The Ambassadors HTML version

Chapter VIII.3
As the door of Mrs. Pocock's salon was pushed open for him, the next day, well before
noon, he was reached by a voice with a charming sound that made him just falter before
crossing the threshold. Madame de Vionnet was already on the field, and this gave the
drama a quicker pace than he felt it as yet--though his suspense had increased--in the
power of any act of his own to do. He had spent the previous evening with all his old
friends together yet he would still have described himself as quite in the dark in respect
to a forecast of their influence on his situation. It was strange now, none the less, that in
the light of this unexpected note of her presence he felt Madame de Vionnet a part of
that situation as she hadn't even yet been. She was alone, he found himself assuming,
with Sarah, and there was a bearing in that--somehow beyond his control--on his
personal fate. Yet she was only saying something quite easy and independent--the
thing she had come, as a good friend of Chad's, on purpose to say. "There isn't
anything at all--? I should be so delighted."
It was clear enough, when they were there before him, how she had been received. He
saw this, as Sarah got up to greet him, from something fairly hectic in Sarah's face. He
saw furthermore that they weren't, as had first come to him, alone together; he was at
no loss as to the identity of the broad high back presented to him in the embrasure of
the window furthest from the door. Waymarsh, whom he had to-day not yet seen, whom
he only knew to have left the hotel before him, and who had taken part, the night
previous, on Mrs. Pocock's kind invitation, conveyed by Chad, in the entertainment,
informal but cordial, promptly offered by that lady--Waymarsh had anticipated him even
as Madame de Vionnet had done, and, with his hands in his pockets and his attitude
unaffected by Strether's entrance, was looking out, in marked detachment, at the Rue
de Rivoli. The latter felt it in the air-- it was immense how Waymarsh could mark things--
-that he had remained deeply dissociated from the overture to their hostess that we
have recorded on Madame de Vionnet's side. He had, conspicuously, tact, besides a
stiff general view; and this was why he had left Mrs. Pocock to struggle alone. He would
outstay the visitor; he would unmistakeably wait; to what had he been doomed for
months past but waiting? Therefore she was to feel that she had him in reserve. What
support she drew from this was still to be seen, for, although Sarah was vividly bright,
she had given herself up for the moment to an ambiguous flushed formalism. She had
had to reckon more quickly than she expected; but it concerned her first of all to signify
that she was not to be taken unawares. Strether arrived precisely in time for her
showing it. "Oh you're too good; but I don't think I feel quite helpless. I have my brother--
and these American friends. And then you know I've been to Paris. I KNOW Paris," said
Sally Pocock in a tone that breathed a certain chill on Strether's heart.
"Ah but a woman, in this tiresome place where everything's always changing, a woman
of good will," Madame de Vionnet threw off, "can always help a woman. I'm sure you
'know'--but we know perhaps different things." She too, visibly, wished to make no
mistake; but it was a fear of a different order and more kept out of sight. She smiled in