Part 6 out of 9
standing there before her--"well, that's what, just once in all my
dull days, I think I shall like to have been!"
Two days later he had news from Chad of a communication from
Woollett in response to their determinant telegram, this missive
being addressed to Chad himself and announcing the immediate
departure for France of Sarah and Jim and Mamie. Strether had
meanwhile on his own side cabled; he had but delayed that act till
after his visit to Miss Gostrey, an interview by which, as so often
before, he felt his sense of things cleared up and settled. His
message to Mrs. Newsome, in answer to her own, had consisted of the
words: "Judge best to take another month, but with full
appreciation of all re-enforcements." He had added that he was
writing, but he was of course always writing; it was a practice
that continued, oddly enough, to relieve him, to make him come
nearer than anything else to the consciousness of doing something:
so that he often wondered if he hadn't really, under his recent
stress, acquired some hollow trick, one of the specious arts of
make-believe. Wouldn't the pages he still so freely dispatched by
the American post have been worthy of a showy journalist, some
master of the great new science of beating the sense out of words?
Wasn't he writing against time, and mainly to show he was kind?--
since it had become quite his habit not to like to read himself
over. On those lines he could still be liberal, yet it was at best
a sort of whistling in the dark. It was unmistakeable moreover that
the sense of being in the dark now pressed on him more sharply--
creating thereby the need for a louder and livelier whistle. He
whistled long and hard after sending his message; he whistled again
and again in celebration of Chad's news; there was an interval of a
fortnight in which this exercise helped him. He had no great notion
of what, on the spot, Sarah Pocock would have to say, though he had
indeed confused premonitions; but it shouldn't be in her power to
say--it shouldn't be in any one's anywhere to say--that he was
neglecting her mother. He might have written before more freely,
but he had never written more copiously; and he frankly gave for a
reason at Woollett that he wished to fill the void created there by
The increase of his darkness, however, and the quickening, as I
have called it, of his tune, resided in the fact that he was
hearing almost nothing. He had for some time been aware that he was
hearing less than before, and he was now clearly following a
process by which Mrs. Newsome's letters could but logically stop.
He hadn't had a line for many days, and he needed no proof--though
he was, in time, to have plenty--that she wouldn't have put pen to
paper after receiving the hint that had determined her telegram.
She wouldn't write till Sarah should have seen him and reported on
him. It was strange, though it might well be less so than his own
behaviour appeared at Woollett. It was at any rate significant, and
what WAS remarkable was the way his friend's nature and manner put
on for him, through this very drop of demonstration, a greater
intensity. It struck him really that he had never so lived with her
as during this period of her silence; the silence was a sacred
hush, a finer clearer medium, in which her idiosyncrasies showed.
He walked about with her, sat with her, drove with her and dined
face-to-face with her--a rare treat "in his life," as he could
perhaps have scarce escaped phrasing it; and if he had never seen
her so soundless he had never, on the other hand, felt her so
highly, so almost austerely, herself: pure and by the vulgar
estimate "cold," but deep devoted delicate sensitive noble. Her
vividness in these respects became for him, in the special
conditions, almost an obsession; and though the obsession sharpened
his pulses, adding really to the excitement of life, there were
hours at which, to be less on the stretch, he directly sought
forgetfulness. He knew it for the queerest of adventures--a
circumstance capable of playing such a part only for Lambert
Strether--that in Paris itself, of all places, he should find this
ghost of the lady of Woollett more importunate than any other
When he went back to Maria Gostrey it was for the change to
something else. And yet after all the change scarcely operated for
he talked to her of Mrs. Newsome in these days as he had never
talked before. He had hitherto observed in that particular a
discretion and a law; considerations that at present broke down
quite as if relations had altered. They hadn't REALLY altered, he
said to himself, so much as that came to; for if what had occurred
was of course that Mrs. Newsome had ceased to trust him, there was
nothing on the other hand to prove that he shouldn't win back her
confidence. It was quite his present theory that he would leave no
stone unturned to do so; and in fact if he now told Maria things
about her that he had never told before this was largely because it
kept before him the idea of the honour of such a woman's esteem.
His relation with Maria as well was, strangely enough, no longer
quite the same; this truth--though not too disconcertingly--had
come up between them on the renewal of their meetings. It was all
contained in what she had then almost immediately said to him; it
was represented by the remark she had needed but ten minutes to
make and that he hadn't been disposed to gainsay. He could toddle
alone, and the difference that showed was extraordinary. The turn
taken by their talk had promptly confirmed this difference; his
larger confidence on the score of Mrs. Newsome did the rest; and
the time seemed already far off when he had held out his small
thirsty cup to the spout of her pail. Her pail was scarce touched
now, and other fountains had flowed for him; she fell into her
place as but one of his tributaries; and there was a strange
sweetness--a melancholy mildness that touched him--in her
acceptance of the altered order.
It marked for himself the flight of time, or at any rate what he
was pleased to think of with irony and pity as the rush of experience;
it having been but the day before yesterday that he sat at her feet
and held on by her garment and was fed by her hand. It was the
proportions that were changed, and the proportions were at all
times, he philosophised, the very conditions of perception, the
terms of thought. It was as if, with her effective little entresol and
and her wide acquaintance, her activities, varieties, promiscuities,
the duties and devotions that took up nine tenths of her time and
of which he got, guardedly, but the side-wind--it was as if she had
shrunk to a secondary element and had consented to the shrinkage
with the perfection of tact. This perfection had never failed
her; it had originally been greater than his prime measure for it;
it had kept him quite apart, kept him out of the shop, as she
called her huge general acquaintance, made their commerce as
quiet, as much a thing of the home alone--the opposite of the
shop--as if she had never another customer. She had been wonderful
to him at first, with the memory of her little entresol, the image
to which, on most mornings at that time, his eyes directly opened;
but now she mainly figured for him as but part of the bristling
total--though of course always as a person to whom he should never
cease to be indebted. It would never be given to him certainly
to inspire a greater kindness. She had decked him out for others,
and he saw at this point at least nothing she would ever ask for.
She only wondered and questioned and listened, rendering him the
homage of a wistful speculation. She expressed it repeatedly;
he was already far beyond her, and she must prepare herself to
lose him. There was but one little chance for her.
Often as she had said it he met it--for it was a touch he liked--
each time the same way. "My coming to grief?"
"Yes--then I might patch you up."
"Oh for my real smash, if it takes place, there will be no
"But you surely don't mean it will kill you."
"No--worse. It will make me old."
"Ah nothing can do that! The wonderful and special thing about you
is that you ARE, at this time of day, youth." Then she always made,
further, one of those remarks that she had completely ceased to
adorn with hesitations or apologies, and that had, by the same
token, in spite of their extreme straightness, ceased to produce in
Strether the least embarrassment. She made him believe them, and
they became thereby as impersonal as truth itself. "It's just your
His answer too was always the same. "Of course I'm youth--youth
for the trip to Europe. I began to be young, or at least to get the
benefit of it, the moment I met you at Chester, and that's what has
been taking place ever since. I never had the benefit at the proper
time--which comes to saying that I never had the thing itself. I'm
having the benefit at this moment; I had it the other day when I
said to Chad 'Wait'; I shall have it still again when Sarah Pocock
arrives. It's a benefit that would make a poor show for many
people; and I don't know who else but you and I, frankly, could
begin to see in it what I feel. I don't get drunk; I don't pursue
the ladies; I don't spend money; I don't even write sonnets. But
nevertheless I'm making up late for what I didn't have early. I
cultivate my little benefit in my own little way. It amuses me more
than anything that has happened to me in all my life. They may say
what they like--it's my surrender, it's my tribute, to youth. One
puts that in where one can--it has to come in somewhere, if only
out of the lives, the conditions, the feelings of other persons.
Chad gives me the sense of it, for all his grey hairs, which merely
make it solid in him and safe and serene; and SHE does the same,
for all her being older than he, for all her marriageable daughter,
her separated husband, her agitated history. Though they're young
enough, my pair, I don't say they're, in the freshest way, their
own absolutely prime adolescence; for that has nothing to do with
it. The point is that they're mine. Yes, they're my youth; since
somehow at the right time nothing else ever was. What I meant just
now therefore is that it would all go--go before doing its work--
if they were to fail me."
On which, just here, Miss Gostrey inveterately questioned. "What do
you, in particular, call its work?"
"Well, to see me through."
"But through what?"--she liked to get it all out of him.
"Why through this experience." That was all that would come.
It regularly gave her none the less the last word. "Don't you
remember how in those first days of our meeting it was I who was to
see you through?"
"Remember? Tenderly, deeply"--he always rose to it. "You're just
doing your part in letting me maunder to you thus."
"Ah don't speak as if my part were small; since whatever else fails
"YOU won't, ever, ever, ever?"--he thus took her up. "Oh I beg your
pardon; you necessarily, you inevitably WILL. Your conditions--that's
what I mean--won't allow me anything to do for you."
"Let alone--I see what you mean--that I'm drearily dreadfully old.
I AM, but there's a service--possible for you to render--that I know,
all the same, I shall think of."
"And what will it be?"
This, in fine, however, she would never tell him. "You shall hear
only if your smash takes place. As that's really out of the
question, I won't expose myself''--a point at which, for reasons of
his own, Strether ceased to press.
He came round, for publicity--it was the easiest thing--to the idea
that his smash WAS out of the question, and this rendered idle the
discussion of what might follow it. He attached an added
importance, as the days elapsed, to the arrival of the Pococks; he
had even a shameful sense of waiting for it insincerely and
incorrectly. He accused himself of making believe to his own mind
that Sarah's presence, her impression, her judgement would simplify
and harmonise, he accused himself of being so afraid of what they
MIGHT do that he sought refuge, to beg the whole question, in a
vain fury. He had abundantly seen at home what they were in the
habit of doing, and he had not at present the smallest ground. His
clearest vision was when he made out that what he most desired was
an account more full and free of Mrs. Newsome's state of mind than
any he felt he could now expect from herself; that calculation at
least went hand in hand with the sharp consciousness of wishing to
prove to himself that he was not afraid to look his behaviour in
the face. If he was by an inexorable logic to pay for it he was
literally impatient to know the cost, and he held himself ready to
pay in instalments. The first instalment would be precisely this
entertainment of Sarah; as a consequence of which moreover. he
should know vastly better how he stood.
Strether rambled alone during these few days, the effect of the
incident of the previous week having been to simplify in a marked
fashion his mixed relations with Waymarsh. Nothing had passed
between them in reference to Mrs. Newsome's summons but that our
friend had mentioned to his own the departure of the deputation
actually at sea--giving him thus an opportunity to confess to the
occult intervention he imputed to him. Waymarsh however in the
event confessed to nothing; and though this falsified in some
degree Strether's forecast the latter amusedly saw in it the same
depth of good conscience out of which the dear man's impertinence
had originally sprung. He was patient with the dear man now and
delighted to observe how unmistakeably he had put on flesh; he felt
his own holiday so successfully large and free that he was full of
allowances and charities in respect to those cabined and confined'
his instinct toward a spirit so strapped down as Waymarsh's was to
walk round it on tiptoe for fear of waking it up to a sense of
losses by this time irretrievable. It was all very funny he knew,
and but the difference, as he often said to himself, of tweedledum
and tweedledee--an emancipation so purely comparative that it was
like the advance of the door-mat on the scraper; yet the present
crisis was happily to profit by it and the pilgrim from Milrose to
know himself more than ever in the right.
Strether felt that when he heard of the approach of the Pococks the
impulse of pity quite sprang up in him beside the impulse of
triumph. That was exactly why Waymarsh had looked at him with eyes
in which the heat of justice was measured and shaded. He had looked
very hard, as if affectionately sorry for the friend--the friend of
fifty-five--whose frivolity had had thus to be recorded; becoming,
however, but obscurely sententious and leaving his companion to
formulate a charge. It was in this general attitude that he had of
late altogether taken refuge; with the drop of discussion they were
solemnly sadly superficial; Strether recognised in him the mere
portentous rumination to which Miss Barrace had so good-humouredly
described herself as assigning a corner of her salon. It was quite
as if he knew his surreptitious step had been divined, and it was
also as if he missed the chance to explain the purity of his
motive; but this privation of relief should be precisely his small
penance: it was not amiss for Strether that he should find himself
to that degree uneasy. If he had been challenged or accused,
rebuked for meddling or otherwise pulled up, he would probably have
shown, on his own system, all the height of his consistency, all
the depth of his good faith. Explicit resentment of his course
would have made him take the floor, and the thump of his fist on
the table would have affirmed him as consciously incorruptible. Had
what now really prevailed with Strether been but a dread of that
thump--a dread of wincing a little painfully at what it might
invidiously demonstrate? However this might be, at any rate, one of
the marks of the crisis was a visible, a studied lapse, in
Waymarsh, of betrayed concern. As if to make up to his comrade for
the stroke by which he had played providence he now conspicuously
ignored his movements, withdrew himself from the pretension to
share them, stiffened up his sensibility to neglect, and, clasping
his large empty hands and swinging his large restless foot, clearly
looked to another quarter for justice.
This made for independence on Strether's part, and he had in truth
at no moment of his stay been so free to go and come. The early
summer brushed the picture over and blurred everything but the
near; it made a vast warm fragrant medium in which the elements
floated together on the best of terms, in which rewards were
immediate and reckonings postponed. Chad was out of town again, for
the first time since his visitor's first view of him; he had
explained this necessity--without detail, yet also without
embarrassment, the circumstance was one of those which, in the
young man's life, testified to the variety of his ties. Strether
wasn't otherwise concerned with it than for its so testifying--a
pleasant multitudinous image in which he took comfort. He took
comfort, by the same stroke, in the swing of Chad's pendulum back
from that other swing, the sharp jerk towards Woollett, so stayed
by his own hand. He had the entertainment of thinking that if he
had for that moment stopped the clock it was to promote the next
minute this still livelier motion. He himself did what he hadn't
done before; he took two or three times whole days off--
irrespective of others, of two or three taken with Miss Gostrey,
two or three taken with little Bilham: he went to Chartres and
cultivated, before the front of the cathedral, a general easy
beatitude; he went to Fontainebleau and imagined himself on the way
to Italy; he went to Rouen with a little handbag and inordinately
spent the night.
One afternoon he did something quite different; finding himself in
the neighbourhood of a fine old house across the river, he passed
under the great arch of its doorway and asked at the porter's lodge
for Madame de Vionnet. He had already hovered more than once about
that possibility, been aware of it, in the course of ostensible
strolls, as lurking but round the corner. Only it had perversely
happened, after his morning at Notre Dame, that his consistency, as
he considered and intended it, had come back to him; whereby he had
reflected that the encounter in question had been none of his
making; clinging again intensely to the strength of his position,
which was precisely that there was nothing in it for himself. From
the moment he actively pursued the charming associate of his
adventure, from that moment his position weakened, for he was then
acting in an interested way. It was only within a few days that he
had fixed himself a limit: he promised himself his consistency
should end with Sarah's arrival. It was arguing correctly to feel
the title to a free hand conferred on him by this event. If he
wasn't to be let alone he should be merely a dupe to act with
delicacy. If he wasn't to be trusted he could at least take his
ease. If he was to be placed under control he gained leave to try
what his position MIGHT agreeably give him. An ideal rigour would
perhaps postpone the trial till after the Pococks had shown their
spirit; and it was to an ideal rigour that he had quite promised
himself to conform.
Suddenly, however, on this particular day, he felt a particular
fear under which everything collapsed. He knew abruptly that he was
afraid of himself--and yet not in relation to the effect on his
sensibilities of another hour of Madame de Vionnet. What he dreaded
was the effect of a single hour of Sarah Pocock, as to whom he was
visited, in troubled nights, with fantastic waking dreams. She
loomed at him larger than life; she increased in volume as she drew
nearer; she so met his eyes that, his imagination taking, after the
first step, all, and more than all, the strides, he already felt
her come down on him, already burned, under her reprobation, with
the blush of guilt, already consented, by way of penance, to the
instant forfeiture of everything. He saw himself, under her
direction, recommitted to Woollett as juvenile offenders are
committed to reformatories. It wasn't of course that Woollett was
really a place of discipline; but he knew in advance that Sarah's
salon at the hotel would be. His danger, at any rate, in such moods
of alarm, was some concession, on this ground, that would involve a
sharp rupture with the actual; therefore if he waited to take leave
of that actual he might wholly miss his chance. It was represented
with supreme vividness by Madame de Vionnet, and that is why, in a
word, he waited no longer. He had seen in a flash that he must
anticipate Mrs. Pocock. He was accordingly much disappointed on now
learning from the portress that the lady of his quest was not in
Paris. She had gone for some days to the country. There was nothing
in this accident but what was natural; yet it produced for poor
Strether a drop of all confidence. It was suddenly as if he should
never see her again, and as if moreover he had brought it on
himself by not having been quite kind to her.
It was the advantage of his having let his fancy lose itself for a
little in the gloom that, as by reaction, the prospect began really
to brighten from the moment the deputation from Woollett alighted
on the platform of the station. They had come straight from Havre,
having sailed from New York to that port, and having also, thanks
to a happy voyage, made land with a promptitude that left Chad
Newsome, who had meant to meet them at the dock, belated. He had
received their telegram, with the announcement of their immediate
further advance, just as he was taking the train for Havre, so that
nothing had remained for him but to await them in Paris. He hastily
picked up Strether, at the hotel, for this purpose, and he even,
with easy pleasantry, suggested the attendance of Waymarsh as well--
Waymarsh, at the moment his cab rattled up, being engaged, under
Strether's contemplative range, in a grave perambulation of the
familiar court. Waymarsh had learned from his companion, who had
already had a note, delivered by hand, from Chad, that the Pococks
were due, and had ambiguously, though, as always, impressively,
glowered at him over the circumstance; carrying himself in a manner
in which Strether was now expert enough to recognise his uncertainty,
in the premises, as to the best tone. The only tone he aimed at with
confidence was a full tone--which was necessarily difficult in the
absence of a full knowledge. The Pococks were a quantity as yet
unmeasured, and, as he had practically brought them over, so this
witness had to that extent exposed himself. He wanted to feel right
about it, but could only, at the best, for the time, feel vague.
"I shall look to you, you know, immensely," our friend had said,
"to help me with them," and he had been quite conscious of the
effect of the remark, and of others of the same sort, on his
comrade's sombre sensibility. He had insisted on the fact that
Waymarsh would quite like Mrs. Pocock--one could be certain he
would: he would be with her about everything, and she would also be
with HIM, and Miss Barrace's nose, in short, would find itself out
Strether had woven this web of cheerfulness while they waited in
the court for Chad; he had sat smoking cigarettes to keep himself
quiet while, caged and leonine, his fellow traveller paced and
turned before him. Chad Newsome was doubtless to be struck, when he
arrived, with the sharpness of their opposition at this particular
hour; he was to remember, as a part of it, how Waymarsh came with
him and with Strether to the street and stood there with a face
half-wistful and half-rueful. They talked of him, the two others, as
they drove, and Strether put Chad in possession of much of his own
strained sense of things. He had already, a few days before, named
to him the wire he was convinced their friend had pulled--a
confidence that had made on the young man's part quite hugely for
curiosity and diversion. The action of the matter, moreover,
Strether could see, was to penetrate; he saw that is, how Chad
judged a system of influence in which Waymarsh had served as a
determinant--an impression just now quickened again; with the whole
bearing of such a fact on the youth's view of his relatives. As it
came up between them that they might now take their friend for a
feature of the control of these latter now sought to be exerted
from Woollett, Strether felt indeed how it would be stamped all
over him, half an hour later for Sarah Pocock's eyes, that he was
as much on Chad's "side" as Waymarsh had probably described him. He
was letting himself at present, go; there was no denying it; it
might be desperation, it might be confidence; he should offer
himself to the arriving travellers bristling with all the lucidity
he had cultivated.
He repeated to Chad what he had been saying in the court to
Waymarsh; how there was no doubt whatever that his sister would
find the latter a kindred spirit, no doubt of the alliance, based
on an exchange of views, that the pair would successfully strike
up. They would become as thick as thieves--which moreover was but a
development of what Strether remembered to have said in one of his
first discussions with his mate, struck as he had then already been
with the elements of affinity between that personage and Mrs.
Newsome herself. "I told him, one day, when he had questioned me on
your mother, that she was a person who, when he should know her,
would rouse in him, I was sure, a special enthusiasm; and that
hangs together with the conviction we now feel--this certitude that
Mrs. Pocock will take him into her boat. For it's your mother's own
boat that she's pulling."
"Ah," said Chad, "Mother's worth fifty of Sally!"
"A thousand; but when you presently meet her, all the same you'll
be meeting your mother's representative--just as I shall. I feel
like the outgoing ambassador," said Strether, "doing honour to his
appointed successor." A moment after speaking as he had just done
he felt he had inadvertently rather cheapened Mrs. Newsome to her
son; an impression audibly reflected, as at first seen, in Chad's
prompt protest. He had recently rather failed of apprehension of
the young man's attitude and temper--remaining principally
conscious of how little worry, at the worst, he wasted, and he
studied him at this critical hour with renewed interest. Chad had
done exactly what he had promised him a fortnight previous--had
accepted without another question his plea for delay. He was
waiting cheerfully and handsomely, but also inscrutably and with a
slight increase perhaps of the hardness originally involved in his
acquired high polish. He was neither excited nor depressed; was
easy and acute and deliberate--unhurried unflurried unworried, only
at most a little less amused than usual. Strether felt him more
than ever a justification of the extraordinary process of which his
own absurd spirit had been the arena; he knew as their cab rolled
along, knew as he hadn't even yet known, that nothing else than
what Chad had done and had been would have led to his present
showing. They had made him, these things, what he was, and the
business hadn't been easy; it had taken time and trouble, it had
cost, above all, a price. The result at any rate was now to be
offered to Sally; which Strether, so far as that was concerned, was
glad to be there to witness. Would she in the least make it out or
take it in, the result, or would she in the least care for it if
she did? He scratched his chin as he asked himself by what name,
when challenged--as he was sure he should be--he could call it for
her. Oh those were determinations she must herself arrive at; since
she wanted so much to see, let her see then and welcome. She had
come out in the pride of her competence, yet it hummed in
Strether's inner sense that she practically wouldn't see.
That this was moreover what Chad shrewdly suspected was clear from
a word that next dropped from him. "They're children; they play at
life!"--and the exclamation was significant and reassuring. It
implied that he hadn't then, for his companion's sensibility,
appeared to give Mrs. Newsome away; and it facilitated our friend's
presently asking him if it were his idea that Mrs. Pocock and
Madame de Vionnet should become acquainted. Strether was still more
sharply struck, hereupon, with Chad's lucidity. "Why, isn't that
exactly--to get a sight of the company I keep--what she has come
"Yes--I'm afraid it is," Strether unguardedly replied.
Chad's quick rejoinder lighted his precipitation. "Why do you say
"Well, because I feel a certain responsibility. It's my testimony,
I imagine, that will have been at the bottom of Mrs. Pocock's
curiosity. My letters, as I've supposed you to understand from the
beginning, have spoken freely. I've certainly said my little say
about Madame de Vionnet."
All that, for Chad, was beautifully obvious. "Yes, but you've only
"Never more handsomely of any woman. But it's just that tone--!"
"That tone," said Chad, "that has fetched her? I dare say; but I've
no quarrel with you about it. And no more has Madame de Vionnet.
Don't you know by this time how she likes you?"
"Oh!"--and Strether had, with his groan, a real pang of melancholy.
"For all I've done for her!"
"Ah you've done a great deal."
Chad's urbanity fairly shamed him, and he was at this moment
absolutely impatient to see the face Sarah Pocock would present to
a sort of thing, as he synthetically phrased it to himself, with no
adequate forecast of which, despite his admonitions, she would
certainly arrive. "I've done THIS!"
"Well, this is all right. She likes," Chad comfortably remarked,
"to be liked."
It gave his companion a moment's thought. "And she's sure Mrs.
"No, I say that for you. She likes your liking her; it's so much,
as it were," Chad laughed, "to the good. However, she doesn't
despair of Sarah either, and is prepared, on her own side, to go
"In the way of appreciation?"
"Yes, and of everything else. In the way of general amiability,
hospitality and welcome. She's under arms," Chad laughed again;
Strether took it in; then as if an echo of Miss Barrace were in the
air: "She's wonderful."
"You don't begin to know HOW wonderful!"
There was a depth in it, to Strether's ear, of confirmed luxury--
almost a kind of unconscious insolence of proprietorship; but the
effect of the glimpse was not at this moment to foster speculation:
there was something so conclusive in so much graceful and generous
assurance. It was in fact a fresh evocation; and the evocation had
before many minutes another consequence. "Well, I shall see her
oftener now. I shall see her as much as I like--by your leave;
which is what I hitherto haven't done."
"It has been," said Chad, but without reproach, "only your own
fault. I tried to bring you together, and SHE, my dear fellow--I
never saw her more charming to any man. But you've got your
"Well, I DID have," Strether murmured, while he felt both how they
had possessed him and how they had now lost their authority. He
couldn't have traced the sequence to the end, but it was all
because of Mrs. Pocock. Mrs. Pocock might be because of Mrs. Newsome,
but that was still to be proved. What came over him was the sense
of having stupidly failed to profit where profit would have been
precious. It had been open to him to see so much more of her, and
he had but let the good days pass. Fierce in him almost was the
resolve to lose no more of them, and he whimsically reflected,
while at Chad's side he drew nearer to his destination, that it
was after all Sarah who would have quickened his chance. What
her visit of inquisition might achieve in other directions was
as yet all obscure--only not obscure that it would do supremely
much to bring two earnest persons together. He had but to listen
to Chad at this moment to feel it; for Chad was in the act of
remarking to him that they of course both counted on him--he
himself and the other earnest person--for cheer and support. It was
brave to Strether to hear him talk as if the line of wisdom they
had struck out was to make things ravishing to the Pococks. No, if
Madame de Vionnet compassed THAT, compassed the ravishment of the
Pococks, Madame de Vionnet would be prodigious. It would be a
beautiful plan if it succeeded, and it all came to the question of
Sarah's being really bribeable. The precedent of his own case
helped Strether perhaps but little to consider she might prove so;
it being distinct that her character would rather make for every
possible difference. This idea of his own bribeability set him
apart for himself; with the further mark in fact that his case was
absolutely proved. He liked always, where Lambert Strether was
concerned, to know the worst, and what he now seemed to know was
not only that he was bribeable, but that he had been effectually
bribed. The only difficulty was that he couldn't quite have said
with what. It was as if he had sold himself, but hadn't somehow got
the cash. That, however, was what, characteristically, WOULD happen
to him. It would naturally be his kind of traffic. While he thought
of these things he reminded Chad of the truth they mustn't lose
sight of--the truth that, with all deference to her susceptibility
to new interests, Sarah would have come out with a high firm
definite purpose. "She hasn't come out, you know, to be bamboozled.
We may all be ravishing--nothing perhaps can be more easy for us;
but she hasn't come out to be ravished. She has come out just
simply to take you home."
"Oh well, with HER I'll go," said Chad good-humouredly. "I suppose
you'll allow THAT." And then as for a minute Strether said nothing:
"Or is your idea that when I've seen her I shan't want to go?" As
this question, however, again left his friend silent he presently went
on: "My own idea at any rate is that they shall have while they're here
the best sort of time."
It was at this that Strether spoke. "Ah there you are! I think if
you really wanted to go--!"
"Well?" said Chad to bring it out.
"Well, you wouldn't trouble about our good time. You wouldn't care
what sort of a time we have."
Chad could always take in the easiest way in the world any
ingenious suggestion. "I see. But can I help it? I'm too decent."
"Yes, you're too decent!" Strether heavily sighed. And he felt for
the moment as if it were the preposterous end of his mission.
It ministered for the time to this temporary effect that Chad made
no rejoinder. But he spoke again as they came in sight of the
station. "Do you mean to introduce her to Miss Gostrey?"
As to this Strether was ready. "No."
"But haven't you told me they know about her?"
"I think I've told you your mother knows."
"And won't she have told Sally?"
"That's one of the things I want to see."
"And if you find she HAS--?"
"Will I then, you mean, bring them together?"
"Yes," said Chad with his pleasant promptness: "to show her there's
nothing in it."
Strether hesitated. "I don't know that I care very much what she
may think there's in it."
"Not if it represents what Mother thinks?"
"Ah what DOES your mother think?" There was in this some sound of
But they were just driving up, and help, of a sort, might after all
be quite at hand. "Isn't that, my dear man, what we're both just
going to make out?"
Strether quitted the station half an hour later in different
company. Chad had taken charge, for the journey to the hotel, of
Sarah, Mamie, the maid and the luggage, all spaciously installed
and conveyed; and it was only after the four had rolled away that
his companion got into a cab with Jim. A strange new feeling had
come over Strether, in consequence of which his spirits had risen;
it was as if what had occurred on the alighting of his critics had
been something other than his fear, though his fear had vet not
been of an instant scene of violence. His impression had been
nothing but what was inevitable--he said that to himself; yet
relief and reassurance had softly dropped upon him. Nothing could
be so odd as to be indebted for these things to the look of faces
and the sound of voices that had been with him to satiety, as he
might have said, for years; but he now knew, all the same, how
uneasy he had felt; that was brought home to him by his present
sense of a respite. It had come moreover in the flash of an eye, it
had come in the smile with which Sarah, whom, at the window of her
compartment, they had effusively greeted from the platform, rustled
down to them a moment later, fresh and handsome from her cool June
progress through the charming land. It was only a sign, but enough:
she was going to be gracious and unallusive, she was going to play
the larger game--which was still more apparent, after she had
emerged from Chad's arms, in her direct greeting to the valued
friend of her family.
Strether WAS then as much as ever the valued friend of her family,
it was something he could at all events go on with; and the manner
of his response to it expressed even for himself how little he had
enjoyed the prospect of ceasing to figure in that likeness. He had
always seen Sarah gracious--had in fact rarely seen her shy or dry,
her marked thin-lipped smile, intense without brightness and as
prompt to act as the scrape of a safety-match; the protrusion of
her rather remarkably long chin, which in her case represented
invitation and urbanity, and not, as in most others, pugnacity and
defiance; the penetration of her voice to a distance, the general
encouragement and approval of her manner, were all elements with
which intercourse had made him familiar, but which he noted today
almost as if she had been a new acquaintance. This first glimpse of
her had given a brief but vivid accent to her resemblance to her
mother; he could have taken her for Mrs. Newsome while she met his
eyes as the train rolled into the station. It was an impression
that quickly dropped; Mrs. Newsome was much handsomer, and while
Sarah inclined to the massive her mother had, at an age, still the
girdle of a maid; also the latter's chin was rather short, than
long, and her smile, by good fortune, much more, oh ever so much
more, mercifully vague. Strether had seen Mrs. Newsome reserved; he
had literally heard her silent, though he had never known her
unpleasant. It was the case with Mrs. Pocock that he had known HER
unpleasant, even though he had never known her not affable. She had
forms of affability that were in a high degree assertive; nothing
for instance had ever been more striking than that she was affable
What had told in any case at the window of the train was her high
clear forehead, that forehead which her friends, for some reason,
always thought of as a "brow"; the long reach of her eyes--it came
out at this juncture in such a manner as to remind him, oddly
enough, also of that of Waymarsh's; and the unusual gloss of her
dark hair, dressed and hatted, after her mother's refined example,
with such an avoidance of extremes that it was always spoken of at
Woollett as "their own." Though this analogy dropped as soon as she
was on the platform it had lasted long enough to make him feel all
the advantage, as it were, of his relief. The woman at home, the
woman to whom he was attached, was before him just long enough to
give him again the measure of the wretchedness, in fact really of
the shame, of their having to recognise the formation, between
them, of a "split." He had taken this measure in solitude and
meditation: but the catastrophe, as Sarah steamed up, looked for
its seconds unprecedentedly dreadful--or proved, more exactly,
altogether unthinkable; so that his finding something free and
familiar to respond to brought with it an instant renewal of his
loyalty. He had suddenly sounded the whole depth, had gasped at
what he might have lost.
Well, he could now, for the quarter of an hour of their detention
hover about the travellers as soothingly as if their direct message
to him was that he had lost nothing. He wasn't going to have Sarah
write to her mother that night that he was in any way altered or
strange. There had been times enough for a month when it had seemed
to him that he was strange, that he was altered, in every way; but
that was a matter for himself; he knew at least whose business it
was not; it was not at all events such a circumstance as Sarah's
own unaided lights would help her to. Even if she had come out to
flash those lights more than yet appeared she wouldn't make much
headway against mere pleasantness. He counted on being able to be
merely pleasant to the end, and if only from incapacity moreover to
formulate anything different. He couldn't even formulate to himself
his being changed and queer; it had taken place, the process,
somewhere deep down; Maria Gostrey had caught glimpses of it; but
how was he to fish it up, even if he desired, for Mrs. Pocock? This
was then the spirit in which he hovered, and with the easier throb
in it much indebted furthermore to the impression of high and
established adequacy as a pretty girl promptly produced in him by
Mamie. He had wondered vaguely--turning over many things in the
fidget of his thoughts--if Mamie WERE as pretty as Woollett
published her; as to which issue seeing her now again was to be so
swept away by Woollett's opinion that this consequence really let
loose for the imagination an avalanche of others. There were
positively five minutes in which the last word seemed of necessity
to abide with a Woollett represented by a Mamie. This was the sort
of truth the place itself would feel; it would send her forth in
confidence; it would point to her with triumph; it would take its
stand on her with assurance; it would be conscious of no
requirements she didn't meet, of no question she couldn't answer.
Well, it was right, Strether slipped smoothly enough into the
cheerfulness of saying: granted that a community MIGHT be best
represented by a young lady of twenty-two, Mamie perfectly played
the part, played it as if she were used to it, and looked and spoke
and dressed the character. He wondered if she mightn't, in the high
light of Paris, a cool full studio-light, becoming yet treacherous,
show as too conscious of these matters; but the next moment he felt
satisfied that her consciousness was after all empty for its size,
rather too simple than too mixed, and that the kind way with her
would be not to take many things out of it, but to put as many as
possible in. She was robust and conveniently tall; just a trifle
too bloodlessly fair perhaps, but with a pleasant public familiar
radiance that affirmed her vitality. She might have been
"receiving" for Woollett, wherever she found herself, and there was
something in her manner, her tone, her motion, her pretty blue
eyes, her pretty perfect teeth and her very small, too small, nose,
that immediately placed her, to the fancy, between the windows of a
hot bright room in which voices were high--up at that end to which
people were brought to be "presented." They were there to
congratulate, these images, and Strether's renewed vision, on this
hint, completed the idea. What Mamie was like was the happy bride,
the bride after the church and just before going away. She wasn't
the mere maiden, and yet was only as much married as that quantity
came to. She was in the brilliant acclaimed festal stage. Well,
might it last her long!
Strether rejoiced in these things for Chad, who was all genial
attention to the needs of his friends, besides having arranged that
his servant should reinforce him; the ladies were certainly
pleasant to see, and Mamie would be at any time and anywhere
pleasant to exhibit. She would look extraordinarily like his young
wife--the wife of a honeymoon, should he go about with her; but
that was his own affair--or perhaps it was hers; it was at any rate
something she couldn't help. Strether remembered how he had seen
him come up with Jeanne de Vionnet in Gloriani's garden, and the
fancy he had had about that--the fancy obscured now, thickly
overlaid with others; the recollection was during these minutes his
only note of trouble. He had often, in spite of himself, wondered
if Chad but too probably were not with Jeanne the object of a still
and shaded flame. It was on the cards that the child MIGHT be
tremulously in love, and this conviction now flickered up not a bit
the less for his disliking to think of it, for its being, in a
complicated situation, a complication the more, and for something
indescribable in Mamie, something at all events straightway lent
her by his own mind, something that gave her value, gave her
intensity and purpose, as the symbol of an opposition. Little
Jeanne wasn't really at all in question--how COULD she be?--yet
from the moment Miss Pocock had shaken her skirts on the platform,
touched up the immense bows of her hat and settled properly over
her shoulder the strap of her morocco-and-gilt travelling-satchel,
from that moment little Jeanne was opposed.
It was in the cab with Jim that impressions really crowded on
Strether, giving him the strangest sense of length of absence from
people among whom he had lived for years. Having them thus come out
to him was as if he had returned to find them: and the droll
promptitude of Jim's mental reaction threw his own initiation far
back into the past. Whoever might or mightn't be suited by what was
going on among them, Jim, for one, would certainly be: his instant
recognition--frank and whimsical--of what the affair was for HIM
gave Strether a glow of pleasure. "I say, you know, this IS about
my shape, and if it hadn't been for YOU--!" so he broke out as the
charming streets met his healthy appetite; and he wound up, after
an expressive nudge, with a clap of his companion's knee and an "Oh
you, you--you ARE doing it!" that was charged with rich meaning.
Strether felt in it the intention of homage, but, with a curiosity
otherwise occupied, postponed taking it up. What he was asking
himself for the time was how Sarah Pocock, in the opportunity
already given her, had judged her brother--from whom he himself, as
they finally, at the station, separated for their different
conveyances, had had a look into which he could read more than one
message. However Sarah was judging her brother, Chad's conclusion
about his sister, and about her husband and her husband's sister,
was at the least on the way not to fail of confidence. Strether
felt the confidence, and that, as the look between them was an
exchange, what he himself gave back was relatively vague. This
comparison of notes however could wait; everything struck him as
depending on the effect produced by Chad. Neither Sarah nor Mamie
had in any way, at the station--where they had had after all ample
time--broken out about it; which, to make up for this, was what our
friend had expected of Jim as soon as they should find themselves
It was queer to him that he had that noiseless brush with Chad; an
ironic intelligence with this youth on the subject of his
relatives, an intelligence carried on under their nose and, as
might be said, at their expense--such a matter marked again for him
strongly the number of stages he had come; albeit that if the
number seemed great the time taken for the final one was but the
turn of a hand. He had before this had many moments of wondering if
he himself weren't perhaps changed even as Chad was changed. Only
what in Chad was conspicuous improvement--well, he had no name
ready for the working, in his own organism, of his own more timid
dose. He should have to see first what this action would amount to.
And for his occult passage with the young man, after all, the
directness of it had no greater oddity than the fact that the young
man's way with the three travellers should have been so happy a
manifestation. Strether liked him for it, on the spot, as he hadn't
yet liked him; it affected him while it lasted as he might have
been affected by some light pleasant perfect work of art: to that
degree that he wondered if they were really worthy of it, took it
in and did it justice; to that degree that it would have been
scarce a miracle if, there in the luggage-room, while they waited
for their things, Sarah had pulled his sleeve and drawn him aside.
"You're right; we haven't quite known what you mean, Mother and I,
but now we see. Chad's magnificent; what can one want more? If THIS
is the kind of thing--!" On which they might, as it were, have
embraced and begun to work together.
Ah how much, as it was, for all her bridling brightness--which was
merely general and noticed nothing--WOULD they work together?
Strether knew he was unreasonable; he set it down to his being
nervous: people couldn't notice everything and speak of everything
in a quarter of an hour. Possibly, no doubt, also, he made too much
of Chad's display. Yet, none the less, when, at the end of five
minutes, in the cab, Jim Pocock had said nothing either--hadn't
said, that is, what Strether wanted, though he had said much else--
it all suddenly bounced back to their being either stupid or
wilful. It was more probably on the whole the former; so that that
would be the drawback of the bridling brightness. Yes, they would
bridle and be bright; they would make the best of what was before
them, but their observation would fail; it would be beyond them;
they simply wouldn't understand. Of what use would it be then that
they had come?--if they weren't to be intelligent up to THAT point:
unless indeed he himself were utterly deluded and extravagant? Was
he, on this question of Chad's improvement, fantastic and away from
the truth? Did he live in a false world, a world that had grown
simply to suit him, and was his present slight irritation--in the
face now of Jim's silence in particular--but the alarm of the vain
thing menaced by the touch of the real? Was this contribution of
the real possibly the mission of the Pococks?--had they come to
make the work of observation, as HE had practised observation,
crack and crumble, and to reduce Chad to the plain terms in which
honest minds could deal with him? Had they come in short to be sane
where Strether was destined to feel that he himself had only been
He glanced at such a contingency, but it failed to hold him long
when once he had reflected that he would have been silly, in this
case, with Maria Gostrey and little Bilham, with Madame de Vionnet
and little Jeanne, with Lambert Strether, in fine, and above all
with Chad Newsome himself. Wouldn't it be found to have made more
for reality to be silly with these persons than sane with Sarah and
Jim? Jim in fact, he presently made up his mind, was individually
out of it; Jim didn't care; Jim hadn't come out either for Chad or
for him; Jim in short left the moral side to Sally and indeed
simply availed himself now, for the sense of recreation, of the
fact that he left almost everything to Sally. He was nothing
compared to Sally, and not so much by reason of Sally's temper and
will as by that of her more developed type and greater acquaintance
with the world. He quite frankly and serenely confessed, as he sat
there with Strether, that he felt his type hang far in the rear of
his wife's and still further, if possible, in the rear of his
sister's. Their types, he well knew, were recognised and acclaimed;
whereas the most a leading Woollett business-man could hope to
achieve socially, and for that matter industrially, was a certain
freedom to play into this general glamour.
The impression he made on our friend was another of the things that
marked our friend's road. It was a strange impression, especially
as so soon produced; Strether had received it, he judged, all in
the twenty minutes; it struck him at least as but in a minor degree
the work of the long Woollett years. Pocock was normally and
consentingly though not quite wittingly out of the question. It was
despite his being normal; it was despite his being cheerful; it was
despite his being a leading Woollett business-man; and the
determination of his fate left him thus perfectly usual--as
everything else about it was clearly, to his sense, not less so. He
seemed to say that there was a whole side of life on which the
perfectly usual WAS for leading Woollett business-men to be out of
the question. He made no more of it than that, and Strether, so far
as Jim was concerned, desired to make no more. Only Strether's
imagination, as always, worked, and he asked himself if this side
of life were not somehow connected, for those who figured on it
with the fact of marriage. Would HIS relation to it, had he married
ten years before, have become now the same as Pocock's? Might it
even become the same should he marry in a few months? Should he
ever know himself as much out of the question for Mrs. Newsome as
Jim knew himself--in a dim way--for Mrs. Jim?
To turn his eyes in that direction was to be personally reassured;
he was different from Pocock; he had affirmed himself differently
and was held after all in higher esteem. What none the less came
home to him, however, at this hour, was that the society over
there, that of which Sarah and Mamie--and, in a more eminent way,
Mrs. Newsome herself--were specimens, was essentially a society of
women, and that poor Jim wasn't in it. He himself Lambert Strether,
WAS as yet in some degree--which was an odd situation for a man;
but it kept coming back to him in a whimsical way that he should
perhaps find his marriage had cost him his place. This occasion
indeed, whatever that fancy represented, was not a time of sensible
exclusion for Jim, who was in a state of manifest response to the
charm of his adventure. Small and fat and constantly facetious,
straw-coloured and destitute of marks, he would have been
practically indistinguishable hadn't his constant preference for
light-grey clothes, for white hats, for very big cigars and very
little stories, done what it could for his identity. There were
signs in him, though none of them plaintive, of always paying for
others; and the principal one perhaps was just this failure of
type. It was with this that he paid, rather than with fatigue or
waste; and also doubtless a little with the effort of humour--never
irrelevant to the conditions, to the relations, with which he was
He gurgled his joy as they rolled through the happy streets; he
declared that his trip was a regular windfall, and that he wasn't
there, he was eager to remark, to hang back from anything: he
didn't know quite what Sally had come for, but HE had come for a
good time. Strether indulged him even while wondering if what Sally
wanted her brother to go back for was to become like her husband.
He trusted that a good time was to be, out and out, the programme
for all of them; and he assented liberally to Jim's proposal that,
disencumbered and irresponsible--his things were in the omnibus
with those of the others--they should take a further turn round
before going to the hotel. It wasn't for HIM to tackle Chad--it was
Sally's job; and as it would be like her, he felt, to open fire on
the spot, it wouldn't be amiss of them to hold off and give her
time. Strether, on his side, only asked to give her time; so he
jogged with his companion along boulevards and avenues, trying to
extract from meagre material some forecast of his catastrophe. He
was quick enough to see that Jim Pocock declined judgement, had
hovered quite round the outer edge of discussion and anxiety,
leaving all analysis of their question to the ladies alone and now
only feeling his way toward some small droll cynicism. It broke out
afresh, the cynicism--it had already shown a flicker--in a but
slightly deferred: "Well, hanged if I would if I were he!"
"You mean you wouldn't in Chad's place--?"
"Give up this to go back and boss the advertising!" Poor Jim, with
his arms folded and his little legs out in the open fiacre, drank
in the sparkling Paris noon and carried his eyes from one side of
their vista to the other. "Why I want to come right out and live
here myself. And I want to live while I AM here too. I feel with
YOU--oh you've been grand, old man, and I've twigged--that it ain't
right to worry Chad. I don't mean to persecute him; I couldn't in
conscience. It's thanks to you at any rate that I'm here, and I'm
sure I'm much obliged. You're a lovely pair."
There were things in this speech that Strether let pass for the
time. "Don't you then think it important the advertising should be
thoroughly taken in hand? Chad WILL be, so far as capacity is
concerned," he went on, "the man to do it."
"Where did he get his capacity," Jim asked, "over here?"
"He didn't get it over here, and the wonderful thing is that over
here he hasn't inevitably lost it. He has a natural turn for
business, an extraordinary head. He comes by that," Strether
explained, "honestly enough. He's in that respect his father's son,
and also--for she's wonderful in her way too--his mother's. He has
other tastes and other tendencies; but Mrs. Newsome and your wife
are quite right about his having that. He's very remarkable."
"Well, I guess he is!" Jim Pocock comfortably sighed. "But if
you've believed so in his making us hum, why have you so prolonged
the discussion? Don't you know we've been quite anxious about you?"
These questions were not informed with earnestness, but Strether
saw he must none the less make a choice and take a line. "Because,
you see, I've greatly liked it. I've liked my Paris, I dare say
I've liked it too much."
"Oh you old wretch!" Jim gaily exclaimed.
"But nothing's concluded," Strether went on. "The case is more
complex than it looks from Woollett."
"Oh well, it looks bad enough from Woollett!" Jim declared.
"Even after all I've written?"
Jim bethought himself. "Isn't it what you've written that has made
Mrs. Newsome pack us off? That at least and Chad's not turning up?"
Strether made a reflexion of his own. "I see. That she should do
something was, no doubt, inevitable, and your wife has therefore of
course come out to act."
"Oh yes," Jim concurred--"to act. But Sally comes out to act, you
know," he lucidly added, "every time she leaves the house. She
never comes out but she DOES act. She's acting moreover now for her
mother, and that fixes the scale." Then he wound up, opening all
his senses to it, with a renewed embrace of pleasant Paris. "We
haven't all the same at Woollett got anything like this."
Strether continued to consider. "I'm bound to say for you all that
you strike me as having arrived in a very mild and reasonable frame
of mind. You don't show your claws. I felt just now in Mrs. Pocock
no symptom of that. She isn't fierce," he went on. "I'm such a
nervous idiot that I thought she might be."
"Oh don't you know her well enough," Pocock asked, "to have noticed
that she never gives herself away, any more than her mother ever
does? They ain't fierce, either of 'em; they let you come quite
close. They wear their fur the smooth side out--the warm side in.
Do you know what they are?" Jim pursued as he looked about him,
giving the question, as Strether felt, but half his care--"do you
know what they are? They're about as intense as they can live."
"Yes"--and Strether's concurrence had a positive precipitation;
"they're about as intense as they can live."
"They don't lash about and shake the cage," said Jim, who seemed
pleased with his analogy; "and it's at feeding-time that they're
quietest. But they always get there."
"They do indeed--they always get there!" Strether replied with a
laugh that justified his confession of nervousness. He disliked to
be talking sincerely of Mrs. Newsome with Pocock; he could have
talked insincerely. But there was something he wanted to know, a
need created in him by her recent intermission, by his having
given from the first so much, as now more than ever appeared to
him, and got so little. It was as if a queer truth in his
companion's metaphor had rolled over him with a rush. She HAD been
quiet at feeding-time; she had fed, and Sarah had fed with her,
out of the big bowl of all his recent free communication, his
vividness and pleasantness, his ingenuity and even his eloquence,
while the current of her response had steadily run thin. Jim
meanwhile however, it was true, slipped characteristically into
shallowness from the moment he ceased to speak out of the
experience of a husband.
"But of course Chad has now the advantage of being there before
her. If he doesn't work that for all it's worth--!" He sighed with
contingent pity at his brother-in-law's possible want of resource.
"He has worked it on YOU, pretty well, eh?" and he asked the next
moment if there were anything new at the Varieties, which he
pronounced in the American manner. They talked about the
Varieties--Strether confessing to a knowledge which produced again
on Pocock's part a play of innuendo as vague as a nursery-rhyme,
yet as aggressive as an elbow in his side; and they finished their
drive under the protection of easy themes. Strether waited to the
end, but still in vain, for any show that Jim had seen Chad as
different; and he could scarce have explained the discouragement
he drew from the absence of this testimony. It was what he had
taken his own stand on, so far as he had taken a stand; and if
they were all only going to see nothing he had only wasted his
time. He gave his friend till the very last moment, till they had
come into sight of the hotel; and when poor Pocock only continued
cheerful and envious and funny he fairly grew to dislike him, to
feel him extravagantly common. If they were ALL going to see
nothing!--Strether knew, as this came back to him, that he was
also letting Pocock represent for him what Mrs. Newsome wouldn't
see. He went on disliking, in the light of Jim's commonness, to
talk to him about that lady; yet just before the cab pulled up he
knew the extent of his desire for the real word from Woollett.
"Has Mrs. Newsome at all given way--?"
"'Given way'?"--Jim echoed it with the practical derision of his
sense of a long past.
"Under the strain, I mean, of hope deferred, of disappointment
repeated and thereby intensified."
"Oh is she prostrate, you mean?"--he had his categories in hand.
"Why yes, she's prostrate--just as Sally is. But they're never so
lively, you know, as when they're prostrate."
"Ah Sarah's prostrate?" Strether vaguely murmured.
"It's when they're prostrate that they most sit up."
"And Mrs. Newsome's sitting up?"
"All night, my boy--for YOU!" And Jim fetched him, with a vulgar
little guffaw, a thrust that gave relief to the picture. But he
had got what he wanted. He felt on the spot that this WAS the real
word from Woollett. "So don't you go home!" Jim added while he
alighted and while his friend, letting him profusely pay the
cabman, sat on in a momentary muse. Strether wondered if that
were the real word too.
As the door of Mrs. Pocock's salon was pushed open for him, the
next day, well before noon, he was reached by a voice with a
charming sound that made him just falter before crossing the
threshold. Madame de Vionnet was already on the field, and this
gave the drama a quicker pace than he felt it as yet--though his
suspense had increased--in the power of any act of his own to do.
He had spent the previous evening with all his old friends
together yet he would still have described himself as quite in the
dark in respect to a forecast of their influence on his situation.
It was strange now, none the less, that in the light of this
unexpected note of her presence he felt Madame de Vionnet a part
of that situation as she hadn't even yet been. She was alone, he
found himself assuming, with Sarah, and there was a bearing in
that--somehow beyond his control--on his personal fate. Yet she
was only saying something quite easy and independent--the thing
she had come, as a good friend of Chad's, on purpose to say.
"There isn't anything at all--? I should be so delighted."
It was clear enough, when they were there before him, how she had
been received. He saw this, as Sarah got up to greet him, from
something fairly hectic in Sarah's face. He saw furthermore that
they weren't, as had first come to him, alone together; he was at
no loss as to the identity of the broad high back presented to
him in the embrasure of the window furthest from the door.
Waymarsh, whom he had to-day not yet seen, whom he only knew to
have left the hotel before him, and who had taken part, the night
previous, on Mrs. Pocock's kind invitation, conveyed by Chad, in
the entertainment, informal but cordial, promptly offered by that
lady--Waymarsh had anticipated him even as Madame de Vionnet had
done, and, with his hands in his pockets and his attitude
unaffected by Strether's entrance, was looking out, in marked
detachment, at the Rue de Rivoli. The latter felt it in the air--
it was immense how Waymarsh could mark things---that he had remained
deeply dissociated from the overture to their hostess that we have
recorded on Madame de Vionnet's side. He had, conspicuously, tact,
besides a stiff general view; and this was why he had left Mrs.
Pocock to struggle alone. He would outstay the visitor; he would
unmistakeably wait; to what had he been doomed for months past but
waiting? Therefore she was to feel that she had him in reserve.
What support she drew from this was still to be seen, for, although
Sarah was vividly bright, she had given herself up for the moment
to an ambiguous flushed formalism. She had had to reckon more
quickly than she expected; but it concerned her first of all to
signify that she was not to be taken unawares. Strether arrived
precisely in time for her showing it. "Oh you're too good; but I
don't think I feel quite helpless. I have my brother--and these
American friends. And then you know I've been to Paris. I KNOW
Paris," said Sally Pocock in a tone that breathed a certain chill
on Strether's heart.
"Ah but a woman, in this tiresome place where everything's always
changing, a woman of good will," Madame de Vionnet threw off, "can
always help a woman. I'm sure you 'know'--but we know perhaps
different things." She too, visibly, wished to make no mistake; but
it was a fear of a different order and more kept out of sight. She
smiled in welcome at Strether; she greeted him more familiarly than
Mrs. Pocock; she put out her hand to him without moving from her
place; and it came to him in the course of a minute and in the
oddest way that--yes, positively--she was giving him over to ruin.
She was all kindness and ease, but she couldn't help so giving him;
she was exquisite, and her being just as she was poured for Sarah a
sudden rush of meaning into his own equivocations. How could she
know how she was hurting him? She wanted to show as simple and
humble--in the degree compatible with operative charm; but it was
just this that seemed to put him on her side. She struck him as
dressed, as arranged, as prepared infinitely to conciliate--with
the very poetry of good taste in her view of the conditions of her
early call. She was ready to advise about dressmakers and shops;
she held herself wholly at the disposition of Chad's family.
Strether noticed her card on the table--her coronet and her
"Comtesse"--and the imagination was sharp in him of certain private
adjustments in Sarah's mind. She had never, he was sure, sat with a
"Comtesse" before, and such was the specimen of that class he had
been keeping to play on her. She had crossed the sea very
particularly for a look at her; but he read in Madame de Vionnet's
own eyes that this curiosity hadn't been so successfully met as
that she herself wouldn't now have more than ever need of him. She
looked much as she had looked to him that morning at Notre Dame; he
noted in fact the suggestive sameness of her discreet and delicate
dress. It seemed to speak--perhaps a little prematurely or too
finely--of the sense in which she would help Mrs. Pocock with the
shops. The way that lady took her in, moreover, added depth to his
impression of what Miss Gostrey, by their common wisdom, had
escaped. He winced as he saw himself but for that timely prudence
ushering in Maria as a guide and an example. There was however a
touch of relief for him in his glimpse, so far as he had got it, of
Sarah's line. She "knew Paris." Madame de Vionnet had, for that
matter, lightly taken this up. "Ah then you've a turn for that, an
affinity that belongs to your family. Your brother, though his long
experience makes a difference, I admit, has become one of us in a
marvellous way." And she appealed to Strether in the manner of a
woman who could always glide off with smoothness into another
subject. Wasn't HE struck with the way Mr. Newsome had made the
place his own, and hadn't he been in a position to profit by his
friend's wondrous expertness?
Strether felt the bravery, at the least, of her presenting herself
so promptly to sound that note, and yet asked himself what other
note, after all, she COULD strike from the moment she presented
herself at all. She could meet Mrs. Pocock only on the ground of
the obvious, and what feature of Chad's situation was more eminent
than the fact that he had created for himself a new set of
circumstances? Unless she hid herself altogether she could show but
as one of these, an illustration of his domiciled and indeed of his
confirmed condition. And the consciousness of all this in her
charming eyes was so clear and fine that as she thus publicly drew
him into her boat she produced in him such a silent agitation as he
was not to fail afterwards to denounce as pusillanimous. "Ah don't
be so charming to me!--for it makes us intimate, and after all what
IS between us when I've been so tremendously on my guard and have
seen you but half a dozen times?" He recognised once more the
perverse law that so inveterately governed his poor personal
aspects: it would be exactly LIKE the way things always turned out
for him that he should affect Mrs. Pocock and Waymarsh as launched
in a relation in which he had really never been launched at all.
They were at this very moment--they could only be--attributing to
him the full licence of it, and all by the operation of her own
tone with him; whereas his sole licence had been to cling with
intensity to the brink, not to dip so much as a toe into the flood.
But the flicker of his fear on this occasion was not, as may be
added, to repeat itself; it sprang up, for its moment, only to die
down and then go out for ever. To meet his fellow visitor's
invocation and, with Sarah's brilliant eyes on him, answer, WAS
quite sufficiently to step into her boat. During the rest of the
time her visit lasted he felt himself proceed to each of the proper
offices, successively, for helping to keep the adventurous skiff
afloat. It rocked beneath him, but he settled himself in his place.
He took up an oar and, since he was to have the credit of pulling,
"That will make it all the pleasanter if it so happens that we DO
meet," Madame de Vionnet had further observed in reference to Mrs.
Pocock's mention of her initiated state; and she had immediately
added that, after all, her hostess couldn't be in need with the
good offices of Mr. Strether so close at hand. "It's he, I gather,
who has learnt to know his Paris, and to love it, better than any
one ever before in so short a time; so that between him and your
brother, when it comes to the point, how can you possibly want for
good guidance? The great thing, Mr. Strether will show you," she
smiled, "is just to let one's self go."
"Oh I've not let myself go very far," Strether answered, feeling
quite as if he had been called upon to hint to Mrs. Pocock how
Parisians could talk. "I'm only afraid of showing I haven't let
myself go far enough. I've taken a good deal of time, but I must
quite have had the air of not budging from one spot." He looked at
Sarah in a manner that he thought she might take as engaging, and
he made, under Madame de Vionnet's protection, as it were, his
first personal point. "What has really happened has been that, all
the while, I've done what I came out for."
Yet it only at first gave Madame de Vionnet a chance immediately to
take him up. "You've renewed acquaintance with your friend--you've
learnt to know him again." She spoke with such cheerful helpfulness
that they might, in a common cause, have been calling together and
pledged to mutual aid.
Waymarsh, at this, as if he had been in question, straightway
turned from the window. "Oh yes, Countess--he has renewed
acquaintance with ME, and he HAS, I guess, learnt something about
me, though I don't know how much he has liked it. It's for Strether
himself to say whether he has felt it justifies his course."
"Oh but YOU," said the Countess gaily, "are not in the least what
he came out for--is he really, Strether? and I hadn't you at all in
my mind. I was thinking of Mr. Newsome, of whom we think so much
and with whom, precisely, Mrs. Pocock has given herself the
opportunity to take up threads. What a pleasure for you both!"
Madame de Vionnet, with her eyes on Sarah, bravely continued.
Mrs. Pocock met her handsomely, but Strether quickly saw she meant
to accept no version of her movements or plans from any other lips.
She required no patronage and no support, which were but other
names for a false position; she would show in her own way what she
chose to show, and this she expressed with a dry glitter that
recalled to him a fine Woollett winter morning. "I've never wanted
for opportunities to see my brother. We've many things to think of
at home, and great responsibilities and occupations, and our home's
not an impossible place. We've plenty of reasons," Sarah continued
a little piercingly, "for everything we do"--and in short she
wouldn't give herself the least little scrap away. But she added as
one who was always bland and who could afford a concession: "I've
come because--well, because we do come."
"Ah then fortunately!"--Madame de Vionnet breathed it to the air.
Five minutes later they were on their feet for her to take leave,
standing together in an affability that had succeeded in surviving
a further exchange of remarks; only with the emphasised appearance
on Waymarsh's part of a tendency to revert, in a ruminating manner
and as with an instinctive or a precautionary lightening of his
tread, to an open window and his point of vantage. The glazed and
gilded room, all red damask, ormolu, mirrors, clocks, looked south,
and the shutters were bowed upon the summer morning; but the
Tuileries garden and what was beyond it, over which the whole place
hung, were things visible through gaps; so that the far-spreading
presence of Paris came up in coolness, dimness and invitation, in
the twinkle of gilt-tipped palings, the crunch of gravel, the click
of hoofs, the crack of whips, things that suggested some parade of
the circus. "I think it probable," said Mrs. Pocock, "that I shall
have the opportunity of going to my brother's I've no doubt it's
very pleasant indeed." She spoke as to Strether, but her face was
turned with an intensity of brightness to Madame de Vionnet, and
there was a moment during which, while she thus fronted her, our
friend expected to hear her add: "I'm much obliged to you, I'm
sure, for inviting me there." He guessed that for five seconds
these words were on the point of coming; he heard them as clearly
as if they had been spoken; but he presently knew they had just
failed--knew it by a glance, quick and fine, from Madame de
Vionnet, which told him that she too had felt them in the air, but
that the point had luckily not been made in any manner requiring
notice. This left her free to reply only to what had been said.
"That the Boulevard Malesherbes may be common ground for us offers
me the best prospect I see for the pleasure of meeting you again."
"Oh I shall come to see you, since you've been so good": and Mrs.
Pocock looked her invader well in the eyes. The flush in Sarah's
cheeks had by this time settled to a small definite crimson spot
that was not without its own bravery; she held her head a good deal
up, and it came to Strether that of the two, at this moment, she
was the one who most carried out the idea of a Countess. He quite
took in, however, that she would really return her visitor's
civility: she wouldn't report again at Woollett without at least so
much producible history as that in her pocket.
"I want extremely to be able to show you my little daughter."
Madame de Vionnet went on; "and I should have brought her with me
if I hadn't wished first to ask your leave. I was in hopes I should
perhaps find Miss Pocock, of whose being with you I've heard from
Mr. Newsome and whose acquaintance I should so much like my child
to make. If I have the pleasure of seeing her and you do permit it
I shall venture to ask her to be kind to Jeanne. Mr. Strether will
tell you"--she beautifully kept it up--"that my poor girl is gentle
and good and rather lonely. They've made friends, he and she, ever
so happily, and he doesn't, I believe, think ill of her. As for
Jeanne herself he has had the same success with her that I know he
has had here wherever he has turned." She seemed to ask him for
permission to say these things, or seemed rather to take it, softly
and happily, with the ease of intimacy, for granted, and he had
quite the consciousness now that not to meet her at any point more
than halfway would be odiously, basely to abandon her. Yes, he was
WITH her, and, opposed even in this covert, this semi-safe fashion
to those who were not, he felt, strangely and confusedly, but
excitedly, inspiringly, how much and how far. It was as if he had
positively waited in suspense for something from her that would let
him in deeper, so that he might show her how he could take it. And
what did in fact come as she drew out a little her farewell served
sufficiently the purpose. "As his success is a matter that I'm sure
he'll never mention for himself, I feel, you see, the less scruple;
which it's very good of me to say, you know, by the way," she added
as she addressed herself to him; "considering how little direct
advantage I've gained from your triumphs with ME. When does one
ever see you? I wait at home and I languish. You'll have rendered
me the service, Mrs. Pocock, at least," she wound up, "of giving me
one of my much-too-rare glimpses of this gentleman."
"I certainly should be sorry to deprive you of anything that seems
so much, as you describe it, your natural due. Mr. Strether and I
are very old friends," Sarah allowed, "but the privilege of his
society isn't a thing I shall quarrel about with any one."
"And yet, dear Sarah," he freely broke in, "I feel, when I hear you
say that, that you don't quite do justice to the important truth of
the extent to which--as you're also mine--I'm your natural due. I
should like much better," he laughed, "to see you fight for me."
She met him, Mrs. Pocock, on this, with an arrest of speech--with a
certain breathlessness, as he immediately fancied, on the score of
a freedom for which she wasn't quite prepared. It had flared up--
for all the harm he had intended by it--because, confoundedly, he
didn't want any more to be afraid about her than he wanted to be
afraid about Madame de Vionnet. He had never, naturally, called her
anything but Sarah at home, and though he had perhaps never quite
so markedly invoked her as his "dear," that was somehow partly
because no occasion had hitherto laid so effective a trap for it.
But something admonished him now that it was too late--unless
indeed it were possibly too early; and that he at any rate
shouldn't have pleased Mrs. Pocock the more by it. "Well, Mr.
Strether--!" she murmured with vagueness, yet with sharpness, while
her crimson spot burned a trifle brighter and he was aware that
this must be for the present the limit of her response. Madame de
Vionnet had already, however, come to his aid, and Waymarsh, as if
for further participation, moved again back to them. It was true
that the aid rendered by Madame de Vionnet was questionable; it was
a sign that, for all one might confess to with her, and for all she
might complain of not enjoying, she could still insidiously show
how much of the material of conversation had accumulated between
"The real truth is, you know, that you sacrifice one without mercy
to dear old Maria. She leaves no room in your life for anybody
else. Do you know," she enquired of Mrs. Pocock, "about dear old
Maria? The worst is that Miss Gostrey is really a wonderful woman."
"Oh yes indeed," Strether answered for her, "Mrs. Pocock knows
about Miss Gostrey. Your mother, Sarah, must have told you about
her; your mother knows everything," he sturdily pursued. "And I
cordially admit," he added with his conscious gaiety of courage,
"that she's as wonderful a woman as you like."
"Ah it isn't I who 'like,' dear Mr. Strether, anything to do with
the matter!" Sarah Pocock promptly protested; "and I'm by no means
sure I have--from my mother or from any one else--a notion of whom
you're talking about."
"Well, he won't let you see her, you know," Madame de Vionnet
sympathetically threw in. "He never lets me--old friends as we are:
I mean as I am with Maria. He reserves her for his best hours;
keeps her consummately to himself; only gives us others the crumbs
of the feast."
"Well, Countess, I'VE had some of the crumbs," Waymarsh observed
with weight and covering her with his large look; which led her to
break in before he could go on.
"Comment donc, he shares her with YOU?" she exclaimed in droll
stupefaction. "Take care you don't have, before you go much
further, rather more of all ces dames than you may know what to do
But he only continued in his massive way. "I can post you about the
lady, Mrs. Pocock, so far as you may care to hear. I've seen her
quite a number of times, and I was practically present when they
made acquaintance. I've kept my eye on her right along, but I don't
know as there's any real harm in her."
"'Harm'?" Madame de Vionnet quickly echoed. "Why she's the dearest
and cleverest of all the clever and dear."
"Well, you run her pretty close, Countess," Waymarsh returned with
spirit; "though there's no doubt she's pretty well up in things.
She knows her way round Europe. Above all there's no doubt she does
"Ah but we all do that--we all love Strether: it isn't a merit!"
their fellow visitor laughed, keeping to her idea with a good
conscience at which our friend was aware that he marvelled, though
he trusted also for it, as he met her exquisitely expressive eyes,
to some later light.
The prime effect of her tone, however--and it was a truth which his
own eyes gave back to her in sad ironic play--could only be to make
him feel that, to say such things to a man in public, a woman must
practically think of him as ninety years old. He had turned
awkwardly, responsively red, he knew, at her mention of Maria
Gostrey; Sarah Pocock's presence--the particular quality of it--had
made this inevitable; and then he had grown still redder in
proportion as he hated to have shown anything at all. He felt
indeed that he was showing much, as, uncomfortably and almost in
pain, he offered up his redness to Waymarsh, who, strangely enough,
seemed now to be looking at him with a certain explanatory
yearning. Something deep--something built on their old old
relation--passed, in this complexity, between them; he got the
side-wind of a loyalty that stood behind all actual queer
questions. Waymarsh's dry bare humour--as it gave itself to be
taken--gloomed out to demand justice. "Well, if you talk of Miss
Barrace I've MY chance too," it appeared stiffly to nod, and it
granted that it was giving him away, but struggled to add that it
did so only to save him. The sombre glow stared it at him till it
fairly sounded out--"to save you, poor old man, to save you; to
save you in spite of yourself." Yet it was somehow just this
communication that showed him to himself as more than ever lost.
Still another result of it was to put before him as never yet that
between his comrade and the interest represented by Sarah there was
already a basis. Beyond all question now, yes: Waymarsh had been in
occult relation with Mrs. Newsome--out, out it all came in the very
effort of his face. "Yes, you're feeling my hand"--he as good as
proclaimed it; "but only because this at least I SHALL have got out
of the damned Old World: that I shall have picked up the pieces
into which it has caused you to crumble." It was as if in short,
after an instant, Strether had not only had it from him, but had
recognised that so far as this went the instant had cleared the
air. Our friend understood and approved; he had the sense that they
wouldn't otherwise speak of it. This would be all, and it would
mark in himself a kind of intelligent generosity. It was with grim
Sarah then--Sarah grim for all her grace--that Waymarsh had begun
at ten o'clock in the morning to save him. Well--if he COULD, poor
dear man, with his big bleak kindness! The upshot of which crowded
perception was that Strether, on his own side, still showed no more
than he absolutely had to. He showed the least possible by saying
to Mrs. Pocock after an interval much briefer than our glance at
the picture reflected in him: "Oh it's as true as they please!--
There's no Miss Gostrey for any one but me--not the least little
peep. I keep her to myself."
"Well, it's very good of you to notify me," Sarah replied without
looking at him and thrown for a moment by this discrimination, as
the direction of her eyes showed, upon a dimly desperate little
community with Madame de Vionnet. "But I hope I shan't miss her too
Madame de Vionnet instantly rallied. "And you know--though it might
occur to one--it isn't in the least that he's ashamed of her.
She's really--in a way--extremely good-looking."
"Ah but extremely!" Strether laughed while he wondered at the odd
part he found thus imposed on him.
It continued to be so by every touch from Madame de Vionnet. "Well,
as I say, you know, I wish you would keep ME a little more to
yourself. Couldn't you name some day for me, some hour--and better
soon than late? I'll be at home whenever it best suits you.
There--I can't say fairer."
Strether thought a moment while Waymarsh and Mrs. Pocock affected
him as standing attentive. "I did lately call on you. Last week--
while Chad was out of town."
"Yes--and I was away, as it happened, too. You choose your moments
well. But don't wait for my next absence, for I shan't make
another," Madame de Vionnet declared, "while Mrs. Pocock's here."
"That vow needn't keep you long, fortunately," Sarah observed with
reasserted suavity. "I shall be at present but a short time in
Paris. I have my plans for other countries. I meet a number of
charming friends"--and her voice seemed to caress that description
of these persons.
"Ah then," her visitor cheerfully replied, "all the more reason!
To-morrow, for instance, or next day?" she continued to Strether.
"Tuesday would do for me beautifully."
"Tuesday then with pleasure."
"And at half-past five?--or at six?"
It was ridiculous, but Mrs. Pocock and Waymarsh struck him as
fairly waiting for his answer. It was indeed as if they were
arranged, gathered for a performance, the performance of "Europe"
by his confederate and himself. Well, the performance could only
go on. "Say five forty-five."
"Five forty-five--good." And now at last Madame de Vionnet must
leave them, though it carried, for herself, the performance a
little further. "I DID hope so much also to see Miss Pocock.
Mayn't I still?"
Sarah hesitated, but she rose equal. "She'll return your visit with
me. She's at present out with Mr. Pocock and my brother."
"I see--of course Mr. Newsome has everything to show them. He has
told me so much about her. My great desire's to give my daughter
the opportunity of making her acquaintance. I'm always on the
lookout for such chances for her. If I didn't bring her to-day it
was only to make sure first that you'd let me." After which the
charming woman risked a more intense appeal. "It wouldn't suit you
also to mention some near time, so that we shall be sure not to
lose you?" Strether on his side waited, for Sarah likewise had,
after all, to perform; and it occupied him to have been thus
reminded that she had stayed at home--and on her first morning of
Paris--while Chad led the others forth. Oh she was up to her eyes;
if she had stayed at home she had stayed by an understanding,
arrived at the evening before, that Waymarsh would come and find
her alone. This was beginning well--for a first day in Paris; and
the thing might be amusing yet. But Madame de Vionnet's earnestness
was meanwhile beautiful. "You may think me indiscreet, but I've
SUCH a desire my Jeanne shall know an American girl of the really
delightful kind. You see I throw myself for it on your charity."
The manner of this speech gave Strether such a sense of depths
below it and behind it as he hadn't yet had--ministered in a way
that almost frightened him to his dim divinations of reasons; but
if Sarah still, in spite of it, faltered, this was why he had time
for a sign of sympathy with her petitioner. "Let me say then, dear
lady, to back your plea, that Miss Mamie is of the most delightful
kind of all--is charming among the charming."
Even Waymarsh, though with more to produce on the subject, could
get into motion in time. "Yes, Countess, the American girl's a
thing that your country must at least allow ours the privilege to
say we CAN show you. But her full beauty is only for those who know
how to make use of her."
"Ah then," smiled Madame de Vionnet, "that's exactly what I want to
do. I'm sure she has much to teach us."
It was wonderful, but what was scarce less so was that Strether
found himself, by the quick effect of it, moved another way. "Oh
that may be! But don't speak of your own exquisite daughter, you
know, as if she weren't pure perfection. I at least won't take that
from you. Mademoiselle de Vionnet," he explained, in considerable
form, to Mrs. Pocock, "IS pure perfection. Mademoiselle de Vionnet
It had been perhaps a little portentous, but "Ah?" Sarah simply
Waymarsh himself, for that matter, apparently recognised, in
respect to the facts, the need of a larger justice, and he had with
it an inclination to Sarah. "Miss Jane's strikingly handsome--
in the regular French style."
It somehow made both Strether and Madame de Vionnet laugh out,
though at the very moment he caught in Sarah's eyes, as glancing at
the speaker, a vague but unmistakeable "You too?" It made Waymarsh
in fact look consciously over her head. Madame de Vionnet
meanwhile, however, made her point in her own way. "I wish indeed I
could offer you my poor child as a dazzling attraction: it would
make one's position simple enough! She's as good as she can be, but
of course she's different, and the question is now--in the light of
the way things seem to go--if she isn't after all TOO different:
too different I mean from the splendid type every one is so agreed
that your wonderful country produces. On the other hand of course
Mr. Newsome, who knows it so well, has, as a good friend, dear kind
man that he is, done everything he can--to keep us from fatal
benightedness--for my small shy creature. Well," she wound up after
Mrs. Pocock had signified, in a murmur still a little stiff, that
she would speak to her own young charge on the question--"well, we
shall sit, my child and I, and wait and wait and wait for you." But
her last fine turn was for Strether. "Do speak of us in such a way--!"
"As that something can't but come of it? Oh something SHALL come of
it! I take a great interest!" he further declared; and in proof of
it, the next moment, he had gone with her down to her carriage.
"The difficulty is," Strether said to Madame de Vionnet a couple of
days later, "that I can't surprise them into the smallest sign of
his not being the same old Chad they've been for the last three
years glowering at across the sea. They simply won't give any, and
as a policy, you know--what you call a parti pris, a deep game--
that's positively remarkable."
It was so remarkable that our friend had pulled up before his
hostess with the vision of it; he had risen from his chair at the
end of ten minutes and begun, as a help not to worry, to move about
before her quite as he moved before Maria. He had kept his
appointment with her to the minute and had been intensely impatient,
though divided in truth between the sense of having everything
to tell her and the sense of having nothing at all. The short
interval had, in the face of their complication, multiplied his
impressions--it being meanwhile to be noted, moreover, that he
already frankly, already almost publicly, viewed the complication
as common to them. If Madame de Vionnet, under Sarah's eyes, had
pulled him into her boat, there was by this time no doubt whatever
that he had remained in it and that what he had really most been
conscious of for many hours together was the movement of the vessel
itself. They were in it together this moment as they hadn't yet
been, and he hadn't at present uttered the least of the words of
alarm or remonstrance that had died on his lips at the hotel. He
had other things to say to her than that she had put him in a
position; so quickly had his position grown to affect him as quite
excitingly, altogether richly, inevitable. That the outlook,
however--given the point of exposure--hadn't cleared up half so
much as he had reckoned was the first warning she received from him
on his arrival. She had replied with indulgence that he was in too
great a hurry, and had remarked soothingly that if she knew how to
be patient surely HE might be. He felt her presence, on the spot,
he felt her tone and everything about her, as an aid to that effort;
and it was perhaps one of the proofs of her success with him
that he seemed so much to take his ease while they talked.
By the time he had explained to her why his impressions, though
multiplied, still baffled him, it was as if he had been familiarly
talking for hours. They baffled him because Sarah--well, Sarah was
deep, deeper than she had ever yet had a chance to show herself.
He didn't say that this was partly the effect of her opening so
straight down, as it were, into her mother, and that, given
Mrs. Newsome's profundity, the shaft thus sunk might well have a reach;
but he wasn't without a resigned apprehension that, at such a rate
of confidence between the two women, he was likely soon to be moved
to show how already, at moments, it had been for him as if he were
dealing directly with Mrs. Newsome. Sarah, to a certainty, would
have begun herself to feel it in him--and this naturally put it in
her power to torment him the more. From the moment she knew he
COULD be tormented--!
"But WHY can you be?"--his companion was surprised at his use of
"Because I'm made so--I think of everything."
"Ah one must never do that," she smiled. "One must think of as few
things as possible."
"Then," he answered, "one must pick them out right. But all I mean
is--for I express myself with violence--that she's in a position to
watch me. There's an element of suspense for me, and she can see me
wriggle. But my wriggling doesn't matter," he pursued. "I can bear
it. Besides, I shall wriggle out."
The picture at any rate stirred in her an appreciation that he felt
to be sincere. "I don't see how a man can be kinder to a woman than
you are to me."
Well, kind was what he wanted to be; yet even while her charming
eyes rested on him with the truth of this he none the less had his
humour of honesty. "When I say suspense I mean, you know," he
laughed, "suspense about my own case too!"
"Oh yes--about your own case too!" It diminished his magnanimity,
but she only looked at him the more tenderly.
"Not, however," he went on, "that I want to talk to you about that.
It's my own little affair, and I mentioned it simply as part of
Mrs. Pocock's advantage." No, no; though there was a queer present
temptation in it, and his suspense was so real that to fidget was a
relief, he wouldn't talk to her about Mrs. Newsome, wouldn't work
off on her the anxiety produced in him by Sarah's calculated
omissions of reference. The effect she produced of representing her
mother had been produced--and that was just the immense, the
uncanny part of it--without her having so much as mentioned that
lady. She had brought no message, had alluded to no question, had
only answered his enquiries with hopeless limited propriety. She
had invented a way of meeting them--as if he had been a polite
perfunctory poor relation, of distant degree--that made them almost
ridiculous in him. He couldn't moreover on his own side ask much
without appearing to publish how he had lately lacked news;
a circumstance of which it was Sarah's profound policy not to betray
a suspicion. These things, all the same, he wouldn't breathe to
Madame de Vionnet--much as they might make him walk up and down.
And what he didn't say--as well as what SHE didn't, for she had
also her high decencies--enhanced the effect of his being there
with her at the end of ten minutes more intimately on the basis of
saving her than he had yet had occasion to be. It ended in fact by
being quite beautiful between them, the number of things they had a
manifest consciousness of not saying. He would have liked to turn
her, critically, to the subject of Mrs. Pocock, but he so stuck to
the line he felt to be the point of honour and of delicacy that he
scarce even asked her what her personal impression had been.
He knew it, for that matter, without putting her to trouble:
that she wondered how, with such elements, Sarah could still have
no charm, was one of the principal things she held her tongue about.
Strether would have been interested in her estimate of the elements--
indubitably there, some of them, and to be appraised according to
taste--but he denied himself even the luxury of this diversion. The
way Madame de Vionnet affected him to-day was in itself a kind of
demonstration of the happy employment of gifts. How could a woman
think Sarah had charm who struck one as having arrived at it
herself by such different roads? On the other hand of course Sarah
wasn't obliged to have it. He felt as if somehow Madame de Vionnet
WAS. The great question meanwhile was what Chad thought of his
sister; which was naturally ushered in by that of Sarah's
apprehension of Chad. THAT they could talk of, and with a freedom
purchased by their discretion in other senses. The difficulty
however was that they were reduced as yet to conjecture. He had
given them in the day or two as little of a lead as Sarah, and
Madame de Vionnet mentioned that she hadn't seen him since his
"And does that strike you as such an age?"
She met it in all honesty. "Oh I won't pretend I don't miss him.
Sometimes I see him every day. Our friendship's like that. Make
what you will of it!" she whimsically smiled; a little flicker of
the kind, occasional in her, that had more than once moved him to
wonder what he might best make of HER. "But he's perfectly right,"
she hastened to add, "and I wouldn't have him fail in any way at
present for the world. I'd sooner not see him for three months.
I begged him to be beautiful to them, and he fully feels it for
Strether turned away under his quick perception; she was so odd a
mixture of lucidity and mystery. She fell in at moments with the
theory about her he most cherished, and she seemed at others to
blow it into air. She spoke now as if her art were all an
innocence, and then again as if her innocence were all an art.
"Oh he's giving himself up, and he'll do so to the end. How can he
but want, now that it's within reach, his full impression?--which is
much more important, you know, than either yours or mine. But he's
just soaking," Strether said as he came back; "he's going in
conscientiously for a saturation. I'm bound to say he IS very good."
"Ah," she quietly replied, "to whom do you say it?" And then more
quietly still: "He's capable of anything."
Strether more than reaffirmed--"Oh he's excellent. I more and more
like," he insisted, "to see him with them;" though the oddity of
this tone between them grew sharper for him even while they spoke.
It placed the young man so before them as the result of her
interest and the product of her genius, acknowledged so her part in
the phenomenon and made the phenomenon so rare, that more than ever
yet he might have been on the very point of asking her for some
more detailed account of the whole business than he had yet
received from her. The occasion almost forced upon him some
question as to how she had managed and as to the appearance such
miracles presented from her own singularly close place of survey.
The moment in fact however passed, giving way to more present
history, and he continued simply to mark his appreciation of the
happy truth. "It's a tremendous comfort to feel how one can trust
him." And then again while for a little she said nothing--as if
after all to HER trust there might be a special limit: "I mean for
making a good show to them."
"Yes," she thoughtfully returned--"but if they shut their eyes
Strether for an instant had his own thought. "Well perhaps that
"You mean because he probably--do what they will--won't like them?"
"Oh 'do what they will'--! They won't do much; especially if Sarah
hasn't more--well, more than one has yet made out--to give."
Madame de Vionnet weighed it. "Ah she has all her grace!" It was a
statement over which, for a little, they could look at each other
sufficiently straight, and though it produced no protest from
Strether the effect was somehow as if he had treated it as a joke.
"She may be persuasive and caressing with him; she may be eloquent
beyond words. She may get hold of him," she wound up--"well, as
neither you nor I have."
"Yes, she MAY"--and now Strether smiled. "But he has spent all his
time each day with Jim. He's still showing Jim round."
She visibly wondered. "Then how about Jim?"
Strether took a turn before he answered. "Hasn't he given you Jim?
Hasn't he before this 'done' him for you?" He was a little at a
loss. "Doesn't he tell you things?"
She hesitated. "No"--and their eyes once more gave and took.
"Not as you do. You somehow make me see them--or at least feel them.
And I haven't asked too much," she added; "I've of late wanted so
not to worry him."
"Ah for that, so have I," he said with encouraging assent; so that--
as if she had answered everything--they were briefly sociable on it.
It threw him back on his other thought, with which he took another
turn; stopping again, however, presently with something of a glow.
"You see Jim's really immense. I think it will be Jim who'll do it."
She wondered. "Get hold of him?"
"No--just the other thing. Counteract Sarah's spell." And he
showed now, our friend, how far he had worked it out. "Jim's
"Oh dear Jim!" Madame de Vionnet vaguely smiled.
"Yes, literally--dear Jim! He's awful. What HE wants, heaven
forgive him, is to help us."
"You mean"--she was eager--"help ME?"
"Well, Chad and me in the first place. But he throws you in too,
though without as yet seeing you much. Only, so far as he does see
you--if you don't mind--he sees you as awful."
"'Awful'?"--she wanted it all.
"A regular bad one--though of course of a tremendously superior kind.
Dreadful, delightful, irresistible."
"Ah dear Jim! I should like to know him. I MUST."
"Yes, naturally. But will it do? You may, you know," Strether
suggested, "disappoint him."
She was droll and humble about it. "I can but try. But my
wickedness then," she went on, "is my recommendation for him?"
"Your wickedness and the charms with which, in such a degree as
yours, he associates it. He understands, you see, that Chad and I
have above all wanted to have a good time, and his view is simple
and sharp. Nothing will persuade him--in the light, that is, of my
behaviour--that I really didn't, quite as much as Chad, come over
to have one before it was too late. He wouldn't have expected it of
me; but men of my age, at Woollett--and especially the least likely
ones--have been noted as liable to strange outbreaks, belated
uncanny clutches at the unusual, the ideal. It's an effect that a
lifetime of Woollett has quite been observed as having; and I thus
give it to you, in Jim's view, for what it's worth. Now his wife
and his mother-in-law," Strether continued to explain, "have, as in
honour bound, no patience with such phenomena, late or early--which
puts Jim, as against his relatives, on the other side. Besides," he
added, "I don't think he really wants Chad back. If Chad doesn't
"He'll have"--Madame de Vionnet quite apprehended--"more of the
"Well, Chad's the bigger man."
"So he'll work now, en dessous, to keep him quiet?"
"No--he won't 'work' at all, and he won't do anything en dessous.
He's very decent and won't be a traitor in the camp. But he'll be
amused with his own little view of our duplicity, he'll sniff up
what he supposes to be Paris from morning till night, and he'll be,
as to the rest, for Chad--well, just what he is."
She thought it over. "A warning?"
He met it almost with glee. "You ARE as wonderful as everybody
says!" And then to explain all he meant: "I drove him about for his
first hour, and do you know what--all beautifully unconscious--he
most put before me? Why that something like THAT is at bottom, as
an improvement to his present state, as in fact the real redemption
of it, what they think it may not be too late to make of our
friend." With which, as, taking it in, she seemed, in her recurrent
alarm, bravely to gaze at the possibility, he completed his
statement. "But it IS too late. Thanks to you!"
It drew from her again one of her indefinite reflexions. "Oh 'me'--
He stood before her so exhilarated by his demonstration that he
could fairly be jocular. "Everything's comparative. You're better
"You"--she could but answer him--"are better than anything." But
she had another thought. "WILL Mrs. Pocock come to me?"
"Oh yes--she'll do that. As soon, that is, as my friend Waymarsh--
HER friend now--leaves her leisure."
She showed an interest. "Is he so much her friend as that?"
"Why, didn't you see it all at the hotel?"
"Oh"--she was amused--"'all' is a good deal to say. I don't know--
I forget. I lost myself in HER."
"You were splendid," Strether returned--"but 'all' isn't a good
deal to say: it's only a little. Yet it's charming so far as it
goes. She wants a man to herself."
"And hasn't she got you?"
"Do you think she looked at me--or even at you--as if she had?"
Strether easily dismissed that irony. "Every one, you see, must
strike her as having somebody. You've got Chad--and Chad has
"I see"--she made of it what she could. "And you've got Maria."
Well, he on his side accepted that. "I've got Maria. And Maria has
got me. So it goes."
"But Mr. Jim--whom has he got?"