Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Golden Bowl by Henry James

Part 7 out of 12

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

been when her thought strayed complacently, with her eyes, to the
front of her gown, which was in a manner a refuge, a beguilement,
especially when she was able to fix it long enough to wonder if
it would at last really satisfy Charlotte. She had ever been, in
respect to her clothes, rather timorous and uncertain; for the
last year, above all, she had lived in the light of Charlotte's
possible and rather inscrutable judgment of them. Charlotte's own
were simply the most charming and interesting that any woman had
ever put on; there was a kind of poetic justice in her being at
last able, in this particular, thanks to means, thanks quite to
omnipotence, freely to exercise her genius. But Maggie would have
described herself as, in these connections, constantly and
intimately "torn"; conscious on one side of the impossibility of
copying her companion and conscious on the other of the
impossibility of sounding her, independently, to the bottom. Yes,
it was one of the things she should go down to her grave without
having known--how Charlotte, after all had been said, really
thought her stepdaughter looked under any supposedly ingenious
personal experiment. She had always been lovely about the
stepdaughter's material braveries--had done, for her, the very
best with them; but there had ever fitfully danced at the back of
Maggie's head the suspicion that these expressions were mercies,
not judgments, embodying no absolute, but only a relative,
frankness. Hadn't Charlotte, with so perfect a critical vision,
if the truth were known, given her up as hopeless--hopeless by a
serious standard, and thereby invented for her a different and
inferior one, in which, as the only thing to be done, she
patiently and soothingly abetted her? Hadn't she, in other words,
assented in secret despair, perhaps even in secret irritation, to
her being ridiculous?--so that the best now possible was to
wonder, once in a great while, whether one mightn't give her the
surprise of something a little less out of the true note than
usual. Something of this kind was the question that Maggie, while
the absentees still delayed, asked of the appearance she was
endeavouring to present; but with the result, repeatedly again,
that it only went and lost itself in the thick air that had begun
more and more to hang, for our young woman, over her
accumulations of the unanswered. They were THERE, these
accumulations; they were like a roomful of confused objects,
never as yet "sorted," which for some time now she had been
passing and re-passing, along the corridor of her life. She
passed it when she could without opening the door; then, on
occasion, she turned the key to throw in a fresh contribution. So
it was that she had been getting things out of the way. They
rejoined the rest of the confusion; it was as if they found their
place, by some instinct of affinity, in the heap. They knew, in
short, where to go; and when she, at present, by a mental act,
once more pushed the door open, she had practically a sense of
method and experience. What she should never know about
Charlotte's thought--she tossed THAT in. It would find itself in
company, and she might at last have been standing there long
enough to see it fall into its corner. The sight moreover would
doubtless have made her stare, had her attention been more free--
the sight of the mass of vain things, congruous, incongruous,
that awaited every addition. It made her in fact, with a vague
gasp, turn away, and what had further determined this was the
final sharp extinction of the inward scene by the outward. The
quite different door had opened and her husband was there.

It had been as strange as she could consent, afterwards, to think
it; it had been, essentially, what had made the abrupt bend in
her life: he had come back, had followed her from the other
house, VISIBLY uncertain--this was written in the face he for the
first minute showed her. It had been written only for those
seconds, and it had appeared to go, quickly, after they
began to talk; but while it lasted it had been written large,
and, though she didn't quite know what she had expected of him,
she felt she hadn't expected the least shade of embarrassment.
What had made the embarrassment--she called it embarrassment so
as to be able to assure herself she put it at the very worst--
what had made the particular look was his thus distinguishably
wishing to see how he should find her. Why FIRST--that had, later
on, kept coming to her; the question dangled there as if it were
the key to everything. With the sense of it on the spot, she had
felt, overwhelmingly, that she was significant, that so she must
instantly strike him, and that this had a kind of violence beyond
what she had intended. It was in fact even at the moment not
absent from her view that he might easily have made an abject
fool of her--at least for the time. She had indeed, for just ten
seconds, been afraid of some such turn: the uncertainty in his
face had become so, the next thing, an uncertainty in the very
air. Three words of impatience the least bit loud, some outbreak
of "What in the world are you 'up to', and what do you mean?" any
note of that sort would instantly have brought her low--and this
all the more that heaven knew she hadn't in any manner designed
to be high. It was such a trifle, her small breach with custom,
or at any rate with his natural presumption, that all magnitude
of wonder had already had, before one could deprecate the shadow
of it, the effect of a complication. It had made for him some
difference that she couldn't measure, this meeting him at home
and alone instead of elsewhere and with others, and back
and back it kept coming to her that the blankness he showed her
before he was able to SEE might, should she choose to insist on
it, have a meaning--have, as who should say, an historic value--
beyond the importance of momentary expressions in general. She
had naturally had on the spot no ready notion of what he might
want to see; it was enough for a ready notion, not to speak of a
beating heart, that he DID see, that he saw his wife in her own
drawing-room at the hour when she would most properly be there.
He hadn't in any way challenged her, it was true, and, after
those instants during which she now believed him to have been
harbouring the impression of something unusually prepared and
pointed in her attitude and array, he had advanced upon her
smiling and smiling, and thus, without hesitation at the last,
had taken her into his arms. The hesitation had been at the
first, and she at present saw that he had surmounted it without
her help. She had given him no help; for if, on the one hand, she
couldn't speak for hesitation, so on the other--and especially as
he didn't ask her--she couldn't explain why she was agitated. She
had known it all the while down to her toes, known it in his
presence with fresh intensity, and if he had uttered but a
question it would have pressed in her the spring of recklessness.
It had been strange that the most natural thing of all to say to
him should have had that appearance; but she was more than ever
conscious that any appearance she had would come round, more or
less straight, to her father, whose life was now so quiet, on the
basis accepted for it, that any alteration of his consciousness
even in the possible sense of enlivenment, would make their
precious equilibrium waver. THAT was at the bottom of her mind,
that their equilibrium was everything, and that it was
practically precarious, a matter of a hair's breadth for the loss
of the balance. It was the equilibrium, or at all events her
conscious fear about it, that had brought her heart into her
mouth; and the same fear was, on either side, in the silent look
she and Amerigo had exchanged. The happy balance that demanded
this amount of consideration was truly thus, as by its own
confession, a delicate matter; but that her husband had also HIS
habit of anxiety and his general caution only brought them, after
all, more closely together. It would have been most beautifully,
therefore, in the name of the equilibrium, and in that of her joy
at their feeling so exactly the same about it, that she might
have spoken if she had permitted the truth on the subject of her
behaviour to ring out--on the subject of that poor little
behaviour which was for the moment so very limited a case of

"'Why, why' have I made this evening such a point of our not all
dining together? Well, because I've all day been so wanting you
alone that I finally couldn't bear it, and that there didn't seem
any great reason why I should try to. THAT came to me--funny as
it may at first sound, with all the things we've so wonderfully
got into the way of bearing for each other. You've seemed these
last days--I don't know what: more absent than ever before, too
absent for us merely to go on so. It's all very well, and I
perfectly see how beautiful it is, all round; but there comes a
day when something snaps, when the full cup, filled to the very
brim, begins to flow over. That's what has happened to my need of
you--the cup, all day, has been too full to carry. So here I am
with it, spilling it over you--and just for the reason that is
the reason of my life. After all, I've scarcely to explain that
I'm as much in love with you now as the first hour; except that
there are some hours--which I know when they come, because they
almost frighten me--that show me I'm even more so. They come of
themselves--and, ah, they've been coming! After all, after
all--!" Some such words as those were what DIDN'T ring out, yet
it was as if even the unuttered sound had been quenched here in
its own quaver. It was where utterance would have broken down by
its very weight if he had let it get so far. Without that
extremity, at the end of a moment, he had taken in what he needed
to take--that his wife was TESTIFYING, that she adored and missed
and desired him. "After all, after all," since she put it so, she
was right. That was what he had to respond to; that was what,
from the moment that, as has been said, he "saw," he had to treat
as the most pertinent thing possible. He held her close and long,
in expression of their personal reunion--this, obviously, was one
way of doing so. He rubbed his cheek, tenderly, and with a deep
vague murmur, against her face, that side of her face she was not
pressing to his breast. That was, not less obviously, another
way, and there were ways enough, in short, for his extemporised
ease, for the good humour she was afterwards to find herself
thinking of as his infinite tact. This last was partly, no doubt,
because the question of tact might be felt as having come up at
the end of a quarter of an hour during which he had liberally
talked and she had genially questioned. He had told her of his
day, the happy thought of his roundabout journey with Charlotte,
all their cathedral-hunting adventure, and how it had turned out
rather more of an affair than they expected. The moral of it was,
at any rate, that he was tired, verily, and must have a bath and
dress--to which end she would kindly excuse him for the shortest
time possible. She was to remember afterwards something that had
passed between them on this--how he had looked, for her, during
an instant, at the door, before going out, how he had met her
asking him, in hesitation first, then quickly in decision,
whether she couldn't help him by going up with him. He had
perhaps also for a moment hesitated, but he had declined her
offer, and she was to preserve, as I say, the memory of the smile
with which he had opined that at that rate they wouldn't dine
till ten o'clock and that he should go straighter and faster
alone. Such things, as I say, were to come back to her--they
played, through her full after-sense, like lights on the whole
impression; the subsequent parts of the experience were not to
have blurred their distinctness. One of these subsequent parts,
the first, had been the not inconsiderable length, to her later
and more analytic consciousness, of this second wait for her
husband's reappearance. She might certainly, with the best will
in the world, had she gone up with him, have been more in his way
than not, since people could really, almost always, hurry better
without help than with it. Still, she could actually hardly have
made him take more time than he struck her taking, though it must
indeed be added that there was now in this much-thinking little
person's state of mind no mere crudity of impatience. Something
had happened, rapidly, with the beautiful sight of him and with
the drop of her fear of having annoyed him by making him go to
and fro. Subsidence of the fearsome, for Maggie's spirit, was
always, at first, positive emergence of the sweet, and it was
long since anything had been so sweet to her as the particular
quality suddenly given by her present emotion to the sense of


Amerigo was away from her again, as she sat there, as she walked
there without him--for she had, with the difference of his
presence in the house, ceased to keep herself from moving about;
but the hour was filled nevertheless with the effect of his
nearness, and above all with the effect, strange in an intimacy
so established, of an almost renewed vision of the facts of his
aspect. She had seen him last but five days since, yet he had
stood there before her as if restored from some far country, some
long voyage, some combination of dangers or fatigues. This
unquenchable variety in his appeal to her interest, what did it
mean but that--reduced to the flatness of mere statement--she was
married, by good fortune, to an altogether dazzling person? That
was an old, old story, but the truth of it shone out to her like
the beauty of some family picture, some mellow portrait of an
ancestor, that she might have been looking at, almost in
surprise, after a long intermission. The dazzling person was
upstairs and she was down, and there were moreover the other
facts of the selection and decision that this demonstration of
her own had required, and of the constant care that the
equilibrium involved; but she had, all the same, never felt so
absorbingly married, so abjectly conscious of a master of her
fate. He could do what he would with her; in fact what was
actually happening was that he was actually doing it. "What he
would," what he REALLY would--only that quantity itself escaped
perhaps, in the brightness of the high harmony, familiar naming
and discussing. It was enough of a recognition for her that,
whatever the thing he might desire, he would always absolutely
bring it off. She knew at this moment, without a question, with
the fullest surrender, how he had brought off, in her, by scarce
more than a single allusion, a perfect flutter of tenderness. If
he had come back tired, tired from his long day, the exertion had
been, literally, in her service and her father's. They two had
sat at home at peace, the Principino between them, the
complications of life kept down, the bores sifted out, the large
ease of the home preserved, because of the way the others held
the field and braved the weather. Amerigo never complained--any
more than, for that matter, Charlotte did; but she seemed to see
to-night as she had never yet quite done that their business of
social representation, conceived as they conceived it, beyond any
conception of her own, and conscientiously carried out, was an
affair of living always in harness. She remembered Fanny
Assingham's old judgment, that friend's description of her father
and herself as not living at all, as not knowing what to do or
what might be done for them; and there came back to her with it
an echo of the long talk they had had together, one September day
at Fawns, under the trees, when she put before him this dictum of

That occasion might have counted for them--she had already often
made the reflection--as the first step in an existence more
intelligently arranged. It had been an hour from which the chain
of causes and consequences was definitely traceable--so many
things, and at the head of the list her father's marriage, having
appeared to her to flow from Charlotte's visit to Fawns, and that
event itself having flowed from the memorable talk. But what
perhaps most came out in the light of these concatenations was
that it had been, for all the world, as if Charlotte had been
"had in," as the servants always said of extra help, because they
had thus suffered it to be pointed out to them that if their
family coach lumbered and stuck the fault was in its lacking its
complement of wheels. Having but three, as they might say, it had
wanted another, and what had Charlotte done from the first but
begin to act, on the spot, and ever so smoothly and beautifully,
as a fourth? Nothing had been, immediately, more manifest than
the greater grace of the movement of the vehicle--as to which,
for the completeness of her image, Maggie was now supremely to
feel how every strain had been lightened for herself. So far as
SHE was one of the wheels she had but to keep in her place; since
the work was done for her she felt no weight, and it wasn't too
much to acknowledge that she had scarce to turn round. She had a
long pause before the fire during which she might have been
fixing with intensity her projected vision, have been conscious
even of its taking an absurd, fantastic shape. She might have
been watching the family coach pass and noting that, somehow,
Amerigo and Charlotte were pulling it while she and her father
were not so much as pushing. They were seated inside together,
dandling the Principino and holding him up to the windows, to see
and be seen, like an infant positively royal; so that the
exertion was ALL with the others. Maggie found in this image a
repeated challenge; again and yet again she paused before the
fire: after which, each time, in the manner of one for whom a
strong light has suddenly broken, she gave herself to livelier
movement. She had seen herself at last, in the picture she was
studying, suddenly jump from the coach; whereupon, frankly, with
the wonder of the sight, her eyes opened wider and her heart
stood still for a moment. She looked at the person so acting as
if this person were somebody else, waiting with intensity to see
what would follow. The person had taken a decision--which was
evidently because an impulse long gathering had at last felt a
sharpest pressure. Only how was the decision to be applied?--
what, in particular, would the figure in the picture do? She
looked about her, from the middle of the room, under the force of
this question, as if THERE, exactly, were the field of action
involved. Then, as the door opened again, she recognised,
whatever the action, the form, at any rate, of a first
opportunity. Her husband had reappeared--he stood before her
refreshed, almost radiant, quite reassuring. Dressed, anointed,
fragrant, ready, above all, for his dinner, he smiled at her over
the end of their delay. It was as if her opportunity had depended
on his look--and now she saw that it was good. There was still,
for the instant, something in suspense, but it passed more
quickly than on his previous entrance. He was already holding out
his arms. It was, for hours and hours, later on, as if she had
somehow been lifted aloft, were floated and carried on some warm
high tide beneath which stumbling blocks had sunk out of sight.
This came from her being again, for the time, in the enjoyment of
confidence, from her knowing, as she believed, what to do. All
the next day, and all the next, she appeared to herself to know
it. She had a plan, and she rejoiced in her plan: this consisted
of the light that, suddenly breaking into her restless reverie,
had marked the climax of that vigil. It had come to her as a
question--"What if I've abandoned THEM, you know? What if I've
accepted too passively the funny form of our life?" There would
be a process of her own by which she might do differently in
respect to Amerigo and Charlotte--a process quite independent of
any process of theirs. Such a solution had but to rise before her
to affect her, to charm her, with its simplicity, an advantageous
simplicity she had been stupid, for so long, not to have been
struck by; and the simplicity meanwhile seemed proved by the
success that had already begun to attend her. She had only had
herself to do something to see how immediately it answered. This
consciousness of its having answered with her husband was the
uplifting, sustaining wave. He had "met" her--she so put it to
herself; met her with an effect of generosity and of gaiety, in
especial, on his coming back to her ready for dinner, which she
wore in her breast as the token of an escape for them both from
something not quite definite, but clearly, much less good. Even
at that moment, in fact, her plan had begun to work; she had
been, when he brightly reappeared, in the act of plucking it out
of the heart of her earnestness--plucking it, in the garden of
thought, as if it had been some full-blown flower that she could
present to him on the spot. Well, it was the flower of
participation, and as that, then and there, she held it out to
him, putting straightway into execution the idea, so needlessly,
so absurdly obscured, of her SHARING with him, whatever the
enjoyment, the interest, the experience might be--and sharing
also, for that matter, with Charlotte.

She had thrown herself, at dinner, into every feature of the
recent adventure of the companions, letting him see, without
reserve, that she wished to hear everything about it, and making
Charlotte in particular, Charlotte's judgment of Matcham,
Charlotte's aspect, her success there, her effect traceably
produced, her clothes inimitably worn, her cleverness gracefully
displayed, her social utility, in fine, brilliantly exemplified,
the subject of endless inquiry. Maggie's inquiry was most
empathetic, moreover, for the whole happy thought of the
cathedral-hunt, which she was so glad they had entertained, and
as to the pleasant results of which, down to the cold beef and
bread-and-cheese, the queer old smell and the dirty table-cloth
at the inn, Amerigo was good-humouredly responsive. He had looked
at her across the table, more than once, as if touched by the
humility of this welcome offered to impressions at second-hand,
the amusements, the large freedoms only of others--as if
recognising in it something fairly exquisite; and at the end,
while they were alone, before she had rung for a servant, he had
renewed again his condonation of the little irregularity, such as
it was, on which she had ventured. They had risen together to
come upstairs; he had been talking at the last about some of the
people, at the very last of all about Lady Castledean and Mr.
Blint; after which she had once more broken ground on the matter
of the "type" of Gloucester. It brought her, as he came round the
table to join her, yet another of his kind conscious stares, one
of the looks, visibly beguiled, but at the same time not
invisibly puzzled, with which he had already shown his sense of
this charming grace of her curiosity. It was as if he might for a
moment be going to say:--"You needn't PRETEND, dearest, quite so
hard, needn't think it necessary to care quite so much!"--it was
as if he stood there before her with some such easy intelligence,
some such intimate reassurance, on his lips. Her answer would
have been all ready--that she wasn't in the least pretending; and
she looked up at him, while he took her hand, with the
maintenance, the real persistence, of her lucid little plan
in her eyes. She wanted him to understand from that very moment
that she was going to be WITH him again, quite with them,
together, as she doubtless hadn't been since the "funny"
changes--that was really all one could call them--into which they
had each, as for the sake of the others, too easily and too
obligingly slipped. They had taken too much for granted that
their life together required, as people in London said, a special
"form"--which was very well so long as the form was kept only for
the outside world and was made no more of among themselves than
the pretty mould of an iced pudding, or something of that sort,
into which, to help yourself, you didn't hesitate to break with
the spoon. So much as that she would, with an opening, have
allowed herself furthermore to observe; she wanted him to
understand how her scheme embraced Charlotte too; so that if he
had but uttered the acknowledgment she judged him on the point of
making--the acknowledgment of his catching at her brave little
idea for their case--she would have found herself, as distinctly,
voluble almost to eloquence.

What befell, however, was that even while she thus waited she
felt herself present at a process taking place rather deeper
within him than the occasion, on the whole, appeared to require--
a process of weighing something in the balance, of considering,
deciding, dismissing. He had guessed that she was there with an
idea, there in fact by reason of her idea; only this, oddly
enough, was what at the last stayed his words. She was helped to
these perceptions by his now looking at her still harder than he
had yet done--which really brought it to the turn of a hair, for
her, that she didn't make sure his notion of her idea was the
right one. It was the turn of a hair, because he had possession
of her hands and was bending toward her, ever so kindly, as if to
see, to understand, more, or possibly give more--she didn't know
which; and that had the effect of simply putting her, as she
would have said, in his power. She gave up, let her idea go, let
everything go; her one consciousness was that he was taking her
again into his arms. It was not till afterwards that she
discriminated as to this; felt how the act operated with him
instead of the words he hadn't uttered--operated, in his view, as
probably better than any words, as always better, in fact, at any
time, than anything. Her acceptance of it, her response to it,
inevitable, foredoomed, came back to her, later on, as a virtual
assent to the assumption he had thus made that there was really
nothing such a demonstration didn't anticipate and didn't dispose
of, and that the spring acting within herself moreover might well
have been, beyond any other, the impulse legitimately to provoke
it. It made, for any issue, the third time since his return that
he had drawn her to his breast; and at present, holding her to
his side as they left the room, he kept her close for their
moving into the hall and across it, kept her for their slow
return together to the apartments above. He had been right,
overwhelmingly right, as to the felicity of his tenderness and
the degree of her sensibility, but even while she felt these
things sweep all others away she tasted of a sort of terror of
the weakness they produced in her. It was still, for her, that
she had positively something to do, and that she mustn't be weak
for this, must much rather be strong. For many hours after, none
the less, she remained weak--if weak it was; though holding fast
indeed to the theory of her success, since her agitated overture
had been, after all, so unmistakably met.

She recovered soon enough on the whole, the sense that this left
her Charlotte always to deal with--Charlotte who, at any rate,
however SHE might meet overtures, must meet them, at the worst,
more or less differently. Of that inevitability, of such other
ranges of response as were open to Charlotte, Maggie took the
measure in approaching her, on the morrow of her return from
Matcham, with the same show of desire to hear all her story. She
wanted the whole picture from her, as she had wanted it from her
companion, and, promptly, in Eaton Square, whither, without the
Prince, she repaired, almost ostentatiously, for the purpose,
this purpose only, she brought her repeatedly back to the
subject, both in her husband's presence and during several scraps
of independent colloquy. Before her father, instinctively, Maggie
took the ground that his wish for interesting echoes would be not
less than her own--allowing, that is, for everything his wife
would already have had to tell him, for such passages, between
them, as might have occurred since the evening before. Joining
them after luncheon, reaching them, in her desire to proceed with
the application of her idea, before they had quitted the
breakfast-room, the scene of their mid-day meal, she referred, in
her parent's presence, to what she might have lost by delay, and
expressed the hope that there would be an anecdote or two left
for her to pick up. Charlotte was dressed to go out, and her
husband, it appeared, rather positively prepared not to; he had
left the table, but was seated near the fire with two or three of
the morning papers and the residuum of the second and third posts
on a stand beside him--more even than the usual extravagance, as
Maggie's glance made out, of circulars, catalogues,
advertisements, announcements of sales, foreign envelopes and
foreign handwritings that were as unmistakable as foreign
clothes. Charlotte, at the window, looking into the side-street
that abutted on the Square, might have been watching for their
visitor's advent before withdrawing; and in the light, strange
and coloured, like that of a painted picture, which fixed the
impression for her, objects took on values not hitherto so fully
shown. It was the effect of her quickened sensibility; she knew
herself again in presence of a problem, in need of a solution for
which she must intensely work: that consciousness, lately born in
her, had been taught the evening before to accept a temporary
lapse, but had quickly enough again, with her getting out of her
own house and her walking across half the town--for she had come
from Portland Place on foot--found breath still in its lungs.

It exhaled this breath in a sigh, faint and unheard; her tribute,
while she stood there before speaking, to realities looming
through the golden mist that had already begun to be scattered.
The conditions facing her had yielded, for the time, to the
golden mist--had considerably melted away; but there they were
again, definite, and it was for the next quarter of an hour as if
she could have counted them one by one on her fingers. Sharp to
her above all was the renewed attestation of her father's
comprehensive acceptances, which she had so long regarded as of
the same quality with her own, but which, so distinctly now, she
should have the complication of being obliged to deal with
separately. They had not yet struck her as absolutely
extraordinary--which had made for her lumping them with her own,
since her view of her own had but so lately begun to change;
though it instantly stood out for her that there was really no
new judgment of them she should be able to show without
attracting in some degree his attention, without perhaps exciting
his surprise and making thereby, for the situation she shared
with him, some difference. She was reminded and warned by the
concrete image; and for a minute Charlotte's face, immediately
presented to her, affected her as searching her own to see the
reminder tell. She had not less promptly kissed her stepmother,
and then had bent over her father, from behind, and laid her
cheek upon him; little amenities tantamount heretofore to an easy
change of guard--Charlotte's own frequent, though always
cheerful, term of comparison for this process of transfer. Maggie
figured thus as the relieving sentry, and so smoothly did use and
custom work for them that her mate might even, on this occasion,
after acceptance of the pass-word, have departed without
irrelevant and, in strictness, unsoldierly gossip. This was not,
none the less, what happened; inasmuch as if our young woman had
been floated over her first impulse to break the existing charm
at a stroke, it yet took her but an instant to sound, at any
risk, the note she had been privately practising. If she had
practised it the day before, at dinner, on Amerigo, she knew but
the better how to begin for it with Mrs. Verver, and it immensely
helped her, for that matter, to be able at once to speak of the
Prince as having done more to quicken than to soothe her
curiosity. Frankly and gaily she had come to ask--to ask what, in
their unusually prolonged campaign, the two had achieved. She had
got out of her husband, she admitted, what she could, but
husbands were never the persons who answered such questions
ideally. He had only made her more curious, and she had arrived
early, this way, in order to miss as little as possible of
Charlotte's story.

"Wives, papa," she said; "are always much better reporters--
though I grant," she added for Charlotte, "that fathers are not
much better than husbands. He never," she smiled, "tells me more
than a tenth of what you tell him; so I hope you haven't told him
everything yet, since in that case I shall probably have lost the
best part of it." Maggie went, she went--she felt herself going;
she reminded herself of an actress who had been studying a part
and rehearsing it, but who suddenly, on the stage, before the
footlights, had begun to improvise, to speak lines not in the
text. It was this very sense of the stage and the footlights that
kept her up, made her rise higher: just as it was the sense of
action that logically involved some platform--action quite
positively for the first time in her life, or, counting in the
previous afternoon, for the second. The platform remained for
three or four days thus sensibly under her feet, and she had all
the while, with it, the inspiration of quite remarkably, of quite
heroically improvising. Preparation and practice had come but a
short way; her part opened out, and she invented from moment to
moment what to say and to do. She had but one rule of art--to
keep within bounds and not lose her head; certainly she might see
for a week how far that would take her. She said to herself, in
her excitement, that it was perfectly simple: to bring about a
difference, touch by touch, without letting either of the three,
and least of all her father, so much as suspect her hand. If they
should suspect they would want a reason, and the humiliating
truth was that she wasn't ready with a reason--not, that is, with
what she would have called a reasonable one. She thought of
herself, instinctively, beautifully, as having dealt, all her
life, at her father's side and by his example, only in reasonable
reasons; and what she would really have been most ashamed of
would be to produce for HIM, in this line, some inferior
substitute. Unless she were in a position to plead, definitely,
that she was jealous she should be in no position to plead,
decently, that she was dissatisfied. This latter condition would
be a necessary implication of the former; without the former
behind it it would HAVE to fall to the ground. So had the case,
wonderfully, been arranged for her; there was a card she could
play, but there was only one, and to play it would be to end the
game. She felt herself--as at the small square green table,
between the tall old silver candlesticks and the neatly arranged
counters--her father's playmate and partner; and what it
constantly came back to, in her mind, was that for her to ask a
question, to raise a doubt, to reflect in any degree on the play
of the others, would be to break the charm. The charm she had to
call it, since it kept her companion so constantly engaged,
so perpetually seated and so contentedly occupied. To say
anything at all would be, in fine, to have to say WHY she was
jealous; and she could, in her private hours, but stare long,
with suffused eyes, at that impossibility.

By the end of a week, the week that had begun, especially, with
her morning hour, in Eaton Square, between her father and his
wife, her consciousness of being beautifully treated had become
again verily greater than her consciousness of anything else; and
I must add, moreover, that she at last found herself rather oddly
wondering what else, as a consciousness, could have been quite so
overwhelming. Charlotte's response to the experiment of being
more with her OUGHT, as she very well knew, to have stamped the
experiment with the feeling of success; so that if the success
itself seemed a boon less substantial than the original image of
it, it enjoyed thereby a certain analogy with our young woman's
aftertaste of Amerigo's own determined demonstrations. Maggie was
to have retained, for that matter, more than one aftertaste, and
if I have spoken of the impressions fixed in her as soon as she
had, so insidiously, taken the field, a definite note must be
made of her perception, during those moments, of Charlotte's
prompt uncertainty. She had shown, no doubt--she couldn't not
have shown--that she had arrived with an idea; quite exactly as
she had shown her husband, the night before, that she was
awaiting him with a sentiment. This analogy in the two situations
was to keep up for her the remembrance of a kinship of expression
in the two faces in respect to which all she as yet professed to
herself was that she had affected them, or at any rate the
sensibility each of them so admirably covered, in the same way.
To make the comparison at all was, for Maggie, to return to it
often, to brood upon it, to extract from it the last dregs of its
interest--to play with it, in short, nervously, vaguely,
incessantly, as she might have played with a medallion containing
on either side a cherished little portrait and suspended round
her neck by a gold chain of a firm fineness that no effort would
ever snap. The miniatures were back to back, but she saw them
forever face to face, and when she looked from one to the other
she found in Charlotte's eyes the gleam of the momentary "What
does she really want?" that had come and gone for her in the
Prince's. So again, she saw the other light, the light touched
into a glow both in Portland Place and in Eaton Square, as soon
as she had betrayed that she wanted no harm--wanted no greater
harm of Charlotte, that is, than to take in that she meant to go
out with her. She had been present at that process as personally
as she might have been present at some other domestic incident--
the hanging of a new picture, say, or the fitting of the
Principino with his first little trousers.

She remained present, accordingly, all the week, so charmingly
and systematically did Mrs. Verver now welcome her company.
Charlotte had but wanted the hint, and what was it but the hint,
after all, that, during the so subdued but so ineffaceable
passage in the breakfast-room, she had seen her take? It had been
taken moreover not with resignation, not with qualifications or
reserves, however bland; it had been taken with avidity, with
gratitude, with a grace of gentleness that supplanted
explanations. The very liberality of this accommodation might
indeed have appeared in the event to give its own account of the
matter--as if it had fairly written the Princess down as a person
of variations and had accordingly conformed but to a rule of tact
in accepting these caprices for law. The caprice actually
prevailing happened to be that the advent of one of the ladies
anywhere should, till the fit had changed, become the sign,
unfailingly, of the advent of the other; and it was emblazoned,
in rich colour, on the bright face of this period, that Mrs.
Verver only wished to know, on any occasion, what was expected of
her, only held herself there for instructions, in order even to
better them if possible. The two young women, while the passage
lasted, became again very much the companions of other days, the
days of Charlotte's prolonged visits to the admiring and
bountiful Maggie, the days when equality of condition for them
had been all the result of the latter's native vagueness about
her own advantages. The earlier elements flushed into life again,
the frequency, the intimacy, the high pitch of accompanying
expression--appreciation, endearment, confidence; the rarer charm
produced in each by this active contribution to the felicity of
the other: all enhanced, furthermore--enhanced or qualified, who
should say which?--by a new note of diplomacy, almost of anxiety,
just sensible on Charlotte's part in particular; of intensity of
observance, in the matter of appeal and response, in the
matter of making sure the Princess might be disposed or
gratified, that resembled an attempt to play again, with more
refinement, at disparity of relation. Charlotte's attitude had,
in short, its moments of flowering into pretty excesses of
civility, self-effacements in the presence of others, sudden
little formalisms of suggestion and recognition, that might have
represented her sense of the duty of not "losing sight" of a
social distinction. This impression came out most for Maggie
when, in their easier intervals, they had only themselves to
regard, and when her companion's inveteracy of never passing
first, of not sitting till she was seated, of not interrupting
till she appeared to give leave, of not forgetting, too,
familiarly, that in addition to being important she was also
sensitive, had the effect of throwing over their intercourse a
kind of silver tissue of decorum. It hung there above them like a
canopy of state, a reminder that though the lady-in-waiting was
an established favourite, safe in her position, a little queen,
however, good-natured, was always a little queen and might, with
small warning, remember it.

And yet another of these concomitants of feverish success, all
the while, was the perception that in another quarter too things
were being made easy. Charlotte's alacrity in meeting her had, in
one sense, operated slightly overmuch as an intervention: it had
begun to reabsorb her at the very hour of her husband's showing
her that, to be all there, as the phrase was, he likewise only
required--as one of the other phrases was too--the straight tip.
She had heard him talk about the straight tip, in his moods of
amusement at English slang, in his remarkable displays of
assimilative power, power worthy of better causes and higher
inspirations; and he had taken it from her, at need, in a way
that, certainly in the first glow of relief, had made her brief
interval seem large. Then, however, immediately, and even though
superficially, there had declared itself a readjustment of
relations to which she was, once more, practically a little
sacrificed. "I must do everything," she had said, "without
letting papa see what I do--at least till it's done!" but she
scarce knew how she proposed, even for the next few days, to
blind or beguile this participant in her life. What had in fact
promptly enough happened, she presently recognised, was that if
her stepmother had beautifully taken possession of her, and if
she had virtually been rather snatched again thereby from her
husband's side, so, on the other hand, this had, with as little
delay, entailed some very charming assistance for her in Eaton
Square. When she went home with Charlotte, from whatever happy
demonstration, for the benefit of the world in which they
supposed themselves to live, that there was no smallest reason
why their closer association shouldn't be public and acclaimed--
at these times she regularly found that Amerigo had come either
to sit with his father-in-law in the absence of the ladies, or to
make, on his side, precisely some such display of the easy
working of the family life as would represent the equivalent of
her excursions with Charlotte. Under this particular impression
it was that everything in Maggie most melted and went to pieces--
every thing, that is, that belonged to her disposition to
challenge the perfection of their common state. It divided them
again, that was true, this particular turn of the tide--cut them
up afresh into pairs and parties; quite as if a sense for the
equilibrium was what, between them all, had most power of
insistence; quite as if Amerigo himself were all the while, at
bottom, equally thinking of it and watching it. But, as against
that, he was making her father not miss her, and he could have
rendered neither of them a more excellent service. He was acting
in short on a cue, the cue given him by observation; it had been
enough for him to see the shade of change in her behaviour; his
instinct for relations, the most exquisite conceivable, prompted
him immediately to meet and match the difference, to play somehow
into its hands. That was what it was, she renewedly felt, to have
married a man who was, sublimely, a gentleman; so that, in spite
of her not wanting to translate ALL their delicacies into the
grossness of discussion, she yet found again and again, in
Portland Place, moments for saying: "If I didn't love you, you
know, for yourself, I should still love you for HIM." He looked
at her, after such speeches, as Charlotte looked, in Eaton
Square, when she called HER attention to his benevolence: through
the dimness of the almost musing smile that took account of her
extravagance, harmless though it might be, as a tendency to
reckon with. "But my poor child," Charlotte might under this
pressure have been on the point of replying, "that's the way nice
people ARE, all round--so that why should one be surprised about
it? We're all nice together--as why shouldn't we be? If we hadn't
been we wouldn't have gone far--and I consider that we've gone
very far indeed. Why should you 'take on' as if you weren't a
perfect dear yourself, capable of all the sweetest things?--as if
you hadn't in fact grown up in an atmosphere, the atmosphere of
all the good things that I recognised, even of old, as soon as I
came near you, and that you've allowed me now, between you, to
make so blessedly my own." Mrs. Verver might in fact have but
just failed to make another point, a point charmingly natural to
her as a grateful and irreproachable wife. "It isn't a bit
wonderful, I may also remind you, that your husband should find,
when opportunity permits, worse things to do than to go about
with mine. I happen, love, to appreciate my husband--I happen
perfectly to understand that his acquaintance should be
cultivated and his company enjoyed."

Some such happily-provoked remarks as these, from Charlotte, at
the other house, had been in the air, but we have seen how there
was also in the air, for our young woman, as an emanation from
the same source, a distilled difference of which the very
principle was to keep down objections and retorts. That
impression came back--it had its hours of doing so; and it may
interest us on the ground of its having prompted in Maggie a
final reflection, a reflection out of the heart of which a light
flashed for her like a great flower grown in a night. As soon as
this light had spread a little it produced in some quarters a
surprising distinctness, made her of a sudden ask herself why
there should have been even for three days the least obscurity.
The perfection of her success, decidedly, was like some strange
shore to which she had been noiselessly ferried and where, with a
start, she found herself quaking at the thought that the boat
might have put off again and left her. The word for it, the word
that flashed the light, was that they were TREATING her, that
they were proceeding with her--and, for that matter, with her
father--by a plan that was the exact counterpart of her own. It
was not from her that they took their cue, but--and this was what
in particular made her sit up--from each other; and with a depth
of unanimity, an exact coincidence of inspiration that, when once
her attention had begun to fix it, struck her as staring out at
her in recovered identities of behaviour, expression and tone.
They had a view of her situation, and of the possible forms her
own consciousness of it might take--a view determined by the
change of attitude they had had, ever so subtly, to recognise in
her on their return from Matcham. They had had to read into this
small and all-but-suppressed variation a mute comment--on they
didn't quite know what; and it now arched over the Princess's
head like a vault of bold span that important communication
between them on the subject couldn't have failed of being
immediate. This new perception bristled for her, as we have said,
with odd intimations, but questions unanswered played in and out
of it as well--the question, for instance, of why such
promptitude of harmony SHOULD have been important. Ah, when she
began to recover, piece by piece, the process became lively; she
might have been picking small shining diamonds out of the
sweepings of her ordered house. She bent, in this pursuit, over
her dust-bin; she challenged to the last grain the refuse of her
innocent economy. Then it was that the dismissed vision of
Amerigo, that evening, in arrest at the door of her salottino
while her eyes, from her placed chair, took him in--then it was
that this immense little memory gave out its full power. Since
the question was of doors, she had afterwards, she now saw, shut
it out; she had responsibly shut in, as we have understood, shut
in there with her sentient self, only the fact of his
reappearance and the plenitude of his presence. These things had
been testimony, after all, to supersede any other, for on the
spot, even while she looked, the warmly-washing wave had
travelled far up the strand. She had subsequently lived, for
hours she couldn't count, under the dizzying, smothering welter
positively in submarine depths where everything came to her
through walls of emerald and mother-of-pearl; though indeed she
had got her head above them, for breath, when face to face with
Charlotte again, on the morrow, in Eaton Square. Meanwhile, none
the less, as was so apparent, the prior, the prime impression had
remained, in the manner of a spying servant, on the other side of
the barred threshold; a witness availing himself, in time, of the
lightest pretext to re-enter. It was as if he had found this
pretext in her observed necessity of comparing--comparing the
obvious common elements in her husband's and her stepmother's
ways of now "taking" her. With or without her witness, at any
rate, she was led by comparison to a sense of the quantity of
earnest intention operating, and operating so harmoniously,
between her companions; and it was in the mitigated midnight of
these approximations that she had made out the promise of her

It was a worked-out scheme for their not wounding her, for their
behaving to her quite nobly; to which each had, in some winning
way, induced the other to contribute, and which therefore, so far
as that went, proved that she had become with them a subject of
intimate study. Quickly, quickly, on a certain alarm taken,
eagerly and anxiously, before they SHOULD, without knowing it,
wound her, they had signalled from house to house their clever
idea, the idea by which, for all these days, her own idea had
been profiting. They had built her in with their purpose--which
was why, above her, a vault seemed more heavily to arch; so that
she sat there, in the solid chamber of her helplessness, as in a
bath of benevolence artfully prepared for her, over the brim of
which she could but just manage to see by stretching her neck.
Baths of benevolence were very well, but, at least, unless one
were a patient of some sort, a nervous eccentric or a lost child,
one was usually not so immersed save by one's request. It wasn't
in the least what she had requested. She had flapped her little
wings as a symbol of desired flight, not merely as a plea for a
more gilded cage and an extra allowance of lumps of sugar. Above
all she hadn't complained, not by the quaver of a syllable--so
what wound in particular had she shown her fear of receiving?
What wound HAD she received--as to which she had exchanged the
least word with them? If she had ever whined or moped they might
have had some reason; but she would be hanged--she conversed with
herself in strong language--if she had been, from beginning to
end, anything but pliable and mild. It all came back, in
consequence, to some required process of their own, a process
operating, quite positively, as a precaution and a policy. They
had got her into the bath and, for consistency with themselves--
which was with each other--must keep her there. In that condition
she wouldn't interfere with the policy, which was established,
which was arranged. Her thought, over this, arrived at a great
intensity--had indeed its pauses and timidities, but always to
take afterwards a further and lighter spring. The ground was
well-nigh covered by the time she had made out her husband and
his colleague as directly interested in preventing her freedom of
movement. Policy or no policy, it was they themselves who were
arranged. She must be kept in position so as not to DISarrange
them. It fitted immensely together, the whole thing, as soon as
she could give them a motive; for, strangely as it had by this
time begun to appear to herself, she had hitherto not imagined
them sustained by an ideal distinguishably different from her
own. Of course they were arranged--all four arranged; but what
had the basis of their life been, precisely, but that they were
arranged together? Amerigo and Charlotte were arranged together,
but she--to confine the matter only to herself--was arranged
apart. It rushed over her, the full sense of all this, with quite
another rush from that of the breaking wave of ten days before;
and as her father himself seemed not to meet the vaguely-
clutching hand with which, during the first shock of complete
perception, she tried to steady herself, she felt very much


There had been, from far back--that is from the Christmas time
on--a plan that the parent and the child should "do something
lovely" together, and they had recurred to it on occasion, nursed
it and brought it up theoretically, though without as yet quite
allowing it to put its feet to the ground. The most it had done
was to try a few steps on the drawing-room carpet, with much
attendance, on either side, much holding up and guarding, much
anticipation, in fine, of awkwardness or accident. Their
companions, by the same token, had constantly assisted at the
performance, following the experiment with sympathy and gaiety,
and never so full of applause, Maggie now made out for herself,
as when the infant project had kicked its little legs most
wildly--kicked them, for all the world, across the Channel and
half the Continent, kicked them over the Pyrenees and innocently
crowed out some rich Spanish name. She asked herself at present
if it had been a "real" belief that they were but wanting, for
some such adventure, to snatch their moment; whether either had
at any instant seen it as workable, save in the form of a toy to
dangle before the other, that they should take flight, without
wife or husband, for one more look, "before they died," at the
Madrid pictures as well as for a drop of further weak delay in
respect to three or four possible prizes, privately offered,
rarities of the first water, responsibly reported on and
profusely photographed, still patiently awaiting their noiseless
arrival in retreats to which the clue had not otherwise been
given away. The vision dallied with during the duskier days in
Eaton Square had stretched to the span of three or four weeks of
springtime for the total adventure, three or four weeks in the
very spirit, after all, of their regular life, as their regular
life had been persisting; full of shared mornings, afternoons,
evenings, walks, drives, "looks-in," at old places, on vague
chances; full also, in especial, of that purchased social ease,
the sense of the comfort and credit of their house, which had
essentially the perfection of something paid for, but which
"came," on the whole, so cheap that it might have been felt as
costing--as costing the parent and child--nothing. It was for
Maggie to wonder, at present, if she had been sincere about their
going, to ask herself whether she would have stuck to their plan
even if nothing had happened.

Her view of the impossibility of sticking to it now may give us
the measure of her sense that everything had happened. A
difference had been made in her relation to each of her
companions, and what it compelled her to say to herself was that
to behave as she might have behaved before would be to act, for
Amerigo and Charlotte, with the highest hypocrisy. She saw in
these days that a journey abroad with her father would, more than
anything else, have amounted, on his part and her own, to a last
expression of an ecstasy of confidence, and that the charm of the
idea, in fact, had been in some such sublimity. Day after day she
put off the moment of "speaking," as she inwardly and very
comprehensively, called it--speaking, that is, to her father; and
all the more that she was ridden by a strange suspense as to his
himself breaking silence. She gave him time, gave him, during
several days, that morning, that noon, that night, and the next
and the next and the next; even made up her mind that if he stood
off longer it would be proof conclusive that he too wasn't at
peace. They would then have been, all successfully, throwing dust
in each other's eyes; and it would be at last as if they must
turn away their faces, since the silver mist that protected them
had begun to grow sensibly thin. Finally, at the end of April,
she decided that if he should say nothing for another period of
twenty-four hours she must take it as showing that they were, in
her private phraseology, lost; so little possible sincerity could
there be in pretending to care for a journey to Spain at the
approach of a summer that already promised to be hot. Such a
proposal, on his lips, such an extravagance of optimism, would be
HIS way of being consistent--for that he didn't really want to
move, or to move further, at the worst, than back to Fawns again,
could only signify that he wasn't, at heart, contented. What he
wanted, at any rate, and what he didn't want were, in the event,
put to the proof for Maggie just in time to give her a fresh
wind. She had been dining, with her husband, in Eaton Square, on
the occasion of hospitality offered by Mr. and Mrs. Verver to
Lord and Lady Castledean. The propriety of some demonstration of
this sort had been for many days before our group, the question
reduced to the mere issue of which of the two houses should first
take the field. The issue had been easily settled--in the manner
of every issue referred in any degree to Amerigo and Charlotte:
the initiative obviously belonged to Mrs. Verver, who had gone to
Matcham while Maggie had stayed away, and the evening in Eaton
Square might have passed for a demonstration all the more
personal that the dinner had been planned on "intimate" lines.
Six other guests only, in addition to the host and the hostess of
Matcham, made up the company, and each of these persons had for
Maggie the interest of an attested connection with the Easter
revels at that visionary house. Their common memory of an
occasion that had clearly left behind it an ineffaceable charm--
this air of beatific reference, less subdued in the others than
in Amerigo and Charlotte, lent them, together, an inscrutable
comradeship against which the young woman's imagination broke in
a small vain wave.

It wasn't that she wished she had been of the remembered party
and possessed herself of its secrets; for she didn't care about
its secrets--she could concern herself at present, absolutely,
with no secret but her own. What occurred was simply that she
became aware, at a stroke, of the quantity of further nourishment
required by her own, and of the amount of it she might somehow
extract from these people; whereby she rose, of a sudden, to the
desire to possess and use them, even to the extent of braving, of
fairly defying, of directly exploiting, of possibly quite
enjoying, under cover of an evil duplicity, the felt element of
curiosity with which they regarded her. Once she was conscious of
the flitting wing of this last impression--the perception,
irresistible, that she was something for their queer experience,
just as they were something for hers--there was no limit to her
conceived design of not letting them escape. She went and went,
again, to-night, after her start was taken; went, positively, as
she had felt herself going, three weeks before, on the morning
when the vision of her father and his wife awaiting her together
in the breakfast-room had been so determinant. In this other
scene it was Lady Castledean who was determinant, who kindled the
light, or at all events the heat, and who acted on the nerves;
Lady Castledean whom she knew she, so oddly, didn't like, in
spite of reasons upon reasons, the biggest diamonds on the
yellowest hair, the longest lashes on the prettiest, falsest
eyes, the oldest lace on the most violet velvet, the rightest
manner on the wrongest assumption. Her ladyship's assumption was
that she kept, at every moment of her life, every advantage--it
made her beautifully soft, very nearly generous; so she didn't
distinguish the little protuberant eyes of smaller social
insects, often endowed with such a range, from the other
decorative spots on their bodies and wings. Maggie had liked, in
London, and in the world at large, so many more people than she
had thought it right to fear, right even to so much as judge,
that it positively quickened her fever to have to recognise, in
this case, such a lapse of all the sequences. It was only that a
charming clever woman wondered about her--that is wondered about
her as Amerigo's wife, and wondered, moreover, with the intention
of kindness and the spontaneity, almost, of surprise.

The point of view--that one--was what she read in their free
contemplation, in that of the whole eight; there was something in
Amerigo to be explained, and she was passed about, all tenderly
and expertly, like a dressed doll held, in the right manner, by
its firmly-stuffed middle, for the account she could give. She
might have been made to give it by pressure of her stomach; she
might have been expected to articulate, with a rare imitation of
nature, "Oh yes, I'm HERE all the while; I'm also in my way a
solid little fact and I cost originally a great deal of money:
cost, that is, my father, for my outfit, and let in my husband
for an amount of pains--toward my training--that money would
scarce represent." Well, she WOULD meet them in some such way,
and she translated her idea into action, after dinner, before
they dispersed, by engaging them all, unconventionally, almost
violently, to dine with her in Portland Place, just as they were,
if they didn't mind the same party, which was the party she
wanted. Oh she was going, she was going--she could feel it
afresh; it was a good deal as if she had sneezed ten times or had
suddenly burst into a comic song. There were breaks in the
connection, as there would be hitches in the process; she didn't
wholly see, yet, what they would do for her, nor quite how,
herself, she should handle them; but she was dancing up and down,
beneath her propriety, with the thought that she had at least
begun something--she so fairly liked to feel that she was a point
for convergence of wonder. It wasn't after all, either, that
THEIR wonder so much signified--that of the cornered six, whom it
glimmered before her that she might still live to drive about
like a flock of sheep: the intensity of her consciousness, its
sharpest savour, was in the theory of her having diverted,
having, as they said, captured the attention of Amerigo and
Charlotte, at neither of whom, all the while, did she so much as
once look. She had pitched them in with the six, for that matter,
so far as they themselves were concerned; they had dropped, for
the succession of minutes, out of contact with their function--
had, in short, startled and impressed, abandoned their post.
"They're paralysed, they're paralysed!" she commented, deep
within; so much it helped her own apprehension to hang together
that they should suddenly lose their bearings.

Her grasp of appearances was thus out of proportion to her view
of causes; but it came to her then and there that if she could
only get the facts of appearance straight, only jam them down
into their place, the reasons lurking behind them, kept
uncertain, for the eyes, by their wavering and shifting, wouldn't
perhaps be able to help showing. It wasn't of course that the
Prince and Mrs. Verver marvelled to see her civil to their
friends; it was rather, precisely, that civil was just what she
wasn't: she had so departed from any such custom of delicate
approach--approach by the permitted note, the suggested "if," the
accepted vagueness--as would enable the people in question to put
her off if they wished. And the profit of her plan, the effect of
the violence she was willing to let it go for, was exactly in
their BEING the people in question, people she had seemed to be
rather shy of before and for whom she suddenly opened her mouth
so wide. Later on, we may add, with the ground soon covered by
her agitated but resolute step, it was to cease to matter what
people they were or weren't; but meanwhile the particular sense
of them that she had taken home to-night had done her the service
of seeming to break the ice where that formation was thickest.
Still more unexpectedly, the service might have been the same for
her father; inasmuch as, immediately, when everyone had gone, he
did exactly what she had been waiting for and despairing of--and
did it, as he did everything, with a simplicity that left any
purpose of sounding him deeper, of drawing him out further, of
going, in his own frequent phrase, "behind" what he said, nothing
whatever to do. He brought it out straight, made it bravely and
beautifully irrelevant, save for the plea of what they should
lose by breaking the charm: "I guess we won't go down there after
all, will we, Mag?--just when it's getting so pleasant here."
That was all, with nothing to lead up to it; but it was done for
her at a stroke, and done, not less, more rather, for Amerigo and
Charlotte, on whom the immediate effect, as she secretly, as she
almost breathlessly measured it, was prodigious. Everything now
so fitted for her to everything else that she could feel the
effect as prodigious even while sticking to her policy of giving
the pair no look. There were thus some five wonderful minutes
during which they loomed, to her sightless eyes, on either side
of her, larger than they had ever loomed before, larger than
life, larger than thought, larger than any danger or any safety.
There was thus a space of time, in fine, fairly vertiginous for
her, during which she took no more account of them than if they
were not in the room.

She had never, never treated them in any such way--not even just
now, when she had plied her art upon the Matcham band; her
present manner was an intenser exclusion, and the air was charged
with their silence while she talked with her other companion as
if she had nothing but him to consider. He had given her the note
amazingly, by his allusion to the pleasantness--that of such an
occasion as his successful dinner--which might figure as their
bribe for renouncing; so that it was all as if they were speaking
selfishly, counting on a repetition of just such extensions of
experience. Maggie achieved accordingly an act of unprecedented
energy, threw herself into her father's presence as by the
absolute consistency with which she held his eyes; saying to
herself, at the same time that she smiled and talked and
inaugurated her system, "What does he mean by it? That's the
question--what does he mean?" but studying again all the signs in
him that recent anxiety had made familiar and counting the
stricken minutes on the part of the others. It was in their
silence that the others loomed, as she felt; she had had no
measure, she afterwards knew, of this duration, but it drew out
and out--really to what would have been called in simpler
conditions awkwardness--as if she herself were stretching the
cord. Ten minutes later, however, in the homeward carriage, to
which her husband, cutting delay short, had proceeded at the
first announcement, ten minutes later she was to stretch it
almost to breaking. The Prince had permitted her to linger much
less, before his move to the door, than they usually lingered at
the gossiping close of such evenings; which she, all responsive,
took for a sign of his impatience to modify for her the odd
effect of his not having, and of Charlotte's not having,
instantly acclaimed the issue of the question debated, or more
exactly, settled, before them. He had had time to become aware of
this possible impression in her, and his virtually urging her
into the carriage was connected with his feeling that he must
take action on the new ground. A certain ambiguity in her would
absolutely have tormented him; but he had already found something
to soothe and correct--as to which she had, on her side, a shrewd
notion of what it would be. She was herself, for that matter,
prepared, and she was, of a truth, as she took her seat in the
brougham, amazed at her preparation. It allowed her scarce an
interval; she brought it straight out.

"I was certain that was what father would say if I should leave
him alone. I HAVE been leaving him alone, and you see the effect.
He hates now to move--he likes too much to be with us. But if you
see the effect"--she felt herself magnificently keeping it up--
"perhaps you don't see the cause. The cause, my dear, is too

Her husband, on taking his place beside her, had, during a minute
or two, for her watching sense, neither said nor done anything;
he had been, for that sense, as if thinking, waiting, deciding:
yet it was still before he spoke that he, as she felt it to be,
definitely acted. He put his arm round her and drew her close--
indulged in the demonstration, the long, firm embrace by his
single arm, the infinite pressure of her whole person to his own,
that such opportunities had so often suggested and prescribed.
Held, accordingly, and, as she could but too intimately feel,
exquisitely solicited, she had said the thing she was intending
and desiring to say, and as to which she felt, even more than she
felt anything else, that whatever he might do she mustn't be
irresponsible. Yes, she was in his exerted grasp, and she knew
what that was; but she was at the same time in the grasp of her
conceived responsibility, and the extraordinary thing was that,
of the two intensities, the second was presently to become the
sharper. He took his time for it meanwhile, but he met her speech
after a fashion.

"The cause of your father's deciding not to go?"

"Yes, and of my having wanted to let it act for him quietly--I
mean without my insistence." She had, in her compressed state,
another pause, and it made her feel as if she were immensely
resisting. Strange enough was this sense for her, and altogether
new, the sense of possessing, by miraculous help, some advantage
that, absolutely then and there, in the carriage, as they rolled,
she might either give up or keep. Strange, inexpressibly
strange--so distinctly she saw that if she did give it up she
should somehow give up everything for ever. And what her
husband's grasp really meant, as her very bones registered, was
that she SHOULD give it up: it was exactly for this that he had
resorted to unfailing magic. He KNEW HOW to resort to it--he
could be, on occasion, as she had lately more than ever learned,
so munificent a lover: all of which was, precisely, a part of the
character she had never ceased to regard in him as princely, a
part of his large and beautiful ease, his genius for charm, for
intercourse, for expression, for life. She should have but to lay
her head back on his shoulder with a certain movement to make it
definite for him that she didn't resist. To this, as they went,
every throb of her consciousness prompted her--every throb, that
is, but one, the throb of her deeper need to know where she
"really" was. By the time she had uttered the rest of her idea,
therefore, she was still keeping her head and intending to keep
it; though she was also staring out of the carriage-window with
eyes into which the tears of suffered pain had risen,
indistinguishable, perhaps, happily, in the dusk. She was making
an effort that horribly hurt her, and, as she couldn't cry out,
her eyes swam in her silence. With them, all the same, through
the square opening beside her, through the grey panorama of the
London night, she achieved the feat of not losing sight of what
she wanted; and her lips helped and protected her by being able
to be gay. "It's not to leave YOU, my dear--for that he'll give
up anything; just as he would go off anywhere, I think, you know,
if you would go with him. I mean you and he alone," Maggie
pursued with her gaze out of her window.

For which Amerigo's answer again took him a moment. "Ah, the dear
old boy! You would like me to propose him something--?"

"Well, if you think you could bear it."

"And leave," the Prince asked, "you and Charlotte alone?"

"Why not?" Maggie had also to wait a minute, but when she spoke
it came clear. "Why shouldn't Charlotte be just one of MY
reasons--my not liking to leave her? She has always been so good,
so perfect, to me--but never so wonderfully as just now. We have
somehow been more together--thinking, for the time, almost only
of each other; it has been quite as in old days." And she
proceeded consummately, for she felt it as consummate: "It's as
if we had been missing each other, had got a little apart--though
going on so side by side. But the good moments, if one only waits
for them," she hastened to add, "come round of themselves.
Moreover you've seen for yourself, since you've made it up so to
father; feeling, for yourself, in your beautiful way, every
difference, every air that blows; not having to be told or
pushed, only being perfect to live with, through your habit of
kindness and your exquisite instincts. But of course you've
seen, all the while, that both he and I have deeply felt how
you've managed; managed that he hasn't been too much alone and
that I, on my side, haven't appeared, to--what you might call--
neglect him. This is always," she continued, "what I can never
bless you enough for; of all the good things you've done for me
you've never done anything better." She went on explaining as for
the pleasure of explaining--even though knowing he must
recognise, as a part of his easy way too, her description of his
large liberality. "Your taking the child down yourself, those
days, and your coming, each time, to bring him away--nothing in
the world, nothing you could have invented, would have kept
father more under the charm. Besides, you know how you've always
suited him, and how you've always so beautifully let it seem to
him that he suits you. Only it has been, these last weeks, as if
you wished--just in order to please him--to remind him of it
afresh. So there it is," she wound up; "it's your doing. You've
produced your effect--that of his wanting not to be, even for a
month or two, where you're not. He doesn't want to bother or bore
you--THAT, I think, you know, he never has done; and if you'll
only give me time I'll come round again to making it my care, as
always, that he shan't. But he can't bear you out of his sight."

She had kept it up and up, filling it out, crowding it in; and
all, really, without difficulty, for it was, every word of it,
thanks to a long evolution of feeling, what she had been primed
to the brim with. She made the picture, forced it upon him, hung
it before him; remembering, happily, how he had gone so far, one
day, supported by the Principino, as to propose the Zoo in Eaton
Square, to carry with him there, on the spot, under this pleasant
inspiration, both his elder and his younger companion, with the
latter of whom he had taken the tone that they were introducing
Granddaddy, Granddaddy nervous and rather funking it, to lions
and tigers more or less at large. Touch by touch she thus dropped
into her husband's silence the truth about his good nature and
his good manners; and it was this demonstration of his virtue,
precisely, that added to the strangeness, even for herself, of
her failing as yet to yield to him. It would be a question but of
the most trivial act of surrender, the vibration of a nerve, the
mere movement of a muscle; but the act grew important between
them just through her doing perceptibly nothing, nothing but talk
in the very tone that would naturally have swept her into
tenderness. She knew more and more--every lapsing minute taught
her--how he might by a single rightness make her cease to watch
him; that rightness, a million miles removed from the queer
actual, falling so short, which would consist of his breaking out
to her diviningly, indulgently, with the last happy
inconsequence. "Come away with me, somewhere, YOU--and then we
needn't think, we needn't even talk, of anything, of anyone
else:" five words like that would answer her, would break her
utterly down. But they were the only ones that would so serve.
She waited for them, and there was a supreme instant when, by the
testimony of all the rest of him, she seemed to feel them in his
heart and on his lips; only they didn't sound, and as that made
her wait again so it made her more intensely watch. This in turn
showed her that he too watched and waited, and how much he had
expected something that he now felt wouldn't come. Yes, it
wouldn't come if he didn't answer her, if he but said the wrong
things instead of the right. If he could say the right everything
would come--it hung by a hair that everything might crystallise
for their recovered happiness at his touch. This possibility
glowed at her, however, for fifty seconds, only then to turn
cold, and as it fell away from her she felt the chill of reality
and knew again, all but pressed to his heart and with his breath
upon her cheek, the slim rigour of her attitude, a rigour beyond
that of her natural being. They had silences, at last, that were
almost crudities of mutual resistance--silences that persisted
through his felt effort to treat her recurrence to the part he
had lately played, to interpret all the sweetness of her so
talking to him, as a manner of making love to him. Ah, it was no
such manner, heaven knew, for Maggie; she could make love, if
this had been in question, better than that! On top of which it
came to her presently to say, keeping in with what she had
already spoken: "Except of course that, for the question of going
off somewhere, he'd go readily, quite delightedly, with you. I
verily believe he'd like to have you for a while to himself."

"Do you mean he thinks of proposing it?" the Prince after a
moment sounded.

"Oh no--he doesn't ask, as you must so often have seen. But I
believe he'd go 'like a shot,' as you say, if you were to suggest

It had the air, she knew, of a kind of condition made, and she
had asked herself while she spoke if it wouldn't cause his arm to
let her go. The fact that it didn't suggested to her that she had
made him, of a sudden, still more intensely think, think with
such concentration that he could do but one thing at once. And it
was precisely as if the concentration had the next moment been
proved in him. He took a turn inconsistent with the superficial
impression--a jump that made light of their approach to gravity
and represented for her the need in him to gain time. That she
made out, was his drawback--that the warning from her had come to
him, and had come to Charlotte, after all, too suddenly. That
they were in face of it rearranging, that they had to rearrange,
was all before her again; yet to do as they would like they must
enjoy a snatch, longer or shorter, of recovered independence.
Amerigo, for the instant, was but doing as he didn't like, and it
was as if she were watching his effort without disguise. "What's
your father's idea, this year, then, about Fawns? Will he go at
Whitsuntide, and will he then stay on?"

Maggie went through the form of thought. "He will really do, I
imagine, as he has, in so many ways, so often done before; do
whatever may seem most agreeable to yourself. And there's of
course always Charlotte to be considered. Only their going early
to Fawns, if they do go," she said, "needn't in the least entail
your and my going."

"Ah," Amerigo echoed, "it needn't in the least entail your and my

"We can do as we like. What they may do needn't trouble us, since
they're by good fortune perfectly happy together."

"Oh," the Prince returned, "your father's never so happy as with
you near him to enjoy his being so."

"Well, I may enjoy it," said Maggie, "but I'm not the cause of

"You're the cause," her husband declared, "of the greater part of
everything that's good among us." But she received this tribute
in silence, and the next moment he pursued: "If Mrs. Verver has
arrears of time with you to make up, as you say, she'll scarcely
do it--or you scarcely will--by our cutting, your and my cutting,
too loose."

"I see what you mean," Maggie mused.

He let her for a little to give her attention to it; after which,
"Shall I just quite, of a sudden," he asked, "propose him a

Maggie hesitated, but she brought forth the fruit of reflection.
"It would have the merit that Charlotte then would be with me--
with me, I mean, so much more. Also that I shouldn't, by choosing
such a time for going away, seem unconscious and ungrateful, seem
not to respond, seem in fact rather to wish to shake her off. I
should respond, on the contrary, very markedly--by being here
alone with her for a month."

"And would you like to be here alone with her for a month?"

"I could do with it beautifully. Or we might even," she said
quite gaily, "go together down to Fawns."

"You could be so very content without me?" the Prince presently

"Yes, my own dear--if you could be content for a while with
father. That would keep me up. I might, for the time," she went
on, "go to stay there with Charlotte; or, better still, she might
come to Portland Place."

"Oho!" said the Prince with cheerful vagueness.

"I should feel, you see," she continued, "that the two of us were
showing the same sort of kindness."

Amerigo thought. "The two of us? Charlotte and I?"

Maggie again hesitated. "You and I, darling."

"I see, I see"--he promptly took it in. "And what reason shall I
give--give, I mean, your father?"

"For asking him to go off? Why, the very simplest--if you
conscientiously can. The desire," said Maggie, "to be agreeable
to him. Just that only."

Something in this reply made her husband again reflect.
"'Conscientiously?' Why shouldn't I conscientiously? It wouldn't,
by your own contention," he developed, "represent any surprise
for him. I must strike him sufficiently as, at the worst, the
last person in the world to wish to do anything to hurt him."

Ah, there it was again, for Maggie--the note already sounded, the
note of the felt need of not working harm! Why this precautionary
view, she asked herself afresh, when her father had complained,
at the very least, as little as herself? With their stillness
together so perfect, what had suggested so, around them, the
attitude of sparing them? Her inner vision fixed it once more,
this attitude, saw it, in the others, as vivid and concrete,
extended it straight from her companion to Charlotte. Before she
was well aware, accordingly, she had echoed in this intensity of
thought Amerigo's last words. "You're the last person in the
world to wish to do anything to hurt him."

She heard herself, heard her tone, after she had spoken, and
heard it the more that, for a minute after, she felt her
husband's eyes on her face, very close, too close for her to see
him. He was looking at her because he was struck, and looking
hard--though his answer, when it came, was straight enough. "Why,
isn't that just what we have been talking about--that I've
affected you as fairly studying his comfort and his pleasure? He
might show his sense of it," the Prince went on, "by proposing to
ME an excursion."

"And you would go with him?" Maggie immediately asked.

He hung fire but an instant. "Per Dio!"

She also had her pause, but she broke it--since gaiety was in the
air--with an intense smile. "You can say that safely, because the
proposal's one that, of his own motion, he won't make."

She couldn't have narrated afterwards--and in fact was at a loss
to tell herself--by what transition, what rather marked
abruptness of change in their personal relation, their drive came
to its end with a kind of interval established, almost confessed
to, between them. She felt it in the tone with which he repeated,
after her, "'Safely'--?"

"Safely as regards being thrown with him perhaps after all, in
such a case, too long. He's a person to think you might easily
feel yourself to be. So it won't," Maggie said, "come from
father. He's too modest."

Their eyes continued to meet on it, from corner to corner of the
brougham. "Oh your modesty, between you--!" But he still smiled
for it. "So that unless I insist--?"

"We shall simply go on as we are."

"Well, we're going on beautifully," he answered--though by no
means with the effect it would have had if their mute
transaction, that of attempted capture and achieved escape, had
not taken place. As Maggie said nothing, none the less, to
gainsay his remark, it was open to him to find himself the next
moment conscious of still another idea. "I wonder if it would do.
I mean for me to break in."

"'To break in'--?"

"Between your father and his wife. But there would be a way," he
said--"we can make Charlotte ask him." And then as Maggie herself
now wondered, echoing it again: "We can suggest to her to suggest
to him that he shall let me take him off."

"Oh!" said Maggie.

"Then if he asks her why I so suddenly break out she'll be able
to tell him the reason."

They were stopping, and the footman, who had alighted, had rung
at the house-door. "That you think it would be so charming?"

"That I think it would be so charming. That we've persuaded HER
will be convincing."

"I see," Maggie went on while the footman came back to let them
out. "I see," she said again; though she felt a little
disconcerted. What she really saw, of a sudden, was that her
stepmother might report her as above all concerned for the
proposal, and this brought her back her need that her father
shouldn't think her concerned in any degree for anything. She
alighted the next instant with a slight sense of defeat; her
husband, to let her out, had passed before her, and, a little in
advance, he awaited her on the edge of the low terrace, a step
high, that preceded their open entrance, on either side of which
one of their servants stood. The sense of a life tremendously
ordered and fixed rose before her, and there was something in
Amerigo's very face, while his eyes again met her own through the
dusky lamplight, that was like a conscious reminder of it. He
had answered her, just before, distinctly, and it appeared to
leave her nothing to say. It was almost as if, having planned for
the last word, she saw him himself enjoying it. It was almost as
if--in the strangest way in the world--he were paying her back,
by the production of a small pang, that of a new uneasiness, for
the way she had slipped from him during their drive.


Maggie's new uneasiness might have had time to drop, inasmuch as
she not only was conscious, during several days that followed, of
no fresh indication for it to feed on, but was even struck, in
quite another way, with an augmentation of the symptoms of that
difference she had taken it into her head to work for. She
recognised by the end of a week that if she had been in a manner
caught up her father had been not less so--with the effect of her
husband's and his wife's closing in, together, round them, and of
their all having suddenly begun, as a party of four, to lead a
life gregarious, and from that reason almost hilarious, so far as
the easy sound of it went, as never before. It might have been an
accident and a mere coincidence--so at least she said to herself
at first; but a dozen chances that furthered the whole appearance
had risen to the surface, pleasant pretexts, oh certainly
pleasant, as pleasant as Amerigo in particular could make them,
for associated undertakings, quite for shared adventures, for its
always turning out, amusingly, that they wanted to do very much
the same thing at the same time and in the same way. Funny all
this was, to some extent, in the light of the fact that the
father and daughter, for so long, had expressed so few positive
desires; yet it would be sufficiently natural that if Amerigo and
Charlotte HAD at last got a little tired of each other's company
they should find their relief not so much in sinking to the
rather low level of their companions as in wishing to pull the
latter into the train in which they so constantly moved. "We're
in the train," Maggie mutely reflected after the dinner in Eaton
Square with Lady Castledean; "we've suddenly waked up in it and
found ourselves rushing along, very much as if we had been put in
during sleep--shoved, like a pair of labelled boxes, into the
van. And since I wanted to 'go' I'm certainly going," she might
have added; "I'm moving without trouble--they're doing it all for
us: it's wonderful how they understand and how perfectly it
succeeds." For that was the thing she had most immediately to
acknowledge: it seemed as easy for them to make a quartette as it
had formerly so long appeared for them to make a pair of
couples--this latter being thus a discovery too absurdly belated.
The only point at which, day after day, the success appeared at
all qualified was represented, as might have been said, by her
irresistible impulse to give her father a clutch when the train
indulged in one of its occasional lurches. Then--there was no
denying it--his eyes and her own met; so that they were
themselves doing active violence, as against the others, to that
very spirit of union, or at least to that very achievement of
change, which she had taken the field to invoke.

The maximum of change was reached, no doubt, the day the Matcham
party dined in Portland Place; the day, really perhaps, of
Maggie's maximum of social glory, in the sense of its showing for
her own occasion, her very own, with every one else extravagantly
rallying and falling in, absolutely conspiring to make her its
heroine. It was as if her father himself, always with more
initiative as a guest than as a host, had dabbled too in the
conspiracy; and the impression was not diminished by the presence
of the Assinghams, likewise very much caught-up, now, after
something of a lull, by the side-wind of all the rest of the
motion, and giving our young woman, so far at least as Fanny was
concerned, the sense of some special intention of encouragement
and applause. Fanny, who had not been present at the other
dinner, thanks to a preference entertained and expressed by
Charlotte, made a splendid show at this one, in new
orange-coloured velvet with multiplied turquoises, and with a
confidence, furthermore, as different as possible, her hostess
inferred, from her too-marked betrayal of a belittled state at
Matcham. Maggie was not indifferent to her own opportunity to
redress this balance--which seemed, for the hour, part of a
general rectification; she liked making out for herself that on
the high level of Portland Place, a spot exempt, on all sorts of
grounds, from jealous jurisdictions, her friend could feel as
"good" as any one, and could in fact at moments almost appear to
take the lead in recognition and celebration, so far as the
evening might conduce to intensify the lustre of the little
Princess. Mrs. Assingham produced on her the impression of giving
her constantly her cue for this; and it was in truth partly by
her help, intelligently, quite gratefully accepted, that the
little Princess, in Maggie, was drawn out and emphasised. She
couldn't definitely have said how it happened, but she felt
herself, for the first time in her career, living up to the
public and popular notion of such a personage, as it pressed upon
her from all round; rather wondering, inwardly too, while she did
so, at that strange mixture in things through which the popular
notion could be evidenced for her by such supposedly great ones
of the earth as the Castledeans and their kind. Fanny Assingham
might really have been there, at all events, like one of the
assistants in the ring at the circus, to keep up the pace of the
sleek revolving animal on whose back the lady in short spangled
skirts should brilliantly caper and posture. That was all,
doubtless Maggie had forgotten, had neglected, had declined, to
be the little Princess on anything like the scale open to her;
but now that the collective hand had been held out to her with
such alacrity, so that she might skip up into the light, even, as
seemed to her modest mind, with such a show of pink stocking and
such an abbreviation of white petticoat, she could strike herself
as perceiving, under arched eyebrows, where her mistake had been.
She had invited for the later hours, after her dinner, a fresh
contingent, the whole list of her apparent London acquaintance--
which was again a thing in the manner of little princesses for
whom the princely art was a matter of course. That was what she
was learning to do, to fill out as a matter of course her
appointed, her expected, her imposed character; and, though there
were latent considerations that somewhat interfered with the
lesson, she was having to-night an inordinate quantity of
practice, none of it so successful as when, quite wittingly, she
directed it at Lady Castledean, who was reduced by it at last to
an unprecedented state of passivity. The perception of this high
result caused Mrs. Assingham fairly to flush with responsive joy;
she glittered at her young friend, from moment to moment, quite
feverishly; it was positively as if her young friend had, in some
marvellous, sudden, supersubtle way, become a source of succour
to herself, become beautifully, divinely retributive. The
intensity of the taste of these registered phenomena was in fact
that somehow, by a process and through a connexion not again to
be traced, she so practised, at the same time, on Amerigo and
Charlotte--with only the drawback, her constant check and
second-thought, that she concomitantly practised perhaps still
more on her father.

This last was a danger indeed that, for much of the ensuing time,
had its hours of strange beguilement--those at which her sense
for precautions so suffered itself to lapse that she felt her
communion with him more intimate than any other. It COULDN'T but
pass between them that something singular was happening--so much
as this she again and again said to herself; whereby the comfort
of it was there, after all, to be noted, just as much as the
possible peril, and she could think of the couple they formed
together as groping, with sealed lips, but with mutual looks that
had never been so tender, for some freedom, some fiction, some
figured bravery, under which they might safely talk of it. The
moment was to come--and it finally came with an effect as
penetrating as the sound that follows the pressure of an electric
button--when she read the least helpful of meanings into the
agitation she had created. The merely specious description of
their case would have been that, after being for a long time, as
a family, delightfully, uninterruptedly happy, they had still had
a new felicity to discover; a felicity for which, blessedly, her
father's appetite and her own, in particular, had been kept fresh
and grateful. This livelier march of their intercourse as a whole
was the thing that occasionally determined in him the clutching
instinct we have glanced at; very much as if he had said to her,
in default of her breaking silence first: "Everything is
remarkably pleasant, isn't it?--but WHERE, for it, after all, are
we? up in a balloon and whirling through space, or down in the
depths of the earth, in the glimmering passages of a gold-mine?"
The equilibrium, the precious condition, lasted in spite of
rearrangement; there had been a fresh distribution of the
different weights, but the balance persisted and triumphed: all
of which was just the reason why she was forbidden, face to face
with the companion of her adventure, the experiment of a test. If
they balanced they balanced--she had to take that; it deprived
her of every pretext for arriving, by however covert a process,
at what he thought.

But she had her hours, thus, of feeling supremely linked to him
by the rigour of their law, and when it came over her that, all
the while, the wish, on his side, to spare her might be what most
worked with him, this very fact of their seeming to have nothing
"inward" really to talk about wrapped him up for her in a kind of
sweetness that was wanting, as a consecration, even in her
yearning for her husband. She was powerless, however, was only
more utterly hushed, when the interrupting flash came, when she
would have been all ready to say to him, "Yes, this is by every
appearance the best time we've had yet; but don't you see, all
the same, how they must be working together for it, and how my
very success, my success in shifting our beautiful harmony to a
new basis, comes round to being their success, above all; their
cleverness, their amiability, their power to hold out, their
complete possession, in short, of our life?" For how could she
say as much as that without saying a great deal more? without
saying "They'll do everything in the world that suits us, save
only one thing--prescribe a line for us that will make them
separate." How could she so much as imagine herself even faintly
murmuring that without putting into his mouth the very words that
would have made her quail? "Separate, my dear? Do you want them
to separate? Then you want US to--you and me? For how can the one
separation take place without the other?" That was the question
that, in spirit, she had heard him ask--with its dread train,
moreover, of involved and connected inquiries. Their own
separation, his and hers, was of course perfectly thinkable, but
only on the basis of the sharpest of reasons. Well, the sharpest,
the very sharpest, would be that they could no longer afford, as
it were, he to let his wife, she to let her husband, "run" them
in such compact formation. And say they accepted this account of
their situation as a practical finality, acting upon it and
proceeding to a division, would no sombre ghosts of the smothered
past, on either side, show, across the widening strait, pale
unappeased faces, or raise, in the very passage, deprecating,
denouncing hands?

Meanwhile, however such things might be, she was to have occasion
to say to herself that there might be but a deeper treachery in
recoveries and reassurances. She was to feel alone again, as she
had felt at the issue of her high tension with her husband during
their return from meeting the Castledeans in Eaton Square. The
evening in question had left her with a larger alarm, but then a
lull had come--the alarm, after all, was yet to be confirmed.
There came an hour, inevitably, when she knew, with a chill, what
she had feared and why; it had taken, this hour, a month to
arrive, but to find it before her was thoroughly to recognise it,
for it showed her sharply what Amerigo had meant in alluding to a
particular use that they might make, for their reaffirmed harmony
and prosperity, of Charlotte. The more she thought, at present,
of the tone he had employed to express their enjoyment of this
resource, the more it came back to her as the product of a
conscious art of dealing with her. He had been conscious, at the
moment, of many things--conscious even, not a little, of
desiring; and thereby of needing, to see what she would do in a
given case. The given case would be that of her being to a
certain extent, as she might fairly make it out, MENACED--
horrible as it was to impute to him any intention represented by
such a word. Why it was that to speak of making her stepmother
intervene, as they might call it, in a question that seemed, just
then and there, quite peculiarly their own business--why it was
that a turn so familiar and so easy should, at the worst, strike
her as charged with the spirit of a threat, was an oddity
disconnected, for her, temporarily, from its grounds, the
adventure of an imagination within her that possibly had lost its
way. That, precisely, was doubtless why she had learned to wait,
as the weeks passed by, with a fair, or rather indeed with an
excessive, imitation of resumed serenity. There had been no
prompt sequel to the Prince's equivocal light, and that made for
patience; yet she was none the less to have to admit, after
delay, that the bread he had cast on the waters had come home,
and that she should thus be justified of her old apprehension.
The consequence of this, in turn, was a renewed pang in presence
of his remembered ingenuity. To be ingenious with HER--what
DIDN'T, what mightn't that mean, when she had so absolutely
never, at any point of contact with him, put him, by as much as
the value of a penny, to the expense of sparing, doubting,
fearing her, of having in any way whatever to reckon with her?
The ingenuity had been in his simply speaking of their use of
Charlotte as if it were common to them in an equal degree, and
his triumph, on the occasion, had been just in the simplicity.
She couldn't--and he knew it--say what was true: "Oh, you 'use'
her, and I use her, if you will, yes; but we use her ever so
differently and separately--not at all in the same way or degree.
There's nobody we really use together but ourselves, don't you
see?--by which I mean that where our interests are the same I can
so beautifully, so exquisitely serve you for everything, and you
can so beautifully, so exquisitely serve me. The only person
either of us needs is the other of us; so why, as a matter of
course, in such a case as this, drag in Charlotte?"

She couldn't so challenge him, because it would have been--and
there she was paralysed--the NOTE. It would have translated
itself on the spot, for his ear, into jealousy; and, from
reverberation to repercussion, would have reached her father's
exactly in the form of a cry piercing the stillness of peaceful
sleep. It had been for many days almost as difficult for her to
catch a quiet twenty minutes with her father as it had formerly
been easy; there had been in fact, of old--the time, so
strangely, seemed already far away--an inevitability in her
longer passages with him, a sort of domesticated beauty in the
calculability, round about them, of everything. But at present
Charlotte was almost always there when Amerigo brought her to
Eaton Square, where Amerigo was constantly bringing her; and
Amerigo was almost always there when Charlotte brought her
husband to Portland Place, where Charlotte was constantly
bringing HIM. The fractions of occasions, the chance minutes that
put them face to face had, as yet, of late, contrived to count
but little, between them, either for the sense of opportunity or
for that of exposure; inasmuch as the lifelong rhythm of their
intercourse made against all cursory handling of deep things.
They had never availed themselves of any given quarter-of-an-hour
to gossip about fundamentals; they moved slowly through large
still spaces; they could be silent together, at any time,
beautifully, with much more comfort than hurriedly expressive. It
appeared indeed to have become true that their common appeal
measured itself, for vividness, just by this economy of sound;
they might have been talking "at" each other when they talked
with their companions, but these latter, assuredly, were not in
any directer way to gain light on the current phase of their
relation. Such were some of the reasons for which Maggie
suspected fundamentals, as I have called them, to be rising, by a
new movement, to the surface--suspected it one morning late in
May, when her father presented himself in Portland Place alone.
He had his pretext--of that she was fully aware: the Principino,
two days before, had shown signs, happily not persistent, of a
feverish cold and had notoriously been obliged to spend the
interval at home. This was ground, ample ground, for punctual
inquiry; but what it wasn't ground for, she quickly found herself
reflecting, was his having managed, in the interest of his visit,
to dispense so unwontedly--as their life had recently come to be
arranged--with his wife's attendance. It had so happened that she
herself was, for the hour, exempt from her husband's, and it will
at once be seen that the hour had a quality all its own when I
note that, remembering how the Prince had looked in to say he was
going out, the Princess whimsically wondered if their respective
sposi mightn't frankly be meeting, whimsically hoped indeed they
were temporarily so disposed of. Strange was her need, at
moments, to think of them as not attaching an excessive
importance to their repudiation of the general practice that had
rested only a few weeks before on such a consecrated rightness.
Repudiations, surely, were not in the air--they had none of them
come to that; for wasn't she at this minute testifying directly
against them by her own behaviour? When she should confess to
fear of being alone with her father, to fear of what he might
then--ah, with such a slow, painful motion as she had a horror
of!--say to her, THEN would be time enough for Amerigo and
Charlotte to confess to not liking to appear to foregather.

She had this morning a wonderful consciousness both of dreading a
particular question from him and of being able to check, yes even
to disconcert, magnificently, by her apparent manner of receiving
it, any restless imagination he might have about its importance.
The day, bright and soft, had the breath of summer; it made them
talk, to begin with, of Fawns, of the way Fawns invited--Maggie
aware, the while, that in thus regarding, with him, the sweetness
of its invitation to one couple just as much as to another, her
humbugging smile grew very nearly convulsive. That was it, and
there was relief truly, of a sort, in taking it in: she was
humbugging him already, by absolute necessity, as she had never,
never done in her life--doing it up to the full height of what
she had allowed for. The necessity, in the great dimly-shining
room where, declining, for his reasons, to sit down, he moved
about in Amerigo's very footsteps, the necessity affected her as
pressing upon her with the very force of the charm itself; of the
old pleasantness, between them, so candidly playing up there
again; of the positive flatness of their tenderness, a surface
all for familiar use, quite as if generalised from the long
succession of tapestried sofas, sweetly faded, on which his
theory of contentment had sat, through unmeasured pauses, beside
her own. She KNEW, from this instant, knew in advance and as well
as anything would ever teach her, that she must never intermit
for a solitary second her so highly undertaking to prove that
there was nothing the matter with her. She saw, of a sudden,
everything she might say or do in the light of that undertaking,
established connections from it with any number of remote
matters, struck herself, for instance, as acting all in its
interest when she proposed their going out, in the exercise of
their freedom and in homage to the season, for a turn in the
Regent's Park. This resort was close at hand, at the top of
Portland Place, and the Principino, beautifully better, had
already proceeded there under high attendance: all of which
considerations were defensive for Maggie, all of which became, to
her mind, part of the business of cultivating continuity.

Upstairs, while she left him to put on something to go out in,
the thought of his waiting below for her, in possession of the
empty house, brought with it, sharply if briefly, one of her
abrupt arrests of consistency, the brush of a vain imagination
almost paralysing her, often, for the minute, before her glass--
the vivid look, in other words, of the particular difference
his marriage had made. The particular difference seemed at such
instants the loss, more than anything else, of their old freedom,
their never having had to think, where they were together
concerned, of any one, of anything but each other. It hadn't been
HER marriage that did it; that had never, for three seconds,
suggested to either of them that they must act diplomatically,
must reckon with another presence--no, not even with her
husband's. She groaned to herself, while the vain imagination
lasted, "WHY did he marry? ah, why DID he?" and then it came up
to her more than ever that nothing could have been more beautiful
than the way in which, till Charlotte came so much more closely
into their life, Amerigo hadn't interfered. What she had gone on
owing him for this mounted up again, to her eyes, like a column
of figures---or call it even, if one would, a house of cards; it
was her father's wonderful act that had tipped the house down and
made the sum wrong. With all of which, immediately after her
question, her "Why did he, why did he?" rushed back, inevitably,
the confounding, the overwhelming wave of the knowledge of his
reason. "He did it for ME, he did it for me," she moaned, "he did
it, exactly, that our freedom--meaning, beloved man, simply and
solely mine--should be greater instead of less; he did it,
divinely, to liberate me so far as possible from caring what
became of him." She found time upstairs, even in her haste, as
she had repeatedly found time before, to let the wonderments
involved in these recognitions flash at her with their customary
effect of making her blink: the question in especial of whether
she might find her solution in acting, herself, in the spirit of
what he had done, in forcing her "care" really to grow as much
less as he had tried to make it. Thus she felt the whole weight
of their case drop afresh upon her shoulders, was confronted,
unmistakably, with the prime source of her haunted state. It all
came from her not having been able not to mind--not to mind what
became of him; not having been able, without anxiety, to let him
go his way and take his risk and lead his life. She had made
anxiety her stupid little idol; and absolutely now, while she
stuck a long pin, a trifle fallaciously, into her hat--she had,
with an approach to irritation, told her maid, a new woman, whom
she had lately found herself thinking of as abysmal, that she
didn't want her--she tried to focus the possibility of some
understanding between them in consequence of which he should cut

Very near indeed it looked, any such possibility! that
consciousness, too, had taken its turn by the time she was ready;
all the vibration, all the emotion of this present passage being,
precisely, in the very sweetness of their lapse back into the
conditions of the simpler time, into a queer resemblance between
the aspect and the feeling of the moment and those of numberless
other moments that were sufficiently far away. She had been quick
in her preparation, in spite of the flow of the tide that
sometimes took away her breath; but a pause, once more, was still
left for her to make, a pause, at the top of the stairs, before
she came down to him, in the span of which she asked herself if
it weren't thinkable, from the perfectly practical point of view,
that she should simply sacrifice him. She didn't go into the
detail of what sacrificing him would mean--she didn't need to; so
distinct was it, in one of her restless lights, that there he was
awaiting her, that she should find him walking up and down the
drawing-room in the warm, fragrant air to which the open windows
and the abundant flowers contributed; slowly and vaguely moving
there and looking very slight and young and, superficially,
manageable, almost as much like her child, putting it a little
freely, as like her parent; with the appearance about him, above
all, of having perhaps arrived just on purpose to SAY it to her,
himself, in so many words: "Sacrifice me, my own love; do
sacrifice me, do sacrifice me!" Should she want to, should she
insist on it, she might verily hear him bleating it at her, all
conscious and all accommodating, like some precious, spotless,
exceptionally intelligent lamb. The positive effect of the
intensity of this figure, however, was to make her shake it away
in her resumed descent; and after she had rejoined him, after she
had picked him up, she was to know the full pang of the thought
that her impossibility was MADE, absolutely, by his
consciousness, by the lucidity of his intention: this she felt
while she smiled there for him, again, all hypocritically; while
she drew on fair, fresh gloves; while she interrupted the process
first to give his necktie a slightly smarter twist and then to
make up to him for her hidden madness by rubbing her nose into
his cheek according to the tradition of their frankest levity.

From the instant she should be able to convict him of intending,
every issue would be closed and her hypocrisy would have to
redouble. The only way to sacrifice him would be to do so without
his dreaming what it might be for. She kissed him, she arranged
his cravat, she dropped remarks, she guided him out, she held his
arm, not to be led, but to lead him, and taking it to her by much
the same intimate pressure she had always used, when a little
girl, to mark the inseparability of her doll--she did all these
things so that he should sufficiently fail to dream of what they
might be for.


There was nothing to show that her effort in any degree fell
short till they got well into the Park and he struck her as
giving, unexpectedly, the go-by to any serious search for the
Principino. The way they sat down awhile in the sun was a sign of
that; his dropping with her into the first pair of sequestered
chairs they came across and waiting a little, after they were
placed, as if now at last she might bring out, as between them,
something more specific. It made her but feel the more sharply
how the specific, in almost any direction, was utterly forbidden
her--how the use of it would be, for all the world, like undoing
the leash of a dog eager to follow up a scent. It would come out,
the specific, where the dog would come out; would run to earth,
somehow, the truth--for she was believing herself in relation to
the truth!--at which she mustn't so much as indirectly point.
Such, at any rate, was the fashion in which her passionate
prudence played over possibilities of danger, reading symptoms
and betrayals into everything she looked at, and yet having to
make it evident, while she recognised them, that she didn't
wince. There were moments between them, in their chairs, when he
might have been watching her guard herself and trying to think of
something new that would trip her up. There were pauses during
which, with her affection as sweet and still as the sunshine, she
might yet, as at some hard game, over a table, for money, have
been defying him to fasten upon her the least little complication
of consciousness. She was positively proud, afterwards, of the
great style in which she had kept this up; later on, at the
hour's end, when they had retraced their steps to find Amerigo
and Charlotte awaiting them at the house, she was able to say to
herself that, truly, she had put her plan through; even though
once more setting herself the difficult task of making their
relation, every minute of the time, not fall below the standard
of that other hour, in the treasured past, which hung there
behind them like a framed picture in a museum, a high watermark
for the history of their old fortune; the summer evening, in the
park at Fawns, when, side by side under the trees just as now,
they had let their happy confidence lull them with its most
golden tone. There had been the possibility of a trap for her, at
present, in the very question of their taking up anew that
residence; wherefore she had not been the first to sound it, in
spite of the impression from him of his holding off to see what
she would do. She was saying to herself in secret: "CAN we again,
in this form, migrate there? Can I, for myself, undertake it?
face all the intenser keeping-up and stretching-out,
indefinitely, impossibly, that our conditions in the country, as
we've established and accepted them, would stand for?" She had
positively lost herself in this inward doubt--so much she was
subsequently to remember; but remembering then too that her
companion, though perceptibly perhaps as if not to be eager, had
broken the ice very much as he had broken it in Eaton Square
after the banquet to the Castledeans.

Her mind had taken a long excursion, wandered far into the vision
of what a summer at Fawns, with Amerigo and Charlotte still more
eminently in presence against that higher sky, would bring forth.
Wasn't her father meanwhile only pretending to talk of it? just
as she was, in a manner, pretending to listen? He got off it,
finally, at all events, for the transition it couldn't well help
thrusting out at him; it had amounted exactly to an arrest of her
private excursion by the sense that he had begun to IMITATE--oh,
as never yet!--the ancient tone of gold. It had verily come from
him at last, the question of whether she thought it would be very
good--but very good indeed--that he should leave England for a
series of weeks, on some pretext, with the Prince. Then it had
been that she was to know her husband's "menace" hadn't really
dropped, since she was face to face with the effect of it. Ah,

Book of the day: