The Ambassadors HTML version

Chapter VIII.1
Strether rambled alone during these few days, the effect of the incident of the previous
week having been to simplify in a marked fashion his mixed relations with Waymarsh.
Nothing had passed between them in reference to Mrs. Newsome's summons but that
our friend had mentioned to his own the departure of the deputation actually at sea--
giving him thus an opportunity to confess to the occult intervention he imputed to him.
Waymarsh however in the event confessed to nothing; and though this falsified in some
degree Strether's forecast the latter amusedly saw in it the same depth of good
conscience out of which the dear man's impertinence had originally sprung. He was
patient with the dear man now and delighted to observe how unmistakeably he had put
on flesh; he felt his own holiday so successfully large and free that he was full of
allowances and charities in respect to those cabined and confined' his instinct toward a
spirit so strapped down as Waymarsh's was to walk round it on tiptoe for fear of waking
it up to a sense of losses by this time irretrievable. It was all very funny he knew, and
but the difference, as he often said to himself, of tweedledum and tweedledee--an
emancipation so purely comparative that it was like the advance of the door-mat on the
scraper; yet the present crisis was happily to profit by it and the pilgrim from Milrose to
know himself more than ever in the right.
Strether felt that when he heard of the approach of the Pococks the impulse of pity quite
sprang up in him beside the impulse of triumph. That was exactly why Waymarsh had
looked at him with eyes in which the heat of justice was measured and shaded. He had
looked very hard, as if affectionately sorry for the friend--the friend of fifty-five--whose
frivolity had had thus to be recorded; becoming, however, but obscurely sententious and
leaving his companion to formulate a charge. It was in this general attitude that he had
of late altogether taken refuge; with the drop of discussion they were solemnly sadly
superficial; Strether recognised in him the mere portentous rumination to which Miss
Barrace had so good-humouredly described herself as assigning a corner of her salon.
It was quite as if he knew his surreptitious step had been divined, and it was also as if
he missed the chance to explain the purity of his motive; but this privation of relief
should be precisely his small penance: it was not amiss for Strether that he should find
himself to that degree uneasy. If he had been challenged or accused, rebuked for
meddling or otherwise pulled up, he would probably have shown, on his own system, all
the height of his consistency, all the depth of his good faith. Explicit resentment of his
course would have made him take the floor, and the thump of his fist on the table would
have affirmed him as consciously incorruptible. Had what now really prevailed with
Strether been but a dread of that thump--a dread of wincing a little painfully at what it
might invidiously demonstrate? However this might be, at any rate, one of the marks of
the crisis was a visible, a studied lapse, in Waymarsh, of betrayed concern. As if to
make up to his comrade for the stroke by which he had played providence he now
conspicuously ignored his movements, withdrew himself from the pretension to share
them, stiffened up his sensibility to neglect, and, clasping his large empty hands and
swinging his large restless foot, clearly looked to another quarter for justice.