"He'll have" — Madame de Vionnet quite apprehended — "more of the free hand?"
"Well, Chad's the bigger man."
"So he'll work now, en dessous, to keep him quiet?"
"No — he won't 'work' at all, and he won't do anything en dessous. He's very decent and won't be a traitor in the camp. But he'll be amused with his own little view of our duplicity, he'll sniff up what he supposes to be Paris from morning till night, and he'll be, as to the rest, for Chad — well, just what he is."
She thought it over. "A warning?"
He met it almost with glee. "You ARE as wonderful as everybody says!" And then to explain all he meant: "I drove him about for his first hour, and do you know what — all beautifully unconscious — he most put before me? Why that something like THAT is at bottom, as an improvement to his present state, as in fact the real redemption of it, what they think it may not be too late to make of our friend." With which, as, taking it in, she seemed, in her recurrent alarm, bravely to gaze at the possibility, he completed his statement. "But it IS too late. Thanks to you!"
It drew from her again one of her indefinite reflexions. "Oh 'me' — after all!"
He stood before her so exhilarated by his demonstration that he could fairly be jocular. "Everything's comparative. You're better than THAT."
"You" — she could but answer him — "are better than anything." But she had another thought. "WILL Mrs. Pocock come to me?"
"Oh yes — she'll do that. As soon, that is, as my friend Waymarsh — HER friend now — leaves her leisure."
She showed an interest. "Is he so much her friend as that?"
"Why, didn't you see it all at the hotel?"
"Oh" — she was amused — "'all' is a good deal to say. I don't know — I forget. I lost myself in HER."
"You were splendid," Strether returned — "but 'all' isn't a good deal to say: it's only a little. Yet it's charming so far as it goes. She wants a man to herself."
"And hasn't she got you?"
"Do you think she looked at me — or even at you — as if she had?" Strether easily dismissed that irony. "Every one, you see, must strike her as having somebody. You've got Chad — and Chad has got you."
"I see" — she made of it what she could. "And you've got Maria."
Well, he on his side accepted that. "I've got Maria. And Maria has got me. So it goes."
"But Mr. Jim — whom has he got?"
"Oh he has got — or it's as IF he had — the whole place."
"But for Mr. Waymarsh" — she recalled — "isn't Miss Barrace before any one else?"
He shook his head. "Miss Barrace is a raffinee, and her amusement won't lose by Mrs. Pocock. It will gain rather — especially if Sarah triumphs and she comes in for a view of it."
"How well you know us!" Madame de Vionnet, at this, frankly sighed.
"No — it seems to me it's we that I know. I know Sarah — it's perhaps on that ground only that my feet are firm. Waymarsh will take her round while Chad takes Jim — and I shall be, I assure you delighted for both of them. Sarah will have had what she requires — she will have paid her tribute to the ideal; and he will have done about the same. In Paris it's in the air — so what can one do less? If there's a point that, beyond any other, Sarah wants to make, it's that she didn't come out to be narrow. We shall feel at least that."
"Oh," she sighed, "the quantity we seem likely to 'feel'! But what becomes, in these conditions, of the girl?"
"Of Mamie — if we're all provided? Ah for that," said Strether, "you can trust Chad."
"To be, you mean, all right to her?"
"To pay her every attention as soon as he has polished off Jim. He wants what Jim can give him — and what Jim really won't — though he has had it all, and more than all, from me. He wants in short his own personal impression, and he'll get it — strong. But as soon as he has got it Mamie won't suffer."
"Oh Mamie mustn't SUFFER!" Madame de Vionnet soothingly emphasised.
But Strether could reassure her. "Don't fear. As soon as he has done with Jim, Jim will fall to me. And then you'll see."
It was as if in a moment she saw already; yet she still waited. Then "Is she really quite charming?" she asked.
He had got up with his last words and gathered in his hat and gloves. "I don't know; I'm watching. I'm studying the case, as it were — and I dare say I shall be able to tell you."
She wondered. "Is it a case?"
"Yes — I think so. At any rate I shall see.'
"But haven't you known her before?"
"Yes," he smiled — "but somehow at home she wasn't a case. She has become one since." It was as if he made it out for himself. "She has become one here."
"So very very soon?"