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The Golden Bowl by Henry James

Part 5 out of 12

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broke into speech.

"It's only their defending themselves so much more than they
need--it's only THAT that makes me wonder. It's their having so
remarkably much to say for themselves."

Her husband had, as usual, lighted his cigar, remaining
apparently as busy with it as she with her agitation. "You mean
it makes you feel that you have nothing?" To which, as she made
no answer, the Colonel added: "What in the world did you ever
suppose was going to happen? The man's in a position in which he
has nothing in life to do."

Her silence seemed to characterise this statement as superficial,
and her thoughts, as always in her husband's company, pursued an
independent course. He made her, when they were together, talk,
but as if for some other person; who was in fact for the most
part herself. Yet she addressed herself with him as she could
never have done without him. "He has behaved beautifully--he did
from the first. I've thought it, all along, wonderful of him; and
I've more than once, when I've had a chance, told him so.
Therefore, therefore--!" But it died away as she mused.

"Therefore he has a right, for a change, to kick up his heels?"

"It isn't a question, of course, however," she undivertedly went
on, "of their behaving beautifully apart. It's a question of
their doing as they should when together--which is another

"And how do you think then," the Colonel asked with interest,
"that, when together, they SHOULD do? The less they do, one would
say, the better--if you see so much in it."

His wife, at this, appeared to hear him. "I don't see in it what
YOU'D see. And don't, my dear," she further answered, "think it
necessary to be horrid or low about them. They're the last
people, really, to make anything of that sort come in right."

"I'm surely never horrid or low," he returned, "about anyone but
my extravagant wife. I can do with all our friends--as I see them
myself: what I can't do with is the figures you make of them. And
when you take to adding your figures up--!" But he exhaled it
again in smoke.

"My additions don't matter when you've not to pay the bill." With
which her meditation again bore her through the air. "The great
thing was that when it so suddenly came up for her he wasn't
afraid. If he had been afraid he could perfectly have prevented
it. And if I had seen he was--if I hadn't seen he wasn't--so,"
said Mrs. Assingham, "could I. So," she declared, "WOULD I. It's
perfectly true," she went on--"it was too good a thing for her,
such a chance in life, not to be accepted. And I LIKED his not
keeping her out of it merely from a fear of his own nature. It
was so wonderful it should come to her. The only thing would have
been if Charlotte herself couldn't have faced it. Then, if SHE
had not had confidence, we might have talked. But she had it to
any amount."

"Did you ask her how much?" Bob Assingham patiently inquired.

He had put the question with no more than his usual modest hope
of reward, but he had pressed, this time, the sharpest spring of
response. "Never, never--it wasn't a time to 'ask.' Asking is
suggesting--and it wasn't a time to suggest. One had to make up
one's mind, as quietly as possible, by what one could judge. And
I judge, as I say, that Charlotte felt she could face it. For
which she struck me at the time as--for so proud a creature--
almost touchingly grateful. The thing I should never forgive her
for would be her forgetting to whom it is her thanks have
remained most due."

"That is to Mrs. Assingham?"

She said nothing for a little--there were, after all,
alternatives. "Maggie herself of course--astonishing little

"Is Maggie then astonishing too?"--and he gloomed out of his

His wife, on her side now, as they rolled, projected the same
look. "I'm not sure that I don't begin to see more in her than--
dear little person as I've always thought--I ever supposed there
was. I'm not sure that, putting a good many things together, I'm
not beginning to make her out rather extraordinary."

"You certainly will if you can," the Colonel resignedly remarked.

Again his companion said nothing; then again she broke out. "In
fact--I do begin to feel it--Maggie's the great comfort. I'm
getting hold of it. It will be SHE who'll see us through. In fact
she'll have to. And she'll be able."

Touch by touch her meditation had completed it, but with a
cumulative effect for her husband's general sense of her method
that caused him to overflow, whimsically enough, in his corner,
into an ejaculation now frequent on his lips for the relief that,
especially in communion like the present, it gave him, and that
Fanny had critically traced to the quaint example, the aboriginal
homeliness, still so delightful, of Mr. Verver. "Oh, Lordy,

"If she is, however," Mrs. Assingham continued, "she'll be
extraordinary enough--and that's what I'm thinking of. But I'm
not indeed so very sure," she added, "of the person to whom
Charlotte ought in decency to be most grateful. I mean I'm not
sure if that person is even almost the incredible little idealist
who has made her his wife."

"I shouldn't think you would be, love," the Colonel with some
promptness responded. "Charlotte as the wife of an incredible
little idealist--!" His cigar, in short, once more, could alone
express it.

"Yet what is that, when one thinks, but just what she struck one
as more or less persuaded that she herself was really going to
be?"--this memory, for the full view, Fanny found herself also

It made her companion, in truth, slightly gape. "An incredible
little idealist--Charlotte herself?"

"And she was sincere," his wife simply proceeded "she was
unmistakably sincere. The question is only how much is left of

"And that--I see--happens to be another of the questions you
can't ask her. You have to do it all," said Bob Assingham, "as if
you were playing some game with its rules drawn up--though who's
to come down on you if you break them I don't quite see. Or must
you do it in three guesses--like forfeits on Christmas eve?" To
which, as his ribaldry but dropped from her, he further added:
"How much of anything will have to be left for you to be able to
go on with it?"

"I shall go on," Fanny Assingham a trifle grimly declared, "while
there's a scrap as big as your nail. But we're not yet, luckily,
reduced only to that." She had another pause, holding the while
the thread of that larger perception into which her view of Mrs.
Verver's obligation to Maggie had suddenly expanded. "even if her
debt was not to the others--even then it ought to be quite
sufficiently to the Prince himself to keep her straight. For
what, really, did the Prince do," she asked herself, "but
generously trust her? What did he do but take it from her that if
she felt herself willing it was because she felt herself strong?
That creates for her, upon my word," Mrs. Assingham pursued, "a
duty of considering him, of honourably repaying his trust, which
--well, which she'll be really a fiend if she doesn't make the
law of her conduct. I mean of course his trust that she wouldn't
interfere with him--expressed by his holding himself quiet at the
critical time."

The brougham was nearing home, and it was perhaps this sense of
ebbing opportunity that caused the Colonel's next meditation to
flower in a fashion almost surprising to his wife. They were
united, for the most part, but by his exhausted patience; so that
indulgent despair was generally, at the best, his note. He at
present, however, actually compromised with his despair to the
extent of practically admitting that he had followed her steps.
He literally asked, in short, an intelligent, well nigh a
sympathising, question. "Gratitude to the Prince for not having
put a spoke in her wheel--that, you mean, should, taking it in
the right way, be precisely the ballast of her boat?"

"Taking it in the right way." Fanny, catching at this gleam,
emphasised the proviso.

"But doesn't it rather depend on what she may most feel to BE the
right way?"

"No--it depends on nothing. Because there's only one way--for
duty or delicacy."

"Oh--delicacy!" Bob Assingham rather crudely murmured.

"I mean the highest kind--moral. Charlotte's perfectly capable of
appreciating that. By every dictate of moral delicacy she must
let him alone."

"Then you've made up your mind it's all poor Charlotte?" he asked
with an effect of abruptness.

The effect, whether intended or not, reached her--brought her
face short round. It was a touch at which she again lost her
balance, at which, somehow, the bottom dropped out of her
recovered comfort. "Then you've made up yours differently? It
really struck you that there IS something?"

The movement itself, apparently, made him once more stand off. He
had felt on his nearer approach the high temperature of the
question. "Perhaps that's just what she's doing: showing him how
much she's letting him alone--pointing it out to him from day to

"Did she point it out by waiting for him to-night on the stair-
case in the manner you described to me?"

"I really, my dear, described to you a manner?" the Colonel,
clearly, from want of habit, scarce recognised himself in the

"Yes--for once in a way; in those few words we had after you had
watched them come up you told me something of what you had seen.
You didn't tell me very much--THAT you couldn't for your life;
but I saw for myself that, strange to say, you had received your
impression, and I felt therefore that there must indeed have been
something out of the way for you so to betray it." She was fully
upon him now, and she confronted him with his proved sensibility
to the occasion--confronted him because of her own uneasy need to
profit by it. It came over her still more than at the time, it
came over her that he had been struck with something, even HE,
poor dear man; and that for this to have occurred there must have
been much to be struck with. She tried in fact to corner him, to
pack him insistently down, in the truth of his plain vision, the
very plainness of which was its value; for so recorded, she felt,
none of it would escape--she should have it at hand for
reference. "Come, my dear--you thought what you thought: in the
presence of what you saw you couldn't resist thinking. I don't
ask more of it than that. And your idea is worth, this time,
quite as much as any of mine--so that you can't pretend, as
usual, that mine has run away with me. I haven't caught up with
you. I stay where I am. But I see," she concluded, "where you
are, and I'm much obliged to you for letting me. You give me a
point de repere outside myself--which is where I like it. Now I
can work round you."

Their conveyance, as she spoke, stopped at their door, and it
was, on the spot, another fact of value for her that her husband,
though seated on the side by which they must alight, made no
movement. They were in a high degree votaries of the latch-key,
so that their household had gone to bed; and as they were
unaccompanied by a footman the coachman waited in peace. It was
so indeed that for a minute Bob Assingham waited--conscious of a
reason for replying to this address otherwise than by the so
obvious method of turning his back. He didn't turn his face, but
he stared straight before him, and his wife had already perceived
in the fact of his not moving all the proof she could desire--
proof, that is, of her own contention. She knew he never cared
what she said, and his neglect of his chance to show it was
thereby the more eloquent. "Leave it," he at last remarked, "to

"'Leave' it--?" She wondered.

"Let them alone. They'll manage."

"They'll manage, you mean, to do everything they want? Ah, there
then you are!"

"They'll manage in their own way," the Colonel almost cryptically

It had its effect for her: quite apart from its light on the
familiar phenomenon of her husband's indurated conscience, it
gave her, full in her face, the particular evocation of which she
had made him guilty. It was wonderful truly, then, the evocation.
"So cleverly--THAT'S your idea?--that no one will be the wiser?
It's your idea that we shall have done all that's required of us
if we simply protect them?"

The Colonel, still in his place, declined, however, to be drawn
into a statement of his idea. Statements were too much like
theories, in which one lost one's way; he only knew what he said,
and what he said represented the limited vibration of which his
confirmed old toughness had been capable. Still, none the less,
he had his point to make--for which he took another instant. But
he made it, for the third time, in the same fashion. "They'll
manage in their own way." With which he got out.

Oh yes, at this, for his companion, it had indeed its effect, and
while he mounted their steps she but stared, without following
him, at his opening of their door. Their hall was lighted, and as
he stood in the aperture looking back at her, his tall lean
figure outlined in darkness and with his crush-hat, according to
his wont, worn cavalierly, rather diabolically, askew, he seemed
to prolong the sinister emphasis of his meaning. In general, on
these returns, he came back for her when he had prepared their
entrance; so that it was now as if he were ashamed to face her in
closer quarters. He looked at her across the interval, and, still
in her seat, weighing his charge, she felt her whole view of
everything flare up. Wasn't it simply what had been written in
the Prince's own face BENEATH what he was saying?--didn't it
correspond with the mocking presence there that she had had her
troubled glimpse of? Wasn't, in fine, the pledge that they would
"manage in their own way" the thing he had been feeling for his
chance to invite her to take from him? Her husband's tone somehow
fitted Amerigo's look--the one that had, for her, so strangely,
peeped, from behind, over the shoulder of the one in front. She
had not then read it--but wasn't she reading it when she now saw
in it his surmise that she was perhaps to be squared? She wasn't
to be squared, and while she heard her companion call across to
her "Well, what's the matter?" she also took time to remind
herself that she had decided she couldn't be frightened. The
"matter"?--why, it was sufficiently the matter, with all this,
that she felt a little sick. For it was not the Prince that she
had been prepared to regard as primarily the shaky one. Shakiness
in Charlotte she had, at the most, perhaps postulated--it would
be, she somehow felt, more easy to deal with. Therefore if HE had
come so far it was a different pair of sleeves. There was nothing
to choose between them. It made her so helpless that, as the time
passed without her alighting, the Colonel came back and fairly
drew her forth; after which, on the pavement, under the
street-lamp, their very silence might have been the mark of
something grave--their silence eked out for her by his giving her
his arm and their then crawling up their steps quite mildly and
unitedly together, like some old Darby and Joan who have had a
disappointment. It almost resembled a return from a funeral--
unless indeed it resembled more the hushed approach to a house of
mourning. What indeed had she come home for but to bury, as
decently as possible, her mistake?


It appeared thus that they might enjoy together extraordinary
freedom, the two friends, from the moment they should understand
their position aright. With the Prince himself, from an early
stage, not unnaturally, Charlotte had made a great point of their
so understanding it; she had found frequent occasion to describe
to him this necessity, and, her resignation tempered, or her
intelligence at least quickened, by irrepressible irony, she
applied at different times different names to the propriety of
their case. The wonderful thing was that her sense of propriety
had been, from the first, especially alive about it. There were
hours when she spoke of their taking refuge in what she called
the commonest tact--as if this principle alone would suffice to
light their way; there were others when it might have seemed, to
listen to her, that their course would demand of them the most
anxious study and the most independent, not to say original,
interpretation of signs. She talked now as if it were indicated,
at every turn, by finger-posts of almost ridiculous prominence;
she talked again as if it lurked in devious ways and were to be
tracked through bush and briar; and she even, on occasion,
delivered herself in the sense that, as their situation was
unprecedented, so their heaven was without stars. "'Do'?" she
once had echoed to him as the upshot of passages covertly, though
briefly, occurring between them on her return from the visit to
America that had immediately succeeded her marriage, determined
for her by this event as promptly as an excursion of the like
strange order had been prescribed in his own case. "Isn't the
immense, the really quite matchless beauty of our position that
we have to 'do' nothing in life at all?--nothing except the
usual, necessary, everyday thing which consists in one's not
being more of a fool than one can help. That's all--but that's as
true for one time as for another. There has been plenty of
'doing,' and there will doubtless be plenty still; but it's all
theirs, every inch of it; it's all a matter of what they've done
TO us." And she showed how the question had therefore been only
of their taking everything as everything came, and all as quietly
as might be. Nothing stranger surely had ever happened to a
conscientious, a well-meaning, a perfectly passive pair: no more
extraordinary decree had ever been launched against such victims
than this of forcing them against their will into a relation of
mutual close contact that they had done everything to avoid.

She was to remember not a little, meanwhile, the particular
prolonged silent look with which the Prince had met her allusion
to these primary efforts at escape. She was inwardly to dwell on
the element of the unuttered that her tone had caused to play up
into his irresistible eyes; and this because she considered with
pride and joy that she had, on the spot, disposed of the doubt,
the question, the challenge, or whatever else might have been,
that such a look could convey. He had been sufficiently off his
guard to show some little wonder as to their having plotted so
very hard against their destiny, and she knew well enough, of
course, what, in this connection, was at the bottom of his
thought, and what would have sounded out more or less if he had
not happily saved himself from words. All men were brutes enough
to catch when they might at such chances for dissent--for all the
good it really did them; but the Prince's distinction was in
being one of the few who could check himself before acting on the
impulse. This, obviously, was what counted in a man as delicacy.
If her friend had blurted or bungled he would have said, in his
simplicity, "Did we do 'everything to avoid' it when we faced
your remarkable marriage?"--quite handsomely of course using the
plural, taking his share of the case, by way of a tribute of
memory to the telegram she had received from him in Paris after
Mr. Verver had despatched to Rome the news of their engagement.
That telegram, that acceptance of the prospect proposed to them--
an acceptance quite other than perfunctory--she had never
destroyed; though reserved for no eyes but her own it was still
carefully reserved. She kept it in a safe place--from which, very
privately, she sometimes took it out to read it over. "A la
guerre comme a la guerre then"--it had been couched in the French
tongue. "We must lead our lives as we see them; but I am charmed
with your courage and almost surprised at my own." The message
had remained ambiguous; she had read it in more lights than one;
it might mean that even without her his career was up-hill work
for him, a daily fighting-matter on behalf of a good appearance,
and that thus, if they were to become neighbours again, the event
would compel him to live still more under arms. It might mean on
the other hand that he found he was happy enough, and that
accordingly, so far as she might imagine herself a danger, she
was to think of him as prepared in advance, as really seasoned
and secure. On his arrival in Paris with his wife, none the less,
she had asked for no explanation, just as he himself had not
asked if the document were still in her possession. Such an
inquiry, everything implied, was beneath him--just as it was
beneath herself to mention to him, uninvited, that she had
instantly offered, and in perfect honesty, to show the telegram
to Mr. Verver, and that if this companion had but said the word
she would immediately have put it before him. She had thereby
forborne to call his attention to her consciousness that such an
exposure would, in all probability, straightway have dished her
marriage; that all her future had in fact, for the moment, hung
by the single hair of Mr. Verver's delicacy (as she supposed they
must call it); and that her position, in the matter of
responsibility, was therefore inattackably straight.

For the Prince himself, meanwhile, time, in its measured
allowance, had originally much helped him--helped him in the
sense of there not being enough of it to trip him up; in spite of
which it was just this accessory element that seemed, at present,
with wonders of patience, to lie in wait. Time had begotten at
first, more than anything else, separations, delays and
intervals; but it was troublesomely less of an aid from the
moment it began so to abound that he had to meet the question of
what to do with it. Less of it was required for the state of
being married than he had, on the whole, expected; less,
strangely, for the state of being married even as he was married.
And there was a logic in the matter, he knew; a logic that but
gave this truth a sort of solidity of evidence. Mr. Verver,
decidedly, helped him with it--with his wedded condition; helped
him really so much that it made all the difference. In the degree
in which he rendered it the service on Mr. Verver's part was
remarkable--as indeed what service, from the first of their
meeting, had not been? He was living, he had been living these
four or five years, on Mr. Verver's services: a truth scarcely
less plain if he dealt with them, for appreciation, one by one,
than if he poured them all together into the general pot of his
gratitude and let the thing simmer to a nourishing broth. To the
latter way with them he was undoubtedly most disposed; yet he
would even thus, on occasion, pick out a piece to taste on its
own merits. Wondrous at such hours could seem the savour of the
particular "treat," at his father-in-law's expense, that he more
and more struck himself as enjoying. He had needed months and
months to arrive at a full appreciation--he couldn't originally
have given offhand a name to his deepest obligation; but by the
time the name had flowered in his mind he was practically living
at the ease guaranteed him. Mr. Verver then, in a word, took care
of his relation to Maggie, as he took care, and apparently always
would, of everything else. He relieved him of all anxiety about
his married life in the same manner in which he relieved him on
the score of his bank-account. And as he performed the latter
office by communicating with the bankers, so the former sprang as
directly from his good understanding with his daughter. This
understanding had, wonderfully--THAT was in high evidence--the
same deep intimacy as the commercial, the financial association
founded, far down, on a community of interest. And the
correspondence, for the Prince, carried itself out in identities
of character the vision of which, fortunately, rather tended to
amuse than to--as might have happened--irritate him. Those
people--and his free synthesis lumped together capitalists and
bankers, retired men of business, illustrious collectors,
American fathers-in-law, American fathers, little American
daughters, little American wives--those people were of the same
large lucky group, as one might say; they were all, at least, of
the same general species and had the same general instincts; they
hung together, they passed each other the word, they spoke each
other's language, they did each other "turns." In this last
connection it of course came up for our young man at a given
moment that Maggie's relation with HIM was also, on the perceived
basis, taken care of. Which was in fact the real upshot of the
matter. It was a "funny" situation--that is it was funny just as
it stood. Their married life was in question, but the solution
was, not less strikingly, before them. It was all right for
himself, because Mr. Verver worked it so for Maggie's comfort;
and it was all right for Maggie, because he worked it so for her

The fact that time, however, was not, as we have said, wholly on
the Prince's side might have shown for particularly true one dark
day on which, by an odd but not unprecedented chance, the
reflections just noted offered themselves as his main recreation.
They alone, it appeared, had been appointed to fill the hours for
him, and even to fill the great square house in Portland Place,
where the scale of one of the smaller saloons fitted them but
loosely. He had looked into this room on the chance that he might
find the Princess at tea; but though the fireside service of the
repast was shiningly present the mistress of the table was not,
and he had waited for her, if waiting it could be called, while
he measured again and again the stretch of polished floor. He
could have named to himself no pressing reason for seeing her at
this moment, and her not coming in, as the half-hour elapsed,
became in fact quite positively, however perversely, the
circumstance that kept him on the spot. Just there, he might have
been feeling, just there he could best take his note. This
observation was certainly by itself meagre amusement for a dreary
little crisis; but his walk to and fro, and in particular his
repeated pause at one of the high front windows, gave each of the
ebbing minutes, none the less, after a time, a little more of the
quality of a quickened throb of the spirit. These throbs scarce
expressed, however, the impatience of desire, any more than they
stood for sharp disappointment: the series together resembled
perhaps more than anything else those fine waves of clearness
through which, for a watcher of the east, dawn at last trembles
into rosy day. The illumination indeed was all for the mind, the
prospect revealed by it a mere immensity of the world of thought;
the material outlook was all the while a different matter. The
March afternoon, judged at the window, had blundered back into
autumn; it had been raining for hours, and the colour of the
rain, the colour of the air, of the mud, of the opposite houses,
of life altogether, in so grim a joke, so idiotic a masquerade,
was an unutterable dirty brown. There was at first even, for the
young man, no faint flush in the fact of the direction taken,
while he happened to look out, by a slow-jogging four-wheeled cab
which, awkwardly deflecting from the middle course, at the
apparent instance of a person within, began to make for the
left-hand pavement and so at last, under further instructions,
floundered to a full stop before the Prince's windows. The person
within, alighting with an easier motion, proved to be a lady who
left the vehicle to wait and, putting up no umbrella, quickly
crossed the wet interval that separated her from the house. She
but flitted and disappeared; yet the Prince, from his standpoint,
had had time to recognise her, and the recognition kept him for
some minutes motionless.

Charlotte Stant, at such an hour, in a shabby four-wheeler and a
waterproof, Charlotte Stant turning up for him at the very climax
of his special inner vision, was an apparition charged with a
congruity at which he stared almost as if it had been a violence.
The effect of her coming to see him, him only, had, while he
stood waiting, a singular intensity--though after some minutes
had passed the certainty of this began to drop. Perhaps she had
NOT come, or had come only for Maggie; perhaps, on learning below
that the Princess had not returned, she was merely leaving a
message, writing a word on a card. He should see, at any rate;
and meanwhile, controlling himself, would do nothing. This
thought of not interfering took on a sudden force for him; she
would doubtless hear he was at home, but he would let her visit
to him be all of her own choosing. And his view of a reason for
leaving her free was the more remarkable that, though taking no
step, he yet intensely hoped. The harmony of her breaking into
sight while the superficial conditions were so against her was a
harmony with conditions that were far from superficial and that
gave, for his imagination, an extraordinary value to her
presence. The value deepened strangely, moreover, with the rigour
of his own attitude--with the fact too that, listening hard, he
neither heard the house-door close again nor saw her go back to
her cab; and it had risen to a climax by the time he had become
aware, with his quickened sense, that she had followed the butler
up to the landing from which his room opened. If anything could
further then have added to it, the renewed pause outside, as if
she had said to the man "Wait a moment!" would have constituted
this touch. Yet when the man had shown her in, had advanced to
the tea-table to light the lamp under the kettle and had then
busied himself, all deliberately, with the fire, she made it easy
for her host to drop straight from any height of tension and to
meet her, provisionally, on the question of Maggie. While the
butler remained it was Maggie that she had come to see and Maggie
that--in spite of this attendant's high blankness on the subject
of all possibilities on that lady's part--she would cheerfully,
by the fire, wait for. As soon as they were alone together,
however, she mounted, as with the whizz and the red light of a
rocket, from the form to the fact, saying straight out, as she
stood and looked at him: "What else, my dear, what in the world
else can we do?"

It was as if he then knew, on the spot, why he had been feeling,
for hours, as he had felt--as if he in fact knew, within the
minute, things he had not known even while she was panting, as
from the effect of the staircase, at the door of the room. He
knew at the same time, none the less, that she knew still more
than he--in the sense, that is, of all the signs and portents
that might count for them; and his vision of alternative--she
could scarce say what to call them, solutions, satisfactions--
opened out, altogether, with this tangible truth of her attitude
by the chimney-place, the way she looked at him as through the
gained advantage of it; her right hand resting on the marble and
her left keeping her skirt from the fire while she held out a
foot to dry. He couldn't have told what particular links and gaps
had at the end of a few minutes found themselves renewed and
bridged; for he remembered no occasion, in Rome, from which the
picture could have been so exactly copied. He remembered, that
is, none of her coming to see him in the rain while a muddy
four-wheeler waited, and while, though having left her waterproof
downstairs, she was yet invested with the odd eloquence--the
positive picturesqueness, yes, given all the rest of the matter--
of a dull dress and a black Bowdlerised hat that seemed to make a
point of insisting on their time of life and their moral
intention, the hat's and the frock's own, as well as on the irony
of indifference to them practically playing in her so handsome
rain-freshened face. The sense of the past revived for him
nevertheless as it had not yet done: it made that other time
somehow meet the future close, interlocking with it, before his
watching eyes, as in a long embrace of arms and lips, and so
handling and hustling the present that this poor quantity scarce
retained substance enough, scarce remained sufficiently THERE, to
be wounded or shocked.

What had happened, in short, was that Charlotte and he had, by a
single turn of the wrist of fate--"led up" to indeed, no doubt,
by steps and stages that conscious computation had missed--been
placed face to face in a freedom that partook, extraordinarily,
of ideal perfection, since the magic web had spun itself without
their toil, almost without their touch. Above all, on this
occasion, once more, there sounded through their safety, as an
undertone, the very voice he had listened to on the eve of his
marriage with such another sort of unrest. Dimly, again and
again, from that period on, he had seemed to hear it tell him why
it kept recurring; but it phrased the large music now in a way
that filled the room. The reason was--into which he had lived,
quite intimately, by the end of a quarter-of-an-hour--that just
this truth of their safety offered it now a kind of unexampled
receptacle, letting it spread and spread, but at the same time
elastically enclosing it, banking it in, for softness, as with
billows of eiderdown. On that morning; in the Park there had
been, however dissimulated, doubt and danger, whereas the tale
this afternoon was taken up with a highly emphasised confidence.
The emphasis, for their general comfort, was what Charlotte had
come to apply; inasmuch as, though it was not what she definitely
began with, it had soon irrepressibly shaped itself. It was the
meaning of the question she had put to him as soon as they were
alone--even though indeed, as from not quite understanding, he
had not then directly replied; it was the meaning of everything
else, down to the conscious quaintness of her ricketty "growler"
and the conscious humility of her dress. It had helped him a
little, the question of these eccentricities, to let her
immediate appeal pass without an answer. He could ask her instead
what had become of her carriage and why, above all, she was not
using it in such weather.

"It's just because of the weather," she explained. "It's my
little idea. It makes me feel as I used to--when I could do as I


This came out so straight that he saw at once how much truth it
expressed; yet it was truth that still a little puzzled him. "But
did you ever like knocking about in such discomfort?"

"It seems to me now that I then liked everything. It's the charm,
at any rate," she said from her place at the fire, "of trying
again the old feelings. They come back--they come back.
Everything," she went on, "comes back. Besides," she wound up,
"you know for yourself."

He stood near her, his hands in his pockets; but not looking at
her, looking hard at the tea-table. "Ah, I haven't your courage.
Moreover," he laughed, "it seems to me that, so far as that goes,
I do live in hansoms. But you must awfully want your tea," he
quickly added; "so let me give you a good stiff cup."

He busied himself with this care, and she sat down, on his
pushing up a low seat, where she had been standing; so that,
while she talked, he could bring her what she further desired. He
moved to and fro before her, he helped himself; and her visit, as
the moments passed, had more and more the effect of a signal
communication that she had come, all responsibly and
deliberately, as on the clear show of the clock-face of their
situation, to make. The whole demonstration, none the less,
presented itself as taking place at a very high level of debate--
in the cool upper air of the finer discrimination, the deeper
sincerity, the larger philosophy. No matter what were the facts
invoked and arrayed, it was only a question, as yet, of their
seeing their way together: to which indeed, exactly, the present
occasion appeared to have so much to contribute. "It's not that
you haven't my courage," Charlotte said, "but that you haven't, I
rather think, my imagination. Unless indeed it should turn out
after all," she added, "that you haven't even my intelligence.
However, I shall not be afraid of that till you've given me more
proof." And she made again, but more clearly, her point of a
moment before. "You knew, besides, you knew to-day, I would come.
And if you knew that you know everything." So she pursued, and if
he didn't meanwhile, if he didn't even at this, take her up, it
might be that she was so positively fitting him again with the
fair face of temporising kindness that he had given her, to keep
her eyes on, at the other important juncture, and the sense of
which she might ever since have been carrying about with her like
a precious medal--not exactly blessed by the Pope suspended round
her neck. She had come back, however this might be, to her
immediate account of herself, and no mention of their great
previous passage was to rise to the lips of either. "Above all,"
she said, "there has been the personal romance of it."

"Of tea with me over the fire? Ah, so far as that goes I don't
think even my intelligence fails me."

"Oh, it's further than that goes; and if I've had a better day
than you it's perhaps, when I come to think of it, that I AM
braver. You bore yourself, you see. But I don't. I don't, I
don't," she repeated.

"It's precisely boring one's self without relief," he protested,
"that takes courage."

"Passive then--not active. My romance is that, if you want to
know, I've been all day on the town. Literally on the town--isn't
that what they call it? I know how it feels." After which, as if
breaking off, "And you, have you never been out?" she asked.

He still stood there with his hands in his pockets. "What should
I have gone out for?"

"Oh, what should people in our case do anything for? But you're
wonderful, all of YOU--you know how to live. We're clumsy brutes,
we other's, beside you--we must always be 'doing' something.
However," Charlotte pursued, "if you had gone out you might have
missed the chance of me--which I'm sure, though you won't confess
it, was what you didn't want; and might have missed, above all,
the satisfaction that, look blank about it as you will, I've come
to congratulate you on. That's really what I can at last do. You
can't not know at least, on such a day as this--you can't not
know," she said, "where you are." She waited as for him either to
grant that he knew or to pretend that he didn't; but he only drew
a long deep breath which came out like a moan of impatience. It
brushed aside the question of where he was or what he knew; it
seemed to keep the ground clear for the question of his visitor
herself, that of Charlotte Verver exactly as she sat there. So,
for some moments, with their long look, they but treated the
matter in silence; with the effect indeed, by the end of the
time, of having considerably brought it on. This was sufficiently
marked in what Charlotte next said. "There it all is--
extraordinary beyond words. It makes such a relation for us as, I
verily believe, was never before in the world thrust upon two
well-meaning creatures. Haven't we therefore to take things as we
find them?" She put the question still more directly than that of
a moment before, but to this one, as well, he returned no
immediate answer. Noticing only that she had finished her tea, he
relieved her of her cup, carried it back to the table, asked her
what more she would have; and then, on her "Nothing, thanks,"
returned to the fire and restored a displaced log to position by
a small but almost too effectual kick. She had meanwhile got up
again, and it was on her feet that she repeated the words she had
first frankly spoken. "What else can we do, what in all the world

He took them up, however, no more than at first. "Where then have
you been?" he asked as from mere interest in her adventure.

"Everywhere I could think of--except to see people. I didn't want
people--I wanted too much to think. But I've been back at
intervals--three times; and then come away again. My cabman must
think me crazy--it's very amusing; I shall owe him, when we come
to settle, more money than he has ever seen. I've been, my dear,"
she went on, "to the British Museum--which, you know, I always
adore. And I've been to the National Gallery, and to a dozen old
booksellers', coming across treasures, and I've lunched, on some
strange nastiness, at a cookshop in Holborn. I wanted to go to
the Tower, but it was too far--my old man urged that; and I would
have gone to the Zoo if it hadn't been too wet--which he also
begged me to observe. But you wouldn't believe--I did put in St.
Paul's. Such days," she wound up, "are expensive; for, besides
the cab, I've bought quantities of books." She immediately
passed, at any rate, to another point: "I can't help wondering
when you must last have laid eyes on them." And then as it had
apparently for her companion an effect of abruptness: "Maggie, I
mean, and the child. For I suppose you know he's with her."

"Oh yes, I know he's with her. I saw them this morning."

"And did they then announce their programme?"

"She told me she was taking him, as usual, da nonno."

"And for the whole day?"

He hesitated, but it was as if his attitude had slowly shifted.

"She didn't say. And I didn't ask."

"Well," she went on, "it can't have been later than half-past
ten--I mean when you saw them. They had got to Eaton Square
before eleven. You know we don't formally breakfast, Adam and I;
we have tea in our rooms--at least I have; but luncheon is early,
and I saw my husband, this morning, by twelve; he was showing the
child a picture-book. Maggie had been there with them, had left
them settled together. Then she had gone out--taking the carriage
for something he had been intending but that she offered to do

The Prince appeared to confess, at this, to his interest.

"Taking, you mean, YOUR carriage?"

"I don't know which, and it doesn't matter. It's not a question,"
she smiled, "of a carriage the more or the less. It's not a
question even, if you come to that, of a cab. It's so beautiful,"
she said, "that it's not a question of anything vulgar or
horrid." Which she gave him time to agree about; and though he
was silent it was, rather remarkably, as if he fell in. "I went
out--I wanted to. I had my idea. It seemed to me important. It
has BEEN--it IS important. I know as I haven't known before the
way they feel. I couldn't in any other way have made so sure of

"They feel a confidence," the Prince observed.

He had indeed said it for her. "They feel a confidence." And she
proceeded, with lucidity, to the fuller illustration of it;
speaking again of the three different moments that, in the course
of her wild ramble, had witnessed her return--for curiosity, and
even really a little from anxiety--to Eaton Square. She was
possessed of a latch-key, rarely used: it had always irritated
Adam--one of the few things that did--to find servants standing
up so inhumanly straight when they came home, in the small hours,
after parties. "So I had but to slip in, each time, with my cab
at the door, and make out for myself, without their knowing it,
that Maggie was still there. I came, I went--without their so
much as dreaming. What do they really suppose," she asked,
"becomes of one?--not so much sentimentally or morally, so to
call it, and since that doesn't matter; but even just physically,
materially, as a mere wandering woman: as a decent harmless wife,
after all; as the best stepmother, after all, that really ever
was; or at the least simply as a maitresse de maison not quite
without a conscience. They must even in their odd way," she
declared, "have SOME idea."

"Oh, they've a great deal of idea," said the Prince. And nothing
was easier than to mention the quantity. "They think so much of
us. They think in particular so much of you."

"Ah, don't put it all on 'me'!" she smiled.

But he was putting it now where she had admirably prepared the
place. "It's a matter of your known character."

"Ah, thank you for 'known'!" she still smiled.

"It's a matter of your wonderful cleverness and wonderful charm.
It's a matter of what those things have done for you in the
world--I mean in THIS world and this place. You're a Personage
for them--and Personages do go and come."

"Oh no, my dear; there you're quite wrong." And she laughed now
in the happier light they had diffused. "That's exactly what
Personages don't do: they live in state and under constant
consideration; they haven't latch-keys, but drums and trumpets
announce them; and when they go out in growlers it makes a
greater noise still. It's you, caro mio," she said, "who, so far
as that goes, are the Personage."

"Ah," he in turn protested, "don't put it all on me! What, at any
rate, when you get home," he added, "shall you say that you've
been doing?"

"I shall say, beautifully, that I've been here."

"All day?"

"Yes--all day. Keeping you company in your solitude. How can we
understand anything," she went on, "without really seeing that
this is what they must like to think I do for you?--just as,
quite as comfortably, you do it for me. The thing is for us to
learn to take them as they are."

He considered this a while, in his restless way, but with his
eyes not turning from her; after which, rather disconnectedly,
though very vehemently, he brought out: "How can I not feel more
than anything else how they adore together my boy?" And then,
further, as if, slightly disconcerted, she had nothing to meet
this and he quickly perceived the effect: "They would have done
the same for one of yours."

"Ah, if I could have had one--! I hoped and I believed," said
Charlotte, "that that would happen. It would have been better. It
would have made perhaps some difference. He thought so too, poor
duck--that it might have been. I'm sure he hoped and intended so.
It's not, at any rate," she went on, "my fault. There it is." She
had uttered these statements, one by one, gravely, sadly and
responsibly, owing it to her friend to be clear. She paused
briefly, but, as if once for all, she made her clearness
complete. "And now I'm too sure. It will never be."

He waited for a moment. "Never?"

"Never." They treated the matter not exactly with solemnity, but
with a certain decency, even perhaps urgency, of distinctness.
"It would probably have been better," Charlotte added. "But
things turn out--! And it leaves us"--she made the point--"more

He seemed to wonder. "It leaves you more alone."

"Oh," she again returned, "don't put it all on me! Maggie would
have given herself to his child, I'm sure, scarcely less than he
gives himself to yours. It would have taken more than any child
of mine," she explained--"it would have taken more than ten
children of mine, could I have had them--to keep our sposi
apart." She smiled as for the breadth of the image, but, as he
seemed to take it, in spite of this, for important, she then
spoke gravely enough. "It's as strange as you like, but we're
immensely alone." He kept vaguely moving, but there were moments
when, again, with an awkward ease and his hands in his pockets,
he was more directly before her. He stood there at these last
words, which had the effect of making him for a little throw back
his head and, as thinking something out, stare up at the ceiling.
"What will you say," she meanwhile asked, "that you've been
doing?" This brought his consciousness and his eyes back to her,
and she pointed her question. "I mean when she comes in--for I
suppose she WILL, some time, come in. It seems to me we must say
the same thing."

Well, he thought again. "Yet I can scarce pretend to have had
what I haven't."

"Ah, WHAT haven't you had?--what aren't you having?"

Her question rang out as they lingered face to face, and he still
took it, before he answered, from her eyes. "We must at least
then, not to be absurd together, do the same thing. We must act,
it would really seem, in concert."

"It would really seem!" Her eyebrows, her shoulders went up,
quite in gaiety, as for the relief this brought her. "It's all in
the world I pretend. We must act in concert. Heaven knows," she
said, "THEY do!"

So it was that he evidently saw and that, by his admission, the
case, could fairly be put. But what he evidently saw appeared to
come over him, at the same time, as too much for him, so that he
fell back suddenly to ground where she was not awaiting him. "The
difficulty is, and will always be, that I don't understand them.
I didn't at first, but I thought I should learn to. That was what
I hoped, and it appeared then that Fanny Assingham might help

"Oh, Fanny Assingham!" said Charlotte Verver.

He stared a moment at her tone. "She would do anything for us."

To which Charlotte at first said nothing--as if from the sense of
too much. Then, indulgently enough, she shook her head. "We're
beyond her."

He thought a moment--as of where this placed them. "She'd do
anything then for THEM."

"Well, so would we--so that doesn't help us. She has broken down.
She doesn't understand us. And really, my dear," Charlotte added,
"Fanny Assingham doesn't matter."

He wondered again. "Unless as taking care of THEM."

"Ah," Charlotte instantly said, "isn't it for us, only, to do
that?" She spoke as with a flare of pride for their privilege and
their duty. "I think we want no one's aid."

She spoke indeed with a nobleness not the less effective for
coming in so oddly; with a sincerity visible even through the
complicated twist by which any effort to protect the father and
the daughter seemed necessarily conditioned for them. It moved
him, in any case, as if some spring of his own, a weaker one, had
suddenly been broken by it. These things, all the while, the
privilege, the duty, the opportunity, had been the substance of
his own vision; they formed the note he had been keeping back to
show her that he was not, in their so special situation, without
a responsible view. A conception that he could name, and could
act on, was something that now, at last, not to be too eminent a
fool, he was required by all the graces to produce, and the
luminous idea she had herself uttered would have been his
expression of it. She had anticipated him, but, as her expression
left, for positive beauty, nothing to be desired, he felt rather
righted than wronged. A large response, as he looked at her, came
into his face, a light of excited perception all his own, in the
glory of which--as it almost might be called--what he gave her
back had the value of what she had, given him. "They're
extraordinarily happy."

Oh, Charlotte's measure of it was only too full. "Beatifically."

"That's the great thing," he went on; "so that it doesn't matter,
really, that one doesn't understand. Besides, you do--enough."

"I understand my husband perhaps," she after an instant conceded.
"I don't understand your wife."

"You're of the same race, at any rate--more or less; of the same
general tradition and education, of the same moral paste. There
are things you have in common with them. But I, on my side, as
I've gone on trying to see if I haven't some of these things
too--I, on my side, have more and more failed. There seem at last
to be none worth mentioning. I can't help seeing it--I'm
decidedly too different."

"Yet you're not"--Charlotte made the important point--"too
different from ME."

"I don't know--as we're not married. That brings things out.
Perhaps if we were," he said, "you WOULD find some abyss of

"Since it depends on that then," she smiled, "I'm safe--as you
are anyhow. Moreover, as one has so often had occasion to feel,
and even to remark, they're very, very simple. That makes," she
added, "a difficulty for belief; but when once one has taken it
in it makes less difficulty for action. I HAVE at last, for
myself, I think, taken it in. I'm not afraid."

He wondered a moment. "Not afraid of what?"

"Well, generally, of some beastly mistake. Especially of any
mistake founded on one's idea of their difference. For that
idea," Charlotte developed, "positively makes one so tender."

"Ah, but rather!"

"Well then, there it is. I can't put myself into Maggie's skin--I
can't, as I say. It's not my fit--I shouldn't be able, as I see
it, to breathe in it. But I can feel that I'd do anything--to
shield it from a bruise. Tender as I am for her too," she went
on, "I think I'm still more so for my husband. HE'S in truth of a
sweet simplicity--!"

The Prince turned over a while the sweet simplicity of Mr.
Verver. "Well, I don't know that I can choose. At night all cats
are grey. I only see how, for so many reasons, we ought to stand
toward them--and how, to do ourselves justice, we do. It
represents for us a conscious care--"

"Of every hour, literally," said Charlotte. She could rise to the
highest measure of the facts. "And for which we must trust each

"Oh, as we trust the saints in glory. Fortunately," the Prince
hastened to add, "we can." With which, as for the full assurance
and the pledge it involved, their hands instinctively found their
hands. "It's all too wonderful."

Firmly and gravely she kept his hand. "It's too beautiful."

And so for a minute they stood together, as strongly held and as
closely confronted as any hour of their easier past even had seen
them. They were silent at first, only facing and faced, only
grasping and grasped, only meeting and met. "It's sacred," he
said at last.

"It's sacred," she breathed back to him. They vowed it, gave it
out and took it in, drawn, by their intensity, more closely
together. Then of a sudden, through this tightened circle, as at
the issue of a narrow strait into the sea beyond, everything
broke up, broke down, gave way, melted and mingled. Their lips
sought their lips, their pressure their response and their
response their pressure; with a violence that had sighed itself
the next moment to the longest and deepest of stillnesses they
passionately sealed their pledge.


He had taken it from her, as we have seen, moreover, that Fanny
Assingham didn't now matter--the "now" he had even himself
supplied, as no more than fair to his sense of various earlier
stages; and, though his assent remained scarce more than tacit,
his behaviour, for the hour, so fell into line that, for many
days, he kept postponing the visit he had promised his old friend
on the occasion of their talk at the Foreign Office. With regret,
none the less, would he have seen it quite extinguished, that
theory of their relation as attached pupil and kind instructress
in which they had from the first almost equally found a
convenience. It had been he, no doubt, who had most put it
forward, since his need of knowledge fairly exceeded her mild
pretension; but he had again and again repeated to her that he
should never, without her, have been where he was, and she had
not successfully concealed the pleasure it might give her to
believe it, even after the question of where he was had begun to
show itself as rather more closed than open to interpretation. It
had never indeed, before that evening, come up as during the
passage at the official party, and he had for the first time at
those moments, a little disappointedly, got the impression of a
certain failure, on the dear woman's part, of something he was
aware of having always rather freely taken for granted in her. Of
what exactly the failure consisted he would still perhaps have
felt it a little harsh to try to say; and if she had in fact, as
by Charlotte's observation, "broken down," the details of the
collapse would be comparatively unimportant. They came to the
same thing, all such collapses--the failure of courage, the
failure of friendship, or the failure just simply of tact; for
didn't any one of them by itself amount really to the failure of
wit?--which was the last thing he had expected of her and which
would be but another name for the triumph of stupidity. It had
been Charlotte's remark that they were at last "beyond" her;
whereas he had ever enjoyed believing that a certain easy
imagination in her would keep up with him to the end. He shrank
from affixing a label to Mrs. Assingham's want of faith; but when
he thought, at his ease, of the way persons who were capable
really entertained--or at least with any refinement--the passion
of personal loyalty, he figured for them a play of fancy neither
timorous nor scrupulous. So would his personal loyalty, if need
be, have accepted the adventure for the good creature herself; to
that definite degree that he had positively almost missed the
luxury of some such call from her. That was what it all came back
to again with these people among whom he was married--that one
found one used one's imagination mainly for wondering how they
contrived so little to appeal to it. He felt at moments as if
there were never anything to do for them that was worthy--to call
worthy--of the personal relation; never any charming charge to
take of any confidence deeply reposed. He might vulgarly have put
it that one had never to plot or to lie for them; he might
humourously have put it that one had never, as by the higher
conformity, to lie in wait with the dagger or to prepare,
insidiously, the cup. These were the services that, by all
romantic tradition, were consecrated to affection quite as much
as to hate. But he could amuse himself with saying--so far as the
amusement went--that they were what he had once for all turned
his back on.

Fanny was meanwhile frequent, it appeared, in Eaton Square; so
much he gathered from the visitor who was not infrequent, least
of all at tea-time, during the same period, in Portland Place;
though they had little need to talk of her after practically
agreeing that they had outlived her. To the scene of these
conversations and suppressions Mrs. Assingham herself made,
actually, no approach; her latest view of her utility seeming to
be that it had found in Eaton Square its most urgent field. It
was finding there in fact everything and everyone but the Prince,
who mostly, just now, kept away, or who, at all events, on the
interspaced occasions of his calling, happened not to encounter
the only person from whom he was a little estranged. It would
have been all prodigious if he had not already, with Charlotte's
aid, so very considerably lived into it--it would have been all
indescribably remarkable, this fact that, with wonderful causes
for it so operating on the surface, nobody else, as yet, in the
combination, seemed estranged from anybody. If Mrs. Assingham
delighted in Maggie she knew by this time how most easily to
reach her, and if she was unhappy about Charlotte she knew, by
the same reasoning, how most probably to miss that vision of her
on which affliction would feed. It might feed of course on
finding her so absent from her home--just as this particular
phenomenon of her domestic detachment could be, by the anxious
mind, best studied there. Fanny was, however, for her reasons,
"shy" of Portland Place itself--this was appreciable; so that she
might well, after all, have no great light on the question of
whether Charlotte's appearances there were frequent or not, any
more than on that of the account they might be keeping of the
usual solitude (since it came to this) of the head of that house.
There was always, to cover all ambiguities, to constitute a fund
of explanation for the divisions of Mrs. Verver's day, the
circumstance that, at the point they had all reached together,
Mrs. Verver was definitely and by general acclamation in charge
of the "social relations" of the family, literally of those of
the two households; as to her genius for representing which in
the great world and in the grand style vivid evidence had more
and more accumulated. It had been established in the two
households at an early stage, and with the highest good-humour,
that Charlotte was a, was THE, "social success," whereas the
Princess, though kind, though punctilious, though charming,
though in fact the dearest little creature in the world and the
Princess into the bargain, was distinctly not, would distinctly
never be, and might as well, practically, give it up: whether
through being above it or below it, too much outside of it or too
much lost in it, too unequipped or too indisposed, didn't
especially matter. What sufficed was that the whole thing, call
it appetite or call it patience, the act of representation at
large and the daily business of intercourse, fell in with
Charlotte's tested facility and, not much less visibly, with her
accommodating, her generous, view of her domestic use. She had
come, frankly, into the connection, to do and to be what she
could, "no questions asked," and she had taken over, accordingly,
as it stood, and in the finest practical spirit, the burden of a
visiting-list that Maggie, originally, left to herself, and left
even more to the Principino, had suffered to get inordinately out
of hand.

She had in a word not only mounted, cheerfully, the London
treadmill--she had handsomely professed herself, for the further
comfort of the three others, sustained in the effort by a
"frivolous side," if that were not too harsh a name for a
pleasant constitutional curiosity. There were possibilities of
dulness, ponderosities of practice, arid social sands, the bad
quarters-of-an-hour that turned up like false pieces in a debased
currency, of which she made, on principle, very nearly as light
as if she had not been clever enough to distinguish. The Prince
had, on this score, paid her his compliment soon after her return
from her wedding-tour in America, where, by all accounts, she had
wondrously borne the brunt; facing brightly, at her husband's
side, everything that came up--and what had come, often, was
beyond words: just as, precisely, with her own interest only at
stake, she had thrown up the game during the visit paid before
her marriage. The discussion of the American world, the
comparison of notes, impressions and adventures, had been all at
hand, as a ground of meeting for Mrs. Verver and her husband's
son-in-law, from the hour of the reunion of the two couples. Thus
it had been, in short, that Charlotte could, for her friend's
appreciation, so promptly make her point; even using expressions
from which he let her see, at the hour, that he drew amusement of
his own. "What could be more simple than one's going through with
everything," she had asked, "when it's so plain a part of one's
contract? I've got so much, by my marriage"--for she had never
for a moment concealed from him how "much" she had felt it and
was finding it "that I should deserve no charity if I stinted my
return. Not to do that, to give back on the contrary all one can,
are just one's decency and one's honour and one's virtue. These
things, henceforth, if you're interested to know, are my rule of
life, the absolute little gods of my worship, the holy images set
up on the wall. Oh yes, since I'm not a brute," she had wound up,
"you shall see me as I AM!" Which was therefore as he had seen
her--dealing always, from month to month, from day to day and
from one occasion to the other, with the duties of a remunerated
office. Her perfect, her brilliant efficiency had doubtless, all
the while, contributed immensely to the pleasant ease in which
her husband and her husband's daughter were lapped. It had in
fact probably done something more than this--it had given them a
finer and sweeter view of the possible scope of that ease. They
had brought her in--on the crudest expression of it--to do the
"worldly" for them, and she had done it with such genius that
they had themselves in consequence renounced it even more than
they had originally intended. In proportion as she did it,
moreover, was she to be relieved of other and humbler doings;
which minor matters, by the properest logic, devolved therefore
upon Maggie, in whose chords and whose province they more
naturally lay. Not less naturally, by the same token, they
included the repair, at the hands of the latter young woman, of
every stitch conceivably dropped by Charlotte in Eaton Square.
This was homely work, but that was just what made it Maggie's.
Bearing in mind dear Amerigo, who was so much of her own great
mundane feather, and whom the homeliness in question didn't, no
doubt, quite equally provide for--that would be, to balance, just
in a manner Charlotte's very most charming function, from the
moment Charlotte could be got adequately to recognise it.

Well, that Charlotte might be appraised as at last not
ineffectually recognising it, was a reflection that, during the
days with which we are actually engaged, completed in the
Prince's breast these others, these images and ruminations of his
leisure, these gropings and fittings of his conscience and his
experience, that we have attempted to set in order there. They
bore him company, not insufficiently--considering, in especial,
his fuller resources in that line--while he worked out--to the
last lucidity the principle on which he forbore either to seek
Fanny out in Cadogan Place or to perpetrate the error of too
marked an assiduity in Eaton Square. This error would be his not
availing himself to the utmost of the convenience of any artless
theory of his constitution, or of Charlotte's, that might prevail
there. That artless theories could and did prevail was a fact he
had ended by accepting, under copious evidence, as definite and
ultimate; and it consorted with common prudence, with the
simplest economy of life, not to be wasteful of any odd gleaning.
To haunt Eaton Square, in fine, would be to show that he had not,
like his brilliant associate, a sufficiency of work in the world.
It was just his having that sufficiency, it was just their having
it together, that, so strangely and so blessedly, made, as they
put it to each other, everything possible. What further propped
up the case, moreover, was that the "world," by still another
beautiful perversity of their chance, included Portland Place
without including to anything like the same extent Eaton Square.
The latter residence, at the same time, it must promptly be
added, did, on occasion, wake up to opportunity and, as giving
itself a frolic shake, send out a score of invitations--one of
which fitful flights, precisely, had, before Easter, the effect
of disturbing a little our young man's measure of his margin.
Maggie, with a proper spirit, held that her father ought from
time to time to give a really considered dinner, and Mr. Verver,
who had as little idea as ever of not meeting expectation, was of
the harmonious opinion that his wife ought. Charlotte's own
judgment was, always, that they were ideally free--the proof of
which would always be, she maintained, that everyone they feared
they might most have alienated by neglect would arrive, wreathed
with smiles, on the merest hint of a belated signal. Wreathed in
smiles, all round, truly enough, these apologetic banquets struck
Amerigo as being; they were, frankly, touching occasions to him,
marked, in the great London bousculade, with a small, still grace
of their own, an investing amenity and humanity. Everybody came,
everybody rushed; but all succumbed to the soft influence, and
the brutality of mere multitude, of curiosity without tenderness,
was put off, at the foot of the fine staircase, with the
overcoats and shawls. The entertainment offered a few evenings
before Easter, and at which Maggie and he were inevitably present
as guests, was a discharge of obligations not insistently
incurred, and had thereby, possibly, all the more, the note of
this almost Arcadian optimism: a large, bright, dull, murmurous,
mild-eyed, middle-aged dinner, involving for the most part very
bland, though very exalted, immensely announceable and
hierarchically placeable couples, and followed, without the
oppression of a later contingent, by a brief instrumental
concert, over the preparation of which, the Prince knew, Maggie's
anxiety had conferred with Charlotte's ingenuity and both had
supremely revelled, as it were, in Mr. Verver's solvency.

The Assinghams were there, by prescription, though quite at the
foot of the social ladder, and with the Colonel's wife, in spite
of her humility of position, the Prince was more inwardly
occupied than with any other person except Charlotte. He was
occupied with Charlotte because, in the first place, she looked
so inordinately handsome and held so high, where so much else was
mature and sedate, the torch of responsive youth and the standard
of passive grace; and because of the fact that, in the second,
the occasion, so far as it referred itself with any confidence of
emphasis to a hostess, seemed to refer itself preferentially,
well-meaningly and perversely, to Maggie. It was not
indistinguishable to him, when once they were all stationed, that
his wife too had in perfection her own little character; but he
wondered how it managed so visibly to simplify itself--and this,
he knew, in spite of any desire she entertained--to the essential
air of having overmuch on her mind the felicity, and indeed the
very conduct and credit, of the feast. He knew, as well, the
other things of which her appearance was at any time--and in
Eaton Square especially--made up: her resemblance to her father,
at times so vivid, and coming out, in the delicate warmth of
occasions, like the quickened fragrance of a flower; her
resemblance, as he had hit it off for her once in Rome, in the
first flushed days, after their engagement, to a little
dancing-girl at rest, ever so light of movement but most often
panting gently, even a shade compunctiously, on a bench; her
approximation, finally--for it was analogy, somehow, more than
identity--to the transmitted images of rather neutral and
negative propriety that made up, in his long line, the average of
wifehood and motherhood. If the Roman matron had been, in
sufficiency, first and last, the honour of that line, Maggie
would no doubt, at fifty, have expanded, have solidified to some
such dignity, even should she suggest a little but a Cornelia in
miniature. A light, however, broke for him in season, and when
once it had done so it made him more than ever aware of Mrs.
Verver's vaguely, yet quite exquisitely, contingent
participation--a mere hinted or tendered discretion; in short of
Mrs. Verver's indescribable, unfathomable relation to the scene.
Her placed condition, her natural seat and neighbourhood, her
intenser presence, her quieter smile, her fewer jewels, were
inevitably all as nothing compared with the preoccupation that
burned in Maggie like a small flame and that had in fact kindled
in each of her cheeks a little attesting, but fortunately by no
means unbecoming, spot. The party was her father's party, and its
greater or smaller success was a question having for her all the
importance of his importance; so that sympathy created for her a
sort of visible suspense, under pressure of which she bristled
with filial reference, with little filial recalls of expression,
movement, tone. It was all unmistakable, and as pretty as
possible, if one would, and even as funny; but it put the pair so
together, as undivided by the marriage of each, that the Princess
il n'y avait pas a dire--might sit where she liked: she would
still, always, in that house, be irremediably Maggie Verver. The
Prince found himself on this occasion so beset with that
perception that its natural complement for him would really have
been to wonder if Mr. Verver had produced on people something of
the same impression in the recorded cases of his having dined
with his daughter.

This backward speculation, had it begun to play, however, would
have been easily arrested; for it was at present to come over
Amerigo as never before that his remarkable father-in-law was the
man in the world least equipped with different appearances for
different hours. He was simple, he was a revelation of
simplicity, and that was the end of him so far as he consisted of
an appearance at all--a question that might verily, for a
weakness in it, have been argued. It amused our young man, who
was taking his pleasure to-night, it will be seen, in sundry
occult ways, it amused him to feel how everything else the master
of the house consisted of, resources, possessions, facilities and
amiabilities amplified by the social legend, depended, for
conveying the effect of quantity, on no personal "equation," no
mere measurable medium. Quantity was in the air for these good
people, and Mr. Verver's estimable quality was almost wholly in
that pervasion. He was meagre and modest and clearbrowed, and his
eyes, if they wandered without fear, yet stayed without defiance;
his shoulders were not broad, his chest was not high, his
complexion was not fresh, and the crown of his head was not
covered; in spite of all of which he looked, at the top of his
table, so nearly like a little boy shyly entertaining in virtue
of some imposed rank, that he COULD only be one of the powers,
the representative of a force--quite as an infant king is the
representative of a dynasty. In this generalised view of his
father-in-law, intensified to-night but always operative, Amerigo
had now for some time taken refuge. The refuge, after the reunion
of the two households in England, had more and more offered
itself as the substitute for communities, from man to man, that,
by his original calculation, might have become possible, but that
had not really ripened and flowered. He met the decent family
eyes across the table, met them afterwards in the music-room, but
only to read in them still what he had learned to read during his
first months, the time of over-anxious initiation, a kind of
apprehension in which the terms and conditions were finally fixed
and absolute. This directed regard rested at its ease, but it
neither lingered nor penetrated, and was, to the Prince's fancy,
much of the same order as any glance directed, for due attention,
from the same quarter, to the figure of a cheque received in the
course of business and about to be enclosed to a banker. It made
sure of the amount--and just so, from time to time, the amount of
the Prince was made sure. He was being thus, in renewed
instalments, perpetually paid in; he already reposed in the bank
as a value, but subject, in this comfortable way, to repeated, to
infinite endorsement. The net result of all of which, moreover,
was that the young man had no wish to see his value diminish. He
himself, after all, had not fixed it--the "figure" was a
conception all of Mr. Verver's own. Certainly, however,
everything must be kept up to it; never so much as to-night had
the Prince felt this. He would have been uncomfortable, as these
quiet expressions passed, had the case not been guaranteed for
him by the intensity of his accord with Charlotte. It was
impossible that he should not now and again meet Charlotte's
eyes, as it was also visible that she too now and again met her
husband's. For her as well, in all his pulses, he felt the
conveyed impression. It put them, it kept them together, through
the vain show of their separation, made the two other faces, made
the whole lapse of the evening, the people, the lights, the
flowers, the pretended talk, the exquisite music, a mystic golden
bridge between them, strongly swaying and sometimes almost
vertiginous, for that intimacy of which the sovereign law would
be the vigilance of "care," would be never rashly to forget and
never consciously to wound.


The main interest of these hours for us, however, will have been
in the way the Prince continued to know, during a particular
succession of others, separated from the evening in Eaton Square
by a short interval, a certain persistent aftertaste. This was
the lingering savour of a cup presented to him by Fanny
Assingham's hand after dinner, while the clustered quartette kept
their ranged companions, in the music-room, moved if one would,
but conveniently motionless. Mrs. Assingham contrived, after a
couple of pieces, to convey to her friend that, for her part, she
was moved--by the genius of Brahms--beyond what she could bear;
so that, without apparent deliberation, she had presently floated
away, at the young man's side, to such a distance as permitted
them to converse without the effect of disdain. It was the twenty
minutes enjoyed with her, during the rest of the concert, in the
less associated electric glare of one of the empty rooms--it was
their achieved and, as he would have said, successful, most
pleasantly successful, talk on one of the sequestered sofas, it
was this that was substantially to underlie his consciousness of
the later occasion. The later occasion, then mere matter of
discussion, had formed her ground for desiring--in a light
undertone into which his quick ear read indeed some nervousness--
these independent words with him: she had sounded, covertly but
distinctly, by the time they were seated together, the great
question of what it might involve. It had come out for him before
anything else, and so abruptly that this almost needed an
explanation. Then the abruptness itself had appeared to explain--
which had introduced, in turn, a slight awkwardness. "Do you know
that they're not, after all, going to Matcham; so that, if they
don't--if, at least, Maggie doesn't--you won't, I suppose, go by
yourself?" It was, as I say, at Matcham, where the event had
placed him, it was at Matcham during the Easter days, that it
most befell him, oddly enough, to live over, inwardly, for its
wealth of special significance, this passage by which the event
had been really a good deal determined. He had paid, first and
last, many an English country visit; he had learned, even from of
old, to do the English things, and to do them, all sufficiently,
in the English way; if he didn't always enjoy them madly he
enjoyed them at any rate as much, to an appearance, as the good
people who had, in the night of time, unanimously invented them,
and who still, in the prolonged afternoon of their good faith,
unanimously, even if a trifle automatically, practised them; yet,
with it all, he had never so much as during such sojourns the
trick of a certain detached, the amusement of a certain inward
critical, life; the determined need, which apparently all
participant, of returning upon itself, of backing noiselessly in,
far in again, and rejoining there, as it were, that part of his
mind that was not engaged at the front. His body, very
constantly, was engaged at the front--in shooting, in riding, in
golfing, in walking, over the fine diagonals of meadow-paths or
round the pocketed corners of billiard-tables; it sufficiently,
on the whole, in fact, bore the brunt of bridge-playing, of
breakfasting, lunching, tea-drinking, dining, and of the nightly
climax over the bottigliera, as he called it, of the bristling
tray; it met, finally, to the extent of the limited tax on lip,
on gesture, on wit, most of the current demands of conversation
and expression. Therefore something of him, he often felt at
these times, was left out; it was much more when he was alone, or
when he was with his own people--or when he was, say, with Mrs.
Verver and nobody else--that he moved, that he talked, that he
listened, that he felt, as a congruous whole.

"English society," as he would have said, cut him, accordingly,
in two, and he reminded himself often, in his relations with it,
of a man possessed of a shining star, a decoration, an order of
some sort, something so ornamental as to make his identity not
complete, ideally, without it, yet who, finding no other such
object generally worn, should be perpetually, and the least bit
ruefully, unpinning it from his breast to transfer it to his
pocket. The Prince's shining star may, no doubt, having been
nothing more precious than his private subtlety; but whatever the
object was he just now fingered it a good deal, out of sight--
amounting as it mainly did for him to a restless play of memory
and a fine embroidery of thought. Something had rather
momentously occurred, in Eaton Square, during his enjoyed minutes
with his old friend: his present perspective made definitely
clear to him that she had plumped out for him her first little
lie. That took on--and he could scarce have said why--a sharpness
of importance: she had never lied to him before--if only because
it had never come up for her, properly, intelligibly, morally,
that she must. As soon as she had put to him the question of what
he would do--by which she meant of what Charlotte would also do--
in that event of Maggie's and Mr. Verver's not embracing the
proposal they had appeared for a day or two resignedly to
entertain; as soon as she had betrayed her curiosity as to the
line the other pair, so left to themselves, might take, a desire
to avoid the appearance of at all too directly prying had become
marked in her. Betrayed by the solicitude of which she had,
already, three weeks before, given him a view, she had been
obliged, on a second thought, to name, intelligibly, a reason for
her appeal; while the Prince, on his side, had had, not without
mercy, his glimpse of her momentarily groping for one and yet
remaining unprovided. Not without mercy because, absolutely, he
had on the spot, in his friendliness, invented one for her use,
presenting it to her with a look no more significant than if he
had picked up, to hand back to her, a dropped flower. "You ask if
I'm likely also to back out then, because it may make a
difference in what you and the Colonel decide?"--he had gone as
far as that for her, fairly inviting her to assent, though not
having had his impression, from any indication offered him by
Charlotte, that the Assinghams were really in question for the
large Matcham party. The wonderful thing, after this, was that
the active couple had, in the interval, managed to inscribe
themselves on the golden roll; an exertion of a sort that, to do
her justice, he had never before observed Fanny to make. This
last passage of the chapter but proved, after all, with what
success she could work when she would.

Once launched, himself, at any rate, as he had been directed by
all the terms of the intercourse between Portland Place and Eaton
Square, once steeped, at Matcham, in the enjoyment of a splendid
hospitality, he found everything, for his interpretation, for his
convenience, fall easily enough into place; and all the more that
Mrs. Verver was at hand to exchange ideas and impressions with.
The great house was full of people, of possible new combinations,
of the quickened play of possible propinquity, and no appearance,
of course, was less to be cultivated than that of his having
sought an opportunity to foregather with his friend at a safe
distance from their respective sposi. There was a happy boldness,
at the best, in their mingling thus, each unaccompanied, in the
same sustained sociability--just exactly a touch of that
eccentricity of associated freedom which sat so lightly on the
imagination of the relatives left behind. They were exposed as
much as one would to its being pronounced funny that they should,
at such a rate, go about together--though, on the other hand,
this consideration drew relief from the fact that, in their high
conditions and with the easy tradition, the almost inspiring
allowances, of the house in question, no individual line, however
freely marked, was pronounced anything more than funny. Both our
friends felt afresh, as they had felt before, the convenience of
a society so placed that it had only its own sensibility to
consider--looking as it did well over the heads of all lower
growths; and that moreover treated its own sensibility quite as
the easiest, friendliest, most informal and domesticated party to
the general alliance. What anyone "thought" of anyone else--above
all of anyone else with anyone else--was a matter incurring in
these lulls so little awkward formulation that hovering judgment,
the spirit with the scales, might perfectly have been imaged
there as some rather snubbed and subdued, but quite trained and
tactful poor relation, of equal, of the properest, lineage, only
of aspect a little dingy, doubtless from too limited a change of
dress, for whose tacit and abstemious presence, never betrayed by
a rattle of her rusty machine, a room in the attic and a plate at
the side-table were decently usual. It was amusing, in such
lightness of air, that the Prince should again present himself
only to speak for the Princess, so unfortunately unable, again,
to leave home; and that Mrs. Verver should as regularly figure as
an embodied, a beautifully deprecating apology for her husband,
who was all geniality and humility among his own treasures, but
as to whom the legend had grown up that he couldn't bear, with
the height of his standards and the tone of the company, in the
way of sofas and cabinets, habitually kept by him, the irritation
and depression to which promiscuous visiting, even at pompous
houses, had been found to expose him. That was all right, the
noted working harmony of the clever son-in-law and the charming
stepmother, so long as the relation was, for the effect in
question, maintained at the proper point between sufficiency and

What with the noble fairness of the place, meanwhile, the
generous mood of the sunny, gusty, lusty English April, all
panting and heaving with impatience, or kicking and crying, even,
at moments, like some infant Hercules who wouldn't be dressed;
what with these things and the bravery of youth and beauty, the
insolence of fortune and appetite so diffused among his
fellow-guests that the poor Assinghams, in their comparatively
marked maturity and their comparatively small splendour, were the
only approach to a false note in the concert, the stir of the air
was such, for going, in a degree, to one's head, that, as a mere
matter of exposure, almost grotesque in its flagrancy, his
situation resembled some elaborate practical joke carried out at
his expense. Every voice in the great bright house was a call to
the ingenuities and impunities of pleasure; every echo was a
defiance of difficulty, doubt or danger; every aspect of the
picture, a glowing plea for the immediate, and as with plenty
more to come, was another phase of the spell. For a world so
constituted was governed by a spell, that of the smile of the
gods and the favour of the powers; the only handsome, the only
gallant, in fact the only intelligent acceptance of which was a
faith in its guarantees and a high spirit for its chances. Its
demand--to that the thing came back--was above all for courage
and good-humour; and the value of this as a general assurance--
that is for seeing one through at the worst--had not even in the
easiest hours of his old Roman life struck the Prince so
convincingly. His old Roman life had had more poetry, no doubt,
but as he looked back upon it now it seemed to hang in the air of
mere iridescent horizons, to have been loose and vague and thin,
with large languorous unaccountable blanks. The present order, as
it spread about him, had somehow the ground under its feet, and a
trumpet in its ears, and a bottomless bag of solid shining
British sovereigns--which was much to the point--in its hand.
Courage and good-humour therefore were the breath of the day;
though for ourselves at least it would have been also much to the
point that, with Amerigo, really, the innermost effect of all
this perceptive ease was perhaps a strange final irritation. He
compared the lucid result with the extraordinary substitute for
perception that presided, in the bosom of his wife, at so
contented a view of his conduct and course--a state of mind that
was positively like a vicarious good conscience, cultivated
ingeniously on his behalf, a perversity of pressure innocently
persisted in; and this wonder of irony became on occasion too
intense to be kept wholly to himself. It wasn't that, at Matcham,
anything particular, anything monstrous, anything that had to be
noticed permitted itself, as they said, to "happen"; there were
only odd moments when the breath of the day, as it has been
called, struck him so full in the face that he broke out with all
the hilarity of "What indeed would THEY have made of it?" "They"
were of course Maggie and her father, moping--so far as they ever
consented to mope in monotonous Eaton Square, but placid too in
the belief that they knew beautifully what their expert
companions were in for. They knew, it might have appeared in
these lights, absolutely nothing on earth worth speaking of--
whether beautifully or cynically; and they would perhaps
sometimes be a little less trying if they would only once for all
peacefully admit that knowledge wasn't one of their needs and
that they were in fact constitutionally inaccessible to it. They
were good children, bless their hearts, and the children of good
children; so that, verily, the Principino himself, as less
consistently of that descent, might figure to the fancy as the
ripest genius of the trio.

The difficulty was, for the nerves of daily intercourse with
Maggie in particular, that her imagination was clearly never
ruffled by the sense of any anomaly. The great anomaly would have
been that her husband, or even that her father's wife, should
prove to have been made, for the long run, after the pattern set
from so far back to the Ververs. If one was so made one had
certainly no business, on any terms, at Matcham; whereas if one
wasn't one had no business there on the particular terms--terms
of conformity with the principles of Eaton Square--under which
one had been so absurdly dedicated. Deep at the heart of that
resurgent unrest in our young man which we have had to content
ourselves with calling his irritation--deep in the bosom of this
falsity of position glowed the red spark of his inextinguishable
sense of a higher and braver propriety. There were situations
that were ridiculous, but that one couldn't yet help, as for
instance when one's wife chose, in the most usual way, to make
one so. Precisely here, however, was the difference; it had taken
poor Maggie to invent a way so extremely unusual--yet to which,
none the less, it would be too absurd that he should merely lend
himself. Being thrust, systematically, with another woman, and a
woman one happened, by the same token, exceedingly to like, and
being so thrust that the theory of it seemed to publish one as
idiotic or incapable--this WAS a predicament of which the dignity
depended all on one's own handling. What was supremely grotesque,
in fact, was the essential opposition of theories--as if a
galantuomo, as HE at least constitutionally conceived
galantuomini, could do anything BUT blush to "go about" at such a
rate with such a person as Mrs. Verver in a state of childlike
innocence, the state of our primitive parents before the Fall.
The grotesque theory, as he would have called it, was perhaps an
odd one to resent with violence, and he did it--also as a man of
the world--all merciful justice; but, assuredly, none the less,
there was but one way REALLY to mark, and for his companion as
much as for himself, the commiseration in which they held it.
Adequate comment on it could only be private, but it could also
at least be active, and of rich and effectual comment Charlotte
and he were fortunately alike capable. Wasn't this consensus
literally their only way not to be ungracious? It was positively
as if the measure of their escape from that danger were given by
the growth between them, during their auspicious visit, of an
exquisite sense of complicity.


He found himself therefore saying, with gaiety, even to Fanny
Assingham, for their common, concerned glance at Eaton Square,
the glance that was so markedly never, as it might have been, a
glance at Portland Place: "What WOULD our cari sposi have made of
it here? what would they, you know, really?"--which overflow
would have been reckless if, already, and surprisingly perhaps
even to himself, he had not got used to thinking of this friend
as a person in whom the element of protest had of late been
unmistakably allayed. He exposed himself of course to her
replying: "Ah, if it would have been so bad for them, how can it
be so good for you?"--but, quite apart from the small sense the
question would have had at the best, she appeared already to
unite with him in confidence and cheer. He had his view, as
well--or at least a partial one--of the inner spring of this
present comparative humility, which was all consistent with the
retraction he had practically seen her make after Mr. Verver's
last dinner. Without diplomatising to do so, with no effort to
square her, none to bribe her to an attitude for which he would
have had no use in her if it were not sincere, he yet felt how he
both held her and moved her by the felicity of his taking pity,
all instinctively, on her just discernible depression. By just so
much as he guessed that she felt herself, as the slang was, out
of it, out of the crystal current and the expensive picture, by
just so much had his friendship charmingly made up to her, from
hour to hour, for the penalties, as they might have been grossly
called, of her mistake. Her mistake had only been, after all, in
her wanting to seem to him straight; she had let herself in for
being--as she had made haste, for that matter, during the very
first half-hour, at tea, to proclaim herself--the sole and single
frump of the party. The scale of everything was so different that
all her minor values, her quainter graces, her little local
authority, her humour and her wardrobe alike, for which it was
enough elsewhere, among her bons amis, that they were hers, dear
Fanny Assingham's--these matters and others would be all, now, as
nought: five minutes had sufficed to give her the fatal pitch. In
Cadogan Place she could always, at the worst, be picturesque--for
she habitually spoke of herself as "local" to Sloane Street
whereas at Matcham she should never be anything but horrible. And
it all would have come, the disaster, from the real refinement,
in her, of the spirit of friendship. To prove to him that she
wasn't really watching him--ground for which would have been too
terribly grave--she had followed him in his pursuit of pleasure:
SO she might, precisely, mark her detachment. This was handsome
trouble for her to take--the Prince could see it all: it wasn't a
shade of interference that a good-natured man would visit on her.
So he didn't even say, when she told him how frumpy she knew
herself, how frumpy her very maid, odiously going back on her,
rubbed it into her, night and morning, with unsealed eyes and
lips, that she now knew her--he didn't then say "Ah, see what
you've done: isn't it rather your own fault?" He behaved
differently altogether: eminently distinguished himself--for she
told him she had never seen him so universally distinguished--he
yet distinguished her in her obscurity, or in what was worse, her
objective absurdity, and frankly invested her with her absolute
value, surrounded her with all the importance of her wit. That
wit, as discriminated from stature and complexion, a sense for
"bridge" and a credit for pearls, could have importance was
meanwhile but dimly perceived at Matcham; so that his "niceness"
to her--she called it only niceness, but it brought tears into
her eyes--had the greatness of a general as well as of a special

"She understands," he said, as a comment on all this, to Mrs.
Verver--"she understands all she needs to understand. She has
taken her time, but she has at last made it out for herself: she
sees how all we can desire is to give them the life they prefer,
to surround them with the peace and quiet, and above all with the
sense of security, most favourable to it. She can't of course
very well put it to us that we have, so far as she is concerned,
but to make the best of our circumstances; she can't say in so
many words 'Don't think of me, for I too must make the best of
mine: arrange as you can, only, and live as you must.' I don't
get quite THAT from her, any more than I ask for it. But her tone
and her whole manner mean nothing at all unless they mean that
she trusts us to take as watchful, to take as artful, to take as
tender care, in our way, as she so anxiously takes in hers. So
that she's--well," the Prince wound up, "what you may call
practically all right." Charlotte in fact, however, to help out
his confidence, didn't call it anything; return as he might to
the lucidity, the importance, or whatever it was, of this lesson,
she gave him no aid toward reading it aloud. She let him, two or
three times over, spell it out for himself; only on the eve of
their visit's end was she, for once, clear or direct in response.
They had found a minute together in the great hall of the house
during the half-hour before dinner; this easiest of chances they
had already, a couple of times, arrived at by waiting
persistently till the last other loiterers had gone to dress, and
by being prepared themselves to dress so expeditiously that they
might, a little later on, be among the first to appear in festal
array. The hall then was empty, before the army of rearranging,
cushion-patting housemaids were marshalled in, and there was a
place by the forsaken fire, at one end, where they might imitate,
with art, the unpremeditated. Above all, here, for the snatched
instants, they could breathe so near to each other that the
interval was almost engulfed in it, and the intensity both of the
union and the caution became a workable substitute for contact.
They had prolongations of instants that counted as visions of
bliss; they had slow approximations that counted as long
caresses. The quality of these passages, in truth, made the
spoken word, and especially the spoken word about other people,
fall below them; so that our young woman's tone had even now a
certain dryness. "It's very good of her, my dear, to trust us.
But what else can she do?"

"Why, whatever people do when they don't trust. Let one see they

"But let whom see?"

"Well, let ME, say, to begin with."

"And should you mind that?"

He had a slight show of surprise. "Shouldn't you?"

"Her letting you see? No," said Charlotte; "the only thing I can
imagine myself minding is what you yourself, if you don't look
out, may let HER see." To which she added: "You may let her see,
you know, that you're afraid."

"I'm only afraid of you, a little, at moments," he presently
returned. "But I shan't let Fanny see that."

It was clear, however, that neither the limits nor the extent of
Mrs. Assingham's vision were now a real concern to her, and she
gave expression to this as she had not even yet done. "What in
the world can she do against us? There's not a word that she can
breathe. She's helpless; she can't speak; she would be herself
the first to be dished by it." And then as he seemed slow to
follow: "It all comes back to her. It all began with her.
Everything, from the first. She introduced you to Maggie. She
made your marriage."

The Prince might have had his moment of demur, but at this, after
a little, as with a smile dim but deep, he came on. "Mayn't she
also be said, a good deal, to have made yours? That was intended,
I think, wasn't it? for a kind of rectification."

Charlotte, on her side, for an instant, hesitated; then she was
prompter still. "I don't mean there was anything to rectify;
everything was as it had to be, and I'm not speaking of how she
may have been concerned for you and me. I'm speaking of how she
took, in her way, each time, THEIR lives in hand, and how,
therefore, that ties her up to-day. She can't go to them and say
'It's very awkward of course, you poor dear things, but I was
frivolously mistaken.'"

He took it in still, with his long look at her. "All the more
that she wasn't. She was right. Everything's right," he went on,
"and everything will stay so."

"Then that's all I say."

But he worked it out, for the deeper satisfaction, even to
superfluous lucidity. "We're happy, and they're happy. What more
does the position admit of? What more need Fanny Assingham want?"

"Ah, my dear," said Charlotte, "it's not I who say that she need
want anything. I only say that she's FIXED, that she must stand
exactly where everything has, by her own act, placed her. It's
you who have seemed haunted with the possibility, for her, of
some injurious alternative, something or other we must be
prepared for." And she had, with her high reasoning, a strange
cold smile. "We ARE prepared--for anything, for everything; and
AS we are, practically, so she must take us. She's condemned to
consistency; she's doomed, poor thing, to a genial optimism.
That, luckily for her, however, is very much the law of her
nature. She was born to soothe and to smooth. Now then,
therefore," Mrs. Verver gently laughed, "she has the chance of
her life!"

"So that her present professions may, even at the best, not be
sincere?--may be but a mask for doubts and fears, and for gaining

The Prince had looked, with the question, as if this, again,
could trouble him, and it determined in his companion a slight
impatience. "You keep talking about such things as if they were
our affair at all. I feel, at any rate, that I've nothing to do
with her doubts and fears, or with anything she may feel. She
must arrange all that for herself. It's enough for me that she'll
always be, of necessity, much more afraid for herself, REALLY,
either to see or to speak, than we should be to have her do it
even if we were the idiots and cowards we aren't." And
Charlotte's face, with these words--to the mitigation of the
slightly hard ring there might otherwise have been in them--
fairly lightened, softened, shone out. It reflected as really
never yet the rare felicity of their luck. It made her look for
the moment as if she had actually pronounced that word of
unpermitted presumption--so apt is the countenance, as with a
finer consciousness than the tongue, to betray a sense of this
particular lapse. She might indeed, the next instant, have seen
her friend wince, in advance, at her use of a word that was
already on her lips; for it was still unmistakable with him that
there were things he could prize, forms of fortune he could
cherish, without at all proportionately liking their names. Had
all this, however, been even completely present to his companion,
what other term could she have applied to the strongest and
simplest of her ideas but the one that exactly fitted it? She
applied it then, though her own instinct moved her, at the same
time, to pay her tribute to the good taste from which they hadn't
heretofore by a hair's breadth deviated. "If it didn't sound so
vulgar I should say that we're--fatally, as it were--SAFE. Pardon
the low expression--since it's what we happen to be. We're so
because they are. And they're so because they can't be anything
else, from the moment that, having originally intervened for
them, she wouldn't now be able to bear herself if she didn't keep
them so. That's the way she's inevitably WITH us," said Charlotte
over her smile. "We hang, essentially, together."

Well, the Prince candidly allowed she did bring it home to him.
Every way it worked out. "Yes, I see. We hang, essentially,

His friend had a shrug--a shrug that had a grace. "Cosa
volete?" The effect, beautifully, nobly, was more than Roman.
"Ah, beyond doubt, it's a case."

He stood looking at her. "It's a case. There can't," he said,
"have been many."

"Perhaps never, never, never any other. That," she smiled, "I
confess I should like to think. Only ours."

"Only ours--most probably. Speriamo." To which, as after hushed
connections, he presently added: "Poor Fanny!" But Charlotte had
already, with a start and a warning hand, turned from a glance at
the clock. She sailed away to dress, while he watched her reach
the staircase. His eyes followed her till, with a simple swift
look round at him, she vanished. Something in the sight, however,
appeared to have renewed the spring of his last exclamation,
which he breathed again upon the air. "Poor, poor Fanny!"

It was to prove, however, on the morrow, quite consistent with
the spirit of these words that, the party at Matcham breaking up
and multitudinously dispersing, he should be able to meet the
question of the social side of the process of repatriation with
due presence of mind. It was impossible, for reasons, that he
should travel to town with the Assinghams; it was impossible, for
the same reasons, that he should travel to town save in the
conditions that he had for the last twenty-four hours been
privately, and it might have been said profoundly, thinking out.
The result of his thought was already precious to him, and this
put at his service, he sufficiently believed, the right tone for
disposing of his elder friend's suggestion, an assumption in fact
equally full and mild, that he and Charlotte would conveniently
take the same train and occupy the same compartment as the
Colonel and herself. The extension of the idea to Mrs. Verver had
been, precisely, a part of Mrs. Assingham's mildness, and nothing
could better have characterised her sense for social shades than
her easy perception that the gentleman from Portland Place and
the lady from Eaton Square might now confess, quite without
indiscretion, to simultaneity of movement. She had made, for the
four days, no direct appeal to the latter personage, but the
Prince was accidental witness of her taking a fresh start at the
moment the company were about to scatter for the last night of
their stay. There had been, at this climax, the usual preparatory
talk about hours and combinations, in the midst of which poor
Fanny gently approached Mrs. Verver. She said "You and the
Prince, love,"--quite, apparently, without blinking; she took for
granted their public withdrawal together; she remarked that she
and Bob were alike ready, in the interest of sociability, to take
any train that would make them all one party. "I feel really as
if, all this time, I had seen nothing of you"--that gave an added
grace to the candour of the dear thing's approach. But just then
it was, on the other hand, that the young man found himself
borrow most effectively the secret of the right tone for doing as
he preferred. His preference had, during the evening, not failed
of occasion to press him with mute insistences; practically
without words, without any sort of straight telegraphy, it had
arrived at a felt identity with Charlotte's own. She spoke all
for their friend while she answered their friend's question, but
she none the less signalled to him as definitely as if she had
fluttered a white handkerchief from a window. "It's awfully sweet
of you, darling--our going together would be charming. But you
mustn't mind us--you must suit yourselves we've settled, Amerigo
and I, to stay over till after luncheon."

Amerigo, with the chink of this gold in his ear, turned straight
away, so as not to be instantly appealed to; and for the very
emotion of the wonder, furthermore, of what divination may
achieve when winged by a community of passion. Charlotte had
uttered the exact plea that he had been keeping ready for the
same foreseen necessity, and had uttered it simply as a
consequence of their deepening unexpressed need of each other and
without the passing between them of a word. He hadn't, God knew,
to take it from her--he was too conscious of what he wanted; but
the lesson for him was in the straight clear tone that Charlotte
could thus distil, in the perfect felicity of her adding no
explanation, no touch for plausibility, that she wasn't strictly
obliged to add, and in the truly superior way in which women, so
situated, express and distinguish themselves. She had answered
Mrs. Assingham quite adequately; she had not spoiled it by a
reason a scrap larger than the smallest that would serve, and she
had, above all, thrown off, for his stretched but covered
attention, an image that flashed like a mirror played at the face
of the sun. The measure of EVERYTHING, to all his sense, at these
moments, was in it--the measure especially of the thought that
had been growing with him a positive obsession and that began to
throb as never yet under this brush of her having, by perfect
parity of imagination, the match for it. His whole consciousness
had by this time begun almost to ache with a truth of an
exquisite order, at the glow of which she too had, so
unmistakably then, been warming herself--the truth that the
occasion constituted by the last few days couldn't possibly, save
by some poverty of their own, refuse them some still other and
still greater beauty. It had already told them, with an hourly
voice, that it had a meaning--a meaning that their associated
sense was to drain even as thirsty lips, after the plough through
the sands and the sight, afar, of the palm-cluster, might drink
in at last the promised well in the desert. There had been
beauty, day after day, and there had been, for the spiritual
lips, something of the pervasive taste of it; yet it was all,
none the less, as if their response had remained below their
fortune. How to bring it, by some brave, free lift, up to the
same height was the idea with which, behind and beneath
everything, he was restlessly occupied, and in the exploration of
which, as in that of the sun-chequered greenwood of romance, his
spirit thus, at the opening of a vista, met hers. They were
already, from that moment, so hand-in-hand in the place that he
found himself making use, five minutes later, of exactly the same
tone as Charlotte's for telling Mrs. Assingham that he was
likewise, in the matter of the return to London, sorry for what
mightn't be.

This had become, of a sudden, the simplest thing in the world--
the sense of which moreover seemed really to amount to a portent
that he should feel, forevermore, on the general head,
conveniently at his ease with her. He went in fact a step further
than Charlotte--put the latter forward as creating his necessity.
She was staying over luncheon to oblige their hostess--as a
consequence of which he must also stay to see her decently home.
He must deliver her safe and sound, he felt, in Eaton Square.
Regret as he might, too, the difference made by this obligation,

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