Part 4 out of 8
But I was called away by our dear great friend here,
Dr. Carver. You don't know Dr. Agathon Carver,
founder of the Valley of Love Community?"
Dr. Carver inclined his leonine head, and the
Marchioness continued: "Ah, New York--New York--how
little the life of the spirit has reached it! But I see you
do know Mr. Winsett."
"Oh, yes--I reached him some time ago; but not 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
"List--oh, list!" interjected Dr. Carver in a stentorian
"But do sit down, Mr. Archer. We four have been
having a delightful little 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 marvellous
flowers, which will surprise her when she
Winsett remained on his feet. "I'm afraid I must be
off. Please tell Madame Olenska that we shall all feel
lost when she abandons our street. This house has been
"Ah, but she won't abandon YOU. Poetry and art are
the breath of life to her. It IS poetry you write, Mr.
"Well, no; but I sometimes read it," said Winsett,
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 him witty?"
"I never think of wit," said Dr. Carver severely.
"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 the spirit; and tonight he is mentally preparing
the lecture he is to deliver presently at Mrs. Blenker's.
Dr. Carver, would there be time, before you start for
the Blenkers' to explain to Mr. Archer your illuminating
discovery of the Direct 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 at this
conclusion, but, having compared his ponderous gold time-
piece with Madame Olenska's little travelling-clock, he
reluctantly gathered up his mighty limbs for departure.
"I shall see you later, dear friend?" he suggested to
the Marchioness, who replied with a smile: "As soon
as Ellen's carriage comes 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. Blenker might allow you to bring him with you?"
"Oh, dear friend, if it were possible--I am sure she
would be too happy. But I fear my Ellen counts on Mr.
"That," said Dr. Carver, "is unfortunate--but here
is my card." He handed it to Archer, who read on it, in
| Agathon Carter |
| The Valley of Love |
| Kittasquattamy, N. Y. |
Dr. Carver bowed himself out, and Mrs. Manson,
with a sigh that might have been either of regret or
relief, again waved Archer to a seat.
"Ellen will be down in a moment; and before she
comes, I am so glad of this quiet moment with you."
Archer murmured his pleasure at their meeting, and
the Marchioness continued, in her low sighing accents:
"I know everything, 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
The young man listened with considerable
embarrassment. Was there any one, he wondered, to whom
Madame 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 were the
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 lids mysteriously.
"Little did you know that at that very moment I
was being appealed to: being approached, in fact--from
the other side of the Atlantic!"
She glanced over her shoulder, as though fearful of
being overheard, and then, drawing her chair nearer,
and raising a tiny ivory fan to her lips, breathed behind
it: "By the Count himself--my poor, mad, foolish
Olenski; who asks only to take her back on her own
"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
The Marchioness Manson shook her head softly.
"Time--time; I must have time. I know my Ellen--
haughty, intractable; shall I say, just a shade
"But, good heavens, to forgive is one thing; 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, if one may stoop to consider such things;
do you know what she is giving up? Those roses there
on the sofa--acres like them, under glass and in the
open, in his matchless terraced gardens at Nice! Jewels--
historic pearls: the Sobieski emeralds--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 what you've no conception
of here! And she had it all; and the homage of the
greatest. She tells me she is not thought handsome in
New 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 her climax her
face assumed an expression of ecstatic retrospection
which would have moved Archer's mirth had he not
been numb with amazement.
He would have laughed if any one had foretold to
him that his first sight of poor Medora Manson would
have been in the guise 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 hell from which Ellen
Olenska had just escaped.
"She knows nothing yet--of all this?" he asked
Mrs. Manson laid a purple finger on her lips.
"Nothing directly--but does she suspect? Who can tell? The
truth is, Mr. Archer, I have been waiting to see you.
From the moment I heard of the firm stand you had
taken, and of your influence over her, I hoped it might
be possible to count on your support--to convince
you . . ."
"That she ought to go back? I would rather see her
dead!" cried the young man violently.
"Ah," the Marchioness murmured, without visible
resentment. For a while she sat in her arm-chair, opening
and shutting the absurd ivory fan between her
mittened fingers; but suddenly she lifted her head and
"Here she comes," she said in a rapid whisper; and
then, pointing to the bouquet on the sofa: "Am I to
understand that you prefer THAT, Mr. Archer? After all,
marriage is marriage . . . and my niece is still a wife. . .
What are you two plotting together, aunt Medora?"
Madame Olenska cried as she came into the room.
She was dressed as if for a ball. Everything about her
shimmered and glimmered softly, as if her dress had
been woven out of candle-beams; and she carried her
head high, like a pretty woman challenging a roomful
"We were saying, my dear, that here was something
beautiful to surprise you with," Mrs. Manson rejoined,
rising to her feet and pointing archly to the flowers.
Madame Olenska stopped short and looked at the
bouquet. Her colour did not change, but a sort of
white radiance of anger ran over her like summer lightning.
"Ah," she exclaimed, in a shrill voice that the
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 girl engaged to be married. But some people are
She turned back to the door, opened it, and called
The ubiquitous handmaiden promptly appeared, and
Archer heard Madame Olenska say, in an Italian that
she seemed to pronounce with intentional deliberateness
in order that he might follow it: "Here--throw
this into the dustbin!" and then, as Nastasia stared
protestingly: "But no--it's not the fault of the poor
flowers. Tell the boy to carry them to the house three
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 from me!"
She flung her velvet opera cloak over the maid'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 laugh instead, and
looking from the Marchioness to Archer, asked abruptly:
"And you two--have you made friends!"
"It's for Mr. Archer to say, darling; he has waited
patiently while you were dressing."
"Yes--I gave you time enough: my hair wouldn't
go," Madame Olenska said, raising her hand to the
heaped-up curls of her chignon. "But that reminds me:
I see Dr. Carver is gone, and you'll be late at the
Blenkers'. Mr. Archer, will you put my aunt in the
She followed the Marchioness into the hall, saw her
fitted into a miscellaneous heap of overshoes, shawls
and tippets, and called from 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, examining herself
in the mirror. It was not usual, in New York
society, for a lady to address her parlour-maid as "my
dear one," and send her out on an errand wrapped in
her own opera-cloak; and Archer, through all his deeper
feelings, tasted the pleasurable excitement of being in a
world where action followed on emotion with such
Madame Olenska did not move when he came up
behind her, and for a second their eyes met in the
mirror; then she turned, threw herself into her sofa-
corner, and sighed out: "There's time for a cigarette."
He handed her the box and lit a spill for her; and as
the flame flashed up into her face she glanced at him
with laughing eyes and said: "What do you think of me
in a temper?"
Archer paused a moment; then he answered with
sudden resolution: "It makes me understand what your
aunt has been saying about you."
"I knew she'd been talking about me. Well?"
"She said you were used to all kinds of things--
splendours and amusements and excitements--that we
could never hope to give you here."
Madame Olenska smiled faintly into the circle 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 his risk. "Is your
aunt's romanticism always consistent 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 and something 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
that this was their last evening by that fireside, and that
in a moment the carriage would come to carry her away.
"She says--she pretends that Count Olenski has asked
her to persuade you to go back to him."
Madame Olenska made no answer. She sat motionless,
holding her cigarette in her half-lifted hand. The
expression of her face had not changed; and Archer
remembered that he had before noticed her apparent
incapacity for surprise.
"You knew, then?" he broke out.
She was silent for so long that the ash dropped 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
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 paid
companion. Really, I don't know why she came."
"But you do believe she has a letter from your
Again Madame Olenska brooded silently; then she
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 he
was tongue-tied by the sense that their minutes were
numbered, and that at any moment he might hear the
wheels of the returning carriage.
"You know that your aunt believes you will go 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 it
hurt her like a burn.
"Many cruel things have been believed of me," she
"Oh, Ellen--forgive me; I'm a fool and a brute!"
She smiled a little. "You are horribly nervous; you
have your own troubles. I know you think the Wellands
are unreasonable about your marriage, and of
course I agree with you. In Europe people don't understand
our long American 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 to take it up.
After all, she had perhaps purposely deflected the
conversation from her own affairs, and after the pain his
last words had evidently caused her he felt that all he
could do was to follow her lead. But the sense of the
waning hour made him desperate: he could not bear
the thought that a barrier of words should drop
between them again.
"Yes," he said abruptly; "I went south to ask May
to marry me after Easter. There's no reason why we
shouldn't be married then."
"And May adores you--and yet you couldn't convince
her? I thought her too intelligent to be the slave
of such absurd superstitions."
"She IS too intelligent--she's not their slave."
Madame Olenska looked at him. "Well, then--I don't
Archer reddened, and hurried on with a rush. "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 trust myself to go
on caring for her. She thinks, in short, I want to marry
her at once to get away from some one that I--care for
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 long engagement, to give
"Time to give her up for the other woman?"
"If I want to."
Madame Olenska leaned toward the fire and gazed
into it with fixed eyes. Down the quiet street Archer
heard the approaching trot of her horses.
"That IS noble," she said, with a slight break in her
"Yes. But it's ridiculous."
"Ridiculous? Because you don't care for any one
"Because I don't mean to marry any one else."
"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, the person
that May was thinking of is--was never--"
"Then, why, after all, are you in such haste?"
"There's your carriage," said Archer.
She half-rose and looked about her with absent eyes.
Her fan and gloves lay on the sofa beside her 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 I am
invited, or I should be too lonely. Why not come with
Archer felt that at any cost he must keep her beside
him, must make her give him the rest of her evening.
Ignoring her question, he continued to lean against the
chimney-piece, his eyes fixed on the hand in which she
held her gloves and 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 sofa between them.
She started up, and freeing herself from him moved
away to the other side of the hearth. "Ah, don't make
love to me! Too many people have done that," she
Archer, changing colour, stood up also: it was 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 married if it had
been possible for either of us."
"Possible for either of us?" She looked at him with
unfeigned astonishment. "And you say that--when it's
you who've made it impossible?"
He stared at her, groping in a blackness through
which a single arrow of light tore its blinding way.
"I'VE made it impossible--?"
"You, you, YOU!" she cried, her lip trembling like a
child's on the verge of tears. "Isn't it you who made me
give up divorcing--give it up because you showed me
how selfish and wicked it was, how one must sacrifice
one's self to preserve the dignity of marriage . . . and to
spare one's family the publicity, the scandal? And
because my family was going to be your family--for
May's sake and for yours--I did what you told me,
what you proved to me that 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, crouching among
the festive ripples of her dress like a stricken masquerader;
and the young man stood by the fireplace and
continued to gaze at her without moving.
"Good God," he groaned. "When I thought--"
"Ah, don't ask me what I thought!"
Still looking at her, he saw the same burning 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 his face in
The silence that followed lay on them with the weight
of things final and irrevocable. It seemed to Archer to
be crushing him down like his own grave-stone; in all
the wide future he saw nothing that would ever lift that
load from his heart. He did not move from his place, or
raise his head from his hands; his hidden eyeballs went
on staring into utter darkness.
"At least I loved you--" he brought out.
On the other side of the hearth, from the sofa-corner
where he supposed that she still crouched, he heard a
faint stifled crying 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 wet flower at his lips, and all their vain terrors
shrivelling up like ghosts at sunrise. The one thing that
astonished him now was that he should have stood for
five minutes arguing with her across the width of the
room, when just touching her made everything so simple.
She gave him back all his kiss, but after a moment 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'm married."
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 to ourselves. We won't talk of your
marriage; but do you see me marrying May after this?"
She stood silent, resting her thin elbows on the mantelpiece,
her profile reflected in the glass behind her. One
of the locks of her chignon had become loosened 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
"You say that because it's the easiest thing to say at
this moment--not because it's true. In reality it's too
late to do anything but what 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't yet guessed how you've changed things for
me: oh, from the first--long before I knew all you'd
"All I'd done?"
"Yes. I was perfectly unconscious at first that 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'd made your mother go with you to the van
der Luydens'; and how you'd insisted on announcing
your engagement at the Beaufort ball, so that I might
have two families to stand 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 Granny
blurted it out one day. New York simply meant peace
and freedom to me: it was coming home. And I was so
happy at being among my own people that every one I
met seemed kind and good, and glad to see me. But
from the very beginning," she continued, "I felt there
was no one as kind as you; no one who gave me
reasons that I understood for doing what at first seemed
so hard and--unnecessary. The very good people didn't
convince me; I felt they'd never been tempted. But you
knew; you understood; you had felt the world outside
tugging at one with all its golden hands--and yet you
hated the things it asks of one; you hated happiness
bought by disloyalty and cruelty and indifference. That
was what I'd never known before--and it's better than
anything I've known."
She spoke in a low even voice, without tears or
visible agitation; and each word, as it dropped from
her, fell into his breast like burning lead. He sat bowed
over, his head between his hands, staring at the hearthrug,
and at the tip of the satin shoe that showed under
her dress. Suddenly he knelt down and kissed the shoe.
She bent over him, laying her hands on his shoulders,
and looking at him with eyes so deep that he remained
motionless under her gaze.
"Ah, don't let us undo what you've done!" she cried.
"I can't go back now to that other way of thinking. I
can't love you unless I give you up."
His arms were yearning up to her; but she drew
away, and they remained facing each other, divided by
the distance that her words had created. Then, abruptly,
his anger overflowed.
"And Beaufort? Is he to replace me?"
As the words sprang out he was prepared for an
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 way was
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 the carriage 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'm like a child going at night into a room
where there's always a light."
Her tone and her look still enveloped her in a soft
inaccessibility, and Archer groaned out again: "I don't
"Yet you understand May!"
He reddened under the retort, but kept his eyes on
her. "May is ready to give me up."
"What! Three days after you've entreated her on
your knees to hasten your marriage?"
"She's refused; that gives me the right--"
"Ah, you've taught me what an ugly word that is,"
He turned away with a sense of utter weariness. He
felt as though he had been struggling for hours up the
face of a steep precipice, and now, just as he had
fought his way to the top, his hold had given way and
he was pitching down headlong into darkness.
If he could have got her in his arms again he might
have swept away her arguments; but she still held him
at a distance by something inscrutably aloof in her look
and attitude, and by his own awed sense of her sincerity.
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 he frightened her.
At that moment the bell sent a long tinkle through
the house. They had heard no carriage stopping at the
door, 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 she handed to the Countess Olenska.
"The lady was very happy at the flowers," Nastasia
said, smoothing her apron. "She thought it was her
signor marito who had sent them, and she cried a little
and said it was a folly."
Her mistress smiled and took the yellow envelope.
She tore it open and carried it to the lamp; then, when
the door had closed again, she handed the telegram to
It was dated from St. Augustine, and addressed to
the Countess Olenska. In it he read: "Granny's telegram
successful. 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 unlocked his own
front-door, he found a similar envelope on the hall-table
on top of his pile of notes and letters. The message
inside the envelope was also from May Welland, and
ran as follows: "Parents consent wedding Tuesday after
Easter at twelve Grace Church eight bridesmaids
please see Rector so happy love May."
Archer crumpled up the yellow sheet as if the gesture
could annihilate the news it contained. Then he pulled
out a small pocket-diary and turned over the pages
with trembling fingers; but he did not find what he
wanted, and cramming the telegram into his pocket he
mounted the stairs.
A light was shining through the door of the little
hall-room which served Janey as a dressing-room and
boudoir, and her brother rapped impatiently on the
panel. The door opened, and his sister stood before
him in her immemorial purple flannel dressing-gown,
with her hair "on pins." Her face looked pale and
"Newland! I hope there's no bad news in that
telegram? I waited on purpose, in case--" (No item of 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
"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 to her
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 day was fresh, with a lively spring wind full of
dust. All the old ladies in both families had got out
their faded sables and yellowing ermines, and the smell
of camphor from the front pews almost smothered the
faint spring scent of the lilies banking the altar.
Newland Archer, at a signal from the sexton, had
come out of the vestry and placed himself with his best
man on the chancel step of Grace Church.
The signal meant that the brougham bearing the
bride and her father was in sight; but there was sure to
be a considerable interval of adjustment and consultation
in the lobby, where the bridesmaids were already
hovering like a cluster of Easter blossoms. During this
unavoidable lapse of time the bridegroom, in proof of
his eagerness, was expected to expose himself alone to
the gaze of the assembled company; and Archer had
gone through this formality as resignedly as through all
the others which made of a nineteenth century New
York wedding a rite that seemed to belong to the dawn
of history. Everything was equally easy--or equally
painful, as one chose to put it--in the path he was
committed to tread, and he had obeyed the flurried
injunctions of his best man as piously as other bridegrooms
had obeyed his own, in the days when he had
guided them through the same labyrinth.
So far he was reasonably sure of having fulfilled all
his obligations. The bridesmaids' eight bouquets of white
lilac and lilies-of-the-valley had been sent in due time,
as well as the gold and sapphire sleeve-links of the
eight ushers and the best man's cat's-eye scarf-pin;
Archer had sat up half the night trying to vary 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 at Mrs. Manson
Mingott's, where the wedding-breakfast was to
take place, and so were the travelling clothes into which
he was to change; and a private compartment had been
engaged in the train that was to carry the young couple
to their unknown destination--concealment of the spot
in which the bridal night was to be spent being one of
the most sacred taboos of the prehistoric ritual.
"Got the ring all right?" whispered young van 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 seen so many
bridegrooms make: with his ungloved right hand he
felt in the pocket of his dark 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-grey gloves with black stitchings grasped in
his left hand, he stood looking at the door of the
Overhead, Handel's March swelled pompously through
the imitation stone vaulting, carrying on its waves the
faded drift of the many weddings at which, with cheerful
indifference, he had stood on the same chancel step
watching other brides float up the nave toward other
"How like a first night at the Opera!" he thought,
recognising all the same faces in the same boxes (no,
pews), and wondering if, when the Last Trump sounded,
Mrs. Selfridge Merry would be there with the same
towering ostrich feathers in her bonnet, and Mrs. Beaufort
with the same diamond earrings and the same
smile--and whether 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 with curiosity and excitement, the men's
sulky with the obligation of having to put on their
frock-coats before luncheon, and fight for food at the
"Too bad the breakfast is at old Catherine's," the
bridegroom could fancy Reggie Chivers saying. "But
I'm told that Lovell Mingott insisted on its being cooked
by his own chef, so it ought to be good if one can only
get at it." And he could imagine Sillerton Jackson
adding with authority: "My dear fellow, haven't you
heard? It's to be served at small tables, in the new
Archer's eyes lingered a moment on the left-hand
pew, where his mother, who had entered the church on
Mr. Henry van der Luyden's arm, sat weeping softly
under her Chantilly veil, her hands in her grandmother's
"Poor Janey!" he thought, looking at his sister, "even
by screwing her head around she can see only the
people in the few front pews; and they're mostly dowdy
Newlands and Dagonets."
On the hither side of the white ribbon dividing off
the seats reserved for the families he saw Beaufort, tall
and redfaced, scrutinising the women with his arrogant
stare. Beside him sat his wife, all silvery chinchilla and
violets; and on the far side of the ribbon, Lawrence
Lefferts's sleekly brushed head seemed to mount guard
over the invisible deity of "Good Form" who presided
at the ceremony.
Archer wondered how many flaws Lefferts's keen
eyes would discover in the ritual of his divinity; then he
suddenly recalled that he too had once thought such
questions important. The things that had filled his days
seemed now like a nursery parody of life, or like the
wrangles of mediaeval schoolmen over metaphysical terms
that nobody had ever understood. A stormy discussion
as to whether the wedding 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, and that 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 had definite and rather aggressive opinions on all
such problems, and when everything concerning the
manners and customs of his little tribe had seemed to
him fraught with world-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 man excitedly;
but the bridegroom knew better.
The cautious opening of the door of the church
meant only that Mr. Brown the livery-stable keeper
(gowned in black in his intermittent character of sexton)
was taking a preliminary survey of the scene before
marshalling his forces. The door was softly shut
again; then after another interval it swung majestically
open, and a murmur ran through the church: "The
Mrs. Welland came first, on the arm of her eldest
son. Her large pink face was appropriately solemn, and
her plum-coloured satin with pale blue side-panels, and
blue ostrich plumes in a small satin bonnet, met with
general approval; but before she had settled herself
with a stately rustle in the pew opposite Mrs. Archer's
the spectators were craning their necks to see who was
coming after her. Wild rumours had been abroad the
day before to the effect that Mrs. Manson Mingott, in
spite of her physical disabilities, had resolved on being
present at the ceremony; and the idea was so much in
keeping with her sporting character that bets ran high
at the clubs as to her being able to walk up the nave
and squeeze into a seat. It was known that she had
insisted on sending her own carpenter to look into the
possibility of taking down the end panel of the front
pew, and to measure the space between the seat and
the front; but the result had been discouraging, and for
one anxious day her family had watched her dallying
with the plan of being wheeled up the nave in her
enormous Bath chair and sitting enthroned in it at the
foot of the chancel.
The idea of this monstrous exposure of her person
was so painful to her relations that they could have
covered with gold the ingenious person who suddenly
discovered that the chair was too wide to pass between
the iron uprights of the awning which extended 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 who stood
outside fighting to get near the joints of the canvas,
exceeded even old Catherine's courage, though for a
moment she had weighed the possibility. "Why, they
might take a photograph of my child AND PUT IT IN THE
PAPERS!" Mrs. Welland exclaimed when her mother's
last plan was hinted to her; and from this unthinkable
indecency the clan recoiled with a collective shudder.
The ancestress had had to give in; but her concession
was bought only by the promise that the wedding-
breakfast should take place under her roof, though (as
the Washington Square connection said) with the
Wellands' house in easy reach it was hard to have to make
a special price with Brown to drive one to the other
end of nowhere.
Though all these transactions had been widely
reported by the Jacksons a sporting minority still clung
to the belief that old Catherine would appear in church,
and there was a distinct lowering of the temperature
when she was found to have been replaced by her
daughter-in-law. Mrs. Lovell Mingott had the high colour
and glassy stare induced in ladies of her age and
habit by the effort of getting into a new dress; but once
the disappointment occasioned by her mother-in-law's
non-appearance had subsided, it was agreed that her
black Chantilly over lilac satin, with a bonnet of Parma
violets, formed the happiest contrast to Mrs. Welland's
blue and plum-colour. Far different was the impression
produced by the gaunt and mincing lady who followed
on Mr. Mingott's arm, in a wild dishevelment of stripes
and fringes and floating scarves; and as this last apparition
glided into view Archer's heart contracted and
He had taken it for granted that the Marchioness
Manson was still in Washington, where she had gone
some four weeks previously with her niece, Madame
Olenska. It was generally understood that their abrupt
departure was due to Madame Olenska's desire to remove
her aunt from the baleful eloquence of Dr. Agathon
Carver, who had nearly succeeded in enlisting her as a
recruit for the Valley of Love; and in the circumstances
no one had expected either of the ladies to return for
the wedding. For a moment Archer stood with his eyes
fixed on Medora's fantastic figure, straining to see who
came behind her; but the little procession was at an
end, for all the lesser members of the family had taken
their seats, and the eight tall ushers, gathering themselves
together like birds or insects preparing for some
migratory manoeuvre, were already slipping through
the side doors into the lobby.
"Newland--I say: SHE'S HERE!" the best man whispered.
Archer roused himself with a start.
A long time had apparently passed since his heart
had stopped beating, for the white and rosy procession
was in fact half way up the nave, the Bishop, the
Rector and two white-winged assistants were hovering
about the flower-banked altar, and the first chords of
the Spohr symphony were strewing their flower-like
notes before the bride.
Archer opened his eyes (but could they really have
been shut, as he imagined?), and felt his heart beginning
to resume its usual task. The music, the scent of
the lilies on the altar, 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: all these sights,
sounds and sensations, so familiar in themselves, so
unutterably strange and meaningless in his new relation
to them, were confusedly mingled in his brain.
"My God," he thought, "HAVE I got the ring?"--and
once more he went through the bridegroom's convulsive
Then, in a moment, May was beside him, such radiance
streaming from her that it sent a faint warmth
through his numbness, and he straightened himself and
smiled into her eyes.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here," the
Rector began . . .
The ring was on her hand, the Bishop's benediction
had been given, the bridesmaids were a-poise to resume
their place in the procession, and the organ was showing
preliminary symptoms of breaking out into the
Mendelssohn March, without which no newly-wedded
couple had ever emerged upon New York.
"Your arm--I SAY, GIVE HER YOUR ARM!" young
Newland nervously hissed; and once more Archer became
aware of having been adrift far off in the unknown.
What was it that had sent him there, he
wondered? Perhaps the glimpse, among the anonymous
spectators 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 that he asked
himself if he were becoming subject to hallucinations.
And now he and his wife were pacing slowly down
the nave, carried forward on the light Mendelssohn
ripples, the spring day beckoning 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 white favour on
his lapel, wrapped May's white cloak about her, and
Archer jumped into the brougham at her side. She
turned to him with a triumphant smile and their hands
clasped under her veil.
"Darling!" Archer said--and suddenly the same black
abyss yawned before him and he felt himself sinking
into it, deeper and deeper, while his voice rambled on
smoothly and cheerfully: "Yes, of course I thought I'd
lost the ring; no wedding would be complete if 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 that might possibly happen."
She surprised him by turning, in full Fifth Avenue,
and flinging her arms about his neck. "But none ever
CAN happen now, can it, Newland, as long as we two
Every detail of the day had been so carefully thought
out that the young couple, after the wedding-breakfast,
had ample time to put on their travelling-clothes,
descend the wide Mingott stairs between laughing bridesmaids
and weeping parents, and get into the brougham
under the traditional shower of rice and satin slippers;
and there was still half an hour left in which to drive to
the station, buy the last weeklies at the bookstall with
the air of seasoned travellers, and settle themselves in
the reserved compartment in which May's maid had
already placed her dove-coloured travelling cloak and
glaringly new dressing-bag from London.
The old du Lac aunts at Rhinebeck had put their
house at the disposal of the bridal couple, with a readiness
inspired by the prospect of spending a week in
New York with Mrs. Archer; and Archer, glad to escape
the usual "bridal suite" in a Philadelphia or Baltimore
hotel, had accepted with an equal alacrity.
May was enchanted at the idea of going to the country,
and childishly amused at the vain efforts of the
eight bridesmaids to discover where their mysterious
retreat was situated. It was thought "very English" to
have a country-house lent to one, and the fact gave a
last touch of distinction to what was 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 their lips and said
mysteriously: "Ah, they didn't tell us--" which was
manifestly true, since there was no need to.
Once they were settled in their compartment, and the
train, shaking off the endless wooden suburbs, had
pushed out into the pale landscape of spring, talk
became easier than Archer had expected. May was still,
in look and tone, the simple girl of yesterday, eager to
compare notes with him as to the incidents of the
wedding, and discussing them as impartially as a bridesmaid
talking it all over with an usher. At first Archer
had fancied that this detachment was the disguise of an
inward tremor; but her clear eyes revealed only the
most tranquil unawareness. She was alone for the first
time with her husband; but her husband was only the
charming comrade of yesterday. There was no one
whom she liked as much, no one whom she trusted as
completely, and the culminating "lark" of the whole
delightful adventure of engagement and marriage was
to be off with him alone on a journey, like a grownup
person, like a "married woman," in fact.
It was wonderful that--as he had learned in the
Mission garden at St. Augustine--such depths of feeling
could coexist with such absence of imagination. But
he remembered how, even then, she had surprised him
by dropping back to inexpressive girlishness as soon as
her conscience had been eased of its burden; and he
saw that she would probably go through life dealing to
the best of her ability with each experience as it came,
but never anticipating any by so much as a stolen
Perhaps that faculty of unawareness was what gave
her eyes their transparency, and her face the look of
representing a type rather than a person; as if she
might have been chosen to pose for a Civic Virtue or a
Greek goddess. The blood that ran so close to her fair
skin might have been a preserving fluid rather than a
ravaging element; yet her look of indestructible
youthfulness made her seem neither hard nor dull, but only
primitive and pure. In the thick of this meditation
Archer suddenly felt himself looking at her with the
startled gaze of a stranger, and plunged into a reminiscence
of the wedding-breakfast and of Granny Mingott's
immense and triumphant pervasion of it.
May settled down to frank enjoyment of the subject.
"I was surprised, though--weren't you?--that aunt
Medora came after all. Ellen wrote that they were
neither of them well enough to take the journey; I do
wish it had been she who had recovered! Did you see
the exquisite old lace she sent me?"
He had known that the moment must come sooner
or later, but he had somewhat imagined that by force
of willing he might hold it at bay.
"Yes--I--no: yes, it was beautiful," he said, 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 we arrive--I'm sure the aunts have got everything
beautifully ready," he rattled on, taking her hand
in his; and her mind rushed away instantly to the
magnificent tea and coffee service of Baltimore silver
which the Beauforts had sent, and which "went" so
perfectly with uncle Lovell Mingott's trays and sidedishes.
In the spring twilight the train stopped at the
Rhinebeck station, and they walked along the platform
to the waiting carriage.
"Ah, how awfully kind of the van der Luydens--
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 this emissary, "that a
little accident has occurred at the Miss du Lacs': a leak
in the water-tank. It happened yesterday, and Mr. van
der Luyden, who heard of it this morning, sent a housemaid
up by the early train to get the Patroon's house
ready. It will be quite comfortable, I think you'll find,
sir; and the Miss du Lacs have sent their cook over, so
that it will be exactly the same as if you'd been at
Archer stared at the speaker so blankly that 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 embarrassed silence: "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 der Luyden to have
thought of it."
And as they drove off, with the maid beside the
coachman, and their shining bridal bags on the seat
before them, she went on excitedly: "Only fancy, I've
never been inside it--have you? The van der Luydens
show it to so few people. But they opened it for Ellen,
it seems, and she told me what a darling little place it
was: she says it's the only house she's seen in America
that she could imagine being perfectly happy in."
"Well--that's what we're going to be, isn't it?" cried
her husband gaily; and she answered with her boyish
smile: "Ah, it's just our luck beginning--the wonderful
luck we're always going to have together!"
Of course we must dine with Mrs. Carfry, dearest,"
Archer said; and his wife looked at him with an
anxious frown across the monumental Britannia ware of
their lodging house breakfast-table.
In all the rainy desert of autumnal London there
were only two people whom the Newland Archers
knew; and these two they had sedulously avoided, in
conformity with the old New York tradition that it was
not "dignified" to force one's self on the notice of one's
acquaintances in foreign countries.
Mrs. Archer and Janey, in the course of their 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
almost achieved the record of never having exchanged
a word with a "foreigner" other than those employed
in hotels and railway-stations. Their own compatriots--
save those previously known or properly accredited--
they treated with an even more pronounced disdain; so
that, unless they ran across a Chivers, a Dagonet or a
Mingott, their months abroad were spent in an unbroken
tete-a-tete. But the utmost precautions are sometimes
unavailing; and one night at Botzen one of the
two English ladies in the room across the passage (whose
names, dress and social situation were already intimately
known to Janey) had knocked on the door and
asked if Mrs. 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, who never travelled without a complete family
pharmacy, was fortunately able to produce the required
Mrs. Carfry was very ill, and as she and her sister
Miss Harle were travelling alone they were profoundly
grateful to the Archer ladies, who supplied them with
ingenious comforts and whose efficient maid helped to
nurse the invalid back to health.
When the Archers left Botzen they had no idea of
ever seeing Mrs. Carfry and Miss Harle again. Nothing,
to Mrs. Archer's mind, would have been more
"undignified" than to force one's self on the notice of a
"foreigner" to whom one had happened to render an
accidental service. But Mrs. Carfry and her sister, to
whom this point of view was unknown, and who would
have found it utterly incomprehensible, felt themselves
linked by an eternal gratitude to the "delightful Americans"
who had been so kind at Botzen. With touching
fidelity they seized every chance 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 through London 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 by two affectionate
friends who, like themselves, cultivated ferns in
Wardian cases, made macrame lace, read the memoirs
of the Baroness Bunsen and had views about the
occupants of the leading London pulpits. As Mrs. Archer
said, it made "another thing of London" to know Mrs.
Carfry and Miss Harle; and by the time that Newland
became engaged the tie between the families was so
firmly established that it was thought "only right" to
send a wedding invitation to the two English ladies,
who sent, in return, a pretty bouquet of pressed Alpine
flowers under glass. And on the dock, when Newland
and his wife sailed for England, Mrs. Archer's last
word had been: "You must take May to see Mrs.
Newland and his wife had had no idea of obeying
this injunction; but Mrs. Carfry, with her usual acuteness,
had run them down and sent them an invitation
to dine; and it was over this invitation that May Archer
was wrinkling her brows across the tea and muffins.
"It's all very well for you, Newland; you KNOW them.
But I shall feel so shy among a lot of people 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-like than ever.
The moist English air seemed to have deepened the
bloom of her cheeks and softened the slight hardness of
her virginal features; or else it was simply the inner
glow of happiness, shining through like a light under
"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 I don't want to be ridiculous."
He tried to enter into her perplexity. "But don't
Englishwomen dress just like everybody else in the
"Newland! How can you ask such funny questions?
When they go to the theatre in old ball-dresses and
"Well, perhaps they wear new ball-dresses at home;
but at any rate Mrs. Carfry and Miss Harle won't.
They'll wear caps like my mother's--and shawls; very
"Yes; but how will the other women be dressed?"
"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 for next 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
Gallery we might manage to catch a glimpse of the
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: on reflection,
Archer had not been able to picture his wife in
that particular setting. Her own inclination (after a
month with the Paris 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 place called Etretat,
on the Normandy coast, which some one had recommended
as quaint and quiet. Once or twice, in the
mountains, Archer had pointed 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, if only you didn't have to be in
But in reality travelling interested her even less than
he had expected. She regarded it (once her clothes were
ordered) as merely an enlarged opportunity for walking,
riding, swimming, and trying her hand at the fascinating
new game of lawn tennis; and when they finally
got back to London (where they were to spend a fortnight
while he ordered HIS clothes) she no longer concealed
the eagerness with which she looked forward to
In London nothing interested her but the theatres
and the shops; and she found the theatres less exciting
than the Paris cafes chantants where, under the blossoming
horse-chestnuts of the Champs Elysees, she had
had the novel experience of looking down from the
restaurant terrace on an audience of "cocottes," and
having her husband interpret to her as much of the
songs as he thought suitable for bridal ears.
Archer had reverted to all his old inherited ideas
about marriage. It was less trouble to conform with the
tradition and treat May exactly as all his friends treated
their wives than to try to put into practice the theories
with which his untrammelled bachelorhood had dallied.
There was no use in trying to emancipate a wife
who had not the dimmest notion that she was not free;
and he had long since discovered that May's only use
of the liberty she supposed herself to possess would be
to lay it on the altar of her wifely adoration. Her innate
dignity would always keep her from making the gift
abjectly; and a day might even come (as it once had)
when she would find strength to take it altogether back
if she thought she were doing it for his own good. But
with a conception of marriage so uncomplicated and
incurious as hers such a crisis could be brought about
only by something visibly outrageous in his own conduct;
and the fineness of her feeling for him made that
unthinkable. Whatever happened, he knew, she would
always be loyal, gallant and unresentful; and that pledged
him to the practice of the same virtues.
All this tended to draw him back into his old habits
of mind. If her simplicity had been the simplicity of
pettiness he would have chafed and rebelled; but since
the lines of her character, though so few, were on the
same fine mould as her face, she became the tutelary
divinity of all his old traditions and reverences.
Such qualities were scarcely of the kind to enliven
foreign travel, though they made her so easy and pleasant
a companion; but he 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 the
domestic circle; and within it there would be nothing
small and stifling--coming back to his wife would never
be like entering a stuffy room after a tramp in the
open. And when they had children the vacant corners
in both their lives would be filled.
All these things went through his mind during their
long slow drive from Mayfair to South Kensington,
where Mrs. Carfry and her sister lived. Archer too
would have preferred to escape their friends' hospitality:
in conformity with the family tradition he had
always travelled as a sight-seer and looker-on, affecting
a haughty unconsciousness of the presence of his fellow-
beings. Once only, just after Harvard, he had spent a
few gay weeks at Florence with a band of queer
Europeanised Americans, dancing all night with titled
ladies in palaces, and gambling half the day with the
rakes and dandies of the fashionable club; but it had all
seemed to him, though the greatest fun in the world, as
unreal as a carnival. These queer cosmopolitan women,
deep in complicated love-affairs which they appeared to
feel the need of retailing to every one they met, and the
magnificent young officers and elderly dyed wits who
were the subjects or the recipients of their confidences,
were too different from the people Archer had grown
up among, too much like expensive and rather malodorous
hot-house exotics, to detain his imagination
long. To introduce his wife into such a society was out
of the question; and in the course of his travels no
other had shown any marked eagerness for his company.
Not long after their arrival in London he had run
across the Duke of St. Austrey, and the Duke, instantly
and cordially recognising him, had said: "Look me up,
won't you?"--but no proper-spirited American would
have considered that a suggestion to be acted on, and
the meeting was without a sequel. They had even managed
to avoid May's English aunt, the banker's wife,
who was still in Yorkshire; in fact, they had purposely
postponed going to London till the autumn in order
that their arrival during the season might not appear
pushing and 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 too beautiful," Archer said to May, who sat at
his side in the hansom so spotlessly splendid in her
sky-blue cloak edged with swansdown that it seemed
wicked to expose her to the London grime.
"I don't want them to think that we dress like
savages," she replied, with a scorn that Pocahontas might
have resented; and he was struck again by the religious
reverence of even the most unworldly American women
for the social advantages of dress.
"It's their armour," he thought, "their defence against
the unknown, and their defiance of it." And he understood
for the first time the earnestness with which
May, who was incapable of tying a ribbon in her hair
to charm him, had gone through the solemn rite of
selecting and ordering her extensive wardrobe.
He had been right in expecting the party at Mrs.
Carfry's to be a small one. Besides their hostess and her
sister, they found, in the long chilly drawing-room,
only another shawled lady, a genial Vicar who was her
husband, a silent lad whom Mrs. Carfry named as her
nephew, and a small dark gentleman with lively eyes
whom she introduced as his tutor, pronouncing a French
name as she did so.
Into this dimly-lit and dim-featured group May 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 the tokens of an extreme
and infantile shyness.
"What on earth will they expect me to talk about?"
her helpless eyes implored him, at the very moment
that her dazzling apparition was calling forth the same
anxiety in their own bosoms. But beauty, even when
distrustful of itself, awakens confidence in the manly
heart; and the Vicar and the French-named tutor were
soon manifesting to May their desire to put her at her
In spite of their best efforts, however, the dinner was
a languishing affair. Archer noticed that his wife's way
of showing herself at her ease with foreigners was to
become more uncompromisingly local in her references,
so that, though her loveliness was an encouragement to
admiration, her conversation was a chill to repartee.
The Vicar soon abandoned the struggle; but the tutor,
who spoke the most fluent and accomplished English,
gallantly continued to pour it out to her until the
ladies, to the manifest relief of all concerned, went up
to the drawing-room.
The Vicar, after a glass of port, was obliged 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 sit over their wine, and suddenly
Archer found himself talking as he had not done since
his last symposium with Ned Winsett. The Carfry
nephew, it turned out, had been threatened with
consumption, and had had to leave Harrow for Switzerland,
where he had spent two years in the milder air of
Lake Leman. Being a bookish youth, he had been
entrusted to M. Riviere, who had brought him back to
England, and was to remain with him till he went up to
Oxford the following spring; and M. Riviere added
with simplicity that he should then have to look out for
It seemed impossible, Archer thought, that he should
be long without one, so varied were his interests and so
many his gifts. He was a man of about thirty, with a
thin ugly face (May would certainly have called him
common-looking) to which the play of his ideas gave
an intense expressiveness; but there was nothing frivolous
or cheap in his animation.
His father, who had died young, had filled a small
diplomatic post, and it had been intended that the son
should follow the same 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 vicissitudes which
he spared his listener--into tutoring English youths in
Switzerland. Before that, however, he had lived much
in Paris, frequented the Goncourt grenier, been advised
by Maupassant not to attempt to write (even that seemed
to Archer a dazzling honour!), and had often talked
with Merimee in his mother's house. He had obviously
always been desperately poor and anxious (having a
mother and an unmarried sister to provide for), and it
was apparent that his literary ambitions had failed. His
situation, in fact, seemed, materially speaking, no more
brilliant than Ned Winsett's; but he had lived in a
world in which, as he said, no one who loved ideas
need hunger mentally. As it was precisely of that love
that poor Winsett was starving to death, Archer looked
with a sort of vicarious envy at this 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
of appreciation, one's critical independence? It was
because of that that I abandoned journalism, and took
to so much duller work: tutoring and private secretaryship.
There is a good deal of drudgery, of course; but
one preserves one's moral freedom, what we call in
French one's quant a soi. And when one hears good
talk one can join in it without compromising any opinions
but one's own; or one can listen, and answer it
inwardly. Ah, good conversation--there's nothing like
it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth
breathing. And so I have never regretted giving up
either diplomacy or journalism--two different forms of
the same self-abdication." He fixed his vivid eyes on
Archer as he lit another cigarette. "Voyez-vous,
Monsieur, to be able to look life in the face: that's worth
living in a garret for, isn't it? But, after all, one must
earn enough to pay for 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 at Bucharest. Sometimes I feel I must make a
plunge: an immense plunge. Do you suppose, for instance,
there would be any opening for me in America--
in New York?"
Archer looked at him with startled eyes. New York,
for a young man who had frequented the Goncourts
and Flaubert, and who thought the life of ideas the
only one worth living! He continued to stare at M.
Riviere perplexedly, wondering how to tell him that
his very superiorities and advantages would be the
surest hindrance to success.
"New York--New York--but must it be especially
New York?" he stammered, utterly unable to imagine
what lucrative opening his native city could offer to a
young man to whom good conversation appeared to be
the only necessity.
A sudden flush rose under M. Riviere's sallow skin.
"I--I thought it your metropolis: is not the intellectual
life more active there?" he rejoined; then, as if fearing
to give his hearer the impression of having asked a
favour, he went on hastily: "One throws out random
suggestions--more to one's self than to others. In reality,
I see no immediate prospect--" and rising from his
seat he added, without a trace of constraint: "But
Mrs. Carfry will think that I ought to be taking you
During the homeward drive Archer pondered deeply
on this episode. His hour with M. Riviere had put
new air into 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 immediately
yield 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 out tentatively in the hansom.
May roused herself from one of the dreamy silences
into which he had read so many meanings before six
months of marriage had given him the key to them.
"The little Frenchman? Wasn't he dreadfully
common?" she questioned coldly; and he guessed that she
nursed a secret disappointment at having been invited
out in London to meet a clergyman and a French tutor.
The disappointment was not occasioned by the sentiment
ordinarily defined as snobbishness, but by old
New York's sense of what was due to it when it risked
its dignity in foreign lands. If May's parents had
entertained the Carfrys in Fifth Avenue they would have
offered them something more substantial than a parson
and a schoolmaster.
But Archer was on edge, and took her up.
"Common--common WHERE?" he queried; and she
returned 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, "I suppose I shouldn't have known if he was
Archer disliked her use of the word "clever" almost
as much as her use of the word "common"; but he was
beginning to fear his tendency to dwell on the things he
disliked in her. After all, her point of view had always
been the same. It was that of all the people he had
grown up 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 must necessarily be
among the nice.
"Ah--then I won't ask him to dine!" he concluded
with a laugh; and May echoed, bewildered: "Goodness--
ask the Carfrys' tutor?"
"Well, not on the same day with the Carfrys, if you
prefer I shouldn't. But I did rather want another talk
with him. He's looking for a job in New York."
Her surprise increased with her indifference: he
almost fancied that she suspected him of being tainted
"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, I understand,"
her husband retorted perversely; and she broke into an
appreciative laugh. "Oh, Newland, how funny! Isn't
On the whole, he was glad to have the matter settled
for him by her refusing to take seriously his wish to
invite M. Riviere. Another after-dinner talk would have
made it difficult to avoid the question of New York;
and the more Archer considered it the less he was able
to fit M. Riviere into any conceivable picture of New
York as he knew it.
He perceived with a flash of chilling insight that in
future many problems would be thus negatively solved
for him; but as he paid the hansom and followed his
wife's long train into the house he took refuge in the
comforting platitude that the first six months were
always the most difficult in marriage. "After that I
suppose we shall have pretty nearly finished rubbing
off each other's angles," he reflected; but the worst of
it was that May's pressure was already bearing on the
very angles whose sharpness he most wanted to keep.
The small bright lawn stretched away smoothly to
the big bright sea.
The turf was hemmed with an edge of scarlet geranium
and coleus, and cast-iron vases painted in chocolate
colour, standing at intervals along the winding
path that led to the sea, looped their garlands of
petunia and ivy geranium above the neatly raked gravel.
Half way between the edge of the cliff and the square
wooden house (which was also chocolate-coloured, but
with the tin roof of the verandah striped in yellow and
brown to represent an awning) two large targets had
been placed against a background of shrubbery. On the
other side of the lawn, facing the targets, was pitched a
real tent, with benches and garden-seats about it. A
number of ladies in summer dresses and gentlemen 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 of the targets,
while the spectators interrupted their talk to watch
Newland Archer, standing on the verandah of the
house, looked curiously down upon this scene. On each
side of the shiny painted steps was a large blue china
flower-pot on a bright yellow china stand. A spiky
green plant filled each pot, and below the verandah ran
a wide border of blue hydrangeas edged with more red
geraniums. Behind him, the French windows of the
drawing-rooms through which he had passed gave
glimpses, between swaying lace curtains, of glassy parquet
floors islanded with chintz poufs, dwarf armchairs,
and velvet tables covered with trifles in silver.
The Newport Archery Club always held its August
meeting at the Beauforts'. The sport, which had hitherto
known no rival but croquet, was beginning to be
discarded in favour of lawn-tennis; but the latter game
was still considered too rough and inelegant for social
occasions, and as an opportunity to show off pretty
dresses and graceful attitudes the bow and arrow held
Archer looked down with wonder at the familiar
spectacle. It surprised him that life should be going on
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 of this daily activity had served
as a link with his former self. Then there had been the
pleasurable excitement of choosing a showy grey stepper
for May's brougham (the Wellands had given the
carriage), and the abiding occupation and interest of
arranging his new library, which, in spite of family
doubts and disapprovals, 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 the hours dedicated to the law and
those given to dining out or entertaining friends at
home, with an occasional evening at the Opera or the
play, the life he was living had still seemed a fairly real
and inevitable sort of business.
But Newport represented the escape from duty into
an atmosphere of unmitigated holiday-making. Archer
had tried to persuade May to spend the 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 of enchanting
scenery and a wild, almost trapper-like existence amid
woods and waters.
But the Wellands always went to Newport, where
they owned one of the square boxes on the cliffs, and
their son-in-law could adduce 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 clothes
in Paris if she was not to be allowed to wear them; and
this argument was of a kind to which Archer had as yet
found no answer.
May herself could not understand his obscure
reluctance to fall in with so reasonable and pleasant a way
of spending the summer. She reminded him that he had
always liked Newport in his bachelor days, and as this
was indisputable he could only profess that he was sure
he was going to like it better than ever now that they
were to be there together. But as he stood on the
Beaufort verandah and looked out on the brightly peopled
lawn it came home to him with a shiver that he
was 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 return to the
conditions she was used to. He had always foreseen that
she would not disappoint 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 rather aimless 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 mistaken in his
choice, for she had fulfilled all that he had expected. It
was undoubtedly gratifying to be the husband 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 insensible to such advantages.
As for the momentary madness which had fallen upon
him on the eve of his marriage, he had trained himself
to regard it as the last of his discarded experiments.
The idea that he could ever, in his senses, have dreamed
of marrying the Countess Olenska had become almost
unthinkable, and she remained in his memory simply as
the most plaintive and poignant of a line of ghosts.
But all these abstractions and eliminations made
of his mind a rather empty and echoing place, and he
supposed that was one of the reasons why the busy
animated people on the Beaufort lawn shocked him as
if they had been children playing in a grave-yard.
He heard a murmur of skirts beside him, and the
Marchioness Manson fluttered out of the drawing-room
window. As usual, she was extraordinarily festooned
and bedizened, with a limp Leghorn hat anchored to
her head by many windings of faded gauze, and a little
black velvet parasol on a carved ivory handle absurdly
balanced over her much larger hatbrim.
"My dear Newland, I had no idea that you and May
had arrived! You yourself came only yesterday, you
say? Ah, business--business--professional duties . . . I
understand. Many husbands, I know, find it impossible
to 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 I used often to remind my Ellen--"
Archer's heart stopped with the queer jerk which it
had given once before, and which seemed suddenly to
slam a door between himself and the outer world; but
this break of continuity must have been of the briefest,
for he presently heard Medora answering a question he
had apparently found voice to put.
"No, I am not staying here, but with the Blenkers, in
their delicious solitude at Portsmouth. Beaufort was
kind enough to send his famous trotters for me this
morning, so that I might have at least a glimpse of one
of Regina's garden-parties; but this evening I go back
to rural life. The Blenkers, dear original beings, have
hired a primitive old farm-house at Portsmouth where
they gather about them representative people . . ." She
drooped slightly beneath her protecting brim, and added
with a faint blush: "This week Dr. Agathon Carver is
holding a series of Inner Thought meetings there. A
contrast indeed to this gay scene of worldly 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 phase of exaltation,
of abhorrence of the world. You know, I suppose, that
she has declined all 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 this absorbing match? I
hear your May is one of the competitors."
Strolling toward them from the tent Beaufort
advanced over the lawn, tall, heavy, too tightly buttoned
into a London frock-coat, with one of his own orchids
in its buttonhole. Archer, who had not seen him for
two or three months, was struck by the change in his
appearance. In the hot summer light his floridness seemed
heavy and bloated, and but for his erect square-
shouldered walk he would have looked like an over-fed
and over-dressed old man.
There were all sorts of rumours afloat about
Beaufort. In the spring he had gone off on a long cruise to
the West Indies in his new steam-yacht, and it was
reported that, at various points where he had touched,
a lady resembling Miss Fanny Ring had been seen in
his company. The steam-yacht, built in the Clyde, and
fitted with tiled bath-rooms and other unheard-of luxuries,
was said to have cost him half a million; and the
pearl necklace which he had presented to his wife on
his return was as magnificent as such expiatory offerings
are apt to be. Beaufort's fortune was substantial
enough to stand the strain; and yet the disquieting
rumours persisted, not only in Fifth Avenue but in Wall
Street. Some people said he had speculated unfortunately
in railways, others that he was being bled by one
of the most insatiable 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 and Newland
with his usual half-sneering smile. "Hullo, Medora!
Did the trotters do their business? Forty minutes, eh?
. . . Well, that's not so bad, considering your nerves
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 a low voice, a few
words which their companion did not catch.
The Marchioness replied by one of her queer foreign
jerks, and a "Que voulez-vous?" which deepened Beaufort's
frown; but he produced a good semblance of a
congratulatory smile as he glanced at Archer to say:
"You know May's going to carry off the first prize."
"Ah, then it remains in the family," Medora rippled;
and at that moment they reached the tent and Mrs.
Beaufort met them in a girlish cloud of mauve muslin
and floating veils.
May Welland was just coming out of the tent. In her
white dress, with a pale green ribbon about the waist
and a wreath of ivy on her hat, she had the same
Diana-like aloofness as when she had entered the Beaufort
ball-room on the night of her engagement. In the
interval not a thought seemed to have passed behind
her eyes or a feeling through her heart; and though her
husband knew that she had the capacity for both he
marvelled afresh at the way in which experience dropped
away from her.
She had her bow and arrow in her hand, and placing
herself on the chalk-mark traced on the turf she lifted
the bow to her shoulder and took aim. The attitude
was so full of a classic grace that a murmur of appreciation
followed her appearance, and Archer felt the
glow of proprietorship that so often cheated him into