The Ambassadors By Henry James Summary and Analysis Book 10: Chapter II

Summary

When Waymarsh appears before Strether "in the small slippery salle-à-manger," Strether is struck by a change in Waymarsh's appearance, a change for the better and no doubt accomplished with Sarah's aid. Indeed, Waymarsh's manner indicates to Strether that something important is about to happen, and the answer comes when Waymarsh announces that Sarah is coming around to see Strether. She has, says Waymarsh, "something to say — or considers, I believe, that you may have." He offers, "She's coming to be very very kind to you."

When Strether questions Waymarsh about the suddenness of the requested meeting, Waymarsh says, "We're leaving Paris." He continues to explain that the Pococks, Mamie, and he plan to visit Switzerland a few weeks before sailing for home. Waymarsh denies any knowledge of whether or not this sudden departure is the result of a directive from Mrs. Newsome, but Strether does not believe him. He wonders whether Sarah was instructed to try to get him to accompany the party to Switzerland. Waymarsh warns Strether not to "do anything you'll be sorry for" and expresses the hope that Strether will indeed accompany them on the trip. Strether avoids a direct answer but urges Waymarsh to go and enjoy it. "These are precious hours — at our age they mayn't recur." In answer to Waymarsh's "queer" look, occasioned by this remark, Strether says, "Live up to Mrs. Pocock. . . . You're a great help to her."

As he leaves, Waymarsh echoes an earlier warning, "See here, Strether. . . . Quit this!"

Analysis

Waymarsh comes to Strether straight from an early morning visit with Sarah to the flower market, his buttonhole "freshly adorned with a magnificent rose" which Strether is certain Sarah had given him. As Strether realizes that he has never gone on such an excursion, "It came to him . . . that just here was his usual case: he was forever missing things . . . while others were forever picking them up. . . . And it was others who looked abstemious and he who looked greedy; it was somehow he who finally paid, and yet it was others who mainly partook."

Waymarsh has paid something for his entrance into Sarah Pocock's camp, however. His "grand manner," his "sacred rage," has been diminished by her so that Strether is almost moved to admonish him to "Quit it!"

At the end of the chapter, Strether briefly touches upon the matter that had been the subject of his long speech to Bilham earlier in the story (Book Fifth, Chapter II); notice the nature of Waymarsh's response, for it points up once again the essential disparity between the two men and, more importantly, underscores Strether's changed conceptions about his own life.

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