Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Volume 1, Book 4, Chapter 1

By Henry James

Volume 1, Book 4, Chapter 1

  • Just like that, Milly finds herself dining at Lancaster Gate (Maud Lowder's house) along with her travelling companion Susan. At dinner, Milly finds herself sitting beside Lord Mark, the aristocrat that Aunt Maud is trying to set up with her niece Kate. Milly takes special note of the "handsome girl" sitting across the table from her. This girl is Kate Croy.
  • While chatting with Lord Mark, Milly mentions that she feels bad for her friend Susie sitting next to Maud Lowder, since the comparison must be making Susie feel inadequate. Lord Mark, though, says that Susie has her (Milly), which means Susie has something that Maud doesn't.
  • Milly suddenly asks Lord Mark how much Maud Lowder knows about him. He says the woman knows nothing about him, but that doesn't matter as far as Maud is concerned. Maud only cares about the fact that Mark is a British Lord, and nothing else.
  • Lord Mark admits that he was the "best" person in the room before Milly showed up, but now she's the best.
  • In a tender moment, Lord Mark tells Milly that she has her whole life ahead of her and that she can do whatever she wants with her life because she's rich, beautiful, and charming. Glancing across the table, Milly can't help but admire Kate Croy's attractiveness.
  • Milly and Lord Mark make some more small talk about Mrs. Lowder before Milly decides to stop, since it's rude to talk about their hostess behind her back.
  • While chatting, Milly matter-of-factly tells Lord Mark that he is only observant in a superficial way and that he has no imagination. Lord Mark laughs and says he's heard this before.
  • Milly looks across the table again and asks why Kate Croy is going out of her way to be a welcoming hostess alongside her aunt. Lord Mark says it's because Kate wants to make her (Milly's) acquaintance.
  • Milly says that Kate Croy is clearly better than anyone else in the room, but when Lord Mark asks how she knows this, she asks Lord Mark what he knows about Kate. He confesses that he can't figure her out. It seems, then, that his courting of her (with Maud's encouragement) hasn't gone well.
  • Lord Mark asks Milly to let him know what she can find out about Kate when she gets a chance. Milly agrees to give it a shot.