quadratisches wohnzimmer einrichten
the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter i. on a january evening of the earlyseventies, christine nilsson was singing in faust at the academy of music in new york. though there was already talk of theerection, in remote metropolitan distances "above the forties," of a new opera housewhich should compete in costliness and splendour with those of the great european capitals, the world of fashion was stillcontent to reassemble every winter in the shabby red and gold boxes of the sociableold academy. conservatives cherished it for being smalland inconvenient, and thus keeping out the
"new people" whom new york was beginning todread and yet be drawn to; and the sentimental clung to it for its historic associations, and the musical for itsexcellent acoustics, always so problematic a quality in halls built for the hearing ofmusic. it was madame nilsson's first appearancethat winter, and what the daily press had already learned to describe as "anexceptionally brilliant audience" had gathered to hear her, transported through the slippery, snowy streets in privatebroughams, in the spacious family landau, or in the humbler but more convenient"brown coupe."
to come to the opera in a brown coupe wasalmost as honourable a way of arriving as in one's own carriage; and departure by thesame means had the immense advantage of enabling one (with a playful allusion to democratic principles) to scramble into thefirst brown conveyance in the line, instead of waiting till the cold-and-gin congestednose of one's own coachman gleamed under the portico of the academy. it was one of the great livery-stableman'smost masterly intuitions to have discovered that americans want to get away fromamusement even more quickly than they want to get to it.
when newland archer opened the door at theback of the club box the curtain had just gone up on the garden scene. there was no reason why the young manshould not have come earlier, for he had dined at seven, alone with his mother andsister, and had lingered afterward over a cigar in the gothic library with glazed black-walnut bookcases and finial-toppedchairs which was the only room in the house where mrs. archer allowed smoking. but, in the first place, new york was ametropolis, and perfectly aware that in metropolises it was "not the thing" toarrive early at the opera; and what was or
was not "the thing" played a part as important in newland archer's new york asthe inscrutable totem terrors that had ruled the destinies of his forefathersthousands of years ago. the second reason for his delay was apersonal one. he had dawdled over his cigar because hewas at heart a dilettante, and thinking over a pleasure to come often gave him asubtler satisfaction than its realisation. this was especially the case when thepleasure was a delicate one, as his pleasures mostly were; and on this occasionthe moment he looked forward to was so rare and exquisite in quality that--well, if he
had timed his arrival in accord with theprima donna's stage-manager he could not have entered the academy at a moresignificant moment than just as she was singing: "he loves me--he loves me not--he loves me!--" and sprinkling the fallingdaisy petals with notes as clear as dew. she sang, of course, "m'ama!" and not "heloves me," since an unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical worldrequired that the german text of french operas sung by swedish artists should be translated into italian for the clearerunderstanding of english-speaking audiences.
this seemed as natural to newland archer asall the other conventions on which his life was moulded: such as the duty of using twosilver-backed brushes with his monogram in blue enamel to part his hair, and of never appearing in society without a flower(preferably a gardenia) in his buttonhole. "m'ama...non m'ama..." the prima donnasang, and "m'ama!", with a final burst of love triumphant, as she pressed thedishevelled daisy to her lips and lifted her large eyes to the sophisticated countenance of the little brown faust-capoul, who was vainly trying, in a tight purple velvet doublet and plumed cap, tolook as pure and true as his artless
victim. newland archer, leaning against the wall atthe back of the club box, turned his eyes from the stage and scanned the oppositeside of the house. directly facing him was the box of old mrs.manson mingott, whose monstrous obesity had long since made it impossible for her toattend the opera, but who was always represented on fashionable nights by someof the younger members of the family. on this occasion, the front of the box wasfilled by her daughter-in-law, mrs. lovell mingott, and her daughter, mrs. welland;and slightly withdrawn behind these brocaded matrons sat a young girl in white
with eyes ecstatically fixed on thestagelovers. as madame nilsson's "m'ama!" thrilled outabove the silent house (the boxes always stopped talking during the daisy song) awarm pink mounted to the girl's cheek, mantled her brow to the roots of her fair braids, and suffused the young slope of herbreast to the line where it met a modest tulle tucker fastened with a singlegardenia. she dropped her eyes to the immense bouquetof lilies-of-the-valley on her knee, and newland archer saw her white-gloved finger-tips touch the flowers softly. he drew a breath of satisfied vanity andhis eyes returned to the stage.
no expense had been spared on the setting,which was acknowledged to be very beautiful even by people who shared his acquaintancewith the opera houses of paris and vienna. the foreground, to the footlights, wascovered with emerald green cloth. in the middle distance symmetrical moundsof woolly green moss bounded by croquet hoops formed the base of shrubs shaped likeorange-trees but studded with large pink and red roses. gigantic pansies, considerably larger thanthe roses, and closely resembling the floral pen-wipers made by femaleparishioners for fashionable clergymen, sprang from the moss beneath the rose-
trees; and here and there a daisy graftedon a rose-branch flowered with a luxuriance prophetic of mr. luther burbank's far-offprodigies. in the centre of this enchanted gardenmadame nilsson, in white cashmere slashed with pale blue satin, a reticule danglingfrom a blue girdle, and large yellow braids carefully disposed on each side of her muslin chemisette, listened with downcasteyes to m. capoul's impassioned wooing, and affected a guileless incomprehension of hisdesigns whenever, by word or glance, he persuasively indicated the ground floor window of the neat brick villa projectingobliquely from the right wing.
"the darling!" thought newland archer, hisglance flitting back to the young girl with the lilies-of-the-valley. "she doesn't even guess what it's allabout." and he contemplated her absorbed young facewith a thrill of possessorship in which pride in his own masculine initiation wasmingled with a tender reverence for her abysmal purity. "we'll read faust together...by the italianlakes..." he thought, somewhat hazily confusing the scene of his projected honey-moon with the masterpieces of literature which it would be his manly privilege toreveal to his bride.
it was only that afternoon that may wellandhad let him guess that she "cared" (new york's consecrated phrase of maidenavowal), and already his imagination, leaping ahead of the engagement ring, the betrothal kiss and the march fromlohengrin, pictured her at his side in some scene of old european witchery.he did not in the least wish the future mrs. newland archer to be a simpleton. he meant her (thanks to his enlighteningcompanionship) to develop a social tact and readiness of wit enabling her to hold herown with the most popular married women of the "younger set," in which it was the
recognised custom to attract masculinehomage while playfully discouraging it. if he had probed to the bottom of hisvanity (as he sometimes nearly did) he would have found there the wish that hiswife should be as worldly-wise and as eager to please as the married lady whose charms had held his fancy through two mildlyagitated years; without, of course, any hint of the frailty which had so nearlymarred that unhappy being's life, and had disarranged his own plans for a wholewinter. how this miracle of fire and ice was to becreated, and to sustain itself in a harsh world, he had never taken the time to thinkout; but he was content to hold his view
without analysing it, since he knew it was that of all the carefully-brushed, white-waistcoated, button-hole-flowered gentlemen who succeeded each other in the club box,exchanged friendly greetings with him, and turned their opera-glasses critically on the circle of ladies who were the productof the system. in matters intellectual and artisticnewland archer felt himself distinctly the superior of these chosen specimens of oldnew york gentility; he had probably read more, thought more, and even seen a good deal more of the world, than any other manof the number.
singly they betrayed their inferiority; butgrouped together they represented "new york," and the habit of masculinesolidarity made him accept their doctrine on all the issues called moral. he instinctively felt that in this respectit would be troublesome--and also rather bad form--to strike out for himself. "well--upon my soul!" exclaimed lawrencelefferts, turning his opera-glass abruptly away from the stage.lawrence lefferts was, on the whole, the foremost authority on "form" in new york. he had probably devoted more time than anyone else to the study of this intricate and
fascinating question; but study alone couldnot account for his complete and easy competence. one had only to look at him, from the slantof his bald forehead and the curve of his beautiful fair moustache to the longpatent-leather feet at the other end of his lean and elegant person, to feel that the knowledge of "form" must be congenital inany one who knew how to wear such good clothes so carelessly and carry such heightwith so much lounging grace. as a young admirer had once said of him:"if anybody can tell a fellow just when to wear a black tie with evening clothes andwhen not to, it's larry lefferts."
and on the question of pumps versus patent-leather "oxfords" his authority had never been disputed."my god!" he said; and silently handed his glass to old sillerton jackson. newland archer, following lefferts'sglance, saw with surprise that his exclamation had been occasioned by theentry of a new figure into old mrs. mingott's box. it was that of a slim young woman, a littleless tall than may welland, with brown hair growing in close curls about her templesand held in place by a narrow band of diamonds.
the suggestion of this headdress, whichgave her what was then called a "josephine look," was carried out in the cut of thedark blue velvet gown rather theatrically caught up under her bosom by a girdle witha large old-fashioned clasp. the wearer of this unusual dress, whoseemed quite unconscious of the attention it was attracting, stood a moment in thecentre of the box, discussing with mrs. welland the propriety of taking the latter's place in the front right-handcorner; then she yielded with a slight smile, and seated herself in line with mrs.welland's sister-in-law, mrs. lovell mingott, who was installed in the oppositecorner.
mr. sillerton jackson had returned theopera-glass to lawrence lefferts. the whole of the club turned instinctively,waiting to hear what the old man had to say; for old mr. jackson was as great anauthority on "family" as lawrence lefferts was on "form." he knew all the ramifications of new york'scousinships; and could not only elucidate such complicated questions as that of theconnection between the mingotts (through the thorleys) with the dallases of south carolina, and that of the relationship ofthe elder branch of philadelphia thorleys to the albany chiverses (on no account tobe confused with the manson chiverses of
university place), but could also enumerate the leading characteristics of each family:as, for instance, the fabulous stinginess of the younger lines of leffertses (thelong island ones); or the fatal tendency of the rushworths to make foolish matches; or the insanity recurring in every secondgeneration of the albany chiverses, with whom their new york cousins had alwaysrefused to intermarry--with the disastrous exception of poor medora manson, who, as everybody knew...but then her mother was arushworth. in addition to this forest of family trees,mr. sillerton jackson carried between his
narrow hollow temples, and under his softthatch of silver hair, a register of most of the scandals and mysteries that had smouldered under the unruffled surface ofnew york society within the last fifty years. so far indeed did his information extend,and so acutely retentive was his memory, that he was supposed to be the only man whocould have told you who julius beaufort, the banker, really was, and what had become of handsome bob spicer, old mrs. mansonmingott's father, who had disappeared so mysteriously (with a large sum of trustmoney) less than a year after his marriage,
on the very day that a beautiful spanish dancer who had been delighting throngedaudiences in the old opera-house on the battery had taken ship for cuba. but these mysteries, and many others, wereclosely locked in mr. jackson's breast; for not only did his keen sense of honourforbid his repeating anything privately imparted, but he was fully aware that his reputation for discretion increased hisopportunities of finding out what he wanted to know. the club box, therefore, waited in visiblesuspense while mr. sillerton jackson handed
back lawrence lefferts's opera-glass. for a moment he silently scrutinised theattentive group out of his filmy blue eyes overhung by old veined lids; then he gavehis moustache a thoughtful twist, and said simply: "i didn't think the mingotts wouldhave tried it on." > the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter ii. newland archer, during this brief episode,had been thrown into a strange state of embarrassment. it was annoying that the box which was thusattracting the undivided attention of
masculine new york should be that in whichhis betrothed was seated between her mother and aunt; and for a moment he could not identify the lady in the empire dress, norimagine why her presence created such excitement among the initiated.then light dawned on him, and with it came a momentary rush of indignation. no, indeed; no one would have thought themingotts would have tried it on! but they had; they undoubtedly had; for thelow-toned comments behind him left no doubt in archer's mind that the young woman wasmay welland's cousin, the cousin always referred to in the family as "poor ellenolenska."
archer knew that she had suddenly arrivedfrom europe a day or two previously; he had even heard from miss welland (notdisapprovingly) that she had been to see poor ellen, who was staying with old mrs.mingott. archer entirely approved of familysolidarity, and one of the qualities he most admired in the mingotts was theirresolute championship of the few black sheep that their blameless stock hadproduced. there was nothing mean or ungenerous in theyoung man's heart, and he was glad that his future wife should not be restrained byfalse prudery from being kind (in private) to her unhappy cousin; but to receive
countess olenska in the family circle was adifferent thing from producing her in public, at the opera of all places, and inthe very box with the young girl whose engagement to him, newland archer, was tobe announced within a few weeks. no, he felt as old sillerton jackson felt;he did not think the mingotts would have tried it on! he knew, of course, that whatever man dared(within fifth avenue's limits) that old mrs. manson mingott, the matriarch of theline, would dare. he had always admired the high and mightyold lady, who, in spite of having been only catherine spicer of staten island, with afather mysteriously discredited, and
neither money nor position enough to make people forget it, had allied herself withthe head of the wealthy mingott line, married two of her daughters to"foreigners" (an italian marquis and an english banker), and put the crowning touch to her audacities by building a large houseof pale cream-coloured stone (when brown sandstone seemed as much the only wear as afrock-coat in the afternoon) in an inaccessible wilderness near the centralpark. old mrs. mingott's foreign daughters hadbecome a legend. they never came back to see their mother,and the latter being, like many persons of
active mind and dominating will, sedentaryand corpulent in her habit, had philosophically remained at home. but the cream-coloured house (supposed tobe modelled on the private hotels of the parisian aristocracy) was there as avisible proof of her moral courage; and she throned in it, among pre-revolutionary furniture and souvenirs of the tuileries oflouis napoleon (where she had shone in her middle age), as placidly as if there werenothing peculiar in living above thirty- fourth street, or in having french windows that opened like doors instead of sashesthat pushed up.
every one (including mr. sillerton jackson)was agreed that old catherine had never had beauty--a gift which, in the eyes of newyork, justified every success, and excused a certain number of failings. unkind people said that, like her imperialnamesake, she had won her way to success by strength of will and hardness of heart, anda kind of haughty effrontery that was somehow justified by the extreme decencyand dignity of her private life. mr. manson mingott had died when she wasonly twenty-eight, and had "tied up" the money with an additional caution born ofthe general distrust of the spicers; but his bold young widow went her way
fearlessly, mingled freely in foreignsociety, married her daughters in heaven knew what corrupt and fashionable circles,hobnobbed with dukes and ambassadors, associated familiarly with papists, entertained opera singers, and was theintimate friend of mme. taglioni; and all the while (as sillertonjackson was the first to proclaim) there had never been a breath on her reputation;the only respect, he always added, in which she differed from the earlier catherine. mrs. manson mingott had long sincesucceeded in untying her husband's fortune, and had lived in affluence for half acentury; but memories of her early straits
had made her excessively thrifty, and though, when she bought a dress or a pieceof furniture, she took care that it should be of the best, she could not bring herselfto spend much on the transient pleasures of the table. therefore, for totally different reasons,her food was as poor as mrs. archer's, and her wines did nothing to redeem it. her relatives considered that the penury ofher table discredited the mingott name, which had always been associated with goodliving; but people continued to come to her in spite of the "made dishes" and flat
champagne, and in reply to theremonstrances of her son lovell (who tried to retrieve the family credit by having thebest chef in new york) she used to say laughingly: "what's the use of two good cooks in one family, now that i've marriedthe girls and can't eat sauces?" newland archer, as he mused on thesethings, had once more turned his eyes toward the mingott box. he saw that mrs. welland and her sister-in-law were facing their semicircle of critics with the mingottian aplomb which oldcatherine had inculcated in all her tribe, and that only may welland betrayed, by a
heightened colour (perhaps due to theknowledge that he was watching her) a sense of the gravity of the situation. as for the cause of the commotion, she satgracefully in her corner of the box, her eyes fixed on the stage, and revealing, asshe leaned forward, a little more shoulder and bosom than new york was accustomed to seeing, at least in ladies who had reasonsfor wishing to pass unnoticed. few things seemed to newland archer moreawful than an offence against "taste," that far-off divinity of whom "form" was themere visible representative and vicegerent. madame olenska's pale and serious faceappealed to his fancy as suited to the
occasion and to her unhappy situation; butthe way her dress (which had no tucker) sloped away from her thin shoulders shockedand troubled him. he hated to think of may welland's beingexposed to the influence of a young woman so careless of the dictates of taste. "after all," he heard one of the youngermen begin behind him (everybody talked through the mephistopheles-and-marthascenes), "after all, just what happened?" "well--she left him; nobody attempts todeny that." "he's an awful brute, isn't he?" continuedthe young enquirer, a candid thorley, who was evidently preparing to enter the listsas the lady's champion.
"the very worst; i knew him at nice," saidlawrence lefferts with authority. "a half-paralysed white sneering fellow--rather handsome head, but eyes with a lot of lashes. well, i'll tell you the sort: when hewasn't with women he was collecting china. paying any price for both, i understand."there was a general laugh, and the young champion said: "well, then----?" "well, then; she bolted with hissecretary." "oh, i see."the champion's face fell. "it didn't last long, though: i heard ofher a few months later living alone in
venice.i believe lovell mingott went out to get her. he said she was desperately unhappy.that's all right--but this parading her at the opera's another thing.""perhaps," young thorley hazarded, "she's too unhappy to be left at home." this was greeted with an irreverent laugh,and the youth blushed deeply, and tried to look as if he had meant to insinuate whatknowing people called a "double entendre." "well--it's queer to have brought misswelland, anyhow," some one said in a low tone, with a side-glance at archer."oh, that's part of the campaign: granny's
orders, no doubt," lefferts laughed. "when the old lady does a thing she does itthoroughly." the act was ending, and there was a generalstir in the box. suddenly newland archer felt himselfimpelled to decisive action. the desire to be the first man to entermrs. mingott's box, to proclaim to the waiting world his engagement to maywelland, and to see her through whatever difficulties her cousin's anomalous situation might involve her in; thisimpulse had abruptly overruled all scruples and hesitations, and sent him hurryingthrough the red corridors to the farther
side of the house. as he entered the box his eyes met misswelland's, and he saw that she had instantly understood his motive, though thefamily dignity which both considered so high a virtue would not permit her to tellhim so. the persons of their world lived in anatmosphere of faint implications and pale delicacies, and the fact that he and sheunderstood each other without a word seemed to the young man to bring them nearer thanany explanation would have done. her eyes said: "you see why mamma broughtme," and his answered: "i would not for the world have had you stay away."
"you know my niece countess olenska?"mrs. welland enquired as she shook hands with her future son-in-law. archer bowed without extending his hand, aswas the custom on being introduced to a lady; and ellen olenska bent her headslightly, keeping her own pale-gloved hands clasped on her huge fan of eagle feathers. having greeted mrs. lovell mingott, a largeblonde lady in creaking satin, he sat down beside his betrothed, and said in a lowtone: "i hope you've told madame olenska that we're engaged? i want everybody to know--i want you to letme announce it this evening at the ball."
miss welland's face grew rosy as the dawn,and she looked at him with radiant eyes. "if you can persuade mamma," she said; "butwhy should we change what is already settled?" he made no answer but that which his eyesreturned, and she added, still more confidently smiling: "tell my cousinyourself: i give you leave. she says she used to play with you when youwere children." she made way for him by pushing back herchair, and promptly, and a little ostentatiously, with the desire that thewhole house should see what he was doing, archer seated himself at the countessolenska's side.
"we did use to play together, didn't we?"she asked, turning her grave eyes to his. "you were a horrid boy, and kissed me oncebehind a door; but it was your cousin vandie newland, who never looked at me,that i was in love with." her glance swept the horse-shoe curve ofboxes. "ah, how this brings it all back to me--isee everybody here in knickerbockers and pantalettes," she said, with her trailingslightly foreign accent, her eyes returning to his face. agreeable as their expression was, theyoung man was shocked that they should reflect so unseemly a picture of the augusttribunal before which, at that very moment,
her case was being tried. nothing could be in worse taste thanmisplaced flippancy; and he answered somewhat stiffly: "yes, you have been awaya very long time." "oh, centuries and centuries; so long," shesaid, "that i'm sure i'm dead and buried, and this dear old place is heaven;" which,for reasons he could not define, struck newland archer as an even more disrespectful way of describing new yorksociety. the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter iii. it invariably happened in the same way.
mrs. julius beaufort, on the night of herannual ball, never failed to appear at the opera; indeed, she always gave her ball onan opera night in order to emphasise her complete superiority to household cares, and her possession of a staff of servantscompetent to organise every detail of the entertainment in her absence. the beauforts' house was one of the few innew york that possessed a ball-room (it antedated even mrs. manson mingott's andthe headly chiverses'); and at a time when it was beginning to be thought "provincial" to put a "crash" over the drawing-roomfloor and move the furniture upstairs, the
possession of a ball-room that was used forno other purpose, and left for three- hundred-and-sixty-four days of the year to shuttered darkness, with its gilt chairsstacked in a corner and its chandelier in a bag; this undoubted superiority was felt tocompensate for whatever was regrettable in the beaufort past. mrs. archer, who was fond of coining hersocial philosophy into axioms, had once said: "we all have our pet common people--" and though the phrase was a daring one, its truth was secretly admitted in many anexclusive bosom. but the beauforts were not exactly common;some people said they were even worse.
mrs. beaufort belonged indeed to one ofamerica's most honoured families; she had been the lovely regina dallas (of the southcarolina branch), a penniless beauty introduced to new york society by her cousin, the imprudent medora manson, whowas always doing the wrong thing from the right motive. when one was related to the mansons and therushworths one had a "droit de cite" (as mr. sillerton jackson, who had frequentedthe tuileries, called it) in new york society; but did one not forfeit it inmarrying julius beaufort? the question was: who was beaufort?
he passed for an englishman, was agreeable,handsome, ill-tempered, hospitable and witty. he had come to america with letters ofrecommendation from old mrs. manson mingott's english son-in-law, the banker,and had speedily made himself an important position in the world of affairs; but his habits were dissipated, his tongue wasbitter, his antecedents were mysterious; and when medora manson announced hercousin's engagement to him it was felt to be one more act of folly in poor medora'slong record of imprudences. but folly is as often justified of herchildren as wisdom, and two years after
young mrs. beaufort's marriage it wasadmitted that she had the most distinguished house in new york. no one knew exactly how the miracle wasaccomplished. she was indolent, passive, the caustic evencalled her dull; but dressed like an idol, hung with pearls, growing younger andblonder and more beautiful each year, she throned in mr. beaufort's heavy brown-stone palace, and drew all the world therewithout lifting her jewelled little finger. the knowing people said it was beauforthimself who trained the servants, taught the chef new dishes, told the gardenerswhat hot-house flowers to grow for the
dinner-table and the drawing-rooms, selected the guests, brewed the after-dinner punch and dictated the little notes his wife wrote to her friends. if he did, these domestic activities wereprivately performed, and he presented to the world the appearance of a careless andhospitable millionaire strolling into his own drawing-room with the detachment of an invited guest, and saying: "my wife'sgloxinias are a marvel, aren't they? i believe she gets them out from kew."mr. beaufort's secret, people were agreed, was the way he carried things off.
it was all very well to whisper that he hadbeen "helped" to leave england by the international banking-house in which he hadbeen employed; he carried off that rumour as easily as the rest--though new york's business conscience was no less sensitivethan its moral standard--he carried everything before him, and all new yorkinto his drawing-rooms, and for over twenty years now people had said they were "going to the beauforts'" with the same tone ofsecurity as if they had said they were going to mrs. manson mingott's, and withthe added satisfaction of knowing they would get hot canvas-back ducks and vintage
wines, instead of tepid veuve clicquotwithout a year and warmed-up croquettes from philadelphia. mrs. beaufort, then, had as usual appearedin her box just before the jewel song; and when, again as usual, she rose at the endof the third act, drew her opera cloak about her lovely shoulders, and disappeared, new york knew that meant thathalf an hour later the ball would begin. the beaufort house was one that new yorkerswere proud to show to foreigners, especially on the night of the annual ball. the beauforts had been among the firstpeople in new york to own their own red
velvet carpet and have it rolled down thesteps by their own footmen, under their own awning, instead of hiring it with thesupper and the ball-room chairs. they had also inaugurated the custom ofletting the ladies take their cloaks off in the hall, instead of shuffling up to thehostess's bedroom and recurling their hair with the aid of the gas-burner; beaufort was understood to have said that hesupposed all his wife's friends had maids who saw to it that they were properlycoiffees when they left home. then the house had been boldly planned witha ball-room, so that, instead of squeezing through a narrow passage to get to it (asat the chiverses') one marched solemnly
down a vista of enfiladed drawing-rooms (the sea-green, the crimson and the boutond'or), seeing from afar the many-candled lustres reflected in the polishedparquetry, and beyond that the depths of a conservatory where camellias and tree-ferns arched their costly foliage over seats ofblack and gold bamboo. newland archer, as became a young man ofhis position, strolled in somewhat late. he had left his overcoat with the silk-stockinged footmen (the stockings were one of beaufort's few fatuities), had dawdled awhile in the library hung with spanish leather and furnished with buhl and
malachite, where a few men were chattingand putting on their dancing-gloves, and had finally joined the line of guests whommrs. beaufort was receiving on the threshold of the crimson drawing-room. archer was distinctly nervous. he had not gone back to his club after theopera (as the young bloods usually did), but, the night being fine, had walked forsome distance up fifth avenue before turning back in the direction of thebeauforts' house. he was definitely afraid that the mingottsmight be going too far; that, in fact, they might have granny mingott's orders to bringthe countess olenska to the ball.
from the tone of the club box he hadperceived how grave a mistake that would be; and, though he was more than everdetermined to "see the thing through," he felt less chivalrously eager to champion his betrothed's cousin than before theirbrief talk at the opera. wandering on to the bouton d'or drawing-room (where beaufort had had the audacity to hang "love victorious," the much-discussed nude of bouguereau) archer found mrs. welland and her daughter standing nearthe ball-room door. couples were already gliding over the floorbeyond: the light of the wax candles fell on revolving tulle skirts, on girlish headswreathed with modest blossoms, on the
dashing aigrettes and ornaments of the young married women's coiffures, and on theglitter of highly glazed shirt-fronts and fresh glace gloves. miss welland, evidently about to join thedancers, hung on the threshold, her lilies- of-the-valley in her hand (she carried noother bouquet), her face a little pale, her eyes burning with a candid excitement. a group of young men and girls weregathered about her, and there was much hand-clasping, laughing and pleasantry onwhich mrs. welland, standing slightly apart, shed the beam of a qualifiedapproval.
it was evident that miss welland was in theact of announcing her engagement, while her mother affected the air of parentalreluctance considered suitable to the occasion. archer paused a moment.it was at his express wish that the announcement had been made, and yet it wasnot thus that he would have wished to have his happiness known. to proclaim it in the heat and noise of acrowded ball-room was to rob it of the fine bloom of privacy which should belong tothings nearest the heart. his joy was so deep that this blurring ofthe surface left its essence untouched; but
he would have liked to keep the surfacepure too. it was something of a satisfaction to findthat may welland shared this feeling. her eyes fled to his beseechingly, andtheir look said: "remember, we're doing this because it's right." no appeal could have found a more immediateresponse in archer's breast; but he wished that the necessity of their action had beenrepresented by some ideal reason, and not simply by poor ellen olenska. the group about miss welland made way forhim with significant smiles, and after taking his share of the felicitations hedrew his betrothed into the middle of the
ball-room floor and put his arm about herwaist. "now we shan't have to talk," he said,smiling into her candid eyes, as they floated away on the soft waves of the bluedanube. she made no answer. her lips trembled into a smile, but theeyes remained distant and serious, as if bent on some ineffable vision. "dear," archer whispered, pressing her tohim: it was borne in on him that the first hours of being engaged, even if spent in aball-room, had in them something grave and sacramental.
what a new life it was going to be, withthis whiteness, radiance, goodness at one's side! the dance over, the two, as became anaffianced couple, wandered into the conservatory; and sitting behind a tallscreen of tree-ferns and camellias newland pressed her gloved hand to his lips. "you see i did as you asked me to," shesaid. "yes: i couldn't wait," he answeredsmiling. after a moment he added: "only i wish ithadn't had to be at a ball." "yes, i know."she met his glance comprehendingly.
"but after all--even here we're alonetogether, aren't we?" "oh, dearest--always!"archer cried. evidently she was always going tounderstand; she was always going to say the right thing. the discovery made the cup of his blissoverflow, and he went on gaily: "the worst of it is that i want to kiss you and ican't." as he spoke he took a swift glance aboutthe conservatory, assured himself of their momentary privacy, and catching her to himlaid a fugitive pressure on her lips. to counteract the audacity of thisproceeding he led her to a bamboo sofa in a
less secluded part of the conservatory, andsitting down beside her broke a lily-of- the-valley from her bouquet. she sat silent, and the world lay like asunlit valley at their feet. "did you tell my cousin ellen?" she askedpresently, as if she spoke through a dream. he roused himself, and remembered that hehad not done so. some invincible repugnance to speak of suchthings to the strange foreign woman had checked the words on his lips. "no--i hadn't the chance after all," hesaid, fibbing hastily. "ah."she looked disappointed, but gently
resolved on gaining her point. "you must, then, for i didn't either; and ishouldn't like her to think--" "of course not.but aren't you, after all, the person to do it?" she pondered on this. "if i'd done it at the right time, yes: butnow that there's been a delay i think you must explain that i'd asked you to tell herat the opera, before our speaking about it to everybody here. otherwise she might think i had forgottenher.
you see, she's one of the family, and she'sbeen away so long that she's rather-- sensitive." archer looked at her glowingly."dear and great angel! of course i'll tell her."he glanced a trifle apprehensively toward the crowded ball-room. "but i haven't seen her yet.has she come?" "no; at the last minute she decided notto." "at the last minute?" he echoed, betrayinghis surprise that she should ever have considered the alternative possible."yes. she's awfully fond of dancing," the
young girl answered simply. "but suddenly she made up her mind that herdress wasn't smart enough for a ball, though we thought it so lovely; and so myaunt had to take her home." "oh, well--" said archer with happyindifference. nothing about his betrothed pleased himmore than her resolute determination to carry to its utmost limit that ritual ofignoring the "unpleasant" in which they had both been brought up. "she knows as well as i do," he reflected,"the real reason of her cousin's staying away; but i shall never let her see by theleast sign that i am conscious of there
being a shadow of a shade on poor ellenolenska's reputation." the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter iv. in the course of the next day the first ofthe usual betrothal visits were exchanged. the new york ritual was precise andinflexible in such matters; and in conformity with it newland archer firstwent with his mother and sister to call on mrs. welland, after which he and mrs. welland and may drove out to old mrs.manson mingott's to receive that venerable ancestress's blessing.a visit to mrs. manson mingott was always an amusing episode to the young man.
the house in itself was already an historicdocument, though not, of course, as venerable as certain other old familyhouses in university place and lower fifth avenue. those were of the purest 1830, with a grimharmony of cabbage-rose-garlanded carpets, rosewood consoles, round-arched fire-placeswith black marble mantels, and immense glazed book-cases of mahogany; whereas old mrs. mingott, who had built her houselater, had bodily cast out the massive furniture of her prime, and mingled withthe mingott heirlooms the frivolous upholstery of the second empire.
it was her habit to sit in a window of hersitting-room on the ground floor, as if watching calmly for life and fashion toflow northward to her solitary doors. she seemed in no hurry to have them come,for her patience was equalled by her confidence. she was sure that presently the hoardings,the quarries, the one-story saloons, the wooden green-houses in ragged gardens, andthe rocks from which goats surveyed the scene, would vanish before the advance of residences as stately as her own--perhaps(for she was an impartial woman) even statelier; and that the cobble-stones overwhich the old clattering omnibuses bumped
would be replaced by smooth asphalt, suchas people reported having seen in paris. meanwhile, as every one she cared to seecame to her (and she could fill her rooms as easily as the beauforts, and withoutadding a single item to the menu of her suppers), she did not suffer from hergeographic isolation. the immense accretion of flesh which haddescended on her in middle life like a flood of lava on a doomed city had changedher from a plump active little woman with a neatly-turned foot and ankle into somethingas vast and august as a natural phenomenon. she had accepted this submergence asphilosophically as all her other trials, and now, in extreme old age, was rewardedby presenting to her mirror an almost
unwrinkled expanse of firm pink and white flesh, in the centre of which the traces ofa small face survived as if awaiting excavation. a flight of smooth double chins led down tothe dizzy depths of a still-snowy bosom veiled in snowy muslins that were held inplace by a miniature portrait of the late mr. mingott; and around and below, wave after wave of black silk surged away overthe edges of a capacious armchair, with two tiny white hands poised like gulls on thesurface of the billows. the burden of mrs. manson mingott's fleshhad long since made it impossible for her
to go up and down stairs, and withcharacteristic independence she had made her reception rooms upstairs and established herself (in flagrant violationof all the new york proprieties) on the ground floor of her house; so that, as yousat in her sitting-room window with her, you caught (through a door that was always open, and a looped-back yellow damaskportiere) the unexpected vista of a bedroom with a huge low bed upholstered like asofa, and a toilet-table with frivolous lace flounces and a gilt-framed mirror. her visitors were startled and fascinatedby the foreignness of this arrangement,
which recalled scenes in french fiction,and architectural incentives to immorality such as the simple american had neverdreamed of. that was how women with lovers lived in thewicked old societies, in apartments with all the rooms on one floor, and all theindecent propinquities that their novels described. it amused newland archer (who had secretlysituated the love-scenes of "monsieur de camors" in mrs. mingott's bedroom) topicture her blameless life led in the stage-setting of adultery; but he said to himself, with considerable admiration, thatif a lover had been what she wanted, the
intrepid woman would have had him too. to the general relief the countess olenskawas not present in her grandmother's drawing-room during the visit of thebetrothed couple. mrs. mingott said she had gone out; which,on a day of such glaring sunlight, and at the "shopping hour," seemed in itself anindelicate thing for a compromised woman to do. but at any rate it spared them theembarrassment of her presence, and the faint shadow that her unhappy past mightseem to shed on their radiant future. the visit went off successfully, as was tohave been expected.
old mrs. mingott was delighted with theengagement, which, being long foreseen by watchful relatives, had been carefullypassed upon in family council; and the engagement ring, a large thick sapphire set in invisible claws, met with herunqualified admiration. "it's the new setting: of course it showsthe stone beautifully, but it looks a little bare to old-fashioned eyes," mrs.welland had explained, with a conciliatory side-glance at her future son-in-law. "old-fashioned eyes?i hope you don't mean mine, my dear? i like all the novelties," said theancestress, lifting the stone to her small
bright orbs, which no glasses had everdisfigured. "very handsome," she added, returning thejewel; "very liberal. in my time a cameo set in pearls wasthought sufficient. but it's the hand that sets off the ring,isn't it, my dear mr. archer?" and she waved one of her tiny hands, with smallpointed nails and rolls of aged fat encircling the wrist like ivory bracelets. "mine was modelled in rome by the greatferrigiani. you should have may's done: no doubt he'llhave it done, my child. her hand is large--it's these modern sportsthat spread the joints--but the skin is
white.--and when's the wedding to be?" shebroke off, fixing her eyes on archer's face. "oh--" mrs. welland murmured, while theyoung man, smiling at his betrothed, replied: "as soon as ever it can, if onlyyou'll back me up, mrs. mingott." "we must give them time to get to know eachother a little better, mamma," mrs. welland interposed, with the proper affectation ofreluctance; to which the ancestress rejoined: "know each other? fiddlesticks!everybody in new york has always known everybody.let the young man have his way, my dear;
don't wait till the bubble's off the wine. marry them before lent; i may catchpneumonia any winter now, and i want to give the wedding-breakfast." these successive statements were receivedwith the proper expressions of amusement, incredulity and gratitude; and the visitwas breaking up in a vein of mild pleasantry when the door opened to admit the countess olenska, who entered in bonnetand mantle followed by the unexpected figure of julius beaufort. there was a cousinly murmur of pleasurebetween the ladies, and mrs. mingott held
out ferrigiani's model to the banker."ha! beaufort, this is a rare favour!" (she had an odd foreign way of addressingmen by their surnames.) "thanks.i wish it might happen oftener," said the visitor in his easy arrogant way. "i'm generally so tied down; but i met thecountess ellen in madison square, and she was good enough to let me walk home withher." "ah--i hope the house will be gayer, nowthat ellen's here!" cried mrs. mingott with a glorious effrontery.
"sit down--sit down, beaufort: push up theyellow armchair; now i've got you i want a good gossip. i hear your ball was magnificent; and iunderstand you invited mrs. lemuel struthers?well--i've a curiosity to see the woman myself." she had forgotten her relatives, who weredrifting out into the hall under ellen olenska's guidance. old mrs. mingott had always professed agreat admiration for julius beaufort, and there was a kind of kinship in their cooldomineering way and their short-cuts
through the conventions. now she was eagerly curious to know whathad decided the beauforts to invite (for the first time) mrs. lemuel struthers, thewidow of struthers's shoe-polish, who had returned the previous year from a long initiatory sojourn in europe to lay siegeto the tight little citadel of new york. "of course if you and regina invite her thething is settled. well, we need new blood and new money--andi hear she's still very good-looking," the carnivorous old lady declared. in the hall, while mrs. welland and maydrew on their furs, archer saw that the
countess olenska was looking at him with afaintly questioning smile. "of course you know already--about may andme," he said, answering her look with a shy laugh. "she scolded me for not giving you the newslast night at the opera: i had her orders to tell you that we were engaged--but icouldn't, in that crowd." the smile passed from countess olenska'seyes to her lips: she looked younger, more like the bold brown ellen mingott of hisboyhood. "of course i know; yes. and i'm so glad.but one doesn't tell such things first in a
crowd."the ladies were on the threshold and she held out her hand. "good-bye; come and see me some day," shesaid, still looking at archer. in the carriage, on the way down fifthavenue, they talked pointedly of mrs. mingott, of her age, her spirit, and allher wonderful attributes. no one alluded to ellen olenska; but archerknew that mrs. welland was thinking: "it's a mistake for ellen to be seen, the veryday after her arrival, parading up fifth avenue at the crowded hour with julius beaufort--" and the young man himselfmentally added: "and she ought to know
that a man who's just engaged doesn't spendhis time calling on married women. but i daresay in the set she's lived inthey do--they never do anything else." and, in spite of the cosmopolitan views onwhich he prided himself, he thanked heaven that he was a new yorker, and about to allyhimself with one of his own kind. the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter v. the next evening old mr. sillerton jacksoncame to dine with the archers. mrs. archer was a shy woman and shrank fromsociety; but she liked to be well-informed as to its doings. her old friend mr. sillerton jacksonapplied to the investigation of his
friends' affairs the patience of acollector and the science of a naturalist; and his sister, miss sophy jackson, who lived with him, and was entertained by allthe people who could not secure her much- sought-after brother, brought home bits ofminor gossip that filled out usefully the gaps in his picture. therefore, whenever anything happened thatmrs. archer wanted to know about, she asked mr. jackson to dine; and as she honouredfew people with her invitations, and as she and her daughter janey were an excellent audience, mr. jackson usually came himselfinstead of sending his sister.
if he could have dictated all theconditions, he would have chosen the evenings when newland was out; not becausethe young man was uncongenial to him (the two got on capitally at their club) but because the old anecdotist sometimes felt,on newland's part, a tendency to weigh his evidence that the ladies of the familynever showed. mr. jackson, if perfection had beenattainable on earth, would also have asked that mrs. archer's food should be a littlebetter. but then new york, as far back as the mindof man could travel, had been divided into the two great fundamental groups of themingotts and mansons and all their clan,
who cared about eating and clothes and money, and the archer-newland-van-der-luyden tribe, who were devoted to travel, horticulture and the best fiction, andlooked down on the grosser forms of pleasure. you couldn't have everything, after all. if you dined with the lovell mingotts yougot canvas-back and terrapin and vintage wines; at adeline archer's you could talkabout alpine scenery and "the marble faun"; and luckily the archer madeira had goneround the cape. therefore when a friendly summons came frommrs. archer, mr. jackson, who was a true
eclectic, would usually say to his sister:"i've been a little gouty since my last dinner at the lovell mingotts'--it will dome good to diet at adeline's." mrs. archer, who had long been a widow,lived with her son and daughter in west twenty-eighth street. an upper floor was dedicated to newland,and the two women squeezed themselves into narrower quarters below. in an unclouded harmony of tastes andinterests they cultivated ferns in wardian cases, made macrame lace and woolembroidery on linen, collected american revolutionary glazed ware, subscribed to
"good words," and read ouida's novels forthe sake of the italian atmosphere. (they preferred those about peasant life,because of the descriptions of scenery and the pleasanter sentiments, though ingeneral they liked novels about people in society, whose motives and habits were more comprehensible, spoke severely of dickens,who "had never drawn a gentleman," and considered thackeray less at home in thegreat world than bulwer--who, however, was beginning to be thought old-fashioned.) mrs. and miss archer were both great loversof scenery. it was what they principally sought andadmired on their occasional travels abroad;
considering architecture and painting assubjects for men, and chiefly for learned persons who read ruskin. mrs. archer had been born a newland, andmother and daughter, who were as like as sisters, were both, as people said, "truenewlands"; tall, pale, and slightly round- shouldered, with long noses, sweet smiles and a kind of drooping distinction likethat in certain faded reynolds portraits. their physical resemblance would have beencomplete if an elderly embonpoint had not stretched mrs. archer's black brocade,while miss archer's brown and purple poplins hung, as the years went on, moreand more slackly on her virgin frame.
mentally, the likeness between them, asnewland was aware, was less complete than their identical mannerisms often made itappear. the long habit of living together inmutually dependent intimacy had given them the same vocabulary, and the same habit ofbeginning their phrases "mother thinks" or "janey thinks," according as one or the other wished to advance an opinion of herown; but in reality, while mrs. archer's serene unimaginativeness rested easily inthe accepted and familiar, janey was subject to starts and aberrations of fancy welling up from springs of suppressedromance.
mother and daughter adored each other andrevered their son and brother; and archer loved them with a tenderness madecompunctious and uncritical by the sense of their exaggerated admiration, and by hissecret satisfaction in it. after all, he thought it a good thing for aman to have his authority respected in his own house, even if his sense of humoursometimes made him question the force of his mandate. on this occasion the young man was verysure that mr. jackson would rather have had him dine out; but he had his own reasonsfor not doing so. of course old jackson wanted to talk aboutellen olenska, and of course mrs. archer
and janey wanted to hear what he had totell. all three would be slightly embarrassed bynewland's presence, now that his prospective relation to the mingott clanhad been made known; and the young man waited with an amused curiosity to see howthey would turn the difficulty. they began, obliquely, by talking aboutmrs. lemuel struthers. "it's a pity the beauforts asked her," mrs.archer said gently. "but then regina always does what he tellsher; and beaufort--" "certain nuances escape beaufort," said mr.jackson, cautiously inspecting the broiled shad, and wondering for the thousandth timewhy mrs. archer's cook always burnt the roe
to a cinder. (newland, who had long shared his wonder,could always detect it in the older man's expression of melancholy disapproval.)"oh, necessarily; beaufort is a vulgar man," said mrs. archer. "my grandfather newland always used to sayto my mother: 'whatever you do, don't let that fellow beaufort be introduced to thegirls.' but at least he's had the advantage ofassociating with gentlemen; in england too, they say.it's all very mysterious--" she glanced at janey and paused.
she and janey knew every fold of thebeaufort mystery, but in public mrs. archer continued to assume that the subject wasnot one for the unmarried. "but this mrs. struthers," mrs. archercontinued; "what did you say she was, sillerton?""out of a mine: or rather out of the saloon at the head of the pit. then with living wax-works, touring newengland. after the police broke that up, they sayshe lived--" mr. jackson in his turn glanced at janey, whose eyes began to bulgefrom under her prominent lids. there were still hiatuses for her in mrs.struthers's past.
"then," mr. jackson continued (and archersaw he was wondering why no one had told the butler never to slice cucumbers with asteel knife), "then lemuel struthers came along. they say his advertiser used the girl'shead for the shoe-polish posters; her hair's intensely black, you know--theegyptian style. anyhow, he--eventually--married her." there were volumes of innuendo in the waythe "eventually" was spaced, and each syllable given its due stress. "oh, well--at the pass we've come tonowadays, it doesn't matter," said mrs.
archer indifferently. the ladies were not really interested inmrs. struthers just then; the subject of ellen olenska was too fresh and tooabsorbing to them. indeed, mrs. struthers's name had beenintroduced by mrs. archer only that she might presently be able to say: "andnewland's new cousin--countess olenska? was she at the ball too?" there was a faint touch of sarcasm in thereference to her son, and archer knew it and had expected it. even mrs. archer, who was seldom undulypleased with human events, had been
altogether glad of her son's engagement. ("especially after that silly business withmrs. rushworth," as she had remarked to janey, alluding to what had once seemed tonewland a tragedy of which his soul would always bear the scar.) there was no better match in new york thanmay welland, look at the question from whatever point you chose. of course such a marriage was only whatnewland was entitled to; but young men are so foolish and incalculable--and some womenso ensnaring and unscrupulous--that it was nothing short of a miracle to see one's
only son safe past the siren isle and inthe haven of a blameless domesticity. all this mrs. archer felt, and her son knewshe felt; but he knew also that she had been perturbed by the prematureannouncement of his engagement, or rather by its cause; and it was for that reason-- because on the whole he was a tender andindulgent master--that he had stayed at home that evening. "it's not that i don't approve of themingotts' esprit de corps; but why newland's engagement should be mixed upwith that olenska woman's comings and goings i don't see," mrs. archer grumbled
to janey, the only witness of her slightlapses from perfect sweetness. she had behaved beautifully--and inbeautiful behaviour she was unsurpassed-- during the call on mrs. welland; butnewland knew (and his betrothed doubtless guessed) that all through the visit she and janey were nervously on the watch formadame olenska's possible intrusion; and when they left the house together she hadpermitted herself to say to her son: "i'm thankful that augusta welland received usalone." these indications of inward disturbancemoved archer the more that he too felt that the mingotts had gone a little too far.
but, as it was against all the rules oftheir code that the mother and son should ever allude to what was uppermost in theirthoughts, he simply replied: "oh, well, there's always a phase of family parties to be gone through when one gets engaged, andthe sooner it's over the better." at which his mother merely pursed her lipsunder the lace veil that hung down from her grey velvet bonnet trimmed with frostedgrapes. her revenge, he felt--her lawful revenge--would be to "draw" mr. jackson that evening on the countess olenska; and, havingpublicly done his duty as a future member of the mingott clan, the young man had no
objection to hearing the lady discussed inprivate--except that the subject was already beginning to bore him. mr. jackson had helped himself to a sliceof the tepid filet which the mournful butler had handed him with a look assceptical as his own, and had rejected the mushroom sauce after a scarcely perceptiblesniff. he looked baffled and hungry, and archerreflected that he would probably finish his meal on ellen olenska. mr. jackson leaned back in his chair, andglanced up at the candlelit archers, newlands and van der luydens hanging indark frames on the dark walls.
"ah, how your grandfather archer loved agood dinner, my dear newland!" he said, his eyes on the portrait of a plump full-chested young man in a stock and a blue coat, with a view of a white-columnedcountry-house behind him. "well--well--well...i wonder what he would have said to all these foreign marriages!" mrs. archer ignored the allusion to theancestral cuisine and mr. jackson continued with deliberation: "no, she was not at theball." "ah--" mrs. archer murmured, in a tone thatimplied: "she had that decency." "perhaps the beauforts don't know her,"janey suggested, with her artless malice.
mr. jackson gave a faint sip, as if he hadbeen tasting invisible madeira. "mrs. beaufort may not--but beaufortcertainly does, for she was seen walking up fifth avenue this afternoon with him by thewhole of new york." "mercy--" moaned mrs. archer, evidentlyperceiving the uselessness of trying to ascribe the actions of foreigners to asense of delicacy. "i wonder if she wears a round hat or abonnet in the afternoon," janey speculated. "at the opera i know she had on dark bluevelvet, perfectly plain and flat--like a night-gown." "janey!" said her mother; and miss archerblushed and tried to look audacious.
"it was, at any rate, in better taste notto go to the ball," mrs. archer continued. a spirit of perversity moved her son torejoin: "i don't think it was a question of taste with her. may said she meant to go, and then decidedthat the dress in question wasn't smart enough."mrs. archer smiled at this confirmation of her inference. "poor ellen," she simply remarked; addingcompassionately: "we must always bear in mind what an eccentric bringing-up medoramanson gave her. what can you expect of a girl who wasallowed to wear black satin at her coming-
out ball?" "ah--don't i remember her in it!" said mr.jackson; adding: "poor girl!" in the tone of one who, while enjoying the memory, hadfully understood at the time what the sight portended. "it's odd," janey remarked, "that sheshould have kept such an ugly name as ellen.i should have changed it to elaine." she glanced about the table to see theeffect of this. her brother laughed."why elaine?" "i don't know; it sounds more--morepolish," said janey, blushing.
"it sounds more conspicuous; and that canhardly be what she wishes," said mrs. archer distantly. "why not?" broke in her son, growingsuddenly argumentative. "why shouldn't she be conspicuous if shechooses? why should she slink about as if it wereshe who had disgraced herself? she's 'poor ellen' certainly, because shehad the bad luck to make a wretched marriage; but i don't see that that's areason for hiding her head as if she were the culprit." "that, i suppose," said mr. jackson,speculatively, "is the line the mingotts
mean to take."the young man reddened. "i didn't have to wait for their cue, ifthat's what you mean, sir. madame olenska has had an unhappy life:that doesn't make her an outcast." "there are rumours," began mr. jackson,glancing at janey. "oh, i know: the secretary," the young mantook him up. "nonsense, mother; janey's grown-up. they say, don't they," he went on, "thatthe secretary helped her to get away from her brute of a husband, who kept herpractically a prisoner? well, what if he did?
i hope there isn't a man among us whowouldn't have done the same in such a case." mr. jackson glanced over his shoulder tosay to the sad butler: "perhaps...that sauce...just a little, after all--"; then,having helped himself, he remarked: "i'm told she's looking for a house. she means to live here.""i hear she means to get a divorce," said janey boldly."i hope she will!" archer exclaimed. the word had fallen like a bombshell in thepure and tranquil atmosphere of the archer
dining-room. mrs. archer raised her delicate eye-browsin the particular curve that signified: "the butler--" and the young man, himselfmindful of the bad taste of discussing such intimate matters in public, hastily branched off into an account of his visitto old mrs. mingott. after dinner, according to immemorialcustom, mrs. archer and janey trailed their long silk draperies up to the drawing-room,where, while the gentlemen smoked below stairs, they sat beside a carcel lamp with an engraved globe, facing each other acrossa rosewood work-table with a green silk bag
under it, and stitched at the two ends of atapestry band of field-flowers destined to adorn an "occasional" chair in the drawing-room of young mrs. newland archer. while this rite was in progress in thedrawing-room, archer settled mr. jackson in an armchair near the fire in the gothiclibrary and handed him a cigar. mr. jackson sank into the armchair withsatisfaction, lit his cigar with perfect confidence (it was newland who boughtthem), and stretching his thin old ankles to the coals, said: "you say the secretary merely helped her to get away, my dearfellow? well, he was still helping her a yearlater, then; for somebody met 'em living at
lausanne together." newland reddened."living together? well, why not?who had the right to make her life over if she hadn't? i'm sick of the hypocrisy that would buryalive a woman of her age if her husband prefers to live with harlots."he stopped and turned away angrily to light his cigar. "women ought to be free--as free as weare," he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure theterrific consequences.
mr. sillerton jackson stretched his anklesnearer the coals and emitted a sardonic whistle. "well," he said after a pause, "apparentlycount olenski takes your view; for i never heard of his having lifted a finger to gethis wife back." the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter vi. that evening, after mr. jackson had takenhimself away, and the ladies had retired to their chintz-curtained bedroom, newlandarcher mounted thoughtfully to his own study. a vigilant hand had, as usual, kept thefire alive and the lamp trimmed; and the
room, with its rows and rows of books, itsbronze and steel statuettes of "the fencers" on the mantelpiece and its many photographs of famous pictures, lookedsingularly home-like and welcoming. as he dropped into his armchair near thefire his eyes rested on a large photograph of may welland, which the young girl hadgiven him in the first days of their romance, and which had now displaced allthe other portraits on the table. with a new sense of awe he looked at thefrank forehead, serious eyes and gay innocent mouth of the young creature whosesoul's custodian he was to be. that terrifying product of the socialsystem he belonged to and believed in, the
young girl who knew nothing and expectedeverything, looked back at him like a stranger through may welland's familiar features; and once more it was borne in onhim that marriage was not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, buta voyage on uncharted seas. the case of the countess olenska hadstirred up old settled convictions and set them drifting dangerously through his mind. his own exclamation: "women should befree--as free as we are," struck to the root of a problem that it was agreed in hisworld to regard as non-existent. "nice" women, however wronged, would neverclaim the kind of freedom he meant, and
generous-minded men like himself weretherefore--in the heat of argument--the more chivalrously ready to concede it tothem. such verbal generosities were in fact onlya humbugging disguise of the inexorable conventions that tied things together andbound people down to the old pattern. but here he was pledged to defend, on thepart of his betrothed's cousin, conduct that, on his own wife's part, would justifyhim in calling down on her all the thunders of church and state. of course the dilemma was purelyhypothetical; since he wasn't a blackguard polish nobleman, it was absurd to speculatewhat his wife's rights would be if he were.
but newland archer was too imaginative notto feel that, in his case and may's, the tie might gall for reasons far less grossand palpable. what could he and she really know of eachother, since it was his duty, as a "decent" fellow, to conceal his past from her, andhers, as a marriageable girl, to have no past to conceal? what if, for some one of the subtlerreasons that would tell with both of them, they should tire of each other,misunderstand or irritate each other? he reviewed his friends' marriages--thesupposedly happy ones--and saw none that answered, even remotely, to the passionateand tender comradeship which he pictured as
his permanent relation with may welland. he perceived that such a picturepresupposed, on her part, the experience, the versatility, the freedom of judgment,which she had been carefully trained not to possess; and with a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of theother marriages about him were: a dull association of material and socialinterests held together by ignorance on the one side and hypocrisy on the other. lawrence lefferts occurred to him as thehusband who had most completely realised this enviable ideal.
as became the high-priest of form, he hadformed a wife so completely to his own convenience that, in the most conspicuousmoments of his frequent love-affairs with other men's wives, she went about in smiling unconsciousness, saying that"lawrence was so frightfully strict"; and had been known to blush indignantly, andavert her gaze, when some one alluded in her presence to the fact that julius beaufort (as became a "foreigner" ofdoubtful origin) had what was known in new york as "another establishment." archer tried to console himself with thethought that he was not quite such an ass
as larry lefferts, nor may such a simpletonas poor gertrude; but the difference was after all one of intelligence and not ofstandards. in reality they all lived in a kind ofhieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, butonly represented by a set of arbitrary signs; as when mrs. welland, who knew exactly why archer had pressed her toannounce her daughter's engagement at the beaufort ball (and had indeed expected himto do no less), yet felt obliged to simulate reluctance, and the air of having had her hand forced, quite as, in the bookson primitive man that people of advanced
culture were beginning to read, the savagebride is dragged with shrieks from her parents' tent. the result, of course, was that the younggirl who was the centre of this elaborate system of mystification remained the moreinscrutable for her very frankness and assurance. she was frank, poor darling, because shehad nothing to conceal, assured because she knew of nothing to be on her guard against;and with no better preparation than this, she was to be plunged overnight into what people evasively called "the facts oflife."
the young man was sincerely but placidly inlove. he delighted in the radiant good looks ofhis betrothed, in her health, her horsemanship, her grace and quickness atgames, and the shy interest in books and ideas that she was beginning to developunder his guidance. (she had advanced far enough to join him inridiculing the idyls of the king, but not to feel the beauty of ulysses and the lotuseaters.) she was straightforward, loyal and brave;she had a sense of humour (chiefly proved by her laughing at his jokes); and hesuspected, in the depths of her innocently- gazing soul, a glow of feeling that itwould be a joy to waken.
but when he had gone the brief round of herhe returned discouraged by the thought that all this frankness and innocence were onlyan artificial product. untrained human nature was not frank andinnocent; it was full of the twists and defences of an instinctive guile. and he felt himself oppressed by thiscreation of factitious purity, so cunningly manufactured by a conspiracy of mothers andaunts and grandmothers and long-dead ancestresses, because it was supposed to be what he wanted, what he had a right to, inorder that he might exercise his lordly pleasure in smashing it like an image madeof snow.
there was a certain triteness in thesereflections: they were those habitual to young men on the approach of their weddingday. but they were generally accompanied by asense of compunction and self-abasement of which newland archer felt no trace. he could not deplore (as thackeray's heroesso often exasperated him by doing) that he had not a blank page to offer his bride inexchange for the unblemished one she was to give to him. he could not get away from the fact that ifhe had been brought up as she had they would have been no more fit to find theirway about than the babes in the wood; nor
could he, for all his anxious cogitations, see any honest reason (any, that is,unconnected with his own momentary pleasure, and the passion of masculinevanity) why his bride should not have been allowed the same freedom of experience ashimself. such questions, at such an hour, were boundto drift through his mind; but he was conscious that their uncomfortablepersistence and precision were due to the inopportune arrival of the countessolenska. here he was, at the very moment of hisbetrothal--a moment for pure thoughts and cloudless hopes--pitchforked into a coil ofscandal which raised all the special
problems he would have preferred to letlie. "hang ellen olenska!" he grumbled, as hecovered his fire and began to undress. he could not really see why her fate shouldhave the least bearing on his; yet he dimly felt that he had only just begun to measurethe risks of the championship which his engagement had forced upon him. a few days later the bolt fell. the lovell mingotts had sent out cards forwhat was known as "a formal dinner" (that is, three extra footmen, two dishes foreach course, and a roman punch in the middle), and had headed their invitations
with the words "to meet the countessolenska," in accordance with the hospitable american fashion, which treats strangers asif they were royalties, or at least as their ambassadors. the guests had been selected with aboldness and discrimination in which the initiated recognised the firm hand ofcatherine the great. associated with such immemorial standbys asthe selfridge merrys, who were asked everywhere because they always had been,the beauforts, on whom there was a claim of relationship, and mr. sillerton jackson and his sister sophy (who went wherever herbrother told her to), were some of the most
fashionable and yet most irreproachable ofthe dominant "young married" set; the lawrence leffertses, mrs. lefferts rushworth (the lovely widow), the harrythorleys, the reggie chiverses and young morris dagonet and his wife (who was a vander luyden). the company indeed was perfectly assorted,since all the members belonged to the little inner group of people who, duringthe long new york season, disported themselves together daily and nightly withapparently undiminished zest. forty-eight hours later the unbelievablehad happened; every one had refused the mingotts' invitation except the beaufortsand old mr. jackson and his sister.
the intended slight was emphasised by thefact that even the reggie chiverses, who were of the mingott clan, were among thoseinflicting it; and by the uniform wording of the notes, in all of which the writers "regretted that they were unable toaccept," without the mitigating plea of a "previous engagement" that ordinarycourtesy prescribed. new york society was, in those days, fartoo small, and too scant in its resources, for every one in it (including livery-stable-keepers, butlers and cooks) not to know exactly on which evenings people were free; and it was thus possible for therecipients of mrs. lovell mingott's
invitations to make cruelly clear theirdetermination not to meet the countess olenska. the blow was unexpected; but the mingotts,as their way was, met it gallantly. mrs. lovell mingott confided the case tomrs. welland, who confided it to newland archer; who, aflame at the outrage,appealed passionately and authoritatively to his mother; who, after a painful period of inward resistance and outwardtemporising, succumbed to his instances (as she always did), and immediately embracinghis cause with an energy redoubled by her previous hesitations, put on her grey
velvet bonnet and said: "i'll go and seelouisa van der luyden." the new york of newland archer's day was asmall and slippery pyramid, in which, as yet, hardly a fissure had been made or afoothold gained. at its base was a firm foundation of whatmrs. archer called "plain people"; an honourable but obscure majority ofrespectable families who (as in the case of the spicers or the leffertses or the jacksons) had been raised above their levelby marriage with one of the ruling clans. people, mrs. archer always said, were notas particular as they used to be; and with old catherine spicer ruling one end offifth avenue, and julius beaufort the
other, you couldn't expect the oldtraditions to last much longer. firmly narrowing upward from this wealthybut inconspicuous substratum was the compact and dominant group which themingotts, newlands, chiverses and mansons so actively represented. most people imagined them to be the veryapex of the pyramid; but they themselves (at least those of mrs. archer'sgeneration) were aware that, in the eyes of the professional genealogist, only a still smaller number of families could lay claimto that eminence. "don't tell me," mrs. archer would say toher children, "all this modern newspaper
rubbish about a new york aristocracy. if there is one, neither the mingotts northe mansons belong to it; no, nor the newlands or the chiverses either. our grandfathers and great-grandfatherswere just respectable english or dutch merchants, who came to the colonies to maketheir fortune, and stayed here because they did so well. one of your great-grandfathers signed thedeclaration, and another was a general on washington's staff, and received generalburgoyne's sword after the battle of saratoga.
these are things to be proud of, but theyhave nothing to do with rank or class. new york has always been a commercialcommunity, and there are not more than three families in it who can claim anaristocratic origin in the real sense of the word." mrs. archer and her son and daughter, likeevery one else in new york, knew who these privileged beings were: the dagonets ofwashington square, who came of an old english county family allied with the pitts and foxes; the lannings, who hadintermarried with the descendants of count de grasse, and the van der luydens, directdescendants of the first dutch governor of
manhattan, and related by pre-revolutionary marriages to several members of the frenchand british aristocracy. the lannings survived only in the person oftwo very old but lively miss lannings, who lived cheerfully and reminiscently amongfamily portraits and chippendale; the dagonets were a considerable clan, allied to the best names in baltimore andphiladelphia; but the van der luydens, who stood above all of them, had faded into akind of super-terrestrial twilight, from which only two figures impressively emerged; those of mr. and mrs. henry vander luyden.
mrs. henry van der luyden had been louisadagonet, and her mother had been the granddaughter of colonel du lac, of an oldchannel island family, who had fought under cornwallis and had settled in maryland, after the war, with his bride, ladyangelica trevenna, fifth daughter of the earl of st. austrey. the tie between the dagonets, the du lacsof maryland, and their aristocratic cornish kinsfolk, the trevennas, had alwaysremained close and cordial. mr. and mrs. van der luyden had more thanonce paid long visits to the present head of the house of trevenna, the duke of st.austrey, at his country-seat in cornwall
and at st. austrey in gloucestershire; and his grace had frequently announced hisintention of some day returning their visit (without the duchess, who feared theatlantic). mr. and mrs. van der luyden divided theirtime between trevenna, their place in maryland, and skuytercliff, the greatestate on the hudson which had been one of the colonial grants of the dutch government to the famous first governor, and of whichmr. van der luyden was still "patroon." their large solemn house in madison avenuewas seldom opened, and when they came to town they received in it only their mostintimate friends.
"i wish you would go with me, newland," hismother said, suddenly pausing at the door of the brown coupe. "louisa is fond of you; and of course it'son account of dear may that i'm taking this step--and also because, if we don't allstand together, there'll be no such thing as society left." the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter vii. mrs. henry van der luyden listened insilence to her cousin mrs. archer's narrative. it was all very well to tell yourself inadvance that mrs. van der luyden was always
silent, and that, though non-committal bynature and training, she was very kind to the people she really liked. even personal experience of these facts wasnot always a protection from the chill that descended on one in the high-ceilingedwhite-walled madison avenue drawing-room, with the pale brocaded armchairs so obviously uncovered for the occasion, andthe gauze still veiling the ormolu mantel ornaments and the beautiful old carvedframe of gainsborough's "lady angelica du lac." mrs. van der luyden's portrait byhuntington (in black velvet and venetian
point) faced that of her lovely ancestress. it was generally considered "as fine as acabanel," and, though twenty years had elapsed since its execution, was still "aperfect likeness." indeed the mrs. van der luyden who satbeneath it listening to mrs. archer might have been the twin-sister of the fair andstill youngish woman drooping against a gilt armchair before a green rep curtain. mrs. van der luyden still wore black velvetand venetian point when she went into society--or rather (since she never dinedout) when she threw open her own doors to receive it.
her fair hair, which had faded withoutturning grey, was still parted in flat overlapping points on her forehead, and thestraight nose that divided her pale blue eyes was only a little more pinched about the nostrils than when the portrait hadbeen painted. she always, indeed, struck newland archeras having been rather gruesomely preserved in the airless atmosphere of a perfectlyirreproachable existence, as bodies caught in glaciers keep for years a rosy life-in-death. like all his family, he esteemed andadmired mrs. van der luyden; but he found her gentle bending sweetness lessapproachable than the grimness of some of
his mother's old aunts, fierce spinsters who said "no" on principle before they knewwhat they were going to be asked. mrs. van der luyden's attitude said neitheryes nor no, but always appeared to incline to clemency till her thin lips, waveringinto the shadow of a smile, made the almost invariable reply: "i shall first have totalk this over with my husband." she and mr. van der luyden were so exactlyalike that archer often wondered how, after forty years of the closest conjugality, twosuch merged identities ever separated themselves enough for anything ascontroversial as a talking-over. but as neither had ever reached a decisionwithout prefacing it by this mysterious
conclave, mrs. archer and her son, havingset forth their case, waited resignedly for the familiar phrase. mrs. van der luyden, however, who hadseldom surprised any one, now surprised them by reaching her long hand toward thebell-rope. "i think," she said, "i should like henryto hear what you have told me." a footman appeared, to whom she gravelyadded: "if mr. van der luyden has finished reading the newspaper, please ask him to bekind enough to come." she said "reading the newspaper" in thetone in which a minister's wife might have said: "presiding at a cabinet meeting"--not from any arrogance of mind, but because
the habit of a life-time, and the attitude of her friends and relations, had led herto consider mr. van der luyden's least gesture as having an almost sacerdotalimportance. her promptness of action showed that sheconsidered the case as pressing as mrs. archer; but, lest she should be thought tohave committed herself in advance, she added, with the sweetest look: "henry always enjoys seeing you, dear adeline; andhe will wish to congratulate newland." the double doors had solemnly reopened andbetween them appeared mr. henry van der luyden, tall, spare and frock-coated, withfaded fair hair, a straight nose like his
wife's and the same look of frozen gentleness in eyes that were merely palegrey instead of pale blue. mr. van der luyden greeted mrs. archer withcousinly affability, proffered to newland low-voiced congratulations couched in thesame language as his wife's, and seated himself in one of the brocade armchairs with the simplicity of a reigningsovereign. "i had just finished reading the times," hesaid, laying his long finger-tips together. "in town my mornings are so much occupiedthat i find it more convenient to read the newspapers after luncheon."
"ah, there's a great deal to be said forthat plan--indeed i think my uncle egmont used to say he found it less agitating notto read the morning papers till after dinner," said mrs. archer responsively. "yes: my good father abhorred hurry. but now we live in a constant rush," saidmr. van der luyden in measured tones, looking with pleasant deliberation aboutthe large shrouded room which to archer was so complete an image of its owners. "but i hope you had finished your reading,henry?" his wife interposed. "quite--quite," he reassured her."then i should like adeline to tell you--"
"oh, it's really newland's story," said hismother smiling; and proceeded to rehearse once more the monstrous tale of the affrontinflicted on mrs. lovell mingott. "of course," she ended, "augusta wellandand mary mingott both felt that, especially in view of newland's engagement, you andhenry ought to know." "ah--" said mr. van der luyden, drawing adeep breath. there was a silence during which the tickof the monumental ormolu clock on the white marble mantelpiece grew as loud as the boomof a minute-gun. archer contemplated with awe the twoslender faded figures, seated side by side in a kind of viceregal rigidity,mouthpieces of some remote ancestral
authority which fate compelled them to wield, when they would so much rather havelived in simplicity and seclusion, digging invisible weeds out of the perfect lawns ofskuytercliff, and playing patience together in the evenings. mr. van der luyden was the first to speak."you really think this is due to some--some intentional interference of lawrencelefferts's?" he enquired, turning to archer. "i'm certain of it, sir. larry has been going it rather harder thanusual lately--if cousin louisa won't mind
my mentioning it--having rather a stiffaffair with the postmaster's wife in their village, or some one of that sort; and whenever poor gertrude lefferts begins tosuspect anything, and he's afraid of trouble, he gets up a fuss of this kind, toshow how awfully moral he is, and talks at the top of his voice about the impertinence of inviting his wife to meet people hedoesn't wish her to know. he's simply using madame olenska as alightning-rod; i've seen him try the same thing often before." "the leffertses!--" said mrs. van derluyden.
"the leffertses!--" echoed mrs. archer. "what would uncle egmont have said oflawrence lefferts's pronouncing on anybody's social position?it shows what society has come to." "we'll hope it has not quite come to that,"said mr. van der luyden firmly. "ah, if only you and louisa went out more!"sighed mrs. archer. but instantly she became aware of hermistake. the van der luydens were morbidly sensitiveto any criticism of their secluded existence. they were the arbiters of fashion, thecourt of last appeal, and they knew it, and
bowed to their fate. but being shy and retiring persons, with nonatural inclination for their part, they lived as much as possible in the sylvansolitude of skuytercliff, and when they came to town, declined all invitations onthe plea of mrs. van der luyden's health. newland archer came to his mother's rescue."everybody in new york knows what you and cousin louisa represent. that's why mrs. mingott felt she ought notto allow this slight on countess olenska to pass without consulting you."mrs. van der luyden glanced at her husband, who glanced back at her.
"it is the principle that i dislike," saidmr. van der luyden. "as long as a member of a well-known familyis backed up by that family it should be considered--final." "it seems so to me," said his wife, as ifshe were producing a new thought. "i had no idea," mr. van der luydencontinued, "that things had come to such a pass." he paused, and looked at his wife again."it occurs to me, my dear, that the countess olenska is already a sort ofrelation--through medora manson's first husband.
at any rate, she will be when newlandmarries." he turned toward the young man."have you read this morning's times, newland?" "why, yes, sir," said archer, who usuallytossed off half a dozen papers with his morning coffee.husband and wife looked at each other again. their pale eyes clung together in prolongedand serious consultation; then a faint smile fluttered over mrs. van der luyden'sface. she had evidently guessed and approved.
mr. van der luyden turned to mrs. archer. "if louisa's health allowed her to dineout--i wish you would say to mrs. lovell mingott--she and i would have been happyto--er--fill the places of the lawrence leffertses at her dinner." he paused to let the irony of this sink in."as you know, this is impossible." mrs. archer sounded a sympathetic assent. "but newland tells me he has read thismorning's times; therefore he has probably seen that louisa's relative, the duke ofst. austrey, arrives next week on the russia.
he is coming to enter his new sloop, theguinevere, in next summer's international cup race; and also to have a littlecanvasback shooting at trevenna." mr. van der luyden paused again, andcontinued with increasing benevolence: "before taking him down to maryland we areinviting a few friends to meet him here-- only a little dinner--with a receptionafterward. i am sure louisa will be as glad as i am ifcountess olenska will let us include her among our guests." he got up, bent his long body with a stifffriendliness toward his cousin, and added: "i think i have louisa's authority forsaying that she will herself leave the
invitation to dine when she drives out presently: with our cards--of course withour cards." mrs. archer, who knew this to be a hintthat the seventeen-hand chestnuts which were never kept waiting were at the door,rose with a hurried murmur of thanks. mrs. van der luyden beamed on her with thesmile of esther interceding with ahasuerus; but her husband raised a protesting hand."there is nothing to thank me for, dear adeline; nothing whatever. this kind of thing must not happen in newyork; it shall not, as long as i can help it," he pronounced with sovereigngentleness as he steered his cousins to the
door. two hours later, every one knew that thegreat c-spring barouche in which mrs. van der luyden took the air at all seasons hadbeen seen at old mrs. mingott's door, where a large square envelope was handed in; and that evening at the opera mr. sillertonjackson was able to state that the envelope contained a card inviting the countessolenska to the dinner which the van der luydens were giving the following week fortheir cousin, the duke of st. austrey. some of the younger men in the club boxexchanged a smile at this announcement, and glanced sideways at lawrence lefferts, whosat carelessly in the front of the box,
pulling his long fair moustache, and who remarked with authority, as the sopranopaused: "no one but patti ought to attempt the sonnambula." the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter viii. it was generally agreed in new york thatthe countess olenska had "lost her looks." she had appeared there first, in newlandarcher's boyhood, as a brilliantly pretty little girl of nine or ten, of whom peoplesaid that she "ought to be painted." her parents had been continental wanderers,and after a roaming babyhood she had lost them both, and been taken in charge by heraunt, medora manson, also a wanderer, who
was herself returning to new york to"settle down." poor medora, repeatedly widowed, was alwayscoming home to settle down (each time in a less expensive house), and bringing withher a new husband or an adopted child; but after a few months she invariably parted from her husband or quarrelled with herward, and, having got rid of her house at a loss, set out again on her wanderings. as her mother had been a rushworth, and herlast unhappy marriage had linked her to one of the crazy chiverses, new york lookedindulgently on her eccentricities; but when she returned with her little orphaned
niece, whose parents had been popular inspite of their regrettable taste for travel, people thought it a pity that thepretty child should be in such hands. every one was disposed to be kind to littleellen mingott, though her dusky red cheeks and tight curls gave her an air of gaietythat seemed unsuitable in a child who should still have been in black for herparents. it was one of the misguided medora's manypeculiarities to flout the unalterable rules that regulated american mourning, andwhen she stepped from the steamer her family were scandalised to see that the crape veil she wore for her own brother wasseven inches shorter than those of her
sisters-in-law, while little ellen was incrimson merino and amber beads, like a gipsy foundling. but new york had so long resigned itself tomedora that only a few old ladies shook their heads over ellen's gaudy clothes,while her other relations fell under the charm of her high colour and high spirits. she was a fearless and familiar littlething, who asked disconcerting questions, made precocious comments, and possessedoutlandish arts, such as dancing a spanish shawl dance and singing neapolitan love-songs to a guitar. under the direction of her aunt (whose realname was mrs. thorley chivers, but who,
having received a papal title, had resumedher first husband's patronymic, and called herself the marchioness manson, because in italy she could turn it into manzoni) thelittle girl received an expensive but incoherent education, which included"drawing from the model," a thing never dreamed of before, and playing the piano inquintets with professional musicians. of course no good could come of this; andwhen, a few years later, poor chivers finally died in a madhouse, his widow(draped in strange weeds) again pulled up stakes and departed with ellen, who had grown into a tall bony girl withconspicuous eyes.
for some time no more was heard of them;then news came of ellen's marriage to an immensely rich polish nobleman of legendaryfame, whom she had met at a ball at the tuileries, and who was said to have princely establishments in paris, nice andflorence, a yacht at cowes, and many square miles of shooting in transylvania. she disappeared in a kind of sulphurousapotheosis, and when a few years later medora again came back to new york,subdued, impoverished, mourning a third husband, and in quest of a still smaller house, people wondered that her rich niecehad not been able to do something for her.
then came the news that ellen's ownmarriage had ended in disaster, and that she was herself returning home to seek restand oblivion among her kinsfolk. these things passed through newlandarcher's mind a week later as he watched the countess olenska enter the van derluyden drawing-room on the evening of the momentous dinner. the occasion was a solemn one, and hewondered a little nervously how she would carry it off. she came rather late, one hand stillungloved, and fastening a bracelet about her wrist; yet she entered without anyappearance of haste or embarrassment the
drawing-room in which new york's most chosen company was somewhat awfullyassembled. in the middle of the room she paused,looking about her with a grave mouth and smiling eyes; and in that instant newlandarcher rejected the general verdict on her looks. it was true that her early radiance wasgone. the red cheeks had paled; she was thin,worn, a little older-looking than her age, which must have been nearly thirty. but there was about her the mysteriousauthority of beauty, a sureness in the
carriage of the head, the movement of theeyes, which, without being in the least theatrical, struck his as highly trainedand full of a conscious power. at the same time she was simpler in mannerthan most of the ladies present, and many people (as he heard afterward from janey)were disappointed that her appearance was not more "stylish"--for stylishness waswhat new york most valued. it was, perhaps, archer reflected, becauseher early vivacity had disappeared; because she was so quiet--quiet in her movements,her voice, and the tones of her low-pitched voice. new york had expected something a good dealmore reasonant in a young woman with such a
history.the dinner was a somewhat formidable business. dining with the van der luydens was at bestno light matter, and dining there with a duke who was their cousin was almost areligious solemnity. it pleased archer to think that only an oldnew yorker could perceive the shade of difference (to new york) between beingmerely a duke and being the van der luydens' duke. new york took stray noblemen calmly, andeven (except in the struthers set) with a certain distrustful hauteur; but when theypresented such credentials as these they
were received with an old-fashioned cordiality that they would have beengreatly mistaken in ascribing solely to their standing in debrett. it was for just such distinctions that theyoung man cherished his old new york even while he smiled at it.the van der luydens had done their best to emphasise the importance of the occasion. the du lac sevres and the trevenna georgeii plate were out; so was the van der luyden "lowestoft" (east india company) andthe dagonet crown derby. mrs. van der luyden looked more than everlike a cabanel, and mrs. archer, in her
grandmother's seed-pearls and emeralds,reminded her son of an isabey miniature. all the ladies had on their handsomestjewels, but it was characteristic of the house and the occasion that these weremostly in rather heavy old-fashioned settings; and old miss lanning, who had been persuaded to come, actually wore hermother's cameos and a spanish blonde shawl. the countess olenska was the only youngwoman at the dinner; yet, as archer scanned the smooth plump elderly faces betweentheir diamond necklaces and towering ostrich feathers, they struck him ascuriously immature compared with hers. it frightened him to think what must havegone to the making of her eyes.
the duke of st. austrey, who sat at hishostess's right, was naturally the chief figure of the evening. but if the countess olenska was lessconspicuous than had been hoped, the duke was almost invisible. being a well-bred man he had not (likeanother recent ducal visitor) come to the dinner in a shooting-jacket; but hisevening clothes were so shabby and baggy, and he wore them with such an air of their being homespun, that (with his stooping wayof sitting, and the vast beard spreading over his shirt-front) he hardly gave theappearance of being in dinner attire.
he was short, round-shouldered, sunburnt,with a thick nose, small eyes and a sociable smile; but he seldom spoke, andwhen he did it was in such low tones that, despite the frequent silences of expectation about the table, his remarkswere lost to all but his neighbours. when the men joined the ladies after dinnerthe duke went straight up to the countess olenska, and they sat down in a corner andplunged into animated talk. neither seemed aware that the duke shouldfirst have paid his respects to mrs. lovell mingott and mrs. headly chivers, and thecountess have conversed with that amiable hypochondriac, mr. urban dagonet of
washington square, who, in order to havethe pleasure of meeting her, had broken through his fixed rule of not dining outbetween january and april. the two chatted together for nearly twentyminutes; then the countess rose and, walking alone across the wide drawing-room,sat down at newland archer's side. it was not the custom in new york drawing-rooms for a lady to get up and walk away from one gentleman in order to seek thecompany of another. etiquette required that she should wait,immovable as an idol, while the men who wished to converse with her succeeded eachother at her side. but the countess was apparently unaware ofhaving broken any rule; she sat at perfect
ease in a corner of the sofa beside archer,and looked at him with the kindest eyes. "i want you to talk to me about may," shesaid. instead of answering her he asked: "youknew the duke before?" "oh, yes--we used to see him every winterat nice. he's very fond of gambling--he used to cometo the house a great deal." she said it in the simplest manner, as ifshe had said: "he's fond of wild-flowers"; and after a moment she added candidly: "ithink he's the dullest man i ever met." this pleased her companion so much that heforgot the slight shock her previous remark had caused him.
it was undeniably exciting to meet a ladywho found the van der luydens' duke dull, and dared to utter the opinion. he longed to question her, to hear moreabout the life of which her careless words had given him so illuminating a glimpse;but he feared to touch on distressing memories, and before he could think of anything to say she had strayed back to heroriginal subject. "may is a darling; i've seen no young girlin new york so handsome and so intelligent. are you very much in love with her?" newland archer reddened and laughed."as much as a man can be."
she continued to consider him thoughtfully,as if not to miss any shade of meaning in what he said, "do you think, then, there isa limit?" "to being in love? if there is, i haven't found it!"she glowed with sympathy. "ah--it's really and truly a romance?""the most romantic of romances!" "how delightful! and you found it all out for yourselves--itwas not in the least arranged for you?" archer looked at her incredulously. "have you forgotten," he asked with asmile, "that in our country we don't allow
our marriages to be arranged for us?"a dusky blush rose to her cheek, and he instantly regretted his words. "yes," she answered, "i'd forgotten.you must forgive me if i sometimes make these mistakes. i don't always remember that everythinghere is good that was--that was bad where i've come from." she looked down at her viennese fan ofeagle feathers, and he saw that her lips trembled."i'm so sorry," he said impulsively; "but you are among friends here, you know."
"yes--i know.wherever i go i have that feeling. that's why i came home. i want to forget everything else, to becomea complete american again, like the mingotts and wellands, and you and yourdelightful mother, and all the other good people here tonight. ah, here's may arriving, and you will wantto hurry away to her," she added, but without moving; and her eyes turned backfrom the door to rest on the young man's the drawing-rooms were beginning to fill upwith after-dinner guests, and following madame olenska's glance archer saw maywelland entering with her mother.
in her dress of white and silver, with awreath of silver blossoms in her hair, the tall girl looked like a diana just alightfrom the chase. "oh," said archer, "i have so many rivals;you see she's already surrounded. there's the duke being introduced." "then stay with me a little longer," madameolenska said in a low tone, just touching his knee with her plumed fan.it was the lightest touch, but it thrilled him like a caress. "yes, let me stay," he answered in the sametone, hardly knowing what he said; but just then mr. van der luyden came up, followedby old mr. urban dagonet.
the countess greeted them with her gravesmile, and archer, feeling his host's admonitory glance on him, rose andsurrendered his seat. madame olenska held out her hand as if tobid him goodbye. "tomorrow, then, after five--i shall expectyou," she said; and then turned back to make room for mr. dagonet. "tomorrow--" archer heard himselfrepeating, though there had been no engagement, and during their talk she hadgiven him no hint that she wished to see him again. as he moved away he saw lawrence lefferts,tall and resplendent, leading his wife up
to be introduced; and heard gertrudelefferts say, as she beamed on the countess with her large unperceiving smile: "but i think we used to go to dancing-schooltogether when we were children--." behind her, waiting their turn to namethemselves to the countess, archer noticed a number of the recalcitrant couples whohad declined to meet her at mrs. lovell mingott's. as mrs. archer remarked: when the van derluydens chose, they knew how to give a lesson.the wonder was that they chose so seldom. the young man felt a touch on his arm andsaw mrs. van der luyden looking down on him
from the pure eminence of black velvet andthe family diamonds. "it was good of you, dear newland, todevote yourself so unselfishly to madame olenska.i told your cousin henry he must really come to the rescue." he was aware of smiling at her vaguely, andshe added, as if condescending to his natural shyness: "i've never seen maylooking lovelier. the duke thinks her the handsomest girl inthe room." the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter ix. the countess olenska had said "after five";and at half after the hour newland archer
rang the bell of the peeling stucco housewith a giant wisteria throttling its feeble cast-iron balcony, which she had hired, far down west twenty-third street, from thevagabond medora. it was certainly a strange quarter to havesettled in. small dress-makers, bird-stuffers and"people who wrote" were her nearest neighbours; and further down thedishevelled street archer recognised a dilapidated wooden house, at the end of a paved path, in which a writer andjournalist called winsett, whom he used to come across now and then, had mentionedthat he lived.
winsett did not invite people to his house;but he had once pointed it out to archer in the course of a nocturnal stroll, and thelatter had asked himself, with a little shiver, if the humanities were so meanlyhoused in other capitals. madame olenska's own dwelling was redeemedfrom the same appearance only by a little more paint about the window-frames; and asarcher mustered its modest front he said to himself that the polish count must have robbed her of her fortune as well as of herillusions. the young man had spent an unsatisfactoryday. he had lunched with the wellands, hopingafterward to carry off may for a walk in
the park. he wanted to have her to himself, to tellher how enchanting she had looked the night before, and how proud he was of her, and topress her to hasten their marriage. but mrs. welland had firmly reminded himthat the round of family visits was not half over, and, when he hinted at advancingthe date of the wedding, had raised reproachful eye-brows and sighed out: "twelve dozen of everything--hand-embroidered--" packed in the family landau they rolledfrom one tribal doorstep to another, and archer, when the afternoon's round wasover, parted from his betrothed with the
feeling that he had been shown off like awild animal cunningly trapped. he supposed that his readings inanthropology caused him to take such a coarse view of what was after all a simpleand natural demonstration of family feeling; but when he remembered that the wellands did not expect the wedding to takeplace till the following autumn, and pictured what his life would be till then,a dampness fell upon his spirit. "tomorrow," mrs. welland called after him,"we'll do the chiverses and the dallases"; and he perceived that she was going throughtheir two families alphabetically, and that they were only in the first quarter of thealphabet.
he had meant to tell may of the countessolenska's request--her command, rather-- that he should call on her that afternoon;but in the brief moments when they were alone he had had more pressing things tosay. besides, it struck him as a little absurdto allude to the matter. he knew that may most particularly wantedhim to be kind to her cousin; was it not that wish which had hastened theannouncement of their engagement? it gave him an odd sensation to reflectthat, but for the countess's arrival, he might have been, if not still a free man,at least a man less irrevocably pledged. but may had willed it so, and he felthimself somehow relieved of further
responsibility--and therefore at liberty,if he chose, to call on her cousin without telling her. as he stood on madame olenska's thresholdcuriosity was his uppermost feeling. he was puzzled by the tone in which she hadsummoned him; he concluded that she was less simple than she seemed. the door was opened by a swarthy foreign-looking maid, with a prominent bosom under a gay neckerchief, whom he vaguely fanciedto be sicilian. she welcomed him with all her white teeth,and answering his enquiries by a head-shake of incomprehension led him through thenarrow hall into a low firelit drawing-
room. the room was empty, and she left him, foran appreciable time, to wonder whether she had gone to find her mistress, or whethershe had not understood what he was there for, and thought it might be to wind the clock--of which he perceived that the onlyvisible specimen had stopped. he knew that the southern racescommunicated with each other in the language of pantomime, and was mortified tofind her shrugs and smiles so unintelligible. at length she returned with a lamp; andarcher, having meanwhile put together a
phrase out of dante and petrarch, evokedthe answer: "la signora e fuori; ma verra subito"; which he took to mean: "she'sout--but you'll soon see." what he saw, meanwhile, with the help ofthe lamp, was the faded shadowy charm of a room unlike any room he had known. he knew that the countess olenska hadbrought some of her possessions with her-- bits of wreckage, she called them--andthese, he supposed, were represented by some small slender tables of dark wood, a delicate little greek bronze on thechimney-piece, and a stretch of red damask nailed on the discoloured wallpaper behinda couple of italian-looking pictures in old
frames. newland archer prided himself on hisknowledge of italian art. his boyhood had been saturated with ruskin,and he had read all the latest books: john addington symonds, vernon lee's"euphorion," the essays of p. g. hamerton, and a wonderful new volume called "therenaissance" by walter pater. he talked easily of botticelli, and spokeof fra angelico with a faint condescension. but these pictures bewildered him, for theywere like nothing that he was accustomed to look at (and therefore able to see) when hetravelled in italy; and perhaps, also, his powers of observation were impaired by the
oddness of finding himself in this strangeempty house, where apparently no one expected him. he was sorry that he had not told maywelland of countess olenska's request, and a little disturbed by the thought that hisbetrothed might come in to see her cousin. what would she think if she found himsitting there with the air of intimacy implied by waiting alone in the dusk at alady's fireside? but since he had come he meant to wait; andhe sank into a chair and stretched his feet to the logs. it was odd to have summoned him in thatway, and then forgotten him; but archer
felt more curious than mortified. the atmosphere of the room was so differentfrom any he had ever breathed that self- consciousness vanished in the sense ofadventure. he had been before in drawing-rooms hungwith red damask, with pictures "of the italian school"; what struck him was theway in which medora manson's shabby hired house, with its blighted background of pampas grass and rogers statuettes, had, bya turn of the hand, and the skilful use of a few properties, been transformed intosomething intimate, "foreign," subtly suggestive of old romantic scenes andsentiments.
he tried to analyse the trick, to find aclue to it in the way the chairs and tables were grouped, in the fact that only twojacqueminot roses (of which nobody ever bought less than a dozen) had been placed in the slender vase at his elbow, and inthe vague pervading perfume that was not what one put on handkerchiefs, but ratherlike the scent of some far-off bazaar, a smell made up of turkish coffee andambergris and dried roses. his mind wandered away to the question ofwhat may's drawing-room would look like. he knew that mr. welland, who was behaving"very handsomely," already had his eye on a newly built house in east thirty-ninthstreet.
the neighbourhood was thought remote, andthe house was built in a ghastly greenish- yellow stone that the younger architectswere beginning to employ as a protest against the brownstone of which the uniform hue coated new york like a cold chocolatesauce; but the plumbing was perfect. archer would have liked to travel, to putoff the housing question; but, though the wellands approved of an extended europeanhoneymoon (perhaps even a winter in egypt), they were firm as to the need of a housefor the returning couple. the young man felt that his fate wassealed: for the rest of his life he would go up every evening between the cast-ironrailings of that greenish-yellow doorstep,
and pass through a pompeian vestibule into a hall with a wainscoting of varnishedyellow wood. but beyond that his imagination could nottravel. he knew the drawing-room above had a baywindow, but he could not fancy how may would deal with it. she submitted cheerfully to the purplesatin and yellow tuftings of the welland drawing-room, to its sham buhl tables andgilt vitrines full of modern saxe. he saw no reason to suppose that she wouldwant anything different in her own house; and his only comfort was to reflect thatshe would probably let him arrange his
library as he pleased--which would be, of course, with "sincere" eastlake furniture,and the plain new bookcases without glass doors. the round-bosomed maid came in, drew thecurtains, pushed back a log, and said consolingly: "verra--verra."when she had gone archer stood up and began to wander about. should he wait any longer?his position was becoming rather foolish. perhaps he had misunderstood madameolenska--perhaps she had not invited him after all.
down the cobblestones of the quiet streetcame the ring of a stepper's hoofs; they stopped before the house, and he caught theopening of a carriage door. parting the curtains he looked out into theearly dusk. a street-lamp faced him, and in its lighthe saw julius beaufort's compact english brougham, drawn by a big roan, and thebanker descending from it, and helping out madame olenska. beaufort stood, hat in hand, sayingsomething which his companion seemed to negative; then they shook hands, and hejumped into his carriage while she mounted the steps.
when she entered the room she showed nosurprise at seeing archer there; surprise seemed the emotion that she was leastaddicted to. "how do you like my funny house?" sheasked. "to me it's like heaven." as she spoke she untied her little velvetbonnet and tossing it away with her long cloak stood looking at him with meditativeeyes. "you've arranged it delightfully," herejoined, alive to the flatness of the words, but imprisoned in the conventionalby his consuming desire to be simple and striking.
"oh, it's a poor little place.my relations despise it. but at any rate it's less gloomy than thevan der luydens'." the words gave him an electric shock, forfew were the rebellious spirits who would have dared to call the stately home of thevan der luydens gloomy. those privileged to enter it shiveredthere, and spoke of it as "handsome." but suddenly he was glad that she had givenvoice to the general shiver. "it's delicious--what you've done here," herepeated. "i like the little house," she admitted;"but i suppose what i like is the blessedness of its being here, in my owncountry and my own town; and then, of being
alone in it." she spoke so low that he hardly heard thelast phrase; but in his awkwardness he took it up."you like so much to be alone?" "yes; as long as my friends keep me fromfeeling lonely." she sat down near the fire, said:"nastasia will bring the tea presently," and signed to him to return to hisarmchair, adding: "i see you've already chosen your corner." leaning back, she folded her arms behindher head, and looked at the fire under drooping lids."this is the hour i like best--don't you?"
a proper sense of his dignity caused him toanswer: "i was afraid you'd forgotten the hour.beaufort must have been very engrossing." she looked amused. "why--have you waited long?mr. beaufort took me to see a number of houses--since it seems i'm not to beallowed to stay in this one." she appeared to dismiss both beaufort andhimself from her mind, and went on: "i've never been in a city where there seems tobe such a feeling against living in des quartiers excentriques. what does it matter where one lives?i'm told this street is respectable."
"it's not fashionable.""fashionable! do you all think so much of that? why not make one's own fashions?but i suppose i've lived too independently; at any rate, i want to do what you all do--i want to feel cared for and safe." he was touched, as he had been the eveningbefore when she spoke of her need of guidance."that's what your friends want you to feel. new york's an awfully safe place," he addedwith a flash of sarcasm. "yes, isn't it?one feels that," she cried, missing the mockery.
"being here is like--like--being taken on aholiday when one has been a good little girl and done all one's lessons."the analogy was well meant, but did not altogether please him. he did not mind being flippant about newyork, but disliked to hear any one else take the same tone. he wondered if she did not begin to seewhat a powerful engine it was, and how nearly it had crushed her. the lovell mingotts' dinner, patched up inextremis out of all sorts of social odds and ends, ought to have taught her thenarrowness of her escape; but either she
had been all along unaware of having skirted disaster, or else she had lostsight of it in the triumph of the van der luyden evening. archer inclined to the former theory; hefancied that her new york was still completely undifferentiated, and theconjecture nettled him. "last night," he said, "new york laiditself out for you. the van der luydens do nothing by halves.""no: how kind they are! it was such a nice party. every one seems to have such an esteem forthem."
the terms were hardly adequate; she mighthave spoken in that way of a tea-party at the dear old miss lannings'. "the van der luydens," said archer, feelinghimself pompous as he spoke, "are the most powerful influence in new york society.unfortunately--owing to her health--they receive very seldom." she unclasped her hands from behind herhead, and looked at him meditatively. "isn't that perhaps the reason?""the reason--?" "for their great influence; that they makethemselves so rare." he coloured a little, stared at her--andsuddenly felt the penetration of the
remark. at a stroke she had pricked the van derluydens and they collapsed. he laughed, and sacrificed them. nastasia brought the tea, with handlelessjapanese cups and little covered dishes, placing the tray on a low table. "but you'll explain these things to me--you'll tell me all i ought to know," madame olenska continued, leaning forward to handhim his cup. "it's you who are telling me; opening myeyes to things i'd looked at so long that i'd ceased to see them."
she detached a small gold cigarette-casefrom one of her bracelets, held it out to him, and took a cigarette herself.on the chimney were long spills for lighting them. "ah, then we can both help each other.but i want help so much more. you must tell me just what to do." it was on the tip of his tongue to reply:"don't be seen driving about the streets with beaufort--" but he was being toodeeply drawn into the atmosphere of the room, which was her atmosphere, and to give advice of that sort would have been liketelling some one who was bargaining for
attar-of-roses in samarkand that one shouldalways be provided with arctics for a new york winter. new york seemed much farther off thansamarkand, and if they were indeed to help each other she was rendering what mightprove the first of their mutual services by making him look at his native cityobjectively. viewed thus, as through the wrong end of atelescope, it looked disconcertingly small and distant; but then from samarkand itwould. a flame darted from the logs and she bentover the fire, stretching her thin hands so close to it that a faint halo shone aboutthe oval nails.
the light touched to russet the rings ofdark hair escaping from her braids, and made her pale face paler. "there are plenty of people to tell youwhat to do," archer rejoined, obscurely envious of them."oh--all my aunts? and my dear old granny?" she considered the idea impartially."they're all a little vexed with me for setting up for myself--poor grannyespecially. she wanted to keep me with her; but i hadto be free--" he was impressed by this light way of speaking of the formidablecatherine, and moved by the thought of what
must have given madame olenska this thirstfor even the loneliest kind of freedom. but the idea of beaufort gnawed him."i think i understand how you feel," he said. "still, your family can advise you; explaindifferences; show you the way." she lifted her thin black eyebrows."is new york such a labyrinth? i thought it so straight up and down--likefifth avenue. and with all the cross streets numbered!" she seemed to guess his faint disapprovalof this, and added, with the rare smile that enchanted her whole face: "if you knewhow i like it for just that--the straight-
up-and-downness, and the big honest labelson everything!" he saw his chance."everything may be labelled--but everybody is not." "perhaps.i may simplify too much--but you'll warn me if i do."she turned from the fire to look at him. "there are only two people here who make mefeel as if they understood what i mean and could explain things to me: you and mr.beaufort." archer winced at the joining of the names,and then, with a quick readjustment, understood, sympathised and pitied.
so close to the powers of evil she musthave lived that she still breathed more freely in their air. but since she felt that he understood heralso, his business would be to make her see beaufort as he really was, with all herepresented--and abhor it. he answered gently: "i understand. but just at first don't let go of your oldfriends' hands: i mean the older women, your granny mingott, mrs. welland, mrs. vander luyden. they like and admire you--they want to helpyou." she shook her head and sighed."oh, i know--i know!
but on condition that they don't hearanything unpleasant. aunt welland put it in those very wordswhen i tried.... does no one want to know the truth here,mr. archer? the real loneliness is living among allthese kind people who only ask one to pretend!" she lifted her hands to her face, and hesaw her thin shoulders shaken by a sob. "madame olenska!--oh, don't, ellen," hecried, starting up and bending over her. he drew down one of her hands, clasping andchafing it like a child's while he murmured reassuring words; but in a moment she freedherself, and looked up at him with wet
lashes. "does no one cry here, either?i suppose there's no need to, in heaven," she said, straightening her loosened braidswith a laugh, and bending over the tea- kettle. it was burnt into his consciousness that hehad called her "ellen"--called her so twice; and that she had not noticed it. far down the inverted telescope he saw thefaint white figure of may welland--in new york.suddenly nastasia put her head in to say something in her rich italian.
madame olenska, again with a hand at herhair, uttered an exclamation of assent--a flashing "gia--gia"--and the duke of st.austrey entered, piloting a tremendous blackwigged and red-plumed lady inoverflowing furs. "my dear countess, i've brought an oldfriend of mine to see you--mrs. struthers. she wasn't asked to the party last night,and she wants to know you." the duke beamed on the group, and madameolenska advanced with a murmur of welcome toward the queer couple. she seemed to have no idea how oddlymatched they were, nor what a liberty the duke had taken in bringing his companion--and to do him justice, as archer perceived,
the duke seemed as unaware of it himself. "of course i want to know you, my dear,"cried mrs. struthers in a round rolling voice that matched her bold feathers andher brazen wig. "i want to know everybody who's young andinteresting and charming. and the duke tells me you like music--didn't you, duke? you're a pianist yourself, i believe? well, do you want to hear sarasate playtomorrow evening at my house? you know i've something going on everysunday evening--it's the day when new york doesn't know what to do with itself, and soi say to it: 'come and be amused.'
and the duke thought you'd be tempted bysarasate. you'll find a number of your friends."madame olenska's face grew brilliant with "how kind!how good of the duke to think of me!" she pushed a chair up to the tea-table andmrs. struthers sank into it delectably. "of course i shall be too happy to come." "that's all right, my dear.and bring your young gentleman with you." mrs. struthers extended a hail-fellow handto archer. "i can't put a name to you--but i'm surei've met you--i've met everybody, here, or in paris or london.aren't you in diplomacy?
all the diplomatists come to me. you like music too?duke, you must be sure to bring him." the duke said "rather" from the depths ofhis beard, and archer withdrew with a stiffly circular bow that made him feel asfull of spine as a self-conscious school- boy among careless and unnoticing elders. he was not sorry for the denouement of hisvisit: he only wished it had come sooner, and spared him a certain waste of emotion. as he went out into the wintry night, newyork again became vast and imminent, and may welland the loveliest woman in it.
he turned into his florist's to send herthe daily box of lilies-of-the-valley which, to his confusion, he found he hadforgotten that morning. as he wrote a word on his card and waitedfor an envelope he glanced about the embowered shop, and his eye lit on acluster of yellow roses. he had never seen any as sun-golden before,and his first impulse was to send them to may instead of the lilies. but they did not look like her--there wassomething too rich, too strong, in their fiery beauty. in a sudden revulsion of mood, and almostwithout knowing what he did, he signed to
the florist to lay the roses in anotherlong box, and slipped his card into a second envelope, on which he wrote the name of the countess olenska; then, just as hewas turning away, he drew the card out again, and left the empty envelope on thebox. "they'll go at once?" he enquired, pointingto the roses. the florist assured him that they would.