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Chapter 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry James

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