I haven’t the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake.
Mrs. Costello says these words to Winterbourne when they discuss Daisy in Chapter 2. The passage is an instance of foreshadowing, as it looks forward to the novel’s closing paragraphs, in which Winterbourne acknowledges to his aunt that he misjudged Daisy and tells her she was right about him having been “booked to make a mistake.” This mistake may be only Winterbourne’s error of judgment, the mistake of having misread Daisy. The context, however, implies that the mistake is more than this—some sort of error of omission, something he might actually have done in the context of his relationship with Daisy to change the course of events. After all, Mrs. Costello had warned him against making “a great mistake,” and he tells her that is what happened. Particularly ironic and poignant is the fact that Winterbourne went back to Geneva, where he is the subject of the same rumors that there have always been about him. The implication is that whatever it was he learned has had no effect on him. His easy return to his former life suggests that the episode with Daisy may as well have never taken place.