Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 2

By Henry James

Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 2

  • When Susan and Milly meet up later in the afternoon, Milly says nothing about the "goodbye" message she scrawled on her book. Susan decides not to mention the fact that she has followed Milly and seen her staring off a cliff and looking as if she were going to jump. Good call, Susie Q.
  • Milly tells Susan that she doesn't care for the place they're staying at. She would like to leave first thing the next morning to continue their trip. Susan readily agrees.
  • Milly decides to lie down for a little while before supper. But before she does that, she asks Susan what a man named Dr. Finch said to her before she left New York. Susan is surprised by the question, since she doesn't know how Milly could be aware of her meeting with the doctor.
  • Reaching back, Susan recalls when she met with the doctor to discuss an illness that had suddenly overtaken Milly and had threatened to cancel their trip to Europe. It was shortly after this, though, that the doctor absolutely recommended the trip as a welcome change for Milly, now that she seemed to be feeling better.
  • Susan swears that the doctor didn't tell her anything that Milly wouldn't already know. On top of this, though, Susan asks Milly how she knows about the meeting to begin with.
  • Milly says that she didn't know about the visit until Susan confirmed it just now. Susan asks Milly if she's feeling unwell, and Milly says she's feeling fine. This is a flat-out lie, as we find out that the illness has made Milly concerned about how long she has to live. Concern with dying means that no, you're not feeling fine.
  • Susan asks Milly if she'd like to see a doctor, and Milly says they can discuss it at dinner, after she's had a nap.
  • After her nap, Milly outright claims that she wants to travel straight to London. As far as Susan is concerned, this is a totally random change of plans. Milly, though, insists that she hasn't come to Europe to see scenery, but to be among people. And that's what she thinks she'll find in London.
  • At this, Susan drops a little bombshell by asking Milly if she's going to London to see Merton Densher. This is the first time we find out about these two women even knowing who Merton is.
  • We learn that Milly met Merton while he was doing his newspaper work in New York, and that he came over to her house more than once to visit. Susan even begins to wonder about how many visits Merton might have made to Milly, and what might have gone on during them…
  • Milly claims that Merton almost certainly isn't back from New York yet; so he won't even be in London when they get there.
  • Feeling more reassured, Susan says that they can go to London and look up an old school friend of hers named Maud Manningham. It turns out that this is Aunt Maud's maiden name, and that (small world) she and Susan Stringham go way back. At this point, neither Susan nor Milly know that there's any connection between Maud and Merton.
  • After a few basic questions, Milly agrees to look Maud up when they get to London.
  • As she falls asleep that night, Susan Stringham thinks of all the stuff Maud has that she doesn't. But she takes comfort in the fact that she has Milly Theale. She thinks of Milly as a possession that she can flaunt in front of her old school friend. As she thinks this, she sits down to write a letter telling Maud that she's coming to London.