Chad took a deeper interest. "Was she very very nasty?"
Strether debated. "Well, she was the most important thing — she was definite. She was — at last — crystalline. And I felt no remorse. I saw that they must have come."
"Oh I wanted to see them for myself; so that if it were only for THAT — !" Chad's own remorse was as small.
This appeared almost all Strether wanted. "Isn't your having seen them for yourself then THE thing, beyond all others, that has come of their visit?"
Chad looked as if he thought it nice of his old friend to put it so. "Don't you count it as anything that you're dished — if you ARE dished? Are you, my dear man, dished?"
It sounded as if he were asking if he had caught cold or hurt his foot, and Strether for a minute but smoked and smoked. "I want to see her again. I must see her."
"Of course you must." Then Chad hesitated. "Do you mean — a — Mother herself?"
"Oh your mother — that will depend."
It was as if Mrs. Newsome had somehow been placed by the words very far off. Chad however endeavoured in spite of this to reach the place. "What do you mean it will depend on?"
Strether, for all answer, gave him a longish look. "I was speaking of Sarah. I must positively — though she quite cast me off — see HER again. I can't part with her that way."
"Then she was awfully unpleasant?"
Again Strether exhaled. "She was what she had to be. I mean that from the moment they're not delighted they can only be — well what I admit she was. We gave them," he went on, "their chance to be delighted, and they've walked up to it, and looked all round it, and not taken it."
"You can bring a horse to water — !" Chad suggested.
"Precisely. And the tune to which this morning Sarah wasn't delighted — the tune to which, to adopt your metaphor, she refused to drink — leaves us on that side nothing more to hope."
Chad had a pause, and then as if consolingly: "It was never of course really the least on the cards that they would be 'delighted.'"
"Well, I don't know, after all," Strether mused. "I've had to come as far round. However" — he shook it off — "it's doubtless MY performance that's absurd."
"There are certainly moments," said Chad, "when you seem to me too good to be true. Yet if you are true," he added, "that seems to be all that need concern me."
"I'm true, but I'm incredible. I'm fantastic and ridiculous — I don't explain myself even TO myself. How can they then," Strether asked, "understand me? So I don't quarrel with them."
"I see. They quarrel," said Chad rather comfortably, "with US." Strether noted once more the comfort, but his young friend had already gone on. "I should feel greatly ashamed, all the same, if I didn't put it before you again that you ought to think, after all, tremendously well. I mean before giving up beyond recall — " With which insistence, as from a certain delicacy, dropped.
Ah but Strether wanted it. "Say it all, say it all."
"Well, at your age, and with what — when all's said and done — Mother might do for you and be for you."
Chad had said it all, from his natural scruple, only to that extent; so that Strether after an instant himself took a hand. "My absence of an assured future. The little I have to show toward the power to take care of myself. The way, the wonderful way, she would certainly take care of me. Her fortune, her kindness, and the constant miracle of her having been disposed to go even so far. Of course, of course" — he summed it up. "There are those sharp facts."
Chad had meanwhile thought of another still. "And don't you really care — ?"
His friend slowly turned round to him. "Will you go?"
"I'll go if you'll say you now consider I should. You know," he went on, "I was ready six weeks ago."
"Ah," said Strether, "that was when you didn't know I wasn't! You're ready at present because you do know it."
"That may be," Chad returned; "but all the same I'm sincere. You talk about taking the whole thing on your shoulders, but in what light do you regard me that you think me capable of letting you pay?" Strether patted his arm, as they stood together against the parapet, reassuringly — seeming to wish to contend that he HAD the wherewithal; but it was again round this question of purchase and price that the young man's sense of fairness continued to hover. "What it literally comes to for you, if you'll pardon my putting it so, is that you give up money. Possibly a good deal of money."
"Oh," Strether laughed, "if it were only just enough you'd still be justified in putting it so! But I've on my side to remind you too that YOU give up money; and more than 'possibly' — quite certainly, as I should suppose — a good deal."
"True enough; but I've got a certain quantity," Chad returned after a moment. "Whereas you, my dear man, you — "