Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry James

Sorry, no summary available yet.