Part 9 out of 9
What he saw was exactly the right thing--a boat advancing round the
bend and containing a man who held the paddles and a lady, at the
stern, with a pink parasol. It was suddenly as if these figures,
or something like them, had been wanted in the picture, had been
wanted more or less all day, and had now drifted into sight, with
the slow current, on purpose to fill up the measure. They came
slowly, floating down, evidently directed to the landing-place near
their spectator and presenting themselves to him not less clearly
as the two persons for whom his hostess was already preparing a
meal. For two very happy persons he found himself straightway
taking them--a young man in shirt-sleeves, a young woman easy and
fair, who had pulled pleasantly up from some other place and, being
acquainted with the neighbourhood, had known what this particular
retreat could offer them. The air quite thickened, at their
approach, with further intimations; the intimation that they were
expert, familiar, frequent--that this wouldn't at all events be
the first time. They knew how to do it, he vaguely felt--and it
made them but the more idyllic, though at the very moment
of the impression, as happened, their boat seemed to have begun to
drift wide, the oarsman letting it go. It had by this time none
the less come much nearer--near enough for Strether to dream the
lady in the stern had for some reason taken account of his being
there to watch them. She had remarked on it sharply, yet her
companion hadn't turned round; it was in fact almost as if our
friend had felt her bid him keep still. She had taken in something
as a result of which their course had wavered, and it continued to
waver while they just stood off. This little effect was sudden and
rapid, so rapid that Strether's sense of it was separate only for
an instant from a sharp start of his own. He too had within the
minute taken in something, taken in that he knew the lady whose
parasol, shifting as if to hide her face, made so fine a pink point
in the shining scene. It was too prodigious, a chance in a million,
but, if he knew the lady, the gentleman, who still presented his back
and kept off, the gentleman, the coatless hero of the idyll,
who had responded to her start, was, to match the marvel, none other
Chad and Madame de Vionnet were then like himself taking a day in
the country--though it was as queer as fiction, as farce, that
their country could happen to be exactly his; and she had been the
first at recognition, the first to feel, across the water, the shock--
for it appeared to come to that--of their wonderful accident.
Strether became aware, with this, of what was taking place--
that her recognition had been even stranger for the pair in the boat,
that her immediate impulse had been to control it, and that she was
quickly and intensely debating with Chad the risk of betrayal.
He saw they would show nothing if they could feel sure he hadn't
made them out; so that he had before him for a few seconds his
own hesitation. It was a sharp fantastic crisis that had popped up
as if in a dream, and it had had only to last the few seconds to
make him feel it as quite horrible. They were thus, on either side,
TRYING the other side, and all for some reason that broke the stillness
like some unprovoked harsh note. It seemed to him again, within the
limit, that he had but one thing to do--to settle their common question
by some sign of surprise and joy. He hereupon gave large play to
these things, agitating his hat and his stick and loudly calling out--
a demonstration that brought him relief as soon as he had seen it
answered. The boat, in mid-stream, still went a little wild--
which seemed natural, however, while Chad turned round, half
springing up; and his good friend, after blankness and wonder,
began gaily to wave her parasol. Chad dropped afresh to his paddles
and the boat headed round, amazement and pleasantry filling the air
meanwhile, and relief, as Strether continued to fancy, superseding
mere violence. Our friend went down to the water under this odd
impression as of violence averted--the violence of their having
"cut" him, out there in the eye of nature, on the assumption that
he wouldn't know it. He awaited them with a face from which he
was conscious of not being able quite to banish this idea that they
would have gone on, not seeing and not knowing, missing their dinner
and disappointing their hostess, had he himself taken a line to match.
That at least was what darkened his vision for the moment. Afterwards,
after they had bumped at the landing-place and he had assisted their
getting ashore, everything found itself sponged over by the mere
miracle of the encounter.
They could so much better at last, on either side, treat it as a
wild extravagance of hazard, that the situation was made elastic by
the amount of explanation called into play. Why indeed--apart from
oddity--the situation should have been really stiff was a question
naturally not practical at the moment, and in fact, so far as we
are concerned, a question tackled, later on and in private, only by
Strether himself. He was to reflect later on and in private that
it was mainly HE who had explained--as he had had moreover
comparatively little difficulty in doing. He was to have at all
events meanwhile the worrying thought of their perhaps secretly
suspecting him of having plotted this coincidence, taking such
pains as might be to give it the semblance of an accident. That
possibility--as their imputation--didn't of course bear looking
into for an instant; yet the whole incident was so manifestly,
arrange it as they would, an awkward one, that he could scarce keep
disclaimers in respect to his own presence from rising to his lips.
Disclaimers of intention would have been as tactless as his
presence was practically gross; and the narrowest escape they
either of them had was his lucky escape, in the event, from making
any. Nothing of the sort, so far as surface and sound were
involved, was even in question; surface and sound all made for
their common ridiculous good fortune, for the general
invraisemblance of the occasion, for the charming chance that they
had, the others, in passing, ordered some food to be ready, the
charming chance that he had himself not eaten, the charming chance,
even more, that their little plans, their hours, their train, in
short, from la-bas, would all match for their return together to
Paris. The chance that was most charming of all, the chance that
drew from Madame de Vionnet her clearest, gayest "Comme cela se
trouve!" was the announcement made to Strether after they were
seated at table, the word given him by their hostess in respect to
his carriage for the station, on which he might now count. It
settled the matter for his friends as well; the conveyance--
it WAS all too lucky!--would serve for them; and nothing was more
delightful than his being in a position to make the train so definite.
It might have been, for themselves--to hear Madame de Vionnet--
almost unnaturally vague, a detail left to be fixed; though Strether
indeed was afterwards to remember that Chad had promptly enough
intervened to forestall this appearance, laughing at his companion's
flightiness and making the point that he had after all, in spite of
the bedazzlement of a day out with her, known what he was about.
Strether was to remember afterwards further that this had had for
him the effect of forming Chad's almost sole intervention; and
indeed he was to remember further still, in subsequent meditation,
many things that, as it were, fitted together. Another of them was
for instance that the wonderful woman's overflow of surprise and
amusement was wholly into French, which she struck him as speaking
with an unprecedented command of idiomatic turns, but in which she
got, as he might have said, somewhat away from him, taking all at
once little brilliant jumps that he could but lamely match. The
question of his own French had never come up for them; it was the
one thing she wouldn't have permitted--it belonged, for a person
who had been through much, to mere boredom; but the present result
was odd, fairly veiling her identity, shifting her back into a mere
voluble class or race to the intense audibility of which he was by
this time inured. When she spoke the charming slightly strange
English he best knew her by he seemed to feel her as a creature,
among all the millions, with a language quite to herself, the real
monopoly of a special shade of speech, beautifully easy for her,
yet of a colour and a cadence that were both inimitable and matters
of accident. She came back to these things after they had shaken
down in the inn-parlour and knew, as it were, what was to become of
them; it was inevitable that loud ejaculation over the prodigy of
their convergence should at last wear itself out. Then it was that
his impression took fuller form--the impression, destined only to
deepen, to complete itself, that they had something to put a face
upon, to carry off and make the best of, and that it was she who,
admirably on the whole, was doing this. It was familiar to him of
course that they had something to put a face upon; their
friendship, their connexion, took any amount of explaining--that
would have been made familiar by his twenty minutes with Mrs. Pocock
if it hadn't already been so. Yet his theory, as we know, had
bountifully been that the facts were specifically none of his
business, and were, over and above, so far as one had to do with
them, intrinsically beautiful; and this might have prepared him for
anything, as well as rendered him proof against mystification.
When he reached home that night, however, he knew he had been, at
bottom, neither prepared nor proof; and since we have spoken of
what he was, after his return, to recall and interpret, it may as
well immediately be said that his real experience of these few
hours put on, in that belated vision--for he scarce went to bed
till morning--the aspect that is most to our purpose.
He then knew more or less how he had been affected--he but half
knew at the time. There had been plenty to affect him even after,
as has been said, they had shaken down; for his consciousness,
though muffled, had its sharpest moments during this passage, a
marked drop into innocent friendly Bohemia. They then had put
their elbows on the table, deploring the premature end of their two
or three dishes; which they had tried to make up with another
bottle while Chad joked a little spasmodically, perhaps even a
little irrelevantly, with the hostess. What it all came to had
been that fiction and fable WERE, inevitably, in the air, and not
as a simple term of comparison, but as a result of things said;
also that they were blinking it, all round, and that they yet needn't,
so much as that, have blinked it--though indeed if they hadn't
Strether didn't quite see what else they could have done.
Strether didn't quite see THAT even at an hour or two past midnight,
even when he had, at his hotel, for a long time, without a light
and without undressing, sat back on his bedroom sofa and stared
straight before him. He was, at that point of vantage, in full
possession, to make of it all what he could. He kept making of it
that there had been simply a LIE in the charming affair--a lie
on which one could now, detached and deliberate, perfectly put
one's finger. It was with the lie that they had eaten and drunk
and talked and laughed, that they had waited for their carriole
rather impatiently, and had then got into the vehicle and, sensibly
subsiding, driven their three or four miles through the darkening
summer night. The eating and drinking, which had been a resource,
had had the effect of having served its turn; the talk and laughter
had done as much; and it was during their somewhat tedious progress
to the station, during the waits there, the further delays, their
submission to fatigue, their silences in the dim compartment of the
much-stopping train, that he prepared himself for reflexions to come.
It had been a performance, Madame de Vionnet's manner, and though
it had to that degree faltered toward the end, as through her ceasing
to believe in it, as if she had asked herself, or Chad had found
a moment surreptitiously to ask her, what after all was the use,
a performance it had none the less quite handsomely remained,
with the final fact about it that it was on the whole easier to
keep up than to abandon.
From the point of view of presence of mind it had been very
wonderful indeed, wonderful for readiness, for beautiful assurance,
for the way her decision was taken on the spot, without time to
confer with Chad, without time for anything. Their only conference
could have been the brief instants in the boat before they confessed
to recognising the spectator on the bank, for they hadn't been alone
together a moment since and must have communicated all in silence.
It was a part of the deep impression for Strether, and not the least
of the deep interest, that they COULD so communicate--that Chad
in particular could let her know he left it to her. He habitually
left things to others, as Strether was so well aware, and it in fact
came over our friend in these meditations that there had been as yet
no such vivid illustration of his famous knowing how to live.
It was as if he had humoured her to the extent of letting her lie
without correction--almost as if, really, he would be coming round
in the morning to set the matter, as between Strether and himself,
right. Of course he couldn't quite come; it was a case in which
a man was obliged to accept the woman's version, even when fantastic;
if she had, with more flurry than she cared to show, elected,
as the phrase was, to represent that they had left Paris that morning,
and with no design but of getting back within the day--if she had
so sized-up, in the Woollett phrase, their necessity, she knew best
her own measure. There were things, all the same, it was impossible
to blink and which made this measure an odd one--the too evident fact
for instance that she hadn't started out for the day dressed and hatted
and shod, and even, for that matter, pink parasol'd, as she had been
in the boat. From what did the drop in her assurance proceed as the
tension increased--from what did this slightly baffled ingenuity spring
but from her consciousness of not presenting, as night closed in,
with not so much as a shawl to wrap her round, an appearance that
matched her story? She admitted that she was cold, but only to
blame her imprudence which Chad suffered her to give such account
of as she might. Her shawl and Chad's overcoat and her other
garments, and his, those they had each worn the day before, were at
the place, best known to themselves--a quiet retreat enough, no
doubt--at which they had been spending the twenty-four hours, to
which they had fully meant to return that evening, from which they
had so remarkably swum into Strether's ken, and the tacit
repudiation of which had been thus the essence of her comedy.
Strether saw how she had perceived in a flash that they couldn't
quite look to going back there under his nose; though, honestly,
as he gouged deeper into the matter, he was somewhat surprised, as
Chad likewise had perhaps been, at the uprising of this scruple.
He seemed even to divine that she had entertained it rather for
Chad than for herself, and that, as the young man had lacked the
chance to enlighten her, she had had to go on with it, he meanwhile
mistaking her motive.
He was rather glad, none the less, that they had in point of fact
not parted at the Cheval Blanc, that he hadn't been reduced to
giving them his blessing for an idyllic retreat down the river.
He had had in the actual case to make-believe more than he liked,
but this was nothing, it struck him, to what the other event
would have required. Could he, literally, quite have faced the
other event? Would he have been capable of making the best of it
with them? This was what he was trying to do now; but with the
advantage of his being able to give more time to it a good deal
counteracted by his sense of what, over and above the central fact
itself, he had to swallow. It was the quantity of make-believe
involved and so vividly exemplified that most disagreed with his
spiritual stomach. He moved, however, from the consideration of
that quantity--to say nothing of the consciousness of that organ--
back to the other feature of the show, the deep, deep truth of
the intimacy revealed. That was what, in his vain vigil, he oftenest
reverted to: intimacy, at such a point, was LIKE that--and what in
the world else would one have wished it to be like? It was all
very well for him to feel the pity of its being so much like lying;
he almost blushed, in the dark, for the way he had dressed the
possibility in vagueness, as a little girl might have dressed her doll.
He had made them--and by no fault of their own--momentarily pull it for
him, the possibility, out of this vagueness; and must he not therefore
take it now as they had had simply, with whatever thin attenuations,
to give it to him? The very question, it may be added, made him feel
lonely and cold. There was the element of the awkward all round, but
Chad and Madame de Vionnet had at least the comfort that they could talk
it over together. With whom could HE talk of such things?--unless
indeed always, at almost any stage, with Maria? He foresaw that
Miss Gostrey would come again into requisition on the morrow;
though it wasn't to be denied that he was already a little afraid
of her "What on earth--that's what I want to know now--had you
then supposed?" He recognised at last that he had really been trying
all along to suppose nothing. Verily, verily, his labour had been lost.
He found himself supposing innumerable and wonderful things.
Strether couldn't have said he had during the previous hours
definitely expected it; yet when. later on, that morning--though
no later indeed than for his coming forth at ten o'clock--he saw
the concierge produce, on his approach, a petit bleu delivered
since his letters had been sent up, he recognised the appearance as
the first symptom of a sequel. He then knew he had been thinking
of some early sign from Chad as more likely, after all, than not;
and this would be precisely the early sign. He took it so for
granted that he opened the petit bleu just where he had stopped, in
the pleasant cool draught of the porte-cochere--only curious to see
where the young man would, at such a juncture, break out. His
curiosity, however, was more than gratified; the small missive,
whose gummed edge he had detached without attention to the address,
not being from the young man at all, but from the person whom the
case gave him on the spot as still more worth while. Worth while
or not, he went round to the nearest telegraph-office, the big one
on the Boulevard, with a directness that almost confessed to a fear
of the danger of delay. He might have been thinking that if he didn't
go before he could think he wouldn't perhaps go at all. He at
any rate kept, in the lower side-pocket of his morning coat, a very
deliberate hand on his blue missive, crumpling it up rather tenderly
than harshly. He wrote a reply, on the Boulevard, also in the form
of a petit bleu--which was quickly done, under pressure of the place,
inasmuch as, like Madame de Vionnet's own communication, it consisted
of the fewest words. She had asked him if he could do her the very
great kindness of coming to see her that evening at half-past nine,
and he answered, as if nothing were easier, that he would present
himself at the hour she named. She had added a line of postscript,
to the effect that she would come to him elsewhere and at his own hour
if he preferred; but he took no notice of this, feeling that if he
saw her at all half the value of it would be in seeing her where he
had already seen her best. He mightn't see her at all; that was
one of the reflexions he made after writing and before he dropped
his closed card into the box; he mightn't see any one at all
any more at all; he might make an end as well now as ever,
leaving things as they were, since he was doubtless not to leave
them better, and taking his way home so far as should appear that
a home remained to him. This alternative was for a few minutes
so sharp that if he at last did deposit his missive it was perhaps
because the pressure of the place had an effect.
There was none other, however, than the common and constant pressure,
familiar to our friend under the rubric of Postes et Telegraphes--
the something in the air of these establishments; the vibration of
the vast strange life of the town, the influence of the types,
the performers concocting their messages; the little prompt Paris women,
arranging, pretexting goodness knew what, driving the dreadful
needle-pointed public pen at the dreadful sand-strewn public table:
implements that symbolised for Strether's too interpretative innocence
something more acute in manners, more sinister in morals, more fierce
in the national life. After he had put in his paper he had ranged
himself, he was really amused to think, on the side of the fierce,
the sinister, the acute. He was carrying on a correspondence,
across the great city, quite in the key of the Postes et Telegraphes
in general; and it was fairly as if the acceptance of that fact had
come from something in his state that sorted with the occupation of
his neighbours. He was mixed up with the typical tale of Paris, and so
were they, poor things--how could they all together help being?
They were no worse than he, in short, and he no worse than they--
if, queerly enough, no better; and at all events he had settled his
hash, so that he went out to begin, from that moment, his day of
waiting. The great settlement was, as he felt, in his preference
for seeing his correspondent in her own best conditions. THAT was
part of the typical tale, the part most significant in respect to
himself. He liked the place she lived in, the picture that each
time squared itself, large and high and clear, around her: every
occasion of seeing it was a pleasure of a different shade. Yet
what precisely was he doing with shades of pleasure now, and why
hadn't he properly and logically compelled her to commit herself
to whatever of disadvantage and penalty the situation might throw
up? He might have proposed, as for Sarah Pocock, the cold
hospitality of his own salon de lecture, in which the chill of
Sarah's visit seemed still to abide and shades of pleasure were
dim; he might have suggested a stone bench in the dusty Tuileries
or a penny chair at the back part of the Champs Elysees. These
things would have been a trifle stern, and sternness alone now
wouldn't be sinister. An instinct in him cast about for some form
of discipline in which they might meet--some awkwardness they would
suffer from, some danger, or at least some grave inconvenience,
they would incur. This would give a sense--which the spirit
required, rather ached and sighed in the absence of--that somebody
was paying something somewhere and somehow, that they were at least
not all floating together on the silver stream of impunity. Just
instead of that to go and see her late in the evening, as if, for
all the world--well, as if he were as much in the swim as anybody
else: this had as little as possible in common with the penal form.
Even when he had felt that objection melt away, however, the
practical difference was small; the long stretch of his interval
took the colour it would, and if he lived on thus with the sinister
from hour to hour it proved an easier thing than one might have
supposed in advance. He reverted in thought to his old tradition,
the one he had been brought up on and which even so many years of
life had but little worn away; the notion that the state of the
wrongdoer, or at least this person's happiness, presented some
special difficulty. What struck him now rather was the ease of it--
for nothing in truth appeared easier. It was an ease he himself
fairly tasted of for the rest of the day; giving himself quite up;
not so much as trying to dress it out, in any particular whatever,
as a difficulty; not after all going to see Maria--which would have
been in a manner a result of such dressing; only idling, lounging,
smoking, sitting in the shade, drinking lemonade and consuming
ices. The day had turned to heat and eventual thunder, and he now
and again went back to his hotel to find that Chad hadn't been
there. He hadn't yet struck himself, since leaving Woollett, so
much as a loafer, though there had been times when he believed
himself touching bottom. This was a deeper depth than any, and
with no foresight, scarcely with a care, as to what he should bring
up. He almost wondered if he didn't LOOK demoralised and
disreputable; he had the fanciful vision, as he sat and smoked,
of some accidental, some motived, return of the Pococks, who would
be passing along the Boulevard and would catch this view of him.
They would have distinctly, on his appearance, every ground for scandal.
But fate failed to administer even that sternness; the Pococks never
passed and Chad made no sign. Strether meanwhile continued to hold off
from Miss Gostrey, keeping her till to-morrow; so that by evening
his irresponsibility, his impunity, his luxury, had become--there was
no other word for them--immense.
Between nine and ten, at last, in the high clear picture--he was
moving in these days, as in a gallery, from clever canvas to clever
canvas--he drew a long breath: it was so presented to him from the
first that the spell of his luxury wouldn't be broken. He wouldn't
have, that is, to become responsible--this was admirably in the air:
she had sent for him precisely to let him feel it, so that he
might go on with the comfort (comfort already established, hadn't
it been?) of regarding his ordeal, the ordeal of the weeks of
Sarah's stay and of their climax, as safely traversed and left
behind him. Didn't she just wish to assure him that SHE now took
it all and so kept it; that he was absolutely not to worry any
more, was only to rest on his laurels and continue generously to
help her? The light in her beautiful formal room was dim, though
it would do, as everything would always do; the hot night had kept
out lamps, but there was a pair of clusters of candles that
glimmered over the chimney-piece like the tall tapers of an altar.
The windows were all open, their redundant hangings swaying a
little, and he heard once more, from the empty court, the small
plash of the fountain. From beyond this, and as from a great
distance--beyond the court, beyond the corps de logis forming the
front--came, as if excited and exciting, the vague voice of Paris.
Strether had all along been subject to sudden gusts of fancy in
connexion with such matters as these--odd starts of the historic
sense, suppositions and divinations with no warrant but their
intensity. Thus and so, on the eve of the great recorded dates,
the days and nights of revolution, the sounds had come in, the
omens, the beginnings broken out. They were the smell of
revolution, the smell of the public temper--or perhaps simply the
smell of blood.
It was at present queer beyond words, "subtle," he would have
risked saying, that such suggestions should keep crossing the
scene; but it was doubtless the effect of the thunder in the air,
which had hung about all day without release. His hostess was
dressed as for thunderous times, and it fell in with the kind of
imagination we have just attributed to him that she should be in
simplest coolest white, of a character so old-fashioned, if he were
not mistaken, that Madame Roland must on the scaffold have worn
something like it. This effect was enhanced by a small black fichu
or scarf, of crape or gauze, disposed quaintly round her bosom and
now completing as by a mystic touch the pathetic, the noble analogy.
Poor Strether in fact scarce knew what analogy was evoked for him
as the charming woman, receiving him and making him, as she could do
such things, at once familiarly and gravely welcome, moved over her
great room with her image almost repeated in its polished floor,
which had been fully bared for summer. The associations of the place,
all felt again; the gleam here and there, in the subdued light,
of glass and gilt and parquet, with the quietness of her own note
as the centre--these things were at first as delicate as if they
had been ghostly, and he was sure in a moment that, whatever he should
find he had come for, it wouldn't be for an impression that had
previously failed him. That conviction held him from the outset,
and, seeming singularly to simplify, certified to him that the objects
about would help him, would really help them both. No, he might
never see them again--this was only too probably the last time;
and he should certainly see nothing in the least degree like them.
He should soon be going to where such things were not, and it would be
a small mercy for memory, for fancy, to have, in that stress,
a loaf on the shelf. He knew in advance he should look back on the
perception actually sharpest with him as on the view of something
old, old, old, the oldest thing he had ever personally touched;
and he also knew, even while he took his companion in as the feature
among features, that memory and fancy couldn't help being enlisted
for her. She might intend what she would, but this was beyond anything
she could intend, with things from far back--tyrannies of history,
facts of type, values, as the painters said, of expression--
all working for her and giving her the supreme chance, the chance
of the happy, the really luxurious few, the chance, on a great
occasion, to be natural and simple. She had never, with him,
been more so; or if it was the perfection of art it would never--
and that came to the same thing--be proved against her.
What was truly wonderful was her way of differing so from time to
time without detriment to her simplicity. Caprices, he was sure
she felt, were before anything else bad manners, and that judgement
in her was by itself a thing making more for safety of intercourse
than anything that in his various own past intercourses he had had
to reckon on. If therefore her presence was now quite other than
the one she had shown him the night before, there was nothing of
violence in the change--it was all harmony and reason. It gave him
a mild deep person, whereas he had had on the occasion to which
their interview was a direct reference a person committed to
movement and surface and abounding in them; but she was in either
character more remarkable for nothing than for her bridging of
intervals, and this now fell in with what he understood he was to
leave to her. The only thing was that, if he was to leave it ALL
to her, why exactly had she sent for him? He had had, vaguely, in
advance, his explanation, his view of the probability of her
wishing to set something right, to deal in some way with the fraud
so lately practised on his presumed credulity. Would she attempt
to carry it further or would she blot it out? Would she throw over
it some more or less happy colour; or would she do nothing about it
at all? He perceived soon enough at least that, however reasonable
she might be, she wasn't vulgarly confused, and it herewith
pressed upon him that their eminent "lie," Chad's and hers, was
simply after all such an inevitable tribute to good taste as he
couldn't have wished them not to render. Away from them, during
his vigil, he had seemed to wince at the amount of comedy involved;
whereas in his present posture he could only ask himself how he
should enjoy any attempt from her to take the comedy back. He
shouldn't enjoy it at all; but, once more and yet once more, he
could trust her. That is he could trust her to make deception
right. As she presented things the ugliness--goodness knew why--
went out of them; none the less too that she could present them,
with an art of her own, by not so much as touching them. She let
the matter, at all events, lie where it was--where the previous
twenty-four hours had placed it; appearing merely to circle about
it respectfully, tenderly, almost piously, while she took up
She knew she hadn't really thrown dust in his eyes; this, the
previous night, before they separated, had practically passed
between them; and, as she had sent for him to see what the
difference thus made for him might amount to, so he was conscious
at the end of five minutes that he had been tried and tested. She
had settled with Chad after he left them that she would, for her
satisfaction, assure herself of this quantity, and Chad had, as
usual, let her have her way. Chad was always letting people have
their way when he felt that it would somehow turn his wheel for
him; it somehow always did turn his wheel. Strether felt, oddly
enough, before these facts, freshly and consentingly passive; they
again so rubbed it into him that the couple thus fixing his
attention were intimate, that his intervention had absolutely aided
and intensified their intimacy, and that in fine he must accept the
consequence of that. He had absolutely become, himself, with his
perceptions and his mistakes, his concessions and his reserves, the
droll mixture, as it must seem to them, of his braveries and his
fears, the general spectacle of his art and his innocence, almost
an added link and certainly a common priceless ground for them to
meet upon. It was as if he had been hearing their very tone when
she brought out a reference that was comparatively straight.
"The last twice that you've been here, you know, I never asked you,"
she said with an abrupt transition--they had been pretending before
this to talk simply of the charm of yesterday and of the interest
of the country they had seen. The effort was confessedly vain; not
for such talk had she invited him; and her impatient reminder was
of their having done for it all the needful on his coming to her
after Sarah's flight. What she hadn't asked him then was to state
to her where and how he stood for her; she had been resting on
Chad's report of their midnight hour together in the Boulevard
Malesherbes. The thing therefore she at present desired was
ushered in by this recall of the two occasions on which,
disinterested and merciful, she hadn't worried him. To-night
truly she WOULD worry him, and this was her appeal to him to let
her risk it. He wasn't to mind if she bored him a little:
she had behaved, after all--hadn't she?--so awfully, awfully well.
"Oh, you're all right, you're all right," he almost impatiently
declared; his impatience being moreover not for her pressure, but
for her scruple. More and more distinct to him was the tune to
which she would have had the matter out with Chad: more and more
vivid for him the idea that she had been nervous as to what he
might be able to "stand." Yes, it had been a question if he had
"stood" what the scene on the river had given him, and, though the
young man had doubtless opined in favour of his recuperation, her
own last word must have been that she should feel easier in seeing
for herself. That was it, unmistakeably; she WAS seeing for
herself. What he could stand was thus, in these moments, in the
balance for Strether, who reflected, as he became fully aware of
it, that he must properly brace himself. He wanted fully to appear
to stand all he might; and there was a certain command of the
situation for him in this very wish not to look too much at sea.
She was ready with everything, but so, sufficiently, was he; that
is he was at one point the more prepared of the two, inasmuch as,
for all her cleverness, she couldn't produce on the spot--and it
was surprising--an account of the motive of her note. He had the
advantage that his pronouncing her "all right" gave him for an
enquiry. "May I ask, delighted as I've been to come, if you've
wished to say something special?" He spoke as if she might have
seen he had been waiting for it--not indeed with discomfort, but
with natural interest. Then he saw that she was a little taken
aback, was even surprised herself at the detail she had neglected--
the only one ever yet; having somehow assumed he would know, would
recognise, would leave some things not to be said. She looked at
him, however, an instant as if to convey that if he wanted them
"Selfish and vulgar--that's what I must seem to you. You've done
everything for me, and here I am as if I were asking for more. But
it isn't," she went on, "because I'm afraid--though I AM of course
afraid, as a woman in my position always is. I mean it isn't
because one lives in terror--it isn't because of that one is
selfish, for I'm ready to give you my word to-night that I don't
care; don't care what still may happen and what I may lose. I don't
ask you to raise your little finger for me again, nor do I wish
so much as to mention to you what we've talked of before, either
my danger or my safety, or his mother, or his sister, or the girl
he may marry, or the fortune he may make or miss, or the right
or the wrong, of any kind, he may do. If after the help one has
had from you one can't either take care of one's self or simply
hold one's tongue, one must renounce all claim to be an object of
interest. It's in the name of what I DO care about that I've tried
still to keep hold of you. How can I be indifferent," she asked,
"to how I appear to you?" And as he found himself unable
immediately to say: "Why, if you're going, NEED you, after all?
Is it impossible you should stay on--so that one mayn't lose you?"
"Impossible I should live with you here instead of going home?"
"Not 'with' us, if you object to that, but near enough to us,
somewhere, for us to see you--well," she beautifully brought out,
"when we feel we MUST. How shall we not sometimes feel it? I've
wanted to see you often when I couldn't," she pursued, "all these
last weeks. How shan't I then miss you now, with the sense of your
being gone forever?" Then as if the straightness of this appeal,
taking him unprepared, had visibly left him wondering: "Where IS
your 'home' moreover now--what has become of it? I've made a
change in your life, I know I have; I've upset everything in your
mind as well; in your sense of--what shall I call it?--all the
decencies and possibilities. It gives me a kind of detestation--"
She pulled up short.
Oh but he wanted to hear. "Detestation of what?"
"Of everything--of life."
"Ah that's too much," he laughed--"or too little!"
"Too little, precisely"--she was eager. "What I hate is myself--
when I think that one has to take so much, to be happy, out of the
lives of others, and that one isn't happy even then. One does it
to cheat one's self and to stop one's mouth--but that's only at the
best for a little. The wretched self is always there, always
making one somehow a fresh anxiety. What it comes to is that it's
not, that it's never, a happiness, any happiness at all, to TAKE.
The only safe thing is to give. It's what plays you least false."
Interesting, touching, strikingly sincere as she let these things
come from her, she yet puzzled and troubled him--so fine was the
quaver of her quietness. He felt what he had felt before with her,
that there was always more behind what she showed, and more and
more again behind that. "You know so, at least," she added, "where
"YOU ought to know it indeed then; for isn't what you've been
giving exactly what has brought us together this way? You've been
making, as I've so fully let you know I've felt," Strether said,
"the most precious present I've ever seen made, and if you can't
sit down peacefully on that performance you ARE, no doubt, born to
torment yourself. But you ought," he wound up, "to be easy."
"And not trouble you any more, no doubt--not thrust on you even the
wonder and the beauty of what I've done; only let you regard our
business as over, and well over, and see you depart in a peace that
matches my own? No doubt, no doubt, no doubt," she nervously
repeated--"all the more that I don't really pretend I believe you
couldn't, for yourself, NOT have done what you have. I don't
pretend you feel yourself victimised, for this evidently is the way
you live, and it's what--we're agreed--is the best way. Yes, as
you say," she continued after a moment, "I ought to be easy and
rest on my work. Well then here am I doing so. I AM easy. You'll
have it for your last impression. When is it you say you go?" she
asked with a quick change.
He took some time to reply--his last impression was more and more
so mixed a one. It produced in him a vague disappointment, a drop
that was deeper even than the fall of his elation the previous
night. The good of what he had done, if he had done so much, wasn't
there to enliven him quite to the point that would have been ideal
for a grand gay finale. Women were thus endlessly absorbent, and
to deal with them was to walk on water. What was at bottom the matter
with her, embroider as she might and disclaim as she might--
what was at bottom the matter with her was simply Chad himself.
It was of Chad she was after all renewedly afraid; the strange
strength of her passion was the very strength of her fear; she clung
to HIM, Lambert Strether, as to a source of safety she had tested,
and, generous graceful truthful as she might try to be, exquisite
as she was, she dreaded the term of his being within reach.
With this sharpest perception yet, it was like a chill in the air
to him, it was almost appalling, that a creature so fine could be,
by mysterious forces, a creature so exploited. For at the end
of all things they WERE mysterious: she had but made Chad what
he was--so why could she think she had made him infinite?
She had made him better, she had made him best, she had made him
anything one would; but it came to our friend with supreme
queerness that he was none the less only Chad. Strether had the
sense that HE, a little, had made him too; his high appreciation
had as it were, consecrated her work The work, however admirable,
was nevertheless of the strict human order, and in short it was
marvellous that the companion of mere earthly joys, of comforts,
aberrations (however one classed them) within the common experience
should be so transcendently prized. It might have made Strether
hot or shy, as such secrets of others brought home sometimes do
make us; but he was held there by something so hard that it was
fairly grim. This was not the discomposure of last night; that had
quite passed--such discomposures were a detail; the real coercion
was to see a man ineffably adored. There it was again--it took
women, it took women; if to deal with them was to walk on water
what wonder that the water rose? And it had never surely risen
higher than round this woman. He presently found himself taking a
long look from her, and the next thing he knew he had uttered all
his thought. "You're afraid for your life!"
It drew out her long look, and he soon enough saw why. A spasm
came into her face, the tears she had already been unable to hide
overflowed at first in silence, and then, as the sound suddenly
comes from a child, quickened to gasps, to sobs. She sat and
covered her face with her hands, giving up all attempt at a manner.
"It's how you see me, it's how you see me"--she caught her breath
with it--"and it's as I AM, and as I must take myself, and of
course it's no matter." Her emotion was at first so incoherent that
he could only stand there at a loss, stand with his sense of having
upset her, though of having done it by the truth. He had to listen
to her in a silence that he made no immediate effort to attenuate,
feeling her doubly woeful amid all her dim diffused elegance;
consenting to it as he had consented to the rest, and even
conscious of some vague inward irony in the presence of such a fine
free range of bliss and bale. He couldn't say it was NOT no
matter; for he was serving her to the end, he now knew, anyway--
quite as if what he thought of her had nothing to do with it.
It was actually moreover as if he didn't think of her at all,
as if he could think of nothing but the passion, mature, abysmal,
pitiful, she represented, and the possibilities she betrayed.
She was older for him to-night, visibly less exempt from the
touch of time; but she was as much as ever the finest and
subtlest creature, the happiest apparition, it had been given him,
in all his years, to meet; and yet he could see her there as
vulgarly troubled, in very truth, as a maidservant crying for
her young man. The only thing was that she judged herself as
the maidservant wouldn't; the weakness of which wisdom too,
the dishonour of which judgement, seemed but to sink her lower.
Her collapse, however, no doubt, was briefer and she had in a
manner recovered herself before he intervened. "Of course
I'm afraid for my life. But that's nothing. It isn't that."
He was silent a little longer, as if thinking what it might be.
"There's something I have in mind that I can still do."
But she threw off at last, with a sharp sad headshake, drying her
eyes, what he could still do. "I don't care for that. Of course,
as I've said, you're acting, in your wonderful way, for yourself;
and what's for yourself is no more my business--though I may reach
out unholy hands so clumsily to touch it--than if it were something
in Timbuctoo. It's only that you don't snub me, as you've had
fifty chances to do--it's only your beautiful patience that makes
one forget one's manners. In spite of your patience, all the
same," she went on, "you'd do anything rather than be with us here,
even if that were possible. You'd do everything for us but be
mixed up with us--which is a statement you can easily answer to the
advantage of your own manners. You can say 'What's the use of
talking of things that at the best are impossible?' What IS of
course the use? It's only my little madness. You'd talk if you
were tormented. And I don't mean now about HIM. Oh for him--!"
Positively, strangely, bitterly, as it seemed to Strether, she gave
"him," for the moment, away. "You don't care what I think of you;
but I happen to care what you think of me. And what you MIGHT,"
she added. "What you perhaps even did."
He gained time. "What I did--?"
"Did think before. Before this. DIDn't you think--?"
But he had already stopped her. "I didn't think anything. I
never think a step further than I'm obliged to."
"That's perfectly false, I believe," she returned--"except that you
may, no doubt, often pull up when things become TOO ugly; or even,
I'll say, to save you a protest, too beautiful. At any rate, even
so far as it's true, we've thrust on you appearances that you've
had to take in and that have therefore made your obligation. Ugly
or beautiful--it doesn't matter what we call them--you were
getting on without them, and that's where we're detestable. We
bore you--that's where we are. And we may well--for what we've
cost you. All you can do NOW is not to think at all. And I who
should have liked to seem to you--well, sublime!"
He could only after a moment re-echo Miss Barrace. "You're
"I'm old and abject and hideous"--she went on as without hearing
him. "Abject above all. Or old above all. It's when one's old
that it's worst. I don't care what becomes of it--let what WILL;
there it is. It's a doom--I know it; you can't see it more than I
do myself. Things have to happen as they will." With which she
came back again to what, face to face with him, had so quite broken
down. "Of course you wouldn't, even if possible, and no matter
what may happen to you, be near us. But think of me, think of me--!"
She exhaled it into air.
He took refuge in repeating something he had already said and that
she had made nothing of. "There's something I believe I can still
do." And he put his hand out for good-bye.
She again made nothing of it; she went on with her insistence.
"That won't help you. There's nothing to help you."
"Well, it may help YOU," he said.
She shook her head. "There's not a grain of certainty in my
future--for the only certainty is that I shall be the loser in the
She hadn't taken his hand, but she moved with him to the door.
"That's cheerful," he laughed, "for your benefactor!"
"What's cheerful for ME," she replied, "is that we might, you and
I, have been friends. That's it--that's it. You see how, as I
say, I want everything. I've wanted you too."
"Ah but you've HAD me!" he declared, at the door, with an emphasis
that made an end.
His purpose had been to see Chad the next day, and he had prefigured
seeing him by an early call; having in general never stood on ceremony
in respect to visits at the Boulevard Malesherbes. It had been
more often natural for him to go there than for Chad to come to the
small hotel, the attractions of which were scant; yet it nevertheless,
just now, at the eleventh hour, did suggest itself to Strether to begin
by giving the young man a chance. It struck him that, in the
inevitable course, Chad would be "round," as Waymarsh used to say--
Waymarsh who already, somehow, seemed long ago. He hadn't come the
day before, because it had been arranged between them that Madame de Vionnet
should see their friend first; but now that this passage had taken place
he would present himself, and their friend wouldn't have long to wait.
Strether assumed, he became aware, on this reasoning, that the
interesting parties to the arrangement would have met betimes, and
that the more interesting of the two--as she was after all--would
have communicated to the other the issue of her appeal. Chad would
know without delay that his mother's messenger had been with her,
and, though it was perhaps not quite easy to see how she could
qualify what had occurred, he would at least have been sufficiently
advised to feel he could go on. The day, however, brought, early
or late, no word from him, and Strether felt, as a result of this,
that a change had practically come over their intercourse. It was
perhaps a premature judgement; or it only meant perhaps--how could
he tell?--that the wonderful pair he protected had taken up again
together the excursion he had accidentally checked. They might
have gone back to the country, and gone back but with a long breath drawn;
that indeed would best mark Chad's sense that reprobation hadn't
rewarded Madame de Vionnet's request for an interview. At the end of
the twenty-four hours, at the end of the forty-eight, there was still
no overture; so that Strether filled up the time, as he had so often
filled it before, by going to see Miss Gostrey.
He proposed amusements to her; he felt expert now in proposing
amusements; and he had thus, for several days, an odd sense of
leading her about Paris, of driving her in the Bois, of showing her
the penny steamboats--those from which the breeze of the Seine was
to be best enjoyed--that might have belonged to a kindly uncle
doing the honours of the capital to an Intelligent niece from the
country. He found means even to take her to shops she didn't
know, or that she pretended she didn't; while she, on her side,
was, like the country maiden, all passive modest and grateful--
going in fact so far as to emulate rusticity in occasional fatigues
and bewilderments. Strether described these vague proceedings to
himself, described them even to her, as a happy interlude; the sign
of which was that the companions said for the time no further word
about the matter they had talked of to satiety. He proclaimed
satiety at the outset, and she quickly took the hint; as docile
both in this and in everything else as the intelligent obedient
niece. He told her as yet nothing of his late adventure--for as
an adventure it now ranked with him; he pushed the whole business
temporarily aside and found his interest in the fact of her
beautiful assent. She left questions unasked--she who for so long
had been all questions; she gave herself up to him with an
understanding of which mere mute gentleness might have seemed the
sufficient expression. She knew his sense of his situation had
taken still another step--of that he was quite aware; but she
conveyed that, whatever had thus happened for him, it was thrown
into the shade by what was happening for herself. This--though it
mightn't to a detached spirit have seemed much--was the major
interest, and she met it with a new directness of response,
measuring it from hour to hour with her grave hush of acceptance.
Touched as he had so often been by her before, he was, for his part
too, touched afresh; all the more that though he could be duly
aware of the principle of his own mood he couldn't be equally so
of the principle of hers. He knew, that is, in a manner--knew
roughly and resignedly--what he himself was hatching; whereas he
had to take the chance of what he called to himself Maria's
calculations. It was all he needed that she liked him enough for
what they were doing, and even should they do a good deal more
would still like him enough for that; the essential freshness of a
relation so simple was a cool bath to the soreness produced by
other relations. These others appeared to him now horribly
complex; they bristled with fine points, points all unimaginable
beforehand, points that pricked and drew blood; a fact that gave to
an hour with his present friend on a bateau-mouche, or in the
afternoon shade of the Champs Elysees, something of the innocent
pleasure of handling rounded ivory. His relation with Chad
personally--from the moment he had got his point of view--had been
of the simplest; yet this also struck him as bristling, after a
third and a fourth blank day had passed. It was as if at last
however his care for such indications had dropped; there came a
fifth blank day and he ceased to enquire or to heed.
They now took on to his fancy, Miss Gostrey and he, the image of
the Babes in the Wood; they could trust the merciful elements to
let them continue at peace. He had been great already, as he knew,
at postponements; but he had only to get afresh into the rhythm of
one to feel its fine attraction. It amused him to say to himself
that he might for all the world have been going to die--die resignedly;
the scene was filled for him with so deep a death-bed hush, so
melancholy a charm. That meant the postponement of everything else--
which made so for the quiet lapse of life; and the postponement
in especial of the reckoning to come--unless indeed the reckoning
to come were to be one and the same thing with extinction. It faced
him, the reckoning, over the shoulder of much interposing experience--
which also faced him; and one would float to it doubtless duly
through these caverns of Kubla Khan. It was really behind everything;
it hadn't merged in what he had done; his final appreciation of what
he had done--his appreciation on the spot--would provide it with
its main sharpness. The spot so focussed was of course Woollett,
and he was to see, at the best, what Woollett would be with everything
there changed for him. Wouldn't THAT revelation practically amount to
the wind-up of his career? Well, the summer's end would show;
his suspense had meanwhile exactly the sweetness of vain delay;
and he had with it, we should mention, other pastimes than Maria's
company--plenty of separate musings in which his luxury failed him
but at one point. He was well in port, the outer sea behind him,
and it was only a matter of getting ashore. There was a question
that came and went for him, however, as he rested against the
side of his ship, and it was a little to get rid of the obsession
that he prolonged his hours with Miss Gostrey. It was a question
about himself, but it could only be settled by seeing Chad again;
it was indeed his principal reason for wanting to see Chad.
After that it wouldn't signify--it was a ghost that certain words
would easily lay to rest. Only the young man must be there to
take the words. Once they were taken he wouldn't have a question left;
none, that is, in connexion with this particular affair. It wouldn't
then matter even to himself that he might now have been guilty of
speaking BECAUSE of what he had forfeited. That was the refinement
of his supreme scruple--he wished so to leave what he had forfeited
out of account. He wished not to do anything because he had missed
something else, because he was sore or sorry or impoverished,
because he was maltreated or desperate; he wished to do everything
because he was lucid and quiet, just the same for himself on all
essential points as he had ever been. Thus it was that while he
virtually hung about for Chad he kept mutely putting it: "You've
been chucked, old boy; but what has that to do with it?" It would
have sickened him to feel vindictive.
These tints of feeling indeed were doubtless but the iridescence of
his idleness, and they were presently lost in a new light from
Maria. She had a fresh fact for him before the week was out, and
she practically met him with it on his appearing one night. He hadn't
on this day seen her, but had planned presenting himself in due course
to ask her to dine with him somewhere out of doors, on one of the
terraces, in one of the gardens, of which the Paris of summer was
profuse. It had then come on to rain, so that, disconcerted, he changed
his mind; dining alone at home, a little stuffily and stupidly, and
waiting on her afterwards to make up his loss. He was sure within a
minute that something had happened; it was so in the air of the rich
little room that he had scarcely to name his thought. Softly lighted,
the whole colour of the place, with its vague values, was in cool
fusion--an effect that made the visitor stand for a little agaze. It
was as if in doing so now he had felt a recent presence--his recognition
of the passage of which his hostess in turn divined. She had scarcely
to say it--"Yes, she has been here, and this time I received her." It
wasn't till a minute later that she added: "There being, as I
understand you, no reason NOW--!"
"None for your refusing?"
"No--if you've done what you've had to do."
"I've certainly so far done it," Strether said, "as that you needn't
fear the effect, or the appearance of coming between us. There's
nothing between us now but what we ourselves have put there, and
not an inch of room for anything else whatever. Therefore you're
only beautifully WITH us as always--though doubtless now, if she
has talked to you, rather more with us than less. Of course if
she came," he added, "it was to talk to you."
"It was to talk to me," Maria returned; on which he was further
sure that she was practically in possession of what he himself hadn't
yet told her. He was even sure she was in possession of things
he himself couldn't have told; for the consciousness of them was
now all in her face and accompanied there with a shade of sadness
that marked in her the close of all uncertainties. It came out for
him more than ever yet that she had had from the first a knowledge
she believed him not to have had, a knowledge the sharp acquisition
of which might be destined to make a difference for him. The
difference for him might not inconceivably be an arrest of his
independence and a change in his attitude--in other words a
revulsion in favour of the principles of Woollett. She had really
prefigured the possibility of a shock that would send him swinging
back to Mrs. Newsome. He hadn't, it was true, week after week,
shown signs of receiving it, but the possibility had been none the
less in the air. What Maria accordingly had had now to take in was
that the shock had descended and that he hadn't, all the same,
swung back. He had grown clear, in a flash, on a point long since
settled for herself; but no reapproximation to Mrs. Newsome had
occurred in consequence. Madame de Vionnet had by her visit held
up the torch to these truths, and what now lingered in poor Maria's
face was the somewhat smoky light of the scene between them.
If the light however wasn't, as we have hinted, the glow of joy,
the reasons for this also were perhaps discernible to Strether even
through the blur cast over them by his natural modesty. She had
held herself for months with a firm hand; she hadn't interfered on
any chance--and chances were specious enough--that she might
interfere to her profit. She had turned her back on the dream that
Mrs. Newsome's rupture, their friend's forfeiture--the engagement
the relation itself, broken beyond all mending--might furnish forth
her advantage; and, to stay her hand from promoting these things,
she had on private, difficult, but rigid, lines, played strictly
fair. She couldn't therefore but feel that, though, as the end of
all, the facts in question had been stoutly confirmed, her ground
for personal, for what might have been called interested, elation
remained rather vague. Strether might easily have made out that
she had been asking herself, in the hours she had just sat through,
if there were still for her, or were only not, a fair shade of
uncertainty. Let us hasten to add, however, that what he at first
made out on this occasion he also at first kept to himself. He
only asked what in particular Madame de Vionnet had come for,
and as to this his companion was ready.
"She wants tidings of Mr. Newsome, whom she appears not to have
seen for some days."
"Then she hasn't been away with him again?"
"She seemed to think," Maria answered, "that he might have gone
away with YOU."
"And did you tell her I know nothing of him?"
She had her indulgent headshake. "I've known nothing of what you
know. I could only tell her I'd ask you."
"Then I've not seen him for a week--and of course I've wondered."
His wonderment showed at this moment as sharper, but he presently
went on. "Still, I dare say I can put my hand on him. Did she
strike you," he asked, "as anxious?"
"She's always anxious."
"After all I've done for her?" And he had one of the last flickers
of his occasional mild mirth. "To think that was just what I came
out to prevent!"
She took it up but to reply. "You don't regard him then as safe?"
"I was just going to ask you how in that respect you regard Madame
She looked at him a little. "What woman was EVER safe? She told
me," she added--and it was as if at the touch of the connexion--
"of your extraordinary meeting in the country. After that a quoi
"It was, as an accident, in all the possible or impossible chapter,"
Strether conceded, "amazing enough. But still, but still--!"
"But still she didn't mind?"
"She doesn't mind anything."
"Well, then, as you don't either, we may all sink to rest!"
He appeared to agree with her, but he had his reservation.
"I do mind Chad's disappearance."
"Oh you'll get him back. But now you know," she said, "why I went
to Mentone." He had sufficiently let her see that he had by this
time gathered things together, but there was nature in her wish to
make them clearer still. "I didn't want you to put it to me."
"To put it to you--?"
"The question of what you were at last--a week ago--to see for
yourself. I didn't want to have to lie for her. I felt that to
be too much for me. A man of course is always expected to do it--
to do it, I mean, for a woman; but not a woman for another woman;
unless perhaps on the tit-for-tat principle, as an indirect way of
protecting herself. I don't need protection, so that I was free to
'funk' you--simply to dodge your test. The responsibility was too
much for me. I gained time, and when I came back the need of a
test had blown over."
Strether thought of it serenely. "Yes; when you came back little
Bilham had shown me what's expected of a gentleman. Little Bilham
had lied like one."
"And like what you believed him?"
"Well," said Strether, "it was but a technical lie--he classed the
attachment as virtuous. That was a view for which there was much
to be said--and the virtue came out for me hugely There was of
course a great deal of it. I got it full in the face, and I haven't,
you see, done with it yet."
"What I see, what I saw," Maria returned, "is that you dressed up
even the virtue. You were wonderful--you were beautiful, as I've
had the honour of telling you before; but, if you wish really to
know," she sadly confessed, "I never quite knew WHERE you were.
There were moments," she explained, "when you struck me as grandly
cynical; there were others when you struck me as grandly vague."
Her friend considered. "I had phases. I had flights."
"Yes, but things must have a basis."
"A basis seemed to me just what her beauty supplied."
"Her beauty of person?"
"Well, her beauty of everything. The impression she makes. She
has such variety and yet such harmony."
She considered him with one of her deep returns of indulgence--
returns out of all proportion to the irritations they flooded over.
"You're always too personal," he good-humouredly said; "but that's
precisely how I wondered and wandered."
"If you mean," she went on, "that she was from the first for you
the most charming woman in the world, nothing's more simple. Only
that was an odd foundation."
"For what I reared on it?"
"For what you didn't!"
"Well, it was all not a fixed quantity. And it had for me--it has
still--such elements of strangeness. Her greater age than his, her
different world, traditions, association; her other opportunities,
His friend listened with respect to his enumeration of these
disparities; then she disposed of them at a stroke. "Those things
are nothing when a woman's hit. It's very awful. She was hit."
Strether, on his side, did justice to that plea. "Oh of course I
saw she was hit. That she was hit was what we were busy with; that
she was hit was our great affair. But somehow I couldn't think of
her as down in the dust. And as put there by OUR little Chad!"
"Yet wasn't 'your' little Chad just your miracle?"
Strether admitted it. "Of course I moved among miracles. It was
all phantasmagoric. But the great fact was that so much of it was
none of my business--as I saw my business. It isn't even now."
His companion turned away on this, and it might well have been yet
again with the sharpness of a fear of how little his philosophy
could bring her personally. "I wish SHE could hear you!"
"No--not Mrs. Newsome; since I understand you that it doesn't
matter now what Mrs. Newsome hears. Hasn't she heard
"Practically--yes." He had thought a moment, but he went on. "You
wish Madame de Vionnet could hear me?"
"Madame de Vionnet." She had come back to him. "She thinks just
the contrary of what you say. That you distinctly judge her."
He turned over the scene as the two women thus placed together for
him seemed to give it. "She might have known--!"
"Might have known you don't?" Miss Gostrey asked as he let it drop.
"She was sure of it at first," she pursued as he said nothing; "she
took it for granted, at least, as any woman in her position would.
But after that she changed her mind; she believed you believed--"
"Well?"--he was curious.
"Why in her sublimity. And that belief had remained with her, I
make out, till the accident of the other day opened your eyes. For
that it did," said Maria, "open them--"
"She can't help"--he had taken it up--"being aware? No," he mused;
"I suppose she thinks of that even yet."
"Then they WERE closed? There you are! However, if you see her as
the most charming woman in the world it comes to the same thing.
And if you'd like me to tell her that you do still so see her--!"
Miss Gostrey, in short, offered herself for service to the end.
It was an offer he could temporarily entertain; but he decided.
"She knows perfectly how I see her."
"Not favourably enough, she mentioned to me, to wish ever to see
her again. She told me you had taken a final leave of her. She
says you've done with her."
"So I have."
Maria had a pause; then she spoke as if for conscience. "She
wouldn't have done with YOU. She feels she has lost you--
yet that she might have been better for you."
"Oh she has been quite good enough!" Strether laughed.
"She thinks you and she might at any rate have been friends."
"We might certainly. That's just"--he continued to laugh--
"why I'm going."
It was as if Maria could feel with this then at last that she had
done her best for each. But she had still an idea. "Shall I tell
"No. Tell her nothing."
"Very well then." To which in the next breath Miss Gostrey added:
"Poor dear thing!"
Her friend wondered; then with raised eyebrows: "Me?"
"Oh no. Marie de Vionnet."
He accepted the correction, but he wondered still. "Are you so
sorry for her as that?"
It made her think a moment--made her even speak with a smile. But
she didn't really retract. "I'm sorry for us all!"
He was to delay no longer to re-establish communication with Chad,
and we have just seen that he had spoken to Miss Gostrey of this
intention on hearing from her of the young man's absence. It was
not moreover only the assurance so given that prompted him; it was
the need of causing his conduct to square with another profession
still--the motive he had described to her as his sharpest for now
getting away. If he was to get away because of some of the
relations involved in staying, the cold attitude toward them might
look pedantic in the light of lingering on. He must do both
things; he must see Chad, but he must go. The more he thought of
the former of these duties the more he felt himself make a subject
of insistence of the latter. They were alike intensely present to
him as he sat in front of a quiet little cafe into which he had
dropped on quitting Maria's entresol. The rain that had spoiled
his evening with her was over; for it was still to him as if his
evening HAD been spoiled--though it mightn't have been wholly the
rain. It was late when he left the cafe, yet not too late; he
couldn't in any case go straight to bed, and he would walk round
by the Boulevard Malesherbes--rather far round--on his way home.
Present enough always was the small circumstance that had
originally pressed for him the spring of so big a difference--the
accident of little Bilham's appearance on the balcony of the mystic
troisieme at the moment of his first visit, and the effect of it on
his sense of what was then before him. He recalled his watch, his
wait, and the recognition that had proceeded from the young
stranger, that had played frankly into the air and had presently
brought him up--things smoothing the way for his first straight
step. He had since had occasion, a few times, to pass the house
without going in; but he had never passed it without again feeling
how it had then spoken to him. He stopped short to-night on coming
to sight of it: it was as if his last day were oddly copying his
first. The windows of Chad's apartment were open to the balcony--
a pair of them lighted; and a figure that had come out and taken up
little Bilham's attitude, a figure whose cigarette-spark he could
see leaned on the rail and looked down at him. It denoted however
no reappearance of his younger friend; it quickly defined itself in
the tempered darkness as Chad's more solid shape; so that Chad's
was the attention that after he had stepped forward into the street
and signalled, he easily engaged; Chad's was the voice that,
sounding into the night with promptness and seemingly with joy,
greeted him and called him up.
That the young man had been visible there just in this position
expressed somehow for Strether that, as Maria Gostrey had reported,
he had been absent and silent; and our friend drew breath on each
landing--the lift, at that hour, having ceased to work--before the
implications of the fact. He had been for a week intensely away,
away to a distance and alone; but he was more back than ever, and
the attitude in which Strether had surprised him was something more
than a return--it was clearly a conscious surrender. He had
arrived but an hour before, from London, from Lucerne, from Homburg,
from no matter where--though the visitor's fancy, on the staircase,
liked to fill it out; and after a bath, a talk with Baptiste and a
supper of light cold clever French things, which one could see the
remains of there in the circle of the lamp, pretty and ultra-Parisian,
he had come into the air again for a smoke, was occupied at the moment
of Strether's approach in what might have been called taking up
his life afresh. His life, his life!--Strether paused anew, on
the last flight, at this final rather breathless sense of what
Chad's life was doing with Chad's mother's emissary. It was
dragging him, at strange hours, up the staircases of the rich;
it was keeping him out of bed at the end of long hot days;
it was transforming beyond recognition the simple, subtle,
conveniently uniform thing that had anciently passed with him for a
life of his own. Why should it concern him that Chad was to be
fortified in the pleasant practice of smoking on balconies, of
supping on salads, of feeling his special conditions agreeably
reaffirm themselves, of finding reassurance in comparisons and
contrasts? There was no answer to such a question but that he was
still practically committed--he had perhaps never yet so much known it.
It made him feel old, and he would buy his railway-ticket--feeling,
no doubt, older--the next day; but he had meanwhile come up four
flights, counting the entresol, at midnight and without a lift, for
Chad's life. The young man, hearing him by this time, and with
Baptiste sent to rest, was already at the door; so that Strether
had before him in full visibility the cause in which he was labouring
and even, with the troisieme fairly gained, panting a little.
Chad offered him, as always, a welcome in which the cordial and the
formal--so far as the formal was the respectful--handsomely met;
and after he had expressed a hope that he would let him put him up
for the night Strether was in full possession of the key, as it
might have been called, to what had lately happened. If he had
just thought of himself as old Chad was at sight of him thinking of
him as older: he wanted to put him up for the night just because
he was ancient and weary. It could never be said the tenant of
these quarters wasn't nice to him; a tenant who, if he might
indeed now keep him, was probably prepared to work it all still
more thoroughly. Our friend had in fact the impression that with
the minimum of encouragement Chad would propose to keep him
indefinitely; an impression in the lap of which one of his own
possibilities seemed to sit. Madame de Vionnet had wished him to
stay--so why didn't that happily fit? He could enshrine himself
for the rest of his days in his young host's chambre d'ami and draw
out these days at his young host's expense: there could scarce be
greater logical expression of the countenance he had been moved to
give. There was literally a minute--it was strange enough--during
which he grasped the idea that as he WAS acting, as he could only
act, he was inconsistent. The sign that the inward forces he had
obeyed really hung together would be that--in default always of
another career--he should promote the good cause by mounting guard
on it. These things, during his first minutes, came and went; but
they were after all practically disposed of as soon as he had
mentioned his errand. He had come to say good-bye--yet that was
only a part; so that from the moment Chad accepted his farewell the
question of a more ideal affirmation gave way to something else.
He proceeded with the rest of his business. "You'll be a brute, you
know--you'll be guilty of the last infamy--if you ever forsake her."
That, uttered there at the solemn hour, uttered in the place that
was full of her influence, was the rest of his business; and when
once he had heard himself say it he felt that his message had never
before been spoken. It placed his present call immediately on
solid ground, and the effect of it was to enable him quite to play
with what we have called the key. Chad showed no shade of
embarrassment, but had none the less been troubled for him after
their meeting in the country; had had fears and doubts on the
subject of his comfort. He was disturbed, as it were, only FOR
him, and had positively gone away to ease him off, to let him down--
if it wasn't indeed rather to screw him up--the more gently.
Seeing him now fairly jaded he had come, with characteristic good
humour, all the way to meet him, and what Strether thereupon
supremely made out was that he would abound for him to the end in
conscientious assurances. This was what was between them while the
visitor remained; so far from having to go over old ground he found
his entertainer keen to agree to everything. It couldn't be put
too strongly for him that he'd be a brute. "Oh rather!--if I should
do anything of THAT sort. I hope you believe I really feel it."
"I want it," said Strether, "to be my last word of all to you.
I can't say more, you know; and I don't see how I can do more,
in every way, than I've done."
Chad took this, almost artlessly, as a direct allusion. "You've
"Oh yes--to say good-bye. And if I had doubted the truth of what I
"She'd have cleared up your doubt?" Chad understood--"rather"--
again! It even kept him briefly silent. But he made that up.
"She must have been wonderful."
"She WAS," Strether candidly admitted--all of which practically
told as a reference to the conditions created by the accident of
the previous week.
They appeared for a little to be looking back at it; and that came
out still more in what Chad next said. "I don't know what you've
really thought, all along; I never did know--for anything, with
you, seemed to be possible. But of course--of course--" Without
confusion, quite with nothing but indulgence, he broke down, he
pulled up. "After all, you understand. I spoke to you originally
only as I HAD to speak. There's only one way--isn't there?--about
such things. However," he smiled with a final philosophy, "I see
it's all right."
Strether met his eyes with a sense of multiplying thoughts. What
was it that made him at present, late at night and after journeys,
so renewedly, so substantially young? Strether saw in a moment
what it was--it was that he was younger again than Madame de Vionnet.
He himself said immediately none of the things that he was thinking;
he said something quite different. "You HAVE really been to a distance?"
"I've been to England." Chad spoke cheerfully and promptly, but gave
no further account of it than to say: "One must sometimes get off."
Strether wanted no more facts--he only wanted to justify, as it
were, his question. "Of course you do as you're free to do. But I
hope, this time, that you didn't go for ME."
"For very shame at bothering you really too much? My dear man,"
Chad laughed, "what WOULDn't I do for you?"
Strether's easy answer for this was that it was a disposition he
had exactly come to profit by. "Even at the risk of being in your
way I've waited on, you know, for a definite reason."
Chad took it in. "Oh yes--for us to make if possible a still
better impression." And he stood there happily exhaling his full
general consciousness. "I'm delighted to gather that you feel
we've made it."
There was a pleasant irony in the words, which his guest,
preoccupied and keeping to the point, didn't take up. "If I had
my sense of wanting the rest of the time--the time of their being
still on this side," he continued to explain--"I know now why I
He was as grave, as distinct, as a demonstrator before a
blackboard, and Chad continued to face him like an intelligent
pupil. "You wanted to have been put through the whole thing."
Strether again, for a moment, said nothing; he turned his eyes
away, and they lost themselves, through the open window, in the
dusky outer air. "I shall learn from the Bank here where they're
now having their letters, and my last word, which I shall write in
the morning and which they're expecting as my ultimatum, will so
immediately reach them." The light of his plural pronoun was
sufficiently reflected in his companion's face as he again met it;
and he completed his demonstration. He pursued indeed as if for
himself. "Of course I've first to justify what I shall do."
"You're justifying it beautifully!" Chad declared.
"It's not a question of advising you not to go," Strether said, "but
of absolutely preventing you, if possible, from so much as thinking
of it. Let me accordingly appeal to you by all you hold sacred."
Chad showed a surprise. "What makes you think me capable--?"
"You'd not only be, as I say, a brute; you'd be," his companion
went on in the same way, "a criminal of the deepest dye."
Chad gave a sharper look, as if to gauge a possible suspicion.
"I don't know what should make you think I'm tired of her."
Strether didn't quite know either, and such impressions, for the
imaginative mind, were always too fine, too floating, to produce on
the spot their warrant. There was none the less for him, in the
very manner of his host's allusion to satiety as a thinkable
motive, a slight breath of the ominous. "I feel how much more she
can do for you. She hasn't done it all yet. Stay with her at
least till she has."
"And leave her THEN?"
Chad had kept smiling, but its effect in Strether was a shade of
dryness. "Don't leave her BEFORE. When you've got all that can be
got--I don't say," he added a trifle grimly. "That will be the
proper time. But as, for you, from such a woman, there will always
be something to be got, my remark's not a wrong to her." Chad let
him go on, showing every decent deference, showing perhaps also a
candid curiosity for this sharper accent. "I remember you, you
know, as you were."
"An awful ass, wasn't I?"
The response was as prompt as if he had pressed a spring; it had a
ready abundance at which he even winced; so that he took a moment
to meet it. "You certainly then wouldn't have seemed worth all
you've let me in for. You've defined yourself better. Your value
"Well then, wouldn't that be enough--?"
Chad had risked it jocosely, but Strether remained blank. "Enough?"
"If one SHOULD wish to live on one's accumulations?" After which,
however, as his friend appeared cold to the joke, the young man as
easily dropped it. "Of course I really never forget, night or day,
what I owe her. I owe her everything. I give you my word of
honour," he frankly rang out, "that I'm not a bit tired of her."
Strether at this only gave him a stare: the way youth could
express itself was again and again a wonder. He meant no harm,
though he might after all be capable of much; yet he spoke of being
"tired" of her almost as he might have spoken of being tired of
roast mutton for dinner. "She has never for a moment yet bored me--
never been wanting, as the cleverest women sometimes are, in tact.
She has never talked about her tact--as even they too sometimes talk;
but she has always had it. She has never had it more"--he handsomely
made the point--"than just lately." And he scrupulously went further.
"She has never been anything I could call a burden."
Strether for a moment said nothing; then he spoke gravely, with his
shade of dryness deepened. "Oh if you didn't do her justice--!"
"I SHOULD be a beast, eh?"
Strether devoted no time to saying what he would be; THAT, visibly,
would take them far. If there was nothing for it but to repeat,
however, repetition was no mistake. "You owe her everything--very
much more than she can ever owe you. You've in other words duties
to her, of the most positive sort; and I don't see what other
duties--as the others are presented to you--can be held to go
Chad looked at him with a smile. "And you know of course about the
others, eh?--since it's you yourself who have done the presenting."
"Much of it--yes--and to the best of my ability. But not all--from
the moment your sister took my place."
"She didn't," Chad returned. "Sally took a place, certainly; but
it was never, I saw from the first moment, to be yours. No one--
with us--will ever take yours. It wouldn't be possible."
"Ah of course," sighed Strether, "I knew it. I believe you're
right. No one in the world, I imagine, was ever so portentously
solemn. There I am," he added with another sigh, as if weary
enough, on occasion, of this truth. "I was made so."
Chad appeared for a little to consider the way he was made;
he might for this purpose have measured him up and down.
His conclusion favoured the fact. "YOU have never needed any one
to make you better. There has never been any one good enough.
They couldn't," the young man declared.
His friend hesitated. "I beg your pardon. They HAVE."
Chad showed, not without amusement, his doubt. "Who then?"
Strether--though a little dimly--smiled at him. "Women--too."
"'Two'?"--Chad stared and laughed. "Oh I don't believe, for such
work, in any more than one! So you're proving too much. And what
IS beastly, at all events," he added, "is losing you."
Strether had set himself in motion for departure, but at this he
paused. "Are you afraid?"
"Of doing wrong. I mean away from my eye." Before Chad could
speak, however, he had taken himself up. "I AM, certainly," he
"Yes, you spoil us for all the stupid--!" This might have been, on
Chad's part, in its extreme emphasis, almost too freely
extravagant; but it was full, plainly enough, of the intention of
comfort, it carried with it a protest against doubt and a promise,
positively, of performance. Picking up a hat in the vestibule he
came out with his friend, came downstairs, took his arm,
affectionately, as to help and guide him, treating him if not
exactly as aged and infirm, yet as a noble eccentric who appealed
to tenderness, and keeping on with him, while they walked, to the
next corner and the next. "You needn't tell me, you needn't tell
me!"--this again as they proceeded, he wished to make Strether
feel. What he needn't tell him was now at last, in the geniality
of separation, anything at all it concerned him to know. He knew,
up to the hilt--that really came over Chad; he understood, felt,
recorded his vow; and they lingered on it as they had lingered in
their walk to Strether's hotel the night of their first meeting.
The latter took, at this hour, all he could get; he had given all
he had had to give; he was as depleted as if he had spent his last
sou. But there was just one thing for which, before they broke
off, Chad seemed disposed slightly to bargain. His companion needn't,
as he said, tell him, but he might himself mention that he had been
getting some news of the art of advertisement. He came out quite
suddenly with this announcement while Strether wondered if his revived
interest were what had taken him, with strange inconsequence, over
to London. He appeared at all events to have been looking into the
question and had encountered a revelation. Advertising scientifically
worked presented itself thus as the great new force. "It really
does the thing, you know."
They were face to face under the street-lamp as they had been the
first night, and Strether, no doubt, looked blank. "Affects, you
mean, the sale of the object advertised?"
"Yes--but affects it extraordinarily; really beyond what one had
supposed. I mean of course when it's done as one makes out that in
our roaring age, it CAN be done. I've been finding out a little,
though it doubtless doesn't amount to much more than what you
originally, so awfully vividly--and all, very nearly, that first
night--put before me. It's an art like another, and infinite like
all the arts." He went on as if for the joke of it--almost as if
his friend's face amused him. "In the hands, naturally, of a master.
The right man must take hold. With the right man to work it
c'est un monde."
Strether had watched him quite as if, there on the pavement without
a pretext, he had begun to dance a fancy step. "Is what you're
thinking of that you yourself, in the case you have in mind, would
be the right man?"
Chad had thrown back his light coat and thrust each of his thumbs
into an armhole of his waistcoat; in which position his fingers
played up and down. "Why, what is he but what you yourself, as I
say, took me for when you first came out?"
Strether felt a little faint, but he coerced his attention. "Oh
yes, and there's no doubt that, with your natural parts, you'd have
much in common with him. Advertising is clearly at this time of
day the secret of trade. It's quite possible it will be open to you--
giving the whole of your mind to it--to make the whole place hum
with you. Your mother's appeal is to the whole of your mind, and
that's exactly the strength of her case."
Chad's fingers continued to twiddle, but he had something of a drop.
"Ah we've been through my mother's case!"
"So I thought. Why then do you speak of the matter?"
"Only because it was part of our original discussion. To wind up
where we began, my interest's purely platonic. There at any rate
the fact is--the fact of the possible. I mean the money in it."
"Oh damn the money in it!" said Strether. And then as the young
man's fixed smile seemed to shine out more strange: "Shall you
give your friend up for the money in it?"
Chad preserved his handsome grimace as well as the rest of his
attitude. "You're not altogether--in your so great 'solemnity'--
kind. Haven't I been drinking you in--showing you all I feel
you're worth to me? What have I done, what am I doing, but cleave
to her to the death? The only thing is," he good-humouredly
explained, "that one can't but have it before one, in the cleaving--
the point where the death comes in. Don't be afraid for THAT.
It's pleasant to a fellow's feelings," he developed, "to 'size-up'
the bribe he applies his foot to."
"Oh then if all you want's a kickable surface the bribe's enormous."
"Good. Then there it goes!" Chad administered his kick with fantastic
force and sent an imaginary object flying. It was accordingly as if
they were once more rid of the question and could come back to what
really concerned him. "Of course I shall see you tomorrow."
But Strether scarce heeded the plan proposed for this; he had still
the impression--not the slighter for the simulated kick--of an
irrelevant hornpipe or jig. "You're restless."
"Ah," returned Chad as they parted, "you're exciting."
He had, however, within two days, another separation to face.
He had sent Maria Gostrey a word early, by hand, to ask if he might
come to breakfast; in consequence of which, at noon, she awaited
him in the cool shade of her little Dutch-looking dining-room.
This retreat was at the back of the house, with a view of a scrap
of old garden that had been saved from modern ravage; and though he
had on more than one other occasion had his legs under its small
and peculiarly polished table of hospitality, the place had never
before struck him as so sacred to pleasant knowledge, to intimate
charm, to antique order, to a neatness that was almost august.
To sit there was, as he had told his hostess before, to see life
reflected for the time in ideally kept pewter; which was somehow
becoming, improving to life, so that one's eyes were held and
comforted. Strether's were comforted at all events now--and the
more that it was the last time--with the charming effect, on the
board bare of a cloth and proud of its perfect surface, of the
small old crockery and old silver, matched by the more substantial
pieces happily disposed about the room. The specimens of vivid
Delf, in particular had the dignity of family portraits; and it was
in the midst of them that our friend resignedly expressed himself.
He spoke even with a certain philosophic humour. "There's nothing
more to wait for; I seem to have done a good day's work. I've let
them have it all round. I've seen Chad, who has been to London and
come back. He tells me I'm 'exciting,' and I seem indeed pretty
well to have upset every one. I've at any rate excited HIM. He's
"You've excited ME," Miss Gostrey smiled. "I'M distinctly restless."
"Oh you were that when I found you. It seems to me I've rather got
you out of it. What's this," he asked as he looked about him, "but
a haunt of ancient peace?"
"I wish with all my heart," she presently replied, "I could make
you treat it as a haven of rest." On which they fronted each other,
across the table, as if things unuttered were in the air.
Strether seemed, in his way, when he next spoke, to take some of
them up. "It wouldn't give me--that would be the trouble--what it
will, no doubt, still give you. I'm not," he explained, leaning
back in his chair, but with his eyes on a small ripe round melon--
"in real harmony with what surrounds me. You ARE. I take it too hard.
You DON'T. It makes--that's what it comes to in the end--a fool of me."
Then at a tangent, "What has he been doing in London?" he demanded.
"Ah one may go to London," Maria laughed. "You know I did."
Yes--he took the reminder. "And you brought ME back." He brooded
there opposite to her, but without gloom. "Whom has Chad brought?
He's full of ideas. And I wrote to Sarah," he added, "the first
thing this morning. So I'm square. I'm ready for them."
She neglected certain parts of this speech in the interest of
others. "Marie said to me the other day that she felt him to have
the makings of an immense man of business."
"There it is. He's the son of his father!"
"But SUCH a father!"
"Ah just the right one from that point of view! But it isn't his
father in him," Strether added, "that troubles me."
"What is it then?" He came back to his breakfast; he partook
presently of the charming melon, which she liberally cut for him;
and it was only after this that he met her question. Then moreover
it was but to remark that he'd answer her presently. She waited,
she watched, she served him and amused him, and it was perhaps with
this last idea that she soon reminded him of his having never even
yet named to her the article produced at Woollett. "Do you
remember our talking of it in London--that night at the play?"
Before he could say yes, however, she had put it to him for other
matters. Did he remember, did he remember--this and that of their
first days? He remembered everything, bringing up with humour
even things of which she professed no recollection, things she
vehemently denied; and falling back above all on the great
interest of their early time, the curiosity felt by both of them
as to where he would "come out." They had so assumed it was to be
in some wonderful place--they had thought of it as so very MUCH
out. Well, that was doubtless what it had been--since he had come
out just there. He was out, in truth, as far as it was possible
to be, and must now rather bethink himself of getting in again.
He found on the spot the image of his recent history; he was like
one of the figures of the old clock at Berne. THEY came out, on
one side, at their hour, jigged along their little course in the
public eye, and went in on the other side. He too had jigged his
little course--him too a modest retreat awaited. He offered now,
should she really like to know, to name the great product of
Woollett. It would be a great commentary on everything. At this
she stopped him off; she not only had no wish to know, but she
wouldn't know for the world. She had done with the products of
Woollett--for all the good she had got from them. She desired no
further news of them, and she mentioned that Madame de Vionnet
herself had, to her knowledge, lived exempt from the information
he was ready to supply. She had never consented to receive it,
though she would have taken it, under stress, from Mrs. Pocock.
But it was a matter about which Mrs. Pocock appeared to have had
little to say--never sounding the word--and it didn't signify
now. There was nothing clearly for Maria Gostrey that signified
now--save one sharp point, that is, to which she came in time.
"I don't know whether it's before you as a possibility that,
left to himself, Mr. Chad may after all go back. I judge that it
IS more or less so before you, from what you just now said of him."
Her guest had his eyes on her, kindly but attentively, as if
foreseeing what was to follow this. "I don't think it will be for
the money." And then as she seemed uncertain: "I mean I don't
believe it will be for that he'll give her up."
"Then he WILL give her up?"
Strether waited a moment, rather slow and deliberate now, drawing
out a little this last soft stage, pleading with her in various
suggestive and unspoken ways for patience and understanding.
"What were you just about to ask me?"
"Is there anything he can do that would make you patch it up?"
"With Mrs. Newsome?"
Her assent, as if she had had a delicacy about sounding the name,
was only in her face; but she added with it: "Or is there
anything he can do that would make HER try it?"
"To patch it up with me?" His answer came at last in a conclusive
headshake. "There's nothing any one can do. It's over. Over for
both of us."
Maria wondered, seemed a little to doubt. "Are you so sure for her?"
"Oh yes--sure now. Too much has happened. I'm different for her."
She took it in then, drawing a deeper breath. "I see. So that as
she's different for YOU--"
"Ah but," he interrupted, "she's not." And as Miss Gostrey wondered
again: "She's the same. She's more than ever the same.
But I do what I didn't before--I SEE her."
He spoke gravely and as if responsibly--since he had to pronounce;
and the effect of it was slightly solemn, so that she simply exclaimed
"Oh!" Satisfied and grateful, however, she showed in her own next
words an acceptance of his statement. "What then do you go home to?"
He had pushed his plate a little away, occupied with another side
of the matter; taking refuge verily in that side and feeling so
moved that he soon found himself on his feet. He was affected in
advance by what he believed might come from her, and he would have
liked to forestall it and deal with it tenderly; yet in the
presence of it he wished still more to be--though as smoothly as
possible--deterrent and conclusive. He put her question by for
the moment; he told her more about Chad. "It would have been
impossible to meet me more than he did last night on the question
of the infamy of not sticking to her."
"Is that what you called it for him--'infamy'?"
"Oh rather! I described to him in detail the base creature he'd
be, and he quite agrees with me about it."
"So that it's really as if you had nailed him?"
"Quite really as if--! I told him I should curse him."
"Oh," she smiled, "you HAVE done it." And then having thought again:
"You CAN'T after that propose--!" Yet she scanned his face.
"Propose again to Mrs. Newsome?"
She hesitated afresh, but she brought it out. "I've never believed,
you know, that you did propose. I always believed it was really she--
and, so far as that goes, I can understand it. What I mean is,"
she explained, "that with such a spirit--the spirit of curses!--
your breach is past mending. She has only to know what you've done
to him never again to raise a finger."
"I've done," said Strether, "what I could--one can't do more.
He protests his devotion and his horror. But I'm not sure I've
saved him. He protests too much. He asks how one can dream of
his being tired. But he has all life before him."
Maria saw what he meant. "He's formed to please."
"And it's our friend who has formed him." Strether felt in it the
"So it's scarcely his fault!"
"It's at any rate his danger. I mean," said Strether, "it's hers.
But she knows it."
"Yes, she knows it. And is your idea," Miss Gostrey asked, "that
there was some other woman in London?"
"Yes. No. That is I HAVE no ideas. I'm afraid of them.
I've done with them." And he put out his hand to her. "Good-bye."
It brought her back to her unanswered question. "To what do you go
"I don't know. There will always be something."
"To a great difference," she said as she kept his hand.
"A great difference--no doubt. Yet I shall see what I can make of it."
"Shall you make anything so good--?" But, as if remembering what
Mrs. Newsome had done, it was as far as she went.
He had sufficiently understood. "So good as this place at this
moment? So good as what YOU make of everything you touch?"
He took a moment to say, for, really and truly, what stood about him
there in her offer--which was as the offer of exquisite service, of
lightened care, for the rest of his days--might well have tempted.
It built him softly round, it roofed him warmly over, it rested,
all so firm, on selection. And what ruled selection was beauty and
knowledge. It was awkward, it was almost stupid, not to seem to
prize such things; yet, none the less, so far as they made his
opportunity they made it only for a moment. She'd moreover
understand--she always understood.
That indeed might be, but meanwhile she was going on.
"There's nothing, you know, I wouldn't do for you."
"Oh yes--I know."
"There's nothing," she repeated, "in all the world."
"I know. I know. But all the same I must go." He had got it at last.
"To be right."
"To be right?"
She had echoed it in vague deprecation, but he felt it already
clear for her. "That, you see, is my only logic.
Not, out of the whole affair, to have got anything for myself."
She thought. "But with your wonderful impressions you'll have
got a great deal."
"A great deal"--he agreed. "But nothing like YOU. It's you who
would make me wrong!"
Honest and fine, she couldn't greatly pretend she didn't see it.
Still she could pretend just a little. "But why should you be so
"That's the way that--if I must go--you yourself would be the first
to want me. And I can't do anything else."
So then she had to take it, though still with her defeated protest.
"It isn't so much your BEING 'right'--it's your horrible sharp eye
for what makes you so."
"Oh but you're just as bad yourself. You can't resist me when I
point that out."
She sighed it at last all comically, all tragically, away.
"I can't indeed resist you."
"Then there we are!" said Strether.