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Title: The Ambassadors
Author: James, Henry
Language: English
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The Ambassadors

by Henry James

 New York Edition (1909) 


 Volume I

 Book First
 Book Second
 Book Third
 Book Fourth
 Book Fifth
 Book Sixth

 Volume II

 Book Seventh
 Book Eighth
 Book Ninth
 Book Tenth
 Book Book Eleventh
 Book Twelfth


Nothing is more easy than to state the subject of “The Ambassadors,”
which first appeared in twelve numbers of _The North American Review_
(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 _as_ 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
_have_ 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 _was_ 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. _Would_ 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 _sees_; 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 _possibly_ 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 _beauty_ 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

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
_there_ 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 _predominance_ 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 _supreme_
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 _supplement_ 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.
_He_ 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 _process_—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 _his_ 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 _galère?_ 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
_in_ one—which was no small point gained; what next accordingly
concerned us was the determination of _this_ 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 _application_, 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
_situation_ 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 _as such_; 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
_allure_; 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 _steps_, 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. _The_ 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 _he_ 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 _does_ 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 _trivial_ 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 _bêtise_ 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 _in_ 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 _likely_
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
_him_; 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 _North American Review_
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 _a fortiori_ 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 _transposed_—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 _each other_ 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
_his_ 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 _them_
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 _him_, 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 _not_ 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 _fluidity_ 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 _her_ 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 _really_ 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 _ficelles_. 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 _ficelles_;
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

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 _looking_, 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 _all_ 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 _ficelle_ 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 _standard_ 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 _all that is in_ the

The “_ficelle_” 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 _expression_, 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, _with_ 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
_proportional_ 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.


Book First


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 _whom?_” 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

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 _you_ 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

“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 _is_; 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 _that?_”

“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 _me_. It has to
do with yourself. Your failure’s general.”

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

“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 _would_
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 _is_ 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 _have_ 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

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 _you_.”

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? _Will_ 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 _his_ part joyless.


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

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 _could_ 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 _was_ 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 _feel_ 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

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 _you_.”

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

“_I_ 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 _kind_ of country anyway. There ain’t a country I’ve seen over
here that _does_ 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.
“_Have_ 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 _is_
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 _you_. Only rather complicated.”

“Well,” said Waymarsh, who had waited again, “I _may_ 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 _can!_”

“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 _known_ 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 _her_. Is
Mrs. Newsome _over_ 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 _is_ 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 _will_ 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 _he_ 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 _will_ 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 _for_ 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, _I_ won’t marry you!”

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


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 _has_ 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

“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

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 _had_
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

“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 _my_ 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 _him_ 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 _I_ take—and I above all intend to
take—with Mr. Waymarsh.”

Strether thought. “About _me?_ 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

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 _be_ 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

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 _his_ 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

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

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

Book Second


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 _why_ 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 _had_
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 _was_
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 _this_ 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 _him_—than appeared probable in respect to

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 _you_ 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 _are_ sure: sure it won’t

“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

“I see. And _he_—?”

“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 _can_ 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


There was so much in the tone that Miss Gostrey had to devote another
pause to the appreciation of it. “And has he only _her?_ 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 _is_—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 _her_ beauty?”

“About everything.”

“But _you_ 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 _them?_”

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 _making_ 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 _you_ 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 _had_ 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 _me_—!”

“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 _me_ 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 _is_ 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

“Oh then,” laughed Strether, “I _don’t_ 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 _was_
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, _is_ 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 _him_
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. _Now_ 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? _The_ shame.”

“But where and when,” Strether asked, “is ‘_the_ 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 _her!_”

“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 _could_ talk of. You _don’t_ 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 _is_, in spite of
everything, handsome.”

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

“Well, I mean _you_.” 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

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

“Oh yes, she’s rather a swell!”

“A Woollett swell—_bon!_ 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

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 _is_ 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 _you_ don’t. Is it her _greatest_ 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 _do_ 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, _all_ 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 _never_ 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

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

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 _that!_”
After which however, and before he could protest, she was off again.
“She’s just a _moral_ 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

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

“What else _should_ 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

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

“Ah,” Miss Gostrey cynically laughed, “what a picture of _her!_ 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
_should_ 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 _you_ 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 _milieu_.”

“Oh his _milieu_—!” 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 _was_ a novelty. “Refined?”

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

The way of it made him, after looking at her, break into a laugh.
“_You_ 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, “_I’m_ 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 _can_ do it?”

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

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’

“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
_really_ 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

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

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 _you?_”

“They _don’t_—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 _any_ cover—avail you with _me_. You’re of a depth
of duplicity!” Still, she could in her own large grasp of the real
condone it. “Is Mamie a great _parti?_”

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

Miss Gostrey seemed to fix the poor child. “I know what they _can_ 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 _don’t_ 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 _any_ 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 _should_ 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 _do_ come. _Bon!_”
Once more she embraced it all, but she had a moment of thought. “Poor

“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. “_You’ll_ 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 _you!_” Strether bravely

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.”


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 _would_ 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 _were_ 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 _as_ 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

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 _for_: 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 _should_ 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
_in_ 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 _was_ 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, _could_ 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 _be_ 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 _his_ 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, _for_ 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 _would_ 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 _would_
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 _atelier_. 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 _had_ 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 _had_ 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. _Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat_—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 _not_ 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 _consommation_ 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 _was_ 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 _had_
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 _was_, 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 _porte-cochère_ of the house was like
consciously leaving Waymarsh out. However, he would tell him all about

Book Third


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 _had_—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

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—_to_

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 _do_ 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 _felt_ 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 _him_. “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 _going_ 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. _He’s_
very pleasant and curious too,” Strether added—“though he’s not from

Waymarsh looked already rather sick of him. “Where _is_ 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 _be_ from Boston. Why,” he continued, “is he curious?”

“Perhaps just for _that_—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 _can_ 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 _that?_” Then as Strether, silent,
seemed even yet to wonder, “Doesn’t he know what _she_ is?” he went on.

“_I_ 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 _them!_ I do know what _you_

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!_ 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 _me!_” 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.”

“_I_ 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, _that_
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

“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 _her_ 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 _must_ know her.

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 _succès fou_.”
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; _here_ already, for
instance, as you see.” He had been on the point of echoing “‘Here’?—is
_this_ 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 _me!_” 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 _was_ 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
_that!_” 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—_that_ 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, _with_ 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 _him_—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.


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

“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 _modus
vivendi_ 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 _them_. 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

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

“Isn’t there any one _with_ 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. _She_ 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 _dis_proves nothing. They may very well, you see, the people
your mission is concerned with, have done it _for_ 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 _everything_ before me. But on our hypothesis, you know, they
must be wonderful.”

“They _are!_” said Miss Gostrey. “You’re not therefore, you see,” she
added, “wholly without facts. They’ve _been_, 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 _is_ 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

“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 _he_ 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 _us!_” 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
_could_ 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 _you?_—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 _will_; 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 _that_ shape.”

“Ah,” Miss Gostrey sighed, “the name of the good American is as easily
given as taken away! What _is_ it, to begin with, to _be_ 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 _he_, 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 _might_ 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. _He_ 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

“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 _that’s_ 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 _is_—?”

“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 _had_ 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 _know_ that?”

“I do better. I see it. This was, before I met him, what I wondered
whether I _was_ 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. _We’ve_ 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 _is_ 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

“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

“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 _ouvreuse_, 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 _be_ 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 _case_ 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

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 _he_ 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 _was_ 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 _had_ 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,

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 _had_ 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 _bock_, he had brought out
the words themselves, was he sure, for that matter, that the present
would be saved.

Book Fourth


“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
_he_ 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 _that_ 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 _new_ 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 _fait accompli?_”—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 _was_ 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 _were_—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.”


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

“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 _was_ 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 _that_. It was ‘filling out’ enough to miss you as we

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?”


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 _have_ 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 _would_ 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 _has_ 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 _never_ 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 _that’s_ all
that’s the matter with you—!” It was _he_ 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
_are_ 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

“Oh perpetually.”

“And at great length?”

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

“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 _porte-cochère_, fixed him a moment. “It’s
more, my boy, than _you_ 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 _was_
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 _have_ 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 _hadn’t_ 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 _had_ 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.


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
_was_ 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

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
_to_. 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 _she_ 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, _did_
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 _he_
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 _her_ 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 _of_ 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, _tout bêtement_, 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—_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 _can_ 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 _will_ 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 _you_, 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 _him_. 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

“That’s exactly what _I_ 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 _don’t!_” 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 _is_ the woman?”

“_A_ woman. Some woman or other. It’s one of the things that _have_ to

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

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

“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 _her?_”

“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 _not_

“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

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 _was_—quite in
fact insisted on being—as good as he thought? It seemed somehow as if
he couldn’t _but_ 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 _had_ 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 _he_ 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 _that_ 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 _am?_ 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. “_Is_ there some woman? Of
whom he’s really afraid of course I mean—or who does with him what she

“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 _is_ 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.”

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

“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. _That_ 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

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

His companion matched his pause, but making it up with a quiet fulness.
“_Do_ 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

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

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

“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 _was_
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 _we_, 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? _Is_ 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 _any_ 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 _her_ 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 _that_ 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.”


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 _my_
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
_will_—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
_shall_ 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

“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
_were_ Polish. Yes,” he thought—“there might be joy in _that_.”

“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. _She’s_ 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? _I’m_ eighty, and I’m too
young. But perhaps the girl,” he continued, “_isn’t_ 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 _is_ 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
_not_ 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

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
_that!_ Your idea is that it can be virtuous—in any sense worthy of the
name—only if she’s _not_ free? But what does it become then,” he asked,
“for _her?_”

“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 _has_ been trying you—has been reporting on you to
these friends.”

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

“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 _them_—for _ces dames_. He has watched you, studied you,
liked you—and recognised that _they_ 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?”

“_I_ 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 _more?_”

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


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, _panem et circenses_. 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 _hôtels_ 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 _his_ knowledge. If he had said
to him on the instant what was uppermost he would have said: “_Have_ 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 _cher
confrère_; and then _gros bonnets_ 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 _femmes du monde_. You can fancy his history on
that side—I believe it’s fabulous: they _never_ 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 _I_ 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,
_femmes du monde?_”

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

“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 _is_ 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 _us_.”

“To us Americans you mean?”

“Oh no—he doesn’t know anything about _that_. 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 _she’s_ 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
_are_ 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 _is_ 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?”


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 _you_.”

“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. _Il faut en avoir_. I
always like to see you while you last. And I’ll tell you who _will_

“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 _that_

“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 _is_ 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, _en exil_; 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. _I_ 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 _femmes du monde_. “But Miss Barrace has a moral
distinction,” he kindly continued; speaking as if for Strether’s
benefit not less than for her own.

“_Have_ 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 _are_ 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

“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


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

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—_vous allez
voir_; 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 _you_, 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

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—_differed_
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 _was_
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 _femme du
monde?_ 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 _was_ hard—as if she would have
liked, all the same, to know him. “Oh yes, my dear, it’s all right,
it’s _me_; and who are _you_, 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

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—_him_ 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 _you_, 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 _have_ 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 _his_ place—well,
have had their abundant message for me, have just dropped _that_ 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 _do_ 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 _any_ 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 _my_ 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

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

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

“_Impayable_, 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, _in_ 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 _I_ 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

“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.


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 _ces dames_; 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 _ces dames_ 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 _you_,” 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 _she_ 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, _I’m_ 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

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

“No, I’m only going to abandon _her_. 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 _hôtels_; 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 _had_
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 _was_ 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. “_Ces gens-là_ 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 _her_, 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 _en province_, 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
_were_, 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 _he_
had. “I saw that,” said Miss Gostrey, “that night at the Français; it
came out for me in three minutes. I saw _her_—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

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

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

“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
_this_ sort.”

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

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

“For yourself—?”

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

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

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 _was_ 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 _would_ 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.

“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—_voyons!_—is
simply that you should let Madame de Vionnet know you, simply that you
should consent to know _her_. 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

“It _will_ 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 _did_ 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
_his_ 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 _her?_”

“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 _how_
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

“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. _Allez donc voir!_”

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


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 _boiseries_, 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 _him_, 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
_Revue_; 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 _Revue_? 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 _sabots_ 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
_all_ 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 _him_.”

Strether followed it; then with an abruptness of his own: “How much do
you like Chad?”

“Just as much as _that_—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 _you_.”

“Well,” she so far assented, “as you haven’t yet said you _won’t_ 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

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 _can_—?”

“Precisely,” she exclaimed—“you wonderful gentleman! I do judge—I
_have_ 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 _you_ 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

“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 _fact_ 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. _That’s_ 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, _any_ truth—about us all—that you see yourself. I leave it to

“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 _is_ 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 _us_.”

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 _you?_”

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

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
_did_ 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

“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 _you_—!”

“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.”


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
_petit salon_, 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 _jeune fille_—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

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
_now_—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 _petit
salon_, 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 _like_ 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 _he_, 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, _notre jeune homme_”: 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 _were_
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 _her_.
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. _Je suis tranquille!_”

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 _for_

He persisted in his candour. “‘For’ me—?”

“Oh, oh, oh!” cried Miss Barrace, who persisted in the opposite of that

“Well,” he acutely admitted, “she _is_ 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

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 _she_—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

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

“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 _that_ off. The wonder is their doing such things without

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 _that_ 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 _bien aimable_.”

“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 _all_ 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

“Oh but I don’t mean _you!_” 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. _That_ 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 _he_
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 _me_,” 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. “_What_ 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 _I’ve_ a life of my own. And I

“You haven’t?” She showed doubt, and her laugh confirmed it. “Oh, oh,

“No—not for myself. I seem to have a life only for other people.”

“Ah for them and _with_ 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
_her?_” It really made him wonder. “Nothing at all!”


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 _femme du
monde_ 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 _femme du monde_—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

“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 _me_. 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 _he_ 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. “_Do_ you make out that she has a sentiment? I mean for Mr.

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 _will?_” 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 _I_ did?”

“No—that’s not necessary. It will be enough if I know what I meant

“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 _me_. 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?”


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 _need_ 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—_is_ 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

“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 _won’t_.”

It was an appeal, of a sudden, and she took it in. “As a favour to

“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
_would_ 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 _could_ 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. _I’m_ 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, _nous
autres_, for anything. But she’s _too_ 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

“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 _not_
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 _really_ 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 _do_ 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 _these_ lines.
He must stir his stumps.”

“Is that,” little Bilham enquired, “what you were saying to Madame de

“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 _is_ 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

“Oh,” said little Bilham, “I don’t think that at that time you believed

“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 _might_ 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

“Yes, that’s the point,” said little Bilham. “It can’t be vulgar or
coarse. And, bless us and save us, it _isn’t!_ 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 _how_ 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 _do_ 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
_that_ 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

The young man at last looked away. “Then she does now care more than

“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 _you_ 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 _for_ us.”

“It strikes you accordingly then,” the young man threw out, “as for you
all to save _her?_”

“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 _she_ is, and the strength that comes from it. She
keeps _him_ 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 _is_ 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 _by_ removal; to win him over to _himself_ 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 _have_ won him over. He
does think it best. He has within a day or two again said to me as

“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, “_Can’t_, 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 _can_—some
thoroughly nice girl.”

Strether’s eyes, as they stood together, turned again to Jeanne. “Do
you mean _her?_”

His friend made a sudden strange face. “After being in love with her
mother? No.”

“But isn’t it exactly your idea that he _isn’t_ in love with her

His friend once more had a pause. “Well, he isn’t at any rate in love
with Jeanne.”

“I dare say not.”

“How _can_ 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—!”


“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


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

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 _would_ 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 _be_ 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

“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
_omelette aux tomates_, 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 _why_ 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 _was_ clearly better to suffer as a
sheep than as a lamb. One might as well perish by the sword as by

“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 _must_ 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. “_Aren’t_ 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 _femme
du monde_. “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

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

“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.”

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 _how_ 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 _me!_” 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

“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 _will_ 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? _Did_ 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 _your_ 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

“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 _you_.”

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

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 _could_ 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

She was leaning back now, but she fully faced him. “Well, let it come

“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 _is_ proof, yes”—she accepted the proposition. “But for myself,”
she added, “the question is what _you_ 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 _him_.”

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

Her face affected him as with an exquisite light. “You _will_ 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.


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 _salon de lecture_ 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. _Was_ 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 _with_ 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 _you!_” Chad generously protested.

“I beg your pardon—it _is_ 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. _Marchons, marchons!_” 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 _can_ bring me now,” Chad, from his sofa, reassuringly

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 _has_ 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

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 _her_ 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,” Chad obligingly and serenely repeated.

It made his companion take several more steps. “Then _you’re_ not

“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. _That’s_ 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 _you?_” Strether after an instant enquired.

“Certainly—the lone exile. And whom do you mean?” said Chad.

“Oh I mean _me_. 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

Chad continued to think. “Will she come if I do?”

“Quite possibly. But try, and you’ll see.”

“Why don’t _you_ 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 _me!_”

“Well—I see what you mean. I’m sure you’d behave beautifully but you
_don’t_ 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

“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
_me_ 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

“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

“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

“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 _should_ 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 _much_,” Strether asked, “do you want to see

“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
_she_ 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

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

“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.


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

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

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 _do_ 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 _he_ 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 _stopped_ 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

“All ready.”

“And sincerely—believing _you’d_ 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 _you_ 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

“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 _is_ clear you can toddle

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 _my_ muddle.”

Miss Gostrey more gravely wondered. “_She_ 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 _want_ 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 _do_ 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 _I_ 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

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
_are_ 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

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 _was_ 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

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 _really_ 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 _entresol_ 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 _entresol_,
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 _are_, 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 _she_ 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
_own_ 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

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 _I_ who was to see you

“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 _will_. 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
_am_, 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 _was_ 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 _might_ 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


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 _might_
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 _him_,
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

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 _this!_”

“Well, this is all right. She likes,” Chad comfortably remarked, “to be

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

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 _how_ 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 _she_, my dear fellow—I never saw her
more charming to any man. But you’ve got your extraordinary ideas.”

“Well, I _did_ 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 _that_, 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, _would_
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

“Oh well, with _her_ I’ll go,” said Chad good-humouredly. “I suppose
you’ll allow _that_.” 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 _has_—?”

“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 _does_ your mother think?” There was in this some sound of

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?”


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 _was_ 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 _her_ 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 _not_; 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 _were_ 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 _might_ 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
_might_ 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 _could_ 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

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 _him_ gave Strether a glow of pleasure. “I say, you
know, this _is_ about my shape, and if it hadn’t been for _you_—!” 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 _are_ 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 _this_ 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—_would_ 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 _that_ 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 _he_ 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 _was_ 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 _his_ 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, _was_ 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 _he_ 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 _him_ 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 _I_ 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 _am_ here too. I feel with _you_—oh you’ve been
grand, old man, and I’ve twigged—that it ain’t right to worry Chad. _I_
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 _will_ 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 _does_ 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 _had_ 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 _you_, 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 _all_ 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 _you!_” 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 _was_ 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.


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 _know_
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 _he_ 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 _could_ 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 _is_ 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 _like_ 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, _was_ 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 _do_
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

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
_me_, and he _has_, 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 _you_,” 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

“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

“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 _with_ 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 _me_. 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 _your_ 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 _I_ 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 _me_—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, _I’ve_ 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.

“_Comment donc_, he shares her with _you?_” she exclaimed in droll
stupefaction. “Take care you don’t have, before you go much further,
rather more of all _ces dames_ 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

“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 _my_ 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 _shall_ 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 _could_, 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 _me_ 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

“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 _did_ 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 _you_ 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 _such_
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 _can_
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. _I_ at least won’t take that from you.
Mademoiselle de Vionnet,” he explained, in considerable form, to Mrs.
Pocock, “_is_ pure perfection. Mademoiselle de Vionnet _is_ exquisite.”

It had been perhaps a little portentous, but “Ah?” Sarah simply

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 _too_ 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 _shall_ 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


“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 _parti pris_, 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 _he_ 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 _could_ be tormented—!

“But _why_ can you be?”—his companion was surprised at his use of the

“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 _she_ 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
_was_. The great question meanwhile was what Chad thought of his
sister; which was naturally ushered in by that of Sarah’s apprehension
of Chad. _That_ 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 _her_. “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 _is_ 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 _her_ 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

“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

“Yes, she _may_”—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 _he_ wants, heaven forgive
him, is to help us.”

“You mean”—she was eager—“help _me?_”

“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 _must_.”

“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

“Well, Chad’s the bigger man.”

“So he’ll work now, _en dessous_, to keep him quiet?”

“No—he won’t ‘work’ at all, and he won’t do anything _en dessous_. 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 _are_ 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 _that_ 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 _is_ too
late. Thanks to you!”

It drew from her again one of her indefinite reflexions. “Oh ‘me’—after

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. “_Will_ Mrs. Pocock come to me?”

“Oh yes—she’ll do that. As soon, that is, as my friend Waymarsh—_her_
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 _her_.”

“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 _you?_”

“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 _if_ he had—the whole place.”

“But for Mr. Waymarsh”—she recalled—“isn’t Miss Barrace before any one

He shook his head. “Miss Barrace is a _raffinée_, 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 _suffer!_” 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 _her_ 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 _will_ 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 _you_ 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

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 _their_ 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 _would_ 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

But she seemed doomed always to come back to doubt. “No one feels so
much as _you_. 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. “_You_ 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

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

“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 _must_ 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 _him_—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 _her?_”

“Ah naturally; everything did. But she’s pleased _comme tout_. 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 _vieille sagesse_. 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 _he_—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

“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 _me_.”

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

“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 _much_
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


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

“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 _me?_”—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 _you_ took Waymarsh and me to,
a family-bill.”

“Ah then may Mr. Chad enjoy it as _I_ 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 _they_ 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

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

“No—I think she finds she does. But that’s what I mean by so describing
her. It’s _if_ 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 _all_ splendid!” he
declared with a sudden strange sound of wistfulness and envy. “They’re
at least _happy_.”

“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 _me?_”

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 _that_—!”

“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 _is_” 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 _her_ 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 _he_ 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

“Of her being affected by it?”

“Of _his_ 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 _it_, 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 _his_ 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

He fairly blushed. “Then—if you know it—it’s ‘out’?”

“Don’t I often know things that are _not_ 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 _had_ 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

“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 _could_ 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 _is_ 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 _couldn’t_ care in that way. He _is_ 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 _used_ 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
_me_. 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 _that_ tent; and Jim _is_, frankly speaking, extremely

Maria stared. “And you in, you poor thing, for your evening with him?”

“Oh he’s all right for _me!_” Strether laughed. “Any one’s good enough
for _me_. 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 _is_ 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 _always_ 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!”


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
_him_—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 _him_ 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 _would_
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

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 _had_ 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 _had_ 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 _could_ 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 _was_ 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 _his_ 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
_but_ 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 _that_ 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

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 _be_ 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. _I_ don’t care,” Mamie laughed, “_what_ 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 _that_.”

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 _you?_”

“Oh that’s not necessary—it’s so much better he should be so with
_her_: 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 _you_ 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 _shall_ 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. _I_ shall

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


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 _cul-de-sac_. 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 _nuance_. The great _nuance_
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. _Would_ she
jump, could she, would _that_ 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 _should_ 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 _there_. 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 _seen_, 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

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

“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 _shall_—oh you’ll see! And yet,” he pursued the next
moment, “you _can_ 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 _not_ 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 _am_.”

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 _me_. 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

“Mademoiselle de Vionnet?” Well, Strether easily confessed it. “That, I
admit, was a vain image. _This_ 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 _her_.”

“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 _that_.”

“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—“_he_ doesn’t care whether you marry or not.
It’s as a convenience simply to my own plan _for_ him.”

“‘Simply’!”—and little Bilham’s concurrence was in itself a lively
comment. “Thank you. But I thought,” he continued, “you had exactly
_no_ 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. “_You_ 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 _is_ 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

“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

Strether lightly shook his head. “There I stop. Oh, odd as it may
appear to you, there _are_ 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
_had_ 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 _me_—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 _you_ 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 _save_ 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 _is_, 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 _was_ 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 _could_ 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. _That’s_ 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 _difficile_.”

Little Bilham tossed up his chin. “Of course she’s _difficile_—on any
lines! What else in the world _are_ our Mamies—the real, the right

“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

“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, _you’re_ not! _You_ 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

“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 _where_, 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, _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,
_my_ 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
_are_ 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 _is_ free from her chin up,” she mused; “and that _will_ 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

“That shows”—he was magnanimous—“that it’s something not in you, but in
one’s self. It’s _my_ 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 _did_ 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 _him_ 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 _me_, 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 _but_ heaven. For Sarah there’s only

“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 _I_ 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 _this_ 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 _are_ 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

But she gave it to him back. “It’s nothing to the way _you_ 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 _really_ 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 _him!_”

Strether’s face lighted again at the prospect. “It _will_ 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 _you_.”

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 _her!_” 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. “_She_ 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 _is_ 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.”

“Oh it _is_ 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.


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
_salle-à-manger_ 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 _had_
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 _he_
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 _because_ he was anxious there—it worked
out as for this reason that Waymarsh was so blooming. It was _his_ 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 _been_ 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 _you_ 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
_hasn’t_ 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 _for?_—to kill me?”

“She’s coming to be very _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 _porte-cochère_ 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 _him_. “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 _is_ 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 _be_ 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 _that_. Yes—Waymarsh just _did_ 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, “_but_—!” 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 _I_ 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 _me_: I’m in a
situation in which damage was some time ago discounted. Besides, _that_
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 _ought_ 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. “_Let_ 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.


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 _salon de lecture_ 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 _had_,
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 _was_, for
himself—but only of too many things; so she must choose the one she

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 _him_. 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 _him_; 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 _him?_”

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 _take_ 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 _her_.” 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 _us?_ 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, _how_ 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 _like_ 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
_thinking_ 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 _you’ve_ 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

“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 _me_: I’ve come to such a woman for a revelation? You
talk to me about ‘distinction’—_you_, 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

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 _call_ sufficient?
That of thinking this person here so far superior to her?”

He wondered again; he waited. “Ah dear Sarah, you must _leave_ 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 _we_ 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 _speak_ 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 _with_ 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—_that_ 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

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 _that_—!”

“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 _porte-cochère_ 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 _might_ 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 _was_ all at an end.

Book Eleventh

 [Note: In the 1909 New York Edition the following two chapters were
 placed in the reverse of the order appearing below. Since 1950, most
 scholars have agreed, because of the internal evidence of the two
 chapters, that an editorial error caused them to be printed in reverse
 order. This Etext, like other editions of the past four decades,
 corrects the apparent error.—Richard D. Hathaway, preparer of this
 electronic text]


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 _had_, 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 _could_ 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 _me_”—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 _did_ 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 _I_ 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 _me_, 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
_have_ 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

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 _really_ 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 _can’t_ go on as you are.”

“No,” Chad continued in the same way; “they won’t have it for a

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 _would_ have it for a moment.”

“Of course not—no real chance. But if they were willing to think there

“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 _is_
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 _me_.”

“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
_that_—!” Chad’s own remorse was as small.

This appeared almost all Strether wanted. “Isn’t your having seen them
for yourself then _the_ 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 _are_ 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

“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 _her_ 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 _my_ 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 _to_ 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 _us_.”
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

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 _I_ 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 _had_ 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
_you_ 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 _starve!_” 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 _me_. 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 _would_ 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 _me_—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, _that’s_ 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 _you_ 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 _have_ 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 _want_ 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: “_Do_ you?”

Chad kept for a time his attitude, but at last he looked up, and then
abruptly, “Jim _is_ 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 _now_
ready. You say you’ve ‘seen.’ Is what you’ve seen that you can’t

Chad gave him a strange smile—the nearest approach he had ever shown to
a troubled one. “Can’t you make me _not_ 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. “_Now_ 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 _you_.”

On which—though as if for an instant it had hung fire—Chad remarkably
replied: “Well, if they hate my good friend, _that_ 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 _gain_ 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 _rather_—!” 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.


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

“Well,” said Strether, “say then for _me_. He’ll do anything for me;
just as I will, for that matter—anything I can—for him. Or for Mamie
either. _She’ll_ do anything for me.”

Miss Gostrey gave a comprehensive sigh. “The way you reduce people to

“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 _marry_ for

“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 _that_. 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

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 _her_ 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 _will_, 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. “_I_ 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 _let_ 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 _do_ you ask?”

“To show you how I miss you when you’re not here, and what it does for

“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.



“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

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. “_You_,” he
handsomely declared, “would have had me at any rate _with_ 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

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 _lingère_ 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, _has_ 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 _you_ 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 _me_.”

“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 _hadn’t_ 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 _he_ 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 _am_ 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 _will_ 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

“Of course,” Strether conceded, “my attitude toward them is

“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, “_would_ 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 _is_ 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
_all_, 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 _him_ 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

“As seen Mrs. Newsome?”

“No, Sarah—which, both for Chad and for myself, has served all the

“And served it in a manner,” she responsively mused, “so

“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 _her_.
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 _only_ 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 _that_ 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

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 _my_
being! Naturally,” she added, “you came over more or less for

“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 _her_.”

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

But her friend threw back his head. “I haven’t touched her. She won’t
_be_ 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 _any_ 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

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 _had_ 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?”

“_She_ 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 _don’t_
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 _you_ 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 _my_ case. Oh
you _have_,” 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—_has_
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.”


“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

“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 _I_ 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 _he_ 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 _are_ 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

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 _she_ has.”

At this, however, with a laugh, he was all right again. “Ah but she
hasn’t done it yet!”


He had taken the train a few days after this from a station—as well as
_to_ 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 _would_
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 _banlieue_; 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 _carriole_ 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 _really_ 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,
_more_ 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 _had_ 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 _auberge_ 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 _bock_, 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 _côtelette
de veau à l’oseille_ 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 _the thing_, 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 _these_ 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
_agrément_ of the river.

It may be mentioned without delay that Monsieur had the _agrément_ 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.


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, _trying_ 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 _he_ 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 _invraisemblance_ 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 _là-bas_, 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 “_Comme cela se
trouve!_” 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 _was_ 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 _were_, 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 _that_ 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 _lie_ 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 _carriole_ 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

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 _could_ 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 _like_ 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 _he_ 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


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 _petit bleu_ 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 _petit bleu_ just
where he had stopped, in the pleasant cool draught of the
_porte-cochère_—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
_petit bleu_—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 _Postes et Télégraphes_—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 _Postes et Télégraphes_ 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. _That_ 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 _salon de lecture_, 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 _look_ 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
_she_ 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
_corps de logis_ 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
_all_ 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
_would_ 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.


“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 _was_ 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 _all_—!

“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 _am_ 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 _do_ 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, _need_ 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 _must_. 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 _is_ 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 _take_. 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!”

“_You_ 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 _are_, 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, _not_ 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 _am_ 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 _him_, 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 _were_ 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 _he_, 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 _am_,
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 _not_
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
_is_ of course the use? It’s only my little madness. You’d talk if you
were tormented. And I don’t mean now about _him_. 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 _might_,” she added.
“What you perhaps even did.”

He gained time. “What I did—?”

“Did think before. Before this. _Didn’t_ 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 _too_ 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 _now_ 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 _will_; 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 _you_,” 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 _me_,” 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 _had_ me!” he declared, at the door, with an emphasis
that made an end.


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 _bateau-mouche_, 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 _that_ 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 _because_ 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 _now_—!”

“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 _with_ 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 _you_.”

“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

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

She looked at him a little. “What woman was _ever_ 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 _à quoi se fier?_”

“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 _where_ 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

“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 _our_ 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 _she_ 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 _were_ 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 _you_. 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

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!”


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
_had_ 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 _chambre d’ami_ 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 _was_ 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 _for_ 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 _that_ 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

“Oh yes—to say good-bye. And if I had doubted the truth of what I tell

“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

“She _was_,” 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 _had_ 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 _have_ 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 _me_.”

“For very shame at bothering you really too much? My dear man,” Chad
laughed, “what _wouldn’t_ 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 for you. She
hasn’t done it all yet. Stay with her at least till she has.”

“And leave her _then?_”

Chad had kept smiling, but its effect in Strether was a shade of
dryness. “Don’t leave her _before_. When you’ve got all that can be
got—I don’t say,” he added a trifle grimly. “That will be the proper
time. But as, for you, from such a woman, there will always be
something to be got, my remark’s not a wrong to her.” Chad let him go
on, showing every decent deference, showing perhaps also a candid
curiosity for this sharper accent. “I remember you, you know, as you

“An awful ass, wasn’t I?”

The response was as prompt as if he had pressed a spring; it had a
ready abundance at which he even winced; so that he took a moment to
meet it. “You certainly then wouldn’t have seemed worth all you’ve let
me in for. You’ve defined yourself better. Your value has quintupled.”

“Well then, wouldn’t that be enough—?”

Chad had risked it jocosely, but Strether remained blank. “Enough?”

“If one _should_ wish to live on one’s accumulations?” After which,
however, as his friend appeared cold to the joke, the young man as
easily dropped it. “Of course I really never forget, night or day, what
I owe her. I owe her everything. I give you my word of honour,” he
frankly rang out, “that I’m not a bit tired of her.” Strether at this
only gave him a stare: the way youth could express itself was again and
again a wonder. He meant no harm, though he might after all be capable
of much; yet he spoke of being “tired” of her almost as he might have
spoken of being tired of roast mutton for dinner. “She has never for a
moment yet bored me—never been wanting, as the cleverest women
sometimes are, in tact. She has never talked about her tact—as even
they too sometimes talk; but she has always had it. She has never had
it more”—he handsomely made the point—“than just lately.” And he
scrupulously went further. “She has never been anything I could call a

Strether for a moment said nothing; then he spoke gravely, with his
shade of dryness deepened. “Oh if you didn’t do her justice—!”

“I _should_ be a beast, eh?”

Strether devoted no time to saying what he would be; _that_, visibly,
would take them far. If there was nothing for it but to repeat,
however, repetition was no mistake. “You owe her everything—very much
more than she can ever owe you. You’ve in other words duties to her, of
the most positive sort; and I don’t see what other duties—as the others
are presented to you—can be held to go before them.”

Chad looked at him with a smile. “And you know of course about the
others, eh?—since it’s you yourself who have done the presenting.”

“Much of it—yes—and to the best of my ability. But not all—from the
moment your sister took my place.”

“She didn’t,” Chad returned. “Sally took a place, certainly; but it was
never, I saw from the first moment, to be yours. No one—with us—will
ever take yours. It wouldn’t be possible.”

“Ah of course,” sighed Strether, “I knew it. I believe you’re right. No
one in the world, I imagine, was ever so portentously solemn. There I
am,” he added with another sigh, as if weary enough, on occasion, of
this truth. “I was made so.”

Chad appeared for a little to consider the way he was made; he might
for this purpose have measured him up and down. His conclusion favoured
the fact. “_You_ have never needed any one to make you better. There
has never been any one good enough. They couldn’t,” the young man

His friend hesitated. “I beg your pardon. They _have_.”

Chad showed, not without amusement, his doubt. “Who then?”

Strether—though a little dimly—smiled at him. “Women—too.”

“‘Two’?”—Chad stared and laughed. “Oh I don’t believe, for such work,
in any more than one! So you’re proving too much. And what _is_
beastly, at all events,” he added, “is losing you.”

Strether had set himself in motion for departure, but at this he
paused. “Are you afraid?”


“Of doing wrong. I mean away from my eye.” Before Chad could speak,
however, he had taken himself up. “I _am_, certainly,” he laughed,

“Yes, you spoil us for all the stupid—!” This might have been, on
Chad’s part, in its extreme emphasis, almost too freely extravagant;
but it was full, plainly enough, of the intention of comfort, it
carried with it a protest against doubt and a promise, positively, of
performance. Picking up a hat in the vestibule he came out with his
friend, came downstairs, took his arm, affectionately, as to help and
guide him, treating him if not exactly as aged and infirm, yet as a
noble eccentric who appealed to tenderness, and keeping on with him,
while they walked, to the next corner and the next. “You needn’t tell
me, you needn’t tell me!”—this again as they proceeded, he wished to
make Strether feel. What he needn’t tell him was now at last, in the
geniality of separation, anything at all it concerned him to know. He
knew, up to the hilt—that really came over Chad; he understood, felt,
recorded his vow; and they lingered on it as they had lingered in their
walk to Strether’s hotel the night of their first meeting. The latter
took, at this hour, all he could get; he had given all he had had to
give; he was as depleted as if he had spent his last sou. But there was
just one thing for which, before they broke off, Chad seemed disposed
slightly to bargain. His companion needn’t, as he said, tell him, but
he might himself mention that he had been getting some news of the art
of advertisement. He came out quite suddenly with this announcement
while Strether wondered if his revived interest were what had taken
him, with strange inconsequence, over to London. He appeared at all
events to have been looking into the question and had encountered a
revelation. Advertising scientifically worked presented itself thus as
the great new force. “It really does the thing, you know.”

They were face to face under the street-lamp as they had been the first
night, and Strether, no doubt, looked blank. “Affects, you mean, the
sale of the object advertised?”

“Yes—but affects it extraordinarily; really beyond what one had
supposed. I mean of course when it’s done as one makes out that in our
roaring age, it _can_ be done. I’ve been finding out a little, though
it doubtless doesn’t amount to much more than what you originally, so
awfully vividly—and all, very nearly, that first night—put before me.
It’s an art like another, and infinite like all the arts.” He went on
as if for the joke of it—almost as if his friend’s face amused him. “In
the hands, naturally, of a master. The right man must take hold. With
the right man to work it _c’est un monde_.”

Strether had watched him quite as if, there on the pavement without a
pretext, he had begun to dance a fancy step. “Is what you’re thinking
of that you yourself, in the case you have in mind, would be the right

Chad had thrown back his light coat and thrust each of his thumbs into
an armhole of his waistcoat; in which position his fingers played up
and down. “Why, what is he but what you yourself, as I say, took me for
when you first came out?”

Strether felt a little faint, but he coerced his attention. “Oh yes,
and there’s no doubt that, with your natural parts, you’d have much in
common with him. Advertising is clearly at this time of day the secret
of trade. It’s quite possible it will be open to you—giving the whole
of your mind to it—to make the whole place hum with you. Your mother’s
appeal is to the whole of your mind, and that’s exactly the strength of
her case.”

Chad’s fingers continued to twiddle, but he had something of a drop.
“Ah we’ve been through my mother’s case!”

“So I thought. Why then do you speak of the matter?”

“Only because it was part of our original discussion. To wind up where
we began, my interest’s purely platonic. There at any rate the fact
is—the fact of the possible. I mean the money in it.”

“Oh damn the money in it!” said Strether. And then as the young man’s
fixed smile seemed to shine out more strange: “Shall you give your
friend up for the money in it?”

Chad preserved his handsome grimace as well as the rest of his
attitude. “You’re not altogether—in your so great ‘solemnity’—kind.
Haven’t I been drinking you in—showing you all I feel you’re worth to
me? What have I done, what am I doing, but cleave to her to the death?
The only thing is,” he good-humouredly explained, “that one can’t but
have it before one, in the cleaving—the point where the death comes in.
Don’t be afraid for _that_. It’s pleasant to a fellow’s feelings,” he
developed, “to ‘size-up’ the bribe he applies his foot to.”

“Oh then if all you want’s a kickable surface the bribe’s enormous.”

“Good. Then there it goes!” Chad administered his kick with fantastic
force and sent an imaginary object flying. It was accordingly as if
they were once more rid of the question and could come back to what
really concerned him. “Of course I shall see you tomorrow.”

But Strether scarce heeded the plan proposed for this; he had still the
impression—not the slighter for the simulated kick—of an irrelevant
hornpipe or jig. “You’re restless.”

“Ah,” returned Chad as they parted, “you’re exciting.”


He had, however, within two days, another separation to face. He had
sent Maria Gostrey a word early, by hand, to ask if he might come to
breakfast; in consequence of which, at noon, she awaited him in the
cool shade of her little Dutch-looking dining-room. This retreat was at
the back of the house, with a view of a scrap of old garden that had
been saved from modern ravage; and though he had on more than one other
occasion had his legs under its small and peculiarly polished table of
hospitality, the place had never before struck him as so sacred to
pleasant knowledge, to intimate charm, to antique order, to a neatness
that was almost august. To sit there was, as he had told his hostess
before, to see life reflected for the time in ideally kept pewter;
which was somehow becoming, improving to life, so that one’s eyes were
held and comforted. Strether’s were comforted at all events now—and the
more that it was the last time—with the charming effect, on the board
bare of a cloth and proud of its perfect surface, of the small old
crockery and old silver, matched by the more substantial pieces happily
disposed about the room. The specimens of vivid Delf, in particular had
the dignity of family portraits; and it was in the midst of them that
our friend resignedly expressed himself. He spoke even with a certain
philosophic humour. “There’s nothing more to wait for; I seem to have
done a good day’s work. I’ve let them have it all round. I’ve seen
Chad, who has been to London and come back. He tells me I’m ‘exciting,’
and I seem indeed pretty well to have upset every one. I’ve at any rate
excited _him_. He’s distinctly restless.”

“You’ve excited _me_,” Miss Gostrey smiled. “_I’m_ distinctly

“Oh you were that when I found you. It seems to me I’ve rather got you
out of it. What’s this,” he asked as he looked about him, “but a haunt
of ancient peace?”

“I wish with all my heart,” she presently replied, “I could make you
treat it as a haven of rest.” On which they fronted each other, across
the table, as if things unuttered were in the air.

Strether seemed, in his way, when he next spoke, to take some of them
up. “It wouldn’t give me—that would be the trouble—what it will, no
doubt, still give you. I’m not,” he explained, leaning back in his
chair, but with his eyes on a small ripe round melon—“in real harmony
with what surrounds me. You _are_. I take it too hard. You _don’t_. It
makes—that’s what it comes to in the end—a fool of me.” Then at a
tangent, “What has he been doing in London?” he demanded.

“Ah one may go to London,” Maria laughed. “You know _I_ did.”

Yes—he took the reminder. “And you brought _me_ back.” He brooded there
opposite to her, but without gloom. “Whom has Chad brought? He’s full
of ideas. And I wrote to Sarah,” he added, “the first thing this
morning. So I’m square. I’m ready for them.”

She neglected certain parts of this speech in the interest of others.
“Marie said to me the other day that she felt him to have the makings
of an immense man of business.”

“There it is. He’s the son of his father!”

“But _such_ a father!”

“Ah just the right one from that point of view! But it isn’t his father
in him,” Strether added, “that troubles me.”

“What is it then?” He came back to his breakfast; he partook presently
of the charming melon, which she liberally cut for him; and it was only
after this that he met her question. Then moreover it was but to remark
that he’d answer her presently. She waited, she watched, she served him
and amused him, and it was perhaps with this last idea that she soon
reminded him of his having never even yet named to her the article
produced at Woollett. “Do you remember our talking of it in London—that
night at the play?” Before he could say yes, however, she had put it to
him for other matters. Did he remember, did he remember—this and that
of their first days? He remembered everything, bringing up with humour
even things of which she professed no recollection, things she
vehemently denied; and falling back above all on the great interest of
their early time, the curiosity felt by both of them as to where he
would “come out.” They had so assumed it was to be in some wonderful
place—they had thought of it as so very _much_ out. Well, that was
doubtless what it had been—since he had come out just there. He was
out, in truth, as far as it was possible to be, and must now rather
bethink himself of getting in again. He found on the spot the image of
his recent history; he was like one of the figures of the old clock at
Berne. _They_ came out, on one side, at their hour, jigged along their
little course in the public eye, and went in on the other side. He too
had jigged his little course—him too a modest retreat awaited. He
offered now, should she really like to know, to name the great product
of Woollett. It would be a great commentary on everything. At this she
stopped him off; she not only had no wish to know, but she wouldn’t
know for the world. She had done with the products of Woollett—for all
the good she had got from them. She desired no further news of them,
and she mentioned that Madame de Vionnet herself had, to her knowledge,
lived exempt from the information he was ready to supply. She had never
consented to receive it, though she would have taken it, under stress,
from Mrs. Pocock. But it was a matter about which Mrs. Pocock appeared
to have had little to say—never sounding the word—and it didn’t signify
now. There was nothing clearly for Maria Gostrey that signified
now—save one sharp point, that is, to which she came in time. “I don’t
know whether it’s before you as a possibility that, left to himself,
Mr. Chad may after all go back. I judge that it _is_ more or less so
before you, from what you just now said of him.”

Her guest had his eyes on her, kindly but attentively, as if foreseeing
what was to follow this. “I don’t think it will be for the money.” And
then as she seemed uncertain: “I mean I don’t believe it will be for
that he’ll give her up.”

“Then he _will_ give her up?”

Strether waited a moment, rather slow and deliberate now, drawing out a
little this last soft stage, pleading with her in various suggestive
and unspoken ways for patience and understanding. “What were you just
about to ask me?”

“Is there anything he can do that would make you patch it up?”

“With Mrs. Newsome?”

Her assent, as if she had had a delicacy about sounding the name, was
only in her face; but she added with it: “Or is there anything he can
do that would make _her_ try it?”

“To patch it up with me?” His answer came at last in a conclusive
headshake. “There’s nothing any one can do. It’s over. Over for both of

Maria wondered, seemed a little to doubt. “Are you so sure for her?”

“Oh yes—sure now. Too much has happened. I’m different for her.”

She took it in then, drawing a deeper breath. “I see. So that as she’s
different for _you_—”

“Ah but,” he interrupted, “she’s not.” And as Miss Gostrey wondered
again: “She’s the same. She’s more than ever the same. But I do what I
didn’t before—I _see_ her.”

He spoke gravely and as if responsibly—since he had to pronounce; and
the effect of it was slightly solemn, so that she simply exclaimed
“Oh!” Satisfied and grateful, however, she showed in her own next words
an acceptance of his statement. “What then do you go home to?”

He had pushed his plate a little away, occupied with another side of
the matter; taking refuge verily in that side and feeling so moved that
he soon found himself on his feet. He was affected in advance by what
he believed might come from her, and he would have liked to forestall
it and deal with it tenderly; yet in the presence of it he wished still
more to be—though as smoothly as possible—deterrent and conclusive. He
put her question by for the moment; he told her more about Chad. “It
would have been impossible to meet me more than he did last night on
the question of the infamy of not sticking to her.”

“Is that what you called it for him—‘infamy’?”

“Oh rather! I described to him in detail the base creature he’d be, and
he quite agrees with me about it.”

“So that it’s really as if you had nailed him?”

“Quite really as if—! I told him I should curse him.”

“Oh,” she smiled, “you _have_ done it.” And then having thought again:
“You _can’t_ after that propose—!” Yet she scanned his face.

“Propose again to Mrs. Newsome?”

She hesitated afresh, but she brought it out. “I’ve never believed, you
know, that you did propose. I always believed it was really she—and, so
far as that goes, I can understand it. What I mean is,” she explained,
“that with such a spirit—the spirit of curses!—your breach is past
mending. She has only to know what you’ve done to him never again to
raise a finger.”

“I’ve done,” said Strether, “what I could—one can’t do more. He
protests his devotion and his horror. But I’m not sure I’ve saved him.
He protests too much. He asks how one can dream of his being tired. But
he has all life before him.”

Maria saw what he meant. “He’s formed to please.”

“And it’s our friend who has formed him.” Strether felt in it the
strange irony.

“So it’s scarcely his fault!”

“It’s at any rate his danger. I mean,” said Strether, “it’s hers. But
she knows it.”

“Yes, she knows it. And is your idea,” Miss Gostrey asked, “that there
was some other woman in London?”

“Yes. No. That is I _have_ no ideas. I’m afraid of them. I’ve done with
them.” And he put out his hand to her. “Good-bye.”

It brought her back to her unanswered question. “To what do you go

“I don’t know. There will always be something.”

“To a great difference,” she said as she kept his hand.

“A great difference—no doubt. Yet I shall see what I can make of it.”

“Shall you make anything so good—?” But, as if remembering what Mrs.
Newsome had done, it was as far as she went.

He had sufficiently understood. “So good as this place at this moment?
So good as what _you_ make of everything you touch?” He took a moment
to say, for, really and truly, what stood about him there in her
offer—which was as the offer of exquisite service, of lightened care,
for the rest of his days—might well have tempted. It built him softly
round, it roofed him warmly over, it rested, all so firm, on selection.
And what ruled selection was beauty and knowledge. It was awkward, it
was almost stupid, not to seem to prize such things; yet, none the
less, so far as they made his opportunity they made it only for a
moment. She’d moreover understand—she always understood.

That indeed might be, but meanwhile she was going on. “There’s nothing,
you know, I wouldn’t do for you.”

“Oh yes—I know.”

“There’s nothing,” she repeated, “in all the world.”

“I know. I know. But all the same I must go.” He had got it at last.
“To be right.”

“To be right?”

She had echoed it in vague deprecation, but he felt it already clear
for her. “That, you see, is my only logic. Not, out of the whole
affair, to have got anything for myself.”

She thought. “But with your wonderful impressions you’ll have got a
great deal.”

“A great deal”—he agreed. “But nothing like _you_. It’s you who would
make me wrong!”

Honest and fine, she couldn’t greatly pretend she didn’t see it. Still
she could pretend just a little. “But why should you be so dreadfully

“That’s the way that—if I must go—you yourself would be the first to
want me. And I can’t do anything else.”

So then she had to take it, though still with her defeated protest. “It
isn’t so much your _being_ ‘right’—it’s your horrible sharp eye for
what makes you so.”

“Oh but you’re just as bad yourself. You can’t resist me when I point
that out.”

She sighed it at last all comically, all tragically, away. “I can’t
indeed resist you.”

“Then there we are!” said Strether.

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