THE AMBASSADORS

第66章

The evidence as yet in truth was meagre; which, for that matter, was perhaps a little why his expectation had had a drop.There was somehow not quite a wealth in her; and a wealth was all that, in his simplicity, he had definitely prefigured.Still, it was too much to be sure already that there was but a poverty.They moved away from the house, and, with eyes on a bench at some distance, he proposed that they should sit down."I've heard a great deal about you," she said as they went; but he had an answer to it that made her stop short."Well, about YOU, Madame de Vionnet, I've heard, I'm bound to say, almost nothing"--those struck him as the only words he himself could utter with any lucidity; conscious as he was, and as with more reason, of the determination to be in respect to the rest of his business perfectly plain and go perfectly straight.It hadn't at any rate been in the least his idea to spy on Chad's proper freedom.It was possibly, however, at this very instant and under the impression of Madame de Vionnet's pause, that going straight began to announce itself as a matter for care.She had only after all to smile at him ever so gently in order to make him ask himself if he weren't already going crooked.

It might be going crooked to find it of a sudden just only clear that she intended very definitely to be what he would have called nice to him.This was what passed between them while, for another instant, they stood still; he couldn't at least remember afterwards what else it might have been.The thing indeed really unmistakeable was its rolling over him as a wave that he had been, in conditions incalculable and unimaginable, a subject of discussion.He had been, on some ground that concerned her, answered for; which gave her an advantage he should never be able to match.

"Hasn't Miss Gostrey," she asked, "said a good word for me?"What had struck him first was the way he was bracketed with that lady; and he wondered what account Chad would have given of their acquaintance.Something not as yet traceable, at all events.had obviously happened."I didn't even know of her knowing you.""Well, now she'll tell you all.I'm so glad you're in relation with her."This was one of the things--the "all" Miss Gostrey would now tell him--that, with every deference to present preoccupation, was uppermost for Strether after they had taken their seat.One of the others was, at the end of five minutes, that she--oh incontestably, yes--DIFFERED less; differed, that is, scarcely at all--well, superficially speaking, from Mrs.Newsome or even from Mrs.Pocock.

She was ever so much younger than the one and not so young as the other;but what WAS there in her, if anything, that would have made it impossible he should meet her at Woollett? And wherein was her talk during their moments on the bench together not the same as would have been found adequate for a Woollett garden-party?--unless perhaps truly in not being quite so bright.She observed to him that Mr.Newsome had, to her knowledge, taken extraordinary pleasure in his visit; but there was no good lady at Woollett who wouldn't have been at least up to that.

Was there in Chad, by chance, after all, deep down, a principle of aboriginal loyalty that had made him, for sentimental ends, attach himself to elements, happily encountered, that would remind him most of the old air and the old soil? Why accordingly be in a flutter--Strether could even put it that way--about this unfamiliar phenomenon of the femme du monde? On these terms Mrs.Newsome herself was as much of one.Little Bilham verily had testified that they came out, the ladies of the type, in close quarters; but it was just in these quarters--now comparatively close--that he felt Madame de Vionnet's common humanity.She did come out, and certainly to his relief, but she came out as the usual thing.

There might be motives behind, but so could there often be even at Woollett.The only thing was that if she showed him she wished to like him--as the motives behind might conceivably prompt--it would possibly have been more thrilling for him that she should have shown as more vividly alien.Ah she was neither Turk nor Pole!--which would be indeed flat once more for Mrs.Newsome and Mrs.Pocock.A lady and two gentlemen had meanwhile, however, approached their bench, and this accident stayed for the time further developments.

Henry James

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