"Then it would appear," Maria suggested, "that he has, after all, something in common with his mother."
"He has in common that he makes one, as you say, 'feel' him. And yet," he added, as if the question were interesting, "one feels others too, even when they have plenty."
Miss Gostrey continued suggestive. "Madame de Vionnet?"
"SHE has plenty."
"Certainly — she had quantities of old. But there are different ways of making one's self felt."
"Yes, it comes, no doubt, to that. You now — "
He was benevolently going on, but she wouldn't have it. "Oh I DON'T make myself felt; so my quantity needn't be settled. Yours, you know," she said, "is monstrous. No one has ever had so much."
It struck him for a moment. "That's what Chad also thinks."
"There YOU are then — though it isn't for him to complain of it!"
"Oh he doesn't complain of it," said Strether.
"That's all that would be wanting! But apropos of what," Maria went on, "did the question come up?"
"Well, of his asking me what it is I gain."
She had a pause. "Then as I've asked you too it settles my case. Oh you HAVE," she repeated, "treasures of imagination."
But he had been for an instant thinking away from this, and he came up in another place. "And yet Mrs. Newsome — it's a thing to remember — HAS imagined, did, that is, imagine, and apparently still does, horrors about what I should have found. I was booked, by her vision — extraordinarily intense, after all — to find them; and that I didn't, that I couldn't, that, as she evidently felt, I wouldn't — this evidently didn't at all, as they say, 'suit' her book. It was more than she could bear. That was her disappointment."
"You mean you were to have found Chad himself horrible?"
"I was to have found the woman."
"Found her as she imagined her." And Strether paused as if for his own expression of it he could add no touch to that picture.
His companion had meanwhile thought. "She imagined stupidly — so it comes to the same thing."
"Stupidly? Oh!" said Strether.
But she insisted. "She imagined meanly."
He had it, however, better. "It couldn't but be ignorantly."
"Well, intensity with ignorance — what do you want worse?"
This question might have held him, but he let it pass. "Sarah isn't ignorant — now; she keeps up the theory of the horrible."
"Ah but she's intense — and that by itself will do sometimes as well. If it doesn't do, in this case, at any rate, to deny that Marie's charming, it will do at least to deny that she's good."
"What I claim is that she's good for Chad."
"You don't claim" — she seemed to like it clear — "that she's good for YOU."
But he continued without heeding. "That's what I wanted them to come out for — to see for themselves if she's bad for him."
"And now that they've done so they won't admit that she's good even for anything?"
"They do think," Strether presently admitted, "that she's on the whole about as bad for me. But they're consistent of course, inasmuch as they've their clear view of what's good for both of us."
"For you, to begin with" — Maria, all responsive, confined the question for the moment — "to eliminate from your existence and if possible even from your memory the dreadful creature that I must gruesomely shadow forth for them, even more than to eliminate the distincter evil — thereby a little less portentous — of the person whose confederate you've suffered yourself to become. However, that's comparatively simple. You can easily, at the worst, after all, give me up."
"I can easily at the worst, after all, give you up." The irony was so obvious that it needed no care. "I can easily at the worst, after all, even forget you."
"Call that then workable. But Mr. Newsome has much more to forget. How can HE do it?"
"Ah there again we are! That's just what I was to have made him do; just where I was to have worked with him and helped."
She took it in silence and without attenuation — as if perhaps from very familiarity with the facts; and her thought made a connexion without showing the links. "Do you remember how we used to talk at Chester and in London about my seeing you through?" She spoke as of far-off things and as if they had spent weeks at the places she named.
"It's just what you ARE doing."
"Ah but the worst — since you've left such a margin — may be still to come. You may yet break down."
"Yes, I may yet break down. But will you take me — ?"
He had hesitated, and she waited. "Take you?"
"For as long as I can bear it."
She also debated "Mr. Newsome and Madame de Vionnet may, as we were saying, leave town. How long do you think you can bear it without them?"
Strether's reply to this was at first another question. "Do you mean in order to get away from me?"
Her answer had an abruptness. "Don't find me rude if I say I should think they'd want to!"
He looked at her hard again — seemed even for an instant to have an intensity of thought under which his colour changed. But he smiled. "You mean after what they've done to me?"
"After what SHE has."
At this, however, with a laugh, he was all right again. "Ah but she hasn't done it yet!"