Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Kate Croy is dependent on her aunt, Mrs. Lowder, because Kate’s own father is a ne’er-do-well. Mrs. Lowder has great plans for her niece and encourages Lord Mark as a suitor for Kate’s hand. Kate’s own mind is set on a young reporter, Merton Densher, who works for one of the London papers. Mrs. Lowder likes Densher and even invites him to her home, but she does not want him to marry her niece, for he has no apparent prospects of money or a place in society. Mrs. Lowder breathes more easily when she learns that the young man is being sent by his newspaper to the United States to write a series of articles on life there.
While he is in New York, Densher makes the acquaintance of a pretty young American, Milly Theale, who recently inherited a large fortune through the death of her parents. A few weeks later, Milly asks a Boston friend, Mrs. Susan Stringham, a widow and a writer, to go with her to Europe. They take passage on a liner and arrive in Italy, from where they traveled up the Italian peninsula and into Switzerland. Milly is restless, though, and soon decides that she would like to go to London.
Once they arrive in England, Mrs. Stringham sends word to Mrs. Lowder, the only acquaintance she has in that country from her school days many years before. Mrs. Stringham and Milly immediately become familiar callers at Mrs. Lowder’s home. Because of her beauty, money, and attractive personality, Milly is a great success in London...
(The entire section is 1118 words.)
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Summary and Analysis
Chapters 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis
Kate Croy goes to visit her father one last time. As she waits in his rooms for him to appear, she observes the shabbiness and, above all, the vulgarity of the furnishings. She is dressed in black and impatient for her father to come down from his bedroom to see her. When at last he does, he is vague and bitter. He claims to be unwell.
Kate informs him that her aunt, Mrs. Maud Lowder, has invited her to come to live with her in her mansion, provided she give up all contact with her father. She is able to provide an upper-class life for her lower-middle-class niece, especially in providing avenues in which she might find a suitable husband. Kate’s mother has died, but has left her an annual income of two hundred pounds a year, half of which she intends to give to her sister, Marian, who is widowed with four children. She has come to say good-bye to her father, who is irresponsible and undependable to say the least. She also hopes that he will ask her to stay with him, and that the two of them will find some means to go on together. However, Lionel Croy is in favor of Kate’s going to live with her aunt, but thinks that she owes him something, since it is his irresponsibility and lack of dependability that have led to her being offered this opportunity. He wants her to give half of her inheritance to him instead of to Marian. With the hint that Kate has a romantic prospect among the middle class, Mr. Croy warns her that she must get a man who can adequately care for her. If Mrs. Lowder does not approve of a gentleman, neither will Mr. Croy. Giving up the attempt to maintain their family, Kate leaves.
Kate goes to her sister, Marian, to discuss her next course of action. Kate has felt very much the younger sister, whose sole purpose is to support her older sister. After their mother’s death, Kate went to live with her Aunt Maud, and now she feels that she is the only avenue that her father and sister have for gaining access to money, and she resents it. As for Aunt Maud, she has provided some provision for the family. The money is enough to tie them to her, but not enough to make them independent.
Marian is horrified that Kate offered to leave Aunt Maud and live with their father. She is worried about losing Aunt Maud. She is also concerned that Kate will throw herself away on Merton Densher, whom Kate is seeing. Kate becomes resigned to staying with Aunt Maud to make...
(The entire section is 952 words.)
Chapters 3 and 4 Summary and Analysis
Kate meets Merton Densher in Kensington Park, near her aunt’s home. The two had met the previous year at a party. There was immediate attraction. Their second meeting was on the Underground, at which time Merton asked if he could call on her. As an independent, modern woman of twenty-five, she agreed, yet she did ask her aunt’s permission. Mrs. Lowder told her she was free to see whomever she wished.
As the couple talk in the park, they discuss Kate’s situation. Like Marian, Merton is concerned that Kate would offer to go live with her father, especially since his situation would only drag her down. Kate had told him that, when she was fifteen, her mother told her that her father had done “something wicked.” Kate did not want to discover what exactly he had done and still does not know. As far as living with him now, Kate claims that it was for her own escape from Aunt Maud. Yet her sister and her father see her living with Aunt Maud as the only chance for them to survive. Therefore, because of her family feelings (unreciprocated though they may be), she stays with Aunt Maud.
Merton is to receive a letter from Mrs. Lowder, requesting that he come to see her. Kate warns him about the letter, but will not give him a hint of what it might be about. He assumes it will concern his seeing Kate and his not being good enough for her. Kate replies that it is because Merton is not good enough for her Aunt Maud. Merton offers to marry Kate the next morning, but Kate wants to wait until he has met with Mrs. Lowder, just in case she might give them some money after all. Kate is not sure that it is more vulgar to marry for money than to marry without it. Merton then agrees to see Mrs. Lowder and “grovel” if Kate wants him to. Kate replies impatiently that he can do what he likes.
Merton goes to Lancaster Gates (the home of Mrs. Lowder) and is kept waiting. As he waits, Merton looks around the room, noting its abundant decorations beyond good taste. At one point, Merton almost tells Kate that her aunt was vulgar, both in her home and in everything she does, because everything she does is over-the-top. He considers writing an article about Mrs. Lowder’s choice of decoration, thinking that this may be the only thing he gets out of it.
When the interview begins, Merton can tell that Mrs. Lowder likes him a little. However, while She tells him that he is good, she means...
(The entire section is 940 words.)
Chapters 5 and 6 Summary and Analysis
Milly Theale, an American heiress, and her traveling companion, Mrs. Susan Stringham, are making the European tour, and are now in Switzerland. Milly, twenty-two, has lost her entire family and is in mourning. Mrs. Stringham has also lost her family and makes her living as a writer of short stories. To Milly, Mrs. Stringham represents “culture,” something that Milly is hungry for. It is for this reason that Milly has invited Mrs. Stringham to accompany her on a protracted tour of Europe. Mrs. Stringham agrees, as there is something about Milly that draws people along.
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean, they tour through the Mediterranean ports, up through Italy, and across the Alps. All the time there is a restlessness about Milly, who always wants to move to the next spot. At times, Milly wanders off on her own and Mrs. Stringham surreptitiously follows, without overstepping her bounds. At one point, Mrs. Stringham follows her up a path that leads up to where the mountainside ends precipitously. She finds Milly perched on a rock hanging over the gulf below. She is “looking down at the kingdoms of the earth,” meditating, as if choosing which one she wanted, or as if she wanted them all. Mrs. Stringham leaves her there, but later feels certain that Milly was considering jumping off her perch into the gulf below, willing to end her life. Mrs. Stringham finds Milly’s guidebook on the path, which will be picked up later. She writes on the cover, “a bientot” (French for “See you soon”).
When Milly returns, she says nothing about the guidebook but asks Mrs. Stringham if she would mind if they moved on. Mrs. Stringham agrees. Milly suddenly asks her what Dr. Finch had said to her before they left New York. Milly had taken ill, and Mrs. Stringham had rushed to New York. She talked to Dr. Finch alone, but she swears to Milly that he told her nothing is secret. She asks Milly if she is now in pain. Milly replies that she is not, but often wonders if she will have much of it.
Milly says she can hardly bear how happy she is at that moment. Mrs. Stringham says she will take Milly to the best doctor to be found nearby. Molly then announces that she wants to go straight to London. Milly had met Merton Densher in New York before they departed and promised that they would visit him in London. Mrs. Stringham also has an old friend she would like to see in London: Maud Lowder....
(The entire section is 915 words.)
Chapters 7-9 Summary and Analysis
Now in London, Milly and Mrs. Stringham dine at Lancaster Gate with Mrs. Lowder. Among the other guests are Kate Croy and Lord Mark. Milly is a bit overwhelmed to be in such sophisticated company. She talks specifically with Lord Mark, although she is not quite sure what to make of him. She is not sure whether he is the most intellectual person she has met or the most frivolous. She is impressed with Mrs. Lowder’s fidelity to Mrs. Stringham, although the former has not been in contact with her for years and has moved far ahead of the latter socially. Milly and Lord Mark discuss how people at the dinner know of each other, and how much is kept hidden. Milly wonders if, considering the time she has left, this is how she wants to spend the remainder, or whether she should move on. In the meantime, she and Kate continue to catch each others’ eye, as if each would like to know the other better.
As Milly and Kate become acquainted, Milly feels that Kate is hiding a secret, and her main purpose in befriending the Americans is to create a diversion from her aunt’s prying eyes. The two become great friends, however, and are grateful for each other’s company. Milly is interested in learning more about Lord Mark.
It is discovered that Milly and Kate have an acquaintance in common: Merton Densher. It is through a conversation between Mrs. Lowder and Mrs. Stringham that this coincidence is discovered, and Mrs. Stringham relates it to Milly. Maud tells Mrs. Stringham to warn Milly not to say anything about him to Kate (another secret). She also tells Milly that Mrs. Lowder wants Kate to marry Lord Mark. This is something else that Kate has not shared with Milly. Milly does however meet Marian, Kate’s sister, and ponders how different the social situations of two sisters can be in England. It is Marian (Mrs. Condrip) who gives Milly a more complete account of Merton and Kate. Mrs. Stringham and Milly discuss at length Kate’s deception concerning Merton Densher. They then discuss Milly’s approaching death and where they should be when it happens.
As the Britons and the Americans meet and pair off, the connections are revealed and more opportunities for deception are discovered. Moving past the unlikely coincidences that Milly and Kate both know Merton Densher, and Mrs. Stringham and Mrs. Lowder were old school acquaintances, the small world...
(The entire section is 902 words.)
Chapters 10 and 11 Summary and Analysis
Milly and Mrs. Stringham are ready to leave Lancaster Gate, although Mrs. Lowder (and Lord Mark) wish them to stay. Milly sees Kate Croy through new eyes after the revelation of her relationship with Merton Densher. She fancies that Kate is made for “great social uses,” but she has no idea what those uses might be. Mrs. Lowder judges Kate to be a “luxury to take about the world.” Lord Mark is part of Mrs. Lowder’s plan for Kate, and he is aware of it.
Mrs. Lowder begs Milly to stay, stating that she needs her help in dealing with Kate. She is grateful for the reconnection with Mrs. Stringham and views her renewed friendship as a gift from God. Milly later recalls that the thing that most struck her was Mrs. Lowder’s conviction that Milly and Kate should stand together, because together they could do anything.
Lord Mark considers Miloy as beautiful as the painting by Bronzino, but Milly demurs. People have come specifically to see her at the gathering at Lancaster Gate, so he offers himself as a guide and protector as she moves among the crowd. There is such a curiosity about her that Milly wonders if Mrs. Stringham (Susie) let it be known about her illness. Milly knows at heart, however, that Susie would be the last person to do such a thing.
As Milly looks at the Bronzino, she recognizes some of the similarities that Lord Mark sees, but the lady in the portrait is “dead, dead, dead.” Milly declares, “I shall never be better than this.” Lord Mark disagrees, stating that, unlike the lady in the painting, no one could doubt that Milly is good.
Kate arrives, bringing Lord and Lady Aldershaw, to whom she also wants to show the similarity between the painting and Milly. Lady Aldershaw wants to invite Milly to visit them, but Lord Mark interrupts her, knowing Milly will not be doing anymore visiting.
Milly is suddenly struck with an odd feeling; she wonders about Kate’s feelings for Merton Densher. She asks Kate to do her a fovor the next day. Kate agrees, suggesting that they do something bad, since Milly is “impossibly without sin.” But Milly only wants to deceive Susie, wanting Kate to accompany her to visit Sir Luke Strett, a physician. Susie, she feels, would worry no matter the verdict. Kate is confused, but Milly states vaguely that she just wants to make sure she knows that Kate will bear the grief, without overwhelming...
(The entire section is 917 words.)
Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis
Sir Luke Strett has only a few minutes to examine Milly, but requests that she come back in a day or two when he has more time to give her a thorough examination. A seemingly carefree Milly comes out of the office; her show of trust to Kate is designed to get her to open up about her relationship with Merton. Since she does not reveal anything, Milly says she feels comfortable enough to come back alone to see the doctor. As they wait for the carriage, Milly is moved by how nice everyone is to her.
At her second appointment with Sir Luke, Milly feels liberated by having someone fully aware of her dark situation. Even from her first visit, she felt as if she had gone to confession and been given absolution by the priest. The doctor asks if she has any relatives, and she explains that her family has all died. He tells her that, because she has had so many hard things happen in her life, she must not think life is all hard things. She must find happiness in the company of others and that she does not need to go through this alone. Milly tells him that she has the means to do whatever she wants, and she is willing to do anything. Sir Luke gives her a “small prescription or two” and will make a house call in a few days. He tells her to go travel and that he will send more medication to her. She asks if she will suffer. He says, not a bit. She asks if she will live. His reply is that living is what he is telling her to do.
Milly leaves Sir Luke’s office and is glad that she had come alone. Her only company is “the human race at large.” She is intent upon the doctor’s suggestion to focus on living, “living by option, by volition.” The doctor urged her to be active, so she goes home on foot. She goes forth “as a soldier on the march.” She marches through London, into the slums and out, losing her way and not caring if she finds it again. She was on an adventure of life, a life that she never knew existed before.
Milly reflects on her visit with Sir Luke. She realizes he never came out and gave her a “final judgment,” just the insistence that she leave London, thus meaning she could no longer visit him as a patient. She could not not be a patient because he could not cure her. She realizes that he likes her, although she did not go to him to be liked, but to be judged. She now feels like a poor girl who has rent to pay; that "rent" is for her future.
(The entire section is 998 words.)
Chapters 14-16 Summary and Analysis
Milly cannot decide where she wants to go. At the moment, she is waiting for Sir Luke Strett’s house call. She knows that Sir Luke wants to speak with Susie and that he intends to give her instructions on taking care of Milly. Milly herself is ready to accept whatever the two plan.
Only a few days remain for the Americans’ sojourn in London. Much of the crowd has departed for other locations. Only a going-away dinner with Mrs. Lowder and Kate is left, other than Sir Luke’s visit, and Milly has a plan.
Milly sends Mrs. Lowder and Susie off by themselves. Before she leaves, Mrs. Lowder tells Milly that Susie informed her of Milly’s acquaintance with Merton Densher. She asks Milly to mention him to Kate so that Milly can find out if he has returned. Milly is concerned that if she mentions him now, Kate will be suspicious of why Milly waited so long. Mrs. Lowder tells Milly that Merton is interested in Kate, but Kate does not like him. Milly is reluctant, since it means deceiving Kate as to the reason for bringing the topic up. In the end, Mrs. Lowder tells her to let it go. Milly tries to convince her that Merton Densher will most likely be mentioned in some future conversation from Kate herself. Milly asks Mrs. Lowder if she thinks that Kate and Merton are already together. Susie reenters the room before Mrs. Lowder has time for more than a telling look.
Milly knows that she will not mention Merton to Kate. Milly feels that in all aspects of her life at the present, she is in a position of waiting for someone else to act, never acting herself. The subject turns to Lord Mark, who Mrs. Lowder is determined will marry Kate, but, as Kate points out, he is now interested only in Milly. Milly insists she is not interested in him; therefore, she is not in the way. In the meantime, Kate jokes that Milly should drop Mrs. Lowder and herself while she can. Milly somberly asks Kate how she can say such things to her. Kate replies that it is because Milly is a dove. Milly silently thinks that this means she is a pet.
The next day, in preparation for Sir Luke’s visit, Milly tells Susie that she will be out so that Sir Luke can have time to talk to Susie alone. Milly knows that having a conversation with Susie is the real purpose of his visit.
To avoid seeing Sir Luke, Milly goes to the National Gallery. Up until now, she has avoided art galleries, focusing...
(The entire section is 828 words.)
Chapters 17 and 18 Summary and Analysis
Merton Densher had arrived back in London the day before he and Kate encountered Milly at the National Gallery. Heedless of being observed, Kate met him at the train station, where the couple made plans to get together to discuss their future. As they discuss their surreptitious rendezvous, Merton is struck by the fact that, although he tries to deal with this while demonstrating a respect for Kate’s position, respect is something of a fifth wheel; it is an unwanted element that hinders their plans. Should Kate drive him to his residence, he would be tempted to invite her in, with all that would entail. He thinks of it in terms of being vulgar, and believes that Kate is manipulating his lust for her own ends.
It is revealed that Kate had known of Milly’s meeting Merton in New York for some time through Merton’s responses to her letters about her new American friend. But Merton was not prepared for how close their friendship is.
After leaving Kate at the National Gallery, Merton walks about London, along much of the same path that Milly took after her visit with Sir Luke Strett. He is unsure of what Kate expects from him now that he has returned. He also marvels at the fact that somehow Milly is a bigger part of their picture than he could have imagined. He thinks that perhaps Kate plans Milly to be their ally in their deception of Mrs. Lowder.
Kate and Merton discuss what they should do next. They cannot count on Milly and Susie keeping quiet about Merton’s return, nor do they feel they should be expected to. The only possibility is to tell Mrs. Lowder themselves. Merton marvels that Kate has taken control of the matter and he is glad there will be no more need for delay. Kate feels they can count on Milly. She leaves Susie out of the matter.
Merton, in sudden desperation, asks her to take him as he is. She tells him to believe in her. Still desperate, Merton asks Kate if she loves him, to which she says nothing but yields to his embrace as her answer. He says he does not want always to be bringing up whether he trusts her or not. Kate says that as far as Aunt Maud is concerned, she “generally” trusts them.
Merton feels that Kate is implying that Milly is in love with him. Kate says merely that she likes him. Merton feels he wants to thank Mrs. Lowder for allowing them to meet, but she says this would arouse her suspicions. She encourages...
(The entire section is 902 words.)
Chapters 19-21 Summary and Analysis
Merton is pleased to receive a dinner invitation from Mrs. Lowder, but his pleasure is abated on learning that Milly and Susie are also invited. He arrives to find himself alone with Mrs. Lowder until Susie enters without Milly. Mrs. Lowder tells Merton that she wants him to be as she is, which confuses him. She talks of a potential trip to America until Kate comes in. When Susie arrives, she says that Milly is indisposed and cannot come. The conversation centers on the absent Milly, with Merton appealed to as an expert since he knew her before his fellow Britons did. They are shocked that Milly was not appreciated in America as much as she is in England. Merton dismisses this, and he is made aware of how much he has missed by being gone so long.
One of the other guests plays the piano and leads the group in singing. Merton and Kate take this opportunity to separate themselves and discuss Milly. Kate speculates that she is really in seriously poor health after all. Susie and Milly were planning to leave London after Milly encountered them in the National Gallery, but they have delayed their departure. Kate wonders if it is because Milly might be too ill to travel or because she wanted to stay in London to be around Merton. Kate tells Merton that Milly has everything, so Merton wonders what good he can do her. Kate replies that he can console her.
The couple discuss Milly’s illness. Kate says that she would like to make life pleasant for her; she is glad that she does not have the type of illness that makes people around her uncomfortable.
Lord Mark comes over to Merton and Kate, and they continue to guardely discuss Milly’s illness. When Lord Mark leaves, Kate and Merton discuss his interest in both Kate and Milly at the same time.
Merton visits Milly the next day, finding her better but still at home. He wonders if she stayed at home hoping he would come. He made the visit in order to be sorry for her, but it is clear that she will not want that at all. Instead, as he remembers, he must get her to feel sorry for him. He himself has not deceived Milly, but he has been “deceived about” by Kate to Milly. He has the feeling that this is all a mistake, but his love for Kate forces him to back up her mistake.
Merton learns that Milly is going abroad. When he asks her when she will return, she is vague, effectively avoiding telling a lie.
(The entire section is 918 words.)
Chapters 22 and 23 Summary and Analysis
Milly talks with Susie, who has just come from talking to Sir Luke Strett, Milly’s physician. Milly knows that her companion has taken the news of Milly’s fatal illness hard, and how she is struggling not to show pity. Milly sees this and in turn feels pity for Susie. Milly changes the conversation to talk about Susie’s impression of Sir Luke. The doctor had said that Milly is to do as she likes, and Susie is to help her in that.
Milly then asks Susie what she thinks of Merton Densher. Susie replies, after a prolonged pause, that she thinks he is handsome. Susie turns the conversation back to Milly’s health, and Milly states categorically that she is determined to live.
Susie goes to see Mrs. Lowder and asks her just to let her cry, since she cannot do so with Milly around. However, she does not go into specific details about the extent of Milly’s illness. She says that the doctor concluded that Milly does not have what she had thought she had, but she instead has “something else.”
Mrs. Lowder asks Susie for her impression of Merton Densher. They speak of putting Milly in his way so that he will fall in love with her. Susie correctly guesses from Mrs. Lowder’s hints that Kate is in love with Merton. Mrs. Lowder tells Susie that, if Milly asks if Kate is in love with Merton, she is to deny it. Susie is quite willing to work against Kate under the appearance of helping Milly.
It is revealed that Sir Luke Street, in his conversation with Susie, had asked her to get Milly involved in something as a means of getting the sick woman’s mind off of herself. Then, after enjoying the rest of the summer and the autumn, Milly is to return to visit Sir Luke. Milly wants to see Sir Luke now, however, in order to thank him. She is surprised that she has not received a reprimand (a “stiff note”) from him for her trick of not being at home during his house call. However, Susie says that he understood that her intention was to give him time to discuss with Susie how she may best take care of Milly during the time she has left.
Milly feels that Sir Luke is trifling with her by pitying her. When Susie says that he does not pity her but that he simply likes her, Milly replies that, since he is a physician, he has no business liking her.
When Milly visits Sir Luke, she tells him how touched she is by his good nature. She feels that all of...
(The entire section is 1014 words.)
Chapters 24 and 25 Summary and Analysis
Milly, Susie, Kate, and Mrs. Lowder have been in Venice for three weeks. Milly has retained the services of an Italian guide named Eugenio, who has arranged a marvelous experience for her, but at a great expense. Instead of a hotel, she has acquired the use of a luxurious home, the Palazzo Leporelli, rich in Venetian history and culture. Having lived and travelled constantly with her three friends, Milly is now enjoying the first time that she has had a chance to be alone since they left London.
Milly and Kate, living in a relationship shot through with deception, cover their secrets with chatter. Now Milly needs to time to herself and tells Eugenio to take the other three ladies off “somewhere, anywhere.” At this point, Milly really does care where, just so she can be alone.
Milly views the palace as an ark in her own personal deluge. If the choice would be given to her, she would never leave it, but float on and on.
Unexpectedly, Lord Mark arrives at the palace. Mrs. Lowder and Kate had written him, although they had not specifically invited him. Ever the congenial hostess, Milly gives him a walking tour of the palace. As they walk, Milly wistfully sighs, “Not to go down.” Lord Mark thinks she wishes to go downstairs into the streets, but she actually wants to stay in the palace, barricading herself in as in a fortress. He asks her if she is really not well. Her silence answers his question.
Milly considers her “value” to a man who would want to marry her. He would not have to put up with her for long, she muses. Her money, however, would remain his long after her death. With this in mind, Milly considers Lord Mark’s motive for coming to see her in Venice, but she decides that his motive really does not matter. First of all, she would not marry him anyway. Second, she thinks that he is truly concerned about her.
As Milly speaks of her love of the Palazzo Leporelli, Lord Mark asks her if she wants to live there permanently. Milly replies that she wants to die there. She admits to Lord Mark that she is indeed badly ill. He tells her that he wants to take care of her, and asks if she could try at least to believe in him and to love him. Milly lets him know that her happiness could not be found in marrying him (although she fantasizes about telling him in a very blunt way). She becomes a bit irritated with him. Lord Mark thinks that she is...
(The entire section is 1053 words.)
Chapters 26-28 Summary and Analysis
Merton had been touring Venice with Kate, Mrs. Lowder, and Susie when Mrs. Lowder tells him to go back to visit Milly at the Palazzo Leporelli. He leaves them without a word, although he feels the awkwardness of being cast out. His feelings for Milly have not changed. He thinks of her in the same way he might a sister, but he does not hold her up like a princess as the others do.
The next visit is for dinner at the palace; all the ladies are present. Merton entertains the party with a description of his deplorable hotel. Milly is so amused that she asks herself to tea someday. Merton is nervous at her proposal, fearful of what it might do to his “game” concerning Kate and himself. However, he does not want to be a brute, either in relation to Kate or to Milly.
The group, minus Milly, visits the piazza of St. Mark’s. While Susie and Mrs. Lowder shop, Kate and Merton talk about their situation. Merton has a feeling that Mrs. Lowder is pushing him toward Milly. He also believes that Susie has a hand in it as well. He does not feel as comfortable at deceiving Susie as he does Mrs. Lowder. He asks Kate why Lord Mark came to Venice for so short a stay. Kate explains that he had been refused by Milly and so had no reason to remain. Merton asks about the possibility of his pursuing Kate, but she says she has already discouraged him.
With a sense of desperation, Merton accuses Kate of not risking anything. When she asks him what he wants her to risk, he tells her that he wants her to risk loving him. Kate feels they have come too far to throw it all away; they have told too many lies. Merton replies that he has told none. He tells her that he will tell any lie she wants if he will come to his room and spend the night; that is the only way he can be sure. Kate says nothing to this proposal.
There are days when Milly does not have the strength even to come down to dinner. Merton feels that he should care about this, but he does not; all of his thoughts center on Kate.
Susie tells Merton that there is to be a party; among the guests will be Sir Luke Strett and his niece, who have recently arrived in Venice. Susie expresses her hope that Merton will stay in Venice more than just a few days. He states that he has things he must do in London. Susie understands, since she has chosen to put on hold her career as a writer in order to be with Milly, whom she calls...
(The entire section is 1086 words.)
Chapters 29 and 30 Summary and Analysis
After Merton sleeps with Kate, he feels that he has been given a renewed kind of fidelity; he avoids all other human contact. Now, in order to maintain that fidelity, he must leave her alone and rejoin society. He knows that a sense of shame may come later, but for now he is content with this new intimacy. He may now focus on courting Milly in order to carry out the plan that Kate has devised for their future.
As Merton goes to the palace, he sinks at the thought that he must lie to Milly. Kate and Mrs. Lowder are returning to London. Mrs. Lowder is suspicious of Merton’s remaining in Venice.
Merton tells Milly that he is writing a book and needs quiet. London is too noisy, so he will stay in Venice for a while. When she speaks of coming to his rooms for tea, Merton asks if it is safe for her to leave the palace, then winces. He had momentarily forgotten that he had promised her in London that he would not mention her illness. She replies that she is going to live as long as she can. Something breaks within him and he tells her to come any time she likes. He rises to leave. She is afraid he is trying to get away from her, so she will not come to tea. Merton confesses that he is not writing a book. He is staying in Venice because he wants to be with her.
Merton reflects on how deeply he has committed himself. If he pulls out, he might kill Milly. All he has to do at this point is to stay in Venice and have dinner at the palace with her. He does so for twenty days but is all the while nervous that he will make a mistake.
When Merton arrives as usual at the end of twenty days, he is told that neither Milly nor Susie is receiving visitors, although neither is unwell, according to the servant. Merton goes to Eugenio to determine what is wrong. Eugenio tells him that the ladies are simply fatigued. Merton is concerned that Eugenio sees him as a man after Milly’s fortune and wonders why he is worried about a servant’s opinion.
Merton walks the streets of Venice. Passing by a café, he sees Lord Mark. Merton is convinced that he was turned away at the palace because of Lord Mark. He tries for three days but is never admitted. He receives no word from Milly. On top of that, Kate had said that the two of them could not correspond at the risk of arousing suspicion, so he feels quite alone.
At the end of three days, Susie is shown into his...
(The entire section is 993 words.)
Chapters 31 and 32 Summary and Analysis
Susie arrives at Merton’s rooms to tell him that Milly has “turned her face to the wall” (prepared herself to die). Susie has wondered about Merton, but knows that it was best that he stay away. She asks him, however, if he will stay in Venice, at least for her; he agrees. Milly has not spoken for three days, not about Merton or anyone.
Merton asks Susie if Milly is dying; Susie says, “Yes.” Merton asks if she knows everything about him. Susie replies that she does not know everything, but that is why she has come. He sees that she has not come to judge him but to pity him.
Merton asks if he could see Milly, but Susie replies that it is too late. She has sent for Sir Luke. Merton states that Milly likes him; Susie replies that Sir Luke likes Merton and enjoyed the time they toured Venice together with Merton as his guide. She asks him to deny what his real intentions toward Milly were if Sir Luke asks. At last, Susie sees that what Lord Mark said about Merton is true. She says that Lord Mark told Milly that Merton has been engaged to Kate. He tells Milly this for the sole purpose of letting her know what kind of man she turned him down for. He had found out about Kate’s engagement when he proposed to her and then demanded a reason for her refusal.
Merton is in a tight spot, especially concerning Susie’s trust in him. She says she will believe him if he denies everything.
When Sir Luke arrives in Venice, Merton meets him at the train station. Sir Luke had forgotten him. At the palace, Merton must explain to Sir Luke that he is no longer welcomed inside.
As the days pass, Merton regrets not only not being able to see Milly but also Sir Luke. His secret weighs him down, and he looks to Sir Luke (“the great man”) to give him absolution. He has nothing to do but wait.
He cannot bring himself to deny Lord Mark’s report that he and Kate are engaged. He waits for several days, still not allowed to see Milly. After three days, Sir Luke comes to visit him. Merton expects to hear something about Milly’s condition, but at first Sir Luke says nothing. The two men stroll around Venice. It is only as they say good-bye that Sir Luke tells him that Milly wants to see him. The physician says he will come back to Venice in a month. He says that Milly is better, but she cannot be moved. Therefore, Sir Luke must come to her.
(The entire section is 887 words.)
Chapters 33 and 34 Summary and Analysis
Merton has return to London. It has been three weeks since he left Venice and two weeks since he arrived home. He is just now contacting Kate, claiming that this is in accordance with their “system” of not seeming to be together. Kate and Mrs. Lowder knew that he had left Venice, as they had been informed by letter from Susie. He asks Kate if Milly is dead, to which Kate replies that she is not, although she is surprised that Merton does not know this. Merton tells her that it has been terrible for him; he asks again if Milly is dying. Sir Luke has returned to Venice.
Kate mentions how wonderful she thinks Milly is. Merton is surprised, but Kate says that of course she feels this way since she is her friend. He asks her how much she knows about Lord Mark’s visit. She is visibly and sincerely shocked when Merton says that it was Lord Mark’s visit that killed Milly. He implies that Lord Mark learned of their secret engagement through Kate herself.
Kate asks Merton why he could not have lied and told Milly that Lord Mark was “mistaken.” Merton says that a denial never occurred to him, plus it would not have done any good. He tells Kate that he did not even have a chance, and that she would not see him. He met her only once more, and then left Venice. Kate does not understand why he could not give Milly a denial in order to save her life. Merton insists it would not have done any good. If he denied that he and Kate were engaged, he would have broken off with her in order to make it at least partly true.
Kate accuses Merton of having fallen in love with Milly. He does not deny it; since she is dying, it does not matter. Milly had asked him to go since there was no need for him to stay and witness her death. She never asked him for the truth. Kate says Milly could now die in peace, knowing she had been loved. Kate declares that she and Merton have succeeded in their plan.
Mrs. Lowder enters the room, and Kate and Merton separate, looking guilty. Kate takes the stance that they are two friends meeting after a long separation. Mrs. Lowder accepts him as such. Merton eventually takes up this role as his own. He meets Mrs. Lowder halfway. She provides for him the explanation of his departure from Venice: that he hadn’t the courage to face the end.
Merton tells Kate that he wants to get married immediately, in order to right all their past wrongs....
(The entire section is 996 words.)
Chapters 35 and 36 Summary and Analysis
Merton is at an impasse. On Christmas Day, he dresses as for church and goes to Sir Luke’s home. There is something of considerable consequence about which he needs to speak to him, if he has arrived home yet. There is a carriage at the doctor’s door. It is that of Mrs. Lowder. In the carriage is Lord Mark, but Merton had been hoping that it would be Kate.
The door of Sir Luke’s home is answered by Mrs. Lowder, who tells Merton that the doctor should arrive the next day; he is on his way home from Venice. She tells him that Milly has died, or, as she phrases it, the dove has folded her wings. Merton says that perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the dove has spread its wings at last. Mrs. Lowder invites him to dine with her—without Kate. Kate has left Mrs. Lowder’s home and gone to live with her sister, Mrs. Condrip. It seems there is some problem with their father. In addition, Mrs. Lowder and her niece had a serious disagreement.
Merton decides he must go to see Kate, although he had told Mrs. Lowder that he was going to church. Conscious that he has told a lie, he stops and attends a church service, hoping that this will make him feel “right.”
After church, Merton goes to his club, where he catches up on some sleep that he missed the night before. He sends a message to Kate, stating that he will come to see her that afternoon. He meets her there and thinks how out of place she is in the odd environment. The rooms are small, but the furnishings appear to be relics of better days, obviously belonging to their mother. Merton finds them vulgar in this setting.
Merton asks Kate if she has heard of Milly’s death from her Aunt Maud, but Kate has heard nothing. Merton himself has received no word from Susie and does not plan to see her. Milly’s trustee is arriving in Venice to take care of her affairs.
Merton explains how difficult it was to come to see her. When Kate assumes that he did not want to come, Merton says that it is his duty. He has received a letter written by Milly before her death. He has brought it to show Kate, but now he is not sure whether to show her or not. He reveals that he has not even read it yet; what he wants to know is when she saw Lord Mark. He asked her before, and she did not answer; she is not answering now. Merton wants to know how Lord Mark found out that they were engaged.
(The entire section is 916 words.)
Chapters 37 and 38 Summary and Analysis
Kate still does not answer Merton’s question as to how Lord Mark came to find out about their engagement. He then asks why Lord Mark was with Mrs. Lowder. Kate informs him that he is staying with her. Mrs. Lowder stayed in London for the Christmas season in order to wait for news from Venice. Lord Mark has stayed because he needs money and is renting his rooms; Mrs. Lowder invited him to stay at Lancaster Gate. Kate tells Merton that this was part of the reason for her leaving the house. Merton says he accepts this as the truth, as he always does when he is with her. She recognizes the conditionality of his statement.
Kate says she cannot remember the date, but she admits talking to Lord Mark. She cannot think how he figured out their secret. She cannot explain how Lord Mark saw Merton’s departure for Venice. In addition, Milly told Lord Mark that Merton loved her, not Kate. This is why Mrs. Lowder has a good opinion of him now.
Merton asks Kate if he can help her with her father. She says it would help only if he would make as little of his visit as possible.
Merton gives Kate the unopened letter from Milly. Since Merton received it on Christmas Eve, Kate believes Milly timed it to be a gift. Kate will not open it, but she knows it is to tell him she has left him part of her fortune. Nevertheless, Merton asks her to open it. She does so, reads it, tosses it into the fire, and tells him he has it all.
Two months after Milly’s death, Merton receives notice from Milly’s law firm in New York. During this time, he and Kate rarely meet, although they no longer have to hide from Mrs. Lowder as long as Kate stays at her sister’s. Mrs. Lowder describes Kate’s absence as Kate’s “holiday.”
Merton hears from Susie, but since Kate never asks if he has, he does not tell her they have spoken. He feels that he is deceiving Mrs. Lowder whenever he and Kate meet.
When Merton receives the official documents of his inheritance from New York, he sends them unopened to Kate. He says they can send the documents back, refusing the money. He states that he sent the documents to her as a test, to see whether she would open it or return it to him. He wants her to join him in refusing the bequest. She hesitates. He further tells her that, if they do not send it back, he will not touch the money. Kate asks Merton if he was in love with Milly. He says...
(The entire section is 1069 words.)