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Chapter 26

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
Fanny's.

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
dawn.

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
alone.

Henry James

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