time she was already herself admitting that she should have
had to wait long--if she waited, that is, till he was old. But
there was a way. "Since you ARE an irresistible youth, we've got
to face it. That, somehow, is what that woman has made me feel.
There'll be others."


To talk of it thus appeared at last a positive relief to him.
"Yes, there'll be others. But you'll see me through."

She hesitated. "Do you mean if you give in?"

"Oh no. Through my holding out."

Maggie waited again, but when she spoke it had an effect of
abruptness. "Why SHOULD you hold out forever?"

He gave, none the less, no start--and this as from the habit of
taking anything, taking everything, from her as harmonious. But
it was quite written upon him too, for that matter, that holding
out wouldn't be, so very completely, his natural, or at any rate
his acquired, form. His appearance would have testified that he
might have to do so a long time--for a man so greatly beset. This
appearance, that is, spoke but little, as yet, of short
remainders and simplified senses--and all in spite of his being a
small, spare, slightly stale person, deprived of the general
prerogative of presence. It was not by mass or weight or vulgar
immediate quantity that he would in the future, any more than he
had done in the past, insist or resist or prevail. There was even
something in him that made his position, on any occasion, made
his relation to any scene or to any group, a matter of the back
of the stage, of an almost visibly conscious want of affinity
with the footlights. He would have figured less than anything the
stage-manager or the author of the play, who most occupy the
foreground; he might be, at the best, the financial "backer,"
watching his interests from the wing, but in rather confessed
ignorance of the mysteries of mimicry. Barely taller than his
daughter, he pressed at no point on the presumed propriety of his
greater stoutness. He had lost early in life much of his crisp,
closely-curling hair, the fineness of which was repeated in a
small neat beard, too compact to be called "full," though worn
equally, as for a mark where other marks were wanting, on lip and
cheek and chin. His neat, colourless face, provided with the
merely indispensable features, suggested immediately, for a
description, that it was CLEAR, and in this manner somewhat
resembled a small decent room, clean-swept and unencumbered with
furniture, but drawing a particular advantage, as might presently
be noted, from the outlook of a pair of ample and uncurtained
windows. There was something in Adam Verver's eyes that both
admitted the morning and the evening in unusual quantities and
gave the modest area the outward extension of a view that was
"big" even when restricted to stars. Deeply and changeably blue,
though not romantically large, they were yet youthfully, almost
strangely beautiful, with their ambiguity of your scarce knowing
if they most carried their possessor's vision out or most opened
themselves to your own. Whatever you might feel, they stamped the
place with their importance, as the house-agents say; so that, on
one side or the other, you were never out of their range, were
moving about, for possible community, opportunity, the sight of
you scarce knew what, either before them or behind them. If other
importances, not to extend the question, kept themselves down,
they were in no direction less obtruded than in that of our
friend's dress, adopted once for all as with a sort of sumptuary
scruple. He wore every day of the year, whatever the occasion,
the same little black "cut away" coat, of the fashion of his
younger time; he wore the same cool-looking trousers, chequered
in black and white--the proper harmony with which, he
inveterately considered, was a sprigged blue satin necktie; and,
over his concave little stomach, quaintly indifferent to climates
and seasons, a white duck waistcoat. "Should you really," he now
asked, "like me to marry?" He spoke as if, coming from his
daughter herself, it MIGHT be an idea; which, for that matter, he
would be ready to carry out should she definitely say so.

Definite, however, just yet, she was not prepared to be, though
it seemed to come to her with force, as she thought, that there
was a truth, in the connection, to utter. "What I feel is that
there is somehow something that used to be right and that I've
made wrong. It used to be right that you hadn't married, and that
you didn't seem to want to. It used also"--she continued to make
out "to seem easy for the question not to come up. That's what
I've made different. It does come up. It WILL come up."

"You don't think I can keep it down?" Mr. Verver's tone was
cheerfully pensive.

"Well, I've given you, by MY move, all the trouble of having to."

He liked the tenderness of her idea, and it made him, as she sat
near him, pass his arm about her. "I guess I don't feel as if you
had 'moved' very far. You've only moved next door."

"Well," she continued, "I don't feel as if it were fair for me
just to have given you a push and left you so. If I've made the
difference for you, I must think of the difference."

"Then what, darling," he indulgently asked, "DO you think?"

"That's just what I don't yet know. But I must find out. We must
think together--as we've always thought. What I mean," she went
on after a moment, "is that it strikes me that I ought to at
least offer you some alternative. I ought to have worked one out
for you."

"An alternative to what?"

"Well, to your simply missing what you've lost--without anything
being done about it."

"But what HAVE I lost?"

She thought a minute, as if it were difficult to say, yet as if
she more and more saw it. "Well, whatever it was that, BEFORE,
kept us from thinking, and kept you, really, as you might say, in
the market. It was as if you couldn't be in the market when you
were married to me. Or rather as if I kept people off,
innocently, by being married to you. Now that I'm married to some
one else you're, as in consequence, married to nobody. Therefore
you may be married to anybody, to everybody. People don't see why
you shouldn't be married to THEM."

"Isn't it enough of a reason," he mildly inquired, "that I don't
want to be?"

"It's enough of a reason, yes. But to BE enough of a reason it
has to be too much of a trouble. I mean FOR you. It has to be too
much of a fight. You ask me what you've lost," Maggie continued
to explain. "The not having to take the trouble and to make the
fight--that's what you've lost. The advantage, the happiness of
being just as you were--because I was just as _I_ was--that's
what you miss."

"So that you think," her father presently said, "that I had
better get married just in order to be as I was before?"

The detached tone of it--detached as if innocently to amuse her
by showing his desire to accommodate--was so far successful as to
draw from her gravity a short, light laugh. "Well, what I don't
want you to feel is that if you were to I shouldn't understand. I
SHOULD understand. That's all," said the Princess gently.

Her companion turned it pleasantly over. "You don't go so far as
to wish me to take somebody I don't like?"

"Ah, father," she sighed, "you know how far I go--how far I COULD
go. But I only wish that if you ever SHOULD like anybody, you may
never doubt of my feeling how I've brought you to it. You'll
always know that I know that it's my fault."

"You mean," he went on in his contemplative way, "that it will be
you who'll take the consequences?"

Maggie just considered. "I'll leave you all the good ones, but
I'll take the bad."

"Well, that's handsome." He emphasised his sense of it by drawing
her closer and holding her more tenderly. "It's about all I could
expect of you. So far as you've wronged me, therefore, we'll call
it square. I'll let you know in time if I see a prospect of your
having to take it up. But am I to understand meanwhile," he soon
went on, "that, ready as you are to see me through my collapse,
you're not ready, or not AS ready, to see me through my
resistance? I've got to be a regular martyr before you'll be

She demurred at his way of putting it. "Why, if you like it, you
know, it won't BE a collapse."

"Then why talk about seeing me through at all? I shall only
collapse if I do like it. But what I seem to feel is that I don't
WANT to like it. That is," he amended, "unless I feel surer I do
than appears very probable. I don't want to have to THINK I like
it in a case when I really shan't. I've had to do that in some
cases," he confessed--"when it has been a question of other
things. I don't want," he wound up, "to be MADE to make a

"Ah, but it's too dreadful," she returned, "that you should even
have to FEAR--or just nervously to dream--that you may be. What
does that show, after all," she asked, "but that you do really,
well within, feel a want? What does it show but that you're truly

"Well, it may show that"--he defended himself against nothing.
"But it shows also, I think, that charming women are, in the kind
of life we're leading now, numerous and formidable."

Maggie entertained for a moment the proposition; under cover of
which, however, she passed quickly from the general to the
particular. "Do you feel Mrs. Rance to be charming?"

"Well, I feel her to be formidable. When they cast a spell it
comes to the same thing. I think she'd do anything."

"Oh well, I'd help you," the Princess said with decision, "as
against HER--if that's all you require. It's too funny," she went
on before he again spoke, "that Mrs. Rance should be here at all.
But if you talk of the life we lead, much of it is, altogether,
I'm bound to say, too funny. The thing is," Maggie developed
under this impression, "that I don't think we lead, as regards
other people, any life at all. We don't at any rate, it seems to
me, lead half the life we might. And so it seems, I think, to
Amerigo. So it seems also, I'm sure, to Fanny Assingham."

Mr. Verver-as if from due regard for these persons--considered a
little. "What life would they like us to lead?"

"Oh, it's not a question, I think, on which they quite feel
together. SHE thinks, dear Fanny, that we ought to be greater."

"Greater--?" He echoed it vaguely. "And Amerigo too, you say?"

"Ah yes"-her reply was prompt "but Amerigo doesn't mind. He
doesn't care, I mean, what we do. It's for us, he considers, to
see things exactly as we wish. Fanny herself," Maggie pursued,
"thinks he's magnificent. Magnificent, I mean, for taking
everything as it is, for accepting the 'social limitations' of
our life, for not missing what we don't give him."

Mr. Verver attended. "Then if he doesn't miss it his magnificence
is easy."

"It IS easy-that's exactly what I think. If there were things he
DID miss, and if in spite of them he were always sweet, then, no
doubt, he would be a more or less unappreciated hero. He COULD be
a Hero--he WILL be one if it's ever necessary. But it will be
about something better than our dreariness. _I_ know," the
Princess declared, "where he's magnificent." And she rested a
minute on that. She ended, however, as she had begun. "We're not,
all the same, committed to anything stupid. If we ought to be
grander, as Fanny thinks, we CAN be grander. There's nothing to

"Is it a strict moral obligation?" Adam Verver inquired.

"No--it's for the amusement."

"For whose? For Fanny's own?"

"For everyone's--though I dare say Fanny's would be a large
part." She hesitated; she had now, it might have appeared,
something more to bring out, which she finally produced. "For
yours in particular, say--if you go into the question." She even
bravely followed it up. "I haven't really, after all, had to
think much to see that much more can be done for you than is

Mr. Verver uttered an odd vague sound. "Don't you think a good
deal is done when you come out and talk to me this way?"

"Ah," said his daughter, smiling at him, "we make too much of
that!" And then to explain: "That's good, and it's natural--but
it isn't great. We forget that we're as free as air."

"Well, THAT'S great," Mr. Verver pleaded. "Great if we act on it.
Not if we don't."

She continued to smile, and he took her smile; wondering again a
little by this time, however; struck more and more by an
intensity in it that belied a light tone. "What do you want," he
demanded, "to do to me?" And he added, as she didn't say: "You've
got something in your mind." It had come to him within the minute
that from the beginning of their session there she had been
keeping something back, and that an impression of this had more
than once, in spite of his general theoretic respect for her
present right to personal reserves and mysteries, almost ceased
to be vague in him. There had been from the first something in
her anxious eyes, in the way she occasionally lost herself, that
it would perfectly explain. He was therefore now quite sure.

"You've got something up your sleeve."

She had a silence that made him right. "Well, when I tell you
you'll understand. It's only up my sleeve in the sense of being
in a letter I got this morning. All day, yes--it HAS been in my
mind. I've been asking myself if it were quite the right moment,
or in any way fair, to ask you if you could stand just now
another woman."

It relieved him a little, yet the beautiful consideration of her
manner made it in a degree portentous. "Stand" one--?"

"Well, mind her coming."

He stared--then he laughed. It depends on who she is."

"There--you see! I've at all events been thinking whether you'd
take this particular person but as a worry the more. Whether,
that is, you'd go so far with her in your notion of having to be

He gave at this the quickest shake to his foot. How far would she
go in HER notion of it.

"Well," his daughter returned, "you know how far, in a general
way, Charlotte Stant goes."

"Charlotte? Is SHE coming?"

"She writes me, practically, that she'd like to if we're so good
as to ask her."

Mr. Verver continued to gaze, but rather as if waiting for more.
Then, as everything appeared to have come, his expression had a
drop. If this was all it was simple. "Then why in the world not?"

Maggie's face lighted anew, but it was now another light. "It
isn't a want of tact?"

"To ask her?"

"To propose it to you."

"That _I_ should ask her?"

He put the question as an effect of his remnant of vagueness, but
this had also its own effect. Maggie wondered an instant; after
which, as with a flush of recognition, she took it up. "It would
be too beautiful if you WOULD!"

This, clearly, had not been her first idea--the chance of his
words had prompted it. "Do you mean write to her myself?"

"Yes--it would be kind. It would be quite beautiful of you. That
is, of course," said Maggie, "if you sincerely CAN."

He appeared to wonder an instant why he sincerely shouldn't, and
indeed, for that matter, where the question of sincerity came in.
This virtue, between him and his daughter's friend, had surely
been taken for granted. "My dear child," he returned, "I don't
think I'm afraid of Charlotte."

"Well, that's just what it's lovely to have from you. From the
moment you're NOT--the least little bit--I'll immediately invite

"But where in the world is she?" He spoke as if he had not
thought of Charlotte, nor so much as heard her name pronounced,
for a very long time. He quite in fact amicably, almost amusedly,
woke up to her.

"She's in Brittany, at a little bathing-place, with some people I
don't know. She's always with people, poor dear--she rather has
to be; even when, as is sometimes the case; they're people she
doesn't immensely like."

"Well, I guess she likes US," said Adam Verver. "Yes--fortunately
she likes us. And if I wasn't afraid of spoiling it for you,"
Maggie added, "I'd even mention that you're not the one of our
number she likes least."

"Why should that spoil it for me?"

"Oh, my dear, you know. What else have we been talking about? It
costs you so much to be liked. That's why I hesitated to tell you
of my letter."

He stared a moment--as if the subject had suddenly grown out of
recognition. "But Charlotte--on other visits--never used to cost
me anything."

"No--only her 'keep,'" Maggie smiled.

"Then I don't think I mind her keep--if that's all." The
Princess, however, it was clear, wished to be thoroughly
conscientious. "Well, it may not be quite all. If I think of its
being pleasant to have her, it's because she WILL make a

"Well, what's the harm in that if it's but a difference for the

"Ah then--there you are!" And the Princess showed in her smile
her small triumphant wisdom. "If you acknowledge a possible
difference for the better we're not, after all, so tremendously
right as we are. I mean we're not--as satisfied and amused. We do
see there are ways of being grander."

"But will Charlotte Stant," her father asked with surprise, "make
us grander?"

Maggie, on this, looking at him well, had a remarkable reply.
"Yes, I think. Really grander."

He thought; for if this was a sudden opening he wished but the
more to meet it. "Because she's so handsome?"

"No, father." And the Princess was almost solemn. "Because she's
so great."


"Great in nature, in character, in spirit. Great in life."

"So?" Mr. Verver echoed. "What has she done--in life?"

"Well, she has been brave and bright," said Maggie. "That mayn't
sound like much, but she has been so in the face of things that
might well have made it too difficult for many other girls. She
hasn't a creature in the world really--that is nearly--belonging
to her. Only acquaintances who, in all sorts of ways, make use of
her, and distant relations who are so afraid she'll make use of
THEM that they seldom let her look at them."

Mr. Verver was struck--and, as usual, to some purpose. "If we get
her here to improve us don't we too then make use of her?"

It pulled the Princess up, however, but an instant. "We're old,
old friends--we do her good too. I should always, even at the
worst--speaking for myself--admire her still more than I used

"I see. That always does good."

Maggie hesitated. "Certainly--she knows it. She knows, I mean,
how great I think her courage and her cleverness. She's not
afraid--not of anything; and yet she no more ever takes a liberty
with you than if she trembled for her life. And then she's
INTERESTING--which plenty of other people with plenty of other
merits never are a bit." In which fine flicker of vision
the truth widened to the Princess's view. "I myself of course
don't take liberties, but then I do, always, by nature, tremble
for my life. That's the way I live."

"Oh I say, love!" her father vaguely murmured.

"Yes, I live in terror," she insisted. "I'm a small creeping

"You'll not persuade me that you're not as good as Charlotte
Stant," he still placidly enough remarked.

"I may be as good, but I'm not so great--and that's what we're
talking about. She has a great imagination. She has, in every
way, a great attitude. She has above all a great conscience."
More perhaps than ever in her life before Maggie addressed her
father at this moment with a shade of the absolute in her tone.
She had never come so near telling him what he should take it
from her to believe. "She has only twopence in the world--but
that has nothing to do with it. Or rather indeed"--she quickly
corrected herself--"it has everything. For she doesn't care. I
never saw her do anything but laugh at her poverty. Her life has
been harder than anyone knows."

It was moreover as if, thus unprecedentedly positive, his child
had an effect upon him that Mr. Verver really felt as a new
thing. "Why then haven't you told me about her before?"

"Well, haven't we always known--?"

"I should have thought," he submitted, "that we had already
pretty well sized her up."

"Certainly--we long ago quite took her for granted. But things
change, with time, and I seem to know that, after this interval,
I'm going to like her better than ever. I've lived more myself,
I'm older, and one judges better. Yes, I'm going to see in
Charlotte," said the Princess--and speaking now as with high and
free expectation--"more than I've ever seen."

"Then I'll try to do so too. She WAS"--it came back to Mr. Verver
more--"the one of your friends I thought the best for you."

His companion, however, was so launched in her permitted liberty
of appreciation that she for the moment scarce heard him. She was
lost in the case she made out, the vision of the different ways
in which Charlotte had distinguished herself.

"She would have liked for instance--I'm sure she would have liked
extremely--to marry; and nothing in general is more ridiculous,
even when it has been pathetic, than a woman who has tried and
has not been able."

It had all Mr. Verver's attention. "She has 'tried'--?"

"She has seen cases where she would have liked to."

"But she has not been able?"

"Well, there are more cases, in Europe, in which it doesn't come
to girls who are poor than in which it does come to them.
Especially," said Maggie with her continued competence, "when
they're Americans."

Well, her father now met her, and met her cheerfully, on all
sides. "Unless you mean," he suggested, "that when the girls are
American there are more cases in which it comes to the rich than
to the poor."

She looked at him good-humouredly. "That may be--but I'm not
going to be smothered in MY case. It ought to make me--if I were
in danger of being a fool--all the nicer to people like
Charlotte. It's not hard for ME," she practically explained, "not
to be ridiculous--unless in a very different way. I might easily
be ridiculous, I suppose, by behaving as if I thought I had done
a great thing. Charlotte, at any rate, has done nothing, and
anyone can see it, and see also that it's rather strange; and yet
no one--no one not awfully presumptuous or offensive would like,
or would dare, to treat her, just as she is, as anything but
quite RIGHT. That's what it is to have something about you that
carries things off."

Mr. Verver's silence, on this, could only be a sign that she had
caused her story to interest him; though the sign when he spoke
was perhaps even sharper. "And is it also what you mean by
Charlotte's being 'great'?"

"Well," said Maggie, "it's one of her ways. But she has many."

Again for a little her father considered. "And who is it she has
tried to marry?"

Maggie, on her side as well, waited as if to bring it out with
effect; but she after a minute either renounced or encountered an
obstacle. "I'm afraid I'm not sure."

"Then how do you know?"

"Well, I don't KNOW"--and, qualifying again, she was earnestly
emphatic. "I only make it out for myself."

"But you must make it out about someone in particular."

She had another pause. "I don't think I want even for myself to
put names and times, to pull away any veil. I've an idea there
has been, more than once, somebody I'm not acquainted with--and
needn't be or want to be. In any case it's all over, and, beyond
giving her credit for everything, it's none of my business."

Mr. Verver deferred, yet he discriminated. "I don't see how you
can give credit without knowing the facts."

"Can't I give it--generally--for dignity? Dignity, I mean, in

"You've got to postulate the misfortune first."

"Well," said Maggie, "I can do that. Isn't it always a misfortune
to be--when you're so fine--so wasted? And yet," she went on,
"not to wail about it, not to look even as if you knew it?"

Mr. Verver seemed at first to face this as a large question, and
then, after a little, solicited by another view, to let the
appeal drop. "Well, she mustn't be wasted. We won't at least have

It produced in Maggie's face another gratitude. "Then, dear sir,
that's all I want."

And it would apparently have settled their question and ended
their talk if her father had not, after a little, shown the
disposition to revert. "How many times are you supposing that she
has tried?"

Once more, at this, and as if she hadn't been, couldn't be, hated
to be, in such delicate matters, literal, she was moved to
attenuate. "Oh, I don't say she absolutely ever TRIED--!"

He looked perplexed. "But if she has so absolutely failed, what
then had she done?"

"She has suffered--she has done that." And the Princess added:
"She has loved--and she has lost."

Mr. Verver, however, still wondered. "But how many times."

Maggie hesitated, but it cleared up. "Once is enough. Enough,
that is, for one to be kind to her."

Her father listened, yet not challenging--only as with a need of
some basis on which, under these new lights, his bounty could be
firm. "But has she told you nothing?"

"Ah, thank goodness, no!"

He stared. "Then don't young women tell?"

"Because, you mean, it's just what they're supposed to do?" She
looked at him, flushed again now; with which, after another
hesitation, "Do young men tell?" she asked.

He gave a short laugh. "How do I know, my dear, what young men

"Then how do _I_ know, father, what vulgar girls do?"

"I see--I see," he quickly returned.

But she spoke the next moment as if she might, odiously, have
been sharp. "What happens at least is that where there's a great
deal of pride there's a great deal of silence. I don't know, I
admit, what _I_ should do if I were lonely and sore--for what
sorrow, to speak of, have I ever had in my life? I don't know
even if I'm proud--it seems to me the question has never come up
for me."

"Oh, I guess you're proud, Mag," her father cheerfully
interposed. "I mean I guess you're proud enough."

"Well then, I hope I'm humble enough too. I might, at all events,
for all I know, be abject under a blow. How can I tell? Do you
realise, father, that I've never had the least blow?"

He gave her a long, quiet look. "Who SHOULD realise if I don't?"

"Well, you'll realise when I HAVE one!" she exclaimed with a
short laugh that resembled, as for good reasons, his own of a
minute before. "I wouldn't in any case have let her tell me what
would have been dreadful to me. For such wounds and shames are
dreadful: at least," she added, catching herself up, "I suppose
they are; for what, as I say, do I know of them? I don't WANT to
know!"--she spoke quite with vehemence. "There are things that
are sacred whether they're joys or pains. But one can always, for
safety, be kind," she kept on; "one feels when that's right."

She had got up with these last words; she stood there before him
with that particular suggestion in her aspect to which even the
long habit of their life together had not closed his sense, kept
sharp, year after year, by the collation of types and signs, the
comparison of fine object with fine object, of one degree of
finish, of one form of the exquisite with another--the appearance
of some slight, slim draped "antique" of Vatican or Capitoline
halls, late and refined, rare as a note and immortal as a link,
set in motion by the miraculous infusion of a modern impulse and
yet, for all the sudden freedom of folds and footsteps forsaken
after centuries by their pedestal, keeping still the quality, the
perfect felicity, of the statue; the blurred, absent eyes, the
smoothed, elegant, nameless head, the impersonal flit of a
creature lost in an alien age and passing as an image in worn
relief round and round a precious vase. She had always had odd
moments of striking him, daughter of his very own though she was,
as a figure thus simplified, "generalised" in its grace, a figure
with which his human connection was fairly interrupted by some
vague analogy of turn and attitude, something shyly mythological
and nymphlike. The trick, he was not uncomplacently aware, was
mainly of his own mind; it came from his caring for precious
vases only less than for precious daughters. And what was more to
the point still, it often operated while he was quite at the same
time conscious that Maggie had been described, even in her
prettiness, as "prim"--Mrs. Rance herself had enthusiastically
used the word of her; while he remembered that when once she had
been told before him, familiarly, that she resembled a nun, she
had replied that she was delighted to hear it and would certainly
try to; while also, finally, it was present to him that,
discreetly heedless, thanks to her long association with
nobleness in art, to the leaps and bounds of fashion, she brought
her hair down very straight and flat over her temples, in the
constant manner of her mother, who had not been a bit
mythological. Nymphs and nuns were certainly separate types, but
Mr. Verver, when he really amused himself, let consistency go.
The play of vision was at all events so rooted in him that he
could receive impressions of sense even while positively
thinking. He was positively thinking while Maggie stood there,
and it led for him to yet another question--which in its turn led
to others still. "Do you regard the condition as hers then that
you spoke of a minute ago?"

"The condition--?"

"Why that of having loved so intensely that she's, as you say,
'beyond everything'?"

Maggie had scarcely to reflect--her answer was so prompt. "Oh no.
She's beyond nothing. For she has had nothing."

"I see. You must have had things to be them. It's a kind of law
of perspective."

Maggie didn't know about the law, but she continued definite.
"She's not, for example, beyond help."

"Oh well then, she shall have all we can give her. I'll write to
her," he said, "with pleasure."

"Angel!" she answered as she gaily and tenderly looked at him.

True as this might be, however, there was one thing more--he was
an angel with a human curiosity. "Has she told you she likes me

"Certainly she has told me--but I won't pamper you. Let it be
enough for you it has always been one of my reasons for liking

"Then she's indeed not beyond everything," Mr. Verver more or
less humorously observed.

"Oh it isn't, thank goodness, that she's in love with you. It's
not, as I told you at first, the sort of thing for you to fear."

He had spoken with cheer, but it appeared to drop before this
reassurance, as if the latter overdid his alarm, and that should
be corrected. "Oh, my dear, I've always thought of her as a
little girl."

"Ah, she's not a little girl," said the Princess.

"Then I'll write to her as a brilliant woman."

"It's exactly what she is."

Mr. Verver had got up as he spoke, and for a little, before
retracing their steps, they stood looking at each other as if
they had really arranged something. They had come out together
for themselves, but it had produced something more. What it had
produced was in fact expressed by the words with which he met his
companion's last emphasis. "Well, she has a famous friend in you,

Maggie took this in--it was too plain for a protest. "Do you know
what I'm really thinking of?" she asked.

He wondered, with her eyes on him--eyes of contentment at her
freedom now to talk; and he wasn't such a fool, he presently
showed, as not, suddenly, to arrive at it. "Why, of your finding
her at last yourself a husband."

"Good for YOU!" Maggie smiled. "But it will take," she added,
"some looking."

"Then let me look right here with you," her father said as they
walked on.


Mrs. Assingham and the Colonel, quitting Fawns before the end of
September, had come back later on; and now, a couple of weeks
after, they were again interrupting their stay, but this time
with the question of their return left to depend, on matters that
were rather hinted at than importunately named. The Lutches and
Mrs. Rance had also, by the action of Charlotte Stant's arrival,
ceased to linger, though with hopes and theories, as to some
promptitude of renewal, of which the lively expression, awakening
the echoes of the great stone-paved, oak-panelled, galleried hall
that was not the least interesting feature of the place, seemed
still a property of the air. It was on this admirable spot that,
before her October afternoon had waned, Fanny Assingham spent
with her easy host a few moments which led to her announcing her
own and her husband's final secession, at the same time as they
tempted her to point the moral of all vain reverberations. The
double door of the house stood open to an effect of hazy autumn
sunshine, a wonderful, windless, waiting, golden hour, under the
influence of which Adam Verver met his genial friend as she came
to drop into the post-box with her own hand a thick sheaf of
letters. They presently thereafter left the house together and
drew out half-an-hour on the terrace in a manner they were to
revert to in thought, later on, as that of persons who really had
been taking leave of each other at a parting of the ways. He
traced his impression, on coming to consider, back to a mere
three words she had begun by using about Charlotte Stant. She
simply "cleared them out"--those had been the three words, thrown
off in reference to the general golden peace that the Kentish
October had gradually ushered in, the "halcyon" days the full
beauty of which had appeared to shine out for them after
Charlotte's arrival. For it was during these days that Mrs. Rance
and the Miss Lutches had been observed to be gathering themselves
for departure, and it was with that difference made that the
sense of the whole situation showed most fair--the sense of how
right they had been to engage for so ample a residence, and of
all the pleasure so fruity an autumn there could hold in its lap.
This was what had occurred, that their lesson had been learned;
and what Mrs. Assingham had dwelt upon was that without Charlotte
it would have been learned but half. It would certainly not have
been taught by Mrs. Rance and the Miss Lutches if these ladies
had remained with them as long as at one time seemed probable.
Charlotte's light intervention had thus become a cause, operating
covertly but none the less actively, and Fanny Assingham's
speech, which she had followed up a little, echoed within him,
fairly to startle him, as the indication of something
irresistible. He could see now how this superior force had
worked, and he fairly liked to recover the sight--little harm as
he dreamed of doing, little ill as he dreamed of wishing, the
three ladies, whom he had after all entertained for a stiffish
series of days. She had been so vague and quiet about it,
wonderful Charlotte, that he hadn't known what was happening--
happening, that is, as a result of her influence. "Their fires,
as they felt her, turned to smoke," Mrs. Assingham remarked;
which he was to reflect on indeed even while they strolled. He
had retained, since his long talk with Maggie--the talk that had
settled the matter of his own direct invitation to her friend--an
odd little taste, as he would have described it, for hearing
things said about this young woman, hearing, so to speak, what
COULD be said about her: almost as it her portrait, by some
eminent hand, were going on, so that he watched it grow under the
multiplication of touches. Mrs. Assingham, it struck him, applied
two or three of the finest in their discussion of their young
friend--so different a figure now from that early playmate of
Maggie's as to whom he could almost recall from of old the
definite occasions of his having paternally lumped the two
children together in the recommendation that they shouldn't make
too much noise nor eat too much jam. His companion professed that
in the light of Charlotte's prompt influence she had not been a
stranger to a pang of pity for their recent visitors. "I felt in
fact, privately, so sorry for them, that I kept my impression to
myself while they were here--wishing not to put the rest of you
on the scent; neither Maggie, nor the Prince, nor yourself, nor
even Charlotte HERself, if you didn't happen to notice. Since you
didn't, apparently, I perhaps now strike you as extravagant. But
I'm not--I followed it all. One SAW the consciousness I speak of
come over the poor things, very much as I suppose people at the
court of the Borgias may have watched each other begin to look
queer after having had the honour of taking wine with the heads
of the family. My comparison's only a little awkward, for I don't
in the least mean that Charlotte was consciously dropping poison
into their cup. She was just herself their poison, in the sense
of mortally disagreeing with them--but she didn't know it."

"Ah, she didn't know it?" Mr. Verver had asked with interest.

"Well, I THINK she didn't"--Mrs. Assingham had to admit that she
hadn't pressingly sounded her. "I don't pretend to be sure, in
every connection, of what Charlotte knows. She doesn't,
certainly, like to make people suffer--not, in general, as is the
case with so many of us, even other women: she likes much rather
to put them at their ease with her. She likes, that is--as all
pleasant people do--to be liked."

"Ah, she likes to be liked?" her companion had gone on.

"She did, at the same time, no doubt, want to help us--to put us
at our ease. That is she wanted to put you--and to put Maggie
about you. So far as that went she had a plan. But it was only
AFTER--it was not before, I really believe--that she saw how
effectively she could work."

Again, as Mr. Verver felt, he must have taken it up. "Ah, she
wanted to help us?--wanted to help ME?"

"Why," Mrs. Assingham asked after an instant, "should it surprise

He just thought. "Oh, it doesn't!"

"She saw, of course, as soon as she came, with her quickness,
where we all were. She didn't need each of us to go, by
appointment, to her room at night, or take her out into the
fields, for our palpitating tale. No doubt even she was rather

"OF the poor things?" Mr. Verver had here inquired while he

"Well, of your not yourselves being so--and of YOUR not in
particular. I haven't the least doubt in the world, par exemple,
that she thinks you too meek."

"Oh, she thinks me too meek?"

"And she had been sent for, on the very face of it, to work right
in. All she had to do, after all, was to be nice to you."

"To--a--ME?" said Adam Verver.

He could remember now that his friend had positively had a laugh
for his tone. "To you and to every one. She had only to be what
she is--and to be it all round. If she's charming, how can she
help it? So it was, and so only, that she 'acted'-as the Borgia
wine used to act. One saw it come over them--the extent to which,
in her particular way, a woman, a woman other, and SO other, than
themselves, COULD be charming. One saw them understand and
exchange looks, then one saw them lose heart and decide to move.
For what they had to take home was that it's she who's the real

"Ah, it's she who's the real thing?" As HE had not hitherto taken
it home as completely as the Miss Lutches and Mrs. Rance, so,
doubtless, he had now, a little, appeared to offer submission in
his appeal. "I see, I see"--he could at least simply take it home
now; yet as not without wanting, at the same time, to be sure of
what the real thing was. "And what would it be--a--definitely
that you understand by that?"

She had only for an instant not found it easy to say. "Why,
exactly what those women themselves want to be, and what her
effect on them is to make them recognise that they never will."

"Oh--of course never?"

It not only remained and abode with them, it positively developed
and deepened, after this talk, that the luxurious side of his
personal existence was now again furnished, socially speaking,
with the thing classed and stamped as "real"--just as he had been
able to think of it as not otherwise enriched in consequence of
his daughter's marriage. The note of reality, in so much
projected light, continued to have for him the charm and the
importance of which the maximum had occasionally been reached in
his great "finds"--continued, beyond any other, to keep him
attentive and gratified. Nothing perhaps might affect us as
queerer, had we time to look into it, than this application of
the same measure of value to such different pieces of property as
old Persian carpets, say, and new human acquisitions; all the
more indeed that the amiable man was not without an inkling, on
his own side, that he was, as a taster of life, economically
constructed. He put into his one little glass everything he
raised to his lips, and it was as if he had always carried in his
pocket, like a tool of his trade, this receptacle, a little glass
cut with a fineness of which the art had long since been lost,
and kept in an old morocco case stamped in uneffaceable gilt with
the arms of a deposed dynasty. As it had served him to satisfy
himself, so to speak, both about Amerigo and about the Bernadino
Luini he had happened to come to knowledge of at the time he was
consenting to the announcement of his daughter's betrothal, so it
served him at present to satisfy himself about Charlotte Stant
and an extraordinary set of oriental tiles of which he had lately
got wind, to which a provoking legend was attached, and as to
which he had made out, contentedly, that further news was to be
obtained from a certain Mr. Gutermann-Seuss of Brighton. It was
all, at bottom, in him, the aesthetic principle, planted where it
could burn with a cold, still flame; where it fed almost wholly
on the material directly involved, on the idea (followed by
appropriation) of plastic beauty, of the thing visibly perfect in
its kind; where, in short, in spite of the general tendency of
the "devouring element" to spread, the rest of his spiritual
furniture, modest, scattered, and tended with unconscious care,
escaped the consumption that in so many cases proceeds from the
undue keeping-up of profane altar-fires. Adam Verver had in other
words learnt the lesson of the senses, to the end of his own
little book, without having, for a day, raised the smallest
scandal in his economy at large; being in this particular not
unlike those fortunate bachelors, or other gentlemen of pleasure,
who so manage their entertainment of compromising company that
even the austerest housekeeper, occupied and competent below-
stairs, never feels obliged to give warning.

That figure has, however, a freedom that the occasion doubtless
scarce demands, though we may retain it for its rough negative
value. It was to come to pass, by a pressure applied to the
situation wholly from within, that before the first ten days of
November had elapsed he found himself practically alone at Fawns
with his young friend; Amerigo and Maggie having, with a certain
abruptness, invited his assent to their going abroad for a month,
since his amusement was now scarce less happily assured than his
security. An impulse eminently natural had stirred within the
Prince; his life, as for some time established, was deliciously
dull, and thereby, on the whole, what he best liked; but a small
gust of yearning had swept over him, and Maggie repeated to her
father, with infinite admiration, the pretty terms in which,
after it had lasted a little, he had described to her this
experience. He called it a "serenade," a low music that, outside
one of the windows of the sleeping house, disturbed his rest at
night. Timid as it was, and plaintive, he yet couldn't close his
eyes for it, and when finally, rising on tiptoe, he had looked
out, he had recognised in the figure below with a mandolin, all
duskily draped in her grace, the raised appealing eyes and the
one irresistible voice of the ever-to-be-loved Italy. Sooner or
later, that way, one had to listen; it was a hovering, haunting
ghost, as of a creature to whom one had done a wrong, a dim,
pathetic shade crying out to be comforted. For this there was
obviously but one way--as there were doubtless also many words
for the simple fact that so prime a Roman had a fancy for again
seeing Rome. They would accordingly--hadn't they better?--go for
a little; Maggie meanwhile making the too-absurdly artful point
with her father, so that he repeated it, in his amusement, to
Charlotte Stant, to whom he was by this time conscious of
addressing many remarks, that it was absolutely, when she came to
think, the first thing Amerigo had ever asked of her. "She
doesn't count of course his having asked of her to marry him"--
this was Mr. Verver's indulgent criticism; but he found
Charlotte, equally touched by the ingenuous Maggie, in easy
agreement with him over the question. If the Prince had asked
something of his wife every day in the year, this would be still
no reason why the poor dear man should not, in a beautiful fit of
homesickness, revisit, without reproach, his native country.

What his father-in-law frankly counselled was that the
reasonable, the really too reasonable, pair should, while they
were about it, take three or four weeks of Paris as well--Paris
being always, for Mr. Verver, in any stress of sympathy, a
suggestion that rose of itself to the lips. If they would only do
that, on their way back, or however they preferred it, Charlotte
and he would go over to join them there for a small look--though
even then, assuredly, as he had it at heart to add, not in the
least because they should have found themselves bored at being
left together. The fate of this last proposal indeed was that it
reeled, for the moment, under an assault of destructive analysis
from Maggie, who--having, as she granted, to choose between being
an unnatural daughter or an unnatural mother, and "electing" for
the former--wanted to know what would become of the Principino if
the house were cleared of everyone but the servants. Her question
had fairly resounded, but it had afterwards, like many of her
questions, dropped still more effectively than it had risen: the
highest moral of the matter being, before the couple took their
departure, that Mrs. Noble and Dr. Brady must mount unchallenged
guard over the august little crib. If she hadn't supremely
believed in the majestic value of the nurse, whose experience was
in itself the amplest of pillows, just as her attention was a
spreading canopy from which precedent and reminiscence dropped as
thickly as parted curtains--if she hadn't been able to rest in
this confidence she would fairly have sent her husband on his
journey without her. In the same manner, if the sweetest--for it
was so she qualified him--of little country doctors hadn't proved
to her his wisdom by rendering irresistible, especially on rainy
days and in direct proportion to the frequency of his calls,
adapted to all weathers, that she should converse with him for
hours over causes and consequences, over what he had found to
answer with his little five at home, she would have drawn scant
support from the presence of a mere grandfather and a mere
brilliant friend. These persons, accordingly, her own
predominance having thus, for the time, given way, could carry
with a certain ease, and above all with mutual aid, their
consciousness of a charge. So far as their office weighed they
could help each other with it--which was in fact to become, as
Mrs. Noble herself loomed larger for them, not a little of a
relief and a diversion.

Mr. Verver met his young friend, at certain hours, in the
day-nursery, very much as he had regularly met the child's fond
mother--Charlotte having, as she clearly considered, given Maggie
equal pledges and desiring never to fail of the last word for the
daily letter she had promised to write. She wrote with high
fidelity, she let her companion know, and the effect of it was,
remarkably enough, that he himself didn't write. The reason of
this was partly that Charlotte "told all about him"--which she
also let him know she did--and partly that he enjoyed feeling, as
a consequence, that he was generally, quite systematically, eased
and, as they said, "done" for. Committed, as it were, to this
charming and clever young woman, who, by becoming for him a
domestic resource, had become for him practically a new person--
and committed, especially, in his own house, which somehow made
his sense of it a deeper thing--he took an interest in seeing how
far the connection could carry him, could perhaps even lead him,
and in thus putting to the test, for pleasant verification, what
Fanny Assingham had said, at the last, about the difference such
a girl could make. She was really making one now, in their
simplified existence, and a very considerable one, though there
was no one to compare her with, as there had been, so usefully,
for Fanny--no Mrs. Rance, no Kitty, no Dotty Lutch, to help her
to be felt, according to Fanny's diagnosis, as real. She was
real, decidedly, from other causes, and Mr. Verver grew in time
even a little amused at the amount of machinery Mrs. Assingham
had seemed to see needed for pointing it. She was directly and
immediately real, real on a pleasantly reduced and intimate
scale, and at no moments more so than during those--at which we
have just glanced--when Mrs. Noble made them both together feel
that she, she alone, in the absence of the queen-mother, was
regent of the realm and governess of the heir. Treated on such
occasions as at best a pair of dangling and merely nominal
court-functionaries, picturesque hereditary triflers entitled to
the petites entrees but quite external to the State, which began
and ended with the Nursery, they could only retire, in quickened
sociability, to what was left them of the Palace, there to digest
their gilded insignificance and cultivate, in regard to the true
Executive, such snuff-taking ironies as might belong to rococo
chamberlains moving among china lap-dogs.

Every evening, after dinner, Charlotte Stant played to him;
seated at the piano and requiring no music, she went through his
"favourite things"--and he had many favourites--with a facility
that never failed, or that failed but just enough to pick itself
up at a touch from his fitful voice. She could play anything, she
could play everything--always shockingly, she of course insisted,
but always, by his own vague measure, very much as if she might,
slim, sinuous and strong, and with practised passion, have been
playing lawn-tennis or endlessly and rhythmically waltzing. His
love of music, unlike his other loves, owned to vaguenesses, but
while, on his comparatively shaded sofa, and smoking, smoking,
always smoking, in the great Fawns drawing-room as everywhere,
the cigars of his youth, rank with associations--while, I say, he
so listened to Charlotte's piano, where the score was ever absent
but, between the lighted candles, the picture distinct, the
vagueness spread itself about him like some boundless carpet, a
surface delightfully soft to the pressure of his interest. It was
a manner of passing the time that rather replaced conversation,
but the air, at the end, none the less, before they separated,
had a way of seeming full of the echoes of talk. They separated,
in the hushed house, not quite easily, yet not quite awkwardly
either, with tapers that twinkled in the large dark spaces, and
for the most part so late that the last solemn servant had been
dismissed for the night.

Late as it was on a particular evening toward the end of October,
there had been a full word or two dropped into the still-stirring
sea of other voices--a word or two that affected our friend even
at the moment, and rather oddly, as louder and rounder than any
previous sound; and then he had lingered, under pretext of an
opened window to be made secure, after taking leave of his
companion in the hall and watching her glimmer away up the
staircase. He had for himself another impulse than to go to bed;
picking up a hat in the hall, slipping his arms into a sleeveless
cape and lighting still another cigar, he turned out upon the
terrace through one of the long drawing-room windows and moved to
and fro there for an hour beneath the sharp autumn stars. It was
where he had walked in the afternoon sun with Fanny Assingham,
and the sense of that other hour, the sense of the suggestive
woman herself, was before him again as, in spite of all the
previous degustation we have hinted at, it had not yet been. He
thought, in a loose, an almost agitated order, of many things;
the power that was in them to agitate having been part of his
conviction that he should not soon sleep. He truly felt for a
while that he should never sleep again till something had come to
him; some light, some idea, some mere happy word perhaps, that he
had begun to want, but had been till now, and especially the last
day or two, vainly groping for. "Can you really then come if we
start early?"--that was practically all he had said to the girl
as she took up her bedroom light. And "Why in the world not, when
I've nothing else to do, and should, besides, so immensely like
it?"--this had as definitely been, on her side, the limit of the
little scene. There had in fact been nothing to call a scene,
even of the littlest, at all--though he perhaps didn't quite know
why something like the menace of one hadn't proceeded from her
stopping half-way upstairs to turn and say, as she looked down on
him, that she promised to content herself, for their journey,
with a toothbrush and a sponge. There hovered about him, at all
events, while he walked, appearances already familiar, as well as
two or three that were new, and not the least vivid of the former
connected itself with that sense of being treated with
consideration which had become for him, as we have noted, one of
the minor yet so far as there were any such, quite one of the
compensatory, incidents of being a father-in-law. It had struck
him, up to now, that this particular balm was a mixture of which
Amerigo, as through some hereditary privilege, alone possessed
the secret; so that he found himself wondering if it had come to
Charlotte, who had unmistakably acquired it, through the young

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