The Ambassadors HTML version

Chapter V.1
The Sunday of the next week was a wonderful day, and Chad Newsome had let his
friend know in advance that he had provided for it. There had already been a question
of his taking him to see the great Gloriani, who was at home on Sunday afternoons and
at whose house, for the most part, fewer bores were to be met than elsewhere; but the
project, through some accident, had not had instant effect, and now revived in happier
conditions. Chad had made the point that the celebrated sculptor had a queer old
garden, for which the weather--spring at last frank and fair--was propitious; and two or
three of his other allusions had confirmed for Strether the expectation of something
special. He had by this time, for all introductions and adventures, let himself recklessly
go, cherishing the sense that whatever the young man showed him he was showing at
least himself. He could have wished indeed, so far as this went, that Chad were less of
a mere cicerone; for he was not without the impression--now that the vision of his game,
his plan, his deep diplomacy, did recurrently assert itself--of his taking refuge from the
realities of their intercourse in profusely dispensing, as our friend mentally phrased et
panem et circenses. Our friend continued to feel rather smothered in flowers, though he
made in his other moments the almost angry inference that this was only because of his
odious ascetic suspicion of any form of beauty. He periodically assured himself--for his
reactions were sharp--that he shouldn't reach the truth of anything till he had at least got
rid of that.
He had known beforehand that Madame de Vionnet and her daughter would probably
be on view, an intimation to that effect having constituted the only reference again made
by Chad to his good friends from the south. The effect of Strether's talk about them with
Miss Gostrey had been quite to consecrate his reluctance to pry; something in the very
air of Chad's silence--judged in the light of that talk--offered it to him as a reserve he
could markedly match. It shrouded them about with he scarce knew what, a
consideration, a distinction; he was in presence at any rate--so far as it placed him
there--of ladies; and the one thing that was definite for him was that they themselves
should be, to the extent of his responsibility, in presence of a gentleman. Was it
because they were very beautiful, very clever, or even very good--was it for one of
these reasons that Chad was, so to speak, nursing his effect? Did he wish to spring
them, in the Woollett phrase, with a fuller force--to confound his critic, slight though as
yet the criticism, with some form of merit exquisitely incalculable? The most the critic
had at all events asked was whether the persons in question were French; and that
enquiry had been but a proper comment on the sound of their name. "Yes. That is no!"
had been Chad's reply; but he had immediately added that their English was the most
charming in the world, so that if Strether were wanting an excuse for not getting on with
them he wouldn't in the least find one. Never in fact had Strether--in the mood into
which the place had quickly launched him--felt, for himself, less the need of an excuse.
Those he might have found would have been, at the worst, all for the others, the people
before him, in whose liberty to be as they were he was aware that he positively rejoiced.
His fellow guests were multiplying, and these things, their liberty, their intensity, their
variety, their conditions at large, were in fusion in the admirable medium of the scene.