vorhänge wohnzimmer erker
the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter xvii. "your cousin the countess called on motherwhile you were away," janey archer announced to her brother on the evening ofhis return. the young man, who was dining alone withhis mother and sister, glanced up in surprise and saw mrs. archer's gazedemurely bent on her plate. mrs. archer did not regard her seclusionfrom the world as a reason for being forgotten by it; and newland guessed thatshe was slightly annoyed that he should be surprised by madame olenska's visit. "she had on a black velvet polonaise withjet buttons, and a tiny green monkey muff;
i never saw her so stylishly dressed,"janey continued. "she came alone, early on sunday afternoon;luckily the fire was lit in the drawing- room.she had one of those new card-cases. she said she wanted to know us becauseyou'd been so good to her." newland laughed."madame olenska always takes that tone about her friends. she's very happy at being among her ownpeople again." "yes, so she told us," said mrs. archer."i must say she seems thankful to be here." "i hope you liked her, mother."
mrs. archer drew her lips together."she certainly lays herself out to please, even when she is calling on an old lady." "mother doesn't think her simple," janeyinterjected, her eyes screwed upon her brother's face."it's just my old-fashioned feeling; dear may is my ideal," said mrs. archer. "ah," said her son, "they're not alike."archer had left st. augustine charged with many messages for old mrs. mingott; and aday or two after his return to town he called on her. the old lady received him with unusualwarmth; she was grateful to him for
persuading the countess olenska to give upthe idea of a divorce; and when he told her that he had deserted the office without leave, and rushed down to st. augustinesimply because he wanted to see may, she gave an adipose chuckle and patted his kneewith her puff-ball hand. "ah, ah--so you kicked over the traces, didyou? and i suppose augusta and welland pulledlong faces, and behaved as if the end of the world had come? but little may--she knew better, i'll bebound?" "i hoped she did; but after all shewouldn't agree to what i'd gone down to ask
for." "wouldn't she indeed?and what was that?" "i wanted to get her to promise that weshould be married in april. what's the use of our wasting anotheryear?" mrs. manson mingott screwed up her littlemouth into a grimace of mimic prudery and twinkled at him through malicious lids. "'ask mamma,' i suppose--the usual story.ah, these mingotts--all alike! born in a rut, and you can't root 'em outof it. when i built this house you'd have thoughti was moving to california!
nobody ever had built above fortiethstreet--no, says i, nor above the battery either, before christopher columbusdiscovered america. no, no; not one of them wants to bedifferent; they're as scared of it as the small-pox. ah, my dear mr. archer, i thank my starsi'm nothing but a vulgar spicer; but there's not one of my own children thattakes after me but my little ellen." she broke off, still twinkling at him, andasked, with the casual irrelevance of old age: "now, why in the world didn't youmarry my little ellen?" archer laughed.
"for one thing, she wasn't there to bemarried." "no--to be sure; more's the pity.and now it's too late; her life is finished." she spoke with the cold-blooded complacencyof the aged throwing earth into the grave of young hopes. the young man's heart grew chill, and hesaid hurriedly: "can't i persuade you to use your influence with the wellands, mrs.mingott? i wasn't made for long engagements." old catherine beamed on him approvingly."no; i can see that.
you've got a quick eye.when you were a little boy i've no doubt you liked to be helped first." she threw back her head with a laugh thatmade her chins ripple like little waves. "ah, here's my ellen now!" she exclaimed,as the portieres parted behind her. madame olenska came forward with a smile. her face looked vivid and happy, and sheheld out her hand gaily to archer while she stooped to her grandmother's kiss."i was just saying to him, my dear: 'now, why didn't you marry my little ellen?'" madame olenska looked at archer, stillsmiling.
"and what did he answer?""oh, my darling, i leave you to find that out! he's been down to florida to see hissweetheart." "yes, i know."she still looked at him. "i went to see your mother, to ask whereyou'd gone. i sent a note that you never answered, andi was afraid you were ill." he muttered something about leavingunexpectedly, in a great hurry, and having intended to write to her from st.augustine. "and of course once you were there younever thought of me again!"
she continued to beam on him with a gaietythat might have been a studied assumption of indifference. "if she still needs me, she's determinednot to let me see it," he thought, stung by her manner. he wanted to thank her for having been tosee his mother, but under the ancestress's malicious eye he felt himself tongue-tiedand constrained. "look at him--in such hot haste to getmarried that he took french leave and rushed down to implore the silly girl onhis knees! that's something like a lover--that's theway handsome bob spicer carried off my poor
mother; and then got tired of her before iwas weaned--though they only had to wait eight months for me! but there--you're not a spicer, young man;luckily for you and for may. it's only my poor ellen that has kept anyof their wicked blood; the rest of them are all model mingotts," cried the old ladyscornfully. archer was aware that madame olenska, whohad seated herself at her grandmother's side, was still thoughtfully scrutinisinghim. the gaiety had faded from her eyes, and shesaid with great gentleness: "surely, granny, we can persuade them between us todo as he wishes."
archer rose to go, and as his hand metmadame olenska's he felt that she was waiting for him to make some allusion toher unanswered letter. "when can i see you?" he asked, as shewalked with him to the door of the room. "whenever you like; but it must be soon ifyou want to see the little house again. i am moving next week." a pang shot through him at the memory ofhis lamplit hours in the low-studded drawing-room.few as they had been, they were thick with memories. "tomorrow evening?"she nodded.
"tomorrow; yes; but early.i'm going out." the next day was a sunday, and if she were"going out" on a sunday evening it could, of course, be only to mrs. lemuelstruthers's. he felt a slight movement of annoyance, notso much at her going there (for he rather liked her going where she pleased in spiteof the van der luydens), but because it was the kind of house at which she was sure to meet beaufort, where she must have knownbeforehand that she would meet him--and where she was probably going for thatpurpose. "very well; tomorrow evening," he repeated,inwardly resolved that he would not go
early, and that by reaching her door latehe would either prevent her from going to mrs. struthers's, or else arrive after she had started--which, all things considered,would no doubt be the simplest solution. it was only half-past eight, after all,when he rang the bell under the wisteria; not as late as he had intended by half anhour--but a singular restlessness had driven him to her door. he reflected, however, that mrs.struthers's sunday evenings were not like a ball, and that her guests, as if tominimise their delinquency, usually went early.
the one thing he had not counted on, inentering madame olenska's hall, was to find hats and overcoats there.why had she bidden him to come early if she was having people to dine? on a closer inspection of the garmentsbesides which nastasia was laying his own, his resentment gave way to curiosity. the overcoats were in fact the verystrangest he had ever seen under a polite roof; and it took but a glance to assurehimself that neither of them belonged to julius beaufort. one was a shaggy yellow ulster of "reach-me-down" cut, the other a very old and
rusty cloak with a cape--something likewhat the french called a "macfarlane." this garment, which appeared to be made fora person of prodigious size, had evidently seen long and hard wear, and its greenish-black folds gave out a moist sawdusty smell suggestive of prolonged sessions againstbar-room walls. on it lay a ragged grey scarf and an oddfelt hat of semiclerical shape. archer raised his eyebrows enquiringly atnastasia, who raised hers in return with a fatalistic "gia!" as she threw open thedrawing-room door. the young man saw at once that his hostesswas not in the room; then, with surprise, he discovered another lady standing by thefire.
this lady, who was long, lean and looselyput together, was clad in raiment intricately looped and fringed, with plaidsand stripes and bands of plain colour disposed in a design to which the clueseemed missing. her hair, which had tried to turn white andonly succeeded in fading, was surmounted by a spanish comb and black lace scarf, andsilk mittens, visibly darned, covered her rheumatic hands. beside her, in a cloud of cigar-smoke,stood the owners of the two overcoats, both in morning clothes that they had evidentlynot taken off since morning. in one of the two, archer, to his surprise,recognised ned winsett; the other and
older, who was unknown to him, and whosegigantic frame declared him to be the wearer of the "macfarlane," had a feebly leonine head with crumpled grey hair, andmoved his arms with large pawing gestures, as though he were distributing layblessings to a kneeling multitude. these three persons stood together on thehearth-rug, their eyes fixed on an extraordinarily large bouquet of crimsonroses, with a knot of purple pansies at their base, that lay on the sofa wheremadame olenska usually sat. "what they must have cost at this season--though of course it's the sentiment one cares about!" the lady was saying in asighing staccato as archer came in.
the three turned with surprise at hisappearance, and the lady, advancing, held out her hand."dear mr. archer--almost my cousin newland!" she said. "i am the marchioness manson."archer bowed, and she continued: "my ellen has taken me in for a few days. i came from cuba, where i have beenspending the winter with spanish friends-- such delightful distinguished people: thehighest nobility of old castile--how i wish you could know them! but i was called away by our dear greatfriend here, dr. carver.
you don't know dr. agathon carver, founderof the valley of love community?" dr. carver inclined his leonine head, andthe marchioness continued: "ah, new york-- new york--how little the life of the spirithas reached it! but i see you do know mr. winsett." "oh, yes--i reached him some time ago; butnot by that route," winsett said with his dry smile.the marchioness shook her head reprovingly. "how do you know, mr. winsett? the spirit bloweth where it listeth.""list--oh, list!" interjected dr. carver in a stentorian murmur."but do sit down, mr. archer.
we four have been having a delightfullittle dinner together, and my child has gone up to dress.she expects you; she will be down in a moment. we were just admiring these marvellousflowers, which will surprise her when she reappears."winsett remained on his feet. "i'm afraid i must be off. please tell madame olenska that we shallall feel lost when she abandons our street. this house has been an oasis.""ah, but she won't abandon you. poetry and art are the breath of life toher.
it is poetry you write, mr. winsett?" "well, no; but i sometimes read it," saidwinsett, including the group in a general nod and slipping out of the room."a caustic spirit--un peu sauvage. but so witty; dr. carver, you do think himwitty?" "i never think of wit," said dr. carverseverely. "ah--ah--you never think of wit! how merciless he is to us weak mortals, mr.archer! but he lives only in the life of thespirit; and tonight he is mentally preparing the lecture he is to deliverpresently at mrs. blenker's.
dr. carver, would there be time, before youstart for the blenkers' to explain to mr. archer your illuminating discovery of thedirect contact? but no; i see it is nearly nine o'clock,and we have no right to detain you while so many are waiting for your message." dr. carver looked slightly disappointed atthis conclusion, but, having compared his ponderous gold time-piece with madameolenska's little travelling-clock, he reluctantly gathered up his mighty limbsfor departure. "i shall see you later, dear friend?" hesuggested to the marchioness, who replied with a smile: "as soon as ellen's carriagecomes i will join you; i do hope the
lecture won't have begun." dr. carver looked thoughtfully at archer."perhaps, if this young gentleman is interested in my experiences, mrs. blenkermight allow you to bring him with you?" "oh, dear friend, if it were possible--i amsure she would be too happy. but i fear my ellen counts on mr. archerherself." "that," said dr. carver, "is unfortunate--but here is my card." he handed it to archer, who read on it, ingothic characters: +---------------------------+agathon carver the valley of lovekittasquattamy, n. y.+--------
-------------------+ dr. carver bowed himself out, and mrs.manson, with a sigh that might have been either of regret or relief, again wavedarcher to a seat. "ellen will be down in a moment; and beforeshe comes, i am so glad of this quiet moment with you." archer murmured his pleasure at theirmeeting, and the marchioness continued, in her low sighing accents: "i knoweverything, dear mr. archer--my child has told me all you have done for her. your wise advice: your courageous firmness--thank heaven it was not too late!"
the young man listened with considerableembarrassment. was there any one, he wondered, to whommadame olenska had not proclaimed his intervention in her private affairs?"madame olenska exaggerates; i simply gave her a legal opinion, as she asked me to." "ah, but in doing it--in doing it you werethe unconscious instrument of--of--what word have we moderns for providence, mr.archer?" cried the lady, tilting her head on one side and drooping her lidsmysteriously. "little did you know that at that verymoment i was being appealed to: being approached, in fact--from the other side ofthe atlantic!"
she glanced over her shoulder, as thoughfearful of being overheard, and then, drawing her chair nearer, and raising atiny ivory fan to her lips, breathed behind it: "by the count himself--my poor, mad, foolish olenski; who asks only to take herback on her own terms." "good god!"archer exclaimed, springing up. "you are horrified? yes, of course; i understand.i don't defend poor stanislas, though he has always called me his best friend.he does not defend himself--he casts himself at her feet: in my person."
she tapped her emaciated bosom."i have his letter here." "a letter?--has madame olenska seen it?"archer stammered, his brain whirling with the shock of the announcement. the marchioness manson shook her headsoftly. "time--time; i must have time.i know my ellen--haughty, intractable; shall i say, just a shade unforgiving?" "but, good heavens, to forgive is onething; to go back into that hell--" "ah, yes," the marchioness acquiesced."so she describes it--my sensitive child! but on the material side, mr. archer, ifone may stoop to consider such things; do
you know what she is giving up? those roses there on the sofa--acres likethem, under glass and in the open, in his matchless terraced gardens at nice! jewels--historic pearls: the sobieskiemeralds--sables,--but she cares nothing for all these! art and beauty, those she does care for,she lives for, as i always have; and those also surrounded her. pictures, priceless furniture, music,brilliant conversation--ah, that, my dear young man, if you'll excuse me, is whatyou've no conception of here!
and she had it all; and the homage of thegreatest. she tells me she is not thought handsome innew york--good heavens! her portrait has been painted nine times;the greatest artists in europe have begged for the privilege.are these things nothing? and the remorse of an adoring husband?" as the marchioness manson rose to herclimax her face assumed an expression of ecstatic retrospection which would havemoved archer's mirth had he not been numb with amazement. he would have laughed if any one hadforetold to him that his first sight of
poor medora manson would have been in theguise of a messenger of satan; but he was in no mood for laughing now, and she seemed to him to come straight out of the hellfrom which ellen olenska had just escaped. "she knows nothing yet--of all this?" heasked abruptly. mrs. manson laid a purple finger on herlips. "nothing directly--but does she suspect?who can tell? the truth is, mr. archer, i have beenwaiting to see you. from the moment i heard of the firm standyou had taken, and of your influence over her, i hoped it might be possible to counton your support--to convince you..."
"that she ought to go back? i would rather see her dead!" cried theyoung man violently. "ah," the marchioness murmured, withoutvisible resentment. for a while she sat in her arm-chair,opening and shutting the absurd ivory fan between her mittened fingers; but suddenlyshe lifted her head and listened. "here she comes," she said in a rapidwhisper; and then, pointing to the bouquet on the sofa: "am i to understand that youprefer that, mr. archer? after all, marriage is marriage...and myniece is still a wife..." >
the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter xviii. "what are you two plotting together, auntmedora?" madame olenska cried as she came into theroom. she was dressed as if for a ball. everything about her shimmered andglimmered softly, as if her dress had been woven out of candle-beams; and she carriedher head high, like a pretty woman challenging a roomful of rivals. "we were saying, my dear, that here wassomething beautiful to surprise you with," mrs. manson rejoined, rising to her feetand pointing archly to the flowers.
madame olenska stopped short and looked atthe bouquet. her colour did not change, but a sort ofwhite radiance of anger ran over her like summer lightning. "ah," she exclaimed, in a shrill voice thatthe young man had never heard, "who is ridiculous enough to send me a bouquet?why a bouquet? and why tonight of all nights? i am not going to a ball; i am not a girlengaged to be married. but some people are always ridiculous."she turned back to the door, opened it, and called out: "nastasia!"
the ubiquitous handmaiden promptlyappeared, and archer heard madame olenska say, in an italian that she seemed topronounce with intentional deliberateness in order that he might follow it: "here-- throw this into the dustbin!" and then, asnastasia stared protestingly: "but no-- it's not the fault of the poor flowers. tell the boy to carry them to the housethree doors away, the house of mr. winsett, the dark gentleman who dined here.his wife is ill--they may give her pleasure... the boy is out, you say?then, my dear one, run yourself; here, put
my cloak over you and fly.i want the thing out of the house immediately! and, as you live, don't say they come fromme!" she flung her velvet opera cloak over themaid's shoulders and turned back into the drawing-room, shutting the door sharply. her bosom was rising high under its lace,and for a moment archer thought she was about to cry; but she burst into a laughinstead, and looking from the marchioness to archer, asked abruptly: "and you two--have you made friends!" "it's for mr. archer to say, darling; hehas waited patiently while you were
dressing." "yes--i gave you time enough: my hairwouldn't go," madame olenska said, raising her hand to the heaped-up curls of herchignon. "but that reminds me: i see dr. carver isgone, and you'll be late at the blenkers'. mr. archer, will you put my aunt in thecarriage?" she followed the marchioness into the hall,saw her fitted into a miscellaneous heap of overshoes, shawls and tippets, and calledfrom the doorstep: "mind, the carriage is to be back for me at ten!" then she returned to the drawing-room,where archer, on re-entering it, found her
standing by the mantelpiece, examiningherself in the mirror. it was not usual, in new york society, fora lady to address her parlour-maid as "my dear one," and send her out on an errandwrapped in her own opera-cloak; and archer, through all his deeper feelings, tasted the pleasurable excitement of being in a worldwhere action followed on emotion with such olympian speed. madame olenska did not move when he came upbehind her, and for a second their eyes met in the mirror; then she turned, threwherself into her sofa-corner, and sighed out: "there's time for a cigarette."
he handed her the box and lit a spill forher; and as the flame flashed up into her face she glanced at him with laughing eyesand said: "what do you think of me in a temper?" archer paused a moment; then he answeredwith sudden resolution: "it makes me understand what your aunt has been sayingabout you." "i knew she'd been talking about me. well?""she said you were used to all kinds of things--splendours and amusements andexcitements--that we could never hope to give you here."
madame olenska smiled faintly into thecircle of smoke about her lips. "medora is incorrigibly romantic.it has made up to her for so many things!" archer hesitated again, and again took hisrisk. "is your aunt's romanticism alwaysconsistent with accuracy?" "you mean: does she speak the truth?" her niece considered."well, i'll tell you: in almost everything she says, there's something true andsomething untrue. but why do you ask? what has she been telling you?"he looked away into the fire, and then back
at her shining presence. his heart tightened with the thought thatthis was their last evening by that fireside, and that in a moment the carriagewould come to carry her away. "she says--she pretends that count olenskihas asked her to persuade you to go back to him."madame olenska made no answer. she sat motionless, holding her cigarettein her half-lifted hand. the expression of her face had not changed;and archer remembered that he had before noticed her apparent incapacity forsurprise. "you knew, then?" he broke out.
she was silent for so long that the ashdropped from her cigarette. she brushed it to the floor."she has hinted about a letter: poor darling! medora's hints--""is it at your husband's request that she has arrived here suddenly?"madame olenska seemed to consider this question also. "there again: one can't tell.she told me she had had a 'spiritual summons,' whatever that is, from dr.carver. i'm afraid she's going to marry dr.carver...poor medora, there's always some
one she wants to marry.but perhaps the people in cuba just got tired of her! i think she was with them as a sort of paidcompanion. really, i don't know why she came.""but you do believe she has a letter from your husband?" again madame olenska brooded silently; thenshe said: "after all, it was to be expected."the young man rose and went to lean against the fireplace. a sudden restlessness possessed him, and hewas tongue-tied by the sense that their
minutes were numbered, and that at anymoment he might hear the wheels of the returning carriage. "you know that your aunt believes you willgo back?" madame olenska raised her head quickly.a deep blush rose to her face and spread over her neck and shoulders. she blushed seldom and painfully, as if ithurt her like a burn. "many cruel things have been believed ofme," she said. "oh, ellen--forgive me; i'm a fool and abrute!" she smiled a little."you are horribly nervous; you have your
own troubles. i know you think the wellands areunreasonable about your marriage, and of course i agree with you. in europe people don't understand our longamerican engagements; i suppose they are not as calm as we are."she pronounced the "we" with a faint emphasis that gave it an ironic sound. archer felt the irony but did not dare totake it up. after all, she had perhaps purposelydeflected the conversation from her own affairs, and after the pain his last wordshad evidently caused her he felt that all
he could do was to follow her lead. but the sense of the waning hour made himdesperate: he could not bear the thought that a barrier of words should drop betweenthem again. "yes," he said abruptly; "i went south toask may to marry me after easter. there's no reason why we shouldn't bemarried then." "and may adores you--and yet you couldn'tconvince her? i thought her too intelligent to be theslave of such absurd superstitions." "she is too intelligent--she's not theirslave." madame olenska looked at him."well, then--i don't understand."
archer reddened, and hurried on with arush. "we had a frank talk--almost the first.she thinks my impatience a bad sign." "merciful heavens--a bad sign?" "she thinks it means that i can't trustmyself to go on caring for her. she thinks, in short, i want to marry herat once to get away from some one that i-- care for more." madame olenska examined this curiously."but if she thinks that--why isn't she in a hurry too?""because she's not like that: she's so much nobler.
she insists all the more on the longengagement, to give me time--" "time to give her up for the other woman?""if i want to." madame olenska leaned toward the fire andgazed into it with fixed eyes. down the quiet street archer heard theapproaching trot of her horses. "that is noble," she said, with a slightbreak in her voice. "yes. but it's ridiculous.""ridiculous? because you don't care for any one else?" "because i don't mean to marry any oneelse." "ah."there was another long interval.
at length she looked up at him and asked:"this other woman--does she love you?" "oh, there's no other woman; i mean, theperson that may was thinking of is--was never--" "then, why, after all, are you in suchhaste?" "there's your carriage," said archer.she half-rose and looked about her with absent eyes. her fan and gloves lay on the sofa besideher and she picked them up mechanically. "yes; i suppose i must be going.""you're going to mrs. struthers's?" "yes."
she smiled and added: "i must go where iam invited, or i should be too lonely. why not come with me?" archer felt that at any cost he must keepher beside him, must make her give him the rest of her evening. ignoring her question, he continued to leanagainst the chimney-piece, his eyes fixed on the hand in which she held her glovesand fan, as if watching to see if he had the power to make her drop them. "may guessed the truth," he said."there is another woman--but not the one she thinks."ellen olenska made no answer, and did not
move. after a moment he sat down beside her, and,taking her hand, softly unclasped it, so that the gloves and fan fell on the sofabetween them. she started up, and freeing herself fromhim moved away to the other side of the hearth."ah, don't make love to me! too many people have done that," she said,frowning. archer, changing colour, stood up also: itwas the bitterest rebuke she could have given him. "i have never made love to you," he said,"and i never shall.
but you are the woman i would have marriedif it had been possible for either of us." "possible for either of us?" she looked at him with unfeignedastonishment. "and you say that--when it's you who'vemade it impossible?" he stared at her, groping in a blacknessthrough which a single arrow of light tore its blinding way."i've made it impossible--?" "you, you, you!" she cried, her liptrembling like a child's on the verge of tears. "isn't it you who made me give updivorcing--give it up because you showed me
how selfish and wicked it was, how one mustsacrifice one's self to preserve the dignity of marriage...and to spare one'sfamily the publicity, the scandal? and because my family was going to be yourfamily--for may's sake and for yours--i did what you told me, what you proved to methat i ought to do. ah," she broke out with a sudden laugh,"i've made no secret of having done it for you!" she sank down on the sofa again, crouchingamong the festive ripples of her dress like a stricken masquerader; and the young manstood by the fireplace and continued to gaze at her without moving.
"good god," he groaned."when i thought--" "you thought?""ah, don't ask me what i thought!" still looking at her, he saw the sameburning flush creep up her neck to her face.she sat upright, facing him with a rigid dignity. "i do ask you.""well, then: there were things in that letter you asked me to read--""my husband's letter?" "i had nothing to fear from that letter:absolutely nothing! all i feared was to bring notoriety,scandal, on the family--on you and may."
"good god," he groaned again, bowing hisface in his hands. the silence that followed lay on them withthe weight of things final and irrevocable. it seemed to archer to be crushing him downlike his own grave-stone; in all the wide future he saw nothing that would ever liftthat load from his heart. he did not move from his place, or raisehis head from his hands; his hidden eyeballs went on staring into utterdarkness. "at least i loved you--" he brought out. on the other side of the hearth, from thesofa-corner where he supposed that she still crouched, he heard a faint stifledcrying like a child's.
he started up and came to her side. "ellen!what madness! why are you crying?nothing's done that can't be undone. i'm still free, and you're going to be." he had her in his arms, her face like a wetflower at his lips, and all their vain terrors shrivelling up like ghosts atsunrise. the one thing that astonished him now wasthat he should have stood for five minutes arguing with her across the width of theroom, when just touching her made everything so simple.
she gave him back all his kiss, but after amoment he felt her stiffening in his arms, and she put him aside and stood up."ah, my poor newland--i suppose this had to be. but it doesn't in the least alter things,"she said, looking down at him in her turn from the hearth."it alters the whole of life for me." "no, no--it mustn't, it can't. you're engaged to may welland; and i'mmarried." he stood up too, flushed and resolute."nonsense! it's too late for that sort of thing.
we've no right to lie to other people or toourselves. we won't talk of your marriage; but do yousee me marrying may after this?" she stood silent, resting her thin elbowson the mantelpiece, her profile reflected in the glass behind her. one of the locks of her chignon had becomeloosened and hung on her neck; she looked haggard and almost old."i don't see you," she said at length, "putting that question to may. do you?" he gave a reckless shrug."it's too late to do anything else." "you say that because it's the easiestthing to say at this moment--not because
it's true. in reality it's too late to do anything butwhat we'd both decided on." "ah, i don't understand you!"she forced a pitiful smile that pinched her face instead of smoothing it. "you don't understand because you haven'tyet guessed how you've changed things for me: oh, from the first--long before i knewall you'd done." "all i'd done?" "yes. i was perfectly unconscious at firstthat people here were shy of me--that they thought i was a dreadful sort of person.it seems they had even refused to meet me
at dinner. i found that out afterward; and how you'dmade your mother go with you to the van der luydens'; and how you'd insisted onannouncing your engagement at the beaufort ball, so that i might have two families tostand by me instead of one--" at that he broke into a laugh."just imagine," she said, "how stupid and unobservant i was! i knew nothing of all this till grannyblurted it out one day. new york simply meant peace and freedom tome: it was coming home. and i was so happy at being among my ownpeople that every one i met seemed kind and
good, and glad to see me. but from the very beginning," shecontinued, "i felt there was no one as kind as you; no one who gave me reasons that iunderstood for doing what at first seemed so hard and--unnecessary. the very good people didn't convince me; ifelt they'd never been tempted. but you knew; you understood; you had feltthe world outside tugging at one with all its golden hands--and yet you hated thethings it asks of one; you hated happiness bought by disloyalty and cruelty andindifference. that was what i'd never known before--andit's better than anything i've known."
she spoke in a low even voice, withouttears or visible agitation; and each word, as it dropped from her, fell into hisbreast like burning lead. he sat bowed over, his head between hishands, staring at the hearthrug, and at the tip of the satin shoe that showed under herdress. suddenly he knelt down and kissed the shoe. she bent over him, laying her hands on hisshoulders, and looking at him with eyes so deep that he remained motionless under hergaze. "ah, don't let us undo what you've done!"she cried. "i can't go back now to that other way ofthinking.
i can't love you unless i give you up." his arms were yearning up to her; but shedrew away, and they remained facing each other, divided by the distance that herwords had created. then, abruptly, his anger overflowed. "and beaufort?is he to replace me?" as the words sprang out he was prepared foran answering flare of anger; and he would have welcomed it as fuel for his own. but madame olenska only grew a shade paler,and stood with her arms hanging down before her, and her head slightly bent, as her waywas when she pondered a question.
"he's waiting for you now at mrs.struthers's; why don't you go to him?" archer sneered.she turned to ring the bell. "i shall not go out this evening; tell thecarriage to go and fetch the signora marchesa," she said when the maid came.after the door had closed again archer continued to look at her with bitter eyes. "why this sacrifice?since you tell me that you're lonely i've no right to keep you from your friends."she smiled a little under her wet lashes. "i shan't be lonely now. i was lonely; i was afraid.but the emptiness and the darkness are
gone; when i turn back into myself now i'mlike a child going at night into a room where there's always a light." her tone and her look still enveloped herin a soft inaccessibility, and archer groaned out again: "i don't understandyou!" "yet you understand may!" he reddened under the retort, but kept hiseyes on her. "may is ready to give me up.""what! three days after you've entreated her onyour knees to hasten your marriage?" "she's refused; that gives me the right--""ah, you've taught me what an ugly word
that is," she said. he turned away with a sense of utterweariness. he felt as though he had been strugglingfor hours up the face of a steep precipice, and now, just as he had fought his way tothe top, his hold had given way and he was pitching down headlong into darkness. if he could have got her in his arms againhe might have swept away her arguments; but she still held him at a distance bysomething inscrutably aloof in her look and attitude, and by his own awed sense of hersincerity. at length he began to plead again."if we do this now it will be worse
afterward--worse for every one--" "no--no--no!" she almost screamed, as if hefrightened her. at that moment the bell sent a long tinklethrough the house. they had heard no carriage stopping at thedoor, and they stood motionless, looking at each other with startled eyes. outside, nastasia's step crossed the hall,the outer door opened, and a moment later she came in carrying a telegram which shehanded to the countess olenska. "the lady was very happy at the flowers,"nastasia said, smoothing her apron. "she thought it was her signor marito whohad sent them, and she cried a little and
said it was a folly." her mistress smiled and took the yellowenvelope. she tore it open and carried it to thelamp; then, when the door had closed again, she handed the telegram to archer. it was dated from st. augustine, andaddressed to the countess olenska. in it he read: "granny's telegramsuccessful. papa and mamma agree marriage after easter. am telegraphing newland.am too happy for words and love you dearly. your grateful may."
half an hour later, when archer unlockedhis own front-door, he found a similar envelope on the hall-table on top of hispile of notes and letters. the message inside the envelope was alsofrom may welland, and ran as follows: "parents consent wedding tuesday aftereaster at twelve grace church eight bridesmaids please see rector so happy lovemay." archer crumpled up the yellow sheet as ifthe gesture could annihilate the news it contained. then he pulled out a small pocket-diary andturned over the pages with trembling fingers; but he did not find what hewanted, and cramming the telegram into his
pocket he mounted the stairs. a light was shining through the door of thelittle hall-room which served janey as a dressing-room and boudoir, and her brotherrapped impatiently on the panel. the door opened, and his sister stoodbefore him in her immemorial purple flannel dressing-gown, with her hair "on pins."her face looked pale and apprehensive. "newland! i hope there's no bad news in thattelegram? i waited on purpose, in case--" (no itemof his correspondence was safe from janey.) he took no notice of her question.
"look here--what day is easter this year?"she looked shocked at such unchristian ignorance."easter? newland! why, of course, the first week in april.why?" "the first week?"he turned again to the pages of his diary, calculating rapidly under his breath. "the first week, did you say?"he threw back his head with a long laugh. "for mercy's sake what's the matter?""nothing's the matter, except that i'm going to be married in a month."
janey fell upon his neck and pressed him toher purple flannel breast. "oh newland, how wonderful!i'm so glad! but, dearest, why do you keep on laughing? do hush, or you'll wake mamma." the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter xix. the day was fresh, with a lively springwind full of dust. all the old ladies in both families had gotout their faded sables and yellowing ermines, and the smell of camphor from thefront pews almost smothered the faint spring scent of the lilies banking thealtar.
newland archer, at a signal from thesexton, had come out of the vestry and placed himself with his best man on thechancel step of grace church. the signal meant that the brougham bearingthe bride and her father was in sight; but there was sure to be a considerableinterval of adjustment and consultation in the lobby, where the bridesmaids were already hovering like a cluster of easterblossoms. during this unavoidable lapse of time thebridegroom, in proof of his eagerness, was expected to expose himself alone to thegaze of the assembled company; and archer had gone through this formality as
resignedly as through all the others whichmade of a nineteenth century new york wedding a rite that seemed to belong to thedawn of history. everything was equally easy--or equallypainful, as one chose to put it--in the path he was committed to tread, and he hadobeyed the flurried injunctions of his best man as piously as other bridegrooms had obeyed his own, in the days when he hadguided them through the same labyrinth. so far he was reasonably sure of havingfulfilled all his obligations. the bridesmaids' eight bouquets of whitelilac and lilies-of-the-valley had been sent in due time, as well as the gold andsapphire sleeve-links of the eight ushers
and the best man's cat's-eye scarf-pin; archer had sat up half the night trying tovary the wording of his thanks for the last batch of presents from men friends and ex-lady-loves; the fees for the bishop and the rector were safely in the pocket of his best man; his own luggage was already atmrs. manson mingott's, where the wedding- breakfast was to take place, and so werethe travelling clothes into which he was to change; and a private compartment had been engaged in the train that was to carry theyoung couple to their unknown destination-- concealment of the spot in which the bridalnight was to be spent being one of the most
sacred taboos of the prehistoric ritual. "got the ring all right?" whispered youngvan der luyden newland, who was inexperienced in the duties of a best man,and awed by the weight of his responsibility. archer made the gesture which he had seenso many bridegrooms make: with his ungloved right hand he felt in the pocket of hisdark grey waistcoat, and assured himself that the little gold circlet (engraved inside: newland to may, april ---, 187-)was in its place; then, resuming his former attitude, his tall hat and pearl-greygloves with black stitchings grasped in his
left hand, he stood looking at the door ofthe church. overhead, handel's march swelled pompouslythrough the imitation stone vaulting, carrying on its waves the faded drift ofthe many weddings at which, with cheerful indifference, he had stood on the same chancel step watching other brides float upthe nave toward other bridegrooms. "how like a first night at the opera!" hethought, recognising all the same faces in the same boxes (no, pews), and wonderingif, when the last trump sounded, mrs. selfridge merry would be there with the same towering ostrich feathers in herbonnet, and mrs. beaufort with the same
diamond earrings and the same smile--andwhether suitable proscenium seats were already prepared for them in another world. after that there was still time to review,one by one, the familiar countenances in the first rows; the women's sharp withcuriosity and excitement, the men's sulky with the obligation of having to put on their frock-coats before luncheon, andfight for food at the wedding-breakfast. "too bad the breakfast is at oldcatherine's," the bridegroom could fancy reggie chivers saying. "but i'm told that lovell mingott insistedon its being cooked by his own chef, so it
ought to be good if one can only get atit." and he could imagine sillerton jacksonadding with authority: "my dear fellow, haven't you heard?it's to be served at small tables, in the new english fashion." archer's eyes lingered a moment on theleft-hand pew, where his mother, who had entered the church on mr. henry van derluyden's arm, sat weeping softly under her chantilly veil, her hands in hergrandmother's ermine muff. "poor janey!" he thought, looking at hissister, "even by screwing her head around she can see only the people in the fewfront pews; and they're mostly dowdy
newlands and dagonets." on the hither side of the white ribbondividing off the seats reserved for the families he saw beaufort, tall andredfaced, scrutinising the women with his arrogant stare. beside him sat his wife, all silverychinchilla and violets; and on the far side of the ribbon, lawrence lefferts's sleeklybrushed head seemed to mount guard over the invisible deity of "good form" who presidedat the ceremony. archer wondered how many flaws lefferts'skeen eyes would discover in the ritual of his divinity; then he suddenly recalledthat he too had once thought such questions
important. the things that had filled his days seemednow like a nursery parody of life, or like the wrangles of mediaeval schoolmen overmetaphysical terms that nobody had ever understood. a stormy discussion as to whether thewedding presents should be "shown" had darkened the last hours before the wedding;and it seemed inconceivable to archer that grown-up people should work themselves into a state of agitation over such trifles, andthat the matter should have been decided (in the negative) by mrs. welland's saying,with indignant tears: "i should as soon
turn the reporters loose in my house." yet there was a time when archer had haddefinite and rather aggressive opinions on all such problems, and when everythingconcerning the manners and customs of his little tribe had seemed to him fraught withworld-wide significance. "and all the while, i suppose," he thought,"real people were living somewhere, and real things happening to them..." "there they come!" breathed the best manexcitedly; but the bridegroom knew better. the cautious opening of the door of thechurch meant only that mr. brown the livery-stable keeper (gowned in black inhis intermittent character of sexton) was
taking a preliminary survey of the scenebefore marshalling his forces. the door was softly shut again; then afteranother interval it swung majestically open, and a murmur ran through the church:"the family!" mrs. welland came first, on the arm of hereldest son. her large pink face was appropriatelysolemn, and her plum-coloured satin with pale blue side-panels, and blue ostrichplumes in a small satin bonnet, met with general approval; but before she had settled herself with a stately rustle inthe pew opposite mrs. archer's the spectators were craning their necks to seewho was coming after her.
wild rumours had been abroad the day beforeto the effect that mrs. manson mingott, in spite of her physical disabilities, hadresolved on being present at the ceremony; and the idea was so much in keeping with her sporting character that bets ran highat the clubs as to her being able to walk up the nave and squeeze into a seat. it was known that she had insisted onsending her own carpenter to look into the possibility of taking down the end panel ofthe front pew, and to measure the space between the seat and the front; but the result had been discouraging, and for oneanxious day her family had watched her
dallying with the plan of being wheeled upthe nave in her enormous bath chair and sitting enthroned in it at the foot of thechancel. the idea of this monstrous exposure of herperson was so painful to her relations that they could have covered with gold theingenious person who suddenly discovered that the chair was too wide to pass between the iron uprights of the awning whichextended from the church door to the curbstone. the idea of doing away with this awning,and revealing the bride to the mob of dressmakers and newspaper reporters whostood outside fighting to get near the
joints of the canvas, exceeded even old catherine's courage, though for a momentshe had weighed the possibility. "why, they might take a photograph of mychild and put it in the papers!" mrs. welland exclaimed when her mother'slast plan was hinted to her; and from this unthinkable indecency the clan recoiledwith a collective shudder. the ancestress had had to give in; but herconcession was bought only by the promise that the wedding-breakfast should takeplace under her roof, though (as the washington square connection said) with the wellands' house in easy reach it was hardto have to make a special price with brown
to drive one to the other end of nowhere. though all these transactions had beenwidely reported by the jacksons a sporting minority still clung to the belief that oldcatherine would appear in church, and there was a distinct lowering of the temperature when she was found to have been replaced byher daughter-in-law. mrs. lovell mingott had the high colour andglassy stare induced in ladies of her age and habit by the effort of getting into anew dress; but once the disappointment occasioned by her mother-in-law's non- appearance had subsided, it was agreed thather black chantilly over lilac satin, with
a bonnet of parma violets, formed thehappiest contrast to mrs. welland's blue and plum-colour. far different was the impression producedby the gaunt and mincing lady who followed on mr. mingott's arm, in a wilddishevelment of stripes and fringes and floating scarves; and as this last apparition glided into view archer's heartcontracted and stopped beating. he had taken it for granted that themarchioness manson was still in washington, where she had gone some four weekspreviously with her niece, madame olenska. it was generally understood that theirabrupt departure was due to madame
olenska's desire to remove her aunt fromthe baleful eloquence of dr. agathon carver, who had nearly succeeded in enlisting her as a recruit for the valleyof love; and in the circumstances no one had expected either of the ladies to returnfor the wedding. for a moment archer stood with his eyesfixed on medora's fantastic figure, straining to see who came behind her; butthe little procession was at an end, for all the lesser members of the family had taken their seats, and the eight tallushers, gathering themselves together like birds or insects preparing for somemigratory manoeuvre, were already slipping
through the side doors into the lobby. "newland--i say: she's here!" the best manwhispered. archer roused himself with a start. a long time had apparently passed since hisheart had stopped beating, for the white and rosy procession was in fact half way upthe nave, the bishop, the rector and two white-winged assistants were hovering about the flower-banked altar, and the firstchords of the spohr symphony were strewing their flower-like notes before the bride. archer opened his eyes (but could theyreally have been shut, as he imagined?),
and felt his heart beginning to resume itsusual task. the music, the scent of the lilies on thealtar, the vision of the cloud of tulle and orange-blossoms floating nearer and nearer,the sight of mrs. archer's face suddenly convulsed with happy sobs, the low benedictory murmur of the rector's voice,the ordered evolutions of the eight pink bridesmaids and the eight black ushers: allthese sights, sounds and sensations, so familiar in themselves, so unutterably strange and meaningless in his new relationto them, were confusedly mingled in his brain.
"my god," he thought, "have i got thering?"--and once more he went through the bridegroom's convulsive gesture. then, in a moment, may was beside him, suchradiance streaming from her that it sent a faint warmth through his numbness, and hestraightened himself and smiled into her eyes. "dearly beloved, we are gathered togetherhere," the rector began... the ring was on her hand, the bishop'sbenediction had been given, the bridesmaids were a-poise to resume their place in theprocession, and the organ was showing preliminary symptoms of breaking out into
the mendelssohn march, without which nonewly-wedded couple had ever emerged upon new york. "your arm--i say, give her your arm!" youngnewland nervously hissed; and once more archer became aware of having been adriftfar off in the unknown. what was it that had sent him there, hewondered? perhaps the glimpse, among the anonymousspectators in the transept, of a dark coil of hair under a hat which, a moment later,revealed itself as belonging to an unknown lady with a long nose, so laughably unlike the person whose image she had evoked thathe asked himself if he were becoming
subject to hallucinations. and now he and his wife were pacing slowlydown the nave, carried forward on the light mendelssohn ripples, the spring daybeckoning to them through widely opened doors, and mrs. welland's chestnuts, with big white favours on their frontlets,curvetting and showing off at the far end of the canvas tunnel. the footman, who had a still bigger whitefavour on his lapel, wrapped may's white cloak about her, and archer jumped into thebrougham at her side. she turned to him with a triumphant smileand their hands clasped under her veil.
"darling!" archer said--and suddenly the same blackabyss yawned before him and he felt himself sinking into it, deeper and deeper, whilehis voice rambled on smoothly and cheerfully: "yes, of course i thought i'd lost the ring; no wedding would be completeif the poor devil of a bridegroom didn't go through that.but you did keep me waiting, you know! i had time to think of every horror thatmight possibly happen." she surprised him by turning, in full fifthavenue, and flinging her arms about his neck.
"but none ever can happen now, can it,newland, as long as we two are together?" every detail of the day had been socarefully thought out that the young couple, after the wedding-breakfast, hadample time to put on their travelling- clothes, descend the wide mingott stairs between laughing bridesmaids and weepingparents, and get into the brougham under the traditional shower of rice and satinslippers; and there was still half an hour left in which to drive to the station, buy the last weeklies at the bookstall with theair of seasoned travellers, and settle themselves in the reserved compartment inwhich may's maid had already placed her
dove-coloured travelling cloak andglaringly new dressing-bag from london. the old du lac aunts at rhinebeck had puttheir house at the disposal of the bridal couple, with a readiness inspired by theprospect of spending a week in new york with mrs. archer; and archer, glad to escape the usual "bridal suite" in aphiladelphia or baltimore hotel, had accepted with an equal alacrity. may was enchanted at the idea of going tothe country, and childishly amused at the vain efforts of the eight bridesmaids todiscover where their mysterious retreat was situated.
it was thought "very english" to have acountry-house lent to one, and the fact gave a last touch of distinction to whatwas generally conceded to be the most brilliant wedding of the year; but where the house was no one was permitted to know,except the parents of bride and groom, who, when taxed with the knowledge, pursed theirlips and said mysteriously: "ah, they didn't tell us--" which was manifestlytrue, since there was no need to. once they were settled in theircompartment, and the train, shaking off the endless wooden suburbs, had pushed out intothe pale landscape of spring, talk became easier than archer had expected.
may was still, in look and tone, the simplegirl of yesterday, eager to compare notes with him as to the incidents of thewedding, and discussing them as impartially as a bridesmaid talking it all over with anusher. at first archer had fancied that thisdetachment was the disguise of an inward tremor; but her clear eyes revealed onlythe most tranquil unawareness. she was alone for the first time with herhusband; but her husband was only the charming comrade of yesterday. there was no one whom she liked as much, noone whom she trusted as completely, and the culminating "lark" of the whole delightfuladventure of engagement and marriage was to
be off with him alone on a journey, like a grownup person, like a "married woman," infact. it was wonderful that--as he had learned inthe mission garden at st. augustine--such depths of feeling could coexist with suchabsence of imagination. but he remembered how, even then, she hadsurprised him by dropping back to inexpressive girlishness as soon as herconscience had been eased of its burden; and he saw that she would probably go through life dealing to the best of herability with each experience as it came, but never anticipating any by so much as astolen glance.
perhaps that faculty of unawareness waswhat gave her eyes their transparency, and her face the look of representing a typerather than a person; as if she might have been chosen to pose for a civic virtue or agreek goddess. the blood that ran so close to her fairskin might have been a preserving fluid rather than a ravaging element; yet herlook of indestructible youthfulness made her seem neither hard nor dull, but onlyprimitive and pure. in the thick of this meditation archersuddenly felt himself looking at her with the startled gaze of a stranger, andplunged into a reminiscence of the wedding- breakfast and of granny mingott's immenseand triumphant pervasion of it.
may settled down to frank enjoyment of thesubject. "i was surprised, though--weren't you?--that aunt medora came after all. ellen wrote that they were neither of themwell enough to take the journey; i do wish it had been she who had recovered! did you see the exquisite old lace she sentme?" he had known that the moment must comesooner or later, but he had somewhat imagined that by force of willing he mighthold it at bay. "yes--i--no: yes, it was beautiful," hesaid, looking at her blindly, and wondering if, whenever he heard those two syllables,all his carefully built-up world would
tumble about him like a house of cards. "aren't you tired? it will be good to have some tea when wearrive--i'm sure the aunts have got everything beautifully ready," he rattledon, taking her hand in his; and her mind rushed away instantly to the magnificent tea and coffee service of baltimore silverwhich the beauforts had sent, and which "went" so perfectly with uncle lovellmingott's trays and side-dishes. in the spring twilight the train stopped atthe rhinebeck station, and they walked along the platform to the waiting carriage.
"ah, how awfully kind of the van derluydens--they've sent their man over from skuytercliff to meet us," archer exclaimed,as a sedate person out of livery approached them and relieved the maid of her bags. "i'm extremely sorry, sir," said thisemissary, "that a little accident has occurred at the miss du lacs': a leak inthe water-tank. it happened yesterday, and mr. van derluyden, who heard of it this morning, sent a housemaid up by the early train to getthe patroon's house ready. it will be quite comfortable, i thinkyou'll find, sir; and the miss du lacs have sent their cook over, so that it will beexactly the same as if you'd been at
rhinebeck." archer stared at the speaker so blanklythat he repeated in still more apologetic accents: "it'll be exactly the same, sir,i do assure you--" and may's eager voice broke out, covering the embarrassedsilence: "the same as rhinebeck? the patroon's house?but it will be a hundred thousand times better--won't it, newland? it's too dear and kind of mr. van derluyden to have thought of it." and as they drove off, with the maid besidethe coachman, and their shining bridal bags on the seat before them, she went onexcitedly: "only fancy, i've never been
inside it--have you? the van der luydens show it to so fewpeople. but they opened it for ellen, it seems, andshe told me what a darling little place it was: she says it's the only house she'sseen in america that she could imagine being perfectly happy in." "well--that's what we're going to be, isn'tit?" cried her husband gaily; and she answered with her boyish smile: "ah, it'sjust our luck beginning--the wonderful luck we're always going to have together!" the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter xx.
"of course we must dine with mrs. carfry,dearest," archer said; and his wife looked at him with an anxious frown across themonumental britannia ware of their lodging house breakfast-table. in all the rainy desert of autumnal londonthere were only two people whom the newland archers knew; and these two they hadsedulously avoided, in conformity with the old new york tradition that it was not "dignified" to force one's self on thenotice of one's acquaintances in foreign countries. mrs. archer and janey, in the course oftheir visits to europe, had so
unflinchingly lived up to this principle,and met the friendly advances of their fellow-travellers with an air of such impenetrable reserve, that they had almostachieved the record of never having exchanged a word with a "foreigner" otherthan those employed in hotels and railway- stations. their own compatriots--save thosepreviously known or properly accredited-- they treated with an even more pronounceddisdain; so that, unless they ran across a chivers, a dagonet or a mingott, their months abroad were spent in an unbrokentete-a-tete.
but the utmost precautions are sometimesunavailing; and one night at botzen one of the two english ladies in the room acrossthe passage (whose names, dress and social situation were already intimately known to janey) had knocked on the door and asked ifmrs. archer had a bottle of liniment. the other lady--the intruder's sister, mrs.carfry--had been seized with a sudden attack of bronchitis; and mrs. archer, whonever travelled without a complete family pharmacy, was fortunately able to producethe required remedy. mrs. carfry was very ill, and as she andher sister miss harle were travelling alone they were profoundly grateful to the archerladies, who supplied them with ingenious
comforts and whose efficient maid helped tonurse the invalid back to health. when the archers left botzen they had noidea of ever seeing mrs. carfry and miss harle again. nothing, to mrs. archer's mind, would havebeen more "undignified" than to force one's self on the notice of a "foreigner" to whomone had happened to render an accidental service. but mrs. carfry and her sister, to whomthis point of view was unknown, and who would have found it utterlyincomprehensible, felt themselves linked by an eternal gratitude to the "delightfulamericans" who had been so kind at botzen.
with touching fidelity they seized everychance of meeting mrs. archer and janey in the course of their continental travels,and displayed a supernatural acuteness in finding out when they were to pass throughlondon on their way to or from the states. the intimacy became indissoluble, and mrs.archer and janey, whenever they alighted at brown's hotel, found themselves awaited bytwo affectionate friends who, like themselves, cultivated ferns in wardian cases, made macrame lace, read the memoirsof the baroness bunsen and had views about the occupants of the leading londonpulpits. as mrs. archer said, it made "another thingof london" to know mrs. carfry and miss
harle; and by the time that newland becameengaged the tie between the families was so firmly established that it was thought "only right" to send a wedding invitationto the two english ladies, who sent, in return, a pretty bouquet of pressed alpineflowers under glass. and on the dock, when newland and his wifesailed for england, mrs. archer's last word had been: "you must take may to see mrs.carfry." newland and his wife had had no idea ofobeying this injunction; but mrs. carfry, with her usual acuteness, had run them downand sent them an invitation to dine; and it was over this invitation that may archer
was wrinkling her brows across the tea andmuffins. "it's all very well for you, newland; youknow them. but i shall feel so shy among a lot ofpeople i've never met. and what shall i wear?"newland leaned back in his chair and smiled at her. she looked handsomer and more diana-likethan ever. the moist english air seemed to havedeepened the bloom of her cheeks and softened the slight hardness of hervirginal features; or else it was simply the inner glow of happiness, shiningthrough like a light under ice.
"wear, dearest?i thought a trunkful of things had come from paris last week." "yes, of course.i meant to say that i shan't know which to wear."she pouted a little. "i've never dined out in london; and idon't want to be ridiculous." he tried to enter into her perplexity."but don't englishwomen dress just like everybody else in the evening?" "newland!how can you ask such funny questions? when they go to the theatre in old ball-dresses and bare heads."
"well, perhaps they wear new ball-dressesat home; but at any rate mrs. carfry and miss harle won't.they'll wear caps like my mother's--and shawls; very soft shawls." "yes; but how will the other women bedressed?" "not as well as you, dear," he rejoined,wondering what had suddenly developed in her janey's morbid interest in clothes. she pushed back her chair with a sigh."that's dear of you, newland; but it doesn't help me much."he had an inspiration. "why not wear your wedding-dress?
that can't be wrong, can it?""oh, dearest! if i only had it here! but it's gone to paris to be made over fornext winter, and worth hasn't sent it back.""oh, well--" said archer, getting up. "look here--the fog's lifting. if we made a dash for the national gallerywe might manage to catch a glimpse of the pictures." the newland archers were on their way home,after a three months' wedding-tour which may, in writing to her girl friends,vaguely summarised as "blissful."
they had not gone to the italian lakes: onreflection, archer had not been able to picture his wife in that particularsetting. her own inclination (after a month with theparis dressmakers) was for mountaineering in july and swimming in august. this plan they punctually fulfilled,spending july at interlaken and grindelwald, and august at a little placecalled etretat, on the normandy coast, which some one had recommended as quaintand quiet. once or twice, in the mountains, archer hadpointed southward and said: "there's italy"; and may, her feet in a gentian-bed,had smiled cheerfully, and replied: "it
would be lovely to go there next winter, ifonly you didn't have to be in new york." but in reality travelling interested hereven less than he had expected. she regarded it (once her clothes wereordered) as merely an enlarged opportunity for walking, riding, swimming, and tryingher hand at the fascinating new game of lawn tennis; and when they finally got back to london (where they were to spend afortnight while he ordered his clothes) she no longer concealed the eagerness withwhich she looked forward to sailing. in london nothing interested her but thetheatres and the shops; and she found the theatres less exciting than the paris cafeschantants where, under the blossoming
horse-chestnuts of the champs elysees, she had had the novel experience of lookingdown from the restaurant terrace on an audience of "cocottes," and having herhusband interpret to her as much of the songs as he thought suitable for bridalears. archer had reverted to all his oldinherited ideas about marriage. it was less trouble to conform with thetradition and treat may exactly as all his friends treated their wives than to try toput into practice the theories with which his untrammelled bachelorhood had dallied. there was no use in trying to emancipate awife who had not the dimmest notion that
she was not free; and he had long sincediscovered that may's only use of the liberty she supposed herself to possess would be to lay it on the altar of herwifely adoration. her innate dignity would always keep herfrom making the gift abjectly; and a day might even come (as it once had) when shewould find strength to take it altogether back if she thought she were doing it forhis own good. but with a conception of marriage souncomplicated and incurious as hers such a crisis could be brought about only bysomething visibly outrageous in his own conduct; and the fineness of her feelingfor him made that unthinkable.
whatever happened, he knew, she wouldalways be loyal, gallant and unresentful; and that pledged him to the practice of thesame virtues. all this tended to draw him back into hisold habits of mind. if her simplicity had been the simplicityof pettiness he would have chafed and rebelled; but since the lines of hercharacter, though so few, were on the same fine mould as her face, she became the tutelary divinity of all his old traditionsand reverences. such qualities were scarcely of the kind toenliven foreign travel, though they made her so easy and pleasant a companion; buthe saw at once how they would fall into
place in their proper setting. he had no fear of being oppressed by them,for his artistic and intellectual life would go on, as it always had, outside thedomestic circle; and within it there would be nothing small and stifling--coming back to his wife would never be like entering astuffy room after a tramp in the open. and when they had children the vacantcorners in both their lives would be filled. all these things went through his mindduring their long slow drive from mayfair to south kensington, where mrs. carfry andher sister lived.
archer too would have preferred to escapetheir friends' hospitality: in conformity with the family tradition he had alwaystravelled as a sight-seer and looker-on, affecting a haughty unconsciousness of thepresence of his fellow-beings. once only, just after harvard, he had spenta few gay weeks at florence with a band of queer europeanised americans, dancing allnight with titled ladies in palaces, and gambling half the day with the rakes and dandies of the fashionable club; but it hadall seemed to him, though the greatest fun in the world, as unreal as a carnival. these queer cosmopolitan women, deep incomplicated love-affairs which they
appeared to feel the need of retailing toevery one they met, and the magnificent young officers and elderly dyed wits who were the subjects or the recipients oftheir confidences, were too different from the people archer had grown up among, toomuch like expensive and rather malodorous hot-house exotics, to detain hisimagination long. to introduce his wife into such a societywas out of the question; and in the course of his travels no other had shown anymarked eagerness for his company. not long after their arrival in london hehad run across the duke of st. austrey, and the duke, instantly and cordiallyrecognising him, had said: "look me up,
won't you?"--but no proper-spirited american would have considered that asuggestion to be acted on, and the meeting was without a sequel. they had even managed to avoid may'senglish aunt, the banker's wife, who was still in yorkshire; in fact, they hadpurposely postponed going to london till the autumn in order that their arrival during the season might not appear pushingand snobbish to these unknown relatives. "probably there'll be nobody at mrs.carfry's--london's a desert at this season, and you've made yourself much toobeautiful," archer said to may, who sat at
his side in the hansom so spotlessly splendid in her sky-blue cloak edged withswansdown that it seemed wicked to expose her to the london grime. "i don't want them to think that we dresslike savages," she replied, with a scorn that pocahontas might have resented; and hewas struck again by the religious reverence of even the most unworldly american womenfor the social advantages of dress. "it's their armour," he thought, "theirdefence against the unknown, and their defiance of it." and he understood for the first time theearnestness with which may, who was
incapable of tying a ribbon in her hair tocharm him, had gone through the solemn rite of selecting and ordering her extensivewardrobe. he had been right in expecting the party atmrs. carfry's to be a small one. besides their hostess and her sister, theyfound, in the long chilly drawing-room, only another shawled lady, a genial vicarwho was her husband, a silent lad whom mrs. carfry named as her nephew, and a small dark gentleman with lively eyes whom sheintroduced as his tutor, pronouncing a french name as she did so. into this dimly-lit and dim-featured groupmay archer floated like a swan with the
sunset on her: she seemed larger, fairer,more voluminously rustling than her husband had ever seen her; and he perceived that the rosiness and rustlingness were thetokens of an extreme and infantile shyness. "what on earth will they expect me to talkabout?" her helpless eyes implored him, at the very moment that her dazzlingapparition was calling forth the same anxiety in their own bosoms. but beauty, even when distrustful ofitself, awakens confidence in the manly heart; and the vicar and the french-namedtutor were soon manifesting to may their desire to put her at her ease.
in spite of their best efforts, however,the dinner was a languishing affair. archer noticed that his wife's way ofshowing herself at her ease with foreigners was to become more uncompromisingly localin her references, so that, though her loveliness was an encouragement to admiration, her conversation was a chill torepartee. the vicar soon abandoned the struggle; butthe tutor, who spoke the most fluent and accomplished english, gallantly continuedto pour it out to her until the ladies, to the manifest relief of all concerned, wentup to the drawing-room. the vicar, after a glass of port, wasobliged to hurry away to a meeting, and the
shy nephew, who appeared to be an invalid,was packed off to bed. but archer and the tutor continued to sitover their wine, and suddenly archer found himself talking as he had not done sincehis last symposium with ned winsett. the carfry nephew, it turned out, had beenthreatened with consumption, and had had to leave harrow for switzerland, where he hadspent two years in the milder air of lake leman. being a bookish youth, he had beenentrusted to m. riviere, who had brought him back to england, and was to remain withhim till he went up to oxford the following spring; and m. riviere added with
simplicity that he should then have to lookout for another job. it seemed impossible, archer thought, thathe should be long without one, so varied were his interests and so many his gifts. he was a man of about thirty, with a thinugly face (may would certainly have called him common-looking) to which the play ofhis ideas gave an intense expressiveness; but there was nothing frivolous or cheap inhis animation. his father, who had died young, had filleda small diplomatic post, and it had been intended that the son should follow thesame career; but an insatiable taste for letters had thrown the young man into
journalism, then into authorship(apparently unsuccessful), and at length-- after other experiments and vicissitudeswhich he spared his listener--into tutoring english youths in switzerland. before that, however, he had lived much inparis, frequented the goncourt grenier, been advised by maupassant not to attemptto write (even that seemed to archer a dazzling honour!), and had often talkedwith merimee in his mother's house. he had obviously always been desperatelypoor and anxious (having a mother and an unmarried sister to provide for), and itwas apparent that his literary ambitions had failed.
his situation, in fact, seemed, materiallyspeaking, no more brilliant than ned winsett's; but he had lived in a world inwhich, as he said, no one who loved ideas need hunger mentally. as it was precisely of that love that poorwinsett was starving to death, archer looked with a sort of vicarious envy atthis eager impecunious young man who had fared so richly in his poverty. "you see, monsieur, it's worth everything,isn't it, to keep one's intellectual liberty, not to enslave one's powers ofappreciation, one's critical independence? it was because of that that i abandonedjournalism, and took to so much duller
work: tutoring and private secretaryship. there is a good deal of drudgery, ofcourse; but one preserves one's moral freedom, what we call in french one's quanta soi. and when one hears good talk one can joinin it without compromising any opinions but one's own; or one can listen, and answer itinwardly. ah, good conversation--there's nothing likeit, is there? the air of ideas is the only air worthbreathing. and so i have never regretted giving upeither diplomacy or journalism--two different forms of the same self-abdication."
he fixed his vivid eyes on archer as he litanother cigarette. "voyez-vous, monsieur, to be able to looklife in the face: that's worth living in a garret for, isn't it? but, after all, one must earn enough to payfor the garret; and i confess that to grow old as a private tutor--or a 'private'anything--is almost as chilling to the imagination as a second secretaryship atbucharest. sometimes i feel i must make a plunge: animmense plunge. do you suppose, for instance, there wouldbe any opening for me in america--in new york?"archer looked at him with startled eyes.
new york, for a young man who hadfrequented the goncourts and flaubert, and who thought the life of ideas the only oneworth living! he continued to stare at m. riviereperplexedly, wondering how to tell him that his very superiorities and advantages wouldbe the surest hindrance to success. "new york--new york--but must it beespecially new york?" he stammered, utterly unable to imagine what lucrative openinghis native city could offer to a young man to whom good conversation appeared to bethe only necessity. a sudden flush rose under m. riviere'ssallow skin. "i--i thought it your metropolis: is notthe intellectual life more active there?"
he rejoined; then, as if fearing to givehis hearer the impression of having asked a favour, he went on hastily: "one throws out random suggestions--more to one's selfthan to others. in reality, i see no immediate prospect--"and rising from his seat he added, without a trace of constraint: "but mrs. carfrywill think that i ought to be taking you upstairs." during the homeward drive archer pondereddeeply on this episode. his hour with m. riviere had put new airinto his lungs, and his first impulse had been to invite him to dine the next day;but he was beginning to understand why
married men did not always immediatelyyield to their first impulses. "that young tutor is an interesting fellow:we had some awfully good talk after dinner about books and things," he threw outtentatively in the hansom. may roused herself from one of the dreamysilences into which he had read so many meanings before six months of marriage hadgiven him the key to them. "the little frenchman? wasn't he dreadfully common?" shequestioned coldly; and he guessed that she nursed a secret disappointment at havingbeen invited out in london to meet a clergyman and a french tutor.
the disappointment was not occasioned bythe sentiment ordinarily defined as snobbishness, but by old new york's senseof what was due to it when it risked its dignity in foreign lands. if may's parents had entertained thecarfrys in fifth avenue they would have offered them something more substantialthan a parson and a schoolmaster. but archer was on edge, and took her up. "common--common where?" he queried; and shereturned with unusual readiness: "why, i should say anywhere but in his school-room.those people are always awkward in society. but then," she added disarmingly, "isuppose i shouldn't have known if he was
clever." archer disliked her use of the word"clever" almost as much as her use of the word "common"; but he was beginning to fearhis tendency to dwell on the things he disliked in her. after all, her point of view had alwaysbeen the same. it was that of all the people he had grownup among, and he had always regarded it as necessary but negligible. until a few months ago he had never known a"nice" woman who looked at life differently; and if a man married it mustnecessarily be among the nice.
"ah--then i won't ask him to dine!" heconcluded with a laugh; and may echoed, bewildered: "goodness--ask the carfrys'tutor?" "well, not on the same day with thecarfrys, if you prefer i shouldn't. but i did rather want another talk withhim. he's looking for a job in new york." her surprise increased with herindifference: he almost fancied that she suspected him of being tainted with"foreignness." "a job in new york? what sort of a job?people don't have french tutors: what does
he want to do?" "chiefly to enjoy good conversation, iunderstand," her husband retorted perversely; and she broke into anappreciative laugh. "oh, newland, how funny! isn't that french?"on the whole, he was glad to have the matter settled for him by her refusing totake seriously his wish to invite m. riviere. another after-dinner talk would have madeit difficult to avoid the question of new york; and the more archer considered it theless he was able to fit m. riviere into any
conceivable picture of new york as he knewit. he perceived with a flash of chillinginsight that in future many problems would be thus negatively solved for him; but ashe paid the hansom and followed his wife's long train into the house he took refuge in the comforting platitude that the first sixmonths were always the most difficult in marriage. "after that i suppose we shall have prettynearly finished rubbing off each other's angles," he reflected; but the worst of itwas that may's pressure was already bearing on the very angles whose sharpness he mostwanted to keep.
the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter xxi. the small bright lawn stretched awaysmoothly to the big bright sea. the turf was hemmed with an edge of scarletgeranium and coleus, and cast-iron vases painted in chocolate colour, standing atintervals along the winding path that led to the sea, looped their garlands of petunia and ivy geranium above the neatlyraked gravel. half way between the edge of the cliff andthe square wooden house (which was also chocolate-coloured, but with the tin roofof the verandah striped in yellow and brown to represent an awning) two large targets
had been placed against a background ofshrubbery. on the other side of the lawn, facing thetargets, was pitched a real tent, with benches and garden-seats about it. a number of ladies in summer dresses andgentlemen in grey frock-coats and tall hats stood on the lawn or sat upon the benches;and every now and then a slender girl in starched muslin would step from the tent, bow in hand, and speed her shaft at one ofthe targets, while the spectators interrupted their talk to watch the result. newland archer, standing on the verandah ofthe house, looked curiously down upon this
scene. on each side of the shiny painted steps wasa large blue china flower-pot on a bright yellow china stand. a spiky green plant filled each pot, andbelow the verandah ran a wide border of blue hydrangeas edged with more redgeraniums. behind him, the french windows of thedrawing-rooms through which he had passed gave glimpses, between swaying lacecurtains, of glassy parquet floors islanded with chintz poufs, dwarf armchairs, and velvet tables covered with trifles insilver.
the newport archery club always held itsaugust meeting at the beauforts'. the sport, which had hitherto known norival but croquet, was beginning to be discarded in favour of lawn-tennis; but thelatter game was still considered too rough and inelegant for social occasions, and as an opportunity to show off pretty dressesand graceful attitudes the bow and arrow held their own.archer looked down with wonder at the familiar spectacle. it surprised him that life should be goingon in the old way when his own reactions to it had so completely changed.it was newport that had first brought home
to him the extent of the change. in new york, during the previous winter,after he and may had settled down in the new greenish-yellow house with the bow-window and the pompeian vestibule, he had dropped back with relief into the old routine of the office, and the renewal ofthis daily activity had served as a link with his former self. then there had been the pleasurableexcitement of choosing a showy grey stepper for may's brougham (the wellands had giventhe carriage), and the abiding occupation and interest of arranging his new library,
which, in spite of family doubts anddisapprovals, had been carried out as he had dreamed, with a dark embossed paper,eastlake book-cases and "sincere" arm- chairs and tables. at the century he had found winsett again,and at the knickerbocker the fashionable young men of his own set; and what with thehours dedicated to the law and those given to dining out or entertaining friends at home, with an occasional evening at theopera or the play, the life he was living had still seemed a fairly real andinevitable sort of business. but newport represented the escape fromduty into an atmosphere of unmitigated
holiday-making. archer had tried to persuade may to spendthe summer on a remote island off the coast of maine (called, appropriately enough,mount desert), where a few hardy bostonians and philadelphians were camping in "native" cottages, and whence came reports ofenchanting scenery and a wild, almost trapper-like existence amid woods andwaters. but the wellands always went to newport,where they owned one of the square boxes on the cliffs, and their son-in-law couldadduce no good reason why he and may should not join them there.
as mrs. welland rather tartly pointed out,it was hardly worth while for may to have worn herself out trying on summer clothesin paris if she was not to be allowed to wear them; and this argument was of a kindto which archer had as yet found no answer. may herself could not understand hisobscure reluctance to fall in with so reasonable and pleasant a way of spendingthe summer. she reminded him that he had always likednewport in his bachelor days, and as this was indisputable he could only profess thathe was sure he was going to like it better than ever now that they were to be theretogether. but as he stood on the beaufort verandahand looked out on the brightly peopled lawn
it came home to him with a shiver that hewas not going to like it at all. it was not may's fault, poor dear. if, now and then, during their travels,they had fallen slightly out of step, harmony had been restored by their returnto the conditions she was used to. he had always foreseen that she would notdisappoint him; and he had been right. he had married (as most young men did)because he had met a perfectly charming girl at the moment when a series of ratheraimless sentimental adventures were ending in premature disgust; and she had represented peace, stability, comradeship,and the steadying sense of an unescapable
duty. he could not say that he had been mistakenin his choice, for she had fulfilled all that he had expected. it was undoubtedly gratifying to be thehusband of one of the handsomest and most popular young married women in new york,especially when she was also one of the sweetest-tempered and most reasonable of wives; and archer had never been insensibleto such advantages. as for the momentary madness which hadfallen upon him on the eve of his marriage, he had trained himself to regard it as thelast of his discarded experiments.
the idea that he could ever, in his senses,have dreamed of marrying the countess olenska had become almost unthinkable, andshe remained in his memory simply as the most plaintive and poignant of a line ofghosts. but all these abstractions and eliminationsmade of his mind a rather empty and echoing place, and he supposed that was one of thereasons why the busy animated people on the beaufort lawn shocked him as if they hadbeen children playing in a grave-yard. he heard a murmur of skirts beside him, andthe marchioness manson fluttered out of the drawing-room window. as usual, she was extraordinarily festoonedand bedizened, with a limp leghorn hat
anchored to her head by many windings offaded gauze, and a little black velvet parasol on a carved ivory handle absurdlybalanced over her much larger hatbrim. "my dear newland, i had no idea that youand may had arrived! you yourself came only yesterday, you say? ah, business--business--professionalduties... i understand. many husbands, i know, find it impossibleto join their wives here except for the week-end."she cocked her head on one side and languished at him through screwed-up eyes.
"but marriage is one long sacrifice, as iused often to remind my ellen--" archer's heart stopped with the queer jerkwhich it had given once before, and which seemed suddenly to slam a door betweenhimself and the outer world; but this break of continuity must have been of the briefest, for he presently heard medoraanswering a question he had apparently found voice to put. "no, i am not staying here, but with theblenkers, in their delicious solitude at portsmouth. beaufort was kind enough to send his famoustrotters for me this morning, so that i
might have at least a glimpse of one ofregina's garden-parties; but this evening i go back to rural life. the blenkers, dear original beings, havehired a primitive old farm-house at portsmouth where they gather about themrepresentative people..." she drooped slightly beneath her protectingbrim, and added with a faint blush: "this week dr. agathon carver is holding a seriesof inner thought meetings there. a contrast indeed to this gay scene ofworldly pleasure--but then i have always lived on contrasts!to me the only death is monotony. i always say to ellen: beware of monotony;it's the mother of all the deadly sins.
but my poor child is going through a phaseof exaltation, of abhorrence of the world. you know, i suppose, that she has declinedall invitations to stay at newport, even with her grandmother mingott?i could hardly persuade her to come with me to the blenkers', if you will believe it! the life she leads is morbid, unnatural.ah, if she had only listened to me when it was still possible...when the door was still open... but shall we go down and watch thisabsorbing match? i hear your may is one of the competitors." strolling toward them from the tentbeaufort advanced over the lawn, tall,
heavy, too tightly buttoned into a londonfrock-coat, with one of his own orchids in its buttonhole. archer, who had not seen him for two orthree months, was struck by the change in his appearance. in the hot summer light his floridnessseemed heavy and bloated, and but for his erect square-shouldered walk he would havelooked like an over-fed and over-dressed old man. there were all sorts of rumours afloatabout beaufort. in the spring he had gone off on a longcruise to the west indies in his new steam-
yacht, and it was reported that, at variouspoints where he had touched, a lady resembling miss fanny ring had been seen inhis company. the steam-yacht, built in the clyde, andfitted with tiled bath-rooms and other unheard-of luxuries, was said to have costhim half a million; and the pearl necklace which he had presented to his wife on his return was as magnificent as such expiatoryofferings are apt to be. beaufort's fortune was substantial enoughto stand the strain; and yet the disquieting rumours persisted, not only infifth avenue but in wall street. some people said he had speculatedunfortunately in railways, others that he
was being bled by one of the mostinsatiable members of her profession; and to every report of threatened insolvency beaufort replied by a fresh extravagance:the building of a new row of orchid-houses, the purchase of a new string of race-horses, or the addition of a new meissonnier or cabanel to his picture-gallery. he advanced toward the marchioness andnewland with his usual half-sneering smile. "hullo, medora! did the trotters do their business?forty minutes, eh?... well, that's not so bad, considering yournerves had to be spared."
he shook hands with archer, and then,turning back with them, placed himself on mrs. manson's other side, and said, in alow voice, a few words which their companion did not catch. the marchioness replied by one of her queerforeign jerks, and a "que voulez-vous?" which deepened beaufort's frown; but heproduced a good semblance of a congratulatory smile as he glanced at archer to say: "you know may's going tocarry off the first prize." "ah, then it remains in the family," medorarippled; and at that moment they reached the tent and mrs. beaufort met them in agirlish cloud of mauve muslin and floating
veils. may welland was just coming out of thetent. in her white dress, with a pale greenribbon about the waist and a wreath of ivy on her hat, she had the same diana-likealoofness as when she had entered the beaufort ball-room on the night of herengagement. in the interval not a thought seemed tohave passed behind her eyes or a feeling through her heart; and though her husbandknew that she had the capacity for both he marvelled afresh at the way in whichexperience dropped away from her. she had her bow and arrow in her hand, andplacing herself on the chalk-mark traced on
the turf she lifted the bow to her shoulderand took aim. the attitude was so full of a classic gracethat a murmur of appreciation followed her appearance, and archer felt the glow ofproprietorship that so often cheated him into momentary well-being. her rivals--mrs. reggie chivers, the merrygirls, and divers rosy thorleys, dagonets and mingotts, stood behind her in a lovelyanxious group, brown heads and golden bent above the scores, and pale muslins and flower-wreathed hats mingled in a tenderrainbow. all were young and pretty, and bathed insummer bloom; but not one had the nymph-
like ease of his wife, when, with tensemuscles and happy frown, she bent her soul upon some feat of strength. "gad," archer heard lawrence lefferts say,"not one of the lot holds the bow as she does"; and beaufort retorted: "yes; butthat's the only kind of target she'll ever hit." archer felt irrationally angry.his host's contemptuous tribute to may's "niceness" was just what a husband shouldhave wished to hear said of his wife. the fact that a coarseminded man found herlacking in attraction was simply another proof of her quality; yet the words sent afaint shiver through his heart.
what if "niceness" carried to that supremedegree were only a negation, the curtain dropped before an emptiness? as he looked at may, returning flushed andcalm from her final bull's-eye, he had the feeling that he had never yet lifted thatcurtain. she took the congratulations of her rivalsand of the rest of the company with the simplicity that was her crowning grace. no one could ever be jealous of hertriumphs because she managed to give the feeling that she would have been just asserene if she had missed them. but when her eyes met her husband's herface glowed with the pleasure she saw in
his. mrs. welland's basket-work pony-carriagewas waiting for them, and they drove off among the dispersing carriages, mayhandling the reins and archer sitting at her side. the afternoon sunlight still lingered uponthe bright lawns and shrubberies, and up and down bellevue avenue rolled a doubleline of victorias, dog-carts, landaus and "vis-a-vis," carrying well-dressed ladies and gentlemen away from the beaufortgarden-party, or homeward from their daily afternoon turn along the ocean drive."shall we go to see granny?"
may suddenly proposed. "i should like to tell her myself that i'vewon the prize. there's lots of time before dinner." archer acquiesced, and she turned theponies down narragansett avenue, crossed spring street and drove out toward therocky moorland beyond. in this unfashionable region catherine thegreat, always indifferent to precedent and thrifty of purse, had built herself in heryouth a many-peaked and cross-beamed cottage-orne on a bit of cheap landoverlooking the bay. here, in a thicket of stunted oaks, herverandahs spread themselves above the
island-dotted waters. a winding drive led up between iron stagsand blue glass balls embedded in mounds of geraniums to a front door of highly-varnished walnut under a striped verandah- roof; and behind it ran a narrow hall with a black and yellow star-patterned parquetfloor, upon which opened four small square rooms with heavy flock-papers underceilings on which an italian house-painter had lavished all the divinities of olympus. one of these rooms had been turned into abedroom by mrs. mingott when the burden of flesh descended on her, and in theadjoining one she spent her days, enthroned
in a large armchair between the open door and window, and perpetually waving a palm-leaf fan which the prodigious projection of her bosom kept so far from the rest of herperson that the air it set in motion stirred only the fringe of the anti-macassars on the chair-arms. since she had been the means of hasteninghis marriage old catherine had shown to archer the cordiality which a servicerendered excites toward the person served. she was persuaded that irrepressiblepassion was the cause of his impatience; and being an ardent admirer ofimpulsiveness (when it did not lead to the spending of money) she always received him
with a genial twinkle of complicity and aplay of allusion to which may seemed fortunately impervious. she examined and appraised with muchinterest the diamond-tipped arrow which had been pinned on may's bosom at theconclusion of the match, remarking that in her day a filigree brooch would have been thought enough, but that there was nodenying that beaufort did things handsomely."quite an heirloom, in fact, my dear," the old lady chuckled. "you must leave it in fee to your eldestgirl."
she pinched may's white arm and watched thecolour flood her face. "well, well, what have i said to make youshake out the red flag? ain't there going to be any daughters--onlyboys, eh? good gracious, look at her blushing againall over her blushes! what--can't i say that either? mercy me--when my children beg me to haveall those gods and goddesses painted out overhead i always say i'm too thankful tohave somebody about me that nothing can shock!" archer burst into a laugh, and may echoedit, crimson to the eyes.
"well, now tell me all about the party,please, my dears, for i shall never get a straight word about it out of that sillymedora," the ancestress continued; and, as may exclaimed: "cousin medora? but i thought she was going back toportsmouth?" she answered placidly: "so she is--but she's got to come here first topick up ellen. ah--you didn't know ellen had come to spendthe day with me? such fol-de-rol, her not coming for thesummer; but i gave up arguing with young people about fifty years ago. ellen--ellen!" she cried in her shrill oldvoice, trying to bend forward far enough to
catch a glimpse of the lawn beyond theverandah. there was no answer, and mrs. mingottrapped impatiently with her stick on the shiny floor. a mulatto maid-servant in a bright turban,replying to the summons, informed her mistress that she had seen "miss ellen"going down the path to the shore; and mrs. mingott turned to archer. "run down and fetch her, like a goodgrandson; this pretty lady will describe the party to me," she said; and archerstood up as if in a dream. he had heard the countess olenska's namepronounced often enough during the year and
a half since they had last met, and waseven familiar with the main incidents of her life in the interval. he knew that she had spent the previoussummer at newport, where she appeared to have gone a great deal into society, butthat in the autumn she had suddenly sub-let the "perfect house" which beaufort had been at such pains to find for her, and decidedto establish herself in washington. there, during the winter, he had heard ofher (as one always heard of pretty women in washington) as shining in the "brilliantdiplomatic society" that was supposed to make up for the social short-comings of theadministration.
he had listened to these accounts, and tovarious contradictory reports on her appearance, her conversation, her point ofview and her choice of friends, with the detachment with which one listens to reminiscences of some one long since dead;not till medora suddenly spoke her name at the archery match had ellen olenska becomea living presence to him again. the marchioness's foolish lisp had calledup a vision of the little fire-lit drawing- room and the sound of the carriage-wheelsreturning down the deserted street. he thought of a story he had read, of somepeasant children in tuscany lighting a bunch of straw in a wayside cavern, andrevealing old silent images in their
painted tomb... the way to the shore descended from thebank on which the house was perched to a walk above the water planted with weepingwillows. through their veil archer caught the glintof the lime rock, with its white-washed turret and the tiny house in which theheroic light-house keeper, ida lewis, was living her last venerable years. beyond it lay the flat reaches and uglygovernment chimneys of goat island, the bay spreading northward in a shimmer of gold toprudence island with its low growth of oaks, and the shores of conanicut faint inthe sunset haze.
from the willow walk projected a slightwooden pier ending in a sort of pagoda-like summer-house; and in the pagoda a ladystood, leaning against the rail, her back to the shore. archer stopped at the sight as if he hadwaked from sleep. that vision of the past was a dream, andthe reality was what awaited him in the house on the bank overhead: was mrs.welland's pony-carriage circling around and around the oval at the door, was may sitting under the shameless olympians andglowing with secret hopes, was the welland villa at the far end of bellevue avenue,and mr. welland, already dressed for
dinner, and pacing the drawing-room floor, watch in hand, with dyspeptic impatience--for it was one of the houses in which one always knew exactly what is happening at agiven hour. "what am i? a son-in-law--" archer thought.the figure at the end of the pier had not moved. for a long moment the young man stood halfway down the bank, gazing at the bay furrowed with the coming and going ofsailboats, yacht-launches, fishing-craft and the trailing black coal-barges hauledby noisy tugs.
the lady in the summer-house seemed to beheld by the same sight. beyond the grey bastions of fort adams along-drawn sunset was splintering up into a thousand fires, and the radiance caught thesail of a catboat as it beat out through the channel between the lime rock and theshore. archer, as he watched, remembered the scenein the shaughraun, and montague lifting ada dyas's ribbon to his lips without herknowing that he was in the room. "she doesn't know--she hasn't guessed. shouldn't i know if she came up behind me,i wonder?" he mused; and suddenly he said to himself: "if she doesn't turn beforethat sail crosses the lime rock light i'll
go back." the boat was gliding out on the recedingtide. it slid before the lime rock, blotted outida lewis's little house, and passed across the turret in which the light was hung. archer waited till a wide space of watersparkled between the last reef of the island and the stern of the boat; but stillthe figure in the summer-house did not he turned and walked up the hill."i'm sorry you didn't find ellen--i should have liked to see her again," may said asthey drove home through the dusk. "but perhaps she wouldn't have cared--sheseems so changed."
"changed?" echoed her husband in acolourless voice, his eyes fixed on the ponies' twitching ears. "so indifferent to her friends, i mean;giving up new york and her house, and spending her time with such queer people.fancy how hideously uncomfortable she must be at the blenkers'! she says she does it to keep cousin medoraout of mischief: to prevent her marrying dreadful people.but i sometimes think we've always bored her." archer made no answer, and she continued,with a tinge of hardness that he had never
before noticed in her frank fresh voice:"after all, i wonder if she wouldn't be happier with her husband." he burst into a laugh."sancta simplicitas!" he exclaimed; and as she turned a puzzled frown on him he added:"i don't think i ever heard you say a cruel thing before." "cruel?""well--watching the contortions of the damned is supposed to be a favourite sportof the angels; but i believe even they don't think people happier in hell." "it's a pity she ever married abroad then,"said may, in the placid tone with which her
mother met mr. welland's vagaries; andarcher felt himself gently relegated to the category of unreasonable husbands. they drove down bellevue avenue and turnedin between the chamfered wooden gate-posts surmounted by cast-iron lamps which markedthe approach to the welland villa. lights were already shining through itswindows, and archer, as the carriage stopped, caught a glimpse of his father-in-law, exactly as he had pictured him, pacing the drawing-room, watch in hand and wearing the pained expression that he had longsince found to be much more efficacious than anger.
the young man, as he followed his wife intothe hall, was conscious of a curious reversal of mood. there was something about the luxury of thewelland house and the density of the welland atmosphere, so charged with minuteobservances and exactions, that always stole into his system like a narcotic. the heavy carpets, the watchful servants,the perpetually reminding tick of disciplined clocks, the perpetually renewedstack of cards and invitations on the hall table, the whole chain of tyrannical trifles binding one hour to the next, andeach member of the household to all the
others, made any less systematised andaffluent existence seem unreal and precarious. but now it was the welland house, and thelife he was expected to lead in it, that had become unreal and irrelevant, and thebrief scene on the shore, when he had stood irresolute, halfway down the bank, was asclose to him as the blood in his veins. all night he lay awake in the big chintzbedroom at may's side, watching the moonlight slant along the carpet, andthinking of ellen olenska driving home across the gleaming beaches behindbeaufort's trotters. the age of innocence by edith whartonchapter xxii.
"a party for the blenkers--the blenkers?" mr. welland laid down his knife and forkand looked anxiously and incredulously across the luncheon-table at his wife, who,adjusting her gold eye-glasses, read aloud, in the tone of high comedy: "professor and mrs. emerson sillertonrequest the pleasure of mr. and mrs. welland's company at the meeting of thewednesday afternoon club on august 25th at 3 o'clock punctually. to meet mrs. and the misses blenker."red gables, catherine street. r. s. v. p."
"good gracious--" mr. welland gasped, as ifa second reading had been necessary to bring the monstrous absurdity of the thinghome to him. "poor amy sillerton--you never can tellwhat her husband will do next," mrs. welland sighed."i suppose he's just discovered the blenkers." professor emerson sillerton was a thorn inthe side of newport society; and a thorn that could not be plucked out, for it grewon a venerable and venerated family tree. he was, as people said, a man who had had"every advantage." his father was sillerton jackson's uncle,his mother a pennilow of boston; on each
side there was wealth and position, andmutual suitability. nothing--as mrs. welland had oftenremarked--nothing on earth obliged emerson sillerton to be an archaeologist, or indeeda professor of any sort, or to live in newport in winter, or do any of the otherrevolutionary things that he did. but at least, if he was going to break withtradition and flout society in the face, he need not have married poor amy dagonet, whohad a right to expect "something different," and money enough to keep herown carriage. no one in the mingott set could understandwhy amy sillerton had submitted so tamely to the eccentricities of a husband whofilled the house with long-haired men and
short-haired women, and, when he travelled, took her to explore tombs in yucataninstead of going to paris or italy. but there they were, set in their ways, andapparently unaware that they were different from other people; and when they gave oneof their dreary annual garden-parties every family on the cliffs, because of the sillerton-pennilow-dagonet connection, hadto draw lots and send an unwilling representative."it's a wonder," mrs. welland remarked, "that they didn't choose the cup race day! do you remember, two years ago, theirgiving a party for a black man on the day
of julia mingott's the dansant? luckily this time there's nothing elsegoing on that i know of--for of course some of us will have to go."mr. welland sighed nervously. "'some of us,' my dear--more than one? three o'clock is such a very awkward hour. i have to be here at half-past three totake my drops: it's really no use trying to follow bencomb's new treatment if i don'tdo it systematically; and if i join you later, of course i shall miss my drive." at the thought he laid down his knife andfork again, and a flush of anxiety rose to
his finely-wrinkled cheek. "there's no reason why you should go atall, my dear," his wife answered with a cheerfulness that had become automatic. "i have some cards to leave at the otherend of bellevue avenue, and i'll drop in at about half-past three and stay long enoughto make poor amy feel that she hasn't been slighted." she glanced hesitatingly at her daughter."and if newland's afternoon is provided for perhaps may can drive you out with theponies, and try their new russet harness." it was a principle in the welland familythat people's days and hours should be what
mrs. welland called "provided for." the melancholy possibility of having to"kill time" (especially for those who did not care for whist or solitaire) was avision that haunted her as the spectre of the unemployed haunts the philanthropist. another of her principles was that parentsshould never (at least visibly) interfere with the plans of their married children;and the difficulty of adjusting this respect for may's independence with the exigency of mr. welland's claims could beovercome only by the exercise of an ingenuity which left not a second of mrs.welland's own time unprovided for.
"of course i'll drive with papa--i'm surenewland will find something to do," may said, in a tone that gently reminded herhusband of his lack of response. it was a cause of constant distress to mrs.welland that her son-in-law showed so little foresight in planning his days. often already, during the fortnight that hehad passed under her roof, when she enquired how he meant to spend hisafternoon, he had answered paradoxically: "oh, i think for a change i'll just save it instead of spending it--" and once, whenshe and may had had to go on a long- postponed round of afternoon calls, he hadconfessed to having lain all the afternoon
under a rock on the beach below the house. "newland never seems to look ahead," mrs.welland once ventured to complain to her daughter; and may answered serenely: "no;but you see it doesn't matter, because when there's nothing particular to do he reads abook." "ah, yes--like his father!" mrs. welland agreed, as if allowing for aninherited oddity; and after that the question of newland's unemployment wastacitly dropped. nevertheless, as the day for the sillertonreception approached, may began to show a natural solicitude for his welfare, and tosuggest a tennis match at the chiverses',
or a sail on julius beaufort's cutter, as a means of atoning for her temporarydesertion. "i shall be back by six, you know, dear:papa never drives later than that--" and she was not reassured till archer said thathe thought of hiring a run-about and driving up the island to a stud-farm tolook at a second horse for her brougham. they had been looking for this horse forsome time, and the suggestion was so acceptable that may glanced at her motheras if to say: "you see he knows how to plan out his time as well as any of us." the idea of the stud-farm and the broughamhorse had germinated in archer's mind on
the very day when the emerson sillertoninvitation had first been mentioned; but he had kept it to himself as if there were something clandestine in the plan, anddiscovery might prevent its execution. he had, however, taken the precaution toengage in advance a runabout with a pair of old livery-stable trotters that could stilldo their eighteen miles on level roads; and at two o'clock, hastily deserting the luncheon-table, he sprang into the lightcarriage and drove off. the day was perfect. a breeze from the north drove little puffsof white cloud across an ultramarine sky,
with a bright sea running under it. bellevue avenue was empty at that hour, andafter dropping the stable-lad at the corner of mill street archer turned down the oldbeach road and drove across eastman's beach. he had the feeling of unexplainedexcitement with which, on half-holidays at school, he used to start off into theunknown. taking his pair at an easy gait, he countedon reaching the stud-farm, which was not far beyond paradise rocks, before threeo'clock; so that, after looking over the horse (and trying him if he seemed
promising) he would still have four goldenhours to dispose of. as soon as he heard of the sillerton'sparty he had said to himself that the marchioness manson would certainly come tonewport with the blenkers, and that madame olenska might again take the opportunity ofspending the day with her grandmother. at any rate, the blenker habitation wouldprobably be deserted, and he would be able, without indiscretion, to satisfy a vaguecuriosity concerning it. he was not sure that he wanted to see thecountess olenska again; but ever since he had looked at her from the path above thebay he had wanted, irrationally and indescribably, to see the place she was
living in, and to follow the movements ofher imagined figure as he had watched the real one in the summer-house. the longing was with him day and night, anincessant undefinable craving, like the sudden whim of a sick man for food or drinkonce tasted and long since forgotten. he could not see beyond the craving, orpicture what it might lead to, for he was not conscious of any wish to speak tomadame olenska or to hear her voice. he simply felt that if he could carry awaythe vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosedit, the rest of the world might seem less empty.
when he reached the stud-farm a glanceshowed him that the horse was not what he wanted; nevertheless he took a turn behindit in order to prove to himself that he was not in a hurry. but at three o'clock he shook out the reinsover the trotters and turned into the by- roads leading to portsmouth. the wind had dropped and a faint haze onthe horizon showed that a fog was waiting to steal up the saconnet on the turn of thetide; but all about him fields and woods were steeped in golden light. he drove past grey-shingled farm-houses inorchards, past hay-fields and groves of
oak, past villages with white steeplesrising sharply into the fading sky; and at last, after stopping to ask the way of some men at work in a field, he turned down alane between high banks of goldenrod and brambles. at the end of the lane was the blue glimmerof the river; to the left, standing in front of a clump of oaks and maples, he sawa long tumble-down house with white paint peeling from its clapboards. on the road-side facing the gateway stoodone of the open sheds in which the new englander shelters his farming implementsand visitors "hitch" their "teams."
archer, jumping down, led his pair into theshed, and after tying them to a post turned toward the house. the patch of lawn before it had relapsedinto a hay-field; but to the left an overgrown box-garden full of dahlias andrusty rose-bushes encircled a ghostly summer-house of trellis-work that had once been white, surmounted by a wooden cupidwho had lost his bow and arrow but continued to take ineffectual aim.archer leaned for a while against the gate. no one was in sight, and not a sound camefrom the open windows of the house: a grizzled newfoundland dozing before thedoor seemed as ineffectual a guardian as
the arrowless cupid. it was strange to think that this place ofsilence and decay was the home of the turbulent blenkers; yet archer was surethat he was not mistaken. for a long time he stood there, content totake in the scene, and gradually falling under its drowsy spell; but at length heroused himself to the sense of the passing time. should he look his fill and then driveaway? he stood irresolute, wishing suddenly tosee the inside of the house, so that he might picture the room that madame olenskasat in.
there was nothing to prevent his walking upto the door and ringing the bell; if, as he supposed, she was away with the rest of theparty, he could easily give his name, and ask permission to go into the sitting-roomto write a message. but instead, he crossed the lawn and turnedtoward the box-garden. as he entered it he caught sight ofsomething bright-coloured in the summer- house, and presently made it out to be apink parasol. the parasol drew him like a magnet: he wassure it was hers. he went into the summer-house, and sittingdown on the rickety seat picked up the silken thing and looked at its carvedhandle, which was made of some rare wood
that gave out an aromatic scent. archer lifted the handle to his lips. he heard a rustle of skirts against thebox, and sat motionless, leaning on the parasol handle with clasped hands, andletting the rustle come nearer without lifting his eyes. he had always known that this musthappen... "oh, mr. archer!" exclaimed a loud youngvoice; and looking up he saw before him the youngest and largest of the blenker girls,blonde and blowsy, in bedraggled muslin. a red blotch on one of her cheeks seemed toshow that it had recently been pressed
against a pillow, and her half-awakenedeyes stared at him hospitably but confusedly. "gracious--where did you drop from?i must have been sound asleep in the hammock.everybody else has gone to newport. did you ring?" she incoherently enquired. archer's confusion was greater than hers."i--no--that is, i was just going to. i had to come up the island to see about ahorse, and i drove over on a chance of finding mrs. blenker and your visitors. but the house seemed empty--so i sat downto wait."
miss blenker, shaking off the fumes ofsleep, looked at him with increasing interest. "the house is empty.mother's not here, or the marchioness--or anybody but me."her glance became faintly reproachful. "didn't you know that professor and mrs.sillerton are giving a garden-party for mother and all of us this afternoon? it was too unlucky that i couldn't go; buti've had a sore throat, and mother was afraid of the drive home this evening.did you ever know anything so disappointing?
of course," she added gaily, "i shouldn'thave minded half as much if i'd known you were coming." symptoms of a lumbering coquetry becamevisible in her, and archer found the strength to break in: "but madame olenska--has she gone to newport too?" miss blenker looked at him with surprise. "madame olenska--didn't you know she'd beencalled away?" "called away?--""oh, my best parasol! i lent it to that goose of a katie, becauseit matched her ribbons, and the careless thing must have dropped it here.we blenkers are all like that...real
bohemians!" recovering the sunshade with a powerfulhand she unfurled it and suspended its rosy dome above her head."yes, ellen was called away yesterday: she lets us call her ellen, you know. a telegram came from boston: she said shemight be gone for two days. i do love the way she does her hair, don'tyou?" miss blenker rambled on. archer continued to stare through her asthough she had been transparent. all he saw was the trumpery parasol thatarched its pinkness above her giggling
head. after a moment he ventured: "you don'thappen to know why madame olenska went to boston?i hope it was not on account of bad news?" miss blenker took this with a cheerfulincredulity. "oh, i don't believe so.she didn't tell us what was in the telegram. i think she didn't want the marchioness toknow. she's so romantic-looking, isn't she? doesn't she remind you of mrs. scott-siddons when she reads 'lady geraldine's
courtship'?did you never hear her?" archer was dealing hurriedly with crowdingthoughts. his whole future seemed suddenly to beunrolled before him; and passing down its endless emptiness he saw the dwindlingfigure of a man to whom nothing was ever to happen. he glanced about him at the unprunedgarden, the tumble-down house, and the oak- grove under which the dusk was gathering. it had seemed so exactly the place in whichhe ought to have found madame olenska; and she was far away, and even the pinksunshade was not hers...
he frowned and hesitated. "you don't know, i suppose--i shall be inboston tomorrow. if i could manage to see her--" he felt that miss blenker was losinginterest in him, though her smile persisted."oh, of course; how lovely of you! she's staying at the parker house; it mustbe horrible there in this weather." after that archer was but intermittentlyaware of the remarks they exchanged. he could only remember stoutly resistingher entreaty that he should await the returning family and have high tea withthem before he drove home.
at length, with his hostess still at hisside, he passed out of range of the wooden cupid, unfastened his horses and drove off. at the turn of the lane he saw miss blenkerstanding at the gate and waving the pink parasol.