The Ambassadors HTML version

Chapter VIII.2
Strether quitted the station half an hour later in different company. Chad had taken
charge, for the journey to the hotel, of Sarah, Mamie, the maid and the luggage, all
spaciously installed and conveyed; and it was only after the four had rolled away that
his companion got into a cab with Jim. A strange new feeling had come over Strether, in
consequence of which his spirits had risen; it was as if what had occurred on the
alighting of his critics had been something other than his fear, though his fear had vet
not been of an instant scene of violence. His impression had been nothing but what was
inevitable--he said that to himself; yet relief and reassurance had softly dropped upon
him. Nothing could be so odd as to be indebted for these things to the look of faces and
the sound of voices that had been with him to satiety, as he might have said, for years;
but he now knew, all the same, how uneasy he had felt; that was brought home to him
by his present sense of a respite. It had come moreover in the flash of an eye, it had
come in the smile with which Sarah, whom, at the window of her compartment, they had
effusively greeted from the platform, rustled down to them a moment later, fresh and
handsome from her cool June progress through the charming land. It was only a sign,
but enough: she was going to be gracious and unallusive, she was going to play the
larger game--which was still more apparent, after she had emerged from Chad's arms,
in her direct greeting to the valued friend of her family.
Strether WAS then as much as ever the valued friend of her family, it was something he
could at all events go on with; and the manner of his response to it expressed even for
himself how little he had enjoyed the prospect of ceasing to figure in that likeness. He
had always seen Sarah gracious--had in fact rarely seen her shy or dry, her marked
thin-lipped smile, intense without brightness and as prompt to act as the scrape of a
safety-match; the protrusion of her rather remarkably long chin, which in her case
represented invitation and urbanity, and not, as in most others, pugnacity and defiance;
the penetration of her voice to a distance, the general encouragement and approval of
her manner, were all elements with which intercourse had made him familiar, but which
he noted today almost as if she had been a new acquaintance. This first glimpse of her
had given a brief but vivid accent to her resemblance to her mother; he could have
taken her for Mrs. Newsome while she met his eyes as the train rolled into the station. It
was an impression that quickly dropped; Mrs. Newsome was much handsomer, and
while Sarah inclined to the massive her mother had, at an age, still the girdle of a maid;
also the latter's chin was rather short, than long, and her smile, by good fortune, much
more, oh ever so much more, mercifully vague. Strether had seen Mrs. Newsome
reserved; he had literally heard her silent, though he had never known her unpleasant. It
was the case with Mrs. Pocock that he had known HER unpleasant, even though he
had never known her not affable. She had forms of affability that were in a high degree
assertive; nothing for instance had ever been more striking than that she was affable to