The Golden Bowl Chapter 3

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 contented at heart. 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 connexion 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, or 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 connexion, as there would be hitches in the process; she didn’t yet wholly see 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 every one 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, on 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 weren’t 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 as 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 was also, 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 lovely.’

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, happily perhaps indistinguishable 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. ‘Its not to leave you, my dear – for that he’ll give you 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’d 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 Grand-daddy, Grand-daddy 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 any one 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 at last had silences 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.’

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. This 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 was for the instant 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’ll 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 going?’

‘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 it.’

‘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 give her attention to it; after which, ‘Shall I just quite of a sudden,’ he asked, ‘propose him a journey?’

Maggie cast about her, but she brought forth the fruit of reflexion. ‘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 most 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 threw out.

‘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 took a moment. ‘You and I, darling.’

‘I see, I see’ – he promptly understood. ‘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’ve 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’d 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 he won’t make of his own motion.’

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, hadn’t 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, 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 distinctly just before, 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.