Chad was not in fact on this occasion to keep his promise of coming back; but Miss
Gostrey had soon presented herself with an explanation of his failure. There had been
reasons at the last for his going off with ces dames; and he had asked her with much
instance to come out and take charge of their friend. She did so, Strether felt as she
took her place beside him, in a manner that left nothing to desire. He had dropped back
on his bench, alone again for a time, and the more conscious for little Bilham's defection
of his unexpressed thought; in respect to which however this next converser was a still
more capacious vessel. "It's the child!" he had exclaimed to her almost as soon as she
appeared; and though her direct response was for some time delayed he could feel in
her meanwhile the working of this truth. It might have been simply, as she waited, that
they were now in presence altogether of truth spreading like a flood and not for the
moment to be offered her in the mere cupful; inasmuch as who should ces dames prove
to be but persons about whom--once thus face to face with them--she found she might
from the first have told him almost everything? This would have freely come had he
taken the simple precaution of giving her their name. There could be no better example-
-and she appeared to note it with high amusement--than the way, making things out
already so much for himself, he was at last throwing precautions to the winds. They
were neither more nor less, she and the child's mother, than old school-friends--friends
who had scarcely met for years but whom this unlooked-for chance had brought
together with a rush. It was a relief, Miss Gostrey hinted, to feel herself no longer
groping; she was unaccustomed to grope and as a general thing, he might well have
seen, made straight enough for her clue. With the one she had now picked up in her
hands there need be at least no waste of wonder. "She's coming to see me--that's for
YOU," Strether's counsellor continued; "but I don't require it to know where I am."
The waste of wonder might be proscribed; but Strether, characteristically, was even by
this time in the immensity of space. "By which you mean that you know where SHE is?"
She just hesitated. "I mean that if she comes to see me I shall-- now that I've pulled
myself round a bit after the shock--not be at home."
Strether hung poised. "You call it--your recognition--a shock?"
She gave one of her rare flickers of impatience. "It was a surprise, an emotion. Don't be
so literal. I wash my hands of her."
Poor Strether's face lengthened. "She's impossible--?"
"She's even more charming than I remembered her."
"Then what's the matter?"