Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Volume 2, Book 7, Chapter 1

By Henry James

Volume 2, Book 7, Chapter 1

  • Milly sits down with Susan to discuss things with their friends at Lancaster Gate. Susan is supposed to report back on how things went at Aunt Maud's dinner party. She tells Milly that Kate "knows," although it's not clear whether she knows about Milly's illness, her attraction to Merton, or both.
  • When they change the subject to Doctor Luke Strett, Milly tells Susan that it doesn't matter what Luke said. She's prepared to do whatever he thinks she should. She talks in a fatalistic tone that suggests she's totally done for.
  • Susan protests and says that Sir Luke hasn't told her anything bad. But she's not very convincing when she says it. Milly suddenly asks Susan what she thinks of Merton. Susan replies that he's very handsome.
  • When the conversation ends, Susan sits feeling gloomy about what Sir Luke Strett has told her.
  • The next day, Susan goes to Maud's and breaks down crying. It's clear that Luke Strett did not give her good news about Milly. She's basically telling Maud that Milly is going to die.
  • Sir Luke Strett has told Susan to make Milly as happy as possible, and has prescribed love as the thing to make Milly happy in her last days. The poor young woman had never loved until she became smitten with Merton and she needs to binge on that loving feeling while she's still alive.
  • This is why Aunt Maud has been trying to push Merton toward Milly. It's not just to get him away from Kate, but to make Milly happy. Maud and Susan even talk about Milly potentially marrying Merton before she dies so that she can have a princess-perfect wedding day. In other words, their plans seem to overlap with Kate Croy's.
  • It's at this point that Maud asks Susan to tell Milly that there will never be anything between Merton and Kate.

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