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Title: The Ambassadors

Author: Henry James

Release Date: February, 1996 [EBook #432]
Last Updated: October 28, 2018

Language: English

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Produced by Richard D. Hathaway and Julia P DeRanek


The Ambassadors

by Henry James

New York Edition (1909)

Contents

Volume I

Preface

Nothing is more easy than to state the subject of “The
Ambassadors,” which first appeared in twelve numbers of (1903) and was published as a whole the same year. The
situation involved is gathered up betimes, that is in the second chapter of
Book Fifth, for the reader’s benefit, into as few words as
possible—planted or “sunk,” stiffly and saliently, in the
centre of the current, almost perhaps to the obstruction of traffic. Never can
a composition of this sort have sprung straighter from a dropped grain of
suggestion, and never can that grain, developed, overgrown and smothered, have
yet lurked more in the mass as an independent particle. The whole case, in
fine, is in Lambert Strether’s irrepressible outbreak to little Bilham on
the Sunday afternoon in Gloriani’s garden, the candour with which he
yields, for his young friend’s enlightenment, to the charming admonition
of that crisis. The idea of the tale resides indeed in the very fact that an
hour of such unprecedented ease should have been felt by him a
crisis, and he is at pains to express it for us as neatly as we could desire.
The remarks to which he thus gives utterance contain the essence of “The
Ambassadors,” his fingers close, before he has done, round the stem of
the full-blown flower; which, after that fashion, he continues officiously to
present to us. “Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It
doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your
life. If you haven’t had that what you had? I’m too
old—too old at any rate for what I see. What one loses one loses; make no
mistake about that. Still, we have the illusion of freedom; therefore
don’t, like me to-day, be without the memory of that illusion. I was
either, at the right time, too stupid or too intelligent to have it, and now
I’m a case of reaction against the mistake. Do what you like so long as
you don’t make it. For it a mistake. Live, live!” Such
is the gist of Strether’s appeal to the impressed youth, whom he likes
and whom he desires to befriend; the word “mistake” occurs several
times, it will be seen, in the course of his remarks—which gives the
measure of the signal warning he feels attached to his case. He has accordingly
missed too much, though perhaps after all constitutionally qualified for a
better part, and he wakes up to it in conditions that press the spring of a
terrible question. there yet perhaps be time for
reparation?—reparation, that is, for the injury done his character; for
the affront, he is quite ready to say, so stupidly put upon it and in which he
has even himself had so clumsy a hand? The answer to which is that he now at
all events ; so that the business of my tale and the march of my
action, not to say the precious moral of everything, is just my demonstration
of this process of vision.

Nothing can exceed the closeness with which the whole fits again into its germ.
That had been given me bodily, as usual, by the spoken word, for I was to take
the image over exactly as I happened to have met it. A friend had repeated to
me, with great appreciation, a thing or two said to him by a man of
distinction, much his senior, and to which a sense akin to that of
Strether’s melancholy eloquence might be imputed—said as chance
would have, and so easily might, in Paris, and in a charming old garden
attached to a house of art, and on a Sunday afternoon of summer, many persons
of great interest being present. The observation there listened to and gathered
up had contained part of the “note” that I was to recognise on the
spot as to my purpose—had contained in fact the greater part; the rest
was in the place and the time and the scene they sketched: these constituents
clustered and combined to give me further support, to give me what I may call
the note absolute. There it stands, accordingly, full in the tideway; driven
in, with hard taps, like some strong stake for the noose of a cable, the swirl
of the current roundabout it. What amplified the hint to more than the bulk of
hints in general was the gift with it of the old Paris garden, for in that
token were sealed up values infinitely precious. There was of course the seal
to break and each item of the packet to count over and handle and estimate; but
somehow, in the light of the hint, all the elements of a situation of the sort
most to my taste were there. I could even remember no occasion on which, so
confronted, I had found it of a livelier interest to take stock, in this
fashion, of suggested wealth. For I think, verily, that there are degrees of
merit in subjects—in spite of the fact that to treat even one of the most
ambiguous with due decency we must for the time, for the feverish and
prejudiced hour, at least figure its merit and its dignity as
absolute. What it comes to, doubtless, is that even among the supremely
good—since with such alone is it one’s theory of one’s honour
to be concerned—there is an ideal of goodness the invoked
action of which is to raise the artistic faith to its maximum. Then truly, I
hold, one’s theme may be said to shine, and that of “The
Ambassadors,” I confess, wore this glow for me from beginning to end.
Fortunately thus I am able to estimate this as, frankly, quite the best,
“all round,” of all my productions; any failure of that
justification would have made such an extreme of complacency publicly fatuous.

I recall then in this connexion no moment of subjective intermittence, never
one of those alarms as for a suspected hollow beneath one’s feet, a felt
ingratitude in the scheme adopted, under which confidence fails and opportunity
seems but to mock. If the motive of “The Wings of the Dove,” as I
have noted, was to worry me at moments by a sealing-up of its face—though
without prejudice to its again, of a sudden, fairly grimacing with
expression—so in this other business I had absolute conviction and
constant clearness to deal with; it had been a frank proposition, the whole
bunch of data, installed on my premises like a monotony of fine weather. (The
order of composition, in these things, I may mention, was reversed by the order
of publication; the earlier written of the two books having appeared as the
later.) Even under the weight of my hero’s years I could feel my
postulate firm; even under the strain of the difference between those of Madame
de Vionnet and those of Chad Newsome, a difference liable to be denounced as
shocking, I could still feel it serene. Nothing resisted, nothing betrayed, I
seem to make out, in this full and sound sense of the matter; it shed from any
side I could turn it to the same golden glow. I rejoiced in the promise of a
hero so mature, who would give me thereby the more to bite into—since
it’s only into thickened motive and accumulated character, I think, that
the painter of life bites more than a little. My poor friend should have
accumulated character, certainly; or rather would be quite naturally and
handsomely possessed of it, in the sense that he would have, and would always
have felt he had, imagination galore, and that this yet wouldn’t have
wrecked him. It was immeasurable, the opportunity to “do” a man of
imagination, for if mightn’t be a chance to
“bite,” where in the world might it be? This personage of course,
so enriched, wouldn’t give me, for his type, imagination in
or as his prime faculty, nor should I, in view of other
matters, have found that convenient. So particular a luxury—some
occasion, that is, for study of the high gift in command of a
case or of a career—would still doubtless come on the day I should be
ready to pay for it; and till then might, as from far back, remain hung up well
in view and just out of reach. The comparative case meanwhile would
serve—it was only on the minor scale that I had treated myself even to
comparative cases.

I was to hasten to add however that, happy stopgaps as the minor scale had thus
yielded, the instance in hand should enjoy the advantage of the full range of
the major; since most immediately to the point was the question of that
of situation logically involved in our gentleman’s
impulse to deliver himself in the Paris garden on the Sunday afternoon—or
if not involved by strict logic then all ideally and enchantingly implied in
it. (I say “ideally,” because I need scarce mention that for
development, for expression of its maximum, my glimmering story was, at the
earliest stage, to have nipped the thread of connexion with the possibilities
of the actual reported speaker. remains but the happiest of
accidents; his actualities, all too definite, precluded any range of
possibilities; it had only been his charming office to project upon that wide
field of the artist’s vision—which hangs there ever in place like
the white sheet suspended for the figures of a child’s
magic-lantern—a more fantastic and more moveable shadow.) No privilege of
the teller of tales and the handler of puppets is more delightful, or has more
of the suspense and the thrill of a game of difficulty breathlessly played,
than just this business of looking for the unseen and the occult, in a scheme
half-grasped, by the light or, so to speak, by the clinging scent, of the gage
already in hand. No dreadful old pursuit of the hidden slave with bloodhounds
and the rag of association can ever, for “excitement,” I judge,
have bettered it at its best. For the dramatist always, by the very law of his
genius, believes not only in a possible right issue from the rightly-conceived
tight place; he does much more than this—he believes, irresistibly, in
the necessary, the precious “tightness” of the place (whatever the
issue) on the strength of any respectable hint. It being thus the respectable
hint that I had with such avidity picked up, what would be the story to which
it would most inevitably form the centre? It is part of the charm attendant on
such questions that the “story,” with the omens true, as I say,
puts on from this stage the authenticity of concrete existence. It then is,
essentially—it begins to be, though it may more or less obscurely lurk,
so that the point is not in the least what to make of it, but only, very
delightfully and very damnably, where to put one’s hand on it.

In which truth resides surely much of the interest of that admirable mixture
for salutary application which we know as art. Art deals with what we see, it
must first contribute full-handed that ingredient; it plucks its material,
otherwise expressed, in the garden of life—which material elsewhere grown
is stale and uneatable. But it has no sooner done this than it has to take
account of a —from which only when it’s the basest of
the servants of man, incurring ignominious dismissal with no
“character,” does it, and whether under some muddled pretext of
morality or on any other, pusillanimously edge away. The process, that of the
expression, the literal squeezing-out, of value is another affair—with
which the happy luck of mere finding has little to do. The joys of finding, at
this stage, are pretty well over; that quest of the subject as a whole by
“matching,” as the ladies say at the shops, the big piece with the
snippet, having ended, we assume, with a capture. The subject is found, and if
the problem is then transferred to the ground of what to do with it the field
opens out for any amount of doing. This is precisely the infusion that, as I
submit, completes the strong mixture. It is on the other hand the part of the
business that can least be likened to the chase with horn and hound. It’s
all a sedentary part—involves as much ciphering, of sorts, as would merit
the highest salary paid to a chief accountant. Not, however, that the chief
accountant hasn’t gleams of bliss; for the felicity, or at
least the equilibrium of the artist’s state dwells less, surely, in the
further delightful complications he can smuggle in than in those he succeeds in
keeping out. He sows his seed at the risk of too thick a crop; wherefore yet
again, like the gentlemen who audit ledgers, he must keep his head at any
price. In consequence of all which, for the interest of the matter, I might
seem here to have my choice of narrating my “hunt” for Lambert
Strether, of describing the capture of the shadow projected by my
friend’s anecdote, or of reporting on the occurrences subsequent to that
triumph. But I had probably best attempt a little to glance in each direction;
since it comes to me again and again, over this licentious record, that
one’s bag of adventures, conceived or conceivable, has been only
half-emptied by the mere telling of one’s story. It depends so on what
one means by that equivocal quantity. There is the story of one’s hero,
and then, thanks to the intimate connexion of things, the story of one’s
story itself. I blush to confess it, but if one’s a dramatist one’s
a dramatist, and the latter imbroglio is liable on occasion to strike me as
really the more objective of the two.

The philosophy imputed to him in that beautiful outbreak, the hour there, amid
such happy provision, striking for him, would have been then, on behalf of my
man of imagination, to be logically and, as the artless craft of comedy has it,
“led up” to; the probable course to such a goal, the goal of so
conscious a predicament, would have in short to be finely calculated. Where has
he come from and why has he come, what is he doing (as we Anglo-Saxons, and we
only, say, in our foredoomed clutch of exotic aids to expression) in that
To answer these questions plausibly, to answer them as under
cross-examination in the witness-box by counsel for the prosecution, in other
words satisfactorily to account for Strether and for his “peculiar
tone,” was to possess myself of the entire fabric. At the same time the
clue to its whereabouts would lie in a certain principle of probability: he
wouldn’t have indulged in his peculiar tone without a reason; it would
take a felt predicament or a false position to give him so ironic an accent.
One hadn’t been noting “tones” all one’s life without
recognising when one heard it the voice of the false position. The dear man in
the Paris garden was then admirably and unmistakeably one—which
was no small point gained; what next accordingly concerned us was the
determination of identity. One could only go by probabilities, but
there was the advantage that the most general of the probabilities were virtual
certainties. Possessed of our friend’s nationality, to start with, there
was a general probability in his narrower localism; which, for that matter, one
had really but to keep under the lens for an hour to see it give up its
secrets. He would have issued, our rueful worthy, from the very heart of New
England—at the heels of which matter of course a perfect train of secrets
tumbled for me into the light. They had to be sifted and sorted, and I shall
not reproduce the detail of that process; but unmistakeably they were all
there, and it was but a question, auspiciously, of picking among them. What the
“position” would infallibly be, and why, on his hands, it had
turned “false”—these inductive steps could only be as rapid
as they were distinct. I accounted for everything—and
“everything” had by this time become the most promising
quantity—by the view that he had come to Paris in some state of mind
which was literally undergoing, as a result of new and unexpected assaults and
infusions, a change almost from hour to hour. He had come with a view that
might have been figured by a clear green liquid, say, in a neat glass phial;
and the liquid, once poured into the open cup of , once
exposed to the action of another air, had begun to turn from green to red, or
whatever, and might, for all he knew, be on its way to purple, to black, to
yellow. At the still wilder extremes represented perhaps, for all he could say
to the contrary, by a variability so violent, he would at first, naturally, but
have gazed in surprise and alarm; whereby the clearly would
spring from the play of wildness and the development of extremes. I saw in a
moment that, should this development proceed both with force and logic, my
“story” would leave nothing to be desired. There is always, of
course, for the story-teller, the irresistible determinant and the incalculable
advantage of his interest in the story ; it is ever, obviously,
overwhelmingly, the prime and precious thing (as other than this I have never
been able to see it); as to which what makes for it, with whatever headlong
energy, may be said to pale before the energy with which it simply makes for
itself. It rejoices, none the less, at its best, to seem to offer itself in a
light, to seem to know, and with the very last knowledge, what it’s
about—liable as it yet is at moments to be caught by us with its tongue
in its cheek and absolutely no warrant but its splendid impudence. Let us grant
then that the impudence is always there—there, so to speak, for grace and
effect and ; there, above all, because the Story is just the
spoiled child of art, and because, as we are always disappointed when the
pampered don’t “play up,” we like it, to that extent, to look
all its character. It probably does so, in truth, even when we most flatter
ourselves that we negotiate with it by treaty.

All of which, again, is but to say that the , for my fable, placed
themselves with a prompt and, as it were, functional assurance—an air
quite as of readiness to have dispensed with logic had I been in fact too
stupid for my clue. Never, positively, none the less, as the links multiplied,
had I felt less stupid than for the determination of poor Strether’s
errand and for the apprehension of his issue. These things continued to fall
together, as by the neat action of their own weight and form, even while their
commentator scratched his head about them; he easily sees now that they were
always well in advance of him. As the case completed itself he had in fact,
from a good way behind, to catch up with them, breathless and a little
flurried, as he best could. false position, for our belated man of
the world—belated because he had endeavoured so long to escape being one,
and now at last had really to face his doom—the false position for him, I
say, was obviously to have presented himself at the gate of that boundless
menagerie primed with a moral scheme of the most approved pattern which was yet
framed to break down on any approach to vivid facts; that is to any at all
liberal appreciation of them. There would have been of course the case of the
Strether prepared, wherever presenting himself, only to judge and to feel
meanly; but would have moved for me, I confess, enveloped in no
legend whatever. The actual man’s note, from the first of our seeing it
struck, is the note of discrimination, just as his drama is to become, under
stress, the drama of discrimination. It would have been his blest imagination,
we have seen, that had already helped him to discriminate; the element that was
for so much of the pleasure of my cutting thick, as I have intimated, into his
intellectual, into his moral substance. Yet here it was, at the same time, just
here, that a shade for a moment fell across the scene.

There was the dreadful little old tradition, one of the platitudes of the human
comedy, that people’s moral scheme break down in Paris; that
nothing is more frequently observed; that hundreds of thousands of more or less
hypocritical or more or less cynical persons annually visit the place for the
sake of the probable catastrophe, and that I came late in the day to work
myself up about it. There was in fine the association, one of
the vulgarest in the world; but which give me pause no longer, I think, simply
because its vulgarity is so advertised. The revolution performed by Strether
under the influence of the most interesting of great cities was to have nothing
to do with any of the imputably “tempted” state; he
was to be thrown forward, rather, thrown quite with violence, upon his lifelong
trick of intense reflexion: which friendly test indeed was to bring him out,
through winding passages, through alternations of darkness and light, very much
Paris, but with the surrounding scene itself a minor matter, a mere
symbol for more things than had been dreamt of in the philosophy of Woollett.
Another surrounding scene would have done as well for our show could it have
represented a place in which Strether’s errand was likely to lie and his
crisis to await him. The place had the great merit of sparing me
preparations; there would have been too many involved—not at all
impossibilities, only rather worrying and delaying difficulties—in
positing elsewhere Chad Newsome’s interesting relation, his so
interesting complexity of relations. Strether’s appointed stage, in fine,
could be but Chad’s most luckily selected one. The young man had gone in,
as they say, for circumjacent charm; and where he would have found it, by the
turn of his mind, most “authentic,” was where his earnest
friend’s analysis would most find ; as well as where, for that
matter, the former’s whole analytic faculty would be led such a wonderful
dance.

“The Ambassadors” had been, all conveniently, “arranged
for”; its first appearance was from month to month, in the during 1903, and I had been open from far back to any
pleasant provocation for ingenuity that might reside in one’s actively
adopting—so as to make it, in its way, a small compositional
law—recurrent breaks and resumptions. I had made up my mind here
regularly to exploit and enjoy these often rather rude jolts—having
found, as I believed an admirable way to it; yet every question of form and
pressure, I easily remember, paled in the light of the major propriety,
recognised as soon as really weighed; that of employing but one centre and
keeping it all within my hero’s compass. The thing was to be so much this
worthy’s intimate adventure that even the projection of his consciousness
upon it from beginning to end without intermission or deviation would probably
still leave a part of its value for him, and for ourselves,
unexpressed. I might, however, express every grain of it that there would be
room for—on condition of contriving a splendid particular economy. Other
persons in no small number were to people the scene, and each with his or her
axe to grind, his or her situation to treat, his or her coherency not to fail
of, his or her relation to my leading motive, in a word, to establish and carry
on. But Strether’s sense of these things, and Strether’s only,
should avail me for showing them; I should know them but through his more or
less groping knowledge of them, since his very gropings would figure among his
most interesting motions, and a full observance of the rich rigour I speak of
would give me more of the effect I should be most “after” than all
other possible observances together. It would give me a large unity, and that
in turn would crown me with the grace to which the enlightened story-teller
will at any time, for his interest, sacrifice if need be all other graces
whatever. I refer of course to the grace of intensity, which there are ways of
signally achieving and ways of signally missing—as we see it, all round
us, helplessly and woefully missed. Not that it isn’t, on the other hand,
a virtue eminently subject to appreciation—there being no strict, no
absolute measure of it; so that one may hear it acclaimed where it has quite
escaped one’s perception, and see it unnoticed where one has gratefully
hailed it. After all of which I am not sure, either, that the immense amusement
of the whole cluster of difficulties so arrayed may not operate, for the fond
fabulist, when judicious not less than fond, as his best of determinants. That
charming principle is always there, at all events, to keep interest fresh: it
is a principle, we remember, essentially ravenous, without scruple and without
mercy, appeased with no cheap nor easy nourishment. It enjoys the costly
sacrifice and rejoices thereby in the very odour of difficulty—even as
ogres, with their “Fee-faw-fum!” rejoice in the smell of the blood
of Englishmen.

Thus it was, at all events, that the ultimate, though after all so speedy,
definition of my gentleman’s job—his coming out, all solemnly
appointed and deputed, to “save” Chad, and his then finding the
young man so disobligingly and, at first, so bewilderingly not lost that a new
issue altogether, in the connexion, prodigiously faces them, which has to be
dealt with in a new light—promised as many calls on ingenuity and on the
higher branches of the compositional art as one could possibly desire. Again
and yet again, as, from book to book, I proceed with my survey, I find no
source of interest equal to this verification after the fact, as I may call it,
and the more in detail the better, of the scheme of consistency “gone
in” for. As always—since the charm never fails—the retracing
of the process from point to point brings back the old illusion. The old
intentions bloom again and flower—in spite of all the blossoms they were
to have dropped by the way. This is the charm, as I say, of adventure
—the thrilling ups and downs, the intricate ins and outs
of the compositional problem, made after such a fashion admirably objective,
becoming the question at issue and keeping the author’s heart in his
mouth. Such an element, for instance, as his intention that Mrs. Newsome, away
off with her finger on the pulse of Massachusetts, should yet be no less
intensely than circuitously present through the whole thing, should be no less
felt as to be reckoned with than the most direct exhibition, the finest
portrayal at first hand could make her, such a sign of artistic good faith, I
say, once it’s unmistakeably there, takes on again an actuality not too
much impaired by the comparative dimness of the particular success. Cherished
intention too inevitably acts and operates, in the book, about fifty times as
little as I had fondly dreamt it might; but that scarce spoils for me the
pleasure of recognising the fifty ways in which I had sought to provide for it.
The mere charm of seeing such an idea constituent, in its degree; the fineness
of the measures taken—a real extension, if successful, of the very terms
and possibilities of representation and figuration—such things alone
were, after this fashion, inspiring, such things alone were a gage of the
probable success of that dissimulated calculation with which the whole effort
was to square. But oh the cares begotten, none the less, of that same
“judicious” sacrifice to a particular form of interest! One’s
work should have composition, because composition alone is positive beauty; but
all the while—apart from one’s inevitable consciousness too of the
dire paucity of readers ever recognising or ever missing positive
beauty—how, as to the cheap and easy, at every turn, how, as to immediacy
and facility, and even as to the commoner vivacity, positive beauty might have
to be sweated for and paid for! Once achieved and installed it may always be
trusted to make the poor seeker feel he would have blushed to the roots of his
hair for failing of it; yet, how, as its virtue can be essentially but the
virtue of the whole, the wayside traps set in the interest of muddlement and
pleading but the cause of the moment, of the particular bit in itself, have to
be kicked out of the path! All the sophistications in life, for example, might
have appeared to muster on behalf of the menace—the menace to a bright
variety—involved in Strether’s having all the subjective
“say,” as it were, to himself.

Had I, meanwhile, made him at once hero and historian, endowed him with the
romantic privilege of the “first person”—the darkest abyss of
romance this, inveterately, when enjoyed on the grand scale—variety, and
many other queer matters as well, might have been smuggled in by a back door.
Suffice it, to be brief, that the first person, in the long piece, is a form
foredoomed to looseness and that looseness, never much my affair, had never
been so little so as on this particular occasion. All of which reflexions
flocked to the standard from the moment—a very early one—the
question of how to keep my form amusing while sticking so close to my central
figure and constantly taking its pattern from him had to be faced. He arrives
(arrives at Chester) as for the dreadful purpose of giving his creator
“no end” to tell about him—before which rigorous mission the
serenest of creators might well have quailed. I was far from the serenest; I
was more than agitated enough to reflect that, grimly deprived of one
alternative or one substitute for “telling,” I must address myself
tooth and nail to another. I couldn’t, save by implication, make other
persons tell about him—blest resource, blest necessity,
of the drama, which reaches its effects of unity, all remarkably, by paths
absolutely opposite to the paths of the novel: with other persons, save as they
were primarily persons (not he primarily but one of theirs), I had
simply nothing to do. I had relations for him none the less, by the mercy of
Providence, quite as much as if my exhibition was to be a muddle; if I could
only by implication and a show of consequence make other persons tell each
other about him, I could at least make him tell whatever in the
world he must; and could so, by the same token—which was a further luxury
thrown in—see straight into the deep differences between what that could
do for me, or at all events for , and the large ease of
“autobiography.” It may be asked why, if one so keeps to
one’s hero, one shouldn’t make a single mouthful of
“method,” shouldn’t throw the reins on his neck and, letting
them flap there as free as in “Gil Blas” or in “David
Copperfield,” equip him with the double privilege of subject and
object—a course that has at least the merit of brushing away questions at
a sweep. The answer to which is, I think, that one makes that surrender only if
one is prepared to make certain precious discriminations.

The “first person” then, so employed, is addressed by the author
directly to ourselves, his possible readers, whom he has to reckon with, at the
best, by our English tradition, so loosely and vaguely after all, so little
respectfully, on so scant a presumption of exposure to criticism. Strether, on
the other hand, encaged and provided for as “The Ambassadors”
encages and provides, has to keep in view proprieties much stiffer and more
salutary than any our straight and credulous gape are likely to bring home to
him, has exhibitional conditions to meet, in a word, that forbid the terrible
of self-revelation. I may seem not to better the case for my
discrimination if I say that, for my first care, I had thus inevitably to set
him up a confidant or two, to wave away with energy the custom of the seated
mass of explanation after the fact, the inserted block of merely referential
narrative, which flourishes so, to the shame of the modern impatience, on the
serried page of Balzac, but which seems simply to appal our actual, our general
weaker, digestion. “Harking back to make up” took at any rate more
doing, as the phrase is, not only than the reader of to-day demands, but than
he will tolerate at any price any call upon him either to understand or
remotely to measure; and for the beauty of the thing when done the current
editorial mind in particular appears wholly without sense. It is not, however,
primarily for either of these reasons, whatever their weight, that
Strether’s friend Waymarsh is so keenly clutched at, on the threshold of
the book, or that no less a pounce is made on Maria Gostrey—without even
the pretext, either, of being, in essence, Strether’s friend.
She is the reader’s friend much rather—in consequence of
dispositions that make him so eminently require one; and she acts in that
capacity, and in that capacity alone, with exemplary devotion
from beginning to and of the book. She is an enrolled, a direct, aid to
lucidity; she is in fine, to tear off her mask, the most unmitigated and
abandoned of . Half the dramatist’s art, as we well
know—since if we don’t it’s not the fault of the proofs that
lie scattered about us—is in the use of ; by which I mean
in a deep dissimulation of his dependence on them. Waymarsh only to a slighter
degree belongs, in the whole business, less to my subject than to my treatment
of it; the interesting proof, in these connexions, being that one has but to
take one’s subject for the stuff of drama to interweave with enthusiasm
as many Gostreys as need be.

The material of “The Ambassadors,” conforming in this respect
exactly to that of “The Wings of the Dove,” published just before
it, is taken absolutely for the stuff of drama; so that, availing myself of the
opportunity given me by this edition for some prefatory remarks on the latter
work, I had mainly to make on its behalf the point of its scenic consistency.
It disguises that virtue, in the oddest way in the world, by just
, as we turn its pages, as little scenic as possible; but it
sharply divides itself, just as the composition before us does, into the parts
that prepare, that tend in fact to over-prepare, for scenes, and the parts, or
otherwise into the scenes, that justify and crown the preparation. It may
definitely be said, I think, that everything in it that is not scene (not, I of
course mean, complete and functional scene, treating the submitted
matter, as by logical start, logical turn, and logical finish) is discriminated
preparation, is the fusion and synthesis of picture. These alternations propose
themselves all recogniseably, I think, from an early stage, as the very form
and figure of “The Ambassadors”; so that, to repeat, such an agent
as Miss Gostrey pre-engaged at a high salary, but waits in the draughty wing
with her shawl and her smelling-salts. Her function speaks at once for itself,
and by the time she has dined with Strether in London and gone to a play with
him her intervention as a is, I hold, expertly justified. Thanks
to it we have treated scenically, and scenically alone, the whole lumpish
question of Strether’s “past,” which has seen us more happily
on the way than anything else could have done; we have strained to a high
lucidity and vivacity (or at least we hope we have) certain indispensable
facts; we have seen our two or three immediate friends all conveniently and
profitably in “action”; to say nothing of our beginning to descry
others, of a remoter intensity, getting into motion, even if a bit vaguely as
yet, for our further enrichment. Let my first point be here that the scene in
question, that in which the whole situation at Woollett and the complex forces
that have propelled my hero to where this lively extractor of his value and
distiller of his essence awaits him, is normal and entire, is really an
excellent scene; copious, comprehensive, and accordingly never
short, but with its office as definite as that of the hammer on the gong of the
clock, the office of expressing the hour.

The “” character of the subordinate party is as
artfully dissimulated, throughout, as may be, and to that extent that, with the
seams or joints of Maria Gostrey’s ostensible connectedness taken
particular care of, duly smoothed over, that is, and anxiously kept from
showing as “pieced on,” this figure doubtless achieves, after a
fashion, something of the dignity of a prime idea: which circumstance but shows
us afresh how many quite incalculable but none the less clear sources of
enjoyment for the infatuated artist, how many copious springs of our
never-to-be-slighted “fun” for the reader and critic susceptible of
contagion, may sound their incidental plash as soon as an artistic process
begins to enjoy free development. Exquisite—in illustration of
this—the mere interest and amusement of such at once
“creative” and critical questions as how and where and why to make
Miss Gostrey’s false connexion carry itself, under a due high polish, as
a real one. Nowhere is it more of an artful expedient for mere consistency of
form, to mention a case, than in the last “scene” of the book,
where its function is to give or to add nothing whatever, but only to express
as vividly as possible certain things quite other than itself and that are of
the already fixed and appointed measure. Since, however, all art is
, and is thereby vividness, one was to find the door open here
to any amount of delightful dissimulation. These verily are the refinements and
ecstasies of method—amid which, or certainly under the influence of any
exhilarated demonstration of which, one must keep one’s head and not lose
one’s way. To cultivate an adequate intelligence for them and to make
that sense operative is positively to find a charm in any produced ambiguity of
appearance that is not by the same stroke, and all helplessly, an ambiguity of
sense. To project imaginatively, for my hero, a relation that has nothing to do
with the matter (the matter of my subject) but has everything to do with the
manner (the manner of my presentation of the same) and yet to treat it, at
close quarters and for fully economic expression’s possible sake, as if
it were important and essential—to do that sort of thing and yet muddle
nothing may easily become, as one goes, a signally attaching proposition; even
though it all remains but part and parcel, I hasten to recognise, of the merely
general and related question of expressional curiosity and expressional
decency.

I am moved to add after so much insistence on the scenic side of my labour that
I have found the steps of re-perusal almost as much waylaid here by quite
another style of effort in the same signal interest—or have in other
words not failed to note how, even so associated and so discriminated, the
finest proprieties and charms of the non-scenic may, under the right hand for
them, still keep their intelligibility and assert their office. Infinitely
suggestive such an observation as this last on the whole delightful head, where
representation is concerned, of possible variety, of effective expressional
change and contrast. One would like, at such an hour as this, for critical
licence, to go into the matter of the noted inevitable deviation (from too fond
an original vision) that the exquisite treachery even of the straightest
execution may ever be trusted to inflict even on the most mature plan—the
case being that, though one’s last reconsidered production always seems
to bristle with that particular evidence, “The Ambassadors” would
place a flood of such light at my service. I must attach to my final remark
here a different import; noting in the other connexion I just glanced at that
such passages as that of my hero’s first encounter with Chad Newsome,
absolute attestations of the non-scenic form though they be, yet lay the
firmest hand too—so far at least as intention goes—on
representational effect. To report at all closely and completely of what
“passes” on a given occasion is inevitably to become more or less
scenic; and yet in the instance I allude to, the conveyance,
expressional curiosity and expressional decency are sought and arrived at under
quite another law. The true inwardness of this may be at bottom but that one of
the suffered treacheries has consisted precisely, for Chad’s whole figure
and presence, of a direct presentability diminished and
compromised—despoiled, that is, of its advantage; so
that, in a word, the whole economy of his author’s relation to him has at
important points to be redetermined. The book, however, critically viewed, is
touchingly full of these disguised and repaired losses, these insidious
recoveries, these intensely redemptive consistencies. The pages in which Mamie
Pocock gives her appointed and, I can’t but think, duly felt lift to the
whole action by the so inscrutably-applied side-stroke or short-cut of our just
watching and as quite at an angle of vision as yet untried, her single hour of
suspense in the hotel salon, in our partaking of her concentrated study of the
sense of matters bearing on her own case, all the bright warm Paris afternoon,
from the balcony that overlooks the Tuileries garden—these are as marked
an example of the representational virtue that insists here and there on being,
for the charm of opposition and renewal, other than the scenic. It
wouldn’t take much to make me further argue that from an equal play of
such oppositions the book gathers an intensity that fairly adds to the
dramatic—though the latter is supposed to be the sum of all intensities;
or that has at any rate nothing to fear from juxtaposition with it. I
consciously fail to shrink in fact from that extravagance—I risk it
rather, for the sake of the moral involved; which is not that the particular
production before us exhausts the interesting questions it raises, but that the
Novel remains still, under the right persuasion, the most independent, most
elastic, most prodigious of literary forms.

HENRY JAMES.

Book First

I

Strether’s first question, when he reached the hotel, was about his
friend; yet on his learning that Waymarsh was apparently not to arrive till
evening he was not wholly disconcerted. A telegram from him bespeaking a room
“only if not noisy,” reply paid, was produced for the enquirer at
the office, so that the understanding they should meet at Chester rather than
at Liverpool remained to that extent sound. The same secret principle, however,
that had prompted Strether not absolutely to desire Waymarsh’s presence
at the dock, that had led him thus to postpone for a few hours his enjoyment of
it, now operated to make him feel he could still wait without disappointment.
They would dine together at the worst, and, with all respect to dear old
Waymarsh—if not even, for that matter, to himself—there was little
fear that in the sequel they shouldn’t see enough of each other. The
principle I have just mentioned as operating had been, with the most newly
disembarked of the two men, wholly instinctive—the fruit of a sharp sense
that, delightful as it would be to find himself looking, after so much
separation, into his comrade’s face, his business would be a trifle
bungled should he simply arrange for this countenance to present itself to the
nearing steamer as the first “note,” of Europe. Mixed with
everything was the apprehension, already, on Strether’s part, that it
would, at best, throughout, prove the note of Europe in quite a sufficient
degree.

That note had been meanwhile—since the previous afternoon, thanks to this
happier device—such a consciousness of personal freedom as he
hadn’t known for years; such a deep taste of change and of having above
all for the moment nobody and nothing to consider, as promised already, if
headlong hope were not too foolish, to colour his adventure with cool success.
There were people on the ship with whom he had easily consorted—so far as
ease could up to now be imputed to him—and who for the most part plunged
straight into the current that set from the landing-stage to London; there were
others who had invited him to a tryst at the inn and had even invoked his aid
for a “look round” at the beauties of Liverpool; but he had stolen
away from every one alike, had kept no appointment and renewed no acquaintance,
had been indifferently aware of the number of persons who esteemed themselves
fortunate in being, unlike himself, “met,” and had even
independently, unsociably, alone, without encounter or relapse and by mere
quiet evasion, given his afternoon and evening to the immediate and the
sensible. They formed a qualified draught of Europe, an afternoon and an
evening on the banks of the Mersey, but such as it was he took his potion at
least undiluted. He winced a little, truly, at the thought that Waymarsh might
be already at Chester; he reflected that, should he have to describe himself
there as having “got in” so early, it would be difficult to make
the interval look particularly eager; but he was like a man who, elatedly
finding in his pocket more money than usual, handles it a while and idly and
pleasantly chinks it before addressing himself to the business of spending.
That he was prepared to be vague to Waymarsh about the hour of the ship’s
touching, and that he both wanted extremely to see him and enjoyed extremely
the duration of delay—these things, it is to be conceived, were early
signs in him that his relation to his actual errand might prove none of the
simplest. He was burdened, poor Strether—it had better be confessed at
the outset—with the oddity of a double consciousness. There was
detachment in his zeal and curiosity in his indifference.

After the young woman in the glass cage had held up to him across her counter
the pale-pink leaflet bearing his friend’s name, which she neatly
pronounced, he turned away to find himself, in the hall, facing a lady who met
his eyes as with an intention suddenly determined, and whose features—not
freshly young, not markedly fine, but on happy terms with each other—came
back to him as from a recent vision. For a moment they stood confronted; then
the moment placed her: he had noticed her the day before, noticed her at his
previous inn, where—again in the hall—she had been briefly engaged
with some people of his own ship’s company. Nothing had actually passed
between them, and he would as little have been able to say what had been the
sign of her face for him on the first occasion as to name the ground of his
present recognition. Recognition at any rate appeared to prevail on her own
side as well—which would only have added to the mystery. All she now
began by saying to him nevertheless was that, having chanced to catch his
enquiry, she was moved to ask, by his leave, if it were possibly a question of
Mr. Waymarsh of Milrose Connecticut—Mr. Waymarsh the American lawyer.

“Oh yes,” he replied, “my very well-known friend. He’s
to meet me here, coming up from Malvern, and I supposed he’d already have
arrived. But he doesn’t come till later, and I’m relieved not to
have kept him. Do you know him?” Strether wound up.

It wasn’t till after he had spoken that he became aware of how much there
had been in him of response; when the tone of her own rejoinder, as well as the
play of something more in her face—something more, that is, than its
apparently usual restless light—seemed to notify him. “I’ve
met him at Milrose—where I used sometimes, a good while ago, to stay; I
had friends there who were friends of his, and I’ve been at his house. I
won’t answer for it that he would know me,” Strether’s new
acquaintance pursued; “but I should be delighted to see him.
Perhaps,” she added, “I shall—for I’m staying
over.” She paused while our friend took in these things, and it was as if
a good deal of talk had already passed. They even vaguely smiled at it, and
Strether presently observed that Mr. Waymarsh would, no doubt, be easily to be
seen. This, however, appeared to affect the lady as if she might have advanced
too far. She appeared to have no reserves about anything. “Oh,” she
said, “he won’t care!”—and she immediately thereupon
remarked that she believed Strether knew the Munsters; the Munsters being the
people he had seen her with at Liverpool.

But he didn’t, it happened, know the Munsters well enough to give the
case much of a lift; so that they were left together as if over the mere laid
table of conversation. Her qualification of the mentioned connexion had rather
removed than placed a dish, and there seemed nothing else to serve. Their
attitude remained, none the less, that of not forsaking the board; and the
effect of this in turn was to give them the appearance of having accepted each
other with an absence of preliminaries practically complete. They moved along
the hall together, and Strether’s companion threw off that the hotel had
the advantage of a garden. He was aware by this time of his strange
inconsequence: he had shirked the intimacies of the steamer and had muffled the
shock of Waymarsh only to find himself forsaken, in this sudden case, both of
avoidance and of caution. He passed, under this unsought protection and before
he had so much as gone up to his room, into the garden of the hotel, and at the
end of ten minutes had agreed to meet there again, as soon as he should have
made himself tidy, the dispenser of such good assurances. He wanted to look at
the town, and they would forthwith look together. It was almost as if she had
been in possession and received him as a guest. Her acquaintance with the place
presented her in a manner as a hostess, and Strether had a rueful glance for
the lady in the glass cage. It was as if this personage had seen herself
instantly superseded.

When in a quarter of an hour he came down, what his hostess saw, what she might
have taken in with a vision kindly adjusted, was the lean, the slightly loose
figure of a man of the middle height and something more perhaps than the middle
age—a man of five-and-fifty, whose most immediate signs were a marked
bloodless brownness of face, a thick dark moustache, of characteristically
American cut, growing strong and falling low, a head of hair still abundant but
irregularly streaked with grey, and a nose of bold free prominence, the even
line, the high finish, as it might have been called, of which, had a certain
effect of mitigation. A perpetual pair of glasses astride of this fine ridge,
and a line, unusually deep and drawn, the prolonged pen-stroke of time,
accompanying the curve of the moustache from nostril to chin, did something to
complete the facial furniture that an attentive observer would have seen
catalogued, on the spot, in the vision of the other party to Strether’s
appointment. She waited for him in the garden, the other party, drawing on a
pair of singularly fresh soft and elastic light gloves and presenting herself
with a superficial readiness which, as he approached her over the small smooth
lawn and in the watery English sunshine, he might, with his rougher
preparation, have marked as the model for such an occasion. She had, this lady,
a perfect plain propriety, an expensive subdued suitability, that her companion
was not free to analyse, but that struck him, so that his consciousness of it
was instantly acute, as a quality quite new to him. Before reaching her he
stopped on the grass and went through the form of feeling for something,
possibly forgotten, in the light overcoat he carried on his arm; yet the
essence of the act was no more than the impulse to gain time. Nothing could
have been odder than Strether’s sense of himself as at that moment
launched in something of which the sense would be quite disconnected from the
sense of his past and which was literally beginning there and then. It had
begun in fact already upstairs and before the dressing glass that struck him as
blocking further, so strangely, the dimness of the window of his dull bedroom;
begun with a sharper survey of the elements of Appearance than he had for a
long time been moved to make. He had during those moments felt these elements
to be not so much to his hand as he should have liked, and then had fallen back
on the thought that they were precisely a matter as to which help was supposed
to come from what he was about to do. He was about to go up to London, so that
hat and necktie might wait. What had come as straight to him as a ball in a
well-played game—and caught moreover not less neatly—was just the
air, in the person of his friend, of having seen and chosen, the air of
achieved possession of those vague qualities and quantities that collectively
figured to him as the advantage snatched from lucky chances. Without pomp or
circumstance, certainly, as her original address to him, equally with his own
response, had been, he would have sketched to himself his impression of her as:
“Well, she’s more thoroughly civilized—!” If
“More thoroughly than ” would not have been for him a
sequel to this remark, that was just by reason of his deep consciousness of the
bearing of his comparison.

The amusement, at all events, of a civilisation intenser was
what—familiar compatriot as she was, with the full tone of the compatriot
and the rattling link not with mystery but only with dear dyspeptic
Waymarsh—she appeared distinctly to promise. His pause while he felt in
his overcoat was positively the pause of confidence, and it enabled his eyes to
make out as much of a case for her, in proportion, as her own made out for
himself. She affected him as almost insolently young; but an easily carried
five-and-thirty could still do that. She was, however, like himself marked and
wan; only it naturally couldn’t have been known to him how much a
spectator looking from one to the other might have discerned that they had in
common. It wouldn’t for such a spectator have been altogether
insupposable that, each so finely brown and so sharply spare, each confessing
so to dents of surface and aids to sight, to a disproportionate nose and a head
delicately or grossly grizzled, they might have been brother and sister. On
this ground indeed there would have been a residuum of difference; such a
sister having surely known in respect to such a brother the extremity of
separation, and such a brother now feeling in respect to such a sister the
extremity of surprise. Surprise, it was true, was not on the other hand what
the eyes of Strether’s friend most showed him while she gave him,
stroking her gloves smoother, the time he appreciated. They had taken hold of
him straightway measuring him up and down as if they knew how; as if he were
human material they had already in some sort handled. Their possessor was in
truth, it may be communicated, the mistress of a hundred cases or categories,
receptacles of the mind, subdivisions for convenience, in which, from a full
experience, she pigeon-holed her fellow mortals with a hand as free as that of
a compositor scattering type. She was as equipped in this particular as
Strether was the reverse, and it made an opposition between them which he might
well have shrunk from submitting to if he had fully suspected it. So far as he
did suspect it he was on the contrary, after a short shake of his
consciousness, as pleasantly passive as might be. He really had a sort of sense
of what she knew. He had quite the sense that she knew things he didn’t,
and though this was a concession that in general he found not easy to make to
women, he made it now as good-humouredly as if it lifted a burden. His eyes
were so quiet behind his eternal nippers that they might almost have been
absent without changing his face, which took its expression mainly, and not
least its stamp of sensibility, from other sources, surface and grain and form.
He joined his guide in an instant, and then felt she had profited still better
than he by his having been for the moments just mentioned, so at the disposal
of her intelligence. She knew even intimate things about him that he
hadn’t yet told her and perhaps never would. He wasn’t unaware that
he had told her rather remarkably many for the time, but these were not the
real ones. Some of the real ones, however, precisely, were what she knew.

They were to pass again through the hall of the inn to get into the street, and
it was here she presently checked him with a question. “Have you looked
up my name?”

He could only stop with a laugh. “Have you looked up mine?”

“Oh dear, yes—as soon as you left me. I went to the office and
asked. Hadn’t better do the same?”

He wondered. “Find out who you are?—after the uplifted young woman
there has seen us thus scrape acquaintance!”

She laughed on her side now at the shade of alarm in his amusement.
“Isn’t it a reason the more? If what you’re afraid of is the
injury for me—my being seen to walk off with a gentleman who has to ask
who I am—I assure you I don’t in the least mind. Here,
however,” she continued, “is my card, and as I find there’s
something else again I have to say at the office, you can just study it during
the moment I leave you.”

She left him after he had taken from her the small pasteboard she had extracted
from her pocket-book, and he had extracted another from his own, to exchange
with it, before she came back. He read thus the simple designation “Maria
Gostrey,” to which was attached, in a corner of the card, with a number,
the name of a street, presumably in Paris, without other appreciable identity
than its foreignness. He put the card into his waistcoat pocket, keeping his
own meanwhile in evidence; and as he leaned against the door-post he met with
the smile of a straying thought what the expanse before the hotel offered to
his view. It was positively droll to him that he should already have Maria
Gostrey, whoever she was—of which he hadn’t really the least
idea—in a place of safe keeping. He had somehow an assurance that he
should carefully preserve the little token he had just tucked in. He gazed with
unseeing lingering eyes as he followed some of the implications of his act,
asking himself if he really felt admonished to qualify it as disloyal. It was
prompt, it was possibly even premature, and there was little doubt of the
expression of face the sight of it would have produced in a certain person. But
if it was “wrong”—why then he had better not have come out at
all. At this, poor man, had he already—and even before meeting
Waymarsh—arrived. He had believed he had a limit, but the limit had been
transcended within thirty-six hours. By how long a space on the plane of
manners or even of morals, moreover, he felt still more sharply after Maria
Gostrey had come back to him and with a gay decisive “So
now—!” led him forth into the world. This counted, it struck him as
he walked beside her with his overcoat on an arm, his umbrella under another
and his personal pasteboard a little stiffly retained between forefinger and
thumb, this struck him as really, in comparison his introduction to things. It
hadn’t been “Europe” at Liverpool no—not even in the
dreadful delightful impressive streets the night before—to the extent his
present companion made it so. She hadn’t yet done that so much as when,
after their walk had lasted a few minutes and he had had time to wonder if a
couple of sidelong glances from her meant that he had best have put on gloves
she almost pulled him up with an amused challenge. “But why—fondly
as it’s so easy to imagine your clinging to it—don’t you put
it away? Or if it’s an inconvenience to you to carry it, one’s
often glad to have one’s card back. The fortune one spends in
them!”

Then he saw both that his way of marching with his own prepared tribute had
affected her as a deviation in one of those directions he couldn’t yet
measure, and that she supposed this emblem to be still the one he had received
from her. He accordingly handed her the card as if in restitution, but as soon
as she had it she felt the difference and, with her eyes on it, stopped short
for apology. “I like,” she observed, “your name.”

“Oh,” he answered, “you won’t have heard of it!”
Yet he had his reasons for not being sure but that she perhaps might.

Ah it was but too visible! She read it over again as one who had never seen it.
“‘Mr. Lewis Lambert Strether’”—she sounded it
almost as freely as for any stranger. She repeated however that she liked
it—“particularly the Lewis Lambert. It’s the name of a novel
of Balzac’s.”

“Oh I know that!” said Strether.

“But the novel’s an awfully bad one.”

“I know that too,” Strether smiled. To which he added with an
irrelevance that was only superficial: “I come from Woollett
Massachusetts.” It made her for some reason—the irrelevance or
whatever—laugh. Balzac had described many cities, but hadn’t
described Woollett Massachusetts. “You say that,” she returned,
“as if you wanted one immediately to know the worst.”

“Oh I think it’s a thing,” he said, “that you must
already have made out. I feel it so that I certainly must look it, speak it,
and, as people say there, ‘act’ it. It sticks out of me, and you
knew surely for yourself as soon as you looked at me.”

“The worst, you mean?”

“Well, the fact of where I come from. There at any rate it ; so
that you won’t be able, if anything happens, to say I’ve not been
straight with you.”

“I see”—and Miss Gostrey looked really interested in the
point he had made. “But what do you think of as happening?”

Though he wasn’t shy—which was rather anomalous—Strether
gazed about without meeting her eyes; a motion that was frequent with him in
talk, yet of which his words often seemed not at all the effect. “Why
that you should find me too hopeless.” With which they walked on again
together while she answered, as they went, that the most “hopeless”
of her countryfolk were in general precisely those she liked best. All sorts of
other pleasant small things—small things that were yet large for
him—flowered in the air of the occasion, but the bearing of the occasion
itself on matters still remote concerns us too closely to permit us to multiply
our illustrations. Two or three, however, in truth, we should perhaps regret to
lose. The tortuous wall—girdle, long since snapped, of the little swollen
city, half held in place by careful civic hands—wanders in narrow file
between parapets smoothed by peaceful generations, pausing here and there for a
dismantled gate or a bridged gap, with rises and drops, steps up and steps
down, queer twists, queer contacts, peeps into homely streets and under the
brows of gables, views of cathedral tower and waterside fields, of huddled
English town and ordered English country. Too deep almost for words was the
delight of these things to Strether; yet as deeply mixed with it were certain
images of his inward picture. He had trod this walks in the far-off time, at
twenty-five; but that, instead of spoiling it, only enriched it for present
feeling and marked his renewal as a thing substantial enough to share. It was
with Waymarsh he should have shared it, and he was now accordingly taking from
him something that was his due. He looked repeatedly at his watch, and when he
had done so for the fifth time Miss Gostrey took him up.

“You’re doing something that you think not right.”

It so touched the place that he quite changed colour and his laugh grew almost
awkward. “Am I enjoying it as much as ”

“You’re not enjoying it, I think, so much as you ought.”

“I see”—he appeared thoughtfully to agree. “Great is my
privilege.”

“Oh it’s not your privilege! It has nothing to do with .
It has to do with yourself. Your failure’s general.”

“Ah there you are!” he laughed. “It’s the failure of
Woollett. general.”

“The failure to enjoy,” Miss Gostrey explained, “is what I
mean.”

“Precisely. Woollett isn’t sure it ought to enjoy. If it were it
would. But it hasn’t, poor thing,” Strether continued, “any
one to show it how. It’s not like me. I have somebody.”

They had stopped, in the afternoon sunshine—constantly pausing, in their
stroll, for the sharper sense of what they saw—and Strether rested on one
of the high sides of the old stony groove of the little rampart. He leaned back
on this support with his face to the tower of the cathedral, now admirably
commanded by their station, the high red-brown mass, square and subordinately
spired and crocketed, retouched and restored, but charming to his long-sealed
eyes and with the first swallows of the year weaving their flight all round it.
Miss Gostrey lingered near him, full of an air, to which she more and more
justified her right, of understanding the effect of things. She quite
concurred. “You’ve indeed somebody.” And she added: “I
wish you let me show you how!”

“Oh I’m afraid of you!” he cheerfully pleaded.

She kept on him a moment, through her glasses and through his own, a certain
pleasant pointedness. “Ah no, you’re not! You’re not in the
least, thank goodness! If you had been we shouldn’t so soon have found
ourselves here together. I think,” she comfortably concluded, “you
trust me.”

“I think I do!—but that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. I
shouldn’t mind if I didn’t. It’s falling thus in twenty
minutes so utterly into your hands. I dare say,” Strether continued,
“it’s a sort of thing you’re thoroughly familiar with; but
nothing more extraordinary has ever happened to me.”

She watched him with all her kindness. “That means simply that
you’ve recognised me—which rather beautiful and rare. You
see what I am.” As on this, however, he protested, with a good-humoured
headshake, a resignation of any such claim, she had a moment of explanation.
“If you’ll only come on further as you come
you’ll at any rate make out. My own fate has been too many for me, and
I’ve succumbed to it. I’m a general guide—to
‘Europe,’ don’t you know? I wait for people—I put them
through. I pick them up—I set them down. I’m a sort of superior
‘courier-maid.’ I’m a companion at large. I take people, as
I’ve told you, about. I never sought it—it has come to me. It has
been my fate, and one’s fate one accepts. It’s a dreadful thing to
have to say, in so wicked a world, but I verily believe that, such as you see
me, there’s nothing I don’t know. I know all the shops and the
prices—but I know worse things still. I bear on my back the huge load of
our national consciousness, or, in other words—for it comes to
that—of our nation itself. Of what is our nation composed but of the men
and women individually on my shoulders? I don’t do it, you know, for any
particular advantage. I don’t do it, for instance—some people do,
you know—for money.”

Strether could only listen and wonder and weigh his chance. “And yet,
affected as you are then to so many of your clients, you can scarcely be said
to do it for love.” He waited a moment. “How do we reward
you?”

She had her own hesitation, but “You don’t!” she finally
returned, setting him again in motion. They went on, but in a few minutes,
though while still thinking over what she had said, he once more took out his
watch; mechanically, unconsciously and as if made nervous by the mere
exhilaration of what struck him as her strange and cynical wit. He looked at
the hour without seeing it, and then, on something again said by his companion,
had another pause. “You’re really in terror of him.”

He smiled a smile that he almost felt to be sickly. “Now you can see why
I’m afraid of you.”

“Because I’ve such illuminations? Why they’re all for your
help! It’s what I told you,” she added, “just now. You feel
as if this were wrong.”

He fell back once more, settling himself against the parapet as if to hear more
about it. “Then get me out!”

Her face fairly brightened for the joy of the appeal, but, as if it were a
question of immediate action, she visibly considered. “Out of waiting for
him?—of seeing him at all?”

“Oh no—not that,” said poor Strether, looking grave.
“I’ve got to wait for him—and I want very much to see him.
But out of the terror. You did put your finger on it a few minutes ago.
It’s general, but it avails itself of particular occasions. That’s
what it’s doing for me now. I’m always considering something else;
something else, I mean, than the thing of the moment. The obsession of the
other thing is the terror. I’m considering at present for instance
something else than .”

She listened with charming earnestness. “Oh you oughtn’t to do
that!”

“It’s what I admit. Make it then impossible.”

She continued to think. “Is it really an ‘order’ from
you?—that I shall take the job? you give yourself up?”

Poor Strether heaved his sigh. “If I only could! But that’s the
deuce of it—that I never can. No—I can’t.”

She wasn’t, however, discouraged. “But you want to at least?”

“Oh unspeakably!”

“Ah then, if you’ll try!”—and she took over the job, as
she had called it, on the spot. “Trust me!” she exclaimed, and the
action of this, as they retraced their steps, was presently to make him pass
his hand into her arm in the manner of a benign dependent paternal old person
who wishes to be “nice” to a younger one. If he drew it out again
indeed as they approached the inn this may have been because, after more talk
had passed between them, the relation of age, or at least of
experience—which, for that matter, had already played to and fro with
some freedom—affected him as incurring a readjustment. It was at all
events perhaps lucky that they arrived in sufficiently separate fashion within
range of the hotel-door. The young lady they had left in the glass cage watched
as if she had come to await them on the threshold. At her side stood a person
equally interested, by his attitude, in their return, and the effect of the
sight of whom was instantly to determine for Strether another of those
responsive arrests that we have had so repeatedly to note. He left it to Miss
Gostrey to name, with the fine full bravado as it almost struck him, of her
“Mr. Waymarsh!” what was to have been, what—he more than ever
felt as his short stare of suspended welcome took things in—would have
been, but for herself, his doom. It was already upon him even at that
distance—Mr. Waymarsh was for part joyless.

II

He had none the less to confess to this friend that evening that he knew almost
nothing about her, and it was a deficiency that Waymarsh, even with his memory
refreshed by contact, by her own prompt and lucid allusions and enquiries, by
their having publicly partaken of dinner in her company, and by another stroll,
to which she was not a stranger, out into the town to look at the cathedral by
moonlight—it was a blank that the resident of Milrose, though admitting
acquaintance with the Munsters, professed himself unable to fill. He had no
recollection of Miss Gostrey, and two or three questions that she put to him
about those members of his circle had, to Strether’s observation, the
same effect he himself had already more directly felt—the effect of
appearing to place all knowledge, for the time, on this original woman’s
side. It interested him indeed to mark the limits of any such relation for her
with his friend as there could possibly be a question of, and it particularly
struck him that they were to be marked altogether in Waymarsh’s quarter.
This added to his own sense of having gone far with her—gave him an early
illustration of a much shorter course. There was a certitude he immediately
grasped—a conviction that Waymarsh would quite fail, as it were, and on
whatever degree of acquaintances to profit by her.

There had been after the first interchange among the three a talk of some five
minutes in the hall, and then the two men had adjourned to the garden, Miss
Gostrey for the time disappearing. Strether in due course accompanied his
friend to the room he had bespoken and had, before going out, scrupulously
visited; where at the end of another half-hour he had no less discreetly left
him. On leaving him he repaired straight to his own room, but with the prompt
effect of feeling the compass of that chamber resented by his condition. There
he enjoyed at once the first consequence of their reunion. A place was too
small for him after it that had seemed large enough before. He had awaited it
with something he would have been sorry, have been almost ashamed not to
recognise as emotion, yet with a tacit assumption at the same time that emotion
would in the event find itself relieved. The actual oddity was that he was only
more excited; and his excitement—to which indeed he would have found it
difficult instantly to give a name—brought him once more downstairs and
caused him for some minutes vaguely to wander. He went once more to the garden;
he looked into the public room, found Miss Gostrey writing letters and backed
out; he roamed, fidgeted and wasted time; but he was to have his more intimate
session with his friend before the evening closed.

It was late—not till Strether had spent an hour upstairs with
him—that this subject consented to betake himself to doubtful rest.
Dinner and the subsequent stroll by moonlight—a dream, on
Strether’s part, of romantic effects rather prosaically merged in a mere
missing of thicker coats—had measurably intervened, and this midnight
conference was the result of Waymarsh’s having (when they were free, as
he put it, of their fashionable friend) found the smoking-room not quite what
he wanted, and yet bed what he wanted less. His most frequent form of words was
that he knew himself, and they were applied on this occasion to his certainty
of not sleeping. He knew himself well enough to know that he should have a
night of prowling unless he should succeed, as a preliminary, in getting
prodigiously tired. If the effort directed to this end involved till a late
hour the presence of Strether—consisted, that is, in the detention of the
latter for full discourse—there was yet an impression of minor discipline
involved for our friend in the picture Waymarsh made as he sat in trousers and
shirt on the edge of his couch. With his long legs extended and his large back
much bent, he nursed alternately, for an almost incredible time, his elbows and
his beard. He struck his visitor as extremely, as almost wilfully
uncomfortable; yet what had this been for Strether, from that first glimpse of
him disconcerted in the porch of the hotel, but the predominant notes. The
discomfort was in a manner contagious, as well as also in a manner inconsequent
and unfounded; the visitor felt that unless he should get used to it—or
unless Waymarsh himself should—it would constitute a menace for his own
prepared, his own already confirmed, consciousness of the agreeable. On their
first going up together to the room Strether had selected for him Waymarsh had
looked it over in silence and with a sigh that represented for his companion,
if not the habit of disapprobation, at least the despair of felicity; and this
look had recurred to Strether as the key of much he had since observed.
“Europe,” he had begun to gather from these things, had up to now
rather failed of its message to him; he hadn’t got into tune with it and
had at the end of three months almost renounced any such expectation.

He really appeared at present to insist on that by just perching there with the
gas in his eyes. This of itself somehow conveyed the futility of single
rectifications in a multiform failure. He had a large handsome head and a large
sallow seamed face—a striking significant physiognomic total, the upper
range of which, the great political brow, the thick loose hair, the dark
fuliginous eyes, recalled even to a generation whose standard had dreadfully
deviated the impressive image, familiar by engravings and busts, of some great
national worthy of the earlier part of the mid-century. He was of the personal
type—and it was an element in the power and promise that in their early
time Strether had found in him—of the American statesman, the statesman
trained in “Congressional halls,” of an elder day. The legend had
been in later years that as the lower part of his face, which was weak, and
slightly crooked, spoiled the likeness, this was the real reason for the growth
of his beard, which might have seemed to spoil it for those not in the secret.
He shook his mane; he fixed, with his admirable eyes, his auditor or his
observer; he wore no glasses and had a way, partly formidable, yet also partly
encouraging, as from a representative to a constituent, of looking very hard at
those who approached him. He met you as if you had knocked and he had bidden
you enter. Strether, who hadn’t seen him for so long an interval,
apprehended him now with a freshness of taste, and had perhaps never done him
such ideal justice. The head was bigger, the eyes finer, than they need have
been for the career; but that only meant, after all, that the career was itself
expressive. What it expressed at midnight in the gas-glaring bedroom at Chester
was that the subject of it had, at the end of years, barely escaped, by flight
in time, a general nervous collapse. But this very proof of the full life, as
the full life was understood at Milrose, would have made to Strether’s
imagination an element in which Waymarsh could have floated easily had he only
consented to float. Alas nothing so little resembled floating as the rigour
with which, on the edge of his bed, he hugged his posture of prolonged
impermanence. It suggested to his comrade something that always, when kept up,
worried him—a person established in a railway-coach with a forward
inclination. It represented the angle at which poor Waymarsh was to sit through
the ordeal of Europe.

Thanks to the stress of occupation, the strain of professions, the absorption
and embarrassment of each, they had not, at home, during years before this
sudden brief and almost bewildering reign of comparative ease, found so much as
a day for a meeting; a fact that was in some degree an explanation of the
sharpness with which most of his friend’s features stood out to Strether.
Those he had lost sight of since the early time came back to him; others that
it was never possible to forget struck him now as sitting, clustered and
expectant, like a somewhat defiant family-group, on the doorstep of their
residence. The room was narrow for its length, and the occupant of the bed
thrust so far a pair of slippered feet that the visitor had almost to step over
them in his recurrent rebounds from his chair to fidget back and forth. There
were marks the friends made on things to talk about, and on things not to, and
one of the latter in particular fell like the tap of chalk on the blackboard.
Married at thirty, Waymarsh had not lived with his wife for fifteen years, and
it came up vividly between them in the glare of the gas that Strether
wasn’t to ask about her. He knew they were still separate and that she
lived at hotels, travelled in Europe, painted her face and wrote her husband
abusive letters, of not one of which, to a certainty, that sufferer spared
himself the perusal; but he respected without difficulty the cold twilight that
had settled on this side of his companion’s life. It was a province in
which mystery reigned and as to which Waymarsh had never spoken the informing
word. Strether, who wanted to do him the highest justice wherever he
do it, singularly admired him for the dignity of this reserve, and
even counted it as one of the grounds—grounds all handled and
numbered—for ranking him, in the range of their acquaintance, as a
success. He a success, Waymarsh, in spite of overwork, or
prostration, of sensible shrinkage, of his wife’s letters and of his not
liking Europe. Strether would have reckoned his own career less futile had he
been able to put into it anything so handsome as so much fine silence. One
might one’s self easily have left Mrs. Waymarsh; and one would assuredly
have paid one’s tribute to the ideal in covering with that attitude the
derision of having been left by her. Her husband had held his tongue and had
made a large income; and these were in especial the achievements as to which
Strether envied him. Our friend had had indeed on his side too a subject for
silence, which he fully appreciated; but it was a matter of a different sort,
and the figure of the income he had arrived at had never been high enough to
look any one in the face.

“I don’t know as I quite see what you require it for. You
don’t appear sick to speak of.” It was of Europe Waymarsh thus
finally spoke.

“Well,” said Strether, who fell as much as possible into step,
“I guess I don’t sick now that I’ve started. But
I had pretty well run down before I did start.”

Waymarsh raised his melancholy look. “Ain’t you about up to your
usual average?”

It was not quite pointedly sceptical, but it seemed somehow a plea for the
purest veracity, and it thereby affected our friend as the very voice of
Milrose. He had long since made a mental distinction—though never in
truth daring to betray it—between the voice of Milrose and the voice even
of Woollett. It was the former he felt, that was most in the real tradition.
There had been occasions in his past when the sound of it had reduced him to
temporary confusion, and the present, for some reason, suddenly became such
another. It was nevertheless no light matter that the very effect of his
confusion should be to make him again prevaricate. “That description
hardly does justice to a man to whom it has done such a lot of good to see
.”

Waymarsh fixed on his washing-stand the silent detached stare with which
Milrose in person, as it were, might have marked the unexpectedness of a
compliment from Woollett, and Strether for his part, felt once more like
Woollett in person. “I mean,” his friend presently continued,
“that your appearance isn’t as bad as I’ve seen it: it
compares favourably with what it was when I last noticed it.” On this
appearance Waymarsh’s eyes yet failed to rest; it was almost as if they
obeyed an instinct of propriety, and the effect was still stronger when, always
considering the basin and jug, he added: “You’ve filled out some
since then.”

“I’m afraid I have,” Strether laughed: “one does fill
out some with all one takes in, and I’ve taken in, I dare say, more than
I’ve natural room for. I was dog-tired when I sailed.” It had the
oddest sound of cheerfulness.

“ was dog-tired,” his companion returned, “when I
arrived, and it’s this wild hunt for rest that takes all the life out of
me. The fact is, Strether—and it’s a comfort to have you here at
last to say it to; though I don’t know, after all, that I’ve really
waited; I’ve told it to people I’ve met in the cars—the fact
is, such a country as this ain’t my of country anyway. There
ain’t a country I’ve seen over here that seem my kind.
Oh I don’t say but what there are plenty of pretty places and remarkable
old things; but the trouble is that I don’t seem to feel anywhere in
tune. That’s one of the reasons why I suppose I’ve gained so
little. I haven’t had the first sign of that lift I was led to
expect.” With this he broke out more earnestly. “Look here—I
want to go back.”

His eyes were all attached to Strether’s now, for he was one of the men
who fully face you when they talk of themselves. This enabled his friend to
look at him hard and immediately to appear to the highest advantage in his eyes
by doing so. “That’s a genial thing to say to a fellow who has come
out on purpose to meet you!”

Nothing could have been finer, on this, than Waymarsh’s sombre glow.
“ you come out on purpose?”

“Well—very largely.”

“I thought from the way you wrote there was something back of it.”

Strether hesitated. “Back of my desire to be with you?”

“Back of your prostration.”

Strether, with a smile made more dim by a certain consciousness, shook his
head. “There are all the causes of it!”

“And no particular cause that seemed most to drive you?”

Our friend could at last conscientiously answer. “Yes. One. There
a matter that has had much to do with my coming out.”

Waymarsh waited a little. “Too private to mention?”

“No, not too private—for . Only rather
complicated.”

“Well,” said Waymarsh, who had waited again, “I
lose my mind over here, but I don’t know as I’ve done so
yet.”

“Oh you shall have the whole thing. But not tonight.”

Waymarsh seemed to sit stiffer and to hold his elbows tighter. “Why
not—if I can’t sleep?”

“Because, my dear man, I ”

“Then where’s your prostration?”

“Just in that—that I can put in eight hours.” And Strether
brought it out that if Waymarsh didn’t “gain” it was because
he didn’t go to bed: the result of which was, in its order, that, to do
the latter justice, he permitted his friend to insist on his really getting
settled. Strether, with a kind coercive hand for it, assisted him to this
consummation, and again found his own part in their relation auspiciously
enlarged by the smaller touches of lowering the lamp and seeing to a
sufficiency of blanket. It somehow ministered for him to indulgence to feel
Waymarsh, who looked unnaturally big and black in bed, as much tucked in as a
patient in a hospital and, with his covering up to his chin, as much simplified
by it. He hovered in vague pity, to be brief, while his companion challenged
him out of the bedclothes. “Is she really after you? Is that what’s
behind?”

Strether felt an uneasiness at the direction taken by his companion’s
insight, but he played a little at uncertainty. “Behind my coming
out?”

“Behind your prostration or whatever. It’s generally felt, you
know, that she follows you up pretty close.”

Strether’s candour was never very far off. “Oh it has occurred to
you that I’m literally running away from Mrs. Newsome?”

“Well, I haven’t but what you are. You’re a very
attractive man, Strether. You’ve seen for yourself,” said Waymarsh
“what that lady downstairs makes of it. Unless indeed,” he rambled
on with an effect between the ironic and the anxious, “it’s you who
are after . Is Mrs. Newsome here?” He spoke as with
a droll dread of her.

It made his friend—though rather dimly—smile. “Dear no;
she’s safe, thank goodness—as I think I more and more feel—at
home. She thought of coming, but she gave it up. I’ve come in a manner
instead of her; and come to that extent—for you’re right in your
inference—on her business. So you see there plenty of
connexion.”

Waymarsh continued to see at least all there was. “Involving accordingly
the particular one I’ve referred to?”

Strether took another turn about the room, giving a twitch to his
companion’s blanket and finally gaining the door. His feeling was that of
a nurse who had earned personal rest by having made everything straight.
“Involving more things than I can think of breaking ground on now. But
don’t be afraid—you shall have them from me: you’ll probably
find yourself having quite as much of them as you can do with. I shall—if
we keep together—very much depend on your impression of some of
them.”

Waymarsh’s acknowledgement of this tribute was characteristically
indirect. “You mean to say you don’t believe we keep
together?”

“I only glance at the danger,” Strether paternally said,
“because when I hear you wail to go back I seem to see you open up such
possibilities of folly.”

Waymarsh took it—silent a little—like a large snubbed child
“What are you going to do with me?”

It was the very question Strether himself had put to Miss Gostrey, and he
wondered if he had sounded like that. But at least could be more
definite. “I’m going to take you right down to London.”

“Oh I’ve been down to London!” Waymarsh more softly moaned.
“I’ve no use, Strether, for anything down there.”

“Well,” said Strether, good-humouredly, “I guess you’ve
some use for .”

“So I’ve got to go?”

“Oh you’ve got to go further yet.”

“Well,” Waymarsh sighed, “do your damnedest! Only you
tell me before you lead me on all the way—?”

Our friend had again so lost himself, both for amusement and for contrition, in
the wonder of whether he had made, in his own challenge that afternoon, such
another figure, that he for an instant missed the thread. “Tell
you—?”

“Why what you’ve got on hand.”

Strether hesitated. “Why it’s such a matter as that even if I
positively wanted I shouldn’t be able to keep it from you.”

Waymarsh gloomily gazed. “What does that mean then but that your trip is
just her?”

“For Mrs. Newsome? Oh it certainly is, as I say. Very much.”

“Then why do you also say it’s for me?”

Strether, in impatience, violently played with his latch. “It’s
simple enough. It’s for both of you.”

Waymarsh at last turned over with a groan. “Well, won’t
marry you!”

“Neither, when it comes to that—!” But the visitor had
already laughed and escaped.

III

He had told Miss Gostrey he should probably take, for departure with Waymarsh,
some afternoon train, and it thereupon in the morning appeared that this lady
had made her own plan for an earlier one. She had breakfasted when Strether
came into the coffee-room; but, Waymarsh not having yet emerged, he was in time
to recall her to the terms of their understanding and to pronounce her
discretion overdone. She was surely not to break away at the very moment she
had created a want. He had met her as she rose from her little table in a
window, where, with the morning papers beside her, she reminded him, as he let
her know, of Major Pendennis breakfasting at his club—a compliment of
which she professed a deep appreciation; and he detained her as pleadingly as
if he had already—and notably under pressure of the visions of the
night—learned to be unable to do without her. She must teach him at all
events, before she went, to order breakfast as breakfast was ordered in Europe,
and she must especially sustain him in the problem of ordering for Waymarsh.
The latter had laid upon his friend, by desperate sounds through the door of
his room, dreadful divined responsibilities in respect to beefsteak and
oranges—responsibilities which Miss Gostrey took over with an alertness
of action that matched her quick intelligence. She had before this weaned the
expatriated from traditions compared with which the matutinal beefsteak was but
the creature of an hour, and it was not for her, with some of her memories, to
falter in the path though she freely enough declared, on reflexion, that there
was always in such cases a choice of opposed policies. “There are times
when to give them their head, you know—!”

They had gone to wait together in the garden for the dressing of the meal, and
Strether found her more suggestive than ever “Well, what?”

“Is to bring about for them such a complexity of relations—unless
indeed we call it a simplicity!—that the situation to wind
itself up. They want to go back.”

“And you want them to go!” Strether gaily concluded.

“I always want them to go, and I send them as fast as I can.’

“Oh I know—you take them to Liverpool.”

“Any port will serve in a storm. I’m—with all my other
functions—an agent for repatriation. I want to re-people our stricken
country. What will become of it else? I want to discourage others.”

The ordered English garden, in the freshness of the day, was delightful to
Strether, who liked the sound, under his feet, of the tight fine gravel, packed
with the chronic damp, and who had the idlest eye for the deep smoothness of
turf and the clean curves of paths. “Other people?”

“Other countries. Other people—yes. I want to encourage our
own.”

Strether wondered. “Not to come? Why then do you ‘meet’
them—since it doesn’t appear to be to stop them?”

“Oh that they shouldn’t come is as yet too much to ask. What I
attend to is that they come quickly and return still more so. I meet them to
help it to be over as soon as possible, and though I don’t stop them
I’ve my way of putting them through. That’s my little system; and,
if you want to know,” said Maria Gostrey, “it’s my real
secret, my innermost mission and use. I only seem, you see, to beguile and
approve; but I’ve thought it all out and I’m working all the while
underground. I can’t perhaps quite give you my formula, but I think that
practically I succeed. I send you back spent. So you stay back. Passed through
my hands—”

“We don’t turn up again?” The further she went the further he
always saw himself able to follow. “I don’t want your
formula—I feel quite enough, as I hinted yesterday, your abysses.
Spent!” he echoed. “If that’s how you’re arranging so
subtly to send me I thank you for the warning.”

For a minute, amid the pleasantness—poetry in tariffed items, but all the
more, for guests already convicted, a challenge to consumption—they
smiled at each other in confirmed fellowship. “Do you call it subtly?
It’s a plain poor tale. Besides, you’re a special case.”

“Oh special cases—that’s weak!” She was weak enough,
further still, to defer her journey and agree to accompany the gentlemen on
their own, might a separate carriage mark her independence; though it was in
spite of this to befall after luncheon that she went off alone and that, with a
tryst taken for a day of her company in London, they lingered another night.
She had, during the morning—spent in a way that he was to remember later
on as the very climax of his foretaste, as warm with presentiments, with what
he would have called collapses—had all sorts of things out with Strether;
and among them the fact that though there was never a moment of her life when
she wasn’t “due” somewhere, there was yet scarce a perfidy to
others of which she wasn’t capable for his sake. She explained moreover
that wherever she happened to be she found a dropped thread to pick up, a
ragged edge to repair, some familiar appetite in ambush, jumping out as she
approached, yet appeasable with a temporary biscuit. It became, on her taking
the risk of the deviation imposed on him by her insidious arrangement of his
morning meal, a point of honour for her not to fail with Waymarsh of the larger
success too; and her subsequent boast to Strether was that she had made their
friend fare—and quite without his knowing what was the matter—as
Major Pendennis would have fared at the Megatherium. She had made him breakfast
like a gentleman, and it was nothing, she forcibly asserted, to what she would
yet make him do. She made him participate in the slow reiterated ramble with
which, for Strether, the new day amply filled itself; and it was by her art
that he somehow had the air, on the ramparts and in the Rows, of carrying a
point of his own.

The three strolled and stared and gossiped, or at least the two did; the case
really yielding for their comrade, if analysed, but the element of stricken
silence. This element indeed affected Strether as charged with audible
rumblings, but he was conscious of the care of taking it explicitly as a sign
of pleasant peace. He wouldn’t appeal too much, for that provoked
stiffness; yet he wouldn’t be too freely tacit, for that suggested giving
up. Waymarsh himself adhered to an ambiguous dumbness that might have
represented either the growth of a perception or the despair of one; and at
times and in places—where the low-browed galleries were darkest, the
opposite gables queerest, the solicitations of every kind densest—the
others caught him fixing hard some object of minor interest, fixing even at
moments nothing discernible, as if he were indulging it with a truce. When he
met Strether’s eye on such occasions he looked guilty and furtive, fell
the next minute into some attitude of retractation. Our friend couldn’t
show him the right things for fear of provoking some total renouncement, and
was tempted even to show him the wrong in order to make him differ with
triumph. There were moments when he himself felt shy of professing the full
sweetness of the taste of leisure, and there were others when he found himself
feeling as if his passages of interchange with the lady at his side might fall
upon the third member of their party very much as Mr. Burchell, at Dr.
Primrose’s fireside, was influenced by the high flights of the visitors
from London. The smallest things so arrested and amused him that he repeatedly
almost apologised—brought up afresh in explanation his plea of a previous
grind. He was aware at the same time that his grind had been as nothing to
Waymarsh’s, and he repeatedly confessed that, to cover his frivolity, he
was doing his best for his previous virtue. Do what he might, in any case, his
previous virtue was still there, and it seemed fairly to stare at him out of
the windows of shops that were not as the shops of Woollett, fairly to make him
want things that he shouldn’t know what to do with. It was by the oddest,
the least admissible of laws demoralising him now; and the way it boldly took
was to make him want more wants. These first walks in Europe were in fact a
kind of finely lurid intimation of what one might find at the end of that
process. Had he come back after long years, in something already so like the
evening of life, only to be exposed to it? It was at all events over the
shop-windows that he made, with Waymarsh, most free; though it would have been
easier had not the latter most sensibly yielded to the appeal of the merely
useful trades. He pierced with his sombre detachment the plate-glass of
ironmongers and saddlers, while Strether flaunted an affinity with the dealers
in stamped letter-paper and in smart neckties. Strether was in fact recurrently
shameless in the presence of the tailors, though it was just over the heads of
the tailors that his countryman most loftily looked. This gave Miss Gostrey a
grasped opportunity to back up Waymarsh at his expense. The weary
lawyer—it was unmistakeable—had a conception of dress; but that, in
view of some of the features of the effect produced, was just what made the
danger of insistence on it. Strether wondered if he by this time thought Miss
Gostrey less fashionable or Lambert Strether more so; and it appeared probable
that most of the remarks exchanged between this latter pair about passers,
figures, faces, personal types, exemplified in their degree the disposition to
talk as “society” talked.

Was what was happening to himself then, was what already happened,
really that a woman of fashion was floating him into society and that an old
friend deserted on the brink was watching the force of the current? When the
woman of fashion permitted Strether—as she permitted him at the
most—the purchase of a pair of gloves, the terms she made about it, the
prohibition of neckties and other items till she should be able to guide him
through the Burlington Arcade, were such as to fall upon a sensitive ear as a
challenge to just imputations. Miss Gostrey was such a woman of fashion as
could make without a symptom of vulgar blinking an appointment for the
Burlington Arcade. Mere discriminations about a pair of gloves could thus at
any rate represent—always for such sensitive ears as were in
question—possibilities of something that Strether could make a mark
against only as the peril of apparent wantonness. He had quite the
consciousness of his new friend, for their companion, that he might have had of
a Jesuit in petticoats, a representative of the recruiting interests of the
Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, for Waymarsh—that was to say the
enemy, the monster of bulging eyes and far-reaching quivering groping
tentacles—was exactly society, exactly the multiplication of shibboleths,
exactly the discrimination of types and tones, exactly the wicked old Rows of
Chester, rank with feudalism; exactly in short Europe.

There was light for observation, however, in an incident that occurred just
before they turned back to luncheon. Waymarsh had been for a quarter of an hour
exceptionally mute and distant, and something, or other—Strether was
never to make out exactly what—proved, as it were, too much for him after
his comrades had stood for three minutes taking in, while they leaned on an old
balustrade that guarded the edge of the Row, a particularly crooked and huddled
street-view. “He thinks us sophisticated, he thinks us worldly, he thinks
us wicked, he thinks us all sorts of queer things,” Strether reflected;
for wondrous were the vague quantities our friend had within a couple of short
days acquired the habit of conveniently and conclusively lumping together.
There seemed moreover a direct connexion between some such inference and a
sudden grim dash taken by Waymarsh to the opposite side. This movement was
startlingly sudden, and his companions at first supposed him to have espied, to
be pursuing, the glimpse of an acquaintance. They next made out, however, that
an open door had instantly received him, and they then recognised him as
engulfed in the establishment of a jeweller, behind whose glittering front he
was lost to view. The fact had somehow the note of a demonstration, and it left
each of the others to show a face almost of fear. But Miss Gostrey broke into a
laugh. “What’s the matter with him?”

“Well,” said Strether, “he can’t stand it.”

“But can’t stand what?”

“Anything. Europe.”

“Then how will that jeweller help him?”

Strether seemed to make it out, from their position, between the interstices of
arrayed watches, of close-hung dangling gewgaws. “You’ll
see.”

“Ah that’s just what—if he buys anything—I’m
afraid of: that I shall see something rather dreadful.”

Strether studied the finer appearances. “He may buy everything.”

“Then don’t you think we ought to follow him?”

“Not for worlds. Besides we can’t. We’re paralysed. We
exchange a long scared look, we publicly tremble. The thing is, you see, we
‘realise.’ He has struck for freedom.”

She wondered but she laughed. “Ah what a price to pay! And I was
preparing some for him so cheap.”

“No, no,” Strether went on, frankly amused now; “don’t
call it that: the kind of freedom you deal in is dear.” Then as to
justify himself: “Am I not in way trying it? It’s
this.”

“Being here, you mean, with me?”

“Yes, and talking to you as I do. I’ve known you a few hours, and
I’ve known all my life; so that if the ease I thus take with
you about him isn’t magnificent”—and the thought of it held
him a moment—“why it’s rather base.”

“It’s magnificent!” said Miss Gostrey to make an end of it.
“And you should hear,” she added, “the ease
take—and I above all intend to take—with Mr. Waymarsh.”

Strether thought. “About Ah that’s no equivalent. The
equivalent would be Waymarsh’s himself serving me up—his
remorseless analysis of me. And he’ll never do that”—he was
sadly clear. “He’ll never remorselessly analyse me.” He quite
held her with the authority of this. “He’ll never say a word to you
about me.”

She took it in; she did it justice; yet after an instant her reason, her
restless irony, disposed of it. “Of course he won’t. For what do
you take people, that they’re able to say words about anything, able
remorselessly to analyse? There are not many like you and me. It will be only
because he’s too stupid.”

It stirred in her friend a sceptical echo which was at the same time the
protest of the faith of years. “Waymarsh stupid?”

“Compared with you.”

Strether had still his eyes on the jeweller’s front, and he waited a
moment to answer. “He’s a success of a kind that I haven’t
approached.”

“Do you mean he has made money?”

“He makes it—to my belief. And I,” said Strether,
“though with a back quite as bent, have never made anything. I’m a
perfectly equipped failure.”

He feared an instant she’d ask him if he meant he was poor; and he was
glad she didn’t, for he really didn’t know to what the truth on
this unpleasant point mightn’t have prompted her. She only, however,
confirmed his assertion. “Thank goodness you’re a
failure—it’s why I so distinguish you! Anything else to-day is too
hideous. Look about you—look at the successes. Would you one,
on your honour? Look, moreover,” she continued, “at me.”

For a little accordingly their eyes met. “I see,” Strether
returned. “You too are out of it.”

“The superiority you discern in me,” she concurred,
“announces my futility. If you knew,” she sighed, “the dreams
of my youth! But our realities are what has brought us together. We’re
beaten brothers in arms.”

He smiled at her kindly enough, but he shook his head. “It doesn’t
alter the fact that you’re expensive. You’ve cost me
already—!”

But he had hung fire. “Cost you what?”

“Well, my past—in one great lump. But no matter,” he laughed:
“I’ll pay with my last penny.”

Her attention had unfortunately now been engaged by their comrade’s
return, for Waymarsh met their view as he came out of his shop. “I hope
he hasn’t paid,” she said, “with last; though
I’m convinced he has been splendid, and has been so for you.”

“Ah no—not that!”

“Then for me?”

“Quite as little.” Waymarsh was by this time near enough to show
signs his friend could read, though he seemed to look almost carefully at
nothing in particular.

“Then for himself?”

“For nobody. For nothing. For freedom.”

“But what has freedom to do with it?”

Strether’s answer was indirect. “To be as good as you and me. But
different.”

She had had time to take in their companion’s face; and with it, as such
things were easy for her, she took in all. “Different—yes. But
better!”

If Waymarsh was sombre he was also indeed almost sublime. He told them nothing,
left his absence unexplained, and though they were convinced he had made some
extraordinary purchase they were never to learn its nature. He only glowered
grandly at the tops of the old gables. “It’s the sacred
rage,” Strether had had further time to say; and this sacred rage was to
become between them, for convenient comprehension, the description of one of
his periodical necessities. It was Strether who eventually contended that it
did make him better than they. But by that time Miss Gostrey was convinced that
she didn’t want to be better than Strether.

Book Second

I

Those occasions on which Strether was, in association with the exile from
Milrose, to see the sacred rage glimmer through would doubtless have their due
periodicity; but our friend had meanwhile to find names for many other matters.
On no evening of his life perhaps, as he reflected, had he had to supply so
many as on the third of his short stay in London; an evening spent by Miss
Gostrey’s side at one of the theatres, to which he had found himself
transported, without his own hand raised, on the mere expression of a
conscientious wonder. She knew her theatre, she knew her play, as she had
triumphantly known, three days running, everything else, and the moment filled
to the brim, for her companion, that apprehension of the interesting which,
whether or no the interesting happened to filter through his guide, strained
now to its limits his brief opportunity. Waymarsh hadn’t come with them;
he had seen plays enough, he signified, before Strether had joined him—an
affirmation that had its full force when his friend ascertained by questions
that he had seen two and a circus. Questions as to what he had seen had on him
indeed an effect only less favourable than questions as to what he
hadn’t. He liked the former to be discriminated; but how could it be
done, Strether asked of their constant counsellor, without discriminating the
latter?

Miss Gostrey had dined with him at his hotel, face to face over a small table
on which the lighted candles had rose-coloured shades; and the rose-coloured
shades and the small table and the soft fragrance of the lady—had
anything to his mere sense ever been so soft?—were so many touches in he
scarce knew what positive high picture. He had been to the theatre, even to the
opera, in Boston, with Mrs. Newsome, more than once acting as her only escort;
but there had been no little confronted dinner, no pink lights, no whiff of
vague sweetness, as a preliminary: one of the results of which was that at
present, mildly rueful, though with a sharpish accent, he actually asked
himself there hadn’t. There was much the same difference in
his impression of the noticed state of his companion, whose dress was
“cut down,” as he believed the term to be, in respect to shoulders
and bosom, in a manner quite other than Mrs. Newsome’s, and who wore
round her throat a broad red velvet band with an antique jewel—he was
rather complacently sure it was antique—attached to it in front. Mrs.
Newsome’s dress was never in any degree “cut down,” and she
never wore round her throat a broad red velvet band: if she had, moreover,
would it ever have served so to carry on and complicate, as he now almost felt,
his vision?

It would have been absurd of him to trace into ramifications the effect of the
ribbon from which Miss Gostrey’s trinket depended, had he not for the
hour, at the best, been so given over to uncontrolled perceptions. What was it
but an uncontrolled perception that his friend’s velvet band somehow
added, in her appearance, to the value of every other item—to that of her
smile and of the way she carried her head, to that of her complexion, of her
lips, her teeth, her eyes, her hair? What, certainly, had a man conscious of a
man’s work in the world to do with red velvet bands? He wouldn’t
for anything have so exposed himself as to tell Miss Gostrey how much he liked
hers, yet he none the less not only caught himself in the
act—frivolous, no doubt, idiotic, and above all unexpected—of
liking it: he had in addition taken it as a starting-point for fresh backward,
fresh forward, fresh lateral flights. The manner in which Mrs. Newsome’s
throat encircled suddenly represented for him, in an alien order,
almost as many things as the manner in which Miss Gostrey’s was. Mrs.
Newsome wore, at operatic hours, a black silk dress—very handsome, he
knew it was “handsome”—and an ornament that his memory was
able further to identify as a ruche. He had his association indeed with the
ruche, but it was rather imperfectly romantic. He had once said to the
wearer—and it was as “free” a remark as he had ever made to
her—that she looked, with her ruff and other matters, like Queen
Elizabeth; and it had after this in truth been his fancy that, as a consequence
of that tenderness and an acceptance of the idea, the form of this special
tribute to the “frill” had grown slightly more marked. The
connexion, as he sat there and let his imagination roam, was to strike him as
vaguely pathetic; but there it all was, and pathetic was doubtless in the
conditions the best thing it could possibly be. It had assuredly existed at any
rate; for it seemed now to come over him that no gentleman of his age at
Woollett could ever, to a lady of Mrs. Newsome’s, which was not much less
than his, have embarked on such a simile.

All sorts of things in fact now seemed to come over him, comparatively few of
which his chronicler can hope for space to mention. It came over him for
instance that Miss Gostrey looked perhaps like Mary Stuart: Lambert Strether
had a candour of fancy which could rest for an instant gratified in such an
antithesis. It came over him that never before—no, literally
never—had a lady dined with him at a public place before going to the
play. The publicity of the place was just, in the matter, for Strether, the
rare strange thing; it affected him almost as the achievement of privacy might
have affected a man of a different experience. He had married, in the far-away
years, so young as to have missed the time natural in Boston for taking girls
to the Museum; and it was absolutely true of hint that—even after the
close of the period of conscious detachment occupying the centre of his life,
the grey middle desert of the two deaths, that of his wife and that, ten years
later, of his boy—he had never taken any one anywhere. It came over him
in especial—though the monition had, as happened, already sounded,
fitfully gleamed, in other forms—that the business he had come out on
hadn’t yet been so brought home to him as by the sight of the people
about him. She gave him the impression, his friend, at first, more straight
than he got it for himself—gave it simply by saying with off-hand
illumination: “Oh yes, they’re types!”—but after he had
taken it he made to the full his own use of it; both while he kept silence for
the four acts and while he talked in the intervals. It was an evening, it was a
world of types, and this was a connexion above all in which the figures and
faces in the stalls were interchangeable with those on the stage.

He felt as if the play itself penetrated him with the naked elbow of his
neighbour, a great stripped handsome red-haired lady who conversed with a
gentleman on her other side in stray dissyllables which had for his ear, in the
oddest way in the world, so much sound that he wondered they hadn’t more
sense; and he recognised by the same law, beyond the footlights, what he was
pleased to take for the very flush of English life. He had distracted drops in
which he couldn’t have said if it were actors or auditors who were most
true, and the upshot of which, each time, was the consciousness of new
contacts. However he viewed his job it was “types” he should have
to tackle. Those before him and around him were not as the types of Woollett,
where, for that matter, it had begun to seem to him that there must only have
been the male and the female. These made two exactly, even with the individual
varieties. Here, on the other hand, apart from the personal and the sexual
range—which might be greater or less—a series of strong stamps had
been applied, as it were, from without; stamps that his observation played with
as, before a glass case on a table, it might have passed from medal to medal
and from copper to gold. It befell that in the drama precisely there was a bad
woman in a yellow frock who made a pleasant weak good-looking young man in
perpetual evening dress do the most dreadful things. Strether felt himself on
the whole not afraid of the yellow frock, but he was vaguely anxious over a
certain kindness into which he found himself drifting for its victim. He
hadn’t come out, he reminded himself, to be too kind, or indeed to be
kind at all, to Chadwick Newsome. Would Chad also be in perpetual evening
dress? He somehow rather hoped it—it seemed so to add to
young man’s general amenability; though he wondered too if, to fight him
with his own weapons, he himself (a thought almost startling) would have
likewise to be. This young man furthermore would have been much more easy to
handle—at least for —than appeared probable in respect to
Chad.

It came up for him with Miss Gostrey that there were things of which she would
really perhaps after all have heard, and she admitted when a little pressed
that she was never quite sure of what she heard as distinguished from things
such as, on occasions like the present, she only extravagantly guessed.
“I seem with this freedom, you see, to have guessed Mr. Chad. He’s
a young man on whose head high hopes are placed at Woollett; a young man a
wicked woman has got hold of and whom his family over there have sent you out
to rescue. You’ve accepted the mission of separating him from the wicked
woman. Are you quite sure she’s very bad for him?”

Something in his manner showed it as quite pulling him up. “Of course we
are. Wouldn’t be?”

“Oh I don’t know. One never does—does one?—beforehand.
One can only judge on the facts. Yours are quite new to me; I’m really
not in the least, as you see, in possession of them: so it will be awfully
interesting to have them from you. If you’re satisfied, that’s all
that’s required. I mean if you’re sure you sure: sure it
won’t do.”

“That he should lead such a life? Rather!”

“Oh but I don’t know, you see, about his life; you’ve not
told me about his life. She may be charming—his life!”

“Charming?”—Strether stared before him. “She’s
base, venal—out of the streets.”

“I see. And —?”

“Chad, wretched boy?”

“Of what type and temper is he?” she went on as Strether had
lapsed.

“Well—the obstinate.” It was as if for a moment he had been
going to say more and had then controlled himself.

That was scarce what she wished. “Do you like him?”

This time he was prompt. “No. How I?”

“Do you mean because of your being so saddled with him?”

“I’m thinking of his mother,” said Strether after a moment.
“He has darkened her admirable life.” He spoke with austerity.
“He has worried her half to death.”

“Oh that’s of course odious.” She had a pause as if for
renewed emphasis of this truth, but it ended on another note. “Is her
life very admirable?”

“Extraordinarily.”

There was so much in the tone that Miss Gostrey had to devote another pause to
the appreciation of it. “And has he only I don’t mean
the bad woman in Paris,” she quickly added—“for I assure you
I shouldn’t even at the best be disposed to allow him more than one. But
has he only his mother?”

“He has also a sister, older than himself and married; and they’re
both remarkably fine women.”

“Very handsome, you mean?”

This promptitude—almost, as he might have thought, this precipitation,
gave him a brief drop; but he came up again. “Mrs. Newsome, I think, is
handsome, though she’s not of course, with a son of twenty-eight and a
daughter of thirty, in her very first youth. She married, however, extremely
young.”

“And is wonderful,” Miss Gostrey asked, “for her age?”

Strether seemed to feel with a certain disquiet the pressure of it. “I
don’t say she’s wonderful. Or rather,” he went on the next
moment, “I do say it. It’s exactly what she
—wonderful. But I wasn’t thinking of her
appearance,” he explained—“striking as that doubtless is. I
was thinking—well, of many other things.” He seemed to look at
these as if to mention some of them; then took, pulling himself up, another
turn. “About Mrs. Pocock people may differ.”

“Is that the daughter’s name—‘Pocock’?”

“That’s the daughter’s name,” Strether sturdily
confessed.

“And people may differ, you mean, about beauty?”

“About everything.”

“But admire her?”

He gave his friend a glance as to show how he could bear this “I’m
perhaps a little afraid of her.”

“Oh,” said Miss Gostrey, “I see her from here! You may say
then I see very fast and very far, but I’ve already shown you I do. The
young man and the two ladies,” she went on, “are at any rate all
the family?”

“Quite all. His father has been dead ten years, and there’s no
brother, nor any other sister. They’d do,” said Strether,
“anything in the world for him.”

“And you’d do anything in the world for ”

He shifted again; she had made it perhaps just a shade too affirmative for his
nerves. “Oh I don’t know!”

“You’d do at any rate this, and the ‘anything’
they’d do is represented by their you do it.”

“Ah they couldn’t have come—either of them. They’re
very busy people and Mrs. Newsome in particular has a large full life.
She’s moreover highly nervous—and not at all strong.”

“You mean she’s an American invalid?”

He carefully distinguished. “There’s nothing she likes less than to
be called one, but she would consent to be one of those things, I think,”
he laughed, “if it were the only way to be the other.”

“Consent to be an American in order to be an invalid?”

“No,” said Strether, “the other way round. She’s at any
rate delicate sensitive high-strung. She puts so much of herself into
everything—”

Ah Maria knew these things! “That she has nothing left for anything else?
Of course she hasn’t. To whom do you say it? High-strung? Don’t I
spend my life, for them, jamming down the pedal? I see moreover how it has told
on you.”

Strether took this more lightly. “Oh I jam down the pedal too!”

“Well,” she lucidly returned, “we must from this moment bear
on it together with all our might.” And she forged ahead. “Have
they money?”

But it was as if, while her energetic image still held him, her enquiry fell
short. “Mrs. Newsome,” he wished further to explain,
“hasn’t moreover your courage on the question of contact. If she
had come it would have been to see the person herself.”

“The woman? Ah but that’s courage.”

“No—it’s exaltation, which is a very different thing.
Courage,” he, however, accommodatingly threw out, “is what
have.”

She shook her head. “You say that only to patch me up—to cover the
nudity of my want of exaltation. I’ve neither the one nor the other.
I’ve mere battered indifference. I see that what you mean,” Miss
Gostrey pursued, “is that if your friend come she would take
great views, and the great views, to put it simply, would be too much for
her.”

Strether looked amused at her notion of the simple, but he adopted her formula.
“Everything’s too much for her.”

“Ah then such a service as this of yours—”

“Is more for her than anything else? Yes—far more. But so long as
it isn’t too much for —!”

“Her condition doesn’t matter? Surely not; we leave her condition
out; we take it, that is, for granted. I see it, her condition, as behind and
beneath you; yet at the same time I see it as bearing you up.”

“Oh it does bear me up!” Strether laughed.

“Well then as yours bears nothing more’s needed.”
With which she put again her question. “Has Mrs. Newsome money?”

This time he heeded. “Oh plenty. That’s the root of the evil.
There’s money, to very large amounts, in the concern. Chad has had the
free use of a great deal. But if he’ll pull himself together and come
home, all the same, he’ll find his account in it.”

She had listened with all her interest. “And I hope to goodness
you’ll find yours!”

“He’ll take up his definite material reward,” said Strether
without acknowledgement of this. “He’s at the parting of the ways.
He can come into the business now—he can’t come later.”

“Is there a business?”

“Lord, yes—a big brave bouncing business. A roaring trade.”

“A great shop?”

“Yes—a workshop; a great production, a great industry. The
concern’s a manufacture—and a manufacture that, if it’s only
properly looked after, may well be on the way to become a monopoly. It’s
a little thing they make—make better, it appears, than other people can,
or than other people, at any rate, do. Mr. Newsome, being a man of ideas, at
least in that particular line,” Strether explained, “put them on it
with great effect, and gave the place altogether, in his time, an immense
lift.”

“It’s a place in itself?”

“Well, quite a number of buildings; almost a little industrial colony.
But above all it’s a thing. The article produced.”

“And what the article produced?”

Strether looked about him as in slight reluctance to say; then the curtain,
which he saw about to rise, came to his aid. “I’ll tell you next
time.” But when the next time came he only said he’d tell her later
on—after they should have left the theatre; for she had immediately
reverted to their topic, and even for himself the picture of the stage was now
overlaid with another image. His postponements, however, made her
wonder—wonder if the article referred to were anything bad. And she
explained that she meant improper or ridiculous or wrong. But Strether, so far
as that went, could satisfy her. “Unmentionable? Oh no, we constantly
talk of it; we are quite familiar and brazen about it. Only, as a small,
trivial, rather ridiculous object of the commonest domestic use, it’s
just wanting in—what shall I say? Well, dignity, or the least approach to
distinction. Right here therefore, with everything about us so
grand—!” In short he shrank.

“It’s a false note?”

“Sadly. It’s vulgar.”

“But surely not vulgarer than this.” Then on his wondering as she
herself had done: “Than everything about us.” She seemed a trifle
irritated. “What do you take this for?”

“Why for—comparatively—divine!”

“This dreadful London theatre? It’s impossible, if you really want
to know.”

“Oh then,” laughed Strether, “I really
want to know!”

It made between them a pause, which she, however, still fascinated by the
mystery of the production at Woollett, presently broke. “‘Rather
ridiculous’? Clothes-pins? Saleratus? Shoe-polish?”

It brought him round. “No—you don’t even ‘burn.’
I don’t think, you know, you’ll guess it.”

“How then can I judge how vulgar it is?”

“You’ll judge when I do tell you”—and he persuaded her
to patience. But it may even now frankly be mentioned that he in the sequel
never to tell her. He actually never did so, and it moreover oddly
occurred that by the law, within her, of the incalculable, her desire for the
information dropped and her attitude to the question converted itself into a
positive cultivation of ignorance. In ignorance she could humour her fancy, and
that proved a useful freedom. She could treat the little nameless object as
indeed unnameable—she could make their abstention enormously definite.
There might indeed have been for Strether the portent of this in what she next
said.

“Is it perhaps then because it’s so bad—because your industry
as you call it, so vulgar—that Mr. Chad won’t come back?
Does he feel the taint? Is he staying away not to be mixed up in it?”

“Oh,” Strether laughed, “it wouldn’t appear—would
it?—that he feels ‘taints’! He’s glad enough of the
money from it, and the money’s his whole basis. There’s
appreciation in that—I mean as to the allowance his mother has hitherto
made him. She has of course the resource of cutting this allowance off; but
even then he has unfortunately, and on no small scale, his independent
supply—money left him by his grandfather, her own father.”

“Wouldn’t the fact you mention then,” Miss Gostrey asked,
“make it just more easy for him to be particular? Isn’t he
conceivable as fastidious about the source—the apparent and public
source—of his income?”

Strether was able quite good-humouredly to entertain the proposition.
“The source of his grandfather’s wealth—and thereby of his
own share in it—was not particularly noble.”

“And what source was it?”

Strether cast about. “Well—practices.”

“In business? Infamies? He was an old swindler?”

“Oh,” he said with more emphasis than spirit, “I shan’t
describe nor narrate his exploits.”

“Lord, what abysses! And the late Mr. Newsome then?”

“Well, what about him?”

“Was he like the grandfather?”

“No—he was on the other side of the house. And he was
different.”

Miss Gostrey kept it up. “Better?”

Her friend for a moment hung fire. “No.”

Her comment on his hesitation was scarce the less marked for being mute.
“Thank you. don’t you see,” she went on,
“why the boy doesn’t come home? He’s drowning his
shame.”

“His shame? What shame?”

“What shame? Comment donc? shame.”

“But where and when,” Strether asked, “is ‘
shame’—where is any shame—to-day? The men I speak
of—they did as every one does; and (besides being ancient history) it was
all a matter of appreciation.”

She showed how she understood. “Mrs. Newsome has appreciated?”

“Ah I can’t speak for ”

“In the midst of such doings—and, as I understand you, profiting by
them, she at least has remained exquisite?”

“Oh I can’t talk of her!” Strether said.

“I thought she was just what you talk of. You
trust me,” Miss Gostrey after a moment declared.

It had its effect. “Well, her money is spent, her life conceived and
carried on with a large beneficence—”

“That’s a kind of expiation of wrongs? Gracious,” she added
before he could speak, “how intensely you make me see her!”

“If you see her,” Strether dropped, “it’s all
that’s necessary.”

She really seemed to have her. “I feel that. She , in spite of
everything, handsome.”

This at least enlivened him. “What do you mean by everything?”

“Well, I mean .” With which she had one of her swift
changes of ground. “You say the concern needs looking after; but
doesn’t Mrs. Newsome look after it?”

“So far as possible. She’s wonderfully able, but it’s not her
affair, and her life’s a good deal overcharged. She has many, many
things.”

“And you also?”

“Oh yes—I’ve many too, if you will.”

“I see. But what I mean is,” Miss Gostrey amended, “do you
also look after the business?”

“Oh no, I don’t touch the business.”

“Only everything else?”

“Well, yes—some things.”

“As for instance—?”

Strether obligingly thought. “Well, the Review.”

“The Review?—you have a Review?”

“Certainly. Woollett has a Review—which Mrs. Newsome, for the most
part, magnificently pays for and which I, not at all magnificently, edit. My
name’s on the cover,” Strether pursued, “and I’m really
rather disappointed and hurt that you seem never to have heard of it.”

She neglected for a moment this grievance. “And what kind of a Review is
it?”

His serenity was now completely restored. “Well, it’s green.”

“Do you mean in political colour as they say here—in
thought?”

“No; I mean the cover’s green—of the most lovely
shade.”

“And with Mrs. Newsome’s name on it too?”

He waited a little. “Oh as for that you must judge if she peeps out.
She’s behind the whole thing; but she’s of a delicacy and a
discretion—!”

Miss Gostrey took it all. “I’m sure. She be. I
don’t underrate her. She must be rather a swell.”

“Oh yes, she’s rather a swell!”

“A Woollett swell— I like the idea of a Woollett swell.
And you must be rather one too, to be so mixed up with her.”

“Ah no,” said Strether, “that’s not the way it
works.”

But she had already taken him up. “The way it works—you
needn’t tell me!—is of course that you efface yourself.”

“With my name on the cover?” he lucidly objected.

“Ah but you don’t put it on for yourself.”

“I beg your pardon—that’s exactly what I do put it on for.
It’s exactly the thing that I’m reduced to doing for myself. It
seems to rescue a little, you see, from the wreck of hopes and ambitions, the
refuse-heap of disappointments and failures, my one presentable little scrap of
an identity.”

On this she looked at him as to say many things, but what she at last simply
said was: “She likes to see it there. You’re the bigger swell of
the two,” she immediately continued, “because you think
you’re not one. She thinks she one. However,” Miss
Gostrey added, “she thinks you’re one too. You’re at all
events the biggest she can get hold of.” She embroidered, she abounded.
“I don’t say it to interfere between you, but on the day she gets
hold of a bigger one—!” Strether had thrown back his head as in
silent mirth over something that struck him in her audacity or felicity, and
her flight meanwhile was already higher. “Therefore close with
her—!”

“Close with her?” he asked as she seemed to hang poised.

“Before you lose your chance.”

Their eyes met over it. “What do you mean by closing?”

“And what do I mean by your chance? I’ll tell you when you tell me
all the things don’t. Is it her fad?”
she briskly pursued.

“The Review?” He seemed to wonder how he could best describe it.
This resulted however but in a sketch. “It’s her tribute to the
ideal.”

“I see. You go in for tremendous things.”

“We go in for the unpopular side—that is so far as we dare.”

“And how far you dare?”

“Well, she very far. I much less. I don’t begin to have her faith.
She provides,” said Strether, “three fourths of that. And she
provides, as I’ve confided to you, the money.”

It evoked somehow a vision of gold that held for a little Miss Gostrey’s
eyes, and she looked as if she heard the bright dollars shovelled in. “I
hope then you make a good thing—”

“I made a good thing!” he at once returned.

She just waited. “Don’t you call it a good thing to be
loved?”

“Oh we’re not loved. We’re not even hated. We’re only
just sweetly ignored.”

She had another pause. “You don’t trust me!” she once more
repeated.

“Don’t I when I lift the last veil?—tell you the very secret
of the prison-house?”

Again she met his eyes, but to the result that after an instant her own turned
away with impatience. “You don’t sell? Oh I’m glad of
” After which however, and before he could protest, she was
off again. “She’s just a swell.”

He accepted gaily enough the definition. “Yes—I really think that
describes her.”

But it had for his friend the oddest connexion. “How does she do her
hair?”

He laughed out. “Beautifully!”

“Ah that doesn’t tell me. However, it doesn’t matter—I
know. It’s tremendously neat—a real reproach; quite remarkably
thick and without, as yet, a single strand of white. There!”

He blushed for her realism, but gaped at her truth. “You’re the
very deuce.”

“What else I be? It was as the very deuce I pounced on you.
But don’t let it trouble you, for everything but the very deuce—at
our age—is a bore and a delusion, and even he himself, after all, but
half a joy.” With which, on a single sweep of her wing, she resumed.
“You assist her to expiate—which is rather hard when you’ve
yourself not sinned.”

“It’s she who hasn’t sinned,” Strether replied.
“I’ve sinned the most.”

“Ah,” Miss Gostrey cynically laughed, “what a picture of
Have you robbed the widow and the orphan?”

“I’ve sinned enough,” said Strether.

“Enough for whom? Enough for what?”

“Well, to be where I am.”

“Thank you!” They were disturbed at this moment by the passage
between their knees and the back of the seats before them of a gentleman who
had been absent during a part of the performance and who now returned for the
close; but the interruption left Miss Gostrey time, before the subsequent hush,
to express as a sharp finality her sense of the moral of all their talk.
“I knew you had something up your sleeve!” This finality, however,
left them in its turn, at the end of the play, as disposed to hang back as if
they had still much to say; so that they easily agreed to let every one go
before them—they found an interest in waiting. They made out from the
lobby that the night had turned to rain; yet Miss Gostrey let her friend know
that he wasn’t to see her home. He was simply to put her, by herself,
into a four-wheeler; she liked so in London, of wet nights after wild
pleasures, thinking things over, on the return, in lonely four-wheelers. This
was her great time, she intimated, for pulling herself together. The delays
caused by the weather, the struggle for vehicles at the door, gave them
occasion to subside on a divan at the back of the vestibule and just beyond the
reach of the fresh damp gusts from the street. Here Strether’s comrade
resumed that free handling of the subject to which his own imagination of it
already owed so much. “Does your young friend in Paris like you?”

It had almost, after the interval, startled him. “Oh I hope not! Why
he?”

“Why shouldn’t he?” Miss Gostrey asked. “That
you’re coming down on him need have nothing to do with it.”

“You see more in it,” he presently returned, “than I.”

“Of course I see in it.”

“Well then you see more in ‘me’!”

“Than you see in yourself? Very likely. That’s always one’s
right. What I was thinking of,” she explained, “is the possible
particular effect on him of his .”

“Oh his —!” Strether really felt he could
imagine it better now than three hours before.

“Do you mean it can only have been so lowering?”

“Why that’s my very starting-point.”

“Yes, but you start so far back. What do his letters say?”

“Nothing. He practically ignores us—or spares us. He doesn’t
write.”

“I see. But there are all the same,” she went on, “two quite
distinct things that—given the wonderful place he’s in—may
have happened to him. One is that he may have got brutalised. The other is that
he may have got refined.”

Strether stared—this a novelty. “Refined?”

“Oh,” she said quietly, “there refinements.”

The way of it made him, after looking at her, break into a laugh.
“ have them!”

“As one of the signs,” she continued in the same tone, “they
constitute perhaps the worst.”

He thought it over and his gravity returned. “Is it a refinement not to
answer his mother’s letters?”

She appeared to have a scruple, but she brought it out. “Oh I should say
the greatest of all.”

“Well,” said Strether, “ quite content to let
it, as one of the signs, pass for the worst that I know he believes he can do
what he likes with me.”

This appeared to strike her. “How do you know it?”

“Oh I’m sure of it. I feel it in my bones.”

“Feel he do it?”

“Feel that he believes he can. It may come to the same thing!”
Strether laughed.

She wouldn’t, however, have this. “Nothing for you will ever come
to the same thing as anything else.” And she understood what she meant,
it seemed, sufficiently to go straight on. “You say that if he does break
he’ll come in for things at home?”

“Quite positively. He’ll come in for a particular chance—a
chance that any properly constituted young man would jump at. The business has
so developed that an opening scarcely apparent three years ago, but which his
father’s will took account of as in certain conditions possible and
which, under that will, attaches to Chad’s availing himself of it a large
contingent advantage—this opening, the conditions having come about, now
simply awaits him. His mother has kept it for him, holding out against strong
pressure, till the last possible moment. It requires, naturally, as it carries
with it a handsome ‘part,’ a large share in profits, his being on
the spot and making a big effort for a big result. That’s what I mean by
his chance. If he misses it he comes in, as you say, for nothing. And to see
that he doesn’t miss it is, in a word, what I’ve come out
for.”

She let it all sink in. “What you’ve come out for then is simply to
render him an immense service.”

Well, poor Strether was willing to take it so. “Ah if you like.”

“He stands, as they say, if you succeed with him, to gain—”

“Oh a lot of advantages.” Strether had them clearly at his
fingers’ ends.

“By which you mean of course a lot of money.”

“Well, not only. I’m acting with a sense for him of other things
too. Consideration and comfort and security—the general safety of being
anchored by a strong chain. He wants, as I see him, to be protected. Protected
I mean from life.”

“Ah voilà!”—her thought fitted with a click. “From
life. What you want to get him home for is to marry him.”

“Well, that’s about the size of it.”

“Of course,” she said, “it’s rudimentary. But to any
one in particular?”

He smiled at this, looking a little more conscious. “You get everything
out.”

For a moment again their eyes met. “You put everything in!”

He acknowledged the tribute by telling her. “To Mamie Pocock.”

She wondered; then gravely, even exquisitely, as if to make the oddity also
fit: “His own niece?”

“Oh you must yourself find a name for the relation. His
brother-in-law’s sister. Mrs. Jim’s sister-in-law.”

It seemed to have on Miss Gostrey a certain hardening effect. “And who in
the world’s Mrs. Jim?”

“Chad’s sister—who was Sarah Newsome. She’s
married—didn’t I mention it?—to Jim Pocock.”

“Ah yes,” she tacitly replied; but he had mentioned things—!
Then, however, with all the sound it could have, “Who in the
world’s Jim Pocock?” she asked.

“Why Sally’s husband. That’s the only way we distinguish
people at Woollett,” he good-humoredly explained.

“And is it a great distinction—being Sally’s husband?”

He considered. “I think there can be scarcely a greater—unless it
may become one, in the future, to be Chad’s wife.”

“Then how do they distinguish ”

“They —except, as I’ve told you, by the
green cover.”

Once more their eyes met on it, and she held him an instant. “The green
cover won’t—nor will cover—avail you with
. You’re of a depth of duplicity!” Still, she could in her
own large grasp of the real condone it. “Is Mamie a great

“Oh the greatest we have—our prettiest brightest girl.”

Miss Gostrey seemed to fix the poor child. “I know what they
be. And with money?”

“Not perhaps with a great deal of that—but with so much of
everything else that we don’t miss it. We miss money
much, you know,” Strether added, “in general, in America, in pretty
girls.”

“No,” she conceded; “but I know also what you do sometimes
miss. And do you,” she asked, “yourself admire her?”

It was a question, he indicated, that there might be several ways of taking;
but he decided after an instant for the humorous. “Haven’t I
sufficiently showed you how I admire pretty girl?”

Her interest in his problem was by this time such that it scarce left her
freedom, and she kept close to the facts. “I supposed that at Woollett
you wanted them—what shall I call it?—blameless. I mean your young
men for your pretty girls.”

“So did I!” Strether confessed. “But you strike there a
curious fact—the fact that Woollett too accommodates itself to the spirit
of the age and the increasing mildness of manners. Everything changes, and I
hold that our situation precisely marks a date. We prefer them
blameless, but we have to make the best of them as we find them. Since the
spirit of the age and the increasing mildness send them so much more to
Paris—”

“You’ve to take them back as they come. When they come.
” Once more she embraced it all, but she had a moment of
thought. “Poor Chad!”

“Ah,” said Strether cheerfully “Mamie will save him!”

She was looking away, still in her vision, and she spoke with impatience and
almost as if he hadn’t understood her. “ save
him. That’s who’ll save him.”

“Oh but with Mamie’s aid. Unless indeed you mean,” he added,
“that I shall effect so much more with yours!”

It made her at last again look at him. “You’ll do more—as
you’re so much better—than all of us put together.”

“I think I’m only better since I’ve known ”
Strether bravely returned.

The depletion of the place, the shrinkage of the crowd and now comparatively
quiet withdrawal of its last elements had already brought them nearer the door
and put them in relation with a messenger of whom he bespoke Miss
Gostrey’s cab. But this left them a few minutes more, which she was
clearly in no mood not to use. “You’ve spoken to me of
what—by your success—Mr. Chad stands to gain. But you’ve not
spoken to me of what you do.”

“Oh I’ve nothing more to gain,” said Strether very simply.

She took it as even quite too simple. “You mean you’ve got it all
‘down’? You’ve been paid in advance?”

“Ah don’t talk about payment!” he groaned.

Something in the tone of it pulled her up, but as their messenger still delayed
she had another chance and she put it in another way. “What—by
failure—do you stand to lose?”

He still, however, wouldn’t have it. “Nothing!” he exclaimed,
and on the messenger’s at this instant reappearing he was able to sink
the subject in their responsive advance. When, a few steps up the street, under
a lamp, he had put her into her four-wheeler and she had asked him if the man
had called for him no second conveyance, he replied before the door was closed.
“You won’t take me with you?”

“Not for the world.”

“Then I shall walk.”

“In the rain?”

“I like the rain,” said Strether. “Good-night!”

She kept him a moment, while his hand was on the door, by not answering; after
which she answered by repeating her question. “What do you stand to
lose?”

Why the question now affected him as other he couldn’t have said; he
could only this time meet it otherwise. “Everything.”

“So I thought. Then you shall succeed. And to that end I’m
yours—”

“Ah, dear lady!” he kindly breathed.

“Till death!” said Maria Gostrey. “Good-night.”

II

Strether called, his second morning in Paris, on the bankers of the Rue Scribe
to whom his letter of credit was addressed, and he made this visit attended by
Waymarsh, in whose company he had crossed from London two days before. They had
hastened to the Rue Scribe on the morrow of their arrival, but Strether had not
then found the letters the hope of which prompted this errand. He had had as
yet none at all; hadn’t expected them in London, but had counted on
several in Paris, and, disconcerted now, had presently strolled back to the
Boulevard with a sense of injury that he felt himself taking for as good a
start as any other. It would serve, this spur to his spirit, he reflected, as,
pausing at the top of the street, he looked up and down the great foreign
avenue, it would serve to begin business with. His idea was to begin business
immediately, and it did much for him the rest of his day that the beginning of
business awaited him. He did little else till night but ask himself what he
should do if he hadn’t fortunately had so much to do; but he put himself
the question in many different situations and connexions. What carried him
hither and yon was an admirable theory that nothing he could do wouldn’t
be in some manner related to what he fundamentally had on hand, or
be—should he happen to have a scruple—wasted for it. He did happen
to have a scruple—a scruple about taking no definite step till he should
get letters; but this reasoning carried it off. A single day to feel his
feet—he had felt them as yet only at Chester and in London—was he
could consider, none too much; and having, as he had often privately expressed
it, Paris to reckon with, he threw these hours of freshness consciously into
the reckoning. They made it continually greater, but that was what it had best
be if it was to be anything at all, and he gave himself up till far into the
evening, at the theatre and on the return, after the theatre, along the bright
congested Boulevard, to feeling it grow. Waymarsh had accompanied him this time
to the play, and the two men had walked together, as a first stage, from the
Gymnase to the Café Riche, into the crowded “terrace” of which
establishment—the night, or rather the morning, for midnight had struck,
being bland and populous—they had wedged themselves for refreshment.
Waymarsh, as a result of some discussion with his friend, had made a marked
virtue of his having now let himself go; and there had been elements of
impression in their half-hour over their watered beer-glasses that gave him his
occasion for conveying that he held this compromise with his stiffer self to
have become extreme. He conveyed it—for it was still, after all, his
stiffer self who gloomed out of the glare of the terrace—in solemn
silence; and there was indeed a great deal of critical silence, every way,
between the companions, even till they gained the Place de l’Opéra, as to
the character of their nocturnal progress.

This morning there letters—letters which had reached London,
apparently all together, the day of Strether’s journey, and had taken
their time to follow him; so that, after a controlled impulse to go into them
in the reception-room of the bank, which, reminding him of the post-office at
Woollett, affected him as the abutment of some transatlantic bridge, he slipped
them into the pocket of his loose grey overcoat with a sense of the felicity of
carrying them off. Waymarsh, who had had letters yesterday, had had them again
to-day, and Waymarsh suggested in this particular no controlled impulses. The
last one he was at all events likely to be observed to struggle with was
clearly that of bringing to a premature close any visit to the Rue Scribe.
Strether had left him there yesterday; he wanted to see the papers, and he had
spent, by what his friend could make out, a succession of hours with the
papers. He spoke of the establishment, with emphasis, as a post of superior
observation; just as he spoke generally of his actual damnable doom as a device
for hiding from him what was going on. Europe was best described, to his mind,
as an elaborate engine for dissociating the confined American from that
indispensable knowledge, and was accordingly only rendered bearable by these
occasional stations of relief, traps for the arrest of wandering western airs.
Strether, on his side, set himself to walk again—he had his relief in his
pocket; and indeed, much as he had desired his budget, the growth of
restlessness might have been marked in him from the moment he had assured
himself of the superscription of most of the missives it contained. This
restlessness became therefore his temporary law; he knew he should recognise as
soon as see it the best place of all for settling down with his chief
correspondent. He had for the next hour an accidental air of looking for it in
the windows of shops; he came down the Rue de la Paix in the sun and, passing
across the Tuileries and the river, indulged more than once—as if on
finding himself determined—in a sudden pause before the book-stalls of
the opposite quay. In the garden of the Tuileries he had lingered, on two or
three spots, to look; it was as if the wonderful Paris spring had stayed him as
he roamed. The prompt Paris morning struck its cheerful notes—in a soft
breeze and a sprinkled smell, in the light flit, over the garden-floor, of
bareheaded girls with the buckled strap of oblong boxes, in the type of ancient
thrifty persons basking betimes where terrace-walls were warm, in the
blue-frocked brass-labelled officialism of humble rakers and scrapers, in the
deep references of a straight-pacing priest or the sharp ones of a
white-gaitered red-legged soldier. He watched little brisk figures, figures
whose movement was as the tick of the great Paris clock, take their smooth
diagonal from point to point; the air had a taste as of something mixed with
art, something that presented nature as a white-capped master-chef. The palace
was gone, Strether remembered the palace; and when he gazed into the
irremediable void of its site the historic sense in him might have been freely
at play—the play under which in Paris indeed it so often winces like a
touched nerve. He filled out spaces with dim symbols of scenes; he caught the
gleam of white statues at the base of which, with his letters out, he could
tilt back a straw-bottomed chair. But his drift was, for reasons, to the other
side, and it floated him unspent up the Rue de Seine and as far as the
Luxembourg. In the Luxembourg Gardens he pulled up; here at last he found his
nook, and here, on a penny chair from which terraces, alleys, vistas,
fountains, little trees in green tubs, little women in white caps and shrill
little girls at play all sunnily “composed” together, he passed an
hour in which the cup of his impressions seemed truly to overflow. But a week
had elapsed since he quitted the ship, and there were more things in his mind
than so few days could account for. More than once, during the time, he had
regarded himself as admonished; but the admonition this morning was formidably
sharp. It took as it hadn’t done yet the form of a question—the
question of what he was doing with such an extraordinary sense of escape. This
sense was sharpest after he had read his letters, but that was also precisely
why the question pressed. Four of the letters were from Mrs. Newsome and none
of them short; she had lost no time, had followed on his heels while he moved,
so expressing herself that he now could measure the probable frequency with
which he should hear. They would arrive, it would seem, her communications, at
the rate of several a week; he should be able to count, it might even prove, on
more than one by each mail. If he had begun yesterday with a small grievance he
had therefore an opportunity to begin to-day with its opposite. He read the
letters successively and slowly, putting others back into his pocket but
keeping these for a long time afterwards gathered in his lap. He held them
there, lost in thought, as if to prolong the presence of what they gave him; or
as if at the least to assure them their part in the constitution of some
lucidity. His friend wrote admirably, and her tone was even more in her style
than in her voice—he might almost, for the hour, have had to come this
distance to get its full carrying quality; yet the plentitude of his
consciousness of difference consorted perfectly with the deepened intensity of
the connexion. It was the difference, the difference of being just where he was
and he was, that formed the escape—this difference was so much
greater than he had dreamed it would be; and what he finally sat there turning
over was the strange logic of his finding himself so free. He felt it in a
manner his duty to think out his state, to approve the process, and when he
came in fact to trace the steps and add up the items they sufficiently
accounted for the sum. He had never expected—that was the truth of
it—again to find himself young, and all the years and other things it had
taken to make him so were exactly his present arithmetic. He had to make sure
of them to put his scruple to rest.

It all sprang at bottom from the beauty of Mrs. Newsome’s desire that he
should be worried with nothing that was not of the essence of his task; by
insisting that he should thoroughly intermit and break she had so provided for
his freedom that she would, as it were, have only herself to thank. Strether
could not at this point indeed have completed his thought by the image of what
she might have to thank herself : the image, at best, of his own
likeness—poor Lambert Strether washed up on the sunny strand by the waves
of a single day, poor Lambert Strether thankful for breathing-time and
stiffening himself while he gasped. There he was, and with nothing in his
aspect or his posture to scandalise: it was only true that if he had seen Mrs.
Newsome coming he would instinctively have jumped up to walk away a little. He
would have come round and back to her bravely, but he would have had first to
pull himself together. She abounded in news of the situation at home, proved to
him how perfectly she was arranging for his absence, told him who would take up
this and who take up that exactly where he had left it, gave him in fact
chapter and verse for the moral that nothing would suffer. It filled for him,
this tone of hers, all the air; yet it struck him at the same time as the hum
of vain things. This latter effect was what he tried to justify—and with
the success that, grave though the appearance, he at last lighted on a form
that was happy. He arrived at it by the inevitable recognition of his having
been a fortnight before one of the weariest of men. If ever a man had come off
tired Lambert Strether was that man; and hadn’t it been distinctly on the
ground of his fatigue that his wonderful friend at home had so felt for him and
so contrived? It seemed to him somehow at these instants that, could he only
maintain with sufficient firmness his grasp of that truth, it might become in a
manner his compass and his helm. What he wanted most was some idea that would
simplify, and nothing would do this so much as the fact that he was done for
and finished. If it had been in such a light that he had just detected in his
cup the dregs of youth, that was a mere flaw of the surface of his scheme. He
was so distinctly fagged-out that it must serve precisely as his convenience,
and if he could but consistently be good for little enough he might do
everything he wanted.

Everything he wanted was comprised moreover in a single boon—the common
unattainable art of taking things as they came. He appeared to himself to have
given his best years to an active appreciation of the way they didn’t
come; but perhaps—as they would seemingly here be things quite
other—this long ache might at last drop to rest. He could easily see that
from the moment he should accept the notion of his foredoomed collapse the last
thing he would lack would be reasons and memories. Oh if he do
the sum no slate would hold the figures! The fact that he had failed, as he
considered, in everything, in each relation and in half a dozen trades, as he
liked luxuriously to put it, might have made, might still make, for an empty
present; but it stood solidly for a crowded past. It had not been, so much
achievement missed, a light yoke nor a short load. It was at present as if the
backward picture had hung there, the long crooked course, grey in the shadow of
his solitude. It had been a dreadful cheerful sociable solitude, a solitude of
life or choice, of community; but though there had been people enough all round
it there had been but three or four persons it. Waymarsh was one of
these, and the fact struck him just now as marking the record. Mrs. Newsome was
another, and Miss Gostrey had of a sudden shown signs of becoming a third.
Beyond, behind them was the pale figure of his real youth, which held against
its breast the two presences paler than itself—the young wife he had
early lost and the young son he had stupidly sacrificed. He had again and again
made out for himself that he might have kept his little boy, his little dull
boy who had died at school of rapid diphtheria, if he had not in those years so
insanely given himself to merely missing the mother. It was the soreness of his
remorse that the child had in all likelihood not really been dull—had
been dull, as he had been banished and neglected, mainly because the father had
been unwittingly selfish. This was doubtless but the secret habit of sorrow,
which had slowly given way to time; yet there remained an ache sharp enough to
make the spirit, at the sight now and again of some fair young man just growing
up, wince with the thought of an opportunity lost. Had ever a man, he had
finally fallen into the way of asking himself, lost so much and even done so
much for so little? There had been particular reasons why all yesterday, beyond
other days, he should have had in one ear this cold enquiry. His name on the
green cover, where he had put it for Mrs. Newsome, expressed him doubtless just
enough to make the world—the world as distinguished, both for more and
for less, from Woollett—ask who he was. He had incurred the ridicule of
having to have his explanation explained. He was Lambert Strether because he
was on the cover, whereas it should have been, for anything like glory, that he
was on the cover because he was Lambert Strether. He would have done anything
for Mrs. Newsome, have been still more ridiculous—as he might, for that
matter, have occasion to be yet; which came to saying that this acceptance of
fate was all he had to show at fifty-five.

He judged the quantity as small because it small, and all the more
egregiously since it couldn’t, as he saw the case, so much as thinkably
have been larger. He hadn’t had the gift of making the most of what he
tried, and if he had tried and tried again—no one but himself knew how
often—it appeared to have been that he might demonstrate what else, in
default of that, be made. Old ghosts of experiments came back to
him, old drudgeries and delusions, and disgusts, old recoveries with their
relapses, old fevers with their chills, broken moments of good faith, others of
still better doubt; adventures, for the most part, of the sort qualified as
lessons. The special spring that had constantly played for him the day before
was the recognition—frequent enough to surprise him—of the promises
to himself that he had after his other visit never kept. The reminiscence
to-day most quickened for him was that of the vow taken in the course of the
pilgrimage that, newly-married, with the War just over, and helplessly young in
spite of it, he had recklessly made with the creature who was so much younger
still. It had been a bold dash, for which they had taken money set apart for
necessities, but kept sacred at the moment in a hundred ways, and in none more
so than by this private pledge of his own to treat the occasion as a relation
formed with the higher culture and see that, as they said at Woollett, it
should bear a good harvest. He had believed, sailing home again, that he had
gained something great, and his theory—with an elaborate innocent plan of
reading, digesting, coming back even, every few years—had then been to
preserve, cherish and extend it. As such plans as these had come to nothing,
however, in respect to acquisitions still more precious, it was doubtless
little enough of a marvel that he should have lost account of that handful of
seed. Buried for long years in dark corners at any rate these few germs had
sprouted again under forty-eight hours of Paris. The process of yesterday had
really been the process of feeling the general stirred life of connexions long
since individually dropped. Strether had become acquainted even on this ground
with short gusts of speculation—sudden flights of fancy in Louvre
galleries, hungry gazes through clear plates behind which lemon-coloured
volumes were as fresh as fruit on the tree.

There were instants at which he could ask whether, since there had been
fundamentally so little question of his keeping anything, the fate after all
decreed for him hadn’t been only to kept. Kept for something,
in that event, that he didn’t pretend, didn’t possibly dare as yet
to divine; something that made him hover and wonder and laugh and sigh, made
him advance and retreat, feeling half ashamed of his impulse to plunge and more
than half afraid of his impulse to wait. He remembered for instance how he had
gone back in the sixties with lemon-coloured volumes in general on the brain as
well as with a dozen—selected for his wife too—in his trunk; and
nothing had at the moment shown more confidence than this invocation of the
finer taste. They were still somewhere at home, the dozen—stale and
soiled and never sent to the binder; but what had become of the sharp
initiation they represented? They represented now the mere sallow paint on the
door of the temple of taste that he had dreamed of raising up—a structure
he had practically never carried further. Strether’s present highest
flights were perhaps those in which this particular lapse figured to him as a
symbol, a symbol of his long grind and his want of odd moments, his want
moreover of money, of opportunity, of positive dignity. That the memory of the
vow of his youth should, in order to throb again, have had to wait for this
last, as he felt it, of all his accidents—that was surely proof enough of
how his conscience had been encumbered. If any further proof were needed it
would have been to be found in the fact that, as he perfectly now saw, he had
ceased even to measure his meagreness, a meagreness that sprawled, in this
retrospect, vague and comprehensive, stretching back like some unmapped
Hinterland from a rough coast-settlement. His conscience had been amusing
itself for the forty-eight hours by forbidding him the purchase of a book; he
held off from that, held off from everything; from the moment he didn’t
yet call on Chad he wouldn’t for the world have taken any other step. On
this evidence, however, of the way they actually affected him he glared at the
lemon-coloured covers in confession of the subconsciousness that, all the same,
in the great desert of the years, he must have had of them. The green covers at
home comprised, by the law of their purpose, no tribute to letters; it was of a
mere rich kernel of economics, politics, ethics that, glazed and, as Mrs.
Newsome maintained rather against view, pre-eminently pleasant to
touch, they formed the specious shell. Without therefore any needed instinctive
knowledge of what was coming out, in Paris, on the bright highway, he struck
himself at present as having more than once flushed with a suspicion: he
couldn’t otherwise at present be feeling so many fears confirmed. There
were “movements” he was too late for: weren’t they, with the
fun of them, already spent? There were sequences he had missed and great gaps
in the procession: he might have been watching it all recede in a golden cloud
of dust. If the playhouse wasn’t closed his seat had at least fallen to
somebody else. He had had an uneasy feeling the night before that if he was at
the theatre at all—though he indeed justified the theatre, in the
specific sense, and with a grotesqueness to which his imagination did all
honour, as something he owed poor Waymarsh—he should have been there
with, and as might have been said, Chad.

This suggested the question of whether he could properly have taken him to such
a play, and what effect—it was a point that suddenly rose—his
peculiar responsibility might be held in general to have on his choice of
entertainment. It had literally been present to him at the Gymnase—where
one was held moreover comparatively safe—that having his young friend at
his side would have been an odd feature of the work of redemption; and this
quite in spite of the fact that the picture presented might well, confronted
with Chad’s own private stage, have seemed the pattern of propriety. He
clearly hadn’t come out in the name of propriety but to visit unattended
equivocal performances; yet still less had he done so to undermine his
authority by sharing them with the graceless youth. Was he to renounce all
amusement for the sweet sake of that authority? and such
renouncement give him for Chad a moral glamour? The little problem bristled the
more by reason of poor Strether’s fairly open sense of the irony of
things. Were there then sides on which his predicament threatened to look
rather droll to him? Should he have to pretend to believe—either to
himself or the wretched boy—that there was anything that could make the
latter worse? Wasn’t some such pretence on the other hand involved in the
assumption of possible processes that would make him better? His greatest
uneasiness seemed to peep at him out of the imminent impression that almost any
acceptance of Paris might give one’s authority away. It hung before him
this morning, the vast bright Babylon, like some huge iridescent object, a
jewel brilliant and hard, in which parts were not to be discriminated nor
differences comfortably marked. It twinkled and trembled and melted together,
and what seemed all surface one moment seemed all depth the next. It was a
place of which, unmistakeably, Chad was fond; wherefore if he, Strether, should
like it too much, what on earth, with such a bond, would become of either of
them? It all depended of course—which was a gleam of light—on how
the “too much” was measured; though indeed our friend fairly felt,
while he prolonged the meditation I describe, that for himself even already a
certain measure had been reached. It will have been sufficiently seen that he
was not a man to neglect any good chance for reflexion. Was it at all possible
for instance to like Paris enough without liking it too much? He luckily
however hadn’t promised Mrs. Newsome not to like it at all. He was ready
to recognise at this stage that such an engagement have tied his
hands. The Luxembourg Gardens were incontestably just so adorable at this hour
by reason—in addition to their intrinsic charm—of his not having
taken it. The only engagement he had taken, when he looked the thing in the
face, was to do what he reasonably could.

It upset him a little none the less and after a while to find himself at last
remembering on what current of association he had been floated so far. Old
imaginations of the Latin Quarter had played their part for him, and he had
duly recalled its having been with this scene of rather ominous legend that,
like so many young men in fiction as well as in fact, Chad had begun. He was
now quite out of it, with his “home,” as Strether figured the
place, in the Boulevard Malesherbes, now; which was perhaps why, repairing, not
to fail of justice either, to the elder neighbourhood, our friend had felt he
could allow for the element of the usual, the immemorial, without courting
perturbation. He was not at least in danger of seeing the youth and the
particular Person flaunt by together; and yet he was in the very air of
which—just to feel what the early natural note must have been—he
wished most to take counsel. It became at once vivid to him that he had
originally had, for a few days, an almost envious vision of the boy’s
romantic privilege. Melancholy Mürger, with Francine and Musette and Rodolphe,
at home, was, in the company of the tattered, one—if he not in his single
self two or three—of the unbound, the paper-covered dozen on the shelf;
and when Chad had written, five years ago, after a sojourn then already
prolonged to six months, that he had decided to go in for economy and the real
thing, Strether’s fancy had quite fondly accompanied him in this
migration, which was to convey him, as they somewhat confusedly learned at
Woollett, across the bridges and up the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. This was the
region—Chad had been quite distinct about it—in which the best
French, and many other things, were to be learned at least cost, and in which
all sorts of clever fellows, compatriots there for a purpose, formed an awfully
pleasant set. The clever fellows, the friendly countrymen were mainly young
painters, sculptors, architects, medical students; but they were, Chad sagely
opined, a much more profitable lot to be with—even on the footing of not
being quite one of them—than the “terrible toughs” (Strether
remembered the edifying discrimination) of the American bars and banks
roundabout the Opéra. Chad had thrown out, in the communications following this
one—for at that time he did once in a while communicate—that
several members of a band of earnest workers under one of the great artists had
taken him right in, making him dine every night, almost for nothing, at their
place, and even pressing him not to neglect the hypothesis of there being as
much “in him” as in any of them. There had been literally a moment
at which it appeared there might be something in him; there had been at any
rate a moment at which he had written that he didn’t know but what a
month or two more might see him enrolled in some . The season had
been one at which Mrs. Newsome was moved to gratitude for small mercies; it had
broken on them all as a blessing that their absentee perhaps a
conscience—that he was sated in fine with idleness, was ambitious of
variety. The exhibition was doubtless as yet not brilliant, but Strether
himself, even by that time much enlisted and immersed, had determined, on the
part of the two ladies, a temperate approval and in fact, as he now
recollected, a certain austere enthusiasm.

But the very next thing that happened had been a dark drop of the curtain. The
son and brother had not browsed long on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève—his
effective little use of the name of which, like his allusion to the best
French, appeared to have been but one of the notes of his rough cunning. The
light refreshment of these vain appearances had not accordingly carried any of
them very far. On the other hand it had gained Chad time; it had given him a
chance, unchecked, to strike his roots, had paved the way for initiations more
direct and more deep. It was Strether’s belief that he had been
comparatively innocent before this first migration, and even that the first
effects of the migration would not have been, without some particular bad
accident, to have been deplored. There had been three months—he had
sufficiently figured it out—in which Chad had wanted to try. He
tried, though not very hard—he had had his little hour of good
faith. The weakness of this principle in him was that almost any accident
attestedly bad enough was stronger. Such had at any rate markedly been the case
for the precipitation of a special series of impressions. They had proved,
successively, these impressions—all of Musette and Francine, but Musette
and Francine vulgarised by the larger evolution of the type—irresistibly
sharp: he had “taken up,” by what was at the time to be shrinkingly
gathered, as it was scantly mentioned, with one ferociously
“interested” little person after another. Strether had read
somewhere of a Latin motto, a description of the hours, observed on a clock by
a traveller in Spain; and he had been led to apply it in thought to
Chad’s number one, number two, number three. —they had all morally wounded, the last had morally killed. The
last had been longest in possession—in possession, that is, of whatever
was left of the poor boy’s finer mortality. And it hadn’t been she,
it had been one of her early predecessors, who had determined the second
migration, the expensive return and relapse, the exchange again, as was fairly
to be presumed, of the vaunted best French for some special variety of the
worst.

He pulled himself then at last together for his own progress back; not with the
feeling that he had taken his walk in vain. He prolonged it a little, in the
immediate neighbourhood, after he had quitted his chair; and the upshot of the
whole morning for him was that his campaign had begun. He had wanted to put
himself in relation, and he would be hanged if he were in relation.
He was that at no moment so much as while, under the old arches of the Odéon,
he lingered before the charming open-air array of literature classic and
casual. He found the effect of tone and tint, in the long charged tables and
shelves, delicate and appetising; the impression—substituting one kind of
low-priced for another—might have been that of one of
the pleasant cafés that overlapped, under an awning, to the pavement; but he
edged along, grazing the tables, with his hands firmly behind him. He
wasn’t there to dip, to consume—he was there to reconstruct. He
wasn’t there for his own profit—not, that is, the direct; he was
there on some chance of feeling the brush of the wing of the stray spirit of
youth. He felt it in fact, he had it beside him; the old arcade indeed, as his
inner sense listened, gave out the faint sound, as from far off, of the wild
waving of wings. They were folded now over the breasts of buried generations;
but a flutter or two lived again in the turned page of shock-headed
slouch-hatted loiterers whose young intensity of type, in the direction of pale
acuteness, deepened his vision, and even his appreciation, of racial
differences, and whose manipulation of the uncut volume was too often, however,
but a listening at closed doors. He reconstructed a possible groping Chad of
three or four years before, a Chad who had, after all, simply—for that
was the only way to see it—been too vulgar for his privilege. Surely it
a privilege to have been young and happy just there. Well, the best
thing Strether knew of him was that he had had such a dream.

But his own actual business, half an hour later, was with a third floor on the
Boulevard Malesherbes—so much as that was definite; and the fact of the
enjoyment by the third-floor windows of a continuous balcony, to which he was
helped by this knowledge, had perhaps something to do with his lingering for
five minutes on the opposite side of the street. There were points as to which
he had quite made up his mind, and one of these bore precisely on the wisdom of
the abruptness to which events had finally committed him, a policy that he was
pleased to find not at all shaken as he now looked at his watch and wondered.
He announced himself—six months before; had written out at
least that Chad wasn’t to be surprised should he see him some day turn
up. Chad had thereupon, in a few words of rather carefully colourless answer,
offered him a general welcome; and Strether, ruefully reflecting that he might
have understood the warning as a hint to hospitality, a bid for an invitation,
had fallen back upon silence as the corrective most to his own taste. He had
asked Mrs. Newsome moreover not to announce him again; he had so distinct an
opinion on his attacking his job, should he attack it at all, in his own way.
Not the least of this lady’s high merits for him was that he could
absolutely rest on her word. She was the only woman he had known, even at
Woollett, as to whom his conviction was positive that to lie was beyond her
art. Sarah Pocock, for instance, her own daughter, though with social ideals,
as they said, in some respects different—Sarah who , in her
way, æsthetic, had never refused to human commerce that mitigation of rigour;
there were occasions when he had distinctly seen her apply it. Since,
accordingly, at all events, he had had it from Mrs. Newsome that she had, at
whatever cost to her more strenuous view, conformed, in the matter of preparing
Chad, wholly to his restrictions, he now looked up at the fine continuous
balcony with a safe sense that if the case had been bungled the mistake was at
least his property. Was there perhaps just a suspicion of that in his present
pause on the edge of the Boulevard and well in the pleasant light?

Many things came over him here, and one of them was that he should doubtless
presently know whether he had been shallow or sharp. Another was that the
balcony in question didn’t somehow show as a convenience easy to
surrender. Poor Strether had at this very moment to recognise the truth that
wherever one paused in Paris the imagination reacted before one could stop it.
This perpetual reaction put a price, if one would, on pauses; but it piled up
consequences till there was scarce room to pick one’s steps among them.
What call had he, at such a juncture, for example, to like Chad’s very
house? High broad clear—he was expert enough to make out in a moment that
it was admirably built—it fairly embarrassed our friend by the quality
that, as he would have said, it “sprang” on him. He had struck off
the fancy that it might, as a preliminary, be of service to him to be seen, by
a happy accident, from the third-story windows, which took all the March sun,
but of what service was it to find himself making out after a moment that the
quality “sprung,” the quality produced by measure and balance, the
fine relation of part to part and space to space, was probably—aided by
the presence of ornament as positive as it was discreet, and by the complexion
of the stone, a cold fair grey, warmed and polished a little by
life—neither more nor less than a case of distinction, such a case as he
could only feel unexpectedly as a sort of delivered challenge? Meanwhile,
however, the chance he had allowed for—the chance of being seen in time
from the balcony—had become a fact. Two or three of the windows stood
open to the violet air; and, before Strether had cut the knot by crossing, a
young man had come out and looked about him, had lighted a cigarette and tossed
the match over, and then, resting on the rail, had given himself up to watching
the life below while he smoked. His arrival contributed, in its order, to
keeping Strether in position; the result of which in turn was that Strether
soon felt himself noticed. The young man began to look at him as in
acknowledgement of his being himself in observation.

This was interesting so far as it went, but the interest was affected by the
young man’s not being Chad. Strether wondered at first if he were perhaps
Chad altered, and then saw that this was asking too much of alteration. The
young man was light bright and alert—with an air too pleasant to have
been arrived at by patching. Strether had conceived Chad as patched, but not
beyond recognition. He was in presence, he felt, of amendments enough as they
stood; it was a sufficient amendment that the gentleman up there should be
Chad’s friend. He was young too then, the gentleman up there—he was
very young; young enough apparently to be amused at an elderly watcher, to be
curious even to see what the elderly watcher would do on finding himself
watched. There was youth in that, there was youth in the surrender to the
balcony, there was youth for Strether at this moment in everything but his own
business; and Chad’s thus pronounced association with youth had given the
next instant an extraordinary quick lift to the issue. The balcony, the
distinguished front, testified suddenly, for Strether’s fancy, to
something that was up and up; they placed the whole case materially, and as by
an admirable image, on a level that he found himself at the end of another
moment rejoicing to think he might reach. The young man looked at him still, he
looked at the young man; and the issue, by a rapid process, was that this
knowledge of a perched privacy appeared to him the last of luxuries. To him too
the perched privacy was open, and he saw it now but in one light—that of
the only domicile, the only fireside, in the great ironic city, on which he had
the shadow of a claim. Miss Gostrey had a fireside; she had told him of it, and
it was something that doubtless awaited him; but Miss Gostrey hadn’t yet
arrived—she mightn’t arrive for days; and the sole attenuation of
his excluded state was his vision of the small, the admittedly secondary hotel
in the bye-street from the Rue de la Paix, in which her solicitude for his
purse had placed him, which affected him somehow as all indoor chill,
glass-roofed court and slippery staircase, and which, by the same token,
expressed the presence of Waymarsh even at times when Waymarsh might have been
certain to be round at the bank. It came to pass before he moved that Waymarsh,
and Waymarsh alone, Waymarsh not only undiluted but positively strengthened,
struck him as the present alternative to the young man in the balcony. When he
did move it was fairly to escape that alternative. Taking his way over the
street at last and passing through the of the house was
like consciously leaving Waymarsh out. However, he would tell him all about it.

Book Third

I

Strether told Waymarsh all about it that very evening, on their dining together
at the hotel; which needn’t have happened, he was all the while aware,
hadn’t he chosen to sacrifice to this occasion a rarer opportunity. The
mention to his companion of the sacrifice was moreover exactly what introduced
his recital—or, as he would have called it with more confidence in his
interlocutor, his confession. His confession was that he had been captured and
that one of the features of the affair had just failed to be his engaging
himself on the spot to dinner. As by such a freedom Waymarsh would have lost
him he had obeyed his scruple; and he had likewise obeyed another
scruple—which bore on the question of his himself bringing a guest.

Waymarsh looked gravely ardent, over the finished soup, at this array of
scruples; Strether hadn’t yet got quite used to being so unprepared for
the consequences of the impression he produced. It was comparatively easy to
explain, however, that he hadn’t felt sure his guest would please. The
person was a young man whose acquaintance he had made but that afternoon in the
course of rather a hindered enquiry for another person—an enquiry his new
friend had just prevented in fact from being vain. “Oh,” said
Strether, “I’ve all sorts of things to tell you!”—and
he put it in a way that was a virtual hint to Waymarsh to help him to enjoy the
telling. He waited for his fish, he drank of his wine, he wiped his long
moustache, he leaned back in his chair, he took in the two English ladies who
had just creaked past them and whom he would even have articulately greeted if
they hadn’t rather chilled the impulse; so that all he could do
was—by way of doing something—to say “Merci, François!”
out quite loud when his fish was brought. Everything was there that he wanted,
everything that could make the moment an occasion, that would do
beautifully—everything but what Waymarsh might give. The little waxed
salle-à-manger was sallow and sociable; François, dancing over it, all smiles,
was a man and a brother; the high-shouldered patronne, with her high-held,
much-rubbed hands, seemed always assenting exuberantly to something unsaid; the
Paris evening in short was, for Strether, in the very taste of the soup, in the
goodness, as he was innocently pleased to think it, of the wine, in the
pleasant coarse texture of the napkin and the crunch of the thick-crusted
bread. These all were things congruous with his confession, and his confession
was that he —it would come out properly just there if Waymarsh
would only take it properly—agreed to breakfast out, at twelve literally,
the next day. He didn’t quite know where; the delicacy of the case came
straight up in the remembrance of his new friend’s “We’ll
see; I’ll take you somewhere!”—for it had required little
more than that, after all, to let him right in. He was affected after a minute,
face to face with his actual comrade, by the impulse to overcolour. There had
already been things in respect to which he knew himself tempted by this
perversity. If Waymarsh thought them bad he should at least have his reason for
his discomfort; so Strether showed them as worse. Still, he was now, in his
way, sincerely perplexed.

Chad had been absent from the Boulevard Malesherbes—was absent from Paris
altogether; he had learned that from the concierge, but had nevertheless gone
up, and gone up—there were no two ways about it—from an
uncontrollable, a really, if one would, depraved curiosity. The concierge had
mentioned to him that a friend of the tenant of the troisième was for the time
in possession; and this had been Strether’s pretext for a further
enquiry, an experiment carried on, under Chad’s roof, without his
knowledge. “I found his friend in fact there keeping the place warm, as
he called it, for him; Chad himself being, as appears, in the south. He went a
month ago to Cannes and though his return begins to be looked for it
can’t be for some days. I might, you see, perfectly have waited a week;
might have beaten a retreat as soon as I got this essential knowledge. But I
beat no retreat; I did the opposite; I stayed, I dawdled, I trifled; above all
I looked round. I saw, in fine; and—I don’t know what to call
it—I sniffed. It’s a detail, but it’s as if there were
something—something very good— sniff.”

Waymarsh’s face had shown his friend an attention apparently so remote
that the latter was slightly surprised to find it at this point abreast with
him. “Do you mean a smell? What of?”

“A charming scent. But I don’t know.”

Waymarsh gave an inferential grunt. “Does he live there with a
woman?”

“I don’t know.”

Waymarsh waited an instant for more, then resumed. “Has he taken her off
with him?”

“And will he bring her back?”—Strether fell into the enquiry.
But he wound it up as before. “I don’t know.”

The way he wound it up, accompanied as this was with another drop back, another
degustation of the Léoville, another wipe of his moustache and another good
word for François, seemed to produce in his companion a slight irritation.
“Then what the devil you know?”

“Well,” said Strether almost gaily, “I guess I don’t
know anything!” His gaiety might have been a tribute to the fact that the
state he had been reduced to did for him again what had been done by his talk
of the matter with Miss Gostrey at the London theatre. It was somehow
enlarging; and the air of that amplitude was now doubtless more or
less—and all for Waymarsh to feel—in his further response.
“That’s what I found out from the young man.”

“But I thought you said you found out nothing.”

“Nothing but that—that I don’t know anything.”

“And what good does that do you?”

“It’s just,” said Strether, “what I’ve come to
you to help me to discover. I mean anything about anything over here. I
that, up there. It regularly rose before me in its might. The young
man moreover—Chad’s friend—as good as told me so.”

“As good as told you you know nothing about anything?” Waymarsh
appeared to look at some one who might have as good as told .
“How old is he?”

“Well, I guess not thirty.”

“Yet you had to take that from him?”

“Oh I took a good deal more—since, as I tell you, I took an
invitation to déjeuner.”

“And are you to that unholy meal?”

“If you’ll come with me. He wants you too, you know. I told him
about you. He gave me his card,” Strether pursued, “and his
name’s rather funny. It’s John Little Bilham, and he says his two
surnames are, on account of his being small, inevitably used together.”

“Well,” Waymarsh asked with due detachment from these details,
“what’s he doing up there?”

“His account of himself is that he’s ‘only a little
artist-man.’ That seemed to me perfectly to describe him. But he’s
yet in the phase of study; this, you know, is the great art-school—to
pass a certain number of years in which he came over. And he’s a great
friend of Chad’s, and occupying Chad’s rooms just now because
they’re so pleasant. very pleasant and curious
too,” Strether added—“though he’s not from
Boston.”

Waymarsh looked already rather sick of him. “Where he
from?”

Strether thought. “I don’t know that, either. But he’s
‘notoriously,’ as he put it himself, not from Boston.”

“Well,” Waymarsh moralised from dry depths, “every one
can’t notoriously from Boston. Why,” he continued,
“is he curious?”

“Perhaps just for —for one thing! But really,”
Strether added, “for everything. When you meet him you’ll
see.”

“Oh I don’t want to meet him,” Waymarsh impatiently growled.
“Why don’t he go home?”

Strether hesitated. “Well, because he likes it over here.”

This appeared in particular more than Waymarsh could bear. “He ought then
to be ashamed of himself, and, as you admit that you think so too, why drag him
in?”

Strether’s reply again took time. “Perhaps I do think so
myself—though I don’t quite yet admit it. I’m not a bit
sure—it’s again one of the things I want to find out. I liked him,
and you like people—? But no matter.” He pulled himself
up. “There’s no doubt I want you to come down on me and squash
me.”

Waymarsh helped himself to the next course, which, however proving not the dish
he had just noted as supplied to the English ladies, had the effect of causing
his imagination temporarily to wander. But it presently broke out at a softer
spot. “Have they got a handsome place up there?”

“Oh a charming place; full of beautiful and valuable things. I never saw
such a place”—and Strether’s thought went back to it.
“For a little artist-man—!” He could in fact scarce express
it.

But his companion, who appeared now to have a view, insisted.
“Well?”

“Well, life can hold nothing better. Besides, they’re things of
which he’s in charge.”

“So that he does doorkeeper for your precious pair? Can life,”
Waymarsh enquired, “hold nothing better than ” Then as
Strether, silent, seemed even yet to wonder, “Doesn’t he know what
is?” he went on.

“ don’t know. I didn’t ask him. I couldn’t. It
was impossible. You wouldn’t either. Besides I didn’t want to. No
more would you.” Strether in short explained it at a stroke. “You
can’t make out over here what people do know.”

“Then what did you come over for?”

“Well, I suppose exactly to see for myself—without their
aid.”

“Then what do you want mine for?”

“Oh,” Strether laughed, “you’re not one of
I do know what know.”

As, however, this last assertion caused Waymarsh again to look at him
hard—such being the latter’s doubt of its implications—he
felt his justification lame. Which was still more the case when Waymarsh
presently said: “Look here, Strether. Quit this.”

Our friend smiled with a doubt of his own. “Do you mean my tone?”

“No—damn your tone. I mean your nosing round. Quit the whole job.
Let them stew in their juice. You’re being used for a thing you
ain’t fit for. People don’t take a fine-tooth comb to groom a
horse.”

“Am I a fine-tooth comb?” Strether laughed. “It’s
something I never called myself!”

“It’s what you are, all the same. You ain’t so young as you
were, but you’ve kept your teeth.”

He acknowledged his friend’s humour. “Take care I don’t get
them into You’d like them, my friends at home,
Waymarsh,” he declared; “you’d really particularly like them.
And I know”—it was slightly irrelevant, but he gave it sudden and
singular force—“I know they’d like you!”

“Oh don’t work them off on ” Waymarsh groaned.

Yet Strether still lingered with his hands in his pockets. “It’s
really quite as indispensable as I say that Chad should be got back.”

“Indispensable to whom? To you?”

“Yes,” Strether presently said.

“Because if you get him you also get Mrs. Newsome?”

Strether faced it. “Yes.”

“And if you don’t get him you don’t get her?”

It might be merciless, but he continued not to flinch. “I think it might
have some effect on our personal understanding. Chad’s of real
importance—or can easily become so if he will—to the
business.”

“And the business is of real importance to his mother’s
husband?”

“Well, I naturally want what my future wife wants. And the thing will be
much better if we have our own man in it.”

“If you have your own man in it, in other words,” Waymarsh said,
“you’ll marry—you personally—more money. She’s
already rich, as I understand you, but she’ll be richer still if the
business can be made to boom on certain lines that you’ve laid
down.”

“ haven’t laid them down,” Strether promptly
returned. “Mr. Newsome—who knew extraordinarily well what he was
about—laid them down ten years ago.”

Oh well, Waymarsh seemed to indicate with a shake of his mane,
didn’t matter! “You’re fierce for the boom anyway.”

His friend weighed a moment in silence the justice of the charge. “I can
scarcely be called fierce, I think, when I so freely take my chance of the
possibility, the danger, of being influenced in a sense counter to Mrs.
Newsome’s own feelings.”

Waymarsh gave this proposition a long hard look. “I see. You’re
afraid yourself of being squared. But you’re a humbug,” he added,
“all the same.”

“Oh!” Strether quickly protested.

“Yes, you ask me for protection—which makes you very interesting;
and then you won’t take it. You say you want to be squashed—”

“Ah but not so easily! Don’t you see,” Strether demanded
“where my interest, as already shown you, lies? It lies in my not being
squared. If I’m squared where’s my marriage? If I miss my errand I
miss that; and if I miss that I miss everything—I’m nowhere.”

Waymarsh—but all relentlessly—took this in. “What do I care
where you are if you’re spoiled?”

Their eyes met on it an instant. “Thank you awfully,” Strether at
last said. “But don’t you think judgement of
that—?”

“Ought to content me? No.”

It kept them again face to face, and the end of this was that Strether again
laughed. “You do her injustice. You really know her.
Good-night.”

He breakfasted with Mr. Bilham on the morrow, and, as inconsequently befell,
with Waymarsh massively of the party. The latter announced, at the eleventh
hour and much to his friend’s surprise, that, damn it, he would as soon
join him as do anything else; on which they proceeded together, strolling in a
state of detachment practically luxurious for them to the Boulevard
Malesherbes, a couple engaged that day with the sharp spell of Paris as
confessedly, it might have been seen, as any couple among the daily thousands
so compromised. They walked, wandered, wondered and, a little, lost themselves;
Strether hadn’t had for years so rich a consciousness of time—a bag
of gold into which he constantly dipped for a handful. It was present to him
that when the little business with Mr. Bilham should be over he would still
have shining hours to use absolutely as he liked. There was no great pulse of
haste yet in this process of saving Chad; nor was that effect a bit more marked
as he sat, half an hour later, with his legs under Chad’s mahogany, with
Mr. Bilham on one side, with a friend of Mr. Bilham’s on the other, with
Waymarsh stupendously opposite, and with the great hum of Paris coming up in
softness, vagueness—for Strether himself indeed already positive
sweetness—through the sunny windows toward which, the day before, his
curiosity had raised its wings from below. The feeling strongest with him at
that moment had borne fruit almost faster than he could taste it, and Strether
literally felt at the present hour that there was a precipitation in his fate.
He had known nothing and nobody as he stood in the street; but hadn’t his
view now taken a bound in the direction of every one and of every thing?

“What’s he up to, what’s he up to?”—something
like that was at the back of his head all the while in respect to little
Bilham; but meanwhile, till he should make out, every one and every thing were
as good as represented for him by the combination of his host and the lady on
his left. The lady on his left, the lady thus promptly and ingeniously invited
to “meet” Mr. Strether and Mr. Waymarsh—it was the way she
herself expressed her case—was a very marked person, a person who had
much to do with our friend’s asking himself if the occasion weren’t
in its essence the most baited, the most gilded of traps. Baited it could
properly be called when the repast was of so wise a savour, and gilded
surrounding objects seemed inevitably to need to be when Miss
Barrace—which was the lady’s name—looked at them with convex
Parisian eyes and through a glass with a remarkably long tortoise-shell handle.
Why Miss Barrace, mature meagre erect and eminently gay, highly adorned,
perfectly familiar, freely contradictious and reminding him of some
last-century portrait of a clever head without powder—why Miss Barrace
should have been in particular the note of a “trap” Strether
couldn’t on the spot have explained; he blinked in the light of a
conviction that he should know later on, and know well—as it came over
him, for that matter, with force, that he should need to. He wondered what he
was to think exactly of either of his new friends; since the young man,
Chad’s intimate and deputy, had, in thus constituting the scene,
practised so much more subtly than he had been prepared for, and since in
especial Miss Barrace, surrounded clearly by every consideration, hadn’t
scrupled to figure as a familiar object. It was interesting to him to feel that
he was in the presence of new measures, other standards, a different scale of
relations, and that evidently here were a happy pair who didn’t think of
things at all as he and Waymarsh thought. Nothing was less to have been
calculated in the business than that it should now be for him as if he and
Waymarsh were comparatively quite at one.

The latter was magnificent—this at least was an assurance privately given
him by Miss Barrace. “Oh your friend’s a type, the grand old
American—what shall one call it? The Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel, Jeremiah,
who used when I was a little girl in the Rue Montaigne to come to see my father
and who was usually the American Minister to the Tuileries or some other court.
I haven’t seen one these ever so many years; the sight of it warms my
poor old chilled heart; this specimen is wonderful; in the right quarter, you
know, he’ll have a .” Strether hadn’t failed
to ask what the right quarter might be, much as he required his presence of
mind to meet such a change in their scheme. “Oh the artist-quarter and
that kind of thing; already, for instance, as you see.” He
had been on the point of echoing “‘Here’?—is
the artist-quarter?” but she had already disposed of the
question with a wave of all her tortoise-shell and an easy “Bring him to
” He knew on the spot how little he should be able to bring
him, for the very air was by this time, to his sense, thick and hot with poor
Waymarsh’s judgement of it. He was in the trap still more than his
companion and, unlike his companion, not making the best of it; which was
precisely what doubtless gave him his admirable sombre glow. Little did Miss
Barrace know that what was behind it was his grave estimate of her own laxity.
The general assumption with which our two friends had arrived had been that of
finding Mr. Bilham ready to conduct them to one or other of those resorts of
the earnest, the æsthetic fraternity which were shown among the sights of
Paris. In this character it would have justified them in a proper insistence on
discharging their score. Waymarsh’s only proviso at the last had been
that nobody should pay for him; but he found himself, as the occasion
developed, paid for on a scale as to which Strether privately made out that he
already nursed retribution. Strether was conscious across the table of what
worked in him, conscious when they passed back to the small salon to which, the
previous evening, he himself had made so rich a reference; conscious most of
all as they stepped out to the balcony in which one would have had to be an
ogre not to recognise the perfect place for easy aftertastes. These things were
enhanced for Miss Barrace by a succession of excellent
cigarettes—acknowledged, acclaimed, as a part of the wonderful supply
left behind him by Chad—in an almost equal absorption of which Strether
found himself blindly, almost wildly pushing forward. He might perish by the
sword as well as by famine, and he knew that his having abetted the lady by an
excess that was rare with him would count for little in the sum—as
Waymarsh might so easily add it up—of her licence. Waymarsh had smoked of
old, smoked hugely; but Waymarsh did nothing now, and that gave him his
advantage over people who took things up lightly just when others had laid them
heavily down. Strether had never smoked, and he felt as if he flaunted at his
friend that this had been only because of a reason. The reason, it now began to
appear even to himself, was that he had never had a lady to smoke with.

It was this lady’s being there at all, however, that was the strange free
thing; perhaps, since she there, her smoking was the least of her
freedoms. If Strether had been sure at each juncture of what—with Bilham
in especial—she talked about, he might have traced others and winced at
them and felt Waymarsh wince; but he was in fact so often at sea that his sense
of the range of reference was merely general and that he on several different
occasions guessed and interpreted only to doubt. He wondered what they meant,
but there were things he scarce thought they could be supposed to mean, and
“Oh no—not ” was at the end of most of his
ventures. This was the very beginning with him of a condition as to which,
later on, it will be seen, he found cause to pull himself up; and he was to
remember the moment duly as the first step in a process. The central fact of
the place was neither more nor less, when analysed—and a pressure
superficial sufficed—than the fundamental impropriety of Chad’s
situation, round about which they thus seemed cynically clustered. Accordingly,
since they took it for granted, they took for granted all that was in connexion
with it taken for granted at Woollett—matters as to which, verily, he had
been reduced with Mrs. Newsome to the last intensity of silence. That was the
consequence of their being too bad to be talked about, and was the
accompaniment, by the same token, of a deep conception of their badness. It
befell therefore that when poor Strether put it to himself that their badness
was ultimately, or perhaps even insolently, what such a scene as the one before
him was, so to speak, built upon, he could scarce shirk the dilemma of reading
a roundabout echo of them into almost anything that came up. This, he was well
aware, was a dreadful necessity; but such was the stern logic, he could only
gather, of a relation to the irregular life.

It was the way the irregular life sat upon Bilham and Miss Barrace that was the
insidious, the delicate marvel. He was eager to concede that their relation to
it was all indirect, for anything else in him would have shown the grossness of
bad manners; but the indirectness was none the less consonant—
was striking—with a grateful enjoyment of everything that was
Chad’s. They spoke of him repeatedly, invoking his good name and good
nature, and the worst confusion of mind for Strether was that all their mention
of him was of a kind to do him honour. They commended his munificence and
approved his taste, and in doing so sat down, as it seemed to Strether, in the
very soil out of which these things flowered. Our friend’s final
predicament was that he himself was sitting down, for the time,
them, and there was a supreme moment at which, compared with his collapse,
Waymarsh’s erectness affected him as really high. One thing was
certain—he saw he must make up his mind. He must approach Chad, must wait
for him, deal with him, master him, but he mustn’t dispossess himself of
the faculty of seeing things as they were. He must bring him to
—not go himself, as it were, so much of the way. He must at any
rate be clearer as to what—should he continue to do that for
convenience—he was still condoning. It was on the detail of this
quantity—and what could the fact be but mystifying?—that Bilham and
Miss Barrace threw so little light. So there they were.

II

When Miss Gostrey arrived, at the end of a week, she made him a sign; he went
immediately to see her, and it wasn’t till then that he could again close
his grasp on the idea of a corrective. This idea however was luckily all before
him again from the moment he crossed the threshold of the little entresol of
the Quartier Marbœuf into which she had gathered, as she said, picking them up
in a thousand flights and funny little passionate pounces, the makings of a
final nest. He recognised in an instant that there really, there only, he
should find the boon with the vision of which he had first mounted Chad’s
stairs. He might have been a little scared at the picture of how much more, in
this place, he should know himself “in” hadn’t his friend
been on the spot to measure the amount to his appetite. Her compact and crowded
little chambers, almost dusky, as they at first struck him, with accumulations,
represented a supreme general adjustment to opportunities and conditions.
Wherever he looked he saw an old ivory or an old brocade, and he scarce knew
where to sit for fear of a misappliance. The life of the occupant struck him of
a sudden as more charged with possession even than Chad’s or than Miss
Barrace’s; wide as his glimpse had lately become of the empire of
“things,” what was before him still enlarged it; the lust of the
eyes and the pride of life had indeed thus their temple. It was the innermost
nook of the shrine—as brown as a pirate’s cave. In the brownness
were glints of gold; patches of purple were in the gloom; objects all that
caught, through the muslin, with their high rarity, the light of the low
windows. Nothing was clear about them but that they were precious, and they
brushed his ignorance with their contempt as a flower, in a liberty taken with
him, might have been whisked under his nose. But after a full look at his
hostess he knew none the less what most concerned him. The circle in which they
stood together was warm with life, and every question between them would live
there as nowhere else. A question came up as soon as they had spoken, for his
answer, with a laugh, was quickly: “Well, they’ve got hold of
me!” Much of their talk on this first occasion was his development of
that truth. He was extraordinarily glad to see her, expressing to her frankly
what she most showed him, that one might live for years without a blessing
unsuspected, but that to know it at last for no more than three days was to
need it or miss it for ever. She was the blessing that had now become his need,
and what could prove it better than that without her he had lost himself?

“What do you mean?” she asked with an absence of alarm that,
correcting him as if he had mistaken the “period” of one of her
pieces, gave him afresh a sense of her easy movement through the maze he had
but begun to tread. “What in the name of all the Pococks have you managed
to do?”

“Why exactly the wrong thing. I’ve made a frantic friend of little
Bilham.”

“Ah that sort of thing was of the essence of your case and to have been
allowed for from the first.” And it was only after this that, quite as a
minor matter, she asked who in the world little Bilham might be. When she
learned that he was a friend of Chad’s and living for the time in
Chad’s rooms in Chad’s absence, quite as if acting in Chad’s
spirit and serving Chad’s cause, she showed, however, more interest.
“Should you mind my seeing him? Only once, you know,” she added.

“Oh the oftener the better: he’s amusing—he’s
original.”

“He doesn’t shock you?” Miss Gostrey threw out.

“Never in the world! We escape that with a perfection—! I feel it
to be largely, no doubt, because I don’t half-understand him; but our
isn’t spoiled even by that. You must dine with me to
meet him,” Strether went on. “Then you’ll see.’

“Are you giving dinners?”

“Yes—there I am. That’s what I mean.”

All her kindness wondered. “That you’re spending too much
money?”

“Dear no—they seem to cost so little. But that I do it to
. I ought to hold off.”

She thought again—she laughed. “The money you must be spending to
think it cheap! But I must be out of it—to the naked eye.”

He looked for a moment as if she were really failing him. “Then you
won’t meet them?” It was almost as if she had developed an
unexpected personal prudence.

She hesitated. “Who are they—first?”

“Why little Bilham to begin with.” He kept back for the moment Miss
Barrace. “And Chad—when he comes—you must absolutely
see.”

“When then does he come?”

“When Bilham has had time to write him, and hear from him about me.
Bilham, however,” he pursued, “will report
favourably—favourably for Chad. That will make him not afraid to come. I
want you the more therefore, you see, for my bluff.”

“Oh you’ll do yourself for your bluff.” She was perfectly
easy. “At the rate you’ve gone I’m quiet.”

“Ah but I haven’t,” said Strether, “made one
protest.”

She turned it over. “Haven’t you been seeing what there’s to
protest about?”

He let her, with this, however ruefully, have the whole truth. “I
haven’t yet found a single thing.”

“Isn’t there any one him then?”

“Of the sort I came out about?” Strether took a moment. “How
do I know? And what do I care?”

“Oh oh!”—and her laughter spread. He was struck in fact by
the effect on her of his joke. He saw now how he meant it as a joke.
saw, however, still other things, though in an instant she had hidden them.
“You’ve got at no facts at all?”

He tried to muster them. “Well, he has a lovely home.”

“Ah that, in Paris,” she quickly returned, “proves nothing.
That is rather it proves nothing. They may very well, you see, the
people your mission is concerned with, have done it him.”

“Exactly. And it was on the scene of their doings then that Waymarsh and
I sat guzzling.”

“Oh if you forbore to guzzle here on scenes of doings,” she
replied, “you might easily die of starvation.” With which she
smiled at him. “You’ve worse before you.”

“Ah I’ve before me. But on our hypothesis, you
know, they must be wonderful.”

“They ” said Miss Gostrey. “You’re not
therefore, you see,” she added, “wholly without facts.
They’ve , in effect, wonderful.”

To have got at something comparatively definite appeared at last a little to
help—a wave by which moreover, the next moment, recollection was washed.
“My young man does admit furthermore that they’re our
friend’s great interest.”

“Is that the expression he uses?”

Strether more exactly recalled. “No—not quite.”

“Something more vivid? Less?”

He had bent, with neared glasses, over a group of articles on a small stand;
and at this he came up. “It was a mere allusion, but, on the lookout as I
was, it struck me. ‘Awful, you know, as Chad is’—those were
Bilham’s words.”

“‘Awful, you know’—? Oh!”—and Miss Gostrey
turned them over. She seemed, however, satisfied. “Well, what more do you
want?”

He glanced once more at a bibelot or two, and everything sent him back.
“But it all the same as if they wished to let me have it
between the eyes.”

She wondered. “Quoi donc?”

“Why what I speak of. The amenity. They can stun you with that as well as
with anything else.”

“Oh,” she answered, “you’ll come round! I must see them
each,” she went on, “for myself. I mean Mr. Bilham and Mr.
Newsome—Mr. Bilham naturally first. Once only—once for each; that
will do. But face to face—for half an hour. What’s Mr. Chad,”
she immediately pursued, “doing at Cannes? Decent men don’t go to
Cannes with the—well, with the kind of ladies you mean.”

“Don’t they?” Strether asked with an interest in decent men
that amused her.

“No, elsewhere, but not to Cannes. Cannes is different. Cannes is better.
Cannes is best. I mean it’s all people you know—when you do know
them. And if does, why that’s different too. He must have gone
alone. She can’t be with him.”

“I haven’t,” Strether confessed in his weakness, “the
least idea.” There seemed much in what she said, but he was able after a
little to help her to a nearer impression. The meeting with little Bilham took
place, by easy arrangement, in the great gallery of the Louvre; and when,
standing with his fellow visitor before one of the splendid Titians—the
overwhelming portrait of the young man with the strangely-shaped glove and the
blue-grey eyes—he turned to see the third member of their party advance
from the end of the waxed and gilded vista, he had a sense of having at last
taken hold. He had agreed with Miss Gostrey—it dated even from
Chester—for a morning at the Louvre, and he had embraced independently
the same idea as thrown out by little Bilham, whom he had already accompanied
to the museum of the Luxembourg. The fusion of these schemes presented no
difficulty, and it was to strike him again that in little Bilham’s
company contrarieties in general dropped.

“Oh he’s all right—he’s one of ” Miss
Gostrey, after the first exchange, soon found a chance to murmur to her
companion; and Strether, as they proceeded and paused and while a quick
unanimity between the two appeared to have phrased itself in half a dozen
remarks—Strether knew that he knew almost immediately what she meant, and
took it as still another sign that he had got his job in hand. This was the
more grateful to him that he could think of the intelligence now serving him as
an acquisition positively new. He wouldn’t have known even the day before
what she meant—that is if she meant, what he assumed, that they were
intense Americans together. He had just worked round—and with a sharper
turn of the screw than any yet—to the conception of an American intense
as little Bilham was intense. The young man was his first specimen; the
specimen had profoundly perplexed him; at present however there was light. It
was by little Bilham’s amazing serenity that he had at first been
affected, but he had inevitably, in his circumspection, felt it as the trail of
the serpent, the corruption, as he might conveniently have said, of Europe;
whereas the promptness with which it came up for Miss Gostrey but as a special
little form of the oldest thing they knew justified it at once to his own
vision as well. He wanted to be able to like his specimen with a clear good
conscience, and this fully permitted it. What had muddled him was precisely the
small artist-man’s way—it was so complete—of being more
American than anybody. But it now for the time put Strether vastly at his ease
to have this view of a new way.

The amiable youth then looked out, as it had first struck Strether, at a world
in respect to which he hadn’t a prejudice. The one our friend most
instantly missed was the usual one in favour of an occupation accepted. Little
Bilham had an occupation, but it was only an occupation declined; and it was by
his general exemption from alarm, anxiety or remorse on this score that the
impression of his serenity was made. He had come out to Paris to paint—to
fathom, that is, at large, that mystery; but study had been fatal to him so far
as anything be fatal, and his productive power faltered in
proportion as his knowledge grew. Strether had gathered from him that at the
moment of his finding him in Chad’s rooms he hadn’t saved from his
shipwreck a scrap of anything but his beautiful intelligence and his confirmed
habit of Paris. He referred to these things with an equal fond familiarity, and
it was sufficiently clear that, as an outfit, they still served him. They were
charming to Strether through the hour spent at the Louvre, where indeed they
figured for him as an unseparated part of the charged iridescent air, the
glamour of the name, the splendour of the space, the colour of the masters. Yet
they were present too wherever the young man led, and the day after the visit
to the Louvre they hung, in a different walk, about the steps of our party. He
had invited his companions to cross the river with him, offering to show them
his own poor place; and his own poor place, which was very poor, gave to his
idiosyncrasies, for Strether—the small sublime indifference and
independences that had struck the latter as fresh—an odd and engaging
dignity. He lived at the end of an alley that went out of an old short cobbled
street, a street that went in turn out of a new long smooth avenue—street
and avenue and alley having, however, in common a sort of social shabbiness;
and he introduced them to the rather cold and blank little studio which he had
lent to a comrade for the term of his elegant absence. The comrade was another
ingenuous compatriot, to whom he had wired that tea was to await them
“regardless,” and this reckless repast, and the second ingenuous
compatriot, and the faraway makeshift life, with its jokes and its gaps, its
delicate daubs and its three or four chairs, its overflow of taste and
conviction and its lack of nearly all else—these things wove round the
occasion a spell to which our hero unreservedly surrendered.

He liked the ingenuous compatriots—for two or three others soon gathered;
he liked the delicate daubs and the free discriminations—involving
references indeed, involving enthusiasms and execrations that made him, as they
said, sit up; he liked above all the legend of good-humoured poverty, of mutual
accommodation fairly raised to the romantic, that he soon read into the scene.
The ingenuous compatriots showed a candour, he thought, surpassing even the
candour of Woollett; they were red-haired and long-legged, they were quaint and
queer and dear and droll; they made the place resound with the vernacular,
which he had never known so marked as when figuring for the chosen language, he
must suppose, of contemporary art. They twanged with a vengeance the æsthetic
lyre—they drew from it wonderful airs. This aspect of their life had an
admirable innocence; and he looked on occasion at Maria Gostrey to see to what
extent that element reached her. She gave him however for the hour, as she had
given him the previous day, no further sign than to show how she dealt with
boys; meeting them with the air of old Parisian practice that she had for every
one, for everything, in turn. Wonderful about the delicate daubs, masterful
about the way to make tea, trustful about the legs of chairs and familiarly
reminiscent of those, in the other time, the named, the numbered or the
caricatured, who had flourished or failed, disappeared or arrived, she had
accepted with the best grace her second course of little Bilham, and had said
to Strether, the previous afternoon on his leaving them, that, since her
impression was to be renewed, she would reserve judgement till after the new
evidence.

The new evidence was to come, as it proved, in a day or two. He soon had from
Maria a message to the effect that an excellent box at the Français had been
lent her for the following night; it seeming on such occasions not the least of
her merits that she was subject to such approaches. The sense of how she was
always paying for something in advance was equalled on Strether’s part
only by the sense of how she was always being paid; all of which made for his
consciousness, in the larger air, of a lively bustling traffic, the exchange of
such values as were not for him to handle. She hated, he knew, at the French
play, anything but a box—just as she hated at the English anything but a
stall; and a box was what he was already in this phase girding himself to press
upon her. But she had for that matter her community with little Bilham: she too
always, on the great issues, showed as having known in time. It made her
constantly beforehand with him and gave him mainly the chance to ask himself
how on the day of their settlement their account would stand. He endeavoured
even now to keep it a little straight by arranging that if he accepted her
invitation she should dine with him first; but the upshot of this scruple was
that at eight o’clock on the morrow he awaited her with Waymarsh under
the pillared portico. She hadn’t dined with him, and it was
characteristic of their relation that she had made him embrace her refusal
without in the least understanding it. She ever caused her rearrangements to
affect him as her tenderest touches. It was on that principle for instance
that, giving him the opportunity to be amiable again to little Bilham, she had
suggested his offering the young man a seat in their box. Strether had
dispatched for this purpose a small blue missive to the Boulevard Malesherbes,
but up to the moment of their passing into the theatre he had received no
response to his message. He held, however, even after they had been for some
time conveniently seated, that their friend, who knew his way about, would come
in at his own right moment. His temporary absence moreover seemed, as never
yet, to make the right moment for Miss Gostrey. Strether had been waiting till
tonight to get back from her in some mirrored form her impressions and
conclusions. She had elected, as they said, to see little Bilham once; but now
she had seen him twice and had nevertheless not said more than a word.

Waymarsh meanwhile sat opposite him with their hostess between; and Miss
Gostrey spoke of herself as an instructor of youth introducing her little
charges to a work that was one of the glories of literature. The glory was
happily unobjectionable, and the little charges were candid; for herself she
had travelled that road and she merely waited on their innocence. But she
referred in due time to their absent friend, whom it was clear they should have
to give up. “He either won’t have got your note,” she said,
“or you won’t have got his: he has had some kind of hindrance, and,
of course, for that matter, you know, a man never writes about coming to a
box.” She spoke as if, with her look, it might have been Waymarsh who had
written to the youth, and the latter’s face showed a mixture of austerity
and anguish. She went on however as if to meet this. “He’s far and
away, you know, the best of them.”

“The best of whom, ma’am?”

“Why of all the long procession—the boys, the girls, or the old men
and old women as they sometimes really are; the hope, as one may say, of our
country. They’ve all passed, year after year; but there has been no one
in particular I’ve ever wanted to stop. I feel—don’t
—that I want to stop little Bilham; he’s so exactly
right as he is.” She continued to talk to Waymarsh. “He’s too
delightful. If he’ll only not spoil it! But they always ; they
always do; they always have.”

“I don’t think Waymarsh knows,” Strether said after a moment,
“quite what it’s open to Bilham to spoil.”

“It can’t be a good American,” Waymarsh lucidly enough
replied; “for it didn’t strike me the young man had developed much
in shape.”

“Ah,” Miss Gostrey sighed, “the name of the good American is
as easily given as taken away! What it, to begin with, to
one, and what’s the extraordinary hurry? Surely nothing that’s so
pressing was ever so little defined. It’s such an order, really, that
before we cook you the dish we must at least have your receipt. Besides the
poor chicks have time! What I’ve seen so often spoiled,” she
pursued, “is the happy attitude itself, the state of faith and—what
shall I call it?—the sense of beauty. You’re right about
him”—she now took in Strether; “little Bilham has them to a
charm, we must keep little Bilham along.” Then she was all again for
Waymarsh. “The others have all wanted so dreadfully to do something, and
they’ve gone and done it in too many cases indeed. It leaves them never
the same afterwards; the charm’s always somehow broken. Now , I
think, you know, really won’t. He won’t do the least dreadful
little thing. We shall continue to enjoy him just as he is. No—he’s
quite beautiful. He sees everything. He isn’t a bit ashamed. He has every
scrap of the courage of it that one could ask. Only think what he
do. One wants really—for fear of some accident—to keep him in view.
At this very moment perhaps what mayn’t he be up to? I’ve had my
disappointments—the poor things are never really safe; or only at least
when you have them under your eye. One can never completely trust them.
One’s uneasy, and I think that’s why I most miss him now.”

She had wound up with a laugh of enjoyment over her embroidery of her
idea—an enjoyment that her face communicated to Strether, who almost
wished none the less at this moment that she would let poor Waymarsh alone.
knew more or less what she meant; but the fact wasn’t a reason
for her not pretending to Waymarsh that he didn’t. It was craven of him
perhaps, but he would, for the high amenity of the occasion, have liked
Waymarsh not to be so sure of his wit. Her recognition of it gave him away and,
before she had done with him or with that article, would give him worse. What
was he, all the same, to do? He looked across the box at his friend; their eyes
met; something queer and stiff, something that bore on the situation but that
it was better not to touch, passed in silence between them. Well, the effect of
it for Strether was an abrupt reaction, a final impatience of his own tendency
to temporise. Where was that taking him anyway? It was one of the quiet
instants that sometimes settle more matters than the outbreaks dear to the
historic muse. The only qualification of the quietness was the synthetic
“Oh hang it!” into which Strether’s share of the silence
soundlessly flowered. It represented, this mute ejaculation, a final impulse to
burn his ships. These ships, to the historic muse, may seem of course mere
cockles, but when he presently spoke to Miss Gostrey it was with the sense at
least of applying the torch. “Is it then a conspiracy?”

“Between the two young men? Well, I don’t pretend to be a seer or a
prophetess,” she presently replied; “but if I’m simply a
woman of sense he’s working for you to-night. I don’t quite know
how—but it’s in my bones.” And she looked at him at last as
if, little material as she yet gave him, he’d really understand.
“For an opinion my opinion. He makes you out too well
not to.”

“Not to work for me to-night?” Strether wondered. “Then I
hope he isn’t doing anything very bad.”

“They’ve got you,” she portentously answered.

“Do you mean he —?”

“They’ve got you,” she merely repeated. Though she disclaimed
the prophetic vision she was at this instant the nearest approach he had ever
met to the priestess of the oracle. The light was in her eyes. “You must
face it now.”

He faced it on the spot. “They arranged—?”

“Every move in the game. And they’ve been arranging ever since. He
has had every day his little telegram from Cannes.”

It made Strether open his eyes. “Do you that?”

“I do better. I see it. This was, before I met him, what I wondered
whether I to see. But as soon as I met him I ceased to wonder, and
our second meeting made me sure. I took him all in. He was acting—he is
still—on his daily instructions.”

“So that Chad has done the whole thing?”

“Oh no—not the whole. done some of it. You and I
and ‘Europe.’”

“Europe—yes,” Strether mused.

“Dear old Paris,” she seemed to explain. But there was more, and,
with one of her turns, she risked it. “And dear old Waymarsh. You,”
she declared, “have been a good bit of it.”

He sat massive. “A good bit of what, ma’am?”

“Why of the wonderful consciousness of our friend here. You’ve
helped too in your way to float him to where he is.”

“And where the devil he?”

She passed it on with a laugh. “Where the devil, Strether, are
you?”

He spoke as if he had just been thinking it out. “Well, quite already in
Chad’s hands, it would seem.” And he had had with this another
thought. “Will that be—just all through Bilham—the way
he’s going to work it? It would be, for him, you know, an idea. And Chad
with an idea—!”

“Well?” she asked while the image held him.

“Well, is Chad—what shall I say?—monstrous?”

“Oh as much as you like! But the idea you speak of,” she said,
“won’t have been his best. He’ll have a better. It
won’t be all through little Bilham that he’ll work it.”

This already sounded almost like a hope destroyed. “Through whom else
then?”

“That’s what we shall see!” But quite as she spoke she
turned, and Strether turned; for the door of the box had opened, with the click
of the , from the lobby, and a gentleman, a stranger to them,
had come in with a quick step. The door closed behind him, and, though their
faces showed him his mistake, his air, which was striking, was all good
confidence. The curtain had just again arisen, and, in the hush of the general
attention, Strether’s challenge was tacit, as was also the greeting, with
a quickly deprecating hand and smile, of the unannounced visitor. He discreetly
signed that he would wait, would stand, and these things and his face, one look
from which she had caught, had suddenly worked for Miss Gostrey. She fitted to
them all an answer for Strether’s last question. The solid stranger was
simply the answer—as she now, turning to her friend, indicated. She
brought it straight out for him—it presented the intruder. “Why,
through this gentleman!” The gentleman indeed, at the same time, though
sounding for Strether a very short name, did practically as much to explain.
Strether gasped the name back—then only had he seen Miss Gostrey had said
more than she knew. They were in presence of Chad himself.

Our friend was to go over it afterwards again and again—he was going over
it much of the time that they were together, and they were together constantly
for three or four days: the note had been so strongly struck during that first
half-hour that everything happening since was comparatively a minor
development. The fact was that his perception of the young man’s
identity—so absolutely checked for a minute—had been quite one of
the sensations that count in life; he certainly had never known one that had
acted, as he might have said, with more of a crowded rush. And the rush though
both vague and multitudinous, had lasted a long time, protected, as it were,
yet at the same time aggravated, by the circumstance of its coinciding with a
stretch of decorous silence. They couldn’t talk without disturbing the
spectators in the part of the balcony just below them; and it, for that matter,
came to Strether—being a thing of the sort that did come to
him—that these were the accidents of a high civilisation; the imposed
tribute to propriety, the frequent exposure to conditions, usually brilliant,
in which relief has to await its time. Relief was never quite near at hand for
kings, queens, comedians and other such people, and though you might be
yourself not exactly one of those, you could yet, in leading the life of high
pressure, guess a little how they sometimes felt. It was truly the life of high
pressure that Strether had seemed to feel himself lead while he sat there,
close to Chad, during the long tension of the act. He was in presence of a fact
that occupied his whole mind, that occupied for the half-hour his senses
themselves all together; but he couldn’t without inconvenience show
anything—which moreover might count really as luck. What he might have
shown, had he shown at all, was exactly the kind of emotion—the emotion
of bewilderment—that he had proposed to himself from the first, whatever
should occur, to show least. The phenomenon that had suddenly sat down there
with him was a phenomenon of change so complete that his imagination, which had
worked so beforehand, felt itself, in the connexion, without margin or
allowance. It had faced every contingency but that Chad should not
Chad, and this was what it now had to face with a mere strained smile and an
uncomfortable flush.

He asked himself if, by any chance, before he should have in some way to commit
himself, he might feel his mind settled to the new vision, might habituate it,
so to speak, to the remarkable truth. But oh it was too remarkable, the truth;
for what could be more remarkable than this sharp rupture of an identity? You
could deal with a man as himself—you couldn’t deal with him as
somebody else. It was a small source of peace moreover to be reduced to
wondering how little he might know in such an event what a sum he was setting
you. He couldn’t absolutely not know, for you couldn’t absolutely
not let him. It was a then simply, a strong case, as people
nowadays called such things, a case of transformation unsurpassed, and the hope
was but in the general law that strong cases were liable to control from
without. Perhaps he, Strether himself, was the only person after all aware of
it. Even Miss Gostrey, with all her science, wouldn’t be, would
she?—and he had never seen any one less aware of anything than Waymarsh
as he glowered at Chad. The social sightlessness of his old friend’s
survey marked for him afresh, and almost in an humiliating way, the inevitable
limits of direct aid from this source. He was not certain, however, of not
drawing a shade of compensation from the privilege, as yet untasted, of knowing
more about something in particular than Miss Gostrey did. His situation too was
a case, for that matter, and he was now so interested, quite so privately agog,
about it, that he had already an eye to the fun it would be to open up to her
afterwards. He derived during his half-hour no assistance from her, and just
this fact of her not meeting his eyes played a little, it must be confessed,
into his predicament.

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He had introduced Chad, in the first minutes, under his breath, and there was
never the primness in her of the person unacquainted; but she had none the less
betrayed at first no vision but of the stage, where she occasionally found a
pretext for an appreciative moment that she invited Waymarsh to share. The
latter’s faculty of participation had never had, all round, such an
assault to meet; the pressure on him being the sharper for this chosen attitude
in her, as Strether judged it, of isolating, for their natural intercourse,
Chad and himself. This intercourse was meanwhile restricted to a frank friendly
look from the young man, something markedly like a smile, but falling far short
of a grin, and to the vivacity of Strether’s private speculation as to
whether carried himself like a fool. He didn’t quite see how he
could so feel as one without somehow showing as one. The worst of that question
moreover was that he knew it as a symptom the sense of which annoyed him.
“If I’m going to be odiously conscious of how I may strike the
fellow,” he reflected, “it was so little what I came out for that I
may as well stop before I begin.” This sage consideration too,
distinctly, seemed to leave untouched the fact that he going to be
conscious. He was conscious of everything but of what would have served him.

He was to know afterwards, in the watches of the night, that nothing would have
been more open to him than after a minute or two to propose to Chad to seek
with him the refuge of the lobby. He hadn’t only not proposed it, but had
lacked even the presence of mind to see it as possible. He had stuck there like
a schoolboy wishing not to miss a minute of the show; though for that portion
of the show then presented he hadn’t had an instant’s real
attention. He couldn’t when the curtain fell have given the slightest
account of what had happened. He had therefore, further, not at that moment
acknowledged the amenity added by this acceptance of his awkwardness to
Chad’s general patience. Hadn’t he none the less known at the very
time—known it stupidly and without reaction—that the boy was
accepting something? He was modestly benevolent, the boy—that was at
least what he had been capable of the superiority of making out his chance to
be; and one had one’s self literally not had the gumption to get in ahead
of him. If we should go into all that occupied our friend in the watches of the
night we should have to mend our pen; but an instance or two may mark for us
the vividness with which he could remember. He remembered the two absurdities
that, if his presence of mind failed, were the things that had had
most to do with it. He had never in his life seen a young man come into a box
at ten o’clock at night, and would, if challenged on the question in
advance, have scarce been ready to pronounce as to different ways of doing so.
But it was in spite of this definite to him that Chad had had a way that was
wonderful: a fact carrying with it an implication that, as one might imagine
it, he knew, he had learned, how.

Here already then were abounding results; he had on the spot and without the
least trouble of intention taught Strether that even in so small a thing as
that there were different ways. He had done in the same line still more than
this; had by a mere shake or two of the head made his old friend observe that
the change in him was perhaps more than anything else, for the eye, a matter of
the marked streaks of grey, extraordinary at his age, in his thick black hair;
as well as that this new feature was curiously becoming to him, did something
for him, as characterisation, also even—of all things in the
world—as refinement, that had been a good deal wanted. Strether felt,
however, he would have had to confess, that it wouldn’t have been easy
just now, on this and other counts, in the presence of what had been supplied,
to be quite clear as to what had been missed. A reflexion a candid critic might
have made of old, for instance, was that it would have been happier for the son
to look more like the mother; but this was a reflexion that at present would
never occur. The ground had quite fallen away from it, yet no resemblance
whatever to the mother had supervened. It would have been hard for a young
man’s face and air to disconnect themselves more completely than
Chad’s at this juncture from any discerned, from any imaginable aspect of
a New England female parent. That of course was no more than had been on the
cards; but it produced in Strether none the less one of those frequent
phenomena of mental reference with which all judgement in him was actually
beset.

Again and again as the days passed he had had a sense of the pertinence of
communicating quickly with Woollett—communicating with a quickness with
which telegraphy alone would rhyme; the fruit really of a fine fancy in him for
keeping things straight, for the happy forestalment of error. No one could
explain better when needful, nor put more conscience into an account or a
report; which burden of conscience is perhaps exactly the reason why his heart
always sank when the clouds of explanation gathered. His highest ingenuity was
in keeping the sky of life clear of them. Whether or no he had a grand idea of
the lucid, he held that nothing ever was in fact—for any one
else—explained. One went through the vain motions, but it was mostly a
waste of life. A personal relation was a relation only so long as people either
perfectly understood or, better still, didn’t care if they didn’t.
From the moment they cared if they didn’t it was living by the sweat of
one’s brow; and the sweat of one’s brow was just what one might buy
one’s self off from by keeping the ground free of the wild weed of
delusion. It easily grew too fast, and the Atlantic cable now alone could race
with it. That agency would each day have testified for him to something that
was not what Woollett had argued. He was not at this moment absolutely sure
that the effect of the morrow’s—or rather of the
night’s—appreciation of the crisis wouldn’t be to determine
some brief missive. “Have at last seen him, but oh
dear!”—some temporary relief of that sort seemed to hover before
him. It hovered somehow as preparing them all—yet preparing them for
what? If he might do so more luminously and cheaply he would tick out in four
words: “Awfully old—grey hair.” To this particular item in
Chad’s appearance he constantly, during their mute half-hour, reverted;
as if so very much more than he could have said had been involved in it. The
most he could have said would have been: “If he’s going to make me
feel young—!” which indeed, however, carried with it quite enough.
If Strether was to feel young, that is, it would be because Chad was to feel
old; and an aged and hoary sinner had been no part of the scheme.

The question of Chadwick’s true time of life was, doubtless, what came up
quickest after the adjournment of the two, when the play was over, to a café in
the Avenue de l’Opéra. Miss Gostrey had in due course been perfect for
such a step; she had known exactly what they wanted—to go straight
somewhere and talk; and Strether had even felt she had known what he wished to
say and that he was arranging immediately to begin. She hadn’t pretended
this, as she pretended on the other hand, to have divined
Waymarsh’s wish to extend to her an independent protection homeward; but
Strether nevertheless found how, after he had Chad opposite to him at a small
table in the brilliant halls that his companion straightway selected, sharply
and easily discriminated from others, it was quite, to his mind, as if she
heard him speak; as if, sitting up, a mile away, in the little apartment he
knew, she would listen hard enough to catch. He found too that he liked that
idea, and he wished that, by the same token, Mrs. Newsome might have caught as
well. For what had above all been determined in him as a necessity of the first
order was not to lose another hour, nor a fraction of one; was to advance, to
overwhelm, with a rush. This was how he would anticipate—by a
night-attack, as might be—any forced maturity that a crammed
consciousness of Paris was likely to take upon itself to assert on behalf of
the boy. He knew to the full, on what he had just extracted from Miss Gostrey,
Chad’s marks of alertness; but they were a reason the more for not
dawdling. If he was himself moreover to be treated as young he wouldn’t
at all events be so treated before he should have struck out at least once. His
arms might be pinioned afterwards, but it would have been left on record that
he was fifty. The importance of this he had indeed begun to feel before they
left the theatre; it had become a wild unrest, urging him to seize his chance.
He could scarcely wait for it as they went; he was on the verge of the
indecency of bringing up the question in the street; he fairly caught himself
going on—so he afterwards invidiously named it—as if there would be
for him no second chance should the present be lost. Not till, on the purple
divan before the perfunctory , he had brought out the words
themselves, was he sure, for that matter, that the present would be saved.

Book Fourth

I

“I’ve come, you know, to make you break with everything, neither
more nor less, and take you straight home; so you’ll be so good as
immediately and favourably to consider it!”—Strether, face to face
with Chad after the play, had sounded these words almost breathlessly, and with
an effect at first positively disconcerting to himself alone. For Chad’s
receptive attitude was that of a person who had been gracefully quiet while the
messenger at last reaching him has run a mile through the dust. During some
seconds after he had spoken Strether felt as if had made some such
exertion; he was not even certain that the perspiration wasn’t on his
brow. It was the kind of consciousness for which he had to thank the look that,
while the strain lasted, the young man’s eyes gave him. They
reflected—and the deuce of the thing was that they reflected really with
a sort of shyness of kindness—his momentarily disordered state; which
fact brought on in its turn for our friend the dawn of a fear that Chad might
simply “take it out”—take everything out—in being sorry
for him. Such a fear, any fear, was unpleasant. But everything was unpleasant;
it was odd how everything had suddenly turned so. This however was no reason
for letting the least thing go. Strether had the next minute proceeded as
roundly as if with an advantage to follow up. “Of course I’m a
busybody, if you want to fight the case to the death; but after all mainly in
the sense of having known you and having given you such attention as you kindly
permitted when you were in jackets and knickerbockers. Yes—it was
knickerbockers, I’m busybody enough to remember that; and that you had,
for your age—I speak of the first far-away time—tremendously stout
legs. Well, we want you to break. Your mother’s heart’s
passionately set upon it, but she has above and beyond that excellent arguments
and reasons. I’ve not put them into her head—I needn’t remind
you how little she’s a person who needs that. But they exist—you
must take it from me as a friend both of hers and yours—for myself as
well. I didn’t invent them, I didn’t originally work them out; but
I understand them, I think I can explain them—by which I mean make you
actively do them justice; and that’s why you see me here. You had better
know the worst at once. It’s a question of an immediate rupture and an
immediate return. I’ve been conceited enough to dream I can sugar that
pill. I take at any rate the greatest interest in the question. I took it
already before I left home, and I don’t mind telling you that, altered as
you are, I take it still more now that I’ve seen you. You’re older
and—I don’t know what to call it!—more of a handful; but
you’re by so much the more, I seem to make out, to our purpose.”

“Do I strike you as improved?” Strether was to recall that Chad had
at this point enquired.

He was likewise to recall—and it had to count for some time as his
greatest comfort—that it had been “given” him, as they said
at Woollett, to reply with some presence of mind: “I haven’t the
least idea.” He was really for a while to like thinking he had been
positively hard. On the point of conceding that Chad had improved in
appearance, but that to the question of appearance the remark must be confined,
he checked even that compromise and left his reservation bare. Not only his
moral, but also, as it were, his æsthetic sense had a little to pay for this,
Chad being unmistakeably—and wasn’t it a matter of the confounded
grey hair again?—handsomer than he had ever promised. That however fell
in perfectly with what Strether had said. They had no desire to keep down his
proper expansion, and he wouldn’t be less to their purpose for not
looking, as he had too often done of old, only bold and wild. There was indeed
a signal particular in which he would distinctly be more so. Strether
didn’t, as he talked, absolutely follow himself; he only knew he was
clutching his thread and that he held it from moment to moment a little
tighter; his mere uninterruptedness during the few minutes helped him to do
that. He had frequently for a month, turned over what he should say on this
very occasion, and he seemed at last to have said nothing he had thought
of—everything was so totally different.

But in spite of all he had put the flag at the window. This was what he had
done, and there was a minute during which he affected himself as having shaken
it hard, flapped it with a mighty flutter, straight in front of his
companion’s nose. It gave him really almost the sense of having already
acted his part. The momentary relief—as if from the knowledge that
nothing of at least could be undone—sprang from a particular
cause, the cause that had flashed into operation, in Miss Gostrey’s box,
with direct apprehension, with amazed recognition, and that had been concerned
since then in every throb of his consciousness. What it came to was that with
an absolutely quantity to deal with one simply couldn’t know.
The new quantity was represented by the fact that Chad had been made over. That
was all; whatever it was it was everything. Strether had never seen the thing
so done before—it was perhaps a speciality of Paris. If one had been
present at the process one might little by little have mastered the result; but
he was face to face, as matters stood, with the finished business. It had
freely been noted for him that he might be received as a dog among skittles,
but that was on the basis of the old quantity. He had originally thought of
lines and tones as things to be taken, but these possibilities had now quite
melted away. There was no computing at all what the young man before him would
think or feel or say on any subject whatever. This intelligence Strether had
afterwards, to account for his nervousness, reconstituted as he might, just as
he had also reconstituted the promptness with which Chad had corrected his
uncertainty. An extraordinarily short time had been required for the
correction, and there had ceased to be anything negative in his
companion’s face and air as soon as it was made. “Your engagement
to my mother has become then what they call here a ”—it had consisted, the determinant touch, in nothing
more than that.

Well, that was enough, Strether had felt while his answer hung fire. He had
felt at the same time, however, that nothing could less become him than that it
should hang fire too long. “Yes,” he said brightly, “it was
on the happy settlement of the question that I started. You see therefore to
what tune I’m in your family. Moreover,” he added,
“I’ve been supposing you’d suppose it.”

“Oh I’ve been supposing it for a long time, and what you tell me
helps me to understand that you should want to do something. To do something, I
mean,” said Chad, “to commemorate an event so—what do they
call it?—so auspicious. I see you make out, and not unnaturally,”
he continued, “that bringing me home in triumph as a sort of
wedding-present to Mother would commemorate it better than anything else. You
want to make a bonfire in fact,” he laughed, “and you pitch me on.
Thank you, thank you!” he laughed again.

He was altogether easy about it, and this made Strether now see how at bottom,
and in spite of the shade of shyness that really cost him nothing, he had from
the first moment been easy about everything. The shade of shyness was mere good
taste. People with manners formed could apparently have, as one of their best
cards, the shade of shyness too. He had leaned a little forward to speak; his
elbows were on the table; and the inscrutable new face that he had got
somewhere and somehow was brought by the movement nearer to his critic’s.
There was a fascination for that critic in its not being, this ripe
physiognomy, the face that, under observation at least, he had originally
carried away from Woollett. Strether found a certain freedom on his own side in
defining it as that of a man of the world—a formula that indeed seemed to
come now in some degree to his relief; that of a man to whom things had
happened and were variously known. In gleams, in glances, the past did perhaps
peep out of it; but such lights were faint and instantly merged. Chad was brown
and thick and strong, and of old Chad had been rough. Was all the difference
therefore that he was actually smooth? Possibly; for that he smooth
was as marked as in the taste of a sauce or in the rub of a hand. The effect of
it was general—it had retouched his features, drawn them with a cleaner
line. It had cleared his eyes and settled his colour and polished his fine
square teeth—the main ornament of his face; and at the same time that it
had given him a form and a surface, almost a design, it had toned his voice,
established his accent, encouraged his smile to more play and his other motions
to less. He had formerly, with a great deal of action, expressed very little;
and he now expressed whatever was necessary with almost none at all. It was as
if in short he had really, copious perhaps but shapeless, been put into a firm
mould and turned successfully out. The phenomenon—Strether kept eyeing it
as a phenomenon, an eminent case—was marked enough to be touched by the
finger. He finally put his hand across the table and laid it on Chad’s
arm. “If you’ll promise me—here on the spot and giving me
your word of honour—to break straight off, you’ll make the future
the real right thing for all of us alike. You’ll ease off the strain of
this decent but none the less acute suspense in which I’ve for so many
days been waiting for you, and let me turn in to rest. I shall leave you with
my blessing and go to bed in peace.”

Chad again fell back at this and, his hands pocketed, settled himself a little;
in which posture he looked, though he rather anxiously smiled, only the more
earnest. Then Strether seemed to see that he was really nervous, and he took
that as what he would have called a wholesome sign. The only mark of it
hitherto had been his more than once taking off and putting on his wide-brimmed
crush hat. He had at this moment made the motion again to remove it, then had
only pushed it back, so that it hung informally on his strong young grizzled
crop. It was a touch that gave the note of the familiar—the intimate and
the belated—to their quiet colloquy; and it was indeed by some such
trivial aid that Strether became aware at the same moment of something else.
The observation was at any rate determined in him by some light too fine to
distinguish from so many others, but it was none the less sharply determined.
Chad looked unmistakeably during these instants—well, as Strether put it
to himself, all he was worth. Our friend had a sudden apprehension of what that
would on certain sides be. He saw him in a flash as the young man marked out by
women; and for a concentrated minute the dignity, the comparative austerity, as
he funnily fancied it, of this character affected him almost with awe. There
was an experience on his interlocutor’s part that looked out at him from
under the displaced hat, and that looked out moreover by a force of its own,
the deep fact of its quantity and quality, and not through Chad’s
intending bravado or swagger. That was then the way men marked out by women
—and also the men by whom the women were doubtless in turn
sufficiently distinguished. It affected Strether for thirty seconds as a
relevant truth, a truth which, however, the next minute, had fallen into its
relation. “Can’t you imagine there being some questions,”
Chad asked, “that a fellow—however much impressed by your charming
way of stating things—would like to put to you first?”

“Oh yes—easily. I’m here to answer everything. I think I can
even tell you things, of the greatest interest to you, that you won’t
know enough to ask me. We’ll take as many days to it as you like. But I
want,” Strether wound up, “to go to bed now.”

“Really?”

Chad had spoken in such surprise that he was amused. “Can’t you
believe it?—with what you put me through?”

The young man seemed to consider. “Oh I haven’t put you through
much—yet.”

“Do you mean there’s so much more to come?” Strether laughed.
“All the more reason then that I should gird myself.” And as if to
mark what he felt he could by this time count on he was already on his feet.

Chad, still seated, stayed him, with a hand against him, as he passed between
their table and the next. “Oh we shall get on!”

The tone was, as who should say, everything Strether could have desired; and
quite as good the expression of face with which the speaker had looked up at
him and kindly held him. All these things lacked was their not showing quite so
much as the fruit of experience. Yes, experience was what Chad did play on him,
if he didn’t play any grossness of defiance. Of course experience was in
a manner defiance; but it wasn’t, at any rate—rather indeed quite
the contrary!—grossness; which was so much gained. He fairly grew older,
Strether thought, while he himself so reasoned. Then with his mature pat of his
visitor’s arm he also got up; and there had been enough of it all by this
time to make the visitor feel that something settled. Wasn’t
it settled that he had at least the testimony of Chad’s own belief in a
settlement? Strether found himself treating Chad’s profession that they
would get on as a sufficient basis for going to bed. He hadn’t
nevertheless after this gone to bed directly; for when they had again passed
out together into the mild bright night a check had virtually sprung from
nothing more than a small circumstance which might have acted only as
confirming quiescence. There were people, expressive sound, projected light,
still abroad, and after they had taken in for a moment, through everything, the
great clear architectural street, they turned off in tacit union to the quarter
of Strether’s hotel. “Of course,” Chad here abruptly began,
“of course Mother’s making things out with you about me has been
natural—and of course also you’ve had a good deal to go upon.
Still, you must have filled out.”

He had stopped, leaving his friend to wonder a little what point he wished to
make; and this it was that enabled Strether meanwhile to make one. “Oh
we’ve never pretended to go into detail. We weren’t in the least
bound to . It was ‘filling out’ enough to miss you as we
did.”

But Chad rather oddly insisted, though under the high lamp at their corner,
where they paused, he had at first looked as if touched by Strether’s
allusion to the long sense, at home, of his absence. “What I mean is you
must have imagined.”

“Imagined what?”

“Well—horrors.”

It affected Strether: horrors were so little—superficially at
least—in this robust and reasoning image. But he was none the less there
to be veracious. “Yes, I dare say we imagined horrors. But
where’s the harm if we haven’t been wrong?”

Chad raised his face to the lamp, and it was one of the moments at which he
had, in his extraordinary way, most his air of designedly showing himself. It
was as if at these instants he just presented himself, his identity so rounded
off, his palpable presence and his massive young manhood, as such a link in the
chain as might practically amount to a kind of demonstration. It was as
if—and how but anomalously?—he couldn’t after all help
thinking sufficiently well of these things to let them go for what they were
worth. What could there be in this for Strether but the hint of some
self-respect, some sense of power, oddly perverted; something latent and beyond
access, ominous and perhaps enviable? The intimation had the next thing, in a
flash, taken on a name—a name on which our friend seized as he asked
himself if he weren’t perhaps really dealing with an irreducible young
Pagan. This description—he quite jumped at it—had a sound that
gratified his mental ear, so that of a sudden he had already adopted it.
Pagan—yes, that was, wasn’t it? what Chad logically
be. It was what he must be. It was what he was. The idea was a clue and,
instead of darkening the prospect, projected a certain clearness. Strether made
out in this quick ray that a Pagan was perhaps, at the pass they had come to,
the thing most wanted at Woollett. They’d be able to do with one—a
good one; he’d find an opening—yes; and Strether’s
imagination even now prefigured and accompanied the first appearance there of
the rousing personage. He had only the slight discomfort of feeling, as the
young man turned away from the lamp, that his thought had in the momentary
silence possibly been guessed. “Well, I’ve no doubt,” said
Chad, “you’ve come near enough. The details, as you say,
don’t matter. It been generally the case that I’ve let
myself go. But I’m coming round—I’m not so bad now.”
With which they walked on again to Strether’s hotel.

“Do you mean,” the latter asked as they approached the door,
“that there isn’t any woman with you now?”

“But pray what has that to do with it?”

“Why it’s the whole question.”

“Of my going home?” Chad was clearly surprised. “Oh not much!
Do you think that when I want to go any one will have any power—”

“To keep you”—Strether took him straight up—“from
carrying out your wish? Well, our idea has been that somebody has
hitherto—or a good many persons perhaps—kept you pretty well from
‘wanting.’ That’s what—if you’re in
anybody’s hands—may again happen. You don’t answer my
question”—he kept it up; “but if you aren’t in
anybody’s hands so much the better. There’s nothing then but what
makes for your going.”

Chad turned this over. “I don’t answer your question?” He
spoke quite without resenting it. “Well, such questions have always a
rather exaggerated side. One doesn’t know quite what you mean by being in
women’s ‘hands.’ It’s all so vague. One is when one
isn’t. One isn’t when one is. And then one can’t quite give
people away.” He seemed kindly to explain. “I’ve
got stuck—so very hard; and, as against anything at any time really
better, I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid.” There was
something in it that held Strether to wonder, and this gave him time to go on.
He broke out as with a more helpful thought. “Don’t you know how I
like Paris itself?”

The upshot was indeed to make our friend marvel. “Oh if
all that’s the matter with you—!” It was
who almost showed resentment.

Chad’s smile of a truth more than met it. “But isn’t that
enough?”

Strether hesitated, but it came out. “Not enough for your mother!”
Spoken, however, it sounded a trifle odd—the effect of which was that
Chad broke into a laugh. Strether, at this, succumbed as well, though with
extreme brevity. “Permit us to have still our theory. But if you
so free and so strong you’re inexcusable. I’ll write in
the morning,” he added with decision. “I’ll say I’ve
got you.”

This appeared to open for Chad a new interest. “How often do you
write?”

“Oh perpetually.”

“And at great length?”

Strether had become a little impatient. “I hope it’s not found too
great.”

“Oh I’m sure not. And you hear as often?”

Again Strether paused. “As often as I deserve.”

“Mother writes,” said Chad, “a lovely letter.”

Strether, before the closed , fixed him a moment.
“It’s more, my boy, than do! But our suppositions
don’t matter,” he added, “if you’re actually not
entangled.”

Chad’s pride seemed none the less a little touched. “I never
that—let me insist. I always had my own way.” With which
he pursued: “And I have it at present.”

“Then what are you here for? What has kept you,” Strether asked,
“if you been able to leave?”

It made Chad, after a stare, throw himself back. “Do you think
one’s kept only by women?” His surprise and his verbal emphasis
rang out so clear in the still street that Strether winced till he remembered
the safety of their English speech. “Is that,” the young man
demanded, “what they think at Woollett?” At the good faith in the
question Strether had changed colour, feeling that, as he would have said, he
had put his foot in it. He had appeared stupidly to misrepresent what they
thought at Woollett; but before he had time to rectify Chad again was upon him.
“I must say then you show a low mind!”

It so fell in, unhappily for Strether, with that reflexion of his own prompted
in him by the pleasant air of the Boulevard Malesherbes, that its disconcerting
force was rather unfairly great. It was a dig that, administered by
himself—and administered even to poor Mrs. Newsome—was no more than
salutary; but administered by Chad—and quite logically—it came
nearer drawing blood. They a low mind—nor any
approach to one; yet incontestably they had worked, and with a certain
smugness, on a basis that might be turned against them. Chad had at any rate
pulled his visitor up; he had even pulled up his admirable mother; he had
absolutely, by a turn of the wrist and a jerk of the far-flung noose, pulled
up, in a bunch, Woollett browsing in its pride. There was no doubt Woollett
insisted on his coarseness; and what he at present stood there for
in the sleeping street was, by his manner of striking the other note, to make
of such insistence a preoccupation compromising to the insisters. It was
exactly as if they had imputed to him a vulgarity that he had by a mere gesture
caused to fall from him. The devil of the case was that Strether felt it, by
the same stroke, as falling straight upon himself. He had been wondering a
minute ago if the boy weren’t a Pagan, and he found himself wondering now
if he weren’t by chance a gentleman. It didn’t in the least, on the
spot, spring up helpfully for him that a person couldn’t at the same time
be both. There was nothing at this moment in the air to challenge the
combination; there was everything to give it on the contrary something of a
flourish. It struck Strether into the bargain as doing something to meet the
most difficult of the questions; though perhaps indeed only by substituting
another. Wouldn’t it be precisely by having learned to be a gentleman
that he had mastered the consequent trick of looking so well that one could
scarce speak to him straight? But what in the world was the clue to such a
prime producing cause? There were too many clues then that Strether still
lacked, and these clues to clues were among them. What it accordingly amounted
to for him was that he had to take full in the face a fresh attribution of
ignorance. He had grown used by this time to reminders, especially from his own
lips, of what he didn’t know; but he had borne them because in the first
place they were private and because in the second they practically conveyed a
tribute. He didn’t know what was bad, and—as others didn’t
know how little he knew it—he could put up with his state. But if he
didn’t know, in so important a particular, what was good, Chad at least
was now aware he didn’t; and that, for some reason, affected our friend
as curiously public. It was in fact an exposed condition that the young man
left him in long enough for him to feel its chill—till he saw fit, in a
word, generously again to cover him. This last was in truth what Chad quite
gracefully did. But he did it as with a simple thought that met the whole of
the case. “Oh I’m all right!” It was what Strether had rather
bewilderedly to go to bed on.

II

It really looked true moreover from the way Chad was to behave after this. He
was full of attentions to his mother’s ambassador; in spite of which, all
the while, the latter’s other relations rather remarkably contrived to
assert themselves. Strether’s sittings pen in hand with Mrs. Newsome up
in his own room were broken, yet they were richer; and they were more than ever
interspersed with the hours in which he reported himself, in a different
fashion, but with scarce less earnestness and fulness, to Maria Gostrey. Now
that, as he would have expressed it, he had really something to talk about he
found himself, in respect to any oddity that might reside for him in the double
connexion, at once more aware and more indifferent. He had been fine to Mrs.
Newsome about his useful friend, but it had begun to haunt his imagination that
Chad, taking up again for her benefit a pen too long disused, might possibly be
finer. It wouldn’t at all do, he saw, that anything should come up for
him at Chad’s hand but what specifically to have come; the
greatest divergence from which would be precisely the element of any
lubrication of their intercourse by levity. It was accordingly to forestall
such an accident that he frankly put before the young man the several facts,
just as they had occurred, of his funny alliance. He spoke of these facts,
pleasantly and obligingly, as “the whole story,” and felt that he
might qualify the alliance as funny if he remained sufficiently grave about it.
He flattered himself that he even exaggerated the wild freedom of his original
encounter with the wonderful lady; he was scrupulously definite about the
absurd conditions in which they had made acquaintance—their having picked
each other up almost in the street; and he had (finest inspiration of all!) a
conception of carrying the war into the enemy’s country by showing
surprise at the enemy’s ignorance.

He had always had a notion that this last was the grand style of fighting; the
greater therefore the reason for it, as he couldn’t remember that he had
ever before fought in the grand style. Every one, according to this, knew Miss
Gostrey: how came it Chad didn’t know her? The difficulty, the
impossibility, was really to escape it; Strether put on him, by what he took
for granted, the burden of proof of the contrary. This tone was so far
successful as that Chad quite appeared to recognise her as a person whose fame
had reached him, but against his acquaintance with whom much mischance had
worked. He made the point at the same time that his social relations, such as
they could be called, were perhaps not to the extent Strether supposed with the
rising flood of their compatriots. He hinted at his having more and more given
way to a different principle of selection; the moral of which seemed to be that
he went about little in the “colony.” For the moment certainly he
had quite another interest. It was deep, what he understood, and Strether, for
himself, could only so observe it. He couldn’t see as yet how deep. Might
he not all too soon! For there was really too much of their question that Chad
had already committed himself to liking. He liked, to begin with, his
prospective stepfather; which was distinctly what had not been on the cards.
His hating him was the untowardness for which Strether had been best prepared;
he hadn’t expected the boy’s actual form to give him more to do
than his imputed. It gave him more through suggesting that he must somehow make
up to himself for not being sure he was sufficiently disagreeable. That had
really been present to him as his only way to be sure he was sufficiently
thorough. The point was that if Chad’s tolerance of his thoroughness were
insincere, were but the best of devices for gaining time, it none the less did
treat everything as tacitly concluded.

That seemed at the end of ten days the upshot of the abundant, the recurrent
talk through which Strether poured into him all it concerned him to know, put
him in full possession of facts and figures. Never cutting these colloquies
short by a minute, Chad behaved, looked and spoke as if he were rather heavily,
perhaps even a trifle gloomily, but none the less fundamentally and comfortably
free. He made no crude profession of eagerness to yield, but he asked the most
intelligent questions, probed, at moments, abruptly, even deeper than his
friend’s layer of information, justified by these touches the native
estimate of his latent stuff, and had in every way the air of trying to live,
reflectively, into the square bright picture. He walked up and down in front of
this production, sociably took Strether’s arm at the points at which he
stopped, surveyed it repeatedly from the right and from the left, inclined a
critical head to either quarter, and, while he puffed a still more critical
cigarette, animadverted to his companion on this passage and that. Strether
sought relief—there were hours when he required it—in repeating
himself; it was in truth not to be blinked that Chad had a way. The main
question as yet was of what it was a way . It made vulgar questions no
more easy; but that was unimportant when all questions save those of his own
asking had dropped. That he was free was answer enough, and it wasn’t
quite ridiculous that this freedom should end by presenting itself as what was
difficult to move. His changed state, his lovely home, his beautiful things,
his easy talk, his very appetite for Strether, insatiable and, when all was
said, flattering—what were such marked matters all but the notes of his
freedom? He had the effect of making a sacrifice of it just in these handsome
forms to his visitor; which was mainly the reason the visitor was privately,
for the time, a little out of countenance. Strether was at this period again
and again thrown back on a felt need to remodel somehow his plan. He fairly
caught himself shooting rueful glances, shy looks of pursuit, toward the
embodied influence, the definite adversary, who had by a stroke of her own
failed him and on a fond theory of whose palpable presence he had, under Mrs.
Newsome’s inspiration, altogether proceeded. He had once or twice, in
secret, literally expressed the irritated wish that would come out
and find her.

He couldn’t quite yet force it upon Woollett that such a career, such a
perverted young life, showed after all a certain plausible side, in
the case before them flaunt something like an impunity for the social man; but
he could at least treat himself to the statement that would prepare him for the
sharpest echo. This echo—as distinct over there in the dry thin air as
some shrill “heading” above a column of print—seemed to reach
him even as he wrote. “He says there’s no woman,” he could
hear Mrs. Newsome report, in capitals almost of newspaper size, to Mrs. Pocock;
and he could focus in Mrs. Pocock the response of the reader of the journal. He
could see in the younger lady’s face the earnestness of her attention and
catch the full scepticism of her but slightly delayed “What is there
then?” Just so he could again as little miss the mother’s clear
decision: “There’s plenty of disposition, no doubt, to pretend
there isn’t.” Strether had, after posting his letter, the whole
scene out; and it was a scene during which, coming and going, as befell, he
kept his eye not least upon the daughter. He had his fine sense of the
conviction Mrs. Pocock would take occasion to reaffirm—a conviction
bearing, as he had from the first deeply divined it to bear, on Mr.
Strether’s essential inaptitude. She had looked him in his conscious eyes
even before he sailed, and that she didn’t believe would find
the woman had been written in her book. Hadn’t she at the best but a
scant faith in his ability to find women? It wasn’t even as if he had
found her mother—so much more, to her discrimination, had her mother
performed the finding. Her mother had, in a case her private judgement of which
remained educative of Mrs. Pocock’s critical sense, found the man. The
man owed his unchallenged state, in general, to the fact that Mrs.
Newsome’s discoveries were accepted at Woollett; but he knew in his
bones, our friend did, how almost irresistibly Mrs. Pocock would now be moved
to show what she thought of his own. Give a free hand, would be the
moral, and the woman would soon be found.

His impression of Miss Gostrey after her introduction to Chad was meanwhile an
impression of a person almost unnaturally on her guard. He struck himself as at
first unable to extract from her what he wished; though indeed what
he wished at this special juncture he would doubtless have contrived to make
but a crude statement. It sifted and settled nothing to put to her, , as she often said, “Do you like him,
eh?”—thanks to his feeling it actually the least of his needs to
heap up the evidence in the young man’s favour. He repeatedly knocked at
her door to let her have it afresh that Chad’s case—whatever else
of minor interest it might yield—was first and foremost a miracle almost
monstrous. It was the alteration of the entire man, and was so signal an
instance that nothing else, for the intelligent observer,
could— it?—signify. “It’s a plot,” he
declared—“there’s more in it than meets the eye.” He
gave the rein to his fancy. “It’s a plant!”

His fancy seemed to please her. “Whose then?”

“Well, the party responsible is, I suppose, the fate that waits for one,
the dark doom that rides. What I mean is that with such elements one
can’t count. I’ve but my poor individual, my modest human means. It
isn’t playing the game to turn on the uncanny. All one’s energy
goes to facing it, to tracking it. One wants, confound it, don’t you
see?” he confessed with a queer face—“one wants to enjoy
anything so rare. Call it then life”—he puzzled it
out—“call it poor dear old life simply that springs the surprise.
Nothing alters the fact that the surprise is paralysing, or at any rate
engrossing—all, practically, hang it, that one sees, that one
see.”

Her silences were never barren, nor even dull. “Is that what you’ve
written home?”

He tossed it off. “Oh dear, yes!”

She had another pause while, across her carpets, he had another walk. “If
you don’t look out you’ll have them straight over.”

“Oh but I’ve said he’ll go back.”

“And he?” Miss Gostrey asked.

The special tone of it made him, pulling up, look at her long.
“What’s that but just the question I’ve spent treasures of
patience and ingenuity in giving , by the sight of him—after
everything had led up—every facility to answer? What is it but just the
thing I came here to-day to get out of you? Will he?”

“No—he won’t,” she said at last. “He’s not
free.”

The air of it held him. “Then you’ve all the while
known—?”

“I’ve known nothing but what I’ve seen; and I wonder,”
she declared with some impatience, “that you didn’t see as much. It
was enough to be with him there—”

“In the box? Yes,” he rather blankly urged.

“Well—to feel sure.”

“Sure of what?”

She got up from her chair, at this, with a nearer approach than she had ever
yet shown to dismay at his dimness. She even, fairly pausing for it, spoke with
a shade of pity. “Guess!”

It was a shade, fairly, that brought a flush into his face; so that for a
moment, as they waited together, their difference was between them. “You
mean that just your hour with him told you so much of his story? Very good;
I’m not such a fool, on my side, as that I don’t understand you, or
as that I didn’t in some degree understand . That he has done
what he liked most isn’t, among any of us, a matter the least in dispute.
There’s equally little question at this time of day of what it is he does
like most. But I’m not talking,” he reasonably explained, “of
any mere wretch he may still pick up. I’m talking of some person who in
his present situation may have held her own, may really have counted.”

“That’s exactly what am!” said Miss Gostrey. But she
as quickly made her point. “I thought you thought—or that they
think at Woollett—that that’s what mere wretches necessarily do.
Mere wretches necessarily ” she declared with spirit.
“There must, behind every appearance to the contrary, still be
somebody—somebody who’s not a mere wretch, since we accept the
miracle. What else but such a somebody can such a miracle be?”

He took it in. “Because the fact itself the woman?”

“ woman. Some woman or other. It’s one of the things that
to be.”

“But you mean then at least a good one.”

“A good woman?” She threw up her arms with a laugh. “I should
call her excellent!”

“Then why does he deny her?”

Miss Gostrey thought a moment. “Because she’s too good to admit!
Don’t you see,” she went on, “how she accounts for
him?”

Strether clearly, more and more, did see; yet it made him also see other
things. “But isn’t what we want that he shall account for

“Well, he does. What you have before you is his way. You must forgive him
if it isn’t quite outspoken. In Paris such debts are tacit.”

Strether could imagine; but still—! “Even when the woman’s
good?”

Again she laughed out. “Yes, and even when the man is! There’s
always a caution in such cases,” she more seriously
explained—“for what it may seem to show. There’s nothing
that’s taken as showing so much here as sudden unnatural goodness.”

“Ah then you’re speaking now,” Strether said, “of
people who are nice.”

“I delight,” she replied, “in your classifications. But do
you want me,” she asked, “to give you in the matter, on this
ground, the wisest advice I’m capable of? Don’t consider her,
don’t judge her at all in herself. Consider her and judge her only in
Chad.”

He had the courage at least of his companion’s logic. “Because then
I shall like her?” He almost looked, with his quick imagination as if he
already did, though seeing at once also the full extent of how little it would
suit his book. “But is that what I came out for?”

She had to confess indeed that it wasn’t. But there was something else.
“Don’t make up your mind. There are all sorts of things. You
haven’t seen him all.”

This on his side Strether recognised; but his acuteness none the less showed
him the danger. “Yes, but if the more I see the better he seems?”

Well, she found something. “That may be—but his disavowal of her
isn’t, all the same, pure consideration. There’s a hitch.”
She made it out. “It’s the effort to sink her.”

Strether winced at the image. “To ‘sink’—?”

“Well, I mean there’s a struggle, and a part of it is just what he
hides. Take time—that’s the only way not to make some mistake that
you’ll regret. Then you’ll see. He does really want to shake her
off.”

Our friend had by this time so got into the vision that he almost gasped.
“After all she has done for him?”

Miss Gostrey gave him a look which broke the next moment into a wonderful
smile. “He’s not so good as you think!”

They remained with him, these words, promising him, in their character of
warning, considerable help; but the support he tried to draw from them found
itself on each renewal of contact with Chad defeated by something else. What
could it be, this disconcerting force, he asked himself, but the sense,
constantly renewed, that Chad —quite in fact insisted on
being—as good as he thought? It seemed somehow as if he couldn’t
be as good from the moment he wasn’t as bad. There was a
succession of days at all events when contact with him—and in its
immediate effect, as if it could produce no other—elbowed out of
Strether’s consciousness everything but itself. Little Bilham once more
pervaded the scene, but little Bilham became even in a higher degree than he
had originally been one of the numerous forms of the inclusive relation; a
consequence promoted, to our friend’s sense, by two or three incidents
with which we have yet to make acquaintance. Waymarsh himself, for the
occasion, was drawn into the eddy; it absolutely, though but temporarily,
swallowed him down, and there were days when Strether seemed to bump against
him as a sinking swimmer might brush a submarine object. The fathomless medium
held them—Chad’s manner was the fathomless medium; and our friend
felt as if they passed each other, in their deep immersion, with the round
impersonal eye of silent fish. It was practically produced between them that
Waymarsh was giving him then his chance; and the shade of discomfort that
Strether drew from the allowance resembled not a little the embarrassment he
had known at school, as a boy, when members of his family had been present at
exhibitions. He could perform before strangers, but relatives were fatal, and
it was now as if, comparatively, Waymarsh were a relative. He seemed to hear
him say “Strike up then!” and to enjoy a foretaste of conscientious
domestic criticism. He struck up, so far as he actually could; Chad
knew by this time in profusion what he wanted; and what vulgar violence did his
fellow pilgrim expect of him when he had really emptied his mind? It went
somehow to and fro that what poor Waymarsh meant was “I told you
so—that you’d lose your immortal soul!” but it was also
fairly explicit that Strether had his own challenge and that, since they must
go to the bottom of things, he wasted no more virtue in watching Chad than Chad
wasted in watching him. His dip for duty’s sake—where was it worse
than Waymarsh’s own? For needn’t have stopped resisting
and refusing, needn’t have parleyed, at that rate, with the foe.

The strolls over Paris to see something or call somewhere were accordingly
inevitable and natural, and the late sessions in the wondrous troisième, the
lovely home, when men dropped in and the picture composed more suggestively
through the haze of tobacco, of music more or less good and of talk more or
less polyglot, were on a principle not to be distinguished from that of the
mornings and the afternoons. Nothing, Strether had to recognise as he leaned
back and smoked, could well less resemble a scene of violence than even the
liveliest of these occasions. They were occasions of discussion, none the less,
and Strether had never in his life heard so many opinions on so many subjects.
There were opinions at Woollett, but only on three or four. The differences
were there to match; if they were doubtless deep, though few, they were
quiet—they were, as might be said, almost as shy as if people had been
ashamed of them. People showed little diffidence about such things, on the
other hand, in the Boulevard Malesherbes, and were so far from being ashamed of
them—or indeed of anything else—that they often seemed to have
invented them to avert those agreements that destroy the taste of talk. No one
had ever done that at Woollett, though Strether could remember times when he
himself had been tempted to it without quite knowing why. He saw why at
present—he had but wanted to promote intercourse.

These, however, were but parenthetic memories, and the turn taken by his affair
on the whole was positively that if his nerves were on the stretch it was
because he missed violence. When he asked himself if none would then, in
connexion with it, ever come at all, he might almost have passed as wondering
how to provoke it. It would be too absurd if such a vision as
should have to be invoked for relief; it was already marked enough as absurd
that he should actually have begun with flutters and dignities on the score of
a single accepted meal. What sort of a brute had he expected Chad to be,
anyway?—Strether had occasion to make the enquiry but was careful to make
it in private. He could himself, comparatively recent as it was—it was
truly but the fact of a few days since—focus his primal crudity; but he
would on the approach of an observer, as if handling an illicit possession,
have slipped the reminiscence out of sight. There were echoes of it still in
Mrs. Newsome’s letters, and there were moments when these echoes made him
exclaim on her want of tact. He blushed of course, at once, still more for the
explanation than for the ground of it: it came to him in time to save his
manners that she couldn’t at the best become tactful as quickly as he.
Her tact had to reckon with the Atlantic Ocean, the General Post-Office and the
extravagant curve of the globe. Chad had one day offered tea at the Boulevard
Malesherbes to a chosen few, a group again including the unobscured Miss
Barrace; and Strether had on coming out walked away with the acquaintance whom
in his letters to Mrs. Newsome he always spoke of as the little artist-man. He
had had full occasion to mention him as the other party, so oddly, to the only
close personal alliance observation had as yet detected in Chad’s
existence. Little Bilham’s way this afternoon was not Strether’s,
but he had none the less kindly come with him, and it was somehow a part of his
kindness that as it had sadly begun to rain they suddenly found themselves
seated for conversation at a café in which they had taken refuge. He had passed
no more crowded hour in Chad’s society than the one just ended; he had
talked with Miss Barrace, who had reproached him with not having come to see
her, and he had above all hit on a happy thought for causing Waymarsh’s
tension to relax. Something might possibly be extracted for the latter from the
idea of his success with that lady, whose quick apprehension of what might
amuse her had given Strether a free hand. What had she meant if not to ask
whether she couldn’t help him with his splendid encumbrance, and
mightn’t the sacred rage at any rate be kept a little in abeyance by thus
creating for his comrade’s mind even in a world of irrelevance the
possibility of a relation? What was it but a relation to be regarded as so
decorative and, in especial, on the strength of it, to be whirled away, amid
flounces and feathers, in a coupé lined, by what Strether could make out, with
dark blue brocade? He himself had never been whirled away—never at least
in a coupé and behind a footman; he had driven with Miss Gostrey in cabs, with
Mrs. Pocock, a few times, in an open buggy, with Mrs. Newsome in a four-seated
cart and, occasionally up at the mountains, on a buckboard; but his
friend’s actual adventure transcended his personal experience. He now
showed his companion soon enough indeed how inadequate, as a general monitor,
this last queer quantity could once more feel itself.

“What game under the sun is he playing?” He signified the next
moment that his allusion was not to the fat gentleman immersed in dominoes on
whom his eyes had begun by resting, but to their host of the previous hour, as
to whom, there on the velvet bench, with a final collapse of all consistency,
he treated himself to the comfort of indiscretion. “Where do you see him
come out?”

Little Bilham, in meditation, looked at him with a kindness almost paternal.
“Don’t you like it over here?”

Strether laughed out—for the tone was indeed droll; he let himself go.
“What has that to do with it? The only thing I’ve any business to
like is to feel that I’m moving him. That’s why I ask you whether
you believe I Is the creature”—and he did his best to
show that he simply wished to ascertain—“honest?”

His companion looked responsible, but looked it through a small dim smile.
“What creature do you mean?”

It was on this that they did have for a little a mute interchange. “Is it
untrue that he’s free? How then,” Strether asked wondering
“does he arrange his life?”

“Is the creature you mean Chad himself?” little Bilham said.

Strether here, with a rising hope, just thought, “We must take one of
them at a time.” But his coherence lapsed. “ there some
woman? Of whom he’s really afraid of course I mean—or who does with
him what she likes.”

“It’s awfully charming of you,” Bilham presently remarked,
“not to have asked me that before.”

“Oh I’m not fit for my job!”

The exclamation had escaped our friend, but it made little Bilham more
deliberate. “Chad’s a rare case!” he luminously observed.
“He’s awfully changed,” he added.

“Then you see it too?”

“The way he has improved? Oh yes—I think every one must see it. But
I’m not sure,” said little Bilham, “that I didn’t like
him about as well in his other state.”

“Then this really a new state altogether?”

“Well,” the young man after a moment returned, “I’m not
sure he was really meant by nature to be quite so good. It’s like the new
edition of an old book that one has been fond of—revised and amended,
brought up to date, but not quite the thing one knew and loved. However that
may be at all events,” he pursued, “I don’t think, you know,
that he’s really playing, as you call it, any game. I believe he really
wants to go back and take up a career. He’s capable of one, you know,
that will improve and enlarge him still more. He won’t then,”
little Bilham continued to remark, “be my pleasant well-rubbed
old-fashioned volume at all. But of course I’m beastly immoral. I’m
afraid it would be a funny world altogether—a world with things the way I
like them. I ought, I dare say, to go home and go into business myself. Only
I’d simply rather die—simply. And I’ve not the least
difficulty in making up my mind not to, and in knowing exactly why, and in
defending my ground against all comers. All the same,” he wound up,
“I assure you I don’t say a word against it—for himself, I
mean—to Chad. I seem to see it as much the best thing for him. You see
he’s not happy.”

“ I?”—Strether stared. “I’ve been
supposing I see just the opposite—an extraordinary case of the
equilibrium arrived at and assured.”

“Oh there’s a lot behind it.”

“Ah there you are!” Strether exclaimed. “That’s just
what I want to get at. You speak of your familiar volume altered out of
recognition. Well, who’s the editor?”

Little Bilham looked before him a minute in silence. “He ought to get
married. would do it. And he wants to.”

“Wants to marry her?”

Again little Bilham waited, and, with a sense that he had information, Strether
scarce knew what was coming. “He wants to be free. He isn’t used,
you see,” the young man explained in his lucid way, “to being so
good.”

Strether hesitated. “Then I may take it from you that he
good?”

His companion matched his pause, but making it up with a quiet fulness.
“ take it from me.”

“Well then why isn’t he free? He swears to me he is, but meanwhile
does nothing—except of course that he’s so kind to me—to
prove it; and couldn’t really act much otherwise if he weren’t. My
question to you just now was exactly on this queer impression of his diplomacy:
as if instead of really giving ground his line were to keep me on here and set
me a bad example.”

As the half-hour meanwhile had ebbed Strether paid his score, and the waiter
was presently in the act of counting out change. Our friend pushed back to him
a fraction of it, with which, after an emphatic recognition, the personage in
question retreated. “You give too much,” little Bilham permitted
himself benevolently to observe.

“Oh I always give too much!” Strether helplessly sighed. “But
you don’t,” he went on as if to get quickly away from the
contemplation of that doom, “answer my question. Why isn’t he
free?”

Little Bilham had got up as if the transaction with the waiter had been a
signal, and had already edged out between the table and the divan. The effect
of this was that a minute later they had quitted the place, the gratified
waiter alert again at the open door. Strether had found himself deferring to
his companion’s abruptness as to a hint that he should be answered as
soon as they were more isolated. This happened when after a few steps in the
outer air they had turned the next corner. There our friend had kept it up.
“Why isn’t he free if he’s good?”

Little Bilham looked him full in the face. “Because it’s a virtuous
attachment.”

This had settled the question so effectually for the time—that is for the
next few days—that it had given Strether almost a new lease of life. It
must be added however that, thanks to his constant habit of shaking the bottle
in which life handed him the wine of experience, he presently found the taste
of the lees rising as usual into his draught. His imagination had in other
words already dealt with his young friend’s assertion; of which it had
made something that sufficiently came out on the very next occasion of his
seeing Maria Gostrey. This occasion moreover had been determined promptly by a
new circumstance—a circumstance he was the last man to leave her for a
day in ignorance of. “When I said to him last night,” he
immediately began, “that without some definite word from him now that
will enable me to speak to them over there of our sailing—or at least of
mine, giving them some sort of date—my responsibility becomes
uncomfortable and my situation awkward; when I said that to him what do you
think was his reply?” And then as she this time gave it up: “Why
that he has two particular friends, two ladies, mother and daughter, about to
arrive in Paris—coming back from an absence; and that he wants me so
furiously to meet them, know them and like them, that I shall oblige him by
kindly not bringing our business to a crisis till he has had a chance to see
them again himself. Is that,” Strether enquired, “the way
he’s going to try to get off? These are the people,” he explained,
“that he must have gone down to see before I arrived. They’re the
best friends he has in the world, and they take more interest than any one else
in what concerns him. As I’m his next best he sees a thousand reasons why
we should comfortably meet. He hasn’t broached the question sooner
because their return was uncertain—seemed in fact for the present
impossible. But he more than intimates that—if you can believe
it—their desire to make my acquaintance has had to do with their
surmounting difficulties.”

“They’re dying to see you?” Miss Gostrey asked.

“Dying. Of course,” said Strether, “they’re the
virtuous attachment.” He had already told her about that—had seen
her the day after his talk with little Bilham; and they had then threshed out
together the bearing of the revelation. She had helped him to put into it the
logic in which little Bilham had left it slightly deficient Strether
hadn’t pressed him as to the object of the preference so unexpectedly
described; feeling in the presence of it, with one of his irrepressible
scruples, a delicacy from which he had in the quest of the quite other article
worked himself sufficiently free. He had held off, as on a small principle of
pride, from permitting his young friend to mention a name; wishing to make with
this the great point that Chad’s virtuous attachments were none of his
business. He had wanted from the first not to think too much of his dignity,
but that was no reason for not allowing it any little benefit that might turn
up. He had often enough wondered to what degree his interference might pass for
interested; so that there was no want of luxury in letting it be seen whenever
he could that he didn’t interfere. That had of course at the same time
not deprived him of the further luxury of much private astonishment; which
however he had reduced to some order before communicating his knowledge. When
he had done this at last it was with the remark that, surprised as Miss Gostrey
might, like himself, at first be, she would probably agree with him on
reflexion that such an account of the matter did after all fit the confirmed
appearances. Nothing certainly, on all the indications, could have been a
greater change for him than a virtuous attachment, and since they had been in
search of the “word” as the French called it, of that change,
little Bilham’s announcement—though so long and so oddly
delayed—would serve as well as another. She had assured Strether in fact
after a pause that the more she thought of it the more it did serve; and yet
her assurance hadn’t so weighed with him as that before they parted he
hadn’t ventured to challenge her sincerity. Didn’t she believe the
attachment virtuous?—he had made sure of her again with the
aid of that question. The tidings he brought her on this second occasion were
moreover such as would help him to make surer still.

She showed at first none the less as only amused. “You say there are two?
An attachment to them both then would, I suppose, almost necessarily be
innocent.”

Our friend took the point, but he had his clue. “Mayn’t he be still
in the stage of not quite knowing which of them, mother or daughter, he likes
best?”

She gave it more thought. “Oh it must be the daughter—at his
age.”

“Possibly. Yet what do we know,” Strether asked, “about hers?
She may be old enough.”

“Old enough for what?”

“Why to marry Chad. That may be, you know, what they want. And if Chad
wants it too, and little Bilham wants it, and even , at a pinch, could
do with it—that is if she doesn’t prevent repatriation—why it
may be plain sailing yet.”

It was always the case for him in these counsels that each of his remarks, as
it came, seemed to drop into a deeper well. He had at all events to wait a
moment to hear the slight splash of this one. “I don’t see why if
Mr. Newsome wants to marry the young lady he hasn’t already done it or
hasn’t been prepared with some statement to you about it. And if he both
wants to marry her and is on good terms with them why isn’t he
‘free’?”

Strether, responsively, wondered indeed. “Perhaps the girl herself
doesn’t like him.”

“Then why does he speak of them to you as he does?”

Strether’s mind echoed the question, but also again met it.
“Perhaps it’s with the mother he’s on good terms.”

“As against the daughter?”

“Well, if she’s trying to persuade the daughter to consent to him,
what could make him like the mother more? Only,” Strether threw out,
“why shouldn’t the daughter consent to him?”

“Oh,” said Miss Gostrey, “mayn’t it be that every one
else isn’t quite so struck with him as you?”

“Doesn’t regard him you mean as such an ‘eligible’
young man? that what I’ve come to?” he audibly and rather
gravely sought to know. “However,” he went on, “his marriage
is what his mother most desires—that is if it will help. And
oughtn’t marriage to help? They must want him”—he
had already worked it out—“to be better off. Almost any girl he may
marry will have a direct interest in his taking up his chances. It won’t
suit at least that he shall miss them.”

Miss Gostrey cast about. “No—you reason well! But of course on the
other hand there’s always dear old Woollett itself.”

“Oh yes,” he mused—“there’s always dear old
Woollett itself.”

She waited a moment. “The young lady mayn’t find herself able to
swallow quantity. She may think it’s paying too much; she may
weigh one thing against another.”

Strether, ever restless in such debates, took a vague turn “It will all
depend on who she is. That of course—the proved ability to deal with dear
old Woollett, since I’m sure she does deal with it—is what makes so
strongly for Mamie.”

“Mamie?”

He stopped short, at her tone, before her; then, though seeing that it
represented not vagueness, but a momentary embarrassed fulness, let his
exclamation come. “You surely haven’t forgotten about Mamie!”

“No, I haven’t forgotten about Mamie,” she smiled.
“There’s no doubt whatever that there’s ever so much to be
said for her. Mamie’s girl!” she roundly declared.

Strether resumed for a minute his walk. “She’s really perfectly
lovely, you know. Far prettier than any girl I’ve seen over here
yet.”

“That’s precisely on what I perhaps most build.” And she
mused a moment in her friend’s way. “I should positively like to
take her in hand!”

He humoured the fancy, though indeed finally to deprecate it. “Oh but
don’t, in your zeal, go over to her! I need you most and can’t, you
know, be left.”

But she kept it up. “I wish they’d send her out to me!”

“If they knew you,” he returned, “they would.”

“Ah but don’t they?—after all that, as I’ve understood
you you’ve told them about me?”

He had paused before her again, but he continued his course “They
—before, as you say, I’ve done.” Then he came out
with the point he had wished after all most to make. “It seems to give
away now his game. This is what he has been doing—keeping me along for.
He has been waiting for them.”

Miss Gostrey drew in her lips. “You see a good deal in it!”

“I doubt if I see as much as you. Do you pretend,” he went on,
“that you don’t see—?”

“Well, what?”—she pressed him as he paused.

“Why that there must be a lot between them—and that it has been
going on from the first; even from before I came.”

She took a minute to answer. “Who are they then—if it’s so
grave?”

“It mayn’t be grave—it may be gay. But at any rate it’s
marked. Only I don’t know,” Strether had to confess,
“anything about them. Their name for instance was a thing that, after
little Bilham’s information, I found it a kind of refreshment not to feel
obliged to follow up.”

“Oh,” she returned, “if you think you’ve got
off—!”

Her laugh produced in him a momentary gloom. “I don’t think
I’ve got off. I only think I’m breathing for about five minutes. I
dare say I have, at the best, still to get on.” A look, over
it all, passed between them, and the next minute he had come back to good
humour. “I don’t meanwhile take the smallest interest in their
name.”

“Nor in their nationality?—American, French, English,
Polish?”

“I don’t care the least little ‘hang,’” he
smiled, “for their nationality. It would be nice if they’re
Polish!” he almost immediately added.

“Very nice indeed.” The transition kept up her spirits. “So
you see you do care.”

He did this contention a modified justice. “I think I should if they
Polish. Yes,” he thought—“there might be joy in
.”

“Let us then hope for it.” But she came after this nearer to the
question. “If the girl’s of the right age of course the mother
can’t be. I mean for the virtuous attachment. If the girl’s
twenty—and she can’t be less—the mother must be at least
forty. So it puts the mother out. too old for him.”

Strether, arrested again, considered and demurred. “Do you think so? Do
you think any one would be too old for him? eighty, and
I’m too young. But perhaps the girl,” he continued,
“ twenty. Perhaps she’s only ten—but such a
little dear that Chad finds himself counting her in as an attraction of the
acquaintance. Perhaps she’s only five. Perhaps the mother’s but
five-and-twenty—a charming young widow.”

Miss Gostrey entertained the suggestion. “She a widow
then?”

“I haven’t the least idea!” They once more, in spite of this
vagueness, exchanged a look—a look that was perhaps the longest yet. It
seemed in fact, the next thing, to require to explain itself; which it did as
it could. “I only feel what I’ve told you—that he has some
reason.”

Miss Gostrey’s imagination had taken its own flight. “Perhaps
she’s a widow.”

Strether seemed to accept the possibility with reserve. Still he accepted it.
“Then that’s why the attachment—if it’s to her—is
virtuous.”

But she looked as if she scarce followed. “Why is it virtuous
if—since she’s free—there’s nothing to impose on it any
condition?”

He laughed at her question. “Oh I perhaps don’t mean as virtuous as
Your idea is that it can be virtuous—in any sense worthy of
the name—only if she’s free? But what does it become
then,” he asked, “for ”

“Ah that’s another matter.” He said nothing for a moment, and
she soon went on. “I dare say you’re right, at any rate, about Mr.
Newsome’s little plan. He been trying you—has been
reporting on you to these friends.”

Strether meanwhile had had time to think more. “Then where’s his
straightness?”

“Well, as we say, it’s struggling up, breaking out, asserting
itself as it can. We can be on the side, you see, of his straightness. We can
help him. But he has made out,” said Miss Gostrey, “that
you’ll do.”

“Do for what?”

“Why, for —for . He has watched you,
studied you, liked you—and recognised that must. It’s a
great compliment to you, my dear man; for I’m sure they’re
particular. You came out for a success. Well,” she gaily declared,
“you’re having it!”

He took it from her with momentary patience and then turned abruptly away. It
was always convenient to him that there were so many fine things in her room to
look at. But the examination of two or three of them appeared soon to have
determined a speech that had little to do with them. “You don’t
believe in it!”

“In what?”

“In the character of the attachment. In its innocence.”

But she defended herself. “I don’t pretend to know anything about
it. Everything’s possible. We must see.”

“See?” he echoed with a groan. “Haven’t we seen
enough?”

“ haven’t,” she smiled.

“But do you suppose then little Bilham has lied?”

“You must find out.”

It made him almost turn pale. “Find out any ”

He had dropped on a sofa for dismay; but she seemed, as she stood over him, to
have the last word. “Wasn’t what you came out for to find out

Book Fifth

I

The Sunday of the next week was a wonderful day, and Chad Newsome had let his
friend know in advance that he had provided for it. There had already been a
question of his taking him to see the great Gloriani, who was at home on Sunday
afternoons and at whose house, for the most part, fewer bores were to be met
than elsewhere; but the project, through some accident, had not had instant
effect, and now revived in happier conditions. Chad had made the point that the
celebrated sculptor had a queer old garden, for which the weather—spring
at last frank and fair—was propitious; and two or three of his other
allusions had confirmed for Strether the expectation of something special. He
had by this time, for all introductions and adventures, let himself recklessly
go, cherishing the sense that whatever the young man showed him he was showing
at least himself. He could have wished indeed, so far as this went, that Chad
were less of a mere cicerone; for he was not without the impression—now
that the vision of his game, his plan, his deep diplomacy, did recurrently
assert itself—of his taking refuge from the realities of their
intercourse in profusely dispensing, as our friend mentally phrased it,
. Our friend continued to feel rather smothered in
flowers, though he made in his other moments the almost angry inference that
this was only because of his odious ascetic suspicion of any form of beauty. He
periodically assured himself—for his reactions were sharp—that he
shouldn’t reach the truth of anything till he had at least got rid of
that.

He had known beforehand that Madame de Vionnet and her daughter would probably
be on view, an intimation to that effect having constituted the only reference
again made by Chad to his good friends from the south. The effect of
Strether’s talk about them with Miss Gostrey had been quite to consecrate
his reluctance to pry; something in the very air of Chad’s
silence—judged in the light of that talk—offered it to him as a
reserve he could markedly match. It shrouded them about with he scarce knew
what, a consideration, a distinction; he was in presence at any rate—so
far as it placed him there—of ladies; and the one thing that was definite
for him was that they themselves should be, to the extent of his
responsibility, in presence of a gentleman. Was it because they were very
beautiful, very clever, or even very good—was it for one of these reasons
that Chad was, so to speak, nursing his effect? Did he wish to spring them, in
the Woollett phrase, with a fuller force—to confound his critic, slight
though as yet the criticism, with some form of merit exquisitely incalculable?
The most the critic had at all events asked was whether the persons in question
were French; and that enquiry had been but a proper comment on the sound of
their name. “Yes. That is no!” had been Chad’s reply; but he
had immediately added that their English was the most charming in the world, so
that if Strether were wanting an excuse for not getting on with them he
wouldn’t in the least find one. Never in fact had Strether—in the
mood into which the place had quickly launched him—felt, for himself,
less the need of an excuse. Those he might have found would have been, at the
worst, all for the others, the people before him, in whose liberty to be as
they were he was aware that he positively rejoiced. His fellow guests were
multiplying, and these things, their liberty, their intensity, their variety,
their conditions at large, were in fusion in the admirable medium of the scene.

The place itself was a great impression—a small pavilion, clear-faced and
sequestered, an effect of polished parquet, of fine white panel and spare
sallow gilt, of decoration delicate and rare, in the heart of the Faubourg
Saint-Germain and on the edge of a cluster of gardens attached to old noble
houses. Far back from streets and unsuspected by crowds, reached by a long
passage and a quiet court, it was as striking to the unprepared mind, he
immediately saw, as a treasure dug up; giving him too, more than anything yet,
the note of the range of the immeasurable town and sweeping away, as by a last
brave brush, his usual landmarks and terms. It was in the garden, a spacious
cherished remnant, out of which a dozen persons had already passed, that
Chad’s host presently met them while the tall bird-haunted trees, all of
a twitter with the spring and the weather, and the high party-walls, on the
other side of which grave stood off for privacy, spoke of
survival, transmission, association, a strong indifferent persistent order. The
day was so soft that the little party had practically adjourned to the open air
but the open air was in such conditions all a chamber of state. Strether had
presently the sense of a great convent, a convent of missions, famous for he
scarce knew what, a nursery of young priests, of scattered shade, of straight
alleys and chapel-bells, that spread its mass in one quarter; he had the sense
of names in the air, of ghosts at the windows, of signs and tokens, a whole
range of expression, all about him, too thick for prompt discrimination.

This assault of images became for a moment, in the address of the distinguished
sculptor, almost formidable: Gloriani showed him, in such perfect confidence,
on Chad’s introduction of him, a fine worn handsome face, a face that was
like an open letter in a foreign tongue. With his genius in his eyes, his
manners on his lips, his long career behind him and his honours and rewards all
round, the great artist, in the course of a single sustained look and a few
words of delight at receiving him, affected our friend as a dazzling prodigy of
type. Strether had seen in museums—in the Luxembourg as well as, more
reverently, later on, in the New York of the billionaires—the work of his
hand; knowing too that after an earlier time in his native Rome he had
migrated, in mid-career, to Paris, where, with a personal lustre almost
violent, he shone in a constellation: all of which was more than enough to
crown him, for his guest, with the light, with the romance, of glory. Strether,
in contact with that element as he had never yet so intimately been, had the
consciousness of opening to it, for the happy instant, all the windows of his
mind, of letting this rather grey interior drink in for once the sun of a clime
not marked in his old geography. He was to remember again repeatedly the
medal-like Italian face, in which every line was an artist’s own, in
which time told only as tone and consecration; and he was to recall in
especial, as the penetrating radiance, as the communication of the illustrious
spirit itself, the manner in which, while they stood briefly, in welcome and
response, face to face, he was held by the sculptor’s eyes. He
wasn’t soon to forget them, was to think of them, all unconscious,
unintending, preoccupied though they were, as the source of the deepest
intellectual sounding to which he had ever been exposed. He was in fact quite
to cherish his vision of it, to play with it in idle hours; only speaking of it
to no one and quite aware he couldn’t have spoken without appearing to
talk nonsense. Was what it had told him or what it had asked him the greater of
the mysteries? Was it the most special flare, unequalled, supreme, of the
æsthetic torch, lighting that wondrous world for ever, or was it above all the
long straight shaft sunk by a personal acuteness that life had seasoned to
steel? Nothing on earth could have been stranger and no one doubtless more
surprised than the artist himself, but it was for all the world to Strether
just then as if in the matter of his accepted duty he had positively been on
trial. The deep human expertness in Gloriani’s charming smile—oh
the terrible life behind it!—was flashed upon him as a test of his stuff.

Chad meanwhile, after having easily named his companion, had still more easily
turned away and was already greeting other persons present. He was as easy,
clever Chad, with the great artist as with his obscure compatriot, and as easy
with every one else as with either: this fell into its place for Strether and
made almost a new light, giving him, as a concatenation, something more he
could enjoy. He liked Gloriani, but should never see him again; of that he was
sufficiently sure. Chad accordingly, who was wonderful with both of them, was a
kind of link for hopeless fancy, an implication of possibilities—oh if
everything had been different! Strether noted at all events that he was thus on
terms with illustrious spirits, and also that—yes, distinctly—he
hadn’t in the least swaggered about it. Our friend hadn’t come
there only for this figure of Abel Newsome’s son, but that presence
threatened to affect the observant mind as positively central. Gloriani indeed,
remembering something and excusing himself, pursued Chad to speak to him, and
Strether was left musing on many things. One of them was the question of
whether, since he had been tested, he had passed. Did the artist drop him from
having made out that he wouldn’t do? He really felt just to-day that he
might do better than usual. Hadn’t he done well enough, so far as that
went, in being exactly so dazzled? and in not having too, as he almost
believed, wholly hidden from his host that he felt the latter’s plummet?
Suddenly, across the garden, he saw little Bilham approach, and it was a part
of the fit that was on him that as their eyes met he guessed also
knowledge. If he had said to him on the instant what was uppermost he would
have said: “ I passed?—for of course I know one has to
pass here.” Little Bilham would have reassured him, have told him that he
exaggerated, and have adduced happily enough the argument of little
Bilham’s own very presence; which, in truth, he could see, was as easy a
one as Gloriani’s own or as Chad’s. He himself would perhaps then
after a while cease to be frightened, would get the point of view for some of
the faces—types tremendously alien, alien to Woollett—that he had
already begun to take in. Who were they all, the dispersed groups and couples,
the ladies even more unlike those of Woollett than the gentlemen?—this
was the enquiry that, when his young friend had greeted him, he did find
himself making.

“Oh they’re every one—all sorts and sizes; of course I mean
within limits, though limits down perhaps rather more than limits up. There are
always artists—he’s beautiful and inimitable to the ; and then of many kinds—ambassadors,
cabinet ministers, bankers, generals, what do I know? even Jews. Above all
always some awfully nice women—and not too many; sometimes an actress, an
artist, a great performer—but only when they’re not monsters; and
in particular the right . You can fancy his history on
that side—I believe it’s fabulous: they give him up.
Yet he keeps them down: no one knows how he manages; it’s too beautiful
and bland. Never too many—and a mighty good thing too; just a perfect
choice. But there are not in any way many bores; it has always been so; he has
some secret. It’s extraordinary. And you don’t find it out.
He’s the same to every one. He doesn’t ask questions.’

“Ah doesn’t he?” Strether laughed.

Bilham met it with all his candour. “How then should be here?

“Oh for what you tell me. You’re part of the perfect choice.”

Well, the young man took in the scene. “It seems rather good
to-day.”

Strether followed the direction of his eyes. “Are they all, this time,

Little Bilham showed his competence. “Pretty well.”

This was a category our friend had a feeling for; a light, romantic and
mysterious, on the feminine element, in which he enjoyed for a little watching
it. “Are there any Poles?”

His companion considered. “I think I make out a ‘Portuguee.’
But I’ve seen Turks.”

Strether wondered, desiring justice. “They seem—all the
women—very harmonious.”

“Oh in closer quarters they come out!” And then, while Strether was
aware of fearing closer quarters, though giving himself again to the harmonies,
“Well,” little Bilham went on, “it at the worst
rather good, you know. If you like it, you feel it, this way, that shows
you’re not in the least out. But you always know things,” he
handsomely added, “immediately.”

Strether liked it and felt it only too much; so “I say, don’t lay
traps for me!” he rather helplessly murmured.

“Well,” his companion returned, “he’s wonderfully kind
to .”

“To us Americans you mean?”

“Oh no—he doesn’t know anything about .
That’s half the battle here—that you can never hear politics. We
don’t talk them. I mean to poor young wretches of all sorts. And yet
it’s always as charming as this; it’s as if, by something in the
air, our squalor didn’t show. It puts us all back—into the last
century.”

“I’m afraid,” Strether said, amused, “that it puts me
rather forward: oh ever so far!”

“Into the next? But isn’t that only,” little Bilham asked,
“because you’re really of the century before?”

“The century before the last? Thank you!” Strether laughed.
“If I ask you about some of the ladies it can’t be then that I may
hope, as such a specimen of the rococo, to please them.”

“On the contrary they adore—we all adore here—the rococo, and
where is there a better setting for it than the whole thing, the pavilion and
the garden, together? There are lots of people with collections,” little
Bilham smiled as he glanced round. “You’ll be secured!”

It made Strether for a moment give himself again to contemplation. There were
faces he scarce knew what to make of. Were they charming or were they only
strange? He mightn’t talk politics, yet he suspected a Pole or two. The
upshot was the question at the back of his head from the moment his friend had
joined him. “Have Madame de Vionnet and her daughter arrived?”

“I haven’t seen them yet, but Miss Gostrey has come. She’s in
the pavilion looking at objects. One can see a
collector,” little Bilham added without offence.

“Oh yes, she’s a collector, and I knew she was to come. Is Madame
de Vionnet a collector?” Strether went on.

“Rather, I believe; almost celebrated.” The young man met, on it, a
little, his friend’s eyes. “I happen to know—from Chad, whom
I saw last night—that they’ve come back; but only yesterday. He
wasn’t sure—up to the last. This, accordingly,” little Bilham
went on, “will be—if they here—their first
appearance after their return.”

Strether, very quickly, turned these things over. “Chad told you last
night? To me, on our way here, he said nothing about it.”

“But did you ask him?”

Strether did him the justice. “I dare say not.”

“Well,” said little Bilham, “you’re not a person to
whom it’s easy to tell things you don’t want to know. Though it
easy, I admit—it’s quite beautiful,” he
benevolently added, “when you do want to.”

Strether looked at him with an indulgence that matched his intelligence.
“Is that the deep reasoning on which—about these
ladies—you’ve been yourself so silent?”

Little Bilham considered the depth of his reasoning. “I haven’t
been silent. I spoke of them to you the other day, the day we sat together
after Chad’s tea-party.”

Strether came round to it. “They then are the virtuous attachment?”

“I can only tell you that it’s what they pass for. But isn’t
that enough? What more than a vain appearance does the wisest of us know? I
commend you,” the young man declared with a pleasant emphasis, “the
vain appearance.”

Strether looked more widely round, and what he saw, from face to face, deepened
the effect of his young friend’s words. “Is it so good?”

“Magnificent.”

Strether had a pause. “The husband’s dead?”

“Dear no. Alive.”

“Oh!” said Strether. After which, as his companion laughed:
“How then can it be so good?”

“You’ll see for yourself. One does see.”

“Chad’s in love with the daughter?”

“That’s what I mean.”

Strether wondered. “Then where’s the difficulty?”

“Why, aren’t you and I—with our grander bolder ideas?”

“Oh mine—!” Strether said rather strangely. But then as if to
attenuate: “You mean they won’t hear of Woollett?”

Little Bilham smiled. “Isn’t that just what you must see
about?”

It had brought them, as she caught the last words, into relation with Miss
Barrace, whom Strether had already observed—as he had never before seen a
lady at a party—moving about alone. Coming within sound of them she had
already spoken, and she took again, through her long-handled glass, all her
amused and amusing possession. “How much, poor Mr. Strether, you seem to
have to see about! But you can’t say,” she gaily declared,
“that I don’t do what I can to help you. Mr. Waymarsh is placed.
I’ve left him in the house with Miss Gostrey.”

“The way,” little Bilham exclaimed, “Mr. Strether gets the
ladies to work for him! He’s just preparing to draw in another; to
pounce—don’t you see him?—on Madame de Vionnet.”

“Madame de Vionnet? Oh, oh, oh!” Miss Barrace cried in a wonderful
crescendo. There was more in it, our friend made out, than met the ear. Was it
after all a joke that he should be serious about anything? He envied Miss
Barrace at any rate her power of not being. She seemed, with little cries and
protests and quick recognitions, movements like the darts of some fine
high-feathered free-pecking bird, to stand before life as before some full
shop-window. You could fairly hear, as she selected and pointed, the tap of her
tortoise-shell against the glass. “It’s certain that we do need
seeing about; only I’m glad it’s not I who have to do it. One does,
no doubt, begin that way; then suddenly one finds that one has given it up.
It’s too much, it’s too difficult. You’re wonderful, you
people,” she continued to Strether, “for not feeling those
things—by which I mean impossibilities. You never feel them. You face
them with a fortitude that makes it a lesson to watch you.”

“Ah but”—little Bilham put it with
discouragement—“what do we achieve after all? We see about you and
report—when we even go so far as reporting. But nothing’s
done.”

“Oh you, Mr. Bilham,” she replied as with an impatient rap on the
glass, “you’re not worth sixpence! You come over to convert the
savages—for I know you verily did, I remember you—and the savages
simply convert .”

“Not even!” the young man woefully confessed: “they
haven’t gone through that form. They’ve simply—the
cannibals!—eaten me; converted me if you like, but converted me into
food. I’m but the bleached bones of a Christian.”

“Well then there we are! Only”—and Miss Barrace appealed
again to Strether—“don’t let it discourage you. You’ll
break down soon enough, but you’ll meanwhile have had your moments. . I always like to see you while you last. And I’ll tell
you who last.”

“Waymarsh?”—he had already taken her up.

She laughed out as at the alarm of it. “He’ll resist even Miss
Gostrey: so grand is it not to understand. He’s wonderful.”

“He is indeed,” Strether conceded. “He wouldn’t tell me
of this affair—only said he had an engagement; but with such a gloom, you
must let me insist, as if it had been an engagement to be hanged. Then silently
and secretly he turns up here with you. Do you call
‘lasting’?”

“Oh I hope it’s lasting!” Miss Barrace said. “But he
only, at the best, bears with me. He doesn’t understand—not one
little scrap. He’s delightful. He’s wonderful,” she repeated.

“Michelangelesque!”—little Bilham completed her meaning.
“He a success. Moses, on the ceiling, brought down to the
floor; overwhelming, colossal, but somehow portable.”

“Certainly, if you mean by portable,” she returned, “looking
so well in one’s carriage. He’s too funny beside me in his corner;
he looks like somebody, somebody foreign and famous, ; so that
people wonder—it’s very amusing—whom I’m taking about.
I show him Paris, show him everything, and he never turns a hair. He’s
like the Indian chief one reads about, who, when he comes up to Washington to
see the Great Father, stands wrapt in his blanket and gives no sign.
might be the Great Father—from the way he takes everything.” She
was delighted at this hit of her identity with that personage—it fitted
so her character; she declared it was the title she meant henceforth to adopt.
“And the way he sits, too, in the corner of my room, only looking at my
visitors very hard and as if he wanted to start something! They wonder what he
does want to start. But he’s wonderful,” Miss Barrace once more
insisted. “He has never started anything yet.”

It presented him none the less, in truth, to her actual friends, who looked at
each other in intelligence, with frank amusement on Bilham’s part and a
shade of sadness on Strether’s. Strether’s sadness sprang—for
the image had its grandeur—from his thinking how little he himself was
wrapt in his blanket, how little, in marble halls, all too oblivious of the
Great Father, he resembled a really majestic aboriginal. But he had also
another reflexion. “You’ve all of you here so much visual sense
that you’ve somehow all ‘run’ to it. There are moments when
it strikes one that you haven’t any other.”

“Any moral,” little Bilham explained, watching serenely, across the
garden, the several . “But Miss Barrace has a moral
distinction,” he kindly continued; speaking as if for Strether’s
benefit not less than for her own.

“ you?” Strether, scarce knowing what he was about,
asked of her almost eagerly.

“Oh not a distinction”—she was mightily amused at his
tone—“Mr. Bilham’s too good. But I think I may say a
sufficiency. Yes, a sufficiency. Have you supposed strange things of
me?”—and she fixed him again, through all her tortoise-shell, with
the droll interest of it. “You all indeed wonderful. I should
awfully disappoint you. I do take my stand on my sufficiency. But I know, I
confess,” she went on, “strange people. I don’t know how it
happens; I don’t do it on purpose; it seems to be my doom—as if I
were always one of their habits: it’s wonderful! I dare say
moreover,” she pursued with an interested gravity, “that I do, that
we all do here, run too much to mere eye. But how can it be helped? We’re
all looking at each other—and in the light of Paris one sees what things
resemble. That’s what the light of Paris seems always to show. It’s
the fault of the light of Paris—dear old light!”

“Dear old Paris!” little Bilham echoed.

“Everything, every one shows,” Miss Barrace went on.

“But for what they really are?” Strether asked.

“Oh I like your Boston ‘reallys’! But
sometimes—yes.”

“Dear old Paris then!” Strether resignedly sighed while for a
moment they looked at each other. Then he broke out: “Does Madame de
Vionnet do that? I mean really show for what she is?”

Her answer was prompt. “She’s charming. She’s perfect.”

“Then why did you a minute ago say ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ at her
name?”

She easily remembered. “Why just because—! She’s
wonderful.”

“Ah she too?”—Strether had almost a groan.

But Miss Barrace had meanwhile perceived relief. “Why not put your
question straight to the person who can answer it best?”

“No,” said little Bilham; “don’t put any question;
wait, rather—it will be much more fun—to judge for yourself. He has
come to take you to her.”

II

On which Strether saw that Chad was again at hand, and he afterwards scarce
knew, absurd as it may seem, what had then quickly occurred. The moment
concerned him, he felt, more deeply than he could have explained, and he had a
subsequent passage of speculation as to whether, on walking off with Chad, he
hadn’t looked either pale or red. The only thing he was clear about was
that, luckily, nothing indiscreet had in fact been said and that Chad himself
was more than ever, in Miss Barrace’s great sense, wonderful. It was one
of the connexions—though really why it should be, after all, was none so
apparent—in which the whole change in him came out as most striking.
Strether recalled as they approached the house that he had impressed him that
first night as knowing how to enter a box. Well, he impressed him scarce less
now as knowing how to make a presentation. It did something for
Strether’s own quality—marked it as estimated; so that our poor
friend, conscious and passive, really seemed to feel himself quite handed over
and delivered; absolutely, as he would have said, made a present of, given
away. As they reached the house a young woman, about to come forth, appeared,
unaccompanied, on the steps; at the exchange with whom of a word on
Chad’s part Strether immediately perceived that, obligingly, kindly, she
was there to meet them. Chad had left her in the house, but she had afterwards
come halfway and then the next moment had joined them in the garden. Her air of
youth, for Strether, was at first almost disconcerting, while his second
impression was, not less sharply, a degree of relief at there not having just
been, with the others, any freedom used about her. It was upon him at a touch
that she was no subject for that, and meanwhile, on Chad’s introducing
him, she had spoken to him, very simply and gently, in an English clearly of
the easiest to her, yet unlike any other he had ever heard. It wasn’t as
if she tried; nothing, he could see after they had been a few minutes together,
was as if she tried; but her speech, charming correct and odd, was like a
precaution against her passing for a Pole. There were precautions, he seemed
indeed to see, only when there were really dangers.

Later on he was to feel many more of them, but by that time he was to feel
other things besides. She was dressed in black, but in black that struck him as
light and transparent; she was exceedingly fair, and, though she was as
markedly slim, her face had a roundness, with eyes far apart and a little
strange. Her smile was natural and dim; her hat not extravagant; he had only
perhaps a sense of the clink, beneath her fine black sleeves, of more gold
bracelets and bangles than he had ever seen a lady wear. Chad was excellently
free and light about their encounter; it was one of the occasions on which
Strether most wished he himself might have arrived at such ease and such
humour: “Here you are then, face to face at last; you’re made for
each other—; and I bless your union.” It was
indeed, after he had gone off, as if he had been partly serious too. This
latter motion had been determined by an enquiry from him about
“Jeanne”; to which her mother had replied that she was probably
still in the house with Miss Gostrey, to whom she had lately committed her.
“Ah but you know,” the young man had rejoined, “he must see
her”; with which, while Strether pricked up his ears, he had started as
if to bring her, leaving the other objects of his interest together. Strether
wondered to find Miss Gostrey already involved, feeling that he missed a link;
but feeling also, with small delay, how much he should like to talk with her of
Madame de Vionnet on this basis of evidence.

The evidence as yet in truth was meagre; which, for that matter, was perhaps a
little why his expectation had had a drop. There was somehow not quite a wealth
in her; and a wealth was all that, in his simplicity, he had definitely
prefigured. Still, it was too much to be sure already that there was but a
poverty. They moved away from the house, and, with eyes on a bench at some
distance, he proposed that they should sit down. “I’ve heard a
great deal about you,” she said as they went; but he had an answer to it
that made her stop short. “Well, about , Madame de Vionnet,
I’ve heard, I’m bound to say, almost nothing”—those
struck him as the only words he himself could utter with any lucidity;
conscious as he was, and as with more reason, of the determination to be in
respect to the rest of his business perfectly plain and go perfectly straight.
It hadn’t at any rate been in the least his idea to spy on Chad’s
proper freedom. It was possibly, however, at this very instant and under the
impression of Madame de Vionnet’s pause, that going straight began to
announce itself as a matter for care. She had only after all to smile at him
ever so gently in order to make him ask himself if he weren’t already
going crooked. It might be going crooked to find it of a sudden just only clear
that she intended very definitely to be what he would have called nice to him.
This was what passed between them while, for another instant, they stood still;
he couldn’t at least remember afterwards what else it might have been.
The thing indeed really unmistakeable was its rolling over him as a wave that
he had been, in conditions incalculable and unimaginable, a subject of
discussion. He had been, on some ground that concerned her, answered for; which
gave her an advantage he should never be able to match.

“Hasn’t Miss Gostrey,” she asked, “said a good word for
me?”

What had struck him first was the way he was bracketed with that lady; and he
wondered what account Chad would have given of their acquaintance. Something
not as yet traceable, at all events, had obviously happened. “I
didn’t even know of her knowing you.”

“Well, now she’ll tell you all. I’m so glad you’re in
relation with her.”

This was one of the things—the “all” Miss Gostrey would now
tell him—that, with every deference to present preoccupation, was
uppermost for Strether after they had taken their seat. One of the others was,
at the end of five minutes, that she—oh incontestably,
yes— less; differed, that is, scarcely at all—well,
superficially speaking, from Mrs. Newsome or even from Mrs. Pocock. She was
ever so much younger than the one and not so young as the other; but what
there in her, if anything, that would have made it impossible he
should meet her at Woollett? And wherein was her talk during their moments on
the bench together not the same as would have been found adequate for a
Woollett garden-party?—unless perhaps truly in not being quite so bright.
She observed to him that Mr. Newsome had, to her knowledge, taken extraordinary
pleasure in his visit; but there was no good lady at Woollett who
wouldn’t have been at least up to that. Was there in Chad, by chance,
after all, deep down, a principle of aboriginal loyalty that had made him, for
sentimental ends, attach himself to elements, happily encountered, that would
remind him most of the old air and the old soil? Why accordingly be in a
flutter—Strether could even put it that way—about this unfamiliar
phenomenon of the On these terms Mrs. Newsome herself
was as much of one. Little Bilham verily had testified that they came out, the
ladies of the type, in close quarters; but it was just in these
quarters—now comparatively close—that he felt Madame de
Vionnet’s common humanity. She did come out, and certainly to his relief,
but she came out as the usual thing. There might be motives behind, but so
could there often be even at Woollett. The only thing was that if she showed
him she wished to like him—as the motives behind might conceivably
prompt—it would possibly have been more thrilling for him that she should
have shown as more vividly alien. Ah she was neither Turk nor Pole!—which
would be indeed flat once more for Mrs. Newsome and Mrs. Pocock. A lady and two
gentlemen had meanwhile, however, approached their bench, and this accident
stayed for the time further developments.

They presently addressed his companion, the brilliant strangers; she rose to
speak to them, and Strether noted how the escorted lady, though mature and by
no means beautiful, had more of the bold high look, the range of expensive
reference, that he had, as might have been said, made his plans for. Madame de
Vionnet greeted her as “Duchesse” and was greeted in turn, while
talk started in French, as “Ma toute-belle”; little facts that had
their due, their vivid interest for Strether. Madame de Vionnet didn’t,
none the less, introduce him—a note he was conscious of as false to the
Woollett scale and the Woollett humanity; though it didn’t prevent the
Duchess, who struck him as confident and free, very much what he had obscurely
supposed duchesses, from looking at him as straight and as hard—for it
hard—as if she would have liked, all the same, to know him.
“Oh yes, my dear, it’s all right, it’s ; and who are
, with your interesting wrinkles and your most effective (is it the
handsomest, is it the ugliest?) of noses?”—some such loose handful
of bright flowers she seemed, fragrantly enough, to fling at him. Strether
almost wondered—at such a pace was he going—if some divination of
the influence of either party were what determined Madame de Vionnet’s
abstention. One of the gentlemen, in any case, succeeded in placing himself in
close relation with our friend’s companion; a gentleman rather stout and
importantly short, in a hat with a wonderful wide curl to its brim and a frock
coat buttoned with an effect of superlative decision. His French had quickly
turned to equal English, and it occurred to Strether that he might well be one
of the ambassadors. His design was evidently to assert a claim to Madame de
Vionnet’s undivided countenance, and he made it good in the course of a
minute—led her away with a trick of three words; a trick played with a
social art of which Strether, looking after them as the four, whose backs were
now all turned, moved off, felt himself no master.

He sank again upon his bench and, while his eyes followed the party, reflected,
as he had done before, on Chad’s strange communities. He sat there alone
for five minutes, with plenty to think of; above all with his sense of having
suddenly been dropped by a charming woman overlaid now by other impressions and
in fact quite cleared and indifferent. He hadn’t yet had so quiet a
surrender; he didn’t in the least care if nobody spoke to him more. He
might have been, by his attitude, in for something of a march so broad that the
want of ceremony with which he had just been used could fall into its place as
but a minor incident of the procession. Besides, there would be incidents
enough, as he felt when this term of contemplation was closed by the
reappearance of little Bilham, who stood before him a moment with a suggestive
“Well?” in which he saw himself reflected as disorganised, as
possibly floored. He replied with a “Well!” intended to show that
he wasn’t floored in the least. No indeed; he gave it out, as the young
man sat down beside him, that if, at the worst, he had been overturned at all,
he had been overturned into the upper air, the sublimer element with which he
had an affinity and in which he might be trusted a while to float. It
wasn’t a descent to earth to say after an instant and in sustained
response to the reference: “You’re quite sure her husband’s
living?”

“Oh dear, yes.”

“Ah then—!”

“Ah then what?”

Strether had after all to think. “Well, I’m sorry for them.”
But it didn’t for the moment matter more than that. He assured his young
friend he was quite content. They wouldn’t stir; were all right as they
were. He didn’t want to be introduced; had been introduced already about
as far as he could go. He had seen moreover an immensity; liked Gloriani, who,
as Miss Barrace kept saying, was wonderful; had made out, he was sure, the
half-dozen other men who were distinguished, the artists, the critics and oh
the great dramatist— it was easy to spot; but wanted—no,
thanks, really—to talk with none of them; having nothing at all to say
and finding it would do beautifully as it was; do beautifully because what it
was—well, was just simply too late. And when after this little Bilham,
submissive and responsive, but with an eye to the consolation nearest, easily
threw off some “Better late than never!” all he got in return for
it was a sharp “Better early than late!” This note indeed the next
thing overflowed for Strether into a quiet stream of demonstration that as soon
as he had let himself go he felt as the real relief. It had consciously
gathered to a head, but the reservoir had filled sooner than he knew, and his
companion’s touch was to make the waters spread. There were some things
that had to come in time if they were to come at all. If they didn’t come
in time they were lost for ever. It was the general sense of them that had
overwhelmed him with its long slow rush.

“It’s not too late for , on any side, and you don’t
strike me as in danger of missing the train; besides which people can be in
general pretty well trusted, of course—with the clock of their freedom
ticking as loud as it seems to do here—to keep an eye on the fleeting
hour. All the same don’t forget that you’re young—blessedly
young; be glad of it on the contrary and live up to it. Live all you can;
it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in
particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what
you had? This place and these impressions—mild as you may
find them to wind a man up so; all my impressions of Chad and of people
I’ve seen at place—well, have had their abundant message
for me, have just dropped into my mind. I see it now. I
haven’t done so enough before—and now I’m old; too old at any
rate for what I see. Oh I see, at least; and more than you’d
believe or I can express. It’s too late. And it’s as if the train
had fairly waited at the station for me without my having had the gumption to
know it was there. Now I hear its faint receding whistle miles and miles down
the line. What one loses one loses; make no mistake about that. The
affair—I mean the affair of life—couldn’t, no doubt, have
been different for me; for it’s at the best a tin mould, either fluted
and embossed, with ornamental excrescences, or else smooth and dreadfully
plain, into which, a helpless jelly, one’s consciousness is
poured—so that one ‘takes’ the form as the great cook says,
and is more or less compactly held by it: one lives in fine as one can. Still,
one has the illusion of freedom; therefore don’t be, like me, without the
memory of that illusion. I was either, at the right time, too stupid or too
intelligent to have it; I don’t quite know which. Of course at present
I’m a case of reaction against the mistake; and the voice of reaction
should, no doubt, always be taken with an allowance. But that doesn’t
affect the point that the right time is now yours. The right time is
time that one is still so lucky as to have. You’ve plenty; that’s
the great thing; you’re, as I say, damn you, so happily and hatefully
young. Don’t at any rate miss things out of stupidity. Of course I
don’t take you for a fool, or I shouldn’t be addressing you thus
awfully. Do what you like so long as you don’t make mistake.
For it was a mistake. Live!” … Slowly and sociably, with full pauses
and straight dashes, Strether had so delivered himself; holding little Bilham
from step to step deeply and gravely attentive. The end of all was that the
young man had turned quite solemn, and that this was a contradiction of the
innocent gaiety the speaker had wished to promote. He watched for a moment the
consequence of his words, and then, laying a hand on his listener’s knee
and as if to end with the proper joke: “And now for the eye I shall keep
on you!”

“Oh but I don’t know that I want to be, at your age, too different
from you!”

“Ah prepare while you’re about it,” said Strether, “to
be more amusing.”

Little Bilham continued to think, but at last had a smile. “Well, you
amusing—to .”

“, as you say, no doubt. But what am I to myself?”
Strether had risen with this, giving his attention now to an encounter that, in
the middle of the garden, was in the act of taking place between their host and
the lady at whose side Madame de Vionnet had quitted him. This lady, who
appeared within a few minutes to have left her friends, awaited
Gloriani’s eager approach with words on her lips that Strether
couldn’t catch, but of which her interesting witty face seemed to give
him the echo. He was sure she was prompt and fine, but also that she had met
her match, and he liked—in the light of what he was quite sure was the
Duchess’s latent insolence—the good humour with which the great
artist asserted equal resources. Were they, this pair, of the “great
world”?—and was he himself, for the moment and thus related to them
by his observation, it? Then there was something in the great world
covertly tigerish, which came to him across the lawn and in the charming air as
a waft from the jungle. Yet it made him admire most of the two, made him envy,
the glossy male tiger, magnificently marked. These absurdities of the stirred
sense, fruits of suggestion ripening on the instant, were all reflected in his
next words to little Bilham. “I know—if we talk of that—whom
should enjoy being like!”

Little Bilham followed his eyes; but then as with a shade of knowing surprise:
“Gloriani?”

Our friend had in fact already hesitated, though not on the hint of his
companion’s doubt, in which there were depths of critical reserve. He had
just made out, in the now full picture, something and somebody else; another
impression had been superimposed. A young girl in a white dress and a softly
plumed white hat had suddenly come into view, and what was presently clear was
that her course was toward them. What was clearer still was that the handsome
young man at her side was Chad Newsome, and what was clearest of all was that
she was therefore Mademoiselle de Vionnet, that she was unmistakeably
pretty—bright gentle shy happy wonderful—and that Chad now, with a
consummate calculation of effect, was about to present her to his old
friend’s vision. What was clearest of all indeed was something much more
than this, something at the single stroke of which—and wasn’t it
simply juxtaposition?—all vagueness vanished. It was the click of a
spring—he saw the truth. He had by this time also met Chad’s look;
there was more of it in that; and the truth, accordingly, so far as
Bilham’s enquiry was concerned, had thrust in the answer. “Oh
Chad!”—it was that rare youth he should have enjoyed being
“like.” The virtuous attachment would be all there before him; the
virtuous attachment would be in the very act of appeal for his blessing; Jeanne
de Vionnet, this charming creature, would be exquisitely, intensely
now—the object of it. Chad brought her straight up to him, and Chad was,
oh yes, at this moment—for the glory of Woollett or whatever—better
still even than Gloriani. He had plucked this blossom; he had kept it
over-night in water; and at last as he held it up to wonder he did enjoy his
effect. That was why Strether had felt at first the breath of
calculation—and why moreover, as he now knew, his look at the girl would
be, for the young man, a sign of the latter’s success. What young man had
ever paraded about that way, without a reason, a maiden in her flower? And
there was nothing in his reason at present obscure. Her type sufficiently told
of it—they wouldn’t, they couldn’t, want her to go to
Woollett. Poor Woollett, and what it might miss!—though brave Chad indeed
too, and what it might gain! Brave Chad however had just excellently spoken.
“This is a good little friend of mine who knows all about you and has
moreover a message for you. And this, my dear”—he had turned to the
child herself—“is the best man in the world, who has it in his
power to do a great deal for us and whom I want you to like and revere as
nearly as possible as much as I do.”

She stood there quite pink, a little frightened, prettier and prettier and not
a bit like her mother. There was in this last particular no resemblance but
that of youth to youth; and here was in fact suddenly Strether’s sharpest
impression. It went wondering, dazed, embarrassed, back to the woman he had
just been talking with; it was a revelation in the light of which he already
saw she would become more interesting. So slim and fresh and fair, she had yet
put forth this perfection; so that for really believing it of her, for seeing
her to any such developed degree as a mother, comparison would be urgent. Well,
what was it now but fairly thrust upon him? “Mamma wishes me to tell you
before we go,” the girl said, “that she hopes very much
you’ll come to see us very soon. She has something important to say to
you.”

“She quite reproaches herself,” Chad helpfully explained:
“you were interesting her so much when she accidentally suffered you to
be interrupted.”

“Ah don’t mention it!” Strether murmured, looking kindly from
one to the other and wondering at many things.

“And I’m to ask you for myself,” Jeanne continued with her
hands clasped together as if in some small learnt prayer—“I’m
to ask you for myself if you won’t positively come.”

“Leave it to me, dear—I’ll take care of it!” Chad
genially declared in answer to this, while Strether himself almost held his
breath. What was in the girl was indeed too soft, too unknown for direct
dealing; so that one could only gaze at it as at a picture, quite staying
one’s own hand. But with Chad he was now on ground—Chad he could
meet; so pleasant a confidence in that and in everything did the young man
freely exhale. There was the whole of a story in his tone to his companion, and
he spoke indeed as if already of the family. It made Strether guess the more
quickly what it might be about which Madame de Vionnet was so urgent. Having
seen him then she had found him easy; she wished to have it out with him that
some way for the young people must be discovered, some way that would not
impose as a condition the transplantation of her daughter. He already saw
himself discussing with this lady the attractions of Woollett as a residence
for Chad’s companion. Was that youth going now to trust her with the
affair—so that it would be after all with one of his
“lady-friends” that his mother’s missionary should be
condemned to deal? It was quite as if for an instant the two men looked at each
other on this question. But there was no mistaking at last Chad’s pride
in the display of such a connexion. This was what had made him so carry himself
while, three minutes before, he was bringing it into view; what had caused his
friend, first catching sight of him, to be so struck with his air. It was, in a
word, just when he thus finally felt Chad putting things straight off on him
that he envied him, as he had mentioned to little Bilham, most. The whole
exhibition however was but a matter of three or four minutes, and the author of
it had soon explained that, as Madame de Vionnet was immediately going
“on,” this could be for Jeanne but a snatch. They would all meet
again soon, and Strether was meanwhile to stay and amuse
himself—“I’ll pick you up again in plenty of time.” He
took the girl off as he had brought her, and Strether, with the faint sweet
foreignness of her “Au revoir, monsieur!” in his ears as a note
almost unprecedented, watched them recede side by side and felt how, once more,
her companion’s relation to her got an accent from it. They disappeared
among the others and apparently into the house; whereupon our friend turned
round to give out to little Bilham the conviction of which he was full. But
there was no little Bilham any more; little Bilham had within the few moments,
for reasons of his own, proceeded further: a circumstance by which, in its
order, Strether was also sensibly affected.

III

Chad was not in fact on this occasion to keep his promise of coming back; but
Miss Gostrey had soon presented herself with an explanation of his failure.
There had been reasons at the last for his going off with ; and
he had asked her with much instance to come out and take charge of their
friend. She did so, Strether felt as she took her place beside him, in a manner
that left nothing to desire. He had dropped back on his bench, alone again for
a time, and the more conscious for little Bilham’s defection of his
unexpressed thought; in respect to which however this next converser was a
still more capacious vessel. “It’s the child!” he had
exclaimed to her almost as soon as she appeared; and though her direct response
was for some time delayed he could feel in her meanwhile the working of this
truth. It might have been simply, as she waited, that they were now in presence
altogether of truth spreading like a flood and not for the moment to be offered
her in the mere cupful; inasmuch as who should prove to be but
persons about whom—once thus face to face with them—she found she
might from the first have told him almost everything? This would have freely
come had he taken the simple precaution of giving her their name. There could
be no better example—and she appeared to note it with high
amusement—than the way, making things out already so much for himself, he
was at last throwing precautions to the winds. They were neither more nor less,
she and the child’s mother, than old school-friends—friends who had
scarcely met for years but whom this unlooked-for chance had brought together
with a rush. It was a relief, Miss Gostrey hinted, to feel herself no longer
groping; she was unaccustomed to grope and as a general thing, he might well
have seen, made straight enough for her clue. With the one she had now picked
up in her hands there need be at least no waste of wonder. “She’s
coming to see me—that’s for ,” Strether’s
counsellor continued; “but I don’t require it to know where I
am.”

The waste of wonder might be proscribed; but Strether, characteristically, was
even by this time in the immensity of space. “By which you mean that you
know where is?”

She just hesitated. “I mean that if she comes to see me I shall—now
that I’ve pulled myself round a bit after the shock—not be at
home.”

Strether hung poised. “You call it—your recognition—a
shock?”

She gave one of her rare flickers of impatience. “It was a surprise, an
emotion. Don’t be so literal. I wash my hands of her.”

Poor Strether’s face lengthened. “She’s
impossible—?”

“She’s even more charming than I remembered her.”

“Then what’s the matter?”

She had to think how to put it. “Well, impossible.
It’s impossible. Everything’s impossible.”

He looked at her an instant. “I see where you’re coming out.
Everything’s possible.” Their eyes had on it in fact an exchange of
some duration; after which he pursued: “Isn’t it that beautiful
child?” Then as she still said nothing: “Why don’t you mean
to receive her?”

Her answer in an instant rang clear. “Because I wish to keep out of the
business.”

It provoked in him a weak wail. “You’re going to abandon me

“No, I’m only going to abandon . She’ll want me to
help her with you. And I won’t.”

“You’ll only help me with her? Well then—!” Most of the
persons previously gathered had, in the interest of tea, passed into the house,
and they had the gardens mainly to themselves. The shadows were long, the last
call of the birds, who had made a home of their own in the noble interspaced
quarter, sounded from the high trees in the other gardens as well, those of the
old convent and of the old ; it was as if our friends had waited
for the full charm to come out. Strether’s impressions were still
present; it was as if something had happened that “nailed” them,
made them more intense; but he was to ask himself soon afterwards, that
evening, what really happened—conscious as he could after all
remain that for a gentleman taken, and taken the first time, into the
“great world,” the world of ambassadors and duchesses, the items
made a meagre total. It was nothing new to him, however, as we know, that a man
might have—at all events such a man as he—an amount of experience
out of any proportion to his adventures; so that, though it was doubtless no
great adventure to sit on there with Miss Gostrey and hear about Madame de
Vionnet, the hour, the picture, the immediate, the recent, the
possible—as well as the communication itself, not a note of which failed
to reverberate—only gave the moments more of the taste of history.

It was history, to begin with, that Jeanne’s mother had been
three-and-twenty years before, at Geneva, schoolmate and good girlfriend to
Maria Gostrey, who had moreover enjoyed since then, though interruptedly and
above all with a long recent drop, other glimpses of her. Twenty-three years
put them both on, no doubt; and Madame de Vionnet—though she had married
straight after school—couldn’t be today an hour less than
thirty-eight. This made her ten years older than Chad—though ten years,
also, if Strether liked, older than she looked; the least, at any rate, that a
prospective mother-in-law could be expected to do with. She would be of all
mothers-in-law the most charming; unless indeed, through some perversity as yet
insupposeable, she should utterly belie herself in that relation. There was
none surely in which, as Maria remembered her, she mustn’t be charming;
and this frankly in spite of the stigma of failure in the tie where failure
always most showed. It was no test there—when indeed it a test
there?—for Monsieur de Vionnet had been a brute. She had lived for years
apart from him—which was of course always a horrid position; but Miss
Gostrey’s impression of the matter had been that she could scarce have
made a better thing of it had she done it on purpose to show she was amiable.
She was so amiable that nobody had had a word to say; which was luckily not the
case for her husband. He was so impossible that she had the advantage of all
her merits.

It was still history for Strether that the Comte de Vionnet—it being also
history that the lady in question was a Countess—should now, under Miss
Gostrey’s sharp touch, rise before him as a high distinguished polished
impertinent reprobate, the product of a mysterious order; it was history,
further, that the charming girl so freely sketched by his companion should have
been married out of hand by a mother, another figure of striking outline, full
of dark personal motive; it was perhaps history most of all that this company
was, as a matter of course, governed by such considerations as put divorce out
of the question. “ don’t divorce, you know, any
more than they emigrate or abjure—they think it impious and
vulgar”; a fact in the light of which they seemed but the more richly
special. It was all special; it was all, for Strether’s imagination, more
or less rich. The girl at the Genevese school, an isolated interesting
attaching creature, then both sensitive and violent, audacious but always
forgiven, was the daughter of a French father and an English mother who, early
left a widow, had married again—tried afresh with a foreigner; in her
career with whom she had apparently given her child no example of comfort. All
these people—the people of the English mother’s side—had been
of condition more or less eminent; yet with oddities and disparities that had
often since made Maria, thinking them over, wonder what they really quite
rhymed to. It was in any case her belief that the mother, interested and prone
to adventure, had been without conscience, had only thought of ridding herself
most quickly of a possible, an actual encumbrance. The father, by her
impression, a Frenchman with a name one knew, had been a different matter,
leaving his child, she clearly recalled, a memory all fondness, as well as an
assured little fortune which was unluckily to make her more or less of a prey
later on. She had been in particular, at school, dazzlingly, though quite
booklessly, clever; as polyglot as a little Jewess (which she wasn’t, oh
no!) and chattering French, English, German, Italian, anything one would, in a
way that made a clean sweep, if not of prizes and parchments, at least of every
“part,” whether memorised or improvised, in the curtained costumed
school repertory, and in especial of all mysteries of race and vagueness of
reference, all swagger about “home,” among their variegated mates.

It would doubtless be difficult to-day, as between French and English, to name
her and place her; she would certainly show, on knowledge, Miss Gostrey felt,
as one of those convenient types who don’t keep you
explaining—minds with doors as numerous as the many-tongued cluster of
confessionals at Saint Peter’s. You might confess to her with confidence
in Roumelian, and even Roumelian sins. Therefore—! But Strether’s
narrator covered her implication with a laugh; a laugh by which his betrayal of
a sense of the lurid in the picture was also perhaps sufficiently protected. He
had a moment of wondering, while his friend went on, what sins might be
especially Roumelian. She went on at all events to the mention of her having
met the young thing—again by some Swiss lake—in her first married
state, which had appeared for the few intermediate years not at least violently
disturbed. She had been lovely at that moment, delightful to , full
of responsive emotion, of amused recognitions and amusing reminders, and then
once more, much later, after a long interval, equally but differently
charming—touching and rather mystifying for the five minutes of an
encounter at a railway-station , during which it had come out
that her life was all changed. Miss Gostrey had understood enough to see,
essentially, what had happened, and yet had beautifully dreamed that she was
herself faultless. There were doubtless depths in her, but she was all right;
Strether would see if she wasn’t. She was another person
however—that had been promptly marked—from the small child of
nature at the Geneva school, a little person quite made over (as foreign women
, compared with American) by marriage. Her situation too had
evidently cleared itself up; there would have been—all that was
possible—a judicial separation. She had settled in Paris, brought up her
daughter, steered her boat. It was no very pleasant boat—especially
there—to be in; but Marie de Vionnet would have headed straight. She
would have friends, certainly—and very good ones. There she was at all
events—and it was very interesting. Her knowing Mr. Chad didn’t in
the least prove she hadn’t friends; what it proved was what good ones
had. “I saw that,” said Miss Gostrey, “that night
at the Français; it came out for me in three minutes. I saw —or
somebody like her. And so,” she immediately added, “did you.”

“Oh no—not anybody like her!” Strether laughed. “But
you mean,” he as promptly went on, “that she has had such an
influence on him?”

Miss Gostrey was on her feet; it was time for them to go. “She has
brought him up for her daughter.”

Their eyes, as so often, in candid conference, through their settled glasses,
met over it long; after which Strether’s again took in the whole place.
They were quite alone there now. “Mustn’t she rather—in the
time then—have rushed it?”

“Ah she won’t of course have lost an hour. But that’s just
the good mother—the good French one. You must remember that of
her—that as a mother she’s French, and that for them there’s
a special providence. It precisely however—that she mayn’t have
been able to begin as far back as she’d have liked—makes her
grateful for aid.”

Strether took this in as they slowly moved to the house on their way out.
“She counts on me then to put the thing through?”

“Yes—she counts on you. Oh and first of all of course,” Miss
Gostrey added, “on her—well, convincing you.”

“Ah,” her friend returned, “she caught Chad young!”

“Yes, but there are women who are for all your ‘times of
life.’ They’re the most wonderful sort.”

She had laughed the words out, but they brought her companion, the next thing,
to a stand. “Is what you mean that she’ll try to make a fool of
me?”

“Well, I’m wondering what she —with an
opportunity—make.”

“What do you call,” Strether asked, “an opportunity? My going
to see her?”

“Ah you must go to see her”—Miss Gostrey was a trifle
evasive. “You can’t not do that. You’d have gone to see the
other woman. I mean if there had been one—a different sort. It’s
what you came out for.”

It might be; but Strether distinguished. “I didn’t come out to see
sort.”

She had a wonderful look at him now. “Are you disappointed she
isn’t worse?”

He for a moment entertained the question, then found for it the frankest of
answers. “Yes. If she were worse she’d be better for our purpose.
It would be simpler.”

“Perhaps,” she admitted. “But won’t this be
pleasanter?”

“Ah you know,” he promptly replied, “I didn’t come
out—wasn’t that just what you originally reproached me
with?—for the pleasant.”

“Precisely. Therefore I say again what I said at first. You must take
things as they come. Besides,” Miss Gostrey added, “I’m not
afraid for myself.”

“For yourself—?”

“Of your seeing her. I trust her. There’s nothing she’ll say
about me. In fact there’s nothing she .”

Strether wondered—little as he had thought of this. Then he broke out.
“Oh you women!”

There was something in it at which she flushed. “Yes—there we are.
We’re abysses.” At last she smiled. “But I risk her!”

He gave himself a shake. “Well then so do I!” But he added as they
passed into the house that he would see Chad the first thing in the morning.

This was the next day the more easily effected that the young man, as it
happened, even before he was down, turned up at his hotel. Strether took his
coffee, by habit, in the public room; but on his descending for this purpose
Chad instantly proposed an adjournment to what he called greater privacy. He
had himself as yet had nothing—they would sit down somewhere together;
and when after a few steps and a turn into the Boulevard they had, for their
greater privacy, sat down among twenty others, our friend saw in his
companion’s move a fear of the advent of Waymarsh. It was the first time
Chad had to that extent given this personage “away”; and Strether
found himself wondering of what it was symptomatic. He made out in a moment
that the youth was in earnest as he hadn’t yet seen him; which in its
turn threw a ray perhaps a trifle startling on what they had each up to that
time been treating as earnestness. It was sufficiently flattering however that
the real thing—if this at last the real thing—should
have been determined, as appeared, precisely by an accretion of
Strether’s importance. For this was what it quickly enough came
to—that Chad, rising with the lark, had rushed down to let him know while
his morning consciousness was yet young that he had literally made the
afternoon before a tremendous impression. Madame de Vionnet wouldn’t,
couldn’t rest till she should have some assurance from him that he
consent again to see her. The announcement was made, across their
marble-topped table, while the foam of the hot milk was in their cups and its
plash still in the air, with the smile of Chad’s easiest urbanity; and
this expression of his face caused our friend’s doubts to gather on the
spot into a challenge of the lips. “See here”—that was all;
he only for the moment said again “See here.” Chad met it with all
his air of straight intelligence, while Strether remembered again that fancy of
the first impression of him, the happy young Pagan, handsome and hard but oddly
indulgent, whose mysterious measure he had under the street-lamp tried mentally
to take. The young Pagan, while a long look passed between them, sufficiently
understood. Strether scarce needed at last to say the rest—“I want
to know where I am.” But he said it, adding before any answer something
more. “Are you engaged to be married—is that your secret?—to
the young lady?”

Chad shook his head with the slow amenity that was one of his ways of conveying
that there was time for everything. “I have no secret—though I may
have secrets! I haven’t at any rate that one. We’re not engaged.
No.”

“Then where’s the hitch?”

“Do you mean why I haven’t already started with you?” Chad,
beginning his coffee and buttering his roll, was quite ready to explain.
“Nothing would have induced me—nothing will still induce
me—not to try to keep you here as long as you can be made to stay.
It’s too visibly good for you.” Strether had himself plenty to say
about this, but it was amusing also to measure the march of Chad’s tone.
He had never been more a man of the world, and it was always in his company
present to our friend that one was seeing how in successive connexions a man of
the world acquitted himself. Chad kept it up beautifully. “My
idea——is simply that you should let Madame de Vionnet
know you, simply that you should consent to know . I don’t in
the least mind telling you that, clever and charming as she is, she’s
ever so much in my confidence. All I ask of you is to let her talk to you.
You’ve asked me about what you call my hitch, and so far as it goes
she’ll explain it to you. She’s herself my hitch, hang it—if
you must really have it all out. But in a sense,” he hastened in the most
wonderful manner to add, “that you’ll quite make out for yourself.
She’s too good a friend, confound her. Too good, I mean, for me to leave
without—without—” It was his first hesitation.

“Without what?”

“Well, without my arranging somehow or other the damnable terms of my
sacrifice.”

“It be a sacrifice then?”

“It will be the greatest loss I ever suffered. I owe her so much.”

It was beautiful, the way Chad said these things, and his plea was now
confessedly—oh quite flagrantly and publicly—interesting. The
moment really took on for Strether an intensity. Chad owed Madame de Vionnet so
much? What that do then but clear up the whole mystery? He was
indebted for alterations, and she was thereby in a position to have sent in her
bill for expenses incurred in reconstruction. What was this at bottom but what
had been to be arrived at? Strether sat there arriving at it while he munched
toast and stirred his second cup. To do this with the aid of Chad’s
pleasant earnest face was also to do more besides. No, never before had he been
so ready to take him as he was. What was it that had suddenly so cleared up? It
was just everybody’s character; that is everybody’s but—in a
measure—his own. Strether felt character receive for the
instant a smutch from all the wrong things he had suspected or believed. The
person to whom Chad owed it that he could positively turn out such a comfort to
other persons—such a person was sufficiently raised above any
“breath” by the nature of her work and the young man’s steady
light. All of which was vivid enough to come and go quickly; though indeed in
the midst of it Strether could utter a question. “Have I your word of
honour that if I surrender myself to Madame de Vionnet you’ll surrender
yourself to ”

Chad laid his hand firmly on his friend’s. “My dear man, you have
it.”

There was finally something in his felicity almost embarrassing and
oppressive—Strether had begun to fidget under it for the open air and the
erect posture. He had signed to the waiter that he wished to pay, and this
transaction took some moments, during which he thoroughly felt, while he put
down money and pretended—it was quite hollow—to estimate change,
that Chad’s higher spirit, his youth, his practice, his paganism, his
felicity, his assurance, his impudence, whatever it might be, had consciously
scored a success. Well, that was all right so far as it went; his sense of the
thing in question covered our friend for a minute like a veil through
which—as if he had been muffled—he heard his interlocutor ask him
if he mightn’t take him over about five. “Over” was over the
river, and over the river was where Madame de Vionnet lived, and five was that
very afternoon. They got at last out of the place—got out before he
answered. He lighted, in the street, a cigarette, which again gave him more
time. But it was already sharp for him that there was no use in time.
“What does she propose to do to me?” he had presently demanded.

Chad had no delays. “Are you afraid of her?”

“Oh immensely. Don’t you see it?”

“Well,” said Chad, “she won’t do anything worse to you
than make you like her.”

“It’s just of that I’m afraid.”

“Then it’s not fair to me.”

Strether cast about. “It’s fair to your mother.”

“Oh,” said Chad, “are you afraid of ”

“Scarcely less. Or perhaps even more. But is this lady against your
interests at home?” Strether went on.

“Not directly, no doubt; but she’s greatly in favour of them
here.”

“And what—‘here’—does she consider them to
be?”

“Well, good relations!”

“With herself?”

“With herself.”

“And what is it that makes them so good?”

“What? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll make out if
you’ll only go, as I’m supplicating you, to see her.”

Strether stared at him with a little of the wanness, no doubt, that the vision
of more to “make out” could scarce help producing. “I mean
good are they?”

“Oh awfully good.”

Again Strether had faltered, but it was brief. It was all very well, but there
was nothing now he wouldn’t risk. “Excuse me, but I must
really—as I began by telling you—know where I am. Is she
bad?”

“‘Bad’?”—Chad echoed it, but without a shock.
“Is that what’s implied—?”

“When relations are good?” Strether felt a little silly, and was
even conscious of a foolish laugh, at having it imposed on him to have appeared
to speak so. What indeed was he talking about? His stare had relaxed; he looked
now all round him. But something in him brought him back, though he still
didn’t know quite how to turn it. The two or three ways he thought of,
and one of them in particular, were, even with scruples dismissed, too ugly. He
none the less at last found something. “Is her life without
reproach?”

It struck him, directly he had found it, as pompous and priggish; so much so
that he was thankful to Chad for taking it only in the right spirit. The young
man spoke so immensely to the point that the effect was practically of positive
blandness. “Absolutely without reproach. A beautiful life. ”

These last words were, in the liberality of their confidence, so imperative
that Strether went through no form of assent; but before they separated it had
been confirmed that he should be picked up at a quarter to five.

Book Sixth

I

It was quite by half-past five—after the two men had been together in
Madame de Vionnet’s drawing-room not more than a dozen minutes—that
Chad, with a look at his watch and then another at their hostess, said
genially, gaily: “I’ve an engagement, and I know you won’t
complain if I leave him with you. He’ll interest you immensely; and as
for her,” he declared to Strether, “I assure you, if you’re
at all nervous, she’s perfectly safe.”

He had left them to be embarrassed or not by this guarantee, as they could best
manage, and embarrassment was a thing that Strether wasn’t at first sure
Madame de Vionnet escaped. He escaped it himself, to his surprise; but he had
grown used by this time to thinking of himself as brazen. She occupied, his
hostess, in the Rue de Bellechasse, the first floor of an old house to which
our visitors had had access from an old clean court. The court was large and
open, full of revelations, for our friend, of the habit of privacy, the peace
of intervals, the dignity of distances and approaches; the house, to his
restless sense, was in the high homely style of an elder day, and the ancient
Paris that he was always looking for—sometimes intensely felt, sometimes
more acutely missed—was in the immemorial polish of the wide waxed
staircase and in the fine , the medallions, mouldings, mirrors,
great clear spaces, of the greyish-white salon into which he had been shown. He
seemed at the very outset to see her in the midst of possessions not vulgarly
numerous, but hereditary cherished charming. While his eyes turned after a
little from those of his hostess and Chad freely talked—not in the least
about , but about other people, people he didn’t know, and
quite as if he did know them—he found himself making out, as a background
of the occupant, some glory, some prosperity of the First Empire, some
Napoleonic glamour, some dim lustre of the great legend; elements clinging
still to all the consular chairs and mythological brasses and sphinxes’
heads and faded surfaces of satin striped with alternate silk.

The place itself went further back—that he guessed, and how old Paris
continued in a manner to echo there; but the post-revolutionary period, the
world he vaguely thought of as the world of Châteaubriand, of Madame de Staël,
even of the young Lamartine, had left its stamp of harps and urns and torches,
a stamp impressed on sundry small objects, ornaments and relics. He had never
before, to his knowledge, had present to him relics, of any special dignity, of
a private order—little old miniatures, medallions, pictures, books; books
in leather bindings, pinkish and greenish, with gilt garlands on the back,
ranged, together with other promiscuous properties, under the glass of
brass-mounted cabinets. His attention took them all tenderly into account. They
were among the matters that marked Madame de Vionnet’s apartment as
something quite different from Miss Gostrey’s little museum of bargains
and from Chad’s lovely home; he recognised it as founded much more on old
accumulations that had possibly from time to time shrunken than on any
contemporary method of acquisition or form of curiosity. Chad and Miss Gostrey
had rummaged and purchased and picked up and exchanged, sifting, selecting,
comparing; whereas the mistress of the scene before him, beautifully passive
under the spell of transmission—transmission from her father’s
line, he quite made up his mind—had only received, accepted and been
quiet. When she hadn’t been quiet she had been moved at the most to some
occult charity for some fallen fortune. There had been objects she or her
predecessors might even conceivably have parted with under need, but Strether
couldn’t suspect them of having sold old pieces to get
“better” ones. They would have felt no difference as to better or
worse. He could but imagine their having felt—perhaps in emigration, in
proscription, for his sketch was slight and confused—the pressure of want
or the obligation of sacrifice.

The pressure of want—whatever might be the case with the other
force—was, however, presumably not active now, for the tokens of a
chastened ease still abounded after all, many marks of a taste whose
discriminations might perhaps have been called eccentric. He guessed at intense
little preferences and sharp little exclusions, a deep suspicion of the vulgar
and a personal view of the right. The general result of this was something for
which he had no name on the spot quite ready, but something he would have come
nearest to naming in speaking of it as the air of supreme respectability, the
consciousness, small, still, reserved, but none the less distinct and diffused,
of private honour. The air of supreme respectability—that was a strange
blank wall for his adventure to have brought him to break his nose against. It
had in fact, as he was now aware, filled all the approaches, hovered in the
court as he passed, hung on the staircase as he mounted, sounded in the grave
rumble of the old bell, as little electric as possible, of which Chad, at the
door, had pulled the ancient but neatly-kept tassel; it formed in short the
clearest medium of its particular kind that he had ever breathed. He would have
answered for it at the end of a quarter of an hour that some of the glass cases
contained swords and epaulettes of ancient colonels and generals; medals and
orders once pinned over hearts that had long since ceased to beat; snuff-boxes
bestowed on ministers and envoys; copies of works presented, with inscriptions,
by authors now classic. At bottom of it all for him was the sense of her rare
unlikeness to the women he had known. This sense had grown, since the day
before, the more he recalled her, and had been above all singularly fed by his
talk with Chad in the morning. Everything in fine made her immeasurably new,
and nothing so new as the old house and the old objects. There were books, two
or three, on a small table near his chair, but they hadn’t the
lemon-coloured covers with which his eye had begun to dally from the hour of
his arrival and to the opportunity of a further acquaintance with which he had
for a fortnight now altogether succumbed. On another table, across the room, he
made out the great ; but even that familiar face, conspicuous in
Mrs. Newsome’s parlours, scarce counted here as a modern note. He was
sure on the spot—and he afterwards knew he was right—that this was
a touch of Chad’s own hand. What would Mrs. Newsome say to the
circumstance that Chad’s interested “influence” kept her
paper-knife in the ? The interested influence at any rate had, as
we say, gone straight to the point—had in fact soon left it quite behind.

She was seated, near the fire, on a small stuffed and fringed chair one of the
few modern articles in the room, and she leaned back in it with her hands
clasped in her lap and no movement, in all her person, but the fine prompt play
of her deep young face. The fire, under the low white marble, undraped and
academic, had burnt down to the silver ashes of light wood, one of the windows,
at a distance, stood open to the mildness and stillness, out of which, in the
short pauses, came the faint sound, pleasant and homely, almost rustic, of a
plash and a clatter of from some coach-house on the other side of
the court. Madame de Vionnet, while Strether sat there, wasn’t to shift
her posture by an inch. “I don’t think you seriously believe in
what you’re doing,” she said; “but all the same, you know,
I’m going to treat you quite as if I did.”

“By which you mean,” Strether directly replied, “quite as if
you didn’t! I assure you it won’t make the least difference with me
how you treat me.”

“Well,” she said, taking that menace bravely and philosophically
enough, “the only thing that really matters is that you shall get on with
me.”

“Ah but I don’t!” he immediately returned.

It gave her another pause; which, however, she happily enough shook off.
“Will you consent to go on with me a little—provisionally—as
if you did?”

Then it was that he saw how she had decidedly come all the way; and there
accompanied it an extraordinary sense of her raising from somewhere below him
her beautiful suppliant eyes. He might have been perched at his door-step or at
his window and she standing in the road. For a moment he let her stand and
couldn’t moreover have spoken. It had been sad, of a sudden, with a
sadness that was like a cold breath in his face. “What can I do,”
he finally asked, “but listen to you as I promised Chadwick?”

“Ah but what I’m asking you,” she quickly said,
“isn’t what Mr. Newsome had in mind.” She spoke at present,
he saw, as if to take courageously her risk. “This is my own
idea and a different thing.”

It gave poor Strether in truth—uneasy as it made him too—something
of the thrill of a bold perception justified. “Well,” he answered
kindly enough, “I was sure a moment since that some idea of your own had
come to you.”

She seemed still to look up at him, but now more serenely. “I made out
you were sure—and that helped it to come. So you see,” she
continued, “we do get on.”

“Oh but it appears to me I don’t at all meet your request. How can
I when I don’t understand it?”

“It isn’t at all necessary you should understand; it will do quite
well enough if you simply remember it. Only feel I trust you—and for
nothing so tremendous after all. Just,” she said with a wonderful smile,
“for common civility.”

Strether had a long pause while they sat again face to face, as they had sat,
scarce less conscious, before the poor lady had crossed the stream. She was the
poor lady for Strether now because clearly she had some trouble, and her appeal
to him could only mean that her trouble was deep. He couldn’t help it; it
wasn’t his fault; he had done nothing; but by a turn of the hand she had
somehow made their encounter a relation. And the relation profited by a mass of
things that were not strictly in it or of it; by the very air in which they
sat, by the high cold delicate room, by the world outside and the little plash
in the court, by the First Empire and the relics in the stiff cabinets, by
matters as far off as those and by others as near as the unbroken clasp of her
hands in her lap and the look her expression had of being most natural when her
eyes were most fixed. “You count upon me of course for something really
much greater than it sounds.”

“Oh it sounds great enough too!” she laughed at this.

He found himself in time on the point of telling her that she was, as Miss
Barrace called it, wonderful; but, catching himself up, he said something else
instead. “What was it Chad’s idea then that you should say to
me?”

“Ah his idea was simply what a man’s idea always is—to put
every effort off on the woman.”

“The ‘woman’—?” Strether slowly echoed.

“The woman he likes—and just in proportion as he likes her. In
proportion too—for shifting the trouble—as she likes
.”

Strether followed it; then with an abruptness of his own: “How much do
you like Chad?”

“Just as much as —to take all, with you, on
myself.” But she got at once again away from this. “I’ve been
trembling as if we were to stand or fall by what you may think of me; and
I’m even now,” she went on wonderfully, “drawing a long
breath—and, yes, truly taking a great courage—from the hope that I
don’t in fact strike you as impossible.”

“That’s at all events, clearly,” he observed after an
instant, “the way I don’t strike .”

“Well,” she so far assented, “as you haven’t yet said
you have the little patience with me I ask for—”

“You draw splendid conclusions? Perfectly. But I don’t understand
them,” Strether pursued. “You seem to me to ask for much more than
you need. What, at the worst for you, what at the best for myself, can I after
all do? I can use no pressure that I haven’t used. You come really late
with your request. I’ve already done all that for myself the case admits
of. I’ve said my say, and here I am.”

“Yes, here you are, fortunately!” Madame de Vionnet laughed.
“Mrs. Newsome,” she added in another tone, “didn’t
think you can do so little.”

He had an hesitation, but he brought the words out. “Well, she thinks so
now.”

“Do you mean by that—?” But she also hung fire.

“Do I mean what?”

She still rather faltered. “Pardon me if I touch on it, but if I’m
saying extraordinary things, why, perhaps, mayn’t I? Besides,
doesn’t it properly concern us to know?”

“To know what?” he insisted as after thus beating about the bush
she had again dropped.

She made the effort. “Has she given you up?”

He was amazed afterwards to think how simply and quietly he had met it.
“Not yet.” It was almost as if he were a trifle
disappointed—had expected still more of her freedom. But he went straight
on. “Is that what Chad has told you will happen to me?”

She was evidently charmed with the way he took it. “If you mean if
we’ve talked of it—most certainly. And the question’s not
what has had least to do with my wishing to see you.”

“To judge if I’m the sort of man a woman —?”

“Precisely,” she exclaimed—“you wonderful gentleman! I
do judge—I judged. A woman can’t. You’re
safe—with every right to be. You’d be much happier if you’d
only believe it.”

Strether was silent a little; then he found himself speaking with a cynicism of
confidence of which even at the moment the sources were strange to him.
“I try to believe it. But it’s a marvel,” he exclaimed,
“how already get at it!”

Oh she was able to say. “Remember how much I was on the way to it through
Mr. Newsome—before I saw you. He thinks everything of your
strength.”

“Well, I can bear almost anything!” our friend briskly interrupted.
Deep and beautiful on this her smile came back, and with the effect of making
him hear what he had said just as she had heard it. He easily enough felt that
it gave him away, but what in truth had everything done but that? It had been
all very well to think at moments that he was holding her nose down and that he
had coerced her: what had he by this time done but let her practically see that
he accepted their relation? What was their relation moreover—though light
and brief enough in form as yet—but whatever she might choose to make it?
Nothing could prevent her—certainly he couldn’t—from making
it pleasant. At the back of his head, behind everything, was the sense that she
was—there, before him, close to him, in vivid imperative form—one
of the rare women he had so often heard of, read of, thought of, but never met,
whose very presence, look, voice, the mere contemporaneous of whom,
from the moment it was at all presented, made a relation of mere recognition.
That was not the kind of woman he had ever found Mrs. Newsome, a
contemporaneous fact who had been distinctly slow to establish herself; and at
present, confronted with Madame de Vionnet, he felt the simplicity of his
original impression of Miss Gostrey. She certainly had been a fact of rapid
growth; but the world was wide, each day was more and more a new lesson. There
were at any rate even among the stranger ones relations and relations.
“Of course I suit Chad’s grand way,” he quickly added.
“He hasn’t had much difficulty in working me in.”

She seemed to deny a little, on the young man’s behalf, by the rise of
her eyebrows, an intention of any process at all inconsiderate. “You must
know how grieved he’d be if you were to lose anything. He believes you
can keep his mother patient.”

Strether wondered with his eyes on her. “I see. then
what you really want of me. And how am I to do it? Perhaps you’ll tell me
that.”

“Simply tell her the truth.”

“And what do you call the truth?”

“Well, truth—about us all—that you see yourself. I
leave it to you.”

“Thank you very much. I like,” Strether laughed with a slight
harshness, “the way you leave things!”

But she insisted kindly, gently, as if it wasn’t so bad. “Be
perfectly honest. Tell her all.”

“All?” he oddly echoed.

“Tell her the simple truth,” Madame de Vionnet again pleaded.

“But what the simple truth? The simple truth is exactly what
I’m trying to discover.”

She looked about a while, but presently she came back to him. “Tell her,
fully and clearly, about .”

Strether meanwhile had been staring. “You and your daughter?”

“Yes—little Jeanne and me. Tell her,” she just slightly
quavered, “you like us.”

“And what good will that do me? Or rather”—he caught himself
up—“what good will it do ”

She looked graver. “None, you believe, really?”

Strether debated. “She didn’t send me out to ‘like’
you.”

“Oh,” she charmingly contended, “she sent you out to face the
facts.”

He admitted after an instant that there was something in that. “But how
can I face them till I know what they are? Do you want him,” he then
braced himself to ask, “to marry your daughter?”

She gave a headshake as noble as it was prompt. “No—not
that.”

“And he really doesn’t want to himself?”

She repeated the movement, but now with a strange light in her face. “He
likes her too much.”

Strether wondered. “To be willing to consider, you mean, the question of
taking her to America?”

“To be willing to do anything with her but be immensely kind and
nice—really tender of her. We watch over her, and you must help us. You
must see her again.”

Strether felt awkward. “Ah with pleasure—she’s so remarkably
attractive.”

The mother’s eagerness with which Madame de Vionnet jumped at this was to
come back to him later as beautiful in its grace. “The dear thing
please you?” Then as he met it with the largest
“Oh!” of enthusiasm: “She’s perfect. She’s my
joy.”

“Well, I’m sure that—if one were near her and saw more of
her—she’d be mine.”

“Then,” said Madame de Vionnet, “tell Mrs. Newsome
that!”

He wondered the more. “What good will that do you?” As she appeared
unable at once to say, however, he brought out something else. “Is your
daughter in love with our friend?”

“Ah,” she rather startlingly answered, “I wish you’d
find out!”

He showed his surprise. “I? A stranger?”

“Oh you won’t be a stranger—presently. You shall see her
quite, I assure you, as if you weren’t.”

It remained for him none the less an extraordinary notion. “It seems to
me surely that if her mother can’t—”

“Ah little girls and their mothers to-day!” she rather
inconsequently broke in. But she checked herself with something she seemed to
give out as after all more to the point. “Tell her I’ve been good
for him. Don’t you think I have?”

It had its effect on him—more than at the moment he quite measured. Yet
he was consciously enough touched. “Oh if it’s all
—!”

“Well, it may not be ‘all,’” she interrupted,
“but it’s to a great extent. Really and truly,” she added in
a tone that was to take its place with him among things remembered.

“Then it’s very wonderful.” He smiled at her from a face that
he felt as strained, and her own face for a moment kept him so. At last she
also got up. “Well, don’t you think that for that—”

“I ought to save you?” So it was that the way to meet her—and
the way, as well, in a manner, to get off—came over him. He heard himself
use the exorbitant word, the very sound of which helped to determine his
flight. “I’ll save you if I can.”

II

In Chad’s lovely home, however, one evening ten days later, he felt
himself present at the collapse of the question of Jeanne de Vionnet’s
shy secret. He had been dining there in the company of that young lady and her
mother, as well as of other persons, and he had gone into the , at Chad’s request, on purpose to talk with her. The young man
had put this to him as a favour—“I should like so awfully to know
what you think of her. It will really be a chance for you,” he had said,
“to see the —I mean the type—as she
actually is, and I don’t think that, as an observer of manners,
it’s a thing you ought to miss. It will be an impression
that—whatever else you take—you can carry home with you, where
you’ll find again so much to compare it with.”

Strether knew well enough with what Chad wished him to compare it, and though
he entirely assented he hadn’t yet somehow been so deeply reminded that
he was being, as he constantly though mutely expressed it, used. He was as far
as ever from making out exactly to what end; but he was none the less
constantly accompanied by a sense of the service he rendered. He conceived only
that this service was highly agreeable to those who profited by it; and he was
indeed still waiting for the moment at which he should catch it in the act of
proving disagreeable, proving in some degree intolerable, to himself. He failed
quite to see how his situation could clear up at all logically except by some
turn of events that would give him the pretext of disgust. He was building from
day to day on the possibility of disgust, but each day brought forth meanwhile
a new and more engaging bend of the road. That possibility was now ever so much
further from sight than on the eve of his arrival, and he perfectly felt that,
should it come at all, it would have to be at best inconsequent and violent. He
struck himself as a little nearer to it only when he asked himself what
service, in such a life of utility, he was after all rendering Mrs. Newsome.
When he wished to help himself to believe that he was still all right he
reflected—and in fact with wonder—on the unimpaired frequency of
their correspondence; in relation to which what was after all more natural than
that it should become more frequent just in proportion as their problem became
more complicated?

Certain it is at any rate that he now often brought himself balm by the
question, with the rich consciousness of yesterday’s letter, “Well,
what can I do more than that—what can I do more than tell her
everything?” To persuade himself that he did tell her, had told her,
everything, he used to try to think of particular things he hadn’t told
her. When at rare moments and in the watches of the night he pounced on one it
generally showed itself to be—to a deeper scrutiny—not quite truly
of the essence. When anything new struck him as coming up, or anything already
noted as reappearing, he always immediately wrote, as if for fear that if he
didn’t he would miss something; and also that he might be able to say to
himself from time to time “She knows it —even while I
worry.” It was a great comfort to him in general not to have left past
things to be dragged to light and explained; not to have to produce at so late
a stage anything not produced, or anything even veiled and attenuated, at the
moment. She knew it now: that was what he said to himself to-night in relation
to the fresh fact of Chad’s acquaintance with the two ladies—not to
speak of the fresher one of his own. Mrs. Newsome knew in other words that very
night at Woollett that he himself knew Madame de Vionnet and that he had
conscientiously been to see her; also that he had found her remarkably
attractive and that there would probably be a good deal more to tell. But she
further knew, or would know very soon, that, again conscientiously, he
hadn’t repeated his visit; and that when Chad had asked him on the
Countess’s behalf—Strether made her out vividly, with a thought at
the back of his head, a Countess—if he wouldn’t name a day for
dining with her, he had replied lucidly: “Thank you very
much—impossible.” He had begged the young man would present his
excuses and had trusted him to understand that it couldn’t really strike
one as quite the straight thing. He hadn’t reported to Mrs. Newsome that
he had promised to “save” Madame de Vionnet; but, so far as he was
concerned with that reminiscence, he hadn’t at any rate promised to haunt
her house. What Chad had understood could only, in truth, be inferred from
Chad’s behaviour, which had been in this connexion as easy as in every
other. He was easy, always, when he understood; he was easier still, if
possible, when he didn’t; he had replied that he would make it all right;
and he had proceeded to do this by substituting the present occasion—as
he was ready to substitute others—for any, for every occasion as to which
his old friend should have a funny scruple.

“Oh but I’m not a little foreign girl; I’m just as English as
I can be,” Jeanne de Vionnet had said to him as soon as, in the , he sank, shyly enough on his own side, into the place near her
vacated by Madame Gloriani at his approach. Madame Gloriani, who was in black
velvet, with white lace and powdered hair, and whose somewhat massive majesty
melted, at any contact, into the graciousness of some incomprehensible tongue,
moved away to make room for the vague gentleman, after benevolent greetings to
him which embodied, as he believed, in baffling accents, some recognition of
his face from a couple of Sundays before. Then he had remarked—making the
most of the advantage of his years—that it frightened him quite enough to
find himself dedicated to the entertainment of a little foreign girl. There
were girls he wasn’t afraid of—he was quite bold with little
Americans. Thus it was that she had defended herself to the end—“Oh
but I’m almost American too. That’s what mamma has wanted me to
be—I mean that; for she has wanted me to have lots of
freedom. She has known such good results from it.”

She was fairly beautiful to him—a faint pastel in an oval frame: he
thought of her already as of some lurking image in a long gallery, the portrait
of a small old-time princess of whom nothing was known but that she had died
young. Little Jeanne wasn’t, doubtless, to die young, but one
couldn’t, all the same, bear on her lightly enough. It was bearing hard,
it was bearing as , in any case, wouldn’t bear, to concern
himself, in relation to her, with the question of a young man. Odious really
the question of a young man; one didn’t treat such a person as a
maid-servant suspected of a “follower.” And then young men, young
men—well, the thing was their business simply, or was at all events hers.
She was fluttered, fairly fevered—to the point of a little glitter that
came and went in her eyes and a pair of pink spots that stayed in her
cheeks—with the great adventure of dining out and with the greater one
still, possibly, of finding a gentleman whom she must think of as very, very
old, a gentleman with eye-glasses, wrinkles, a long grizzled moustache. She
spoke the prettiest English, our friend thought, that he had ever heard spoken,
just as he had believed her a few minutes before to be speaking the prettiest
French. He wondered almost wistfully if such a sweep of the lyre didn’t
react on the spirit itself; and his fancy had in fact, before he knew it, begun
so to stray and embroider that he finally found himself, absent and
extravagant, sitting with the child in a friendly silence. Only by this time he
felt her flutter to have fortunately dropped and that she was more at her ease.
She trusted him, liked him, and it was to come back to him afterwards that she
had told him things. She had dipped into the waiting medium at last and found
neither surge nor chill—nothing but the small splash she could herself
make in the pleasant warmth, nothing but the safety of dipping and dipping
again. At the end of the ten minutes he was to spend with her his
impression—with all it had thrown off and all it had taken in—was
complete. She had been free, as she knew freedom, partly to show him that,
unlike other little persons she knew, she had imbibed that ideal. She was
delightfully quaint about herself, but the vision of what she had imbibed was
what most held him. It really consisted, he was soon enough to feel, in just
one great little matter, the fact that, whatever her nature, she was
thoroughly—he had to cast about for the word, but it came—bred. He
couldn’t of course on so short an acquaintance speak for her nature, but
the idea of breeding was what she had meanwhile dropped into his mind. He had
never yet known it so sharply presented. Her mother gave it, no doubt; but her
mother, to make that less sensible, gave so much else besides, and on neither
of the two previous occasions, extraordinary woman, Strether felt, anything
like what she was giving tonight. Little Jeanne was a case, an exquisite case
of education; whereas the Countess, whom it so amused him to think of by that
denomination, was a case, also exquisite, of—well, he didn’t know
what.

“He has wonderful taste, ”: this was what
Gloriani said to him on turning away from the inspection of a small picture
suspended near the door of the room. The high celebrity in question had just
come in, apparently in search of Mademoiselle de Vionnet, but while Strether
had got up from beside her their fellow guest, with his eye sharply caught, had
paused for a long look. The thing was a landscape, of no size, but of the
French school, as our friend was glad to feel he knew, and also of a
quality—which he liked to think he should also have guessed; its frame
was large out of proportion to the canvas, and he had never seen a person look
at anything, he thought, just as Gloriani, with his nose very near and quick
movements of the head from side to side and bottom to top, examined this
feature of Chad’s collection. The artist used that word the next moment
smiling courteously, wiping his nippers and looking round him
further—paying the place in short by the very manner of his presence and
by something Strether fancied he could make out in this particular glance, such
a tribute as, to the latter’s sense, settled many things once for all.
Strether was conscious at this instant, for that matter, as he hadn’t yet
been, of how, round about him, quite without him, they consistently
settled. Gloriani’s smile, deeply Italian, he considered, and finely
inscrutable, had had for him, during dinner, at which they were not neighbours,
an indefinite greeting; but the quality in it was gone that had appeared on the
other occasion to turn him inside out; it was as if even the momentary link
supplied by the doubt between them had snapped. He was conscious now of the
final reality, which was that there wasn’t so much a doubt as a
difference altogether; all the more that over the difference the famous
sculptor seemed to signal almost condolingly, yet oh how vacantly! as across
some great flat sheet of water. He threw out the bridge of a charming hollow
civility on which Strether wouldn’t have trusted his own full weight a
moment. That idea, even though but transient and perhaps belated, had performed
the office of putting Strether more at his ease, and the blurred picture had
already dropped—dropped with the sound of something else said and with
his becoming aware, by another quick turn, that Gloriani was now on the sofa
talking with Jeanne, while he himself had in his ears again the familiar
friendliness and the elusive meaning of the “Oh, oh, oh!” that had
made him, a fortnight before, challenge Miss Barrace in vain. She had always
the air, this picturesque and original lady, who struck him, so oddly, as both
antique and modern—she had always the air of taking up some joke that one
had already had out with her. The point itself, no doubt, was what was antique,
and the use she made of it what was modern. He felt just now that her
good-natured irony did bear on something, and it troubled him a little that she
wouldn’t be more explicit only assuring him, with the pleasure of
observation so visible in her, that she wouldn’t tell him more for the
world. He could take refuge but in asking her what she had done with Waymarsh,
though it must be added that he felt himself a little on the way to a clue
after she had answered that this personage was, in the other room, engaged in
conversation with Madame de Vionnet. He stared a moment at the image of such a
conjunction; then, for Miss Barrace’s benefit, he wondered. “Is she
too then under the charm—?”

“No, not a bit”—Miss Barrace was prompt. “She makes
nothing of him. She’s bored. She won’t help you with him.”

“Oh,” Strether laughed, “she can’t do everything.

“Of course not—wonderful as she is. Besides, he makes nothing of
. She won’t take him from me—though she wouldn’t,
no doubt, having other affairs in hand, even if she could. I’ve
never,” said Miss Barrace, “seen her fail with any one before. And
to-night, when she’s so magnificent, it would seem to her
strange—if she minded. So at any rate I have him all. ”

Strether understood, so far as that went; but he was feeling for his clue.
“She strikes you to-night as particularly magnificent?”

“Surely. Almost as I’ve never seen her. Doesn’t she you? Why
it’s you.”

He persisted in his candour. “‘For’ me—?”

“Oh, oh, oh!” cried Miss Barrace, who persisted in the opposite of
that quality.

“Well,” he acutely admitted, “she different.
She’s gay.”

“She’s gay!” Miss Barrace laughed. “And she has
beautiful shoulders—though there’s nothing different in
that.”

“No,” said Strether, “one was sure of her shoulders. It
isn’t her shoulders.”

His companion, with renewed mirth and the finest sense, between the puffs of
her cigarette, of the drollery of things, appeared to find their conversation
highly delightful. “Yes, it isn’t her shoulders.”

“What then is it?” Strether earnestly enquired.

“Why, it’s —simply. It’s her mood. It’s
her charm.”

“Of course it’s her charm, but we’re speaking of the
difference.” “Well,” Miss Barrace explained,
“she’s just brilliant, as we used to say. That’s all.
She’s various. She’s fifty women.”

“Ah but only one”—Strether kept it clear—“at a
time.”

“Perhaps. But in fifty times—!”

“Oh we shan’t come to that,” our friend declared; and the
next moment he had moved in another direction. “Will you answer me a
plain question? Will she ever divorce?”

Miss Barrace looked at him through all her tortoise-shell. “Why should
she?”

It wasn’t what he had asked for, he signified; but he met it well enough.
“To marry Chad.”

“Why should she marry Chad?”

“Because I’m convinced she’s very fond of him. She has done
wonders for him.”

“Well then, how could she do more? Marrying a man, or woman
either,” Miss Barrace sagely went on, “is never the wonder for any
Jack and Jill can bring off. The wonder is their doing such things
without marrying.”

Strether considered a moment this proposition. “You mean it’s so
beautiful for our friends simply to go on so?”

But whatever he said made her laugh. “Beautiful.”

He nevertheless insisted. “And because it’s
disinterested?”

She was now, however, suddenly tired of the question. “Yes
then—call it that. Besides, she’ll never divorce. Don’t,
moreover,” she added, “believe everything you hear about her
husband.”

“He’s not then,” Strether asked, “a wretch?”

“Oh yes. But charming.”

“Do you know him?”

“I’ve met him. He’s .”

“To every one but his wife?”

“Oh for all I know, to her too—to any, to every woman. I hope you
at any rate,” she pursued with a quick change, “appreciate the care
I take of Mr. Waymarsh.”

“Oh immensely.” But Strether was not yet in line. “At all
events,” he roundly brought out, “the attachment’s an
innocent one.”

“Mine and his? Ah,” she laughed, “don’t rob it of
interest!”

“I mean our friend’s here—to the lady we’ve been
speaking of.” That was what he had settled to as an indirect but none the
less closely involved consequence of his impression of Jeanne. That was where
he meant to stay. “It’s innocent,” he repeated—“I
see the whole thing.”

Mystified by his abrupt declaration, she had glanced over at Gloriani as at the
unnamed subject of his allusion, but the next moment she had understood; though
indeed not before Strether had noticed her momentary mistake and wondered what
might possibly be behind that too. He already knew that the sculptor admired
Madame de Vionnet; but did this admiration also represent an attachment of
which the innocence was discussable? He was moving verily in a strange air and
on ground not of the firmest. He looked hard for an instant at Miss Barrace,
but she had already gone on. “All right with Mr. Newsome? Why of course
she is!”—and she got gaily back to the question of her own good
friend. “I dare say you’re surprised that I’m not worn out
with all I see—it being so much!—of Sitting Bull. But I’m
not, you know—I don’t mind him; I bear up, and we get on
beautifully. I’m very strange; I’m like that; and often I
can’t explain. There are people who are supposed interesting or
remarkable or whatever, and who bore me to death; and then there are others as
to whom nobody can understand what anybody sees in them—in whom I see no
end of things.” Then after she had smoked a moment, “He’s
touching, you know,” she said.

“‘Know’?” Strether echoed—“don’t I,
indeed? We must move you almost to tears.”

“Oh but I don’t mean ” she laughed.

“You ought to then, for the worst sign of all—as I must have it for
you—is that you can’t help me. That’s when a woman
pities.”

“Ah but I do help you!” she cheerfully insisted.

Again he looked at her hard, and then after a pause: “No you
don’t!”

Her tortoise-shell, on its long chain, rattled down. “I help you with
Sitting Bull. That’s a good deal.”

“Oh that, yes.” But Strether hesitated. “Do you mean he talks
of me?”

“So that I have to defend you? No, never.’

“I see,” Strether mused. “It’s too deep.”

“That’s his only fault,” she returned—“that
everything, with him, is too deep. He has depths of silence—which he
breaks only at the longest intervals by a remark. And when the remark comes
it’s always something he has seen or felt for himself—never a bit
banal. would be what one might have feared and what would kill me.
But never.” She smoked again as she thus, with amused complacency,
appreciated her acquisition. “And never about you. We keep clear of you.
We’re wonderful. But I’ll tell you what he does do,” she
continued: “he tries to make me presents.”

“Presents?” poor Strether echoed, conscious with a pang that
hadn’t yet tried that in any quarter.

“Why you see,” she explained, “he’s as fine as ever in
the victoria; so that when I leave him, as I often do almost for hours—he
likes it so—at the doors of shops, the sight of him there helps me, when
I come out, to know my carriage away off in the rank. But sometimes, for a
change, he goes with me into the shops, and then I’ve all I can do to
prevent his buying me things.”

“He wants to ‘treat’ you?” Strether almost gasped at
all he himself hadn’t thought of. He had a sense of admiration. “Oh
he’s much more in the real tradition than I. Yes,” he mused,
“it’s the sacred rage.”

“The sacred rage, exactly!”—and Miss Barrace, who
hadn’t before heard this term applied, recognised its bearing with a clap
of her gemmed hands. “Now I do know why he’s not banal. But I do
prevent him all the same—and if you saw what he sometimes
selects—from buying. I save him hundreds and hundreds. I only take
flowers.”

“Flowers?” Strether echoed again with a rueful reflexion. How many
nosegays had her present converser sent?

“Innocent flowers,” she pursued, “as much as he likes. And he
sends me splendours; he knows all the best places—he has found them for
himself; he’s wonderful.”

“He hasn’t told them to ,” her friend smiled,
“he has a life of his own.” But Strether had swung back to the
consciousness that for himself after all it never would have done. Waymarsh
hadn’t Mrs. Waymarsh in the least to consider, whereas Lambert Strether
had constantly, in the inmost honour of his thoughts, to consider Mrs. Newsome.
He liked moreover to feel how much his friend was in the real tradition. Yet he
had his conclusion. “ a rage it is!” He had worked it
out. “It’s an opposition.”

She followed, but at a distance. “That’s what I feel. Yet to
what?”

“Well, he thinks, you know, that a life of my own. And
I haven’t!”

“You haven’t?” She showed doubt, and her laugh confirmed it.
“Oh, oh, oh!”

“No—not for myself. I seem to have a life only for other
people.”

“Ah for them and them! Just now for instance
with—”

“Well, with whom?” he asked before she had had time to say.

His tone had the effect of making her hesitate and even, as he guessed, speak
with a difference. “Say with Miss Gostrey. What do you do for
” It really made him wonder. “Nothing at all!”

III

Madame de Vionnet, having meanwhile come in, was at present close to them, and
Miss Barrace hereupon, instead of risking a rejoinder, became again with a look
that measured her from top to toe all mere long-handled appreciative
tortoise-shell. She had struck our friend, from the first of her appearing, as
dressed for a great occasion, and she met still more than on either of the
others the conception reawakened in him at their garden-party, the idea of the
in her habit as she lived. Her bare shoulders and arms
were white and beautiful; the materials of her dress, a mixture, as he
supposed, of silk and crape, were of a silvery grey so artfully composed as to
give an impression of warm splendour; and round her neck she wore a collar of
large old emeralds, the green note of which was more dimly repeated, at other
points of her apparel, in embroidery, in enamel, in satin, in substances and
textures vaguely rich. Her head, extremely fair and exquisitely festal, was
like a happy fancy, a notion of the antique, on an old precious medal, some
silver coin of the Renaissance; while her slim lightness and brightness, her
gaiety, her expression, her decision, contributed to an effect that might have
been felt by a poet as half mythological and half conventional. He could have
compared her to a goddess still partly engaged in a morning cloud, or to a
sea-nymph waist-high in the summer surge. Above all she suggested to him the
reflexion that the —in these finest developments of
the type—was, like Cleopatra in the play, indeed various and multifold.
She had aspects, characters, days, nights—or had them at least, showed
them by a mysterious law of her own, when in addition to everything she
happened also to be a woman of genius. She was an obscure person, a muffled
person one day, and a showy person, an uncovered person the next. He thought of
Madame de Vionnet to-night as showy and uncovered, though he felt the formula
rough, because, thanks to one of the short-cuts of genius she had taken all his
categories by surprise. Twice during dinner he had met Chad’s eyes in a
longish look; but these communications had in truth only stirred up again old
ambiguities—so little was it clear from them whether they were an appeal
or an admonition. “You see how I’m fixed,” was what they
appeared to convey; yet how he was fixed was exactly what Strether didn’t
see. However, perhaps he should see now.

“Are you capable of the very great kindness of going to relieve Newsome,
for a few minutes, of the rather crushing responsibility of Madame Gloriani,
while I say a word, if he’ll allow me, to Mr. Strether, of whom
I’ve a question to ask? Our host ought to talk a bit to those other
ladies, and I’ll come back in a minute to your rescue.” She made
this proposal to Miss Barrace as if her consciousness of a special duty had
just flickered-up, but that lady’s recognition of Strether’s little
start at it—as at a betrayal on the speaker’s part of a
domesticated state—was as mute as his own comment; and after an instant,
when their fellow guest had good-naturedly left them, he had been given
something else to think of. “Why has Maria so suddenly gone? Do you
know?” That was the question Madame de Vionnet had brought with her.

“I’m afraid I’ve no reason to give you but the simple reason
I’ve had from her in a note—the sudden obligation to join in the
south a sick friend who has got worse.”

“Ah then she has been writing you?”

“Not since she went—I had only a brief explanatory word before she
started. I went to see her,” Strether explained—“it was the
day after I called on you—but she was already on her way, and her
concierge told me that in case of my coming I was to be informed she had
written to me. I found her note when I got home.”

Madame de Vionnet listened with interest and with her eyes on Strether’s
face; then her delicately decorated head had a small melancholy motion.
“She didn’t write to . I went to see her,” she
added, “almost immediately after I had seen you, and as I assured her I
would do when I met her at Gloriani’s. She hadn’t then told me she
was to be absent, and I felt at her door as if I understood. She’s
absent—with all respect to her sick friend, though I know indeed she has
plenty—so that I may not see her. She doesn’t want to meet me
again. Well,” she continued with a beautiful conscious mildness, “I
liked and admired her beyond every one in the old time, and she knew
it—perhaps that’s precisely what has made her go—and I dare
say I haven’t lost her for ever.” Strether still said nothing; he
had a horror, as he now thought of himself, of being in question between
women—was in fact already quite enough on his way to that, and there was
moreover, as it came to him, perceptibly, something behind these allusions and
professions that, should he take it in, would square but ill with his present
resolve to simplify. It was as if, for him, all the same, her softness and
sadness were sincere. He felt that not less when she soon went on:
“I’m extremely glad of her happiness.” But it also left him
mute—sharp and fine though the imputation it conveyed. What it conveyed
was that was Maria Gostrey’s happiness, and for the least
little instant he had the impulse to challenge the thought. He could have done
so however only by saying “What then do you suppose to be between
us?” and he was wonderfully glad a moment later not to have spoken. He
would rather seem stupid any day than fatuous, and he drew back as well, with a
smothered inward shudder, from the consideration of what women—of
highly-developed type in particular—might think of each other. Whatever
he had come out for he hadn’t come to go into that; so that he absolutely
took up nothing his interlocutress had now let drop. Yet, though he had kept
away from her for days, had laid wholly on herself the burden of their meeting
again, she hadn’t a gleam of irritation to show him. “Well, about
Jeanne now?” she smiled—it had the gaiety with which she had
originally come in. He felt it on the instant to represent her motive and real
errand. But he had been schooling her of a truth to say much in proportion to
his little. “ you make out that she has a sentiment? I mean for
Mr. Newsome.”

Almost resentful, Strether could at last be prompt. “How can I make out
such things?”

She remained perfectly good-natured. “Ah but they’re beautiful
little things, and you make out—don’t pretend—everything in
the world. Haven’t you,” she asked, “been talking with
her?”

“Yes, but not about Chad. At least not much.”

“Oh you don’t require ‘much’!” she reassuringly
declared. But she immediately changed her ground. “I hope you remember
your promise of the other day.”

“To ‘save’ you, as you called it?”

“I call it so still. You ” she insisted. “You
haven’t repented?”

He wondered. “No—but I’ve been thinking what I meant.”

She kept it up. “And not, a little, what did?”

“No—that’s not necessary. It will be enough if I know what I
meant myself.”

“And don’t you know,” she asked, “by this time?”

Again he had a pause. “I think you ought to leave it to me. But how
long,” he added, “do you give me?”

“It seems to me much more a question of how long you give .
Doesn’t our friend here himself, at any rate,” she went on,
“perpetually make me present to you?”

“Not,” Strether replied, “by ever speaking of you to
me.”

“He never does that?”

“Never.”

She considered, and, if the fact was disconcerting to her, effectually
concealed it. The next minute indeed she had recovered. “No, he
wouldn’t. But do you that?”

Her emphasis was wonderful, and though his eyes had been wandering he looked at
her longer now. “I see what you mean.”

“Of course you see what I mean.”

Her triumph was gentle, and she really had tones to make justice weep.
“I’ve before me what he owes you.”

“Admit then that that’s something,” she said, yet still with
the same discretion in her pride.

He took in this note but went straight on. “You’ve made of him what
I see, but what I don’t see is how in the world you’ve done
it.”

“Ah that’s another question!” she smiled. “The point is
of what use is your declining to know me when to know Mr. Newsome—as you
do me the honour to find him— just to know me.”

“I see,” he mused, still with his eyes on her. “I
shouldn’t have met you to-night.”

She raised and dropped her linked hands. “It doesn’t matter. If I
trust you why can’t you a little trust me too? And why can’t you
also,” she asked in another tone, “trust yourself?” But she
gave him no time to reply. “Oh I shall be so easy for you! And I’m
glad at any rate you’ve seen my child.”

“I’m glad too,” he said; “but she does you no
good.”

“No good?”—Madame de Vionnet had a clear stare. “Why
she’s an angel of light.”

“That’s precisely the reason. Leave her alone. Don’t try to
find out. I mean,” he explained, “about what you spoke to me
of—the way she feels.”

His companion wondered. “Because one really won’t?”

“Well, because I ask you, as a favour to myself, not to. She’s the
most charming creature I’ve ever seen. Therefore don’t touch her.
Don’t know—don’t want to know. And
moreover—yes—you .”

It was an appeal, of a sudden, and she took it in. “As a favour to
you?”

“Well—since you ask me.”

“Anything, everything you ask,” she smiled. “I shan’t
know then—never. Thank you,” she added with peculiar gentleness as
she turned away.

The sound of it lingered with him, making him fairly feel as if he had been
tripped up and had a fall. In the very act of arranging with her for his
independence he had, under pressure from a particular perception,
inconsistently, quite stupidly, committed himself, and, with her subtlety
sensitive on the spot to an advantage, she had driven in by a single word a
little golden nail, the sharp intention of which he signally felt. He
hadn’t detached, he had more closely connected himself, and his eyes, as
he considered with some intensity this circumstance, met another pair which had
just come within their range and which struck him as reflecting his sense of
what he had done. He recognised them at the same moment as those of little
Bilham, who had apparently drawn near on purpose to speak to him, and little
Bilham wasn’t, in the conditions, the person to whom his heart would be
most closed. They were seated together a minute later at the angle of the room
obliquely opposite the corner in which Gloriani was still engaged with Jeanne
de Vionnet, to whom at first and in silence their attention had been
benevolently given. “I can’t see for my life,” Strether had
then observed, “how a young fellow of any spirit—such a one as you
for instance—can be admitted to the sight of that young lady without
being hard hit. Why don’t you go in, little Bilham?” He remembered
the tone into which he had been betrayed on the garden-bench at the
sculptor’s reception, and this might make up for that by being much more
the right sort of thing to say to a young man worthy of any advice at all.
“There be some reason.”

“Some reason for what?”

“Why for hanging on here.”

“To offer my hand and fortune to Mademoiselle de Vionnet?”

“Well,” Strether asked, “to what lovelier apparition
you offer them? She’s the sweetest little thing I’ve
ever seen.”

“She’s certainly immense. I mean she’s the real thing. I
believe the pale pink petals are folded up there for some wondrous
efflorescence in time; to open, that is, to some great golden sun.
unfortunately but a small farthing candle. What chance in such
a field for a poor little painter-man?”

“Oh you’re good enough,” Strether threw out.

“Certainly I’m good enough. We’re good enough, I consider,
, for anything. But she’s good.
There’s the difference. They wouldn’t look at me.”

Strether, lounging on his divan and still charmed by the young girl, whose eyes
had consciously strayed to him, he fancied, with a vague smile—Strether,
enjoying the whole occasion as with dormant pulses at last awake and in spite
of new material thrust upon him, thought over his companion’s words.
“Whom do you mean by ‘they’? She and her mother?”

“She and her mother. And she has a father too, who, whatever else he may
be, certainly can’t be indifferent to the possibilities she represents.
Besides, there’s Chad.”

Strether was silent a little. “Ah but he doesn’t care for
her—not, I mean, it appears, after all, in the sense I’m speaking
of. He’s in love with her.”

“No—but he’s her best friend; after her mother. He’s
very fond of her. He has his ideas about what can be done for her.”

“Well, it’s very strange!” Strether presently remarked with a
sighing sense of fulness.

“Very strange indeed. That’s just the beauty of it. Isn’t it
very much the kind of beauty you had in mind,” little Bilham went on,
“when you were so wonderful and so inspiring to me the other day?
Didn’t you adjure me, in accents I shall never forget, to see, while
I’ve a chance, everything I can?—and to see, for it
must have been that only you meant. Well, you did me no end of good, and
I’m doing my best. I make it out a situation.”

“So do I!” Strether went on after a moment. But he had the next
minute an inconsequent question. “How comes Chad so mixed up,
anyway?”

“Ah, ah, ah!”—and little Bilham fell back on his cushions.

It reminded our friend of Miss Barrace, and he felt again the brush of his
sense of moving in a maze of mystic closed allusions. Yet he kept hold of his
thread. “Of course I understand really; only the general transformation
makes me occasionally gasp. Chad with such a voice in the settlement of the
future of a little countess—no,” he declared, “it takes more
time! You say moreover,” he resumed, “that we’re inevitably,
people like you and me, out of the running. The curious fact remains that Chad
himself isn’t. The situation doesn’t make for it, but in a
different one he could have her if he would.”

“Yes, but that’s only because he’s rich and because
there’s a possibility of his being richer. They won’t think of
anything but a great name or a great fortune.”

“Well,” said Strether, “he’ll have no great fortune on
lines. He must stir his stumps.”

“Is that,” little Bilham enquired, “what you were saying to
Madame de Vionnet?”

“No—I don’t say much to her. Of course, however,”
Strether continued, “he can make sacrifices if he likes.”

Little Bilham had a pause. “Oh he’s not keen for sacrifices; or
thinks, that is, possibly, that he has made enough.”

“Well, it virtuous,” his companion observed with some
decision.

“That’s exactly,” the young man dropped after a moment,
“what I mean.”

It kept Strether himself silent a little. “I’ve made it out for
myself,” he then went on; “I’ve really, within the last
half-hour, got hold of it. I understand it in short at last; which at
first—when you originally spoke to me—I didn’t. Nor when Chad
originally spoke to me either.”

“Oh,” said little Bilham, “I don’t think that at that
time you believed me.”

“Yes—I did; and I believed Chad too. It would have been odious and
unmannerly—as well as quite perverse—if I hadn’t. What
interest have you in deceiving me?”

The young man cast about. “What interest have I?”

“Yes. Chad have. But you?”

“Ah, ah, ah!” little Bilham exclaimed.

It might, on repetition, as a mystification, have irritated our friend a
little, but he knew, once more, as we have seen, where he was, and his being
proof against everything was only another attestation that he meant to stay
there. “I couldn’t, without my own impression, realise. She’s
a tremendously clever brilliant capable woman, and with an extraordinary charm
on top of it all—the charm we surely all of us this evening know what to
think of. It isn’t every clever brilliant capable woman that has it. In
fact it’s rare with any woman. So there you are,” Strether
proceeded as if not for little Bilham’s benefit alone. “I
understand what a relation with such a woman—what such a high fine
friendship—may be. It can’t be vulgar or coarse, anyway—and
that’s the point.”

“Yes, that’s the point,” said little Bilham. “It
can’t be vulgar or coarse. And, bless us and save us, it
It’s, upon my word, the very finest thing I ever saw
in my life, and the most distinguished.”

Strether, from beside him and leaning back with him as he leaned, dropped on
him a momentary look which filled a short interval and of which he took no
notice. He only gazed before him with intent participation. “Of course
what it has done for him,” Strether at all events presently pursued,
“of course what it has done for him—that is as to it has
so wonderfully worked—isn’t a thing I pretend to understand.
I’ve to take it as I find it. There he is.”

“There he is!” little Bilham echoed. “And it’s really
and truly she. I don’t understand either, even with my longer and closer
opportunity. But I’m like you,” he added; “I can admire and
rejoice even when I’m a little in the dark. You see I’ve watched it
for some three years, and especially for this last. He wasn’t so bad
before it as I seem to have made out that you think—”

“Oh I don’t think anything now!” Strether impatiently broke
in: “that is but what I think! I mean that originally, for her
to have cared for him—”

“There must have been stuff in him? Oh yes, there was stuff indeed, and
much more of it than ever showed, I dare say, at home. Still, you know,”
the young man in all fairness developed, “there was room for her, and
that’s where she came in. She saw her chance and took it. That’s
what strikes me as having been so fine. But of course,” he wound up,
“he liked her first.”

“Naturally,” said Strether.

“I mean that they first met somehow and somewhere—I believe in some
American house—and she, without in the least then intending it, made her
impression. Then with time and opportunity he made his; and after
she was as bad as he.”

Strether vaguely took it up. “As ‘bad’?”

“She began, that is, to care—to care very much. Alone, and in her
horrid position, she found it, when once she had started, an interest. It was,
it is, an interest, and it did—it continues to do—a lot for herself
as well. So she still cares. She cares in fact,” said little Bilham
thoughtfully “more.”

Strether’s theory that it was none of his business was somehow not
damaged by the way he took this. “More, you mean, than he?” On
which his companion looked round at him, and now for an instant their eyes met.
“More than he?” he repeated.

Little Bilham, for as long, hung fire. “Will you never tell any
one?”

Strether thought. “Whom should I tell?”

“Why I supposed you reported regularly—”

“To people at home?”—Strether took him up. “Well, I
won’t tell them this.”

The young man at last looked away. “Then she does now care more than
he.”

“Oh!” Strether oddly exclaimed.

But his companion immediately met it. “Haven’t you after all had
your impression of it? That’s how you’ve got hold of him.”

“Ah but I haven’t got hold of him!”

“Oh I say!” But it was all little Bilham said.

“It’s at any rate none of my business. I mean,” Strether
explained, “nothing else than getting hold of him is.” It appeared,
however, to strike him as his business to add: “The fact remains
nevertheless that she has saved him.”

Little Bilham just waited. “I thought that was what were to
do.”

But Strether had his answer ready. “I’m speaking—in connexion
with her—of his manners and morals, his character and life. I’m
speaking of him as a person to deal with and talk with and live
with—speaking of him as a social animal.”

“And isn’t it as a social animal that you also want him?”

“Certainly; so that it’s as if she had saved him
us.”

“It strikes you accordingly then,” the young man threw out,
“as for you all to save ”

“Oh for us ‘all’—!” Strether could but laugh at
that. It brought him back, however, to the point he had really wished to make.
“They’ve accepted their situation—hard as it is.
They’re not free—at least she’s not; but they take
what’s left to them. It’s a friendship, of a beautiful sort; and
that’s what makes them so strong. They’re straight, they feel; and
they keep each other up. It’s doubtless she, however, who, as you
yourself have hinted, feels it most.”

Little Bilham appeared to wonder what he had hinted. “Feels most that
they’re straight?”

“Well, feels that is, and the strength that comes from it. She
keeps up—she keeps the whole thing up. When people are able to
it’s fine. She’s wonderful, wonderful, as Miss Barrace says; and he
is, in his way, too; however, as a mere man, he may sometimes rebel and not
feel that he finds his account in it. She has simply given him an immense moral
lift, and what that can explain is prodigious. That’s why I speak of it
as a situation. It one, if there ever was.” And Strether, with
his head back and his eyes on the ceiling, seemed to lose himself in the vision
of it.

His companion attended deeply. “You state it much better than I
could.” “Oh you see it doesn’t concern you.”

Little Bilham considered. “I thought you said just now that it
doesn’t concern you either.”

“Well, it doesn’t a bit as Madame de Vionnet’s affair. But as
we were again saying just now, what did I come out for but to save him?”

“Yes—to remove him.”

“To save him removal; to win him over to
thinking it best he shall take up business—thinking he must immediately
do therefore what’s necessary to that end.”

“Well,” said little Bilham after a moment, “you
won him over. He does think it best. He has within a day or two again said to
me as much.”

“And that,” Strether asked, “is why you consider that he
cares less than she?”

“Cares less for her than she for him? Yes, that’s one of the
reasons. But other things too have given me the impression. A man, don’t
you think?” little Bilham presently pursued, “,
in such conditions, care so much as a woman. It takes different conditions to
make him, and then perhaps he cares more. Chad,” he wound up, “has
his possible future before him.”

“Are you speaking of his business future?”

“No—on the contrary; of the other, the future of what you so justly
call their situation. M. de Vionnet may live for ever.”

“So that they can’t marry?”

The young man waited a moment. “Not being able to marry is all
they’ve with any confidence to look forward to. A woman—a
particular woman—may stand that strain. But can a man?” he
propounded.

Strether’s answer was as prompt as if he had already, for himself, worked
it out. “Not without a very high ideal of conduct. But that’s just
what we’re attributing to Chad. And how, for that matter,” he
mused, “does his going to America diminish the particular strain?
Wouldn’t it seem rather to add to it?”

“Out of sight out of mind!” his companion laughed. Then more
bravely: “Wouldn’t distance lessen the torment?” But before
Strether could reply, “The thing is, you see, Chad ought to marry!”
he wound up.

Strether, for a little, appeared to think of it. “If you talk of torments
you don’t diminish mine!” he then broke out. The next moment he was
on his feet with a question. “He ought to marry whom?”

Little Bilham rose more slowly. “Well, some one he —some
thoroughly nice girl.”

Strether’s eyes, as they stood together, turned again to Jeanne.
“Do you mean ”

His friend made a sudden strange face. “After being in love with her
mother? No.”

“But isn’t it exactly your idea that he in love
with her mother?”

His friend once more had a pause. “Well, he isn’t at any rate in
love with Jeanne.”

“I dare say not.”

“How he be with any other woman?”

“Oh that I admit. But being in love isn’t, you know,
here”—little Bilham spoke in friendly reminder—“thought
necessary, in strictness, for marriage.”

“And what torment—to call a torment—can there ever possibly
be with a woman like that?” As if from the interest of his own question
Strether had gone on without hearing. “Is it for her to have turned a man
out so wonderfully, too, only for somebody else?” He appeared to make a
point of this, and little Bilham looked at him now. “When it’s for
each other that people give things up they don’t miss them.” Then
he threw off as with an extravagance of which he was conscious: “Let them
face the future together!”

Little Bilham looked at him indeed. “You mean that after all he
shouldn’t go back?”

“I mean that if he gives her up—!”

“Yes?”

“Well, he ought to be ashamed of himself.” But Strether spoke with
a sound that might have passed for a laugh.

Volume II

Book Seventh

I

It wasn’t the first time Strether had sat alone in the great dim
church—still less was it the first of his giving himself up, so far as
conditions permitted, to its beneficent action on his nerves. He had been to
Notre Dame with Waymarsh, he had been there with Miss Gostrey, he had been
there with Chad Newsome, and had found the place, even in company, such a
refuge from the obsession of his problem that, with renewed pressure from that
source, he had not unnaturally recurred to a remedy meeting the case, for the
moment, so indirectly, no doubt, but so relievingly. He was conscious enough
that it was only for the moment, but good moments—if he could call them
good—still had their value for a man who by this time struck himself as
living almost disgracefully from hand to mouth. Having so well learnt the way,
he had lately made the pilgrimage more than once by himself—had quite
stolen off, taking an unnoticed chance and making no point of speaking of the
adventure when restored to his friends.

His great friend, for that matter, was still absent, as well as remarkably
silent; even at the end of three weeks Miss Gostrey hadn’t come back. She
wrote to him from Mentone, admitting that he must judge her grossly
inconsequent—perhaps in fact for the time odiously faithless; but asking
for patience, for a deferred sentence, throwing herself in short on his
generosity. For her too, she could assure him, life was complicated—more
complicated than he could have guessed; she had moreover made certain of
him—certain of not wholly missing him on her return—before her
disappearance. If furthermore she didn’t burden him with letters it was
frankly because of her sense of the other great commerce he had to carry on. He
himself, at the end of a fortnight, had written twice, to show how his
generosity could be trusted; but he reminded himself in each case of Mrs.
Newsome’s epistolary manner at the times when Mrs. Newsome kept off
delicate ground. He sank his problem, he talked of Waymarsh and Miss Barrace,
of little Bilham and the set over the river, with whom he had again had tea,
and he was easy, for convenience, about Chad and Madame de Vionnet and Jeanne.
He admitted that he continued to see them, he was decidedly so confirmed a
haunter of Chad’s premises and that young man’s practical intimacy
with them was so undeniably great; but he had his reason for not attempting to
render for Miss Gostrey’s benefit the impression of these last days. That
would be to tell her too much about himself—it being at present just from
himself he was trying to escape.

This small struggle sprang not a little, in its way, from the same impulse that
had now carried him across to Notre Dame; the impulse to let things be, to give
them time to justify themselves or at least to pass. He was aware of having no
errand in such a place but the desire not to be, for the hour, in certain other
places; a sense of safety, of simplification, which each time he yielded to it
he amused himself by thinking of as a private concession to cowardice. The
great church had no altar for his worship, no direct voice for his soul; but it
was none the less soothing even to sanctity; for he could feel while there what
he couldn’t elsewhere, that he was a plain tired man taking the holiday
he had earned. He was tired, but he wasn’t plain—that was the pity
and the trouble of it; he was able, however, to drop his problem at the door
very much as if it had been the copper piece that he deposited, on the
threshold, in the receptacle of the inveterate blind beggar. He trod the long
dim nave, sat in the splendid choir, paused before the cluttered chapels of the
east end, and the mighty monument laid upon him its spell. He might have been a
student under the charm of a museum—which was exactly what, in a foreign
town, in the afternoon of life, he would have liked to be free to be. This form
of sacrifice did at any rate for the occasion as well as another; it made him
quite sufficiently understand how, within the precinct, for the real refugee,
the things of the world could fall into abeyance. That was the cowardice,
probably—to dodge them, to beg the question, not to deal with it in the
hard outer light; but his own oblivions were too brief, too vain, to hurt any
one but himself, and he had a vague and fanciful kindness for certain persons
whom he met, figures of mystery and anxiety, and whom, with observation for his
pastime, he ranked as those who were fleeing from justice. Justice was outside,
in the hard light, and injustice too; but one was as absent as the other from
the air of the long aisles and the brightness of the many altars.

Thus it was at all events that, one morning some dozen days after the dinner in
the Boulevard Malesherbes at which Madame de Vionnet had been present with her
daughter, he was called upon to play his part in an encounter that deeply
stirred his imagination. He had the habit, in these contemplations, of watching
a fellow visitant, here and there, from a respectable distance, remarking some
note of behaviour, of penitence, of prostration, of the absolved, relieved
state; this was the manner in which his vague tenderness took its course, the
degree of demonstration to which it naturally had to confine itself. It
hadn’t indeed so felt its responsibility as when on this occasion he
suddenly measured the suggestive effect of a lady whose supreme stillness, in
the shade of one of the chapels, he had two or three times noticed as he made,
and made once more, his slow circuit. She wasn’t prostrate—not in
any degree bowed, but she was strangely fixed, and her prolonged immobility
showed her, while he passed and paused, as wholly given up to the need,
whatever it was, that had brought her there. She only sat and gazed before her,
as he himself often sat; but she had placed herself, as he never did, within
the focus of the shrine, and she had lost herself, he could easily see, as he
would only have liked to do. She was not a wandering alien, keeping back more
than she gave, but one of the familiar, the intimate, the fortunate, for whom
these dealings had a method and a meaning. She reminded our friend—since
it was the way of nine tenths of his current impressions to act as recalls of
things imagined—of some fine firm concentrated heroine of an old story,
something he had heard, read, something that, had he had a hand for drama, he
might himself have written, renewing her courage, renewing her clearness, in
splendidly-protected meditation. Her back, as she sat, was turned to him, but
his impression absolutely required that she should be young and interesting,
and she carried her head moreover, even in the sacred shade, with a discernible
faith in herself, a kind of implied conviction of consistency, security,
impunity. But what had such a woman come for if she hadn’t come to pray?
Strether’s reading of such matters was, it must be owned, confused; but
he wondered if her attitude were some congruous fruit of absolution, of
“indulgence.” He knew but dimly what indulgence, in such a place,
might mean; yet he had, as with a soft sweep, a vision of how it might indeed
add to the zest of active rites. All this was a good deal to have been denoted
by a mere lurking figure who was nothing to him; but, the last thing before
leaving the church, he had the surprise of a still deeper quickening.

He had dropped upon a seat halfway down the nave and, again in the museum mood,
was trying with head thrown back and eyes aloft, to reconstitute a past, to
reduce it in fact to the convenient terms of Victor Hugo, whom, a few days
before, giving the rein for once in a way to the joy of life, he had purchased
in seventy bound volumes, a miracle of cheapness, parted with, he was assured
by the shopman, at the price of the red-and-gold alone. He looked, doubtless,
while he played his eternal nippers over Gothic glooms, sufficiently rapt in
reverence; but what his thought had finally bumped against was the question of
where, among packed accumulations, so multiform a wedge would be able to enter.
Were seventy volumes in red-and-gold to be perhaps what he should most
substantially have to show at Woollett as the fruit of his mission? It was a
possibility that held him a minute—held him till he happened to feel that
some one, unnoticed, had approached him and paused. Turning, he saw that a lady
stood there as for a greeting, and he sprang up as he next took her, securely,
for Madame de Vionnet, who appeared to have recognised him as she passed near
him on her way to the door. She checked, quickly and gaily, a certain confusion
in him, came to meet it, turned it back, by an art of her own; the confusion
having threatened him as he knew her for the person he had lately been
observing. She was the lurking figure of the dim chapel; she had occupied him
more than she guessed; but it came to him in time, luckily, that he
needn’t tell her and that no harm, after all, had been done. She herself,
for that matter, straightway showing she felt their encounter as the happiest
of accidents, had for him a “You come here too?” that despoiled
surprise of every awkwardness.

“I come often,” she said. “I love this place, but I’m
terrible, in general, for churches. The old women who live in them all know me;
in fact I’m already myself one of the old women. It’s like that, at
all events, that I foresee I shall end.” Looking about for a chair, so
that he instantly pulled one nearer, she sat down with him again to the sound
of an “Oh, I like so much your also being fond—!”

He confessed the extent of his feeling, though she left the object vague; and
he was struck with the tact, the taste of her vagueness, which simply took for
granted in him a sense of beautiful things. He was conscious of how much it was
affected, this sense, by something subdued and discreet in the way she had
arranged herself for her special object and her morning walk—he believed
her to have come on foot; the way her slightly thicker veil was drawn—a
mere touch, but everything; the composed gravity of her dress, in which, here
and there, a dull wine-colour seemed to gleam faintly through black; the
charming discretion of her small compact head; the quiet note, as she sat, of
her folded, grey-gloved hands. It was, to Strether’s mind, as if she sat
on her own ground, the light honours of which, at an open gate, she thus easily
did him, while all the vastness and mystery of the domain stretched off behind.
When people were so completely in possession they could be extraordinarily
civil; and our friend had indeed at this hour a kind of revelation of her
heritage. She was romantic for him far beyond what she could have guessed, and
again he found his small comfort in the conviction that, subtle though she was,
his impression must remain a secret from her. The thing that, once more, made
him uneasy for secrets in general was this particular patience she could have
with his own want of colour; albeit that on the other hand his uneasiness
pretty well dropped after he had been for ten minutes as colourless as possible
and at the same time as responsive.

The moments had already, for that matter, drawn their deepest tinge from the
special interest excited in him by his vision of his companion’s identity
with the person whose attitude before the glimmering altar had so impressed
him. This attitude fitted admirably into the stand he had privately taken about
her connexion with Chad on the last occasion of his seeing them together. It
helped him to stick fast at the point he had then reached; it was there he had
resolved that he stick, and at no moment since had it seemed as
easy to do so. Unassailably innocent was a relation that could make one of the
parties to it so carry herself. If it wasn’t innocent why did she haunt
the churches?—into which, given the woman he could believe he made out,
she would never have come to flaunt an insolence of guilt. She haunted them for
continued help, for strength, for peace—sublime support which, if one
were able to look at it so, she found from day to day. They talked, in low easy
tones and with lifted lingering looks, about the great monument and its history
and its beauty—all of which, Madame de Vionnet professed, came to her
most in the other, the outer view. “We’ll presently, after we
go,” she said, “walk round it again if you like. I’m not in a
particular hurry, and it will be pleasant to look at it well with you.”
He had spoken of the great romancer and the great romance, and of what, to his
imagination, they had done for the whole, mentioning to her moreover the
exorbitance of his purchase, the seventy blazing volumes that were so out of
proportion.

“Out of proportion to what?”

“Well, to any other plunge.” Yet he felt even as he spoke how at
that instant he was plunging. He had made up his mind and was impatient to get
into the air; for his purpose was a purpose to be uttered outside, and he had a
fear that it might with delay still slip away from him. She however took her
time; she drew out their quiet gossip as if she had wished to profit by their
meeting, and this confirmed precisely an interpretation of her manner, of her
mystery. While she rose, as he would have called it, to the question of Victor
Hugo, her voice itself, the light low quaver of her deference to the solemnity
about them, seemed to make her words mean something that they didn’t mean
openly. Help, strength, peace, a sublime support—she hadn’t found
so much of these things as that the amount wouldn’t be sensibly greater
for any scrap his appearance of faith in her might enable her to feel in her
hand. Every little, in a long strain, helped, and if he happened to affect her
as a firm object she could hold on by, he wouldn’t jerk himself out of
her reach. People in difficulties held on by what was nearest, and he was
perhaps after all not further off than sources of comfort more abstract. It was
as to this he had made up his mind; he had made it up, that is, to give her a
sign. The sign would be that—though it was her own affair—he
understood; the sign would be that—though it was her own affair—she
was free to clutch. Since she took him for a firm object—much as he might
to his own sense appear at times to rock—he would do his best to
one.

The end of it was that half an hour later they were seated together for an
early luncheon at a wonderful, a delightful house of entertainment on the left
bank—a place of pilgrimage for the knowing, they were both aware, the
knowing who came, for its great renown, the homage of restless days, from the
other end of the town. Strether had already been there three times—first
with Miss Gostrey, then with Chad, then with Chad again and with Waymarsh and
little Bilham, all of whom he had himself sagaciously entertained; and his
pleasure was deep now on learning that Madame de Vionnet hadn’t yet been
initiated. When he had said as they strolled round the church, by the river,
acting at last on what, within, he had made up his mind to, “Will you, if
you have time, come to déjeuner with me somewhere? For instance, if you know
it, over there on the other side, which is so easy a walk”—and then
had named the place; when he had done this she stopped short as for quick
intensity, and yet deep difficulty, of response. She took in the proposal as if
it were almost too charming to be true; and there had perhaps never yet been
for her companion so unexpected a moment of pride—so fine, so odd a case,
at any rate, as his finding himself thus able to offer to a person in such
universal possession a new, a rare amusement. She had heard of the happy spot,
but she asked him in reply to a further question how in the world he could
suppose her to have been there. He supposed himself to have supposed that Chad
might have taken her, and she guessed this the next moment to his no small
discomfort.

“Ah, let me explain,” she smiled, “that I don’t go
about with him in public; I never have such chances—not having them
otherwise—and it’s just the sort of thing that, as a quiet creature
living in my hole, I adore.” It was more than kind of him to have thought
of it—though, frankly, if he asked whether she had time she hadn’t
a single minute. That however made no difference—she’d throw
everything over. Every duty at home, domestic, maternal, social, awaited her;
but it was a case for a high line. Her affairs would go to smash, but
hadn’t one a right to one’s snatch of scandal when one was prepared
to pay? It was on this pleasant basis of costly disorder, consequently, that
they eventually seated themselves, on either side of a small table, at a window
adjusted to the busy quay and the shining barge-burdened Seine; where, for an
hour, in the matter of letting himself go, of diving deep, Strether was to feel
he had touched bottom. He was to feel many things on this occasion, and one of
the first of them was that he had travelled far since that evening in London,
before the theatre, when his dinner with Maria Gostrey, between the pink-shaded
candles, had struck him as requiring so many explanations. He had at that time
gathered them in, the explanations—he had stored them up; but it was at
present as if he had either soared above or sunk below them—he
couldn’t tell which; he could somehow think of none that didn’t
seem to leave the appearance of collapse and cynicism easier for him than
lucidity. How could he wish it to be lucid for others, for any one, that he,
for the hour, saw reasons enough in the mere way the bright clean ordered
water-side life came in at the open window?—the mere way Madame de
Vionnet, opposite him over their intensely white table-linen, their , their bottle of straw-coloured Chablis, thanked him for
everything almost with the smile of a child, while her grey eyes moved in and
out of their talk, back to the quarter of the warm spring air, in which early
summer had already begun to throb, and then back again to his face and their
human questions.

Their human questions became many before they had done—many more, as one
after the other came up, than our friend’s free fancy had at all
foreseen. The sense he had had before, the sense he had had repeatedly, the
sense that the situation was running away with him, had never been so sharp as
now; and all the more that he could perfectly put his finger on the moment it
had taken the bit in its teeth. That accident had definitely occurred, the
other evening, after Chad’s dinner; it had occurred, as he fully knew, at
the moment when he interposed between this lady and her child, when he suffered
himself so to discuss with her a matter closely concerning them that her own
subtlety, marked by its significant “Thank you!” instantly sealed
the occasion in her favour. Again he had held off for ten days, but the
situation had continued out of hand in spite of that; the fact that it was
running so fast being indeed just he had held off. What had come
over him as he recognised her in the nave of the church was that holding off
could be but a losing game from the instant she was worked for not only by her
subtlety, but by the hand of fate itself. If all the accidents were to fight on
her side—and by the actual showing they loomed large—he could only
give himself up. This was what he had done in privately deciding then and there
to propose she should breakfast with him. What did the success of his proposal
in fact resemble but the smash in which a regular runaway properly ends? The
smash was their walk, their déjeuner, their omelette, the Chablis, the place,
the view, their present talk and his present pleasure in it—to say
nothing, wonder of wonders, of her own. To this tune and nothing less,
accordingly, was his surrender made good. It sufficiently lighted up at least
the folly of holding off. Ancient proverbs sounded, for his memory, in the tone
of their words and the clink of their glasses, in the hum of the town and the
plash of the river. It clearly better to suffer as a sheep than as a
lamb. One might as well perish by the sword as by famine.

“Maria’s still away?”—that was the first thing she had
asked him; and when he had found the frankness to be cheerful about it in spite
of the meaning he knew her to attach to Miss Gostrey’s absence, she had
gone on to enquire if he didn’t tremendously miss her. There were reasons
that made him by no means sure, yet he nevertheless answered
“Tremendously”; which she took in as if it were all she had wished
to prove. Then, “A man in trouble be possessed somehow of a
woman,” she said; “if she doesn’t come in one way she comes
in another.”

“Why do you call me a man in trouble?”

“Ah because that’s the way you strike me.” She spoke ever so
gently and as if with all fear of wounding him while she sat partaking of his
bounty. “ you in trouble?”

He felt himself colour at the question, and then hated that—hated to pass
for anything so idiotic as woundable. Woundable by Chad’s lady, in
respect to whom he had come out with such a fund of indifference—was he
already at that point? Perversely, none the less, his pause gave a strange air
of truth to her supposition; and what was he in fact but disconcerted at having
struck her just in the way he had most dreamed of not doing? “I’m
not in trouble yet,” he at last smiled. “I’m not in trouble
now.”

“Well, I’m always so. But that you sufficiently know.” She
was a woman who, between courses, could be graceful with her elbows on the
table. It was a posture unknown to Mrs. Newsome, but it was easy for a . “Yes—I am ‘now’!”

“There was a question you put to me,” he presently returned,
“the night of Chad’s dinner. I didn’t answer it then, and it
has been very handsome of you not to have sought an occasion for pressing me
about it since.”

She was instantly all there. “Of course I know what you allude to. I
asked you what you had meant by saying, the day you came to see me, just before
you left me, that you’d save me. And you then said—at our
friend’s—that you’d have really to wait to see, for yourself,
what you did mean.”

“Yes, I asked for time,” said Strether. “And it sounds now,
as you put it, like a very ridiculous speech.”

“Oh!” she murmured—she was full of attenuation. But she had
another thought. “If it does sound ridiculous why do you deny that
you’re in trouble?”

“Ah if I were,” he replied, “it wouldn’t be the trouble
of fearing ridicule. I don’t fear it.”

“What then do you?”

“Nothing—now.” And he leaned back in his chair.

“I like your ‘now’!” she laughed across at him.

“Well, it’s precisely that it fully comes to me at present that
I’ve kept you long enough. I know by this time, at any rate, what I meant
by my speech; and I really knew it the night of Chad’s dinner.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it was difficult at the moment. I had already at that moment
done something for you, in the sense of what I had said the day I went to see
you; but I wasn’t then sure of the importance I might represent this as
having.”

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She was all eagerness. “And you’re sure now?”

“Yes; I see that, practically, I’ve done for you—had done for
you when you put me your question—all that it’s as yet possible to
me to do. I feel now,” he went on, “that it may go further than I
thought. What I did after my visit to you,” he explained, “was to
write straight off to Mrs. Newsome about you, and I’m at last, from one
day to the other, expecting her answer. It’s this answer that will
represent, as I believe, the consequences.”

Patient and beautiful was her interest. “I see—the consequences of
your speaking for me.” And she waited as if not to hustle him.

He acknowledged it by immediately going on. “The question, you
understand, was I should save you. Well, I’m trying it by thus
letting her know that I consider you worth saving.”

“I see—I see.” Her eagerness broke through.

“How can I thank you enough?” He couldn’t tell her that,
however, and she quickly pursued. “You do really, for yourself, consider
it?”

His only answer at first was to help her to the dish that had been freshly put
before them. “I’ve written to her again since then—I’ve
left her in no doubt of what I think. I’ve told her all about you.”

“Thanks—not so much. ‘All about’ me,” she went
on—“yes.”

“All it seems to me you’ve done for him.”

“Ah and you might have added all it seems to ” She
laughed again, while she took up her knife and fork, as in the cheer of these
assurances. “But you’re not sure how she’ll take it.”

“No, I’ll not pretend I’m sure.”

“Voilà.” And she waited a moment. “I wish you’d tell me
about her.”

“Oh,” said Strether with a slightly strained smile, “all that
need concern you about her is that she’s really a grand person.”

Madame de Vionnet seemed to demur. “Is that all that need concern me
about her?”

But Strether neglected the question. “Hasn’t Chad talked to
you?”

“Of his mother? Yes, a great deal—immensely. But not from your
point of view.”

“He can’t,” our friend returned, “have said any ill of
her.”

“Not the least bit. He has given me, like you, the assurance that
she’s really grand. But her being really grand is somehow just what
hasn’t seemed to simplify our case. Nothing,” she continued,
“is further from me than to wish to say a word against her; but of course
I feel how little she can like being told of her owing me anything. No woman
ever enjoys such an obligation to another woman.”

This was a proposition Strether couldn’t contradict. “And yet what
other way could I have expressed to her what I felt? It’s what there was
most to say about you.”

“Do you mean then that she be good to me?”

“It’s what I’m waiting to see. But I’ve little doubt
she would,” he added, “if she could comfortably see you.”

It seemed to strike her as a happy, a beneficent thought. “Oh then
couldn’t that be managed? Wouldn’t she come out? Wouldn’t she
if you so put it to her? you by any possibility?” she faintly
quavered.

“Oh no”—he was prompt. “Not that. It would be, much
more, to give an account of you that—since there’s no question of
paying the visit—I should go home first.”

It instantly made her graver. “And are you thinking of that?”

“Oh all the while, naturally.”

“Stay with us—stay with us!” she exclaimed on this.
“That’s your only way to make sure.”

“To make sure of what?”

“Why that he doesn’t break up. You didn’t come out to do that
to him.”

“Doesn’t it depend,” Strether returned after a moment,
“on what you mean by breaking up?”

“Oh you know well enough what I mean!”

His silence seemed again for a little to denote an understanding. “You
take for granted remarkable things.”

“Yes, I do—to the extent that I don’t take for granted vulgar
ones. You’re perfectly capable of seeing that what you came out for
wasn’t really at all to do what you’d now have to do.”

“Ah it’s perfectly simple,” Strether good-humouredly pleaded.
“I’ve had but one thing to do—to put our case before him. To
put it as it could only be put here on the spot—by personal pressure. My
dear lady,” he lucidly pursued, “my work, you see, is really done,
and my reasons for staying on even another day are none of the best.
Chad’s in possession of our case and professes to do it full justice.
What remains is with himself. I’ve had my rest, my amusement and
refreshment; I’ve had, as we say at Woollett, a lovely time. Nothing in
it has been more lovely than this happy meeting with you—in these
fantastic conditions to which you’ve so delightfully consented.
I’ve a sense of success. It’s what I wanted. My getting all this
good is what Chad has waited for, and I gather that if I’m ready to go
he’s the same.”

She shook her head with a finer deeper wisdom. “You’re not ready.
If you’re ready why did you write to Mrs. Newsome in the sense
you’ve mentioned to me?”

Strether considered. “I shan’t go before I hear from her.
You’re too much afraid of her,” he added.

It produced between them a long look from which neither shrank. “I
don’t think you believe that—believe I’ve not really reason
to fear her.”

“She’s capable of great generosity,” Strether presently
stated.

“Well then let her trust me a little. That’s all I ask. Let her
recognise in spite of everything what I’ve done.”

“Ah remember,” our friend replied, “that she can’t
effectually recognise it without seeing it for herself. Let Chad go over and
show her what you’ve done, and let him plead with her there for it and,
as it were, for .”

She measured the depth of this suggestion. “Do you give me your word of
honour that if she once has him there she won’t do her best to marry
him?”

It made her companion, this enquiry, look again a while out at the view; after
which he spoke without sharpness. “When she sees for herself what he
is—”

But she had already broken in. “It’s when she sees for herself what
he is that she’ll want to marry him most.”

Strether’s attitude, that of due deference to what she said, permitted
him to attend for a minute to his luncheon. “I doubt if that will come
off. It won’t be easy to make it.”

“It will be easy if he remains there—and he’ll remain for the
money. The money appears to be, as a probability, so hideously much.”

“Well,” Strether presently concluded, “nothing
really hurt you but his marrying.”

She gave a strange light laugh. “Putting aside what may really hurt
.”

But her friend looked at her as if he had thought of that too. “The
question will come up, of course, of the future that you yourself offer
him.”

She was leaning back now, but she fully faced him. “Well, let it come
up!”

“The point is that it’s for Chad to make of it what he can. His
being proof against marriage will show what he does make.”

“If he proof, yes”—she accepted the proposition.
“But for myself,” she added, “the question is what
make.”

“Ah I make nothing. It’s not my affair.”

“I beg your pardon. It’s just there that, since you’ve taken
it up and are committed to it, it most intensely becomes yours. You’re
not saving me, I take it, for your interest in myself, but for your interest in
our friend. The one’s at any rate wholly dependent on the other. You
can’t in honour not see me through,” she wound up, “because
you can’t in honour not see .”

Strange and beautiful to him was her quiet soft acuteness. The thing that most
moved him was really that she was so deeply serious. She had none of the
portentous forms of it, but he had never come in contact, it struck him, with a
force brought to so fine a head. Mrs. Newsome, goodness knew, was serious; but
it was nothing to this. He took it all in, he saw it all together.
“No,” he mused, “I can’t in honour not see him.”

Her face affected him as with an exquisite light. “You
then?”

“I will.”

At this she pushed back her chair and was the next moment on her feet.
“Thank you!” she said with her hand held out to him across the
table and with no less a meaning in the words than her lips had so particularly
given them after Chad’s dinner. The golden nail she had then driven in
pierced a good inch deeper. Yet he reflected that he himself had only meanwhile
done what he had made up his mind to on the same occasion. So far as the
essence of the matter went he had simply stood fast on the spot on which he had
then planted his feet.

II

He received three days after this a communication from America, in the form of
a scrap of blue paper folded and gummed, not reaching him through his bankers,
but delivered at his hotel by a small boy in uniform, who, under instructions
from the concierge, approached him as he slowly paced the little court. It was
the evening hour, but daylight was long now and Paris more than ever
penetrating. The scent of flowers was in the streets, he had the whiff of
violets perpetually in his nose; and he had attached himself to sounds and
suggestions, vibrations of the air, human and dramatic, he imagined, as they
were not in other places, that came out for him more and more as the mild
afternoons deepened—a far-off hum, a sharp near click on the asphalt, a
voice calling, replying, somewhere and as full of tone as an actor’s in a
play. He was to dine at home, as usual, with Waymarsh—they had settled to
that for thrift and simplicity; and he now hung about before his friend came
down.

He read his telegram in the court, standing still a long time where he had
opened it and giving five minutes afterwards to the renewed study of it. At
last, quickly, he crumpled it up as if to get it out of the way; in spite of
which, however, he kept it there—still kept it when, at the end of
another turn, he had dropped into a chair placed near a small table. Here, with
his scrap of paper compressed in his fist and further concealed by his folding
his arms tight, he sat for some time in thought, gazed before him so straight
that Waymarsh appeared and approached him without catching his eye. The latter
in fact, struck with his appearance, looked at him hard for a single instant
and then, as if determined to that course by some special vividness in it,
dropped back into the without addressing him. But the
pilgrim from Milrose permitted himself still to observe the scene from behind
the clear glass plate of that retreat. Strether ended, as he sat, by a fresh
scrutiny of his compressed missive, which he smoothed out carefully again as he
placed it on his table. There it remained for some minutes, until, at last
looking up, he saw Waymarsh watching him from within. It was on this that their
eyes met—met for a moment during which neither moved. But Strether then
got up, folding his telegram more carefully and putting it into his waistcoat
pocket.

A few minutes later the friends were seated together at dinner; but Strether
had meanwhile said nothing about it, and they eventually parted, after coffee
in the court, with nothing said on either side. Our friend had moreover the
consciousness that even less than usual was on this occasion said between them,
so that it was almost as if each had been waiting for something from the other.
Waymarsh had always more or less the air of sitting at the door of his tent,
and silence, after so many weeks, had come to play its part in their concert.
This note indeed, to Strether’s sense, had lately taken a fuller tone,
and it was his fancy to-night that they had never quite so drawn it out. Yet it
befell, none the less that he closed the door to confidence when his companion
finally asked him if there were anything particular the matter with him.
“Nothing,” he replied, “more than usual.”

On the morrow, however, at an early hour, he found occasion to give an answer
more in consonance with the facts. What was the matter had continued to be so
all the previous evening, the first hours of which, after dinner, in his room,
he had devoted to the copious composition of a letter. He had quitted Waymarsh
for this purpose, leaving him to his own resources with less ceremony than
their wont, but finally coming down again with his letter unconcluded and going
forth into the streets without enquiry for his comrade. He had taken a long
vague walk, and one o’clock had struck before his return and his
re-ascent to his room by the aid of the glimmering candle-end left for him on
the shelf outside the porter’s lodge. He had possessed himself, on
closing his door, of the numerous loose sheets of his unfinished composition,
and then, without reading them over, had torn them into small pieces. He had
thereupon slept—as if it had been in some measure thanks to that
sacrifice—the sleep of the just, and had prolonged his rest considerably
beyond his custom. Thus it was that when, between nine and ten, the tap of the
knob of a walking-stick sounded on his door, he had not yet made himself
altogether presentable. Chad Newsome’s bright deep voice determined
quickly enough none the less the admission of the visitor. The little blue
paper of the evening before, plainly an object the more precious for its escape
from premature destruction, now lay on the sill of the open window, smoothed
out afresh and kept from blowing away by the superincumbent weight of his
watch. Chad, looking about with careless and competent criticism, as he looked
wherever he went immediately espied it and permitted himself to fix it for a
moment rather hard. After which he turned his eyes to his host. “It has
come then at last?”

Strether paused in the act of pinning his necktie. “Then you know—?
You’ve had one too?”

“No, I’ve had nothing, and I only know what I see. I see that thing
and I guess. Well,” he added, “it comes as pat as in a play, for
I’ve precisely turned up this morning—as I would have done
yesterday, but it was impossible—to take you.”

“To take me?” Strether had turned again to his glass.

“Back, at last, as I promised. I’m ready—I’ve really
been ready this month. I’ve only been waiting for you—as was
perfectly right. But you’re better now; you’re safe—I see
that for myself; you’ve got all your good. You’re looking, this
morning, as fit as a flea.”

Strether, at his glass, finished dressing; consulting that witness moreover on
this last opinion. he looking preternaturally fit? There was
something in it perhaps for Chad’s wonderful eye, but he had felt himself
for hours rather in pieces. Such a judgement, however, was after all but a
contribution to his resolve; it testified unwittingly to his wisdom. He was
still firmer, apparently—since it shone in him as a light—than he
had flattered himself. His firmness indeed was slightly compromised, as he
faced about to his friend, by the way this very personage looked—though
the case would of course have been worse hadn’t the secret of personal
magnificence been at every hour Chad’s unfailing possession. There he was
in all the pleasant morning freshness of it—strong and sleek and gay,
easy and fragrant and fathomless, with happy health in his colour, and pleasant
silver in his thick young hair, and the right word for everything on the lips
that his clear brownness caused to show as red. He had never struck Strether as
personally such a success; it was as if now, for his definite surrender, he had
gathered himself vividly together. This, sharply and rather strangely, was the
form in which he was to be presented to Woollett. Our friend took him in
again—he was always taking him in and yet finding that parts of him still
remained out; though even thus his image showed through a mist of other things.
“I’ve had a cable,” Strether said, “from your
mother.”

“I dare say, my dear man. I hope she’s well.”

Strether hesitated. “No—she’s not well, I’m sorry to
have to tell you.”

“Ah,” said Chad, “I must have had the instinct of it. All the
more reason then that we should start straight off.”

Strether had now got together hat, gloves and stick, but Chad had dropped on
the sofa as if to show where he wished to make his point. He kept observing his
companion’s things; he might have been judging how quickly they could be
packed. He might even have wished to hint that he’d send his own servant
to assist. “What do you mean,” Strether enquired, “by
‘straight off’?”

“Oh by one of next week’s boats. Everything at this season goes out
so light that berths will be easy anywhere.”

Strether had in his hand his telegram, which he had kept there after attaching
his watch, and he now offered it to Chad, who, however, with an odd movement,
declined to take it. “Thanks, I’d rather not. Your correspondence
with Mother’s your own affair. I’m only you both on it,
whatever it is.” Strether, at this, while their eyes met, slowly folded
the missive and put it in his pocket; after which, before he had spoken again,
Chad broke fresh ground. “Has Miss Gostrey come back?”

But when Strether presently spoke it wasn’t in answer. “It’s
not, I gather, that your mother’s physically ill; her health, on the
whole, this spring, seems to have been better than usual. But she’s
worried, she’s anxious, and it appears to have risen within the last few
days to a climax. We’ve tired out, between us, her patience.”

“Oh it isn’t ” Chad generously protested.

“I beg your pardon—it me.” Strether was mild and
melancholy, but firm. He saw it far away and over his companion’s head.
“It’s very particularly me.”

“Well then all the more reason. ” said
the young man gaily. His host, however, at this, but continued to stand agaze;
and he had the next thing repeated his question of a moment before. “Has
Miss Gostrey come back?”

“Yes, two days ago.”

“Then you’ve seen her?”

“No—I’m to see her to-day.” But Strether wouldn’t
linger now on Miss Gostrey. “Your mother sends me an ultimatum. If I
can’t bring you I’m to leave you; I’m to come at any rate
myself.”

“Ah but you bring me now,” Chad, from his sofa,
reassuringly replied.

Strether had a pause. “I don’t think I understand you. Why was it
that, more than a month ago, you put it to me so urgently to let Madame de
Vionnet speak for you?”

“‘Why’?” Chad considered, but he had it at his
fingers’ ends. “Why but because I knew how well she’d do it?
It was the way to keep you quiet and, to that extent, do you good.
Besides,” he happily and comfortably explained, “I wanted you
really to know her and to get the impression of her—and you see the good
that done you.”

“Well,” said Strether, “the way she has spoken for you, all
the same—so far as I’ve given her a chance—has only made me
feel how much she wishes to keep you. If you make nothing of that I don’t
see why you wanted me to listen to her.”

“Why my dear man,” Chad exclaimed, “I make everything of it!
How can you doubt—?”

“I doubt only because you come to me this morning with your signal to
start.”

Chad stared, then gave a laugh. “And isn’t my signal to start just
what you’ve been waiting for?”

Strether debated; he took another turn. “This last month I’ve been
awaiting, I think, more than anything else, the message I have here.”

“You mean you’ve been afraid of it?”

“Well, I was doing my business in my own way. And I suppose your present
announcement,” Strether went on, “isn’t merely the result of
your sense of what I’ve expected. Otherwise you wouldn’t have put
me in relation—” But he paused, pulling up.

At this Chad rose. “Ah wanting me not to go has nothing to do
with it! It’s only because she’s afraid—afraid of the way
that, over there, I may get caught. But her fear’s groundless.”

He had met again his companion’s sufficiently searching look. “Are
you tired of her?”

Chad gave him in reply to this, with a movement of the head, the strangest slow
smile he had ever had from him. “Never.”

It had immediately, on Strether’s imagination, so deep and soft an effect
that our friend could only for the moment keep it before him.
“Never?”

“Never,” Chad obligingly and serenely repeated.

It made his companion take several more steps. “Then
not afraid.”

“Afraid to go?”

Strether pulled up again. “Afraid to stay.”

The young man looked brightly amazed. “You want me now to
‘stay’?”

“If I don’t immediately sail the Pococks will immediately come out.
That’s what I mean,” said Strether, “by your mother’s
ultimatum.”

Chad showed a still livelier, but not an alarmed interest. “She has
turned on Sarah and Jim?”

Strether joined him for an instant in the vision. “Oh and you may be sure
Mamie. whom she’s turning on.”

This also Chad saw—he laughed out. “Mamie—to corrupt
me?”

“Ah,” said Strether, “she’s very charming.”

“So you’ve already more than once told me. I should like to see
her.”

Something happy and easy, something above all unconscious, in the way he said
this, brought home again to his companion the facility of his attitude and the
enviability of his state. “See her then by all means. And consider
too,” Strether went on, “that you really give your sister a lift in
letting her come to you. You give her a couple of months of Paris, which she
hasn’t seen, if I’m not mistaken, since just after she was married,
and which I’m sure she wants but the pretext to visit.”

Chad listened, but with all his own knowledge of the world. “She has had
it, the pretext, these several years, yet she has never taken it.”

“Do you mean ” Strether after an instant enquired.

“Certainly—the lone exile. And whom do you mean?” said Chad.

“Oh I mean . I’m her pretext. That is—for it comes
to the same thing—I’m your mother’s.”

“Then why,” Chad asked, “doesn’t Mother come
herself?”

His friend gave him a long look. “Should you like her to?” And as
he for the moment said nothing: “It’s perfectly open to you to
cable for her.”

Chad continued to think. “Will she come if I do?”

“Quite possibly. But try, and you’ll see.”

“Why don’t try?” Chad after a moment asked.

“Because I don’t want to.”

Chad thought. “Don’t desire her presence here?”

Strether faced the question, and his answer was the more emphatic.
“Don’t put it off, my dear boy, on ”

“Well—I see what you mean. I’m sure you’d behave
beautifully but you want to see her. So I won’t play
you that trick.’

“Ah,” Strether declared, “I shouldn’t call it a trick.
You’ve a perfect right, and it would be perfectly straight of you.”
Then he added in a different tone: “You’d have moreover, in the
person of Madame de Vionnet, a very interesting relation prepared for
her.”

Their eyes, on this proposition, continued to meet, but Chad’s pleasant
and bold, never flinched for a moment. He got up at last and he said something
with which Strether was struck. “She wouldn’t understand her, but
that makes no difference. Madame de Vionnet would like to see her. She’d
like to be charming to her. She believes she could work it.”

Strether thought a moment, affected by this, but finally turning away.
“She couldn’t!”

“You’re quite sure?” Chad asked.

“Well, risk it if you like!”

Strether, who uttered this with serenity, had urged a plea for their now
getting into the air; but the young man still waited. “Have you sent your
answer?”

“No, I’ve done nothing yet.”

“Were you waiting to see me?”

“No, not that.”

“Only waiting”—and Chad, with this, had a smile for
him—“to see Miss Gostrey?”

“No—not even Miss Gostrey. I wasn’t waiting to see any one. I
had only waited, till now, to make up my mind—in complete solitude; and,
since I of course absolutely owe you the information, was on the point of going
out with it quite made up. Have therefore a little more patience with me.
Remember,” Strether went on, “that that’s what you originally
asked to have. I’ve had it, you see, and you see what has come
of it. Stay on with me.”

Chad looked grave. “How much longer?”

“Well, till I make you a sign. I can’t myself, you know, at the
best, or at the worst, stay for ever. Let the Pococks come,” Strether
repeated.

“Because it gains you time?”

“Yes—it gains me time.”

Chad, as if it still puzzled him, waited a minute. “You don’t want
to get back to Mother?”

“Not just yet. I’m not ready.”

“You feel,” Chad asked in a tone of his own, “the charm of
life over here?”

“Immensely.” Strether faced it. “You’ve helped me so to
feel it that that surely needn’t surprise you.”

“No, it doesn’t surprise me, and I’m delighted. But what, my
dear man,” Chad went on with conscious queerness, “does it all lead
to for you?”

The change of position and of relation, for each, was so oddly betrayed in the
question that Chad laughed out as soon as he had uttered it—which made
Strether also laugh. “Well, to my having a certitude that has been
tested—that has passed through the fire. But oh,” he couldn’t
help breaking out, “if within my first month here you had been willing to
move with me—!”

“Well?” said Chad, while he broke down as for weight of thought.

“Well, we should have been over there by now.”

“Ah but you wouldn’t have had your fun!”

“I should have had a month of it; and I’m having now, if you want
to know,” Strether continued, “enough to last me for the rest of my
days.”

Chad looked amused and interested, yet still somewhat in the dark; partly
perhaps because Strether’s estimate of fun had required of him from the
first a good deal of elucidation. “It wouldn’t do if I left
you—?”

“Left me?”—Strether remained blank.

“Only for a month or two—time to go and come. Madame de
Vionnet,” Chad smiled, “would look after you in the
interval.”

“To go back by yourself, I remaining here?” Again for an instant
their eyes had the question out; after which Strether said:
“Grotesque!”

“But I want to see Mother,” Chad presently returned.
“Remember how long it is since I’ve seen Mother.”

“Long indeed; and that’s exactly why I was originally so keen for
moving you. Hadn’t you shown us enough how beautifully you could do
without it?”

“Oh but,” said Chad wonderfully, “I’m better
now.”

There was an easy triumph in it that made his friend laugh out again. “Oh
if you were worse I know what to do with you. In that case I
believe I’d have you gagged and strapped down, carried on board
resisting, kicking. How ,” Strether asked, “do you want
to see Mother?”

“How much?”—Chad seemed to find it in fact difficult to say.

“How much.”

“Why as much as you’ve made me. I’d give anything to see her.
And you’ve left me,” Chad went on, “in little enough doubt as
to how much wants it.”

Strether thought a minute. “Well then if those things are really your
motive catch the French steamer and sail to-morrow. Of course, when it comes to
that, you’re absolutely free to do as you choose. From the moment you
can’t hold yourself I can only accept your flight.”

“I’ll fly in a minute then,” said Chad, “if
you’ll stay here.”

“I’ll stay here till the next steamer—then I’ll follow
you.”

“And do you call that,” Chad asked, “accepting my
flight?”

“Certainly—it’s the only thing to call it. The only way to
keep me here, accordingly,” Strether explained, “is by staying
yourself.”

Chad took it in. “All the more that I’ve really dished you,
eh?”

“Dished me?” Strether echoed as inexpressively as possible.

“Why if she sends out the Pococks it will be that she doesn’t trust
you, and if she doesn’t trust you, that bears upon—well, you know
what.”

Strether decided after a moment that he did know what, and in consonance with
this he spoke. “You see then all the more what you owe me.”

“Well, if I do see, how can I pay?”

“By not deserting me. By standing by me.”

“Oh I say—!” But Chad, as they went downstairs, clapped a
firm hand, in the manner of a pledge, upon his shoulder. They descended slowly
together and had, in the court of the hotel, some further talk, of which the
upshot was that they presently separated. Chad Newsome departed, and Strether,
left alone, looked about, superficially, for Waymarsh. But Waymarsh
hadn’t yet, it appeared, come down, and our friend finally went forth
without sight of him.

III

At four o’clock that afternoon he had still not seen him, but he was
then, as to make up for this, engaged in talk about him with Miss Gostrey.
Strether had kept away from home all day, given himself up to the town and to
his thoughts, wandered and mused, been at once restless and absorbed—and
all with the present climax of a rich little welcome in the Quartier Marbœuf.
“Waymarsh has been, ‘unbeknown’ to me, I’m
convinced”—for Miss Gostrey had enquired—“in
communication with Woollett: the consequence of which was, last night, the
loudest possible call for me.”

“Do you mean a letter to bring you home?”

“No—a cable, which I have at this moment in my pocket: a
‘Come back by the first ship.’”

Strether’s hostess, it might have been made out, just escaped changing
colour. Reflexion arrived but in time and established a provisional serenity.
It was perhaps exactly this that enabled her to say with duplicity: “And
you’re going—?”

“You almost deserve it when you abandon me so.”

She shook her head as if this were not worth taking up. “My absence has
helped you—as I’ve only to look at you to see. It was my
calculation, and I’m justified. You’re not where you were. And the
thing,” she smiled, “was for me not to be there either. You can go
of yourself.”

“Oh but I feel to-day,” he comfortably declared, “that I
shall want you yet.”

She took him all in again. “Well, I promise you not again to leave you,
but it will only be to follow you. You’ve got your momentum and can
toddle alone.”

He intelligently accepted it. “Yes—I suppose I can toddle.
It’s the sight of that in fact that has upset Waymarsh. He can bear
it—the way I strike him as going—no longer. That’s only the
climax of his original feeling. He wants me to quit; and he must have written
to Woollett that I’m in peril of perdition.”

“Ah good!” she murmured. “But is it only your
supposition?”

“I make it out—it explains.”

“Then he denies?—or you haven’t asked him?”

“I’ve not had time,” Strether said; “I made it out but
last night, putting various things together, and I’ve not been since then
face to face with him.”

She wondered. “Because you’re too disgusted? You can’t trust
yourself?”

He settled his glasses on his nose. “Do I look in a great rage?”

“You look divine!”

“There’s nothing,” he went on, “to be angry about. He
has done me on the contrary a service.”

She made it out. “By bringing things to a head?”

“How well you understand!” he almost groaned. “Waymarsh
won’t in the least, at any rate, when I have it out with him, deny or
extenuate. He has acted from the deepest conviction, with the best conscience
and after wakeful nights. He’ll recognise that he’s fully
responsible, and will consider that he has been highly successful; so that any
discussion we may have will bring us quite together again—bridge the dark
stream that has kept us so thoroughly apart. We shall have at last, in the
consequences of his act, something we can definitely talk about.”

She was silent a little. “How wonderfully you take it! But you’re
always wonderful.”

He had a pause that matched her own; then he had, with an adequate spirit, a
complete admission. “It’s quite true. I’m extremely wonderful
just now. I dare say in fact I’m quite fantastic, and I shouldn’t
be at all surprised if I were mad.”

“Then tell me!” she earnestly pressed. As he, however, for the time
answered nothing, only returning the look with which she watched him, she
presented herself where it was easier to meet her. “What will Mr.
Waymarsh exactly have done?”

“Simply have written a letter. One will have been quite enough. He has
told them I want looking after.”

“And you?”—she was all interest.

“Immensely. And I shall get it.”

“By which you mean you don’t budge?”

“I don’t budge.”

“You’ve cabled?”

“No—I’ve made Chad do it.”

“That you decline to come?”

“That declines. We had it out this morning and I brought him
round. He had come in, before I was down, to tell me he was ready—ready,
I mean, to return. And he went off, after ten minutes with me, to say he
wouldn’t.”

Miss Gostrey followed with intensity. “Then you’ve
him?”

Strether settled himself afresh in his chair. “I’ve stopped him.
That is for the time. That”—he gave it to her more
vividly—“is where I am.”

“I see, I see. But where’s Mr. Newsome? He was ready,” she
asked, “to go?”

“All ready.”

“And sincerely—believing be?”

“Perfectly, I think; so that he was amazed to find the hand I had laid on
him to pull him over suddenly converted into an engine for keeping him
still.”

It was an account of the matter Miss Gostrey could weigh. “Does he think
the conversion sudden?”

“Well,” said Strether, “I’m not altogether sure what he
thinks. I’m not sure of anything that concerns him, except that the more
I’ve seen of him the less I’ve found him what I originally
expected. He’s obscure, and that’s why I’m waiting.”

She wondered. “But for what in particular?”

“For the answer to his cable.”

“And what was his cable?”

“I don’t know,” Strether replied; “it was to be, when
he left me, according to his own taste. I simply said to him: ‘I want to
stay, and the only way for me to do so is for to.’ That I
wanted to stay seemed to interest him, and he acted on that.”

Miss Gostrey turned it over. “He wants then himself to stay.”

“He half wants it. That is he half wants to go. My original appeal has to
that extent worked in him. Nevertheless,” Strether pursued, “he
won’t go. Not, at least, so long as I’m here.”

“But you can’t,” his companion suggested, “stay here
always. I wish you could.”

“By no means. Still, I want to see him a little further. He’s not
in the least the case I supposed, he’s quite another case. And it’s
as such that he interests me.” It was almost as if for his own
intelligence that, deliberate and lucid, our friend thus expressed the matter.
“I don’t want to give him up.”

Miss Gostrey but desired to help his lucidity. She had however to be light and
tactful. “Up, you mean—a—to his mother?”

“Well, I’m not thinking of his mother now. I’m thinking of
the plan of which I was the mouthpiece, which, as soon as we met, I put before
him as persuasively as I knew how, and which was drawn up, as it were, in
complete ignorance of all that, in this last long period, has been happening to
him. It took no account whatever of the impression I was here on the spot
immediately to begin to receive from him—impressions of which I feel sure
I’m far from having had the last.”

Miss Gostrey had a smile of the most genial criticism. “So your idea
is—more or less—to stay out of curiosity?”

“Call it what you like! I don’t care what it’s
called—”

“So long as you do stay? Certainly not then. I call it, all the same,
immense fun,” Maria Gostrey declared; “and to see you work it out
will be one of the sensations of my life. It clear you can toddle
alone!”

He received this tribute without elation. “I shan’t be alone when
the Pococks have come.”

Her eyebrows went up. “The Pococks are coming?”

“That, I mean, is what will happen—and happen as quickly as
possible—in consequence of Chad’s cable. They’ll simply
embark. Sarah will come to speak for her mother—with an effect different
from muddle.”

Miss Gostrey more gravely wondered. “ then will take him
back?”

“Very possibly—and we shall see. She must at any rate have the
chance, and she may be trusted to do all she can.”

“And do you that?”

“Of course,” said Strether, “I want it. I want to play
fair.”

But she had lost for a moment the thread. “If it devolves on the Pococks
why do you stay?”

“Just to see that I play fair—and a little also, no
doubt, that they do.” Strether was luminous as he had never been.
“I came out to find myself in presence of new facts—facts that have
kept striking me as less and less met by our old reasons. The matter’s
perfectly simple. New reasons—reasons as new as the facts
themselves—are wanted; and of this our friends at
Woollett—Chad’s and mine—were at the earliest moment
definitely notified. If any are producible Mrs. Pocock will produce them;
she’ll bring over the whole collection. They’ll be,” he added
with a pensive smile “a part of the ‘fun’ you speak
of.”

She was quite in the current now and floating by his side. “It’s
Mamie—so far as I’ve had it from you—who’ll be their
great card.” And then as his contemplative silence wasn’t a denial
she significantly added: “I think I’m sorry for her.”

“I think am!”—and Strether sprang up, moving about a
little as her eyes followed him. “But it can’t be helped.”

“You mean her coming out can’t be?”

He explained after another turn what he meant. “The only way for her not
to come is for me to go home—as I believe that on the spot I could
prevent it. But the difficulty as to that is that if I do go home—”

“I see, I see”—she had easily understood. “Mr. Newsome
will do the same, and that’s not”—she laughed out
now—“to be thought of.”

Strether had no laugh; he had only a quiet comparatively placid look that might
have shown him as proof against ridicule. “Strange, isn’t
it?”

They had, in the matter that so much interested them, come so far as this
without sounding another name—to which however their present momentary
silence was full of a conscious reference. Strether’s question was a
sufficient implication of the weight it had gained with him during the absence
of his hostess; and just for that reason a single gesture from her could pass
for him as a vivid answer. Yet he was answered still better when she said in a
moment: “Will Mr. Newsome introduce his sister—?”

“To Madame de Vionnet?” Strether spoke the name at last. “I
shall be greatly surprised if he doesn’t.”

She seemed to gaze at the possibility. “You mean you’ve thought of
it and you’re prepared.”

“I’ve thought of it and I’m prepared.”

It was to her visitor now that she applied her consideration. “Bon! You
magnificent!”

“Well,” he answered after a pause and a little wearily, but still
standing there before her—“well, that’s what, just once in
all my dull days, I think I shall like to have been!”

Two days later he had news from Chad of a communication from Woollett in
response to their determinant telegram, this missive being addressed to Chad
himself and announcing the immediate departure for France of Sarah and Jim and
Mamie. Strether had meanwhile on his own side cabled; he had but delayed that
act till after his visit to Miss Gostrey, an interview by which, as so often
before, he felt his sense of things cleared up and settled. His message to Mrs.
Newsome, in answer to her own, had consisted of the words: “Judge best to
take another month, but with full appreciation of all re-enforcements.”
He had added that he was writing, but he was of course always writing; it was a
practice that continued, oddly enough, to relieve him, to make him come nearer
than anything else to the consciousness of doing something: so that he often
wondered if he hadn’t really, under his recent stress, acquired some
hollow trick, one of the specious arts of make-believe. Wouldn’t the
pages he still so freely dispatched by the American post have been worthy of a
showy journalist, some master of the great new science of beating the sense out
of words? Wasn’t he writing against time, and mainly to show he was
kind?—since it had become quite his habit not to like to read himself
over. On those lines he could still be liberal, yet it was at best a sort of
whistling in the dark. It was unmistakeable moreover that the sense of being in
the dark now pressed on him more sharply—creating thereby the need for a
louder and livelier whistle. He whistled long and hard after sending his
message; he whistled again and again in celebration of Chad’s news; there
was an interval of a fortnight in which this exercise helped him. He had no
great notion of what, on the spot, Sarah Pocock would have to say, though he
had indeed confused premonitions; but it shouldn’t be in her power to
say—it shouldn’t be in any one’s anywhere to say—that
he was neglecting her mother. He might have written before more freely, but he
had never written more copiously; and he frankly gave for a reason at Woollett
that he wished to fill the void created there by Sarah’s departure.

The increase of his darkness, however, and the quickening, as I have called it,
of his tune, resided in the fact that he was hearing almost nothing. He had for
some time been aware that he was hearing less than before, and he was now
clearly following a process by which Mrs. Newsome’s letters could but
logically stop. He hadn’t had a line for many days, and he needed no
proof—though he was, in time, to have plenty—that she
wouldn’t have put pen to paper after receiving the hint that had
determined her telegram. She wouldn’t write till Sarah should have seen
him and reported on him. It was strange, though it might well be less so than
his own behaviour appeared at Woollett. It was at any rate significant, and
what remarkable was the way his friend’s nature and manner put
on for him, through this very drop of demonstration, a greater intensity. It
struck him really that he had never so lived with her as during this period of
her silence; the silence was a sacred hush, a finer clearer medium, in which
her idiosyncrasies showed. He walked about with her, sat with her, drove with
her and dined face-to-face with her—a rare treat “in his
life,” as he could perhaps have scarce escaped phrasing it; and if he had
never seen her so soundless he had never, on the other hand, felt her so
highly, so almost austerely, herself: pure and by the vulgar estimate
“cold,” but deep devoted delicate sensitive noble. Her vividness in
these respects became for him, in the special conditions, almost an obsession;
and though the obsession sharpened his pulses, adding really to the excitement
of life, there were hours at which, to be less on the stretch, he directly
sought forgetfulness. He knew it for the queerest of adventures—a
circumstance capable of playing such a part only for Lambert
Strether—that in Paris itself, of all places, he should find this ghost
of the lady of Woollett more importunate than any other presence.

When he went back to Maria Gostrey it was for the change to something else. And
yet after all the change scarcely operated for he talked to her of Mrs. Newsome
in these days as he had never talked before. He had hitherto observed in that
particular a discretion and a law; considerations that at present broke down
quite as if relations had altered. They hadn’t altered, he
said to himself, so much as that came to; for if what had occurred was of
course that Mrs. Newsome had ceased to trust him, there was nothing on the
other hand to prove that he shouldn’t win back her confidence. It was
quite his present theory that he would leave no stone unturned to do so; and in
fact if he now told Maria things about her that he had never told before this
was largely because it kept before him the idea of the honour of such a
woman’s esteem. His relation with Maria as well was, strangely enough, no
longer quite the same; this truth—though not too
disconcertingly—had come up between them on the renewal of their
meetings. It was all contained in what she had then almost immediately said to
him; it was represented by the remark she had needed but ten minutes to make
and that he hadn’t been disposed to gainsay. He could toddle alone, and
the difference that showed was extraordinary. The turn taken by their talk had
promptly confirmed this difference; his larger confidence on the score of Mrs.
Newsome did the rest; and the time seemed already far off when he had held out
his small thirsty cup to the spout of her pail. Her pail was scarce touched
now, and other fountains had flowed for him; she fell into her place as but one
of his tributaries; and there was a strange sweetness—a melancholy
mildness that touched him—in her acceptance of the altered order.

It marked for himself the flight of time, or at any rate what he was pleased to
think of with irony and pity as the rush of experience; it having been but the
day before yesterday that he sat at her feet and held on by her garment and was
fed by her hand. It was the proportions that were changed, and the proportions
were at all times, he philosophised, the very conditions of perception, the
terms of thought. It was as if, with her effective little and
and her wide acquaintance, her activities, varieties, promiscuities, the duties
and devotions that took up nine tenths of her time and of which he got,
guardedly, but the side-wind—it was as if she had shrunk to a secondary
element and had consented to the shrinkage with the perfection of tact. This
perfection had never failed her; it had originally been greater than his prime
measure for it; it had kept him quite apart, kept him out of the shop, as she
called her huge general acquaintance, made their commerce as quiet, as much a
thing of the home alone—the opposite of the shop—as if she had
never another customer. She had been wonderful to him at first, with the memory
of her little , the image to which, on most mornings at that
time, his eyes directly opened; but now she mainly figured for him as but part
of the bristling total—though of course always as a person to whom he
should never cease to be indebted. It would never be given to him certainly to
inspire a greater kindness. She had decked him out for others, and he saw at
this point at least nothing she would ever ask for. She only wondered and
questioned and listened, rendering him the homage of a wistful speculation. She
expressed it repeatedly; he was already far beyond her, and she must prepare
herself to lose him. There was but one little chance for her.

Often as she had said it he met it—for it was a touch he liked—each
time the same way. “My coming to grief?”

“Yes—then I might patch you up.”

“Oh for my real smash, if it takes place, there will be no
patching.”

“But you surely don’t mean it will kill you.”

“No—worse. It will make me old.”

“Ah nothing can do that! The wonderful and special thing about you is
that you , at this time of day, youth.” Then she always made,
further, one of those remarks that she had completely ceased to adorn with
hesitations or apologies, and that had, by the same token, in spite of their
extreme straightness, ceased to produce in Strether the least embarrassment.
She made him believe them, and they became thereby as impersonal as truth
itself. “It’s just your particular charm.”

His answer too was always the same. “Of course I’m
youth—youth for the trip to Europe. I began to be young, or at least to
get the benefit of it, the moment I met you at Chester, and that’s what
has been taking place ever since. I never had the benefit at the proper
time—which comes to saying that I never had the thing itself. I’m
having the benefit at this moment; I had it the other day when I said to Chad
‘Wait’; I shall have it still again when Sarah Pocock arrives.
It’s a benefit that would make a poor show for many people; and I
don’t know who else but you and I, frankly, could begin to see in it what
I feel. I don’t get drunk; I don’t pursue the ladies; I don’t
spend money; I don’t even write sonnets. But nevertheless I’m
making up late for what I didn’t have early. I cultivate my little
benefit in my own little way. It amuses me more than anything that has happened
to me in all my life. They may say what they like—it’s my
surrender, it’s my tribute, to youth. One puts that in where one
can—it has to come in somewhere, if only out of the lives, the
conditions, the feelings of other persons. Chad gives me the sense of it, for
all his grey hairs, which merely make it solid in him and safe and serene; and
does the same, for all her being older than he, for all her
marriageable daughter, her separated husband, her agitated history. Though
they’re young enough, my pair, I don’t say they’re, in the
freshest way, their absolutely prime adolescence; for that has
nothing to do with it. The point is that they’re mine. Yes, they’re
my youth; since somehow at the right time nothing else ever was. What I meant
just now therefore is that it would all go—go before doing its
work—if they were to fail me.”

On which, just here, Miss Gostrey inveterately questioned. “What do you,
in particular, call its work?”

“Well, to see me through.”

“But through what?”—she liked to get it all out of him.

“Why through this experience.” That was all that would come.

It regularly gave her none the less the last word. “Don’t you
remember how in those first days of our meeting it was who was to see
you through?”

“Remember? Tenderly, deeply”—he always rose to it.
“You’re just doing your part in letting me maunder to you
thus.”

“Ah don’t speak as if my part were small; since whatever else fails
you—”

“ won’t, ever, ever, ever?”—he thus took her
up. “Oh I beg your pardon; you necessarily, you inevitably .
Your conditions—that’s what I mean—won’t allow me
anything to do for you.”

“Let alone—I see what you mean—that I’m drearily
dreadfully old. I , but there’s a service—possible for you
to render—that I know, all the same, I shall think of.”

“And what will it be?”

This, in fine, however, she would never tell him. “You shall hear only if
your smash takes place. As that’s really out of the question, I
won’t expose myself”—a point at which, for reasons of his
own, Strether ceased to press.

He came round, for publicity—it was the easiest thing—to the idea
that his smash out of the question, and this rendered idle the
discussion of what might follow it. He attached an added importance, as the
days elapsed, to the arrival of the Pococks; he had even a shameful sense of
waiting for it insincerely and incorrectly. He accused himself of making
believe to his own mind that Sarah’s presence, her impression, her
judgement would simplify and harmonise, he accused himself of being so afraid
of what they do that he sought refuge, to beg the whole question,
in a vain fury. He had abundantly seen at home what they were in the habit of
doing, and he had not at present the smallest ground. His clearest vision was
when he made out that what he most desired was an account more full and free of
Mrs. Newsome’s state of mind than any he felt he could now expect from
herself; that calculation at least went hand in hand with the sharp
consciousness of wishing to prove to himself that he was not afraid to look his
behaviour in the face. If he was by an inexorable logic to pay for it he was
literally impatient to know the cost, and he held himself ready to pay in
instalments. The first instalment would be precisely this entertainment of
Sarah; as a consequence of which moreover, he should know vastly better how he
stood.

Book Eighth

I

Strether rambled alone during these few days, the effect of the incident of the
previous week having been to simplify in a marked fashion his mixed relations
with Waymarsh. Nothing had passed between them in reference to Mrs.
Newsome’s summons but that our friend had mentioned to his own the
departure of the deputation actually at sea—giving him thus an
opportunity to confess to the occult intervention he imputed to him. Waymarsh
however in the event confessed to nothing; and though this falsified in some
degree Strether’s forecast the latter amusedly saw in it the same depth
of good conscience out of which the dear man’s impertinence had
originally sprung. He was patient with the dear man now and delighted to
observe how unmistakeably he had put on flesh; he felt his own holiday so
successfully large and free that he was full of allowances and charities in
respect to those cabined and confined: his instinct toward a spirit so strapped
down as Waymarsh’s was to walk round it on tiptoe for fear of waking it
up to a sense of losses by this time irretrievable. It was all very funny he
knew, and but the difference, as he often said to himself, of tweedledum and
tweedledee—an emancipation so purely comparative that it was like the
advance of the door-mat on the scraper; yet the present crisis was happily to
profit by it and the pilgrim from Milrose to know himself more than ever in the
right.

Strether felt that when he heard of the approach of the Pococks the impulse of
pity quite sprang up in him beside the impulse of triumph. That was exactly why
Waymarsh had looked at him with eyes in which the heat of justice was measured
and shaded. He had looked very hard, as if affectionately sorry for the
friend—the friend of fifty-five—whose frivolity had had thus to be
recorded; becoming, however, but obscurely sententious and leaving his
companion to formulate a charge. It was in this general attitude that he had of
late altogether taken refuge; with the drop of discussion they were solemnly
sadly superficial; Strether recognised in him the mere portentous rumination to
which Miss Barrace had so good-humouredly described herself as assigning a
corner of her salon. It was quite as if he knew his surreptitious step had been
divined, and it was also as if he missed the chance to explain the purity of
his motive; but this privation of relief should be precisely his small penance:
it was not amiss for Strether that he should find himself to that degree
uneasy. If he had been challenged or accused, rebuked for meddling or otherwise
pulled up, he would probably have shown, on his own system, all the height of
his consistency, all the depth of his good faith. Explicit resentment of his
course would have made him take the floor, and the thump of his fist on the
table would have affirmed him as consciously incorruptible. Had what now really
prevailed with Strether been but a dread of that thump—a dread of wincing
a little painfully at what it might invidiously demonstrate? However this might
be, at any rate, one of the marks of the crisis was a visible, a studied lapse,
in Waymarsh, of betrayed concern. As if to make up to his comrade for the
stroke by which he had played providence he now conspicuously ignored his
movements, withdrew himself from the pretension to share them, stiffened up his
sensibility to neglect, and, clasping his large empty hands and swinging his
large restless foot, clearly looked to another quarter for justice.

This made for independence on Strether’s part, and he had in truth at no
moment of his stay been so free to go and come. The early summer brushed the
picture over and blurred everything but the near; it made a vast warm fragrant
medium in which the elements floated together on the best of terms, in which
rewards were immediate and reckonings postponed. Chad was out of town again,
for the first time since his visitor’s first view of him; he had
explained this necessity—without detail, yet also without embarrassment,
the circumstance was one of those which, in the young man’s life,
testified to the variety of his ties. Strether wasn’t otherwise concerned
with it than for its so testifying—a pleasant multitudinous image in
which he took comfort. He took comfort, by the same stroke, in the swing of
Chad’s pendulum back from that other swing, the sharp jerk towards
Woollett, so stayed by his own hand. He had the entertainment of thinking that
if he had for that moment stopped the clock it was to promote the next minute
this still livelier motion. He himself did what he hadn’t done before; he
took two or three times whole days off—irrespective of others, of two or
three taken with Miss Gostrey, two or three taken with little Bilham: he went
to Chartres and cultivated, before the front of the cathedral, a general easy
beatitude; he went to Fontainebleau and imagined himself on the way to Italy;
he went to Rouen with a little handbag and inordinately spent the night.

One afternoon he did something quite different; finding himself in the
neighbourhood of a fine old house across the river, he passed under the great
arch of its doorway and asked at the porter’s lodge for Madame de
Vionnet. He had already hovered more than once about that possibility, been
aware of it, in the course of ostensible strolls, as lurking but round the
corner. Only it had perversely happened, after his morning at Notre Dame, that
his consistency, as he considered and intended it, had come back to him;
whereby he had reflected that the encounter in question had been none of his
making; clinging again intensely to the strength of his position, which was
precisely that there was nothing in it for himself. From the moment he actively
pursued the charming associate of his adventure, from that moment his position
weakened, for he was then acting in an interested way. It was only within a few
days that he had fixed himself a limit: he promised himself his consistency
should end with Sarah’s arrival. It was arguing correctly to feel the
title to a free hand conferred on him by this event. If he wasn’t to be
let alone he should be merely a dupe to act with delicacy. If he wasn’t
to be trusted he could at least take his ease. If he was to be placed under
control he gained leave to try what his position agreeably give
him. An ideal rigour would perhaps postpone the trial till after the Pococks
had shown their spirit; and it was to an ideal rigour that he had quite
promised himself to conform.

Suddenly, however, on this particular day, he felt a particular fear under
which everything collapsed. He knew abruptly that he was afraid of
himself—and yet not in relation to the effect on his sensibilities of
another hour of Madame de Vionnet. What he dreaded was the effect of a single
hour of Sarah Pocock, as to whom he was visited, in troubled nights, with
fantastic waking dreams. She loomed at him larger than life; she increased in
volume as she drew nearer; she so met his eyes that, his imagination taking,
after the first step, all, and more than all, the strides, he already felt her
come down on him, already burned, under her reprobation, with the blush of
guilt, already consented, by way of penance, to the instant forfeiture of
everything. He saw himself, under her direction, recommitted to Woollett as
juvenile offenders are committed to reformatories. It wasn’t of course
that Woollett was really a place of discipline; but he knew in advance that
Sarah’s salon at the hotel would be. His danger, at any rate, in such
moods of alarm, was some concession, on this ground, that would involve a sharp
rupture with the actual; therefore if he waited to take leave of that actual he
might wholly miss his chance. It was represented with supreme vividness by
Madame de Vionnet, and that is why, in a word, he waited no longer. He had seen
in a flash that he must anticipate Mrs. Pocock. He was accordingly much
disappointed on now learning from the portress that the lady of his quest was
not in Paris. She had gone for some days to the country. There was nothing in
this accident but what was natural; yet it produced for poor Strether a drop of
all confidence. It was suddenly as if he should never see her again, and as if
moreover he had brought it on himself by not having been quite kind to her.

It was the advantage of his having let his fancy lose itself for a little in
the gloom that, as by reaction, the prospect began really to brighten from the
moment the deputation from Woollett alighted on the platform of the station.
They had come straight from Havre, having sailed from New York to that port,
and having also, thanks to a happy voyage, made land with a promptitude that
left Chad Newsome, who had meant to meet them at the dock, belated. He had
received their telegram, with the announcement of their immediate further
advance, just as he was taking the train for Havre, so that nothing had
remained for him but to await them in Paris. He hastily picked up Strether, at
the hotel, for this purpose, and he even, with easy pleasantry, suggested the
attendance of Waymarsh as well—Waymarsh, at the moment his cab rattled
up, being engaged, under Strether’s contemplative range, in a grave
perambulation of the familiar court. Waymarsh had learned from his companion,
who had already had a note, delivered by hand, from Chad, that the Pococks were
due, and had ambiguously, though, as always, impressively, glowered at him over
the circumstance; carrying himself in a manner in which Strether was now expert
enough to recognise his uncertainty, in the premises, as to the best tone. The
only tone he aimed at with confidence was a full tone—which was
necessarily difficult in the absence of a full knowledge. The Pococks were a
quantity as yet unmeasured, and, as he had practically brought them over, so
this witness had to that extent exposed himself. He wanted to feel right about
it, but could only, at the best, for the time, feel vague. “I shall look
to you, you know, immensely,” our friend had said, “to help me with
them,” and he had been quite conscious of the effect of the remark, and
of others of the same sort, on his comrade’s sombre sensibility. He had
insisted on the fact that Waymarsh would quite like Mrs. Pocock—one could
be certain he would: he would be with her about everything, and she would also
be with , and Miss Barrace’s nose, in short, would find itself
out of joint.

Strether had woven this web of cheerfulness while they waited in the court for
Chad; he had sat smoking cigarettes to keep himself quiet while, caged and
leonine, his fellow traveller paced and turned before him. Chad Newsome was
doubtless to be struck, when he arrived, with the sharpness of their opposition
at this particular hour; he was to remember, as a part of it, how Waymarsh came
with him and with Strether to the street and stood there with a face
half-wistful and half-rueful. They talked of him, the two others, as they
drove, and Strether put Chad in possession of much of his own strained sense of
things. He had already, a few days before, named to him the wire he was
convinced their friend had pulled—a confidence that had made on the young
man’s part quite hugely for curiosity and diversion. The action of the
matter, moreover, Strether could see, was to penetrate; he saw that is, how
Chad judged a system of influence in which Waymarsh had served as a
determinant—an impression just now quickened again; with the whole
bearing of such a fact on the youth’s view of his relatives. As it came
up between them that they might now take their friend for a feature of the
control of these latter now sought to be exerted from Woollett, Strether felt
indeed how it would be stamped all over him, half an hour later for Sarah
Pocock’s eyes, that he was as much on Chad’s “side” as
Waymarsh had probably described him. He was letting himself at present, go;
there was no denying it; it might be desperation, it might be confidence; he
should offer himself to the arriving travellers bristling with all the lucidity
he had cultivated.

He repeated to Chad what he had been saying in the court to Waymarsh; how there
was no doubt whatever that his sister would find the latter a kindred spirit,
no doubt of the alliance, based on an exchange of views, that the pair would
successfully strike up. They would become as thick as thieves—which
moreover was but a development of what Strether remembered to have said in one
of his first discussions with his mate, struck as he had then already been with
the elements of affinity between that personage and Mrs. Newsome herself.
“I told him, one day, when he had questioned me on your mother, that she
was a person who, when he should know her, would rouse in him, I was sure, a
special enthusiasm; and that hangs together with the conviction we now
feel—this certitude that Mrs. Pocock will take him into her boat. For
it’s your mother’s own boat that she’s pulling.”

“Ah,” said Chad, “Mother’s worth fifty of Sally!”

“A thousand; but when you presently meet her, all the same you’ll
be meeting your mother’s representative—just as I shall. I feel
like the outgoing ambassador,” said Strether, “doing honour to his
appointed successor.” A moment after speaking as he had just done he felt
he had inadvertently rather cheapened Mrs. Newsome to her son; an impression
audibly reflected, as at first seen, in Chad’s prompt protest. He had
recently rather failed of apprehension of the young man’s attitude and
temper—remaining principally conscious of how little worry, at the worst,
he wasted, and he studied him at this critical hour with renewed interest. Chad
had done exactly what he had promised him a fortnight previous—had
accepted without another question his plea for delay. He was waiting cheerfully
and handsomely, but also inscrutably and with a slight increase perhaps of the
hardness originally involved in his acquired high polish. He was neither
excited nor depressed; was easy and acute and deliberate—unhurried
unflurried unworried, only at most a little less amused than usual. Strether
felt him more than ever a justification of the extraordinary process of which
his own absurd spirit had been the arena; he knew as their cab rolled along,
knew as he hadn’t even yet known, that nothing else than what Chad had
done and had been would have led to his present showing. They had made him,
these things, what he was, and the business hadn’t been easy; it had
taken time and trouble, it had cost, above all, a price. The result at any rate
was now to be offered to Sally; which Strether, so far as that was concerned,
was glad to be there to witness. Would she in the least make it out or take it
in, the result, or would she in the least care for it if she did? He scratched
his chin as he asked himself by what name, when challenged—as he was sure
he should be—he could call it for her. Oh those were determinations she
must herself arrive at; since she wanted so much to see, let her see then and
welcome. She had come out in the pride of her competence, yet it hummed in
Strether’s inner sense that she practically wouldn’t see.

That this was moreover what Chad shrewdly suspected was clear from a word that
next dropped from him. “They’re children; they play at
life!”—and the exclamation was significant and reassuring. It
implied that he hadn’t then, for his companion’s sensibility,
appeared to give Mrs. Newsome away; and it facilitated our friend’s
presently asking him if it were his idea that Mrs. Pocock and Madame de Vionnet
should become acquainted. Strether was still more sharply struck, hereupon,
with Chad’s lucidity. “Why, isn’t that exactly—to get a
sight of the company I keep—what she has come out for?”

“Yes—I’m afraid it is,” Strether unguardedly replied.

Chad’s quick rejoinder lighted his precipitation. “Why do you say
you’re afraid?”

“Well, because I feel a certain responsibility. It’s my testimony,
I imagine, that will have been at the bottom of Mrs. Pocock’s curiosity.
My letters, as I’ve supposed you to understand from the beginning, have
spoken freely. I’ve certainly said my little say about Madame de
Vionnet.”

All that, for Chad, was beautifully obvious. “Yes, but you’ve only
spoken handsomely.”

“Never more handsomely of any woman. But it’s just that
tone—!”

“That tone,” said Chad, “that has fetched her? I dare say;
but I’ve no quarrel with you about it. And no more has Madame de Vionnet.
Don’t you know by this time how she likes you?”

“Oh!”—and Strether had, with his groan, a real pang of
melancholy. “For all I’ve done for her!”

“Ah you’ve done a great deal.”

Chad’s urbanity fairly shamed him, and he was at this moment absolutely
impatient to see the face Sarah Pocock would present to a sort of thing, as he
synthetically phrased it to himself, with no adequate forecast of which,
despite his admonitions, she would certainly arrive. “I’ve done

“Well, this is all right. She likes,” Chad comfortably remarked,
“to be liked.”

It gave his companion a moment’s thought. “And she’s sure
Mrs. Pocock —?”

“No, I say that for you. She likes your liking her; it’s so much,
as it were,” Chad laughed, “to the good. However, she doesn’t
despair of Sarah either, and is prepared, on her own side, to go all
lengths.”

“In the way of appreciation?”

“Yes, and of everything else. In the way of general amiability,
hospitality and welcome. She’s under arms,” Chad laughed again;
“she’s prepared.”

Strether took it in; then as if an echo of Miss Barrace were in the air:
“She’s wonderful.”

“You don’t begin to know wonderful!”

There was a depth in it, to Strether’s ear, of confirmed
luxury—almost a kind of unconscious insolence of proprietorship; but the
effect of the glimpse was not at this moment to foster speculation: there was
something so conclusive in so much graceful and generous assurance. It was in
fact a fresh evocation; and the evocation had before many minutes another
consequence. “Well, I shall see her oftener now. I shall see her as much
as I like—by your leave; which is what I hitherto haven’t
done.”

“It has been,” said Chad, but without reproach, “only your
own fault. I tried to bring you together, and , my dear
fellow—I never saw her more charming to any man. But you’ve got
your extraordinary ideas.”

“Well, I have,” Strether murmured, while he felt both
how they had possessed him and how they had now lost their authority. He
couldn’t have traced the sequence to the end, but it was all because of
Mrs. Pocock. Mrs. Pocock might be because of Mrs. Newsome, but that was still
to be proved. What came over him was the sense of having stupidly failed to
profit where profit would have been precious. It had been open to him to see so
much more of her, and he had but let the good days pass. Fierce in him almost
was the resolve to lose no more of them, and he whimsically reflected, while at
Chad’s side he drew nearer to his destination, that it was after all
Sarah who would have quickened his chance. What her visit of inquisition might
achieve in other directions was as yet all obscure—only not obscure that
it would do supremely much to bring two earnest persons together. He had but to
listen to Chad at this moment to feel it; for Chad was in the act of remarking
to him that they of course both counted on him—he himself and the other
earnest person—for cheer and support. It was brave to Strether to hear
him talk as if the line of wisdom they had struck out was to make things
ravishing to the Pococks. No, if Madame de Vionnet compassed ,
compassed the ravishment of the Pococks, Madame de Vionnet would be prodigious.
It would be a beautiful plan if it succeeded, and it all came to the question
of Sarah’s being really bribeable. The precedent of his own case helped
Strether perhaps but little to consider she might prove so; it being distinct
that her character would rather make for every possible difference. This idea
of his own bribeability set him apart for himself; with the further mark in
fact that his case was absolutely proved. He liked always, where Lambert
Strether was concerned, to know the worst, and what he now seemed to know was
not only that he was bribeable, but that he had been effectually bribed. The
only difficulty was that he couldn’t quite have said with what. It was as
if he had sold himself, but hadn’t somehow got the cash. That, however,
was what, characteristically, happen to him. It would naturally be
his kind of traffic. While he thought of these things he reminded Chad of the
truth they mustn’t lose sight of—the truth that, with all deference
to her susceptibility to new interests, Sarah would have come out with a high
firm definite purpose. “She hasn’t come out, you know, to be
bamboozled. We may all be ravishing—nothing perhaps can be more easy for
us; but she hasn’t come out to be ravished. She has come out just simply
to take you home.”

“Oh well, with I’ll go,” said Chad
good-humouredly. “I suppose you’ll allow .” And
then as for a minute Strether said nothing: “Or is your idea that when
I’ve seen her I shan’t want to go?” As this question,
however, again left his friend silent he presently went on: “My own idea
at any rate is that they shall have while they’re here the best sort of
time.”

It was at this that Strether spoke. “Ah there you are! I think if you
really wanted to go—!”

“Well?” said Chad to bring it out.

“Well, you wouldn’t trouble about our good time. You wouldn’t
care what sort of a time we have.”

Chad could always take in the easiest way in the world any ingenious
suggestion. “I see. But can I help it? I’m too decent.”

“Yes, you’re too decent!” Strether heavily sighed. And he
felt for the moment as if it were the preposterous end of his mission.

It ministered for the time to this temporary effect that Chad made no
rejoinder. But he spoke again as they came in sight of the station. “Do
you mean to introduce her to Miss Gostrey?”

As to this Strether was ready. “No.”

“But haven’t you told me they know about her?”

“I think I’ve told you your mother knows.”

“And won’t she have told Sally?”

“That’s one of the things I want to see.”

“And if you find she —?”

“Will I then, you mean, bring them together?”

“Yes,” said Chad with his pleasant promptness: “to show her
there’s nothing in it.”

Strether hesitated. “I don’t know that I care very much what she
may think there’s in it.”

“Not if it represents what Mother thinks?”

“Ah what your mother think?” There was in this some
sound of bewilderment.

But they were just driving up, and help, of a sort, might after all be quite at
hand. “Isn’t that, my dear man, what we’re both just going to
make out?”

II

Strether quitted the station half an hour later in different company. Chad had
taken charge, for the journey to the hotel, of Sarah, Mamie, the maid and the
luggage, all spaciously installed and conveyed; and it was only after the four
had rolled away that his companion got into a cab with Jim. A strange new
feeling had come over Strether, in consequence of which his spirits had risen;
it was as if what had occurred on the alighting of his critics had been
something other than his fear, though his fear had yet not been of an instant
scene of violence. His impression had been nothing but what was
inevitable—he said that to himself; yet relief and reassurance had softly
dropped upon him. Nothing could be so odd as to be indebted for these things to
the look of faces and the sound of voices that had been with him to satiety, as
he might have said, for years; but he now knew, all the same, how uneasy he had
felt; that was brought home to him by his present sense of a respite. It had
come moreover in the flash of an eye, it had come in the smile with which
Sarah, whom, at the window of her compartment, they had effusively greeted from
the platform, rustled down to them a moment later, fresh and handsome from her
cool June progress through the charming land. It was only a sign, but enough:
she was going to be gracious and unallusive, she was going to play the larger
game—which was still more apparent, after she had emerged from
Chad’s arms, in her direct greeting to the valued friend of her family.

Strether then as much as ever the valued friend of her family, it
was something he could at all events go on with; and the manner of his response
to it expressed even for himself how little he had enjoyed the prospect of
ceasing to figure in that likeness. He had always seen Sarah gracious—had
in fact rarely seen her shy or dry, her marked thin-lipped smile, intense
without brightness and as prompt to act as the scrape of a safety-match; the
protrusion of her rather remarkably long chin, which in her case represented
invitation and urbanity, and not, as in most others, pugnacity and defiance;
the penetration of her voice to a distance, the general encouragement and
approval of her manner, were all elements with which intercourse had made him
familiar, but which he noted today almost as if she had been a new
acquaintance. This first glimpse of her had given a brief but vivid accent to
her resemblance to her mother; he could have taken her for Mrs. Newsome while
she met his eyes as the train rolled into the station. It was an impression
that quickly dropped; Mrs. Newsome was much handsomer, and while Sarah inclined
to the massive her mother had, at an age, still the girdle of a maid; also the
latter’s chin was rather short, than long, and her smile, by good
fortune, much more, oh ever so much more, mercifully vague. Strether had seen
Mrs. Newsome reserved; he had literally heard her silent, though he had never
known her unpleasant. It was the case with Mrs. Pocock that he had known
unpleasant, even though he had never known her not affable. She had
forms of affability that were in a high degree assertive; nothing for instance
had ever been more striking than that she was affable to Jim.

What had told in any case at the window of the train was her high clear
forehead, that forehead which her friends, for some reason, always thought of
as a “brow”; the long reach of her eyes—it came out at this
juncture in such a manner as to remind him, oddly enough, also of that of
Waymarsh’s; and the unusual gloss of her dark hair, dressed and hatted,
after her mother’s refined example, with such an avoidance of extremes
that it was always spoken of at Woollett as “their own.” Though
this analogy dropped as soon as she was on the platform it had lasted long
enough to make him feel all the advantage, as it were, of his relief. The woman
at home, the woman to whom he was attached, was before him just long enough to
give him again the measure of the wretchedness, in fact really of the shame, of
their having to recognise the formation, between them, of a
“split.” He had taken this measure in solitude and meditation: but
the catastrophe, as Sarah steamed up, looked for its seconds unprecedentedly
dreadful—or proved, more exactly, altogether unthinkable; so that his
finding something free and familiar to respond to brought with it an instant
renewal of his loyalty. He had suddenly sounded the whole depth, had gasped at
what he might have lost.

Well, he could now, for the quarter of an hour of their detention hover about
the travellers as soothingly as if their direct message to him was that he had
lost nothing. He wasn’t going to have Sarah write to her mother that
night that he was in any way altered or strange. There had been times enough
for a month when it had seemed to him that he was strange, that he was altered,
in every way; but that was a matter for himself; he knew at least whose
business it was ; it was not at all events such a circumstance as
Sarah’s own unaided lights would help her to. Even if she had come out to
flash those lights more than yet appeared she wouldn’t make much headway
against mere pleasantness. He counted on being able to be merely pleasant to
the end, and if only from incapacity moreover to formulate anything different.
He couldn’t even formulate to himself his being changed and queer; it had
taken place, the process, somewhere deep down; Maria Gostrey had caught
glimpses of it; but how was he to fish it up, even if he desired, for Mrs.
Pocock? This was then the spirit in which he hovered, and with the easier throb
in it much indebted furthermore to the impression of high and established
adequacy as a pretty girl promptly produced in him by Mamie. He had wondered
vaguely—turning over many things in the fidget of his thoughts—if
Mamie as pretty as Woollett published her; as to which issue seeing
her now again was to be so swept away by Woollett’s opinion that this
consequence really let loose for the imagination an avalanche of others. There
were positively five minutes in which the last word seemed of necessity to
abide with a Woollett represented by a Mamie. This was the sort of truth the
place itself would feel; it would send her forth in confidence; it would point
to her with triumph; it would take its stand on her with assurance; it would be
conscious of no requirements she didn’t meet, of no question she
couldn’t answer.

Well, it was right, Strether slipped smoothly enough into the cheerfulness of
saying: granted that a community be best represented by a young
lady of twenty-two, Mamie perfectly played the part, played it as if she were
used to it, and looked and spoke and dressed the character. He wondered if she
mightn’t, in the high light of Paris, a cool full studio-light, becoming
yet treacherous, show as too conscious of these matters; but the next moment he
felt satisfied that her consciousness was after all empty for its size, rather
too simple than too mixed, and that the kind way with her would be not to take
many things out of it, but to put as many as possible in. She was robust and
conveniently tall; just a trifle too bloodlessly fair perhaps, but with a
pleasant public familiar radiance that affirmed her vitality. She might have
been “receiving” for Woollett, wherever she found herself, and
there was something in her manner, her tone, her motion, her pretty blue eyes,
her pretty perfect teeth and her very small, too small, nose, that immediately
placed her, to the fancy, between the windows of a hot bright room in which
voices were high—up at that end to which people were brought to be
“presented.” They were there to congratulate, these images, and
Strether’s renewed vision, on this hint, completed the idea. What Mamie
was like was the happy bride, the bride after the church and just before going
away. She wasn’t the mere maiden, and yet was only as much married as
that quantity came to. She was in the brilliant acclaimed festal stage. Well,
might it last her long!

Strether rejoiced in these things for Chad, who was all genial attention to the
needs of his friends, besides having arranged that his servant should reinforce
him; the ladies were certainly pleasant to see, and Mamie would be at any time
and anywhere pleasant to exhibit. She would look extraordinarily like his young
wife—the wife of a honeymoon, should he go about with her; but that was
his own affair—or perhaps it was hers; it was at any rate something she
couldn’t help. Strether remembered how he had seen him come up with
Jeanne de Vionnet in Gloriani’s garden, and the fancy he had had about
that—the fancy obscured now, thickly overlaid with others; the
recollection was during these minutes his only note of trouble. He had often,
in spite of himself, wondered if Chad but too probably were not with Jeanne the
object of a still and shaded flame. It was on the cards that the child
be tremulously in love, and this conviction now flickered up not a
bit the less for his disliking to think of it, for its being, in a complicated
situation, a complication the more, and for something indescribable in Mamie,
something at all events straightway lent her by his own mind, something that
gave her value, gave her intensity and purpose, as the symbol of an opposition.
Little Jeanne wasn’t really at all in question—how she
be?—yet from the moment Miss Pocock had shaken her skirts on the
platform, touched up the immense bows of her hat and settled properly over her
shoulder the strap of her morocco-and-gilt travelling-satchel, from that moment
little Jeanne was opposed.

It was in the cab with Jim that impressions really crowded on Strether, giving
him the strangest sense of length of absence from people among whom he had
lived for years. Having them thus come out to him was as if he had returned to
find them: and the droll promptitude of Jim’s mental reaction threw his
own initiation far back into the past. Whoever might or mightn’t be
suited by what was going on among them, Jim, for one, would certainly be: his
instant recognition—frank and whimsical—of what the affair was for
gave Strether a glow of pleasure. “I say, you know, this
about my shape, and if it hadn’t been for
—!” so he broke out as the charming streets met his
healthy appetite; and he wound up, after an expressive nudge, with a clap of
his companion’s knee and an “Oh you, you—you doing
it!” that was charged with rich meaning. Strether felt in it the
intention of homage, but, with a curiosity otherwise occupied, postponed taking
it up. What he was asking himself for the time was how Sarah Pocock, in the
opportunity already given her, had judged her brother—from whom he
himself, as they finally, at the station, separated for their different
conveyances, had had a look into which he could read more than one message.
However Sarah was judging her brother, Chad’s conclusion about his
sister, and about her husband and her husband’s sister, was at the least
on the way not to fail of confidence. Strether felt the confidence, and that,
as the look between them was an exchange, what he himself gave back was
relatively vague. This comparison of notes however could wait; everything
struck him as depending on the effect produced by Chad. Neither Sarah nor Mamie
had in any way, at the station—where they had had after all ample
time—broken out about it; which, to make up for this, was what our friend
had expected of Jim as soon as they should find themselves together.

It was queer to him that he had that noiseless brush with Chad; an ironic
intelligence with this youth on the subject of his relatives, an intelligence
carried on under their nose and, as might be said, at their expense—such
a matter marked again for him strongly the number of stages he had come; albeit
that if the number seemed great the time taken for the final one was but the
turn of a hand. He had before this had many moments of wondering if he himself
weren’t perhaps changed even as Chad was changed. Only what in Chad was
conspicuous improvement—well, he had no name ready for the working, in
his own organism, of his own more timid dose. He should have to see first what
this action would amount to. And for his occult passage with the young man,
after all, the directness of it had no greater oddity than the fact that the
young man’s way with the three travellers should have been so happy a
manifestation. Strether liked him for it, on the spot, as he hadn’t yet
liked him; it affected him while it lasted as he might have been affected by
some light pleasant perfect work of art: to that degree that he wondered if
they were really worthy of it, took it in and did it justice; to that degree
that it would have been scarce a miracle if, there in the luggage-room, while
they waited for their things, Sarah had pulled his sleeve and drawn him aside.
“You’re right; we haven’t quite known what you mean, Mother
and I, but now we see. Chad’s magnificent; what can one want more? If
is the kind of thing—!” On which they might, as it
were, have embraced and begun to work together.

Ah how much, as it was, for all her bridling brightness—which was merely
general and noticed nothing— they work together? Strether
knew he was unreasonable; he set it down to his being nervous: people
couldn’t notice everything and speak of everything in a quarter of an
hour. Possibly, no doubt, also, he made too much of Chad’s display. Yet,
none the less, when, at the end of five minutes, in the cab, Jim Pocock had
said nothing either—hadn’t said, that is, what Strether wanted,
though he had said much else—it all suddenly bounced back to their being
either stupid or wilful. It was more probably on the whole the former; so that
that would be the drawback of the bridling brightness. Yes, they would bridle
and be bright; they would make the best of what was before them, but their
observation would fail; it would be beyond them; they simply wouldn’t
understand. Of what use would it be then that they had come?—if they
weren’t to be intelligent up to point: unless indeed he
himself were utterly deluded and extravagant? Was he, on this question of
Chad’s improvement, fantastic and away from the truth? Did he live in a
false world, a world that had grown simply to suit him, and was his present
slight irritation—in the face now of Jim’s silence in
particular—but the alarm of the vain thing menaced by the touch of the
real? Was this contribution of the real possibly the mission of the
Pococks?—had they come to make the work of observation, as had
practised observation, crack and crumble, and to reduce Chad to the plain terms
in which honest minds could deal with him? Had they come in short to be sane
where Strether was destined to feel that he himself had only been silly?

He glanced at such a contingency, but it failed to hold him long when once he
had reflected that he would have been silly, in this case, with Maria Gostrey
and little Bilham, with Madame de Vionnet and little Jeanne, with Lambert
Strether, in fine, and above all with Chad Newsome himself. Wouldn’t it
be found to have made more for reality to be silly with these persons than sane
with Sarah and Jim? Jim in fact, he presently made up his mind, was
individually out of it; Jim didn’t care; Jim hadn’t come out either
for Chad or for him; Jim in short left the moral side to Sally and indeed
simply availed himself now, for the sense of recreation, of the fact that he
left almost everything to Sally. He was nothing compared to Sally, and not so
much by reason of Sally’s temper and will as by that of her more
developed type and greater acquaintance with the world. He quite frankly and
serenely confessed, as he sat there with Strether, that he felt his type hang
far in the rear of his wife’s and still further, if possible, in the rear
of his sister’s. Their types, he well knew, were recognised and
acclaimed; whereas the most a leading Woollett business-man could hope to
achieve socially, and for that matter industrially, was a certain freedom to
play into this general glamour.

The impression he made on our friend was another of the things that marked our
friend’s road. It was a strange impression, especially as so soon
produced; Strether had received it, he judged, all in the twenty minutes; it
struck him at least as but in a minor degree the work of the long Woollett
years. Pocock was normally and consentingly though not quite wittingly out of
the question. It was despite his being normal; it was despite his being
cheerful; it was despite his being a leading Woollett business-man; and the
determination of his fate left him thus perfectly usual—as everything
else about it was clearly, to his sense, not less so. He seemed to say that
there was a whole side of life on which the perfectly usual for
leading Woollett business-men to be out of the question. He made no more of it
than that, and Strether, so far as Jim was concerned, desired to make no more.
Only Strether’s imagination, as always, worked, and he asked himself if
this side of life were not somehow connected, for those who figured on it with
the fact of marriage. Would relation to it, had he married ten years
before, have become now the same as Pocock’s? Might it even become the
same should he marry in a few months? Should he ever know himself as much out
of the question for Mrs. Newsome as Jim knew himself—in a dim
way—for Mrs. Jim?

To turn his eyes in that direction was to be personally reassured; he was
different from Pocock; he had affirmed himself differently and was held after
all in higher esteem. What none the less came home to him, however, at this
hour, was that the society over there, that of which Sarah and Mamie—and,
in a more eminent way, Mrs. Newsome herself—were specimens, was
essentially a society of women, and that poor Jim wasn’t in it. He
himself Lambert Strether, as yet in some degree—which was an
odd situation for a man; but it kept coming back to him in a whimsical way that
he should perhaps find his marriage had cost him his place. This occasion
indeed, whatever that fancy represented, was not a time of sensible exclusion
for Jim, who was in a state of manifest response to the charm of his adventure.
Small and fat and constantly facetious, straw-coloured and destitute of marks,
he would have been practically indistinguishable hadn’t his constant
preference for light-grey clothes, for white hats, for very big cigars and very
little stories, done what it could for his identity. There were signs in him,
though none of them plaintive, of always paying for others; and the principal
one perhaps was just this failure of type. It was with this that he paid,
rather than with fatigue or waste; and also doubtless a little with the effort
of humour—never irrelevant to the conditions, to the relations, with
which he was acquainted.

He gurgled his joy as they rolled through the happy streets; he declared that
his trip was a regular windfall, and that he wasn’t there, he was eager
to remark, to hang back from anything: he didn’t know quite what Sally
had come for, but had come for a good time. Strether indulged him
even while wondering if what Sally wanted her brother to go back for was to
become like her husband. He trusted that a good time was to be, out and out,
the programme for all of them; and he assented liberally to Jim’s
proposal that, disencumbered and irresponsible—his things were in the
omnibus with those of the others—they should take a further turn round
before going to the hotel. It wasn’t for to tackle
Chad—it was Sally’s job; and as it would be like her, he felt, to
open fire on the spot, it wouldn’t be amiss of them to hold off and give
her time. Strether, on his side, only asked to give her time; so he jogged with
his companion along boulevards and avenues, trying to extract from meagre
material some forecast of his catastrophe. He was quick enough to see that Jim
Pocock declined judgement, had hovered quite round the outer edge of discussion
and anxiety, leaving all analysis of their question to the ladies alone and now
only feeling his way toward some small droll cynicism. It broke out afresh, the
cynicism—it had already shown a flicker—in a but slightly deferred:
“Well, hanged if I would if were he!”

“You mean you wouldn’t in Chad’s place—?”

“Give up this to go back and boss the advertising!” Poor Jim, with
his arms folded and his little legs out in the open fiacre, drank in the
sparkling Paris noon and carried his eyes from one side of their vista to the
other. “Why I want to come right out and live here myself. And I want to
live while I here too. I feel with —oh you’ve
been grand, old man, and I’ve twigged—that it ain’t right to
worry Chad. don’t mean to persecute him; I couldn’t in
conscience. It’s thanks to you at any rate that I’m here, and
I’m sure I’m much obliged. You’re a lovely pair.”

There were things in this speech that Strether let pass for the time.
“Don’t you then think it important the advertising should be
thoroughly taken in hand? Chad be, so far as capacity is
concerned,” he went on, “the man to do it.”

“Where did he get his capacity,” Jim asked, “over
here?”

“He didn’t get it over here, and the wonderful thing is that over
here he hasn’t inevitably lost it. He has a natural turn for business, an
extraordinary head. He comes by that,” Strether explained,
“honestly enough. He’s in that respect his father’s son, and
also—for she’s wonderful in her way too—his mother’s.
He has other tastes and other tendencies; but Mrs. Newsome and your wife are
quite right about his having that. He’s very remarkable.”

“Well, I guess he is!” Jim Pocock comfortably sighed. “But if
you’ve believed so in his making us hum, why have you so prolonged the
discussion? Don’t you know we’ve been quite anxious about
you?”

These questions were not informed with earnestness, but Strether saw he must
none the less make a choice and take a line. “Because, you see,
I’ve greatly liked it. I’ve liked my Paris, I dare say I’ve
liked it too much.”

“Oh you old wretch!” Jim gaily exclaimed.

“But nothing’s concluded,” Strether went on. “The case
is more complex than it looks from Woollett.”

“Oh well, it looks bad enough from Woollett!” Jim declared.

“Even after all I’ve written?”

Jim bethought himself. “Isn’t it what you’ve written that has
made Mrs. Newsome pack us off? That at least and Chad’s not turning
up?”

Strether made a reflexion of his own. “I see. That she should do
something was, no doubt, inevitable, and your wife has therefore of course come
out to act.”

“Oh yes,” Jim concurred—“to act. But Sally comes out to
act, you know,” he lucidly added, “every time she leaves the house.
She never comes out but she act. She’s acting moreover now
for her mother, and that fixes the scale.” Then he wound up, opening all
his senses to it, with a renewed embrace of pleasant Paris. “We
haven’t all the same at Woollett got anything like this.”

Strether continued to consider. “I’m bound to say for you all that
you strike me as having arrived in a very mild and reasonable frame of mind.
You don’t show your claws. I felt just now in Mrs. Pocock no symptom of
that. She isn’t fierce,” he went on. “I’m such a
nervous idiot that I thought she might be.”

“Oh don’t you know her well enough,” Pocock asked, “to
have noticed that she never gives herself away, any more than her mother ever
does? They ain’t fierce, either of ‘em; they let you come quite
close. They wear their fur the smooth side out—the warm side in. Do you
know what they are?” Jim pursued as he looked about him, giving the
question, as Strether felt, but half his care—“do you know what
they are? They’re about as intense as they can live.”

“Yes”—and Strether’s concurrence had a positive
precipitation; “they’re about as intense as they can live.”

“They don’t lash about and shake the cage,” said Jim, who
seemed pleased with his analogy; “and it’s at feeding-time that
they’re quietest. But they always get there.”

“They do indeed—they always get there!” Strether replied with
a laugh that justified his confession of nervousness. He disliked to be talking
sincerely of Mrs. Newsome with Pocock; he could have talked insincerely. But
there was something he wanted to know, a need created in him by her recent
intermission, by his having given from the first so much, as now more than ever
appeared to him, and got so little. It was as if a queer truth in his
companion’s metaphor had rolled over him with a rush. She been
quiet at feeding-time; she had fed, and Sarah had fed with her, out of the big
bowl of all his recent free communication, his vividness and pleasantness, his
ingenuity and even his eloquence, while the current of her response had
steadily run thin. Jim meanwhile however, it was true, slipped
characteristically into shallowness from the moment he ceased to speak out of
the experience of a husband.

“But of course Chad has now the advantage of being there before her. If
he doesn’t work that for all it’s worth—!” He sighed
with contingent pity at his brother-in-law’s possible want of resource.
“He has worked it on , pretty well, eh?” and he asked the
next moment if there were anything new at the Varieties, which he pronounced in
the American manner. They talked about the Varieties—Strether confessing
to a knowledge which produced again on Pocock’s part a play of innuendo
as vague as a nursery-rhyme, yet as aggressive as an elbow in his side; and
they finished their drive under the protection of easy themes. Strether waited
to the end, but still in vain, for any show that Jim had seen Chad as
different; and he could scarce have explained the discouragement he drew from
the absence of this testimony. It was what he had taken his own stand on, so
far as he had taken a stand; and if they were all only going to see nothing he
had only wasted his time. He gave his friend till the very last moment, till
they had come into sight of the hotel; and when poor Pocock only continued
cheerful and envious and funny he fairly grew to dislike him, to feel him
extravagantly common. If they were going to see
nothing!—Strether knew, as this came back to him, that he was also
letting Pocock represent for him what Mrs. Newsome wouldn’t see. He went
on disliking, in the light of Jim’s commonness, to talk to him about that
lady; yet just before the cab pulled up he knew the extent of his desire for
the real word from Woollett.

“Has Mrs. Newsome at all given way—?”

“‘Given way’?”—Jim echoed it with the practical
derision of his sense of a long past.

“Under the strain, I mean, of hope deferred, of disappointment repeated
and thereby intensified.”

“Oh is she prostrate, you mean?”—he had his categories in
hand. “Why yes, she’s prostrate—just as Sally is. But
they’re never so lively, you know, as when they’re
prostrate.”

“Ah Sarah’s prostrate?” Strether vaguely murmured.

“It’s when they’re prostrate that they most sit up.”

“And Mrs. Newsome’s sitting up?”

“All night, my boy—for ” And Jim fetched him, with
a vulgar little guffaw, a thrust that gave relief to the picture. But he had
got what he wanted. He felt on the spot that this the real word from
Woollett. “So don’t you go home!” Jim added while he alighted
and while his friend, letting him profusely pay the cabman, sat on in a
momentary muse. Strether wondered if that were the real word too.

III

As the door of Mrs. Pocock’s salon was pushed open for him, the next day,
well before noon, he was reached by a voice with a charming sound that made him
just falter before crossing the threshold. Madame de Vionnet was already on the
field, and this gave the drama a quicker pace than he felt it as
yet—though his suspense had increased—in the power of any act of
his own to do. He had spent the previous evening with all his old friends
together yet he would still have described himself as quite in the dark in
respect to a forecast of their influence on his situation. It was strange now,
none the less, that in the light of this unexpected note of her presence he
felt Madame de Vionnet a part of that situation as she hadn’t even yet
been. She was alone, he found himself assuming, with Sarah, and there was a
bearing in that—somehow beyond his control—on his personal fate.
Yet she was only saying something quite easy and independent—the thing
she had come, as a good friend of Chad’s, on purpose to say. “There
isn’t anything at all—? I should be so delighted.”

It was clear enough, when they were there before him, how she had been
received. He saw this, as Sarah got up to greet him, from something fairly
hectic in Sarah’s face. He saw furthermore that they weren’t, as
had first come to him, alone together; he was at no loss as to the identity of
the broad high back presented to him in the embrasure of the window furthest
from the door. Waymarsh, whom he had to-day not yet seen, whom he only knew to
have left the hotel before him, and who had taken part, the night previous, on
Mrs. Pocock’s kind invitation, conveyed by Chad, in the entertainment,
informal but cordial, promptly offered by that lady—Waymarsh had
anticipated him even as Madame de Vionnet had done, and, with his hands in his
pockets and his attitude unaffected by Strether’s entrance, was looking
out, in marked detachment, at the Rue de Rivoli. The latter felt it in the
air—it was immense how Waymarsh could mark things—-that he had
remained deeply dissociated from the overture to their hostess that we have
recorded on Madame de Vionnet’s side. He had, conspicuously, tact,
besides a stiff general view; and this was why he had left Mrs. Pocock to
struggle alone. He would outstay the visitor; he would unmistakeably wait; to
what had he been doomed for months past but waiting? Therefore she was to feel
that she had him in reserve. What support she drew from this was still to be
seen, for, although Sarah was vividly bright, she had given herself up for the
moment to an ambiguous flushed formalism. She had had to reckon more quickly
than she expected; but it concerned her first of all to signify that she was
not to be taken unawares. Strether arrived precisely in time for her showing
it. “Oh you’re too good; but I don’t think I feel quite
helpless. I have my brother—and these American friends. And then you know
I’ve been to Paris. I Paris,” said Sally Pocock in a
tone that breathed a certain chill on Strether’s heart.

“Ah but a woman, in this tiresome place where everything’s always
changing, a woman of good will,” Madame de Vionnet threw off, “can
always help a woman. I’m sure you ‘know’—but we know
perhaps different things.” She too, visibly, wished to make no mistake;
but it was a fear of a different order and more kept out of sight. She smiled
in welcome at Strether; she greeted him more familiarly than Mrs. Pocock; she
put out her hand to him without moving from her place; and it came to him in
the course of a minute and in the oddest way that—yes,
positively—she was giving him over to ruin. She was all kindness and
ease, but she couldn’t help so giving him; she was exquisite, and her
being just as she was poured for Sarah a sudden rush of meaning into his own
equivocations. How could she know how she was hurting him? She wanted to show
as simple and humble—in the degree compatible with operative charm; but
it was just this that seemed to put him on her side. She struck him as dressed,
as arranged, as prepared infinitely to conciliate—with the very poetry of
good taste in her view of the conditions of her early call. She was ready to
advise about dressmakers and shops; she held herself wholly at the disposition
of Chad’s family. Strether noticed her card on the table—her
coronet and her “Comtesse”—and the imagination was sharp in
him of certain private adjustments in Sarah’s mind. She had never, he was
sure, sat with a “Comtesse” before, and such was the specimen of
that class he had been keeping to play on her. She had crossed the sea very
particularly for a look at her; but he read in Madame de Vionnet’s own
eyes that this curiosity hadn’t been so successfully met as that she
herself wouldn’t now have more than ever need of him. She looked much as
she had looked to him that morning at Notre Dame; he noted in fact the
suggestive sameness of her discreet and delicate dress. It seemed to
speak—perhaps a little prematurely or too finely—of the sense in
which she would help Mrs. Pocock with the shops. The way that lady took her in,
moreover, added depth to his impression of what Miss Gostrey, by their common
wisdom, had escaped. He winced as he saw himself but for that timely prudence
ushering in Maria as a guide and an example. There was however a touch of
relief for him in his glimpse, so far as he had got it, of Sarah’s line.
She “knew Paris.” Madame de Vionnet had, for that matter, lightly
taken this up. “Ah then you’ve a turn for that, an affinity that
belongs to your family. Your brother, though his long experience makes a
difference, I admit, has become one of us in a marvellous way.” And she
appealed to Strether in the manner of a woman who could always glide off with
smoothness into another subject. Wasn’t struck with the way Mr.
Newsome had made the place his own, and hadn’t he been in a position to
profit by his friend’s wondrous expertness?

Strether felt the bravery, at the least, of her presenting herself so promptly
to sound that note, and yet asked himself what other note, after all, she
strike from the moment she presented herself at all. She could
meet Mrs. Pocock only on the ground of the obvious, and what feature of
Chad’s situation was more eminent than the fact that he had created for
himself a new set of circumstances? Unless she hid herself altogether she could
show but as one of these, an illustration of his domiciled and indeed of his
confirmed condition. And the consciousness of all this in her charming eyes was
so clear and fine that as she thus publicly drew him into her boat she produced
in him such a silent agitation as he was not to fail afterwards to denounce as
pusillanimous. “Ah don’t be so charming to me!—for it makes
us intimate, and after all what between us when I’ve been so
tremendously on my guard and have seen you but half a dozen times?” He
recognised once more the perverse law that so inveterately governed his poor
personal aspects: it would be exactly the way things always turned
out for him that he should affect Mrs. Pocock and Waymarsh as launched in a
relation in which he had really never been launched at all. They were at this
very moment—they could only be—attributing to him the full licence
of it, and all by the operation of her own tone with him; whereas his sole
licence had been to cling with intensity to the brink, not to dip so much as a
toe into the flood. But the flicker of his fear on this occasion was not, as
may be added, to repeat itself; it sprang up, for its moment, only to die down
and then go out for ever. To meet his fellow visitor’s invocation and,
with Sarah’s brilliant eyes on him, answer, quite sufficiently
to step into her boat. During the rest of the time her visit lasted he felt
himself proceed to each of the proper offices, successively, for helping to
keep the adventurous skiff afloat. It rocked beneath him, but he settled
himself in his place. He took up an oar and, since he was to have the credit of
pulling, pulled.

“That will make it all the pleasanter if it so happens that we
meet,” Madame de Vionnet had further observed in reference to Mrs.
Pocock’s mention of her initiated state; and she had immediately added
that, after all, her hostess couldn’t be in need with the good offices of
Mr. Strether so close at hand. “It’s he, I gather, who has learnt
to know his Paris, and to love it, better than any one ever before in so short
a time; so that between him and your brother, when it comes to the point, how
can you possibly want for good guidance? The great thing, Mr. Strether will
show you,” she smiled, “is just to let one’s self go.”

“Oh I’ve not let myself go very far,” Strether answered,
feeling quite as if he had been called upon to hint to Mrs. Pocock how
Parisians could talk. “I’m only afraid of showing I haven’t
let myself go far enough. I’ve taken a good deal of time, but I must
quite have had the air of not budging from one spot.” He looked at Sarah
in a manner that he thought she might take as engaging, and he made, under
Madame de Vionnet’s protection, as it were, his first personal point.
“What has really happened has been that, all the while, I’ve done
what I came out for.”

Yet it only at first gave Madame de Vionnet a chance immediately to take him
up. “You’ve renewed acquaintance with your
friend—you’ve learnt to know him again.” She spoke with such
cheerful helpfulness that they might, in a common cause, have been calling
together and pledged to mutual aid.

Waymarsh, at this, as if he had been in question, straightway turned from the
window. “Oh yes, Countess—he has renewed acquaintance with
, and he , I guess, learnt something about me, though I
don’t know how much he has liked it. It’s for Strether himself to
say whether he has felt it justifies his course.”

“Oh but ,” said the Countess gaily, “are not in the
least what he came out for—is he really, Strether? and I hadn’t you
at all in my mind. I was thinking of Mr. Newsome, of whom we think so much and
with whom, precisely, Mrs. Pocock has given herself the opportunity to take up
threads. What a pleasure for you both!” Madame de Vionnet, with her eyes
on Sarah, bravely continued.

Mrs. Pocock met her handsomely, but Strether quickly saw she meant to accept no
version of her movements or plans from any other lips. She required no
patronage and no support, which were but other names for a false position; she
would show in her own way what she chose to show, and this she expressed with a
dry glitter that recalled to him a fine Woollett winter morning.
“I’ve never wanted for opportunities to see my brother. We’ve
many things to think of at home, and great responsibilities and occupations,
and our home’s not an impossible place. We’ve plenty of
reasons,” Sarah continued a little piercingly, “for everything we
do”—and in short she wouldn’t give herself the least little
scrap away. But she added as one who was always bland and who could afford a
concession: “I’ve come because—well, because we do
come.”

“Ah then fortunately!”—Madame de Vionnet breathed it to the
air. Five minutes later they were on their feet for her to take leave, standing
together in an affability that had succeeded in surviving a further exchange of
remarks; only with the emphasised appearance on Waymarsh’s part of a
tendency to revert, in a ruminating manner and as with an instinctive or a
precautionary lightening of his tread, to an open window and his point of
vantage. The glazed and gilded room, all red damask, ormolu, mirrors, clocks,
looked south, and the shutters were bowed upon the summer morning; but the
Tuileries garden and what was beyond it, over which the whole place hung, were
things visible through gaps; so that the far-spreading presence of Paris came
up in coolness, dimness and invitation, in the twinkle of gilt-tipped palings,
the crunch of gravel, the click of hoofs, the crack of whips, things that
suggested some parade of the circus. “I think it probable,” said
Mrs. Pocock, “that I shall have the opportunity of going to my
brother’s. I’ve no doubt it’s very pleasant indeed.”
She spoke as to Strether, but her face was turned with an intensity of
brightness to Madame de Vionnet, and there was a moment during which, while she
thus fronted her, our friend expected to hear her add: “I’m much
obliged to you, I’m sure, for inviting me there.” He guessed that
for five seconds these words were on the point of coming; he heard them as
clearly as if they had been spoken; but he presently knew they had just
failed—knew it by a glance, quick and fine, from Madame de Vionnet, which
told him that she too had felt them in the air, but that the point had luckily
not been made in any manner requiring notice. This left her free to reply only
to what had been said.

“That the Boulevard Malesherbes may be common ground for us offers me the
best prospect I see for the pleasure of meeting you again.”

“Oh I shall come to see you, since you’ve been so good”: and
Mrs. Pocock looked her invader well in the eyes. The flush in Sarah’s
cheeks had by this time settled to a small definite crimson spot that was not
without its own bravery; she held her head a good deal up, and it came to
Strether that of the two, at this moment, she was the one who most carried out
the idea of a Countess. He quite took in, however, that she would really return
her visitor’s civility: she wouldn’t report again at Woollett
without at least so much producible history as that in her pocket.

“I want extremely to be able to show you my little daughter.”
Madame de Vionnet went on; “and I should have brought her with me if I
hadn’t wished first to ask your leave. I was in hopes I should perhaps
find Miss Pocock, of whose being with you I’ve heard from Mr. Newsome and
whose acquaintance I should so much like my child to make. If I have the
pleasure of seeing her and you do permit it I shall venture to ask her to be
kind to Jeanne. Mr. Strether will tell you”—she beautifully kept it
up—“that my poor girl is gentle and good and rather lonely.
They’ve made friends, he and she, ever so happily, and he doesn’t,
I believe, think ill of her. As for Jeanne herself he has had the same success
with her that I know he has had here wherever he has turned.” She seemed
to ask him for permission to say these things, or seemed rather to take it,
softly and happily, with the ease of intimacy, for granted, and he had quite
the consciousness now that not to meet her at any point more than halfway would
be odiously, basely to abandon her. Yes, he was her, and, opposed
even in this covert, this semi-safe fashion to those who were not, he felt,
strangely and confusedly, but excitedly, inspiringly, how much and how far. It
was as if he had positively waited in suspense for something from her that
would let him in deeper, so that he might show her how he could take it. And
what did in fact come as she drew out a little her farewell served sufficiently
the purpose. “As his success is a matter that I’m sure he’ll
never mention for himself, I feel, you see, the less scruple; which it’s
very good of me to say, you know, by the way,” she added as she addressed
herself to him; “considering how little direct advantage I’ve
gained from your triumphs with . When does one ever see you? I wait at
home and I languish. You’ll have rendered me the service, Mrs. Pocock, at
least,” she wound up, “of giving me one of my much-too-rare
glimpses of this gentleman.”

“I certainly should be sorry to deprive you of anything that seems so
much, as you describe it, your natural due. Mr. Strether and I are very old
friends,” Sarah allowed, “but the privilege of his society
isn’t a thing I shall quarrel about with any one.”

“And yet, dear Sarah,” he freely broke in, “I feel, when I
hear you say that, that you don’t quite do justice to the important truth
of the extent to which—as you’re also mine—I’m
natural due. I should like much better,” he laughed,
“to see you fight for me.”

She met him, Mrs. Pocock, on this, with an arrest of speech—with a
certain breathlessness, as he immediately fancied, on the score of a freedom
for which she wasn’t quite prepared. It had flared up—for all the
harm he had intended by it—because, confoundedly, he didn’t want
any more to be afraid about her than he wanted to be afraid about Madame de
Vionnet. He had never, naturally, called her anything but Sarah at home, and
though he had perhaps never quite so markedly invoked her as his
“dear,” that was somehow partly because no occasion had hitherto
laid so effective a trap for it. But something admonished him now that it was
too late—unless indeed it were possibly too early; and that he at any
rate shouldn’t have pleased Mrs. Pocock the more by it. “Well, Mr.
Strether—!” she murmured with vagueness, yet with sharpness, while
her crimson spot burned a trifle brighter and he was aware that this must be
for the present the limit of her response. Madame de Vionnet had already,
however, come to his aid, and Waymarsh, as if for further participation, moved
again back to them. It was true that the aid rendered by Madame de Vionnet was
questionable; it was a sign that, for all one might confess to with her, and
for all she might complain of not enjoying, she could still insidiously show
how much of the material of conversation had accumulated between them.

“The real truth is, you know, that you sacrifice one without mercy to
dear old Maria. She leaves no room in your life for anybody else. Do you
know,” she enquired of Mrs. Pocock, “about dear old Maria? The
worst is that Miss Gostrey is really a wonderful woman.”

“Oh yes indeed,” Strether answered for her, “Mrs. Pocock
knows about Miss Gostrey. Your mother, Sarah, must have told you about her;
your mother knows everything,” he sturdily pursued. “And I
cordially admit,” he added with his conscious gaiety of courage,
“that she’s as wonderful a woman as you like.”

“Ah it isn’t who ‘like,’ dear Mr. Strether,
anything to do with the matter!” Sarah Pocock promptly protested;
“and I’m by no means sure I have—from my mother or from any
one else—a notion of whom you’re talking about.”

“Well, he won’t let you see her, you know,” Madame de Vionnet
sympathetically threw in. “He never lets —old friends as
we are: I mean as I am with Maria. He reserves her for his best hours; keeps
her consummately to himself; only gives us others the crumbs of the
feast.”

“Well, Countess, had some of the crumbs,”
Waymarsh observed with weight and covering her with his large look; which led
her to break in before he could go on.

“, he shares her with ” she exclaimed
in droll stupefaction. “Take care you don’t have, before you go
much further, rather more of all than you may know what to do
with!”

But he only continued in his massive way. “I can post you about the lady,
Mrs. Pocock, so far as you may care to hear. I’ve seen her quite a number
of times, and I was practically present when they made acquaintance. I’ve
kept my eye on her right along, but I don’t know as there’s any
real harm in her.”

“‘Harm’?” Madame de Vionnet quickly echoed. “Why
she’s the dearest and cleverest of all the clever and dear.”

“Well, you run her pretty close, Countess,” Waymarsh returned with
spirit; “though there’s no doubt she’s pretty well up in
things. She knows her way round Europe. Above all there’s no doubt she
does love Strether.”

“Ah but we all do that—we all love Strether: it isn’t a
merit!” their fellow visitor laughed, keeping to her idea with a good
conscience at which our friend was aware that he marvelled, though he trusted
also for it, as he met her exquisitely expressive eyes, to some later light.

The prime effect of her tone, however—and it was a truth which his own
eyes gave back to her in sad ironic play—could only be to make him feel
that, to say such things to a man in public, a woman must practically think of
him as ninety years old. He had turned awkwardly, responsively red, he knew, at
her mention of Maria Gostrey; Sarah Pocock’s presence—the
particular quality of it—had made this inevitable; and then he had grown
still redder in proportion as he hated to have shown anything at all. He felt
indeed that he was showing much, as, uncomfortably and almost in pain, he
offered up his redness to Waymarsh, who, strangely enough, seemed now to be
looking at him with a certain explanatory yearning. Something
deep—something built on their old old relation—passed, in this
complexity, between them; he got the side-wind of a loyalty that stood behind
all actual queer questions. Waymarsh’s dry bare humour—as it gave
itself to be taken—gloomed out to demand justice. “Well, if you
talk of Miss Barrace I’ve chance too,” it appeared
stiffly to nod, and it granted that it was giving him away, but struggled to
add that it did so only to save him. The sombre glow stared it at him till it
fairly sounded out—“to save you, poor old man, to save you; to save
you in spite of yourself.” Yet it was somehow just this communication
that showed him to himself as more than ever lost. Still another result of it
was to put before him as never yet that between his comrade and the interest
represented by Sarah there was already a basis. Beyond all question now, yes:
Waymarsh had been in occult relation with Mrs. Newsome—out, out it all
came in the very effort of his face. “Yes, you’re feeling my
hand”—he as good as proclaimed it; “but only because this at
least I have got out of the damned Old World: that I shall have
picked up the pieces into which it has caused you to crumble.” It was as
if in short, after an instant, Strether had not only had it from him, but had
recognised that so far as this went the instant had cleared the air. Our friend
understood and approved; he had the sense that they wouldn’t otherwise
speak of it. This would be all, and it would mark in himself a kind of
intelligent generosity. It was with grim Sarah then—Sarah grim for all
her grace—that Waymarsh had begun at ten o’clock in the morning to
save him. Well—if he , poor dear man, with his big bleak
kindness! The upshot of which crowded perception was that Strether, on his own
side, still showed no more than he absolutely had to. He showed the least
possible by saying to Mrs. Pocock after an interval much briefer than our
glance at the picture reflected in him: “Oh it’s as true as they
please!—There’s no Miss Gostrey for any one but me—not the
least little peep. I keep her to myself.”

“Well, it’s very good of you to notify me,” Sarah replied
without looking at him and thrown for a moment by this discrimination, as the
direction of her eyes showed, upon a dimly desperate little community with
Madame de Vionnet. “But I hope I shan’t miss her too much.”

Madame de Vionnet instantly rallied. “And you know—though it might
occur to one—it isn’t in the least that he’s ashamed of her.
She’s really—in a way—extremely good-looking.”

“Ah but extremely!” Strether laughed while he wondered at the odd
part he found thus imposed on him.

It continued to be so by every touch from Madame de Vionnet. “Well, as I
say, you know, I wish you would keep a little more to yourself.
Couldn’t you name some day for me, some hour—and better soon than
late? I’ll be at home whenever it best suits you. There—I
can’t say fairer.”

Strether thought a moment while Waymarsh and Mrs. Pocock affected him as
standing attentive. “I did lately call on you. Last week—while Chad
was out of town.”

“Yes—and I was away, as it happened, too. You choose your moments
well. But don’t wait for my next absence, for I shan’t make
another,” Madame de Vionnet declared, “while Mrs. Pocock’s
here.”

“That vow needn’t keep you long, fortunately,” Sarah observed
with reasserted suavity. “I shall be at present but a short time in
Paris. I have my plans for other countries. I meet a number of charming
friends”—and her voice seemed to caress that description of these
persons.

“Ah then,” her visitor cheerfully replied, “all the more
reason! To-morrow, for instance, or next day?” she continued to Strether.
“Tuesday would do for me beautifully.”

“Tuesday then with pleasure.”

“And at half-past five?—or at six?”

It was ridiculous, but Mrs. Pocock and Waymarsh struck him as fairly waiting
for his answer. It was indeed as if they were arranged, gathered for a
performance, the performance of “Europe” by his confederate and
himself. Well, the performance could only go on. “Say five
forty-five.”

“Five forty-five—good.” And now at last Madame de Vionnet
must leave them, though it carried, for herself, the performance a little
further. “I hope so much also to see Miss Pocock. Mayn’t
I still?”

Sarah hesitated, but she rose equal. “She’ll return your visit with
me. She’s at present out with Mr. Pocock and my brother.”

“I see—of course Mr. Newsome has everything to show them. He has
told me so much about her. My great desire’s to give my daughter the
opportunity of making her acquaintance. I’m always on the lookout for
such chances for her. If I didn’t bring her to-day it was only to make
sure first that you’d let me.” After which the charming woman
risked a more intense appeal. “It wouldn’t suit also to
mention some near time, so that we shall be sure not to lose you?”
Strether on his side waited, for Sarah likewise had, after all, to perform; and
it occupied him to have been thus reminded that she had stayed at
home—and on her first morning of Paris—while Chad led the others
forth. Oh she was up to her eyes; if she had stayed at home she had stayed by
an understanding, arrived at the evening before, that Waymarsh would come and
find her alone. This was beginning well—for a first day in Paris; and the
thing might be amusing yet. But Madame de Vionnet’s earnestness was
meanwhile beautiful. “You may think me indiscreet, but I’ve
a desire my Jeanne shall know an American girl of the really
delightful kind. You see I throw myself for it on your charity.”

The manner of this speech gave Strether such a sense of depths below it and
behind it as he hadn’t yet had—ministered in a way that almost
frightened him to his dim divinations of reasons; but if Sarah still, in spite
of it, faltered, this was why he had time for a sign of sympathy with her
petitioner. “Let me say then, dear lady, to back your plea, that Miss
Mamie is of the most delightful kind of all—is charming among the
charming.”

Even Waymarsh, though with more to produce on the subject, could get into
motion in time. “Yes, Countess, the American girl’s a thing that
your country must at least allow ours the privilege to say we show
you. But her full beauty is only for those who know how to make use of
her.”

“Ah then,” smiled Madame de Vionnet, “that’s exactly
what I want to do. I’m sure she has much to teach us.”

It was wonderful, but what was scarce less so was that Strether found himself,
by the quick effect of it, moved another way. “Oh that may be! But
don’t speak of your own exquisite daughter, you know, as if she
weren’t pure perfection. at least won’t take that from
you. Mademoiselle de Vionnet,” he explained, in considerable form, to
Mrs. Pocock, “ pure perfection. Mademoiselle de Vionnet
exquisite.”

It had been perhaps a little portentous, but “Ah?” Sarah simply
glittered.

Waymarsh himself, for that matter, apparently recognised, in respect to the
facts, the need of a larger justice, and he had with it an inclination to
Sarah. “Miss Jane’s strikingly handsome—in the regular French
style.”

It somehow made both Strether and Madame de Vionnet laugh out, though at the
very moment he caught in Sarah’s eyes, as glancing at the speaker, a
vague but unmistakeable “You too?” It made Waymarsh in fact look
consciously over her head. Madame de Vionnet meanwhile, however, made her point
in her own way. “I wish indeed I could offer you my poor child as a
dazzling attraction: it would make one’s position simple enough!
She’s as good as she can be, but of course she’s different, and the
question is now—in the light of the way things seem to go—if she
isn’t after all different: too different I mean from the
splendid type every one is so agreed that your wonderful country produces. On
the other hand of course Mr. Newsome, who knows it so well, has, as a good
friend, dear kind man that he is, done everything he can—to keep us from
fatal benightedness—for my small shy creature. Well,” she wound up
after Mrs. Pocock had signified, in a murmur still a little stiff, that she
would speak to her own young charge on the question—“well, we shall
sit, my child and I, and wait and wait and wait for you.” But her last
fine turn was for Strether. “Do speak of us in such a way—!”

“As that something can’t but come of it? Oh something
come of it! I take a great interest!” he further declared; and in proof
of it, the next moment, he had gone with her down to her carriage.

Book Ninth

I

“The difficulty is,” Strether said to Madame de Vionnet a couple of
days later, “that I can’t surprise them into the smallest sign of
his not being the same old Chad they’ve been for the last three years
glowering at across the sea. They simply won’t give any, and as a policy,
you know—what you call a , a deep
game—that’s positively remarkable.”

It was so remarkable that our friend had pulled up before his hostess with the
vision of it; he had risen from his chair at the end of ten minutes and begun,
as a help not to worry, to move about before her quite as he moved before
Maria. He had kept his appointment with her to the minute and had been
intensely impatient, though divided in truth between the sense of having
everything to tell her and the sense of having nothing at all. The short
interval had, in the face of their complication, multiplied his
impressions—it being meanwhile to be noted, moreover, that he already
frankly, already almost publicly, viewed the complication as common to them. If
Madame de Vionnet, under Sarah’s eyes, had pulled him into her boat,
there was by this time no doubt whatever that he had remained in it and that
what he had really most been conscious of for many hours together was the
movement of the vessel itself. They were in it together this moment as they
hadn’t yet been, and he hadn’t at present uttered the least of the
words of alarm or remonstrance that had died on his lips at the hotel. He had
other things to say to her than that she had put him in a position; so quickly
had his position grown to affect him as quite excitingly, altogether richly,
inevitable. That the outlook, however—given the point of
exposure—hadn’t cleared up half so much as he had reckoned was the
first warning she received from him on his arrival. She had replied with
indulgence that he was in too great a hurry, and had remarked soothingly that
if she knew how to be patient surely might be. He felt her presence,
on the spot, he felt her tone and everything about her, as an aid to that
effort; and it was perhaps one of the proofs of her success with him that he
seemed so much to take his ease while they talked. By the time he had explained
to her why his impressions, though multiplied, still baffled him, it was as if
he had been familiarly talking for hours. They baffled him because
Sarah—well, Sarah was deep, deeper than she had ever yet had a chance to
show herself. He didn’t say that this was partly the effect of her
opening so straight down, as it were, into her mother, and that, given Mrs.
Newsome’s profundity, the shaft thus sunk might well have a reach; but he
wasn’t without a resigned apprehension that, at such a rate of confidence
between the two women, he was likely soon to be moved to show how already, at
moments, it had been for him as if he were dealing directly with Mrs. Newsome.
Sarah, to a certainty, would have begun herself to feel it in him—and
this naturally put it in her power to torment him the more. From the moment she
knew he be tormented—!

“But can you be?”—his companion was surprised at
his use of the word.

“Because I’m made so—I think of everything.”

“Ah one must never do that,” she smiled. “One must think of
as few things as possible.”

“Then,” he answered, “one must pick them out right. But all I
mean is—for I express myself with violence—that she’s in a
position to watch me. There’s an element of suspense for me, and she can
see me wriggle. But my wriggling doesn’t matter,” he pursued.
“I can bear it. Besides, I shall wriggle out.”

The picture at any rate stirred in her an appreciation that he felt to be
sincere. “I don’t see how a man can be kinder to a woman than you
are to me.”

Well, kind was what he wanted to be; yet even while her charming eyes rested on
him with the truth of this he none the less had his humour of honesty.
“When I say suspense I mean, you know,” he laughed, “suspense
about my own case too!”

“Oh yes—about your own case too!” It diminished his
magnanimity, but she only looked at him the more tenderly.

“Not, however,” he went on, “that I want to talk to you about
that. It’s my own little affair, and I mentioned it simply as part of
Mrs. Pocock’s advantage.” No, no; though there was a queer present
temptation in it, and his suspense was so real that to fidget was a relief, he
wouldn’t talk to her about Mrs. Newsome, wouldn’t work off on her
the anxiety produced in him by Sarah’s calculated omissions of reference.
The effect she produced of representing her mother had been produced—and
that was just the immense, the uncanny part of it—without her having so
much as mentioned that lady. She had brought no message, had alluded to no
question, had only answered his enquiries with hopeless limited propriety. She
had invented a way of meeting them—as if he had been a polite perfunctory
poor relation, of distant degree—that made them almost ridiculous in him.
He couldn’t moreover on his own side ask much without appearing to
publish how he had lately lacked news; a circumstance of which it was
Sarah’s profound policy not to betray a suspicion. These things, all the
same, he wouldn’t breathe to Madame de Vionnet—much as they might
make him walk up and down. And what he didn’t say—as well as what
didn’t, for she had also her high decencies—enhanced the
effect of his being there with her at the end of ten minutes more intimately on
the basis of saving her than he had yet had occasion to be. It ended in fact by
being quite beautiful between them, the number of things they had a manifest
consciousness of not saying. He would have liked to turn her, critically, to
the subject of Mrs. Pocock, but he so stuck to the line he felt to be the point
of honour and of delicacy that he scarce even asked her what her personal
impression had been. He knew it, for that matter, without putting her to
trouble: that she wondered how, with such elements, Sarah could still have no
charm, was one of the principal things she held her tongue about. Strether
would have been interested in her estimate of the elements—indubitably
there, some of them, and to be appraised according to taste—but he denied
himself even the luxury of this diversion. The way Madame de Vionnet affected
him to-day was in itself a kind of demonstration of the happy employment of
gifts. How could a woman think Sarah had charm who struck one as having arrived
at it herself by such different roads? On the other hand of course Sarah
wasn’t obliged to have it. He felt as if somehow Madame de Vionnet
. The great question meanwhile was what Chad thought of his sister;
which was naturally ushered in by that of Sarah’s apprehension of Chad.
they could talk of, and with a freedom purchased by their
discretion in other senses. The difficulty however was that they were reduced
as yet to conjecture. He had given them in the day or two as little of a lead
as Sarah, and Madame de Vionnet mentioned that she hadn’t seen him since
his sister’s arrival.

“And does that strike you as such an age?”

She met it in all honesty. “Oh I won’t pretend I don’t miss
him. Sometimes I see him every day. Our friendship’s like that. Make what
you will of it!” she whimsically smiled; a little flicker of the kind,
occasional in her, that had more than once moved him to wonder what he might
best make of . “But he’s perfectly right,” she
hastened to add, “and I wouldn’t have him fail in any way at
present for the world. I’d sooner not see him for three months. I begged
him to be beautiful to them, and he fully feels it for himself.”

Strether turned away under his quick perception; she was so odd a mixture of
lucidity and mystery. She fell in at moments with the theory about her he most
cherished, and she seemed at others to blow it into air. She spoke now as if
her art were all an innocence, and then again as if her innocence were all an
art. “Oh he’s giving himself up, and he’ll do so to the end.
How can he but want, now that it’s within reach, his full
impression?—which is much more important, you know, than either yours or
mine. But he’s just soaking,” Strether said as he came back;
“he’s going in conscientiously for a saturation. I’m bound to
say he very good.”

“Ah,” she quietly replied, “to whom do you say it?” And
then more quietly still: “He’s capable of anything.”

Strether more than reaffirmed—“Oh he’s excellent. I more and
more like,” he insisted, “to see him with them;” though the
oddity of this tone between them grew sharper for him even while they spoke. It
placed the young man so before them as the result of her interest and the
product of her genius, acknowledged so her part in the phenomenon and made the
phenomenon so rare, that more than ever yet he might have been on the very
point of asking her for some more detailed account of the whole business than
he had yet received from her. The occasion almost forced upon him some question
as to how she had managed and as to the appearance such miracles presented from
her own singularly close place of survey. The moment in fact however passed,
giving way to more present history, and he continued simply to mark his
appreciation of the happy truth. “It’s a tremendous comfort to feel
how one can trust him.” And then again while for a little she said
nothing—as if after all to trust there might be a special
limit: “I mean for making a good show to them.”

“Yes,” she thoughtfully returned—“but if they shut
their eyes to it!”

Strether for an instant had his own thought. “Well perhaps that
won’t matter!”

“You mean because he probably—do what they will—won’t
like them?”

“Oh ‘do what they will’—! They won’t do much;
especially if Sarah hasn’t more—well, more than one has yet made
out—to give.”

Madame de Vionnet weighed it. “Ah she has all her grace!” It was a
statement over which, for a little, they could look at each other sufficiently
straight, and though it produced no protest from Strether the effect was
somehow as if he had treated it as a joke. “She may be persuasive and
caressing with him; she may be eloquent beyond words. She may get hold of
him,” she wound up—“well, as neither you nor I have.”

“Yes, she ”—and now Strether smiled. “But he
has spent all his time each day with Jim. He’s still showing Jim
round.”

She visibly wondered. “Then how about Jim?”

Strether took a turn before he answered. “Hasn’t he given you Jim?
Hasn’t he before this ‘done’ him for you?” He was a
little at a loss. “Doesn’t he tell you things?”

She hesitated. “No”—and their eyes once more gave and took.
“Not as you do. You somehow make me see them—or at least feel them.
And I haven’t asked too much,” she added; “I’ve of late
wanted so not to worry him.”

“Ah for that, so have I,” he said with encouraging assent; so
that—as if she had answered everything—they were briefly sociable
on it. It threw him back on his other thought, with which he took another turn;
stopping again, however, presently with something of a glow. “You see
Jim’s really immense. I think it will be Jim who’ll do it.”

She wondered. “Get hold of him?”

“No—just the other thing. Counteract Sarah’s spell.”
And he showed now, our friend, how far he had worked it out. “Jim’s
intensely cynical.”

“Oh dear Jim!” Madame de Vionnet vaguely smiled.

“Yes, literally—dear Jim! He’s awful. What wants,
heaven forgive him, is to help us.”

“You mean”—she was eager—“help ”

“Well, Chad and me in the first place. But he throws you in too, though
without as yet seeing you much. Only, so far as he does see you—if you
don’t mind—he sees you as awful.”

“‘Awful’?”—she wanted it all.

“A regular bad one—though of course of a tremendously superior
kind. Dreadful, delightful, irresistible.”

“Ah dear Jim! I should like to know him. I .”

“Yes, naturally. But will it do? You may, you know,” Strether
suggested, “disappoint him.”

She was droll and humble about it. “I can but try. But my wickedness
then,” she went on, “is my recommendation for him?”

“Your wickedness and the charms with which, in such a degree as yours, he
associates it. He understands, you see, that Chad and I have above all wanted
to have a good time, and his view is simple and sharp. Nothing will persuade
him—in the light, that is, of my behaviour—that I really
didn’t, quite as much as Chad, come over to have one before it was too
late. He wouldn’t have expected it of me; but men of my age, at
Woollett—and especially the least likely ones—have been noted as
liable to strange outbreaks, belated uncanny clutches at the unusual, the
ideal. It’s an effect that a lifetime of Woollett has quite been observed
as having; and I thus give it to you, in Jim’s view, for what it’s
worth. Now his wife and his mother-in-law,” Strether continued to
explain, “have, as in honour bound, no patience with such phenomena, late
or early—which puts Jim, as against his relatives, on the other side.
Besides,” he added, “I don’t think he really wants Chad back.
If Chad doesn’t come—”

“He’ll have”—Madame de Vionnet quite
apprehended—“more of the free hand?”

“Well, Chad’s the bigger man.”

“So he’ll work now, , to keep him quiet?”

“No—he won’t ‘work’ at all, and he won’t do
anything . He’s very decent and won’t be a traitor
in the camp. But he’ll be amused with his own little view of our
duplicity, he’ll sniff up what he supposes to be Paris from morning till
night, and he’ll be, as to the rest, for Chad—well, just what he
is.”

She thought it over. “A warning?”

He met it almost with glee. “You as wonderful as everybody
says!” And then to explain all he meant: “I drove him about for his
first hour, and do you know what—all beautifully unconscious—he
most put before me? Why that something like is at bottom, as an
improvement to his present state, as in fact the real redemption of it, what
they think it may not be too late to make of our friend.” With which, as,
taking it in, she seemed, in her recurrent alarm, bravely to gaze at the
possibility, he completed his statement. “But it too late.
Thanks to you!”

It drew from her again one of her indefinite reflexions. “Oh
‘me’—after all!”

He stood before her so exhilarated by his demonstration that he could fairly be
jocular. “Everything’s comparative. You’re better than
.”

“You”—she could but answer him—“are better than
anything.” But she had another thought. “ Mrs. Pocock
come to me?”

“Oh yes—she’ll do that. As soon, that is, as my friend
Waymarsh— friend now—leaves her leisure.”

She showed an interest. “Is he so much her friend as that?”

“Why, didn’t you see it all at the hotel?”

“Oh”—she was amused—“‘all’ is a good
deal to say. I don’t know—I forget. I lost myself in
.”

“You were splendid,” Strether returned—“but
‘all’ isn’t a good deal to say: it’s only a little. Yet
it’s charming so far as it goes. She wants a man to herself.”

“And hasn’t she got ”

“Do you think she looked at me—or even at you—as if she
had?” Strether easily dismissed that irony. “Every one, you see,
must strike her as having somebody. You’ve got Chad—and Chad has
got you.”

“I see”—she made of it what she could. “And
you’ve got Maria.”

Well, he on his side accepted that. “I’ve got Maria. And Maria has
got me. So it goes.”

“But Mr. Jim—whom has he got?”

“Oh he has got—or it’s as he had—the whole
place.”

“But for Mr. Waymarsh”—she recalled—“isn’t
Miss Barrace before any one else?”

He shook his head. “Miss Barrace is a , and her amusement
won’t lose by Mrs. Pocock. It will gain rather—especially if Sarah
triumphs and she comes in for a view of it.”

“How well you know us!” Madame de Vionnet, at this, frankly sighed.

“No—it seems to me it’s we that I know. I know
Sarah—it’s perhaps on that ground only that my feet are firm.
Waymarsh will take her round while Chad takes Jim—and I shall be, I
assure you, delighted for both of them. Sarah will have had what she
requires—she will have paid her tribute to the ideal; and he will have
done about the same. In Paris it’s in the air—so what can one do
less? If there’s a point that, beyond any other, Sarah wants to make,
it’s that she didn’t come out to be narrow. We shall feel at least
that.”

“Oh,” she sighed, “the quantity we seem likely to
‘feel’! But what becomes, in these conditions, of the girl?”

“Of Mamie—if we’re all provided? Ah for that,” said
Strether, “you can trust Chad.”

“To be, you mean, all right to her?”

“To pay her every attention as soon as he has polished off Jim. He wants
what Jim can give him—and what Jim really won’t—though he has
had it all, and more than all, from me. He wants in short his own personal
impression, and he’ll get it—strong. But as soon as he has got it
Mamie won’t suffer.”

“Oh Mamie mustn’t ” Madame de Vionnet
soothingly emphasised.

But Strether could reassure her. “Don’t fear. As soon as he has
done with Jim, Jim will fall to me. And then you’ll see.”

It was as if in a moment she saw already; yet she still waited. Then “Is
she really quite charming?” she asked.

He had got up with his last words and gathered in his hat and gloves. “I
don’t know; I’m watching. I’m studying the case, as it
were—and I dare say I shall be able to tell you.”

She wondered. “Is it a case?”

“Yes—I think so. At any rate I shall see.’

“But haven’t you known her before?”

“Yes,” he smiled—“but somehow at home she wasn’t
a case. She has become one since.” It was as if he made it out for
himself. “She has become one here.”

“So very very soon?”

He measured it, laughing. “Not sooner than I did.”

“And you became one—?”

“Very very soon. The day I arrived.”

Her intelligent eyes showed her thought of it. “Ah but the day you
arrived you met Maria. Whom has Miss Pocock met?”

He paused again, but he brought it out. “Hasn’t she met
Chad?”

“Certainly—but not for the first time. He’s an old
friend.” At which Strether had a slow amused significant headshake that
made her go on: “You mean that for at least he’s a new
person—that she sees him as different?”

“She sees him as different.”

“And how does she see him?”

Strether gave it up. “How can one tell how a deep little girl sees a deep
young man?”

“Is every one so deep? Is she too?”

“So it strikes me deeper than I thought. But wait a little—between
us we’ll make it out. You’ll judge for that matter yourself.”

Madame de Vionnet looked for the moment fairly bent on the chance. “Then
she come with her?—I mean Mamie with Mrs. Pocock?”

“Certainly. Her curiosity, if nothing else, will in any case work that.
But leave it all to Chad.”

“Ah,” wailed Madame de Vionnet, turning away a little wearily,
“the things I leave to Chad!”

The tone of it made him look at her with a kindness that showed his vision of
her suspense. But he fell back on his confidence. “Oh well—trust
him. Trust him all the way.” He had indeed no sooner so spoken than the
queer displacement of his point of view appeared again to come up for him in
the very sound, which drew from him a short laugh, immediately checked. He
became still more advisory. “When they do come give them plenty of Miss
Jeanne. Let Mamie see her well.”

She looked for a moment as if she placed them face to face. “For Mamie to
hate her?”

He had another of his corrective headshakes. “Mamie won’t. Trust
.”

She looked at him hard, and then as if it were what she must always come back
to: “It’s I trust. But I was sincere,” she said,
“at the hotel. I did, I do, want my child—”

“Well?”—Strether waited with deference while she appeared to
hesitate as to how to put it.

“Well, to do what she can for me.”

Strether for a little met her eyes on it; after which something that might have
been unexpected to her came from him. “Poor little duck!”

Not more expected for himself indeed might well have been her echo of it.
“Poor little duck! But she immensely wants herself,” she said,
“to see our friend’s cousin.”

“Is that what she thinks her?”

“It’s what we call the young lady.”

He thought again; then with a laugh: “Well, your daughter will help
you.”

And now at last he took leave of her, as he had been intending for five
minutes. But she went part of the way with him, accompanying him out of the
room and into the next and the next. Her noble old apartment offered a
succession of three, the first two of which indeed, on entering, smaller than
the last, but each with its faded and formal air, enlarged the office of the
antechamber and enriched the sense of approach. Strether fancied them, liked
them, and, passing through them with her more slowly now, met a sharp renewal
of his original impression. He stopped, he looked back; the whole thing made a
vista, which he found high melancholy and sweet—full, once more, of dim
historic shades, of the faint faraway cannon-roar of the great Empire. It was
doubtless half the projection of his mind, but his mind was a thing that, among
old waxed parquets, pale shades of pink and green, pseudo-classic candelabra,
he had always needfully to reckon with. They could easily make him irrelevant.
The oddity, the originality, the poetry—he didn’t know what to call
it—of Chad’s connexion reaffirmed for him its romantic side.
“They ought to see this, you know. They .”

“The Pococks?”—she looked about in deprecation; she seemed to
see gaps he didn’t.

“Mamie and Sarah—Mamie in particular.”

“My shabby old place? But things—!”

“Oh their things! You were talking of what will do something for
you—”

“So that it strikes you,” she broke in, “that my poor place
may? Oh,” she ruefully mused, “that be
desperate!”

“Do you know what I wish?” he went on. “I wish Mrs. Newsome
herself could have a look.”

She stared, missing a little his logic. “It would make a
difference?”

Her tone was so earnest that as he continued to look about he laughed.
“It might!”

“But you’ve told her, you tell me—”

“All about you? Yes, a wonderful story. But there’s all the
indescribable—what one gets only on the spot.”

“Thank you!” she charmingly and sadly smiled.

“It’s all about me here,” he freely continued. “Mrs.
Newsome feels things.”

But she seemed doomed always to come back to doubt. “No one feels so much
as . No—not any one.”

“So much the worse then for every one. It’s very easy.”

They were by this time in the antechamber, still alone together, as she
hadn’t rung for a servant. The antechamber was high and square, grave and
suggestive too, a little cold and slippery even in summer, and with a few old
prints that were precious, Strether divined, on the walls. He stood in the
middle, slightly lingering, vaguely directing his glasses, while, leaning
against the door-post of the room, she gently pressed her cheek to the side of
the recess. “ would have been a friend.”

“I?”—it startled him a little.

“For the reason you say. You’re not stupid.” And then
abruptly, as if bringing it out were somehow founded on that fact:
“We’re marrying Jeanne.”

It affected him on the spot as a move in a game, and he was even then not
without the sense that that wasn’t the way Jeanne should be married. But
he quickly showed his interest, though—as quickly afterwards struck
him—with an absurd confusion of mind. “‘You’? You
and—a—not Chad?” Of course it was the child’s father
who made the ‘we,’ but to the child’s father it would have
cost him an effort to allude. Yet didn’t it seem the next minute that
Monsieur de Vionnet was after all not in question?—since she had gone on
to say that it was indeed to Chad she referred and that he had been in the
whole matter kindness itself.

“If I must tell you all, it is he himself who has put us in the way. I
mean in the way of an opportunity that, so far as I can yet see, is all I could
possibly have dreamed of. For all the trouble Monsieur de Vionnet will ever
take!” It was the first time she had spoken to him of her husband, and he
couldn’t have expressed how much more intimate with her it suddenly made
him feel. It wasn’t much, in truth—there were other things in what
she was saying that were far more; but it was as if, while they stood there
together so easily in these cold chambers of the past, the single touch had
shown the reach of her confidence. “But our friend,” she asked,
“hasn’t then told you?”

“He has told me nothing.”

“Well, it has come with rather a rush—all in a very few days; and
hasn’t moreover yet taken a form that permits an announcement. It’s
only for you—absolutely you alone—that I speak; I so want you to
know.” The sense he had so often had, since the first hour of his
disembarkment, of being further and further “in,” treated him again
at this moment to another twinge; but in this wonderful way of her putting him
in there continued to be something exquisitely remorseless. “Monsieur de
Vionnet will accept what he accept. He has proposed half a dozen
things—each one more impossible than the other; and he wouldn’t
have found this if he lives to a hundred. Chad found it,” she continued
with her lighted, faintly flushed, her conscious confidential face, “in
the quietest way in the world. Or rather it found —for
everything finds him; I mean finds him right. You’ll think we do such
things strangely—but at my age,” she smiled, “one has to
accept one’s conditions. Our young man’s people had seen her; one
of his sisters, a charming woman—we know all about them—had
observed her somewhere with me. She had spoken to her brother—turned him
on; and we were again observed, poor Jeanne and I, without our in the least
knowing it. It was at the beginning of the winter; it went on for some time; it
outlasted our absence; it began again on our return; and it luckily seems all
right. The young man had met Chad, and he got a friend to approach him—as
having a decent interest in us. Mr. Newsome looked well before he leaped; he
kept beautifully quiet and satisfied himself fully; then only he spoke.
It’s what has for some time past occupied us. It seems as if it were what
would do; really, really all one could wish. There are only two or three points
to be settled—they depend on her father. But this time I think
we’re safe.”

Strether, consciously gaping a little, had fairly hung upon her lips. “I
hope so with all my heart.” And then he permitted himself: “Does
nothing depend on ”

“Ah naturally; everything did. But she’s pleased .
She has been perfectly free; and he—our young friend—is really a
combination. I quite adore him.”

Strether just made sure. “You mean your future son-in-law?”

“Future if we all bring it off.”

“Ah well,” said Strether decorously, “I heartily hope you
may.” There seemed little else for him to say, though her communication
had the oddest effect on him. Vaguely and confusedly he was troubled by it;
feeling as if he had even himself been concerned in something deep and dim. He
had allowed for depths, but these were greater: and it was as if,
oppressively—indeed absurdly—he was responsible for what they had
now thrown up to the surface. It was—through something ancient and cold
in it—what he would have called the real thing. In short his
hostess’s news, though he couldn’t have explained why, was a
sensible shock, and his oppression a weight he felt he must somehow or other
immediately get rid of. There were too many connexions missing to make it
tolerable he should do anything else. He was prepared to suffer—before
his own inner tribunal—for Chad; he was prepared to suffer even for
Madame de Vionnet. But he wasn’t prepared to suffer for the little girl.
So now having said the proper thing, he wanted to get away. She held him an
instant, however, with another appeal.

“Do I seem to you very awful?”

“Awful? Why so?” But he called it to himself, even as he spoke, his
biggest insincerity yet.

“Our arrangements are so different from yours.”

“Mine?” Oh he could dismiss that too! “I haven’t any
arrangements.”

“Then you must accept mine; all the more that they’re excellent.
They’re founded on a . There will be much more, if
all goes well, for you to hear and to know, and everything, believe me, for you
to like. Don’t be afraid; you’ll be satisfied.” Thus she
could talk to him of what, of her innermost life—for that was what it
came to—he must “accept”; thus she could extraordinarily
speak as if in such an affair his being satisfied had an importance. It was all
a wonder and made the whole case larger. He had struck himself at the hotel,
before Sarah and Waymarsh, as being in her boat; but where on earth was he now?
This question was in the air till her own lips quenched it with another.
“And do you suppose —who loves her so—would do
anything reckless or cruel?”

He wondered what he supposed. “Do you mean your young man—?”

“I mean yours. I mean Mr. Newsome.” It flashed for Strether the
next moment a finer light, and the light deepened as she went on. “He
takes, thank God, the truest tenderest interest in her.”

It deepened indeed. “Oh I’m sure of that!”

“You were talking,” she said, “about one’s trusting
him. You see then how I do.”

He waited a moment—it all came. “I see—I see.” He felt
he really did see.

“He wouldn’t hurt her for the world, nor—assuming she marries
at all—risk anything that might make against her happiness.
And—willingly, at least—he would never hurt .”

Her face, with what he had by this time grasped, told him more than her words;
whether something had come into it, or whether he only read clearer, her whole
story—what at least he then took for such—reached out to him from
it. With the initiative she now attributed to Chad it all made a sense, and
this sense—a light, a lead, was what had abruptly risen before him. He
wanted, once more, to get off with these things; which was at last made easy, a
servant having, for his assistance, on hearing voices in the hall, just come
forward. All that Strether had made out was, while the man opened the door and
impersonally waited, summed up in his last word. “I don’t think,
you know, Chad will tell me anything.”

“No—perhaps not yet.”

“And I won’t as yet speak to him.”

“Ah that’s as you’ll think best. You must judge.”

She had finally given him her hand, which he held a moment. “How
I have to judge!”

“Everything,” said Madame de Vionnet: a remark that was
indeed—with the refined disguised suppressed passion of her
face—what he most carried away.

II

So far as a direct approach was concerned Sarah had neglected him, for the week
now about to end, with a civil consistency of chill that, giving him a higher
idea of her social resource, threw him back on the general reflexion that a
woman could always be amazing. It indeed helped a little to console him that he
felt sure she had for the same period also left Chad’s curiosity hanging;
though on the other hand, for his personal relief, Chad could at least go
through the various motions—and he made them extraordinarily
numerous—of seeing she had a good time. There wasn’t a motion on
which, in her presence, poor Strether could so much as venture, and all he
could do when he was out of it was to walk over for a talk with Maria. He
walked over of course much less than usual, but he found a special compensation
in a certain half-hour during which, toward the close of a crowded empty
expensive day, his several companions seemed to him so disposed of as to give
his forms and usages a rest. He had been with them in the morning and had
nevertheless called on the Pococks in the afternoon; but their whole group, he
then found, had dispersed after a fashion of which it would amuse Miss Gostrey
to hear. He was sorry again, gratefully sorry she was so out of it—she
who had really put him in; but she had fortunately always her appetite for
news. The pure flame of the disinterested burned in her cave of treasures as a
lamp in a Byzantine vault. It was just now, as happened, that for so fine a
sense as hers a near view would have begun to pay. Within three days,
precisely, the situation on which he was to report had shown signs of an
equilibrium; the effect of his look in at the hotel was to confirm this
appearance. If the equilibrium might only prevail! Sarah was out with Waymarsh,
Mamie was out with Chad, and Jim was out alone. Later on indeed he himself was
booked to Jim, was to take him that evening to the Varieties—which
Strether was careful to pronounce as Jim pronounced them.

Miss Gostrey drank it in. “What then to-night do the others do?”

“Well, it has been arranged. Waymarsh takes Sarah to dine at
Bignon’s.”

She wondered. “And what do they do after? They can’t come straight
home.”

“No, they can’t come straight home—at least Sarah
can’t. It’s their secret, but I think I’ve guessed it.”
Then as she waited: “The circus.”

It made her stare a moment longer, then laugh almost to extravagance.
“There’s no one like you!”

“Like ”—he only wanted to understand.

“Like all of you together—like all of us: Woollett, Milrose and
their products. We’re abysmal—but may we never be less so! Mr.
Newsome,” she continued, “meanwhile takes Miss
Pocock—?”

“Precisely—to the Français: to see what took Waymarsh
and me to, a family-bill.”

“Ah then may Mr. Chad enjoy it as did!” But she saw so
much in things. “Do they spend their evenings, your young people, like
that, alone together?”

“Well, they’re young people—but they’re old
friends.”

“I see, I see. And do dine—for a difference—at
Brébant’s?”

“Oh where they dine is their secret too. But I’ve my idea that it
will be, very quietly, at Chad’s own place.”

“She’ll come to him there alone?”

They looked at each other a moment. “He has known her from a child.
Besides,” said Strether with emphasis, “Mamie’s remarkable.
She’s splendid.”

She wondered. “Do you mean she expects to bring it off?”

“Getting hold of him? No—I think not.”

“She doesn’t want him enough?—or doesn’t believe in her
power?” On which as he said nothing she continued: “She finds she
doesn’t care for him?”

“No—I think she finds she does. But that’s what I mean by so
describing her. It’s she does that she’s splendid. But
we’ll see,” he wound up, “where she comes out.”

“You seem to show me sufficiently,” Miss Gostrey laughed,
“where she goes in! But is her childhood’s friend,” she
asked, “permitting himself recklessly to flirt with her?”

“No—not that. Chad’s also splendid. They’re
splendid!” he declared with a sudden strange sound of wistfulness and
envy. “They’re at least .”

“Happy?”—it appeared, with their various difficulties, to
surprise her.

“Well—I seem to myself among them the only one who
isn’t.”

She demurred. “With your constant tribute to the ideal?”

He had a laugh at his tribute to the ideal, but he explained after a moment his
impression. “I mean they’re living. They’re rushing about.
I’ve already had my rushing. I’m waiting.”

“But aren’t you,” she asked by way of cheer, “waiting
with ”

He looked at her in all kindness. “Yes—if it weren’t for
that!”

“And you help me to wait,” she said. “However,” she
went on, “I’ve really something for you that will help you to wait
and which you shall have in a minute. Only there’s something more I want
from you first. I revel in Sarah.”

“So do I. If it weren’t,” he again amusedly sighed,
“for —!”

“Well, you owe more to women than any man I ever saw. We do seem to keep
you going. Yet Sarah, as I see her, must be great.”

“She ” Strether fully assented: “great! Whatever
happens, she won’t, with these unforgettable days, have lived in
vain.”

Miss Gostrey had a pause. “You mean she has fallen in love?”

“I mean she wonders if she hasn’t—and it serves all her
purpose.”

“It has indeed,” Maria laughed, “served women’s
purposes before!”

“Yes—for giving in. But I doubt if the idea—as an
idea—has ever up to now answered so well for holding out. That’s
tribute to the ideal—we each have our own. It’s her
romance—and it seems to me better on the whole than mine. To have it in
Paris too,” he explained—“on this classic ground, in this
charged infectious air, with so sudden an intensity: well, it’s more than
she expected. She has had in short to recognise the breaking out for her of a
real affinity—and with everything to enhance the drama.”

Miss Gostrey followed. “Jim for instance?”

“Jim. Jim hugely enhances. Jim was made to enhance. And then Mr.
Waymarsh. It’s the crowning touch—it supplies the colour.
He’s positively separated.”

“And she herself unfortunately isn’t—that supplies the colour
too.” Miss Gostrey was all there. But somehow—! “Is
in love?”

Strether looked at her a long time; then looked all about the room; then came a
little nearer. “Will you never tell any one in the world as long as ever
you live?”

“Never.” It was charming.

“He thinks Sarah really is. But he has no fear,” Strether hastened
to add.

“Of her being affected by it?”

“Of being. He likes it, but he knows she can hold out.
He’s helping her, he’s floating her over, by kindness.”

Maria rather funnily considered it. “Floating her over in champagne? The
kindness of dining her, nose to nose, at the hour when all Paris is crowding to
profane delights, and in the—well, in the great temple, as one hears of
it, of pleasure?”

“That’s just , for both of them,” Strether
insisted—“and all of a supreme innocence. The Parisian place, the
feverish hour, the putting before her of a hundred francs’ worth of food
and drink, which they’ll scarcely touch—all that’s the dear
man’s own romance; the expensive kind, expensive in francs and centimes,
in which he abounds. And the circus afterwards—which is cheaper, but
which he’ll find some means of making as dear as
possible—that’s also tribute to the ideal. It does for
him. He’ll see her through. They won’t talk of anything worse than
you and me.”

“Well, we’re bad enough perhaps, thank heaven,” she laughed,
“to upset them! Mr. Waymarsh at any rate is a hideous old
coquette.” And the next moment she had dropped everything for a different
pursuit. “What you don’t appear to know is that Jeanne de Vionnet
has become engaged. She’s to marry—it has been definitely
arranged—young Monsieur de Montbron.”

He fairly blushed. “Then—if you know it—it’s
‘out’?”

“Don’t I often know things that are out? However,”
she said, “this will be out to-morrow. But I see I’ve counted too
much on your possible ignorance. You’ve been before me, and I don’t
make you jump as I hoped.”

He gave a gasp at her insight. “You never fail! I’ve my
jump. I had it when I first heard.”

“Then if you knew why didn’t you tell me as soon as you came
in?”

“Because I had it from her as a thing not yet to be spoken of.”

Miss Gostrey wondered. “From Madame de Vionnet herself?”

“As a probability—not quite a certainty: a good cause in which Chad
has been working. So I’ve waited.”

“You need wait no longer,” she returned. “It reached me
yesterday—roundabout and accidental, but by a person who had had it from
one of the young man’s own people—as a thing quite settled. I was
only keeping it for you.”

“You thought Chad wouldn’t have told me?”

She hesitated. “Well, if he hasn’t—”

“He hasn’t. And yet the thing appears to have been practically his
doing. So there we are.”

“There we are!” Maria candidly echoed.

“That’s why I jumped. I jumped,” he continued to explain,
“because it means, this disposition of the daughter, that there’s
now nothing else: nothing else but him and the mother.”

“Still—it simplifies.”

“It simplifies”—he fully concurred. “But that’s
precisely where we are. It marks a stage in his relation. The act is his answer
to Mrs. Newsome’s demonstration.”

“It tells,” Maria asked, “the worst?”

“The worst.”

“But is the worst what he wants Sarah to know?”

“He doesn’t care for Sarah.”

At which Miss Gostrey’s eyebrows went up. “You mean she has already
dished herself?”

Strether took a turn about; he had thought it out again and again before this,
to the end; but the vista seemed each time longer. “He wants his good
friend to know the best. I mean the measure of his attachment. She asked for a
sign, and he thought of that one. There it is.”

“A concession to her jealousy?”

Strether pulled up. “Yes—call it that. Make it lurid—for that
makes my problem richer.”

“Certainly, let us have it lurid—for I quite agree with you that we
want none of our problems poor. But let us also have it clear. Can he, in the
midst of such a preoccupation, or on the heels of it, have seriously cared for
Jeanne?—cared, I mean, as a young man at liberty would have cared?”

Well, Strether had mastered it. “I think he can have thought it would be
charming if he care. It would be nicer.”

“Nicer than being tied up to Marie?”

“Yes—than the discomfort of an attachment to a person he can never
hope, short of a catastrophe, to marry. And he was quite right,” said
Strether. “It would certainly have been nicer. Even when a thing’s
already nice there mostly some other thing that would have been
nicer—or as to which we wonder if it wouldn’t. But his question was
all the same a dream. He care in that way. He
tied up to Marie. The relation is too special and has gone too far. It’s
the very basis, and his recent lively contribution toward establishing Jeanne
in life has been his definite and final acknowledgement to Madame de Vionnet
that he has ceased squirming. I doubt meanwhile,” he went on, “if
Sarah has at all directly attacked him.”

His companion brooded. “But won’t he wish for his own satisfaction
to make his ground good to her?”

“No—he’ll leave it to me, he’ll leave everything to me.
I ‘sort of’ feel”—he worked it out—“that
the whole thing will come upon me. Yes, I shall have every inch and every ounce
of it. I shall be for it—!” And Strether lost himself
in the prospect. Then he fancifully expressed the issue. “To the last
drop of my blood.”

Maria, however, roundly protested. “Ah you’ll please keep a drop
for . I shall have a use for it!”—which she didn’t
however follow up. She had come back the next moment to another matter.
“Mrs. Pocock, with her brother, is trusting only to her general
charm?”

“So it would seem.”

“And the charm’s not working?”

Well, Strether put it otherwise, “She’s sounding the note of
home—which is the very best thing she can do.”

“The best for Madame de Vionnet?”

“The best for home itself. The natural one; the right one.”

“Right,” Maria asked, “when it fails?”

Strether had a pause. “The difficulty’s Jim. Jim’s the note
of home.”

She debated. “Ah surely not the note of Mrs. Newsome.”

But he had it all. “The note of the home for which Mrs. Newsome wants
him—the home of the business. Jim stands, with his little legs apart, at
the door of tent; and Jim , frankly speaking, extremely
awful.”

Maria stared. “And you in, you poor thing, for your evening with
him?”

“Oh he’s all right for ” Strether laughed.
“Any one’s good enough for . But Sarah shouldn’t,
all the same, have brought him. She doesn’t appreciate him.”

His friend was amused with this statement of it. “Doesn’t know, you
mean, how bad he is?”

Strether shook his head with decision. “Not really.”

She wondered. “Then doesn’t Mrs. Newsome?”

It made him frankly do the same. “Well, no—since you ask me.”

Maria rubbed it in. “Not really either?”

“Not at all. She rates him rather high.” With which indeed,
immediately, he took himself up. “Well, he good too, in his
way. It depends on what you want him for.”

Miss Gostrey, however, wouldn’t let it depend on
anything—wouldn’t have it, and wouldn’t want him, at any
price. “It suits my book,” she said, “that he should be
impossible; and it suits it still better,” she more imaginatively added,
“that Mrs. Newsome doesn’t know he is.”

Strether, in consequence, had to take it from her, but he fell back on
something else. “I’ll tell you who does really know.”

“Mr. Waymarsh? Never!”

“Never indeed. I’m not thinking of Mr. Waymarsh; in
fact I find now I never am.” Then he mentioned the person as if there
were a good deal in it. “Mamie.”

“His own sister?” Oddly enough it but let her down. “What
good will that do?”

“None perhaps. But there—as usual—we are!”

III

There they were yet again, accordingly, for two days more; when Strether, on
being, at Mrs. Pocock’s hotel, ushered into that lady’s salon,
found himself at first assuming a mistake on the part of the servant who had
introduced him and retired. The occupants hadn’t come in, for the room
looked empty as only a room can look in Paris, of a fine afternoon when the
faint murmur of the huge collective life, carried on out of doors, strays among
scattered objects even as a summer air idles in a lonely garden. Our friend
looked about and hesitated; observed, on the evidence of a table charged with
purchases and other matters, that Sarah had become possessed—by no aid
from —of the last number of the salmon-coloured Revue; noted
further that Mamie appeared to have received a present of Fromentin’s
“Maîtres d’Autrefois” from Chad, who had written her name on
the cover; and pulled up at the sight of a heavy letter addressed in a hand he
knew. This letter, forwarded by a banker and arriving in Mrs. Pocock’s
absence, had been placed in evidence, and it drew from the fact of its being
unopened a sudden queer power to intensify the reach of its author. It brought
home to him the scale on which Mrs. Newsome—for she had been copious
indeed this time—was writing to her daughter while she kept in
durance; and it had altogether such an effect upon him as made him for a few
minutes stand still and breathe low. In his own room, at his own hotel, he had
dozens of well-filled envelopes superscribed in that character; and there was
actually something in the renewal of his interrupted vision of the character
that played straight into the so frequent question of whether he weren’t
already disinherited beyond appeal. It was such an assurance as the sharp
downstrokes of her pen hadn’t yet had occasion to give him; but they
somehow at the present crisis stood for a probable absoluteness in any decree
of the writer. He looked at Sarah’s name and address, in short, as if he
had been looking hard into her mother’s face, and then turned from it as
if the face had declined to relax. But since it was in a manner as if Mrs.
Newsome were thereby all the more, instead of the less, in the room, and were
conscious, sharply and sorely conscious, of himself, so he felt both held and
hushed, summoned to stay at least and take his punishment. By staying,
accordingly, he took it—creeping softly and vaguely about and waiting for
Sarah to come in. She come in if he stayed long enough, and he had
now more than ever the sense of her success in leaving him a prey to anxiety.
It wasn’t to be denied that she had had a happy instinct, from the point
of view of Woollett, in placing him thus at the mercy of her own initiative. It
was very well to try to say he didn’t care—that she might break
ground when she would, might never break it at all if she wouldn’t, and
that he had no confession whatever to wait upon her with: he breathed from day
to day an air that damnably required clearing, and there were moments when he
quite ached to precipitate that process. He couldn’t doubt that, should
she only oblige him by surprising him just as he then was, a clarifying scene
of some sort would result from the concussion.

He humbly circulated in this spirit till he suddenly had a fresh arrest. Both
the windows of the room stood open to the balcony, but it was only now that, in
the glass of the leaf of one of them, folded back, he caught a reflexion
quickly recognised as the colour of a lady’s dress. Somebody had been
then all the while on the balcony, and the person, whoever it might be, was so
placed between the windows as to be hidden from him; while on the other hand
the many sounds of the street had covered his own entrance and movements. If
the person were Sarah he might on the spot therefore be served to his taste. He
might lead her by a move or two up to the remedy for his vain tension; as to
which, should he get nothing else from it, he would at least have the relief of
pulling down the roof on their heads. There was fortunately no one at hand to
observe—in respect to his valour—that even on this completed
reasoning he still hung fire. He had been waiting for Mrs. Pocock and the sound
of the oracle; but he had to gird himself afresh—which he did in the
embrasure of the window, neither advancing nor retreating—before
provoking the revelation. It was apparently for Sarah to come more into view;
he was in that case there at her service. She did however, as meanwhile
happened, come more into view; only she luckily came at the last minute as a
contradiction of Sarah. The occupant of the balcony was after all quite another
person, a person presented, on a second look, by a charming back and a slight
shift of her position, as beautiful brilliant unconscious Mamie—Mamie
alone at home, Mamie passing her time in her own innocent way, Mamie in short
rather shabbily used, but Mamie absorbed interested and interesting. With her
arms on the balustrade and her attention dropped to the street she allowed
Strether to watch her, to consider several things, without her turning round.

But the oddity was that when he so watched and considered he simply
stepped back into the room without following up his advantage. He revolved
there again for several minutes, quite as with something new to think of and as
if the bearings of the possibility of Sarah had been superseded. For frankly,
yes, it bearings thus to find the girl in solitary possession. There
was something in it that touched him to a point not to have been reckoned
beforehand, something that softly but quite pressingly spoke to him, and that
spoke the more each time he paused again at the edge of the balcony and saw her
still unaware. Her companions were plainly scattered; Sarah would be off
somewhere with Waymarsh and Chad off somewhere with Jim. Strether didn’t
at all mentally impute to Chad that he was with his “good friend”;
he gave him the benefit of supposing him involved in appearances that, had he
had to describe them—for instance to Maria—he would have
conveniently qualified as more subtle. It came to him indeed the next thing
that there was perhaps almost an excess of refinement in having left Mamie in
such weather up there alone; however she might in fact have extemporised, under
the charm of the Rue de Rivoli, a little makeshift Paris of wonder and fancy.
Our friend in any case now recognised—and it was as if at the recognition
Mrs. Newsome’s fixed intensity had suddenly, with a deep audible gasp,
grown thin and vague—that day after day he had been conscious in respect
to his young lady of something odd and ambiguous, yet something into which he
could at last read a meaning. It had been at the most, this mystery, an
obsession—oh an obsession agreeable; and it had just now fallen into its
place as at the touch of a spring. It had represented the possibility between
them of some communication baffled by accident and delay—the possibility
even of some relation as yet unacknowledged.

There was always their old relation, the fruit of the Woollett years; but
that—and it was what was strangest—had nothing whatever in common
with what was now in the air. As a child, as a “bud,” and then
again as a flower of expansion, Mamie had bloomed for him, freely, in the
almost incessantly open doorways of home; where he remembered her as first very
forward, as then very backward—for he had carried on at one period, in
Mrs. Newsome’s parlours (oh Mrs. Newsome’s phases and his own!) a
course of English Literature re-enforced by exams and teas—and once more,
finally, as very much in advance. But he had kept no great sense of points of
contact; it not being in the nature of things at Woollett that the freshest of
the buds should find herself in the same basket with the most withered of the
winter apples. The child had given sharpness, above all, to his sense of the
flight of time; it was but the day before yesterday that he had tripped up on
her hoop, yet his experience of remarkable women—destined, it would seem,
remarkably to grow—felt itself ready this afternoon, quite braced itself,
to include her. She had in fine more to say to him than he had ever dreamed the
pretty girl of the moment have; and the proof of the circumstance
was that, visibly, unmistakeably, she had been able to say it to no one else.
It was something she could mention neither to her brother, to her sister-in-law
nor to Chad; though he could just imagine that had she still been at home she
might have brought it out, as a supreme tribute to age, authority and attitude,
for Mrs. Newsome. It was moreover something in which they all took an interest;
the strength of their interest was in truth just the reason of her prudence.
All this then, for five minutes, was vivid to Strether, and it put before him
that, poor child, she had now but her prudence to amuse her. That, for a pretty
girl in Paris, struck him, with a rush, as a sorry state; so that under the
impression he went out to her with a step as hypocritically alert, he was well
aware, as if he had just come into the room. She turned with a start at his
voice; preoccupied with him though she might be, she was just a scrap
disappointed. “Oh I thought you were Mr. Bilham!”

The remark had been at first surprising and our friend’s private thought,
under the influence of it, temporarily blighted; yet we are able to add that he
presently recovered his inward tone and that many a fresh flower of fancy was
to bloom in the same air. Little Bilham—since little Bilham was, somewhat
incongruously, expected—appeared behindhand; a circumstance by which
Strether was to profit. They came back into the room together after a little,
the couple on the balcony, and amid its crimson-and-gold elegance, with the
others still absent, Strether passed forty minutes that he appraised even at
the time as far, in the whole queer connexion, from his idlest. Yes indeed,
since he had the other day so agreed with Maria about the inspiration of the
lurid, here was something for his problem that surely didn’t make it
shrink and that was floated in upon him as part of a sudden flood. He was
doubtless not to know till afterwards, on turning them over in thought, of how
many elements his impression was composed; but he none the less felt, as he sat
with the charming girl, the signal growth of a confidence. For she
charming, when all was said—and none the less so for the visible habit
and practice of freedom and fluency. She was charming, he was aware, in spite
of the fact that if he hadn’t found her so he would have found her
something he should have been in peril of expressing as “funny.”
Yes, she was funny, wonderful Mamie, and without dreaming it; she was bland,
she was bridal—with never, that he could make out as yet, a bridegroom to
support it; she was handsome and portly and easy and chatty, soft and sweet and
almost disconcertingly reassuring. She was dressed, if we might so far
discriminate, less as a young lady than as an old one—had an old one been
supposable to Strether as so committed to vanity; the complexities of her hair
missed moreover also the looseness of youth; and she had a mature manner of
bending a little, as to encourage and reward, while she held neatly together in
front of her a pair of strikingly polished hands: the combination of all of
which kept up about her the glamour of her “receiving,” placed her
again perpetually between the windows and within sound of the ice-cream plates,
suggested the enumeration of all the names, all the Mr. Brookses and Mr.
Snookses, gregarious specimens of a single type, she was happy to
“meet.” But if all this was where she was funny, and if what was
funnier than the rest was the contrast between her beautiful benevolent
patronage—such a hint of the polysyllabic as might make her something of
a bore toward middle age—and her rather flat little voice, the voice,
naturally, unaffectedly yet, of a girl of fifteen; so Strether, none the less,
at the end of ten minutes, felt in her a quiet dignity that pulled things
bravely together. If quiet dignity, almost more than matronly, with voluminous,
too voluminous clothes, was the effect she proposed to produce, that was an
ideal one could like in her when once one had got into relation. The great
thing now for her visitor was that this was exactly what he had done; it made
so extraordinary a mixture of the brief and crowded hour. It was the mark of a
relation that he had begun so quickly to find himself sure she was, of all
people, as might have been said, on the side and of the party of Mrs.
Newsome’s original ambassador. She was in interest and not in
Sarah’s, and some sign of that was precisely what he had been feeling in
her, these last days, as imminent. Finally placed, in Paris, in immediate
presence of the situation and of the hero of it—by whom Strether was
incapable of meaning any one but Chad—she had accomplished, and really in
a manner all unexpected to herself, a change of base; deep still things had
come to pass within her, and by the time she had grown sure of them Strether
had become aware of the little drama. When she knew where she was, in short, he
had made it out; and he made it out at present still better; though with never
a direct word passing between them all the while on the subject of his own
predicament. There had been at first, as he sat there with her, a moment during
which he wondered if she meant to break ground in respect to his prime
undertaking. That door stood so strangely ajar that he was half-prepared to be
conscious, at any juncture, of her having, of any one’s having, quite
bounced in. But, friendly, familiar, light of touch and happy of tact, she
exquisitely stayed out; so that it was for all the world as if to show she
could deal with him without being reduced to—well, scarcely anything.

It fully came up for them then, by means of their talking of everything
Chad, that Mamie, unlike Sarah, unlike Jim, knew perfectly what had
become of him. It fully came up that she had taken to the last fraction of an
inch the measure of the change in him, and that she wanted Strether to know
what a secret she proposed to make of it. They talked most
conveniently—as if they had had no chance yet—about Woollett; and
that had virtually the effect of their keeping the secret more close. The hour
took on for Strether, little by little, a queer sad sweetness of quality, he
had such a revulsion in Mamie’s favour and on behalf of her social value
as might have come from remorse at some early injustice. She made him, as under
the breath of some vague western whiff, homesick and freshly restless; he could
really for the time have fancied himself stranded with her on a far shore,
during an ominous calm, in a quaint community of shipwreck. Their little
interview was like a picnic on a coral strand; they passed each other, with
melancholy smiles and looks sufficiently allusive, such cupfuls of water as
they had saved. Especially sharp in Strether meanwhile was the conviction that
his companion really knew, as we have hinted, where she had come out. It was at
a very particular place—only she would never tell him; it
would be above all what he should have to puzzle for himself. This was what he
hoped for, because his interest in the girl wouldn’t be complete without
it. No more would the appreciation to which she was entitled—so assured
was he that the more he saw of her process the more he should see of her pride.
She saw, herself, everything; but she knew what she didn’t want, and that
it was that had helped her. What didn’t she want?—there was a
pleasure lost for her old friend in not yet knowing, as there would doubtless
be a thrill in getting a glimpse. Gently and sociably she kept that dark to
him, and it was as if she soothed and beguiled him in other ways to make up for
it. She came out with her impression of Madame de Vionnet—of whom she had
“heard so much”; she came out with her impression of Jeanne, whom
she had been “dying to see”: she brought it out with a blandness by
which her auditor was really stirred that she had been with Sarah early that
very afternoon, and after dreadful delays caused by all sorts of things,
mainly, eternally, by the purchase of clothes—clothes that unfortunately
wouldn’t be themselves eternal—to call in the Rue de Bellechasse.

At the sound of these names Strether almost blushed to feel that he
couldn’t have sounded them first—and yet couldn’t either have
justified his squeamishness. Mamie made them easy as he couldn’t have
begun to do, and yet it could only have cost her more than he should ever have
had to spend. It was as friends of Chad’s, friends special,
distinguished, desirable, enviable, that she spoke of them, and she beautifully
carried it off that much as she had heard of them—though she didn’t
say how or where, which was a touch of her own—she had found them beyond
her supposition. She abounded in praise of them, and after the manner of
Woollett—which made the manner of Woollett a loveable thing again to
Strether. He had never so felt the true inwardness of it as when his blooming
companion pronounced the elder of the ladies of the Rue de Bellechasse too
fascinating for words and declared of the younger that she was perfectly ideal,
a real little monster of charm. “Nothing,” she said of Jeanne,
“ought ever to happen to her—she’s so awfully right as she
is. Another touch will spoil her—so she oughtn’t to
touched.”

“Ah but things, here in Paris,” Strether observed, “do happen
to little girls.” And then for the joke’s and the occasion’s
sake: “Haven’t you found that yourself?”

“That things happen—? Oh I’m not a little girl. I’m a
big battered blowsy one. don’t care,” Mamie laughed,
“ happens.”

Strether had a pause while he wondered if it mightn’t happen that he
should give her the pleasure of learning that he found her nicer than he had
really dreamed—a pause that ended when he had said to himself that, so
far as it at all mattered for her, she had in fact perhaps already made this
out. He risked accordingly a different question—though conscious, as soon
as he had spoken, that he seemed to place it in relation to her last speech.
“But that Mademoiselle de Vionnet is to be married—I suppose
you’ve heard of .”

For all, he then found, he need fear! “Dear, yes; the gentleman was
there: Monsieur de Montbron, whom Madame de Vionnet presented to us.”

“And was he nice?”

Mamie bloomed and bridled with her best reception manner. “Any
man’s nice when he’s in love.”

It made Strether laugh. “But is Monsieur de Montbron in
love—already—with ”

“Oh that’s not necessary—it’s so much better he should
be so with : which, thank goodness, I lost no time in discovering for
myself. He’s perfectly gone—and I couldn’t have borne it for
her if he hadn’t been. She’s just too sweet.”

Strether hesitated. “And through being in love too?”

On which with a smile that struck him as wonderful Mamie had a wonderful
answer. “She doesn’t know if she is or not.”

It made him again laugh out. “Oh but do!”

She was willing to take it that way. “Oh yes, I know everything.”
And as she sat there rubbing her polished hands and making the best of
it—only holding her elbows perhaps a little too much out—the
momentary effect for Strether was that every one else, in all their affair,
seemed stupid.

“Know that poor little Jeanne doesn’t know what’s the matter
with her?”

It was as near as they came to saying that she was probably in love with Chad;
but it was quite near enough for what Strether wanted; which was to be
confirmed in his certitude that, whether in love or not, she appealed to
something large and easy in the girl before him. Mamie would be fat, too fat,
at thirty; but she would always be the person who, at the present sharp hour,
had been disinterestedly tender. “If I see a little more of her, as I
hope I shall, I think she’ll like me enough—for she seemed to like
me to-day—to want me to tell her.”

“And you?”

“Perfectly. I shall tell her the matter with her is that she wants only
too much to do right. To do right for her, naturally,” said Mamie,
“is to please.”

“Her mother, do you mean?”

“Her mother first.”

Strether waited. “And then?”

“Well, ‘then’—Mr. Newsome.”

There was something really grand for him in the serenity of this reference.
“And last only Monsieur de Montbron?”

“Last only”—she good-humouredly kept it up.

Strether considered. “So that every one after all then will be
suited?”

She had one of her few hesitations, but it was a question only of a moment; and
it was her nearest approach to being explicit with him about what was between
them. “I think I can speak for myself. shall be.”

It said indeed so much, told such a story of her being ready to help him, so
committed to him that truth, in short, for such use as he might make of it
toward those ends of his own with which, patiently and trustfully, she had
nothing to do—it so fully achieved all this that he appeared to himself
simply to meet it in its own spirit by the last frankness of admiration.
Admiration was of itself almost accusatory, but nothing less would serve to
show her how nearly he understood. He put out his hand for good-bye with a
“Splendid, splendid, splendid!” And he left her, in her splendour,
still waiting for little Bilham.

Book Tenth

I

Strether occupied beside little Bilham, three evenings after his interview with
Mamie Pocock, the same deep divan they had enjoyed together on the first
occasion of our friend’s meeting Madame de Vionnet and her daughter in
the apartment of the Boulevard Malesherbes, where his position affirmed itself
again as ministering to an easy exchange of impressions. The present evening
had a different stamp; if the company was much more numerous, so, inevitably,
were the ideas set in motion. It was on the other hand, however, now strongly
marked that the talkers moved, in respect to such matters, round an inner, a
protected circle. They knew at any rate what really concerned them to-night,
and Strether had begun by keeping his companion close to it. Only a few of
Chad’s guests had dined—that is fifteen or twenty, a few compared
with the large concourse offered to sight by eleven o’clock; but number
and mass, quantity and quality, light, fragrance, sound, the overflow of
hospitality meeting the high tide of response, had all from the first pressed
upon Strether’s consciousness, and he felt himself somehow part and
parcel of the most festive scene, as the term was, in which he had ever in his
life been engaged. He had perhaps seen, on Fourths of July and on dear old
domestic Commencements, more people assembled, but he had never seen so many in
proportion to the space, or had at all events never known so great a
promiscuity to show so markedly as picked. Numerous as was the company, it had
still been made so by selection, and what was above all rare for Strether was
that, by no fault of his own, he was in the secret of the principle that had
worked. He hadn’t enquired, he had averted his head, but Chad had put him
a pair of questions that themselves smoothed the ground. He hadn’t
answered the questions, he had replied that they were the young man’s own
affair; and he had then seen perfectly that the latter’s direction was
already settled.

Chad had applied for counsel only by way of intimating that he knew what to do;
and he had clearly never known it better than in now presenting to his sister
the whole circle of his society. This was all in the sense and the spirit of
the note struck by him on that lady’s arrival; he had taken at the
station itself a line that led him without a break, and that enabled him to
lead the Pococks—though dazed a little, no doubt, breathless, no doubt,
and bewildered—to the uttermost end of the passage accepted by them
perforce as pleasant. He had made it for them violently pleasant and
mercilessly full; the upshot of which was, to Strether’s vision, that
they had come all the way without discovering it to be really no passage at
all. It was a brave blind alley, where to pass was impossible and where, unless
they stuck fast, they would have—which was always awkward—publicly
to back out. They were touching bottom assuredly tonight; the whole scene
represented the terminus of the . So could things go when
there was a hand to keep them consistent—a hand that pulled the wire with
a skill at which the elder man more and more marvelled. The elder man felt
responsible, but he also felt successful, since what had taken place was simply
the issue of his own contention, six weeks before, that they properly should
wait to see what their friends would have really to say. He had determined Chad
to wait, he had determined him to see; he was therefore not to quarrel with the
time given up to the business. As much as ever, accordingly, now that a
fortnight had elapsed, the situation created for Sarah, and against which she
had raised no protest, was that of her having accommodated herself to her
adventure as to a pleasure-party surrendered perhaps even somewhat in excess to
bustle and to “pace.” If her brother had been at any point the
least bit open to criticism it might have been on the ground of his spicing the
draught too highly and pouring the cup too full. Frankly treating the whole
occasion of the presence of his relatives as an opportunity for amusement, he
left it, no doubt, but scant margin as an opportunity for anything else. He
suggested, invented, abounded—yet all the while with the loosest easiest
rein. Strether, during his own weeks, had gained a sense of knowing Paris; but
he saw it afresh, and with fresh emotion, in the form of the knowledge offered
to his colleague.

A thousand unuttered thoughts hummed for him in the air of these observations;
not the least frequent of which was that Sarah might well of a truth not quite
know whither she was drifting. She was in no position not to appear to expect
that Chad should treat her handsomely; yet she struck our friend as privately
stiffening a little each time she missed the chance of marking the great
. The great was in brief that of course her brother
must treat her handsomely—she should like to see him not; but that
treating her handsomely, none the less, wasn’t all in all—treating
her handsomely buttered no parsnips; and that in fine there were moments when
she felt the fixed eyes of their admirable absent mother fairly screw into the
flat of her back. Strether, watching, after his habit, and overscoring with
thought, positively had moments of his own in which he found himself sorry for
her—occasions on which she affected him as a person seated in a runaway
vehicle and turning over the question of a possible jump. she
jump, could she, would be a safe place?—this question, at
such instants, sat for him in her lapse into pallor, her tight lips, her
conscious eyes. It came back to the main point at issue: would she be, after
all, to be squared? He believed on the whole she would jump; yet his
alternations on this subject were the more especial stuff of his suspense. One
thing remained well before him—a conviction that was in fact to gain
sharpness from the impressions of this evening: that if she
gather in her skirts, close her eyes and quit the carriage while in motion, he
would promptly enough become aware. She would alight from her headlong course
more or less directly upon him; it would be appointed to him, unquestionably,
to receive her entire weight. Signs and portents of the experience thus in
reserve for him had as it happened, multiplied even through the dazzle of
Chad’s party. It was partly under the nervous consciousness of such a
prospect that, leaving almost every one in the two other rooms, leaving those
of the guests already known to him as well as a mass of brilliant strangers of
both sexes and of several varieties of speech, he had desired five quiet
minutes with little Bilham, whom he always found soothing and even a little
inspiring, and to whom he had actually moreover something distinct and
important to say.

He had felt of old—for it already seemed long ago—rather humiliated
at discovering he could learn in talk with a personage so much his junior the
lesson of a certain moral ease; but he had now got used to that—whether
or no the mixture of the fact with other humiliations had made it indistinct,
whether or no directly from little Bilham’s example, the example of his
being contentedly just the obscure and acute little Bilham he was. It worked so
for him, Strether seemed to see; and our friend had at private hours a wan
smile over the fact that he himself, after so many more years, was still in
search of something that would work. However, as we have said, it worked just
now for them equally to have found a corner a little apart. What particularly
kept it apart was the circumstance that the music in the salon was admirable,
with two or three such singers as it was a privilege to hear in private. Their
presence gave a distinction to Chad’s entertainment, and the interest of
calculating their effect on Sarah was actually so sharp as to be almost
painful. Unmistakeably, in her single person, the motive of the composition and
dressed in a splendour of crimson which affected Strether as the sound of a
fall through a skylight, she would now be in the forefront of the listening
circle and committed by it up to her eyes. Those eyes during the wonderful
dinner itself he hadn’t once met; having confessedly—perhaps a
little pusillanimously—arranged with Chad that he should be on the same
side of the table. But there was no use in having arrived now with little
Bilham at an unprecedented point of intimacy unless he could pitch everything
into the pot. “You who sat where you could see her, what does she make of
it all? By which I mean on what terms does she take it?”

“Oh she takes it, I judge, as proving that the claim of his family is
more than ever justified.”

“She isn’t then pleased with what he has to show?”

“On the contrary; she’s pleased with it as with his capacity to do
this kind of thing—more than she has been pleased with anything for a
long time. But she wants him to show it . He has no right to waste
it on the likes of us.”

Strether wondered. “She wants him to move the whole thing over?”

“The whole thing—with an important exception. Everything he has
‘picked up’—and the way he knows how. She sees no difficulty
in that. She’d run the show herself, and she’ll make the handsome
concession that Woollett would be on the whole in some ways the better for it.
Not that it wouldn’t be also in some ways the better for Woollett. The
people there are just as good.”

“Just as good as you and these others? Ah that may be. But such an
occasion as this, whether or no,” Strether said, “isn’t the
people. It’s what has made the people possible.”

“Well then,” his friend replied, “there you are; I give you
my impression for what it’s worth. Mrs. Pocock has , and
that’s to-night how she sits there. If you were to have a glimpse of her
face you’d understand me. She has made up her mind—to the sound of
expensive music.”

Strether took it freely in. “Ah then I shall have news of her.”

“I don’t want to frighten you, but I think that likely.
However,” little Bilham continued, “if I’m of the least use
to you to hold on by—!”

“You’re not of the least!”—and Strether laid an
appreciative hand on him to say it. “No one’s of the least.”
With which, to mark how gaily he could take it, he patted his companion’s
knee. “I must meet my fate alone, and I —oh
you’ll see! And yet,” he pursued the next moment, “you
help me too. You once said to me”—he followed this
further—“that you held Chad should marry. I didn’t see then
so well as I know now that you meant he should marry Miss Pocock. Do you still
consider that he should? Because if you do”—he kept it
up—“I want you immediately to change your mind. You can help me
that way.”

“Help you by thinking he should marry?”

“Not marry at all events Mamie.”

“And who then?”

“Ah,” Strether returned, “that I’m not obliged to say.
But Madame de Vionnet—I suggest—when he can.’

“Oh!” said little Bilham with some sharpness.

“Oh precisely! But he needn’t marry at all—I’m at any
rate not obliged to provide for it. Whereas in your case I rather feel that I
.”

Little Bilham was amused. “Obliged to provide for my marrying?”

“Yes—after all I’ve done to you!”

The young man weighed it. “Have you done as much as that?”

“Well,” said Strether, thus challenged, “of course I must
remember what you’ve also done to . We may perhaps call it
square. But all the same,” he went on, “I wish awfully you’d
marry Mamie Pocock yourself.”

Little Bilham laughed out. “Why it was only the other night, in this very
place, that you were proposing to me a different union altogether.”

“Mademoiselle de Vionnet?” Well, Strether easily confessed it.
“That, I admit, was a vain image. is practical politics. I
want to do something good for both of you—I wish you each so well; and
you can see in a moment the trouble it will save me to polish you off by the
same stroke. She likes you, you know. You console her. And she’s
splendid.”

Little Bilham stared as a delicate appetite stares at an overheaped plate.
“What do I console her for?”

It just made his friend impatient. “Oh come, you know!”

“And what proves for you that she likes me?”

“Why the fact that I found her three days ago stopping at home alone all
the golden afternoon on the mere chance that you’d come to her, and
hanging over her balcony on that of seeing your cab drive up. I don’t
know what you want more.”

Little Bilham after a moment found it. “Only just to know what proves to
you that I like .”

“Oh if what I’ve just mentioned isn’t enough to make you do
it, you’re a stony-hearted little fiend. Besides”—Strether
encouraged his fancy’s flight—“you showed your inclination in
the way you kept her waiting, kept her on purpose to see if she cared enough
for you.”

His companion paid his ingenuity the deference of a pause. “I
didn’t keep her waiting. I came at the hour. I wouldn’t have kept
her waiting for the world,” the young man honourably declared.

“Better still—then there you are!” And Strether, charmed,
held him the faster. “Even if you didn’t do her justice,
moreover,” he continued, “I should insist on your immediately
coming round to it. I want awfully to have worked it. I want”—and
our friend spoke now with a yearning that was really earnest—“at
least to have done .”

“To have married me off—without a penny?”

“Well, I shan’t live long; and I give you my word, now and here,
that I’ll leave you every penny of my own. I haven’t many,
unfortunately, but you shall have them all. And Miss Pocock, I think, has a
few. I want,” Strether went on, “to have been at least to that
extent constructive even expiatory. I’ve been sacrificing so to strange
gods that I feel I want to put on record, somehow, my
fidelity—fundamentally unchanged after all—to our own. I feel as if
my hands were embrued with the blood of monstrous alien altars—of another
faith altogether. There it is—it’s done.” And then he further
explained. “It took hold of me because the idea of getting her quite out
of the way for Chad helps to clear my ground.”

The young man, at this, bounced about, and it brought them face to face in
admitted amusement. “You want me to marry as a convenience to
Chad?”

“No,” Strether debated—“ doesn’t care
whether you marry or not. It’s as a convenience simply to my own plan
him.”

“‘Simply’!”—and little Bilham’s concurrence
was in itself a lively comment. “Thank you. But I thought,” he
continued, “you had exactly plan ‘for’ him.”

“Well then call it my plan for myself—which may be well, as you
say, to have none. His situation, don’t you see? is reduced now to the
bare facts one has to recognise. Mamie doesn’t want him, and he
doesn’t want Mamie: so much as that these days have made clear.
It’s a thread we can wind up and tuck in.”

But little Bilham still questioned. “ can—since you seem
so much to want to. But why should I?”

Poor Strether thought it over, but was obliged of course to admit that his
demonstration did superficially fail. “Seriously, there no
reason. It’s my affair—I must do it alone. I’ve only my
fantastic need of making my dose stiff.”

Little Bilham wondered. “What do you call your dose?”

“Why what I have to swallow. I want my conditions unmitigated.”

He had spoken in the tone of talk for talk’s sake, and yet with an
obscure truth lurking in the loose folds; a circumstance presently not without
its effect on his young friend. Little Bilham’s eyes rested on him a
moment with some intensity; then suddenly, as if everything had cleared up, he
gave a happy laugh. It seemed to say that if pretending, or even trying, or
still even hoping, to be able to care for Mamie would be of use, he was all
there for the job. “I’ll do anything in the world for you!”

“Well,” Strether smiled, “anything in the world is all I
want. I don’t know anything that pleased me in her more,” he went
on, “than the way that, on my finding her up there all alone, coming on
her unawares and feeling greatly for her being so out of it, she knocked down
my tall house of cards with her instant and cheerful allusion to the next young
man. It was somehow so the note I needed—her staying at home to receive
him.”

“It was Chad of course,” said little Bilham, “who asked the
next young man—I like your name for me!—to call.”

“So I supposed—all of which, thank God, is in our innocent and
natural manners. But do you know,” Strether asked, “if Chad
knows—?” And then as this interlocutor seemed at a loss: “Why
where she has come out.”

Little Bilham, at this, met his face with a conscious look—it was as if,
more than anything yet, the allusion had penetrated. “Do you know
yourself?”

Strether lightly shook his head. “There I stop. Oh, odd as it may appear
to you, there things I don’t know. I only got the sense from
her of something very sharp, and yet very deep down, that she was keeping all
to herself. That is I had begun with the belief that she kept it to
herself; but face to face with her there I soon made out that there was a
person with whom she would have shared it. I had thought she possibly might
with —but I saw then that I was only half in her confidence.
When, turning to me to greet me—for she was on the balcony and I had come
in without her knowing it—she showed me she had been expecting
and was proportionately disappointed, I got hold of the tail of my conviction.
Half an hour later I was in possession of all the rest of it. You know what has
happened.” He looked at his young friend hard—then he felt sure.
“For all you say, you’re up to your eyes. So there you are.”

Little Bilham after an instant pulled half round. “I assure you she
hasn’t told me anything.”

“Of course she hasn’t. For what do you suggest that I suppose her
to take you? But you’ve been with her every day, you’ve seen her
freely, you’ve liked her greatly—I stick to that—and
you’ve made your profit of it. You know what she has been through as well
as you know that she has dined here to-night—which must have put her, by
the way, through a good deal more.”

The young man faced this blast; after which he pulled round the rest of the
way. “I haven’t in the least said she hasn’t been nice to me.
But she’s proud.”

“And quite properly. But not too proud for that.”

“It’s just her pride that has made her. Chad,” little Bilham
loyally went on, “has really been as kind to her as possible. It’s
awkward for a man when a girl’s in love with him.”

“Ah but she isn’t—now.”

Little Bilham sat staring before him; then he sprang up as if his
friend’s penetration, recurrent and insistent, made him really after all
too nervous. “No—she isn’t now. It isn’t in the
least,” he went on, “Chad’s fault. He’s really all
right. I mean he would have been willing. But she came over with ideas. Those
she had got at home. They had been her motive and support in joining her
brother and his wife. She was to our friend.”

“Ah like me, poor thing?” Strether also got to his feet.

“Exactly—she had a bad moment. It was very soon distinct to her, to
pull her up, to let her down, that, alas, he was, he , saved.
There’s nothing left for her to do.”

“Not even to love him?”

“She would have loved him better as she originally believed him.”

Strether wondered. “Of course one asks one’s self what notion a
little girl forms, where a young man’s in question, of such a history and
such a state.”

“Well, this little girl saw them, no doubt, as obscure, but she saw them
practically as wrong. The wrong for her the obscure. Chad turns out
at any rate right and good and disconcerting, while what she was all prepared
for, primed and girded and wound up for, was to deal with him as the general
opposite.”

“Yet wasn’t her whole point”—Strether weighed
it—“that he was to be, that he be, made better,
redeemed?”

Little Bilham fixed it all a moment, and then with a small headshake that
diffused a tenderness: “She’s too late. Too late for the
miracle.”

“Yes”—his companion saw enough. “Still, if the worst
fault of his condition is that it may be all there for her to profit
by—?”

“Oh she doesn’t want to ‘profit,’ in that flat way. She
doesn’t want to profit by another woman’s work—she wants the
miracle to have been her own miracle. what she’s too
late for.”

Strether quite felt how it all fitted, yet there seemed one loose piece.
“I’m bound to say, you know, that she strikes one, on these lines,
as fastidious—what you call here .”

Little Bilham tossed up his chin. “Of course she’s
—on any lines! What else in the world our
Mamies—the real, the right ones?”

“I see, I see,” our friend repeated, charmed by the responsive
wisdom he had ended by so richly extracting. “Mamie is one of the real
and the right.”

“The very thing itself.”

“And what it comes to then,” Strether went on, “is that poor
awful Chad is simply too good for her.”

“Ah too good was what he was after all to be; but it was she herself, and
she herself only, who was to have made him so.”

It hung beautifully together, but with still a loose end. “Wouldn’t
he do for her even if he should after all break—”

“With his actual influence?” Oh little Bilham had for this enquiry
the sharpest of all his controls. “How can he ‘do’—on
any terms whatever—when he’s flagrantly spoiled?”

Strether could only meet the question with his passive, his receptive pleasure.
“Well, thank goodness, not! remain for her
to save, and I come back, on so beautiful and full a demonstration, to my
contention of just now—that of your showing distinct signs of her having
already begun.”

The most he could further say to himself—as his young friend turned
away—was that the charge encountered for the moment no renewed denial.
Little Bilham, taking his course back to the music, only shook his good-natured
ears an instant, in the manner of a terrier who has got wet; while Strether
relapsed into the sense—which had for him in these days most of
comfort—that he was free to believe in anything that from hour to hour
kept him going. He had positively motions and flutters of this conscious
hour-to-hour kind, temporary surrenders to irony, to fancy, frequent
instinctive snatches at the growing rose of observation, constantly stronger
for him, as he felt, in scent and colour, and in which he could bury his nose
even to wantonness. This last resource was offered him, for that matter, in the
very form of his next clear perception—the vision of a prompt meeting, in
the doorway of the room, between little Bilham and brilliant Miss Barrace, who
was entering as Bilham withdrew. She had apparently put him a question, to
which he had replied by turning to indicate his late interlocutor; toward whom,
after an interrogation further aided by a resort to that optical machinery
which seemed, like her other ornaments, curious and archaic, the genial lady,
suggesting more than ever for her fellow guest the old French print, the
historic portrait, directed herself with an intention that Strether instantly
met. He knew in advance the first note she would sound, and took in as she
approached all her need of sounding it. Nothing yet had been so
“wonderful” between them as the present occasion; and it was her
special sense of this quality in occasions that she was there, as she was in
most places, to feed. That sense had already been so well fed by the situation
about them that she had quitted the other room, forsaken the music, dropped out
of the play, abandoned, in a word, the stage itself, that she might stand a
minute behind the scenes with Strether and so perhaps figure as one of the
famous augurs replying, behind the oracle, to the wink of the other. Seated
near him presently where little Bilham had sat, she replied in truth to many
things; beginning as soon as he had said to her—what he hoped he said
without fatuity—“All you ladies are extraordinarily kind to
me.”

She played her long handle, which shifted her observation; she saw in an
instant all the absences that left them free. “How can we be anything
else? But isn’t that exactly your plight? ‘We
ladies’—oh we’re nice, and you must be having enough of us!
As one of us, you know, I don’t pretend I’m crazy about us. But
Miss Gostrey at least to-night has left you alone, hasn’t she?”
With which she again looked about as if Maria might still lurk.

“Oh yes,” said Strether; “she’s only sitting up for me
at home.” And then as this elicited from his companion her gay “Oh,
oh, oh!” he explained that he meant sitting up in suspense and prayer.
“We thought it on the whole better she shouldn’t be present; and
either way of course it’s a terrible worry for her.” He abounded in
the sense of his appeal to the ladies, and they might take their choice of his
doing so from humility or from pride. “Yet she inclines to believe I
shall come out.”

“Oh I incline to believe too you’ll come out!”—Miss
Barrace, with her laugh, was not to be behind. “Only the question’s
about , isn’t it? However,” she happily continued,
“if it’s anywhere at all it must be very far on, mustn’t it?
To do us justice, I think, you know,” she laughed, “we do, among us
all, want you rather far on. Yes, yes,” she repeated in her quick droll
way; “we want you very, far on!” After which she wished
to know why he had thought it better Maria shouldn’t be present.

“Oh,” he replied, “it was really her own idea. I should have
wished it. But she dreads responsibility.”

“And isn’t that a new thing for her?”

“To dread it? No doubt—no doubt. But her nerve has given
way.”

Miss Barrace looked at him a moment. “She has too much at stake.”
Then less gravely: “Mine, luckily for me, holds out.”

“Luckily for me too”—Strether came back to that. “My
own isn’t so firm, appetite for responsibility isn’t so
sharp, as that I haven’t felt the very principle of this occasion to be
‘the more the merrier.’ If we so merry it’s
because Chad has understood so well.”

“He has understood amazingly,” said Miss Barrace.

“It’s wonderful—Strether anticipated for her.

“It’s wonderful!” she, to meet it, intensified; so that, face
to face over it, they largely and recklessly laughed. But she presently added:
“Oh I see the principle. If one didn’t one would be lost. But when
once one has got hold of it—”

“It’s as simple as twice two! From the moment he had to do
something—”

“A crowd”—she took him straight up—“was the only
thing? Rather, rather: a rumpus of sound,” she laughed, “or
nothing. Mrs. Pocock’s built in, or built out—whichever you call
it; she’s packed so tight she can’t move. She’s in splendid
isolation”—Miss Barrace embroidered the theme.

Strether followed, but scrupulous of justice. “Yet with every one in the
place successively introduced to her.”

“Wonderfully—but just so that it does build her out. She’s
bricked up, she’s buried alive!”

Strether seemed for a moment to look at it; but it brought him to a sigh.
“Oh but she’s not dead! It will take more than this to kill
her.”

His companion had a pause that might have been for pity. “No, I
can’t pretend I think she’s finished—or that it’s for
more than to-night.” She remained pensive as if with the same
compunction. “It’s only up to her chin.” Then again for the
fun of it: “She can breathe.”

“She can breathe!”—he echoed it in the same spirit.
“And do you know,” he went on, “what’s really all this
time happening to me?—through the beauty of music, the gaiety of voices,
the uproar in short of our revel and the felicity of your wit? The sound of
Mrs. Pocock’s respiration drowns for me, I assure you, every other.
It’s literally all I hear.”

She focussed him with her clink of chains. “Well—!” she
breathed ever so kindly.

“Well, what?”

“She free from her chin up,” she mused; “and that
be enough for her.”

“It will be enough for me!” Strether ruefully laughed.
“Waymarsh has really,” he then asked, “brought her to see
you?”

“Yes—but that’s the worst of it. I could do you no good. And
yet I tried hard.”

Strether wondered. “And how did you try?”

“Why I didn’t speak of you.”

“I see. That was better.”

“Then what would have been worse? For speaking or silent,” she
lightly wailed, “I somehow ‘compromise.’ And it has never
been any one but you.”

“That shows”—he was magnanimous—“that it’s
something not in you, but in one’s self. It’s
fault.”

She was silent a little. “No, it’s Mr. Waymarsh’s. It’s
the fault of his having brought her.”

“Ah then,” said Strether good-naturedly, “why he
bring her?”

“He couldn’t afford not to.”

“Oh you were a trophy—one of the spoils of conquest? But why in
that case, since you do ‘compromise’—”

“Don’t I compromise as well? I do compromise him as
well,” Miss Barrace smiled. “I compromise him as hard as I can. But
for Mr. Waymarsh it isn’t fatal. It’s—so far as his wonderful
relation with Mrs. Pocock is concerned—favourable.” And then, as he
still seemed slightly at sea: “The man who had succeeded with ,
don’t you see? For her to get him from me was such an added
incentive.”

Strether saw, but as if his path was still strewn with surprises.
“It’s ‘from’ you then that she has got him?”

She was amused at his momentary muddle. “You can fancy my fight! She
believes in her triumph. I think it has been part of her joy.

“Oh her joy!” Strether sceptically murmured.

“Well, she thinks she has had her own way. And what’s to-night for
her but a kind of apotheosis? Her frock’s really good.”

“Good enough to go to heaven in? For after a real apotheosis,”
Strether went on, “there’s nothing heaven. For Sarah
there’s only to-morrow.”

“And you mean that she won’t find to-morrow heavenly?”

“Well, I mean that I somehow feel to-night—on her behalf—too
good to be true. She has had her cake; that is she’s in the act now of
having it, of swallowing the largest and sweetest piece. There won’t be
another left for her. Certainly haven’t one. It can only, at the
best, be Chad.” He continued to make it out as for their common
entertainment. “He may have one, as it were, up his sleeve; yet
it’s borne in upon me that if he had—”

“He wouldn’t”—she quite understood—“have
taken all trouble? I dare say not, and, if I may be quite free and
dreadful, I very much hope he won’t take any more. Of course I
won’t pretend now,” she added, “not to know what it’s a
question of.”

“Oh every one must know now,” poor Strether thoughtfully admitted;
“and it’s strange enough and funny enough that one should feel
everybody here at this very moment to be knowing and watching and
waiting.”

“Yes—isn’t it indeed funny?” Miss Barrace quite rose to
it. “That’s the way we in Paris.” She was always
pleased with a new contribution to that queerness. “It’s wonderful!
But, you know,” she declared, “it all depends on you. I don’t
want to turn the knife in your vitals, but that’s naturally what you just
now meant by our all being on top of you. We know you as the hero of the drama,
and we’re gathered to see what you’ll do.”

Strether looked at her a moment with a light perhaps slightly obscured.
“I think that must be why the hero has taken refuge in this corner.
He’s scared at his heroism—he shrinks from his part.”

“Ah but we nevertheless believe he’ll play it. That’s
why,” Miss Barrace kindly went on, “we take such an interest in
you. We feel you’ll come up to the scratch.” And then as he seemed
perhaps not quite to take fire: “Don’t let him do it.”

“Don’t let Chad go?”

“Yes, keep hold of him. With all this”—and she indicated the
general tribute—“he has done enough. We love him
here—he’s charming.”

“It’s beautiful,” said Strether, “the way you all can
simplify when you will.”

But she gave it to him back. “It’s nothing to the way
will when you must.”

He winced at it as at the very voice of prophecy, and it kept him a moment
quiet. He detained her, however, on her appearing about to leave him alone in
the rather cold clearance their talk had made. “There positively
isn’t a sign of a hero to-night; the hero’s dodging and shirking,
the hero’s ashamed. Therefore, you know, I think, what you must all
be occupied with is the heroine.”

Miss Barrace took a minute. “The heroine?”

“The heroine. I’ve treated her,” said Strether, “not a
bit like a hero. Oh,” he sighed, “I don’t do it well!”

She eased him off. “You do it as you can.” And then after another
hesitation: “I think she’s satisfied.”

But he remained compunctious. “I haven’t been near her. I
haven’t looked at her.”

“Ah then you’ve lost a good deal!”

He showed he knew it. “She’s more wonderful than ever?”

“Than ever. With Mr. Pocock.”

Strether wondered. “Madame de Vionnet—with Jim?”

“Madame de Vionnet—with ‘Jim.’” Miss Barrace was
historic.

“And what’s she doing with him?”

“Ah you must ask ”

Strether’s face lighted again at the prospect. “It be
amusing to do so.” Yet he continued to wonder. “But she must have
some idea.”

“Of course she has—she has twenty ideas. She has in the first
place,” said Miss Barrace, swinging a little her tortoise-shell,
“that of doing her part. Her part is to help .”

It came out as nothing had come yet; links were missing and connexions unnamed,
but it was suddenly as if they were at the heart of their subject. “Yes;
how much more she does it,” Strether gravely reflected, “than I
help ” It all came over him as with the near presence of the
beauty, the grace, the intense, dissimulated spirit with which he had, as he
said, been putting off contact. “ has courage.”

“Ah she has courage!” Miss Barrace quite agreed; and it was as if
for a moment they saw the quantity in each other’s face.

But indeed the whole thing was present. “How much she must care!”

“Ah there it is. She does care. But it isn’t, is it,” Miss
Barrace considerately added, “as if you had ever had any doubt of
that?”

Strether seemed suddenly to like to feel that he really never had. “Why
of course it’s the whole point.”

“Voilà!” Miss Barrace smiled.

“It’s why one came out,” Strether went on. “And
it’s why one has stayed so long. And it’s also”—he
abounded—“why one’s going home. It’s why, it’s
why—”

“It’s why everything!” she concurred. “It’s why
she might be to-night—for all she looks and shows, and for all your
friend ‘Jim’ does—about twenty years old. That’s
another of her ideas; to be for him, and to be quite easily and charmingly, as
young as a little girl.”

Strether assisted at his distance. “‘For him’? For
Chad—?”

“For Chad, in a manner, naturally, always. But in particular to-night for
Mr. Pocock.” And then as her friend still stared: “Yes, it
of a bravery! But that’s what she has: her high sense of
duty.” It was more than sufficiently before them. “When Mr. Newsome
has his hands so embarrassed with his sister—”

“It’s quite the least”—Strether filled it
out—“that she should take his sister’s husband?
Certainly—quite the least. So she has taken him.”

“She has taken him.” It was all Miss Barrace had meant.

Still it remained enough. “It must be funny.”

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“Oh it funny.” That of course essentially went with it.

But it brought them back. “How indeed then she must care!” In
answer to which Strether’s entertainer dropped a comprehensive
“Ah!” expressive perhaps of some impatience for the time he took to
get used to it. She herself had got used to it long before.

II

When one morning within the week he perceived the whole thing to be really at
last upon him Strether’s immediate feeling was all relief. He had known
this morning that something was about to happen—known it, in a moment, by
Waymarsh’s manner when Waymarsh appeared before him during his brief
consumption of coffee and a roll in the small slippery so
associated with rich rumination. Strether had taken there of late various
lonely and absent-minded meals; he communed there, even at the end of June,
with a suspected chill, the air of old shivers mixed with old savours, the air
in which so many of his impressions had perversely matured; the place meanwhile
renewing its message to him by the very circumstance of his single state. He
now sat there, for the most part, to sigh softly, while he vaguely tilted his
carafe, over the vision of how much better Waymarsh was occupied. That was
really his success by the common measure—to have led this companion so on
and on. He remembered how at first there had been scarce a squatting-place he
could beguile him into passing; the actual outcome of which at last was that
there was scarce one that could arrest him in his rush. His rush—as
Strether vividly and amusedly figured it—continued to be all with Sarah,
and contained perhaps moreover the word of the whole enigma, whipping up in its
fine full-flavoured froth the very principle, for good or for ill, of his own,
of Strether’s destiny. It might after all, to the end, only be that they
had united to save him, and indeed, so far as Waymarsh was concerned, that
to be the spring of action. Strether was glad at all events, in
connexion with the case, that the saving he required was not more scant; so
constituted a luxury was it in certain lights just to lurk there out of the
full glare. He had moments of quite seriously wondering whether Waymarsh
wouldn’t in fact, thanks to old friendship and a conceivable indulgence,
make about as good terms for him as he might make for himself. They
wouldn’t be the same terms of course; but they might have the advantage
that he himself probably should be able to make none at all.

He was never in the morning very late, but Waymarsh had already been out, and,
after a peep into the dim refectory, he presented himself with much less than
usual of his large looseness. He had made sure, through the expanse of glass
exposed to the court, that they would be alone; and there was now in fact that
about him that pretty well took up the room. He was dressed in the garments of
summer; and save that his white waistcoat was redundant and bulging these
things favoured, they determined, his expression. He wore a straw hat such as
his friend hadn’t yet seen in Paris, and he showed a buttonhole freshly
adorned with a magnificent rose. Strether read on the instant his
story—how, astir for the previous hour, the sprinkled newness of the day,
so pleasant at that season in Paris, he was fairly panting with the pulse of
adventure and had been with Mrs. Pocock, unmistakeably, to the Marché aux
Fleurs. Strether really knew in this vision of him a joy that was akin to envy;
so reversed as he stood there did their old positions seem; so comparatively
doleful now showed, by the sharp turn of the wheel, the posture of the pilgrim
from Woollett. He wondered, this pilgrim, if he had originally looked to
Waymarsh so brave and well, so remarkably launched, as it was at present the
latter’s privilege to appear. He recalled that his friend had remarked to
him even at Chester that his aspect belied his plea of prostration; but there
certainly couldn’t have been, for an issue, an aspect less concerned than
Waymarsh’s with the menace of decay. Strether had at any rate never
resembled a Southern planter of the great days—which was the image
picturesquely suggested by the happy relation between the fuliginous face and
the wide panama of his visitor. This type, it further amused him to guess, had
been, on Waymarsh’s part, the object of Sarah’s care; he was
convinced that her taste had not been a stranger to the conception and purchase
of the hat, any more than her fine fingers had been guiltless of the bestowal
of the rose. It came to him in the current of thought, as things so oddly did
come, that had never risen with the lark to attend a brilliant woman
to the Marché aux Fleurs; this could be fastened on him in connexion neither
with Miss Gostrey nor with Madame de Vionnet; the practice of getting up early
for adventures could indeed in no manner be fastened on him. It came to him in
fact that just here was his usual case: he was for ever missing things through
his general genius for missing them, while others were for ever picking them up
through a contrary bent. And it was others who looked abstemious and he who
looked greedy; it was he somehow who finally paid, and it was others who mainly
partook. Yes, he should go to the scaffold yet for he wouldn’t know quite
whom. He almost, for that matter, felt on the scaffold now and really quite
enjoying it. It worked out as he was anxious there—it
worked out as for this reason that Waymarsh was so blooming. It was
trip for health, for a change, that proved the success—which was just
what Strether, planning and exerting himself, had desired it should be. That
truth already sat full-blown on his companion’s lips; benevolence
breathed from them as with the warmth of active exercise, and also a little as
with the bustle of haste.

“Mrs. Pocock, whom I left a quarter of an hour ago at her hotel, has
asked me to mention to you that she would like to find you at home here in
about another hour. She wants to see you; she has something to say—or
considers, I believe, that you may have: so that I asked her myself why she
shouldn’t come right round. She hasn’t round
yet—to see our place; and I took upon myself to say that I was sure
you’d be glad to have her. The thing’s therefore, you see, to keep
right here till she comes.”

The announcement was sociably, even though, after Waymarsh’s wont,
somewhat solemnly made; but Strether quickly felt other things in it than these
light features. It was the first approach, from that quarter, to admitted
consciousness; it quickened his pulse; it simply meant at last that he should
have but himself to thank if he didn’t know where he was. He had finished
his breakfast; he pushed it away and was on his feet. There were plenty of
elements of surprise, but only one of doubt. “The thing’s for
to keep here too?” Waymarsh had been slightly ambiguous.

He wasn’t ambiguous, however, after this enquiry; and Strether’s
understanding had probably never before opened so wide and effective a mouth as
it was to open during the next five minutes. It was no part of his
friend’s wish, as appeared, to help to receive Mrs. Pocock; he quite
understood the spirit in which she was to present herself, but his connexion
with her visit was limited to his having—well, as he might
say—perhaps a little promoted it. He had thought, and had let her know
it, that Strether possibly would think she might have been round before. At any
rate, as turned out, she had been wanting herself, quite a while, to come.
“I told her,” said Waymarsh, “that it would have been a
bright idea if she had only carried it out before.”

Strether pronounced it so bright as to be almost dazzling. “But why
she carried it out before? She has seen me every
day—she had only to name her hour. I’ve been waiting and
waiting.”

“Well, I told her you had. And she has been waiting too.” It was,
in the oddest way in the world, on the showing of this tone, a genial new
pressing coaxing Waymarsh; a Waymarsh conscious with a different consciousness
from any he had yet betrayed, and actually rendered by it almost insinuating.
He lacked only time for full persuasion, and Strether was to see in a moment
why. Meantime, however, our friend perceived, he was announcing a step of some
magnanimity on Mrs. Pocock’s part, so that he could deprecate a sharp
question. It was his own high purpose in fact to have smoothed sharp questions
to rest. He looked his old comrade very straight in the eyes, and he had never
conveyed to him in so mute a manner so much kind confidence and so much good
advice. Everything that was between them was again in his face, but matured and
shelved and finally disposed of. “At any rate,” he added,
“she’s coming now.”

Considering how many pieces had to fit themselves, it all fell, in
Strether’s brain, into a close rapid order. He saw on the spot what had
happened, and what probably would yet; and it was all funny enough. It was
perhaps just this freedom of appreciation that wound him up to his flare of
high spirits. “What is she coming —to kill me?”

“She’s coming to be very kind to you, and you must let
me say that I greatly hope you’ll not be less so to herself.”

This was spoken by Waymarsh with much gravity of admonition, and as Strether
stood there he knew he had but to make a movement to take the attitude of a man
gracefully receiving a present. The present was that of the opportunity dear
old Waymarsh had flattered himself he had divined in him the slight soreness of
not having yet thoroughly enjoyed; so he had brought it to him thus, as on a
little silver breakfast-tray, familiarly though delicately—without
oppressive pomp; and he was to bend and smile and acknowledge, was to take and
use and be grateful. He was not—that was the beauty of it—to be
asked to deflect too much from his dignity. No wonder the old boy bloomed in
this bland air of his own distillation. Strether felt for a moment as if Sarah
were actually walking up and down outside. Wasn’t she hanging about the
while her friend thus summarily opened a way? Strether
would meet her but to take it, and everything would be for the best in the best
of possible worlds. He had never so much known what any one meant as, in the
light of this demonstration, he knew what Mrs. Newsome did. It had reached
Waymarsh from Sarah, but it had reached Sarah from her mother, and there was no
break in the chain by which it reached . “Has anything
particular happened,” he asked after a minute—“so suddenly to
determine her? Has she heard anything unexpected from home?”

Waymarsh, on this, it seemed to him, looked at him harder than ever.
“‘Unexpected’?” He had a brief hesitation; then,
however, he was firm. “We’re leaving Paris.”

“Leaving? That sudden.”

Waymarsh showed a different opinion. “Less so than it may seem. The
purpose of Mrs. Pocock’s visit is to explain to you in fact that
it’s .”

Strether didn’t at all know if he had really an advantage—anything
that would practically count as one; but he enjoyed for the moment—as for
the first time in his life—the sense of so carrying it off. He
wondered—it was amusing—if he felt as the impudent feel. “I
shall take great pleasure, I assure you, in any explanation. I shall be
delighted to receive Sarah.”

The sombre glow just darkened in his comrade’s eyes; but he was struck
with the way it died out again. It was too mixed with another
consciousness—it was too smothered, as might be said, in flowers. He
really for the time regretted it—poor dear old sombre glow! Something
straight and simple, something heavy and empty, had been eclipsed in its
company; something by which he had best known his friend. Waymarsh
wouldn’t his friend, somehow, without the occasional ornament
of the sacred rage, and the right to the sacred rage—inestimably precious
for Strether’s charity—he also seemed in a manner, and at Mrs.
Pocock’s elbow, to have forfeited. Strether remembered the occasion early
in their stay when on that very spot he had come out with his earnest, his
ominous “Quit it!”—and, so remembering, felt it hang by a
hair that he didn’t himself now utter the same note. Waymarsh was having
a good time—this was the truth that was embarrassing for him, and he was
having it then and there, he was having it in Europe, he was having it under
the very protection of circumstances of which he didn’t in the least
approve; all of which placed him in a false position, with no issue
possible—none at least by the grand manner. It was practically in the
manner of any one—it was all but in poor Strether’s own—that
instead of taking anything up he merely made the most of having to be himself
explanatory. “I’m not leaving for the United States direct. Mr. and
Mrs. Pocock and Miss Mamie are thinking of a little trip before their own
return, and we’ve been talking for some days past of our joining forces.
We’ve settled it that we do join and that we sail together the end of
next month. But we start to-morrow for Switzerland. Mrs. Pocock wants some
scenery. She hasn’t had much yet.”

He was brave in his way too, keeping nothing back, confessing all there was,
and only leaving Strether to make certain connexions. “Is what Mrs.
Newsome had cabled her daughter an injunction to break off short?”

The grand manner indeed at this just raised its head a little. “I know
nothing about Mrs. Newsome’s cables.”

Their eyes met on it with some intensity—during the few seconds of which
something happened quite out of proportion to the time. It happened that
Strether, looking thus at his friend, didn’t take his answer for
truth—and that something more again occurred in consequence of
. Yes—Waymarsh just know about Mrs. Newsome’s
cables: to what other end than that had they dined together at Bignon’s?
Strether almost felt for the instant that it was to Mrs. Newsome herself the
dinner had been given; and, for that matter, quite felt how she must have known
about it and, as he might think, protected and consecrated it. He had a quick
blurred view of daily cables, questions, answers, signals: clear enough was his
vision of the expense that, when so wound up, the lady at home was prepared to
incur. Vivid not less was his memory of what, during his long observation of
her, some of her attainments of that high pitch had cost her. Distinctly she
was at the highest now, and Waymarsh, who imagined himself an independent
performer, was really, forcing his fine old natural voice, an overstrained
accompanist. The whole reference of his errand seemed to mark her for Strether
as by this time consentingly familiar to him, and nothing yet had so despoiled
her of a special shade of consideration. “You don’t know,” he
asked, “whether Sarah has been directed from home to try me on the matter
of my also going to Switzerland?”

“I know,” said Waymarsh as manfully as possible, “nothing
whatever about her private affairs; though I believe her to be acting in
conformity with things that have my highest respect.” It was as manful as
possible, but it was still the false note—as it had to be to convey so
sorry a statement. He knew everything, Strether more and more felt, that he
thus disclaimed, and his little punishment was just in this doom to a second
fib. What falser position—given the man—could the most vindictive
mind impose? He ended by squeezing through a passage in which three months
before he would certainly have stuck fast. “Mrs Pocock will probably be
ready herself to answer any enquiry you may put to her. But,” he
continued, “—!” He faltered on it.

“But what? Don’t put her too many?”

Waymarsh looked large, but the harm was done; he couldn’t, do what he
would, help looking rosy. “Don’t do anything you’ll be sorry
for.”

It was an attenuation, Strether guessed, of something else that had been on his
lips; it was a sudden drop to directness, and was thereby the voice of
sincerity. He had fallen to the supplicating note, and that immediately, for
our friend, made a difference and reinstated him. They were in communication as
they had been, that first morning, in Sarah’s salon and in her presence
and Madame de Vionnet’s; and the same recognition of a great good will
was again, after all, possible. Only the amount of response Waymarsh had then
taken for granted was doubled, decupled now. This came out when he presently
said: “Of course I needn’t assure you hope you’ll
come with us.” Then it was that his implications and expectations loomed
up for Strether as almost pathetically gross.

The latter patted his shoulder while he thanked him, giving the go-by to the
question of joining the Pococks; he expressed the joy he felt at seeing him go
forth again so brave and free, and he in fact almost took leave of him on the
spot. “I shall see you again of course before you go; but I’m
meanwhile much obliged to you for arranging so conveniently for what
you’ve told me. I shall walk up and down in the court there—dear
little old court which we’ve each bepaced so, this last couple of months,
to the tune of our flights and our drops, our hesitations and our plunges: I
shall hang about there, all impatience and excitement, please let Sarah know,
till she graciously presents herself. Leave me with her without fear,” he
laughed; “I assure you I shan’t hurt her. I don’t think
either she’ll hurt : I’m in a situation in which damage
was some time ago discounted. Besides, isn’t what worries
you—but don’t, don’t explain! We’re all right as we
are: which was the degree of success our adventure was pledged to for each of
us. We weren’t, it seemed, all right as we were before; and we’ve
got over the ground, all things considered, quickly. I hope you’ll have a
lovely time in the Alps.”

Waymarsh fairly looked up at him as from the foot of them. “I don’t
know as I really to go.”

It was the conscience of Milrose in the very voice of Milrose, but, oh it was
feeble and flat! Strether suddenly felt quite ashamed for him; he breathed a
greater boldness. “ yourself, on the contrary, go—in all
agreeable directions. These are precious hours—at our age they
mayn’t recur. Don’t have it to say to yourself at Milrose, next
winter, that you hadn’t courage for them.” And then as his comrade
queerly stared: “Live up to Mrs. Pocock.”

“Live up to her?”

“You’re a great help to her.”

Waymarsh looked at it as at one of the uncomfortable things that were certainly
true and that it was yet ironical to say. “It’s more then than you
are.”

“That’s exactly your own chance and advantage. Besides,” said
Strether, “I do in my way contribute. I know what I’m about.”

Waymarsh had kept on his great panama, and, as he now stood nearer the door,
his last look beneath the shade of it had turned again to darkness and warning.
“So do I! See here, Strether.”

“I know what you’re going to say. ‘Quit this’?”

“Quit this!” But it lacked its old intensity; nothing of it
remained; it went out of the room with him.

III

Almost the first thing, strangely enough, that, about an hour later, Strether
found himself doing in Sarah’s presence was to remark articulately on
this failure, in their friend, of what had been superficially his great
distinction. It was as if—he alluded of course to the grand
manner—the dear man had sacrificed it to some other advantage; which
would be of course only for himself to measure. It might be simply that he was
physically so much more sound than on his first coming out; this was all
prosaic, comparatively cheerful and vulgar. And fortunately, if one came to
that, his improvement in health was really itself grander than any manner it
could be conceived as having cost him. “You yourself alone, dear
Sarah”—Strether took the plunge—“have done him, it
strikes me, in these three weeks, as much good as all the rest of his time
together.”

It was a plunge because somehow the range of reference was, in the conditions,
“funny,” and made funnier still by Sarah’s attitude, by the
turn the occasion had, with her appearance, so sensibly taken. Her appearance
was really indeed funnier than anything else—the spirit in which he felt
her to be there as soon as she was there, the shade of obscurity that cleared
up for him as soon as he was seated with her in the small that had, for the most part, in all the weeks, witnessed the wane
of his early vivacity of discussion with Waymarsh. It was an immense thing,
quite a tremendous thing, for her to have come: this truth opened out to him in
spite of his having already arrived for himself at a fairly vivid view of it.
He had done exactly what he had given Waymarsh his word for—had walked
and re-walked the court while he awaited her advent; acquiring in this exercise
an amount of light that affected him at the time as flooding the scene. She had
decided upon the step in order to give him the benefit of a doubt, in order to
be able to say to her mother that she had, even to abjectness, smoothed the way
for him. The doubt had been as to whether he mightn’t take her as not
having smoothed it—and the admonition had possibly come from
Waymarsh’s more detached spirit. Waymarsh had at any rate, certainly,
thrown his weight into the scale—he had pointed to the importance of
depriving their friend of a grievance. She had done justice to the plea, and it
was to set herself right with a high ideal that she actually sat there in her
state. Her calculation was sharp in the immobility with which she held her tall
parasol-stick upright and at arm’s length, quite as if she had struck the
place to plant her flag; in the separate precautions she took not to show as
nervous; in the aggressive repose in which she did quite nothing but wait for
him. Doubt ceased to be possible from the moment he had taken in that she had
arrived with no proposal whatever; that her concern was simply to show what she
had come to receive. She had come to receive his submission, and Waymarsh was
to have made it plain to him that she would expect nothing less. He saw fifty
things, her host, at this convenient stage; but one of those he most saw was
that their anxious friend hadn’t quite had the hand required of him.
Waymarsh , however, uttered the request that she might find him mild,
and while hanging about the court before her arrival he had turned over with
zeal the different ways in which he could be so. The difficulty was that if he
was mild he wasn’t, for her purpose, conscious. If she wished him
conscious—as everything about her cried aloud that she did—she must
accordingly be at costs to make him so. Conscious he , for
himself—but only of too many things; so she must choose the one she
required.

Practically, however, it at last got itself named, and when once that had
happened they were quite at the centre of their situation. One thing had really
done as well as another; when Strether had spoken of Waymarsh’s leaving
him, and that had necessarily brought on a reference to Mrs. Pocock’s
similar intention, the jump was but short to supreme lucidity. Light became
indeed after that so intense that Strether would doubtless have but half made
out, in the prodigious glare, by which of the two the issue had been in fact
precipitated. It was, in their contracted quarters, as much there between them
as if it had been something suddenly spilled with a crash and a splash on the
floor. The form of his submission was to be an engagement to acquit himself
within the twenty-four hours. “He’ll go in a moment if you give him
the word—he assures me on his honour he’ll do that”: this
came in its order, out of its order, in respect to Chad, after the crash had
occurred. It came repeatedly during the time taken by Strether to feel that he
was even more fixed in his rigour than he had supposed—the time he was
not above adding to a little by telling her that such a way of putting it on
her brother’s part left him sufficiently surprised. She wasn’t at
all funny at last—she was really fine; and he felt easily where she was
strong—strong for herself. It hadn’t yet so come home to him that
she was nobly and appointedly officious. She was acting in interests grander
and clearer than that of her poor little personal, poor little Parisian
equilibrium, and all his consciousness of her mother’s moral pressure
profited by this proof of its sustaining force. She would be held up; she would
be strengthened; he needn’t in the least be anxious for her. What would
once more have been distinct to him had he tried to make it so was that, as
Mrs. Newsome was essentially all moral pressure, the presence of this element
was almost identical with her own presence. It wasn’t perhaps that he
felt he was dealing with her straight, but it was certainly as if she had been
dealing straight with . She was reaching him somehow by the
lengthened arm of the spirit, and he was having to that extent to take her into
account; but he wasn’t reaching her in turn, not making her take
; he was only reaching Sarah, who appeared to take so little of him.
“Something has clearly passed between you and Chad,” he presently
said, “that I think I ought to know something more about. Does he put it
all,” he smiled, “on me?”

“Did you come out,” she asked, “to put it all on

But he replied to this no further than, after an instant, by saying: “Oh
it’s all right. Chad I mean’s all right in having said to
you—well anything he may have said. I’ll it
all—what he does put on me. Only I must see him before I see you
again.”

She hesitated, but she brought it out. “Is it absolutely necessary you
should see me again?”

“Certainly, if I’m to give you any definite word about
anything.”

“Is it your idea then,” she returned, “that I shall keep on
meeting you only to be exposed to fresh humiliation?”

He fixed her a longer time. “Are your instructions from Mrs. Newsome that
you shall, even at the worst, absolutely and irretrievably break with
me?”

“My instructions from Mrs. Newsome are, if you please, my affair. You
know perfectly what your own were, and you can judge for yourself of what it
can do for you to have made what you have of them. You can perfectly see, at
any rate, I’ll go so far as to say, that if I wish not to expose myself I
must wish still less to expose .” She had already said more
than she had quite expected; but, though she had also pulled up, the colour in
her face showed him he should from one moment to the other have it all. He now
indeed felt the high importance of his having it. “What is your
conduct,” she broke out as if to explain—“what is your
conduct but an outrage to women like I mean your acting as if there
can be a doubt—as between us and such another—of his duty?”

He thought a moment. It was rather much to deal with at once; not only the
question itself, but the sore abysses it revealed. “Of course
they’re totally different kinds of duty.”

“And do you pretend that he has any at all—to such another?”

“Do you mean to Madame de Vionnet?” He uttered the name not to
affront her, but yet again to gain time—time that he needed for taking in
something still other and larger than her demand of a moment before. It
wasn’t at once that he could see all that was in her actual challenge;
but when he did he found himself just checking a low vague sound, a sound which
was perhaps the nearest approach his vocal chords had ever known to a growl.
Everything Mrs. Pocock had failed to give a sign of recognising in Chad as a
particular part of a transformation—everything that had lent intention to
this particular failure—affected him as gathered into a large loose
bundle and thrown, in her words, into his face. The missile made him to that
extent catch his breath; which however he presently recovered. “Why when
a woman’s at once so charming and so beneficent—”

“You can sacrifice mothers and sisters to her without a blush and can
make them cross the ocean on purpose to feel the more and take from you the
straighter, you do it?”

Yes, she had taken him up as short and as sharply as that, but he tried not to
flounder in her grasp. “I don’t think there’s anything
I’ve done in any such calculated way as you describe. Everything has come
as a sort of indistinguishable part of everything else. Your coming out
belonged closely to my having come before you, and my having come was a result
of our general state of mind. Our general state of mind had proceeded, on its
side, from our queer ignorance, our queer misconceptions and
confusions—from which, since then, an inexorable tide of light seems to
have floated us into our perhaps still queerer knowledge. Don’t you
your brother as he is,” he went on, “and haven’t
you given your mother an intelligible account of all that that comes to?”

It put to her also, doubtless, his own tone, too many things, this at least
would have been the case hadn’t his final challenge directly helped her.
Everything, at the stage they had reached, directly helped her, because
everything betrayed in him such a basis of intention. He saw—the odd way
things came out!—that he would have been held less monstrous had he only
been a little wilder. What exposed him was just his poor old trick of quiet
inwardness, what exposed him was his such offence. He
hadn’t in the least however the desire to irritate that Sarah imputed to
him, and he could only at last temporise, for the moment, with her indignant
view. She was altogether more inflamed than he had expected, and he would
probably understand this better when he should learn what had occurred for her
with Chad. Till then her view of his particular blackness, her clear surprise
at his not clutching the pole she held out, must pass as extravagant. “I
leave you to flatter yourself,” she returned, “that what you speak
of is what beautifully done. When a thing has been already
described in such a lovely way—!” But she caught herself up, and
her comment on his description rang out sufficiently loud. “Do you
consider her even an apology for a decent woman?”

Ah there it was at last! She put the matter more crudely than, for his own
mixed purposes, he had yet had to do; but essentially it was all one matter. It
was so much—so much; and she treated it, poor lady, as so little. He grew
conscious, as he was now apt to do, of a strange smile, and the next moment he
found himself talking like Miss Barrace. “She has struck me from the
first as wonderful. I’ve been thinking too moreover that, after all, she
would probably have represented even for yourself something rather new and
rather good.”

He was to have given Mrs. Pocock with this, however, but her best opportunity
for a sound of derision. “Rather new? I hope so with all my heart!”

“I mean,” he explained, “that she might have affected you by
her exquisite amiability—a real revelation, it has seemed to myself; her
high rarity, her distinction of every sort.”

He had been, with these words, consciously a little “precious”; but
he had had to be—he couldn’t give her the truth of the case without
them; and it seemed to him moreover now that he didn’t care. He had at
all events not served his cause, for she sprang at its exposed side. “A
‘revelation’—to : I’ve come to such a woman
for a revelation? You talk to me about
‘distinction’—, you who’ve had your
privilege?—when the most distinguished woman we shall either of us have
seen in this world sits there insulted, in her loneliness, by your incredible
comparison!”

Strether forbore, with an effort, from straying; but he looked all about him.
“Does your mother herself make the point that she sits insulted?”

Sarah’s answer came so straight, so “pat,” as might have been
said, that he felt on the instant its origin. “She has confided to my
judgement and my tenderness the expression of her personal sense of everything,
and the assertion of her personal dignity.”

They were the very words of the lady of Woollett—he would have known them
in a thousand; her parting charge to her child. Mrs. Pocock accordingly spoke
to this extent by book, and the fact immensely moved him. “If she does
really feel as you say it’s of course very very dreadful. I’ve
given sufficient proof, one would have thought,” he added, “of my
deep admiration for Mrs. Newsome.”

“And pray what proof would one have thought you’d
sufficient? That of thinking this person here so far superior to her?”

He wondered again; he waited. “Ah dear Sarah, you must me
this person here!”

In his desire to avoid all vulgar retorts, to show how, even perversely, he
clung to his rag of reason, he had softly almost wailed this plea. Yet he knew
it to be perhaps the most positive declaration he had ever made in his life,
and his visitor’s reception of it virtually gave it that importance.
“That’s exactly what I’m delighted to do. God knows
don’t want her! You take good care not to meet,” she observed in a
still higher key, “my question about their life. If you do consider it a
thing one can even of, I congratulate you on your taste!”

The life she alluded to was of course Chad’s and Madame de
Vionnet’s, which she thus bracketed together in a way that made him wince
a little; there being nothing for him but to take home her full intention. It
was none the less his inconsequence that while he had himself been enjoying for
weeks the view of the brilliant woman’s specific action, he just suffered
from any characterisation of it by other lips. “I think tremendously well
of her, at the same time that I seem to feel her ‘life’ to be
really none of my business. It’s my business, that is, only so far as
Chad’s own life is affected by it; and what has happened, don’t you
see? is that Chad’s has been affected so beautifully. The proof of the
pudding’s in the eating”—he tried, with no great success, to
help it out with a touch of pleasantry, while she let him go on as if to sink
and sink. He went on however well enough, as well as he could do without fresh
counsel; he indeed shouldn’t stand quite firm, he felt, till he should
have re-established his communications with Chad. Still, he could always speak
for the woman he had so definitely promised to “save.” This
wasn’t quite for her the air of salvation; but as that chill fairly
deepened what did it become but a reminder that one might at the worst perish
her? And it was simple enough—it was rudimentary: not, not to
give her away. “I find in her more merits than you would probably have
patience with my counting over. And do you know,” he enquired, “the
effect you produce on me by alluding to her in such terms? It’s as if you
had some motive in not recognising all she has done for your brother, and so
shut your eyes to each side of the matter, in order, whichever side comes up,
to get rid of the other. I don’t, you must allow me to say, see how you
can with any pretence to candour get rid of the side nearest you.”

“Near me— sort of thing?” And Sarah gave a jerk
back of her head that well might have nullified any active proximity.

It kept her friend himself at his distance, and he respected for a moment the
interval. Then with a last persuasive effort he bridged it. “You
don’t, on your honour, appreciate Chad’s fortunate
development?”

“Fortunate?” she echoed again. And indeed she was prepared.
“I call it hideous.”

Her departure had been for some minutes marked as imminent, and she was already
at the door that stood open to the court, from the threshold of which she
delivered herself of this judgement. It rang out so loud as to produce for the
time the hush of everything else. Strether quite, as an effect of it, breathed
less bravely; he could acknowledge it, but simply enough. “Oh if you
think —!”

“Then all’s at an end? So much the better. I do think that!”
She passed out as she spoke and took her way straight across the court, beyond
which, separated from them by the deep arch of the the low
victoria that had conveyed her from her own hotel was drawn up. She made for it
with decision, and the manner of her break, the sharp shaft of her rejoinder,
had an intensity by which Strether was at first kept in arrest. She had let fly
at him as from a stretched cord, and it took him a minute to recover from the
sense of being pierced. It was not the penetration of surprise; it was that,
much more, of certainty; his case being put for him as he had as yet only put
it to himself. She was away at any rate; she had distanced him—with
rather a grand spring, an effect of pride and ease, after all; she had got into
her carriage before he could overtake her, and the vehicle was already in
motion. He stopped halfway; he stood there in the court only seeing her go and
noting that she gave him no other look. The way he had put it to himself was
that all quite be at an end. Each of her movements, in this
resolute rupture, reaffirmed, re-enforced that idea. Sarah passed out of sight
in the sunny street while, planted there in the centre of the comparatively
grey court, he continued merely to look before him. It probably all
at an end.

Book Eleventh

I

He went late that evening to the Boulevard Malesherbes, having his impression
that it would be vain to go early, and having also, more than once in the
course of the day, made enquiries of the concierge. Chad hadn’t come in
and had left no intimation; he had affairs, apparently, at this
juncture—as it occurred to Strether he so well might have—that kept
him long abroad. Our friend asked once for him at the hotel in the Rue de
Rivoli, but the only contribution offered there was the fact that every one was
out. It was with the idea that he would have to come home to sleep that
Strether went up to his rooms, from which however he was still absent, though,
from the balcony, a few moments later, his visitor heard eleven o’clock
strike. Chad’s servant had by this time answered for his reappearance; he
, the visitor learned, come quickly in to dress for dinner and vanish
again. Strether spent an hour in waiting for him—an hour full of strange
suggestions, persuasions, recognitions; one of those that he was to recall, at
the end of his adventure, as the particular handful that most had counted. The
mellowest lamplight and the easiest chair had been placed at his disposal by
Baptiste, subtlest of servants; the novel half-uncut, the novel lemon-coloured
and tender, with the ivory knife athwart it like the dagger in a
contadina’s hair, had been pushed within the soft circle—a circle
which, for some reason, affected Strether as softer still after the same
Baptiste had remarked that in the absence of a further need of anything by
Monsieur he would betake himself to bed. The night was hot and heavy and the
single lamp sufficient; the great flare of the lighted city, rising high,
spending itself afar, played up from the Boulevard and, through the vague vista
of the successive rooms, brought objects into view and added to their dignity.
Strether found himself in possession as he never yet had been; he had been
there alone, had turned over books and prints, had invoked, in Chad’s
absence, the spirit of the place, but never at the witching hour and never with
a relish quite so like a pang.

He spent a long time on the balcony; he hung over it as he had seen little
Bilham hang the day of his first approach, as he had seen Mamie hang over her
own the day little Bilham himself might have seen her from below; he passed
back into the rooms, the three that occupied the front and that communicated by
wide doors; and, while he circulated and rested, tried to recover the
impression that they had made on him three months before, to catch again the
voice in which they had seemed then to speak to him. That voice, he had to
note, failed audibly to sound; which he took as the proof of all the change in
himself. He had heard, of old, only what he then hear; what he
could do now was to think of three months ago as a point in the far past. All
voices had grown thicker and meant more things; they crowded on him as he moved
about—it was the way they sounded together that wouldn’t let him be
still. He felt, strangely, as sad as if he had come for some wrong, and yet as
excited as if he had come for some freedom. But the freedom was what was most
in the place and the hour, it was the freedom that most brought him round again
to the youth of his own that he had long ago missed. He could have explained
little enough to-day either why he had missed it or why, after years and years,
he should care that he had; the main truth of the actual appeal of everything
was none the less that everything represented the substance of his loss put it
within reach, within touch, made it, to a degree it had never been, an affair
of the senses. That was what it became for him at this singular time, the youth
he had long ago missed—a queer concrete presence, full of mystery, yet
full of reality, which he could handle, taste, smell, the deep breathing of
which he could positively hear. It was in the outside air as well as within; it
was in the long watch, from the balcony, in the summer night, of the wide late
life of Paris, the unceasing soft quick rumble, below, of the little lighted
carriages that, in the press, always suggested the gamblers he had seen of old
at Monte Carlo pushing up to the tables. This image was before him when he at
last became aware that Chad was behind.

“She tells me you put it all on ”—he had arrived
after this promptly enough at that information; which expressed the case
however quite as the young man appeared willing for the moment to leave it.
Other things, with this advantage of their virtually having the night before
them, came up for them, and had, as well, the odd effect of making the
occasion, instead of hurried and feverish, one of the largest, loosest and
easiest to which Strether’s whole adventure was to have treated him. He
had been pursuing Chad from an early hour and had overtaken him only now; but
now the delay was repaired by their being so exceptionally confronted. They had
foregathered enough of course in all the various times; they had again and
again, since that first night at the theatre, been face to face over their
question; but they had never been so alone together as they were actually
alone—their talk hadn’t yet been so supremely for themselves. And
if many things moreover passed before them, none passed more distinctly for
Strether than that striking truth about Chad of which he had been so often
moved to take note: the truth that everything came happily back with him to his
knowing how to live. It had been seated in his pleased smile—a smile that
pleased exactly in the right degree—as his visitor turned round, on the
balcony, to greet his advent; his visitor in fact felt on the spot that there
was nothing their meeting would so much do as bear witness to that facility. He
surrendered himself accordingly to so approved a gift; for what was the meaning
of the facility but that others surrender themselves? He
didn’t want, luckily, to prevent Chad from living; but he was quite aware
that even if he had he would himself have thoroughly gone to pieces. It was in
truth essentially by bringing down his personal life to a function all
subsidiary to the young man’s own that he held together. And the great
point, above all, the sign of how completely Chad possessed the knowledge in
question, was that one thus became, not only with a proper cheerfulness, but
with wild native impulses, the feeder of his stream. Their talk had accordingly
not lasted three minutes without Strether’s feeling basis enough for the
excitement in which he had waited. This overflow fairly deepened, wastefully
abounded, as he observed the smallness of anything corresponding to it on the
part of his friend. That was exactly this friend’s happy case; he
“put out” his excitement, or whatever other emotion the matter
involved, as he put out his washing; than which no arrangement could make more
for domestic order. It was quite for Strether himself in short to feel a
personal analogy with the laundress bringing home the triumphs of the mangle.

When he had reported on Sarah’s visit, which he did very fully, Chad
answered his question with perfect candour. “I positively referred her to
you—told her she must absolutely see you. This was last night, and it all
took place in ten minutes. It was our first free talk—really the first
time she had tackled me. She knew I also knew what her line had been with
yourself; knew moreover how little you had been doing to make anything
difficult for her. So I spoke for you frankly—assured her you were all at
her service. I assured her was too,” the young man continued;
“and I pointed out how she could perfectly, at any time, have got at me.
Her difficulty has been simply her not finding the moment she fancied.”

“Her difficulty,” Strether returned, “has been simply that
she finds she’s afraid of you. She’s not afraid of ,
Sarah, one little scrap; and it was just because she has seen how I can fidget
when I give my mind to it that she has felt her best chance, rightly enough to
be in making me as uneasy as possible. I think she’s at bottom as pleased
to you put it on me as you yourself can possibly be to put
it.”

“But what in the world, my dear man,” Chad enquired in objection to
this luminosity, “have I done to make Sally afraid?”

“You’ve been ‘wonderful, wonderful,’ as we say—we
poor people who watch the play from the pit; and that’s what has,
admirably, made her. Made her all the more effectually that she could see you
didn’t set about it on purpose—I mean set about affecting her as
with fear.”

Chad cast a pleasant backward glance over his possibilities of motive.
“I’ve only wanted to be kind and friendly, to be decent and
attentive—and I still only want to be.”

Strether smiled at his comfortable clearness. “Well, there can certainly
be no way for it better than by my taking the onus. It reduces your personal
friction and your personal offence to almost nothing.”

Ah but Chad, with his completer conception of the friendly, wouldn’t
quite have this! They had remained on the balcony, where, after their day of
great and premature heat, the midnight air was delicious; and they leaned back
in turn against the balustrade, all in harmony with the chairs and the
flower-pots, the cigarettes and the starlight. “The onus isn’t
yours—after our agreeing so to wait together and judge
together. That was all my answer to Sally,” Chad
pursued—“that we have been, that we are, just judging
together.”

“I’m not afraid of the burden,” Strether explained; “I
haven’t come in the least that you should take it off me. I’ve come
very much, it seems to me, to double up my fore legs in the manner of the camel
when he gets down on his knees to make his back convenient. But I’ve
supposed you all this while to have been doing a lot of special and private
judging—about which I haven’t troubled you; and I’ve only
wished to have your conclusion first from you. I don’t ask more than
that; I’m quite ready to take it as it has come.”

Chad turned up his face to the sky with a slow puff of his smoke. “Well,
I’ve seen.”

Strether waited a little. “I’ve left you wholly alone;
haven’t, I think I may say, since the first hour or two—when I
merely preached patience—so much as breathed on you.”

“Oh you’ve been awfully good!”

“We’ve both been good then—we’ve played the game.
We’ve given them the most liberal conditions.”

“Ah,” said Chad, “splendid conditions! It was open to them,
open to them”—he seemed to make it out, as he smoked, with his eyes
still on the stars. He might in quiet sport have been reading their horoscope.
Strether wondered meanwhile what had been open to them, and he finally let him
have it. “It was open to them simply to let me alone; to have made up
their minds, on really seeing me for themselves, that I could go on well enough
as I was.”

Strether assented to this proposition with full lucidity, his companion’s
plural pronoun, which stood all for Mrs. Newsome and her daughter, having no
ambiguity for him. There was nothing, apparently, to stand for Mamie and Jim;
and this added to our friend’s sense of Chad’s knowing what he
thought. “But they’ve made up their minds to the
opposite—that you go on as you are.”

“No,” Chad continued in the same way; “they won’t have
it for a minute.”

Strether on his side also reflectively smoked. It was as if their high place
really represented some moral elevation from which they could look down on
their recent past. “There never was the smallest chance, do you know,
that they have it for a moment.”

“Of course not—no real chance. But if they were willing to think
there was—!”

“They weren’t willing.” Strether had worked it all out.
“It wasn’t for you they came out, but for me. It wasn’t to
see for themselves what you’re doing, but what I’m doing. The first
branch of their curiosity was inevitably destined, under my culpable delay, to
give way to the second; and it’s on the second that, if I may use the
expression and you don’t mind my marking the invidious fact,
they’ve been of late exclusively perched. When Sarah sailed it was me, in
other words, they were after.”

Chad took it in both with intelligence and with indulgence. “It
rather a business then—what I’ve let you in for!”

Strether had again a brief pause; which ended in a reply that seemed to dispose
once for all of this element of compunction. Chad was to treat it, at any rate,
so far as they were again together, as having done so. “I was
‘in’ when you found me.”

“Ah but it was you,” the young man laughed, “who found
.”

“I only found you out. It was you who found me in. It was all in the
day’s work for them, at all events, that they should come. And
they’ve greatly enjoyed it,” Strether declared.

“Well, I’ve tried to make them,” said Chad.

His companion did himself presently the same justice. “So have I. I tried
even this very morning—while Mrs. Pocock was with me. She enjoys for
instance, almost as much as anything else, not being, as I’ve said,
afraid of me; and I think I gave her help in that.”

Chad took a deeper interest. “Was she very very nasty?”

Strether debated. “Well, she was the most important thing—she was
definite. She was—at last—crystalline. And I felt no remorse. I saw
that they must have come.”

“Oh I wanted to see them for myself; so that if it were only for
—!” Chad’s own remorse was as small.

This appeared almost all Strether wanted. “Isn’t your having seen
them for yourself then thing, beyond all others, that has come of
their visit?”

Chad looked as if he thought it nice of his old friend to put it so.
“Don’t you count it as anything that you’re dished—if
you dished? Are you, my dear man, dished?”

It sounded as if he were asking if he had caught cold or hurt his foot, and
Strether for a minute but smoked and smoked. “I want to see her again. I
must see her.”

“Of course you must.” Then Chad hesitated. “Do you
mean—a—Mother herself?”

“Oh your mother—that will depend.”

It was as if Mrs. Newsome had somehow been placed by the words very far off.
Chad however endeavoured in spite of this to reach the place. “What do
you mean it will depend on?”

Strether, for all answer, gave him a longish look. “I was speaking of
Sarah. I must positively—though she quite cast me off—see
again. I can’t part with her that way.”

“Then she was awfully unpleasant?”

Again Strether exhaled. “She was what she had to be. I mean that from the
moment they’re not delighted they can only be—well what I admit she
was. We gave them,” he went on, “their chance to be delighted, and
they’ve walked up to it, and looked all round it, and not taken
it.”

“You can bring a horse to water—!” Chad suggested.

“Precisely. And the tune to which this morning Sarah wasn’t
delighted—the tune to which, to adopt your metaphor, she refused to
drink—leaves us on that side nothing more to hope.”

Chad had a pause, and then as if consolingly: “It was never of course
really the least on the cards that they would be
‘delighted.’”

“Well, I don’t know, after all,” Strether mused.
“I’ve had to come as far round. However”—he shook it
off—“it’s doubtless performance that’s
absurd.”

“There are certainly moments,” said Chad, “when you seem to
me too good to be true. Yet if you are true,” he added, “that seems
to be all that need concern me.”

“I’m true, but I’m incredible. I’m fantastic and
ridiculous—I don’t explain myself even myself. How can
they then,” Strether asked, “understand me? So I don’t
quarrel with them.”

“I see. They quarrel,” said Chad rather comfortably, “with
.” Strether noted once more the comfort, but his young friend
had already gone on. “I should feel greatly ashamed, all the same, if I
didn’t put it before you again that you ought to think, after all,
tremendously well. I mean before giving up beyond recall—” With
which insistence, as from a certain delicacy, dropped.

Ah but Strether wanted it. “Say it all, say it all.”

“Well, at your age, and with what—when all’s said and
done—Mother might do for you and be for you.”

Chad had said it all, from his natural scruple, only to that extent; so that
Strether after an instant himself took a hand. “My absence of an assured
future. The little I have to show toward the power to take care of myself. The
way, the wonderful way, she would certainly take care of me. Her fortune, her
kindness, and the constant miracle of her having been disposed to go even so
far. Of course, of course”—he summed it up. “There are those
sharp facts.”

Chad had meanwhile thought of another still. “And don’t you really
care—?”

His friend slowly turned round to him. “Will you go?”

“I’ll go if you’ll say you now consider I should. You
know,” he went on, “I was ready six weeks ago.”

“Ah,” said Strether, “that was when you didn’t know
wasn’t! You’re ready at present because you do know
it.”

“That may be,” Chad returned; “but all the same I’m
sincere. You talk about taking the whole thing on your shoulders, but in what
light do you regard me that you think me capable of letting you pay?”
Strether patted his arm, as they stood together against the parapet,
reassuringly—seeming to wish to contend that he the
wherewithal; but it was again round this question of purchase and price that
the young man’s sense of fairness continued to hover. “What it
literally comes to for you, if you’ll pardon my putting it so, is that
you give up money. Possibly a good deal of money.”

“Oh,” Strether laughed, “if it were only just enough
you’d still be justified in putting it so! But I’ve on my side to
remind you too that give up money; and more than
‘possibly’—quite certainly, as I should suppose—a good
deal.”

“True enough; but I’ve got a certain quantity,” Chad returned
after a moment. “Whereas you, my dear man, you—”

“I can’t be at all said”—Strether took him
up—“to have a ‘quantity’ certain or uncertain? Very
true. Still, I shan’t starve.”

“Oh you mustn’t ” Chad pacifically emphasised;
and so, in the pleasant conditions, they continued to talk; though there was,
for that matter, a pause in which the younger companion might have been taken
as weighing again the delicacy of his then and there promising the elder some
provision against the possibility just mentioned. This, however, he presumably
thought best not to do, for at the end of another minute they had moved in
quite a different direction. Strether had broken in by returning to the subject
of Chad’s passage with Sarah and enquiring if they had arrived, in the
event, at anything in the nature of a “scene.” To this Chad replied
that they had on the contrary kept tremendously polite; adding moreover that
Sally was after all not the woman to have made the mistake of not being.
“Her hands are a good deal tied, you see. I got so, from the
first,” he sagaciously observed, “the start of her.”

“You mean she has taken so much from you?”

“Well, I couldn’t of course in common decency give less: only she
hadn’t expected, I think, that I’d give her nearly so much. And she
began to take it before she knew it.”

“And she began to like it,” said Strether, “as soon as she
began to take it!”

“Yes, she has liked it—also more than she expected.” After
which Chad observed: “But she doesn’t like . In fact she
hates me.”

Strether’s interest grew. “Then why does she want you at
home?”

“Because when you hate you want to triumph, and if she should get me
neatly stuck there she triumph.”

Strether followed afresh, but looking as he went. “Certainly—in a
manner. But it would scarce be a triumph worth having if, once entangled,
feeling her dislike and possibly conscious in time of a certain quantity of
your own, you should on the spot make yourself unpleasant to her.”

“Ah,” said Chad, “she can bear —could bear me
at least at home. It’s my being there that would be her triumph. She
hates me in Paris.”

“She hates in other words—”

“Yes, it!”—Chad had quickly understood
this understanding; which formed on the part of each as near an approach as
they had yet made to naming Madame de Vionnet. The limitations of their
distinctness didn’t, however, prevent its fairly lingering in the air
that it was this lady Mrs. Pocock hated. It added one more touch moreover to
their established recognition of the rare intimacy of Chad’s association
with her. He had never yet more twitched away the last light veil from this
phenomenon than in presenting himself as confounded and submerged in the
feeling she had created at Woollett. “And I’ll tell you who hates
me too,” he immediately went on.

Strether knew as immediately whom he meant, but with as prompt a protest.
“Ah no! Mamie doesn’t hate—well,” he caught himself in
time—“anybody at all. Mamie’s beautiful.”

Chad shook his head. “That’s just why I mind it. She certainly
doesn’t like me.”

“How much do you mind it? What would you do for her?”

“Well, I’d like her if she’d like me. Really, really,”
Chad declared.

It gave his companion a moment’s pause. “You asked me just now if I
don’t, as you said, ‘care’ about a certain person. You rather
tempt me therefore to put the question in my turn. Don’t care
about a certain other person?”

Chad looked at him hard in the lamplight of the window. “The difference
is that I don’t want to.”

Strether wondered. “‘Don’t want’ to?”

“I try not to—that is I tried. I’ve done my best.
You can’t be surprised,” the young man easily went on, “when
you yourself set me on it. I was indeed,” he added, “already on it
a little; but you set me harder. It was six weeks ago that I thought I had come
out.”

Strether took it well in. “But you haven’t come out!”

“I don’t know—it’s what I to know,”
said Chad. “And if I could have sufficiently wanted—by
myself—to go back, I think I might have found out.”

“Possibly”—Strether considered. “But all you were able
to achieve was to want to want to! And even then,” he pursued,
“only till our friends there came. Do you want to want to still?”
As with a sound half-dolorous, half-droll and all vague and equivocal, Chad
buried his face for a little in his hands, rubbing it in a whimsical way that
amounted to an evasion, he brought it out more sharply: “
you?”

Chad kept for a time his attitude, but at last he looked up, and then abruptly,
“Jim a damned dose!” he declared.

“Oh I don’t ask you to abuse or describe or in any way pronounce on
your relatives; I simply put it to you once more whether you’re
ready. You say you’ve ‘seen.’ Is what you’ve
seen that you can’t resist?”

Chad gave him a strange smile—the nearest approach he had ever shown to a
troubled one. “Can’t you make me resist?”

“What it comes to,” Strether went on very gravely now and as if he
hadn’t heard him, “what it comes to is that more has been done for
you, I think, than I’ve ever seen done—attempted perhaps, but never
so successfully done—by one human being for another.”

“Oh an immense deal certainly”—Chad did it full justice.
“And you yourself are adding to it.”

It was without heeding this either that his visitor continued. “And our
friends there won’t have it.”

“No, they simply won’t.”

“They demand you on the basis, as it were, of repudiation and
ingratitude; and what has been the matter with me,” Strether went on,
“is that I haven’t seen my way to working with you for
repudiation.”

Chad appreciated this. “Then as you haven’t seen yours you
naturally haven’t seen mine. There it is.” After which he
proceeded, with a certain abruptness, to a sharp interrogation.
“ do you say she doesn’t hate me?”

Strether hesitated. “‘She’—?”

“Yes—Mother. We called it Sarah, but it comes to the same
thing.”

“Ah,” Strether objected, “not to the same thing as her hating
.”

On which—though as if for an instant it had hung fire—Chad
remarkably replied: “Well, if they hate my good friend, comes
to the same thing.” It had a note of inevitable truth that made Strether
take it as enough, feel he wanted nothing more. The young man spoke in it for
his “good friend” more than he had ever yet directly spoken,
confessed to such deep identities between them as he might play with the idea
of working free from, but which at a given moment could still draw him down
like a whirlpool. And meanwhile he had gone on. “Their hating you too
moreover—that also comes to a good deal.”

“Ah,” said Strether, “your mother doesn’t.”

Chad, however, loyally stuck to it—loyally, that is, to Strether.
“She will if you don’t look out.”

“Well, I do look out. I am, after all, looking out. That’s just
why,” our friend explained, “I want to see her again.”

It drew from Chad again the same question. “To see Mother?”

“To see—for the present—Sarah.”

“Ah then there you are! And what I don’t for the life of me make
out,” Chad pursued with resigned perplexity, “is what you
by it.”

Oh it would have taken his companion too long to say! “That’s
because you have, I verily believe, no imagination. You’ve other
qualities. But no imagination, don’t you see? at all.”

“I dare say. I do see.” It was an idea in which Chad showed
interest. “But haven’t you yourself rather too much?”

“Oh —!” So that after an instant, under this
reproach and as if it were at last a fact really to escape from, Strether made
his move for departure.

II

One of the features of the restless afternoon passed by him after Mrs.
Pocock’s visit was an hour spent, shortly before dinner, with Maria
Gostrey, whom of late, in spite of so sustained a call on his attention from
other quarters, he had by no means neglected. And that he was still not
neglecting her will appear from the fact that he was with her again at the same
hour on the very morrow—with no less fine a consciousness moreover of
being able to hold her ear. It continued inveterately to occur, for that
matter, that whenever he had taken one of his greater turns he came back to
where she so faithfully awaited him. None of these excursions had on the whole
been livelier than the pair of incidents—the fruit of the short interval
since his previous visit—on which he had now to report to her. He had
seen Chad Newsome late the night before, and he had had that morning, as a
sequel to this conversation, a second interview with Sarah. “But
they’re all off,” he said, “at last.”

It puzzled her a moment. “All?—Mr. Newsome with them?”

“Ah not yet! Sarah and Jim and Mamie. But Waymarsh with them—for
Sarah. It’s too beautiful,” Strether continued; “I find I
don’t get over that—it’s always a fresh joy. But it’s a
fresh joy too,” he added, “that—well, what do you think?
Little Bilham also goes. But he of course goes for Mamie.”

Miss Gostrey wondered. “‘For’ her? Do you mean they’re
already engaged?”

“Well,” said Strether, “say then for . He’ll
do anything for me; just as I will, for that matter—anything I
can—for him. Or for Mamie either. do anything for
me.”

Miss Gostrey gave a comprehensive sigh. “The way you reduce people to
subjection!”

“It’s certainly, on one side, wonderful. But it’s quite
equalled, on another, by the way I don’t. I haven’t reduced Sarah,
since yesterday; though I’ve succeeded in seeing her again, as I’ll
presently tell you. The others however are really all right. Mamie, by that
blessed law of ours, absolutely must have a young man.”

“But what must poor Mr. Bilham have? Do you mean they’ll
for you?”

“I mean that, by the same blessed law, it won’t matter a grain if
they don’t—I shan’t have in the least to worry.”

She saw as usual what he meant. “And Mr. Jim?—who goes for
him?”

“Oh,” Strether had to admit, “I couldn’t manage
. He’s thrown, as usual, on the world; the world which, after
all, by his account—for he has prodigious adventures—seems very
good to him. He fortunately—‘over here,’ as he
says—finds the world everywhere; and his most prodigious adventure of
all,” he went on, “has been of course of the last few days.”

Miss Gostrey, already knowing, instantly made the connexion. “He has seen
Marie de Vionnet again?”

“He went, all by himself, the day after Chad’s
party—didn’t I tell you?—to tea with her. By her
invitation—all alone.”

“Quite like yourself!” Maria smiled.

“Oh but he’s more wonderful about her than I am!” And then as
his friend showed how she could believe it, filling it out, fitting it on to
old memories of the wonderful woman: “What I should have liked to manage
would have been going.”

“To Switzerland with the party?”

“For Jim—and for symmetry. If it had been workable moreover for a
fortnight she’d have gone. She’s ready”—he followed up
his renewed vision of her—“for anything.”

Miss Gostrey went with him a minute. “She’s too perfect!”

“She , I think,” he pursued, “go to-night to the
station.”

“To see him off?”

“With Chad—marvellously—as part of their general attention.
And she does it”—it kept before him—“with a light,
light grace, a free, free gaiety, that may well softly bewilder Mr.
Pocock.”

It kept her so before him that his companion had after an instant a friendly
comment. “As in short it has softly bewildered a saner man. Are you
really in love with her?” Maria threw off.

“It’s of no importance I should know,” he replied. “It
matters so little—has nothing to do, practically, with either of
us.”

“All the same”—Maria continued to smile—“they go,
the five, as I understand you, and you and Madame de Vionnet stay.”

“Oh and Chad.” To which Strether added: “And you.”

“Ah ‘me’!”—she gave a small impatient wail again,
in which something of the unreconciled seemed suddenly to break out.
“ don’t stay, it somehow seems to me, much to my advantage.
In the presence of all you cause to pass before me I’ve a tremendous
sense of privation.”

Strether hesitated. “But your privation, your keeping out of everything,
has been—hasn’t it?—by your own choice.”

“Oh yes; it has been necessary—that is it has been better for you.
What I mean is only that I seem to have ceased to serve you.”

“How can you tell that?” he asked. “You don’t know how
you serve me. When you cease—”

“Well?” she said as he dropped.

“Well, I’ll you know. Be quiet till then.”

She thought a moment. “Then you positively like me to stay?”

“Don’t I treat you as if I did?”

“You’re certainly very kind to me. But that,” said Maria,
“is for myself. It’s getting late, as you see, and Paris turning
rather hot and dusty. People are scattering, and some of them, in other places
want me. But if you want me here—!”

She had spoken as resigned to his word, but he had of a sudden a still sharper
sense than he would have expected of desiring not to lose her. “I want
you here.”

She took it as if the words were all she had wished; as if they brought her,
gave her something that was the compensation of her case. “Thank
you,” she simply answered. And then as he looked at her a little harder,
“Thank you very much,” she repeated.

It had broken as with a slight arrest into the current of their talk, and it
held him a moment longer. “Why, two months, or whatever the time was,
ago, did you so suddenly dash off? The reason you afterwards gave me for having
kept away three weeks wasn’t the real one.”

She recalled. “I never supposed you believed it was. Yet,” she
continued, “if you didn’t guess it that was just what helped
you.”

He looked away from her on this; he indulged, so far as space permitted, in one
of his slow absences. “I’ve often thought of it, but never to feel
that I could guess it. And you see the consideration with which I’ve
treated you in never asking till now.”

“Now then why you ask?”

“To show you how I miss you when you’re not here, and what it does
for me.”

“It doesn’t seem to have done,” she laughed, “all it
might! However,” she added, “if you’ve really never guessed
the truth I’ll tell it you.”

“I’ve never guessed it,” Strether declared.

“Never?”

“Never.”

“Well then I dashed off, as you say, so as not to have the confusion of
being there if Marie de Vionnet should tell you anything to my
detriment.”

He looked as if he considerably doubted. “You even then would have had to
face it on your return.”

“Oh if I had found reason to believe it something very bad I’d have
left you altogether.”

“So then,” he continued, “it was only on guessing she had
been on the whole merciful that you ventured back?”

Maria kept it together. “I owe her thanks. Whatever her temptation she
didn’t separate us. That’s one of my reasons,” she went on
“for admiring her so.”

“Let it pass then,” said Strether, “for one of mine as well.
But what would have been her temptation?”

“What are ever the temptations of women?”

He thought—but hadn’t, naturally, to think too long.
“Men?”

“She would have had you, with it, more for herself. But she saw she could
have you without it.”

“Oh ‘have’ me!” Strether a trifle ambiguously sighed.
“,” he handsomely declared, “would have had me at
any rate it.”

“Oh ‘have’ you!”—she echoed it as he had done.
“I do have you, however,” she less ironically said, “from the
moment you express a wish.”

He stopped before her, full of the disposition. “I’ll express
fifty.”

Which indeed begot in her, with a certain inconsequence, a return of her small
wail. “Ah there you are!”

There, if it were so, he continued for the rest of the time to be, and it was
as if to show her how she could still serve him that, coming back to the
departure of the Pococks, he gave her the view, vivid with a hundred more
touches than we can reproduce, of what had happened for him that morning. He
had had ten minutes with Sarah at her hotel, ten minutes reconquered, by
irresistible pressure, from the time over which he had already described her to
Miss Gostrey as having, at the end of their interview on his own premises,
passed the great sponge of the future. He had caught her by not announcing
himself, had found her in her sitting-room with a dressmaker and a
whose accounts she appeared to have been more or less
ingenuously settling and who soon withdrew. Then he had explained to her how he
had succeeded, late the night before, in keeping his promise of seeing Chad.
“I told her I’d take it all.”

“You’d ‘take’ it?”

“Why if he doesn’t go.”

Maria waited. “And who takes it if he does?” she enquired with a
certain grimness of gaiety.

“Well,” said Strether, “I think I take, in any event,
everything.”

“By which I suppose you mean,” his companion brought out after a
moment, “that you definitely understand you now lose everything.”

He stood before her again. “It does come perhaps to the same thing. But
Chad, now that he has seen, doesn’t really want it.”

She could believe that, but she made, as always, for clearness. “Still,
what, after all, he seen?”

“What they want of him. And it’s enough.”

“It contrasts so unfavourably with what Madame de Vionnet wants?”

“It contrasts—just so; all round, and tremendously.”

“Therefore, perhaps, most of all with what want?”

“Oh,” said Strether, “what I want is a thing I’ve
ceased to measure or even to understand.”

But his friend none the less went on. “Do you want Mrs.
Newsome—after such a way of treating you?”

It was a straighter mode of dealing with this lady than they had as
yet—such was their high form—permitted themselves; but it seemed
not wholly for this that he delayed a moment. “I dare say it has been,
after all, the only way she could have imagined.”

“And does that make you want her any more?”

“I’ve tremendously disappointed her,” Strether thought it
worth while to mention.

“Of course you have. That’s rudimentary; that was plain to us long
ago. But isn’t it almost as plain,” Maria went on, “that
you’ve even yet your straight remedy? Really drag him away, as I believe
you still can, and you’d cease to have to count with her
disappointment.”

“Ah then,” he laughed, “I should have to count with
yours!”

But this barely struck her now. “What, in that case, should you call
counting? You haven’t come out where you are, I think, to please
.”

“Oh,” he insisted, “that too, you know, has been part of it.
I can’t separate—it’s all one; and that’s perhaps why,
as I say, I don’t understand.” But he was ready to declare again
that this didn’t in the least matter; all the more that, as he affirmed,
he really as yet “come out.” “She gives
me after all, on its coming to the pinch, a last mercy, another chance. They
don’t sail, you see, for five or six weeks more, and they
haven’t—she admits that—expected Chad would take part in
their tour. It’s still open to him to join them, at the last, at
Liverpool.”

Miss Gostrey considered. “How in the world is it ‘open’
unless you open it? How can he join them at Liverpool if he but sinks deeper
into his situation here?”

“He has given her—as I explained to you that she let me know
yesterday—his word of honour to do as I say.”

Maria stared. “But if you say nothing!”

Well, he as usual walked about on it. “I did say something this morning.
I gave her my answer—the word I had promised her after hearing from
himself what had promised. What she demanded of me yesterday,
you’ll remember, was the engagement then and there to make him take up
this vow.”

“Well then,” Miss Gostrey enquired, “was the purpose of your
visit to her only to decline?”

“No; it was to ask, odd as that may seem to you, for another
delay.”

“Ah that’s weak!”

“Precisely!” She had spoken with impatience, but, so far as that at
least, he knew where he was. “If I weak I want to find it out.
If I don’t find it out I shall have the comfort, the little glory, of
thinking I’m strong.”

“It’s all the comfort, I judge,” she returned, “that
you have!”

“At any rate,” he said, “it will have been a month more.
Paris may grow, from day to day, hot and dusty, as you say; but there are other
things that are hotter and dustier. I’m not afraid to stay on; the summer
here must be amusing in a wild—if it isn’t a tame—way of its
own; the place at no time more picturesque. I think I shall like it. And
then,” he benevolently smiled for her, “there will be always
you.”

“Oh,” she objected, “it won’t be as a part of the
picturesqueness that I shall stay, for I shall be the plainest thing about you.
You may, you see, at any rate,” she pursued, “have nobody else.
Madame de Vionnet may very well be going off, mayn’t she?—and Mr.
Newsome by the same stroke: unless indeed you’ve had an assurance from
them to the contrary. So that if your idea’s to stay for
them”—it was her duty to suggest it—“you may be left in
the lurch. Of course if they do stay”—she kept it
up—“they would be part of the picturesqueness. Or else indeed you
might join them somewhere.”

Strether seemed to face it as if it were a happy thought; but the next moment
he spoke more critically. “Do you mean that they’ll probably go off
together?”

She just considered. “I think it will be treating you quite without
ceremony if they do; though after all,” she added, “it would be
difficult to see now quite what degree of ceremony properly meets your
case.”

“Of course,” Strether conceded, “my attitude toward them is
extraordinary.”

“Just so; so that one may ask one’s self what style of proceeding
on their own part can altogether match it. The attitude of their own that
won’t pale in its light they’ve doubtless still to work out. The
really handsome thing perhaps,” she presently threw off,
“ be for them to withdraw into more secluded conditions,
offering at the same time to share them with you.” He looked at her, on
this, as if some generous irritation—all in his interest—had
suddenly again flickered in her; and what she next said indeed half-explained
it. “Don’t really be afraid to tell me if what now holds you
the pleasant prospect of the empty town, with plenty of seats in the
shade, cool drinks, deserted museums, drives to the Bois in the evening, and
our wonderful woman all to yourself.” And she kept it up still more.
“The handsomest thing of , when one makes it out, would, I dare
say, be that Mr. Chad should for a while go off by himself. It’s a pity,
from that point of view,” she wound up, “that he doesn’t pay
his mother a visit. It would at least occupy your interval.” The thought
in fact held her a moment. “Why doesn’t he pay his mother a visit?
Even a week, at this good moment, would do.”

“My dear lady,” Strether replied—and he had it even to
himself surprisingly ready—“my dear lady, his mother has paid
a visit. Mrs. Newsome has been with him, this month, with an
intensity that I’m sure he has thoroughly felt; he has lavishly
entertained her, and she has let him have her thanks. Do you suggest he shall
go back for more of them?”

Well, she succeeded after a little in shaking it off. “I see. It’s
what you don’t suggest—what you haven’t suggested. And you
know.”

“So would you, my dear,” he kindly said, “if you had so much
as seen her.”

“As seen Mrs. Newsome?”

“No, Sarah—which, both for Chad and for myself, has served all the
purpose.”

“And served it in a manner,” she responsively mused, “so
extraordinary!”

“Well, you see,” he partly explained, “what it comes to is
that she’s all cold thought—which Sarah could serve to us cold
without its really losing anything. So it is that we know what she thinks of
us.”

Maria had followed, but she had an arrest. “What I’ve never made
out, if you come to that, is what you think—I mean you
personally—of . Don’t you so much, when all’s said,
as care a little?”

“That,” he answered with no loss of promptness, “is what even
Chad himself asked me last night. He asked me if I don’t mind the
loss—well, the loss of an opulent future. Which moreover,” he
hastened to add, “was a perfectly natural question.”

“I call your attention, all the same,” said Miss Gostrey, “to
the fact that I don’t ask it. What I venture to ask is whether it’s
to Mrs. Newsome herself that you’re indifferent.”

“I haven’t been so”—he spoke with all assurance.
“I’ve been the very opposite. I’ve been, from the first
moment, preoccupied with the impression everything might be making on
her—quite oppressed, haunted, tormented by it. I’ve been interested
in her seeing what I’ve seen. And I’ve been as
disappointed in her refusal to see it as she has been in what has appeared to
her the perversity of my insistence.”

“Do you mean that she has shocked you as you’ve shocked her?”

Strether weighed it. “I’m probably not so shockable. But on the
other hand I’ve gone much further to meet her. She, on her side,
hasn’t budged an inch.”

“So that you’re now at last”—Maria pointed the
moral—“in the sad stage of recriminations.”

“No—it’s only to you I speak. I’ve been like a lamb to
Sarah. I’ve only put my back to the wall. It’s to one
naturally staggers when one has been violently pushed there.”

She watched him a moment. “Thrown over?”

“Well, as I feel I’ve landed somewhere I think I must have been
thrown.”

She turned it over, but as hoping to clarify much rather than to harmonise.
“The thing is that I suppose you’ve been
disappointing—”

“Quite from the very first of my arrival? I dare say. I admit I was
surprising even to myself.”

“And then of course,” Maria went on, “I had much to do with
it.”

“With my being surprising—?”

“That will do,” she laughed, “if you’re too delicate to
call it being! Naturally,” she added, “you came over more
or less for surprises.”

“Naturally!”—he valued the reminder.

“But they were to have been all for you”—she continued to
piece it out—“and none of them for .”

Once more he stopped before her as if she had touched the point.
“That’s just her difficulty—that she doesn’t admit
surprises. It’s a fact that, I think, describes and represents her; and
it falls in with what I tell you—that she’s all, as I’ve
called it, fine cold thought. She had, to her own mind, worked the whole thing
out in advance, and worked it out for me as well as for herself. Whenever she
has done that, you see, there’s no room left; no margin, as it were, for
any alteration. She’s filled as full, packed as tight, as she’ll
hold and if you wish to get anything more or different either out or
in—”

“You’ve got to make over altogether the woman herself?”

“What it comes to,” said Strether, “is that you’ve got
morally and intellectually to get rid of her.”

“Which would appear,” Maria returned, “to be practically what
you’ve done.”

But her friend threw back his head. “I haven’t touched her. She
won’t touched. I see it now as I’ve never done; and she
hangs together with a perfection of her own,” he went on, “that
does suggest a kind of wrong in change of her composition. It was at
any rate,” he wound up, “the woman herself, as you call her the
whole moral and intellectual being or block, that Sarah brought me over to take
or to leave.”

It turned Miss Gostrey to deeper thought. “Fancy having to take at the
point of the bayonet a whole moral and intellectual being or block!”

“It was in fact,” said Strether, “what, at home, I
done. But somehow over there I didn’t quite know it.”

“One never does, I suppose,” Miss Gostrey concurred, “realise
in advance, in such a case, the size, as you may say, of the block. Little by
little it looms up. It has been looming for you more and more till at last you
see it all.”

“I see it all,” he absently echoed, while his eyes might have been
fixing some particularly large iceberg in a cool blue northern sea.
“It’s magnificent!” he then rather oddly exclaimed.

But his friend, who was used to this kind of inconsequence in him, kept the
thread. “There’s nothing so magnificent—for making others
feel you—as to have no imagination.”

It brought him straight round. “Ah there you are! It’s what I said
last night to Chad. That he himself, I mean, has none.”

“Then it would appear,” Maria suggested, “that he has, after
all, something in common with his mother.”

“He has in common that he makes one, as you say, ‘feel’ him.
And yet,” he added, as if the question were interesting, “one feels
others too, even when they have plenty.”

Miss Gostrey continued suggestive. “Madame de Vionnet?”

“ has plenty.”

“Certainly—she had quantities of old. But there are different ways
of making one’s self felt.”

“Yes, it comes, no doubt, to that. You now—”

He was benevolently going on, but she wouldn’t have it. “Oh I
make myself felt; so my quantity needn’t be settled.
Yours, you know,” she said, “is monstrous. No one has ever had so
much.”

It struck him for a moment. “That’s what Chad also thinks.”

“There are then—though it isn’t for him to
complain of it!”

“Oh he doesn’t complain of it,” said Strether.

“That’s all that would be wanting! But apropos of what,”
Maria went on, “did the question come up?”

“Well, of his asking me what it is I gain.”

She had a pause. “Then as I’ve asked you too it settles
case. Oh you ,” she repeated, “treasures of
imagination.”

But he had been for an instant thinking away from this, and he came up in
another place. “And yet Mrs. Newsome—it’s a thing to
remember— imagined, did, that is, imagine, and apparently still
does, horrors about what I should have found. I was booked, by her
vision—extraordinarily intense, after all—to find them; and that I
didn’t, that I couldn’t, that, as she evidently felt, I
wouldn’t—this evidently didn’t at all, as they say,
‘suit’ her book. It was more than she could bear. That was her
disappointment.”

“You mean you were to have found Chad himself horrible?”

“I was to have found the woman.”

“Horrible?”

“Found her as she imagined her.” And Strether paused as if for his
own expression of it he could add no touch to that picture.

His companion had meanwhile thought. “She imagined stupidly—so it
comes to the same thing.”

“Stupidly? Oh!” said Strether.

But she insisted. “She imagined meanly.”

He had it, however, better. “It couldn’t but be ignorantly.”

“Well, intensity with ignorance—what do you want worse?”

This question might have held him, but he let it pass. “Sarah isn’t
ignorant—now; she keeps up the theory of the horrible.”

“Ah but she’s intense—and that by itself will do sometimes as
well. If it doesn’t do, in this case, at any rate, to deny that
Marie’s charming, it will do at least to deny that she’s
good.”

“What I claim is that she’s good for Chad.”

“You don’t claim”—she seemed to like it
clear—“that she’s good for .”

But he continued without heeding. “That’s what I wanted them to
come out for—to see for themselves if she’s bad for him.”

“And now that they’ve done so they won’t admit that
she’s good even for anything?”

“They do think,” Strether presently admitted, “that
she’s on the whole about as bad for me. But they’re consistent of
course, inasmuch as they’ve their clear view of what’s good for
both of us.”

“For you, to begin with”—Maria, all responsive, confined the
question for the moment—“to eliminate from your existence and if
possible even from your memory the dreadful creature that must
gruesomely shadow forth for them, even more than to eliminate the distincter
evil—thereby a little less portentous—of the person whose
confederate you’ve suffered yourself to become. However, that’s
comparatively simple. You can easily, at the worst, after all, give me
up.”

“I can easily at the worst, after all, give you up.” The irony was
so obvious that it needed no care. “I can easily at the worst, after all,
even forget you.”

“Call that then workable. But Mr. Newsome has much more to forget. How
can do it?”

“Ah there again we are! That’s just what I was to have made him do;
just where I was to have worked with him and helped.”

She took it in silence and without attenuation—as if perhaps from very
familiarity with the facts; and her thought made a connexion without showing
the links. “Do you remember how we used to talk at Chester and in London
about my seeing you through?” She spoke as of far-off things and as if
they had spent weeks at the places she named.

“It’s just what you doing.”

“Ah but the worst—since you’ve left such a margin—may
be still to come. You may yet break down.”

“Yes, I may yet break down. But will you take me—?”

He had hesitated, and she waited. “Take you?”

“For as long as I can bear it.”

She also debated “Mr. Newsome and Madame de Vionnet may, as we were
saying, leave town. How long do you think you can bear it without them?”

Strether’s reply to this was at first another question. “Do you
mean in order to get away from me?”

Her answer had an abruptness. “Don’t find me rude if I say I should
think they’d want to!”

He looked at her hard again—seemed even for an instant to have an
intensity of thought under which his colour changed. But he smiled. “You
mean after what they’ve done to me?”

“After what has.”

At this, however, with a laugh, he was all right again. “Ah but she
hasn’t done it yet!”

III

He had taken the train a few days after this from a station—as well as
a station—selected almost at random; such days, whatever should
happen, were numbered, and he had gone forth under the impulse—artless
enough, no doubt—to give the whole of one of them to that French
ruralism, with its cool special green, into which he had hitherto looked only
through the little oblong window of the picture-frame. It had been as yet for
the most part but a land of fancy for him—the background of fiction, the
medium of art, the nursery of letters; practically as distant as Greece, but
practically also well-nigh as consecrated. Romance could weave itself, for
Strether’s sense, out of elements mild enough; and even after what he
had, as he felt, lately “been through,” he could thrill a little at
the chance of seeing something somewhere that would remind him of a certain
small Lambinet that had charmed him, long years before, at a Boston
dealer’s and that he had quite absurdly never forgotten. It had been
offered, he remembered, at a price he had been instructed to believe the lowest
ever named for a Lambinet, a price he had never felt so poor as on having to
recognise, all the same, as beyond a dream of possibility. He had
dreamed—had turned and twisted possibilities for an hour: it had been the
only adventure of his life in connexion with the purchase of a work of art. The
adventure, it will be perceived, was modest; but the memory, beyond all reason
and by some accident of association, was sweet. The little Lambinet abode with
him as the picture he have bought—the particular production
that had made him for the moment overstep the modesty of nature. He was quite
aware that if he were to see it again he should perhaps have a drop or a shock,
and he never found himself wishing that the wheel of time would turn it up
again, just as he had seen it in the maroon-coloured, sky-lighted inner shrine
of Tremont Street. It would be a different thing, however, to see the
remembered mixture resolved back into its elements—to assist at the
restoration to nature of the whole far-away hour: the dusty day in Boston, the
background of the Fitchburg Depot, of the maroon-coloured sanctum, the
special-green vision, the ridiculous price, the poplars, the willows, the
rushes, the river, the sunny silvery sky, the shady woody horizon.

He observed in respect to his train almost no condition save that it should
stop a few times after getting out of the ; he threw himself on
the general amiability of the day for the hint of where to alight. His theory
of his excursion was that he could alight anywhere—not nearer Paris than
an hour’s run—on catching a suggestion of the particular note
required. It made its sign, the suggestion—weather, air, light, colour
and his mood all favouring—at the end of some eighty minutes; the train
pulled up just at the right spot, and he found himself getting out as securely
as if to keep an appointment. It will be felt of him that he could amuse
himself, at his age, with very small things if it be again noted that his
appointment was only with a superseded Boston fashion. He hadn’t gone far
without the quick confidence that it would be quite sufficiently kept. The
oblong gilt frame disposed its enclosing lines; the poplars and willows, the
reeds and river—a river of which he didn’t know, and didn’t
want to know, the name—fell into a composition, full of felicity, within
them; the sky was silver and turquoise and varnish; the village on the left was
white and the church on the right was grey; it was all there, in short—it
was what he wanted: it was Tremont Street, it was France, it was Lambinet.
Moreover he was freely walking about in it. He did this last, for an hour, to
his heart’s content, making for the shady woody horizon and boring so
deep into his impression and his idleness that he might fairly have got through
them again and reached the maroon-coloured wall. It was a wonder, no doubt,
that the taste of idleness for him shouldn’t need more time to sweeten;
but it had in fact taken the few previous days; it had been sweetening in truth
ever since the retreat of the Pococks. He walked and walked as if to show
himself how little he had now to do; he had nothing to do but turn off to some
hillside where he might stretch himself and hear the poplars rustle, and
whence—in the course of an afternoon so spent, an afternoon richly
suffused too with the sense of a book in his pocket—he should
sufficiently command the scene to be able to pick out just the right little
rustic inn for an experiment in respect to dinner. There was a train back to
Paris at 9.20, and he saw himself partaking, at the close of the day, with the
enhancements of a coarse white cloth and a sanded door, of something fried and
felicitous, washed down with authentic wine; after which he might, as he liked,
either stroll back to his station in the gloaming or propose for the local
and converse with his driver, a driver who naturally
wouldn’t fail of a stiff clean blouse, of a knitted nightcap and of the
genius of response—who, in fine, would sit on the shafts, tell him what
the French people were thinking, and remind him, as indeed the whole episode
would incidentally do, of Maupassant. Strether heard his lips, for the first
time in French air, as this vision assumed consistency, emit sounds of
expressive intention without fear of his company. He had been afraid of Chad
and of Maria and of Madame de Vionnet; he had been most of all afraid of
Waymarsh, in whose presence, so far as they had mixed together in the light of
the town, he had never without somehow paying for it aired either his
vocabulary or his accent. He usually paid for it by meeting immediately
afterwards Waymarsh’s eye.

Such were the liberties with which his fancy played after he had turned off to
the hillside that did really and truly, as well as most amiably, await him
beneath the poplars, the hillside that made him feel, for a murmurous couple of
hours, how happy had been his thought. He had the sense of success, of a finer
harmony in things; nothing but what had turned out as yet according to his
plan. It most of all came home to him, as he lay on his back on the grass, that
Sarah had really gone, that his tension was really relaxed; the peace diffused
in these ideas might be delusive, but it hung about him none the less for the
time. It fairly, for half an hour, sent him to sleep; he pulled his straw hat
over his eyes—he had bought it the day before with a reminiscence of
Waymarsh’s—and lost himself anew in Lambinet. It was as if he had
found out he was tired—tired not from his walk, but from that inward
exercise which had known, on the whole, for three months, so little
intermission. That was it—when once they were off he had dropped; this
moreover was what he had dropped to, and now he was touching bottom. He was
kept luxuriously quiet, soothed and amused by the consciousness of what he had
found at the end of his descent. It was very much what he had told Maria
Gostrey he should like to stay on for, the hugely-distributed Paris of summer,
alternately dazzling and dusky, with a weight lifted for him off its columns
and cornices and with shade and air in the flutter of awnings as wide as
avenues. It was present to him without attenuation that, reaching out, the day
after making the remark, for some proof of his freedom, he had gone that very
afternoon to see Madame de Vionnet. He had gone again the next day but one, and
the effect of the two visits, the after-sense of the couple of hours spent with
her, was almost that of fulness and frequency. The brave intention of
frequency, so great with him from the moment of his finding himself unjustly
suspected at Woollett, had remained rather theoretic, and one of the things he
could muse about under his poplars was the source of the special shyness that
had still made him careful. He had surely got rid of it now, this special
shyness; what had become of it if it hadn’t precisely, within the week,
rubbed off?

It struck him now in fact as sufficiently plain that if he had still been
careful he had been so for a reason. He had really feared, in his behaviour, a
lapse from good faith; if there was a danger of one’s liking such a woman
too much one’s best safety was in waiting at least till one had the right
to do so. In the light of the last few days the danger was fairly vivid; so
that it was proportionately fortunate that the right was likewise established.
It seemed to our friend that he had on each occasion profited to the utmost by
the latter: how could he have done so more, he at all events asked himself,
than in having immediately let her know that, if it was all the same to her, he
preferred not to talk about anything tiresome? He had never in his life so
sacrificed an armful of high interests as in that remark; he had never so
prepared the way for the comparatively frivolous as in addressing it to Madame
de Vionnet’s intelligence. It hadn’t been till later that he quite
recalled how in conjuring away everything but the pleasant he had conjured away
almost all they had hitherto talked about; it was not till later even that he
remembered how, with their new tone, they hadn’t so much as mentioned the
name of Chad himself. One of the things that most lingered with him on his
hillside was this delightful facility, with such a woman, of arriving at a new
tone; he thought, as he lay on his back, of all the tones she might make
possible if one were to try her, and at any rate of the probability that one
could trust her to fit them to occasions. He had wanted her to feel that, as he
was disinterested now, so she herself should be, and she had showed she felt
it, and he had showed he was grateful, and it had been for all the world as if
he were calling for the first time. They had had other, but irrelevant,
meetings; it was quite as if, had they sooner known how much they
had in common, there were quantities of comparatively dull matters they might
have skipped. Well, they were skipping them now, even to graceful gratitude,
even to handsome “Don’t mention it!”—and it was amazing
what could still come up without reference to what had been going on between
them. It might have been, on analysis, nothing more than Shakespeare and the
musical glasses; but it had served all the purpose of his appearing to have
said to her: “Don’t like me, if it’s a question of liking me,
for anything obvious and clumsy that I’ve, as they call it,
‘done’ for you: like me—well, like me, hang it, for anything
else you choose. So, by the same propriety, don’t be for me simply the
person I’ve come to know through my awkward connexion with Chad—was
ever anything, by the way, awkward? Be for me, please, with all
your admirable tact and trust, just whatever I may show you it’s a
present pleasure to me to think you.” It had been a large indication to
meet; but if she hadn’t met it what she done, and how had
their time together slipped along so smoothly, mild but not slow, and melting,
liquefying, into his happy illusion of idleness? He could recognise on the
other hand that he had probably not been without reason, in his prior, his
restricted state, for keeping an eye on his liability to lapse from good faith.

He really continued in the picture—that being for himself his
situation—all the rest of this rambling day; so that the charm was still,
was indeed more than ever upon him when, toward six o’clock he found
himself amicably engaged with a stout white-capped deep-voiced woman at the
door of the of the biggest village, a village that affected him
as a thing of whiteness, blueness and crookedness, set in coppery green, and
that had the river flowing behind or before it—one couldn’t say
which; at the bottom, in particular, of the inn-garden. He had had other
adventures before this; had kept along the height, after shaking off slumber;
had admired, had almost coveted, another small old church, all steep roof and
dim slate-colour without and all whitewash and paper flowers within; had lost
his way and had found it again; had conversed with rustics who struck him
perhaps a little more as men of the world than he had expected; had acquired at
a bound a fearless facility in French; had had, as the afternoon waned, a
watery , all pale and Parisian, in the café of the furthest village,
which was not the biggest; and had meanwhile not once overstepped the oblong
gilt frame. The frame had drawn itself out for him, as much as you please; but
that was just his luck. He had finally come down again to the valley, to keep
within touch of stations and trains, turning his face to the quarter from which
he had started; and thus it was that he had at last pulled up before the
hostess of the Cheval Blanc, who met him, with a rough readiness that was like
the clatter of sabots over stones, on their common ground of a and a subsequent lift. He had walked many miles and
didn’t know he was tired; but he still knew he was amused, and even that,
though he had been alone all day, he had never yet so struck himself as engaged
with others and in midstream of his drama. It might have passed for finished
his drama, with its catastrophe all but reached: it had, however, none the less
been vivid again for him as he thus gave it its fuller chance. He had only had
to be at last well out of it to feel it, oddly enough, still going on.

For this had been all day at bottom the spell of the picture—that it was
essentially more than anything else a scene and a stage, that the very air of
the play was in the rustle of the willows and the tone of the sky. The play and
the characters had, without his knowing it till now, peopled all his space for
him, and it seemed somehow quite happy that they should offer themselves, in
the conditions so supplied, with a kind of inevitability. It was as if the
conditions made them not only inevitable, but so much more nearly natural and
right as that they were at least easier, pleasanter, to put up with. The
conditions had nowhere so asserted their difference from those of Woollett as
they appeared to him to assert it in the little court of the Cheval Blanc while
he arranged with his hostess for a comfortable climax. They were few and
simple, scant and humble, but they were , as he would have
called it, even to a greater degree than Madame de Vionnet’s old high
salon where the ghost of the Empire walked. “The” thing was the
thing that implied the greatest number of other things of the sort he had had
to tackle; and it was queer of course, but so it was—the implication here
was complete. Not a single one of his observations but somehow fell into a
place in it; not a breath of the cooler evening that wasn’t somehow a
syllable of the text. The text was simply, when condensed, that in
places such things were, and that if it was in them one elected to move about
one had to make one’s account with what one lighted on. Meanwhile at all
events it was enough that they did affect one—so far as the village
aspect was concerned—as whiteness, crookedness and blueness set in
coppery green; there being positively, for that matter, an outer wall of the
White Horse that was painted the most improbable shade. That was part of the
amusement—as if to show that the fun was harmless; just as it was enough,
further, that the picture and the play seemed supremely to melt together in the
good woman’s broad sketch of what she could do for her visitor’s
appetite. He felt in short a confidence, and it was general, and it was all he
wanted to feel. It suffered no shock even on her mentioning that she had in
fact just laid the cloth for two persons who, unlike Monsieur, had arrived by
the river—in a boat of their own; who had asked her, half an hour before,
what she could do for them, and had then paddled away to look at something a
little further up—from which promenade they would presently return.
Monsieur might meanwhile, if he liked, pass into the garden, such as it was,
where she would serve him, should he wish it—for there were tables and
benches in plenty—a “bitter” before his repast. Here she
would also report to him on the possibility of a conveyance to his station, and
here at any rate he would have the of the river.

It may be mentioned without delay that Monsieur had the of
everything, and in particular, for the next twenty minutes, of a small and
primitive pavilion that, at the garden’s edge, almost overhung the water,
testifying, in its somewhat battered state, to much fond frequentation. It
consisted of little more than a platform, slightly raised, with a couple of
benches and a table, a protecting rail and a projecting roof; but it raked the
full grey-blue stream, which, taking a turn a short distance above, passed out
of sight to reappear much higher up; and it was clearly in esteemed requisition
for Sundays and other feasts. Strether sat there and, though hungry, felt at
peace; the confidence that had so gathered for him deepened with the lap of the
water, the ripple of the surface, the rustle of the reeds on the opposite bank,
the faint diffused coolness and the slight rock of a couple of small boats
attached to a rough landing-place hard by. The valley on the further side was
all copper-green level and glazed pearly sky, a sky hatched across with screens
of trimmed trees, which looked flat, like espaliers; and though the rest of the
village straggled away in the near quarter the view had an emptiness that made
one of the boats suggestive. Such a river set one afloat almost before one
could take up the oars—the idle play of which would be moreover the aid
to the full impression. This perception went so far as to bring him to his
feet; but that movement, in turn, made him feel afresh that he was tired, and
while he leaned against a post and continued to look out he saw something that
gave him a sharper arrest.

IV

What he saw was exactly the right thing—a boat advancing round the bend
and containing a man who held the paddles and a lady, at the stern, with a pink
parasol. It was suddenly as if these figures, or something like them, had been
wanted in the picture, had been wanted more or less all day, and had now
drifted into sight, with the slow current, on purpose to fill up the measure.
They came slowly, floating down, evidently directed to the landing-place near
their spectator and presenting themselves to him not less clearly as the two
persons for whom his hostess was already preparing a meal. For two very happy
persons he found himself straightway taking them—a young man in
shirt-sleeves, a young woman easy and fair, who had pulled pleasantly up from
some other place and, being acquainted with the neighbourhood, had known what
this particular retreat could offer them. The air quite thickened, at their
approach, with further intimations; the intimation that they were expert,
familiar, frequent—that this wouldn’t at all events be the first
time. They knew how to do it, he vaguely felt—and it made them but the
more idyllic, though at the very moment of the impression, as happened, their
boat seemed to have begun to drift wide, the oarsman letting it go. It had by
this time none the less come much nearer—near enough for Strether to
dream the lady in the stern had for some reason taken account of his being
there to watch them. She had remarked on it sharply, yet her companion
hadn’t turned round; it was in fact almost as if our friend had felt her
bid him keep still. She had taken in something as a result of which their
course had wavered, and it continued to waver while they just stood off. This
little effect was sudden and rapid, so rapid that Strether’s sense of it
was separate only for an instant from a sharp start of his own. He too had
within the minute taken in something, taken in that he knew the lady whose
parasol, shifting as if to hide her face, made so fine a pink point in the
shining scene. It was too prodigious, a chance in a million, but, if he knew
the lady, the gentleman, who still presented his back and kept off, the
gentleman, the coatless hero of the idyll, who had responded to her start, was,
to match the marvel, none other than Chad.

Chad and Madame de Vionnet were then like himself taking a day in the
country—though it was as queer as fiction, as farce, that their country
could happen to be exactly his; and she had been the first at recognition, the
first to feel, across the water, the shock—for it appeared to come to
that—of their wonderful accident. Strether became aware, with this, of
what was taking place—that her recognition had been even stranger for the
pair in the boat, that her immediate impulse had been to control it, and that
she was quickly and intensely debating with Chad the risk of betrayal. He saw
they would show nothing if they could feel sure he hadn’t made them out;
so that he had before him for a few seconds his own hesitation. It was a sharp
fantastic crisis that had popped up as if in a dream, and it had had only to
last the few seconds to make him feel it as quite horrible. They were thus, on
either side, the other side, and all for some reason that broke
the stillness like some unprovoked harsh note. It seemed to him again, within
the limit, that he had but one thing to do—to settle their common
question by some sign of surprise and joy. He hereupon gave large play to these
things, agitating his hat and his stick and loudly calling out—a
demonstration that brought him relief as soon as he had seen it answered. The
boat, in mid-stream, still went a little wild—which seemed natural,
however, while Chad turned round, half springing up; and his good friend, after
blankness and wonder, began gaily to wave her parasol. Chad dropped afresh to
his paddles and the boat headed round, amazement and pleasantry filling the air
meanwhile, and relief, as Strether continued to fancy, superseding mere
violence. Our friend went down to the water under this odd impression as of
violence averted—the violence of their having “cut” him, out
there in the eye of nature, on the assumption that he wouldn’t know it.
He awaited them with a face from which he was conscious of not being able quite
to banish this idea that they would have gone on, not seeing and not knowing,
missing their dinner and disappointing their hostess, had he himself taken a
line to match. That at least was what darkened his vision for the moment.
Afterwards, after they had bumped at the landing-place and he had assisted
their getting ashore, everything found itself sponged over by the mere miracle
of the encounter.

They could so much better at last, on either side, treat it as a wild
extravagance of hazard, that the situation was made elastic by the amount of
explanation called into play. Why indeed—apart from oddity—the
situation should have been really stiff was a question naturally not practical
at the moment, and in fact, so far as we are concerned, a question tackled,
later on and in private, only by Strether himself. He was to reflect later on
and in private that it was mainly who had explained—as he had
had moreover comparatively little difficulty in doing. He was to have at all
events meanwhile the worrying thought of their perhaps secretly suspecting him
of having plotted this coincidence, taking such pains as might be to give it
the semblance of an accident. That possibility—as their
imputation—didn’t of course bear looking into for an instant; yet
the whole incident was so manifestly, arrange it as they would, an awkward one,
that he could scarce keep disclaimers in respect to his own presence from
rising to his lips. Disclaimers of intention would have been as tactless as his
presence was practically gross; and the narrowest escape they either of them
had was his lucky escape, in the event, from making any. Nothing of the sort,
so far as surface and sound were involved, was even in question; surface and
sound all made for their common ridiculous good fortune, for the general
of the occasion, for the charming chance that they had,
the others, in passing, ordered some food to be ready, the charming chance that
he had himself not eaten, the charming chance, even more, that their little
plans, their hours, their train, in short, from , would all match
for their return together to Paris. The chance that was most charming of all,
the chance that drew from Madame de Vionnet her clearest, gayest
“” was the announcement made to
Strether after they were seated at table, the word given him by their hostess
in respect to his carriage for the station, on which he might now count. It
settled the matter for his friends as well; the conveyance—it
all too lucky!—would serve for them; and nothing was more delightful than
his being in a position to make the train so definite. It might have been, for
themselves—to hear Madame de Vionnet—almost unnaturally vague, a
detail left to be fixed; though Strether indeed was afterwards to remember that
Chad had promptly enough intervened to forestall this appearance, laughing at
his companion’s flightiness and making the point that he had after all,
in spite of the bedazzlement of a day out with her, known what he was about.

Strether was to remember afterwards further that this had had for him the
effect of forming Chad’s almost sole intervention; and indeed he was to
remember further still, in subsequent meditation, many things that, as it were,
fitted together. Another of them was for instance that the wonderful
woman’s overflow of surprise and amusement was wholly into French, which
she struck him as speaking with an unprecedented command of idiomatic turns,
but in which she got, as he might have said, somewhat away from him, taking all
at once little brilliant jumps that he could but lamely match. The question of
his own French had never come up for them; it was the one thing she
wouldn’t have permitted—it belonged, for a person who had been
through much, to mere boredom; but the present result was odd, fairly veiling
her identity, shifting her back into a mere voluble class or race to the
intense audibility of which he was by this time inured. When she spoke the
charming slightly strange English he best knew her by he seemed to feel her as
a creature, among all the millions, with a language quite to herself, the real
monopoly of a special shade of speech, beautifully easy for her, yet of a
colour and a cadence that were both inimitable and matters of accident. She
came back to these things after they had shaken down in the inn-parlour and
knew, as it were, what was to become of them; it was inevitable that loud
ejaculation over the prodigy of their convergence should at last wear itself
out. Then it was that his impression took fuller form—the impression,
destined only to deepen, to complete itself, that they had something to put a
face upon, to carry off and make the best of, and that it was she who,
admirably on the whole, was doing this. It was familiar to him of course that
they had something to put a face upon; their friendship, their connexion, took
any amount of explaining—that would have been made familiar by his twenty
minutes with Mrs. Pocock if it hadn’t already been so. Yet his theory, as
we know, had bountifully been that the facts were specifically none of his
business, and were, over and above, so far as one had to do with them,
intrinsically beautiful; and this might have prepared him for anything, as well
as rendered him proof against mystification. When he reached home that night,
however, he knew he had been, at bottom, neither prepared nor proof; and since
we have spoken of what he was, after his return, to recall and interpret, it
may as well immediately be said that his real experience of these few hours put
on, in that belated vision—for he scarce went to bed till
morning—the aspect that is most to our purpose.

He then knew more or less how he had been affected—he but half knew at
the time. There had been plenty to affect him even after, as has been said,
they had shaken down; for his consciousness, though muffled, had its sharpest
moments during this passage, a marked drop into innocent friendly Bohemia. They
then had put their elbows on the table, deploring the premature end of their
two or three dishes; which they had tried to make up with another bottle while
Chad joked a little spasmodically, perhaps even a little irrelevantly, with the
hostess. What it all came to had been that fiction and fable ,
inevitably, in the air, and not as a simple term of comparison, but as a result
of things said; also that they were blinking it, all round, and that they yet
needn’t, so much as that, have blinked it—though indeed if they
hadn’t Strether didn’t quite see what else they could have done.
Strether didn’t quite see even at an hour or two past
midnight, even when he had, at his hotel, for a long time, without a light and
without undressing, sat back on his bedroom sofa and stared straight before
him. He was, at that point of vantage, in full possession, to make of it all
what he could. He kept making of it that there had been simply a in
the charming affair—a lie on which one could now, detached and
deliberate, perfectly put one’s finger. It was with the lie that they had
eaten and drunk and talked and laughed, that they had waited for their
rather impatiently, and had then got into the vehicle and,
sensibly subsiding, driven their three or four miles through the darkening
summer night. The eating and drinking, which had been a resource, had had the
effect of having served its turn; the talk and laughter had done as much; and
it was during their somewhat tedious progress to the station, during the waits
there, the further delays, their submission to fatigue, their silences in the
dim compartment of the much-stopping train, that he prepared himself for
reflexions to come. It had been a performance, Madame de Vionnet’s
manner, and though it had to that degree faltered toward the end, as through
her ceasing to believe in it, as if she had asked herself, or Chad had found a
moment surreptitiously to ask her, what after all was the use, a performance it
had none the less quite handsomely remained, with the final fact about it that
it was on the whole easier to keep up than to abandon.

From the point of view of presence of mind it had been very wonderful indeed,
wonderful for readiness, for beautiful assurance, for the way her decision was
taken on the spot, without time to confer with Chad, without time for anything.
Their only conference could have been the brief instants in the boat before
they confessed to recognising the spectator on the bank, for they hadn’t
been alone together a moment since and must have communicated all in silence.
It was a part of the deep impression for Strether, and not the least of the
deep interest, that they so communicate—that Chad in
particular could let her know he left it to her. He habitually left things to
others, as Strether was so well aware, and it in fact came over our friend in
these meditations that there had been as yet no such vivid illustration of his
famous knowing how to live. It was as if he had humoured her to the extent of
letting her lie without correction—almost as if, really, he would be
coming round in the morning to set the matter, as between Strether and himself,
right. Of course he couldn’t quite come; it was a case in which a man was
obliged to accept the woman’s version, even when fantastic; if she had,
with more flurry than she cared to show, elected, as the phrase was, to
represent that they had left Paris that morning, and with no design but of
getting back within the day—if she had so sized-up, in the Woollett
phrase, their necessity, she knew best her own measure. There were things, all
the same, it was impossible to blink and which made this measure an odd
one—the too evident fact for instance that she hadn’t started out
for the day dressed and hatted and shod, and even, for that matter, pink
parasol’d, as she had been in the boat. From what did the drop in her
assurance proceed as the tension increased—from what did this slightly
baffled ingenuity spring but from her consciousness of not presenting, as night
closed in, with not so much as a shawl to wrap her round, an appearance that
matched her story? She admitted that she was cold, but only to blame her
imprudence which Chad suffered her to give such account of as she might. Her
shawl and Chad’s overcoat and her other garments, and his, those they had
each worn the day before, were at the place, best known to themselves—a
quiet retreat enough, no doubt—at which they had been spending the
twenty-four hours, to which they had fully meant to return that evening, from
which they had so remarkably swum into Strether’s ken, and the tacit
repudiation of which had been thus the essence of her comedy. Strether saw how
she had perceived in a flash that they couldn’t quite look to going back
there under his nose; though, honestly, as he gouged deeper into the matter, he
was somewhat surprised, as Chad likewise had perhaps been, at the uprising of
this scruple. He seemed even to divine that she had entertained it rather for
Chad than for herself, and that, as the young man had lacked the chance to
enlighten her, she had had to go on with it, he meanwhile mistaking her motive.

He was rather glad, none the less, that they had in point of fact not parted at
the Cheval Blanc, that he hadn’t been reduced to giving them his blessing
for an idyllic retreat down the river. He had had in the actual case to
make-believe more than he liked, but this was nothing, it struck him, to what
the other event would have required. Could he, literally, quite have faced the
other event? Would he have been capable of making the best of it with them?
This was what he was trying to do now; but with the advantage of his being able
to give more time to it a good deal counteracted by his sense of what, over and
above the central fact itself, he had to swallow. It was the quantity of
make-believe involved and so vividly exemplified that most disagreed with his
spiritual stomach. He moved, however, from the consideration of that
quantity—to say nothing of the consciousness of that organ—back to
the other feature of the show, the deep, deep truth of the intimacy revealed.
That was what, in his vain vigil, he oftenest reverted to: intimacy, at such a
point, was that—and what in the world else would one have
wished it to be like? It was all very well for him to feel the pity of its
being so much like lying; he almost blushed, in the dark, for the way he had
dressed the possibility in vagueness, as a little girl might have dressed her
doll. He had made them—and by no fault of their own—momentarily
pull it for him, the possibility, out of this vagueness; and must he not
therefore take it now as they had had simply, with whatever thin attenuations,
to give it to him? The very question, it may be added, made him feel lonely and
cold. There was the element of the awkward all round, but Chad and Madame de
Vionnet had at least the comfort that they could talk it over together. With
whom could talk of such things?—unless indeed always, at almost
any stage, with Maria? He foresaw that Miss Gostrey would come again into
requisition on the morrow; though it wasn’t to be denied that he was
already a little afraid of her “What on earth—that’s what I
want to know now—had you then supposed?” He recognised at last that
he had really been trying all along to suppose nothing. Verily, verily, his
labour had been lost. He found himself supposing innumerable and wonderful
things.

Book Twelfth

I

Strether couldn’t have said he had during the previous hours definitely
expected it; yet when, later on, that morning—though no later indeed than
for his coming forth at ten o’clock—he saw the concierge produce,
on his approach, a delivered since his letters had been sent
up, he recognised the appearance as the first symptom of a sequel. He then knew
he had been thinking of some early sign from Chad as more likely, after all,
than not; and this would be precisely the early sign. He took it so for granted
that he opened the just where he had stopped, in the pleasant
cool draught of the —only curious to see where the
young man would, at such a juncture, break out. His curiosity, however, was
more than gratified; the small missive, whose gummed edge he had detached
without attention to the address, not being from the young man at all, but from
the person whom the case gave him on the spot as still more worth while. Worth
while or not, he went round to the nearest telegraph-office, the big one on the
Boulevard, with a directness that almost confessed to a fear of the danger of
delay. He might have been thinking that if he didn’t go before he could
think he wouldn’t perhaps go at all. He at any rate kept, in the lower
side-pocket of his morning coat, a very deliberate hand on his blue missive,
crumpling it up rather tenderly than harshly. He wrote a reply, on the
Boulevard, also in the form of a —which was quickly
done, under pressure of the place, inasmuch as, like Madame de Vionnet’s
own communication, it consisted of the fewest words. She had asked him if he
could do her the very great kindness of coming to see her that evening at
half-past nine, and he answered, as if nothing were easier, that he would
present himself at the hour she named. She had added a line of postscript, to
the effect that she would come to him elsewhere and at his own hour if he
preferred; but he took no notice of this, feeling that if he saw her at all
half the value of it would be in seeing her where he had already seen her best.
He mightn’t see her at all; that was one of the reflexions he made after
writing and before he dropped his closed card into the box; he mightn’t
see any one at all any more at all; he might make an end as well now as ever,
leaving things as they were, since he was doubtless not to leave them better,
and taking his way home so far as should appear that a home remained to him.
This alternative was for a few minutes so sharp that if he at last did deposit
his missive it was perhaps because the pressure of the place had an effect.

There was none other, however, than the common and constant pressure, familiar
to our friend under the rubric of —the
something in the air of these establishments; the vibration of the vast strange
life of the town, the influence of the types, the performers concocting their
messages; the little prompt Paris women, arranging, pretexting goodness knew
what, driving the dreadful needle-pointed public pen at the dreadful
sand-strewn public table: implements that symbolised for Strether’s too
interpretative innocence something more acute in manners, more sinister in
morals, more fierce in the national life. After he had put in his paper he had
ranged himself, he was really amused to think, on the side of the fierce, the
sinister, the acute. He was carrying on a correspondence, across the great
city, quite in the key of the in general; and it
was fairly as if the acceptance of that fact had come from something in his
state that sorted with the occupation of his neighbours. He was mixed up with
the typical tale of Paris, and so were they, poor things—how could they
all together help being? They were no worse than he, in short, and he no worse
than they—if, queerly enough, no better; and at all events he had settled
his hash, so that he went out to begin, from that moment, his day of waiting.
The great settlement was, as he felt, in his preference for seeing his
correspondent in her own best conditions. was part of the typical
tale, the part most significant in respect to himself. He liked the place she
lived in, the picture that each time squared itself, large and high and clear,
around her: every occasion of seeing it was a pleasure of a different shade.
Yet what precisely was he doing with shades of pleasure now, and why
hadn’t he properly and logically compelled her to commit herself to
whatever of disadvantage and penalty the situation might throw up? He might
have proposed, as for Sarah Pocock, the cold hospitality of his own , in which the chill of Sarah’s visit seemed still to abide
and shades of pleasure were dim; he might have suggested a stone bench in the
dusty Tuileries or a penny chair at the back part of the Champs Elysées. These
things would have been a trifle stern, and sternness alone now wouldn’t
be sinister. An instinct in him cast about for some form of discipline in which
they might meet—some awkwardness they would suffer from, some danger, or
at least some grave inconvenience, they would incur. This would give a
sense—which the spirit required, rather ached and sighed in the absence
of—that somebody was paying something somewhere and somehow, that they
were at least not all floating together on the silver stream of impunity. Just
instead of that to go and see her late in the evening, as if, for all the
world—well, as if he were as much in the swim as anybody else: this had
as little as possible in common with the penal form.

Even when he had felt that objection melt away, however, the practical
difference was small; the long stretch of his interval took the colour it
would, and if he lived on thus with the sinister from hour to hour it proved an
easier thing than one might have supposed in advance. He reverted in thought to
his old tradition, the one he had been brought up on and which even so many
years of life had but little worn away; the notion that the state of the
wrongdoer, or at least this person’s happiness, presented some special
difficulty. What struck him now rather was the ease of it—for nothing in
truth appeared easier. It was an ease he himself fairly tasted of for the rest
of the day; giving himself quite up; not so much as trying to dress it out, in
any particular whatever, as a difficulty; not after all going to see
Maria—which would have been in a manner a result of such dressing; only
idling, lounging, smoking, sitting in the shade, drinking lemonade and
consuming ices. The day had turned to heat and eventual thunder, and he now and
again went back to his hotel to find that Chad hadn’t been there. He
hadn’t yet struck himself, since leaving Woollett, so much as a loafer,
though there had been times when he believed himself touching bottom. This was
a deeper depth than any, and with no foresight, scarcely with a care, as to
what he should bring up. He almost wondered if he didn’t
demoralised and disreputable; he had the fanciful vision, as he sat and smoked,
of some accidental, some motived, return of the Pococks, who would be passing
along the Boulevard and would catch this view of him. They would have
distinctly, on his appearance, every ground for scandal. But fate failed to
administer even that sternness; the Pococks never passed and Chad made no sign.
Strether meanwhile continued to hold off from Miss Gostrey, keeping her till
to-morrow; so that by evening his irresponsibility, his impunity, his luxury,
had become—there was no other word for them—immense.

Between nine and ten, at last, in the high clear picture—he was moving in
these days, as in a gallery, from clever canvas to clever canvas—he drew
a long breath: it was so presented to him from the first that the spell of his
luxury wouldn’t be broken. He wouldn’t have, that is, to become
responsible—this was admirably in the air: she had sent for him precisely
to let him feel it, so that he might go on with the comfort (comfort already
established, hadn’t it been?) of regarding his ordeal, the ordeal of the
weeks of Sarah’s stay and of their climax, as safely traversed and left
behind him. Didn’t she just wish to assure him that now took
it all and so kept it; that he was absolutely not to worry any more, was only
to rest on his laurels and continue generously to help her? The light in her
beautiful formal room was dim, though it would do, as everything would always
do; the hot night had kept out lamps, but there was a pair of clusters of
candles that glimmered over the chimney-piece like the tall tapers of an altar.
The windows were all open, their redundant hangings swaying a little, and he
heard once more, from the empty court, the small plash of the fountain. From
beyond this, and as from a great distance—beyond the court, beyond the
forming the front—came, as if excited and exciting,
the vague voice of Paris. Strether had all along been subject to sudden gusts
of fancy in connexion with such matters as these—odd starts of the
historic sense, suppositions and divinations with no warrant but their
intensity. Thus and so, on the eve of the great recorded dates, the days and
nights of revolution, the sounds had come in, the omens, the beginnings broken
out. They were the smell of revolution, the smell of the public temper—or
perhaps simply the smell of blood.

It was at present queer beyond words, “subtle,” he would have
risked saying, that such suggestions should keep crossing the scene; but it was
doubtless the effect of the thunder in the air, which had hung about all day
without release. His hostess was dressed as for thunderous times, and it fell
in with the kind of imagination we have just attributed to him that she should
be in simplest coolest white, of a character so old-fashioned, if he were not
mistaken, that Madame Roland must on the scaffold have worn something like it.
This effect was enhanced by a small black fichu or scarf, of crape or gauze,
disposed quaintly round her bosom and now completing as by a mystic touch the
pathetic, the noble analogy. Poor Strether in fact scarce knew what analogy was
evoked for him as the charming woman, receiving him and making him, as she
could do such things, at once familiarly and gravely welcome, moved over her
great room with her image almost repeated in its polished floor, which had been
fully bared for summer. The associations of the place, all felt again; the
gleam here and there, in the subdued light, of glass and gilt and parquet, with
the quietness of her own note as the centre—these things were at first as
delicate as if they had been ghostly, and he was sure in a moment that,
whatever he should find he had come for, it wouldn’t be for an impression
that had previously failed him. That conviction held him from the outset, and,
seeming singularly to simplify, certified to him that the objects about would
help him, would really help them both. No, he might never see them
again—this was only too probably the last time; and he should certainly
see nothing in the least degree like them. He should soon be going to where
such things were not, and it would be a small mercy for memory, for fancy, to
have, in that stress, a loaf on the shelf. He knew in advance he should look
back on the perception actually sharpest with him as on the view of something
old, old, old, the oldest thing he had ever personally touched; and he also
knew, even while he took his companion in as the feature among features, that
memory and fancy couldn’t help being enlisted for her. She might intend
what she would, but this was beyond anything she could intend, with things from
far back—tyrannies of history, facts of type, values, as the painters
said, of expression—all working for her and giving her the supreme
chance, the chance of the happy, the really luxurious few, the chance, on a
great occasion, to be natural and simple. She had never, with him, been more
so; or if it was the perfection of art it would never—and that came to
the same thing—be proved against her.

What was truly wonderful was her way of differing so from time to time without
detriment to her simplicity. Caprices, he was sure she felt, were before
anything else bad manners, and that judgement in her was by itself a thing
making more for safety of intercourse than anything that in his various own
past intercourses he had had to reckon on. If therefore her presence was now
quite other than the one she had shown him the night before, there was nothing
of violence in the change—it was all harmony and reason. It gave him a
mild deep person, whereas he had had on the occasion to which their interview
was a direct reference a person committed to movement and surface and abounding
in them; but she was in either character more remarkable for nothing than for
her bridging of intervals, and this now fell in with what he understood he was
to leave to her. The only thing was that, if he was to leave it to
her, why exactly had she sent for him? He had had, vaguely, in advance, his
explanation, his view of the probability of her wishing to set something right,
to deal in some way with the fraud so lately practised on his presumed
credulity. Would she attempt to carry it further or would she blot it out?
Would she throw over it some more or less happy colour; or would she do nothing
about it at all? He perceived soon enough at least that, however reasonable she
might be, she wasn’t vulgarly confused, and it herewith pressed upon him
that their eminent “lie,” Chad’s and hers, was simply after
all such an inevitable tribute to good taste as he couldn’t have wished
them not to render. Away from them, during his vigil, he had seemed to wince at
the amount of comedy involved; whereas in his present posture he could only ask
himself how he should enjoy any attempt from her to take the comedy back. He
shouldn’t enjoy it at all; but, once more and yet once more, he could
trust her. That is he could trust her to make deception right. As she presented
things the ugliness—goodness knew why—went out of them; none the
less too that she could present them, with an art of her own, by not so much as
touching them. She let the matter, at all events, lie where it was—where
the previous twenty-four hours had placed it; appearing merely to circle about
it respectfully, tenderly, almost piously, while she took up another question.

She knew she hadn’t really thrown dust in his eyes; this, the previous
night, before they separated, had practically passed between them; and, as she
had sent for him to see what the difference thus made for him might amount to,
so he was conscious at the end of five minutes that he had been tried and
tested. She had settled with Chad after he left them that she would, for her
satisfaction, assure herself of this quantity, and Chad had, as usual, let her
have her way. Chad was always letting people have their way when he felt that
it would somehow turn his wheel for him; it somehow always did turn his wheel.
Strether felt, oddly enough, before these facts, freshly and consentingly
passive; they again so rubbed it into him that the couple thus fixing his
attention were intimate, that his intervention had absolutely aided and
intensified their intimacy, and that in fine he must accept the consequence of
that. He had absolutely become, himself, with his perceptions and his mistakes,
his concessions and his reserves, the droll mixture, as it must seem to them,
of his braveries and his fears, the general spectacle of his art and his
innocence, almost an added link and certainly a common priceless ground for
them to meet upon. It was as if he had been hearing their very tone when she
brought out a reference that was comparatively straight. “The last twice
that you’ve been here, you know, I never asked you,” she said with
an abrupt transition—they had been pretending before this to talk simply
of the charm of yesterday and of the interest of the country they had seen. The
effort was confessedly vain; not for such talk had she invited him; and her
impatient reminder was of their having done for it all the needful on his
coming to her after Sarah’s flight. What she hadn’t asked him then
was to state to her where and how he stood for her; she had been resting on
Chad’s report of their midnight hour together in the Boulevard
Malesherbes. The thing therefore she at present desired was ushered in by this
recall of the two occasions on which, disinterested and merciful, she
hadn’t worried him. To-night truly she worry him, and this
was her appeal to him to let her risk it. He wasn’t to mind if she bored
him a little: she had behaved, after all—hadn’t she?—so
awfully, awfully well.

II

“Oh, you’re all right, you’re all right,” he almost
impatiently declared; his impatience being moreover not for her pressure, but
for her scruple. More and more distinct to him was the tune to which she would
have had the matter out with Chad: more and more vivid for him the idea that
she had been nervous as to what he might be able to “stand.” Yes,
it had been a question if he had “stood” what the scene on the
river had given him, and, though the young man had doubtless opined in favour
of his recuperation, her own last word must have been that she should feel
easier in seeing for herself. That was it, unmistakeably; she seeing
for herself. What he could stand was thus, in these moments, in the balance for
Strether, who reflected, as he became fully aware of it, that he must properly
brace himself. He wanted fully to appear to stand all he might; and there was a
certain command of the situation for him in this very wish not to look too much
at sea. She was ready with everything, but so, sufficiently, was he; that is he
was at one point the more prepared of the two, inasmuch as, for all her
cleverness, she couldn’t produce on the spot—and it was
surprising—an account of the motive of her note. He had the advantage
that his pronouncing her “all right” gave him for an enquiry.
“May I ask, delighted as I’ve been to come, if you’ve wished
to say something special?” He spoke as if she might have seen he had been
waiting for it—not indeed with discomfort, but with natural interest.
Then he saw that she was a little taken aback, was even surprised herself at
the detail she had neglected—the only one ever yet; having somehow
assumed he would know, would recognise, would leave some things not to be said.
She looked at him, however, an instant as if to convey that if he wanted them
—!

“Selfish and vulgar—that’s what I must seem to you.
You’ve done everything for me, and here I am as if I were asking for
more. But it isn’t,” she went on, “because I’m
afraid—though I of course afraid, as a woman in my position
always is. I mean it isn’t because one lives in terror—it
isn’t because of that one is selfish, for I’m ready to give you my
word to-night that I don’t care; don’t care what still may happen
and what I may lose. I don’t ask you to raise your little finger for me
again, nor do I wish so much as to mention to you what we’ve talked of
before, either my danger or my safety, or his mother, or his sister, or the
girl he may marry, or the fortune he may make or miss, or the right or the
wrong, of any kind, he may do. If after the help one has had from you one
can’t either take care of one’s self or simply hold one’s
tongue, one must renounce all claim to be an object of interest. It’s in
the name of what I care about that I’ve tried still to keep
hold of you. How can I be indifferent,” she asked, “to how I appear
to you?” And as he found himself unable immediately to say: “Why,
if you’re going, you, after all? Is it impossible you should
stay on—so that one mayn’t lose you?”

“Impossible I should live with you here instead of going home?”

“Not ‘with’ us, if you object to that, but near enough to us,
somewhere, for us to see you—well,” she beautifully brought out,
“when we feel we . How shall we not sometimes feel it?
I’ve wanted to see you often when I couldn’t,” she pursued,
“all these last weeks. How shan’t I then miss you now, with the
sense of your being gone forever?” Then as if the straightness of this
appeal, taking him unprepared, had visibly left him wondering: “Where
your ‘home’ moreover now—what has become of it?
I’ve made a change in your life, I know I have; I’ve upset
everything in your mind as well; in your sense of—what shall I call
it?—all the decencies and possibilities. It gives me a kind of
detestation—” She pulled up short.

Oh but he wanted to hear. “Detestation of what?”

“Of everything—of life.”

“Ah that’s too much,” he laughed—“or too
little!”

“Too little, precisely”—she was eager. “What I hate is
myself—when I think that one has to take so much, to be happy, out of the
lives of others, and that one isn’t happy even then. One does it to cheat
one’s self and to stop one’s mouth—but that’s only at
the best for a little. The wretched self is always there, always making one
somehow a fresh anxiety. What it comes to is that it’s not, that
it’s never, a happiness, any happiness at all, to . The only
safe thing is to give. It’s what plays you least false.”
Interesting, touching, strikingly sincere as she let these things come from
her, she yet puzzled and troubled him—so fine was the quaver of her
quietness. He felt what he had felt before with her, that there was always more
behind what she showed, and more and more again behind that. “You know
so, at least,” she added, “where you are!”

“ ought to know it indeed then; for isn’t what
you’ve been giving exactly what has brought us together this way?
You’ve been making, as I’ve so fully let you know I’ve
felt,” Strether said, “the most precious present I’ve ever
seen made, and if you can’t sit down peacefully on that performance you
, no doubt, born to torment yourself. But you ought,” he wound
up, “to be easy.”

“And not trouble you any more, no doubt—not thrust on you even the
wonder and the beauty of what I’ve done; only let you regard our business
as over, and well over, and see you depart in a peace that matches my own? No
doubt, no doubt, no doubt,” she nervously repeated—“all the
more that I don’t really pretend I believe you couldn’t, for
yourself, have done what you have. I don’t pretend you feel
yourself victimised, for this evidently is the way you live, and it’s
what—we’re agreed—is the best way. Yes, as you say,”
she continued after a moment, “I ought to be easy and rest on my work.
Well then here am I doing so. I easy. You’ll have it for your
last impression. When is it you say you go?” she asked with a quick
change.

He took some time to reply—his last impression was more and more so mixed
a one. It produced in him a vague disappointment, a drop that was deeper even
than the fall of his elation the previous night. The good of what he had done,
if he had done so much, wasn’t there to enliven him quite to the point
that would have been ideal for a grand gay finale. Women were thus endlessly
absorbent, and to deal with them was to walk on water. What was at bottom the
matter with her, embroider as she might and disclaim as she might—what
was at bottom the matter with her was simply Chad himself. It was of Chad she
was after all renewedly afraid; the strange strength of her passion was the
very strength of her fear; she clung to , Lambert Strether, as to a
source of safety she had tested, and, generous graceful truthful as she might
try to be, exquisite as she was, she dreaded the term of his being within
reach. With this sharpest perception yet, it was like a chill in the air to
him, it was almost appalling, that a creature so fine could be, by mysterious
forces, a creature so exploited. For at the end of all things they
mysterious: she had but made Chad what he was—so why could she think she
had made him infinite? She had made him better, she had made him best, she had
made him anything one would; but it came to our friend with supreme queerness
that he was none the less only Chad. Strether had the sense that , a
little, had made him too; his high appreciation had as it were, consecrated her
work The work, however admirable, was nevertheless of the strict human order,
and in short it was marvellous that the companion of mere earthly joys, of
comforts, aberrations (however one classed them) within the common experience
should be so transcendently prized. It might have made Strether hot or shy, as
such secrets of others brought home sometimes do make us; but he was held there
by something so hard that it was fairly grim. This was not the discomposure of
last night; that had quite passed—such discomposures were a detail; the
real coercion was to see a man ineffably adored. There it was again—it
took women, it took women; if to deal with them was to walk on water what
wonder that the water rose? And it had never surely risen higher than round
this woman. He presently found himself taking a long look from her, and the
next thing he knew he had uttered all his thought. “You’re afraid
for your life!”

It drew out her long look, and he soon enough saw why. A spasm came into her
face, the tears she had already been unable to hide overflowed at first in
silence, and then, as the sound suddenly comes from a child, quickened to
gasps, to sobs. She sat and covered her face with her hands, giving up all
attempt at a manner. “It’s how you see me, it’s how you see
me”—she caught her breath with it—“and it’s as I
, and as I must take myself, and of course it’s no
matter.” Her emotion was at first so incoherent that he could only stand
there at a loss, stand with his sense of having upset her, though of having
done it by the truth. He had to listen to her in a silence that he made no
immediate effort to attenuate, feeling her doubly woeful amid all her dim
diffused elegance; consenting to it as he had consented to the rest, and even
conscious of some vague inward irony in the presence of such a fine free range
of bliss and bale. He couldn’t say it was no matter; for he
was serving her to the end, he now knew, anyway—quite as if what he
thought of her had nothing to do with it. It was actually moreover as if he
didn’t think of her at all, as if he could think of nothing but the
passion, mature, abysmal, pitiful, she represented, and the possibilities she
betrayed. She was older for him to-night, visibly less exempt from the touch of
time; but she was as much as ever the finest and subtlest creature, the
happiest apparition, it had been given him, in all his years, to meet; and yet
he could see her there as vulgarly troubled, in very truth, as a maidservant
crying for her young man. The only thing was that she judged herself as the
maidservant wouldn’t; the weakness of which wisdom too, the dishonour of
which judgement, seemed but to sink her lower. Her collapse, however, no doubt,
was briefer and she had in a manner recovered herself before he intervened.
“Of course I’m afraid for my life. But that’s nothing. It
isn’t that.”

He was silent a little longer, as if thinking what it might be.
“There’s something I have in mind that I can still do.”

But she threw off at last, with a sharp sad headshake, drying her eyes, what he
could still do. “I don’t care for that. Of course, as I’ve
said, you’re acting, in your wonderful way, for yourself; and
what’s for yourself is no more my business—though I may reach out
unholy hands so clumsily to touch it—than if it were something in
Timbuctoo. It’s only that you don’t snub me, as you’ve had
fifty chances to do—it’s only your beautiful patience that makes
one forget one’s manners. In spite of your patience, all the same,”
she went on, “you’d do anything rather than be with us here, even
if that were possible. You’d do everything for us but be mixed up with
us—which is a statement you can easily answer to the advantage of your
own manners. You can say ‘What’s the use of talking of things that
at the best are impossible?’ What of course the use? It’s
only my little madness. You’d talk if you were tormented. And I
don’t mean now about . Oh for him—!” Positively,
strangely, bitterly, as it seemed to Strether, she gave “him,” for
the moment, away. “You don’t care what I think of you; but I happen
to care what you think of me. And what you ,” she added.
“What you perhaps even did.”

He gained time. “What I did—?”

“Did think before. Before this. you
think—?”

But he had already stopped her. “I didn’t think anything. I never
think a step further than I’m obliged to.”

“That’s perfectly false, I believe,” she
returned—“except that you may, no doubt, often pull up when things
become ugly; or even, I’ll say, to save you a protest, too
beautiful. At any rate, even so far as it’s true, we’ve thrust on
you appearances that you’ve had to take in and that have therefore made
your obligation. Ugly or beautiful—it doesn’t matter what we call
them—you were getting on without them, and that’s where we’re
detestable. We bore you—that’s where we are. And we may
well—for what we’ve cost you. All you can do is not to
think at all. And I who should have liked to seem to you—well,
sublime!”

He could only after a moment re-echo Miss Barrace. “You’re
wonderful!”

“I’m old and abject and hideous”—she went on as without
hearing him. “Abject above all. Or old above all. It’s when
one’s old that it’s worst. I don’t care what becomes of
it—let what ; there it is. It’s a doom—I know it;
you can’t see it more than I do myself. Things have to happen as they
will.” With which she came back again to what, face to face with him, had
so quite broken down. “Of course you wouldn’t, even if possible,
and no matter what may happen to you, be near us. But think of me, think of
me—!” She exhaled it into air.

He took refuge in repeating something he had already said and that she had made
nothing of. “There’s something I believe I can still do.” And
he put his hand out for good-bye.

She again made nothing of it; she went on with her insistence. “That
won’t help you. There’s nothing to help you.”

“Well, it may help ,” he said.

She shook her head. “There’s not a grain of certainty in my
future—for the only certainty is that I shall be the loser in the
end.”

She hadn’t taken his hand, but she moved with him to the door.
“That’s cheerful,” he laughed, “for your
benefactor!”

“What’s cheerful for ,” she replied, “is that
we might, you and I, have been friends. That’s it—that’s it.
You see how, as I say, I want everything. I’ve wanted you too.”

“Ah but you’ve me!” he declared, at the door, with
an emphasis that made an end.

III

His purpose had been to see Chad the next day, and he had prefigured seeing him
by an early call; having in general never stood on ceremony in respect to
visits at the Boulevard Malesherbes. It had been more often natural for him to
go there than for Chad to come to the small hotel, the attractions of which
were scant; yet it nevertheless, just now, at the eleventh hour, did suggest
itself to Strether to begin by giving the young man a chance. It struck him
that, in the inevitable course, Chad would be “round,” as Waymarsh
used to say—Waymarsh who already, somehow, seemed long ago. He
hadn’t come the day before, because it had been arranged between them
that Madame de Vionnet should see their friend first; but now that this passage
had taken place he would present himself, and their friend wouldn’t have
long to wait. Strether assumed, he became aware, on this reasoning, that the
interesting parties to the arrangement would have met betimes, and that the
more interesting of the two—as she was after all—would have
communicated to the other the issue of her appeal. Chad would know without
delay that his mother’s messenger had been with her, and, though it was
perhaps not quite easy to see how she could qualify what had occurred, he would
at least have been sufficiently advised to feel he could go on. The day,
however, brought, early or late, no word from him, and Strether felt, as a
result of this, that a change had practically come over their intercourse. It
was perhaps a premature judgement; or it only meant perhaps—how could he
tell?—that the wonderful pair he protected had taken up again together
the excursion he had accidentally checked. They might have gone back to the
country, and gone back but with a long breath drawn; that indeed would best
mark Chad’s sense that reprobation hadn’t rewarded Madame de
Vionnet’s request for an interview. At the end of the twenty-four hours,
at the end of the forty-eight, there was still no overture; so that Strether
filled up the time, as he had so often filled it before, by going to see Miss
Gostrey.

He proposed amusements to her; he felt expert now in proposing amusements; and
he had thus, for several days, an odd sense of leading her about Paris, of
driving her in the Bois, of showing her the penny steamboats—those from
which the breeze of the Seine was to be best enjoyed—that might have
belonged to a kindly uncle doing the honours of the capital to an intelligent
niece from the country. He found means even to take her to shops she
didn’t know, or that she pretended she didn’t; while she, on her
side, was, like the country maiden, all passive modest and grateful—going
in fact so far as to emulate rusticity in occasional fatigues and
bewilderments. Strether described these vague proceedings to himself, described
them even to her, as a happy interlude; the sign of which was that the
companions said for the time no further word about the matter they had talked
of to satiety. He proclaimed satiety at the outset, and she quickly took the
hint; as docile both in this and in everything else as the intelligent obedient
niece. He told her as yet nothing of his late adventure—for as an
adventure it now ranked with him; he pushed the whole business temporarily
aside and found his interest in the fact of her beautiful assent. She left
questions unasked—she who for so long had been all questions; she gave
herself up to him with an understanding of which mere mute gentleness might
have seemed the sufficient expression. She knew his sense of his situation had
taken still another step—of that he was quite aware; but she conveyed
that, whatever had thus happened for him, it was thrown into the shade by what
was happening for herself. This—though it mightn’t to a detached
spirit have seemed much—was the major interest, and she met it with a new
directness of response, measuring it from hour to hour with her grave hush of
acceptance. Touched as he had so often been by her before, he was, for his part
too, touched afresh; all the more that though he could be duly aware of the
principle of his own mood he couldn’t be equally so of the principle of
hers. He knew, that is, in a manner—knew roughly and
resignedly—what he himself was hatching; whereas he had to take the
chance of what he called to himself Maria’s calculations. It was all he
needed that she liked him enough for what they were doing, and even should they
do a good deal more would still like him enough for that; the essential
freshness of a relation so simple was a cool bath to the soreness produced by
other relations. These others appeared to him now horribly complex; they
bristled with fine points, points all unimaginable beforehand, points that
pricked and drew blood; a fact that gave to an hour with his present friend on
a , or in the afternoon shade of the Champs Elysées,
something of the innocent pleasure of handling rounded ivory. His relation with
Chad personally—from the moment he had got his point of view—had
been of the simplest; yet this also struck him as bristling, after a third and
a fourth blank day had passed. It was as if at last however his care for such
indications had dropped; there came a fifth blank day and he ceased to enquire
or to heed.

They now took on to his fancy, Miss Gostrey and he, the image of the Babes in
the Wood; they could trust the merciful elements to let them continue at peace.
He had been great already, as he knew, at postponements; but he had only to get
afresh into the rhythm of one to feel its fine attraction. It amused him to say
to himself that he might for all the world have been going to die—die
resignedly; the scene was filled for him with so deep a death-bed hush, so
melancholy a charm. That meant the postponement of everything else—which
made so for the quiet lapse of life; and the postponement in especial of the
reckoning to come—unless indeed the reckoning to come were to be one and
the same thing with extinction. It faced him, the reckoning, over the shoulder
of much interposing experience—which also faced him; and one would float
to it doubtless duly through these caverns of Kubla Khan. It was really behind
everything; it hadn’t merged in what he had done; his final appreciation
of what he had done—his appreciation on the spot—would provide it
with its main sharpness. The spot so focussed was of course Woollett, and he
was to see, at the best, what Woollett would be with everything there changed
for him. Wouldn’t revelation practically amount to the
wind-up of his career? Well, the summer’s end would show; his suspense
had meanwhile exactly the sweetness of vain delay; and he had with it, we
should mention, other pastimes than Maria’s company—plenty of
separate musings in which his luxury failed him but at one point. He was well
in port, the outer sea behind him, and it was only a matter of getting ashore.
There was a question that came and went for him, however, as he rested against
the side of his ship, and it was a little to get rid of the obsession that he
prolonged his hours with Miss Gostrey. It was a question about himself, but it
could only be settled by seeing Chad again; it was indeed his principal reason
for wanting to see Chad. After that it wouldn’t signify—it was a
ghost that certain words would easily lay to rest. Only the young man must be
there to take the words. Once they were taken he wouldn’t have a question
left; none, that is, in connexion with this particular affair. It
wouldn’t then matter even to himself that he might now have been guilty
of speaking of what he had forfeited. That was the refinement of
his supreme scruple—he wished so to leave what he had forfeited out of
account. He wished not to do anything because he had missed something else,
because he was sore or sorry or impoverished, because he was maltreated or
desperate; he wished to do everything because he was lucid and quiet, just the
same for himself on all essential points as he had ever been. Thus it was that
while he virtually hung about for Chad he kept mutely putting it:
“You’ve been chucked, old boy; but what has that to do with
it?” It would have sickened him to feel vindictive.

These tints of feeling indeed were doubtless but the iridescence of his
idleness, and they were presently lost in a new light from Maria. She had a
fresh fact for him before the week was out, and she practically met him with it
on his appearing one night. He hadn’t on this day seen her, but had
planned presenting himself in due course to ask her to dine with him somewhere
out of doors, on one of the terraces, in one of the gardens, of which the Paris
of summer was profuse. It had then come on to rain, so that, disconcerted, he
changed his mind; dining alone at home, a little stuffily and stupidly, and
waiting on her afterwards to make up his loss. He was sure within a minute that
something had happened; it was so in the air of the rich little room that he
had scarcely to name his thought. Softly lighted, the whole colour of the
place, with its vague values, was in cool fusion—an effect that made the
visitor stand for a little agaze. It was as if in doing so now he had felt a
recent presence—his recognition of the passage of which his hostess in
turn divined. She had scarcely to say it—“Yes, she has been here,
and this time I received her.” It wasn’t till a minute later that
she added: “There being, as I understand you, no reason
—!”

“None for your refusing?”

“No—if you’ve done what you’ve had to do.”

“I’ve certainly so far done it,” Strether said, “as
that you needn’t fear the effect, or the appearance of coming between us.
There’s nothing between us now but what we ourselves have put there, and
not an inch of room for anything else whatever. Therefore you’re only
beautifully us as always—though doubtless now, if she has
talked to you, rather more with us than less. Of course if she came,” he
added, “it was to talk to you.”

“It was to talk to me,” Maria returned; on which he was further
sure that she was practically in possession of what he himself hadn’t yet
told her. He was even sure she was in possession of things he himself
couldn’t have told; for the consciousness of them was now all in her face
and accompanied there with a shade of sadness that marked in her the close of
all uncertainties. It came out for him more than ever yet that she had had from
the first a knowledge she believed him not to have had, a knowledge the sharp
acquisition of which might be destined to make a difference for him. The
difference for him might not inconceivably be an arrest of his independence and
a change in his attitude—in other words a revulsion in favour of the
principles of Woollett. She had really prefigured the possibility of a shock
that would send him swinging back to Mrs. Newsome. He hadn’t, it was
true, week after week, shown signs of receiving it, but the possibility had
been none the less in the air. What Maria accordingly had had now to take in
was that the shock had descended and that he hadn’t, all the same, swung
back. He had grown clear, in a flash, on a point long since settled for
herself; but no reapproximation to Mrs. Newsome had occurred in consequence.
Madame de Vionnet had by her visit held up the torch to these truths, and what
now lingered in poor Maria’s face was the somewhat smoky light of the
scene between them. If the light however wasn’t, as we have hinted, the
glow of joy, the reasons for this also were perhaps discernible to Strether
even through the blur cast over them by his natural modesty. She had held
herself for months with a firm hand; she hadn’t interfered on any
chance—and chances were specious enough—that she might interfere to
her profit. She had turned her back on the dream that Mrs. Newsome’s
rupture, their friend’s forfeiture—the engagement, the relation
itself, broken beyond all mending—might furnish forth her advantage; and,
to stay her hand from promoting these things, she had on private, difficult,
but rigid, lines, played strictly fair. She couldn’t therefore but feel
that, though, as the end of all, the facts in question had been stoutly
confirmed, her ground for personal, for what might have been called interested,
elation remained rather vague. Strether might easily have made out that she had
been asking herself, in the hours she had just sat through, if there were still
for her, or were only not, a fair shade of uncertainty. Let us hasten to add,
however, that what he at first made out on this occasion he also at first kept
to himself. He only asked what in particular Madame de Vionnet had come for,
and as to this his companion was ready.

“She wants tidings of Mr. Newsome, whom she appears not to have seen for
some days.”

“Then she hasn’t been away with him again?”

“She seemed to think,” Maria answered, “that he might have
gone away with .”

“And did you tell her I know nothing of him?”

She had her indulgent headshake. “I’ve known nothing of what you
know. I could only tell her I’d ask you.”

“Then I’ve not seen him for a week—and of course I’ve
wondered.” His wonderment showed at this moment as sharper, but he
presently went on. “Still, I dare say I can put my hand on him. Did she
strike you,” he asked, “as anxious?”

“She’s always anxious.”

“After all I’ve done for her?” And he had one of the last
flickers of his occasional mild mirth. “To think that was just what I
came out to prevent!”

She took it up but to reply. “You don’t regard him then as
safe?”

“I was just going to ask you how in that respect you regard Madame de
Vionnet.”

She looked at him a little. “What woman was safe? She told
me,” she added—and it was as if at the touch of the
connexion—“of your extraordinary meeting in the country. After that

“It was, as an accident, in all the possible or impossible
chapter,” Strether conceded, “amazing enough. But still, but
still—!”

“But still she didn’t mind?”

“She doesn’t mind anything.”

“Well, then, as you don’t either, we may all sink to rest!”

He appeared to agree with her, but he had his reservation. “I do mind
Chad’s disappearance.”

“Oh you’ll get him back. But now you know,” she said,
“why I went to Mentone.” He had sufficiently let her see that he
had by this time gathered things together, but there was nature in her wish to
make them clearer still. “I didn’t want you to put it to me.”

“To put it to you—?”

“The question of what you were at last—a week ago—to see for
yourself. I didn’t want to have to lie for her. I felt that to be too
much for me. A man of course is always expected to do it—to do it, I
mean, for a woman; but not a woman for another woman; unless perhaps on the
tit-for-tat principle, as an indirect way of protecting herself. I don’t
need protection, so that I was free to ‘funk’ you—simply to
dodge your test. The responsibility was too much for me. I gained time, and
when I came back the need of a test had blown over.”

Strether thought of it serenely. “Yes; when you came back little Bilham
had shown me what’s expected of a gentleman. Little Bilham had lied like
one.”

“And like what you believed him?”

“Well,” said Strether, “it was but a technical lie—he
classed the attachment as virtuous. That was a view for which there was much to
be said—and the virtue came out for me hugely There was of course a great
deal of it. I got it full in the face, and I haven’t, you see, done with
it yet.”

“What I see, what I saw,” Maria returned, “is that you
dressed up even the virtue. You were wonderful—you were beautiful, as
I’ve had the honour of telling you before; but, if you wish really to
know,” she sadly confessed, “I never quite knew you
were. There were moments,” she explained, “when you struck me as
grandly cynical; there were others when you struck me as grandly vague.”

Her friend considered. “I had phases. I had flights.”

“Yes, but things must have a basis.”

“A basis seemed to me just what her beauty supplied.”

“Her beauty of person?”

“Well, her beauty of everything. The impression she makes. She has such
variety and yet such harmony.”

She considered him with one of her deep returns of indulgence—returns out
of all proportion to the irritations they flooded over. “You’re
complete.”

“You’re always too personal,” he good-humouredly said;
“but that’s precisely how I wondered and wandered.”

“If you mean,” she went on, “that she was from the first for
you the most charming woman in the world, nothing’s more simple. Only
that was an odd foundation.”

“For what I reared on it?”

“For what you didn’t!”

“Well, it was all not a fixed quantity. And it had for me—it has
still—such elements of strangeness. Her greater age than his, her
different world, traditions, association; her other opportunities, liabilities,
standards.”

His friend listened with respect to his enumeration of these disparities; then
she disposed of them at a stroke. “Those things are nothing when a
woman’s hit. It’s very awful. She was hit.”

Strether, on his side, did justice to that plea. “Oh of course I saw she
was hit. That she was hit was what we were busy with; that she was hit was our
great affair. But somehow I couldn’t think of her as down in the dust.
And as put there by little Chad!”

“Yet wasn’t ‘your’ little Chad just your
miracle?”

Strether admitted it. “Of course I moved among miracles. It was all
phantasmagoric. But the great fact was that so much of it was none of my
business—as I saw my business. It isn’t even now.”

His companion turned away on this, and it might well have been yet again with
the sharpness of a fear of how little his philosophy could bring her
personally. “I wish could hear you!”

“Mrs. Newsome?”

“No—not Mrs. Newsome; since I understand you that it doesn’t
matter now what Mrs. Newsome hears. Hasn’t she heard everything?”

“Practically—yes.” He had thought a moment, but he went on.
“You wish Madame de Vionnet could hear me?”

“Madame de Vionnet.” She had come back to him. “She thinks
just the contrary of what you say. That you distinctly judge her.”

He turned over the scene as the two women thus placed together for him seemed
to give it. “She might have known—!”

“Might have known you don’t?” Miss Gostrey asked as he let it
drop. “She was sure of it at first,” she pursued as he said
nothing; “she took it for granted, at least, as any woman in her position
would. But after that she changed her mind; she believed you
believed—”

“Well?”—he was curious.

“Why in her sublimity. And that belief had remained with her, I make out,
till the accident of the other day opened your eyes. For that it did,”
said Maria, “open them—”

“She can’t help”—he had taken it up—“being
aware? No,” he mused; “I suppose she thinks of that even
yet.”

“Then they closed? There you are! However, if you see her as
the most charming woman in the world it comes to the same thing. And if
you’d like me to tell her that you do still so see her—!”
Miss Gostrey, in short, offered herself for service to the end.

It was an offer he could temporarily entertain; but he decided. “She
knows perfectly how I see her.”

“Not favourably enough, she mentioned to me, to wish ever to see her
again. She told me you had taken a final leave of her. She says you’ve
done with her.”

“So I have.”

Maria had a pause; then she spoke as if for conscience. “She
wouldn’t have done with . She feels she has lost you—yet
that she might have been better for you.”

“Oh she has been quite good enough!” Strether laughed.

“She thinks you and she might at any rate have been friends.”

“We might certainly. That’s just”—he continued to
laugh—“why I’m going.”

It was as if Maria could feel with this then at last that she had done her best
for each. But she had still an idea. “Shall I tell her that?”

“No. Tell her nothing.”

“Very well then.” To which in the next breath Miss Gostrey added:
“Poor dear thing!”

Her friend wondered; then with raised eyebrows: “Me?”

“Oh no. Marie de Vionnet.”

He accepted the correction, but he wondered still. “Are you so sorry for
her as that?”

It made her think a moment—made her even speak with a smile. But she
didn’t really retract. “I’m sorry for us all!”

IV

He was to delay no longer to re-establish communication with Chad, and we have
just seen that he had spoken to Miss Gostrey of this intention on hearing from
her of the young man’s absence. It was not moreover only the assurance so
given that prompted him; it was the need of causing his conduct to square with
another profession still—the motive he had described to her as his
sharpest for now getting away. If he was to get away because of some of the
relations involved in staying, the cold attitude toward them might look
pedantic in the light of lingering on. He must do both things; he must see
Chad, but he must go. The more he thought of the former of these duties the
more he felt himself make a subject of insistence of the latter. They were
alike intensely present to him as he sat in front of a quiet little café into
which he had dropped on quitting Maria’s entresol. The rain that had
spoiled his evening with her was over; for it was still to him as if his
evening been spoiled—though it mightn’t have been wholly
the rain. It was late when he left the café, yet not too late; he
couldn’t in any case go straight to bed, and he would walk round by the
Boulevard Malesherbes—rather far round—on his way home. Present
enough always was the small circumstance that had originally pressed for him
the spring of so big a difference—the accident of little Bilham’s
appearance on the balcony of the mystic troisième at the moment of his first
visit, and the effect of it on his sense of what was then before him. He
recalled his watch, his wait, and the recognition that had proceeded from the
young stranger, that had played frankly into the air and had presently brought
him up—things smoothing the way for his first straight step. He had since
had occasion, a few times, to pass the house without going in; but he had never
passed it without again feeling how it had then spoken to him. He stopped short
to-night on coming to sight of it: it was as if his last day were oddly copying
his first. The windows of Chad’s apartment were open to the
balcony—a pair of them lighted; and a figure that had come out and taken
up little Bilham’s attitude, a figure whose cigarette-spark he could see
leaned on the rail and looked down at him. It denoted however no reappearance
of his younger friend; it quickly defined itself in the tempered darkness as
Chad’s more solid shape; so that Chad’s was the attention that
after he had stepped forward into the street and signalled, he easily engaged;
Chad’s was the voice that, sounding into the night with promptness and
seemingly with joy, greeted him and called him up.

That the young man had been visible there just in this position expressed
somehow for Strether that, as Maria Gostrey had reported, he had been absent
and silent; and our friend drew breath on each landing—the lift, at that
hour, having ceased to work—before the implications of the fact. He had
been for a week intensely away, away to a distance and alone; but he was more
back than ever, and the attitude in which Strether had surprised him was
something more than a return—it was clearly a conscious surrender. He had
arrived but an hour before, from London, from Lucerne, from Homburg, from no
matter where—though the visitor’s fancy, on the staircase, liked to
fill it out; and after a bath, a talk with Baptiste and a supper of light cold
clever French things, which one could see the remains of there in the circle of
the lamp, pretty and ultra-Parisian, he had come into the air again for a
smoke, was occupied at the moment of Strether’s approach in what might
have been called taking up his life afresh. His life, his life!—Strether
paused anew, on the last flight, at this final rather breathless sense of what
Chad’s life was doing with Chad’s mother’s emissary. It was
dragging him, at strange hours, up the staircases of the rich; it was keeping
him out of bed at the end of long hot days; it was transforming beyond
recognition the simple, subtle, conveniently uniform thing that had anciently
passed with him for a life of his own. Why should it concern him that Chad was
to be fortified in the pleasant practice of smoking on balconies, of supping on
salads, of feeling his special conditions agreeably reaffirm themselves, of
finding reassurance in comparisons and contrasts? There was no answer to such a
question but that he was still practically committed—he had perhaps never
yet so much known it. It made him feel old, and he would buy his
railway-ticket—feeling, no doubt, older—the next day; but he had
meanwhile come up four flights, counting the entresol, at midnight and without
a lift, for Chad’s life. The young man, hearing him by this time, and
with Baptiste sent to rest, was already at the door; so that Strether had
before him in full visibility the cause in which he was labouring and even,
with the troisième fairly gained, panting a little.

Chad offered him, as always, a welcome in which the cordial and the
formal—so far as the formal was the respectful—handsomely met; and
after he had expressed a hope that he would let him put him up for the night
Strether was in full possession of the key, as it might have been called, to
what had lately happened. If he had just thought of himself as old Chad was at
sight of him thinking of him as older: he wanted to put him up for the night
just because he was ancient and weary. It could never be said the tenant of
these quarters wasn’t nice to him; a tenant who, if he might indeed now
keep him, was probably prepared to work it all still more thoroughly. Our
friend had in fact the impression that with the minimum of encouragement Chad
would propose to keep him indefinitely; an impression in the lap of which one
of his own possibilities seemed to sit. Madame de Vionnet had wished him to
stay—so why didn’t that happily fit? He could enshrine himself for
the rest of his days in his young host’s and
draw out these days at his young host’s expense: there could scarce be
greater logical expression of the countenance he had been moved to give. There
was literally a minute—it was strange enough—during which he
grasped the idea that as he acting, as he could only act, he was
inconsistent. The sign that the inward forces he had obeyed really hung
together would be that—in default always of another career—he
should promote the good cause by mounting guard on it. These things, during his
first minutes, came and went; but they were after all practically disposed of
as soon as he had mentioned his errand. He had come to say good-bye—yet
that was only a part; so that from the moment Chad accepted his farewell the
question of a more ideal affirmation gave way to something else. He proceeded
with the rest of his business. “You’ll be a brute, you
know—you’ll be guilty of the last infamy—if you ever forsake
her.”

That, uttered there at the solemn hour, uttered in the place that was full of
her influence, was the rest of his business; and when once he had heard himself
say it he felt that his message had never before been spoken. It placed his
present call immediately on solid ground, and the effect of it was to enable
him quite to play with what we have called the key. Chad showed no shade of
embarrassment, but had none the less been troubled for him after their meeting
in the country; had had fears and doubts on the subject of his comfort. He was
disturbed, as it were, only him, and had positively gone away to
ease him off, to let him down—if it wasn’t indeed rather to screw
him up—the more gently. Seeing him now fairly jaded he had come, with
characteristic good humour, all the way to meet him, and what Strether
thereupon supremely made out was that he would abound for him to the end in
conscientious assurances. This was what was between them while the visitor
remained; so far from having to go over old ground he found his entertainer
keen to agree to everything. It couldn’t be put too strongly for him that
he’d be a brute. “Oh rather!—if I should do anything of
sort. I hope you believe I really feel it.”

“I want it,” said Strether, “to be my last word of all to
you. I can’t say more, you know; and I don’t see how I can do more,
in every way, than I’ve done.”

Chad took this, almost artlessly, as a direct allusion. “You’ve
seen her?”

“Oh yes—to say good-bye. And if I had doubted the truth of what I
tell you—”

“She’d have cleared up your doubt?” Chad
understood—“rather”—again! It even kept him briefly
silent. But he made that up. “She must have been wonderful.”

“She ,” Strether candidly admitted—all of which
practically told as a reference to the conditions created by the accident of
the previous week.

They appeared for a little to be looking back at it; and that came out still
more in what Chad next said. “I don’t know what you’ve really
thought, all along; I never did know—for anything, with you, seemed to be
possible. But of course—of course—” Without confusion, quite
with nothing but indulgence, he broke down, he pulled up. “After all, you
understand. I spoke to you originally only as I to speak.
There’s only one way—isn’t there?—about such things.
However,” he smiled with a final philosophy, “I see it’s all
right.”

Strether met his eyes with a sense of multiplying thoughts. What was it that
made him at present, late at night and after journeys, so renewedly, so
substantially young? Strether saw in a moment what it was—it was that he
was younger again than Madame de Vionnet. He himself said immediately none of
the things that he was thinking; he said something quite different. “You
really been to a distance?”

“I’ve been to England.” Chad spoke cheerfully and promptly,
but gave no further account of it than to say: “One must sometimes get
off.”

Strether wanted no more facts—he only wanted to justify, as it were, his
question. “Of course you do as you’re free to do. But I hope, this
time, that you didn’t go for .”

“For very shame at bothering you really too much? My dear man,”
Chad laughed, “what I do for you?”

Strether’s easy answer for this was that it was a disposition he had
exactly come to profit by. “Even at the risk of being in your way
I’ve waited on, you know, for a definite reason.”

Chad took it in. “Oh yes—for us to make if possible a still better
impression.” And he stood there happily exhaling his full general
consciousness. “I’m delighted to gather that you feel we’ve
made it.”

There was a pleasant irony in the words, which his guest, preoccupied and
keeping to the point, didn’t take up. “If I had my sense of wanting
the rest of the time—the time of their being still on this side,”
he continued to explain—“I know now why I wanted it.”

He was as grave, as distinct, as a demonstrator before a blackboard, and Chad
continued to face him like an intelligent pupil. “You wanted to have been
put through the whole thing.”

Strether again, for a moment, said nothing; he turned his eyes away, and they
lost themselves, through the open window, in the dusky outer air. “I
shall learn from the Bank here where they’re now having their letters,
and my last word, which I shall write in the morning and which they’re
expecting as my ultimatum, will so immediately reach them.” The light of
his plural pronoun was sufficiently reflected in his companion’s face as
he again met it; and he completed his demonstration. He pursued indeed as if
for himself. “Of course I’ve first to justify what I shall
do.”

“You’re justifying it beautifully!” Chad declared.

“It’s not a question of advising you not to go,” Strether
said, “but of absolutely preventing you, if possible, from so much as
thinking of it. Let me accordingly appeal to you by all you hold sacred.”

Chad showed a surprise. “What makes you think me capable—?”

“You’d not only be, as I say, a brute; you’d be,” his
companion went on in the same way, “a criminal of the deepest dye.”

Chad gave a sharper look, as if to gauge a possible suspicion. “I
don’t know what should make you think I’m tired of her.”

Strether didn’t quite know either, and such impressions, for the
imaginative mind, were always too fine, too floating, to produce on the spot
their warrant. There was none the less for him, in the very manner of his
host’s allusion to satiety as a thinkable motive, a slight breath of the
ominous. “I feel how much more she can do