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Chapter 27

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.

Henry James

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