‘Beautiful’ – Golden Bowl / 37

Book TWO Part 5 Chapter 37

[Adam, Maggie] It was positively as if, in short, the inward felicity of their being once more, perhaps only for half-an-hour, simply daughter and father had glimmered out for them, and they had picked up the pretext that would make it easiest. They were husband and wife—oh, so immensely!—as regards other persons; but after they had dropped again on their old bench, conscious that the party on the terrace, augmented, as in the past, by neighbours, would do beautifully without them, it was wonderfully like their having got together into some boat and paddled off from the shore where husbands and wives, luxuriant complications, made the air too tropical.

[Adam, Maggie]Her father listened to this declaration as if the precautions of her general mercy could still, as they betrayed themselves, have surprises for him—to say nothing of a charm of delicacy and beauty; he might have been wishing to see how far she could go and where she would, all touchingly to him, arrive.

[Adam, Maggie] “No, we’re not proud,” she answered after a moment. “I’m not sure that we’re quite proud enough.” Yet she changed the next instant that subject too. She could only do so, however, by harking back—as if it had been a fascination. She might have been wishing, under this renewed, this still more suggestive visitation, to keep him with her for remounting the stream of time and dipping again, for the softness of the water, into the contracted basin of the past. “We talked about it—we talked about it; you don’t remember so well as I. You too didn’t know—and it was beautiful of you; like Kitty and Dotty you too thought we had a position, and were surprised when I thought we ought to have told them we weren’t doing for them what they supposed. In fact,” Maggie pursued, “we’re not doing it now. We’re not, you see, really introducing them. I mean not to the people they want.”

“Well, you admitted”—Maggie kept it up—”that that was a good difficulty. You confessed that our life did seem to be beautiful.”
He thought a moment. “Yes—I may very well have confessed it, for so it did seem to me.” But he guarded himself with his dim, his easier smile. “What do you want to put on me now?”
“Only that we used to wonder—that we were wondering then—if our life wasn’t perhaps a little selfish.” This also for a time, much at his leisure, Adam Verver retrospectively fixed. “Because Fanny Assingham thought so?”

Besides, who but himself really knew what he, after all, hadn’t, or even had, gained? The beauty of her condition was keeping him, at any rate, as he might feel, in sight of the sea, where, though his personal dips were over, the whole thing could shine at him, and the air and the plash and the play become for him too a sensation.

[Maggie, Adam] With which, his glasses still fixed on her, his hands in his pockets, his hat pushed back, his legs a little apart, he seemed to plant or to square himself for a kind of assurance it had occurred to him he might as well treat her to, in default of other things, before they changed their subject. It had the effect, for her, of a reminder—a reminder of all he was, of all he had done, of all, above and beyond his being her perfect little father, she might take him as representing, take him as having, quite eminently, in the eyes of two hemispheres, been capable of, and as therefore wishing, not—was it?—illegitimately, to call her attention to. The “successful,” beneficent person, the beautiful, bountiful, original, dauntlessly wilful great citizen, the consummate collector and infallible high authority he had been and still was—these things struck her, on the spot, as making up for him, in a wonderful way, a character she must take into account in dealing with him either for pity or for envy.

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