The Ambassadors HTML version

Chapter VII.2
He received three days after this a communication from America, in the form of a scrap
of blue paper folded and gummed, not reaching him through his bankers, but delivered
at his hotel by a small boy in uniform, who, under instructions from the concierge,
approached him as he slowly paced the little court. It was the evening hour, but daylight
was long now and Paris more than ever penetrating. The scent of flowers was in the
streets, he had the whiff of violets perpetually in his nose; and he had attached himself
to sounds and suggestions, vibrations of the air, human and dramatic, he imagined, as
they were not in other places, that came out for him more and more as the mild
afternoons deepened--a far-off hum, a sharp near click on the asphalt, a voice calling,
replying, somewhere and as full of tone as an actor's in a play. He was to dine at home,
as usual, with Waymarsh--they had settled to that for thrift and simplicity; and he now
hung about before his friend came down.
He read his telegram in the court, standing still a long time where he had opened it and
giving five minutes afterwards to the renewed study of it. At last, quickly, he crumpled it
up as if to get it out of the way; in spite of which, however, he kept it there-- still kept it
when, at the end of another turn, he had dropped into a chair placed near a small table.
Here, with his scrap of paper compressed in his fist and further concealed by his folding
his arms tight, he sat for some time in thought, gazed before him so straight that
Waymarsh appeared and approached him without catching his eye. The latter in fact,
struck with his appearance, looked at him hard for a single instant and then, as if
determined to that course by some special vividness in it, dropped back into the salon
de lecture without addressing him. But the pilgrim from Milrose permitted himself still to
observe the scene from behind the clear glass plate of that retreat. Strether ended, as
he sat, by a fresh scrutiny of his compressed missive, which he smoothed out carefully
again as he placed it on his table. There it remained for some minutes, until, at last
looking up, he saw Waymarsh watching him from within. It was on this that their eyes
met--met for a moment during which neither moved. But Strether then got up, folding his
telegram more carefully and putting it into his waistcoat pocket
A few minutes later the friends were seated together at dinner; but Strether had
meanwhile said nothing about it, and they eventually parted, after coffee in the court,
with nothing said on either side. Our friend had moreover the consciousness that even
less than usual was on this occasion said between them, so that it was almost as if
each had been waiting for something from the other. Waymarsh had always more or
less the air of sitting at the door of his tent, and silence, after so many weeks, had come
to play its part in their concert. This note indeed, to Strether's sense, had lately taken a
fuller tone, and it was his fancy to-night that they had never quite so drawn it out. Yet it
befell, none the less that he closed the door to confidence when his companion finally
asked him if there were anything particular the matter with him. "Nothing," he replied,
"more than usual."