Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Volume 1, Book 5, Chapter 5

By Henry James

Volume 1, Book 5, Chapter 5

  • Milly waits around for Sir Luke's next visit. One night, Milly and Susan have dinner with Aunt Maud and Kate and decide to go to a late party afterward.
  • At the party, Aunt Maud takes advantage of some alone time with Milly to talk to her for the first time about Merton Densher. She asks Milly if she'll do her (Aunt Maud) a favor in regards to Merton.
  • She wants Milly to bring up Merton with Kate to find out whether he's back in London.
  • Milly is worried about bringing up Merton with Kate now, though, since Kate will wonder why Milly has been silent about him for so long. After all, Kate has already mentioned Merton herself, and it was at that moment that Milly had her chance to say she knew him. But she didn't, and now it'll look suspicious if she admits to knowing him.
  • Milly then asks Maud why she can't ask Kate about Merton herself, but Maud claims that they never say his name out loud to one another. When asked if she disapproves of Kate's relationship with Merton, Maud replies that she disapproves of Merton's persistence, since Kate does not (as far as Maud knows) like him back.
  • Aunt Maud reveals that she actually likes Merton quite a bit, but doesn't approve of his relationship with Kate. When she asks Milly whether she likes him, too, Milly feels a sharp pain. She answers that she "liked" Mr. Merton three times in New York. She probably means that she met him three times in New York, or maybe she means something moreā€¦
  • Milly and Maud half-bicker for the next little while about whether Milly can tell Kate that Aunt Maud wants to know if Merton is in town. But Maud wants Milly to pretend to be interested interested for her own sake. Milly, though, seems to like Merton. So both women are trying to conceal their reasons for wanting to know if Merton is back.
  • Finally, Aunt Maud's smile fades and she tells Milly never mind, since they'll know soon enough whether Merton is back.
  • Milly says that they'll know whether Merton's back because he'll come to visit her. Except, Milly says, he won't find her.
  • Aunt Maud tells Milly to be quiet, since Kate has drifted near them. Kate then gives them a hard look that tells both of them that, without doubt, Merton Densher is back in London.