Summary and Analysis
Book 3: Chapter I
That evening at dinner with Waymarsh, Strether recounts the happenings of the afternoon and his visit to Chad's house. Strether learned that Chad had gone to Cannes a month ago and that Chad's friend, the young man on the balcony, was "keeping the place warm" in his absence.
This friend is John Little Bilham, who goes by the name Little Bilham, owing to his small size, and who describes himself as "only a little artist-man." Strether characterizes him to Waymarsh as "very pleasant and curious too" and reveals that Bilham has invited them to a late breakfast the next day. Waymarsh declines, remarking that Strether ought to quit his mission: "You're being used for a thing you ain't fit for. People don't take a fine-tooth comb to groom a horse." Strether replies that it is necessary that Chad be brought back to Woollett, and Waymarsh bluntly asks, "Because if you get him you also get Mrs. Newsome . . . and if you don't get him you don't get her?" Strether acknowledges that this contingency "might have some effect" on his personal understanding with Mrs. Newsome, referring to her as "my future wife."
The next day, Strether and Waymarsh, who has suddenly decided to accompany him, go out to meet Little Bilham for breakfast. They eat in Chad's apartment; a friend of Bilham's — a Miss Barrace — has also been invited. Although Strether wonders what Bilham is "up to," his detachment under the spell of Paris leads him to the conclusion that "there was no great pulse of haste yet in this process of saving Chad." Strether realizes, however, that he must come to be "clearer as to what . . . he was still condoning."
We learn in this chapter what Strether stands to gain or lose, depending upon his performance as "ambassador." We learn also the degree of influence that Mrs. Newsome exerts and the values from which she draws her power to influence.
The narrative development of this chapter follows a common pattern of this novel: Time has passed and action taken place since the preceding chapter, but it is not revealed in straight chronological sequence; rather, James jumps ahead in time to the point where Strether can recount and, more importantly, comment upon his initial meeting with Little Bilham. Then the narrative advances in time (to the breakfast the next day, in this case).