Part 3 out of 9
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
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 DISproves 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,
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
"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
"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 aesthetic 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 Francais 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
"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
"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
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 conspiracy?"
"Between the two young men? Well, I don't pretend to be a seer or
a prophetess," she presently replied; "but if I'm simply a woman
of sense he's working for you to-night. I don't quite know how--
but it's in my bones." And she looked at him at last as if, little
material as she yet gave him, he'd really understand. "For an
opinion 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--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
He spoke as if he had just been thinking it out. "Well, quite
already in Chad's hands, it would seem." And he had had with this
another thought. "Will that be--just all through Bilham--the way
he's going to work it? It would be, for him, you know, an idea.
And Chad with an idea--!"
"Well?" she asked while the image held him.
"Well, is Chad--what shall I say?--monstrous?"
"Oh as much as you like! But the idea you speak of," she said,
"won't have been his best. He'll have a better. It won't be all
through little Bilham that he'll work it."
This already sounded almost like a hope destroyed. "Through whom
"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
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
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 predicament.
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
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 cafe in the Avenue de l'Opera. 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.
"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 aesthetic 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 critics 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
"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
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 did."
But Chad rather oddly insisted, though under the high lamp at
their corner, where they paused, he had at first looked as if
touched by Strether's allusion to the long sense, at home, of his
absence. "What I mean is you must have imagined."
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
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
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
This appeared to open for Chad a new interest. "How often do you
"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-cochere, 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 ignorance.
He had always had a notion that this last was the grand style of
fighting; the greater therefore the reason for it, as he couldn't
remember that he had ever before fought in the grand style. Every
one, according to this, knew Miss Gostrey: how came it Chad didn't
know her? The difficulty, the impossibility, was really to escape
it; Strether put on him, by what he took for granted, the burden
of proof of the contrary. This tone was so far successful as that
Chad quite appeared to recognise her as a person whose fame had
reached him, but against his acquaintance with whom much mischance
had worked. He made the point at the same time that his social
relations, such as they could be called, were perhaps not to the
extent Strether supposed with the rising flood of their
compatriots. He hinted at his having more and more given way to a
different principle of selection; the moral of which seemed to be
that he went about little in the "colony." For the moment
certainly he had quite another interest. It was deep, what he
understood, and Strether, for himself, could only so observe it.
He couldn't see as yet how deep. Might he not all too soon! For
there was really too much of their question that Chad had already
committed himself to liking. He liked, to begin with, his
prospective stepfather; which was distinctly what had not been on
the cards. His hating him was the untowardness for which Strether
had been best prepared; he hadn't expected the boy's actual form
to give him more to do than his imputed. It gave him more through
suggesting that he must somehow make up to himself for not being
sure he was sufficiently disagreeable. That had really been
present to him as his only way to be sure he was sufficiently
thorough. The point was that if Chad's tolerance of his
thoroughness were insincere, were but the best of devices for
gaining time, it none the less did treat everything as tacitly
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. [sic]
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
betement, 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 counted."
"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
"Then why does he deny her?"
Miss Gostrey thought a moment. "Because she's too good to admit!
Don't you see," she went on, "how she accounts for him?"
Strether clearly, more and more, did see; yet it made him also see
other things. "But isn't what we want that he shall account for
"Well, he does. What you have before you is his way. You must
forgive him if it isn't quite outspoken. In Paris such debts are
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
"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
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
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
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 troisieme, 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 cafe 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 coupe lined, by what
Strether could make out, with dark blue brocade? He himself had
never been whirled away--never at least in a coupe 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 likes."
"It's awfully charming of you," Bilham presently remarked, "not to
have asked me that before."
"Oh I'm not fit for my job!"
The exclamation had escaped our friend, but it made little Bilham
more deliberate. "Chad's a rare case!" he luminously observed.
"He's awfully changed," he added.
"Then you see it too?"
"The way he has improved? Oh yes--I think every one must see it.
But I'm not sure," said little Bilham, "that I didn't like him
about as well in his other state."
"Then this 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
"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 good."
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
"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 comer. There our friend had kept it up.
"Why isn't he free if he's good?"
Little Bilham looked him full in the face. "Because it's a
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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 ALL?"
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 et 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,