The Ambassadors HTML version

Chapter III.1
Strether told Waymarsh all about it that very evening, on their dining together at the
hotel; which needn't have happened, he was all the while aware, hadn't he chosen to
sacrifice to this occasion a rarer opportunity. The mention to his companion of the
sacrifice was moreover exactly what introduced his recital--or, as he would have called
it with more confidence in his interlocutor, his confession. His confession was that he
had been captured and that one of the features of the affair had just failed to be his
engaging himself on the spot to dinner. As by such a freedom Waymarsh would have
lost him he had obeyed his scruple; and he had likewise obeyed another scruple--which
bore on the question of his himself bringing a guest.
Waymarsh looked gravely ardent, over the finished soup, at this array of scruples;
Strether hadn't yet got quite used to being so unprepared for the consequences of the
impression he produced. It was comparatively easy to explain, however, that he hadn't
felt sure his guest would please. The person was a young man whose acquaintance he
had made but that afternoon in the course of rather a hindered enquiry for another
person--an enquiry his new friend had just prevented in fact from being vain. "Oh," said
Strether, "I've all sorts of things to tell you!"--and he put it in a way that was a virtual hint
to Waymarsh to help him to enjoy the telling. He waited for his fish, he drank of his wine,
he wiped his long moustache, he leaned back in his chair, he took in the two English
ladies who had just creaked past them and whom he would even have articulately
greeted if they hadn't rather chilled the impulse; so that all he could do was--by way of
doing something--to say "Merci, Francois!" out quite loud when his fish was brought.
Everything was there that he wanted, everything that could make the moment an
occasion, that would do beautifully--everything but what Waymarsh might give. The little
waxed salle-a-manger was sallow and sociable; Francois, dancing over it, all smiles,
was a man and a brother; the high-shouldered patronne, with her high-held, much-
rubbed hands, seemed always assenting exuberantly to something unsaid; the Paris
evening in short was, for Strether, in the very taste of the soup, in the goodness, as he
was innocently pleased to think it, of the wine, in the pleasant coarse texture of the
napkin and the crunch of the thick-crusted bread. These all were things congruous with
his confession, and his confession was that he HAD-- it would come out properly just
there if Waymarsh would only take it properly--agreed to breakfast out, at twelve
literally, the next day. He didn't quite know where; the delicacy of the case came straight
up in the remembrance of his new friend's "We'll see; I'll take you somewhere!"--for it
had required little more than that, after all, to let him right in. He was affected after a
minute, face to face with his actual comrade, by the impulse to overcolour. There had
already been things in respect to which he knew himself tempted by this perversity. If
Waymarsh thought them bad he should at least have his reason for his discomfort; so
Strether showed them as worse. Still, he was now, in his way, sincerely perplexed.
Chad had been absent from the Boulevard Malesherbes--was absent from Paris
altogether; he had learned that from the concierge, but had nevertheless gone up, and
gone up--there were no two ways about it--from an uncontrollable, a really, if one would,