The Ambassadors By Henry James Book 12: Chapter IV

Strether for a moment said nothing; then he spoke gravely, with his shade of dryness deepened. "Oh if you didn't do her justice — !"

"I SHOULD be a beast, eh?"

Strether devoted no time to saying what he would be; THAT, visibly, would take them far. If there was nothing for it but to repeat, however, repetition was no mistake. "You owe her everything — very much more than she can ever owe you. You've in other words duties to her, of the most positive sort; and I don't see what other duties — as the others are presented to you — can be held to go before them."

Chad looked at him with a smile. "And you know of course about the others, eh? — since it's you yourself who have done the presenting."

"Much of it — yes — and to the best of my ability. But not all — from the moment your sister took my place."

"She didn't," Chad returned. "Sally took a place, certainly; but it was never, I saw from the first moment, to be yours. No one — with us — will ever take yours. It wouldn't be possible."

"Ah of course," sighed Strether, "I knew it. I believe you're right. No one in the world, I imagine, was ever so portentously solemn. There I am," he added with another sigh, as if weary enough, on occasion, of this truth. "I was made so."

Chad appeared for a little to consider the way he was made; he might for this purpose have measured him up and down. His conclusion favoured the fact. "YOU have never needed any one to make you better. There has never been any one good enough. They couldn't," the young man declared.

His friend hesitated. "I beg your pardon. They HAVE."

Chad showed, not without amusement, his doubt. "Who then?"

Strether — though a little dimly — smiled at him. "Women — too."

"'Two'?" — Chad stared and laughed. "Oh I don't believe, for such work, in any more than one! So you're proving too much. And what IS beastly, at all events," he added, "is losing you."

Strether had set himself in motion for departure, but at this he paused. "Are you afraid?"

"Afraid — ?"

"Of doing wrong. I mean away from my eye." Before Chad could speak, however, he had taken himself up. "I AM, certainly," he laughed, "prodigious."

"Yes, you spoil us for all the stupid — !" This might have been, on Chad's part, in its extreme emphasis, almost too freely extravagant; but it was full, plainly enough, of the intention of comfort, it carried with it a protest against doubt and a promise, positively, of performance. Picking up a hat in the vestibule he came out with his friend, came downstairs, took his arm, affectionately, as to help and guide him, treating him if not exactly as aged and infirm, yet as a noble eccentric who appealed to tenderness, and keeping on with him, while they walked, to the next corner and the next. "You needn't tell me, you needn't tell me!" — this again as they proceeded, he wished to make Strether feel. What he needn't tell him was now at last, in the geniality of separation, anything at all it concerned him to know. He knew, up to the hilt — that really came over Chad; he understood, felt, recorded his vow; and they lingered on it as they had lingered in their walk to Strether's hotel the night of their first meeting. The latter took, at this hour, all he could get; he had given all he had had to give; he was as depleted as if he had spent his last sou. But there was just one thing for which, before they broke off, Chad seemed disposed slightly to bargain. His companion needn't, as he said, tell him, but he might himself mention that he had been getting some news of the art of advertisement. He came out quite suddenly with this announcement while Strether wondered if his revived interest were what had taken him, with strange inconsequence, over to London. He appeared at all events to have been looking into the question and had encountered a revelation. Advertising scientifically worked presented itself thus as the great new force. "It really does the thing, you know."

They were face to face under the street-lamp as they had been the first night, and Strether, no doubt, looked blank. "Affects, you mean, the sale of the object advertised?"

"Yes — but affects it extraordinarily; really beyond what one had supposed. I mean of course when it's done as one makes out that in our roaring age, it CAN be done. I've been finding out a little, though it doubtless doesn't amount to much more than what you originally, so awfully vividly — and all, very nearly, that first night — put before me. It's an art like another, and infinite like all the arts." He went on as if for the joke of it — almost as if his friend's face amused him. "In the hands, naturally, of a master. The right man must take hold. With the right man to work it c'est un monde."

Strether had watched him quite as if, there on the pavement without a pretext, he had begun to dance a fancy step. "Is what you're thinking of that you yourself, in the case you have in mind, would be the right man?"

Chad had thrown back his light coat and thrust each of his thumbs into an armhole of his waistcoat; in which position his fingers played up and down. "Why, what is he but what you yourself, as I say, took me for when you first came out?"

Strether felt a little faint, but he coerced his attention. "Oh yes, and there's no doubt that, with your natural parts, you'd have much in common with him. Advertising is clearly at this time of day the secret of trade. It's quite possible it will be open to you — giving the whole of your mind to it — to make the whole place hum with you. Your mother's appeal is to the whole of your mind, and that's exactly the strength of her case."

Chad's fingers continued to twiddle, but he had something of a drop. "Ah we've been through my mother's case!"

"So I thought. Why then do you speak of the matter?"

"Only because it was part of our original discussion. To wind up where we began, my interest's purely platonic. There at any rate the fact is — the fact of the possible. I mean the money in it."

"Oh damn the money in it!" said Strether. And then as the young man's fixed smile seemed to shine out more strange: "Shall you give your friend up for the money in it?"

Chad preserved his handsome grimace as well as the rest of his attitude. "You're not altogether — in your so great 'solemnity' — kind. Haven't I been drinking you in — showing you all I feel you're worth to me? What have I done, what am I doing, but cleave to her to the death? The only thing is," he good-humouredly explained, "that one can't but have it before one, in the cleaving — the point where the death comes in. Don't be afraid for THAT. It's pleasant to a fellow's feelings," he developed, "to 'size-up' the bribe he applies his foot to."

"Oh then if all you want's a kickable surface the bribe's enormous."

"Good. Then there it goes!" Chad administered his kick with fantastic force and sent an imaginary object flying. It was accordingly as if they were once more rid of the question and could come back to what really concerned him. "Of course I shall see you tomorrow."

But Strether scarce heeded the plan proposed for this; he had still the impression — not the slighter for the simulated kick — of an irrelevant hornpipe or jig. "You're restless."

"Ah," returned Chad as they parted, "you're exciting."

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