The Ambassadors HTML version

Chapter VII.1
It wasn't the first time Strether had sat alone in the great dim church--still less was it the
first of his giving himself up, so far as conditions permitted, to its beneficent action on
his nerves. He had been to Notre Dame with Waymarsh, he had been there with Miss
Gostrey, he had been there with Chad Newsome, and had found the place, even in
company, such a refuge from the obsession of his problem that, with renewed pressure
from that source, he had not unnaturally recurred to a remedy meeting the case, for the
moment, so indirectly, no doubt, but so relievingly. He was conscious enough that it was
only for the moment, but good moments-- if he could call them good--still had their value
for a man who by this time struck himself as living almost disgracefully from hand to
mouth. Having so well learnt the way, he had lately made the pilgrimage more than
once by himself--had quite stolen off, taking an unnoticed chance and making no point
of speaking of the adventure when restored to his friends.
His great friend, for that matter, was still absent, as well as remarkably silent; even at
the end of three weeks Miss Gostrey hadn't come back. She wrote to him from
Mentone, admitting that he must judge her grossly inconsequent--perhaps in fact for the
time odiously faithless; but asking for patience, for a deferred sentence, throwing herself
in short on his generosity. For her too, she could assure him, life was complicated--
more complicated than he could have guessed; she had moreover made certain of him-
- certain of not wholly missing him on her return--before her disappearance. If
furthermore she didn't burden him with letters it was frankly because of her sense of the
other great commerce he had to carry on. He himself, at the end of a fortnight, had
written twice, to show how his generosity could be trusted; but he reminded himself in
each case of Mrs. Newsome's epistolary manner at the times when Mrs. Newsome kept
off delicate ground. He sank his problem, he talked of Waymarsh and Miss Barrace, of
little Bilham and the set over the river, with whom he had again had tea, and he was
easy, for convenience, about Chad and Madame de Vionnet and Jeanne. He admitted
that he continued to see them, he was decidedly so confirmed a haunter of Chad's
premises and that young man's practical intimacy with them was so undeniably great;
but he had his reason for not attempting to render for Miss Gostrey's benefit the
impression of these last days. That would be to tell her too much about himself--it being
at present just from himself he was trying to escape.
This small struggle sprang not a little, in its way, from the same impulse that had now
carried him across to Notre Dame; the impulse to let things be, to give them time to
justify themselves or at least to pass. He was aware of having no errand in such a place
but the desire not to be, for the hour, in certain other places; a sense of safety, of
simplification, which each time he yielded to it he amused himself by thinking of as a
private concession to cowardice. The great church had no altar for his worship, no direct
voice for his soul; but it was none the less soothing even to sanctity; for he could feel
while there what he couldn't elsewhere, that he was a plain tired man taking the holiday
he had earned. He was tired, but he wasn't plain--that was the pity and the trouble of it;
he was able, however, to drop his problem at the door very much as if it had been the