Part 5 out of 9
moment she had understood; though indeed not before Strether had
noticed her momentary mistake and wondered what might possibly be
behind that too. He already knew that the sculptor admired Madame
de Vionnet; but did this admiration also represent an attachment of
which the innocence was discussable? He was moving verily in a
strange air and on ground not of the firmest. He looked hard for an
instant at Miss Barrace, but she had already gone on. "All right
with Mr. Newsome? Why of course she is!"--and she got gaily back
to the question of her own good friend. "I dare say you're
surprised that I'm not worn out with all I see--it being so much!--
of Sitting Bull. But I'm not, you know--I don't mind him; I bear
up, and we get on beautifully. I'm very strange; I'm like that; and
often I can't explain. There are people who are supposed
interesting or remarkable or whatever, and who bore me to death;
and then there are others as to whom nobody can understand what
anybody sees in them--in whom I see no end of things." Then after
she had smoked a moment, "He's touching, you know," she said.
"'Know'?" Strether echoed--"don't I, indeed? We must move you
almost to tears."
"Oh but I don't mean YOU!" she laughed.
"You ought to then, for the worst sign of all--as I must have it
for you--is that you can't help me. That's when a woman pities."
"Ah but I do help you!" she cheerfully insisted.
Again he looked at her hard, and then after a pause: "No you
Her tortoise-shell, on its long chain, rattled down. "I help you
with Sitting Bull. That's a good deal."
"Oh that, yes." But Strether hesitated. "Do you mean he talks of
"So that I have to defend you? No, never.'
"I see," Strether mused. "It's too deep."
"That's his only fault," she returned--"that everything, with him,
is too deep. He has depths of silence--which he breaks only at the
longest intervals by a remark. And when the remark comes it's
always something he has seen or felt for himself--never a bit banal
THAT would be what one might have feared and what would kill me But
never." She smoked again as she thus, with amused complacency,
appreciated her acquisition. "And never about you. We keep clear of
you. We're wonderful. But I'll tell you what he does do," she
continued: "he tries to make me presents."
"Presents?" poor Strether echoed, conscious with a pang that HE
hadn't yet tried that in any quarter.
"Why you see," she explained, "he's as fine as ever in the
victoria; so that when I leave him, as I often do almost for hours
--he likes it so--at the doors of shops, the sight of him there
helps me, when I come out, to know my carriage away off in the
rank. But sometimes, for a change, he goes with me into the shops,
and then I've all I can do to prevent his buying me things."
"He wants to 'treat' you?" Strether almost gasped at all he himself
hadn't thought of. He had a sense of admiration. "Oh he's much more
in the real tradition than I. Yes," he mused, "it's the sacred rage."
"The sacred rage, exactly!"--and Miss Barrace, who hadn't before
heard this term applied, recognised its bearing with a clap of her
gemmed hands. "Now I do know why he's not banal. But I do prevent
him all the same--and if you saw what he sometimes selects--from
buying. I save him hundreds and hundreds. I only take flowers."
"Flowers?" Strether echoed again with a rueful reflexion. How many
nosegays had her present converser sent?
"Innocent flowers," she pursued, "as much as he likes. And he sends
me splendours; he knows all the best places--he has found them for
himself; he's wonderful."
"He hasn't told them to me," her friend smiled, "he has a life of
his own." But Strether had swung back to the consciousness that for
himself after all it never would have done. Waymarsh hadn't Mrs.
Waymarsh in the least to consider, whereas Lambert Strether had
constantly, in the inmost honour of his thoughts, to consider Mrs.
Newsome. He liked moreover to feel how much his friend was in the
real tradition. Yet he had his conclusion. "WHAT a rage it is!"
He had worked it out. "It's an opposition."
She followed, but at a distance. "That's what I feel. Yet to what?"
"Well, he thinks, you know, that I'VE a life of my own. And I haven't!"
"You haven't?" She showed doubt, and her laugh confirmed it.
"Oh, oh, oh!"
"No--not for myself. I seem to have a life only for other people."
"Ah for them and WITH them! Just now for instance with--"
"Well, with whom?" he asked before she had had time to say.
His tone had the effect of making her hesitate and even, as he
guessed, speak with a difference. "Say with Miss Gostrey. What do
you do for HER?" It really made him wonder. "Nothing at all!"
Madame de Vionnet, having meanwhile come in, was at present
close to them, and Miss Barrace hereupon, instead of risking a
rejoinder, became again with a look that measured her from top to
toe all mere long-handled appreciative tortoise-shell. She had
struck our friend, from the first of her appearing, as dressed for
a great occasion, and she met still more than on either of the
others the conception reawakened in him at their garden-party, the
idea of the femme du monde in her habit as she lived. Her bare
shoulders and arms were white and beautiful; the materials of her
dress, a mixture, as he supposed, of silk and crape, were of a
silvery grey so artfully composed as to give an impression of warm
splendour; and round her neck she wore a collar of large old
emeralds, the green note of which was more dimly repeated, at other
points of her apparel, in embroidery, in enamel, in satin, in
substances and textures vaguely rich. Her head, extremely fair and
exquisitely festal, was like a happy fancy, a notion of the
antique, on an old precious medal, some silver coin of the
Renaissance; while her slim lightness and brightness, her gaiety,
her expression, her decision, contributed to an effect that might
have been felt by a poet as half mythological and half conventional.
He could have compared her to a goddess still partly engaged
in a morning cloud, or to a sea-nymph waist-high in the summer surge.
Above all she suggested to him the reflexion that the femme du monde--
in these finest developments of the type--was, like Cleopatra
in the play, indeed various and multifold. She had aspects, characters,
days, nights--or had them at least, showed them by a mysterious law
of her own, when in addition to everything she happened also to be
a woman of genius. She was an obscure person, a muffled person one day,
and a showy person, an uncovered person the next. He thought of
Madame de Vionnet to-night as showy and uncovered, though he felt
the formula rough, because, thanks to one of the short-cuts of genius
she had taken all his categories by surprise. Twice during dinner
he had met Chad's eyes in a longish look; but these communications
had in truth only stirred up again old ambiguities--so little was it
clear from them whether they were an appeal or an admonition.
"You see how I'm fixed," was what they appeared to convey; yet how
he was fixed was exactly what Strether didn't see. However, perhaps
he should see now.
"Are you capable of the very great kindness of going to relieve
Newsome, for a few minutes, of the rather crushing responsibility
of Madame Gloriani, while I say a word, if he'll allow me, to
Mr. Strether, of whom I've a question to ask? Our host ought to talk
a bit to those other ladies, and I'll come back in a minute to your
rescue." She made this proposal to Miss Barrace as if her
consciousness of a special duty had just flickered-up, but that
lady's recognition of Strether's little start at it--as at a
betrayal on the speaker's part of a domesticated state--was as mute
as his own comment; and after an instant, when their fellow guest
had good-naturedly left them, he had been given something else to
think of. "Why has Maria so suddenly gone? Do you know?" That was
the question Madame de Vionnet had brought with her.
"I'm afraid I've no reason to give you but the simple reason I've
had from her in a note--the sudden obligation to join in the south
a sick friend who has got worse."
"Ah then she has been writing you?"
"Not since she went--I had only a brief explanatory word before she
started. I went to see her," Strether explained--"it was the day
after I called on you--but she was already on her way, and her
concierge told me that in case of my coming I was to be informed
she had written to me. I found her note when I got home."
Madame de Vionnet listened with interest and with her eyes on
Strether's face; then her delicately decorated head had a small
melancholy motion. "She didn't write to ME. I went to see her," she
added, "almost immediately after I had seen you, and as I assured
her I would do when I met her at Gloriani's. She hadn't then told
me she was to be absent, and I felt at her door as if I understood.
She's absent--with all respect to her sick friend, though I know
indeed she has plenty--so that I may not see her. She doesn't want
to meet me again. Well," she continued with a beautiful conscious
mildness, "I liked and admired her beyond every one in the old
time, and she knew it--perhaps that's precisely what has made her go--
and I dare say I haven't lost her for ever." Strether still said
nothing; he had a horror, as he now thought of himself, of being
in question between women--was in fact already quite enough on his
way to that, and there was moreover, as it came to him, perceptibly,
something behind these allusions and professions that, should he
take it in, would square but ill with his present resolve to simplify.
It was as if, for him, all the same, her softness and sadness
were sincere. He felt that not less when she soon went on:
"I'm extremely glad of her happiness." But it also left him mute--
sharp and fine though the imputation it conveyed. What it conveyed
was that HE was Maria Gostrey's happiness, and for the least little
instant he had the impulse to challenge the thought. He could have
done so however only by saying "What then do you suppose to be
between us?" and he was wonderfully glad a moment later not to have
spoken. He would rather seem stupid any day than fatuous, and he
drew back as well, with a smothered inward shudder, from the
consideration of what women--of highly-developed type in particular--
might think of each other. Whatever he had come out for he hadn't
come to go into that; so that he absolutely took up nothing his
interlocutress had now let drop. Yet, though he had kept away from her
for days, had laid wholly on herself the burden of their meeting again,
she hadn't a gleam of irritation to show him. "Well, about Jeanne now?"
she smiled--it had the gaiety with which she had originally come in.
He felt it on the instant to represent her motive and real errand.
But he had been schooling her of a truth to say much in proportion to
his little. "Do you make out that she has a sentiment? I mean for
Almost resentful, Strether could at last be prompt. "How can I make
out such things?"
She remained perfectly good-natured. "Ah but they're beautiful
little things, and you make out--don't pretend--everything in the
world. Haven't you," she asked, "been talking with her?"
"Yes, but not about Chad. At least not much."
"Oh you don't require 'much'!" she reassuringly declared. But she
immediately changed her ground. "I hope you remember your promise
of the other day."
"To 'save' you, as you called it?"
"I call it so still. You WILL?" she insisted. "You haven't repented?"
He wondered. "No--but I've been thinking what I meant."
She kept it up. "And not, a little, what I did?"
"No--that's not necessary. It will be enough if I know what I
"And don't you know," she asked, "by this time?"
Again he had a pause. "I think you ought to leave it to me.
But how long," he added, "do you give me?"
"It seems to me much more a question of how long you give ME.
Doesn't our friend here himself, at any rate," she went on,
"perpetually make me present to you?"
"Not," Strether replied, "by ever speaking of you to me."
"He never does that?"
She considered, and, if the fact was disconcerting to her,
effectually concealed it. The next minute indeed she had recovered.
"No, he wouldn't. But do you NEED that?"
Her emphasis was wonderful, and though his eyes had been wandering
he looked at her longer now. "I see what you mean."
"Of course you see what I mean."
Her triumph was gentle, and she really had tones to make justice
weep. "I've before me what he owes you."
"Admit then that that's something," she said, yet still with the
same discretion in her pride.
He took in this note but went straight on. "You've made of him what
I see, but what I don't see is how in the world you've done it."
"Ah that's another question!" she smiled. "The point is of what use
is your declining to know me when to know Mr. Newsome--as you do me
the honour to find him--IS just to know me."
"I see," he mused, still with his eyes on her. "I shouldn't have
met you to-night."
She raised and dropped her linked hands. "It doesn't matter. If I
trust you why can't you a little trust me too? And why can't you
also," she asked in another tone, "trust yourself?" But she gave
him no time to reply. "Oh I shall be so easy for you! And I'm glad
at any rate you've seen my child."
"I'm glad too," he said; "but she does you no good."
"No good?"--Madame de Vionnet had a clear stare. "Why she's an
angel of light."
"That's precisely the reason. Leave her alone. Don't try to find
out. I mean," he explained, "about what you spoke to me of--
the way she feels."
His companion wondered. "Because one really won't?"
"Well, because I ask you, as a favour to myself, not to. She's the
most charming creature I've ever seen. Therefore don't touch her.
Don't know--don't want to know. And moreover--yes--you won't."
It was an appeal, of a sudden, and she took it in. "As a favour to you?"
"Well--since you ask me."
"Anything, everything you ask," she smiled. "I shan't know then--never.
Thank you," she added with peculiar gentleness as she turned away.
The sound of it lingered with him, making him fairly feel as if he
had been tripped up and had a fall. In the very act of arranging
with her for his independence he had, under pressure from a
particular perception, inconsistently, quite stupidly, committed
himself, and, with her subtlety sensitive on the spot to an
advantage, she had driven in by a single word a little golden nail,
the sharp intention of which he signally felt. He hadn't detached,
he had more closely connected himself, and his eyes, as he
considered with some intensity this circumstance, met another pair
which had just come within their range and which struck him as
reflecting his sense of what he had done. He recognised them at the
same moment as those of little Bilham, who had apparently drawn
near on purpose to speak to him, and little Bilham wasn't, in the
conditions, the person to whom his heart would be most closed.
They were seated together a minute later at the angle of the room
obliquely opposite the corner in which Gloriani was still engaged
with Jeanne de Vionnet, to whom at first and in silence their
attention had been benevolently given. "I can't see for my life,"
Strether had then observed, "how a young fellow of any spirit--such
a one as you for instance--can be admitted to the sight of that
young lady without being hard hit. Why don't you go in, little
Bilham?" He remembered the tone into which he had been betrayed on
the garden-bench at the sculptor's reception, and this might make
up for that by being much more the right sort of thing to say to a
young man worthy of any advice at all. "There WOULD be some
"Some reason for what?"
"Why for hanging on here."
"To offer my hand and fortune to Mademoiselle de Vionnet?"
"Well," Strether asked, "to what lovelier apparition COULD you
offer them? She's the sweetest little thing I've ever seen."
"She's certainly immense. I mean she's the real thing. I believe
the pale pink petals are folded up there for some wondrous
efflorescence in time; to open, that is, to some great golden sun.
I'M unfortunately but a small farthing candle. What chance in such
a field for a poor little painter-man?"
"Oh you're good enough," Strether threw out.
"Certainly I'm good enough. We're good enough, I consider, nous
autres, for anything. But she's TOO good. There's the difference.
They wouldn't look at me."
Strether, lounging on his divan and still charmed by the young
girl, whose eyes had consciously strayed to him, he fancied, with a
vague smile--Strether, enjoying the whole occasion as with dormant
pulses at last awake and in spite of new material thrust upon him,
thought over his companion's words. "Whom do you mean by 'they'?
She and her mother?"
"She and her mother. And she has a father too, who, whatever else
he may be, certainly can't be indifferent to the possibilities she
represents. Besides, there's Chad."
Strether was silent a little. "Ah but he doesn't care for her--not,
I mean, it appears, after all, in the sense I'm speaking of. He's
NOT in love with her."
"No--but he's her best friend; after her mother. He's very fond
of her. He has his ideas about what can be done for her."
"Well, it's very strange!" Strether presently remarked with a
sighing sense of fulness.
"Very strange indeed. That's just the beauty of it. Isn't it very
much the kind of beauty you had in mind," little Bilham went on,
"when you were so wonderful and so inspiring to me the other day?
Didn't you adjure me, in accents I shall never forget, to see,
while I've a chance, everything I can?--and REALLY to see, for it
must have been that only you meant. Well, you did me no end of
good, and I'm doing my best. I DO make it out a situation."
"So do I!" Strether went on after a moment. But he had the next minute
an inconsequent question. "How comes Chad so mixed up, anyway?"
"Ah, ah, ah!"--and little Bilham fell back on his cushions.
It reminded our friend of Miss Barrace, and he felt again the brush
of his sense of moving in a maze of mystic closed allusions. Yet he
kept hold of his thread. "Of course I understand really; only the
general transformation makes me occasionally gasp. Chad with such a
voice in the settlement of the future of a little countess--no,"
he declared, "it takes more time! You say moreover," he resumed, "that
we're inevitably, people like you and me, out of the running. The
curious fact remains that Chad himself isn't. The situation doesn't
make for it, but in a different one he could have her if he would."
"Yes, but that's only because he's rich and because there's a
possibility of his being richer. They won't think of anything but a
great name or a great fortune."
"Well," said Strether, "he'll have no great fortune on THESE lines.
He must stir his stumps."
"Is that," little Bilham enquired, "what you were saying to
Madame de Vionnet?"
"No--I don't say much to her. Of course, however," Strether
continued, "he can make sacrifices if he likes."
Little Bilham had a pause. "Oh he's not keen for sacrifices; or
thinks, that is, possibly, that he has made enough."
"Well, it IS virtuous," his companion observed with some decision.
"That's exactly," the young man dropped after a moment, "what I mean."
It kept Strether himself silent a little. "I've made it out for
myself," he then went on; "I've really, within the last half-hour,
got hold of it. I understand it in short at last; which at first--
when you originally spoke to me--I didn't. Nor when Chad originally
spoke to me either."
"Oh," said little Bilham, "I don't think that at that time you
"Yes--I did; and I believed Chad too. It would have been odious and
unmannerly--as well as quite perverse--if I hadn't. What interest
have you in deceiving me?"
The young man cast about. "What interest have I?"
"Yes. Chad MIGHT have. But you?"
"Ah, ah, ah!" little Bilham exclaimed.
It might, on repetition, as a mystification, have irritated our
friend a little, but he knew, once more, as we have seen, where he
was, and his being proof against everything was only another
attestation that he meant to stay there. "I couldn't, without my
own impression, realise. She's a tremendously clever brilliant
capable woman, and with an extraordinary charm on top of it all--
the charm we surely all of us this evening know what to think of.
It isn't every clever brilliant capable woman that has it. In fact
it's rare with any woman. So there you are," Strether proceeded as
if not for little Bilham's benefit alone. "I understand what a
relation with such a woman--what such a high fine friendship--
may be. It can't be vulgar or coarse, anyway--and that's the point."
"Yes, that's the point," said little Bilham. "It can't be vulgar or
coarse. And, bless us and save us, it ISn't! It's, upon my word,
the very finest thing I ever saw in my life, and the most
Strether, from beside him and leaning back with him as he leaned,
dropped on him a momentary look which filled a short interval and
of which he took no notice. He only gazed before him with intent
participation. "Of course what it has done for him," Strether at
all events presently pursued, "of course what it has done for him--
that is as to HOW it has so wonderfully worked--isn't a thing I
pretend to understand. I've to take it as I find it. There he is."
"There he is!" little Bilham echoed. "And it's really and truly
she. I don't understand either, even with my longer and closer
opportunity. But I'm like you," he added; "I can admire and rejoice
even when I'm a little in the dark. You see I've watched it for
some three years, and especially for this last. He wasn't so bad
before it as I seem to have made out that you think--"
"Oh I don't think anything now!" Strether impatiently broke in:
"that is but what I DO think! I mean that originally, for her to
have cared for him--"
"There must have been stuff in him? Oh yes, there was stuff indeed,
and much more of it than ever showed, I dare say, at home. Still,
you know," the young man in all fairness developed, "there was room
for her, and that's where she came in. She saw her chance and took
it. That's what strikes me as having been so fine. But of course,"
he wound up, "he liked her first."
"Naturally," said Strether.
"I mean that they first met somehow and somewhere--I believe in
some American house--and she, without in the least then intending
it, made her impression. Then with time and opportunity he made
his; and after THAT she was as bad as he."
Strether vaguely took it up. "As 'bad'?"
"She began, that is, to care--to care very much. Alone, and in her
horrid position, she found it, when once she had started, an
interest. It was, it is, an interest, and it did--it continues to
do--a lot for herself as well. So she still cares. She cares in
fact," said little Bilham thoughtfully "more."
Strether's theory that it was none of his business was somehow not
damaged by the way he took this. "More, you mean, than he?" On
which his companion looked round at him, and now for an instant
their eyes met. "More than he?" he repeated.
Little Bilham, for as long, hung fire. "Will you never tell any
Strether thought. "Whom should I tell?"
"Why I supposed you reported regularly--"
"To people at home?"--Strether took him up. "Well, I won't tell
The young man at last looked away. "Then she does now care more
"Oh!" Strether oddly exclaimed.
But his companion immediately met it. "Haven't you after all had
your impression of it? That's how you've got hold of him."
"Ah but I haven't got hold of him!"
"Oh I say!" But it was all little Bilham said.
"It's at any rate none of my business. I mean," Strether explained,
"nothing else than getting hold of him is." It appeared, however,
to strike him as his business to add: "The fact remains
nevertheless that she has saved him."
Little Bilham just waited. "I thought that was what you were to do."
But Strether had his answer ready. "I'm speaking--in connexion with
her--of his manners and morals, his character and life. I'm
speaking of him as a person to deal with and talk with and live
with--speaking of him as a social animal."
"And isn't it as a social animal that you also want him?"
"Certainly; so that it's as if she had saved him FOR us."
"It strikes you accordingly then," the young man threw out, "as for
you all to save HER?"
"Oh for us 'all'--!" Strether could but laugh at that. It brought
him back, however, to the point he had really wished to make.
"They've accepted their situation--hard as it is. They're not free
--at least she's not; but they take what's left to them. It's a
friendship, of a beautiful sort; and that's what makes them so
strong. They're straight, they feel; and they keep each other up.
It's doubtless she, however, who, as you yourself have hinted,
feels it most."
Little Bilham appeared to wonder what he had hinted. "Feels most
that they're straight?"
"Well, feels that SHE is, and the strength that comes from it. She
keeps HIM up--she keeps the whole thing up. When people are able to
it's fine. She's wonderful, wonderful, as Miss Barrace says; and he
is, in his way, too; however, as a mere man, he may sometimes rebel
and not feel that he finds his account in it. She has simply given
him an immense moral lift, and what that can explain is prodigious.
That's why I speak of it as a situation. It IS one, if there ever
was." And Strether, with his head back and his eyes on the ceiling,
seemed to lose himself in the vision of it.
His companion attended deeply. "You state it much better than I
"Oh you see it doesn't concern you."
Little Bilham considered. "I thought you said just now that it
doesn't concern you either."
"Well, it doesn't a bit as Madame de Vionnet's affair. But as we
were again saying just now, what did I come out for but to save
"Yes--to remove him."
"To save him by removal; to win him over to HIMSELF thinking it
best he shall take up business--thinking he must immediately do
therefore what's necessary to that end."
"Well," said little Bilham after a moment, "you HAVE won him over.
He does think it best. He has within a day or two again said to me
"And that," Strether asked, "is why you consider that he cares less
"Cares less for her than she for him? Yes, that's one of the reasons.
But other things too have given me the impression. A man, don't
you think?" little Bilham presently pursued, "CAN'T, in such
conditions, care so much as a woman. It takes different conditions
to make him, and then perhaps he cares more. Chad," he wound up,
"has his possible future before him."
"Are you speaking of his business future?"
"No--on the contrary; of the other, the future of what you so
justly call their situation. M. de Vionnet may live for ever."
"So that they can't marry?"
The young man waited a moment. "Not being able to marry is all
they've with any confidence to look forward to. A woman--a
particular woman--may stand that strain. But can a man?" he
Strether's answer was as prompt as if he had already, for himself,
worked it out. "Not without a very high ideal of conduct. But
that's just what we're attributing to Chad. And how, for that
matter," he mused, "does his going to America diminish the
particular strain? Wouldn't it seem rather to add to it?"
"Out of sight out of mind!" his companion laughed. Then more
bravely: "Wouldn't distance lessen the torment?" But before
Strether could reply, "The thing is, you see, Chad ought to marry!"
he wound up.
Strether, for a little, appeared to think of it. "If you talk of
torments you don't diminish mine!" he then broke out. The next
moment he was on his feet with a question. "He ought to marry
Little Bilham rose more slowly. "Well, some one he CAN--some
thoroughly nice girl "
Strether's eyes, as they stood together, turned again to Jeanne.
"Do you mean HER?"
His friend made a sudden strange face. "After being in love with
her mother? No."
"But isn't it exactly your idea that he ISn't in love with her
His friend once more had a pause. "Well, he isn't at any rate in
love with Jeanne."
"I dare say not."
"How CAN he be with any other woman?"
"Oh that I admit. But being in love isn't, you know, here"--little
Bilham spoke in friendly reminder--"thought necessary, in strictness,
"And what torment--to call a torment--can there ever possibly be
with a woman like that?" As if from the interest of his own
question Strether had gone on without hearing. "Is it for her to
have turned a man out so wonderfully, too, only for somebody else?"
He appeared to make a point of this, and little Bilham looked at
him now. "When it's for each other that people give things up they
don't miss them." Then he threw off as with an extravagance of
which he was conscious: "Let them face the future together!"
Little Bilham looked at him indeed. "You mean that after all he
shouldn't go back?"
"I mean that if he gives her up--!"
"Well, he ought to be ashamed of himself." But Strether spoke with
a sound that might have passed for a laugh.
It wasn't the first time Strether had sat alone in the great dim
church--still less was it the first of his giving himself up, so
far as conditions permitted, to its beneficent action on his
nerves. He had been to Notre Dame with Waymarsh, he had been there
with Miss Gostrey, he had been there with Chad Newsome, and had
found the place, even in company, such a refuge from the obsession
of his problem that, with renewed pressure from that source, he had
not unnaturally recurred to a remedy meeting the case, for the
moment, so indirectly, no doubt, but so relievingly. He was
conscious enough that it was only for the moment, but good moments--
if he could call them good--still had their value for a man who by
this time struck himself as living almost disgracefully from hand
to mouth. Having so well learnt the way, he had lately made the
pilgrimage more than once by himself--had quite stolen off, taking
an unnoticed chance and making no point of speaking of the
adventure when restored to his friends.
His great friend, for that matter, was still absent, as well as
remarkably silent; even at the end of three weeks Miss Gostrey
hadn't come back. She wrote to him from Mentone, admitting that he
must judge her grossly inconsequent--perhaps in fact for the time
odiously faithless; but asking for patience, for a deferred
sentence, throwing herself in short on his generosity. For her too,
she could assure him, life was complicated--more complicated than
he could have guessed; she had moreover made certain of him--
certain of not wholly missing him on her return--before her
disappearance. If furthermore she didn't burden him with letters it
was frankly because of her sense of the other great commerce he had
to carry on. He himself, at the end of a fortnight, had written
twice, to show how his generosity could be trusted; but he reminded
himself in each case of Mrs. Newsome's epistolary manner at the
times when Mrs. Newsome kept off delicate ground. He sank his
problem, he talked of Waymarsh and Miss Barrace, of little Bilham
and the set over the river, with whom he had again had tea, and he
was easy, for convenience, about Chad and Madame de Vionnet and
Jeanne. He admitted that he continued to see them, he was decidedly
so confirmed a haunter of Chad's premises and that young man's
practical intimacy with them was so undeniably great; but he had
his reason for not attempting to render for Miss Gostrey's benefit
the impression of these last days. That would be to tell her too
much about himself--it being at present just from himself he was
trying to escape.
This small struggle sprang not a little, in its way, from the same
impulse that had now carried him across to Notre Dame; the impulse
to let things be, to give them time to justify themselves or at
least to pass. He was aware of having no errand in such a place but
the desire not to be, for the hour, in certain other places; a
sense of safety, of simplification, which each time he yielded to
it he amused himself by thinking of as a private concession to
cowardice. The great church had no altar for his worship, no direct
voice for his soul; but it was none the less soothing even to
sanctity; for he could feel while there what he couldn't elsewhere,
that he was a plain tired man taking the holiday he had earned. He
was tired, but he wasn't plain--that was the pity and the trouble
of it; he was able, however, to drop his problem at the door very
much as if it had been the copper piece that he deposited, on the
threshold, in the receptacle of the inveterate blind beggar. He
trod the long dim nave, sat in the splendid choir, paused before
the cluttered chapels of the east end, and the mighty monument laid
upon him its spell. He might have been a student under the charm of
a museum--which was exactly what, in a foreign town, in the
afternoon of life, he would have liked to be free to be. This form
of sacrifice did at any rate for the occasion as well as another;
it made him quite sufficiently understand how, within the precinct,
for the real refugee, the things of the world could fall into
abeyance. That was the cowardice, probably--to dodge them, to beg
the question, not to deal with it in the hard outer light; but his
own oblivions were too brief, too vain, to hurt any one but
himself, and he had a vague and fanciful kindness for certain
persons whom he met, figures of mystery and anxiety, and whom, with
observation for his pastime, he ranked as those who were fleeing
from justice. Justice was outside, in the hard light, and injustice
too; but one was as absent as the other from the air of the long
aisles and the brightness of the many altars.
Thus it was at all events that, one morning some dozen days after
the dinner in the Boulevard Malesherbes at which Madame de Vionnet
had been present with her daughter, he was called upon to play his
part in an encounter that deeply stirred his imagination. He had
the habit, in these contemplations, of watching a fellow visitant,
here and there, from a respectable distance, remarking some note of
behaviour, of penitence, of prostration, of the absolved, relieved
state; this was the manner in which his vague tenderness took its
course, the degree of demonstration to which it naturally had to
confine itself. It hadn't indeed so felt its responsibility as when
on this occasion he suddenly measured the suggestive effect of a
lady whose supreme stillness, in the shade of one of the chapels,
he had two or three times noticed as he made, and made once more,
his slow circuit. She wasn't prostrate--not in any degree bowed,
but she was strangely fixed, and her prolonged immobility showed
her, while he passed and paused, as wholly given up to the need,
whatever it was, that had brought her there. She only sat and gazed
before her, as he himself often sat; but she had placed herself, as
he never did, within the focus of the shrine, and she had lost
herself, he could easily see, as he would only have liked to do.
She was not a wandering alien, keeping back more than she gave, but
one of the familiar, the intimate, the fortunate, for whom these
dealings had a method and a meaning. She reminded our friend--since
it was the way of nine tenths of his current impressions to act as
recalls of things imagined--of some fine firm concentrated heroine
of an old story, something he had heard, read, something that, had
he had a hand for drama, he might himself have written, renewing
her courage, renewing her clearness, in splendidly-protected
meditation. Her back, as she sat, was turned to him, but his
impression absolutely required that she should be young and
interesting, and she carried her head moreover, even in the sacred
shade, with a discernible faith in herself, a kind of implied
conviction of consistency, security, impunity. But what had such a
woman come for if she hadn't come to pray? Strether's reading of
such matters was, it must be owned, confused; but he wondered if
her attitude were some congruous fruit of absolution, of
"indulgence." He knew but dimly what indulgence, in such a place,
might mean; yet he had, as with a soft sweep, a vision of how it
might indeed add to the zest of active rites. All this was a good
deal to have been denoted by a mere lurking figure who was nothing
to him; but, the last thing before leaving the church, he had the
surprise of a still deeper quickening.
He had dropped upon a seat halfway down the nave and, again in the
museum mood, was trying with head thrown back and eyes aloft,
to reconstitute a past, to reduce it in fact to the convenient terms
of Victor Hugo, whom, a few days before, giving the rein for once
in a way to the joy of life, he had purchased in seventy bound volumes,
a miracle of cheapness, parted with, he was assured by the shopman,
at the price of the red-and-gold alone. He looked, doubtless, while he
played his eternal nippers over Gothic glooms, sufficiently rapt in
reverence; but what his thought had finally bumped against was the
question of where, among packed accumulations, so multiform a wedge
would be able to enter. Were seventy volumes in red-and-gold to be
perhaps what he should most substantially have to show at Woollett
as the fruit of his mission? It was a possibility that held him a
minute--held him till he happened to feel that some one, unnoticed,
had approached him and paused. Turning, he saw that a lady stood
there as for a greeting, and he sprang up as he next took her,
securely, for Madame de Vionnet, who appeared to have recognised
him as she passed near him on her way to the door. She checked,
quickly and gaily, a certain confusion in him, came to meet it,
turned it back, by an art of her own; the confusion having
threatened him as he knew her for the person he had lately been
observing. She was the lurking figure of the dim chapel; she had
occupied him more than she guessed; but it came to him in time,
luckily, that he needn't tell her and that no harm, after all, had
been done. She herself, for that matter, straightway showing she
felt their encounter as the happiest of accidents, had for him a
"You come here too?" that despoiled surprise of every awkwardness.
"I come often," she said. "I love this place, but I'm terrible, in
general, for churches. The old women who live in them all know me;
in fact I'm already myself one of the old women. It's like that, at
all events, that I foresee I shall end." Looking about for a chair,
so that he instantly pulled one nearer, she sat down with him again
to the sound of an "Oh, I like so much your also being fond--!"
He confessed the extent of his feeling, though she left the object
vague; and he was struck with the tact, the taste of her vagueness,
which simply took for granted in him a sense of beautiful things.
He was conscious of how much it was affected, this sense, by
something subdued and discreet in the way she had arranged herself
for her special object and her morning walk--he believed her to
have come on foot; the way her slightly thicker veil was drawn--a
mere touch, but everything; the composed gravity of her dress, in
which, here and there, a dull wine-colour seemed to gleam faintly
through black; the charming discretion of her small compact head;
the quiet note, as she sat, of her folded, grey-gloved hands. It
was, to Strether's mind, as if she sat on her own ground, the light
honours of which, at an open gate, she thus easily did him, while
all the vastness and mystery of the domain stretched off behind.
When people were so completely in possession they could be
extraordinarily civil; and our friend had indeed at this hour a
kind of revelation of her heritage. She was romantic for him far
beyond what she could have guessed, and again he found his small
comfort in the conviction that, subtle though she was, his
impression must remain a secret from her. The thing that, once
more, made him uneasy for secrets in general was this particular
patience she could have with his own want of colour; albeit that on
the other hand his uneasiness pretty well dropped after he had been
for ten minutes as colourless as possible and at the same time as
The moments had already, for that matter, drawn their deepest tinge
from the special interest excited in him by his vision of his
companion's identity with the person whose attitude before the
glimmering altar had so impressed him. This attitude fitted
admirably into the stand he had privately taken about her connexion
with Chad on the last occasion of his seeing them together. It
helped him to stick fast at the point he had then reached; it was
there he had resolved that he WOULD stick, and at no moment since
had it seemed as easy to do so. Unassailably innocent was a
relation that could make one of the parties to it so carry herself.
If it wasn't innocent why did she haunt the churches?--into which,
given the woman he could believe he made out, she would never have
come to flaunt an insolence of guilt. She haunted them for
continued help, for strength, for peace--sublime support which, if
one were able to look at it so, she found from day to day. They
talked, in low easy tones and with lifted lingering looks, about
the great monument and its history and its beauty--all of which,
Madame de Vionnet professed, came to her most in the other, the
outer view. "We'll presently, after we go," she said, "walk round
it again if you like. I'm not in a particular hurry, and it will be
pleasant to look at it well with you." He had spoken of the great
romancer and the great romance, and of what, to his imagination,
they had done for the whole, mentioning to her moreover the
exorbitance of his purchase, the seventy blazing volumes that were
so out of proportion.
"Out of proportion to what?"
"Well, to any other plunge." Yet he felt even as he spoke how at
that instant he was plunging. He had made up his mind and was
impatient to get into the air; for his purpose was a purpose to be
uttered outside, and he had a fear that it might with delay still
slip away from him. She however took her time; she drew out their
quiet gossip as if she had wished to profit by their meeting, and
this confirmed precisely an interpretation of her manner, of her
mystery. While she rose, as he would have called it, to the
question of Victor Hugo, her voice itself, the light low quaver of
her deference to the solemnity about them, seemed to make her words
mean something that they didn't mean openly. Help, strength, peace,
a sublime support--she hadn't found so much of these things as that
the amount wouldn't be sensibly greater for any scrap his
appearance of faith in her might enable her to feel in her hand.
Every little, in a long strain, helped, and if he happened to
affect her as a firm object she could hold on by, he wouldn't jerk
himself out of her reach. People in difficulties held on by what
was nearest, and he was perhaps after all not further off than
sources of comfort more abstract. It was as to this he had made up
his mind; he had made it up, that is, to give her a sign. The sign
would be that--though it was her own affair--he understood; the
sign would be that--though it was her own affair--she was free to
clutch. Since she took him for a firm object--much as he might to
his own sense appear at times to rock--he would do his best to BE one.
The end of it was that half an hour later they were seated together
for an early luncheon at a wonderful, a delightful house of
entertainment on the left bank--a place of pilgrimage for the
knowing, they were both aware, the knowing who came, for its great
renown, the homage of restless days, from the other end of the
town. Strether had already been there three times--first with Miss
Gostrey, then with Chad, then with Chad again and with Waymarsh and
little Bilham, all of whom he had himself sagaciously entertained;
and his pleasure was deep now on learning that Madame de Vionnet
hadn't yet been initiated. When he had said as they strolled round
the church, by the river, acting at last on what, within, he had
made up his mind to, "Will you, if you have time, come to dejeuner
with me somewhere? For instance, if you know it, over there on the
other side, which is so easy a walk"--and then had named the
place; when he had done this she stopped short as for quick
intensity, and yet deep difficulty, of response. She took in the
proposal as if it were almost too charming to be true; and there
had perhaps never yet been for her companion so unexpected a moment
of pride--so fine, so odd a case, at any rate, as his finding
himself thus able to offer to a person in such universal possession
a new, a rare amusement. She had heard of the happy spot, but she
asked him in reply to a further question how in the world he could
suppose her to have been there. He supposed himself to have
supposed that Chad might have taken her, and she guessed this the
next moment to his no small discomfort.
"Ah, let me explain," she smiled, "that I don't go about with him
in public; I never have such chances--not having them otherwise--
and it's just the sort of thing that, as a quiet creature living in
my hole, I adore." It was more than kind of him to have thought of
it--though, frankly, if he asked whether she had time she hadn't a
single minute. That however made no difference--she'd throw
everything over. Every duty at home, domestic, maternal, social,
awaited her; but it was a case for a high line. Her affairs would
go to smash, but hadn't one a right to one's snatch of scandal when
one was prepared to pay? It was on this pleasant basis of costly
disorder, consequently, that they eventually seated themselves, on
either side of a small table, at a window adjusted to the busy quay
and the shining barge-burdened Seine; where, for an hour, in the
matter of letting himself go, of diving deep, Strether was to feel
he had touched bottom. He was to feel many things on this occasion,
and one of the first of them was that he had travelled far since
that evening in London, before the theatre, when his dinner with
Maria Gostrey, between the pink-shaded candles, had struck him as
requiring so many explanations. He had at that time gathered them
in, the explanations--he had stored them up; but it was at present
as if he had either soared above or sunk below them--he couldn't
tell which; he could somehow think of none that didn't seem to
leave the appearance of collapse and cynicism easier for him than
lucidity. How could he wish it to be lucid for others, for any one,
that he, for the hour, saw reasons enough in the mere way the
bright clean ordered water-side life came in at the open window?--
the mere way Madame de Vionnet, opposite him over their intensely
white table-linen, their omelette aux tomates, their bottle of
straw-coloured Chablis, thanked him for everything almost with the
smile of a child, while her grey eyes moved in and out of their
talk, back to the quarter of the warm spring air, in which early
summer had already begun to throb, and then back again to his face
and their human questions.
Their human questions became many before they had done--many more,
as one after the other came up, than our friend's free fancy had at
all foreseen. The sense he had had before, the sense he had had
repeatedly, the sense that the situation was running away with him,
had never been so sharp as now; and all the more that he could
perfectly put his finger on the moment it had taken the bit in its
teeth. That accident had definitely occurred, the other evening,
after Chad's dinner; it had occurred, as he fully knew, at the
moment when he interposed between this lady and her child, when he
suffered himself so to discuss with her a matter closely concerning
them that her own subtlety, marked by its significant "Thank you!"
instantly sealed the occasion in her favour. Again he had held off
for ten days, but the situation had continued out of hand in spite
of that; the fact that it was running so fast being indeed just WHY
he had held off. What had come over him as he recognised her in the
nave of the church was that holding off could be but a losing game
from the instant she was worked for not only by her subtlety, but
by the hand of fate itself. If all the accidents were to fight on
her side--and by the actual showing they loomed large--he could
only give himself up. This was what he had done in privately
deciding then and there to propose she should breakfast with him.
What did the success of his proposal in fact resemble but the smash
in which a regular runaway properly ends? The smash was their walk,
their dejeuner, their omelette, the Chablis, the place, the view,
their present talk and his present pleasure in it--to say nothing,
wonder of wonders, of her own. To this tune and nothing less,
accordingly, was his surrender made good. It sufficiently lighted
up at least the folly of holding off. Ancient proverbs sounded, for
his memory, in the tone of their words and the clink of their
glasses, in the hum of the town and the plash of the river. It WAS
clearly better to suffer as a sheep than as a lamb. One might as
well perish by the sword as by famine.
"Maria's still away?"--that was the first thing she had asked him;
and when he had found the frankness to be cheerful about it in
spite of the meaning he knew her to attach to Miss Gostrey's
absence, she had gone on to enquire if he didn't tremendously miss
her. There were reasons that made him by no means sure, yet he
nevertheless answered "Tremendously"; which she took in as if it
were all she had wished to prove. Then, "A man in trouble MUST be
possessed somehow of a woman," she said; "if she doesn't come in
one way she comes in another."
"Why do you call me a man in trouble?"
"Ah because that's the way you strike me." She spoke ever so gently
and as if with all fear of wounding him while she sat partaking of
his bounty. "AREn't you in trouble?"
He felt himself colour at the question, and then hated that--hated
to pass for anything so idiotic as woundable. Woundable by Chad's
lady, in respect to whom he had come out with such a fund of
indifference--was he already at that point? Perversely, none the
less, his pause gave a strange air of truth to her supposition; and
what was he in fact but disconcerted at having struck her just in
the way he had most dreamed of not doing? "I'm not in trouble yet,"
he at last smiled. "I'm not in trouble now."
"Well, I'm always so. But that you sufficiently know." She was a
woman who, between courses, could be graceful with her elbows
on the table. It was a posture unknown to Mrs. Newsome, but it was
easy for a femme du monde. "Yes--I am 'now'!"
"There was a question you put to me," he presently returned, "the
night of Chad's dinner. I didn't answer it then, and it has been
very handsome of you not to have sought an occasion for pressing me
about it since."
She was instantly all there. "Of course I know what you allude to.
I asked you what you had meant by saying, the day you came to see
me, just before you left me, that you'd save me. And you then said
--at our friend's--that you'd have really to wait to see, for
yourself, what you did mean."
"Yes, I asked for time," said Strether. "And it sounds now, as you
put it, like a very ridiculous speech."
"Oh!" she murmured--she was full of attenuation. But she had
another thought. "If it does sound ridiculous why do you deny that
you're in trouble?"
"Ah if I were," he replied, "it wouldn't be the trouble of fearing
ridicule. I don't fear it."
"What then do you?"
"Nothing--now." And he leaned back in his chair.
"I like your 'now'!" she laughed across at him.
"Well, it's precisely that it fully comes to me at present that
I've kept you long enough. I know by this time, at any rate, what I
meant by my speech; and I really knew it the night of Chad's
"Then why didn't you tell me?"
"Because it was difficult at the moment. I had already at that
moment done something for you, in the sense of what I had said the
day I went to see you; but I wasn't then sure of the importance I
might represent this as having."
She was all eagerness. "And you're sure now?"
"Yes; I see that, practically, I've done for you--had done for you
when you put me your question--all that it's as yet possible to me
to do. I feel now," he went on, "that it may go further than I
thought. What I did after my visit to you," he explained, "was to
write straight off to Mrs. Newsome about you, and I'm at last, from
one day to the other, expecting her answer. It's this answer that
will represent, as I believe, the consequences."
Patient and beautiful was her interest. "I see--the consequences of
your speaking for me." And she waited as if not to hustle him.
He acknowledged it by immediately going on. "The question, you
understand, was HOW I should save you. Well, I'm trying it by thus
letting her know that I consider you worth saving."
"I see--I see." Her eagerness broke through.
"How can I thank you enough?" He couldn't tell her that, however,
and she quickly pursued. "You do really, for yourself, consider
His only answer at first was to help her to the dish that had been
freshly put before them. "I've written to her again since then--
I've left her in no doubt of what I think. I've told her all about
"Thanks--not so much. 'All about' me," she went on--"yes."
"All it seems to me you've done for him."
"Ah and you might have added all it seems to ME!" She laughed
again, while she took up her knife and fork, as in the cheer of
these assurances. "But you're not sure how she'll take it."
"No, I'll not pretend I'm sure."
"Voila." And she waited a moment. "I wish you'd tell me about her."
"Oh," said Strether with a slightly strained smile, "all that
need concern you about her is that she's really a grand person."
Madame de Vionnet seemed to demur. "Is that all that need concern
me about her?"
But Strether neglected the question. "Hasn't Chad talked to you?"
"Of his mother? Yes, a great deal--immensely. But not from your
point of view."
"He can't," our friend returned, "have said any ill of her."
"Not the least bit. He has given me, like you, the assurance that
she's really grand. But her being really grand is somehow just what
hasn't seemed to simplify our case. Nothing," she continued, "is
further from me than to wish to say a word against her; but of
course I feel how little she can like being told of her owing me
anything. No woman ever enjoys such an obligation to another
This was a proposition Strether couldn't contradict. "And yet what
other way could I have expressed to her what I felt? It's what
there was most to say about you."
"Do you mean then that she WILL be good to me?"
"It's what I'm waiting to see. But I've little doubt she would," he
added, "if she could comfortably see you."
It seemed to strike her as a happy, a beneficent thought. "Oh then
couldn't that be managed? Wouldn't she come out? Wouldn't she if
you so put it to her? DID you by any possibility?" she faintly
"Oh no"--he was prompt. "Not that. It would be, much more, to give
an account of you that--since there's no question of YOUR paying
the visit--I should go home first."
It instantly made her graver. "And are you thinking of that?"
"Oh all the while, naturally."
"Stay with us--stay with us!" she exclaimed on this. "That's your
only way to make sure."
"To make sure of what?"
"Why that he doesn't break up. You didn't come out to do that to
"Doesn't it depend," Strether returned after a moment, "on what you
mean by breaking up?"
"Oh you know well enough what I mean!"
His silence seemed again for a little to denote an understanding.
"You take for granted remarkable things."
"Yes, I do--to the extent that I don't take for granted vulgar
ones. You're perfectly capable of seeing that what you came out for
wasn't really at all to do what you'd now have to do."
"Ah it's perfectly simple," Strether good-humouredly pleaded. "I've
had but one thing to do--to put our case before him. To put it as
it could only be put here on the spot--by personal pressure. My
dear lady," he lucidly pursued, "my work, you see, is really done,
and my reasons for staying on even another day are none of the
best. Chad's in possession of our case and professes to do it full
justice. What remains is with himself. I've had my rest, my
amusement and refreshment; I've had, as we say at Woollett, a
lovely time. Nothing in it has been more lovely than this happy
meeting with you--in these fantastic conditions to which you've so
delightfully consented. I've a sense of success. It's what I
wanted. My getting all this good is what Chad has waited for, and I
gather that if I'm ready to go he's the same."
She shook her head with a finer deeper wisdom. "You're not ready.
If you're ready why did you write to Mrs. Newsome in the sense
you've mentioned to me?"
Strether considered. "I shan't go before I hear from her. You're
too much afraid of her," he added.
It produced between them a long look from which neither shrank. "I
don't think you believe that--believe I've not really reason to
"She's capable of great generosity," Strether presently stated.
"Well then let her trust me a little. That's all I ask. Let her
recognise in spite of everything what I've done."
"Ah remember," our friend replied, "that she can't effectually
recognise it without seeing it for herself. Let Chad go over and
show her what you've done, and let him plead with her there for it
and, as it were, for YOU."
She measured the depth of this suggestion. "Do you give me your
word of honour that if she once has him there she won't do her best
to marry him?"
It made her companion, this enquiry, look again a while out at the
view; after which he spoke without sharpness. "When she sees for
herself what he is--"
But she had already broken in. "It's when she sees for herself what
he is that she'll want to marry him most."
Strether's attitude, that of due deference to what she said,
permitted him to attend for a minute to his luncheon. "I doubt if
that will come off. It won't be easy to make it."
"It will be easy if he remains there--and he'll remain for the
money. The money appears to be, as a probability, so hideously
"Well," Strether presently concluded, "nothing COULD really hurt
you but his marrying."
She gave a strange light laugh. "Putting aside what may really hurt
But her friend looked at her as if he had thought of that too.
"The question will come up, of course, of the future that you
yourself offer him."
She was leaning back now, but she fully faced him. "Well, let it
"The point is that it's for Chad to make of it what he can. His
being proof against marriage will show what he does make."
"If he IS proof, yes"--she accepted the proposition. "But for
myself," she added, "the question is what YOU make."
"Ah I make nothing. It's not my affair."
"I beg your pardon. It's just there that, since you've taken it up
and are committed to it, it most intensely becomes yours. You're
not saving me, I take it, for your interest in myself, but for your
interest in our friend. The one's at any rate wholly dependent on
the other. You can't in honour not see me through," she wound up,
"because you can't in honour not see HIM."
Strange and beautiful to him was her quiet soft acuteness. The thing
that most moved him was really that she was so deeply serious. She had
none of the portentous forms of it, but he had never come in contact,
it struck him, with a force brought to so fine a head. Mrs. Newsome,
goodness knew, was serious; but it was nothing to this. He took it
all in, he saw it all together. "No," he mused, "I can't in honour
not see him."
Her face affected him as with an exquisite light. "You WILL then?"
At this she pushed back her chair and was the next moment on her
feet. "Thank you!" she said with her hand held out to him across
the table and with no less a meaning in the words than her lips had
so particularly given them after Chad's dinner. The golden nail she
had then driven in pierced a good inch deeper. Yet he reflected
that he himself had only meanwhile done what he had made up his mind to
on the same occasion. So far as the essence of the matter went he had
simply stood fast on the spot on which he had then planted his feet.
He received three days after this a communication from America, in
the form of a scrap of blue paper folded and gummed, not reaching
him through his bankers, but delivered at his hotel by a small boy
in uniform, who, under instructions from the concierge, approached
him as he slowly paced the little court. It was the evening hour,
but daylight was long now and Paris more than ever penetrating. The
scent of flowers was in the streets, he had the whiff of violets
perpetually in his nose; and he had attached himself to sounds and
suggestions, vibrations of the air, human and dramatic, he
imagined, as they were not in other places, that came out for him
more and more as the mild afternoons deepened--a far-off hum, a
sharp near click on the asphalt, a voice calling, replying,
somewhere and as full of tone as an actor's in a play. He was to
dine at home, as usual, with Waymarsh--they had settled to that for
thrift and simplicity; and he now hung about before his friend came
He read his telegram in the court, standing still a long time where
he had opened it and giving five minutes afterwards to the renewed
study of it. At last, quickly, he crumpled it up as if to get it
out of the way; in spite of which, however, he kept it there--
still kept it when, at the end of another turn, he had dropped into
a chair placed near a small table. Here, with his scrap of paper
compressed in his fist and further concealed by his folding his
arms tight, he sat for some time in thought, gazed before him so
straight that Waymarsh appeared and approached him without catching
his eye. The latter in fact, struck with his appearance, looked at
him hard for a single instant and then, as if determined to that
course by some special vividness in it, dropped back into the salon
de lecture without addressing him. But the pilgrim from Milrose
permitted himself still to observe the scene from behind the clear
glass plate of that retreat. Strether ended, as he sat, by a fresh
scrutiny of his compressed missive, which he smoothed out carefully
again as he placed it on his table. There it remained for some
minutes, until, at last looking up, he saw Waymarsh watching him
from within. It was on this that their eyes met--met for a moment
during which neither moved. But Strether then got up, folding his
telegram more carefully and putting it into his waistcoat pocket
A few minutes later the friends were seated together at dinner; but
Strether had meanwhile said nothing about it, and they eventually
parted, after coffee in the court, with nothing said on either
side. Our friend had moreover the consciousness that even less than
usual was on this occasion said between them, so that it was almost
as if each had been waiting for something from the other. Waymarsh
had always more or less the air of sitting at the door of his tent,
and silence, after so many weeks, had come to play its part in
their concert. This note indeed, to Strether's sense, had lately
taken a fuller tone, and it was his fancy to-night that they had
never quite so drawn it out. Yet it befell, none the less that he
closed the door to confidence when his companion finally asked him
if there were anything particular the matter with him. "Nothing,"
he replied, "more than usual."
On the morrow, however, at an early hour, he found occasion to give
an answer more in consonance with the facts. What was the matter
had continued to be so all the previous evening, the first hours of
which, after dinner, in his room, he had devoted to the copious
composition of a letter. He had quitted Waymarsh for this purpose,
leaving him to his own resources with less ceremony than their
wont, but finally coming down again with his letter unconcluded and
going forth into the streets without enquiry for his comrade. He
had taken a long vague walk, and one o'clock had struck before his
return and his re-ascent to his room by the aid of the glimmering
candle-end left for him on the shelf outside the porter's lodge. He
had possessed himself, on closing his door, of the numerous loose
sheets of his unfinished composition, and then, without reading
them over, had torn them into small pieces. He had thereupon slept--
as if it had been in some measure thanks to that sacrifice--the
sleep of the just, and had prolonged his rest considerably beyond
his custom. Thus it was that when, between nine and ten, the tap of
the knob of a walking-stick sounded on his door, he had not yet
made himself altogether presentable. Chad Newsome's bright deep
voice determined quickly enough none the less the admission of the
visitor. The little blue paper of the evening before, plainly an
object the more precious for its escape from premature destruction,
now lay on the sill of the open window, smoothed out afresh and
kept from blowing away by the superincumbent weight of his watch.
Chad, looking about with careless and competent criticism, as he
looked wherever he went immediately espied it and permitted himself
to fix it for a moment rather hard. After which he turned his eyes
to his host. "It has come then at last?"
Strether paused in the act of pinning his necktie. "Then you know--?
You've had one too?"
"No, I've had nothing, and I only know what I see. I see that thing
and I guess. Well," he added, "it comes as pat as in a play, for
I've precisely turned up this morning--as I would have done
yesterday, but it was impossible--to take you."
"To take me?" Strether had turned again to his glass.
"Back, at last, as I promised. I'm ready--I've really been ready
this month. I've only been waiting for you--as was perfectly right.
But you're better now; you're safe--I see that for myself; you've
got all your good. You're looking, this morning, as fit as a flea."
Strether, at his glass, finished dressing; consulting that witness
moreover on this last opinion. WAS he looking preternaturally fit?
There was something in it perhaps for Chad's wonderful eye, but he
had felt himself for hours rather in pieces. Such a judgement,
however, was after all but a contribution to his resolve; it
testified unwittingly to his wisdom. He was still firmer,
apparently--since it shone in him as a light--than he had flattered
himself. His firmness indeed was slightly compromised, as he faced
about to his friend, by the way this very personage looked--though
the case would of course have been worse hadn't the secret of
personal magnificence been at every hour Chad's unfailing
possession. There he was in all the pleasant morning freshness of
it--strong and sleek and gay, easy and fragrant and fathomless,
with happy health in his colour, and pleasant silver in his thick
young hair, and the right word for everything on the lips that his
clear brownness caused to show as red. He had never struck Strether
as personally such a success; it was as if now, for his definite
surrender, he had gathered himself vividly together. This, sharply
and rather strangely, was the form in which he was to be presented
to Woollett. Our friend took him in again--he was always taking him
in and yet finding that parts of him still remained out; though
even thus his image showed through a mist of other things. "I've
had a cable," Strether said, "from your mother."
"I dare say, my dear man. I hope she's well."
Strether hesitated. "No--she's not well, I'm sorry to have to tell
"Ah," said Chad, "I must have had the instinct of it. All the more
reason then that we should start straight off."
Strether had now got together hat, gloves and stick, but Chad had
dropped on the sofa as if to show where he wished to make his
point. He kept observing his companion's things; he might have been
judging how quickly they could be packed. He might even have wished
to hint that he'd send his own servant to assist. "What do you
mean," Strether enquired, "by 'straight off'?"
"Oh by one of next week's boats. Everything at this season goes out
so light that berths will be easy anywhere."
Strether had in his hand his telegram, which he had kept there
after attaching his watch, and he now offered it to Chad, who,
however, with an odd movement, declined to take it. "Thanks, I'd
rather not. Your correspondence with Mother's your own affair. I'm
only WITH you both on it, whatever it is." Strether, at this, while
their eyes met, slowly folded the missive and put it in his pocket;
after which, before he had spoken again, Chad broke fresh ground.
"Has Miss Gostrey come back?"
But when Strether presently spoke it wasn't in answer. "It's not, I
gather, that your mother's physically ill; her health, on the
whole, this spring, seems to have been better than usual. But she's
worried, she's anxious, and it appears to have risen within the
last few days to a climax. We've tired out, between us, her
"Oh it isn't YOU!" Chad generously protested.
"I beg your pardon--it IS me." Strether was mild and melancholy,
but firm. He saw it far away and over his companion's head. "It's
very particularly me."
"Well then all the more reason. Marchons, marchons!" said the young
man gaily. His host, however, at this, but continued to stand
agaze; and he had the next thing repeated his question of a moment
before. "Has Miss Gostrey come back?"
"Yes, two days ago."
"Then you've seen her?"
"No--I'm to see her to-day." But Strether wouldn't linger now on
Miss Gostrey. "Your mother sends me an ultimatum. If I can't bring
you I'm to leave you; I'm to come at any rate myself."
"Ah but you CAN bring me now," Chad, from his sofa, reassuringly
Strether had a pause. "I don't think I understand you. Why was it
that, more than a month ago, you put it to me so urgently to let
Madame de Vionnet speak for you?"
"'Why'?" Chad considered, but he had it at his fingers' ends. "Why
but because I knew how well she'd do it? It was the way to keep you
quiet and, to that extent, do you good. Besides," he happily and
comfortably explained, "I wanted you really to know her and to get
the impression of her--and you see the good that HAS done you."
"Well," said Strether, "the way she has spoken for you, all the
same--so far as I've given her a chance--has only made me feel how
much she wishes to keep you. If you make nothing of that I don't
see why you wanted me to listen to her."
"Why my dear man," Chad exclaimed, "I make everything of it! How
can you doubt--?"
"I doubt only because you come to me this morning with your signal
Chad stared, then gave a laugh. "And isn't my signal to start just
what you've been waiting for?"
Strether debated; he took another turn. "This last month I've been
awaiting, I think, more than anything else, the message I have
"You mean you've been afraid of it?"
"Well, I was doing my business in my own way. And I suppose your
present announcement," Strether went on, "isn't merely the result
of your sense of what I've expected. Otherwise you wouldn't have
put me in relation--" But he paused, pulling up.
At this Chad rose. "Ah HER wanting me not to go has nothing to do
with it! It's only because she's afraid--afraid of the way that,
over there, I may get caught. But her fear's groundless."
He had met again his companion's sufficiently searching look. "Are
you tired of her?"
Chad gave him in reply to this, with a movement of the head, the
strangest slow smile he had ever had from him. "Never."
It had immediately, on Strether's imagination, so deep and soft an
effect that our friend could only for the moment keep it before
"Never," Chad obligingly and serenely repeated.
It made his companion take several more steps. "Then YOU'RE not
"Afraid to go?"
Strether pulled up again. "Afraid to stay."
The young man looked brightly amazed. "You want me now to 'stay'?"
"If I don't immediately sail the Pococks will immediately come out.
That's what I mean," said Strether, "by your mother's ultimatum ."
Chad showed a still livelier, but not an alarmed interest. "She has
turned on Sarah and Jim?"
Strether joined him for an instant in the vision. "Oh and you may
be sure Mamie. THAT'S whom she's turning on."
This also Chad saw--he laughed out. "Mamie--to corrupt me?"
"Ah," said Strether, "she's very charming."
"So you've already more than once told me. I should like to see
Something happy and easy, something above all unconscious, in the
way he said this, brought home again to his companion the facility
of his attitude and the enviability of his state. "See her then by
all means. And consider too," Strether went on, "that you really
give your sister a lift in letting her come to you. You give her a
couple of months of Paris, which she hasn't seen, if I'm not
mistaken, since just after she was married, and which I'm sure she
wants but the pretext to visit."
Chad listened, but with all his own knowledge of the world. "She
has had it, the pretext, these several years, yet she has never
"Do you mean YOU?" Strether after an instant enquired.
"Certainly--the lone exile. And whom do you mean?" said Chad.
"Oh I mean ME. I'm her pretext. That is--for it comes to the same
thing--I'm your mother's."
"Then why," Chad asked, "doesn't Mother come herself?"
His friend gave him a long look. "Should you like her to?" And as
he for the moment said nothing: "It's perfectly open to you to
cable for her."
Chad continued to think. "Will she come if I do?"
"Quite possibly. But try, and you'll see."
"Why don't YOU try?" Chad after a moment asked.
"Because I don't want to."
Chad thought. "Don't desire her presence here?"
Strether faced the question, and his answer was the more emphatic.
"Don't put it off, my dear boy, on ME!"
"Well--I see what you mean. I'm sure you'd behave beautifully but you
DON'T want to see her. So I won't play you that trick.'
"Ah," Strether declared, "I shouldn't call it a trick. You've a
perfect right, and it would be perfectly straight of you." Then he
added in a different tone: "You'd have moreover, in the person of
Madame de Vionnet, a very interesting relation prepared for her."
Their eyes, on this proposition, continued to meet, but Chad's
pleasant and bold, never flinched for a moment. He got up at last
and he said something with which Strether was struck. "She wouldn't
understand her, but that makes no difference. Madame de Vionnet
would like to see her. She'd like to be charming to her. She
believes she could work it."
Strether thought a moment, affected by this, but finally turning
away. "She couldn't!"
"You're quite sure?" Chad asked.
"Well, risk it if you like!"
Strether, who uttered this with serenity, had urged a plea for their
now getting into the air; but the young man still waited. "Have you
sent your answer?"
"No, I've done nothing yet."
"Were you waiting to see me?"
"No, not that."
"Only waiting"--and Chad, with this, had a smile for him--"to see
"No--not even Miss Gostrey. I wasn't waiting to see any one. I had
only waited, till now, to make up my mind--in complete solitude;
and, since I of course absolutely owe you the information, was on
the point of going out with it quite made up. Have therefore a
little more patience with me. Remember," Strether went on, "that
that's what you originally asked ME to have. I've had it, you see,
and you see what has come of it. Stay on with me."
Chad looked grave. "How much longer?"
"Well, till I make you a sign. I can't myself, you know, at the
best, or at the worst, stay for ever. Let the Pococks come,"
"Because it gains you time?"
"Yes--it gains me time."
Chad, as if it still puzzled him, waited a minute. "You don't want
to get back to Mother?"
"Not just yet. I'm not ready."
"You feel," Chad asked in a tone of his own, "the charm of life
"Immensely." Strether faced it. "You've helped me so to feel it
that that surely needn't surprise you."
"No, it doesn't surprise me, and I'm delighted. But what, my dear
man," Chad went on with conscious queerness, "does it all lead to
The change of position and of relation, for each, was so oddly
betrayed in the question that Chad laughed out as soon as he had
uttered it--which made Strether also laugh. "Well, to my having a
certitude that has been tested--that has passed through the fire.
But oh," he couldn't help breaking out, "if within my first month
here you had been willing to move with me--!"
"Well?" said Chad, while he broke down as for weight of thought.
"Well, we should have been over there by now."
"Ah but you wouldn't have had your fun!"
"I should have had a month of it; and I'm having now, if you want
to know," Strether continued, "enough to last me for the rest of my
Chad looked amused and interested, yet still somewhat in the dark;
partly perhaps because Strether's estimate of fun had required of
him from the first a good deal of elucidation. "It wouldn't do if
I left you--?"
"Left me?"--Strether remained blank.
"Only for a month or two--time to go and come. Madame de Vionnet,"
Chad smiled, "would look after you in the interval."
"To go back by yourself, I remaining here?" Again for an instant
their eyes had the question out; after which Strether said:
"But I want to see Mother," Chad presently returned. "Remember how
long it is since I've seen Mother."
"Long indeed; and that's exactly why I was originally so keen for
moving you. Hadn't you shown us enough how beautifully you could do
"Oh but," said Chad wonderfully, "I'm better now."
There was an easy triumph in it that made his friend laugh out
again. "Oh if you were worse I SHOULD know what to do with you. In
that case I believe I'd have you gagged and strapped down, carried
on board resisting, kicking. How MUCH," Strether asked, "do you
want to see Mother?"
"How much?"--Chad seemed to find it in fact difficult to say.
"Why as much as you've made me. I'd give anything to see her. And
you've left me," Chad went on, "in little enough doubt as to how
much SHE wants it."
Strether thought a minute. "Well then if those things are really
your motive catch the French steamer and sail to-morrow. Of course,
when it comes to that, you're absolutely free to do as you choose.
From the moment you can't hold yourself I can only accept your
"I'll fly in a minute then," said Chad, "if you'll stay here."
"I'll stay here till the next steamer--then I'll follow you."
"And do you call that," Chad asked, "accepting my flight?"
"Certainly--it's the only thing to call it. The only way to keep me
here, accordingly," Strether explained, "is by staying yourself."
Chad took it in. "All the more that I've really dished you, eh?"
"Dished me?" Strether echoed as inexpressively as possible.
"Why if she sends out the Pococks it will be that she doesn't trust
you, and if she doesn't trust you, that bears upon--well, you know
Strether decided after a moment that he did know what, and in
consonance with this he spoke. "You see then all the more what you
"Well, if I do see, how can I pay?"
"By not deserting me. By standing by me."
"Oh I say--!" But Chad, as they went downstairs, clapped a firm
hand, in the manner of a pledge, upon his shoulder. They descended
slowly together and had, in the court of the hotel, some further
talk, of which the upshot was that they presently separated. Chad
Newsome departed, and Strether, left alone, looked about, superficially,
for Waymarsh. But Waymarsh hadn't yet, it appeared, come down, and
our friend finally went forth without sight of him.
At four o'clock that afternoon he had still not seen him, but he
was then, as to make up for this, engaged in talk about him with
Miss Gostrey. Strether had kept away from home all day, given
himself up to the town and to his thoughts, wandered and mused,
been at once restless and absorbed--and all with the present climax
of a rich little welcome in the Quartier Marboeuf. "Waymarsh has
been, 'unbeknown' to me, I'm convinced"--for Miss Gostrey had
enquired--"in communication with Woollett: the consequence of which
was, last night, the loudest possible call for me."
"Do you mean a letter to bring you home?"
"No--a cable, which I have at this moment in my pocket: a 'Come
back by the first ship.'"
Strether's hostess, it might have been made out, just escaped
changing colour. Reflexion arrived but in time and established a
provisional serenity. It was perhaps exactly this that enabled her
to say with duplicity: "And you're going--?"
"You almost deserve it when you abandon me so."
She shook her head as if this were not worth taking up. "My absence
has helped you--as I've only to look at you to see. It was my
calculation, and I'm justified. You're not where you were. And the
thing," she smiled, "was for me not to be there either. You can go
"Oh but I feel to-day," he comfortably declared, "that I shall want
She took him all in again. "Well, I promise you not again to leave
you, but it will only be to follow you. You've got your momentum
and can toddle alone."
He intelligently accepted it. "Yes--I suppose I can toddle. It's
the sight of that in fact that has upset Waymarsh. He can bear it--
the way I strike him as going--no longer. That's only the climax
of his original feeling. He wants me to quit; and he must have
written to Woollett that I'm in peril of perdition."
"Ah good!" she murmured. "But is it only your supposition?"
"I make it out--it explains."
"Then he denies?--or you haven't asked him?"
"I've not had time," Strether said; "I made it out but last night,
putting various things together, and I've not been since then face
to face with him."
She wondered. "Because you're too disgusted? You can't trust
He settled his glasses on his nose. "Do I look in a great rage?"
"You look divine!"
"There's nothing," he went on, "to be angry about. He has done me
on the contrary a service."
She made it out. "By bringing things to a head?"
"How well you understand!" he almost groaned. "Waymarsh won't in
the least, at any rate, when I have it out with him, deny or
extenuate. He has acted from the deepest conviction, with the best
conscience and after wakeful nights. He'll recognise that he's
fully responsible, and will consider that he has been highly
successful; so that any discussion we may have will bring us quite
together again--bridge the dark stream that has kept us so
thoroughly apart. We shall have at last, in the consequences of his
act, something we can definitely talk about."
She was silent a little. "How wonderfully you take it! But you're
He had a pause that matched her own; then he had, with an adequate
spirit, a complete admission. "It's quite true. I'm extremely
wonderful just now. I dare say in fact I'm quite fantastic, and I
shouldn't be at all surprised if I were mad."
"Then tell me!" she earnestly pressed. As he, however, for the time
answered nothing, only returning the look with which she watched
him, she presented herself where it was easier to meet her. "What
will Mr. Waymarsh exactly have done?"
"Simply have written a letter. One will have been quite enough. He
has told them I want looking after."
"And DO you?"--she was all interest.
"Immensely. And I shall get it."
"By which you mean you don't budge?"
"I don't budge."
"No--I've made Chad do it."
"That you decline to come?"
"That HE declines. We had it out this morning and I brought him
round. He had come in, before I was down, to tell me he was ready--
ready, I mean, to return. And he went off, after ten minutes with
me, to say he wouldn't."
Miss Gostrey followed with intensity. "Then you've STOPPED him?"
Strether settled himself afresh in his chair. "I've stopped him.
That is for the time. That"--he gave it to her more vividly--"is
where I am."
"I see, I see. But where's Mr. Newsome? He was ready," she asked,
"And sincerely--believing YOU'D be?"
"Perfectly, I think; so that he was amazed to find the hand I had
laid on him to pull him over suddenly converted into an engine for
keeping him still."
It was an account of the matter Miss Gostrey could weigh. "Does he
think the conversion sudden?"
"Well," said Strether, "I'm not altogether sure what he thinks. I'm
not sure of anything that concerns him, except that the more I've
seen of him the less I've found him what I originally expected.
He's obscure, and that's why I'm waiting."
She wondered. "But for what in particular?"
"For the answer to his cable."
"And what was his cable?"
"I don't know," Strether replied; "it was to be, when he left me,
according to his own taste. I simply said to him: 'I want to stay,
and the only way for me to do so is for you to.' That I wanted to
stay seemed to interest him, and he acted on that."
Miss Gostrey turned it over. "He wants then himself to stay."
"He half wants it. That is he half wants to go. My original appeal
has to that extent worked in him. Nevertheless," Strether pursued,
"he won't go. Not, at least, so long as I'm here."
"But you can't," his companion suggested, "stay here always. I wish
"By no means. Still, I want to see him a little further. He's not
in the least the case I supposed, he's quite another case. And it's
as such that he interests me." It was almost as if for his own
intelligence that, deliberate and lucid, our friend thus expressed
the matter. "I don't want to give him up."
Miss Gostrey but desired to help his lucidity. She had however to
be light and tactful. "Up, you mean--a--to his mother?"
"Well, I'm not thinking of his mother now. I'm thinking of the plan
of which I was the mouthpiece, which, as soon as we met, I put
before him as persuasively as I knew how, and which was drawn up,
as it were, in complete ignorance of all that, in this last long
period, has been happening to him. It took no account whatever of
the impression I was here on the spot immediately to begin to
receive from him--impressions of which I feel sure I'm far from
having had the last."
Miss Gostrey had a smile of the most genial criticism. "So your
idea is--more or less--to stay out of curiosity?"
"Call it what you like! I don't care what it's called--"
"So long as you do stay? Certainly not then. I call it, all the
same, immense fun," Maria Gostrey declared; "and to see you work it
out will be one of the sensations of my life. It IS clear you can
He received this tribute without elation. "I shan't be alone when
the Pococks have come."
Her eyebrows went up. "The Pococks are coming?"
"That, I mean, is what will happen--and happen as quickly as
possible--in consequence of Chad's cable. They'll simply embark.
Sarah will come to speak for her mother--with an effect different
from MY muddle."
Miss Gostrey more gravely wondered. "SHE then will take him back?"
"Very possibly--and we shall see. She must at any rate have the
chance, and she may be trusted to do all she can."
"And do you WANT that?"
"Of course," said Strether, "I want it. I want to play fair "
But she had lost for a moment the thread. "If it devolves on the
Pococks why do you stay?"
"Just to see that I DO play fair--and a little also, no doubt, that
they do." Strether was luminous as he had never been. "I came out
to find myself in presence of new facts--facts that have kept
striking me as less and less met by our old reasons. The matter's
perfectly simple. New reasons--reasons as new as the facts
themselves--are wanted; and of this our friends at Woollett--Chad's
and mine--were at the earliest moment definitely notified. If any
are producible Mrs. Pocock will produce them; she'll bring over the
whole collection. They'll be," he added with a pensive smile "a
part of the 'fun' you speak of."
She was quite in the current now and floating by his side. "It's
Mamie--so far as I've had it from you--who'll be their great card."
And then as his contemplative silence wasn't a denial she
significantly added: "I think I'm sorry for her."
"I think I am!"--and Strether sprang up, moving about a little as
her eyes followed him. "But it can't be helped."
"You mean her coming out can't be?"
He explained after another turn what he meant. "The only way for
her not to come is for me to go home--as I believe that on the spot
I could prevent it. But the difficulty as to that is that if I do
"I see, I see"--she had easily understood. "Mr. Newsome will do the
same, and that's not"--she laughed out now--"to be thought of."
Strether had no laugh; he had only a quiet comparatively placid
look that might have shown him as proof against ridicule. "Strange,
They had, in the matter that so much interested them, come so far
as this without sounding another name--to which however their
present momentary silence was full of a conscious reference.
Strether's question was a sufficient implication of the weight it
had gained with him during the absence of his hostess; and just for
that reason a single gesture from her could pass for him as a vivid
answer. Yet he was answered still better when she said in a moment:
"Will Mr. Newsome introduce his sister--?"
"To Madame de Vionnet?" Strether spoke the name at last. "I shall
be greatly surprised if he doesn't."
She seemed to gaze at the possibility. "You mean you've thought of
it and you're prepared."
"I've thought of it and I'm prepared."
It was to her visitor now that she applied her consideration. "Bon!
You ARE magnificent!"
"Well," he answered after a pause and a little wearily, but still