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Full text of "The age of innocence"

The AGE of 
INNOCENCE 




The 
AGE OF 

INNOCENCE 

by 
EDITH WHARTON 

AUTHOR OF 
"The Mothers Recompense" 




GROSSET & DUNLAP 

^Publishers 

by arrangement with 
D. APPLETON & COMPANY 




COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY 

D. APPLETON AND COMPANYj 



All rights reserved. This book, or parts 
thereof, must not be reproduced in any 
form without permission of the publishers. 



PiS 






COPTKIGHT, 1520, v THE PICTOIIAL REVIEW COMPAKT 

PRINTED IN TEE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



BOOK I 



ON a January evening of the early seventies, Christine 
Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of 
Music in New York. 

Though there was already talk of the erection, in 
remote metropolitan distances "above the Forties," of a 
new Opera House which should compete in costliness 
and splendour with those of the great European capitals, 
the world of fashion was still content to reassemble 
every winter in the shabby red and gold boxes of the 
sociable old Academy. Conservatives cherished it for 
being small and inconvenient, and thus keeping out the 
"new people" whom New York was beginning to dread 
and yet be drawn to; and the sentimental clung to it for 
its historic associations, and the musical for its excellent 
acoustics, always so problematic a quality in halls built 
for the hearing of music. 

It was Madame Nilsson's first appearance that winter, 
and what the daily press had already learned to describe 
as "an exceptionally brilliant audience" had gathered to 
hear her, transported through the slippery, snowy streets 
in private broughams, in the spacious family landau, or 
in the humbler but more convenient "Brown coupe." To 
come to the Opera in a Brown coupe was almost as hon- 
ourable a way of arriving as in one's own carriage; and 
departure by the same means had the immense advantage 
of enabling one (with a playful allusion to democratic 
principles) to scramble into the first Brown conveyance 
in the line, instead of waiting till the cold-and-gin con- 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

gested nose of one's own coachman gleamed under the 
portico of the Academy. It was one of the great livery- 
stableman's most masterly intuitions to have discovered 
that Americans want to get away from amusement even 
more quickly than they want to get to it. 

When Newland Archer opened the door at the back of 
the club box the curtain had just gone up on the garden 
scene. There was no reason why the young man should 
not have come earlier, for he had dined at seven, alone 
;with his mother and sister, and had lingered afterward 
over a cigar in the Gothic library with glazed black- 
walnut bookcases and finial-topped chairs which was the 
only room in the house where Mrs. Archer allowed 
smoking. But, in the first place, New York was a 
metropolis, and perfectly aware that in metropolises it 
was "not the thing" to arrive early at the opera; and 
what was or was not "the thing" played a part as impor- 
tant in Newland Archer's New York as the inscrutable 
totem terrors that had ruled the destinies of his fore- 
fathers thousands of years ago. 

The second reason for his delay was a personal one. 
He had dawdled over his cigar because he was at heart 
a dilettante, and thinking over a pleasure to come often 
gave him a subtler satisfaction than its realisation. This 
was especially the case when the pleasure was a delicate 
one, as his pleasures mostly were; and on this occasion 

^the moment he looked forward to was so rare and 
exquisite in quality that well, if he had timed his arrival 

' in accord with the prima donna's stage-manager he could 
not have entered the Academy at a more significant 
moment than just as she was singing: "He loves me 
he loves me not he loves me!" and sprinkling the fall- 
ing daisy petals with notes as clear as dew. 

* She sang, of course, "M'&ma!" and not "he loves me," 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

since an unalterable and unquestionr d law of the musical 
world required that the German text of French operas 
sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian 
for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audi- 
ences. This seemed as natural to Newland Archer as 
all the other conventions on which his life was moulded : 
such as the duty of using two silver-backed brushes with 
his monogram in blue enamel to part his hair, and of 
never appearing in society without a flower (preferably 
a gardenia) in his buttonhole. 

"M'ama . . . non m'ama . . ." the prima donna sang, 
and "M'&ma!", with a final burst of love triumphant, as 
she pressed the dishevelled daisy to her lips and lifted 
her large eyes to the sophisticated countenance of the 
little brown Faust-Capoul, who was vainly trying, in a 
tight purple velvet doublet and plumed cap, to look as 
pure and true as his artless victim. 

Newland Archer, leaning against the wall at the back 
of the club box, turned his eyes from the stage and 
scanned the opposite side of the house. Directly facing 
him was the box of old Mrs. Manson Mingott, whose 
monstrous obesity had long since made it impossible for 
her to attend the Opera, but who was always represented 
on fashionable nights by some of the younger members 
of the family. On this occasion, the front of the box 
was filled by her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Lovell Mingott, 
and her daughter, Mrs. Welland; and slightly withdrawn 
behind these brocaded matrons sat a young girl in white 
with eyes ecstatically fixed on the stage-lovers. As 
Madame Nilsson's "M'ama!" thrilled out above the silent 
house (the boxes always stopped talking during the Daisy 
Song) a warm pink mounted to the girl's cheek, mantled 
her brow to the roots of her fair braids, and suffused the 
young slope of her breast to the line where it met a 

[3] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

modest tulle tucker fastened with a single gardenia. She 
dropped her eyes to the immense bouquet of lilies-of- 
the-valley on her knee, and Newland Archer saw her 
white-gloved finger-tips touch the flowers softly. He 
drew a breath of satisfied vanity and his eyes returned 
to the stage. 

No expense had been spared on the setting, which 
was acknowledged to be very beautiful even by people 
who shared his acquaintance with the Opera houses of 
Paris and Vienna. The foreground, to the footlights, 
was covered with emerald green cloth. In the middle 
distance symmetrical mounds of woolly green moss 
bounded by croquet hoops formed the base of shrubs 
shaped like orange-trees but studded with large pink 
and red roses. Gigantic pansies, considerably larger 
than the roses, and closely resembling the floral pen- 
wipers made by female parishioners for fashionable 
clergymen, sprang from the moss beneath the rose-trees ; 
and here and there a daisy grafted on a rose-branch 
flowered with a luxuriance prophetic of Mr. Luther Bur- 
bank's far-off prodigies. 

In the centre of this enchanted garden Madame Nils- 
son, in white cashmere slashed with pale blue satin, a 
reticule dangling from a blue girdle, and large yellow 
braids carefully disposed on each side of her muslin 
chemisette, listened with downcast eyes to M. Capoul's 
impassioned wooing, and affected a guileless incompre- 
hension of his designs whenever, by word or glance, he 
persuasively indicated the ground floor window of the 
neat brick villa projecting obliquely from the right wing. 

"The darling!" thought Newland Archer, his glance? 

flitting back to the young girl with the lilies-of-the-valley. 

"She doesn't even guess what it's all about." And he 

contemplated her absorbed young face with a thrill of 

to 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

possessorship in which pride in his own masculine initia- 
tion was mingled with a tender reverence for her abysmal 
purity. "We'll read Faust together ... by the Italian 
lakes . . ." he thought, somewhat hazily confusing the 
scene of his projected honey-moon with the masterpieces 
of literature which it would be his manly privilege to 
reveal to his bride. It was only that afternoon that May 
Welland had let him guess that she "cared" (New York's 
consecrated phrase of maiden avowal), and already his 
imagination, leaping ahead of the engagement ring, the 
betrothal kiss and the march from Lohengrin, pictured 
her at his side in some scene of old European witchery. 

He did not in the least wish the future Mrs. Newland 
Archer to be a simpleton. He meant her (thanks to his 
enlightening companionship) to develop a social tact and 
readiness of wit enabling her to hold her own with the 
most popular married women of the "younger set," in 
which it was the recognised custom to attract masculine 
homage while playfully discouraging it. If he had 
probed to the bottom of his vanity (as he sometimes 
nearly did) he would have found there the wish that 
his wife should be as worldly-wise and as eager to please 
as the married lady whose charms had held his fancy 
through two mildly agitated years; without, of course, 
any hint of the frailty which had so nearly marred that 
unhappy being's life, and had disarranged his own plans 
for a whole winter. 

How this miracle of fire and ice was to be created, and 
to sustain itself in a harsh world, he had never taken 
the time to think out; but he was content to hold his 
view without analysing it, since he knew it was that of 
all the carefully-brushed, white-waistcoated, buttonhole- 
flowered gentlemen who succeeded each other in the club 
box, exchanged friendly greetings with him, and turned 

[5] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

their opera-glasses critically on the circle of ladies who 
were the product of the system. In matters intellectual 
and artistic Newland Archer felt himself distinctly the 
superior of these chosen specimens of old New York 
gentility ; he had probably read more, thought more, and 
even seen a good deal more of the world, than any other 
man of the number. Singly they betrayed their 
inferiority ; but grouped together they represented "New 
York," and the habit of masculine solidarity made him 
accept their doctrine on all the issues called moral. He 
instinctively felt that in this respect it would be trouble- 
some and also rather bad form to strike out for 
himself. 

"Well upon my soul!" exclaimed Lawrence Lefferts, 
turning his opera-glass abruptly away from the stage. 
Lawrence Lefferts was, on the whole, the foremost 
authority on "form" in New York. He had probably 
devoted more time than any one else to the study of 
this intricate and fascinating question; but study alone 
could not account for his complete and easy competence. 
One had only to look at him, from the slant of his bald 
forehead and the curve of his beautiful fair moustache 
to the long patent-leather feet at the other end of his 
lean and elegant person, to feel that the knowledge of 
"form" must be congenital in any one who knew how 
to wear such good clothes so carelessly and carry such 
height with so much lounging grace. As a young 
admirer had once said of him: "If anybody can tell a 
fellow just when to wear a black tie with evening clothes 
and when not to, it's Larry Lefferts." And on the ques- 
tion of pumps versus patent-leather "Oxfords" his 
authority had never been disputed. 

"My God!" he said; and silently handed his glass to 
old Sillerton Jackson. 

[6] 



THE Ai 



fOCENCE 



Newland Archer, following Lefferts's glance, saw with 
surprise that his exclamation had been occasioned by the 
entry of a new figure into old Mrs. Mingott's box. It 
was that of a slim young woman, a little less tall than 
May Welland, with brown hair growing in close curls 
about her temples and held in place by a narrow band 
of diamonds. The suggestion of this headdress, which 
gave her what was then called a "Josephine look," was 
carried out in the cut of the dark blue velvet gown 
rather theatrically caught up under her bosom by a girdle 
with a large old-fashioned clasp. The wearer of this 
unusual dress, who seemed quite unconscious of the 
attention it was attracting, stood a moment in the centre 
of the box, discussing with Mrs. Welland the propriety 
of taking the latter's place in the front right-hand corner ; 
then she yielded with a slight smile, and seated herself 
in line with Mrs. Welland's sister-in-law, Mrs. Lovell 
Mingott, who was installed in the opposite corner. 

Mr. Sillerton Jackson had returned the opera-glass to 
Lawrence Lefferts. The whole of the club turned 
instinctively, waiting to hear what the old man had to 
say; for old Mr. Jackson was as great an authority on 
"family" as Lawrence Lefferts was on "form." He 
knew all the ramifications of New York's cousinships; 
and could not only elucidate such complicated questions 
as that of the connection between the Mingotts (through 
the Thorleys) with the Dallases of South Carolina, and 
that of the relationship of the elder branch of Phila- 
delphia Thorleys to the Albany Chi verses (on no account 
to be confused with the Manson Chiverses of University 
Place), but could also enumerate the leading character- 
istics of each family: as, for instance, the fabulous stingi- 
ness of the younger lines of Leffertses (the Long Island 
ones) ; or the fatal tendency of the Rush worths to make 

[7] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

foolish matches; or the insanity recurring in every sec- 
ond generation of the Albany Chiverses, with whom their 
New York cousins had always refused to intermarry 
with the disastrous exception of poor Medora Manson, 
who, as everybody knew . . . but then her mother was 
a Rushworth. 

In addition to this forest of family trees, Mr. Sillerton 
Jackson carried between his narrow hollow temples, and 
under his soft thatch of silver hair, a register of most 
of the scandals and mysteries that had smouldered under 
the unruffled surface of New York society within the 
last fifty years. So far indeed did his information 
extend, and so acutely retentive was his memory, that 
he was supposed to be the only man who could have 
told you who Julius Beaufort, the banker, really was, 
and what had become of handsome Bob Spicer, old Mrs. 
Manson Mingott's father, who had disappeared so mys- 
teriously (with a large sum of trust money) less than 
a year after his marriage, on the very day that a beautiful 
Spanish dancer who had been delighting thronged audi- 
ences in the old Opera-house on the Battery had taken 
ship for Cuba. But these mysteries, and many others, 
were closely locked in Mr. Jackson's breast; for not 
only did his keen sense of honour forbid his repeating*- 
anything privately imparted, but he was fully aware 
that his reputation for discretion increased his oppor- 
tunities of finding out what he wanted to know. 

The club box, therefore, waited in visible suspense 
while Mr. Sillerton Jackson handed back Lawrence 
Lefferts's opera-glass. For a moment he silently scrutin- 
ised the attentive group out of his filmy blue eyes over- 
hung by old veined lids; then he gave his moustache a 
thoughtful twist, and said simply: "I didn't think the 
Mingotts would have tried it on." 

[8] 



II 



NEWLAND ARCHER, during this brief episode, 
had been thrown into a strange state of embar- 
rassment. 

It was annoying that the box which was thus attracting 
the undivided attention of masculine New York should 
be that in which his betrothed was seated between her 
mother and aunt ; and for a moment he could not identify 
the lady in the Empire dress, nor imagine why her pres- 
ence created such excitement among the initiated. Then 
light dawned on him, and with it came a momentary rush 
of indignation. No, indeed ; no one would have thought 
the Mingotts would have tried it on ! 

But they had; they undoubtedly had; for the low- 
toned comments behind him left no doubt in Archer's 
mind that the young woman was May Welland's cousin, 
the cousin always referred to in the family as "poor 
Ellen Olenska." Archer knew that she had suddenly 
arrived from Europe a day or two previously; he had 
even heard from Miss Welland (not disapprovingly) 
that she had been to see poor Ellen, who was staying with 
old Mrs. Mingott. Archer entirely approved of family 
solidarity, and one of the qualities he most admired in 
the Mingotts was their resolute championship of the few 
black sheep that their blameless stock had produced. 
There was nothing mean or ungenerous in the young 
man's heart, and he was glad that his future wife should 

[9] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

not be restrained by false prudery from being kind (in 
private) to her unhappy cousin; but to receive Countess 
Olenska in the family circle was a different thing from 
producing her in public, at the Opera of all places, and 
in the very box with the young girl whose engagement 
to him, Newland Archer, was to be announced within a 
few weeks. No, he felt as old Sillerton Jackson felt ; 
he did not think the Mingotts would have tried it on! 

He knew, of course, that whatever man dared (within 
Fifth Avenue's limits) that old Mrs. Manson Mingott, the 
Matriarch of the line, would dare. He had always 
admired the high and mighty old lady, who, in spite of 
having been only Catherine Spicer of Staten Island, 
with a father mysteriously discredited, and neither money 
nor position enough to make people forget it, had allied 
herself with the head of the wealthy Mingott line, mar- 
ried two of her daughters to "foreigners" (an Italian 
Marquis and an English banker), and put the crowning 
touch to her audacities by building a large house of pale 
cream-coloured stone (when brown sandstone seemed as 
much the only wear as a frock-coat in the afternoon) in 
an inaccessible wilderness near the Central Park. 

Old Mrs. Mingott's foreign daughters had become a 
legend. They never came back to see their mother, and 
the latter being, like many persons of active mind and 
dominating will, sedentary and corpulent in her habit, 
had philosophically remained at home. But the cream- 
coloured house (supposed to be modelled on the private 
hotels of the Parisian aristocracy) was there as a visible 
proof of her moral courage ; and she throned in it, among 
pre-Revolutionary furniture and souvenirs of the 
Tuileries of Louis Napoleon (where she had shone in 
her middle age), as placidly as if there were nothing 
peculiar in living above Thirty- fourth Street, or in hav- 

[10] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ing French windows that opened like doors instead of 
sashes that pushed up. 

Every one (including Mr. Sillerton Jackson) was 
agreed that old Catherine had never had beauty a gift 
which, in the eyes of New York, justified every success, 
and excused a certain number of failings. Unkind peo- 
ple said that, like her Imperial namesake, she had won 
her way to success by strength of will and hardness of 
heart, and a kind of haughty effrontery that was some- 
how justified by the extreme decency and dignity of her 
private life. Mr. Manson Mingott had died when she 
was only twenty-eight, and had "tied up" the money 
with an additional caution born of the general distrust 
of the Spicers ; but his bold young widow went her way 
fearlessly, mingled freely in foreign society, married her 
daughters in heaven knew what corrupt and fashionable 
circles, hobnobbed with Dukes and Ambassadors, asso- 
ciated familiarly with Papists, entertained Opera singers, 
and was the intimate friend of Mme. Taglioni; and all 
the while (as Sillerton Jackson was the first to proclaim) 
there had never been a breath on her reputation ; the only 
respect, he always added, in which she differed from tha 
earlier Catherine. 

'Mrs. Manson Mingott had long since succeeded in 
untying her husband's fortune, and had lived in affluence 
for half a century ; but memories of her early straits had 
made her excessively thrifty, and though, when she 
bought a dress or a piece of furniture, she took care that 
it should be of the best, she could not bring herself to 
spend much on the transient pleasures of the table. 
Therefore, for totally different reasons, her food was as 
poor as Mrs. Archer's, and her wines did nothing to 
redeem it. Her relatives considered that the penury of 
her table discredited the Mingott name, which had always 

DO 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

been associated with good living ; but people continued to 
come to her in spite of the "made dishes" and flat cham- 
pagne, and in reply to the remonstrances of her son 
Lovell (who tried to retrieve the family credit by having 
the best chef in New York) she used to say laughingly: 
"What's the use of two good cooks in one family, now 
that I've married the girls and can't eat sauces?" 

Newland Archer, as he mused on these things, had 
once more turned his eyes toward the Mingott box. He 
saw that Mrs. Welland and her sister-in-law were facing 
their semi-circle of critics with the Mingottian aplomb 
which old Catherine had inculcated in all her tribe, and 
that only May Welland betrayed, by a heightened colour 
(perhaps due to the knowledge that he was watching 
her) a sense of the gravity of the situation. As for the 
cause of the commotion, she sat gracefully in her corner 
of the box, her eyes fixed on the stage, and revealing, as 
she leaned forward, a little more shoulder and bosom 
than New York was accustomed to seeing, at least in 
ladies who had reasons for wishing to pass unnoticed. 

Few things seemed to Newland Archer more awful 
than an offence against "Taste," that far-off divinity of 
whom "Form" was the mere visible representative and 
vicegerent. Madame Olenska's pale and serious face 
appealed to his fancy as suited to the occasion and to 
her unhappy situation; but the way her dress (which 
had no tucker) sloped away from her thin shoulders 
shocked and troubled him. He hated to think of May 
Welland's being exposed to the influence of a young 
woman so careless of the dictates of Taste. 

"After all," he heard one of the younger men begin 
behind him (everybody talked through the 'Mephisto- 
pheles-and-Martha scenes), "after all, just what hap- 
pened?" 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Well she left him; nobody attempts to deny that." 

"He's an awful brute, isn't he?" continued the young 
enquirer, a candid Thorley, who was evidently preparing 
to enter the lists as the lady's champion. 

"The very worst; I knew him at Nice," said Law- 
rence Lefferts with authority. "A half -paralysed white 
sneering fellow rather handsome head, but eyes with a 
lot of lashes. Well, I'll tell you the sort : when he wasn't 
with women he was collecting china. Paying any price 
for both, I understand." 

There was a general laugh, and the young champion 
said: "Well, then ?" 

"Well, then ; she bolted with his secretary." 

"Oh, I see." The champion's face fell. 

"It didn't last long, though: I heard of her a few 
months later living alone in Venice. I believe Lovell 
Mingott went out to get her. He said she was des- 
perately unhappy. That's all right but this parading 
her at the Opera's another thing." 

"Perhaps," young Thorley hazarded, "she's too un- 
happy to be left at home." 

This was greeted with an irreverent laugh, and the 
youth blushed deeply, and tried to look as if he had 
meant to insinuate what knowing people called a "double 
entendre" 

"Well it's queer to have brought Miss Welland, 
anyhow," some one said in a low tone, with a side- 
glance at Archer. 

"Oh, that's part of the campaign: Granny's orders, 
no doubt," Lefferts laughed. "When the old lady does 
a thing she does it thoroughly." 

The act was ending, and there was a general stir 
in the box. Suddenly Newland Archer felt himself 
impelled to decisive action. The desire to be the first 

[13] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

man to enter Mrs. Mingott's box, to proclaim to the 
waiting world his engagement to May Welland, and to 
see her through whatever difficulties her cousin's anom- 
alous situation might involve her in; this impulse had 
abruptly overruled all scruples and hesitations, and sent 
him hurrying through the red corridors to the farther 
side of the house. 

As he entered the box his eyes met Miss Welland's, 
and he saw that she had instantly understood his motive, 
though the family dignity which both considered so 
high a virtue would not permit her to tell him so. The 
persons of their world lived in an atmosphere of faint 
implications and pale delicacies, and the fact that he 
and she understood each other without a word seemed 
to the young man to bring them nearer than any expla- 
nation would have done. Her eyes said : " You see why 
Mamma brought me," and his answered: "I would 
not for the world have had you stay away." 

"You know my niece Countess Olenska?" Mrs. Wel- 
land enquired as she shook hands with her future son- 
in-law. Archer bowed without extending his hand, as 
was the custom on being introduced to a lady; and 
Ellen Olenska bent her head slightly, keeping her own 
pale-gloved hands clasped on her huge fan of eagle 
feathers. Having greeted Mrs. Lovell Mingott, a large 
blonde lady in creaking satin, he sat down beside his 
betrothed, and said in a low tone: "I hope you've 
told Madame Olenska that we're engaged? I want 
everybody to know I want you to let me announce 
it this evening at the ball." 

Miss Welland's face grew rosy as the dawn, and she 
looked at him with radiant eyes. "If you can per- 
suade Mamma," she said; "but why should we change 
what is already settled ?" He made no answer but that 

[14] 



i THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

which his eyes returned, and she added, still more con- 
fidently smiling: "Tell my cousin yourself: I give you 
leave. She says she used to play with you when you were 
children/' 

She made way for him by pushing back her chair, and 
promptly, and a little ostentatiously, with the desire that 
the whole house should see what he was doing, Archer 
seated himscff at the Countess Olenska's side. 

"We did use to play together, didn't we?" she asked, 
turning her grave eyes to his. "You were a horrid boy, 
and kissed me once behind a door ; but it was your cousin 
Vandie Newland, who never looked at me, that I was in 
love with." Her glance swept the horse-shoe curve of 
boxes. "Ah, how this brings it all back to me I see 
everybody here in knickerbockers and pantalettes," she 
said, with her trailing slightly foreign accent, her eyes 
returning to his face. 

Agreeable as their expression was, the young man was 
shocked that they should reflect so unseemly a pic- 
ture of the august tribunal before which, at that very 
moment, her case was being tried. Nothing could be 
in worse taste than misplaced flippancy ; and he answered 
somewhat stiffly : "Yes, you have been away a very long 
time." 

"Oh, centuries and centuries; so long," she said, 
"that I'm sure I'm dead and buried, and this dear old 
place is heaven;" which, for reasons he could not de- 
fine, struck Newland Archer as an even more disrespect- 
ful way of describing New York society. 



Ill 



IT invariably happened in the same way. 
Mrs. Julius Beaufort, on the night of her annual 
ball, never failed to appear at the Opera; indeed, she 
always gave her ball on an Opera night in order to 
emphasise her complete superiority to household cares, 
and her possession of a staff of servants competent to 
organise every detail of the entertainment in her absence. 

The Beauforts' house was one of the few in New York 
that possessed a ball-room (it antedated even Mrs. 
Manson Mingott's and the Headly Chiverses) ; and at 
a time when it was beginning to be thought "provincial" 
to put a "crash" over the drawing-room floor and move 
the furniture upstairs, the possession of a ballroom that 
was used for no other purpose, and left for three-hun- 
dred-and-sixty-four days of the year to shuttered dark- 
ness, with its gilt chairs stacked in a corner and its chan- 
delier in a bag; this undoubted superiority was felt to 
compensate for whatever was regrettable in the Beau- 
fort past. 

Mrs. Archer, who was fond of coining her social 
philosophy into axioms, had once said: "We all have 
our pet common people " and though the phrase was a 
daring one, its truth was secretly admitted in many 
an exclusive bosom. But the Beauforts were not exactly 
common; some people said they were even worse. Mrs. 
Beaufort belonged indeed to one of America's most hon- 
oured families; she had been the lovely Regina Dallas 

[16] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

{of the South Carolina branch), a penniless beauty in- 
troduced to New York society by her cousin, the im- 
prudent Medora Manson, who was always doing the 
wrong thing from the right motive. When one was 
related to the Mansons and the Rushworths one had a 
"droit de cite?' (as Mr. Sillerton Jackson, who had fre- 
quented the Tuileries, called it) in New York society; 
but did one not forfeit it in marrying Julius Beaufort? 

The question was: who was Beaufort? He passed 
for an Englishman, was agreeable, handsome, ill-tem- 
pered, hospitable and witty. He had come to America 
with letters of recommendation from old 'Mrs. Manson 
Mingott's English son-in-law, the banker, and had speed- 
ily made himself an important position in the world of 
affairs; but his habits were dissipated, his tongue was 
bitter, his antecedents were mysterious; and when Me- 
dora Manson announced her cousin's engagement to 
him it was felt to be one more act of folly in poor 
Medora's long record of imprudences. 

But folly is as often justified of her children as wis- 
dom, and two years after young Mrs. Beaufort's mar- 
riage it was admitted that she had the most distinguished 
house in New York. No one knew exactly how the 
miracle was accomplished. She was indolent, passive, 
the caustic even called her dull; but dressed like an 
idol, hung with pearls, growing younger and blonder 
and more beautiful each year, she throned in Mr. Beau- 
fort's heavy brown-stone palace, and drew all the world 
there without lifting her jewelled little finger. The 
knowing people said it was Beaufort himself who trained 
the servants, taught the chef new dishes, told the gar- 
deners what hot-house flowers to grow for the dinner- 
table and the drawing-rooms, selected the guests, brewed 
the after-dinner punch and dictated the little notes his 

[17] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

wife wrote to her friends. If he did, these domestic 
activities were privately performed, and he presented 
to the world the appearance of a careless and hospitable 
millionaire strolling into his own drawing-room with the 
detachment of an invited guest, and saying: "My wife's 
gloxinias are a marvel, aren't they? I believe she gets 
them out from Kew." 

Mr. Beaufort's secret, people were agreed, was the 
way he carried things off. It was all very well to 
whisper that he had been "helped" to leave England by 
the international banking-house in which he had been 
employed; he carried off that rumour as easily as the 
rest though New York's business conscience was na 
less sensitive than its moral standard he carried every- 
thing before him, and all New York into his drawing- 
rooms, and for over twenty years now people had said 
they were "going to the Beauforts'" with the same 
tone of security as if they had said they were going to 
Mrs. Manson Mingott's, and with the added satisfac- 
tion of knowing they would get hot canvas-back ducks 
and vintage wines, instead of tepid Veuve Clicquot with- 
out a year and warmed-up croquettes from Philadelphia. 

Mrs. Beaufort, then, had as usual appeared in her box 
just before the Jewel Song; and when, again as usual, 
she rose at the end of the third act, drew her opera 
cloak about her lovely shoulders, and disappeared, New 
York knew that meant that half an hour later the ball 
would begin. 

The Beaufort house was one that New Yorkers were 
proud to show to foreigners, especially on the night of 
the annual ball. The Beauforts had been among the 
first people in New York to own their own red velvet 
carpet and have it rolled down the steps by their own 
footmen, under their own awning, instead of hiring it 

fi8] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

with the supper and the ball-room chairs. They had 
also inaugurated the custom of letting the ladies take 
their cloaks off in the hall, instead of shuffling up to the 
hostess's bedroom and recurling their hair with the aid 
of the gas-burner; Beaufort was understood to have 
said that he supposed all his wife's friends had maids 
who saw to it that they were properly coiffees when 
they left home. 

Then the house had been boldly planned with a ball- 
room, so that, instead of squeezing through a narrow 
passage to get to it (as at the Chiverses') one marched 
solemnly down a vista of enfiladed drawing-rooms (the 
sea-green, the crimson and the bouton d'or) , seeing from 
afar the many-candled lustres reflected in the polished 
parquetry, and beyond that the depths of a conserva- 
tory where camellias and tree-ferns arched their costly 
foliage over seats of black and gold bamboo. 

Newland Archer, as became a young man of his 
position, strolled in somewhat late. He had left his 
overcoat with the silk-stockinged footmen (the stockings 
were one of Beaufort's few fatuities), had dawdled 
a while in the library hung with Spanish leather and 
furnished with Buhl and malachite, where a few men 
were chatting and putting on their dancing-gloves, and 
had finally joined the line of guests whom Mrs. Beaufort 
was receiving on the threshold of the crimson drawing- 
room. 

Archer was distinctly nervous. He had not gone back 
to his club after the Opera (as the young bloods usually 
did), but, the night being fine, had walked for some dis- 
tance up Fifth Avenue before turning back in the direc- 
tion of the Beauforts* house. He was definitely afraid 
that the Mingotts might be going too far; that, in fact, 

[19] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

they might have Granny 'Mingott's orders to bring the 
Countess Olenska to the ball. 

From the tone of the club box he had perceived how 
grave a mistake that would be ; and, though he was more 
than ever determined to "see the thing through," he 
felt less chivalrously eager to champion his betrothed's 
cousin than before their brief talk at the Opera. 

Wandering on to the bouton d'or drawing-room (where 
Beaufort had had the audacity to hang "Love Vic- 
torious," the much-discussed nude of Bouguereau) 
Archer found Mrs. Welland and her daughter stand- 
ing near the ball-room door. Couples were already glid- 
ing over the floor beyond: the light of the wax candles 
fell on revolving tulle skirts, on girlish heads wreathed 
with modest blossoms, on the dashing aigrettes and 
ornaments of the young married women's coiffures, and 
on the glitter of highly glazed shirt-fronts and fresh 
glace gloves. 

Miss Welland, evidently about to join the dancers, 
hung on the threshold, her lilies-of-the-valley in her 
hand (she carried no other bouquet), her face a little 
pale, her eyes burning with a candid excitement. A group 
of young men and girls were gathered about her, and 
there was much hand-clasping, laughing and pleasantry 
on which Mrs. Welland, standing slightly apart, shed 
the beam of a qualified approval. It was evident that 
Miss Welland was in the act of announcing her en- 
gagement, while her mother affected the air of parental 
reluctance considered suitable to the occasion. 

Archer paused a moment. It was at his express wish 
that the announcement had been made, and yet it was 
not thus that he would have wished to have his happiness 
known. To proclaim it in the heat and noise of a 
crowded ball-room was to rob it of the fine bloom ol 

[20] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

privacy which should belong to things nearest the heart. 
His joy was so deep that this blurring of the surface left 
its essence untouched; but he would have liked to keep 
the surface pure too. It was something of a satisfac- 
tion to find that May Welland shared this feeling. Her 
eyes fled to his beseechingly, and their look said: "Re- 
member, we're doing this because it's right." 

No appeal could have found a more immediate re- 
sponse in Archer's breast ; but he wished that the neces- 
sity of their action had been represented by some ideal 
reason, and not simply by poor Ellen Olenska. The 
group about Miss Welland made way for him with sig- 
nificant smiles, and after taking his share of the felici- 
tations he drew his betrothed into the middle of the ball- 
room floor and put his arm about her waist. 

"Now we shan't have to talk," he said, smiling into 
her candid eyes, as they floated away on the soft waves 
of the Blue Danube. 

She made no answer. Her lips trembled into a smile, 
but the eyes remained distant and serious, as if bent on 
some ineffable vision. "Dear," Archer whispered, press- 
ing her to him : it was borne in on him that the first hours 
of being engaged, even if spent in a ball-room, had in 
them something grave and sacramental. What a new 
life it was going to be, with this whiteness, radiance, 
goodness at one's side ! 

The dance over, the two, as became an affianced couple, 
wandered into the conservatory; and sitting behind a 
tall screen of tree-ferns and camellias Newland pressed 
her gloved hand to his lips. 

"You see I did as you asked me to," she said. 

"Yes : I couldn't wait," he answered smiling. After 
a moment he added : "Only I wish it hadn't had to be a* 
a ball." 

[21] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Yes, I know." She met his glance comprehendingly. 
"But after all even here we're alone together, aren't 
we?" 

"Oh, dearest always!" Archer cried. 

Evidently she was always going to understand; she 
was always going to say the right thing. The dis- 
covery made the cup of his bliss overflow, and he went 
on gaily : "The worst of it is that I want to kiss you and 
I can't." As he spoke he took a swift glance about the 
conservatory, assured himself of their momentary privacy, 
and catching her to him laid a fugitive pressure on her 
lips. To counteract the audacity of this proceeding he 
led her to a bamboo sofa in a less secluded part of the 
conservatory, and sitting down beside her broke a lily- 
of-the-valley from her bouquet. She sat silent, and the 
world lay like a sunlit valley at their feet. 

"Did you tell my cousin Ellen?" she asked presently, 
as if she spoke through a dream. 

He roused himself, and remembered that he had not 
done so. Some invincible repugnance to speak of such 
things to the strange foreign woman had checked the 
words on this lips. 

"No I hadn't the chance after all," he said, fibbing 
hastily. 

"Ah." She looked disappointed, but gently resolved 
on gaining her point. "You must, then, for I didn't 
either ; and I shouldn't like her to think " 

"Of course not. But aren't you, after all, the person 
to do it?" 

She pondered on this. "If I'd done it at the right 
time, yes : but now that there's been a delay I think you 
must explain that I'd asked you to tell her at the Opera, 
before our speaking about it to everybody here. Other- 
t wise she might think I had forgotten her. You see, she's 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

one of the family, and she's been away so long that she's 
rather sensitive." 

Archer looked at her glowingly. "Dear and great 
angel! Of course I'll tell her." He glanced a trifle 
apprehensively toward the crowded ball-room. "But I 
haven't seen her yet. Has she come?" 

"No; at the last minute she decided not to." 

"At the last minute?" he echoed, betraying his sur- 
prise that she should ever have considered the alter- 
native possible. 

"Yes. She's awfully fond of dancing/' the young 
girl answered simply. "But suddenly she made up her 
mind that her dress wasn't smart enough for a ball, 
though we thought it so lovely; and so my aunt had to 
take her home." 

"Oh, well " said Archer with happy indifference. 
Nothing about his betrothed pleased him more than her 
resolute determination to carry to its utmost limit that 
ritual of ignoring the "unpleasant" in which they had 
both been brought up. 

"She knows as well as I do," he reflected, "the real 
reason of her cousin's staying away; but I shall never 
let her see by the least sign that I am conscious of there 
being a shadow of a shade on poor Ellen Olenska's 
reputation." 



IV 



IN the course of the next day the first of the usual be- 
trothal visits were exchanged. The New York ritual 
was precise and inflexible in such matters; and in con- 
formity with it Newland Archer first went with his 
mother and sister to call on Mrs. Welland, after which 
he and Mrs. Welland and May drove out to old Mrs. 
Manson Mingott's to receive that venerable ancestress's 
blessing. 

A visit to Mrs. Manson Mingott was always an amus- 
ing episode to the young man. The house in itself 
was already an historic document, though not, of course, 
as venerable as certain other old family houses in Uni- 
versity Place and lower Fifth Avenue. Those were of 
the purest 1830, with a grim harmony of cabbage-rose- 
garlanded carpets, rosewood consoles, round-arched fire- 
places with black marble mantels, and immense glazed 
book-cases of mahogany; whereas old Mrs. Mingott, who 
had built her house later, had bodily cast out the massive 
furniture of her prime, and mingled with the Mingott 
heirlooms the frivolous upholstery of the Second Em- 
pire. It was her habit to sit in a window of her sitting- 
room on the ground floor, as if watching calmly for 
life and fashion to flow northward to her solitary doors. 
She seemed in no hurry to have them come, for her pa- 
tience was equalled by her confidence. She was sure 
that presently the hoardings, the quarries, the one-story 

[24] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

saloons, the wooden green-houses in ragged gardens, 
and the rocks from which goats surveyed the scene, 
would vanish before the advance of residences as stately 
as her own perhaps (for she was an impartial woman) 
even statelier; and that the cobblestones over which the 
old clattering omnibuses bumped would be replaced by 
smooth asphalt, such as people reported having seen in 
Paris. Meanwhile, as every one she cared to see came 
to her (and she could fill her rooms as easily as the 
Beauforts, and without adding a single item to the menu 
of her suppers), she did not suffer from her geographic 
isolation. 

The immense accretion of flesh which had descended oa 
her in middle life like a flood of lava on a doomed city 
had changed her from a plump active little woman with 
a neatly-turned foot and ankle into something as vast 
and august as a natural phenomenon. She had accepted 
this submergence as philosophically as all her other 
trials, and now, in extreme old age, was rewarded by 
presenting to her mirror an almost unwrinkled expanse 
of firm pink and white flesh, in the centre of which the 
traces of a small face survived as if awaiting excavation. 
A flight of smooth double chins led down to the dizzy 
depths of a still-snowy bosom veiled in snowy muslins 
that were held in place by a miniature portrait of the late 
Mr. Mingott ; and around and below, wave after wave of 
black silk surged away over the edges of a capacious 
armchair, with two tiny white hands poised like gulls 
on the surface of the billows. 

The burden of Mrs. Manson Mingott's flesh had long' 
since made it impossible for her to go up and down 
stairs, and with characteristic independence she had 
made her reception rooms upstairs and established herself 
(in flagrant violation of all the New York proprieties) 

[25] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

on the ground floor of her house ; so that, as you sat ifi 
her sitting-room window with her, you caught (through 
a door that was always open, and a looped-back yellow 
darnask portiere) the unexpected vista of a bedroom with 
r huge low bed upholstered like a sofa, and a toilet* 
table with frivolous lace flounces and a gilt-framed 
mirror. 

Her visitors were startled and fascinated by the for- 
eignness of this arrangement, which recalled scenes 
in French fiction, and architectural incentives to immor- 
ality such as the simple American had never dreamed 
of. That was how women with lovers lived in the wicked 
old societies, in apartments with all the rooms on one 
floor, and all the indecent propinquities that their novels 
described. It amused Newland Archer (who had secretly 
situated the love-scenes of "Monsieur de Camors" in 
Mrs. Mingott's bedroom) to picture her blameless life 
led in the stage-setting of adultery; but he said to him- 
self, with considerable admiration, that if a lover had 
been what she wanted, the intrepid woman would have 
had him too. 

To the general relief the Countess Olenska was not 
present in her grandmother's drawing-room during the 
visit of the betrothed couple. Mrs. Mingott said she had 
gone out ; which, on a day of such glaring sunlight, and at 
tfie "shopping hour," seemed in itself an indelicate 
thing for a compromised woman to do. But at any 
rate it spared them the embarrassment of her presence, 
and the faint shadow that her unhappy past might 
seem to shed on their radiant future. The visit 
went off successfully, as was to have been expected. 
Old Mrs. 'Mingott was delighted with the engagement, 
which, being long foreseen by watchful relatives, had 
been carefully passed upon in family council; and the 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

engagement ring, a large thick sapphire set in invisiblt 
claws, met with her unqualified admiration. 

"It's the new setting: of course it shows the stone beau- 
i tifully, but it looks a little bare to old-fashioned eyes/' 
Mrs. Welland had explained, with a conciliatory side- 
glance at her future son-in-law. 

"Old-fashioned eyes? I hope you don't mean mine, 
my dear? I like all the novelties," said the ancestress, 
lifting the stone to her small bright orbs, which no glasses 
had ever disfigured. "Very handsome," she added, 
returning the jewel ; "very liberal. In my time a cameo 
set in pearls was thought sufficient. But it's the hand 
that sets off the ring, isn't it, my dear Mr. Archer?" 
and she waved one of her tiny hands, with small pointed 
nails and rolls of aged fat encircling the wrist like ivory 
bracelets. "Mine was modelled in Rome by the great 
Ferrigiani. You should have May's done: no doubt 
he'll have it done, my child. Her hand is large it's 
these modern sports that spread the joints but the skin 
is white. And when's the wedding to be ?" she broke off, 
fixing her eyes on Archer's face. 

"Oh " Mrs. Welland murmured, while the young 
man, smiling at his betrothed, replied : "As soon as ever 
it can, if only you'll bade me up, Mrs. 'Mingott." 

"We must give them time to get to know each other a 
little better, mamma," Mrs. Welland interposed, 
with the proper affectation of reluctance; to which the 
ancestress rejoined: "Know each other? Fiddlesticks! 
Everybody in New York has always known everybody, 
Let the young man have his way, my dear; don't -wait 
till the bubble's off the wine. Marry them before Lent ; 
I may catch pneumonia any winter now, and I want to 
give the wedding-breakfast." 

These successive statements were received with the 
27] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

proper expressions of amusement, incredulity and grat- 
itude; and the visit was breaking up in a vein of mild 
pleasantry when the door opened to admit the Countess 
Olenska, who entered in bonnet and mantle followed 
by the unexpected figure of Julius Beaufort. 

There was a cousinly murmur of pleasure between the 
ladies, and Mrs. Mingott held out Ferrigiani's model 
to the banker. "Ha! Beaufort, this is a rare favour!" 
(She had an odd foreign way of addressing men by their 
surnames.) 

"Thanks. I wish it might happen oftener," said the 
visitor in his easy arrogant way. "I'm generally so 
tied down; but I met the Countess Ellen in Madison 
Square, and she was good enough to let me walk home 
with her." 

"Ah I hope the house will be gayer, now that Ellen's 
here!" cried Mrs. Mingott with a glorious effrontery. 
"Sit down sit down, Beaufort: push up the yellow 
armchair; now I've got you I want a good gossip. I 
hear your ball was magnificent; and I understand you 
invited Mrs. Lemuel Struthers? Well I've a curiosity 
to see the woman myself." 

She had forgotten her relatives, who were drifting 
out into the hall under Ellen Olenska's guidance. Old 
Mrs. Mingott had always professed a great admiration for 
Julius Beaufort, and there was a kind of kinship in their 
cool domineering way and their short-cuts through the 
conventions. Now she was eagerly curious to know 
what had decided the Beauforts to invite (for the first 
time) Mrs. Lemuel Struthers, the widow of Struthers's 
Shoe-polish, who had returned the previous year from a 
long initiatory sojourn in Europe to lay siege to the tight 
little citadel of New York. "Of course if you and Re- 
gina invite her the thing is settled. Well, we need new 

[28] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

blood and new money and I hear she's still very good- 
looking," the carnivorous old lady declared. 

In the hall, while Mrs. Welland and May drew on 
their furs, Archer saw that the Countess Olenska was 
looking at him with a faintly questioning smile. 

"Of course you know already about May and me," 
he said, answering her look with a shy laugh. "She 
scolded me for not giving you the news last night at the 
Opera : I had her orders to tell you that we were engaged 
but I couldn't, in that crowd." 

The smile passed from Countess Olenska's eyes to her 
lips : she looked younger, more like the bold brown Ellen 
Mingott of his boyhood. "Of course I know ; yes. And 
I'm so glad. But one doesn't tell such things first in 
a crowd." The ladies were on the threshold and ghe 
held out her hand. 

"Good-bye; come and see me some day," she said, 
still looking at Archer. 

In the carriage, on the way down Fifth Avenue, they 
talked pointedly of Mrs. 'Mingott, of her age, her spirit, 
and all her wonderful attributes. No one alluded to 
Ellen Olenska ; but Archer knew that Mrs. Welland was 
thinking: "It's a mistake for Ellen to be seen, the very 
day after her arrival, parading up Fifth Avenue at the 
crowded hour with Julius Beaufort " and the young 
man himself mentally added: "And she ought to know 
that a man who's just engaged doesn't spend his time 
calling on married women. But I daresay in the set 
she's lived in they do they never do anything else." 
And, in spite of the cosmopolitan views on which he 
prided himself, he thanked heaven that he was a New 
Yorker, and about to ally himself with one of his own 
kind. 



V 



THE next evening old Mr. Sillerton Jackson came to 
dine with the Archers. 

Mrs. Archer was a shy woman and shrank from 
society ; but she liked to be well-informed as to its doings. 
Her old friend Mr. Sillerton Jackson applied to the 
investigation of his friends' affairs the patience of a 
collector and the science of a naturalist; and his sister, 
Miss Sophy Jackson, who lived with him, and was enter- 
tained by all the people who could not secure her much- 
sought-after brother, brought home bits of minor gossip 
that filled out usefully the gaps in his picture. 

Therefore, whenever anything happened that Mrs. 
Archer wanted to know about, she asked 'Mr. Jackson to 
line; and as she honoured few people with her invita- 
tions, and as she and her daughter Janey were an excel- 
lent audience, Mr. Jackson usually came himself instead 
of sending his sister. If he could have dictated all the 
conditions, he would have chosen the evenings when New- 
land was out; not because the young man was uncon- 
genial to him (the two got on capitally at their club) but 
because the old anecdotist sometimes felt, on Newland's 
part, a tendency to weigh his evidence that the ladies 
of the family never showed. 

Mr. Jackson, if perfection had been attainable on earth, 
would also have asked that Mrs. Archer's food should be 
a little better. But then New York, as far back as the 

[30] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 




mind of man could travel, had been divided into the two 
great fundamental groups of the Mingotts and Mansons 
and all their clan, who cared about eating and clothes 
and money, and the Archer-Newland-van-der-Luyden 
tribe, who were devoted to travel, horticulture and the best 
fiction, and looked down on the grosser forms of pleasure. 

You couldn't have everything, after all. If you dined 
with the Lovell Mingotts you got canvas-back and terra- 
pin and vintage wines; at Adeline Archer's you could 
talk about Alpine scenery and "The Marble Faun" ; and 
luckily the Archer Madeira had gone round the Cape. 
Therefore when a friendly summons came from Mrs. 
Archer, Mr. Jackson, who was a true eclectic, would 
usually say to his sister: 'I've been a little gouty since 
my last dinner at the Lovell Mingotts' it will do me good 
to diet at Adeline's." 

Mrs. Archer, who had long been a widow, lived with 
her son and daughter in West Twenty-eighth Street. An 
upper floor was dedicated to Newland, and the two 
women squeezed themselves into narrower quarters be- 
low. In an unclouded harmony of tastes and interests 
they cultivated ferns in Wardian cases, made macrame 
lace and wool embroidery on linen, collected American 
revolutionary glazed ware, subscribed to "Good Words," 
and read Ouida's novels for the sake of the Italian at- 
mosphere. (They preferred those about peasant life, 
because of the descriptions of scenery and the pleasanter 
sentiments, though in general they liked novels about 
people in society, whose motives and habits were more 
comprehensible, spoke severely of Dickens, who "had 
never drawn a gentleman," and considered Thackeray 
less at home in the great world than Bulwer who, 
however, was beginning to be thought old-fashioned.) 

Mrs. and Miss Archer were both great lovers of 

[31] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

scenery. It was what they principally sought and ad- 
mired on their occasional travels abroad; considering 
architecture and painting as subjects for men, and chiefly 
for learned persons who read Ruskin. Mrs. Archer 
had been born a Newland, and mother and daughter, 
who were as like as sisters, were both, as people said, 
*'true Newlands"; tall, pale, and slightly round-should- 
ered, with long noses, sweet smiles and a kind of droop- 
ing distinction like that in certain faded Reynolds por- 
traits. Their physical resemblance would have been 
complete if an elderly embonpoint had not stretched Mrs. 
Archer's black brocade, while Miss Archer's brown and 
purple poplins hung, as the years went on, more and 
more slackly on her virgin frame. 

Mentally, the likeness between them, as Newland was 
aware, was less complete than their identical mannerisms 
often made it appear. The long habit of living together 
in mutually dependent intimacy had given them the same 
vocabulary, and the same habit of beginning their phrases 
"Mother thinks" or "J ane y thinks," according as one or 
the other wished to advance an opinion of her own ; but 
in reality, while Mrs. Archer's serene unimaginativeness 
rested easily in the accepted and familiar, Janey was sub- 
ject to starts and aberrations of fancy welling up from 
springs of suppressed romance. 

Mother and daughter adored each other and revered 
their son and brother ; and Archer loved them with a ten- 
derness made compunctious and uncritical by the sense of 
their exaggerated admiration, and by his secret satisfac- 
tion in it. After all, he thought it a good thing for a man 
to have his authority respected in his own house, even if 
his sense of humour sometimes made him question the 
force of his mandate. 

On this occasion the young man was very sure that Mr. 
[33] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Jackson would rather have had him dine out ; but he had 
his own reasons for not doing so. 

Of course old Jackson wanted to talk about Ellen 
Olenska, and of course Mrs. Archer and Janey wanted 
to hear what he had to tell. All three would be slightly 
embarrassed by Newland's presence, now that his pro- 
spective relation to the Mingott clan had been made 
known ; and the young man waited with an amused curi- 
osity to see how they would turn the difficulty. 

They began, obliquely, by talking about Mrs. Lemuel 
Struthers. 

"It's a pity the Beauf orts asked her," Mrs. Archer said 
gently. "But then Regina always does what he tells her ; 
and Beaufort " 

"Certain nuances escape Beaufort," said Mr. Jackson, 
cautiously inspecting the broiled shad, and wondering for 
the thousandth time why Mrs. Archer's cook always 
burnt the roe to a cinder. (New land, who had long 
shared his wonder, could always detect it in the older 
man's expression of melancholy disapproval.) 

"Oh, necessarily ; Beaufort is a vulgar man," said Mrs. 
Archer. "My grandfather Newland always used to say 
to my mother: 'Whatever you do, don't let that fellow 
Beaufort be introduced to the girls/ But at least he's 
had the advantage of associating with gentlemen ; in Eng- 
land too, they say. It's all very mysterious " She 
glanced at Janey and paused. She and Janey knew every 
fold of the Beaufort mystery, but in public Mrs. Archer 
continued to assume that the subject was not one for the 
unmarried. 

"But this Mrs. Struthers," Mrs. Archer continued; 
"what did you say she was, Sillerton ?" 

"Out of a mine: or rather out of the saloon at the 
head of the pit. Then with Living Wax- Works, touring 

[33] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

New England. After the police broke that up, they say 
she lived " Mr. Jackson in his turn glanced at Janey, 
whose eyes began to bulge from under her prominent 
lids. There were still hiatuses for her in Mrs. Struthers's 
past. 

"Then," Mr. Jackson continued (and Archer saw he 
was wondering why no one had told the butler never to 
slice cucumbers with a steel knife), "then Lemuel Struth- 
ers came along. They say his advertiser used the girl's 
head for the shoe-polish posters; her hair's intensely 
black, you know the Egyptian style. Anyhow, he 
eventually married her." There were volumes of in- 
nuendo in the way the "eventually" was spaced, and each 
syllable given its due stress. 

"Oh, well at the pass we've come to nowadays, it 
doesn't matter," said Mrs. Archer indifferently. The 
ladies were not really interested in Mrs. Struthers just 
then ; the subject of Ellen Olenska was too fresh and too 
absorbing to them. Indeed, Mrs. Struthers's name had 
been introduced by Mrs. Archer only that she might 
presently be able to say: "And Newland's new cousin 
Countess Olenska? Was she at the ball too?" 
There was a faint touch of sarcasm in the reference to 
her son, and Archer knew it and had expected it. Even 
Mrs. Archer, who was seldom unduly pleased with human 
events, had been altogether glad of her son's engagement. 
{("Especially after that silly business with Mrs. Rush- 
worth," as she had remarked to Janey, alluding to what 
had once seemed to Newland a tragedy of which his soul 
would always bear the scar.) There was no better 
match in New York than May Welland, look at the ques- 
tion from whatever point you chose. Of course such a 
marriage was only what Newland was entitled to; but 
young men are so foolish and incalculable and some 

[34] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

women so ensnaring and unscrupulous that ft was noth- 
ing short of a miracle to see one's only son safe past the 
Siren Isle and in the haven of a blameless domesticity. 

All this Mrs. Archer felt, and her son knew she felt ; 
"but he knew also that she had been perturbed by the 
premature announcement of his engagement, or rather 
by its cause ; and it was for that reason because on the 
whole he was a tender and indulgent master that he had 
stayed at home that evening. "It's not that I don't ap- 
prove of the Mingotts* esprit de corps; but why New- 
land's engagement should be mixed up with that Olenska 
woman's comings and goings I don't see," Mrs. Archer 
grumbled to Janey, the only witness of her slight lapses 
from perfect sweetness. 

She had behaved beautifully and in beautiful be- 
haviour she was unsurpassed during the call on Mrs. 
Welland; but Newland knew (and his betrothed doubt- 
less guessed) that all through the visit she and Janey 
were nervously on the watch for Madame Olenska's pos- 
sible intrusion; and when they left the house together 
she had permitted herself to say to her son : "I'm thank- 
ful that Augusta Welland received us alone." 

These indications of inward disturbance moved Archer 
the more that he too felt that the Mingotts had gone a 
little too far. But, as it was against all the rules of their 
code that the mother and son should ever allude to what 
was uppermost in their thoughts, he simply replied : "Oh, 
well, there's always a phase of family parties to be gone 
through when one gets engaged, and the sooner it's over 
the better." At which his mother merely pursed her lips 
under the lace veil that hung down from her grey velvet 
bonnet trimmed with frosted grapes. 

Her revenge, he felt her lawful revenge would be 
to "draw" Mr. Jackson that evening on the Countess 

[351 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Olenska ; and, having publicly done his duty as a future 
member of the Mingott clan, the young man had no ob- 
jection to hearing the lady discussed in private except 
that the subject was already beginning to bore him. 

Mr. Jackson had helped himself to a slice of the tepid 
'filet which the mournful butler had handed him with a 
look as sceptical as his own, and had rejected the mush- 
room sauce after a scarcely perceptible sniff. He looked 
baffled and hungry, and Archer reflected that he would 
probably finish his meal on Ellen Olenska. 

'Mr. Jackson leaned back in his chair, and glanced up 
at the candlelit Archers, Newlands and van der Luydens* 
hanging in dark frames on the dark walls. 

"Ah, how your grandfather Archer loved a good din- 
ner, my dear Newland !" he said, his eyes on the portrait 
of a plump full-chested young man in a stock and a blue 
coat, with a view of a white-columned country-house be- 
hind him. "Well well well ... I wonder what he 
would have said to all these foreign marriages !" 

Mrs. Archer ignored the allusion to the ancestral cuis- 
ine and Mr. Jackson continued with deliberation: "No, 
she was not at the ball." 

"Ah " Mrs. Archer murmured, in a tone that im- 
plied : "She had that decency." 

"Perhaps the Beauforts don't know her," Janey sug- 
gested, with her artless malice. 

Mr. Jackson gave a faint sip, as if he had been tasting 
invisible Madeira. "Mrs. Beaufort may not but Beau- 
fort certainly does, for she was seen walking up Fifth 
Avenue this afternoon with him by the whole of New 
York." 

"Mercy ' moaned Mrs. Archer, evidently perceiv- 
ing the uselessness of trying to ascribe the actions of for- 
eigners to a sense of delicacy. 

[36] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"I wonder if she wears a round hat or a bonnet in the 
afternoon," Janey speculated. "At the Opera I know 
she had on dark blue velvet, perfectly plain and flat like 
a night-gown." 

"Janey!" said her mother; and Miss Archer blushed 
and tried to look audacious. 

"It was, at any rate, in better taste not to go to the 
ball," Mrs. Archer continued. 

A spirit of perversity moved her son to rejoin: "I 
don't think it was a question of taste with her. May said 
she meant to go, and then decided that the dress in ques- 
tion wasn't smart enough." 

Mrs. Archer smiled at this confirmation of her infer- 
ence. "Poor Ellen," she simply remarked ; adding com- 
passionately : "We must always bear in mind what an 
eccentric bringing-up Medora Manson gave her. What 
can you expect of a girl who was allowed to wear black 
satin at her coming-out ball?" 

"Ah don't I remember her in it !" said Mr. Jackson ; 
adding: "Poor girl!" in the tone of one who, while en- 
joying the memory, had fully understood at the time what 
the sight portended. 

"It's odd," Janey remarked, "that she should have kept 
such an ugly name as Ellen. I should have changed it 
to Elaine." She glanced about the table to see the effect 
of this. 

Her brother laughed. "Why Elaine?" 

"I don't know; it sounds more more Polish," said 
Janey, blushing. 

"It sounds more conspicuous; and that can hardly be 
what she wishes," said 'Mrs. Archer distantly. 

"Why not?" broke in her son, growing suddenly ar- 
gumentative. "Why shouldn't she be conspicuous if she 
chooses? Why should she slink about as if it were she 

[37] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

who had disgraced herself ? She's 'poor Ellen* certainly, 
because she had the bad luck to make a wretched mar- 
riage ; but I don't see that that's a reason for hiding her 
head as if she were the culprit." 

"That, I suppose," said Mr. Jackson, speculatively, "is 
the line the Mingotts mean to take." 

The young man reddened. "I didn't have to wait for 
their cue, if that's what you mean, sir. Madame Olenska 
has had an unhappy life: that doesn't make her an out- 
cast." 

"There are rumours," began Mr. Jackson, glancing at 
Janey. 

"Oh, I know : the secretary," the young man took him 
up. "Nonsense, mother; Janey's grown-up. They say, 
don't they," he went on, "that the secretary helped her 
to get away from her brute of a husband, who kept her 
practically a prisoner? Well, what if he did? I hope 
there isn't a man among us who wouldn't have done the 
same in such a case." 

Mr. Jackson glanced over his shoulder to say to the 
sad butler: "Perhaps . . . that sauce . . . just a little, 
after all "; then, having helped himself, he remarked: 
"I'm told she's looking for a house. She means to live 
here." 

"I hear she means to get a divorce," said Janey boldly. 

"I hope she will !" Archer exclaimed. 

The word had fallen like a bombshell in the pure and 
tranquil atmosphere of the Archer dining-room. Mrs. 
Archer raised her delicate eye-brows in the particular 
curve that signified: "The butler " and the young 
man, himself mindful of the bad taste of discussing such 
intimate matters in public, hastily branched off into an 
account of his visit to old Mrs. Mingott. 

After dinner, according to immemorial custom, 'Mrs. 
[38] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Archer and Janey trailed their long silk draperies up to 
the drawing-room, where, while the gentlemen smoked 
below stairs, they sat beside a Carcel lamp with an en- 
graved globe, facing each other across a rosewood work- 
table with a green silk bag under it, and stitched at the 
two ends of a tapestry band of field-flowers destined to 
adorn an "occasional" chair in the drawing-room of young 
Mrs. Newland Archer. 

While this rite was in progress in the drawing-room, 
Archer settled Mr. Jackson in an armchair near the fire 
in the Gothic library and handed him a cigar. Mr. Jack- 
son sank into the armchair with satisfaction, lit his cigar 
with perfect confidence (it was Newland who bought 
them), and stretching his thin old ankles to the coals, 
said: "You say the secretary merely helped her t> get 
away, my dear fellow? Well, he was still helping her a 
year later, then ; for somebody met 'em living at Lausanne 
together." 

Newland reddened. "Living together? Well, why 
not? Who had the right to make her life over if she 
hadn't ? I'm sick of the hypocrisy that would bury alive a 
woman of her age if her husband prefers to live with 
harlots." 

He stopped and turned away angrily to light his cigar. 
"Women ought to be free as free as we are," he de- 
clared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated 
to measure the terrific consequences. 

Mr. Sillerton Jackson stretched his ankles nearer the 
coals and emitted a sardonic whistle. 

"Well," he said after a pause, "apparently Count Olen- 
ski takes your view; for I never heard of his having 
lifted a finger to get his wife back." 




VI 



THAT evening, after Mr. Jackson had taken himself 
away, and the ladies had retired to their chintz-cur- 
tained bedroom, Newland Archer mounted thoughtfully 
to his own study. A vigilant hand had, as usual, kept the 
fire alive and the lamp trimmed; and the room, with its 
rows and rows of books, its bronze and steel statuettes 
of "The Fencers" on the mantelpiece and its many photo- 
graphs of famous pictures, looked singularly home-like 
and welcoming. 

As he dropped into his armchair near the fire his eyes 
rested on a large photograph of May Welland, which the 
young girl had given him in the first days of their 
romance, and which had now displaced all the other por- 
traits on the table. With a new sense of awe he looked 
at the frank forehead, serious eyes and gay innocent 
mouth of the young creature whose soul's custodian he 
was to be. That terrifying product of the social system 
he belonged to and believed in, the young girl who knew 
nothing and expected everything, looked back at him 
like a stranger through May Welland's familiar features ; 
and once more it was borne in on him that marriage was 
not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, 
but a voyage on uncharted seas. 

The case of the Countess Olenska had stirred up old 
settled convictions and set them drifting dangerously 
through his mind. His own exclamation: "Women 
should be free as free as we are," struck to the root of 

[40] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

a problem that it was agreed in his world to regard as 
non-existent. "Nice" women, however wronged, would 
never claim the kind of freedom he meant, and generous- 
minded men like himself were therefore in the heat of 
argument the more chivalrously ready to concede it to 
them. Such verbal generosities were in fact only a hum- 
bugging disguise of the inexorable conventions that tied 
things together and bound people down to the old pat- 
tern. But here he was pledged to defend, on the part of 
his betrothed's cousin, conduct that, on his own wife's 
part, would justify him in calling down on her all the 
thunders of Church and State. Of course the dilemma 
was purely hypothetical; since he wasn't a blackguard 
Polish nobleman, it was absurd to speculate what his 
wife's rights would be if he were. But New land Archer 
was too imaginative not to feel that, in his case and May's, 
the tie might gall for reasons far less gross and palpable. 
What could he and she really know of each other, since 
it was his duty, as a "decent" fellow, to conceal his past 
from her, and hers, as a marriageable girl, to have no past 
to conceal? What if, for some one of the subtler reasons 
that would tell with both of them, they should tire of 
each other, misunderstand or irritate each other? He 
reviewed his friends' marriages the supposedly happy 
ones and saw none that answered, even remotely, to the 
passionate and tender comradeship which he pictured as 
his permanent relation with May Welland. He perceived 
that such a picture presupposed, on her part, the experi- 
ence, the versatility, the freedom of judgment, which she 
had been carefully trained not to possess; and with a 
shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what 
most of the other marriages about him were : a dull asso- 
ciation of material and social interests held together by 
ignorance on the one side and hypocrisy on the other. 

[41] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Lawrence Lefferts occurred to him as the husband who 
had most completely realised this enviable ideal. As be- 
came the high-priest of form, he had formed a wife so 
completely to his own convenience that, in the most con- 
spicuous moments of his frequent love-affairs with other 
men's wives, she went about in smiling unconsciousness, 
saying that "Lawrence was so frightfully strict"; and 
had been known to blush indignantly, and avert her gaze, 
when some one alluded in her presence to the fact that 
Julius Beaufort (as became a " foreigner" of doubtful 
'Origin) had what was known in New York as "another 
establishment." 

Archer tried to console himself with the thought that 
he was not quite such an ass as Larry Lefferts, nor May 
such a simpleton as poor Gertrude ; but the difference was 
after all one of intelligence and not of standards. In 
-reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, 
-where the real thing was never said or done or even 
thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs ; 
as when Mrs. Welland, who knew exactly why Archer 
had pressed her to announce her daughter's engagement 
at the Beaufort ball (and had indeed expected him to do 
no less), yet felt obliged to simulate reluctance, and the 
air of having had her hand forced, quite as, in the books 
on Primitive Man that people of advanced culture were 
beginning to read, the savage bride is dragged with 
shrieks from her parents' tent. 

The result, of course, was that the young girl who wa3 
the centre of this elaborate system of mystification re- 
mained the more inscrutable for her very frankness and 
assurance. She was frank, poor darling, because she had 
nothing to conceal, assured because she knew of nothing 
rto be on her guard against ; and with no better preparation 

[42] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

than this, she was to be plunged overnight into what 
people evasively called "the facts of life." 

The young man was sincerely but placidly in love. He 
delighted in the radiant good looks of his betrothed, in 
her health, her horsemanship, her grace and quickness at 
games, and the shy interest in books and ideas that she 
was beginning to develop under his guidance. ( She had 
advanced far enough to join him in ridiculing the Idyls 
of the King, but not to feel the beauty of Ulysses and 
the Lotus Eaters.) She was straightforward, loyal and 
brave; she had a sense of humour (chiefly proved by 
her laughing at his jokes) ; and he suspected, in the 
depths of her innocently-gazing soul, a glow of feeling 
that it would be a joy to waken. But when he had gone 
the brief round of her he returned discouraged by the 
thought that all this frankness and innocence were only 
an artificial product. Untrained human nature was not 
frank and innocent; it was full of the twists and de- 
fences of an instinctive guile. And he felt himself op- 
pressed by this creation of factitious purity, so cunningly 
manufactured by a conspiracy of mothers and aunts and 
grandmothers and long-dead ancestresses, because it was 
supposed to be what he wanted, what he had a right to, 
in order that he might exercise his lordly pleasure in 
smashing it like an image made of snow. 

There was a certain triteness in these reflections : they 
were those habitual to young men on the approach of 
their wedding day. But they were generally accompanied 
by a sense of compunction and self-abasement of which 
Newland Archer felt no trace. He could not deplore 
(as Thackeray's heroes so often exasperated him by 
doing) that he had not a blank page to offer his bride in 
exchange for the unblemished one she was to give to him. 
He could not get away from the fact that if he had been 

[43] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

brought up as she had they would have been no more fit 
to find their way about than the Babes in the Wood ; nor 
could he, for all his anxious cogitations, see any honest 
reason (any, that is, unconnected with his own momen- 
tary pleasure, and the passion of masculine vanity) why 
his bride should not have been allowed the same free- 
dom of experience as himself. 

Such questions, at such an hour, were bound to drift 
through his mind; but he was conscious that their un- 
comfortable persistence and precision were due to the 
inopportune arrival of the Countess Olenska. Here he 
was, at the very moment of his betrothal a moment for 
pure thoughts and cloudless hopes pitchforked into a 
coil of scandal which raised all the special problems he 
would have preferred to let lie. "Hang Ellen Olenska !" 
he grumbled, as he covered his fire and began to un- 
dress. He could not really see why her fate should have 
the least bearing on his; yet he dimly felt that he had 
only just begun to measure the risks of the championship 
which his engagement had forced upon him. 

A few days later the bolt fell. 

The Lovell Mingotts had sent out cards for what was 
known as "a formal dinner" (that is, three extra foot- 
men, two dishes for each course, and a Roman punch in 
the middle), and had headed their invitations with the 
words "To meet the Countess Olenska," in accordance 
with the hospitable American fashion, which treats 
strangers as if they were royalties, or at least as their 
ambassadors. 

The guests had been selected with a boldness and dis- 
crimination in which the initiated recognised the firm 
hand of Catherine the Great. Associated with such im- 
memorial standbys as the Selfridge Merrys, who were 

[44] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

asked everywhere because they always had been, the 
Beauforts, on whom there was a claim of relationship, 
and Mr. Sillerton Jackson and his sister Sophy (who 
went wherever her brother told her to), were some of 
the most fashionable and yet most irreproachable of the 
dominant "young married" set ; the Lawrence Leffertses, 
Mrs. Lefferts Rushworth (the lovely widow), the Harry 
Thorleys, the Reggie Chiverses and young Morris 
Dagonet and his wife (who was a van der Luyden). 
The company indeed was perfectly assorted, since all the 
members belonged to the little inner group of people 
who, during the long New York season, disported them- 
selves together daily and nightly with apparently undi- 
minished zest. 

Forty-eight hours later the unbelievable had happened ; 
every one had refused the Mingotts' invitation except the 
Beauforts and old Mr. Jackson and his sister. The in-* 
tended slight was emphasised by the fact that even the 
Reggie Chiverses, who were of the Mingott clan, were 
among those inflicting it ; and by the uniform wording of 
the notes, in all of which the writers "regretted that they 
were unable to accept," without the mitigating plea of a 
"previous engagement" that ordinary courtesy prescribed. 

New York society was, in those days, far too small, 
and too scant in its resources, for every one in it (includ- 
ing livery-stable-keepers, butlers and cooks) not to know 
exactly on which evenings people were free; and it was 
thus possible for the recipients of Mrs. Lovell Mingott's 
invitations to make cruelly clear their determination not 
to meet the Countess Olenska. 

The blow was unexpected; but the Mingotts, as their 
way was, met it gallantly. Mrs. Lovell Mingott con- 
fided the case to Mrs. Welland, who confided it to New- 
land Archer; who, aflame at the outrage, appealed pas- 

[45] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

sionately and authoritatively to his mother ; who, after a 
painful period of inward resistance and outward tempor- 
ising, succumbed to his instances (as she always did), and 
immediately embracing his cause with an energy re- 
doubled by her previous hesitations, put on her grey 
velvet bonnet and said : "I'll go and see Louisa van der. 
Luyden." 

The New York of Newland Archer's day was a small 
and slippery pyramid, in which, as yet, hardly a fissure 
had been made or a foothold gained. At its base was a 
firm foundation of what 'Mrs. Archer called "plain peo- 
ple"; an honourable but obscure majority of respect- 
able families who (as in the case of the Spicers or the 
Leffertses or the Jacksons) had been raised above their 
level by marriage with one of the ruling clans. People, 
Mrs. Archer always said, were not as particular as they 
used to be ; and with old Catherine Spicer ruling one end 
of Fifth Avenue, and Julius Beaufort the other, you 
couldn't expect the old traditions to last much longer. 

Firmly narrowing upward from this wealthy but in- 
conspicuous substratum was the compact and dominant 
group which the Mingotts, Newlands, Chiverses and Man- 
sons so actively represented. Most people imagined them 
to be the very apex of the pyramid ; but they themselves 
(at least those of Mrs. Archer's generation) were aware 
that, in the eyes of the professional genealogist, only a 
still smaller number of families could lay claim to that 
eminence. 

"Don't tell me," Mrs. Archer would say to her children, 
"all this modern newspaper rubbish about a New York 
aristocracy. If there is one, neither the Mingotts nor the 
Mansons belong to it ; no, nor the Newlands or the Chiv- 
erses either. Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers 
were just respectable English or Dutch merchants, who 

[46] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

came to the colonies to make their fortune, and stayed 
here because they did so well. One of your great-grand- 
fathers signed the Declaration, and another was a general 
on Washington's staff, and received General Burgoyne's 
sword after the battle of Saratoga. These are things to 
be proud of, but they have nothing to do with rank or 
class. New York has always been a commercial com- 
munity, and there are not more than three families in it 
who can claim an aristocratic origin in the real sense of 
the word." 

'Mrs. Archer and her son and daughter, like every one 
else in New York, knew who these privileged beings 
were: the Dagonets of Washington Square, who came 
of an old English county family allied with the Pitts and 
Foxes; the Lannings, who had intermarried with the 
descendants of Count de Grasse, and the van der Luy- 
dens, direct descendants of the first Dutch governor of 
Manhattan, and related by pre-revolutionary marriages 
to several members of the French and British aristocracy. 

The Lannings survived only in the person of two very 
old but lively Miss Lannings, who lived cheerfully and 
reminiscently among family portraits and Chippendale; 
the Dagonets were a considerable clan, allied to the best 
names in Baltimore and Philadelphia; but the van der 
Luydens, who stood above all of them, had faded into a 
kind of super-terrestrial twilight, from which only two 
figures impressively emerged; those of Mr. and Mrs. 
Henry van der Luyden. 

Mrs. Henry van der Luyden had been Louisa Dagonet, 
and her mother had been the granddaughter of Colonel 
du Lac, of an old Channel Island family, who had fought 
under Cornwallis and had settled in Maryland, after the 
war, with his bride, Lady Angelica Trevenna, fifth daugh- 
ter of the Earl of St. Austrey. The tie between the 

[47] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Dagonets, the du Lacs of Maryland, and their aristo- 
cratic Cornish kinsfolk, the Trevennas, had always re- 
mained close and cordial. Mr. and Mrs. van der Luyden 
had more than once paid long visits to the present head 
of the house of Trevenna, the Duke of St. Austrey, at 
his country-seat in Cornwall and at St. Austrey in Glou- 
cestershire; and his Grace had frequently announced his 
intention of some day returning their visit (without the 
Duchess, who feared the Atlantic). 

Mr. and Mrs. van der Luyden divided their time be- 
tween Trevenna, their place in Maryland, and Skuyter- 
cliff, the great estate on the Hudson which had been one 
of the colonial grants of the Dutch government to the 
famous first Governor, and of which Mr. van der Luy- 
den was still "Patroon." Their large solemn house in 
Madison Avenue was seldom opened, and when they 
came to town they received in it only their most intimate 
friends. 

"I wish you would go with me, Newland," his mother 
said, suddenly pausing at the door of the Brown coupe. 
"Louisa is fond of you ; and of course it's on account of 
dear May that I'm taking this step and also because, if 
we don't all stand together, there'll be no such thing as 
Society left" 



VII 



MRS. HENRY VAN DER LUYDEN listened in si- 
lence to her cousin Mrs. Archer's narrative. 

It was all very well to tell yourself in advance that Mrs. 
van der Luyden was always silent, and that, though non- 
committal by nature and training-, she was very kind to 
the people she really liked. Even personal experience of 
these facts was not always a protection from the chill that 
descended on one in the high-ceilinged white-walled Madi- 
son Avenue drawing-room, with the pale brocaded arm- 
chairs so obviously uncovered for the occasion, and the 
gauze still veiling the ormolu mantel ornaments and the 
beautiful old carved frame of Gainsborough's "Lady 
Angelica du Lac." 

Mrs. van der Luyden's portrait by Huntington (in 
t>lack velvet and Venetian point) faced that of her 
lovely ancestress. It was generally considered "as fine 
as a Cabanel," and, though twenty years had elapsed since 
its execution, was still "a perfect likeness." Indeed the 
Mrs. van der Luyden who sat beneath it listening to 
Mrs. Archer might have been the twin-sister of the fair 
and still youngish woman drooping against a gilt arm- 
chair before a green rep curtain. Mrs. van der Luyden 
still wore black velvet and Venetian point when she went 
into society or rather (since she never dined out) when 
she threw open her own doors to receive it. Her fair 
hair, which had faded without turning grey, was still 
parted in flat overlapping points on her forehead, and 

[49] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the straight nose that divided her pale blue eyes was only 
a little more pinched about the nostrils than when the 
portrait had been painted. She always, indeed, struck 
Newland Archer as having been rather gruesomely pre- 
served in the airless atmosphere of a perfectly irre- 
proachable existence, as bodies caught in glaciers keep 
for years a rosy life-in-death. 

Like all his family, he esteemed and admired Mrs. van 
der Luyden; but he found her gentle bending sweetness 
less approachable than the grimness of some of his 
mother's old aunts, fierce spinsters who said "No" on 
principle before they knew what they were going to be 
asked. 

Mrs. van der Luyden's attitude said neither yes nor 
no, but always appeared to incline to clemency till her 
thin lips, wavering into the shadow of a smile, made the 
almost invariable reply: "I shall first have to talk this 
over with my husband." 

She and Mr. van der Luyden were so exactly alike 
that Archer often wondered how, after forty years of 
the closest conjugality, two such merged identities ever 
separated themselves enough for anything as controver- 
sial as a talking-over. But as neither had ever reached a 
decision without prefacing it by this mysterious con- 
clave, 'Mrs. Archer and her son, having set forth their 
case, waited resignedly for the familiar phrase. 

Mrs. van der Luyden, however, who had seldom sur- 
prised any one, now surprised them by reaching her long 
hand toward the bell-rope. 

"I think," she said, "I should like Henry to hear what 
you have told me." 

A footman appeared, to whom she gravely added : "If 
Mr. van der Luyden has finished reading the newspaper, 
please ask him to be kind enough to come." 

[50] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

She said "reading the newspaper" in the tone in which 
a Minister's wife might have said : "Presiding at a Cabi- 
net meeting" not from any arrogance of mind, but be- 
cause the habit of a life-time, and the attitude of her 
friends and relations, had led her to consider Mr. van 
der Luyden's least gesture as having an almost sacerdotal 
importance. 

Her promptness of action showed that she considered 
the case as pressing as Mrs. Archer ; but, lest she should 
be thought to have committed herself in advance, she 
added, with the sweetest look: "Henry always enjoys 
seeing you, dear Adeline ; and he will wish to congratu- 
late Newland." 

The double doors had solemnly reopened and be- 
tween them appeared Mr. Henry van der Luyden, tall, 
spare and frock-coated, with faded fair hair, a straight 
nose like his wife's and the same look of frozen gentle- 
ness in eyes that were merely pale grey instead of pale 
blue. 

Mr. van der Luyden greeted Mrs. Archer with cousinly 
affability, proffered to Newland low-voiced congratula- 
tions couched in the same language as his wife's, and 
seated himself in one of the brocade armchairs with the 
simplicity of a reigning sovereign. 

"I had just finished reading the Times," he said, lay- 
ing his long finger-tips together. "In town my mornings 
are so much occupied that I find it more convenient to 
read the newspapers after luncheon." 

"Ah, there's a great deal to be said for that plan in- 
deed I think my uncle Egmont used to say he found it 
less agitating not to read the morning papers till after 
dinner," said Mrs. Archer responsively. 

"Yes: my good father abhorred hurry. But now we 
live in a constant rush," said Mr. van der Luyden in 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

measured tones, looking with pleasant deliberation about 
the large shrouded room which to Archer was so complete 
an image of its owners. 

"But I hope you had finished your reading, Henry ?'* 
his wife interposed. 

"Quite quite," he reassured her. 

"Then I should like Adeline to tell you" 

"Oh, it's really Newland's story/' said his mother 
smiling; and proceeded to rehearse once more the mon- 
strous tale of the affront inflicted on Mrs. Lovell 
Mingott. 

"Of course," she ended, "Augusta Welland and Mary 
Mingott both felt that, especially in view of Newland's 
engagement, you and Henry ought to know." 

"Ah " said Mr. van der Luyden, drawing a deep 
breath. 

There was a silence during which the tick of the monu- 
mental ormolu clock on the white marble mantelpiece 
grew as loud as the boom of a minute-gun. Archer con~ 
templated with awe the two slender faded figures, seated 
side by side in a kind of viceregal rigidity, mouth-pieces 
of some remote ancestral authority which fate compelled 
them to wield, when they would so much rather have 
lived in simplicity and seclusion, digging invisible weeds 
out of the perfect lawns of Skuytercliff, and playing 
Patience together in the evenings. 

Mr. van der Luyden was the first to speak. 

"You really think this is due to some some intentional 
interference of Lawrence Lefferts's ?" he enquired, turn- 
ing to Archer. 

"I'm certain of it, sir. Larry has been going it rather 
harder than usual lately -if cousin Louisa won't mind 
my mentioning it having rather a stiff affair with the 
postmaster's wife in their village, or some one of that 

[52] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

sort ; and whenever poor Gertrude Lefferts begins to sus- 
pect anything, and he's afraid of trouble, he gets up a 
fuss of this kind, to show how awfully moral he is, and 
talks at the top of his voice about the impertinence of in- 
viting his wife to meet people he doesn't wish her to 
know. He's simply using Madame Olenska as a light- 
ning-rod ; I've seen him try the same thing often before." 

"The Leffertses!" said Mrs. van der Luyden. 

"The Leffertses!" echoed 'Mrs. Archer. "What 
would uncle Egmont have said of Lawrence Lefferts's 
pronouncing on anybody's social position? It shows 
what Society has come to." 

"We'll hope it has not quite come to that/' said Mr. 
van der Luyden firmly. 

"Ah, if only you and Louisa went out more!" sighed 
Mrs. Archer. 

But instantly she became aware of her mistake. The 
van der Luydens were morbidly sensitive to any criticism 
of their secluded existence. They were the arbiters of 
fashion, the Court of last Appeal, and they knew it, and 
bowed to their fate. But being shy and retiring persons, 
with no natural inclination for their part, they lived as 
much as possible in the sylvan solitude of Skuytercliff, 
and when they came to town, declined all invitations on 
the plea of Mrs. van der Luyden's health. 

Newland Archer came to his mother's rescue. "Every- 
body in New York knows what you and cousin Louisa 
represent. That's why Mrs. Mingott felt she ought not 
to allow this slight on Countess Olenska to pass without 
consulting you." 

Mrs. van der Luyden glanced at her husband, who 
glanced back at her. 

"It is the principle that I dislike," said Mr. van der 
Luyden. "As long as a member of a well-known family 

[S3] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

is backed up by that family it should be considered, 
final." 

"It seems so to me," said his wife, as if she were pro- 
ducing a new thought. 

"I had no idea," Mr. van der Luyden continued, "that 
things had come to such a pass." He paused, and looked 
at his wife again. "It occurs to me, my dear, that the 
Countess Olenska is already a sort of relation through 
Medora Hanson's first husband. At any rate, she will 
be when Newland marries." He turned toward the young 
man. "Have you read this morning's Times, Newland ?" 

"Why, yes, sir," said Archer, who usually tossed off 
half a dozen papers with his morning coffee. 

Husband and wife looked at each other again. Their 
pale eyes clung together in prolonged and serious consul- 
tation; then a faint smile fluttered over Mrs. van der 
Luyden's face. She had evidently guessed and approved. 

Mr. van der Luyden turned to 'Mrs. Archer. "If 
Louisa's health allowed her to dine out I wish you 
would say to Mrs. Lovell Mingott she and I would have 
been happy to er fill the places of the Lawrence Lef- 
f ertses at her dinner." He paused to let the irony of this 
sink in. "As you know, this is impossible." Mrs, Archer 
sounded a sympathetic assent. "But Newland tells me 
he has read this morning's Times ; therefore he has prob- 
ably seen that Louisa's relative, the Duke of St. Austrey^ 
arrives next week on the Russia. He is coming to enter 
his new sloop, the Guinevere, in next summer's Interna- 
tional Cup Race; and also to have a little canvasback 
shooting at Trevenna." Mr. van der Luyden paused again, 
and continued with increasing benevolence : "Before tak- 
ing him down to Maryland we are inviting a few friends 
to meet him here only a little dinner with a reception 
afterward. I am sure Louisa will be as glad as I am it 

[54] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Countess Olenska will let us include her among our 
guests." He got up, bent his long body with a stiff friend- 
liness toward his cousin, and added: "I think I have 
Louisa's authority for saying that she will herself leave 
the invitation to dine when she drives out presently : with 
our cards of course with our cards." 

Mrs. Archer, who knew this to be a hint that the seven- 
teen-hand chestnuts which were never kept waiting were 
at the door, rose with a hurried murmur of thanks. Mrs. 
van der Luyden beamed on her with the smile of Esther 
interceding with Ahasuerus; but her husband raised a 
protesting hand. 

"There is nothing to thank me for, dear Adeline ; noth- 
ing whatever. This kind of thing must not happen in 
New York ; it shall not, as long as I can help it," he pro- 
nounced with sovereign gentleness as he steered his 
cousins to the door. 

Two hours later, every one knew that the great C- 
spring barouche in which 'Mrs. van der Luyden took the 
air at all seasons had been seen at old Mrs. Mingott's 
door, where a large square envelope was handed in ; and 
that evening at the Opera Mr. Sillerton Jackson was able 
to state that the envelope contained a card inviting the 
Countess Olenska to the dinner which the van der Luy- 
dens were giving the following week for their cousin, 
the Duke of St. Austrey. 

Some of the younger men in the club box exchanged 
a smile at this announcement, and glanced sideways at 
Lawrence Lefferts, who sat carelessly in the front of the 
box, pulling his long fair moustache, and who remarked 
with authority, as the soprano paused: "No one but 
Patti ought to attempt the Sonnambula." 



VIII 



IT was generally agreed in New York that the Countess 
Olenska had "lost her looks." 

She had appeared there first, in Newland Archer's 
boyhood, as a brilliantly pretty little girl of nine or ten, 
of whom people said that she "ought to be painted." Her 
parents had been continental wanderers, and after a 
roaming babyhood she had lost them both, and been taken 
in charge by her aunt, Medora Manson, also a wanderer, 
who was herself returning to New York to "settle down." 

Poor Medora, repeatedly widowed, was always coming 
home to settle down (each time in a less expensive house), 
and bringing with her a new husband or an adopted child ; 
but after a few months she invariably parted from her 
husband or quarrelled with her ward, and, having got rid 
of her house at a loss, set out again on her wanderings. 
As her mother had been a Rushworth, and her last un- 
happy marriage had linked her to one of the crazy 
Chiverses, New York looked indulgently on her eccen- 
tricities ; but when she returned with her little orphaned 
niece, whose parents had been popular in spite of their 
regrettable taste for travel, people thought it a pity that 
the pretty child should be in such hands. 

Every one was disposed to be kind to little Ellen 
Mingott, though her dusky red cheeks and tight curls 
gave her an air of gaiety that seemed unsuitable in a child 
who should still have been in black for her parents. It 
was one of the misguided Medora's many peculiarities to 

[56] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 






flout the unalterable rules that regulated American 
mourning, and when she stepped from the steamer her 
family were scandalised to see that the crape veil she 
wore for her own brother was seven inches shorter than 
those of her sisters-in-law, while little Ellen was in crim- 
son merino and amber beads, like a gipsy foundling. 

But New York had so long resigned itself to 'Medora 
that only a few old ladies shook their heads over Ellen's 
gaudy clothes, while her other relations fell under the 
charm of her high colour and high spirits. She was a 
fearless and familiar little thing, who asked disconcerting 
questions, made precocious comments, and possessed out- 
landish arts, such as dancing a Spanish shawl dance and 
singing Neapolitan love-songs to a guitar. Under the 
direction of her aunt (whose real name was Mrs. Thorley 
Olivers, but who, having received a Papal title, had re- 
sumed her first husband's patronymic, and called herself 
the Marchioness Manson, because in Italy she could turn 
it into Manzoni) the little girl received an expensive but 
incoherent education, which included "drawing from the 
model," a thing never dreamed of before, and playing the 
piano in quintets with professional musicians. 

Of course no good could come of this ; and when, a few 
years later, poor Olivers finally died in a madhouse, his 
widow (draped in strange weeds) again pulled up stakes 
and departed with Ellen, who had grown into a tall bony 
girl with conspicuous eyes. For some time no more was 
heard of them ; then news came of Ellen's marriage to an 
immensely rich Polish nobleman of legendary fame, 
whom she had met at a ball at the Tuileries, and who was 
said to have princely establishments in Paris, Nice and 
Florence, a yacht at Cowes, and many square miles of 
shooting in Transylvania. She disappeared in a kind of 
sulphurous apotheosis, and when a few years later Me- 

[57] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

dora again came back to New York, subdued, impov- 
erished, mourning a third husband, and in quest of a still 
smaller house, people wondered that her rich niece had 
not been able to do something for her. Then came the 
news that Ellen's own marriage had ended in disaster, 
and that she was herself returning home to seek rest and 
oblivion among her kinsfolk. 

These things passed through Newland Archer's mind a 
week later as he watched the Countess Olenska enter the 
van der Luyden drawing-room on the evening of the mo- 
mentous dinner. The occasion was a solemn one, and he 
wondered a little nervously how she would carry it off. 
She came rather late, one hand still ungloved, and fasten- 
ing a bracelet about her wrist; yet she entered without 
any appearance of haste or embarrassment the drawing- 
room in which New York's most chosen company was 
somewhat awfully assembled. 

In the middle of the room she paused, looking about 
her with a grave mouth and smiling eyes ; and in that in- 
stant Newland Archer rejected the general verdict on 
her looks. It was true that her early radiance was gone. 
The red cheeks had paled; she was thin, worn, a little 
older-looking than her age, which must have been nearly 
thirty. But there was about her the mysterious authority 
of beauty, a sureness in the carriage of the head, the 
movement of the eyes, which, without being in the least 
theatrical, struck him as highly trained and full of a con- 
scious power. At the same time she was simpler in man- 
ner than most of the ladies present, and many people (as 
he heard afterward from Janey) were disappointed that 
her appearance was not more "stylish" for stylishness 
was what New York most valued. It was, perhaps, Archer 
reflected, because her early vivacity had disappeared; 
because she was so quiet quiet in her movements, her; 

[581 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

voice, and the tones of her low-pitched voice. New York 
had expected something a good deal more resonant in a 
young woman with such a history. 

The dinner was a somewhat formidable business. Din- 
ing with the van der Luydens was at best no light matter, 
and dining there with a Duke who was their cousin was 
almost a religious solemnity. It pleased Archer to think 
that only an old New Yorker could perceive the shade of 
difference (to New York) between being merely a Duke 
and being the van der Luydens' Duke. New York took 
stray noblemen calmly, and even (except in the Struthers 
set) with a certain distrustful hauteur; but when they 
presented such credentials as these they were received 
with an old-fashioned cordiality that they would have 
been greatly mistaken in ascribing solely to their standing 
in Debrett. It was for just such distinctions that the 
young man cherished his old New York even while he 
smiled at it. 

The van der Luydens had done their best to emphasise 
the importance of the occasion. The du Lac Sevres and 
the Trevenna George II plate were out; so was the van 
der Luyden "Lowestoft" (East India Company) and the 
Dagonet Crown Derby. Mrs. van der Luyden looked 
more than ever like a Cabanel, and Mrs. Archer, in her 
grandmother's seed-pearls and emeralds, reminded her 
son of an Isabey miniature. All the ladies had on their 
handsomest jewels, but it was characteristic of the house 
and the occasion that these were mostly in rather heavy 
old-fashioned settings; and old Miss Lanning, who had 
been persuaded to come, actually wore her mother's 
cameos and a Spanish blonde shawl. 

The Countess Olenska was the only young woman at 
the dinner ; yet, as Archer scanned the smooth plump 
elderly faces between their diamond necklaces and tow- 

[59] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ering ostrich feathers, they struck him as curiously im 
mature compared with hers. It frightened him to think 
what must have gone to the making of her eyes. 

The Duke of St. Austrey, who sat at his hostess's rights 
was naturally the chief figure of the evening. But if the 
Countess Olenska was less conspicuous than had been 
hoped, the Duke was almost invisible. Being a well-bred 
man he had not (like another recent ducal visitor) come to 
the dinner in a shooting- jacket; but his evening clothes 
were so shabby and baggy, and he wore them with such an 
air of their being homespun, that (with his stooping way 
of sitting, and the vast beard spreading over his shirt- 
front) he hardly gave the appearance of being in dinner 
attire. He was short, round-shouldered, sunburnt, with 
& thick nose, small eyes and a sociable smile ; but he sel- 
dom spoke, and when he did it was in such low tones that, 
despite the frequent silences of expectation about the 
table, his remarks were lost to all but his neighbours. 

When the men joined the ladies after dinner the Duke 
went straight up to the Countess Olenska, and they sat 
down in a corner and plunged into animated talk. 
Neither seemed aware that the Duke should first have 
paid his respects to 'Mrs. Lovell Mingott and Mrs. Headly 
Olivers, and the Countess have conversed with that ami- 
able hypochondriac, Mr. Urban Dagonet of Washington 
Square, who, in order to have the pleasure of meeting 
her, had broken through his fixed rule of not dining out 
between January and April. The two chatted together 
for nearly twenty minutes; then the Countess rose and, 
walking alone across the wide drawing-room, sat down 
at Newland Archer's side. 

It was not the custom in New York drawing-rooms for 
a lady to get up and walk away from one gentleman in 
order to seek the company of another. Etiquette required 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

that she should wait, immovable as an idol, while the men 
who wished to converse with her succeeded each other at 
her side. But the Countess was apparently unaware of 
having broken any rule ; she sat at perfect ease in a cor- 
ner of the sofa beside Archer, and looked at him with the 
kindest eyes. 

"I want you to talk to me about May," she said. 

Instead of answering her he asked: "You knew the 
Duke before?" 

"Oh, yes we used to see him every winter at Nice. 
He's very fond of gambling he used to come to the 
house a great deal." She said it in the simplest manner, 
as if she had said: "He's fond of wild-flowers"; and af- 
ter a moment she added candidly : "I think he's the dullest 
man I ever met." 

This pleased her companion so much that he forgot the 
slight shock her previous remark had caused him. It was 
undeniably exciting to meet a lady who found the van der 
Luydens' Duke dull, and dared to utter the opinion. He 
longed to question her, to hear more about the life of 
which her careless words had given him so illuminating 
a glimpse; but he feared to touch on distressing mem- 
ories, and before he could think of anything to say she 
had strayed back to her original subject. 

"May is a darling ; I've seen no young girl in New York 
so handsome and so intelligent. Are you very much in 
love with her?" 

Newland Archer reddened and laughed. "As much as 
a man can be." 

She continued to consider him thoughtfully, as if not 
to miss any shade of meaning in what he said, "Do you 
think, then, there is a limit ?" 

"To being in love ? If there is, I haven't found it I" 
[61] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

She glowed with sympathy. "Ah it's really and truly 
a romance ?" 

"The most romantic of romances !" 

"How delightful ! And you found it all out for your- 
selves it was not in the least arranged for you ?" 

Archer looked at her incredulously. "Have you for- 
gotten/' he asked with a smile, "that in our country we 
don't allow our marriages to be arranged for us ?" 

A dusky blush rose to her cheek, and he instantly re- 
gretted his words. 

"Yes," she answered, "I'd forgotten. You must for- 
give me if I sometimes make these mistakes. I don't al- 
ways remember that everything here is good that was * 
that was bad where I've come from." She looked down 
at her Viennese fan of eagle feathers, and he saw that 
her lips trembled. 

"I'm so sorry," he said impulsively; "but you art 
among friends here, you know." 

"Yes I know. Wherever I go I have that feeling. 
That's why I came home. I want to forget everything 
else, to become a complete American again, like the 
Mingotts and Wellands, and you and your delightful 
mother, and all the other good people here tonight. Ah, 
here's May arriving, and you will want to hurry away 
to her," she added, but without moving; and her eyes 
turned back from the door to rest on the young man's 
face. 

The drawing-rooms were beginning to fill up with 
after-dinner guests, and following Madame Olenska's 
glance Archer saw May Welland entering with her 
mother. In her dress of white and silver, with a wreath 
of silver blossoms in her hair, the tall girl looked like a 
Diana just alight from the chase. 

"Oh," said Archer, "I have so many rivalsj you see 

[62] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

she's already surrounded. There's the Duke being in- 
troduced." 

"Then stay with me a little longer," Madame Olenska 
said in a low tone, just touching his knee with her plumed 
fan. It was the lightest touch, but it thrilled him like a 
caress. 

"Yes, let me stay," he answered in the same tone, 
hardly knowing what he said ; but just then Mr. van der 
Luyden came up, followed by old Mr. Urban Dagonet. 
The Countess greeted them with her grave smile, and 
Archer, feeling his host's admonitory glance on him, rose 
and surrendered his seat. 

Madame Olenska held out her hand as if to bid him 
good-bye. 

"Tomorrow, then, after five I shall expect you," she 
said; and then turned back to make room for Mr. 
Dagonet. 

"Tomorrow " Archer heard himself repeating, 
though there had been no engagement, and during their 
talk she had given him no hint that she wished to see 
him again. 

As he moved away he saw Lawrence Lefferts, tall and 
resplendent, leading his wife up to be introduced; and 
heard Gertrude Lefferts say, as she beamed on the Coun- 
tess with her large unperceiving smile: "But I think we 
used to go to dancing-school together when we were 
children ." Behind her, waiting their turn to name 
themselves to the Countess, Archer noticed a number of 
the recalcitrant couples who had declined to meet her 
at Mrs. Lovell Mingott's. As Mrs. Archer remarked: 
when the van der Luydens chose, they knew how to give 
a lesson. The wonder was that they chose so seldom. 

The young man felt a touch on his arm and saw Mrs. 
van der Luyden looking down on him from the pure 

[63] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

eminence of black velvet and the family diamonds. "It 
was good of you, dear Newland, to devote yourself so 
unselfishly to Madame Olenska. I told your cousin 
Henry he must really come to the rescue." 

He was aware of smiling at her vaguely, and she 
added, as if condescending to his natural shyness : "I've 
never seen May looking lovelier. The Duke thinks ha* 
the handsomest girl in the room." 



IX 



THE Countess Olenska had said "after five" ; and at 
half after the hour Newland Archer rang the bell 
of the peeling stucco house with a giant wisteria throt- 
tling its feeble cast-iron balcony, which she had hired, 
far down West Twenty-third Street, from the vagabond 
'Medora. 

It was certainly a strange quarter to have settled in. 
Small dress-makers, bird-stuffers and "people who 
wrote" were her nearest neighbours; and further down 
the dishevelled street Archer recognised a dilapidated 
wooden house, at the end of a paved path, in which a 
writer and journalist called Winsett, whom he used to 
come across now and then, had mentioned that he lived. 
Winsett did not invite people to his house; but he had 
once pointed it out to Archer in the course of a nocturnal 
stroll, and the latter had asked himself, with a little 
shiver, if the humanities were so meanly housed in other 
capitals. 

Madame Olenska's own dwelling was redeemed from 
the same appearance only by a little more paint about 
the window-frames; and as Archer mustered its modest 
front he said to himself that the Polish Count must have 
robbed her of her fortune as well as of her illusions. 

The young man had spent an unsatisfactory day. He 
had lunched with the Wellands, hoping afterward to 
carry off May for a walk in the Park. He wanted to 

[65] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

have her to himself, to tell her how enchanting she had 
looked the night before, and how proud he was of her, 
and to press her to hasten their marriage. But Mrs. 
Welland had firmly reminded him that the round of 
family visits was not half over, and, when he hinted at 
advancing the date of the wedding, had raised reproach- 
ful eye-brows and sighed out: "Twelve dozen of every- 
thing hand-embroidered " 

Packed in the family landau they rolled from one 
tribal doorstep to another, and Archer, when the after- 
noon's round was over, parted from his betrothed with 
the feeling that he had been shown off like a wild animal 
cunningly trapped. He supposed that his readings in 
anthropology caused him to take such a coarse view of 
what was after all a simple and natural demonstration 
of family feeling; but when he remembered that the 
Wellands did not expect the wedding to take place till 
the following autumn, and pictured what his life would; 
be till then, a dampness fell upon his spirit. j 

"Tomorrow," Mrs. Welland called after him, "we'll 
do the Chiverses and the Dallases" ; and he perceived that f 
she was going through their two families alphabetically, 
and that they were only in the first quarter of the alpha-, 
bet. j 

He had meant to tell May of the Countess Olenska's 
request her command, rather that he should call on 
her that afternoon ; but in the brief moments when they 
were alone he had had more pressing things to say. Be^ 
sides, it struck him as a little absurd to allude to the 
matter. He knew that May most particularly wanted him 
to be kind to her cousin ; was it not that wish which had 
hastened the announcement of their engagement ? It gave 
him an odd sensation to reflect that, but for the Coun- 
tess's arrival, he might have been, if not still a free man, 

[66] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

at least a man less irrevocably pledged. But May had 
willed it so, and he felt himself somehow relieved of 
further responsibility and therefore at liberty, if he 
chose, to call on her cousin without telling her. 

As he stood on Madame Olenska's threshold curiosity 
was his uppermost feeling. He was puzzled by the tone 
in which she had summoned him; he concluded that she 
was less simple than she seemed. 

The door was opened by a swarthy foreign-looking 
maid, with a prominent bosom under a gay neckerchief, 
whom he vaguely fancied to be Sicilian. She welcomed 
him with all her white teeth, and answering his enquiries 
by a head-shake of incomprehension led him through the 
narrow hall into a low firelit drawing-room. The room 
was empty, and she left him, for an appreciable time, to 
wonder whether she had gone to find her mistress, or 
whether she had not understood what he was there for, 
and thought it might be to wind the clocks of which he 
perceived that the only visible specimen had stopped. 
He knew that the southern races communicated with each 
other in the language of pantomime, and was mortified to 
find her shrugs and smiles so unintelligible. At length 
she returned with a lamp ; and Archer, having meanwhile 
put together a phrase out of Dante and Petrarch, evoked 
the answer : "La signora e fuori; ma verra subito" ; which 
he took to mean: "She's out but you'll soon see." 

What he saw, meanwhile, with the help of the lamft 
was the faded shadowy charm of a room unlike any 
room he had known. He knew that the Countess Olenska 
had brought some of her possessions with her bits of 
wreckage, she called them and these, he supposed, were 
represented by some small slender tables of dark wood, 
a delicate little Greek bronze on the chimney-piece, and a 

[67] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

stretch of red damask nailed on the discoloured wall* 
paper behind a couple of Italian-looking pictures in old 
frames. 

Newland Archer prided himself on his knowledge of 
Italian art. His boyhood had been saturated with Rus- 
kin, and he had read all the latest books : John Addington 
Symonds, Vernon Lee's "Euphorion," the essays of P. 
>G. Hamerton, and a wonderful new volume called "The 
Renaissance" by Walter Pater. He talked easily of Bot- 
ticelli, and spoke of Fra Angelico with a faint condescen- 
sion. But these pictures bewildered him, for they were 
like nothing that he was accustomed to look at (and 
therefore able to see) when he travelled in Italy; and 
perhaps, also, his powers of observation were impaired 
by the oddness of finding himself in this strange empty 
house, where apparently no one expected him. He was 
sorry that he had not told 'May Welland of Countess 
Olenska's request, and a little disturbed by the thought 
that his betrothed might come in to see her cousin. 
What would she think if she found him sitting there with 
the air of intimacy implied by waiting alone in the dusk 
at a lady's fireside? 

But since he had come he meant to wait ; and he sank 
into a chair and stretched his feet to the logs. 

It was odd to have summoned him in that way, and then 
forgotten him ; but Archer felt more curious than morti- 
fied. The atmosphere of the room was so different from 
any he had ever breathed that self-consciousness vanished 
in the sense of adventure. He had been before in draw- 
ing-rooms hung with red damask, with pictures "of the 
Italian school"; what struck him was the way in which 
Medora Hanson's shabby hired house, with its blighted 
background of pampas grass and Rogers statuettes, had, 
by a turn of the hand, and the skilful use of a few prop- 

[681 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

erties, been transformed into something intimate, "for- 
eign," subtly suggestive of old romantic scenes and senti- 
ments. He tried to analyse the trick, to find a clue to it 
in the way the chairs and tables were grouped, in the fact 
that only two Jacqueminot roses (of which nobody ever 
bought less than a dozen) had been placed in the slender 
vase at his elbow, and in the vague pervading perfume 
that was not what one put on handkerchiefs, but rather 
like the scent of some far-off bazaar, a smell made up of 
Turkish coffee and ambergris and dried roses. 

His mind wandered away to the question of what 
May's drawing-room would look like. He knew that 
Mr. Welland, who was behaving "very handsomely," al- 
ready had his eye on a newly built house in East Thirty- 
ninth Street. The neighbourhood was thought remote^ 
and the house was built in a ghastly greenish-yellow stone 
that the younger architects were beginning to employ as 
a protest against the brownstone of which the uniform 
hue coated New York like a cold chocolate sauce; but 
the plumbing was perfect. Archer would have liked to 
travel, to put off the housing question; but, though the 
Wellands approved of an extended European honeymoon 
(perhaps even a winter in Egypt), they were firm as to 
the need of a house for the returning couple. The young 
man felt that his fate was sealed : for the rest of his life 
he would go up every evening between the cast-iron rail- 
ings of that greenish-yellow doorstep, and pass through 
a Pompeian vestibule into a hall with a wainscoting of 
varnished yellow wood. But beyond that his imagination 
could not travel. He knew the drawing-room above had 
a bay window, but he could not fancy how May would 
deal with it. She submitted cheerfully to the purple 
satin and yellow tuftings of the Welland drawing-room, 
to its sham Buhl tables and gilt vitrines full of modern 

[69] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Saxe. He saw no reason to suppose that she would want 
anything different in her own house; and his only com- 
fort was to reflect that she would probably let him ar- 
range his library as he pleased which would be, of 
course, with "sincere" Eastlake furniture, and the plain 
new book-cases without glass doors. 

The round-bosomed maid came in, drew the curtains, 
pushed back a log, and said consolingly : "Verra verra" 
When she had gone Archer stood up and began to wander 
about. Should he wait any longer? His position was 
becoming rather foolish. Perhaps he had misunderstood 
Madame Olenska perhaps she had not invited him after 
all. 

Down the cobblestones of the quiet street came the ring 
of a stepper's hoofs ; they stopped before the house, and 
he caught the opening of a carriage door. Parting the cur- 
tains he looked out into the early dusk. A street-lamp 
faced him, and in its light he saw Julius Beaufort's com- 
pact English brougham, drawn by a big roan, and the 
banker descending from it, and helping out Madame 
Olenska 

Beaufort stood, hat in hand, saying something which 
his companion seemed to negative ; then they shook hands, 
and he jumped into his carriage while she mounted the 
steps. 

When she entered the room she showed no surprise at 
seeing Archer there; surprise seemed the emotion that 
she was least addicted to. 

"How do you like my funny house?" she asked. "To 
me it's like heaven." 

As she spoke she untied her little velvet bonnet and 
tossing it away with her long cloak stood looking at him 
with meditative eyes. 

"You've arranged it delightfully," he rejoined, alive to 

[70] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the flatness of the words, but imprisoned in the conven- 
tional by his consuming desire to be simple and striking. 

"Oh, it's a poor little place. My relations despise 
it. But at any rate it's less gloomy than the van der 
Luydens'." 

The words gave him an electric shock, for few were 
the rebellious spirits who would have dared to call the 
stately home of the van der Luydens gloomy. Those 
privileged to enter it shivered there, and spoke of it as 
"handsome." But suddenly he was glad that she had 
given voice to the general shiver. 

"It's delicious what you've done here," he repeated. 

"I like the little house," she admitted ; "but I suppose 
what I like is the blessedness of its being here, in my 
own country and my own town ; and then, of being alone 
in it." She spoke so low that he hardly heard the last 
phrase ; but in his awkwardness he took it up. 

"You like so much to be alone ?" 

"Yes; as long as my friends keep me from feeling 
lonely." She sat down near the fire, said : "Nastasia will 
bring the tea presently," and signed to him to return to 
his armchair, adding : "I see you've already chosen your 
corner." 

Leaning back, she folded her arms behind her head, and 
looked at the fire under drooping lids. 

"This is the hour I like best don't you?" 

A proper sense of his dignity caused him to answer: 
"I was afraid you'd forgotten the hour. Beaufort must 
have been very engrossing." 

She looked amused. "Why have you waited long? 
Mr. Beaufort took me to see a number of houses since 
it seems I'm not to be allowed to stay in this one." She 
appeared to dismiss both Beaufort and himself from her 
mind, and went on: "I've never been in a city where 

[71.1 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

there seems to be such a feeling against living in de* 
quartiers excentriques. What does it matter where one 
lives? I'm told this street is respectable." 

"It's not fashionable." 

"Fashionable! Do you all think so much of that? 
Why not make one's own fashions ? But I suppose I've 
lived too independently; at any rate, I want to do what 
you all do I want to feel cared for and safe." 

He was touched, as he had been the evening before 
when she spoke of her need of guidance. 

"That's what your friends want you to feel. New 
York's an awfully safe place," he added with a flash of 
sarcasm. 

"Yes, isn't it? One feels that," she cried, missing the 
mockery. "Being here is like like being taken on a 
holiday when one has been a good little girl and done all 
one's lessons." 

The analogy was well meant, but did not altogether 
please him. He did not mind being flippant about New 
York, but disliked to hear any one else take the same 
tone. He wondered if she did not begin to see what a 
powerful engine it was, and how nearly it had crushed 
her. The Lovell Mingotts* dinner, patched up in extremis 
out of all sorts of social odds and ends, ought to have 
taught her the narrowness of her escape ; but either she 
had been all along unaware of having skirted disaster, 
or else she had lost sight of it in the triumph of the 
van der Luyden evening. Archer inclined to the former 
theory; he fancied that her New York was still com- 
pletely undifferentiated, and the conjecture nettled him. 

"Last night," he said, "New York laid itself out for 
you. The van der Luydens do nothing by halves." 

"No: how kind they are! It was such a nice party. 
Every one seems to have such an esteem for them." 

[721 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

The terms were hardly adequate; she might have 
spoken in that way of a tea-party at the dear old Miss 
Lannings'. 

"The van der Luydens," said Archer, feeling himself 
pompous as he spoke, "are the most powerful influence 
in New York society. Unfortunately owing to her 
health they receive very seldom." 

She unclasped her hands from behind her head, and 
looked at him meditatively. 

"Isn't that perhaps the reason?" 

"The reason?" 

"For their great influence ; that they make themselves 
so rare." 

He coloured a little, stared at her and suddenly felt 
the penetration of the remark. At a stroke she had 
pricked the van der Luydens and they collapsed. He 
laughed, and sacrificed them. 

Nastasia brought the tea, with handleless Japanese 
cups and little covered dishes, placing the tray on a low 
table. 

"But you'll explain these things to me you'll tell me 
all I ought to know," Madame Olenska continued, leaning 
forward to hand him his cup. 

"It's you who are telling me; opening my eyes to 
things I'd looked at so long that I'd ceased to see them." 

She detached a small gold cigarette-case from one of 
her bracelets, held it out to him, and took a cigarette 
herself. On the chimney were long spills for lighting 
them. 

"Ah, then we can both help each other. But I want 
help so much more. You must tell me just what to do." 

It was on the tip of his tongue to reply: "Don't be 
seen driving about the streets with Beaufort " but he 
was being too deeply drawn into the atmosphere of the 

[73] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

room, which was her atmosphere, and to give advice of 
that sort would have been like telling some one who was 
bargaining for attar-of-roses in Samarkand that one 
should always be provided with arctics for a New York 
winter. New York seemed much farther off than Samar- 
kand, and if they were indeed to help each other she was 
rendering what might prove the first of their mutual 
services by making him look at his native city objectively. 
Viewed thus, as through the wrong end of a telescope, 
it looked disconcertingly small and distant ; but then from 
Samarkand it would. 

A flame darted from the logs and she bent over the 
fire, stretching her thin hands so close to it that a faint 
halo shone about the oval nails. The light touched to 
russet the rings of dark hair escaping from her braids, 
and made her pale face paler. 

"There are plenty of people to tell you what to do, M 
Archer rejoined, obscurely envious of them. 

"Oh all my aunts? And my dear old Granny?" She 
considered the idea impartially. "They're all a little 
vexed with me for setting up for myself poor Granny 
especially. She wanted to keep me with her; but I had 
to be free " He was impressed by this light way of 
speaking of the formidable Catherine, and moved by the 
thought of what must have given Madame Olenska this 
thirst for even the loneliest kind of freedom. But the 
idea of Beaufort gnawed him. 

"I think I understand how you feel," he said. "Still, 
your family can advise you; explain differences; show 
you the way." 

She lifted her thin black eyebrows. "Is New York 
such a labyrinth ? I thought it so straight up and down* 
like Fifth Avenue. And with all the cross streets num- 
bered!" She seemed to guess his faint disapproval of 

[74] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

this, and added, with the rare smile that enchanted her 
whole face: "If you knew how I like it for just that 
the straight-up-and-downness, and the big honest labels 
on everything!" 

He saw his chance. "Everything may be labelled but 
everybody is not." 

"Perhaps. I may simplify too much but you'll warn 
me if I do." She turned from the fire to look at him. 
"There are only two people here who make me feel as 
if they understood what I mean and could explain things 
to me: you and Mr. Beaufort." 

Archer winced at the joining of the names, and then, 
with a quick readjustment, understood, sympathised and 
pitied. So close to the powers of evil she must have 
lived that she still breathed more freely in their air. But 
since she felt that he understood her also, his business 
would be to make her see Beaufort as he really was, 
with all he represented and abhor it. 

He answered gently : "I understand. But just at first 
don't let go of your old friends' hands : I mean the older 
women, your Granny 'Mingott, Mrs. Welland, Mrs. van 
der Luyden. They like and admire you they want to 
help you." 

She shook her head and sighed. "Oh, I know I 
know ! But on condition that they don't hear anything 
unpleasant. Aunt Welland put it in those very words 
when I tried. . . . Does no one want to know the truth 
here, Mr. Archer? The real loneliness is living among 
ail these kind people who only ask one to pretend !" She 
lifted her hands to her face, and he saw her thin shoulders 
shaken by a sob. 

"Madame Olenska ! Oh, jdon't, Ellen," he cried, start- 
ing up and bending over her. He drew down one of her 
hands, clasping and chafing it like a child's while he 

[75] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

murmured reassuring words ; but in a moment she freed 
lierself, and looked up at him with wet lashes. 

"Does no one cry here, either? I suppose there's no 
need to, in heaven/' she said, straightening her loosened 
braids with a laugh, and bending over the tea-kettle. It 
was burnt into his consciousness that he had called her 
"Ellen" called her so twice; and that she had not 
noticed it. Far down the inverted telescope he saw the 
faint white figure of May Welland in New York. 

Suddenly Nastasia put her head in to say something 
in her rich Italian. 

Madame Olenska, again with a hand at her hair,' 
uttered an exclamation of assent a flashing "Gid gib" 
' and the Duke of St. Austrey entered, piloting a tre- 
mendous black-wigged and red-plumed lady in overflow- 
ing furs. 

"My dear Countess, I've brought an old friend of mine 
to see you Mrs. Struthers. She wasn't asked to the 
party last night, and she wants to know you." 

The Duke beamed on the group, and Madame Olenska 
advanced with a murmur of welcome toward the queer 
couple. She seemed to have no idea how oddly matched 
they were, nor what a liberty the Duke had taken in 
bringing his companion and to do him justice, as Archer 
perceived, the Duke seemed as unaware of it himself. 

"Of course I want to know you, my dear," cried Mrs. 
Struthers in a round rolling voice that matched her bold 
feathers and her brazen wig. "I want to know every- 
body who's young and interesting and charming. And 
the Duke tells me you like music didn't you, Duke? 
You're a pianist yourself, I believe ? Well, do you want 
to hear Sarasate play tomorrow evening at my house? 
You know I've something going on every Sunday evening 
it's the day when New York doesn't know what to do 

[76] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

with itself, and so I say to it: 'Come and be amused.* 
And the Duke thought you'd be tempted by Sarasate, 
You'll find a number of your friends." 

'Madame Olenska's face grew brilliant with pleasure. 
"How kind! How good of the Duke to think of me!" 
She pushed a chair up to the tea-table and Mrs. Struthers 
sank into it delectably. "Of course I shall be too happy 
to come." 

"That's all right, my dear. And bring your young 
gentleman with you." Mrs. Struthers extended a hail- 
fellow hand to Archer. "I can't put a name to you 
but I'm sure I've met you I've met everybody, here, or 
in Paris or London. Aren't you in diplomacy? All the 
diplomatists come to me. You like music too? Duke, 
you must be sure to bring him." 

The Duke said "Rather" from the depths of his beard, 
and Archer withdrew with a stiffly circular bow that 
made him feel as full of spine as a self-conscious school- 
boy among careless and unnoticing elders. 

He was not sorry for the denouement of his visit : he 
only wished it had come sooner, and spared him a certain 
waste of emotion. As he went out into the wintry night, 
New York again became vast and imminent, and May 
Welland the loveliest woman in it. He turned into his 
florist's to send her the daily box of lilies-of-the-valley 
which, to his confusion, he found he had forgotten that 
morning. 

As he wrote a word on his card and waited for an 
envelope he glanced about the embowered shop, and his 
eye lit on a cluster of yellow roses. He had never seen 
any as sun-golden before, and his first impulse was to 
send them to May instead of the lilies. But they did not 
look like her there was something too rich, too strong, 
in their fiery beauty. In a sudden revulsion of mood, 

[77] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

and almost without knowing what he did, he signed to 
the florist to lay the roses in another long box, and 
slipped his card into a second envelope, on which he wrote 
the name of the Countess Olenska; then, just as he was 
turning away, he drew the card out again, and left the 
empty envelope on the box. 

"They'll go at once?" he enquired, pointing to the roses. 

The florist assured him that they would. 



THE next day he persuaded May to escape for a 
walk in the Park after luncheon. As was the cus- 
tom in old-fashioned Episcopalian New York, she usually 
accompanied her parents to church on Sunday after- 
noons; but Mrs. Welland condoned her truancy, having 
that very morning won her over to the necessity of a 
long engagement, with time to prepare a hand-embroid- 
ered trousseau containing the proper number of dozens. 

The day was delectable. The bare vaulting of trees 
along the Mall was ceiled with lapis lazuli, and arched 
above snow that shone like splintered crystals. It was 
the weather to call out May's radiance, and she burned 
like a young maple in the frost. Archer was proud of 
the glances turned on her, and the simple joy of posses- 
sorship cleared away his underlying perplexities. 

"It's so delicious waking every morning to smell 
lilies-of-the-valley in one's room!" she said. 

"Yesterday they came late. I hadn't time in the 
morning " 

"But your remembering each day to send them makes 
me love them so much more than if you'd given a stand- 
ing order, and they came every morning on the minute, 
like one's music-teacher as I know Gertrude Lefferts's 
did, for instance, when she and Lawrence were engaged." 

"Ah they would!" laughed Archer, amused at her 
keenness. He looked sideways at her fruit-like cheek 
and felt rich and secure enough to add: "When I sent 

[79] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

your lilies yesterday afternoon I saw some rather gor- 
geous yellow roses and packed them off to Madame Olen- 
ska. Was that right?" 

"How dear of you! Anything of that kind delights 
her. It's odd she didn't mention it : she lunched with us 
today, and spoke of Mr. Beaufort's having sent her 
wonderful orchids, and cousin Henry van der Luyden a 
whole hamper of carnations from Skuytercliff. She 
seems so surprised to receive flowers. Don't people send 
them in Europe ? She thinks it such a pretty custom." 

"Oh, well, no wonder mine were overshadowed by 
Beaufort's," said Archer irritably. Then he remembered 
that he had not put a card with the roses, and was vexed 
at having spoken of them. He wanted to say : "I called 
on your cousin yesterday," but hesitated. If Madame 
Olenska had not spoken of his visit it might seem awk- 
ward that he should. Yet not to do so gave the affair 
an air of mystery that he disliked. To shake off the 
question he began to talk of their own plans, their future, 
and Mrs. Welland's insistence on a long engagement. 

"If you call it long! Isabel Chivers and Reggie were 
engaged for two years : Grace and Thorley for nearly a 
year and a half. Why aren't we very well off as we 
are?" 

It was the traditional maidenly interrogation, and he 
felt ashamed of himself for finding it singularly childish. 
No doubt she simply echoed what was said for her; but 
she was nearing her twenty-second birthday, and he 
wondered at what age "nice" women began to speak for 
themselves. 

"Never, if we won't let them, I suppose," he mused, 
and recalled his mad outburst to Mr. Sillerton Jackson: 
"Women ought to be as free as we are " 

It would presently be his task to take the bandage from 

[80] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

this young woman's eyes, and bid her look forth on the 
world. But how many generations of the women who 
had gone to her making had descended bandaged to the 
family vault? He shivered a little, remembering some 
of the new ideas in his scientific books, and the much- 
cited instance of the Kentucky cave-fish, which had ceased 
to develop eyes because they had no use for them. What 
if, when he had bidden May Welland to open hers, they 
could only look out blankly at blankness? 

"We might be much better off. We might be alto- 
gether together we might travel." 

Her face lit up. "That would be lovely," she owned: 
she would love to travel. But her mother would not 
understand their wanting to do things so differently. 

"As if the mere 'differently' didn't account for it!" 
the wooer insisted. 

"Newland! You're so original!" she exulted. 

His heart sank, for he saw that he was saying all the 
things that young men in the same situation were ex- 
pected to say, and that she was making the answers that 
instinct and tradition taught her to make even to ther 
point of calling him original. 

"Original ! We're all as like each other as those dolls 
cut out of the same folded paper. We're like patterns 
stencilled on a wall. Can't you and I strike out for our- 
selves, May?" 

He had stopped and faced her in the excitement of 
their discussion, and her eyes rested on him with a bright 
unclouded admiration. 

"Mercy shall we elope?" she laughed. 

"If you would" 

"You do love me, Newland ! I'm so happy/' 

"But then why not be happier?" 
[81] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"We can't behave like people in novels, though, can 
we? 

"Why not why not why not?" 

She looked a little bored by his insistence. She knew 
very well that they couldn't, but it was troublesome to 
have to produce a reason. "I'm not clever enough to 
argue with you. But that kind of thing is rather vulgar, 
isn't it?" she suggested, relieved to have hit on a word 
that would assuredly extinguish the whole subject. 

"Are you so much afraid, then, of being vulgar?" 

She was evidently staggered by this. "Of course I 
should hate it so would you," she rejoined, a trifle 
irritably. 

He stood silent, beating his stick nervously against his 
boot-top ; and feeling that she had indeed found the right 
way of closing the discussion, she went on light-heartedly : 
"Oh, did I tell you that I showed Ellen my ring? She 
thinks it the most beautiful setting she ever saw. There's 
nothing like it in the rue de la Paix, she said. I do love 
you, Newland, for being so artistic !" 

The next afternoon, as Archer, before dinner, sat 
smoking sullenly in his study, Janey wandered in on him. 
He had failed to stop at his club on the way up from 
the office where he exercised the profession of the law 
in the leisurely manner common to well-to-do New York- 
ers of his class. He was out of spirits and slightly out 
of temper, and a haunting horror of doing the same 
thing every day at the same hour besieged his brain. 

"Sameness sameness !" he muttered, the word run- 
ning through his head like a persecuting tune as he saw 
the familiar tall-hatted figures lounging behind the plate- 
glass; and because he usually dropped in at the club at 
that hour he had gone home instead. He knew not only 

[82] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

what they were likely to be talking about, but the part 
each one would take in the discussion. The Duke of 
course would be their principal theme; though the ap- 
pearance in Fifth Avenue of a golden-haired lady in a 
small canary-coloured brougham with a pair of black 
cobs (for which Beaufort was generally thought respon- 
sible) would also doubtless be thoroughly gone into. 
Such "women" (as they were called) were few in New 
York, those driving their own carriages still fewer, and 
the appearance of 'Miss Fanny Ring in Fifth Avenue at' 
the fashionable hour had profoundly agitated society. 
Only the day before, her carriage had passed Mrs. Lovell 
Mingott's, and the latter had instantly rung the little bell 
at her elbow and ordered the coachman to drive her home. 
"What if it had happened to Mrs. van der Luyden?" 
people asked each other with a shudder. Archer could 
hear Lawrence Leiferts, at that very hour, holding forth 
on the disintegration of society. 

He raised his head irritably when his sister Janey; 
entered, and then quickly bent over his book (Swinburne's 
"Chastelard" just out) as if he had not seen her. She 
glanced at the writing-table heaped with books, opened 
a volume of the "Contes Drolatiques," made a wry face 
over the archaic French, and sighed: "What learned 
things you read!" 

"Well ?" he asked, as she hovered Cassandra-like 
before him. 

"Mother's very angry." 

"Angry? With whom? About what?" 

"Miss Sophy Jackson has just been here. She brought 
word that her brother would come in after dinner: she 
couldn't say very much, because he forbade her to: he 
wishes to give all the details himself. He's with cousin 
Louisa van der Luyden now." 

[83] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"For heaven's sake, my dear girl, try a fresh start. 
It would take an omniscient Deity to know what you're 
talking about." 

"It's not a time to be profane, Newland. . . . Mother 
feels badly enough about your not going to church . . ." 

With a groan he plunged back into his book. 

"Newland! Do listen. Your friend Madame Olenska 
was at Mrs. Lemuel Struthers's party last night: she 
went there with the Duke and 'Mr. Beaufort." 

At the last clause of this announcement a senseless 
anger swelled the young man's breast. To smother it 
he laughed. "Well, what of it? I knew she meant to." 

Janey paled and her eyes began to project. "You knew 
she meant to and you didn't try to stop her? To warn 
her?" 

"Stop her? Warn her?" He laughed again. "I'm 
not engaged to be married to the Countess Olenska!" 
The words had a fantastic sound in his own ears. 

"You're marrying into her family." 

"Oh, family family!" he jeered. 

"Newland don't you care about Family?" 

"Not a brass farthing." 

"Nor about what cousin Louisa van der Luyden will 
think?" 

"Not the half of one if she thinks such old maid's 
rubbish." 

"Mother is not an old maid," said his virgin sister 
with pinched lips. 

He felt like shouting back: "Yes, she is, and so are 
the van der Luydens, and so we all are, when it comes 
to being so much as brushed by the wing-tip of Reality." 
But he saw her long gentle face puckering into tears, and 
felt ashamed of the useless pain he was inflicting. 

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PTHE AGE OF INNOCENCE 
"Hang Countess Olenska ! Don't be a goose, Janey 
m not her keeper." 
"No ; but you did ask the Wellands to announce your 
engagement sooner so that we might all back her up; 
and if it hadn't been for that cousin Louisa would never 
have invited her to the dinner for the Duke." 

"Well what harm was there in inviting her? She was 
the best-looking woman in the room ; she made the dinner 
a little less funereal than the usual van der Luyden ban- 
quet." 

"You know cousin Henry asked her to please you: 
he persuaded cousin Louisa. And now they're so upset 
that they're going back to Skuytercliff tomorrow. I 
think, Newland, you'd better come down. You don't 
seem to understand how mother feels." 

In the drawing-room Newland found his mother. She 
raised a troubled brow from her needlework to ask: 
"Has Janey told you?" 

"Yes." He tried to keep his tone as measured as her 
own. "But I can't take it very seriously." 

"Not the fact of having offended cousin Louisa and 
cousin Henry?" 

"The fact that they can be offended by such a trifle 
as Countess Olenska's going to the house of a woman 
they consider common." 

"Consider !" 

"Well, who is; but who has good music, and amuses 
people on Sunday evenings, when the whole of New York 
is dying of inanition." 

"Good music ? All I know is, there was a woman who 
got up on a table and sang the things they sing at the 
places you go to in Paris. There was smoking and 
champagne." 

[85] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Well that kind of thing happens in other places, 
and the world still goes on." 

"I don't suppose, dear, you're really defending the 
French Sunday?" 

"I've heard you often enough, mother, grumble at the 
English Sunday when we've been in London." 

"New York is neither Paris nor London." 

"Oh, no, it's not !" her son groaned. 

"You mean, I suppose, that society here is not as 
brilliant? You're right, I daresay; but we belong here, 
and people should respect our ways when they come 
among us. Ellen Olenska especially: she came back to 
get away from the kind of life people lead in brilliant 
societies." 

Newland made no answer, and after a moment his 
mother ventured: "I was going to put on my bonnet 
and ask you to take me to see cousin Louisa for a moment 
before dinner." He frowned, and she continued: "I 
thought you might explain to her what you've just said: 
that society abroad is different . . . that people are not 
as particular, and that Madame Olenska may not have 
realised how we feel about such things. It would be, 
you know, dear," she added with an innocent adroitness, 
"in Madame Olenska's interest if you did." 

"Dearest mother, I really don't see how we're con- 
cerned in the matter. The Duke took Madame Olenska 
to Mrs. Struthers's in fact he brought Mrs. Struthers 
to call on her. I was there when they came. If the van 
der Luydens want to quarrel with anybody, the real 
culprit is under their own roof." 

"Quarrel? Newland, did you ever know of cousin 
Henry's quarrelling ? Besides, the Duke r s his guest ; and 
a stranger too. Strangers don't discriminate : how should 

[86] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

they? Countess Olenska is a New Yorker, and should 
have respected the feelings of New York." 

"Well, then, if they must have a victim, you have my 
leave to throw Madame Olenska to them," cried her son, 
exasperated. "I don't see myself or you either offer- 
ing ourselves up to expiate her crimes." 

"Oh, of course you see only the Mingott side," his 
mother answered, in the sensitive tone that was her 
nearest approach to anger. 

The sad butler drew back the drawing-room portieres 
and announced: "Mr. Henry van der Luyden." 

Mrs. Archer dropped her needle and pushed her chair 
back with an agitated hand. 

"Another lamp," she cried to the retreating servant, 
while Janey bent over to straighten her mother's cap. 

Mr. van der Luyden's figure loomed on the threshold, 
and Newland Archer went forward to greet his cousin. 

"We were just talking about you, sir," he said. 

Mr. van der Luyden seemed overwhelmed by the 
announcement. He drew off his glove to shake hands 
with the ladies, and smoothed his tall hat shyly, while 
Janey pushed an arm-chair forward, and Archer con- 
tinued: "And the Countess Olenska." 

Mrs. Archer paled. 

"Ah a charming woman. I have just been to see 
her," said Mr. van der Luyden, complacency restored to 
his brow. He sank into the chair, laid his hat and gloves 
on the floor beside him in the old-fashioned way, and 
went on: "She has a real gift for arranging flowers. 
I had sent her a few carnations from Skuytercliff, and 
I was astonished. Instead of massing them in big 
bunches as our head-gardener does, she had scattered 
them about loosely, here and there ... I can't say how. 
The Duke had told me : he said : 'Go and see how cleverly 

[87] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

she's arranged her drawing-room/ And she has. I 
should really like to take Louisa to see her, if the neigh- 
bourhood were not so unpleasant." 

A dead silence greeted this unusual flow of words from 
Mr. van der Luyden. Mrs. Archer drew her embroidery 
out of the basket into which she had nervously tumbled 
it, and Newland, leaning against the chimney-place and 
twisting a humming-bird-feather screen in his hand,, 
saw Janey's gaping countenance lit up by the coming of 
the second lamp. 

"The fact is," Mr. van der Luyden continued, stroking 
his long grey leg with a bloodless hand weighed down by 
the Patroon's great signet-ring, "the fact is, I dropped in 
to thank her for the very pretty note she wrote me about 
my flowers; and also but this is between ourselves, of 
course to give her a friendly warning about allowing 
the Dtike to carry her off to parties with him. I don't 
know if you've heard " 

Mrs. Archer produced an indulgent smile. "Has the* 
Duke been carrying her off to parties?" 

"You know what these English grandees are. They're 
all alike. Louisa and I are very fond of our cousin 
but it's hopeless to expect people who are accustomed to 
the European courts to trouble themselves about our little- 
republican distinctions. The Duke goes where he's 
amused." Mr. van der Luyden paused, but no one spoke. 
"Yes it seems he took her with him last night to Mrs. 
Lemuel Struthers's. Sillerton Jackson has just been to 
us with the foolish story, and Louisa was rather troubled. 
So I thought the shortest way was to go straight to- 
Countess Olenska and explain by the merest hint, you 
know how we feel in New York about certain things. 
I felt I might, without indelicacy, because the evening 
she dined with us she rather suggested . . . rather let. 

[88] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

me see that she would be grateful for guidance. And 
she was" 

Mr. van der Luyden looked about the room with what 
would have been self-satisfaction on features less purged 
of the vulgar passions. On his face it became a mikf 
benevolence which Mrs. Archer's countenance dutifully 
reflected. 

"How kind you both are, dear Henry always ! New- 
land will particularly appreciate what you have done 
because of dear May and his new relations." 

She shot an admonitory glance at her son, who said: 
"Immensely, sir. But I was sure you'd like Madame 
Olenska." 

Mr. van der Luyden looked at him with extreme gen- 
tleness. "I never ask to my house, my dear Newland," 
he said, "any one whom I do not like. And so I have 
just told Sillerton Jackson." With a glance at the clock 
he rose and added: "But Louisa will be waiting. We 
are dining early, to take the Duke to the Opera." 

After the portieres had solemnly closed behind their 
visitor a silence fell upon the Archer family. 

"Gracious how romantic!" at last broke explosively 
from Janey. No one knew exactly what inspired her 
elliptic comments, and her relations had long since given 
up trying to interpret them. 

Mrs. Archer shook her head with a sigh. "Provided 
it all turns out for the best," she said, in the tone of one 
who knows how surely it will not. "Newland, you must 
stay and see Sillerton Jackson when he comes this even- 
ing: I really shan't know what to say to him." 

"Poor mother ! But he won't come " her son laughed, 
stooping to kiss away her frown. 



XI 



SOME two weeks later, Newland Archer, sitting in 
abstracted idleness in his private compartment of the 
office of Letterblair, Lamson and Low, attorneys at 
law, was summoned by the head of the firm. 

Old 'Mr. Letterblair, the accredited legal adviser of 
three generations of New York gentility, throned behind 
his mahogany desk in evident perplexity. As he stroked 
his close-clipped white whiskers and ran his hand through 
the rumpled grey locks above his jutting brows, his dis- 
respectful junior partner thought how much he looked 
like the Family Physician annoyed with a patient whose 
symptoms refuse to be classified. 

"My dear sir " he always addressed Archer as "sir" 
"I have sent for you to go into a little matter; a matter 
which, for the moment, I prefer not to mention either to 
Mr. Skipworth or Mr. Redwood." The gentlemen he 
spoke of were the other senior partners of the firm ; for, 
as was always the case with legal associations of old 
standing in New York, all the partners named on the 
office letter-head were long since dead; and Mr. Letter- 
blair, for example, was, professionally speaking, his own 
grandson. 

He leaned back in his chair with a furrowed brow. 
"For family reasons " he continued. 

Archer looked up. 

"The Mingott family," said Mr. Letterblair with an 
explanatory smile and bow. "Mrs. Manson Mingott 

[90] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

sent for me yesterday. Her grand-daughter the Countess 
Olenska wishes to sue her husband for divorce. Certain 
papers have been placed in my hands." He paused and 
drummed on his desk. "In view of your prospective 
alliance with the family I should like to consult you 
to consider the case with you before taking any farther 
steps." 

Archer felt the blood in his temples. He had seen the 
Countess Olenska only once since his visit to her, and 
then at the Opera, in the Mingott box. During this 
interval she had become a less vivid and importunate 
image, receding from his foreground as May Welland 
resumed her rightful place in it. He had not heard her 
divorce spoken of since Janey's first random allusion to 
it, and had dismissed the tale as unfounded gossip. 
Theoretically, the idea of divorce was almost as distaste- 
ful to him as to his mother; and he was annoyed that 
Mr. Letterblair (no doubt prompted by old Catherine 
Mingott) should be so evidently planning to draw him 
into the affair. After all, there were plenty of Mingott 
men for such jobs, and as yet he was not even a 
Mingott by marriage. 

He waited for the senior partner to continue. Mr. 
Letterblair unlocked a drawer and drew out a packet. 
"If you will run your eye over these papers " 

Archer frowned. "I beg your pardon, sir; but just 
because of the prospective relationship, I should prefer 
your consulting Mr. Skipworth or Mr. Redwood." 

Mr. Letterblair looked surprised and slightly offended. 
It was unusual for a junior to reject such an opening. 

He bowed. "I respect your scruple, sir; but in this 
case I believe true delicacy requires you to do as I ask. 
Indeed, the suggestion is not mine but Mrs. Manson 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Mingott's and her son's. I have seen Lovell Mingott^ 
and also Mr. Welland. They all named you." 

Archer felt his temper rising. He had been somewhat 
languidly drifting with events for the last fortnight, and 
letting May's fair looks and radiant nature obliterate the 
rather importunate pressure of the Mingott claims. But 
this behest of old 'Mrs. Mingott's roused him to a sense 
of what the clan thought they had the right to exact 
from a prospective son-in-law; and he chafed at the 
role. 

"Her uncles ought to deal with this," he said. 

"They have. The matter has been gone into by the 
family. They are opposed to the Countess's idea; but 
she is firm, and insists on a legal opinion." 

The young man was silent: he had not opened the 
packet in his hand. 

"Does she want to marry again?" 

"I believe it is suggested; but she denies it." 

"Then" 

"Will you oblige me, Mr. Archer, by first looking 
through these papers ? Afterward, when we have talked 
the case over, I will give you my opinion." 

Archer withdrew reluctantly with the unwelcome 
documents. Since their last meeting he had half- 
unconsciously collaborated with events in ridding himself 
of the burden of Madame Olenska. His hour alone with 
her by the firelight had drawn them into a momentary 
intimacy on which the Duke of St. Austrey's intrusion 
with Mrs. Lemuel Struthers, and the Countess's joyous 
greeting of them, had rather providentially broken. Two 
days later Archer had assisted at the comedy of her 
reinstatement in the van der Luydens* favour, and had 
said to himself, with a touch of tartness, that a lady who 
knew how to thank all-powerful elderly gentlemen to 

[92] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

such good purpose for a bunch of flowers did not need 
either the private consolations or the public champion- 
ship of a young man of his small compass. To look at 
the matter in this light simplified his own case and sur- 
prisingly furbished up all the dim domestic virtues. He 
could not picture May Welland, in whatever conceivable 
emergency, hawking about her private difficulties and 
lavishing her confidences on strange men; and she had 
never seemed to him finer or fairer than in the week 
that followed. He had even yielded to her wish for a 
long engagement, since she had found the one disarming 
answer to his plea for haste. 

"You know, when it comes to the point, your parents 
\have always let you have your way ever since you were 
a little girl," he argued ; and she had answered, with her 
clearest look: "Yes; and that's what makes it so 
hard to refuse the very last thing they'll ever ask of me 
as a little girl." 

That was the old New York note; that was the kind 
of answer he would like always to be sure of his wife's 
making. If one had habitually breathed the New York 
air there were times when anything less crystalline 
seemed stifling. 

The papers he had retired to read did not tell him 
much in fact; but they plunged him into an atmosphere 
in which he choked and spluttered. They consisted 
mainly of an exchange of letters between Count Olenski's 
solicitors and a French legal firm to whom the Countess 
had applied for the settlement of her financial situation. 
There was also a short letter from the Count to his wife : 
after reading it, Newland Archer rose, jammed the 
papers back into their envelope, and reentered Mr. 
Letterblair's office. 

[93] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Here are the letters, sir. If you wish I'll see Madame 
Olenska," he said in a constrained voice. 

"Thank you thank you, Mr. Archer. Come and dine 
with me tonight if you're free, and we'll go into the 
matter afterward : in case you wish to call on our client 
tomorrow." 

Newland Archer walked straight home again that 
afternoon. It was a winter evening of transparent 
clearness, with an innocent young moon above the house- 
tops; and he wanted to fill his soul's lungs with the 
pure radiance, and not exchange a word with any one 
till he and Mr. Letterblair were closeted together after 
dinner. It was impossible to decide otherwise than he 
had done : he must see 'Madame Olenska himself rather 
than let her secrets be bared to other eyes. A great 
wave of compassion had swept away his indifference and 
impatience: she stood before him as an exposed and 
pitiful figure, to be saved at all costs from farther wound- 
ing herself in her mad plunges against fate. 

He remembered what she had told him of Mrs. Wei- 
land's request to be spared whatever was "unpleasant" 
in her history, and winced at the thought that it was 
perhaps this attitude of mind which kept the New York 
air so pure. "Are we only Pharisees after all?" he 
wondered, puzzled by the effort to reconcile his instinc- 
tive disgust at human vileness with his equally instinctive 
pity for human frailty. 

For the first time he perceived how elementary his 
own principles had always been. He passed for a young 
man who had not been afraid of risks, and he knew that 
his secret love-affair with poor silly Mrs. Thorley Rush- 
worth had not been too secret to invest him with a becom- 
ing air of adventure. But Mrs. Rushworth was "that 
kind of woman" ; foolish, vain, clandestine by nature, and 

[94] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

far more attracted by the secrecy and peril of the affair 
than by such charms and qualities as he possessed. 
When the fact dawned on him it nearly broke his heart, 
but now it seemed the redeeming feature of the case. 
The affair, in short, had been of the kind that most of 
the young men of his age had been through, and emerged 
from with calm consciences and an undisturbed belief in 
the abysmal distinction between the women one loved 
and respected and those one enjoyed and pitied. In 
this view they were sedulously abetted by their mothers, 
aunts and other elderly female relatives, who all shared 
Mrs. Archer's belief that when "such things happened" 
it was undoubtedly foolish of the man, but somehow 
always criminal of the woman. All the elderly ladies 
whom Archer knew regarded any woman who loved 
imprudently as necessarily unscrupulous and designing, 
and mere simple-minded man as powerless in her clutches. 
The only thing to do was to persuade him, as early as 
possible, to marry a nice girl, and then trust to her to 
look after him. 

In the complicated old European communities, Archer 
began to guess, love-problems might be less simple and 
less easily classified. Rich and idle and ornamental 
societies must produce many more such situations; and 
there might even be one in which a woman naturally 
sensitive and aloof would yet, from the force of circum- 
stances, from sheer defencelessness and loneliness, be 
drawn into a tie inexcusable by conventional standards. 

On reaching home he wrote a line to the Countess 
Olenska, asking at what hour of the next day she could 
receive him, and despatched it by a messenger-boy, who 
returned presently with a word to the effect that she was 
going to Skuytercliff the next morning to stay over Sun- 
day with the van der Luydens, but that he would find her 

[95] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

alone that evening after dinner. The note was written 
on a rather untidy half-sheet, without date or address, 
but her hand was firm and free. He was amused at the 
idea of her week-ending in the stately solitude of Skuy- 
tercliff, but immediately afterward felt that there, of all 
places, she would most feel the chill of minds rigorously 
averted from the "unpleasant." 

j He was at Mr. Letterblair's punctually at seven, glad 
of the pretext for excusing himself soon after dinner. 
He had formed his own opinion from the papers en- 
trusted to him, and did not especially want to go into 
the matter with his senior partner. Mr. Letterblair was 
a widower, and they dined alone, copiously and slowly, 
in a dark shabby room hung with yellowing prints of 
"The Death of Chatham" and "The Coronation of Napo- 
leon." On the sideboard, between fluted Sheraton knife- 
cases, stood a decanter of Haut Brion, and another of 
the old Lanning port (the gift of a client), which the 
wastrel Tom Lanning had sold off a year or two before 
his mysterious and discreditable death in San Francisco 
an incident less publicly humiliating to the family than 
the sale of the cellar. 

After a velvety oyster soup came shad and cucumbers, 
then a young broiled turkey with corn fritters, followed 
by a canvas-back with currant jelly and a celery mayon- 
naise. Mr. Letterblair, w"ho lunched on a sandwich and 
tea, dined deliberately and deeply, and insisted on his 
guest's doing the same. Finally, when the closing rites 
had been accomplished, the cloth was removed, cigars 
were lit, and Mr. Letterblair, leaning back in his chair 
and pushing the port westward, said, spreading his back 
agreeably to the coal fire behind him : "The whole f amity 
are against a divorce. And I think rightly." 

[96] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Archer instantly felt himself on the other side of the 
argument. "But why, sir? If there ever was a case " 

"Well what's the use? She's here he's there; the 
Atlantic's between them. She'll never get back a dollar 
more of her money than what he's voluntarily returned 
to her: their damned heathen marriage settlements take 
precious good care of that. As things go over there, 
Olenski's acted generously: he might have turned her 
out without a penny." 

The young man knew this and was silent. 

"I understand, though," Mr. Letterblair continued, 
"that she attaches no importance to the money. There- 
fore, as the family say, why not let well enough alone?" 

Archer had gone to the house an hour earlier in full 
agreement with Mr. Letterblair's view; but put into 
words by this selfish, well-fed and supremely indifferent 
old man it suddenly became the Pharisaic voice of a 
society wholly absorbed in barricading itself against the 
unpleasant. 

"I think that's for her to decide." 

"H'm have you considered the consequences if she 
decides for divorce?" 

"You mean the threat in her husband's letter? What 
weight would that carry? It's no more than the vague 
charge of an angry blackguard." 

"Yes; but it might make some unpleasant talk if he 
really defends the suit." 

"Unpleasant !" said Archer explosively. 

Mr. Letterblair looked at him from under enquiring 
eyebrows, and the young man, aware of the uselessness 
of trying to explain what was in his mind, bowed acquies- 
cently while his senior continued: "Divorce is always 
unpleasant." 

[97] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"You agree with me ?" Mr. Letterblair resumed, after 
a waiting silence. 

"Naturally," said Archer. 

"Well, then, I may count on you; the Mingotts may 
count on you ; to use your influence against the idea ?" 

Archer hesitated. "I can't pledge myself till I've seen 
the Countess Olenska," he said at length. 

"Mr. Archer, I don't understand you. Do you want 
to marry into a family with a scandalous divorce-suit 
hanging over it?" 

"I don't think that has anything to do with the case." 

Mr. Letterblair put down his glass of port and fixed 
on his young partner a cautious and apprehensive gaze. 

Archer understood that he ran the risk of having his 
mandate withdrawn, and for some obscure reason he 
disliked the prospect. Now that the job had been thrust 
on him he did not propose to relinquish it ; and, to guard 
against the possibility, he saw that he must reassure the 
unimaginative old man who was the legal conscience of 
the 'Mingotts. 

"You may be sure, sir, that I shan't commit myself till 
I've reported to you; what I meant was that I'd rather 
not give an opinion till I've heard what Madame Olenska 
has to say." 

Mr. Letterblair nodded approvingly at an excess of 
caution worthy of the best New York tradition, and the 
young man, glancing at his watch, pleaded an engagement 
and took leave. 



XII 



/^LD-FASHIONED New York dined at seven, and 
^J the habit of after-dinner calls, though derided in 
Archer's set, still generally prevailed. As the young 
man strolled up Fifth Avenue from Waver ley Place, the 
long thoroughfare was deserted but for a group of 
carriages standing before the Reggie Oliver ses' (where 
there was a dinner for the Duke), and the occasional 
figure of an elderly gentleman in heavy overcoat and 
muffler ascending a brownstone doorstep and disappear- 
ing into a gas-lit hall. Thus, as Archer crossed Washing- 
ton Square, he remarked that old Mr. du Lac was calling 
on his cousins the Dagonets, and turning down the corner 
of West Tenth Street he saw Mr. Skipworth, of his own 
firm, obviously bound on a visit to the Miss Lannings. A 
little farther up Fifth Avenue, Beaufort appeared on his 
doorstep, darkly projected against a blaze of , light, de- 
scended to his private brougham, and rolled away to a 
mysterious and probably unmentionable destination. It 
was not an Opera night, and no one was giving a party, 
so that Beaufort's outing was undoubtedly of a clandes- 
tine nature. Archer connected it in his mind with a little 
house beyond Lexington Avenue in which beribboned 
window curtains and flower-boxes had recently appeared, 
and before whose newly painted door the canary-coloured 
brougham of Miss Fanny Ring was frequently seen to 
wait. 

Beyond the small and slippery pyramid which com- 
(991 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

i posed Mrs. Archer's world lay the almost unmapped 
quarter inhabited by artists, musicians and "people who 
wrote." These scattered fragments of humanity had 
never shown any desire to be amalgamated with the 
social structure. In spite of odd ways they were said to 
be, for the most part, quite respectable; but they pre- 
ferred to keep to themselves. 'Medora Manson, in her 
prosperous days, had inaugurated a "literary salon"; 
but it had soon died out owing to the reluctance of the 
literary to frequent it. 

Others had made the same attempt, and there was a 
household of Blenkers an intense and voluble mother, 
and three blowsy daughters who imitated her where one 
met Edwin Booth and Patti and William Winter, and 
the new Shakespearian actor George Rignold, and some 
of the magazine editors and musical and literary critics. 

Mrs. Archer and her group felt a certain timidity con- 
cerning these persons. They were odd, they were un- 
certain, they had things one didn't know about in the 
background of their lives and minds. Literature and art 
were deeply respected in the Archer set, and Mrs. Archer 
was always at pains to tell her children how much more 
agreeable and cultivated society had been when it in- 
cluded such figures as Washington Irving, Fitz-Greene 
Halleck and the poet of "The Culprit Fay." The most 
celebrated authors of that generation had been "gentle- 
men" ; perhaps the unknown persons who succeeded them 
had gentlemanly sentiments, but their origin, their ap- 
pearance, their hair, their intimacy with the stage and 
the Opera, made any old New York criterion inapplicable 
to them. 

"When I was a girl," Mrs. Archer used to say, "we 
knew everybody between the Battery and Canal Street; 
and only the people one knew had carriages. It was 

[100] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

perfectly easy to place any one then ; now one can't tell, 
and I prefer not to try." 

Only old Catherine Mingott, with her absence of moral 
prejudices and almost parvenu indifference to the subtler 
distinctions, might have bridged the abyss; but she had 
never opened a book or looked at a picture, and cared 
for music only because it reminded her of gala nights at 
the Italiens, in the days of her triumph at the Tuileries. 
Possibly Beaufort, who was her match in daring, would 
have succeeded in bringing about a fusion ; but his grand 
house and silk-stockinged footmen were an obstacle to 
informal sociability. Moreover, he was as illiterate as 
old Mrs. Mingott, and considered "fellows who wrote" 
as the mere paid purveyors of rich men's pleasures ; and 
no one rich enough to influence his opinion had ever 
questioned it. 

Newland Archer had been aware of these things ever 
since he could remember, and had accepted them as part 
of the structure of his universe. He knew that there 
were societies where painters and poets and novelists 
and men of science, and even great actors, were as sought 
after as Dukes ; he had often pictured to himself what it 
would have been to live in the intimacy of drawing-rooms 
dominated by the talk of Merimee (whose "Lettres a une 
Inconnue" was one of his inseparables), of Thackeray, 
Browning or William Morris. But such things were in- 
conceivable in New York, and unsettling to think of. 
Archer knew most of the "fellows who wrote," the 
musicians and the painters : he met them at the Century, 
or at the little musical and theatrical clubs that were 
beginning to come into existence. He enjoyed them 
there, and was bored with them at the Blenkers', where 
they were mingled with fervid and dowdy women who 
passed them about like captured curiosities; and even 

[101] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

after his most exciting talks with Ned Winsett he always 
came away with the feeling that if his world was small, 
so was theirs, and that the only way to enlarge either was 
to reach a stage of manners where they would naturally 
merge. 

He was reminded of this by trying to picture the society 
in which the Countess Olenska had lived and suffered, 
and also perhaps tasted mysterious joys. He remem- 
bered with what amusement she had told him that her 
grandmother Mingott and the Wellands objected to her 
living in a "Bohemian" quarter given over to "people 
who wrote." It was not the peril but the poverty that 
her family disliked; but that shade escaped her, and she 
supposed they considered literature compromising. 

She herself had no fears of it, and the books scat- 
tered about her drawing-room (a part of the house in 
which books were usually supposed to be "out of place"), 
though chiefly works of fiction, had whetted Archer's 
interest with such new names as those of Paul Bourget, 
Huysmans, and the Goncourt brothers. Ruminating on 
these things as he approached her door, he was once more 
conscious of the curious way in which she reversed his 
values, and of the need of thinking himself into condi- 
tions incredibly different from any that he knew if he 
were to be of use in her present difficulty. 

Nastasia opened the door, smiling mysteriously. On 
the bench in the hall lay a sable-lined overcoat, a folded 
opera hat of dull silk with a gold J. B. on the lining, 
and a white silk muffler : there was no mistaking the fact 
that these costly articles were the property of Julius 
Beaufort. 

Archer was angry: so angry that he came near scrib- 
bling a word on his card and going away; then he 

[102] 





THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

remembered that in writing to Madame Olenska he had 
been kept by excess of discretion from saying that he 
wished to see her privately. He had therefore no one 
but himself to blame if she had opened her doors to 
other visitors; and he entered the drawing-room with the 
dogged determination to make Beaufort feel himself in 
the way, and to outstay him. 

The banker stood leaning against the mantelshelf, 
which was draped with an old embroidery held in place 
by brass candelabra containing church candles of yellow- 
ish wax. He had thrust his chest out, supporting his 
shoulders against the mantel and resting his weight on 
one large patent-leather foot. As Archer entered he was 
smiling and looking down on his hostess, who sat on a 
sofa placed at right angles to the chimney. A table 
banked with flowers formed a screen behind it, and 
against the orchids and azaleas which the young man 
recognised as tributes from the Beaufort hot-houses, 
Madame Olenska sat half -reclined, her head propped 
on a hand and her wide sleeve leaving the arm bare to 
the elbow. 

It was usual for ladies who received in the evening 
to wear what were called "simple dinner dresses": a 
close-fitting armour of whale-boned silk, slightly open 
in the neck, with lace ruffles filling in the crack, and tight 
sleeves with a flounce uncovering just enough wrist to 
show an Etruscan gold bracelet or a velvet band. But 
Madame Olenska, heedless of tradition, was attired in 
a long robe of red velvet bordered about the chin and 
down the front with glossy black fur. Archer remem- 
bered, on his last visit to Paris, seeing a portrait by the 
new painter, Carolus Duran, whose pictures were the 
sensation of the Salon, in which the lady wore one of 
these bold sheath-like robes with her chin nestling in 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

fur. There was something perverse and provocative 
in the notion of fur worn in the evening in a heated 
drawing-room, and in the combination of a muffled 
throat and bare arms; but the effect was undeniably- 
pleasing. 

"Lord love us three whole days at Skuytercliff !" 
Beaufort was saying in his loud sneering voice as Archer 
entered. "You'd better take all your furs, and a hot- 
water-bottle." 

"Why? Is the house so cold?" she asked, holding 
out her left hand to Archer in a way mysteriously sug- 
gesting that she expected him to kiss it. 

"No ; but the missus is," said Beaufort, nodding care- 
lessly to the young man. 

"But I thought her so kind. She came herself to 
invite me. Granny says I must certainly go." 

"Granny would, of course. And / say it's a shame 
you're going to miss the little oyster supper I'd planned 
for you at Delmonico's next Sunday, with Campanini 
and Scalchi and a lot of jolly people." 

She looked doubtfully from the banker to Archer. 

"Ah that does tempt me ! Except the other evening 
at Mrs. Struthers's I've not met a single artist since I've 
been here." 

"What kind of artists? I know one or two painters, 
very good fellows, that I could bring to see you if you'd 
allow me," said Archer boldly. 

"Painters? Are there painters in New York?" asked 
Beaufort, in a tone implying that there could be none 
since he did not buy their pictures ; and Madame Olenska 
said to Archer, with her grave smile: "That would be 
charming. But I was really thinking of dramatic artists, 
singers, actors, musicians. My husband's house was 
always full of them." 

[104] 













THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

She said the words "my husband" as if no sinister 
associations were connected with them, and in a tone 
that seemed almost to sigh over the lost delights of her 
married life. Archer looked at her perplexedly, wonder- 
ing if it were lightness or dissimulation that enabled her 
to touch so easily on the past at the very moment when 
she was risking her reputation in order to break with it. 

"I do think," she went on, addressing both men, "that 
the imprevu adds to one's enjoyment. It's perhaps a 
mistake to see the same people every day." 

"It's confoundedly dull, anyhow; New York is dying 
of dulness," Beaufort grumbled. "And when I try to 
liven it up for you, you go back on me. Come think 
better of it! Sunday is your last chance, for Campanini 
leaves next week for Baltimore and Philadelphia; and 
I've a private room, and a Steinway, and they'll sing 
all night for me." 

"How delicious! May I think it over, and write to 
you tomorrow morning?" 

She spoke amiably, yet with the least hint of dis- 
missal in her voice. Beaufort evidently felt it, and 
being unused to dismissals, stood staring at her with an 
obstinate line between his eyes. 

"Why not now?" 

It's too serious a question to decide at this late hour." 
you call it late?" 

returned his glance coolly. "Yes; because I have 
1 to talk business with Mr. Archer for a little while." 

"Ah," Beaufort snapped. There was no appeal from 
her tone, and with a slight shrug he recovered his com- 
posure, took her hand, which he kissed with a practised 
air, and calling out from the threshold: "I say, Newland, 
if you can persuade the Countess to stop in town of 





THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

course you're included in the supper," left the room with 
his heavy important step. 

For a moment Archer fancied that Mr. Letterblair 
must have told her of his coming ; but the irrelevance of 
her next remark made him change his mind. 

"You know painters, then ? You live in their milieu?" 
she asked, her eyes full of interest. 

"Oh, not exactly. I don't know that the arts have a 
milieu here, any of them ; they're more like a very thinly 
settled outskirt." 

"But you care for such things?" 

"Immensely. When I'm in Paris or London I never 
miss an exhibition. I try to keep up." 

She looked down at the tip of the little satin boot that 
peeped from her long draperies. 

"I used to care immensely too: my life was full of 
such things. But now I want to try not to." 

"You want to try not to?" 

"Yes : I want to cast off all my old life, to become just 
like everybody else here." 

Archer reddened. "You'll never be like everybody 
-else," he said. 

She raised her straight eyebrows a little. "Ah, don't 
say that. If you knew how I hate to be different!" 

Her face had grown as sombre as a tragic mask. She 
leaned forward, clasping her knee in her thin hands, and 
looking away from him into remote dark distances. 

"I want to get away from it all," she insisted. 

He waited a moment and cleared his throat. "I know. 
Mr. Letterblair has told me." 

"Ah?" 

"That's the reason I've come. He asked me to you 
see I'm in the firm." 

She looked slightly surprised, and then her eyes 
[106] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 





brightened. "You mean you can manage it for me? 
I can talk to you instead of Mr. Letterblair? Oh, that 
will be so much easier!" 

Her tone touched him, and his confidence grew with 
his self-satisfaction. He perceived that she had spoken 
of business to Beaufort simply to get rid of him; and to 
have routed Beaufort was something of a triumph. 

"I am here to talk about it," he repeated. 

She sat silent, her head still propped by the arm that 
on the back of the sofa. Her face looked pale 
and extinguished, as if dimmed by the rich red of her 
dress. She struck Archer, of a sudden, as a pathetic and 
even pitiful figure. 

"Now we're coming to hard facts," he thought, con- 
scious in himself of the same instinctive recoil that he 
had so often criticised in his mother and her contem- 
poraries. How little practice he had had in dealing 
with unusual situations! Their very vocabulary was 
unfamiliar to him, and seemed to belong to fiction and 
the stage. In face of what was coming he felt as awk- 
ward and embarrassed as a boy. 

After a pause Madame Olenska broke out with un- 
expected vehemence: "I want to be free; I want to 
wipe out all the past." 

"I understand that." 

(Her face warmed. "Then you'll help me ?" 

"First ' he hesitated "perhaps I ought to know a 
little more." 

She seemed surprised. "You know about my hus- 
band my life with him?" 

He made a sign of assent. 

"Well then what more is there? In this country 
are such things tolerated? I'm a Protestant our church 
does not forbid divorce in such cases." 

[107] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Certainly not." 

They were both silent again, and Archer felt the 
spectre of Count Olenski's letter grimacing hideously 
between them. The letter filkd only half a page, and 
was just what he had described it to be in speaking of 
it to Mr. Letterblair: the vague charge of an angry 
blackguard. But how much truth was behind it? Only 
Count Olenski's wife could tell. 

"I've looked through the papers you gave to Mr. Let- 
terblair," he said at length. 

"Well can there be anything more abominable?" 

"No." 

She changed her position slightly, screening her eyes 
with her lifted hand. 

"Of course you know," Archer continued, "that if your 
husband chooses to fight the case as he threatens to " 

"Yes?" 

"He can say things things that might be unpl might 
be disagreeable to you: say them publicly, so that they 
would get about, and harm you even if " 

"If?" 

"I mean: no matter how unfounded they were." 

She paused for a long interval; so long that, not 
wishing to keep his eyes on her shaded face, he had time 
to imprint on his mind the exact shape of her other 
hand, the one on her knee, and every detail of the three 
rings on her fourth and fifth fingers; among which, he 
noticed, a wedding ring did not appear. 

"What harm could such accusations, even if he made 
them publicly, do me here?" 

It was on his lips to exclaim: "My poor child far 
more harm than anywhere else !" Instead, he answered, 
in a voice that sounded in his ears like Mr. Letterblair's : 
York society is a very small world compared with 
[108] 







THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the one you've lived in. And it's ruled, in spite of 
appearances, by a few people with well, rather old- 
fashioned ideas." 

She said nothing, and he continued : "Our ideas about 
marriage and divorce are particularly old-fashioned. 
Our legislation favours divorce our social customs 
don't." 

"Never?" 

"Well not if the woman, however injured, hbwever 
irreproachable, has appearances in the least degree 
against her, has exposed herself by any unconventional 
action to to offensive insinuations" 

She drooped her head a little lower, and he waited 
again, intensely hoping for a flisk of indignation, or at 
least a brief cry of denial. None came. 

A little travelling clock tvcked purringly at her elbow, 
and a log broke in two and sent up a shower of sparks 
The whole hushed and brooding room seemed to be 
waiting silently with Archer. 

"Yes," she murmured at length, "that's what my family 
tell me." 

He winced a tittle. "It's not unnatural" 

"Our family/' she corrected herself; and Archer col- 
oured. "For you'll be my cousin soon," she continued 
gently. 

"I hope so." 

"And you take their view ?" 

He stood up at this, wandered across the room, stared 
with void eyes at one of the pictures against the old red 
damask, and came back irresolutely to her side. How 
could he say : "Yes, if what your husband hints is true, 
or if you've no way of disproving it?" 

"Sincerely " she interjected, as he was about to 
speak. 

[109] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

He looked down into the fire. "Sincerely, then what 
should you gain that would compensate for the possibility 
the certainty of a lot of beastly talk ?" 

"But my freedom is that nothing?" 

It flashed across him at that instant that the charge 
in the letter was true, and that she hoped to marry the 
partner of her guilt. How was he to tell her that, if she 
really cherished such a plan, the laws of the State were 
inexorably opposed to it? The mere suspicion that the 
thought was in her mind made him feel harshly and 
impatiently toward her. "But aren't you as free as air 
as it is?" he returned. "Who can touch you? Mr. 
Letterblair tells me the financial question has been 
settled" 

"Oh, yes," she said indifferently. 

"Well, then: is it worth while to risk what may be 
infinitely disagreeable and painful? Think of the news- 
papers their vileness! It's all stupid and narrow and 
unjust but one can't make over society." 

"No," she acquiesced ; and her tone was so faint and 
desolate that he felt a sudden remorse for his own hard 
thoughts. 

"The individual, in such cases, is nearly always sacri- 
ficed to what is supposed to be the collective interest: 
people cling to any convention that keeps the family to- 
gether protects the children, if there are any," he 
rambled on, pouring out all the stock phrases that rose 
to his lips in his intense desire to cover over the ugly 
reality which her silence seemed to have laid bare. Since 
she would not or could not say the one word that would 
have cleared the air, his wish was not to let her feel 
that he was trying to probe into her secret. Better keep 
on the surface, in the prudent old New York way, than 
risk uncovering a wound he could not heal. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"It's my business, you know/' he went on, "to help you 
to see these things as the people who are fondest of you 
see them. The Mingotts, the Wellands, the van der 
Luydens, all your friends and relations : if I didn't show 
you honestly how they judge such questions, it wouldn't 
be fair of me, would it?" He spoke insistently, almost 
pleading with her in his eagerness to cover up that 
yawning silence. 

She said slowly: "No; it wouldn't be fair." 

The fire had crumbled down to greyness, and one of 
the lamps made a gurgling appeal for attention. Madame 
Olenska rose, wound it up and returned to the fire, but 
without resuming her seat. 

Her remaining on her feet seemed to signify that there 
was nothing more for either of them to say, and Archer 
stood up also. 

"Very well; I will do what you wish," she said 
abruptly. The blood rushed to his forehead ; and, taken 
aback by the suddenness of her surrender, he caught her 
two hands awkwardly in his. 

"I I do want to help you," he said. 

"You do help me. Good night, my cousin." 

He bent and laid his lips on her hands, which were 
cold and lifeless. She drew them away, and he turned 
to the door, found his coat and hat under the faint gas- 
light of the hall, and plunged out into the winter night 
bursting with the belated eloquence of the inarticulate. 



XIII 



IT WAS a crowded night at Wallack's theatre. 
The play was "The Shaughraun," with Dion Bou- 
cicault in the title role and Harry Montague and Ada 
Dyas as the lovers. The popularity of the admirable 
English company was at its height, and the Shaughraun 
always packed the house. In the galleries the enthu- 
siasm was unreserved; in the stalls and boxes, people 
smiled a little at the hackneyed sentiments and clap- 
trap situations, and enjoyed the play as much as the 
galleries did. 

There was one episode, in particular, that held the 
house from floor to ceiling. It was that in which Harry 
Montague, after a sad, almost monosyllabic scene of 
parting with Miss Dyas, bade her good-bye, and turned 
to go. The actress, who was standing near the mantel- 
piece and looking down into the fire, wore a gray cash- 
mere dress without fashionable loopings or trimmings, 
moulded to her tall figure and flowing in long lines about 
her feet. Around her neck was a narrow black velvet 
ribbon with the ends falling down her back. 

When her wooer turned from her she rested her arms 
against the mantel-shelf and bowed her face in her hands. 
On the threshold he paused to look at her ; then he stole 
back, lifted one of the ends of velvet ribbon, kissed it, 
and left the room without her hearing him or changing 
her attitude. And on this silent parting the curtain fell. 

It was always for the sake of that particular scene 
[112] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

that Newland Archer went to see "The Shaughraun." 
He thought the adieux of Montague and Ada Dyas as 
fine as anything he had ever seen Croisette and Bressant 
do in Paris, or Madge Robertson and Kendal in London ; 
in its reticence, its dumb sorrow, it moved him more 
than the most famous histrionic outpourings. 

On the evening in question the little scene acquired an 
added poignancy by reminding him he could not have 
said why of his leave-taking from Madame Olenska 
after their confidential talk a week or ten days earlier. 

It would have been as difficult to discover any resem- 
blance between the two situations as between the appear- 
ance of the persons concerned. Newland Archer could 
not pretend to anything approaching the young English 
actor's romantic good looks, and Miss Dyas was a tall 
red-haired woman of monumental build whose pale and 
pleasantly ugly face was utterly unlike Ellen Olenska's 
vivid countenance. Nor were Archer and Madame 
Olenska two lovers parting in heart-broken silence; they 
were client and lawyer separating after a talk which had 
given the lawyer the worst possible impression of the 
client's case. Wherein, then, lay the resemblance that 
made the young man's heart beat with a kind of retro- 
spective excitement? It seemed to be in Madame Olen- 
ska's mysterious faculty of suggesting tragic and mov- 
ing possibilities outside the daily run of experience. 
She had hardly ever said a word to him to produce 
this impression, but it was a part of her, either a pro- 
jection of her mysterious and outlandish background or 
of something inherently dramatic, passionate and un- 
usual in herself. Archer had always been inclined to 
think that chance and circumstance played a small part 
in shaping people's lots compared with their innate ten- 
dency to have things happen to them. This tendency he 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

had felt from the first in Madame Olenska. The quiet, 
almost passive young woman struck him as exactly the 
kind of person to whom things were bound to happen, 
no matter how much she shrank from them and went 
out of her way to avoid them. The exciting fact was 
her having lived in an atmosphere so thick with drama 
that her own tendency to provoke it had apparently 
passed unperceived. It was precisely the odd absence 
of surprise in her that gave him the sense of her having 
been plucked out of a very maelstrom: the things she 
took for granted gave the measure of those she had 
rebelled against. 

Archer had left her with the conviction that Count 
Olenski's accusation was not unfounded. The mysteri- 
ous person who figured in his wife's past as "the secre- 
tary" had probably not been unrewarded for his share 
in her escape. The conditions from which she had fled 
were intolerable, past speaking of, past believing: she 
was young, she was frightened, she was desperate what 
more natural than that she should be grateful to her 
rescuer ? The pity was that her gratitude put her, in the 
law's eyes and the world's, on a par with her abominable 
husband. Archer had made her understand this, as he 
was bound to do; he had also made her understand that 
simple-hearted kindly New York, on whose larger charity 
she had apparently counted, was precisely the place where 
she could least hope for indulgence. 

To have to make this fact plain to her and to witness 
her resigned acceptance of it had been intolerably pain- 
ful to him. He felt himself drawn to her by obscure 
feelings of jealousy and pity, as if her dumbly-confessed 
error had put her at his mercy, humbling yet endearing 
her. He was glad it was to him she had revealed her 
secret, rather than to the cold scrutiny of Mr. Letterblair, 

E"4] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

or the embarrassed gaze of her family. He immediately 
took it upon himself to assure them both that she had 
given up her idea of seeking a divorce, basing her deci- 
sion on the fact that she had understood the uselessness 
of the proceeding; and with infinite relief they had all 
turned their eyes from the "unpleasantness" she had 
spared them. 

"I was sure Newland would manage it," Mrs. Welland 
had said proudly of her future son-in-law ; and old Mrs. 
Mingott, who had summoned him for a confidential 
interview, had congratulated him on his cleverness, and 
added impatiently: "Silly goose! I told her myself 
what nonsense it was. Wanting to pass herself off as 
Ellen Mingott and an old maid, when she has the luck 
to be a married woman and a Countess!" 

These incidents had made the memory of his last talk 
with Madame Olenska so vivid to the young man that 
as the curtain fell on the parting of the two actors his 
eyes filled with tears, and he stood up to leave the 
theatre. 

In doing so, he turned to the side of the house behind 
him, and saw the lady of whom he was thinking seated 
in a box with the Beauf orts, Lawrence Lefferts and one 
or two other men. He had not spoken with her alone 
since their evening together, and had tried to avoid 
being with her in company; but now their eyes met, and 
as Mrs. Beaufort recognised him at the same time, and 
made her languid little gesture of invitation, it was 
impossible not to go into the box. 

Beaufort and Lefferts made way for him, and after a 
few words with Mrs. Beaufort, who always preferred 
to look beautiful and not have to talk, Archer seated 
himself behind Madame Olenska. There was no one 
else in the box but Mr. Sillerton Jackson, who was tell- 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ing Mrs. Beaufort in a confidential undertone about Mrs* 
Lemuel Struthers's last Sunday reception (where some 
people reported that there had been dancing). Under 
cover of this circumstantial narrative, to which Mrs. 
Beaufort listened with her perfect smile, and her head 
at just the right angle to be seen in profile from the 
stalls, Madame Olenska turned and spoke in a low voice. 

"Do you think," she asked, glancing toward the stage, 
"he will send her a bunch of yellow roses tomorrow 
morning ?" 

Archer reddened, and his heart gave a leap of sur- 
prise. He had called only twice on Madame Olenska, 
and each time he had sent her a box of yellow roses, 
and each time without a card. She had never before 
made any allusion to the flowers, and he supposed she 
had never thought of him as the sender. Now her sud- 
den recognition of the gift, and her associating it with 
the tender leave-taking on the stage, filled him with an 
agitated pleasure. 

"I was thinking of that too I was going to leave the 
theatre in order to take the picture away with me," he 
said. 

To his surprise her colour rose, reluctantly and duskily. 
She looked down at the mother-of-pearl opera-glass in 
her smoothly gloved hands, and said, after a pause: 
"What do you do while May is away?" 

"I stick to my work," he answered, faintly annoyed 
by the question. 

In obedience to a long-established habit, the Wellands 
had left the previous week for St. Augustine, where, 
out of regard for the supposed susceptibility of Mr. 
Welland's bronchial tubes,, they always spent the latter 
part of the winter. Mr. Welland was a mild and silent 
man, with no opinions but with many habits. With these 

[116] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

habits none might interfere ; and one of them demanded 
that his wife and daughter should always go with him 
on his annual journey to the south. To preserve an 
unbroken domesticity was essential to his peace of mind ; 
he would not have known where his hair-brushes were, 
or how to provide stamps for his letters, if Mrs. Welland 
had not been there to tell him. 

As all the members of the family adored each other, 
and as Mr. Welland was the central object of their 
idolatry, it never occurred to his wife and May to let 
him go to St. Augustine alone; and his sons, who were 
both in the law, and could not leave New York during 
the waiter, always joined him for Easter and travelled 
back with him. 

It was impossible for Archer to discuss the necessity 
of May's accompanying her father. The reputation of 
the Mingotts' family physician was largely based on the 
attack of pneumonia which 'Mr. Welland had never had ; 
and his insistence on St. Augustine was therefore in- 
flexible. Originally, it had been intended that May's 
engagement should not be announced till her return from 
Florida, and the fact that it had been made known 
sooner could not be expected to alter Mr. Welland's 
plans. Archer would have liked to join the travellers 
and have a few weeks of sunshine and boating with his 
betrothed; but he too was bound by custom and con- 
ventions. Little arduous as his professional duties were, 
he would have been convicted of frivolity by the whole 
Mingott clan if he had suggested asking for a holiday 
in mid-winter; and he accepted May's departure with 
the resignation which he perceived would have to be 
one of the principal constituents of married life. 

He was conscious that Madame Olenska was looking 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

at him under lowered lids. "I have done what you 
wished what you advised," she said abruptly. 

"Ah I'm glad," he returned, embarrassed by her 
broaching the subject at such a moment. 

"I understand that you were right," she went on a 
little breathlessly; "but sometimes life is difficult . . . 
perplexing . . ." 

"I know." 

"And I wanted to tell you that I do feel you were 
right; and that I'm grateful to you," she ended, lifting 
her opera-glass quickly to her eyes as the door of the 
box opened and Beaufort's resonant voice broke in on 
them. 

Archer stood up, and left the box and the theatre. 

Only the day before he had received a letter from 
May Welland in which, with characteristic candour, she 
had asked him to "be kind to Ellen" in their absence. 
"She likes you and admires you so much and you know, 
though she doesn't show it, she's still very lonely and 
unhappy. I don't think Granny understands her, or 
uncle Lovell 'Mingott either; they really think she's 
much worldlier and fonder of society than she is. And 
I can quite see that New York must seem dull to her, 
though the family won't .admit it. I think she's been 
used to lots of things we haven't got ; wonderful music, 
and picture shows, and celebrities artists and authors 
and all the clever people you admire. Granny can't 
understand her wanting anything but lots of dinners and 
clothes but I can see that you're almost the only person 
in New York who can talk to her about what she really 
cares for." 

His wise May how he had loved her for that letter ! 

* But he had not meant to act on it ; he was too busy, to 

begin with, and he did not care, as an engaged man, to 

[118] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

play too conspicuously the part of Madame Olenska's 
champion. He had an idea that she knew how to take 
care of herself a good deal better than the ingenuous 
May imagined. She had Beaufort at her feet, Mr. van 
der Luyden hovering above her like a protecting deity, 
and any number of candidates (Lawrence Lefferts 
among them) waiting their opportunity in the middle 
distance. Yet he never saw her, or exchanged a word 
with her, without feeling that, after all, May's ingenuous- 
ness almost amounted to a gift of divination. Ellen 
Olenska was lonely and she was unhappy. 



XIV 



AS HE came out into the lobby Archer ran across 
his friend Ned Winsett, the only one among what 
Janey called his "clever people" with whom he cared to 
probe into things a little deeper than the average level 
of club and chop-house banter. 

He had caught sight, across the house, of Winsett's 
shabby round-shouldered back, and had once noticed his 
eyes turned toward the Beaufort box. The two men 
shook hands, and Winsett proposed a bock at a little 
German restaurant around the corner. Archer, who 
was not in the mood for the kind of talk they were likely 
to get there, declined on the plea that he had work to do 
at home; and Winsett said: "Oh, well so have I for 
that matter, and I'll be the Industrious Apprentice too." 

They strolled along together, and presently Winsett 
Said : "Look here, what I'm really after is the name of 
the dark lady in that swell box of yours with the Beau- 
forts, wasn't she? The one your friend Lefferts seems 
so smitten by." 

Archer, he could not have said why, was slightly 
annoyed. What the devil did Ned Winsett want with 
Ellen Olenska's name? And above all, why did he 
couple it with Lefferts's? It was unlike Winsett to 
manifest such curiosity; but after all, Archer remembered, 
he was a journalist. 

"It's not for an interview, I hope?" he laughed. 

"Wellnot for the press; just for myself," Winsttt 
[120] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

rejoined. "The fact is she's a neighbour of mine queer 
quarter for such a beauty to settle in and she's been 
awfully kind to my little boy, who fell down her area 
chasing his kitten, and gave himself a nasty cut. She 
rushed in bareheaded, carrying him in her arms, with 
his knee all beautifully bandaged, and was so sympa- 
thetic and beautiful that my wife was too dazzled to 
ask her name." 

A pleasant glow dilated Archer's heart. There was 
nothing extraordinary in the tale : any woman would have 
done as much for a neighbour's child. But it was just 
like Ellen, he felt, to have rushed in bareheaded, carrying 
the boy in her arms, and to have dazzled poor Mrs. 
Winsett into forgetting to ask who she was. 

"That is the Countess Olenska a granddaughter of 
Old Mrs. Mingott's." 

"Whew a Countess!" whistled Ned Winsett. "Well, 
I didn't know Countesses were so neighbourly. Min- 
gotts ain't." 

"They would be, if you'd let them." 

"Ah, well " It was their old interminable argument 
as to the obstinate unwillingness of the "clever people" 
to frequent the fashionable, and both men knew that there 
was no use in prolonging it. 

"I wonder," Winsett broke off, "how a Countess hap- 
pens to live in our slum ?" 

"Because she doesn't care a hang about where she 
lives or about any of our little social sign-posts," said 
Archer, with a secret pride in his own picture of her. 

"H'm been in bigger places, I suppose," the other 
commented. "Well, here's my corner." 

He slouched off across Broadway, and Archer stood 
looking after him and musing on his last words. 

Ned Winsett had those flashes of penetration'; they 
[121] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

were the most interesting thing about him, and always 
made Archer wonder why they had allowed him to 
accept failure so stolidly at an age when most men are 
still struggling. 

Archer had known that Winsett had a wife and child, 
but he had never seen them. The two men always met 
at the Century, or at some haunt of journalists and 
theatrical people, such as the restaurant where Winsett 
had proposed to go for a bock. He had given Archer 
to understand that his wife was an invalid ; which might 
be true of the poor lady, or might merely mean that she 
was lacking in social gifts or in evening clothes, or in 
both. Winsett himself had a savage abhorrence of social 
observances : Archer, who dressed in the evening because 
he thought it cleaner and more comfortable to do so, 
and who had never stopped to consider that cleanliness 
and comfort are two of the costliest items in a modest 
budget, regarded Winsett J s attitude as part of the boring 
"Bohemian" pose that always made fashionable people.* 
who changed their clothes without talking about it, and 
were not forever harping on the number of servants one 
kept, seem so much simpler and less self-conscious than 
the others. Nevertheless, he was always stimulated by 
Winsett, and whenever he caught sight of the journalist's 
lean bearded face and melancholy eyes he would rout 
him out of his corner and carry him off for a long talk. 

Winsett was not a journalist by choice. He was a 
pure man of letters, untimely born in a world that had 
no need of letters; but after publishing one volume of 
brief and exquisite literary appreciations, of which one 
hundred and twenty copies were sold, thirty given away, 
and the balance eventually destroyed by the publishers 
(as per contract) to make room for more marketable 
material, he had abandoned his real calling, and taken a 

[122] 



Btib-editc 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 



sub-editorial job on a women's weekly, where fashion- 
plates and paper patterns alternated with New England 
love-stories and advertisements of temperance drinks. 

On the subject of "Hearth-fires" (as the paper was 
called) he was inexhaustibly entertaining; but beneath 
his fun lurked the sterile bitterness of the still young 
man who has tried and given up. His conversation 
always made Archer take the measure of his own life, 
and feel how little it contained ; but Winsett's, after all, 
contained still less, and though their common fund of 
intellectual interests and curiosities made their talks 
exhilarating, their exchange of views usually remained 
within the limits of a pensive dilettantism. 

"The fact is, fife isn't much a fit for either of us/ r 
Winsett had once said. "I'm down and out ; nothing to 
be done about it. I've got only one ware to produce, 
and there's no market for it here, and won't be in my 
time. But you're free and you're well-off. Why don't 
you get into touch? There's only one way to do it: to 
go into politics." 

Archer threw his head back and laughed. There one 
saw at a flash the unbridgeable difference between men 
like Winsett and the others Archer's kind. Every one 
in pdite circles knew that, in America, "a gentleman 
couldn't go into politics." But, since he could hardly 
put it in that way to Winsett, he answered evasively: 
"Look at the career of the honest man in American poli- 
tics ! They don't want us." 

"Who's 'the/? Why don't you all get together and 
be 'they' yourselves?" 

Archer's laugh lingered on his lips in a slightly con- 
descending smile. It was useless to prolong the discus- 
sion: everybody knew the melancholy fate of the few 
gentlemen who had risked their clean linen in municipal 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

or state politics in New York. The day was past wheii 
that sort of thing was possible: the country was in pos* 
session of the bosses and the emigrant, and decent people 
had to fall back on sport or culture. 

"Culture! Yes if we had it! But there are just a 
few little local patches, dying out here and there for 
lack of well, hoeing and cross-fertilising : the last rem- 
nants of the old European tradition that your forebears 
brought with them. But you're in a pitiful little minor- 
ity: you've got no centre, no competition, no audience. 
You're like the pictures on the walls of a deserted 
house: The Portrait of a Gentleman/ You'll never 
amount to anything, any of you, till you roll up your 
sleeves and get right down into the muck. That, or 
emigrate . . . God! If I could emigrate . . ." 

Archer mentally shrugged his shoulders and turned 
the conversation back to books, where Winsett, if un- 
certain, was always interesting. Emigrate! As if a 
gentleman could abandon his own country! One could 
no more do that than one could roll up one's sleeves and 
go down into the muck. A gentleman simply stayed at 
home and abstained. But you couldn't make a man like 
Winsett see that; and that was why the New York of 
literary clubs and exotic restaurants, though a first shake 
made it seem more of a kaleidoscope, turned out, in the 
end, to be a smaller box, with a more monotonous pat- 
tern, than the assembled atoms of Fifth Avenue. 

The next morning Archer scoured the town in vain 
for more yellow roses. In consequence of this search 
he arrived late at the office, perceived that his doing so 
made no difference whatever to any one, and was filled 
with sudden exasperation at the elaborate futility of his 
life. Why should he not be, at that moment, on the 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

sands of St. Augustine with May Welland? No one 
was deceived by his pretense of professional activity. 
In old-fashioned legal firms like that of which 'Mr. Let- 
terblair was the head, and which were mainly engaged 
in the management of large estates and "conservative" 
investments, there were always two or three young men, 
fairly well-off, and without professional ambition, who, 
for a certain number of hours of each day, sat at their 
desks accomplishing trivial tasks, or simply reading the 
newspapers. Though it was supposed to be proper for 
them to have an occupation, the crude fact of money- 
making was still regarded as derogatory, and the law, 
being a profession, was accounted a more gentlemanly 
pursuit than business. But none of these young men 
had much hope of really advancing in his profession, or 
any earnest desire to do so ; and over many of them the 
green mould of the perfunctory was already perceptibly 
spreading. 

It made Archer shiver to think that it might be spread- 
ing over him too. He had, to be sure, other tastes and 
interests; he spent his vacations in European travel, 
cultivated the "clever people" May spoke of, and gen- 
erally tried to "keep up," as he had somewhat wistfully 
put it to Madame Olenska. But once he was married, 
what would become of this narrow margin of life in 
which his real experiences were lived? He had seen 
enough of other young men who had dreamed his dream, 
though perhaps less ardently, and who had gradually 
sunk into the placid and luxurious routine of their 
elders. 

From the office he sent a note by messenger to 
Madame Olenska, asking if he might call that afternoon, 
and begging her to let him find a reply at his club; but 
at the club he found nothing, nor did he receive any 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

letter the following day. This unexpected silence morti- 
fied him beyond reason, and though the next morning he 
saw a glorious cluster of yellow roses behind a florist's 
window-pane, he left it there. It was only on the third 
morning that he received a line by post from the Countess 
Olenska. To his surprise it was dated from Skuytercliff, 
whither the van der Luydens had promptly retreated 
after putting the Duke on board his steamer. 

"I ran away," the writer began abruptly (without the 
usual preliminaries), "the day after I saw you at the 
play, and these kind friends have taken me in. I wanted 
to be quiet, and think things over. You were right in 
telling me how kind they were; I feel myself so safe 
here. I wish that you were with us." She ended with a 
conventional "Yours sincerely," and without any allu- 
sion to the date of her return. 

The tone of the note surprised the young man. What 
was Madame Olenska running away from, and why did 
she feel the need to be safe? His first thought was of 
some dark menace from abroad; then he reflected that 
he did not know her epistolary style, and that it might 
run to picturesque exaggeration. Women always exag- 
gerated ; and moreover she was not wholly at her ease in 
English, which she often spoke as if she were translating 
from the French. "Je me suis evadee " put in that way, 
the opening sentence immediately suggested that she 
might merely have wanted to escape from a boring round 
of engagements; which was very likely true, for he 
judged her to be capricious, and easily wearied of the 
pleasure of the moment. 

It amused him to think of the van der Luydens' having 
carried her off to Skuytercliff on a second visit, and this 
time for an indefinite period. The doors of Skuytercliff 
were rarely and grudgingly opened to visitors, and a 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

chilly week-end was the most ever offered to the few 
thus privileged. But Archer had seen, on his last visit 
to Paris, the delicious play of Labiche, "Le Voyage de 
M. Perrichon," and he remembered M. Perrichon's 
dogged and undiscouraged attachment to the young man 
whom he had pulled out of the glacier. The van der 
Luydens had rescued Madame Olenska from a doom 
almost as icy; and though there were many other reasons 
for being attracted to her, Archer knew that beneath 
them all lay the gentle and obstinate determination to 
go on rescuing her. 

He felt a distinct disappointment on learning that she 
was away; and almost immediately remembered that, 
only the day before, he had refused an invitation to 
spend the following Sunday with the Reggie Chiverses 
at their house on the Hudson, a few miles below Skuy- 
tercliff. 

He had had his fill long ago of the noisy friendly 
parties at Highbank, with coasting, ice-boating, sleigh- 
ing, long tramps in the snow, and a general flavour of 
mild flirting and milder practical jokes. He had just 
received a box of new books from his London book- 
seller, and had preferred the prospect of a quiet Sunday 
at home with his spoils. But he now went into the club 
writing-room, wrote a hurried telegram, and told the 
servant to send it immediately. He knew that Mrs. 
Reggie didn't object to her visitors' suddenly changing 
their minds, and that there was always a room to spare 
in her elastic house. 



XV 



"^EWLAND ARCHER arrived at the Chiverses' on 
J-^l Friday evening, and on Saturday went conscien- 
tiously through all the rites appertaining to a week-end 
at Highbank. 

In the morning he had a spin in the ice-boat with his 
hostess and a few of the hardier guests; in the after- 
noon he "went over the farm" with Reggie, and listened, 
in the elaborately appointed stables, to long and impres- 
sive disquisitions on the horse; after tea he talked in a 
corner of the firelit hall with a young lady who had 
professed herself broken-hearted when his engagement 
was announced, but was now eager to tell him of her 
cwn matrimonial hopes; and finally, about midnight, he 
assisted in putting a gold-fish in one visitor's bed, dressed 
up a burglar in the bath-room of a nervous aunt, and 
saw in the small hours by joining in a pillow-fight that 
ranged from the nurseries to the basement. But on 
Sunday after luncheon he borrowed a cutter, and drove 
over to Skuytercliff. 

People had always been told that the house at Skuy- 
tercliff was an Italian villa. Those who had never been 
to Italy believed it; so did some who had. The house 
had been built by Mr. van der Luyden in his youth, on 
his return from the "grand tour," and in anticipation 
of his approaching marriage with Miss Louisa Dagonet. 
It was a large square wooden structure, with tongued 
and grooved walls painted pale green and white, a Corin- 

[128] 



1 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

thian portico, and fluted pilasters between the windows. 
From the high ground on which it stood a series of ter- 
races bordered by balustrades and urns descended in the 
steel-engraving style to a small irregular lake with an 
asphalt edge overhung by rare weeping conifers. To the 
right and left, the famous weedless lawns studded with 
"specimen" trees (each of a different variety) rolled 
away to long ranges of grass crested with elaborate cast- 
iron ornaments; and below, in a hollow, lay the four- 
roomed stone house which the first Patroon had built 
on the land granted him in 1612. 

Against the uniform sheet of snow and the greyish 
winter sky the Italian villa loomed up rather grimly; 
even in summer it kept its distance, and the boldest 
coleus bed had never ventured nearer than thirty feet 
from its awful front. Now, as Archer rang the bell, the 
long tinkle seemed to echo through a mausoleum ; and the 
surprise of the butler who at length responded to the call 
was as great as though he had been summoned from his 
final sleep. 

Happily Archer was of the family, and therefore, 
irregular though his arrival was, entitled to be informed 
that the Countess Olenska was out, having driven to 
afternoon service with Mrs. van der Luyden exactly 
three quarters of an hour earlier. 

"Mr. van der Luyden," the butler continued, "is in, 
sir; but my impression is that he is either finishing his 
nap or else reading yesterday's Evening Post. I heard 
him say, sir, on his return from church this morning, 
that he intended to look through the Evening Post after 
luncheon; if you like, sir, I might go to the library door 
and listen " 

But Archer, thanking him, said that he would go and 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

meet the ladies ; and the butler, obviously relieved, closed 
the door on him majestically. 

A groom took the cutter to the stables, and Archer 
struck through the park to the high-road. The village 
of Skuytercliff was only a mile and a half away, but he 
knew that Mrs. van der Luyden never walked, and that 
he must keep to the road to meet the carriage. Presently, 
however, coming down a foot-path that crossed the high- 
way, he caught sight of a slight figure in a red cloak, 
with a big dog running ahead. He hurried forward, and 
Madame Olenska stopped short with a smile of welcome. 

"Ah, you've come !" she said, and drew her hand from 
her muff. 

The red cloak made her look gay and vivid, like the 
Ellen Mingott of old days; and he laughed as he took 
her hand, and answered : "I came to see what you were 
running away from." 

Her face clouded over, but she answered : "Ah, well 
you will see, presently." 

The answer puzzled him. "Why do you mean that 
you've been overtaken?" 

She shrugged her shoulders, with a little movement like 
Nastasia's, and rejoined in a lighter tone: "Shall we 
walk on? I'm so cold after the sermon. And what 
does it matter, now you're here to protect me?" 

The blood rose to his temples and he caught a fold of 
her cloak. "Ellenwhat is it? You must tell me." 

"Oh, presently let's run a race first: my feet are 
freezing to the ground," she cried; and gathering up 
the cloak she fled away across the snow, the dog leaping 
about her with challenging barks. For a moment Archer 
stood watching, his gaze delighted by the flash of the 
red meteor against the snow; then he started after her, 

[130] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

and they met, panting and laughing, at a wicket that led 
into the park. 

She looked up at him and smiled. "I knew you'd 
come!" 

"That shows you wanted me to," he returned, with a 
disproportionate joy in their nonsense. The white glitter 
of the trees filled the air with its own mysterious bright- 
ness, and as they walked on over the snow the ground 
seemed to sing under their feet. 

"Where did you come from?" 'Madame Olenska asked. 

He told her, and added : "It was because I got your 
note." 

After a pause she said, with a just perceptible chill 
in her voice: "May asked you to take care of me." 

"I didn't need any asking." 

"You mean I'm so evidently helpless and defence- 
less ? What a poor thing you must all think me ! But 
women here seem not seem never to feel the need : any 
more than the blessed in heaven." 

He lowered his voice to ask : "What sort of a need ?" 

"Ah, don't ask me! I don't speak your language," 
she retorted petulantly. 

The answer smote him like a blow, and he stood still 
in the path, looking down at her. 

"What did I come for, if I don't speak yours?" 

"Oh, my friend !" She laid her hand lightly on his 
irm, and he pleaded earnestly : "Ellen why won't you 
tell me what's happened?" 

She shrugged again. "Does anything ever happen in 
heaven?" 

He was silent, and they walked on a few yards with- 
out exchanging a word. Finally she said: "I will tell 
you but where, where, where? One can't be alone 
for a minute in that great seminary of a house, with all 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the doors wide open, and always a servant bringing tea, 
or a log for the fire, or the newspaper! Is there no- 
where in an American house where one may be by 
one's self? You're so shy, and yet you're so public. I 
always feel as if I were in the convent again or on the 
stage, before a dreadfully polite audience that never 
applauds." 

"Ah, you don't like us!" Archer exclaimed. 

They were walking past trie house of the old Patroon, 
with its squat walls and small square windows com- 
pactly grouped about a central chimney. The shutters 
stood wide, and through one of the newly- washed win* 
dows Archer caught the light of a fire. 

"Why the house is open!" he said. 

She stood still. "No; only for today, at least. I 
wanted to see it, and Mr. van der Luyden had the fire 
lit and the windows opened, so that we might stop there 
on the way back from church this morning." She ran 
up the steps and tried the door. "It's still unlocked 
what luck ! Come in and we can have a quiet talk. Mrs. 
van der Luyden has driven over to see her old aunts at 
Rhinebeck and we shan't be missed at the house for 
another hour." 

He followed her into the narrow passage. His spirits, 
which had dropped at her last words, rose with an 
irrational leap. The homely little house stood there, its 
panels and brasses shining in the firelight, as if magically 
created to receive them. A big bed of embers still 
gleamed in the kitchen chimney, under an iron pot hung 
from an ancient crane. Rush-bottomed arm-chairs faced 
each other across the tiled hearth, and rows of Delft 
plates stood on shelves against the walls. Archer 
stooped over and threw a log upon the embers. 

Madame Olenska, dropping her cloak, sat down in one 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

of the chairs. Archer leaned against the chimney and 
looked at her. 

"You're laughing now; but when you wrote me you 
were unhappy," he said. 

"Yes." She paused. "But I can't feel unhappy when 
you're here." 

"I sha'n't be here long," he rejoined, his lips stiffening 
with the effort to say just so much and no more. 

"No; I know. But I'm improvident: I live in the 
moment when I'm happy." 

The words stole through him like a temptation, and to 
close his senses to it he moved away from the hearth 
and stood gazing out at the black tree-boles against the 
snow. But it was as if she too had shifted her place, 
and he still saw her, between himself and the trees, 
drooping over the fire with her indolent smile. Archer's 
heart was beating insubordinately. What if it were from 
him that she had been running away, and if she had 
waited to tell him so till they were here alone together 
in this secret room? 

"Ellen, if I'm really a help to you if you really 
wanted me to come tell me what's wrong, tell me what 
it is you're running away from," he insisted. 

He spoke without shifting his position, without even 
turning to look at her: if the thing was to happen, it 
was to happen in this way, with the whole width of the 
room between them, and his eyes still fixed on the outer 
snow. 

For a long moment she was silent ; and in that moment 
Archer imagined her, almost heard her, stealing up be- 
hind him to throw her light arms about his neck. While 
he waited, soul and body throbbing with the miracle to 
come, his eyes mechanically received the image of a 
heavily-coated man with his fur collar turned up who 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

was advancing along the path to the house. The man 
was Julius Beaufort. 

"Ah !" Archer cried, bursting into a laugh. 

Madame Olenska had sprung up and moved to his 
side, slipping her hand into his; but after a glance 
through the window her face paled and she shrank back. 

"So that was it?" Archer said derisively. 

"I didn't know he was here," Madame Olenska mur- 
mured. Her hand still clung to Archer's ; but he drew 
away from her, and walking out into the passage threw 
open the door of the house. 

"Hallo, Beaufort this way! Madame Olenska was 
expecting you," he said. 

During his journey back to New York the next morn- 
ing, Archer relived with a fatiguing vividness his last 
moments at Skuytercliff. 

Beaufort, though clearly annoyed at finding him with 
Madame Olenska, had, as usual, carried off the situation 
high-handedly. His way of ignoring people whose pres- 
ence inconvenienced him actually gave them, if they 
were sensitive to it, a feeling of invisibility, of non- 
existence. Archer, as the three strolled back through the 
park, was aware of this odd sense of disembodiment ; and 
humbling as it was to his vanity it gave him the ghostly 
advantage of observing unobserved. 

Beaufort had entered the little house with his usual 
easy assurance ; but he could not smile away the vertical 
line between his eyes. It was fairly clear that Madame 
Olenska had not known that he was coming, though her 
words to Archer had hinted at the possibility; at any 
rate, she had evidently not told him where she was going 
when she left New York, and her unexplained departure 
had exasperated him. The ostensible reason of his ap- 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

pearance was the discovery, the very night before, of a 
"perfect little house," not in the market, which was really 
just the thing for her, but would be snapped up instantly 
if she didn't take it ; and he was loud in mock-reproaches 
for the dance she had led him in running away just as 
he had found it. 

"If only this new dodge for talking along a wire had 
been a little bit nearer perfection I might have told you 
all this from town, and been toasting my toes before the 
club fire at this minute, instead of tramping after you 
through the snow," he grumbled, disguising a real irrita- 
tion under the pretence of it ; and at this opening Madame 
Olenska twisted the talk away to the fantastic possibility 
that they might one day actually converse with each other 
from street to street, or even incredible dream! from 
one town to another. This struck from all three allusions 

Edgar Poe and Jules Verne, and such platitudes as 
naturally rise to the lips of the most intelligent when they 
are talking against time, and dealing with a new inven- 
tion in which it would seem ingenuous to believe too 
soon; and the question of the telephone carried them 
safely back to the big house. 

Mrs. van der Luyden had not yet returned ; and Archer 

took his leave and walked off to fetch the cutter, while 

Beaufort followed the Countess Olenska indoors. It 

was probable that, little as the van der Luydens encour- 

iged unannounced visits, he could count on being asked 

dine, and sent back to the station to catch the nine 
>'clock train ; but more than that he would certainly not 
get, for it would be inconceivable to his hosts that a 
gentleman travelling without luggage should wish to 
spend the night, and distasteful to them to propose it 
to a person with whom they were on terms of such 
limited cordiality as Beaufort. 

[135] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Beaufort knew all this, and must have foreseen it; 
and his taking the long journey for so small a reward 
gave the measure of his impatience. He was undeniably 
in pursuit of the Countess Olenska; and Beaufort had 
only one object in view in his pursuit of pretty women. 
His dull and childless home had long since palled on him ; 
and in addition to more permanent consolations he was 
always in quest of amorous adventures in his own set. 
This was the man from whom Madame Olenska was 
avowedly flying: the question was whether she had fled 
because his importunities displeased her, or because she 
did not wholly trust herself to resist them ; unless, indeed, 
all her talk of flight had been a blind, and her departure 
no more than a manoeuvre. 

Archer did not really believe this. Little as he had 
actually seen of Madame Olenska, he was beginning to 
think that he could read her face, and if not her face, her 
voice; and both had betrayed annoyance, and even dis- 
may, at Beaufort's sudden appearance. But, after all, 
if this were the case, was it not worse than if she had 
left New York for the express purpose of meeting him? 
If she had done that, she ceased to be an object of 
interest, she threw in her lot with the vulgarest of dis- 
semblers: a woman engaged in a love affair with Beau- 
fort "classed" herself irretrievably. 

No, it was worse a thousand times if, judging Beau- 
fort, and probably despising him, she was yet drawn to 
him by all that gave him an advantage over the other 
men about her: his habit of two continents and two 
societies, his familiar association with artists and actors 
and people generally in the world's eye, and his careless 
contempt for local prejudices. Beaufort was vulgar, he 
was uneducated, he was purse-proud; but the circum- 
stances of his life, and a certain native shrewdness, made 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

him better worth talking to than many men, morally and 
socially his betters, whose horizon was bounded by the 
Battery and the Central Park. How should any one 
coming from a wider world not feel the difference and 
be attracted by it ? 

Madame Olenska, in a burst of irritation, had said to 
Archer that he and she did not talk the same language; 
nd the young man knew that in some respects this was 
true. But Beaufort understood every turn of her dia- 
lect, and spoke it fluently : his view of life, his tone, his 
attitude, were merely a coarser reflection of those re- 
vealed in Count Olenski's letter. This might seem to be 
to his disadvantage with Count Olenski's wife; but 
Archer was too intelligent to think that a young woman 
like Ellen Olenska would necessarily recoil from every- 
thing that reminded her of her past. She might believe 
herself wholly in revolt against it ; but what had charmed 
her in it would still charm her, even though it were 
against her will. 

Thus, with a painful impartiality, did the young man 
make out the case for Beaufort, and for Beaufort's 
victim. A longing to enlighten her was strong in him; 
and there were moments when he imagined that all she 
asked was to be enlightened. 

That evening he unpacked his books from London. 
The box was full of things he had been waiting for im- 
patiently ; a new volume of Herbert Spencer, another col- 
lection of the prolific Alphonse Daudet's brilliant tales, and 
novel called "Middlemarch," as to which there had lately 
been interesting things said in the reviews. He had de- 
clined three dinner invitations in favour of this feast; 
but though he turned the pages with the sensuous joy of 
the book-lover, he did not know what he was reading, 
and one book after another dropped from his hand. Sud- 

[137] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

denly, among them, he lit on a small volume of verse 
which he had ordered because the name had attracted 
him: "The House of Life." He took it up, and found 
himself plunged in an atmosphere unlike any he had ever 
breathed in books ; so warm, so rich, and yet so ineffably 
tender, that it gave a new and haunting beauty to the most 
elementary of human passions. All through the night he 
pursued through those enchanted pages the vision of a 
woman who had the face of Ellen Olenska ; but when he 
woke the next morning, and looked out at the brown- 
stone houses across the street, and thought of his desk 
in Mr. Letterblair's office, and the family pew in Grace 
Church, his hour in the park of Skuytercliff became as far 
outside the pale of probability as the visions of the night. 

"Mercy, how pale you look, Newland!" Janey com- 
mented over the coffee-cups at breakfast ; and his mother 
added: "Newland, dear, I've noticed lately that you've 
been coughing; I do hope you're not letting yourself be 
overworked?" For it was the conviction of both ladies 
that, under the iron despotism of his senior partners, the 
young man's life was spent in the most exhausting pro- 
fessional labours and he had never thought it necessary 
to undeceive them. 

The next two or three days dragged by heavily. The 
taste of the usual was like cinders in his mouth, and 
there were moments when he felt as if he were being 
buried alive under his future. He heard nothing of the 
Countess Olenska, or of the perfect little house, and 
though he met Beaufort at the club they merely nodded 
at each other across the whist-tables. It was not till 
the fourth evening that he found a note awaiting him on 
his return home. "Come late tomorrow : I must explain 
to you. Ellen." These were the only words it con- 
tained. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

The young man, who was dining out, thrust the note 
into his pocket, smiling a little at the Frenchness of the 
"to you." After dinner he went to a play; and it was 

)t until his return home, after midnight, that he drew 
Madame Olenska's missive out again and re-read it 
slowly a number of times. There were several ways of 
answering it, and he gave considerable thought to each 
one during the watches of an agitated night. That on 
which, when morning came, he finally decided was to 
pitch some clothes into a portmanteau and jump on board 
a boat that was leaving that very afternoon for St 
Augustine. 



XVI 



WHEN Archer walked down the sandy main street 
of St. Augustine to the house which had been 
pointed out to him as Mr. Welland's, and saw May Wei- 
land standing under a magnolia with the sun in her hair, 
he wondered why he had waited so long to come. 

Here was truth, here was reality, here was the life that 
belonged to him ; and he, who fancied himself so scorn- 
ful of arbitrary restraints, had been afraid to break 
away from his desk because of what people might think 
of his stealing a holiday ! 

Her first exclamation was: "Newland has anything 
happened?" and it occurred to him that it would have 
been more "feminine" if she had instantly read in his 
eyes why he had come. But when he answered : "Yes 
I found I had to see you," her happy blushes took the 
chill from her surprise, and he saw how easily he would 
foe forgiven, and how soon even Mr. Letterblair's mild 
disapproval would be smiled away by a tolerant family. 

Early as it was, the main street was no place for any 
"but formal greetings, and Archer longed to be alone with 
May, and to pour out all his tenderness and his impa- 
tience. It still lacked an hour to the late Welland break- 
fast-time, and instead of asking him to come in she pro- 
posed that they should walk out to an old orange-garden 
beyond the town. She had just been for a row on the 
river, and the sun that netted the little waves with gold 
seemed to have caught her in its meshes. Across the 

[140] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

warm brown of her cheek her blown hair glittered like 
silver wire; and her eyes too looked lighter, almost pale 
in their youthful limpidity. As she walked beside Archer 
with her long swinging gait her face wore the vacant 
serenity of a young marble athlete. 

To Archer's strained nerves the vision was as sooth- 
ing as the sight of the blue sky and the lazy river. They 
sat down on a bench under the orange-trees and he put 
his arm about her and kissed her. It was like drinking at 
a cold spring with the sun on it; but his pressure may 
have been more vehement than he had intended, for the 
blood rose to her face and she drew back as if he had 
startled her. 

"What is it ?" he asked, smiling ; and she looked at him 
with surprise, and answered: "Nothing." 

A slight embarrassment fell on them, and her hand 
slipped out of his. It was the only time that he had 
kissed her on the lips except for their fugitive embrace 
in the Beaufort conservatory, and he saw that she was 
disturbed, and shaken out of her cool boyish composure. 

"Tell me what you do all day," he said, crossing his 
arms under his tilted-back head, and pushing his hat 
forward to screen the sun-dazzle. To let her talk about' 
familiar and simple things was the easiest way of carry- 
ing on his own independent train of thought ; and he sat 
listening to her simple chronicle of swimming, sailing and 
riding, varied by an occasional dance at the primitive 
inn when a man-of-war came in. A few pleasant people 
from Philadelphia and Baltimore were picknicking at the 
inn, and the Self ridge Merrys had come down for three 
weeks because Kate Merry had had bronchitis. They 
were planning to lay out a lawn tennis court on the sands ; 
but no one but Kate and May had racquets, and most of 
the people had not even heard of the game. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE " 

All this kept her very busy, and she had not had time 
to do more than look at the little vellum book that Archer 
had sent her the week before (the "Sonnets from the 
Portuguese") ; but she was learning by heart "How they 
brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix," because it 
was one of the first things he had ever read to her ; and 
it amused her to be able to tell him that Kate Merry 
had never even heard of a poet called Robert Browning. 

Presently she started up, exclaiming that they would 
be late for breakfast ; and they hurried back to the tum- 
ble-down house with its paintless porch and unpruned 
hedge of plumbago and pink geraniums where the Wei- 
lands were installed for the winter. Mr. Welland's sen- 
sitive domesticity shrank from the discomforts of the 
slovenly southern hotel, and at immense expense, and in 
face of almost insuperable difficulties, Mrs. Welland was 
obliged, year after year, to improvise an establishment 
partly made up of discontented New York servants and 
partly drawn from the local African supply. 

"The doctors want my husband to feel that he is in his 
own home; otherwise he would be so wretched that the 
climate would not do him any good," she explained, 
winter after winter, to the sympathising Philadelphians 
and Baltimoreans ; and Mr. Welland, beaming across a 
breakfast table miraculously supplied with the most varied 
delicacies, was presently saying to Archer : "You see, my 
dear fellow, we camp we literally camp. I tell my wife 
and May that I want to teach them how to rough it." 

Mr. and 'Mrs. Welland had been as much surprised as 
their daughter by the young man's sudden arrival; but 
it had occurred to him to explain that he had felt him- 
self on the verge of a nasty cold, and this seemed to Mr. 
Welland an all-sufficient reason for abandoning any duty. 

"You can't be too careful, especially toward spring," 
[142] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 






he said, heaping his plate with straw-coloured griddle- 
cakes and drowning them in golden syrup. "If I'd only 
been as prudent at your age May would have been danc- 
ing at the Assemblies now, instead of spending her win- 
ters in a wilderness with an old invalid." 

"Oh, but I love it here, Papa; you know I do. If only 
Newland could stay I should like it a thousand times 
better than New York." 

"Newland must stay till he has quite thrown off his 
cold," said Mrs. Welland indulgently; and the young 
man laughed, and said he supposed there was such a 
thing as one's profession. 

He managed, however, after an exchange of telegrams 
with the firm, to make his cold last a week ; and it shed 
an ironic light on the situation to know that Mr. Letter- 
blair's indulgence was partly due to the satisfactory way 
in which his brilliant young junior partner had settled the 
troublesome matter of the Olenski divorce. Mr. Letter- 
blair had let Mrs. Welland know that Mr. Archer had 
"rendered an invaluable service" to the whole family, and 
that old Mrs. Manson Min^ott had been particularly 
pleased; and one day when May had gone for a drive 
with her father in the only vehicle the place produced 
Mrs. Welland took occasion to touch on a topic which 
she always avoided in her daughter's presence. 

"I'm afraid Ellen's ideas are not at all like ours. She 
was barely eighteen when Medora Manson took her back 
to Europe you remember the excitement when she ap- 
peared in black at her coming-out ball? Another of Me- 
dora's fads really this time it was almost prophetic! 
That must have been at least twelve years ago ; and since 
then Ellen has never been to America. No wonder she is 
completely Europeanised." 

"But European society is not given to divorce: Coun- 
[143] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

less Olenska thought she would be conforming to Amen-; 
can ideas in asking for her freedom." It was the first 
time that the young man had pronounced her name since 
he had left Skuytercliff, and he felt the colour rise to 
his cheek. 

Mrs. Welland smiled compassionately. "That is just 
like the extraordinary things that foreigners invent about 
us. They think we dine at two o'clock and countenance 
divorce ! That is why it seems to me so foolish to enter-' 
tain them when they come to New York. They accept 
our hospitality, and then they go home and repeat the 
same stupid stories." 

Archer made no comment on this, and Mrs. Welland 
continued: "But we do most thoroughly appreciate your, 
persuading Ellen to give up the idea. Her grandmother i 
and her uncle Lovell could do nothing with her ; both of 
them have written that her changing her mind was en- , 
tirely due to your influence in fact she said so to her 
grandmother. She has an unbounded admiration for 
you. Poor Ellen she was always a wayward child. I 
wonder what her fate will be?" 

"What jve've all contrived to make it," he felt like' 
answering. "If you'd all of you rather she should be 
Beaufort's mistress than some decent fellow's wife you've 
certainly gone the right way about it." 

He wondered what Mrs. Welland would have said if 
he had uttered the words instead of merely thinking 
them. He could picture the sudden decomposure of her 
firm placid features, to which a lifelong mastery over 
trifles had given an air of factitious authority. Traces 
still lingered on them of a fresh beauty like her daugh- 
ter's ; and he asked himself if May's face was doomed to 
thicken into the same middle-aged image of invincible 
innocence. 

[144] 









THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Ah, no, he did not want May to have that kind of 
innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imag- 
ination and the heart against experience ! 

"I verily believe," Mrs. Welland continued, "that if the 
horrible business had come out in the newspapers it 
would have been my husband's death-blow. I don't know 
any of the details ; I only ask not to, as I told poor Ellen 
when she tried to talk to me about it. Having an invalid 
to care for, I have to keep my mind bright and happy. 
But Mr. Welland was terribly upset ; he had a slight tem- 
perature every morning while we were waiting to hear 
what had been decided. It was the horror of his girl's 
learning that such things were possible but of course, 
dear Newland, you felt that too. We all knew that you 
were thinking of May." 

"I'm always thinking of May/' the young man rejoined, 
rising to cut short the conversation. 

He had meant to seize the opportunity of his private 
talk with Mrs. Welland to urge her to advance the date 
of his marriage. But he could think of no arguments 
that would move her, and with a sense of relief he saw 
Mr. Welland and May driving up to the door. 

His only hope was to plead again with May, and on 
the day before his departure he walked with her to the 
ruinous garden of the Spanish Mission. The background 
lent itself to allusions to European scenes; and May, 
who was looking her loveliest under a wide-brimmed hat 
that cast a shadow of mystery over her too-clear eyes, 
kindled into eagerness as he spoke of Granada and the 
Alhambra. 

"We might be seeing it all this spring even the Eas- 
ter ceremonies at Seville," he urged, exaggerating his de- 
mands in the hope of a larger concession. 

[145] 



" THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Easter in Seville? And it will be Lent next week!'* 
she laughed. 

"Why shouldn't we be married in Lent?" he rejoined; 
but she looked so shocked that he saw his mistake. 

"Of course I didn't mean that, dearest ; but soon after 
Easter so that we could sail at the end of April. I know 
I could arrange it at the office." 

She smiled dreamily upon the possibility; but he per- 
ceived that to dream of it sufficed her. It was like hear- 
ing him read aloud out of his poetry books the beautiful 
things that could not possibly happen in real life. 

"Oh, do go on, Newland ; I do love your descriptions." 

"But why should they be only descriptions? Why 
shouldn't we make them real ?" 

"We shall, dearest, of course; next year." Her voice 
lingered over it. 

"Don't you want them to be real sooner? Can't I per- 
suade you to break" away now ?" 

She bowed her head, vanishing from him under her 
conniving hat-brim. 

"Why should we dream away another year? Look 
at me, dear ! Don't you understand how I want you for 
my wife ?" 

For a moment she remained motionless ; then she raised 
on him eyes of such despairing clearness that he half- 
released her waist from his hold. But suddenly her 
look changed and deepened inscrutably. "I'm not sure 
if I do understand," she said. "Is it is it because you're 
not certain of continuing to care for me ?" 

Archer sprang up from his seat. "My God perhaps 
I don't know," he broke out angrily. 

May Welland rose also; as they faced each other she 
seemed to grow in womanly stature and dignity. Both 
were silent for a moment, as if dismayed by the unfore- 

[146] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

seen trend of their words : then she said in a low voice : 
"If that is it is there some one else?" 

"Some one else between you and me?" He echoed 
her words slowly, as though they were only half-intelligi- 
ble and he wanted time to repeat the question to him- 
self. She seemed to catch the uncertainty of his voice, 
for she went on in a deepening tone : "Let us talk frankly, 
Newland. Sometimes I've felt a difference in you; es- 
pecially since our engagement has been announced." 

"Dear what madness!" he recovered himself to ex- 
claim. 

She met his protest with a faint smile. "If it is, it 
won't hurt us to talk about it." She paused, and added, 
lifting her head with one of her noble movements : "Or 
even if it's true: why shouldn't we speak of it? You 
might so easily have made a mistake." 

He lowered his head, staring at the black leaf-pattern 
on the sunny path at their feet. "Mistakes are always 
easy to make ; but if I had made one of the kind you sug- 
gest, is it likely that I should be imploring you to hasten 
our marriage ?" 

She looked downward too, disturbing the pattern with 
the point of her sunshade while she struggled for expres- 
sion. "Yes," she said at length. "You might want once 
for all to settle the question : it's one way." 

Her quiet lucidity startled him, but did not mislead 
him into thinking her insensible. Under her hat-brim 
he saw the pallor of her profile, and a slight tremor of 
the nostril above her resolutely steadied lips. 

"Well ?" he questioned, sitting down on the bench, 
and looking up at her with a frown that he tried to make 
playful. 

She dropped back into her seat and went on: "You 
mustn't think that a girl knows as little as her parents 

[147] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

imagine. One hears and one notices one has one's feel- 
ings and ideas. And of course, long before you told me 
that you cared for me, I'd known that there was some 
one else you were interested in; every one was talking 
about it two years ago at Newport. And once I saw you 
sitting together on the verandah at a dance and when 
she came back into the house her face was sad, and I felt 
sorry for her ; I remembered it afterward, when we were 
engaged." 

Her voice had sunk almost to a whisper, and she sat 
clasping and unclasping her hands about the handle of 
her sunshade. The young man laid his upon them with 
a gentle pressure; his heart dilated with an inexpressible 
relief. 

"My dear child was that it? If you only knew the 
truth!" 

She raised her head quickly. "Then there is a truth 
I don't know?" 

He kept his hand over hers. "I meant, the truth about 
the old story you speak of." 

"But that's what I want to know, Newland what I 
ought to know. I couldn't have my happiness made out 
of a wrong an unfairness to somebody else. And I 
want to believe that it would be the same with you. 
What sort of a life could we build on such foundations ?" 

Her face had taken on a look of such tragic courage 
that he felt like bowing himself down at her feet. "I've 
Wanted to say this for a long time," she went on. "I've 
wanted to tell you that, when two people really love each 
other, I understand that there may be situations which 
make it right that they should should go against public 
opinion. And if you feel yourself in any way pledged 
. . . pledged to the person we've spoken of ... and if 
there is any way . . , any way in which you can fulfill 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

your pledge . . . even by her getting a divorce . . . New- 
land, don't give her up because of me!" 

His surprise at discovering that her fears had fas- 
tened upon an episode so remote and so completely of 
the past as his love affair with Mrs. Thorley Rushworth 
gave way to wonder at the generosity of her view. There 
was something superhuman in an attitude so recklessly 
unorthodox, and if other problems had not pressed on 
him he would have been lost in wonder at the prodigy 
of the Wellands' daughter urging him to marry his for- 
mer mistress. But he was still dizzy with the glimpse of 
the precipice they had skirted, and full of a new awe at 
the mystery of young-girlhood. 

For a moment he could not speak; then he said: 
"There is no pledge no obligation whatever of the 
kind you think. Such cases don't always present them- 
selves quite as simply as ... But that's no matter . . . 
I love your generosity, because I feel as you do about 
those things ... I feel that each case must be judged 
individually, on its own merits . . . irrespective of stupid 
conventionalities ... I mean, each woman's right to 
her liberty " He pulled himself up, startled by the 
turn his thoughts had taken, and went on, looking at 
her with a smile : "Since you understand so many things, 
dearest, can't you go a little farther, and understand 
the uselessness of our submitting to another form of the 
same foolish conventionalities? If there's no one and 
nothing between us, isn't that an argument for marrying 
quickly, rather than for more delay?" 

She flushed with joy and lifted her face to his; as he 
bent to it he saw that her eyes were full of happy tears. 
But in another moment she seemed to have descended 
from her womanly eminence to helpless and timorous 
girlhood ; and he understood that her courage and initia- 

[149] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

tive were all for others, and that she had none for her- 
self. It was evident that the effort of speaking had been 
much greater than her studied composure betrayed, and 
that at his first word of reassurance she had dropped 
back into the usual, as a too-adventurous child takes 
refuge in its mother's arms. 

Archer had no heart to go on pleading with her; he 
was too much disappointed at the vanishing of the new 
being who had cast that one deep look at him from her 
transparent eyes. May seemed to be aware of his dis- 
appointment, but without knowing how to alleviate itjj; 
and they stood up and walked silently home. 



XVII 

YOUR cousin the Countess called on. mother while 
you were away," Janey Archer announced to her 
brother on the evening of his return. 

The young man, who was dining alone with his mother 
and sister, glanced up in surprise and saw 'Mrs. Archer's 
gaze demurely bent on her plate. Mrs. Archer did not 
regard her seclusion from the world as a reason for being 
forgotten by it ; and Newland guessed that she was slightly 
annoyed that he should be suprised by Madame Olen- 
ska's visit. 

"She had on a black velvet polonaise with jet buttons, 
and a tiny green monkey muff; I never saw her so sty- 
lishly 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 because you'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 own people 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." 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Mother doesn't think her simple," Janey interjected, 
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 a day or two after 
his return to town he called on her. 

The old lady received him with unusual warmth ; she 
was grateful to him for persuading the Countess Olen- 
ska to give up the idea of a divorce; and when he told 
her that he had deserted the office without leave, and 
rushed down to St. Augustine simply because he wanted 
to see May, she gave an adipose chuckle and patted his 
knee with her puff-ball hand. 

"Ah, ah so you kicked over the traces, did you ? And 
I suppose Augusta and Welland pulled long faces, and 
behaved as if the end of the world had come? But 
little May she knew better, I'll be bound?" 

"I hoped she did; but after all she wouldn'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 we should be 
married in April. .What's the use of our wasting another 
year?" 

Mrs. Manson Mingott screwed up her little mouth 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 out of it. When I built this house 
you'd have thought I was moving to California! No- 
body ever had built above Fortieth Street no, says I*. 
nor above the Battery either, before Christopher Colum* 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

bus discovered America. No, no ; not one of them wants 
to be different ; they're as scared of it as the small-pox. 
Ah, my dear Mr. Archer, I thank my stars I'm nothing 
but a vulgar Spicer; but there's not one of my own chil- 
dren that takes after me but my little Ellen." She broke 
off, still twinkling at him, and asked, with the casual ir- 
relevance of old age : "Now, why in the world didn't you 
marry my little Ellen?" 

Archer laughed. "For one thing, she wasn't there to 
be married." 

"No to be sure; more's the pity. And now it's too 
late; her life is finished." She spoke with the cold- 
blooded complacency of the aged throwing earth into the 
grave of young hopes. The young man's heart grew 
chill, and he said 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 that made 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. Herl 
face looked vivid and happy, and she held 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, still smiling. "And 
what did he answer?" 

"Oh, my darling, I leave you to find that out ! He's 
been down to Florida to see his sweetheart." 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Yes, I know." She still looked at him. "I went to 
see your mother, to ask where you'd gone. I sent a note 
that you never answered, and I was afraid you were ill." 

He muttered something about leaving unexpectedly, 
in a great hurry, and having intended to write to her 
from St. Augustine. 

"And of course once you were there you never thought 
of me again !" She continued to beam on him with a 
gaiety that might have been a studied assumption of 
indifference. 

"If she still needs me, she's determined not to let me 
see it," he thought, stung by her manner. He wanted to 
thank her for having been to see his mother, but under 
the ancestress's malicious eye he felt himself tongue-tied 
and constrained. 

"Look at him in such hot haste to get married that 
he took French leave and rushed down to implore the 
silly girl on his knees! That's something like a lover 
that's the way handsome Bob Spicer carried off my poor 
mother; and then got tired of her before I was 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 
any of their wicked blood ; the rest of them are all model 
Mingotts," cried the old lady scornfully. 

Archer was aware that Madame Olenska, who had 
seated herself at her grandmother's side, was still 
thoughtfully scrutinising him. The gaiety had faded 
from her eyes, and she said with great gentleness: 
" Surely, Granny, we can persuade them between us to do 
as he wishes." 

Archer rose to go, and as his hand met Madame Olen- 
ska's he felt that she was waiting for him to make some 
allusion to her unanswered letter. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"When can I see you?" he asked, as she walked with 
him to the door of the room. 

"Whenever you like; but it must be soon if you want 
to see the little house again. I am moving next week." 

A pang shot through him at the memory of his 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. Lemuel Struthers's. He felt a slight movement of 
annoyance, not so much at her going there (for he rather 
liked her going where she pleased in spite of the van der 
Luydens), but because it was the kind of house at which 
she was sure to meet Beaufort, where she must have 
known beforehand that she would meet him and where 
she was probably going for that purpose. 

"Very well; tomorrow evening," he repeated, inwardly 
resolved that he would not go early, and that by reaching 
her door late he 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 sim- 
plest 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 an hour 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 to minimise their delinquency, usually went early. 

The one thing he had not counted on, in entering 
Madame Olenska's hall, was to find hats and overcoats 

[155] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

there. Why had she bidden him to come early if she was 
having people to dine? On a closer inspection of the 
garments besides which Nastasia was laying his own, his 
resentment gave way to curiosity. The overcoats were 
in fact the very strangest he had ever seen under a polite 
roof; and it took but a glance to assure himself 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 like 
what the French called a "Macfarlane." This garment, 
which appeared to be made for a person of prodigious 
size, had evidently seen long and hard wear, and its green- 
ish-black folds gave out a moist sawdusty smell suggestive 
of prolonged sessions against bar-room walls. On it 
lay a ragged grey scarf and an odd felt hat of semi- 
clerical shape. 

Archer raised his eyebrows enquiringly at Nastasia, 
who raised hers in return with a fatalistic "Gia I*' as she 
threw open the drawing-room door. 

The young man saw at once that his hostess was not 
in the room; then, with surprise, he discovered another 
lady standing by the fire. This lady, who was long, lean 
and loosely put together, was clad in raiment intricately 
looped and fringed, with plaids and stripes and bands of 
plain colour disposed in a design to which the clue seemed 
missing. Her hair, which had tried to turn white and 
only succeeded in fading, was surmounted by a Spanish 
comb and black lace scarf, and silk mittens, visibly 
darned, covered her rheumatic hands. 

Beside her, in a cloud of cigar-smoke, stood the own- 
ers of the two overcoats, both in morning clothes that 
they had evidently not taken off since morning. In one 
of the two, Archer, to his surprise, recognised Ned Win- 
sett; the other and older, who was unknown to him, and 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 




whose gigantic frame declared him to be the wearer of 
the "Macfarlane," had a feebly leonine head with crun?- 
pled grey hair, and moved his arms with large pawing 
gestures, as though he were distributing lay blessings to 
a kneeling multitude. 

These three persons stood together on the hearth-rug, 

ir eyes fixed on an extraordinarily large bouquet of 
crimson roses, with a knot of purple pansies at their 
base, that lay on the sofa where Madame 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 a sighing staccato as Archer came in. 

The three turned with surprise at his appearance, and 
the lady, advancing, held out her hand. 

"Dear Mr. Archer almost my nephew 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 
been spending the winter with Spanish friends such de- 
lightful distinguished people : the highest nobility of old 
Castile how I wish you could know them! 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 March- 
ioness continued : "Ah, New York New York how lit- 
tle the life of the spirit has reached it ! But I see you 
do know Mr. Winsett." 

"Oh, yes / 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 
listeth." 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"List oh, list!" interjected Dr. Carver in a stentorian 
murmur. 

"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 reappears." 

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 
an oasis." 

"Ah, but she won't abandon you. Poetry and art are 
the breath of life to her. It is poetry you write, Mr. 
Winsett?" 

"Well, no; but I sometimes read it," said Winsett, in- 
cluding the group in a general nod and slipping out of 
the room. 

"A caustic spirit un peu sauvage. But so witty ; Dn 
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 illuminat- 
ing 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 con- 
clusion, 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 

[158] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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. 
Archer herself." 

"That," said Dr. Carver, "is unfortunate but here is 
my card." He handed it to Archer, who read on it, in 
Gothic characters : 



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 too late!" 

The young man listened with considerable embarrass- 
ment. Was there any one, he wondered, to whom Ma- 
dame Olenska had not proclaimed his intervention in her 
private affairs ? 

[1591 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"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 uncon- 
scious 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 terms." 
i "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 an- 
nouncement. 

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 unfor- 
giving?" 

"But, good heavens, to forgive is one thing ; to go back 
into that hell " 

"Ah, yes," the Marchioness acquiesced. "So she de- 
scribes 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 aad in the 

[!60] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 ador- 
ing 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. j 

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 % f or 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 
abruptly. 

Mrs. Manson laid a purple finger on her lips. "Noth- 
ing 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. 

[161] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Ah," the Marchioness murmured, without visible 
resentment. For a while she sat in her arm-chair, open- 
ing and shutting the absurd ivory fan between her mit- 
tened fingers; but suddenly she lifted her head and lis- 
tened. 

"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. . . ." 



XVIII 

\TTHAT are you two plotting together, aunt Me- 

* V dora?" 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 of 
rivals. 

"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 always ridiculous." 

She turned back to the door, opened it, and called out : 
"Nastasia!" 

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 dust-bin!" 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 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 your- 
self; 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 shoul- 
ders 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 carriage ?" 

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 car- 
riage 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 her- 
self in the mirror. It was not usual, in New York so- 
ciety, 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 Olym- 
pian speed. 

Madame Olenska did not move when he came up be- 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 



I 



hind 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 sud- 
den 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 splen- 
dours 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 ac- 
curacy ?" 

"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 motion- 
less, holding her cigarette in her half -lifted hand. The 
expression of her face had not changed; and Archer 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

remembered that he had before noticed her apparent in- 
capacity for surprise. 

"You knew, then?' 1 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 
here suddenly?" 

'Madame Olenska seemed to consider this question also. 
j "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." 
i "But you do believe she has a letter from your hus- 
band?" 

| Again Madame Olenska brooded silently; then she 
said: "After all, it was to be expected." 
I 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 
said. 

"Oh, Ellen forgive me; I'm a fool and a brute!" 

She smiled a little. "You are horribly nervous; you 
[166] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 con- 
versation 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 con- 
vince 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, thenI don't 
understand." 

Archer reddened, and hurried on with a rush. "We 
had a frank talk almost the first. She thinks my im- 
patience 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 
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. 
[167] 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

She insists all the more on the long engagement, to give 
me time " 

"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 
voice. 

"Yes. But it's ridiculous." 

"Ridiculous? Because you don't care for any one 
else?" 

"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 me?" 

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. 

[168] 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"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 
said, frowning. 

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 pos- 
sible 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 mas- 

[169] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

querader ; and the young man stood 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 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?" 

"Yes." 

"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 
his hands. 

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 eye- 
balls 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? Noth- 
ing'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 

[170] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 mantel- 
piece, 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 ques- 
tion to May. Do you ?" 

He gave a reckless shrug. "It's too late to do any- 
thing else." 

"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 in- 
stead 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 
done." 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"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 free- 
dom 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 dis- 
loyalty 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 hearth-rug, 
and at the tip of the satin shoe that showed unde.- her 
dress. Suddenly he knelt down and kissed the shoe. 

She bent over him, laying her hands on his shoulders, 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 
canlt 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 be- 
fore 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 empti- 
ness 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 
understand you !" 

"Yet you understand May!" 

Uttl 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

He reddened under the retort, but kept his eyes on 
her. "May is ready to give me up." 

"What! Three days after youVe 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," 
she said. 

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 fright- 
ened her. 

At that moment the bell sent a long tinkle through 
the house. They had heard no carriage stopping at thft 
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 carry- 
ing 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 

[174] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the 'door had closed again, she handed the telegram to 
Archer. 

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 mes- 
sage 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 bou- 
doir, 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 apprehensive. 

"Newland! I hope there's no bad news in that tele- 
gram? 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. 
[175] 




THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"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 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," 



END OF BOOK I 



BOOK II 









XIX 



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 unavoid- 
able lapse of time the bridegroom, in proof of his eager- 
ness 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 

[179]. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 word- 
ing 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 des- 
tination 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 respon- 
sibility. 

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 church. 

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 cheer- 
ful indifference, he had stood on the same chancel step 
watching other brides float up the nave toward other 
bridegrooms. 

[180] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"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. Beau- 
fort 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 wedding- 
breakfast. 

"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 
English fashion." 

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 
ermine muff. 

"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 New- 
lands and Dagonets." 

On the hither side of the white ribbon dividing off 
the seats reserved for the families he saw Beaufort, 
tall and red-faced, scrutinising the women with his arro- 






[181] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

gant 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 sud- 
denly recalled that he too had once thought such ques- 
tions important. The things that had rilled 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 indig- 
nant 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 peo- 
ple were living somewhere, and real things happening 
to them . . ." f 

"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 

[182] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

another interval it swung majestically open, and a mur- 
mur ran through the church : "The family !" 

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; 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

toigf/it take a photograph of my child and put it in 'itie 
papers!" Mrs. Welland exclaimed when her mother's 
last plan was hinted to her; and from this unthink- 
able 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 Wei- 
lands' 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 re- 
ported 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 appari- 
tion glided into view Archer's heart contracted and 
stopped beating. 

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 

[184] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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, strain- 
ing 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 sensa- 
tions, so familiar in themselves, so unutterably strange 
and meaningless in his new relation to them, were con- 
fusedly mingled in his brain. 

"My God," he thought, "hcrue t I got the ring?" and 
[185] 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

once more he went through the bridegroom's convulsive 
gesture. 

Then, in a moment, May was beside him, such radi- 
ance 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 net 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 Mendels- 
sohn March, v/ithout which no newly- wedded couple had 
ever emerged upon New York. 

"Y<)ur arm I say, give her your arm!" young New- 
land 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 un- 
known lady with a long nose, so laughably unlike the 
person whose image she had evoked that he asked him- 
self 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 

[i86J. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 are 
together?" 

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 re- 
served 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, 

[1873 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 knowl- 
edge, 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 dis- 
cussing 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 un- 
awareness. She was alone for the first time with her 
husband; but her husband was only the charming com- 
rade 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 grown-up person, like a "married 
woman," in fact. 

It was wonderful that as he had learned in the Mis- 
sion garden at St. Augustine such depths of feeling 
could co-exist with such absence of imagination. But 
he remembered how, even then, she had surprised him 
by dropping back to inexpressive girlishness as soon as 

[188] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 glance. 

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 
>ure. 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 trium- 
phant 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 tum- 
ble 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 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

tea and coffee service of Baltimore silver which the 
Beauforts had sent, and which "went" so perfectly with 
uncle Lovell Mingott's trays and side-dishes. 

In the spring twilight the train stopped at the Rhine- 
beck 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 
house-maid 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 
Rhinebeck." 

Archer stared at the speaker so blankly that he re- 
peated 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 coach- 
man, 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 : 

[190] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 jve're always going to have together!" 



l 



XX 



OF COURSE we must dine with Mrs. Car fry, 
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 "digni- 
fied" to force one's self on the notice of one's acquain- 
tances 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 AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the intruder's sister, Mrs. Carfry had been seized witK 
a sudden attack of bronchitis; and Mrs. Archer, who 
never travelled without a complete family pharmacy, was 
fortunately able to produce the required remedy. 

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 "undigni- 
fied" than to force one's self on the notice of a "foreigner" 
to whom one had happened to render an accidental serv- 
ice. 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 estab- 
lished that it was thought "only right" to send a wedding 

[193] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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. Carf ry." 

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 hen 
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 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 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 
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-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 
soft shawls." 

[194] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"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 Na- 
tional Gallery we 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 : on reflection, 
Archer had not been able to picture his wife in that par- 
ticular 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 Nor- 
mandy 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 New York." 

But in reality travelling interested her even less than 
he had expected. She regarded it (once her clothes were 

[195] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 sailing. 

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 lysees, 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 dig- 
nity 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 in- 
curious 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 unthink- 
able. Whatever happened, he knew, she would always 

[196] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 pleas- 
ant 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 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 man- 
aged to avoid 'May's English aunt, the banker's wife, who 
was still in Yorkshire ; in fact, they had purposely post- 
poned 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. Car fry's Lon- 
don'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 rever- 
ence 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 under- 
stood for the first time the earnestness with which May, 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 hus- 
band had ever seen her ; and he perceived that the rosi- 
ness 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 dis- 
trustful 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 ease. 

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, 
[1991 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 consump- 
tion, 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 follow- 
ing spring ; and M. Riviere added with simplicity that he 
should then have to look out for another job. 

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 

[200] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 secretary- 
ship. 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 chill- 
ing 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 

[201] 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 per- 
plexedly, wondering how to tell him that his very 
superiorities and advantages would be the surest hin- 
drance 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 
upstairs." 

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 imme- 
diately 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 

[202] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 



I 



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 com- 
mon?" 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 senti- 
ment 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 enter- 
tained 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 dis- 
armingly, "I suppose 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 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 a^o 
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 
[203] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 
k 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, I understand," 
her husband retorted perversely; and she broke into aa 
appreciative 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 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. 



XXI 



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 pitdied 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 the result. 

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 

[205] 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

drawing-rooms through which he had passed gave 
glimpses, between swaying lace curtains, of glassy par- 
quet floors islanded with chintz poufs, dwarf arm-chairs, 
and velvet tables covered with trifles in silver. 

The Newport Archery Club always held its August 
meeting at the Beau forts'. The sport, which had hither- 
to known no rival but croquet, was beginning to be dis- 
carded in favour of lawn-tennis ; but the latter game was 
still considered too rough and inelegant for social occa- 
sions, and as an opportunity to show off pretty dresses 
and 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 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 Knicker- 
bocker 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 

[206] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 Bos- 
tonians 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 reluc- 
tance 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 Beau- 
fort 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 condi- 

[207] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

tions 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 advan- 
tages. 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 experi- 
ments. 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 peo- 
ple 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 

[308} 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

black velvet parasol on a carved ivory handle absurdly 
balanced over her much larger hat-brim. 

"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 

[209] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

with her grandmother Mingott? I could hardly per- 
suade 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 ad- 
vanced 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 com- 
pany. 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 neck- 
lace 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 per- 
sisted, 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- 

[210] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

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 Beau- 
fort'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 inter- 
val 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 

[211] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

followed her appearance, and Archer felt the glow of 
proprietorship that so often cheated him into momentary 
well-being. Her rivals Mrs. Reggie Chivers, the Merry 
girls, and divers rosy Thorleys, Dagonets and 'Mingotts, 
stood behind her in a lovely anxious group, brown heads 
and golden bent above the scores, and pale muslins and 
flower-wreathed hats mingled in a tender rainbow. All 
were young and pretty, and bathed in summer bloom; 
but not one had the nymph-like ease of his wife, when, 
with tense muscles and happy frown, she bent her sou! 
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 ; but that's the only kind of target she'll 
ever hit." 

Archer felt irrationally angry. His host's contemptu- 
ous tribute to May's "niceness" was just what a husband 
should have wished to hear said of his wife. The fact 
that a coarse-minded man found her lacking in attrac- 
tion was simply another proof of her quality; yet the 
words sent a faint shiver through his heart. What if 
"niceness" carried to that supreme degree were only a 
negation, the curtain dropped before an emptiness? As 
he looked at May, returning flushed and calm from her 
final bull's-eye, he had the feeling that he had never yet 
lifted that curtain. 

She took the congratulations of her rivals and of the 
rest of the company with the simplicity that was her 
crowning grace. No one could ever be jealous of her 
triumphs because she managed to give the feeling that 
she would have been just as serene if she had missed 
them. But when her eyes met her husband's her face 
glowed with the pleasure she saw in his. 

Mrs. Welland's basket-work poney-carriage was wait- 

[212] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ing for them, and they drove off among the dispersing 
carriages, May handling the reins and Archer sitting 
at her side. 

The afternoon sunlight still lingered upon the bright 
lawns and shrubberies, and up and down Bellevue Avenue 
rolled a double line of victorias, dog-carts, landaus and 
"vis-a-vis," carrying well-dressed ladies and gentlemen 
away from the Beaufort garden-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've won the prize. 
There's lots of time before dinner." 

Archer acquiesced, and she turned the ponies down 
Narragansett Avenue, crossed Spring Street and drove 
out toward the rocky moorland beyond. In this un- 
fashionable region Catherine the Great, always indifferent 
to precedent and thrifty of purse, had built herself in 
her youth a many-peaked and cross-beamed cottage-orne 
on a bit of cheap land overlooking the bay. Here, in a 
thicket of stunted oaks, her verandahs spread themselves 
above the island-dotted waters. A winding drive led up 
between iron stags and 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 
parquet floor, upon which opened four small square 
rooms with heavy flock-papers under ceilings on which 
an Italian house-painter had lavished all the divinities 
of Olympus. One of these rooms had been turned 
into a bedroom by Mrs. Mingott when the burden of 
flesh descended on her, and in the adjoining one she 
spent her days, enthroned in a large arm-chair between 
the open door and window, and perpetually waving a 
palm-leaf fan which the prodigious projection of her 

[213] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

bosom kept so far from the rest of her person 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 hastening his mar- 
riage old Catherine had shown to Archer the cordiality 
which a service rendered excites toward the person 
served. She was persuaded that irrepressible passion 
was the cause of his impatience; and being an ardent 
admirer of impulsiveness (when it did not lead to the 
spending of money) she always received him with a 
genial twinkle of complicity and a play of allusion to 
which 'May seemed fortunately impervious. 

She examined and appraised with much interest the 
diamond-tipped arrow which had been pinned on May's 
bosom at the conclusion of the match, remarking that in 
her day a filigree brooch would have been thought 
enough, but that there was no denying that Beaufort did 
things handsomely. 

"Quite an heirloom, in fact, my dear," the old lady 
chuckled. "You must leave it in fee to your eldest girl."" 
She pinched May's white arm and watched the colour 
flood her face. "Well, well, what have I said to make 
you shake out the red flag? Ain't there going to be any 
daughters only boys, eh? Good gracious, look at her 
blushing again all over her blushes ! What can't I say 
that either? Mercy me when my children beg me to 
have all those gods and goddesses painted out overhead 
I always say I'm too thankful to have somebody about 
me that nothing can shock!" 

Archer burst into a laugh, and May echoed it, 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 silly Medora," the ancestress continued ; and, 

[214] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

as May exclaimed: "Aunt Medora? But I thought 
she was going back to Portsmouth?" she answered 
placidly: "So she is but she's got to come here first 
to pick up Ellen. Ah you didn't know Ellen had come 
to spend the day with me? Such fol-de-rol, her not 
coming for the summer; but I gave up arguing with 
young people about fifty years ago. Ellen Ellen T she 
cried in her shrill old voice, trying to bend forward far 
enough to eaten a glimpse of the lawn beyond the 
verandah. 

There was no answer, and 'Mrs. Mingott rapped im- 
patiently 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 good grandson; this 
pretty lady will describe the party to me/' she said ; and 
Archer stood up as if in a dream. 

He had heard the Countess Olenska's name pronounced 
often enough during the year and a half since they had 
last met, and was even familiar with the main incidents 
of her life in the interval. He knew that she had spent 
the previous summer at Newport, where she appeared 
to have gone a great deal into society, but that in the 
autumn she had suddenly sub-let the "perfect house" 
which Beaufort had been at such pains to find for her, 
and decided to establish herself in Washington. There, 
during the winter, he had heard of her (as one always 
heard of pretty women in Washington) as shining in the 
"brilliant diplomatic society" that was supposed to 
make up for the social short-comings of the Administra- 
tion. He had listened to these accounts, and to various 
contradictory reports on her appearance, her conversa- 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

% 

tion, her point of view and her choice of friends, witHl 
the detachment with which one listens to reminiscences v 
of some one long since dead; not till Medora suddenly 
spoke her name at the archery match had Ellen Olenska. 
become a living presence to him again. The Mar- 
chioness's foolish lisp had called up a vision of the little 
fire-lit drawing-room and the sound of the carriage- 
wheels returning down the deserted street. He thought 
of a story he had read, of some peasant children in Tus- 
cany lighting a bunch of straw in a wayside cavern, andi 
revealing old silent images in their painted tomb . . . 

The way to the shore descended from the bank on. 
which the house was perched to a walk above the water 
planted with weeping willows. Through their veil; 
Archer caught the glint of the Lime Rock, with its white- 
washed turret and the tiny house in which the heroic 
light-house keeper, Ida Lewis, was living her last vener- 
able years. Beyond it lay the flat reaches and ugly 
government chimneys of Goat Island, the bay spreading; 
northward in a shimmer of gold to Prudence Island with* 
its low growth of oaks, and the shores of Conanicut faint 
in the sunset haze. 

From the willow walk projected a slight wooden pier 
ending in a sort of pagoda-like summer-house; and ia 
the pagoda a lady stood, leaning against the rail, her back, 
to the shore. Archer stopped at the sight as if he had 
waked from sleep. That vision of the past was a dream, 
and the 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 and glowing 
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 iir 

[216] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

hand, with dyspeptic impatience for it was one of the 
houses in which one always knew exactly what is hap- 
pening at a given 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 half way down the 
bank, gazing at the bay furrowed with the coming and 
going of sail-boats, yacht-launches, fishing-craft and the 
trailing black coal-barges hauled by noisy tugs. The lady 
in the summer-house seemed to be held by the same 
sight. Beyond the grey bastions of Fort Adams a long- 
drawn sunset was splintering up into a thousand fires, 
and the radiance caught the sail of a cat-boat as it beat 
out through the channel between the Lime Rock and the 
shore. Archer, as he watched, remembered the scene in 
the Shaughraun, and Montague lifting Ada Dyas's ribbon 
to his lips without her knowing 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 
before that sail crosses the Lime Rock light I'll go back." 

The boat was gliding out on the receding tide. It slid 
before the Lime Rock, blotted out Ida Lewis's little 
house, and passed across the turret in which the light 
was hung. Archer waited till a wide space of water 
sparkled between the last reef of the island and the stern 
of the boat; but still the figure in the summer-house did 
not move. 

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 as they drove home through 
the dusk. "But perhaps she wouldn't have cared she 
seems so changed." 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Changed ?" echoed her husband in a colourless 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 
Aunt Medora out 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 ex- 
claimed; and as she turnetj 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 sport of 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; and Archer felt himself gently relegated to the 
category of unreasonable husbands. 

They drove down Bellevue Avenue and turned in be- 
tween the chamfered wooden gate-posts surmounted by 
cast-iron lamps which marked the approach to the Wei- 
land villa. Lights were already shining through its win- 
dows, 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 wear- 
ing the pained expression that he had long since found 
to be much more efficacious than anger. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

The young man, as he followed his wife into the hall, 
was conscious of a curious reversal of mood. There was 
something about the luxury of the Welland house and 
the density of the Welland atmosphere, so charged with 
minute observances and exactions, that always stole into 
his system like a narcotic. The heavy carpets, the watch- 
ful servants, the perpetually reminding tick of disciplined 
clocks, the perpetually renewed stack of cards and invi- 
tations on the hall table, the whole chain of tyrannical 
trifles binding one hour to the next, and each member 
of the household to all the others, made any less syste- 
matised and affluent existence seem unreal and precarious. 
But now it was the Welland house, and the life he was 
expected to lead in it, that had become unreal and ir- 
relevant, and the brief scene on the shore, when he had 
stood irresolute, half-way down the bank, was as close 
to him as the blood in his veins. 

All night he lay awake in the big chintz bedroom at 
May's side, watching the moonlight slant along the car- 
pet, and thinking of Ellen Olenska driving home across 
Hit gleaming beaches behind Beaufort's trotters. 



XXII 

A PARTY for the Blenkers the Blenkers?" 
Mr. Welland laid down his knife and fork and 
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 Sillerton request the pleasure of Mr. and 
Mrs. Welland's company at the meeting of the Wednes- 
day Afternoon Gub on August 25th at 3 o'clock punc- 
tually. To meet Mrs. and the Misses Blenker. 
"Red Gables, Catherine Street. R. S. V. P." 

"Good gracious " Mr. Welland gasped, as if a second 
reading had been necessary to bring the monstrous ab- 
surdity of the thing home to him. 

"Poor Amy Sillerton you never can tell what her 
husband will do next," Mrs. Welland sighed. "I suppose 
he's just discovered the Blenkers." 

Professor Emerson Sillerton was a thorn in the side 
of Newport society; and a thorn that could not be 
plucked out, for it grew on 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, and mutual suitability. 
Nothing as Mrs. Welland had often remarked nothing 
on earth obliged Emerson Sillerton to be an archaeologist, 
or indeed a Professor of any sort, or to live in Newport 
in winter, or do any of the other revolutionary things 

[220] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

that he did. But at least, if he was going to break with 
tradition and flout society in the face, he need not have 
married poor Amy Dagonet, who had a right to expect 
"something different," and money enough to keep her 
own carriage. 

No one in the Mingott set could understand why Amy 
Sillerton had submitted so tamely to the eccentricities of 
a husband who filled the house with long-haired men and 
short-haired women, and, when he travelled, took her to 
explore tombs in Yucatan instead of going to Paris or 
Italy. But there they were, set in their ways, and ap- 
parently unaware that they were different from other 
people; and when they gave one of their dreary annual 
garden-parties every family on the Cliffs, because of the 
Sillerton-Pennilow-Dagonet connection, had to 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, their giving a party for a black man on the 
day of Julia Mingott's the dansant? Luckily this time 
there's nothing else going 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 awk- 
ward hour. I have to be here at half-past three to take 
my drops: it's really no use trying to follow Bencomb's 
new treatment if I don't do it systematically; and if I 
join you later, of course I shall miss my drive." At the 
thought he laid down his knife and fork again, and a 
flush of anxiety rose to his finely-wrinkled cheek. 

"There's no reason why you should go at all, my dear," 
his wife answered with a cheerfulness that had become 
automatic. "I have some cards to leave at the other end 
of Bellevue Avenue, and I'll drop in at about half-past 

[221] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

three and stay long enough to 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 the ponies, and 
try their new russet harness." 

It was a principle in the Welland family that people's 
days and hours should be what Mrs. Welland called "pro- 
vided for." The melancholy possibility of having to "kill 
time" (especially for those who did not care for whist 
or solitaire) was a vision that haunted her as the spectre 
of the unemployed haunts the philanthropist. Another 
of her principles was that parents should never (at least 
visibly) interfere with the plans of their married chil- 
dren; and the difficulty of adjusting this respect for 
May's independence with the exigency of 'Mr. Welland's 
claims could be overcome only by the exercise of an in- 
genuity which left not a second of Mrs. Welland's own 
time unprovided for. 

"Of course I'll drive with Papa I'm sure Newland 
will find something to do," May said, in a tone that gently 
reminded her husband 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 he had passed 
tinder her roof, when she enquired how he meant to spend 
his afternoon, he had answered paradoxically: "Oh, I 
think for a change I'll just save it instead of spending 
it " and once, when she and May had had to go on a 
long-postponed round of afternoon calls, he had con- 
fessed 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, 

[222] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

because when there's nothing particular to do he reads a 
book." 

"Ah, yes like his father!" Mrs. Welland agreed, as if 
allowing for an inherited oddity ; and after that the ques- 
tion of Newland's unemployment was tacitly dropped. 

Nevertheless, as the day for the Sillerton reception 
approached, May began to show a natural solicitude for 
his welfare, and to suggest a tennis match at the Chiv- 
erses', or a sail on Julius Beaufort's cutter, as a means 
of atoning for her temporary desertion. "I shall be 
back by six, you know, dear: Papa never drives later 
than that " and she was not reassured till Archer said 
that he thought of hiring a run-about and driving up the 
island to a stud-farm to look at a second horse for her 
brougham. They had been looking for this horse for 
some time, and the suggestion was so acceptable that 
May glanced at her mother as 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 brougham horse had 
germinated in Archer's mind on the very day when the 
Emerson Sillerton invitation had first been mentioned; 
but he had kept it to himself as if there were something 
clandestine in the plan, and discovery might prevent its 
execution. He had, however, taken the precaution to 
engage in advance a run-about with a pair of old livery- 
stable trotters that could still do their eighteen miles on 
level roads; and at two o'clock, hastily deserting the 
luncheon-table, he sprang into the light carriage and 
drove off. 

The day was perfect. A breeze from the north drove 
little puffs of white cloud across an ultramarine sky, with 
a bright sea running under it. Bellevue Avenue was 
empty at that hour, and after dropping the stable-lad at 

223] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the corner of Mill Street Archer turned down the Old 
Beach Road and drove across Eastman's Beach. 

He had the feeling of unexplained excitement with 
which, on half-holidays at school, he used to start off into 
the unknown. Taking his pair at an easy gait, he counted 
on reaching the stud-farm, which was not far beyond 
Paradise Rocks, before three o'clock ; so that, after look- 
ing over the horse (and trying him if he seemed promis- 
ing) he would still have four golden hours to dispose of. 

As soon as he heard of the Sillerton's party he had 
said to himself that the Marchioness Manson would cer- 
tainly come to Newport with the Blenkers, and that 
Madame Olenska might again take the opportunity of 
spending the day with her grandmother. At any rate, 
the Blenker habitation would probably be deserted, and 
he would be able, without indiscretion, to satisfy a vague 
curiosity concerning it. He was not sure that he wanted 
to see the Countess Olenska again ; but ever since he had 
looked at her from the path above the bay he had wanted, 
irrationally and indescribably, . to see the place she was 
living in, and to follow the movements of her imagined 
figure as he had watched the real one in the summer- 
house. The longing was with him day and night, an in- 
cessant undefinable craving, like the sudden whim of a 
sick man for food or drink once tasted and long since for- 
gotten. He could not see beyond the craving, or picture 
what it might lead to, for he was not conscious of any 
wish to speak to Madame Olenska or to hear her voice. 
He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of 
the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and 
sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less 
empty. 

When he reached the stud-farm a glance showed him 
that the horse was not what he wanted ; nevertheless k& 

[224], 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

took a turn behind it in order to prove to himself that 
he was not in a hurry. But at three o'clock he shook out 
the reins over the trotters and turned into the by-roads 
leading to Portsmouth. The wind had dropped and a 
faint haze on the horizon showed that a fog was waiting 
to steal up the Saconnet on the turn of the tide; but all 
about him fields and woods were steeped in golden light. 

He drove past grey-shingled farm-houses in orchards, 
past hay-fields and groves of oak, past villages with white 
steeples rising 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 a lane between high banks of gold- 
enrod and brambles. At the end of the lane was the 
blue glimmer of the river; to the left, standing in front 
of a clump of oaks and maples, he saw a long tumble- 
down house with white paint peeling from its clapboards. 

On the road-side facing the gateway stood one of the 
open sheds in which the New Englander shelters his 
farming implements and visitors "hitch" their "teams." 
Archer, jumping down, led his pair into the shed, and 
after tying them to a post turned toward the house. The 
patch of lawn before it had relapsed into a hay-field ; but 
to the left an overgrown box-garden full of dahlias and 
rusty rose-bushes encircled a ghostly summer-house of 
trellis-work that had once been white, surmounted by a 
wooden Cupid who had lost his bow and arrow but con- 
tinued to take ineffectual aim. 

Archer leaned for a while against the gate. No one 
was in sight, and not a sound came from the open win- 
dows of the house: a grizzled Newfoundland dozing be- 
fore the door seemed as ineffectual a guardian as the 
arrowless Cupid. It was strange to think that this place 
of silence and decay was the home of the turbulent 
Blenkers; yet Archer was sure that he was not mistaken. 

[225] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

For a long time he stood there, content to take in the 
scene, and gradually falling under its drowsy spell; but 
at length he roused himself to the sense of the passing 
time. Should he look his fill and then drive away? He 
stood irresolute, wishing suddenly to see the inside of 
the house, so that he might picture the room that Madame 
Olenska sat in. There was nothing to prevent his walk- 
ing up to the door and ringing the bell; if, as he sup- 
posed, she was away with the rest of the party, he could 
easily give his name, and ask permission to go into the 
sitting-room to write a message. 

But instead, he crossed the lawn and turned toward the 
box-garden. As he entered it he caught sight of some- 
thing bright-coloured in the summer-house, and presently 
made it out to be a pink parasol. The parasol drew him 
like a magnet: he was sure it was hers. He went into 
the summer-house, and sitting down on the rickety seat 
picked up the silken thing and looked at its carved handle, 
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 the box, and sat 
motionless, leaning on the parasol handle with clasped 
hands, and letting the rustle come nearer without lifting 
his eyes. He had always known that this must hap- 
pen . . , 

"Oh, Mr. Archer !" exclaimed a loud young voice ; 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 to; 
show that it had recently been pressed against a pillow, 
and her half-awakened eyes stared at him hospitably but 
confusedly. 

"Gracious where did you drop from? I must have 
been sound asleep in the hammock. Everybody else has 

[226] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

gone to Newport. Did you ring?" she incoherently en- 
quired. 

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 a horse, and I drove over on a chance of 
finding Mrs. Blenker and your visitors. But the house 
seemed empty so I sat down to wait." 

Miss Blenker, shaking off the fumes of sleep, 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 ; but I'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't have minded 
half as much if I'd known you were coming." 

Symptoms of a lumbering coquetry became visible 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 been called away?" 

"Called away?" 

"Oh, my best parasol! I lent it to that goose of a 
Katie, because it matched her ribbons, and the careless 
thing must have dropped it here. We Blenkers are all 
like that . . . real Bohemians!" Recovering the sun- 
shade with a powerful hand she unfurled it and sus- 
pended 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 she 
might be gone for tvo days. I do love the way she does 
her hair, doa't you ?'* M^ Blenker rambled on. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Archer continued to stare through her as though she 
had been transparent. All he saw was the trumpery para- 
sol that arched its pinkness above her giggling head. 

After a moment he ventured: "You don't happen to 
know why Madame Olenska went to Boston? I hope 

it was not on account of bad news ?" 

\ 

Miss Blenker took this with a cheerful incredulity. 
"Oh, I don't believe so. She didn't tell us what was in 
jthe telegram. I think she didn't want the Marchioness 
' to know. 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 crowding thoughts. 
His whole future seemed suddenly to be unrolled before 
him ; and passing down its endless emptiness he saw the 
dwindling figure of a man to whom nothing was ever to 
happen. He glanced about him at the unpruned garden, 
the tumble-down house, and the oak-grove under which 
the dusk was gathering. It had seemed so exactly the 
place in which he ought to have found Madame Olenska ; 
and she was far away, and even the pink sunshade was 
not hers . . . 

He frowned and hesitated. "You don't know, I sup- 
pose I shall be in Boston tomorrow. If I could man- 
age to see her " 

He felt that Miss Blenker was losing interest in him, 
though her smile persisted. "Oh, of course ; how lovely 
of you ! She's staying at the Parker House ; it must be 
horrible there in this weather." 

After that Archer was but intermittently aware of the 
remarks they exchanged. He could only remember 
stoutly resisting her entreaty that he should await the 
returning family and have high tea with them before he 

1228] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

drove home. At length, with his hostess still at his side, 
he passed out of range of the wooden Cupid, unfastened 
his horses and drove off. At the turn of the lane he saw 
'Miss Blenker standing at the gate and waving the pink 
parasoL 



xxm 

THE next morning, when Archer got out of the Fall 
River train, he emerged upon a steaming mid- 
summer Boston. The streets near the station were full 
of the smell of beer and coffee and decaying fruit, and a 
shirt-sleeved populace moved through them with the inti- 
mate abandon of boarders going down the passage to the 
bathroom. 

Archer found a cab and drove to the Somerset Club 
for breakfast Even the fashionable quarters had the 
air of untidy domesticity to which no excess of heat ever 
degrades the European cities. Care-takers in calico 
lounged on the door-steps of the wealthy, and the Com- 
mon looked like a pleasure-ground on the morrow of a 
Masonic picnic. If Archer had tried to imagine Ellen 
Olenska in improbable scenes he could not have called 
up any into which it was more difficult to fit her than this 
heat-prostrated and deserted Boston. 

He breakfasted with appetite and method, beginning 
with a slice of melon, and studying a morning paper 
while he waited for his toast and scrambled eggs. A 
new sense of energy and activity had possessed him ever 
since he had announced to May the night before that he 
had business in Boston, and should take the Fall River 
boat that night and go on to New York the following 
evening. It had always been understood that he would 
return to town early in the week, and when he got back 
from his expedition to Portsmouth a letter from the 

[230] 



AGE OF INNOCENCE 

office, which fate had conspicuously placed on a corner of 
the hall table, sufficed to justify his sudden change of 
plan. He was even ashamed of the ease with which the 
whole thing had been done: it reminded him, for an un- 
comfortable moment, of Lawrence Lefferts's masterly 
contrivances for securing his freedom. But this did not 
long trouble him, for he was not in an analytic mood. 

After breakfast he smoked a cigarette and glanced 
over the Commercial Advertiser. While he was thus 
engaged two or three men he knew came in, and the 
usual greetings were exchanged: it was the same world 
after all, though he had such a queer sense of having 
slipped through the meshes of time and space. 

He looked at his watch, and finding that it was half- 
past nine got up and went into the writing-room. There 
he wrote a few lines, and ordered a messenger to take a 
cab to the Parker House and wait for the answer. He 
then sat down behind another newspaper and tried to cal- 
culate how long it would take a cab to get to the Parker 
House. 

"The lady was out, sir," he suddenly heard a waiter's 
voice at his elbow; and he stammered: "Out? " as if it 
were a word in a strange language. 

He got up and went into the hall. It must be a mis- 
take : she could not be out at that hour. He flushed with 
anger at his own stupidity: why had he not sent the note 
as soon as he arrived ?^ 

He found his hat and stick and went forth into the 
street. The city had suddenly become as strange and 
vast and empty as if he were a traveller from distant 
lands. For a moment he stood on the door-step hesitat- 
ing; then he decided to go to the Parker House. What 
if the messenger had been misinformed, and she were 
still there? 

[231] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

He started to walk across the Common; and on the 
first bench, under a tree, he saw her sitting. She had a 
grey silk sunshade over her head how could he ever have 
imagined her with a pink one ? As he approached he was 
struck by her listless attitude : she sat there as if she had 
nothing else to do. He saw her drooping profile, and the 
knot of hair fastened low in the neck under her dark hat, 
and the long wrinkled glove on the hand that held the 
sunshade. He came a step or two nearer, and she turned 
and looked at him. 

"Oh" she said; and for the first time he noticed a 
startled look on her face ; but in another moment it gave 
;way to a slow smile of wonder and contentment. 

"Oh" she murmured again, on a different note, as 
lie stood looking down at her; and without rising she 
made a place for him on the bench. 

"I'm here on business just got here," Archer ex% 
plained; and, without knowing why, he suddenly began 
to feign astonishment at seeing her. "But what on earth 
are yon doing in this wilderness?" He had really no 
idea what he was saying: he felt as if he were shouting 
at her across endless distances, and she might vanish 
again before he could overtake her. 

"I? Oh, I'm here on business too," she answered, 
turning her head toward him so that they were face to 
face. The words hardly reached him: he was aware 
only of her voice, and of the startling fact that not an 
echo of it had remained in his memory. He had not even 
remembered that it was low-pitched, with a faint rough- 
ness on the consonants. 

"You do your hair differently," he said, his heart beat- 
ing as if he had uttered something irrevocable. 

"Differently? No it's only that I do it as best I can 
jvhen I'm without Nastasia." 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Nastasia; but isn't she with you?" 

"No ; I'm alone. For two days it was not worth while 
to bring her." 

"You're alone at the Parker House?" 

She looked at him with a flash of her old malice. "Does 
it strike you as dangerous ?" 

"No; not dangerous " 

"But unconventional ? I see ; I suppose it is." She con- 
sidered a moment. "I hadn't thought of it, because I've 
just done something so much more unconventional." The 
faint tinge of irony lingered in her eyes. "I've just re- 
fused to take back a sum of money that belonged to 
me." 

Archer sprang up and moved a step or two away. 
She had furled her parasol and sat absently drawing pat- 
terns on the gravel. Presently he came back and stood 
before her. 

"Some one has come here to meet you ?" 

"Yes." 

"With this offer?" 

She nodded. 

"And you refused because of the conditions?" 

"I refused," she said after a moment. 

He sat down by her again. "What were the condi- 
tions?" 

"Oh, they were not onerous : just to sit at the head of 
his table now and then." 

There was another interval of silence. Archer's heart 
had slammed itself shut in the queer way it had, and he 
sat vainly groping for a word. 

"He wants you back at any price ?" 

"Well a considerable price. At least the sum is con- 
siderable for me." 

[233] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

He paused again, beating about the question he felt 
he must put 

"It was to meet him here that you came ?" 

She stared, and then burst into a laugh. "Meet him 
my husband? Here? At this season he's always at 
Cowes or Baden." 

"He sent some one?" 

"Yes." 

"With a letter?" 

She shook her head. "No ; just a message. He never 
writes. I don't think I've had more than one letter from 
him." The allusion brought the colour to her cheek, and 
it reflected itself in Archer's vivid blush. 

"Why does he never write ?" 

"Why should he? What does one have secretaries 
for?" ' 

The young man's blush deepened. She had pro- 
nounced the word as if it had no more significance than 
any other in her vocabulary. For a moment it was on the 
tip of his tongue to ask: "Did he send his secretary, 
then?" But the remembrance of Count Olenski's only 
letter to his wife was too present to him. He paused 
again, and then took another plunge* 

"And the person?" 

"The emissary? The emissary," Madame Olenska re- 
joined, still smiling, "might, for all I care, have left al- 
ready ; but he has insisted on waiting till this evening . . ; ., 
in case ... on the chance . . ." 

"And you came out here to think the chance over ?" 

"I came out to get a breath of air. The hotel's too 
stifling. I'm taking the afternoon train back to Ports- 
mouth." 

They sat silent, not looking at each other, but straight 
ahead at the people passing along the path. Finally she 

|234] 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

turned her eyes again to his face and said : "You're not 
changed." 

He felt like answering : "I was, till I saw you again ;" 
but instead he stood up abruptly and glanced about him 
at the untidy sweltering park. 

"This is horrible. Why shouldn't we go out a little 
( on the bay ? There's a breeze, and it will be cooler. We 
might take the steamboat down to Point Arley." She 
glanced up at him hesitatingly and he went on: "On a 
Monday morning there won't be anybody on the boat. 
My train doesn't leave till evening: I'm going back to 
New York. Why shouldn't we?" he insisted, looking 
down at her; and suddenly he broke out: "Haven't we 
done all we could?" 

"Oh" she murmured again. She stood up and re- 
opened her sunshade, glancing about her as if to take 
counsel of the scene, and assure herself of the impossi- 
bility of remaining in it. Then her eyes returned to his 
face. "You mustn't say things like that to me," she said. 

"I'll say anything you like ; or nothing. I won't open 
my mouth unless you tell me to. What harm can it do 
to anybody? All I want is to listen to you," he stam- 
mered. 

She drew out a little gold-faced watch on an enamelled 
chain. "Oh, don't calculate," he broke out ; "give me the 
day ! I want to get you away from that man. At what 
time was he coming?" 
\ Her colour rose again. "At eleven." 

"Then you must come at once." 

"You needn't be afraid if I don't come." 

"Nor you either if you do. I swear I only want to 
hear about you, to know what you've been doing. It's a 
hundred years since we've met it may be another hun- 
dred before we meet again." 

[235] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

She still wavered, her anxious eyes on his face. "Why 
didn't you come down to the beach to fetch me, the day 
I was at Granny's ?" she asked. 

"Because you didn't look round because you didn't 
know I was there. I swore I wouldn't unless you looked 
round." He laughed as the childishness of the confession 
struck him. 

"But I didn't look round on purpose." 

"On purpose?" 

"I knew you were there; when you drove in I reeog- 
tiised the ponies. So I went down to the beach." 

"To get away from me as far as you could ?" 

She repeated in a low voice: "To get away from you as 
far as I could." 

He laughed out again, this time in boyish satisfaction. 
"Well, you see it's no use. I may as well tell you," he 
added, "that the business I came here for was just to find 
you. But, look here, we must start or we shall miss our 
boat." 

"Our boat?" She frowned perplexedly, and then 
smiled. "Oh, but I must go back to the hotel first: I 
must leave a note " 

"As many notes as you please. You can write here." 
He drew out a note-case and one of the new stylographic 
pens. "I've even got an envelope you see how every- 
thing's predestined! There steady the thing on your 
knee, and I'll get the pen going in a second. They have 
to be humoured ; wait " He banged the hand that held 
the pen against the back of the bench. "It's like jerking 
down the mercury in a thermometer: just a trick. Now; 
try-" 

She laughed, and bending over the sheet of paper 
which he had laid on his note-case, began to write. Arch- 
er walked away a few steps, staring with radiant unseed 

[236] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ing eyes at the passers-by, who, in their turn, paused to 
stare at the unwonted sight of a fashionably-dressed lady 
writing a note on her knee on a bench in the Common. 

Madame Olenska slipped the sheet into the envelope, 
wrote a name on it, and put it into her pocket. Then she 
too stood up. 

They walked back toward Beacon Street, and near the 
club Archer caught sight of the plush-lined "herdic" 
which had carried his note to the Parker House, and 
whose driver was reposing from this effort by bathing 
his brow at the corner hydrant. 

"I told you everything was predestined! Here's a cab 
for us. You see !" They laughed, astonished at the mir- 
acle of picking up a public conveyance at that hour, and 
in that unlikely spot, in a city where cab-stands were still 
a "foreign" novelty. 

Archer, looking at his watch, saw that there was time 
to drive to the Parker House before going to the steam- 
boat landing. They rattled through the hot streets and 
drew up at the door of the hotel. 

Archer held out his hand for the letter. "Shall I take 
it in ?" he asked ; but Madame Olenska, shaking her head, 
sprang out and disappeared through the glazed doors. 
It was barely half -past ten; but what if the emissary, 
impatient for her reply, and not knowing how else to em- 
ploy his time, were already seated among the travellers 
with cooling drinks at their elbows of whom Archer had 
caught a glimpse as she went in? 

He waited, pacing up and down before the herdic. 
A Sicilian youth with eyes like Nastasia's offered to 
shine his boots, and an Irish matron to sell him peaches; 
and every few moments the doors opened to let out hot 
men with straw hats tilted far back, who glanced at him 
as they went by. He marvelled that the door should 

[237] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

open so often, and that all the people it let out should 
look so like each other, and so like all the other hot men 
who, at that hour, through the length and breadth of the 
land, were passing continuously in and out of the swing- 
ing doors of hotels. 

And then, suddenly, came a face that he could not re- 
late to the other faces. He caught but a flash of it, for 
his pacings had carried him to the farthest point of his 
beat, and it was in turning back to the hotel that he saw, 
in a group of typical countenances the lank and weary, 
the round and surprised, the lantern- jawed and mild 
this other face that was so many more things at once, and 
things so different. It was that of a young man, pale too, 
and half -extinguished by the heat, or worry, or both, but 
somehow, quicker, vivider, more conscious; or perhaps 
seeming so because he was so different Archer hung a 
moment on a thin thread of memory, but it snapped and 
floated off with the disappearing face apparently that of 
some foreign business man, looking doubly foreign in 
such a setting. He vanished in the stream of passers-by, 
and Archer resumed his patrol. 

He did not care to be seen watch in hand within view 
of the hotel, and his unaided reckoning of the lapse of 
time led him to conclude that, if Madame Olenska was so 
long in reappearing, it could only be because she had met 
the emissary and been waylaid by him. At the thought 
Archer's apprehension rose to anguish. 

"If she doesn't come soon 1*11 go in and find her," he 
said. 

The doors swung open again and she was at his side. 
They got into the herdic, and as it drove off he took 
out his watch and saw that she had been absent just three 
minutes. In the clatter of loose windows that made talk 

[238] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

impossible they bumped over the disjointed cobblestones 
to the wharf. 

Seated side by side on a bench of the half -empty boat 
they found that they had hardly anything to say to each 
other, or rather that what they had to say communicated 
itself best in the blessed silence of their release and their 
isolation. 

As the paddle-wheels began to turn, and wharves and 
shipping to recede through the veil of heat, it seemed to 
Archer that everything in the old familiar world of habit 
was receding also. He longed to ask Madame Olenska 
if she did not have the same feeling: the feeling that they 
were starting on some long voyage from which they might 
never return. But he was afraid to say it, or anything 
else that might disturb the delicate balance of her trust 
in him. In reality he had no wish to betray that trust. 
There had been days and nights when the memory of 
their kiss had burned and burned on his lips ; the day be- 
fore even, on the drive to Portsmouth, the thought of her 
had run through him like fire; but now that she was be- 
side him, and they were drifting forth into this unknown 
world, they seemed to have reached the kind of deeper 
nearness that a touch may sunder. 

As the boat left the harbour and turned seaward a 
breeze stirred about them and the bay broke up into long 
oily undulations, then into ripples tipped with spray. The 
fog of sultriness still hung over the city, but ahead lay a 
fresh world of ruffled waters, and distant promontories 
with light-houses in the sun. Madame Olenska, leaning 
back against the boat-rail, drank in the coolness between 
parted lips. She had wound a long veil about her hat, 
but it left her face uncovered, and Archer was struck by 
the tranquil gaiety of her expression. She seemed to take 

[239] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

their adventure as a matter of course, and to be neither 
in fear of unexpected encounters, nor (what was worse) 
unduly elated by their possibility. 

In the bare dining-room of the inn, which he had hoped 
they would have to themselves, they found a strident 
party of innocent-looking young men and women school- 
teachers on a holiday, the landlord told them and Arch- 
er's heart sank at the idea of having to talk through their 
noise. 

"This is hopeless I'll ask for a private room," he 
said ; and Madame Olenska, without offering any objec- 
tion, waited while he went in search of it. The room 
opened on a long wooden verandah, with the sea coming 
in at the windows. It was bare and cool, with a tablfc 
covered with a coarse checkered cloth and adorned by a 
bottle of pickles and a blueberry pie under a cage. No 
more guileless-looking cabinet particulier ever offered its 
shelter to a clandestine couple: Archer fancied he saw - 
the sense of its reassurance in the faintly amused smile 
with which Madame Olenska sat down opposite to him. 
A woman who had run away from her husband andre- 
putedly with another man was likely to have mastered 
the art of taking things for granted; but something in 
the quality of her composure took the edge from his 
irony. By being so quiet, so unsurprised and so simple 
she had managed to brush away the conventions and 
make him feel that to seek to be alone was the natural 
thing for two old friends who had so much to say to each 
other. 



XXIV 

THEY lunched slowly and meditatively, with mute in- ' 
tervals between rushes of talk; for, the spell once 
broken, they had much to say, and yet moments when say- 
ing became the mere accompaniment to long duologues 
of silence. Archer kept the talk from his own affairs, 
not with conscious intention but because he did not want 
to miss a word of her history ; and leaning on the table, 
her chin resting on her clasped hands, she talked to him 
of the year and a half since they had met. 

She had grown tired of what people called "society" ; 
New York was kind, it was almost oppressively hospit- 
able; she should never forget the way in which it had 
welcomed her back; but after the first flush of novelty she 
had found herself, as she phrased it, too "different" to 
care for the things it cared about and so she had decided 
to try Washington, where one was supposed to meet more 
varieties of people and of opinion. And on the whole 
she should probably settle down in Washington, and 
make a home there for poor Medora, who had worn out 
the patience of all her other relations just at the time 
when she most needed looking after and protecting from 
matrimonial perils. 

"But Dr. Carver aren't you afraid of Dr. Carver? 
I hear he's been staying with you at the Blenkers'." 

She smiled. "Oh, the Carver danger is over. Dr. 
Carver is a very clever man. He wants a rich wife to 

[241] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

finance his plans, and Medora is simply a good adver* 
tisement as a convert." 

"A convert to what?" 

"To all sorts of new and crazy social schemes. But, 
do you know, they interest me more than the blind con- 
formity to tradition somebody else's tradition that I 
see among our own friends. It seems stupid to have dis- 
covered America only to make it into a copy of another 
country." She smiled across the table. "Do you sup- 
pose Christopher Columbus would have taken all that 
trouble just to go to the Opera with the Self ridge 
Merrys?" 

Archer changed colour. "And Beaufort do you say; 
these things to Beaufort ?" he asked abruptly. 

"I haven't see him for a long time. But I used to; and 
he understands." 

"Ah, it's what I've always told you ; you don't like us. 
And you like Beaufort because he's so unlike us." He 
looked about the bare room and out at the bare beach and 
the row of stark white village houses strung along the 
shore. "We're damnably dull. We've no character, no 
colour, no variety. I wonder," he broke out, "why you 
don't go back?" 

Her eyes darkened, and he expected an indignant re- 
joinder. But she sat silent, as if thinking over what he 
had said, and he grew frightened lest she should answer 
that she wondered too. 

At length she said : "I believe it's because of you." 

It was impossible to make the confession more dispas- 
sionately, or in a tone less encouraging to the vanity of 
the person addressed. Archer reddened to the temples, 
but dared not move or speak : it was as if her words had 
been some rare butterfly that the least motion might drive 

[242] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

off on startled wings, but that might gather a flock about 
it if it were left undisturbed. 

"At least," she continued, "it was you who made me 
understand that under the dullness there are things so 
fine and sensitive and delicate that even those I most 
cared for in my other life look cheap in comparison. 
I don't know how to explain myself "-^-she drew together 
her troubled brows "but it seems as if I'd never before 
understood with how much that is hard and shabby and 
base the most exquisite pleasures may be paid." 

"Exquisite pleasures it's something to have had 
them!" he felt like retorting; but the appeal in her eyes 
kept him silent. 

"I want," she went on, "to be perfectly honest with you 
and with myself. For a long time I've hoped this 
chance would come: that I might tell you how you've 
helped me, what you've made of me 

Archer sat staring beneath frowning brows. He in- 
terrupted her with a laugh. "And what do you make out 
that you've made of me?" 

She paled a little. "Of you?" 

"Yes: for I'm of your making much more than you 
ever were of mine. I'm the man who married one woman 
because another one told him to." 

Her paleness turned to a fugitive flush. "I thought 
you promised you were not to say such things today." 

"Ah how like a woman ! None of you will ever see a 
bad business through !" 

She lowered her voice. "Is it a bad business for 
May?" 

He stood in the window, drumming against the raised 
sash, and feeling in every fibre the wistful tenderness 
with which she had spoken her cousin's name. 

[243] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"For that's the thing we've always got to think of 
haven't we by your own showing?" she insisted. 

"My own showing?" he echoed, his blank eyes still on 
the sea. 

"Or if not," she continued, pursuing her own thought 
with a painful application, "if it's not worth while to 
have given up, to have missed things, so that others may 
be saved from disillusionment and misery then every- 
thing I came home for, everything that made my other life 
seem by contrast so bare and so poor because no one 
there took account of them all these things are a shafn 
or a dream " 

He turned around without moving from his place. 
"And in that case there's no reason on earth why you 
shouldn't go back?" he concluded for her. 

Her eyes were clinging to him desperately. "Oh, is 
there no reason?" 

"Not if you staked your all on the success of my mar- 
riage. My marriage," he said savagely, "isn't going to 
be a sight to keep you here." She made no answer, and 
he went on: "What's the use? You gave me my first 
glimpse of a real life, and at the same moment you asked 
me to go on with a sham one. It's beyond human endur- 
ingthat's all." 

"Oh, don't say that ; when I'm enduring it !" she burst 
out, her eyes filling. 

Her arms had dropped along the table, and she sat with 
her face abandoned to his gaze as if in the recklessness of 
a desperate peril. The face exposed her as much as if 
it had been her whole person, with the soul behind it: 
Archer stood dumb, overwhelmed by what it suddenly 
told him. 

"You too oh, all this time, you too?" 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

For answer, she let the tears on her lids overflow and 
run slowly downward. 

Half the width of the room was still between them, 
and neither made any show of moving. Archer was con- 
scious of a curious indifference to her bodily presence: 
he would hardly have been aware of it if one of the 
hands she had flung out on the table had not drawn his 
gaze as on the occasion when, in the little Twenty-third 
Street house, he had kept his eye on it in order not to 
look at her face. Now his imagination spun about the 
hand as about the edge of a vortex ; but still he made no 
effort to draw nearer. He had known the love that is 
fed on caresses and feeds them ; but this passion that was 
closer than his bones was not to be superficially satisfied. 
His one terror was to do anything which might efface 
the sound and impression of her words ; his one thought, 
that he should never again feel quite alone. 

But after a moment the sense of waste and ruin over- 
came him. There they were, close together and safe and 
shut in; yet so chained to their separate destinies that 
they might as well have been half the world apart. 

"What's the use when you will go back?" he broke 
out, a great hopeless How on earth can I keep you? cry- 
ing out to her beneath his words. 

She sat motionless, with lowered lids. "Oh I shan't 
go yet r 

"Not yet? Some time, then? Some time that you 
already foresee?" 

At that she raised her clearest eyes. "I promise you : 
not as long as you hold out. Not as long as we can look 
straight at each other like this." 

He dropped into his chair. What her answer really 
said was; "If you lift a finger you'll drive me back: 

[245] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

back to all the abominations you know of, and all the 
temptations you half guess." He understood it as clearly 
as if she had uttered the words, and the thought kept 
him anchored to his side of the table in a kind of moved 
and sacred submission. 

"What a life for you ! " he groaned. 

"Oh as long as it's a part of yours." 

"And mine a part of yours ?" 

She nodded. 

"And that's to be all for either of us?" 

"Well; it wall, isn't it?" 

At that he sprang up, forgetting everything but the 
sweetness of her face. She rose too, not as if to meet 
him or to flee from him, but quietly, as though the worst 
of the task were done and she had only to wait; so 
quietly that, as he came close, her outstretched hands 
acted not as a check but as a guide to him. They fell 
into his, while her arms, extended but not rigid, kept him 
far enough off to let her surrendered face say the rest. 

They may have stood in that way for a long time, or 
only for a few moments ; but it was long enough for her 
silence to communicate all she had to say, and for him 
to feel that only one thing mattered. He must do nothing 
to make this meeting their last ; he must leave their future 
in her care, asking only that she should keep fast hold 
of it. 

"Don't don't be unhappy," she said, with a break in 
her voice, as she drew her hands away; and he an- 
swered: "You won't go back you won't go back?" as 
if it were the one possibility he could not bear. 

"I won't go back/' she said; and turning away she 
opened the door and led the way into the public dining- 
room. 

13461 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

The strident school-teachers were gathering up their 
possessions preparatory to a straggling flight to the 
wharf; across the beach lay the white steam-boat at the 
pier ; and over the sunlit waters Boston loomed in a line 
of haze. 



XXV 

ONCE more on the boat, and in the presence of others, 
Archer felt a tranquillity of spirit that surprised 
as much as it sustained him. 

The day, according to any current valuation, had been 
a rather ridiculous failure ; he had not so much as touched 
Madame Olenska's hand with his lips, or extracted one 
word from her that gave promise of farther opportuni- 
ties. Nevertheless, for a man sick with unsatisfied love, 
and parting for an indefinite period from the object of his 
passion, he felt himself almost humiliatingly calm and 
comforted. It was the perfect balance she had held be- 
tween their loyalty to others and their honesty to them- 
selves that had so stirred and yet tranquillized him; a 
balance not artfully calculated, as her tears and her fal- 
terings showed, but resulting naturally from her un- 
abashed sincerity. It filled him with a tender awe, now 
the danger was over, and made him thank the fates that 
no personal vanity, no sense of playing a part before 
sophisticated witnesses, had tempted him to tempt her. 
Even after they had clasped hands for good-bye at the 
Fall River station, and he had turned away alone, the con- 
viction remained with him of having saved out of their 
meeting much more than he had sacrificed. 

He wandered back to the club, and went and sat alone 
in the deserted library, turning and turning over in his 
thoughts every separate second of their hours together. 
It $ras clear to him, and it grew more clear under closer 

[248! 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

scrutiny, that if she should finally decide on returning to 
Europe returning to her husband it would not be be- 
cause her old life tempted her, even on the new terms 
offered. No: she would go only if she felt herself becom- 
ing a temptation to Archer, a temptation to fall away 
from the standard they had both set up. Her choice 
would be to stay near him as long as he did not ask her 
to come nearer; and it depended on himself to keep her 
just there, safe but secluded. 

In the train these thoughts were still with him. They 
enclosed him in a kind of golden haze, through which the 
faces about him looked remote and indistinct : he had a 
feeling that if he spoke to his fellow-travellers they 
would not understand what he was saying. In this state 
of abstraction he found himself, the following morning, 
waking to the reality of a stifling September day in New 
York. The heat-withered faces in the long train streamed 
past him, and he continued to stare at them through the 
same golden blur; but suddenly, as he left the station, 
one of the faces detached itself, came closer and forced 
itself upon his consciousness. It was, as he instantly re- 
called, the face of the young man he had seen, the day 
before, passing out of the Parker House, and had noted 
as not conforming to type, as not having an American 
hotel face. 

The same thing struck him now; and again he became 
aware of a dim stir of former associations. The young 
man stood looking about him with the dazed air of the 
foreigner flung upon the harsh mercies of American 
travel ; then he advanced toward Archer, lifted his hat, 
and said in English: "Surely, Monsieur, we met in Lon- 
don?" 

"Ah, to be sure : in London !" Archer grasped his hand 
with curiosity and sympathy. "So you did get here, after 

[249] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

all ?" he exclaimed, casting a wondering eye on the astute 
and haggard little countenance of young Carf ry's French 
tutor. 

"Oh, I got here yes," M. Riviere smiled with drawn 
lips. "But not for long; I return the day after tomor- 
row." He stood grasping his light valise in one neatly 
gloved hand, and gazing anxiously, perplexedly, almost 
appealingly, into Archer's face. 

"I wonder, Monsieur, since I've had the good luck to 
run across you, if I might " 

"I was just going to suggest it: come to luncheon, 
won't you? Down town, I mean: if you'll look me up 
in my office I'll take you to a very decent restaurant in 
that quarter." 

M. Riviere was visibly touched and surprised. "You're 
too kind. But I was only going to ask if you would tell 
me how to reach some sort of conveyance. There are no 
porters, and no one here seems to listen " 

"I know: our American stations must surprise you. 
When you ask for a porter they give you chewing-gum. 
But if you'll come along I'll extricate you ; and you must 
really lunch with me, you know." 

The young man, after a just perceptible hesitation, re- 
plied, with profuse thanks, and in a tone that did not 
carry complete conviction, that he was already engaged ; 
but when they had reached the comparative reassurance 
of the street he asked if he might call that afternoon. 

Archer, at ease in the midsummer leisure of the office, 
fixed an hour and scribbled his address, which the French- 
man pocketed with reiterated thanks and a wide flourish 
of his hat. A horse-car received him, and Archer walked 
away. 

Punctually at the hour M. Riviere appeared, shaved, 
smoothed-out, but still unmistakably drawn and serious. 

[250] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Archer was alone in his office, and the young man, be- 
fore accepting the seat he proffered, began abruptly : "I 
believe I saw you, sir, yesterday in Boston." 

The statement was insignificant enough, and Archer 
was about to frame an assent when his words were 
checked by something mysterious yet illuminating in his 
visitor's insistent gaze. 

"It is extraordinary, very extraordinary," M. Riviere 
continued, "that we should have met in the circumstances 
in which I find myself." 

"What circumstances ?" Archer asked, wondering a lit- 
tle crudely if he needed money. 

M. Riviere continued to study him with tentative eyes. 
"I have come, not to look for employment, as I spoke of 
doing when we last met, but on a special mission " 

"Ah !" Archer exclaimed. In a flash the two meet- 
ings had connected themselves in his mind. He paused 
to take in the situation thus suddenly lighted up for him, 
and M. Riviere also remained silent, as if aware that 
what he had said was enough. 

"A special mission," Archer at length repeated. 

The young Frenchman, opening his palms, raised them 
slightly, and the two men continued to look at each other 
across the office-desk till Archer roused himself to say: 
"Do sit down"; whereupon M. Riviere bowed, took a 
distant chair, and again waited. 

"It was about this mission that you wanted to consult 
me?" Archer finally asked. 

M. Riviere bent his head. "Not in my own behalf: 
on that score I I have fully dealt with myself. I should 
like if I may to speak to you about the Countess 
Olenska." 

Archer had known for the last few minutes that the 
words were coming; but when they came they sent the 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

blood rushing to his temples as if he had been caught 
by a bent-back branch in a thicket. 

"And on whose behalf," he said, "do you wish to do 
this?" 

M. Riviere met the question sturdily. "Well I might 
say hers, if it did not sound like a liberty. Shall I say 
instead: on behalf of abstract justice?" 

Archer considered him ironically. "In other words: 
you are Count Olenski's messenger ?" 

He saw his blush more darkly reflected in 'M. Riviere's 
sallow countenance. "Not to you, Monsieur. If I come 
to you, it is on quite other grounds." 

"What right have you, in the circumstances, to be on 
any other ground?" Archer retorted. "If you're an 
emissary you're an emissary." 

' The young man considered. "My mission is over: as 
far as the Countess Olenska goes, it has failed." 

"I can't help that," Archer rejoined on the same note 
f irony. 

"No : but you can help " M. Riviere paused, turned 
his hat about in his still carefully gloved hands, looked 
into its lining and then back at Archer's face. "You can 
help, Monsieur, I am convinced, to make it equally a 
failure with her family." 

Archer pushed back his chair and stood up. "Well 
and by God I will!" he exclaimed. He stood with his 
hands in his pockets, staring down wrathf ully at the little 
Frenchman, whose face, though he too had risen, was 
still an inch or two below the line of Archer's eyes. 

M. Riviere paled to his normal hue: paler than that 
his complexion could hardly turn. 

"Why the devil," Archer explosively continued, "should 
you have thought since I suppose you're appealing to me 
on the ground of my relationship to Madame Olenska 

[252] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

that I should take a view contrary to the rest of her 
family?" 

The change of expression in M Riviere's face was for 
a time his only answer. His look passed from timidity 
to absolute distress: for a young man of his usually 
resourceful mien it would have been difficult to appear 
more disarmed and defenceless. "Oh, Monsieur " 

"I can't imagine," Archer continued, "why you should 
have come to me when there are others so much nearer 
to the 'Countess ; still less why you thought I should be 
more accessible to the arguments I suppose you were sent 
over with." 

M. Riviere took this onslaught with a disconcerting 
humility. "The arguments I want to present to you, 
Monsieur, are my own and not those I was sent over 
with." 

"Then I see still less reason for listening to them." 

M. Riviere again looked into his hat, as if considering 
whether these last words were not a sufficiently broad 
hint to put it on and be gone. Then he spoke with sud- 
den decision. "Monsieur will you tell me one thing? 
Is it my right to be here that you question? Or do you 
perhaps believe the whole matter to be already closed ?" 

His quiet insistence made Archer feel the clumsiness 
of his own bluster. M. Riviere had succeeded in impos- 
ing himself: Archer, reddening slightly, dropped into his 
chair again, and signed to the young man to be seated. 

"I beg your pardon : but why isn't the matter closed ?" 

M. Riviere gazed back at him with anguish. "You do, 
then, agree with the rest of the family that, in face of 
the new proposals I have brought, it is hardly possible 
for Madame Olenska not to return to her husband?" 

"Good God !" Archer exclaimed ; and his visitor gave 
out a low murmur of confirmation. 

[253] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Before seeing her, I saw at Count Olenski's request 
Mr. Lovell Mingott, with whom I had several talks 
before going to Boston. I understand that he represents 
his mother's view; and that Mrs. Manson Mingott's 
influence is great throughout her family." 

Archer sat silent, with the sense of clinging to the 
edge of a sliding precipice. The discovery that he had 
been excluded from a share in these negotiations, and 
even from the knowledge that they were on foot, caused 
him a surprise hardly dulled by the acuter wonder of 
what he was learning. He saw in a flash that if the 
family had ceased to consult him it was because some 
deep tribal instinct warned them that he was no longer 
on their side; and he recalled, with a start of compre- 
hension, a remark of May's during their drive home 
from Mrs. Manson Mingott's on the day of the Archery 
Meeting: "Perhaps, after all, Ellen would be happier 
with her husband." 

Even in the tumult of new discoveries Archer remem- 
bered his indignant exclamation, and the fact that since 
then his wife had never named Madame Olenska to him. 
Her careless allusion had no doubt been the straw held 
up to see which way the wind blew ; the result had been 
reported to the family, and thereafter Archer had been 
tacitly omitted from their counsels. He admired the 
tribal discipline which made May bow to this decision. 
She would not have done so, he knew, had her con- 
science protested ; but she probably shared the family view 
that Madame Olenska would be better off as an unhappy 
wife than as a separated one, and that there was no use 
in discussing the case with Newland. who had an awk- 
ward way of suddenly not seeming to take the most 
fundamental things for granted. 

Archer looked up and met his visitor's anxious gaze* 
[254] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

""Don't you know, Monsieur is it possible you don't 
know that the family begin to doubt if they have the 
right to advise the Countess to refuse her husband's last 
proposals ?" 

"The proposals you brought?" 

"The proposals I brought." 

It was on Archer's lips to exclaim that whatever he 
knew or did not know was no concern of M. Riviere's; 
but something in the humble and yet courageous tenacity 
of M. Riviere's gaze made him reject this conclusion, 
and he met the young man's question with another. 
"What is your object in speaking to me of this?" 

He had not to wait a moment for the answer. "To 
beg you, Monsieur to beg you with all the force I'm 
capable of not to let her go back. Oh, don't let her!" 
M. Riviere exclaimed. 

Archer looked at him with increasing astonishment. 
There was no mistaking the sincerity of his distress or 
the strength of his determination: he had evidently re- 
solved to let everything go by the board but the supreme 
need of thus putting himself on record. Archer con- 
sidered. 

"May I ask," he said at length, "if this is the line you 
took with the Countess Olenska?" 

M. Riviere reddened, but his eyes did not falter. "No, 
Monsieur: I accepted my mission in good faith. I really 
believed for reasons I need not trouble you with that 
it would be better for Madame Olenska to recover her 
situation, her fortune, the social consideration that her 
husband's standing gives her." 

"So I supposed : you could hardly have accepted such 
a mission otherwise." 

"I should not have accepted it." 
[255] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Well, then ?" Archer paused again, and their eyes 
met in another protracted scrutiny. 

"Ah, Monsieur, after I had seen her, after I had 
listened to her, I knew she was better off here." 

"You knew?" 

"Monsieur, I discharged my mission faithfully : I put 
the Count's arguments, I stated his offers, without adding 
any comment of my own. The Countess was good enough 
to listen patiently; she carried her goodness so far as to 
see me twice; she considered impartially all I had come 
to say. And it was in the course of these two talks that 
I changed my mind, that I came to see things differently." 

"May I ask what led to this change?" 

"Simply seeing the change in her" M. Riviere replied. 

"The change in her? Then you knew her before?" 

The young man's colour again rose. "I used to see 
her in her husband's house. I have known Count Olen- 
ski for many years. You can imagine that he would not 
have sent a stranger on such a mission." 

Archer's gaze, wandering away to the blank walls of 
the office, rested on a hanging calendar surmounted by 
the rugged features of the President of the United States. 
That such a conversation should be going on anywhere 
within the millions of square miles subject to his rule 
seemed as strange as anything that the imagination could 
invent. 

"The change what sort of a change ?" 

"Ah, Monsieur, if I could tell you!" M. Riviere 
paused. "Tenez the discovery, I suppose, of what I'd 
never thought of before: that she's an American. And 
that if you're an American of her kind of your kind 
things that are accepted in certain other societies, or at 
least put up with as part of a general convenient give-and- 
take become unthinkable, simply unthinkable. If Ma- 

[256] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

idame Olenska's relations understood what these things 
were, their opposition to her returning would no doubt 
be as unconditional as her own ; but they seem to regard 
her husband's wish to have her back as proof of an 
irresistible longing for domestic life." M. Riviere paused, 
and then added : "Whereas it's far from being as simple 
as that." 

Archer looked back to the President of the United 
States, and then down at his desk and at the papers 
scattered on it. For a second or two he could not trust 
himself to speak. During this interval he heard M. 
Riviere's chair pushed back, and was aware that the 
young man had risen. When he glanced up again he 
saw that his visitor was as moved as himself. 

"Thank you," Archer said simply. 

"There's nothing to thank me for, Monsieur: it is I, 
rather M. Riviere broke off, as if speech for him 
too were difficult. "I should like, though," he continued 
in a firmer voice, "to add one thing. You asked me if I 
was in Count Olenski's employ. I am at this moment: 
I returned to him, a few months ago, for reasons of 
private necessity such as may happen to any one who 
has persons, ill and older persons, dependent on him. 
But from the moment that I have taken the step of com- 
ing here to say these things to you I consider myself 
discharged, and I shall tell him so on my return, and 
give him the reasons. That's all, Monsieur." 

M. Riviere bowed and drew back a step. 

"Thank you," Archer said again, as their hands met. 






XXVI 

EVERY year on the fifteenth of October Fifth Avenue 
opened its shutters, unrolled its carpets and hung 
up its triple layer of window-curtains. 

By the first of November this household ritual was 
over, and society had begun to look about and take stock 
of itself. By the fifteenth the season was in full blast, 
Opera and theatres were putting forth their new attrac- 
tions, dinner-engagements were accumulating, and dates 
for dances being fixed. And punctually at about this 
time Mrs. Archer always said that New York was very 
much changed. 

Observing it from the lofty stand-point of a non- 
participant, she was able, with the help of Mr. Sillerton 
Jackson and Miss Sophy, to trace each new crack in its 
surface, and all the strange weeds pushing up between 
the ordered rows of social vegetables. It had been one 
of the amusements of Archer's youth to wait for this 
annual pronouncement of his mother's, and to hear her 
enumerate the minute signs of disintegration that his 
careless gaze had overlooked. For New York, to Mrs. 
Archer's mind, never changed without changing for the 
worse; and in this view 'Miss Sophy Jackson heartily 
concurred. 

Mr. Sillerton Jackson, as became a man of the world, 
suspended his judgment and listened with an amused 
impartiality to the lamentations of the ladies. But even 
he never denied that New York had changed ; and New- 

[258] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

land Archer, in the winter of the second year of his 
marriage, was himself obliged to admit that if it had not 
actually changed it was certainly changing. 

These points had been raised, as usual, at Mrs. Archer's 
Thanksgiving dinner. At the date when she was officially 
enjoined to give thanks for the blessings of the year it 
was her habit to take a mournful though not embittered 
stock of her world, and wonder what there was to be 
thankful for. At any rate, not the state of society; 
society, if it could be said to exist, was rather a spectacle 
on which to call down Biblical imprecations and in fact, 
every one knew what the Reverend Dr. Ashmore meant 
when he chose a text from Jeremiah (chap, ii., verse 25) 
for his Thanksgiving sermon. Dr. Ashmore, the new 
Rector of St. Matthew's, had been chosen because he was 
very "advanced": his sermons were considered bold in 
thought and novel in language. When he fulminated 
against fashionable society he always spoke of its "trend" ; 
and to Mrs. Archer it was terrifying and yet fascinating 
to feel herself part of a community that was trending. 
: "There's no doubt that Dr. Ashmore is right : there is a 
marked trend," she said, as if it were something visible 
and measurable, like a crack in a house. 

"It was odd, though, to preach about it on Thanks- 
giving," Miss Jackson opined; and her hostess drily re- 
joined : "Oh, he means us to give thanks for what's left." 

Archer had been wont to smile at these annual vaticina- 
tions of his mother's; but this year even he was obliged 
to acknowledge, as he listened to an enumeration of the 
changes, that the "trend" was visible. 

"The extravagance in dress " Miss Jackson began. 
"Sillerton took me to the first night of the Opera, and I 
can only tell you that Jane Merry's dress was the only 
one I recognised from last year; and even that had had 

[259] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the front panel changed. Yet I know she got it out from 
Worth only two years ago, because my seamstress always 
goes in to make over her Paris dresses before she wears 
them." 

"Ah, Jane 'Merry is one of us," said Mrs. Archer sigh- 
ing, as if it were not such an enviable thing to be in an 
age when ladies were beginning to flaunt abroad their 
Paris dresses as soon as they were out of the Custom 
House, instead of letting them mellow under lock and 
key, in the manner of Mrs. Archer's contemporaries. 

"Yes ; she's one of the few. In my youth," Miss Jack- 
son rejoined, "it was considered vulgar to dress in the 
newest fashions; and Amy Sillerton has always told me 
that in Boston the rule was to put away one's Paris 
dresses for two years. Old Mrs. Baxter Pennilow, who 
did everything handsomely, used to import twelve a year, 
two velvet, two satin, two silk, and the other six of 
poplin and the finest cashmere. It was a standing order, 
and as she was ill for two years before she died they 
found forty-eight Worth dresses that had never been 
taken out of tissue paper; and when the girls left off 
their mourning they were able to wear the first lot at 
the Symphony concerts without looking in advance of the 
fashion." 

"Ah, well, Boston is more conservative than New 
York; but I always think it's a safe rule for a lady to 
lay aside her French dresses for one season," Mrs. 
Archer conceded. 

"It was Beaufort who started the new fashion by mak- 
ing his wife clap her new clothes on her back as soon 
as they arrived : I must say at times it takes all Regina's 
distinction not to look like . . . like . . ." Miss Jackson 
glanced around the table, caught Janey's bulging gaze, 
and took refuge in an unintelligible murmur. 

J200] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Like her rivals/' said Mr. Sillerton Jackson, with the 
air of producing an epigram. 

"Oh, " the ladies murmured ; and Mrs. Archer added, 
partly to distract her daughter's attention from forbidden 
topics: "Poor Regina! Her Thanksgiving hasn't been 
a very cheerful one, I'm afraid. Have you heard the 
rumours about Beaufort's speculations, Sillerton?" 

Mr. Jackson nodded carelessly. Every one had heard 
the rumours in question, and he scorned to confirm a tale 
that was already common property. 

A gloomy silence fell upon the party. No one really 
liked Beaufort, and it was not wholly unpleasant to think 
the worst of his private life; but the idea of his having 
brought financial dishonour on his wife's family was too 
shocking to be enjoyed even by his enemies. Archer ; s 
New York tolerated hypocrisy in private relations; but 
in business matters it exacted a limpid and impeccable 
honesty. It was a long time since any well-known banker 
had failed discreditably; but every one remembered the 
social extinction visited on the heads of the firm when 
the last event of the kind had happened. It would be 
the same with the Beauforts, in spite of his power and 
her popularity ; not all the leagued strength of the Dallas 
connection would save poor Regina if there were any 
truth in the reports of her husband's unlawful specula- 
tions. 

The talk took refuge in less ominous topics ; but every- 
thing they touched on seemed to confirm Mrs. Archer's 
sense of an accelerated trend. 

"Of course, Newland, I know you let dear May go to 
Mrs. Struthers's Sunday evenings " she began; and 
May interposed gaily : "Oh, you know, everybody goes 
to Mrs. Struthers's now ; and she was invited to Granny's 
last reception." 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

It was thus, Archer reflected, that New York managed 
its transitions: conspiring to ignore them till they were 
well over, and then, in all good faith, imagining that they 
had taken place in a preceding age. There was always 
a traitor in the citadel; and after he (or generally she) 
had surrendered the keys, what was the use of pretending 
that it was impregnable? Once people had tasted of Mrs. 
Struthers's easy Sunday hospitality they were not likely to* 
sit at home remembering that her champagne was trans- 
muted Shoe-Polish. 

"I know, dear, I know," Mrs. Archer sighed. "Such 
things have to be, I suppose, as long as amusement is 
what people go out for; but I've never quite forgiven 
your cousin Madame Olenska for being the first person 
to countenance Mrs. Struthers." 

A sudden blush rose to young Mrs. Archer's face; it 
surprised her husband as much as the other guests about 
the table. "Oh, Ellen " she murmured, much in the 
same accusing and yet deprecating tone in which her 
parents might have said : "Oh, the Blenkers ." 

It was the note which the family had taken to sound- 
ing on the mention of the Countess Olenska's name, since 
she had surprised and inconvenienced them by remaining 
obdurate to her husband's advances; but on May's lips 
it gave food for thought, and Archer looked at her with 
the sense of strangeness that sometimes came over him 
when she was most in the tone of her environment. 

His mother, with less than her usual sensitiveness to 
atmosphere, still insisted: "I've always thought that peo- 
ple like the Countess Olenska, who have lived in aristo- 
cratic societies, ought to help us to keep up our social 
distinctions, instead of ignoring them." 

May's blush remained permanently vivid: it seemed 

[262] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

to have a significance beyond that implied by the recog- 
nition of Madame Olenska's social bad faith. 

"I've no doubt we all seem alike to foreigners," said 
Miss Jackson tartly. 

"I don't think Ellen cares for society; but nobody 
knows exactly what she does care for," May continued, 
as if she had been groping for something noncommittal. 

"Ah, well " Mrs. Archer sighed again. 

Everybody knew that the Countess Olenska was no 
longer in the good graces of her family. Even her 
devoted champion, old Mrs. Manson Mingott, had been 
unable to defend her refusal to return to her husband. 
The Mingotts had not proclaimed their disapproval 
aloud: their sense of solidarity was too strong. They 
had simply, as Mrs. Welland said, "let poor Ellen find 
her own level" and that, mortifyingly and incompre- 
hensibly, was in the dim depths where the Blenkers pre- 
vailed, and "people who wrote" celebrated their untidy 
rites. It was incredible, but it was a fact, that Ellen, ir 
spite of all her opportunities and her privileges, had 
become simply "Bohemian." The fact enforced the con- 
tention that she had made a fatal mistake in not return- 
ing to Count Olenski. After all, a young woman's place 
was under her husband's roof, especially when she had 
left it in circumstances that . . . well ... if one had 
cared to look into them . . . 

"Madame Olenska is a great favourite with the gentle- 
men," said Miss Sophy, with her air of wishing to put 
forth something conciliatory when she knew that she was 
planting a dart. 

"Ah, that's the danger that a young woman like 
Madame Olenska is always exposed to," Mrs. Archer 
mournfully agreed; and the ladies, on this conclusion, 
gathered up their trains to seek the carcel globes of the 

[263] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

drawing-room, while Archer and Mr. Sillerton Jacksott 
withdrew to the Gothic library. 

Once established before the grate, and consoling him- 
self for the inadequacy* of the dinner by the perfection 
of his cigar, Mr. Jackson became portentous and com- 
,municable. 

"If the Beaufort smash comes," he announced, "there 
are going to be disclosures." 

Archer raised his head quickly: he could never hear 
the name without the sharp vision of Beaufort's heavy 
figure, opulently furred and shod, advancing through the 
snow at Skuytercliff. 

"There's bound to be," 'Mr. Jackson continued, "the 
nastiest kind of a cleaning up. He hasn't spent all his 
money on Regina." 

"Oh, well that's discounted, isn't it? My belief is 
he'll pull out yet," said the young man, wanting to change 
the subject. 

"Perhaps perhaps. I know he was to see some of the 
influential people today. Of course," Mr. Jackson reluc- 
tantly conceded, "it's to be hoped they can tide him over 
this time anyhow. I shouldn't like to think of poor 
Regina's spending the rest of her life in some shabby 
foreign watering-place for bankrupts." 

Archer said nothing. It seemed to him so natural 
however tragic that money ill-gotten should be cruelly 
expiated, that his mind, hardly lingering over Mrs. Beau- 
fort's doom, wandered back to closer questions. What 
Was the meaning of 'May's blush when the Countess 
Olenska had been mentioned ? 

Four months had passed since the midsummer day that 
he and Madame Olenska had spent together; and since 
then he had not seen her. He knew that she had re- 
turned to Washington, to the little house which she and 

[264! 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Medora Manson had taken there : he had written to her 
once a few words, asking when they were to meet again 
and she had even more briefly replied: "Not yet." 

Since then there had been no farther communication 
between them, and he had built up within himself a kind 
'of sanctuary in which she throned among his secret 
thoughts and longings. Little by little it became the 
scene of his real life, of his only rational activities; 
thither he brought the books he read, the ideas and feel- 
ings which nourished him, his judgments and his visions. 
Outside it, in the scene of his actual life, he moved with 
a growing sense of unreality and insufficiency, blundering 
against familiar prejudices and traditional points of view 
as an absent-minded man goes on bumping into the furni- 
ture of his own room. Absent that was what he was: 
so absent from everything most densely real and near 
to those about him that it sometimes startled him to find 
they still imagined he was there. 

He became aware that Mr. Jackson was clearing his 
throat preparatory to farther revelations. 

"I don't know, of course, how far your wife's family 
are aware of what people say about well, about Madame 
Olenska's refusal to accept her husband's latest offer." 

Archer was silent, and Mr. Jackson obliquely con- 
tinued: "It's a pity it's certainly a pity that she re- 
fused it." 

"A pity? In God's name, why?" 

Mr. Jackson looked down his leg to the unwrinkled 
sock that joined it to a glossy pump. 

"Well to put it on the lowest ground what's she 
going to live on now?" 

"Now?" 

"If Beaufort" 

Archer sprang up, his fist banging down on the black 

[2653 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE < 

walnut-edge of the writing-table. The wells of the brasS 
double-inkstand danced in their sockets. 

"What the devil do you mean, sir ?" 

Mr. Jackson, shifting himself slightly in his chair, 
turned a tranquil gaze on the young man's burning face. 

"Well I have it on pretty good authority in fact, 
on old Catherine's herself that the family reduced Coun- 
tess Olenska's allowance considerably when she definitely 
refused to go back to her husband ; and as, by this refusal, 
:she also forfeits the money settled on her when she mar- 
ried which Olenski was ready to make over to her if 
she returned why, what the devil do you mean, my dear 
boy, by asking me what / mean?" Mr. Jackson good- 
humouredly retorted. 

Archer moved toward the mantelpiece and bent over 
to knock his ashes into the grate. 

"I don't know anything of Madame Olenska's private 
affairs; but I don't need to, to be certain that what you 
insinuate " 

"Oh, / don't: it's Lefferts, for one," Mr. Jackson 
interposed. 

"Lefferts who made love to her and got snubbed for 
it !" Archer broke out contemptuously. 

"Ah did he?" snapped the other, as if this were 
exactly the fact he had been laying a trap for. He still 
sat sideways from the fire, so that his hard old gaze held 
Archer's face as if in a spring of steel. 

"Well, well : it's a pity she didn't go back before Beau* 
fort's cropper," he repeated. "If she goes now, and if 
he fails, it will only confirm the general impression: 
which isn't by any means peculiar to Lefferts, by the 
way." 

"Oh, she won't go back now : less than ever !" Archer 
had no sooner said it than he had once more the feeling 

[266] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

that it was exactly what Mr. Jackson had been waiting 
for. 

The old gentleman considered him attentively. "That's 
your opinion, eh ? Well, no doubt you know. But every- 
body will tell you that the few pennies Medora Manson 
has left are all in Beaufort's hands; and how the two 
women are to keep their heads above water unless he 
does, I can't imagine. Of course, Madame Olenska may 
still soften old Catherine, who's been the most inexorably 
opposed to her staying; and old Catherine could make 
her any allowance she chooses. But we all know that she 
hates parting with good money; and the rest of the 
family have no particular interest in keeping Madame 
Olenska here." 

' Archer was burning with unavailing wrath: he was 
exactly in the state when a man is sure to do something 
stupid, knowing all the while that he is doing it. 

He saw that Mr. Jackson had been instantly struck by 
the fact that Madame Olenska's differences with her 
grandmother and her other relations were not known to 
him, and that the old gentleman had drawn his own con- 
clusions as to the reasons for Archer's exclusion from the 
family councils. This fact warned Archer to go warily ; 
but the insinuations about Beaufort made him reckless. 
He was mindful, however, if not of his own danger, at 
least of the fact that Mr. Jackson was under his mother's 
roof, and consequently his guest. Old New York scrupu- 
lously observed the etiquette of hospitality, and no dis- 
cussion with a guest was ever allowed to degenerate into 
a disagreement. 

"Shall we go up and join my mother?" he suggested 
curtly, as Mr. Jackson's last cone of ashes dropped into 
the brass ash-tray at his elbow. 

On the drive homeward May remained oddly silent: 
[267] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

through the darkness, he still felt her enveloped in hef 
menacing blush. What its menace meant he could not 
guess: but he was sufficiently warned by the fact that 
Madame Olenska's name had evoked it. 

They went upstairs, and he turned into the library. 
She usually followed him ; but he heard her passing down 
the passage to her bedroom. 

"May !" he called out impatiently ; and she came back, 
with a slight glance of surprise at his tone. 

"This lamp is smoking again; I should think the 
servants might see that it's kept properly trimmed," he 
grumbled nervously. 

"I'm so sorry: it shan't happen again," she answered, 
in the firm bright tone she had learned from her mother ; 
and it exasperated Archer to feel that she was already 
beginning to humour him like a younger Mr. Welland. 
She bent over to lower the wick, and as the light struck 
up on her white shoulders and the clear curves of her 
face he thought : "How young she is ! For what endless 
years this life will have to go on!" 

He felt, with a kind of horror, his own strong youth 
and the bounding blood in his veins. "Look here," he 
said suddenly, "I may have to go to Washington for a 
few days soon ; next week perhaps." 

Her hand remained on the key of the lamp as she 
turned to him slowly. The heat from its flame had 
brought back a glow to her face, but it paled as she 
looked up. 

"On business ?" she asked, in a tone which implied that 
there could be no other conceivable reason, and that she 
had put the question automatically, as if merely to finish 
his own sentence. 

"On business, naturally. There's a patent case coming 
up before the Supreme Court " He gave the name of 

[268] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the inventor, and went on furnishing details with all 
Lawrence Lefferts's practised glibness, while she listened 
attentively, saying at intervals: "Yes, I see." 

"The change will do you good," she said simply, when 
he had finished; "and you must be sure to go and see 
Ellen," she added, looking him straight in the eyes with 
her cloudless smile, and speaking in the tone she might 
have employed in urging him not to neglect some irksome 
family duty. 

It was the only word that passed between them on- 
the subject ; but in the code in which they had both been 
trained it meant: "Of course you understand that I 
know all that people have been saying about Ellen, and 
heartily sympathise with my family in their effort to get 
her to return to her husband. I also know that, for some 
reason you have not chosen to tell me, you have advised 
her against this course, which all the older men of the 
family, as well as our grandmother, agree in approving; 
and that it is owing to your encouragement that Ellen 
defies us all, and exposes herself to the kind of criticism 
of which Mr. Sillerton Jackson probably gave you, this 
evening, the hint that has made you so irritable. . . 
Hints have indeed not been wanting ; but since you appear 
unwilling to take them from others, I offer you this one 
myself, in the only form in which well-bred people of our 
kind can communicate unpleasant things to each other: 
by letting you understand that I know you mean to see 
Ellen when you are in Washington, and are perhaps 
going there expressly for that purpose; and that, since 
you are sure to see her, I wish you to do so with my 
full and explicit approval and to take the opportunity 
of letting her know what the course of conduct you have 
encouraged her in is likely to lead to." 

Her hand was still on the key of the lamp when the 
[269] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

last word of this mute message reached him. She turned 
the wick down, lifted off the globe, and breathed on the 
sulky flame. 

"They smell less if one blows them out," she explained, 
with her bright housekeeping air. On the threshold she 
turned and paused for his kiss. 



XXVII 

WALL STREET, the next day, had more reassur- 
ing reports of Beaufort's situation. They were- 
not definite, but they were hopeful. It was generally 
understood that he could call on powerful influences in 
case of emergency, and that he had done so with success ; 
and that evening, when Mrs. Beaufort appeared at the 
Opera wearing her old smile and a new emerald neck- 
lace, society drew a breath of relief. 

New York was inexorable in its condemnation of 
business irregularities. So far there had been no excep- 
tion to its tacit rule that those who broke the law of 
probity must pay; and every one was aware that even 
Beaufort and Beaufort's wife would be offered up un- 
flinchingly to this principle. But to be obliged to offer 
them up would be not only painful but inconvenient. 
The disappearance of the Beauforts would leave a con- 
siderable void in their compact little circle; and those 
who were too ignorant or too careless to shudder at 
the moral catastrophe bewailed in advance the loss of 
the best ball-room in New York. 

Archer had definitely made up his mind to go to> 
Washington. He was waiting only for the* opening of 
the law-suit of which he had spoken to May, so that its 
date might coincide with that of his visit; but on the 
following Tuesday he learned from Mr. Letterblair that 
the case might be postponed for several weeks. Never- 
theless, he went home that afternoon determined in any 

[271] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

event to leave the next evening. The chances were that' 
May, who knew nothing of his professional life, and 
had never shown any interest in it, would not learn of 
the postponement, should it take place, nor remember 
the names of the litigants if they were mentioned before 
her; and at any rate he could no longer put off seeing 
Madame Olenska. There were too many things that he 
must say to her. 

On the Wednesday morning, when he reached his \ 
office, Mr. Letterblair met him with a troubled face. 
Beaufort, after all, had not managed to "tide over"; but 
by setting afloat the rumour that he had done so he had 
reassured his depositors, and heavy payments had poured 
into the bank till the previous evening, when disturbing 
reports again began to predominate. In consequence, a I 
run on the bank had begun, and its doors were likely to I 
close before the day was over. The ugliest things were 
being said of Beaufort's dastardly manoeuvre, and his 
failure promised to be one of the most discreditable in 
the history of Wall Street. 

The extent of the calamity left Mr. Letterblair whites 
and incapacitated. "I've seen bad things in my time; 
but nothing as bad as this. Everybody we know will be 
hit, one way or another. And what will be done abouli 
Mrs. Beaufort? What can be done about her? I pity 
Mrs. Manson Mingott as much as anybody: coming at 
her age, there's no knowing what effect this affair may 
have on her. She always believed in Beaufort she; 
made a friend of him! And there's the whole Dallas 1 
connection : poor Mrs. Beaufort is related to every one ' 
of you. Her only chance would be to leave her husband 
yet how can any one tell her so? Her duty is at his 
side; and luckily she seems always to have been blind to 
his private weaknesses." 

[272! 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

There was a knock, and Mr. Letterblair turned his 
head sharply. "What is it? I can't be disturbed." 

A clerk brought in a letter for Archer and withdrew. 
Recognising his wife's hand, the young man opened the 
envelope and read: "Won't you please come up town 
as early as you can? Granny had a slight stroke last 
night. In some mysterious way she found out before 
any one else this awful news about the bank. Uncle 
Lovell is away shooting, and the idea of the disgrace 
has made poor Papa so nervous that he has a temperature 
and can't leave his room. Mamma needs you dreadfully, 
and I do hope you can get away at once and go straight 
to Granny's." 

Archer handed the note to his senior partner, and a 
few minutes later was crawling northward in a crowded 
horse-car, which he exchanged at Fourteenth Street for 
one of the high staggering omnibuses of the Fifth Avenue 
line. It was after twelve o'clock when this laborious 
vehicle dropped him at old Catherine's. The sitting- 
room window on the ground floor, where she usually 
throned, was tenanted by the inadequate figure of her 
daughter, Mrs. Welland, who signed a haggard welcome 
as she caught sight of Archer; and at the door he was 
met by May. The hall wore the unnatural appearance 
peculiar to well-kept houses suddenly invaded by illness : 
wraps and furs lay in heaps on the chairs, a doctor's bag 
and overcoat were on the table, and beside them letters 
and cards had already piled up unheeded. 

'May looked pale but smiling: Dr. Bencomb, who had 
just come for the second time, took a more hopeful view, 
and Mrs. Mingott's dauntless determination to live and 
get well was already having an effect on her family. 
May led Archer into the old lady's sitting-room, where 
the sliding doors opening into the bedroom had been 

[2731 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

drawn shut, and the heavy yellow damask portieres 
dropped over them; and here Mrs. Welland communi- 
cated to him in horrified undertones the details of the 
catastrophe. It appeared that the evening before some- 
thing dreadful and mysterious had happened. At about 
eight o'clock, just after Mrs. Mingott had finished the 
game of solitaire that she always played after dinner, the 
door-bell had rung, and a lady so thickly veiled that the 
servants did not immediately recognise her had asked to 
be received. 

The butler, hearing a familiar voice, had thrown open 
the sitting-room door, announcing: "Mrs. Julius Beau- 
fort" and had then closed it again on the two ladies. 
They must have been together, he thought, about an hour. 
When Mrs. Mingott's bell rang Mrs. Beaufort had al- 
ready slipped away unseen, and the old lady, white and 
vast and terrible, sat alone in her great chair, and signed 
to the butler to help her into her room. She seemed, at 
that time, though obviously distressed, in complete con- 
trol of her body and brain. The mulatto maid put her 
to bed, brought her a cup of tea as usual, laid everything 
straight in the room, and went away ; but at three in the 
morning the bell rang again, and the two servants, hasten- 
ing in at this unwonted summons (for old Catherine 
usually slept like -a baby) , had found their mistress sit- 
ting up against her pillows with a crooked smile on her 
face and one little hand hanging limp from its huge arm. 

The stroke had clearly been a slight one, for she was 
able to articulate and to make her wishes known; and 
soon after the doctor's first visit she had begun to regain 
control of her facial muscles. But the alarm had been 
great; and proportionately great was the indignation" 
when it was gathered from Mrs. Mingott's fragmentary 
phrases that Regina Beaufort had come to ask her 

[274] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

incredible effrontery ! to back up her husband, see them 
through not to "desert" them, as she called it in fact 
to induce the whole family to cover and condone their 
monstrous dishonour. 

"I said to her: 'Honour's always been honour, and 
honesty honesty, in Manson Mingott's house, and will be 
iill I'm carried out of it feet first/ " the old woman had 
stammered into her daughter's ear, in the thick voice of 
the partly paralysed. "And when she said: 'But my 
name, Auntie my name's Regina Dallas/ I said: 'It 
was Beaufort when he covered you with jewels, and it's 
got to stay Beaufort now that he's covered you with 
shame/ " 

So much, with tears and gasps of horror, 'Mrs. Welland 
imparted, blanched and demolished by the unwonted 
obligation of having at last to fix her eyes on the un- 
pleasant and the discreditable. "If only I could keep it 
from your father-in-law: he always says: 'Augusta, for 
pity's sake, don't destroy my last illusions' and how am 
I to prevent his knowing these horrors?" the poor lady 
wailed. 

"After all, Mamma, he won't have seen them," her 
daughter suggested ; and Mrs. Welland sighed : "Ah, no ; 
thank heaven he's safe in bed. And Dr. Bencomb has 
promised to keep him there till poor Mamma is better, 
and Regina has been got away somewhere/' 

Archer had seated himself near the window and was 
gazing out blankly at the deserted thoroughfare. It was 
evident that he had been summoned rather for the moral 
support of the stricken ladies than because of any spe- 
cific aid that he could render. Mr. Lovell Mingott had 
been telegraphed for, and messages were being despatched 
by hand to the members of the family living in New 
York; and meanwhile there was nothing to do but to 

[275] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

discuss in hushed tones the consequences of Beaufort's 
dishonour and of his wife's unjustifiable action. 

Mrs. Lovell Mingott, who had been in another room 
writing notes, presently reappeared, and added her voice 
to the discussion. In their day, the elder ladies agreed, 
the wife of a man who had done anything disgraceful 
in business had only one idea: to efface herself, to dis- 
appear with him. "There was the case of poor Grand- 
mamma Spicer; your great-grandmother, May. Of 
course," Mrs. Welland hastened to add, "your great- 
grandfather's money difficulties were private losses at 
cards, or signing a note for somebody I never quite 
knew, because Mamma would never speak of it. But 
she was brought up in the country because her mother 
had to leave New York after the disgrace, whatever it 
was : they lived up the Hudson alone, winter and summer, 
till Mamma was sixteen. It would never have occurred 
to Grandmamma Spicer to ask the family to 'countenance* 
her, as I understand Regina calls it; though a private 
disgrace is nothing compared to the scandal of ruining 
hundreds of innocent people." 

"Yes, it would be more becoming in Regina to hide 
her own countenance than to talk about other people's," 
'Mrs. Lovell Mingott agreed. "I understand that the 
emerald necklace she wore at the Opera last Friday had 
been sent on approval from Ball and Black's in the after- 
noon. I wonder if they'll ever get it back?" 

Archer listened unmoved to the relentless chorus. The 
idea of absolute financial probity as the first law of a 
gentleman's code was too deeply ingrained in him for 
sentimental considerations to weaken it. An adventurer 
like Lemuel Struthers might build up the millions of his 
Shoe Polish on any number of shady dealings; but un* 
blemished honesty was the noblesse oblige of old finan- 

[276] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

cial New York. Nor did Mrs. Beaufort's fate greatly 
move Archer. He felt, no doubt, more sorry for her 
than her indignant relatives; but it seemed to him that 
the tie between husband and wife, even if breakable in 
prosperity, should be indissoluble in misfortune. As 
Mr. Letterblair had said, a wife's place was at her hus- 
band's side when he was in trouble; but society's place 
was not at his side, and Mrs. Beaufort's cool assumption 
that it was seemed almost to make her his accomplice. 
The mere idea of a woman's appealing to her family to 
screen her husband's business dishonour was inadmis- 
sible, since it was the one thing that the Family, as an 
institution, could not do. 

The mulatto maid called Mrs. Lovell Mingott into 
the hall, and the latter came back in a moment with a 
frowning brow. 

"She wants me to telegraph for Ellen Olenska. I had 
written to Ellen, of course, and to Medora; but now it 
seems that's not enough. I'm to telegraph to her im- 
mediately, and to tell her that she's to come alone." 

The announcement was received in silence. Mrs. Wel- 
land sighed resignedly, and May rose from her seat and 
went to gather up some newspapers that had been scat- 
tered on the floor. 

"I suppose it must be done," Mrs. Lovell Mingott 
continued, as if hoping to be contradicted; and May 
turned back toward the middle of the room. 

"Of course it must be done," she said. "Granny 
knows what she wants, and we must carry out all her 
wishes. Shall I write the telegram for you, Auntie? 
If it goes at once Ellen can probably catch tomorrow 
morning's train." She pronounced the syllables of the 
name with a peculiar clearness, as if she had tapped on 
two silver bells. 

[277] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Well, it can't go at once. Jasper and the pantry-boy 
are both out with notes and telegrams." 

May turned to her husband with a smile. "But here's 
Newland, ready to do anything. Will you take the tele- 
gram, Newland? There'll be just time before luncheon." 

Archer rose with a murmur of readiness, and she seated 
herself at old Catherine's rosewood "Bonheur du Jour/' 
and wrote out the message in her large immature hand. 
When it was written she blotted it neatly and handed it 
to Archer. 

"What a pity," she said, "that you and Ellen will cross 
each other on the way! Newland," she added, turning 
to her mother and aunt, "is obliged to go to Washington 
about a patent law-suit that is coming up before the 
Supreme Court. I suppose Uncle Lovell will be back 
by tomorrow night, and with Granny improving so much 
it doesn't seem right to ask Newland to give up an 
important engagement for the firm does it?" 

She paused, as if for an answer, and Mrs. Welland 
hastily declared: "Oh, of course not, darling. Your 
Granny would be the last person to wish it." As Archer 
left the room with the telegram, he heard his mother- 
in-law add, presumably to Mrs. Lovell Mingott: "But 
why on earth she should make you telegraph for Ellen 
Olenska " and May's clear voice rejoin : "Perhaps it's 
to urge on her again that after all her duty is with her 
husband." 

The outer door closed on Archer and he walked hastily 
away toward the telegraph office. 



XXVIII 

/^\k ol howjer spell it, anyhow?" asked the tart 
V>/ young lady to whom Archer had pushed his wife's 
telegram across the brass ledge of the Western Union 
office. 

"Olenska O-len-ska," he repeated, drawing back the 
message in order to print out the foreign syllables above 
May's rambling script. 

"It's an unlikely name for a New York telegraph 
office; at least in this quarter," an unexpected voice 
observed; and turning around Archer saw Lawrence 
Lefferts at his elbow, pulling an imperturbable moustache 
and affecting not to glance at the message. 

"Hallo, Newland: thought I'd catch you here. I've 
just heard of old Mrs. Mingott's stroke; and as I was 
on my way to the house I saw you turning down this 
street and nipped after you. I suppose you've come from 
there?" 

Archer nodded, and pushed his telegram under the 
lattice. 

"Very bad, eh?" Lefferts continued. "Wiring to the 
family, I suppose. I gather it is bad, if you're including 
Countess Olenska." 

Archer's lips stiffened; he felt a savage impulse to 
dash his fist into the long vain handsome face at his 
side. 

"Why?" he questioned. 

Lefferts, who was known to shrink from discussion, 
[279] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

raised his eye-brows with an ironic grimace that warned 
*he other of the watching damsel behind the lattice. 
Nothing could be worse "form" the look reminded 
Archer, than any display of temper in a public place. 

Archer had never been more indifferent to the require- 
ments of form ; but his impulse to do Lawrence Lefferts 
a physical injury was only momentary. The idea of 
bandying Ellen Olenska's name with him at such a time, 
and on whatsoever provocation, was unthinkable. He 
paid for his telegram, and the two young men went out 
together into the street. There Archer, having regained 
his self-control, went on : "Mrs. Mingott is much better : 
the doctor feels no anxiety whatever"; and Lefferts, 
with profuse expressions of relief, asked him if he had 
heard that there were beastly bad rumours again about 
Beaufort. . . . 

That afternoon the announcement of the Beaufort 
failure was in all the papers. It overshadowed the report 
of Mrs. Manson Mingott's stroke, and only the few who 
had heard of the mysterious connection between the two 
events thought of ascribing old Catherine's illness to 
anything but the accumulation of flesh and years. 

The whole of New York was darkened by the tale 
of Beaufort's dishonour. There had never, as Mr. 
Letterblair said, been a worse case in his memory, nor, 
for that matter, in the memory of the far-off Letterblair 
who had given his name to the firm. The bank had con- 
tinued to take in money for a whole day after its failure 
was inevitable; and as many of its clients belonged to 
one or another of the ruling clans, Beaufort's duplicity 
seemed doubly cynical. If Mrs. Beaufort had not taken 
the tone that such misfortunes (the word was her own) 
were "the test of friendship," compassion for her might 

[280] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

have tempered the general indignation against her hus- 
band. As it was and especially after the object of her 
nocturnal visit to Mrs. Manson Mingott had become 
known her cynicism was held to exceed his ; and she had 
not the excuse nor her detractors the satisfaction of 
pleading that she was "a foreigner." It was some com- 
fort (to those whose securities were not in jeopardy) to 
be able to remind themselves that Beaufort was; but, 
after all, if a Dallas of South Carolina took his view of 
the case, and glibly talked of his soon being "on his feet 
again," the argument lost its edge, and there was nothing 
to do but to accept this awful evidence of the indis- 
solubility of marriage. Society must manage to get on 
without the Beauforts, and there was an end of it 
except indeed for such hapless victims of the disaster 
as Medora Manson, the poor old Miss Lannings, and 
certain other misguided ladies of good family who, if 
only they had listened to Mr. Henry van der Luy- 
den . . . 

"The best thing the Beauforts can do," said Mrs. 
Archer, summing it up as if she were pronouncing a diag- 
nosis and prescribing a course of treatment, "is to go and 
live at Regina's little place in North Carolina. Beaufort 
has always kept a racing stable, and he had better breed 
trotting horses. I should say he had all the qualities of 
a successful horse-dealer." Every one agreed with her, 
but no one condescended to enquire what the Beauforts 
really meant to do. 

The next day Mrs. Manson Mingott was much better: 
she recovered her voice sufficiently to give orders that no 
one should mention the Beaufcrts to her again, and asked 
when Dr. Bencomb appeared what in the world her 
family meant by making such a fuss about her health. 

"If people of my age will eat chicken-salad in the even- 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ing what are they to expect ?" she enquired ; and, the doc- 
tor having opportunely modified her dietary, the stroke 
was transformed into an attack of indigestion. But in 
spite of her firm tone old Catherine did not wholly re- 
cover her former attitude toward life. The growing re- 
moteness of old age, though it had not diminished her 
curiosity about her neighbours, had blunted her never 
very lively compassion for their troubles ; and she seemed 
to have no difficulty in putting the Beaufort disaster out 
of her mind. But for the first time she became absorbed 
in her own symptoms, and began to take a sentimental in- 
terest in certain members of her family to whom she had 
hitherto been contemptuously indifferent. 

Mr. Welland, in particular, had the privilege of at- 
tracting her notice. Of her sons-in-law he was the one 
she had most consistently ignored; and all his wife's 
efforts to represent him as a man of forceful character 
and marked intellectual ability (if he had only "chosen") 
had been met with a derisive chuckle. But his eminence 
as a valetudinarian now made him an object of engross- 
ing interest, and Mrs. Mingott issued an imperial sum- 
mons to him to come and compare diets as soon as his 
temperature permitted; for old Catherine was now the 
first to recognise that one could not be too careful about 
temperatures. 

Twenty-four hours after Madame Olenska's summons 
a telegram announced that she would arrive from Wash- 
ington on the evening of the following day. At the Wei- 
lands', where the Newland Archers chanced to be lunch- 
ing, the question as to who should meet her at Jersey 
City was immediately raised; and the material difficul- 
ties amid which the Welland household struggled as if 
it had been a frontier outpost, lent animation to the de- 

[282] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

bate. It was agreed that Mrs. Welland could not pos- 
sibly go to Jersey City because she was to accompany 
her husband to old Catherine's that afternoon, and the 
brougham could not be spared, since, if Mr. Welland 
were "upset" by seeing his mother-in-law for the first 
time after her attack, he might have to be taken home at 
a moment's notice. The Welland sons would of course 
be "down town," Mr. Lovell Mingott would be just hur- 
rying back from his shooting, and the Mingott carriage 
engaged in meeting him; and one could not ask May, 
at the close of a winter afternoon, to go alone across the 
ferry to Jersey City, even in her own carriage. Never- 
theless, it might appear inhospitable and contrary to old 
Catherine's express wishes if Madame Olenska were 
allowed to arrive without any of the family being at the 
station to receive her. It was just like Ellen, Mrs. Wei- 
land's tired voice implied, to place the family in such a di- 
lemma. "It's always one thing after another/' the poor 
lady grieved, in one of her rare revolts against fate ; "the 
only thing that makes me think 'Mamma must be less 
well than Dr. Bencomb will admit is this morbid desire 
to have Ellen come at once, however inconvenient it is to 
meet her." 

The words had been thoughtless, as the utterances of 
impatience often are; and Mr. Welland was upon them 
with a pounce. 

"Augusta," he said, turning pale and laying down his 
fork, "have you any other reason for thinking that Ben- 
comb is less to be relied on than he was ? Have you no- 
ticed that he has been less conscientious than usual in fol- 
lowing up my case or your mother's ?" 

It was Mrs. Welland's turn to grow pale as the endless 
consequences of her blunder unrolled themselves before 
her ; but she managed to laugh, and take a second helping 

[283] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

of scalloped oysters, before she said, struggling back inter 
her old armour of cheerfulness: "My dear, how could 
you imagine such a thing? I only meant that, after the 
decided stand Mamma took about its being Ellen's duty 
to go back to her husband, it seems strange that she should 
be seized with this sudden whim to see her, when there 
are half a dozen other grandchildren that she might have 
asked for. But we must never forget that Mamma, in 
spite of her wonderful vitality, is a very old woman." 

Mr. Welland's brow remained clouded, and it was evi- 
dent that his perturbed imagination had fastened at once 
on this last remark. "Yes: your mother's a very old 
woman; and for all we know Bencomb may not be as 
successful with very old people. As you say, my dear, 
it's always one thing after another; and in another ten 
or fifteen years I suppose I shall have the pleasing duty 
of looking about for a new doctor. It's always better to 
make such a change before it's absolutely necessary." 
And having arrived at this Spartan decision Mr. Welland 
firmly took up his fork. 

"But all the while/' Mrs. Welland began again, as she 
rose from the luncheon-table, and led the way into the 
wilderness of purple satin and malachite known as the 
back drawing-room, "I don't see how Ellen's to be got 
here tomorrow evening ; and I do like to have things set- 
tled for at least twenty-four hours ahead." 

Archer turned from the fascinated contemplation of a 
small painting representing two Cardinals carousing, in 
an octagonal ebony frame set with medallions of onyx. i 

"Shall I fetch her?" he proposed. "I can easily get 
away from the office in time to meet the brougham at the 
ferry, if May will send it there," His heart was beating 
excitedly as he spoke. 

Mrs. Welland heaved a sigh of gratitude, and May, 
[284] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

who had moved away to the window, turned to shed on 
him a beam of approval. "So you see, Mamma, every- 
thing will be settled twenty-four hours in advance," she 
said, stooping over to kiss her mother's troubled forehead. 

May's brougham awaited her at the door, and she was 
to drive Archer to Union Square, where he could pick 
up a Broadway car to carry him to the office. As she set- 
tled herself in her corner she said: "I didn't want to 
worry Mamma by raising fresh obstacles; but how can 
you meet Ellen tomorrow, and bring her back to New 
York, when you're going to Washington?" 

"Oh, I'm not going," Archer answered. 

"Not going? Why, what's happened?" Her voice 
was as clear as a bell, and full of wifely solicitude. 

"The case is off postponed." 

"Postponed? How odd! I saw a note this morning 
from Mr. Letterblair to 'Mamma saying that he was 
going to Washington tomorrow for the big patent case 
that he was to argue before the Supreme Court. You 
said it was a patent case, didn't you ?" 

"Well that's it : the whole office can't go. Letterblair 
decided to go this morning." 

"Then it's not postponed ?" she continued, with an in- 
sistence so unlike her that he felt the blood rising to his 
face, as if he were blushing for her unwonted lapse from 
all the traditional delicacies. 

"No: but my going is," he answered, cursing the un- 
necessary explanations that he had given when he had 
announced his intention of going to Washington, and 
wondering where he had read that clever liars give de- 
tails, but that the cleverest do not. It did not hurt him 
half as much to tell May an untruth as to see her trying 
to pretend that she had not detected him. 

[285] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"I'm not going till later on : luckily for the convenience! 
of your family," he continued, taking base refuge in sar- 
casm. As he spoke he felt that she was looking at him, 
and he turned his eyes to hers in order not to appear to 
be avoiding them. Their glances met for a second, and 
perhaps let them into each other's meanings more deeply 
than either cared to go. 

"Yes ; it is awfully convenient," May brightly agreed, 
"that you should be able to meet Ellen after all ; you saw 
how much Mamma appreciated your offering to do it." 

"Oh, I'm delighted to do it." The carriage stopped, and 
as he jumped out she leaned to him and laid her hand on 
his. "Good-bye, dearest," she said, her eyes so blue that 
he wondered afterward if they had shone on him 
through tears. 

He turned away and hurried across Union Square, re- 
peating to himself, in a sort of inward chant: "It's all 
of two hours from Jersey City to old Catherine's. It's 
all of two hours and it may be more/' 



XXIX 

HIS wife's dark blue brougham (with the wedding 
varnish still on it) met Archer at the ferry, and 
conveyed him luxuriously to the Pennsylvania terminus in 
Jersey City. 

It was a sombre snowy afternoon, and the gas-lamps 
were lit in the big reverberating station. As he paced the 
platform, waiting for the Washington express, he re- 
membered that there were people who thought there 
would one day be a tunnel under the Hudson through 
which the trains of the Pennsylvania railway would run 
straight into New York. They were of the brotherhood 
of visionaries who likewise predicted the building of ships 
that would cross the Atlantic in five days, the invention 
of a flying machine, lighting by electricity, telephonic 
communication without wires, and other Arabian Night 
marvels. 

"I don't care which of their visions comes true," Archer 
mused, "as long as the tunnel isn't built yet." In his 
senseless school-boy happiness he pictured Madame Olen- 
ska's descent from the train, his discovery of her a long 
way off, among the throngs of meaningless faces, her 
clinging to his arm as he guided her to the carriage, their 
slow approach to the wharf among slipping horses, laden 
carts, vociferating teamsters, and then the startling quiet 
of the ferry-boat, where they would sit side by side un- 
der the snow, in the motionless carriage, while the earth 
seemed to glide away under them, rolling to the other 

[287] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

side of the sun. It was incredible, the number of things 
he had to say to her, and in what eloquent order they 
were forming themselves on his lips . . . 

The clanging and groaning of the train came nearer, 
and it staggered slowly into the station like a prey-laden 
monster into its lair. Archer pushed forward, elbowing 
through the crowd, and staring blindly into window after 
window of the high-hung carriages. And then, suddenly, 
he saw Madame Olenska's pale and surprised face close 
at hand, and had again the mortified sensation of having 
forgotten what she looked like. 

They reached each other, their hands met, and he drew 
her arm through his. "This way I have the carriage," 
he said. 

After that it all happened as he had dreamed. He 
helped her into the brougham with her bags, and had 
afterward the vague recollection of having properly re- 
assured her about her grandmother and given her a 
summary of the Beaufort situation (he was struck by 
the softness of her: "Poor Reginal"). Meanwhile the 
carriage had worked its way out of the coil about the 
station, and they were crawling down the slippery in- 
cline to the wharf, menaced by swaying coal-carts, be- 
wildered horses, dishevelled express-wagons, and an 
empty hearse ah, that hearse! She shut her eyes as it 
passed, and clutched at Archer's hand. 

"If only it doesn't mean poor Granny !" 

"Oh, no, no she's much better she's all right, really. 
There we've passed it!" he exclaimed, as if that made 
all the difference. Her hand remained in his, and as 
the carriage lurched across the gang-plank onto the ferry 
he bent over, unbuttoned her tight brown glove, and 
kissed her palm as if he had kissed a relic. She disen- 

[288] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

gaged herself with a faint smile, and he said : "You didn't 
expect me today?" 

"Oh, no." 

"I meant to go to Washington to see you. I'd made all 
my arrangements I very nearly crossed you in the 
train." 

"Oh " she exclaimed, as if terrified by the narrowness 
of their escape. 

"Do you know I hardly remembered you ?" 

"Hardly remembered me?" 

"I mean: how shall I explain? I it's always so. 
Each time you happen to we all over again." 

"Oh, yes: I know! I know!" 

"Does it do I too : to you ?" he insisted. 

She nodded, looking out of the window. 

"Ellen Ellen Ellen!" 

She made no answer, and he sat in silence, watching 
her profile grow indistinct against the snow-streaked dusk 
beyond the window. What had she been doing in all 
those four long months, he wondered? How little they 
knew of each other, after all! The precious moments 
were slipping away, but he had forgotten everything that 
he had meant to say to her and could only helplessly 
brood on the mystery of their remoteness and their prox- 
imity, which seemed to be symbolised by the fact of their 
sitting so close to each other, and yet being unable to see 
each other's faces. 

"What a pretty carriage ! Is it May's ?" she asked, sud- 
denly turning her face from the window. 

"Yes." 

"It was May who sent you to fetch me, then? How 
f her!" 

He made no answer for a moment; then he said ex- 

[289] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

plosively : "Your husband's secretary came to see me the 
day after we met in Boston." 

In his brief letter to her he had made no allusion to M. 
Riviere's visit, and his intention had been to bury the 
incident in his bosom. But her reminder that they were 
in his wife's carriage provoked him to an impulse of re- 
taliation. He would see if she liked his reference to 
Riviere any better than he liked hers to May! As on 
certain other occasions when he had expected to shake 
her out of her usual composure, she betrayed no sign of 
surprise: and at once he concluded: "He writes to her, 
then." 

"M. Riviere went to see you?" 

"Yes: didn't you know?" 

"No," she answered simply. 

"And you're not surprised?" 

She hesitated. "Why should I be? He told me in 
Boston that he knew you ; that he'd met you in England 
I think." 

"Ellen I must ask you one thing." 

"Yes." 

"I wanted to ask it after I saw him, but I couldn't put 
it in a letter. It was Riviere who helped you to get away 
when you left your husband?" 

His heart was beating suffocatingly. Would she meet 
this question with the same composure? 

"Yes : I owe him a great debt," she answered, without 
the least tremor in her quiet voice. 

Her tone was so natural, so almost indifferent, that 
Archer's turmoil subsided. Once more she had managed, 
by her sheer simplicity, to make him feel stupidly con- 
ventional just when he thought he was flinging convention 
to the winds. 

[290] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"I think you're the most honest woman I ever met!" 
he exclaimed. 

"Oh, no but probably one of the least fussy," she 
answered, a smile in her voice. 

"Call it what you like : you look at things as they are." 
"Ah I've had to. I've had to look at the Gorgon." 
"Well it hasn't blinded you! You've seen that she's 
just an old bogey like all the others." 

"She doesn't blind one; but she dries up one's tears." 
The answer checked the pleading on Archer's lips: it 
seemed to come from depths of experience beyond his 
reach. The slow advance of the ferry-boat had ceased, 
and her bows bumped against the piles of the slip with 
a violence that made the brougham stagger, and flung 
Archer and Madame Olenska against each other. The 
young man, trembling, felt the pressure of her shoulder, 
and passed his arm about her. 

"If you're not blind, then, you must see that this can't 
last." 

"What can't?" 

"Our being together and not together." 
"No. You ought not to have come today," she said in 
an altered voice ; and suddenly she turned, flung her arms 
about him and pressed her lips to his. At the same mo- 
ment the carriage began to move, and a gas-lamp at the 
head of the slip flashed its light into the window. She 
drew away, and they sat silent and motionless while the 
brougham struggled through the congestion of carriages 
about the ferry-landing. As they gained the street 
Archer began to speak hurriedly. 

"Don't be afraid of me: you needn't squeeze yourself 
back into your corner like that. A stolen kiss isn't what 
I want. Look: I'm not even trying to touch the sleeve 
of your jacket. Don't suppose that I don't understand 

[290 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

your reasons for not wanting to let this feeling between 
us dwindle into an ordinary hole-and-corner love-affair. 
I couldn't have spoken like this yesterday, because when 
we've been apart, and I'm looking forward to seeing you, 
every thought is burnt up in a great flame. But then you 
come ; and you're so much more than I remembered, and 
what I want of you is so much more than an hour or two 
every now and then, with wastes of thirsty waiting be- 
1 tween, that I can sit perfectly still beside you, like this, 
with that other vision in my mind, just quietly trusting 
to it to come true." 

For a moment she made no reply; then she asked, 
hardly above a whisper : "What do you mean by trusting 
to it to come true ?" 

"Why you know it will, don't you?" 

"Your vision of you and me together?" She burst 
into a sudden hard laugh. "You choose your place well 
to put it to me!" 

"Do you mean because we're in my wife's brougham ? 
Shall we get out and walk, then? I don't suppose you 
mind a little snow?" 

She laughed again, more gently. "No ; I shan't get out 
and walk, because my business is to get to Granny's as 
quickly as I can. And you'll sit beside me, and we'll look, 
not at visions, but at realities." 

"I don't know what you mean by realities. The only 
reality to me is this." 

She met the words with a long silence, during which 
the carriage rolled down an obscure side-street and then 
turned into the searching illumination of Fifth Avenue. 

"Is it your idea, then, that I should live with you as 
your mistress since I can't be your wife ?" she asked. 

The crudeness of the question startled him: the word 
was one that women of his class fought shy of, even when 

[292] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

their talk flitted closest about the topic. He noticed that 
Madame Olenska pronounced it as if it had a recognised 
place in her vocabulary, and he wondered if it had been 
used familiarly in her presence in the horrible life she 
had fled from. Her question pulled him up with a jerk, 
and he floundered. 

"I want I want somehow to get away with you into a 
world where words like that categories like that won't 
exist. Where we shall be simply two human beings who 
love each other, who are the whole of life to each other; 
and nothing else on earth will matter." 

She drew a deep sigh that ended in another laugh. "Oh, 
my dear where is that country? Have you ever been 
there ?" she asked ; and as he remained sullenly dumb she 
went on : "I know so many who've tried to find it ; and, 
believe me, they all got out by mistake at wayside sta- 
tions : at places like Boulogne, or Pisa, or Monte Carlo 
and it wasn't at all different from the old world they'd 
left, but only rather smaller and dingier and more promis- 
cuous." 

He had never heard her speak in such a tone, and he 
remembered the phrase she had used a little while before. 

"Yes, the Gorgon has dried your tears," he said. 

"Well, she opened my eyes too; it's a delusion to say 
that she blinds people. What she does is just the con- 
trary she fastens their eyelids open, so that they're 
never again in the blessed darkness. Isn't there a Chinese 
torture like that? There ought to be. Ah, believe me,* 
it's a miserable little country !" 

The carriage had crossed Forty-second Street: May's 
sturdy brougham-horse was carrying them northward as 
if he had been a Kentucky trotter. Archer choked with 
the sense of wasted minutes and vain words. 

"Then what, exactly, is your plan for us ?" he asked. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"For us? But there's no its in that sense ! We're near 
each other only if we stay far from each other. Then we 
can be ourselves. Otherwise we're only Newland Archer, 
the husband of Ellen Olenska's cousin, and Ellen Olen- 
ska, the cousin of Newland Archer's wife, trying to be 
happy behind the backs of the people who trust them." 

"Ah, I'm beyond that," he groaned. 

"No, you're not ! You've never been beyond. And / 
have," she said, in a strange voice, "and I know what it 
looks like there." 

He sat silent, dazed with inarticulate pain. Then he 
groped in the darkness of the carriage for the little bell 
that signalled orders to the coachman. He remembered 
that May rang twice when she wished to stop. He 
pressed the bell, and the carriage drew up beside the 
curbstone. 

"Why are we stopping? This is not Granny's," Ma- 
dame Olenska exclaimed. 

"No : I shall get out here," he stammered, opening the 
door and jumping to the pavement. By the light of a 
street-lamp he saw her startled face, and the instinctive 
motion she made to detain him. He closed the door, and 
leaned for a moment in the window. 

"You're right: I ought not to have come today," he 
said, lowering his voice so that the coachman should not 
hear. She bent forward, and seemed about to speak ; but 
he had already called out the order to drive on, and the 
carriage rolled away while he stood on the corner. The 
snow was over, and a tingling wind had sprung up, that 
lashed his face as he stood gazing. Suddenly he felt 
something stiff and cold on his lashes, and perceived that 
he had been crying, and that the wind had frozen his tears. 

He thrust his hands in his pockets, and walked at a 
sharp pace down Fifth Avenue to his own house. 

[294] 












XXX 

THAT evening when Archer came down before din- 
ner he found the drawing-room empty. 

He and May were dining alone, all the family engage- 
ments having been postponed since Mrs. Manson Min- 
gott's illness; and as May was the more punctual of the 
two he was surprised that she had not preceded him. He 
knew that she was at home, for while he dressed he had 
heard her moving about in her room; and he wondered 
what had delayed her. 

He had fallen into the way of dwelling on such con- 
jectures as a means of tying his thoughts fast to reality. 
Sometimes he felt as if he had found the clue to his 
father-in-law's absorption in trifles; perhaps even Mr. 
Welland, long ago, had had escapes and visions, and had 
conjured up all the hosts of domesticity to defend him- 
self against them. 

When May appeared he thought she looked tired. She 
had put on the low-necked and tightly-laced dinner-dress 
which the Mingott ceremonial exacted on the most in- 
formal occasions, and had built her fair hair into its usual 
accumulated coils ; and her face, in contrast, was wan and 
almost faded. But she shone on him with her usual ten- 
derness, and her eyes had kept the blue dazzle of the day 
before. 

"What became of you, dear?" she asked. "I was wait- 
ing at Granny's, and Ellen came alone, and said she had 

[2951 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

dropped you on the way because you had to rush off on 
business. There's nothing wrong?" 

"Only some letters I'd forgotten, and wanted to get 
off before dinner." 

"Ah " she said ; and a moment afterward : "I'm sorry 
you didn't come to Granny's unless the letters were 
urgent." 

"They were," he rejoined, surprised at her insistence. 
"Besides, I don't see why I should have gone to your 
grandmother's. I didn't know you were there." 

She turned and moved to the looking-glass above the 
mantel-piece. As she stood there, lifting her long arm to 
fasten a puff that had slipped from its place in her intri- 
cate hair, Archer was struck by something languid and 
inelastic in her attitude, and wondered if the deadly 
monotony of their lives had laid its weight on her also. 
Then he remembered that, as he had left the house that 
morning, she had called over the stairs that she would 
meet him at her grandmother's so that they might drive 
home together. He had called back a cheery "Yes!" 
and then, absorbed in other visions, had forgotten his 
promise. Now he was smitten with compunction, yet 
irritated that so trifling an omission should be stored 
up against him after nearly two years of marriage. He 
was weary of living in a perpetual tepid honeymoon, 
without the temperature of passion yet with all its exac- 
tions. If May had spoken out her grievances (he sus- 
pected her of many) he might have laughed them away ; 
but she was trained to conceal imaginary wounds under a 
Spartan smile. 

To disguise his own annoyance he asked how her 
grandmother was, and she answered that Mrs. Mingott 
was still improving, but had been rather disturbed by the 
last news about the Beauforts. 

[296] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"What news?' 1 

"It seems they're going to stay in New York. I be- 
lieve he's going into an insurance business, or something. 
They're looking about for a small house." 

The preposterousness of the case was beyond discus- 
sion, and they went in to dinner. During dinner their 
talk moved in its usual limited circle ; but Archer noticed 
that his wife made no allusion to Madame Olenska, nor 
to old Catherine's reception of her. He was thankful 
for the fact, yet felt it to be vaguely ominous. 

They went up to the library for coffee, and Archer lit 
a cigar and took down a volume of Michelet. He had 
taken to history in the evenings since May had shown a 
tendency to ask him to read aloud whenever she saw him 
with a volume of poetry: not that he disliked the sound 
of his own voice, but because he could always foresee her 
comments on what he read. In the days of their engage- 
ment she had simply (as he now perceived) echoed what 
he told her ; but since he had ceased to provide her with 
opinions she had begun to hazard her own, with results 
destructive to his enjoyment of the works commented on. 

Seeing that he had chosen history she fetched her work- 
, basket, drew up an arm-chair to the green-shaded 
student lamp, and uncovered a cushion she was embroid- 
ering for his sofa. She was not a clever needle-woman ; 
her large capable hands were made for riding, rowing and 
open-air activities; but since other wives embroidered 
cushions for their husbands she did not wish to omit this 
last link in her devotion. 

She was so placed that Archer, by merely raising his 
eyes, could see her bent above her work-frame, her ruf- 
fled elbow-sleeves slipping back from her firm round 
arms, the betrothal sapphire shining on her left hand 
above her broad gold wedding-ring, and the right hand 

[297] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

slowly and laboriously stabbing the canvas. As she sat 
thus, the lamplight full on her clear brow, he said to 
himself with a secret dismay that he would always know 
the thoughts behind it, that never, in all the years to come, 
would she surprise him by an unexpected mood, by a new 
idea, a weakness, a cruelty or an emotion. She had spent 
; her poetry and romance on their short courting: the 
function was exhausted because the need was past. Now 
she was simply ripening into a copy of her mother, and 
mysteriously, by the very process, trying to turn him into 
a Mr. Welland. He laid down his book and stood up im- 
patiently; and at once she raised her head. 

"What's the matter?" 

"The room is stifling : I want a little air." 

He had insisted that the library curtains should draw 
backward and forward on a rod, so that they might be 
closed in the evening, instead of remaining nailed to a 
.gilt cornice, and immovably looped up over layers of lace, 
as in the drawing-room; and he pulled them back and 
pushed up the sash, leaning out into the icy night The 
mere fact of not looking at May, seated beside his table, 
under his lamp, the fact of seeing other houses, roofs, 
chimneys, of getting the sense of other lives outside his 
own, other cities beyond New York, and a whole world 
beyond his world, cleared his brain and made it easier to 
breathe. 

After he had leaned out into the darkness for a few 
minutes he heard her say : "Newland ! Do shut the win- 
dow. You'll catch your death." 

He pulled the sash down and turned back. "Catch my 
death!" he echoed; and he felt like adding: "But I've 
caught it already. I am dead I've been dead for months 
and months." 

And suddenly the play of the word flashed up a wild 

[298] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

suggestion. What if it were she who was dead! If she 
were going to die to die soon and leave him free ! The 
sensation of standing there, in that warm familiar room, 
and looking at her, and wishing her dead, was so strange, 
so fascinating and overmastering, that its enormity did 
not immediately strike him. He simply felt that chance 
had given him a new possibility to which his sick soul 
might cling. Yes, May might die people did: young 
people, healthy people like herself: she might die, and 
set him suddenly free. 

She glanced up, and he saw by her widening eyes that 
there must be something strange in his own. 

"Newland! Are you ill?" 

He shook his head and turned toward his arm-chair. 
She bent over her work- frame, and as he passed he laid 
his hand on her hair. "Poor May !" he said. 

"Poor? Why poor?" she echoed with a strained 
laugh. 

"Because I shall never be able to open a window with- 
out worrying you," he rejoined, laughing also. 

For a moment she was silent; then she said very low, 
her head bowed over her work: "I shall never worry if 
you're happy." 

"Ah, my dear ; and I shall never be happy unless I can 
open the windows !" 

"In this weather?" she remonstrated; and with a sigh 
he buried his head in his book. 

Six or seven days passed. Archer heard nothing from 
Madame Olenska, and became aware that her name 
would not be mentioned in his presence by any member 
of the family. He did not try to see her ; to do so while 
she was at old Catherine's guarded bedside would have 
been almost impossible. In the uncertainty of the situa- 

[299] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

tion he let himself drift, conscious, somewhere below the 
surface of his thoughts, of a resolve which had come to 
him when he had leaned out from his library window into 
the icy night. The strength of that resolve made it easy 
to wait and make no sign. 

Then one day May told him that Mrs. Manson Mingott 
had asked to see him. There was nothing surprising in 
the request, for the old lady was steadily recovering, and 
she had always openly declared that she preferred Archer 
to any of her other grandsons-in-law. May gave the 
message with evident pleasure: she was proud of old 
Catherine's appreciation of her husband. 

There was a moment's pause, and then Archer felt it 
incumbent on him to say: "All right. Shall we go to- 
gether this afternoon?" 

His wife's face brightened, but she instantly answered : 
"Oh, you'd much better go alone. It bores Granny to see 
the same people* too often." 

Archer's heart was beating violently when he rang old 
Mrs. Mingott's bell. He had wanted above all things to 
go alone, for he felt sure the visit would give him, the 
chance of saying a word in private to the Countess Olen- 
ska. He had determined to- wait till the chance presented 
itself naturally; and here it was, and here he was on the 
doorstep. Behind the door, behind the curtains of the 
yellow damask room next to the hall, she was surely 
awaiting him; in another moment he should see her, and 
be able to speak to her before she led him to the sick- 
room. 

He wanted only to put one question: after that his 
course would be clear. What he wished to ask was sim- 
ply the date of her return to Washington ; and that ques- 
tion she could hardly refuse to answer. 

But in the yellow sitting-room it was the mulatto maid, 
[300] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

who waited. Her white teeth shining like a keyboard, 
she pushed back the sliding doors and ushered him into 
old Catherine's presence. 

The old woman sat in a vast throne-like arm-chair near 
her bed. Beside her was a mahogany stand bearing a 
cast bronze lamp with an engraved globe, over which a 
green paper shade had been balanced. There was not a 
book or a newspaper in reach, nor any evidence of fem- 
inine employment: conversation had always been Mrs. 
Mingott's sole pursuit, and she would have scorned to 
feign an interest in fancywork. 

Archer saw no trace of the slight distortion left by her 
stroke. She merely looked paler, with darker shadows 
in the folds and recesses of her obesity ; and, in the fluted 
mob-cap tied by a starched bow between her first two 
chins, and the muslin kerchief crossed over her billowing 
purple dressing-gown, she seemed like some shrewd and 
kindly ancestress of her own who might have yielded too 
freely to the pleasures of the table. 

She held out one of the little hands that nestled in a 
hollow of her huge lap like pet animals, and called to the 
maid: "Don't let in any one else. If my daughters call, 
say I'm asleep." 

The maid disappeared, and the old lady turned to her 
grandson. 

"My dear, am I perfectly hideous?" she asked gaily, 
launching out one hand in search of the folds of muslin 
on her inaccessible bosom. "My daughters tell me it 
doesn't matter at my age as if hideousness didn't mat- 
ter all the more the harder it gets to conceal !" 

"My dear, you're handsomer than ever!" Archer re- 
joined in the same tone ; and she threw back her head and 
laughed. 

"Ah, but not as handsome as Ellen 1" she jerked out, 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

twinkling at him maliciously ; and before he could answer 
she added: "Was she so awfully handsome the day you 
drove her up from the ferry ?" 

He laughed, and she continued: "Was it because you 
told her so that she had to put you out on the way ? In 
my youth young men didn't desert pretty women unless 
they were made to !" She gave another chuckle, and in- 
terrupted it to say almost querulously: "It's a pity she 
didn't marry you; I always told her so. It would have 
spared me all this worry. But who ever thought of spar- 
ing their grandmother worry ?" 

Archer wondered if her illness had blurred her facul- 
ties ; but suddenly she broke out : "Well, it's settled, any- 
how : she's going to stay with me, whatever the rest of 
the family say! She hadn't been here five minutes be- 
fore I'd have gone down on my knees to keep her if 
only, for the last twenty years, I'd been able to see where 
the floor was!" 

Archer listened in silence, and she went on: "They'd 
talked me over, as no doubt you know: persuaded me, 
Lovell, and Letterblair, and Augusta Welland, and all the 
rest of them, that I must hold out and cut off her allow- 
ance, till she was made to see that it was her duty to go 
back to Olenski. They thought they'd convinced me 
when the secretary, or whatever he was, came out with 
the last proposals: handsome proposals I confess they 
were. After all, marriage is marriage, and money's ^ 
money both useful things in their way . . . and I 
didn't know what to answer " She broke off and drew 
a long breath, as if speaking had become an effort. "But 
the minute I laid eyes on her, I said: 'You sweet bird, 
you! Shut you up in that cage again? Never!' And 
now it's settled that she's to stay here and nurse her 
Granny as long as there's a Granny to nurse. It's not a 

[302] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

gay prospect, but she doesn't mind; and of course I've 
told Letterblair that she's to be given her proper allow- 
ance." 

The young man heard her with veins aglow; but in 
his confusion of mind he hardly knew whether her news 
brought joy or pain. He had so definitely decided on 
the course he meant to pursue that for the moment he 
could not readjust his thoughts. But gradually there 
stole over him the delicious sense of difficulties deferred 
and opportunities miraculously provided. If Ellen had 
consented to come and live with her grandmother it must 
surely be because she had recognised the impossibility 
of giving him up. This was her answer to his final ap- 
peal of the other day: if she would not take the ex- 
treme step he had urged, she had at last yielded to 
half-measures. He sank back into the thought with the 
involuntary relief of a man who has been ready to risk 
everything, and suddenly tastes the dangerous sweetness 
of security. 

"She couldn't have gone back it was impossible!" he 
exclaimed. 

"Ah, my dear, I always knew you were on her side; 
and that's why I sent for you today, and why I said to 
your pretty wife, when she proposed to come with you : 
'No, my dear, I'm pining to see Newland, and I don't 
want anybody to share our transports.' For you see, 
my dear " she drew her head back as far as its tethering 
chins permitted, and looked him full in the eyes "you 
see, we shall have a fight yet. The family don't want her 
here, and they'll say it's because I've been ill, because 
I'm a weak old woman, that she's persuaded me. I'm 
not well enough yet to fight them one by one, and you've 
got to do it for me." 

"I?" he stammered. 

[303] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"You. Why not?" she jerked back at him, her round 
eyes suddenly as sharp as pen-knives. Her hand flut- 
tered from its chair-arm and lit on his with a clutch of 
little pale nails like bird-claws. "Why not ?" she search- 
ingly repeated. 

Archer, under the exposure of her gaze, had recovered 
his self-possession. 

"Oh, I don't count I'm too insignificant." 

"Well, you're Letterblair's partner, ain't you ? You've 
got to get at them through Letterblair. Unless you've 
got a reason/' she insisted. 

"Oh, my dear, I back you to hold your own against 
them all without my help; but you shall have it if you 
need it," he reassured her. 

"Then we're safe!" she sighed; and smiling on him 
with all her ancient cunning she added, as she settled her 
head among the cushions : "I always knew you'd back us 
up, because they never quote you when they talk about - 
its being her duty to go home." 

He winced a little at her terrifying perspicacity, and 
longed to ask: "And May do they quote her?" But he 
judged it safer to turn the question. 

"And Madame Olenska? .When am I to see her?" 
lie said. 

The old lady chuckled, crumpled her lids, and went 
through the pantomime of archness. "Not today. One 
at a time, please. Madame Olenska's gone out." 

He flushed with disappointment, and she went on: 
"She's gone out, my child: gone in my carriage to see 
Regina Beaufort." 

She paused for this announcement to produce its ef- 
fect "That's what she's reduced me to already. The day 
after she got here she put on her best bonnet, and told 
me, as cool as a cucumber, that she was going to call on 

[304] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Regina Beaufort. 'I don't know her; who is she?' says 
I. 'She's your grand-niece, and a most unhappy woman/ 
she says. 'She's the wife of a scoundrel/ I answered. 
'Well/ she says, 'and so am I, and yet all my family 
want me to go back to him/ Well, that floored me, and I 
let her go ; and finally one day she said it was raining too 
hard to go out on foot, and she wanted me to lend her 
my carriage. 'What for ?* I asked her ; and she said : 'To 
go and see cousin Regina' cousin! Now, my dear, I 
looked out of the window, and saw it wasn't raining a 
drop; but I understood her, and I let her have the car- 
riage . . . After all, Regina's a brave woman, and so is 
she ; and I've always liked courage above everything." 

Archer bent down and pressed his lips on the little 
hand that still lay on his. 

"Eh eh eh! Whose hand did you think you were 
kissing, young man your wife's, I hope?" the old lady 
snapped out with her mocking cackle; and as he rose 
to go she called out after him: "Give her her Granny's 
love; but you'd better not say anything about our talk." 



XXXI 

ARCHER had been stunned by old Catherine's 
It was only natural that Madame Olenska should 
have hastened from Washington in response to her 
grandmother's summons ; but that she should have de- 
cided to remain under her roof especially now that Mrs. 
'Mingott had almost regained her health was less easy 
to explain. 

Archer was sure that Madame Olenska's decision had 
not been influenced by the change in her financial situa- 
tion. He knew the exact figure of the small income 
which her husband had allowed her at their separation. 
Without the addition of her grandmother's allowance it 
was hardly enough to live on, in any sense known to the 
Mingott vocabulary ; and now that Medora Manson, who 
shared her life, had been ruined, such a pittance would 
barely keep the two women clothed and fed. Yet Archer 
was convinced that Madame Olenska had not accepted 
her grandmother's offer from interested motives. 

She had the heedless generosity and the spasmodic 
extravagance of persons used to large fortunes, and in- 
different to money ; but she could go without many things 
which her relations considered indispensable, and Mrs. 
Lovell Mingott and 'Mrs. Welland had often been heard 
to deplore that any one who had enjoyed the cosmopoli- 
tan luxuries of Count Olenski's establishments should 
care so little about "how things were done." Moreover, 
as Archer knew, several months had passed since her 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

allowance had been cut off; yet in the interval she had 
made no effort to regain her grandmother's favour. 
Therefore if she had changed her course it must be for a 
different reason. 

He did not have far to seek for that reason. On the 
way from the ferry she had told him that he and she 
must remain apart ; but she had said it with her head on 
his breast. He knew that there was no calculated co- 
quetry in her words ; she was fighting her fate as he had 
fought his, and clinging desperately to her resolve that 
they should not break faith with the people who trusted 
them. But during the ten days which had elapsed since 
her return to New York she had perhaps guessed from 
his silence, and from the fact of his making no attempt 
to see her, that he was meditating a decisive step, a step 
from which there was no turning back. At the thought, a 
sudden fear of her own weakness might have seized her, 
and she might have felt that, after all, it was better to ac- 
cept the compromise usual in such cases, and follow the 
line of least resistance. 

An hour earlier, when he had rung Mrs. Mingott's bell, 
Archer had fancied that his path was clear before him. 
He had meant to have a word alone with Madame Olen- 
ska, and failing that, to learn from her grandmother on 
what day, and by which train, she was returning to Wash- 
ington. In that train he intended to join her, and travel 
with her to Washington, or as much farther as she was 
willing to go. His own fancy inclined to Japan. At any 
rate she would understand at once that, wherever she 
went, he was going. He meant to leave a note for May 
that should cut off any other alternative. 

He had fancied himself not only nerved for this plunge 
but eager to take it ; yet his first feeling on hearing that 
the course of events was changed had been one of relief. 

[307] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Now, however, as he walked home from Mrs. Mingott's, 
he was conscious of a growing distaste for what lay be- 
fore him. There was nothing unknown or unfamiliar in 
the path he was presumably to tread; but when he had 
trodden it before it was as a free man, who was account- 
able to no one for his actions, and could lend himself with 
an amused detachment to the game of precautions and 
prevarications, concealments and compliances, that the 
part required. This procedure was called "protecting a 
woman's honour" ; and the best fiction, combined with the 
after-dinner talk of his elders, had long since initiated 
him into every detail of its code. 

Now he saw the matter in a new light, and his part in it 
seemed singularly diminished. It was, in fact, that which, 
with a secret fatuity, he had watched Mrs. Thorley Rush- 
worth play toward a fond and unperceiving husband: a 
smiling, bantering, humouring, watchful and incessant lie. 
A lie by day, a lie by night, a lie in every touch and every 
look ; a lie in every caress and every quarrel ; a lie in every 
word and in every silence. 

It was easier, and less dastardly on the whole, for a 
wife to play such a part toward her husband. A woman's 
standard of truthfulness was tacitly held to be lower : she 
was the subject creature, and versed in the arts of the 
enslaved. Then she could always plead moods and 
nerves, and the right not to be held too strictly to account ; 
and even in the most strait-laced societies the laugh was 
always against the husband. 

But in Archer's little world no one laughed at a wife 
deceived, and a certain measure of contempt was at- 
tached to men who continued their philandering after 
marriage. In the rotation of crops there was a recog- 
nised season for wild oats; but they were not to be sown 
more than once. 

[308] 



I 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Archer had always shared this view: in his heart he 
thought Lefferts despicable. But to love Ellen Olenska 
was not to become a man like Lefferts : for the first time 
Archer found himself face to face with the dread argu- 
ment of the individual case. Ellen Olenska was like no 
other woman, he was like no other man : their situation, 
therefore, resembled no one else's, and they were answer- 
able to no tribunal but that of their own judgment. 

Yes, but in ten minutes more he would be mounting 
his own doorstep; and there were May, and habit, and 
honour, and all the old decencies that he and his people 
had always believed in ... 

At his corner he hesitated, and then walked on down 
Fifth Avenue. 

Ahead of him, in the winter night, loomed a big unlit 
house. As he drew near he thought how often he had 
seen it blazing with lights, its steps awninged and car- 
peted, and carriages waiting in double line to draw up at 
the curbstone. It was in the conservatory that stretched 
its dead-black bulk down the side street that he had taken 
his first kiss from May ; it was under the myriad candles 
of the ball-room that he had seen her appear, tall and 
silver-shining as a young Diana. 

Now the house was as dark as the grave, except for a 
faint flare of gas in the basement, and a light in one up- 
stairs room where the blind had not been lowered. As 
Archer reached the corner he saw that the carriage 
standing at the door was Mrs. Manson Mingott's. What 
an opportunity for Sillerton Jackson, if he should chance 
to pass ! Archer had been greatly moved by old Cath- 
erine's account of Madame Olenska's attitude toward 
Mrs. Beaufort; it made the righteous reprobation of 
New York seem like a passing by on the other side. But 

[3091 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

he knew well enough what construction the clubs and 
drawing-rooms would put on Ellen Olenska's visits to her 
cousin. 

He paused and looked up at the lighted window. No 
doubt the two women were sitting together in that room : 
Beaufort had probably sought consolation elsewhere. 
There were even rumours that he had left New York with 
Fanny Ring; but Mrs. Beaufort's attitude made the re- 
port seem improbable. 

Archer had the nocturnal perspective of Fifth Avenue 
almost to himself. At that hour most people were in- 
doors, dressing for dinner ; and he was secretly glad that 
Ellen's exit was likely to be unobserved. As the thought 
passed through his mind the door opened, and she came 
out. Behind her was a faint light, such as might have 
been carried down the stairs to show her the way. She 
turned to say a word to some one ; then the door closed, 
and she came down the steps. 

"Ellen," he said in a low voice, as she reached the 
pavement. 

She stopped with a slight start, and just then he saw 
two young men of fashionable cut approaching. There 
was a familiar air about their overcoats and the way their 
smart silk mufflers were folded over their white ties; 
and he wondered how youths of their quality happened 
to be dining out so early. Then he remembered that the 
Reggie Chiverses, whose house was a few doors above, 
were taking a large party that evening to see Adelaide 
Neilson in Romeo and Juliet, and guessed that the two 
were of the number. They passed under a lamp, and he 
recognised Lawrence Lefferts and a young Chivers. 

A mean desire not to have Madame Olenska seen at the 
Beauforts' door vanished as he felt the penetrating 
warmth of her hand. 

13>J 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"I shall see you now we shall be together," he broke 
out, hardly knowing what he said. 

"Ah," she answered, "Granny has told you ?" 

While he watched her he was aware that Lefferts and 
Olivers, on reaching the farther side of the street corner, 
had discreetly struck away across Fifth Avenue. It was 
the kind of masculine solidarity that he himself often 
practised ; now he sickened at their connivance. Did she 
really imagine that he and she could live like this ? And 
if not, what else did she imagine ? 

"Tomorrow I must see you somewhere where we can 
be alone," he said, in a voice that sounded almost angry 
to his own ears. 

She wavered, and moved toward the carriage. 

"But I shall be at Granny's for the present that is," 
she added, as if conscious that her change of plans re- 
quired some explanation. 

"Somewhere where we can be alone," he insisted. 

She gave a faint laugh that grated on him. 

"In New York? But there are no churches ... no 
monuments." 

"There's the Art Museum in the Park," he explained, 
as she looked puzzled. "At half-past two. I shall be at 
the door . . ." 

She turned away without answering and got quickly 
into the carriage. As it drove off she leaned forward, and 
he thought she waved her hand in the obscurity. He 
stared after her in a turmoil of contradictory feelings. It 
seemed to him that he had been speaking not to the 
woman he loved but to another, a woman he was indebted 
to for pleasures already wearied of : it was hateful to find 
himself the prisoner of this hackneyed vocabulary. 

"She'll come!" he said to himself, almost contemp- 
tuously. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Avoiding the popular "Wolfe collection/' whose anec- 
dotic canvases filled one of the main galleries of the queer 
wilderness of cast-iron and encaustic tiles known as the 
Metropolitan Museum, they had wandered down a pas- 
sage to the room where the "Cesnola antiquities" moul- 
dered in unvisited loneliness. 

They had this melancholy retreat to themselves, and 
seated on the divan enclosing the central steam-radiator, 
they were staring silently at the glass cabinets mounted in 
ebonised wood which contained the recovered fragments 
of Ilium. 

"It's odd," Madame Olenska said, "I never came here 
before." 

"Ah, well . Some day, I suppose, it will be a great 
Museum." 

"Yes," she assented absently. 

She stood up and wandered across the room. Archer, 
remaining seated, watched the light movements of her 
figure, so girlish even under its heavy furs, the cleverly 
planted heron wing in her fur cap, and the way a dark 
curl lay like a flattened vine spiral on each cheek above 
the ear. His mind, as always when they first met, was 
wholly absorbed in the delicious details that made her 
herself and no other. Presently he rose and approached 
the case before which she stood. Its glass shelves were 
crowded with small broken objects hardly recognisable 
domestic utensils, ornaments and personal trifles made 
of glass, of clay, of discoloured bronze and other time- 
blurred substances. 

"It seems cruel," she said, "that after a while nothing 
matters . . . any more than these little things, that used 
to be necessary and important to forgotten people, and 
now have to be guessed at under a magnifying glass and 
labelled: 'Use unknown/" 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Yes ; but meanwhile" 

"Ah, meanwhile" 

As she stood there, in her long sealskin coat, her hands 
thrust in a small round muff, her veil drawn down like a 
transparent mask to the tip of her nose, and the bunch of 
violets he had brought her stirring with her quickly-taken 
breath, it seemed incredible that this pure harmony of line 
( and colour should ever suffer the stupid law of change. 

"Meanwhile everything matters that concerns you." 
he said. 

She looked at him thoughtfully, and turned back to the 
divan. He sat down beside her and waited ; but suddenly 
he heard a step echoing far off down the empty rooms, 
and felt the pressure of the minutes. 

"What is it you wanted to tell me?" she asked, as if 
she had received the same warning. 

"What I wanted to tell you?" he rejoined. "Why, that 
I believe you came to New York because you were 
afraid." 

"Afraid?" 

"Of my coming to Washington." 

She looked down at her muff, and he saw her hands 
stir in it uneasily. 

"Well?" 

"Well yes," she said. 

"You were afraid? You knew ?" 

"Yes: I knew ..." 

"Well, then?" he insisted. 

"Well, then: this is better, isn't it?" she returned with 
a long questioning sigh. 

"Better?" 

"We shall hurt others less. Isn't it, after all, what you 
always wanted?" 

"To have you here, you mean in reach and yet out of 
[313] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

reach? To meet you in this way, on the sly? It's the 
very reverse of what I want. I told you the other day 
what I wanted." 

She hesitated. "And you still think this worse?" 

"A thousand times !" He paused. "It would be easy to 
lie to you ; but the truth is I think it detestable." 

"Oh, so do I !" she cried with a deep breath of relief. 

He sprang up impatiently. "Well, then it's my turn 
to ask: what is it, in God's name, that you think better?" 

She hung her head and continued to clasp and unclasp 
her hands in her muff. The step drew nearer, and a guar- 
dian in a braided cap walked listlessly through the room 
like a ghost stalking through a necropolis. They fixed 
their eyes simultaneously on the case opposite them, and 
when the official figure had vanished down a vista of 
mummies and sarcophagi Archer spoke again. 

"What do you think better?" 

Instead of answering she murmured: "I promised 
Granny to stay with her because it seemed to me that 
here I should be safer." 

"From me?" 

She bent her head slightly, without looking at him. 

"Safer from loving me ?" 

Her profile did not stir, but he saw a tear overflow; on 
her lashes and hang in a mesh of her veil. 

"Safer from doing irreparable harm. Don't let us be 
like all the others !" she protested. 

"What others? I don't profess to be different from 
my kind. I'm consumed by the same wants and the same 
longings." 

She glanced at him with a kind of terror, and he saw a 
faint colour steal into her cheeks. 

"Shall I once come to you; and then go home?" she 
suddenly hazarded in a low clear voice. 

[314] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

The blood rushed to the young man's forehead. "Dear- 
f est !" he said, without moving. It seemed as if he held his 
heart in his hands, like a full cup that the least motion 
might overbrim. 

Then her last phrase struck his ear and his face 
clouded. "Go home? What do you mean by going 
home?" 

"Home to my husband." 

"And you expect me to say yes to that ?" 

She raised her troubled eyes to his. "What else is 
there ? I can't stay here and lie to the people who've been 
good to me." 

"But that's the very reason why I ask you to come 
away!" 

"And destroy their lives, when they've helped me to 
remake mine?" 

Archer sprang to his feet and stood looking down on 
her in inarticulate despair. It would have been easy to 
say : "Yes, come ; come once." He knew the power she 
would put in his hands if she consented ; there would be 
no difficulty then in persuading her not to go back to her 
husband. 

But something silenced the word on his lips. A sort of 
passionate honesty in her made it inconceivable that he 
should try to draw her into that familiar trap. "If I 
were to let her come," he said to himself, "I should have 
to let her go again." And that was not to be imagined. 

But he saw the shadow of the lashes on her wet cheek, 
and wavered. 

"After all," he began again, "we have lives of our own. 
. . . There's no use attempting the impossible. You're 
so unprejudiced about some things, so used, as you say, 
to looking at the Gorgon, that I don't know why you're 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

afraid to face our case, and see it as it really is unless 
you think the sacrifice is not worth making." 

She stood up also, her lips tightening under a rapid 
frown. 

"Call it that, then I must go," she said, drawing her 
little watch from her bosom. 

She turned away, and he followed and caught her by 
the wrist. "Well, then: come to me once," he said, his 
head turning suddenly at the thought of losing her; and 
for a second or two they looked at each other almost like 
enemies. 

"When?" he insisted. "Tomorrow?" 

She hesitated. "The day after." 

"Dearest !" he said again. 

She had disengaged her wrist; but for a moment they 
continued to hold each other's eyes, and he saw that her 
face, which had grown very pale, was flooded with a deep 
inner radiance. His heart beat with awe: he felt that he 
had never before beheld love visible. 

"Oh, I shall be late good-bye. No, don't come any 
farther than this," she cried, walking hurriedly away 
down the long room, as if the reflected radiance in his 
eyes had frightened her. When she reached the door 
she turned for a moment to wave a quick farewell. 

Archer walked home alone. Darkness was falling 
when he let himself into his house, and he looked about 
at the familiar objects in the hall as if he viewed them 
from the other side of the grave. 

The parlour-maid, hearing his step, ran up the stairs 
to light the gas on the upper landing. 

"Is Mrs. Archer in?" 

"No, sir; Mrs. Archer went out in the carriage aftef 
luncheon, and hasn't come back." 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

With a sense of relief he entered the library and flung 
himself down in his armchair. The parlour-maid fol- 
lowed, bringing the student lamp and shaking some coals 
onto the dying fire. When she left he continue to sit 
motionless, his elbows on his knees, his chin on his 
clasped hands, his eyes fixed on the red grate. 

He sat there without conscious thoughts, without sense 
of the lapse of time, in a deep and grave amazement that 
seemed to suspend life rather than quicken it. "This was 
what had to be, then . . . this was what had to be," he 
kept repeating to himself, as if he hung in the clutch of 
doom. What he had dreamed of had been so different 
that there was a mortal chill in his rapture. 

The door opened and May came in. 

"I'm dreadfully late you weren't worried, were you ?" 
she asked, laying her hand on his shoulder with one of 
her rare caresses. 

He looked up astonished. "Is it late?" 

"After seven. I believe you've been asleep!" She 
laughed, and drawing out her hat pins tossed her velvet 
hat on the sofa. She looked paler than usual, but spark- 
ling with an unwonted animation. 

"I went to see Granny, and just as I was going away 
Ellen came in from a walk; so I stayed and had a long 
talk with her. It was ages since we'd had a real 
talk. . . ." She had dropped into her usual armchair, 
facing his, and was running her fingers through her 
rumpled hair. He fancied she expected him to speak. 

"A really good talk," she went on, smiling with what 
seemed to Archer an unnatural vividness. "She was so 
dear just like the old Ellen. I'm afraid I haven't been 
fair to her lately. I've sometimes thought " 

Archer stood up and leaned against the mantelpiece, 
out of the radius of the lamp. 

[317] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"Yes, you've thought ?" he echoed as she paused. 

"Well, perhaps I haven't judged her fairly. She's so 
different at least on the surface. She takes up such odd 
people she seems to like to make herself conspicuous. I 
suppose it's the life she's led in that fast European so- 
ciety; no doubt we seem dreadfully dull to her. But I 
don't want to judge her unfairly." 

She paused again, a little breathless with the unwonted 
length of her speech, and sat with her lips slightly parted 
and a deep blush on her cheeks. 

Archer, as he looked at her, was reminded of the glow 
which had suffused her face in the Mission Garden at St. 
Augustine. He became aware of the same obscure effort 
in her, the same reaching out toward something beyond 
the usual range of her vision. 

"She hates Ellen," he thought, "and she's trying to 
overcome the feeling, and to get me to help her to over- 
come it." 

The thought moved him, and for a moment he was on 
the point of breaking the silence between them, and 
throwing himself on her mercy. 

"You understand, don't you," she went on, "why the 
family have sometimes been annoyed ? We all did what 
we could for her at first ; but she never seemed to under- 
stand. And now this idea of going to see Mrs. Beaufort, 
of going there in Granny's carriage! I'm afraid she's 
quite alienated the van der Luydens . . ." 

"Ah," said Archer with an impatient laugh. The open 
door had closed between them again. 

"It's time to dress; we're dining out, aren't we?" he 
asked, moving from the fire. 

She rose also, but lingered near the hearth. As he 
walked past her she moved forward impulsively, as 
though to detain him: their eyes met, and he saw 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

hers were of the same swimming blue as when he had left 
her to drive to Jersey City. 

She flung her arms about his neck and pressed her 
cheek to his. 

"You haven't kissed me today/' she said in a whisper; 
and he felt her tremble in his arms. 






XXXII 

AT the Court of the Tuileries," said Mr. Sillerton 
Jackson with his reminiscent smile, "such things 
were pretty openly tolerated." 

The scene was the van der Luydens* black walnut din-* 
ing-room in 'Madison Avenue, and the time the evening 
after Newland Archer's visit to the Museum of Art. Mr, 
and Mrs. van der Luyden had come to town for a few 
days from Skuytercliff, whither they had precipitately 
fled at the announcement of Beaufort's failure. It had 
been represented to them that the disarray into which 
society had been thrown by this deplorable affair made 
their presence in town more necessary than ever. It was 
one of the occasions when, as Mrs. Archer put it, they 
"owed it to society" to show themselves at the Opera t 
and even to open their own doors. 

"It will never do, my dear Louisa, to let people lika 
Mrs. Lemuel Struthers think they can step into Regina's 
shoes. It is just at such times that new people push in 
and get a footing. It was owing to the epidemic of chick- 
en-pox in New York the winter Mrs. Struthers first ap* 
peared that the married men slipped away to her house 
while their wives were in the nursery. You and dear 
Henry, Louisa, must stand in the breach as you always 
have." 

Mr. and 'Mrs. van der Luyden could not remain deaf 
to such a call, and reluctantly but heroically they had 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

come to town, unmuffled the house, and sent out invita- 
tions for two dinners and an evening reception. 

On this particular evening they had invited Sillerton 
Jackson, Mrs. Archer and Newland and his wife to go 
with them to the Opera, where Faust was being sung for 
the first time that winter. Nothing was done without 
ceremony under the van der Luyden roof, and though 
there were but four guests the repast had begun at seven 
punctually, so that the proper sequence of courses might 
be served without haste before the gentlemen settled 
down to their cigars. 

Archer had not seen his wife since the evening before. 
He had left early for the office, where he had plunged 
into an accumulation of unimportant business. In the 
afternoon one of the senior partners had made an unex- 
pected call on his time; and he had reached home so late 
that May had preceded him to the van der Luydens', and 
sent back the carriage. 

Now, across the Skuytercliff carnations and the massive 
plate, she struck him as pale and languid; but her eyes 
shone, and she talked with exaggerated animation. 

The subject which had called forth Mr. Sillerton Jack- 
son's favourite allusion had been brought up (Archer 
fancied not without intention) by their hostess. The 
Beaufort failure, or rather the Beaufort attitude since the 
failure, was still a fruitful theme for the drawing-room 
moralist; and after it had been thoroughly examined and 
condemned Mrs. van der Luyden had turned her scrupu- 
lous eyes on May Archer. 

"Is it possible, dear, that what I hear is true? I was 
told your grandmother Mingott's carriage was seen stand- 
ing at Mrs. Beaufort's door." It was noticeable that she 
no longer called the offending lady by her Christian name. 

May's colour rose, and Mrs. Archer put in hastily: "If 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

it was, I'm convinced it was there without Mrs. Mingott's 
knowledge." 

"Ah, you think ?" Mrs. van der Luyden paused, 
sighed, and glanced at her husband. 

"I'm afraid," Mr. van der Luyden said, "that Madame 
Olenska's kind heart may have led her into the impru- 
dence of calling on 'Mrs. Beaufort." 

"Or her taste for peculiar people," put in Mrs. Archer 
in a dry tone, while her eyes dwelt innocently on her 
son's. 

"I'm sorry to think it of Madame Olenska," said Mrs. 
van der Luyden; and Mrs. Archer murmured: "Ah, my 
dear and after you'd had her twice at Skuytercliff !" 

It was at this point that Mr. Jackson seized the chance 
to place his favourite allusion. 

"At the Tuileries," he repeated, seeing the eyes of the 
company expectantly turned on him, "the standard was 
excessively lax in some respects; and if you'd asked 
where Morny's money came from ! Or who paid the 
debts of some of the Court beauties . . ." 

"I hope, dear Sillerton," said Mrs. Archer, "you are 
not suggesting that we should adopt such standards?" 

"I never suggest," returned 'Mr. Jackson imperturb- 
ably. "But Madame Olenska's foreign bringing-up may 
make her less particular " 

"Ah," the two elder ladies sighed. 

"Still, to have kept her grandmother's carriage at a 
defaulter's door!" Mr. van der Luyden protested; and 
Archer guessed that he was remembering, and resenting, 
the hampers of carnations he had sent to the little house 
in Twenty-third Street. 

"Of course I've always said that she looks at things 
quite differently," Mrs. Archer summed up. 

A flush rose to May's forehead. She looked across the 
[322] 



t THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

table at her husband, and said precipitately: "I'm sure 
Ellen meant it kindly." 

"Imprudent people are often kind/' said Mrs. Archer, 
as if the fact were scarcely an extenuation ; and Mrs. van 
der Luyden murmured : "If only she had consulted some 
one" 

"Ah, that she never did !" Mrs. Archer rejoined. 

At this point Mr. van der Luyden glanced at his wife, 
who bent her head slightly in the direction of Mrs. 
Archer; and the glimmering trains of the three ladies 
swept out of the door while the gentlemen settled down 
to their cigars. Mr. van der Luyden supplied short ones 
on Opera nights; but they were so good that they made 
his guests deplore his inexorable punctuality. 

Archer, after the first act, had detached himself from 
the party and made his way to the back of the club box. 
From there he watched, over various Chivers, Mingott 
and Rushworth shoulders, the same scene that he had 
looked at, two years previously, on the night of his first 
meeting with Ellen Olenska. He had half -expected her 
to appear again in old Mrs. Mingott's box, but it re- 
mained empty; and he sat motionless, his eyes fastened 
on it, till suddenly Madame Nilsson's pure soprano broke 
out into "M'ama, nan m'ama . . " 

Archer turned to the stage, where, in the familiar set- 
ting of giant roses and pen- wiper pansies, the same large 
blonde victim was succumbing to the same small brown 
seducer. 

From the stage his eyes wandered to the point of the 
horseshoe where May sat between two older ladies, just 
as, on that former evening, she had sat between Mrs. 
Lovell Mingott and her newly-arrived "foreign" cousin. 
As on that evening, she was all in white ; and Archer, who 

[323] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

had not noticed what she wore, recognised the blue-white 
satin and old lace of her wedding dress. 

It was the custom, in old New York, for brides to 
appear in this costly garment during the first year or 
two of marriage : his mother, he knew, kept hers in tissue 
paper in the hope that Janey might some day wear it, 
though poor Janey was reaching the age when pearl grey 
poplin and no bridesmaids would be thought more 
"appropriate." 

It struck Archer that May, since their return from 
Europe, had seldom worn her bridal satin, and the sur- 
prise of seeing her in it made him compare her appear- 
ance with that of the young girl he had watched with such 
blissful anticipations two years earlier. 

Though May's outline was slightly heavier, as her 
goddess-like build had foretold, her athletic erectness of 
carriage, and the girlish transparency of her expression, 
remained unchanged: but for the slight languor that 
Archer had lately noticed in her she would have been the 
exact image of the girl playing with the bouquet of lilies- 
of-the-valley on her betrothal evening. The fact seemed 
an additional appeal to his pity: sucK innocence was as 
moving as the trustful clasp of a child. Then he remem- 
bered the passionate generosity latent under that incuri- 
ous calm. He recalled her glance of understanding when 
he had urged that their engagement should be announced 
at the Beaufort ball ; he heard the voice in which she had 
said, in the Mission garden : "I couldn't have my happi- 
i ness made out of a wrong a wrong to some one else ;" 
and an uncontrollable longing seized him to tell her the 
truth, to throw himself on her generosity, and ask for 
the freedom he had once refused. 

Newland Archer was a quiet and self-controlled 
young man. Conformity to the discipline of a small 

[324] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

society had become almost his second nature. It was 
deeply distasteful to him to do anything melodramatic 
and conspicuous, anything Mr. van der Luyden would 
have deprecated and the club box condemned as bad 
form. But he had become suddenly unconscious of the 
club box, of Mr. van der Luyden, of all that had so long 
enclosed him in the warm shelter of habit. He walked 
along the semi-circular passage at the back of the house, 
and opened the door of Mrs. van der Luyden's box as 
if it had been a gate into the unknown. 

"M'ama!" thrilled out the triumphant Marguerite; and 
the occupants of the box looked up in surprise at 
Archer's entrance. He had already broken one of the 
rules of his world, which forbade the entering of a box 
during a solo. 

Slipping between Mr. van der Luyden and Sillerton 
Jackson, he leaned over his wife. 

"I've got a beastly headache; don't tell any one, but 
come home, won't you ?" he whispered. 

May gave him a glance of comprehension, and he saw 
her whisper to his mother, who nodded sympathetically; 
then she murmured an excuse to Mrs. van der Luyden, 
and rose from her seat just as Marguerite fell into 
Faust's arms. Archer, while he helped her on with her 
Opera cloak, noticed the exchange of a significant smile 
between the older ladies. 

As they drove away May laid her hand shyly on his. 
"I'm so sorry you don't feel well. I'm afraid they've 
been over-working you again at the office." 

"No it's not that: do you mind if I open the win- 
dow?" he returned confusedly, letting down the pane 
on his side. He sat staring out into the street, feeling 
his wife beside him as a silent watchful interrogation, 
and keeping his eyes steadily fixed on the passing houses. 

[32*1 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE i 

At their door she caught her skirt in the step of the? 
carriage, and fell against him. 

"Did you hurt yourself ?" he asked, steadying her with 
his arm. 

"No; but my poor dress see how I've torn it!" she 
exclaimed. She bent to gather up a mud-stained breadth, 
and followed him up the steps into the hall. The servants 
had not expected them so early, and there was only a 
glimmer of gas on the upper landing. 

Archer mounted the stairs, turned up the light, and 
put a match to the brackets on each side of the library 
mantelpiece. The curtains were drawn, and the warm 
friendly aspect of the room smote him like that of a 
familiar face met during an unavowable errand. 

He noticed that his wife was very pale, and asked if 
he should get her some brandy. 

n Oh, no/' she exclaimed with a momentary flush, as 
she took off her cloak. "But hadn't you better go to 
bed at once?" she added, as he opened a silver box on 
the table and took out a cigarette. 

Archer threw down the cigarette and walked to hi* 
usual place by the fire. 

''No; my head is not as bad as that." He paused. 
"And there's something I want to say ; something impor- 
tant that I must tell you at once." 

She had dropped into an armchair, and raised her head 
as he spoke. "Yes, dear?" she rejoined, so gently that 
he wondered at the lack of wonder with which she re- 
ceived this preamble. 

"May " he began, standing a few feet from her chair, 
and looking over at her as if the slight distance between 
them were an unbridgeable abyss. The sound of his 
yoice echoed uncannily through the homelike hush, and 

[326] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

he repeated : "There is something I've got to tdl you 
. . . about myself . . ." 

She sat silent, without a movement or a tremor of her 
lashes. She was still extremely pale, but her face had 
a curious tranquillity of expression that seemed drawn 
from some secret inner source. 

Archer checked the conventional phrases of self-accusal 
that were crowding to his lips. He was determined to 
put the case baldly, without vain recrimination or excuse. 

"Madame Olenska " he said; but at the name his 
wife raised her hand as if to silence him. As she did so 
the gas-light struck on the gold of her wedding-ring. 

"Oh, why should we talk about Ellen tonight?" she 
asked, with a slight pout of impatience. 

"Because I ought to have spoken before." 

Her face remained calm. "Is it really worth while, 
dear ? I know I've been unfair to her at times perhaps 
we all have. You've understood her, no doubt, better 
than we did : you've always been kind to her. But what 
does it matter, now it's all over?" 

Archer looked at her blankly. Could it be possible that 
the sense of unreality in which he felt himself imprisoned 
had communicated itself to his wife? 

"All over what do you mean?" he asked in an indis- 
tinct stammer. 

May still looked at him with transparent eyes. "Why 
since she's going back to Europe so soon ; since Granny 
approves and understands, and has arranged to make her 
independent of her husband " 

She broke off, and Archer, grasping the corner of the 
mantelpiece in one convulsed hand, and steadying him- 
self against it, made a vain effort to extend the same 
control to his reeling thoughts. 

"I supposed," he heard his wife's even voice go on, 
[3271 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"that you had been kept at the office this evening about 
the business arrangements. It was settled this morning, 
I believe." She lowered her eyes under his unseeing 
stare, and another fugitive flush passed over her face. 

He understood that his own eyes must be unbearable, 
and turning away, rested his elbows on the mantel-shelf 
and covered his face. Something drummed and clanged 
furiously in his ears ; he could not tell if it were the blood 
in his veins, or the tick of the clock on the mantel. 

May sat without moving or speaking while the clock 
slowly measured out five minutes. A lump of coal fell 
forward in the grate, and hearing her rise to push it back, 
Archer at length turned and faced her. 

"It's impossible," he exclaimed. 

"Impossible?" 

"How do you know what you've just told me?'* 

"I saw Ellen yesterday I told you I'd seen her at 
Granny's." 

"It wasn't then that she told you?" 

"No; I had a note from her this afternoon. Do you 
want to see it?" 

He could not find his voice, and she went out of the 
room, and came back almost immediately. 

"I thought you knew," she said simply. 

She laid a sheet of paper on the table, and Archer put 
out his hand and took it up. The letter contained only 
a few lines. 

"May dear, I have at last made Granny understand 
that my visit to her could be no more than a visit ; and 
she has been as kind and generous as ever. She sees 
now that if I return to Europe I must live by myself, 
or rather with poor Aunt Medora, who is coming with 
me. I am hurrying back to Washington to pack up, and 
we sail next week. You must be very good to Granny 

[328] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

when I'm gone as good as you've always been to me. 
Ellen. 

"If any of my friends wish to urge me to change my 
mind, please tell them it would be utterly useless." 

Archer read the letter over two or three times; then 
he flung it down and burst out laughing. 

The sound of his laugh startled him. It recalled 
Janey's midnight fright when she had caught him rocking 
with incomprehensible mirth over May's telegram an- 
nouncing that the date of their marriage had been 
advanced. 

"Why did she write this ?" he asked, checking his laugh 
with a supreme effort. 

May met the question with her unshaken candour. "I 
suppose because we talked things over yesterday n 

"What things?" 

"I told her I was afraid I hadn't been fair to her 
hadn't always understood how hard it must have been 
for her here, alone among so many people who were 
relations and yet strangers ; who felt the right to criticise, 
and yet didn't always know the circumstances." She 
paused. "I knew you'd been the one friend she could 
always count on ; and I wanted her to know that you and 
I were the same in all our feelings." 

She hesitated, as if waiting for him to speak, and then 
added slowly: "She understood my wishing to tell her 
this. I think she understands everything." 

She went up to Archer, and taking one of his cold 
hands pressed it quickly against her cheek. 

"My head aches too; good-night, dear/' she said, and 
turned to the door, her torn and muddy wedding-dresi 
dragging after her across the room. 



XXXIII 

IT was, as Mrs. Archer smilingly said to Mrs. Wei- 
land, a great event for a young couple to give their 
first big dinner. 

The Newland Archers, since they had set up their 
household, had received a good deal of company in an 
informal way. Archer was fond of having three or 
four friends to dine, and May welcomed them with the 
beaming readiness of which her mother had set her the 
example in conjugal affairs. Her husband questioned 
whether, if left to herself, she would ever have asked 
any one to the house ; but he had long given up trying to 
disengage her real self from the shape into which tradi- 
tion and training had moulded her. It was expected that 
well-off young couples in New York should do a good 
deal of informal entertaining, and a Welland married 
to an Archer was doubly pledged to the tradition. 

But a big dinner, with a hired chef and two borrowed 
footmen, with Roman punch, roses from Henderson's, 
and menus on gilt-edged cards, was a different affair, and 
not to be lightly undertaken. As Mrs. Archer remarked, 
the Roman punch made all the difference; not in itself 
but by its manifold implications since it signified either 
canvas-backs or terrapin, two soups, a hot and a cold 
sweet, full decolletage with short sleeves, and guests of 
a proportionate importance. 

It was always an interesting occasion when a young 
pair launched their first invitations in the third person, 

[330] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

and their summons was seldom refused even by the sea- 
soned and sought-after. Still, it was admittedly a triumph 
that the van der Luydens, at May's request, should have 
stayed over in order to be present at her farewell dinner 
for the Countess Olenska. 

The two mothers-in-law sat in May's drawing-room on 
the afternoon of the great day, Mrs. Archer writing out 
the menus on Tiffany's thickest gilt-edged bristol, while 
Mrs. Welland superintended the placing of the palms and 
standard lamps. 

Archer, arriving late from his office, found them still 
there. Mrs. Archer had turned her attention to the 
name-cards for the table, and Mrs. Welland was con- 
sidering the effect of bringing forward the large gilt sofa, 
so that another "corner" might be created between the 
piano and the window. 

May, they told him, was in the dining-room inspecting 
the mound of Jacqueminot roses and maidenhair in the 
centre of the long table, and the placing of the Maillard 
bonbons in openwork silver baskets between the cande- 
labra. On the piano stood a large basket of orchids 
which Mr. van der Luyden had had sent from Skuyter- 
cliff. Everything was, in short, as it should be on the 
approach of so considerable an event. 

Mrs. Archer ran thoughtfully over the list, checking 
off each name with her sharp gold pen. 

"Henry van der Luyden Louisa the Lovell Mingotts 
the Reggie Chiverses Lawrence Lefferts and Ger- 
trude (yes, I suppose May was right to have them) 
the Self ridge Merry s, Sillerton Jackson, Van Newland 
and his wife. (How time passes! It seems only yester- 
day that he was your best man, Newland) and Countess 
Olenska yes, I think that's all. . . ." 

Mrs. Welland surveyed her son-in-law affectionately. 

[331] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"No one can say, Newland, that you and May are not 
giving Ellen a handsome send-off." 

"Ah, well," said Mrs. Archer, "I understand May's 
wanting her cousin to tell people abroad that we're not 
quite barbarians." 

"I'm sure Ellen will appreciate it. She was to arrive 
this morning, I believe. It will make a most charming 
last impression. The evening before sailing is usually so 
dreary," Mrs. Welland cheerfully continued. 

Archer turned toward the door, and his mother-in-law 
called to him: "Do go in and have a peep at the table. 
And don't let 'May tire herself too much." But he affect- 
ed not to hear, and sprang up the stairs to his library. 
The room looked at him like an alien countenance com- 
posed into a polite grimace ; and he perceived that it had 
been ruthlessly "tidied," and prepared, by a judicious 
distribution of ash-trays and cedar-wood boxes, for the 
gentlemen to smoke in. i 

"Ah, well," he thought, "it's not for long" and he 
went on to his dressing-room. 

Ten days had passed since Madame Olenska's depar- 
ture from New York. During those ten days Archer 
had had no sign from her but that conveyed by the return 
of a key wrapped in tissue paper, and sent to his office 
in a sealed envelope addressed in her hand. This retort 
to his last appeal might have been interpreted as a classic 
move in a familiar game; but the young man chose to 
give it a different meaning. She was still fighting against 
her fate ; but she was going to Europe, and she was not 
returning to her husband. Nothing, therefore, was to 
prevent his following her; and once he had taken the 
irrevocable step, and had proved to her that it was ir- 
revocable, he believed she would not send him away. 

[332] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

This confidence in the future had steadied him to play 
his part in the present. It had kept him from writing 
to her, or betraying, by any sign or act, his misery and 
mortification. It seemed to him that in the deadly silent 
game between them the trumps were still in his hands ; 
and he waited. 

There had been, nevertheless, moments sufficiently 
difficult to pass; as when Mr. Letterblair, the day after 
Madame Olenska's departure, had sent for him to go 
over the details of the trust which Mrs. Manson Mingott 
wished to create for her granddaughter. For a couple 
of hours Archer had examined the terms of the deed 
with his senior, all the while obscurely feeling that if 
he had been consulted it was for some reason other than 
the obvious one of his cousinship; and that the close 
of the conference would reveal it. 

"Well, the lady can't deny that it's a handsome ar- 
rangement," Mr. Letterblair had summed up, after 
mumbling over a summary of the settlement. "In fact 
I'm bound to say she's been treated pretty handsomely 
all round." 

"All round ?" Archer echoed with a touch of derision. 
"Do you refer to her husband's proposal to give her back 
her own money?" 

1 'Mr. Letterblair's bushy eyebrows went up a fraction 
of an inch. "My dear sir, the law's the law; and your 
wife's cousin was married under the French law. It's 
to be presumed she knew what that meant." 

"Even if she did, what happened subsequently ." 
But Archer paused. Mr. Letterblair had laid his pen- 
handle against his big corrugated nose, and was looking 
down it with the expression assumed by virtuous elderly 
gentlemen when they wish their youngers to understand 
that virtue is not synonymous with ignorance. 

[333] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

"My dear sir, I've no wish to extenuate the Count's 
transgressions; but but on the other side ... I would- 
n't put my hand in the fire . . . well, that there hadn't 
been tit for tat ... with the young champion. . . ." 
Mr. Letterblair unlocked a drawer and pushed a folded 
paper toward Archer. "This report, the result of dis- 
creet enquiries . . ." And then, as Archer made no 
effort to glance at the paper or to repudiate the sugges- 
tion, the lawyer somewhat flatly continued: "I don't say 
it's conclusive, you observe; far from it. But straws 
show . . . and on the whole it's eminently satisfactory 
for all parties that this dignified solution has been 
reached." 

"Oh, eminently," Archer assented, pushing back the 
paper. 

A day or two later, on responding to a summons from 
Mrs. Manson Mingott, his soul had been more deeply 
tried. 

He had found the old lady depressed and querulous. 

"You know she's deserted me?" she began at once; 
and without waiting for his reply: "Oh, don't ask me 
why ! She gave so many reasons that I've forgotten them 
all. My private belief is that she couldn't face the bore- 
dom. At any rate that's what Augusta and my daughters- 
in-law think. And I don't know that I altogether blame 
her. Olenski's a finished scoundrel; but life with him 
must have been a good deal gayer than it is in Fifth 
Avenue. Not that the family would admit that: they 
think Fifth Avenue is Heaven with the rue de la Paix 
thrown in. And poor Ellen, of course, has no idea of 
going back to her husband. She held out as firmly as 
ever against that. So she's to settle down in Paris with 
that fool Medora. . . . Well, Paris is Paris; and you 
can keep a carriage there on next to nothing. But she 

[334] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

was as gay as a bird, and I shall miss her." Two tears, 
the parched tears of the old, rolled down her puffy cheeks 
and vanished in the abysses of her bosom. 

"All I ask is," she concluded, "that they shouldn't 
bother me any more. I must really be allowed to digest 
my gruel. . . ." And she twinkled a little wistfully at 
Archer. 

It was that evening, on his return home, that May 
announced her intention of giving a farewell dinner to 
her cousin. Madame Olenska's name had not been pro- 
nounced between them since the night of her flight to 
Washington ; and Archer looked at his wife with surprise. 

"A dinner why?" he interrogated. 

Her colour rose. "But you like Ellen I thought you'd 
fe pleased." 

"It's awfully nice your putting it in that way. But I 
really don't see " 

"I mean to do it, Newland," she said, quietly rising and 
going to her desk. "Here are the invitations all written. 
Mother helped me she agrees that we ought to." She 
paused, embarrassed and yet smiling, and Archer sud- 
denly saw before him the embodied image of the Family. 

"Oh, all right," he said, staring with unseeing eyes at 
the list of guests that she had put in his hand. 

When he entered the drawing-room before dinner May 
was stooping over the fire and trying to coax the logs to 
burn in their unaccustomed setting of immaculate tiles. 

The tall lamps were all lit, and Mr. van der Luyden's 
orchids had been conspicuously disposed in various recep- 
tacles of modern porcelain and knobby silver. Mrs. 
Newland Archer's drawing-room was generally thought 
a great success. A gilt bamboo jardiniere, in which the 
primulas and cinerarias were punctually renewed, blocked 

[335] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the access to the bay window (where the old-fashioned 
would have preferred a bronze reduction of the Venus 
of 'Milo) ; the sofas and arm-chairs of pale brocade were 
cleverly grouped about little plush tables densely covered 
with silver toys, porcelain animals and efflorescent photo- 
graph frames; and tall rosy-shaded lamps shot up like 
tropical flowers among the palms. 

"I don't think Ellen has ever seen this room lighted 
up," said May, rising flushed from her struggle, and send- 
ing about her a glance of pardonable pride. The brass 
tongs which she had propped against the side of the 
chimney fell with a crash that drowned her husband's 
answer ; and before he could restore them Mr. and Mrs. 
van der Luyden were announced. 

The other guests quickly followed, for it was known 
that the van der Luydens liked to dine punctually. The 
room was nearly full, and Archer was engaged in show- 
ing to Mrs. Selfridge Merry a small highly-varnished 
Verbeckhoven "Study of Sheep," which Mr. Welland 
had given May for Christmas, when he found 'Madame 
Olenska at his side. 

She was excessively pale, and her pallor made her 
dark hair seem denser and heavier than ever. Perhaps 
that, or the fact that she had wound several TOWS of 
amber beads about her neck, reminded him suddenly of 
the little Ellen Mingott he had danced with at children's 
parties, when Medora Manson had first brought her to 
New York. 

The amber beads were trying to her complexion, or 
her dress was perhaps unbecoming: her face looked 
lustreless and almost ugly, and he had never loved it as 
he did at that minute. Their hands met, and he thought 
he heard her say: "Yes, we're sailing tomorrow in the 
Russia "; then there was an unmeaning noise of open- 

[336] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ing doors, and after an interval May's voice : "Newland f 
Dinner's been announced. Won't you please take Ellen 
In?" 

Madame Olenska put her hand on his arm, and he 
noticed that the hand was ungloved, and remembered how 
he had kept his eyes fixed on it the evening that he had 
sat with her in the little Twenty-third Street drawing- 
room. All the beauty that had forsaken her face seemed 
to have taken refuge in the long pale fingers and faintly 
dimpled knuckles on his sleeve, and he said to himself: 
""If it were only to see her hand again I should have to 
follow her." 

It was only at an entertainment ostensibly offered to a 
''foreign visitor" that Mrs. van der Luyden could suffer 
the diminution of being placed on her host's left. The 
fact of Madame Olenska's "foreignness" could hardly 
have been more adroitly emphasised than by this farewell 
tribute; and Mrs. van der Luyden accepted her displace- 
ment with an affability which left no doubt as to her 
approval. There were certain things that had to be done, 
and if done at all, done handsomely and thoroughly; and 
one of these, in the old New York code, was the tribal 
rally around a kinswoman about to be eliminated from 
the tribe. There was nothing on earth that the Wellands 
and Mingotts would not have done to proclaim their 
unalterable affection for the Countess Olenska now that 
her passage for Europe was engaged ; and Archer, at the 
head of his table, sat marvelling at the silent untiring 
activity with which her popularity had been retrieved, 
grievances against her silenced, her past countenanced, 
and her present irradiated by the family approval. Mrs. 
van der Luyden shone on her with the dim benevolence 
which was her nearest approach to cordiality, and Mr. 
van der Luyden, from his seat at May's right, cast down 

[337] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE i 

the table glances plainly intended to justify all the carna* 
tions he had sent from Skuytercliff. 

Archer, who seemed to be assisting at the scene in a 
state of odd imponderability, as if he floated somewhere 
between chandelier and ceiling, wondered at nothing so 
much as his own share in the proceedings. As his glance 
travelled from one placid well-fed face to another he saw 
all the harmless-looking people engaged upon May's 
canvas-backs as a band of dumb conspirators, and himself 
and the pale woman on his right as the centre of their 
conspiracy. And then it came over him, in a vast flash 
made up of many broken gleams, that to all of them he 
and Madame Olenska were lovers, lovers in the extreme 
sense peculiar to "foreign" vocabularies. He guessed 
himself to have been, for months, the centre of countless 
silently observing eyes and patiently listening ears, he 
understood that, by means as yet unknown to him, the 
separation between himself and the partner of his guilt 
had been achieved, and that now the whole tribe had 
rallied about his wife on the tacit assumption that no- 
body knew anything, or had ever imagined anything, and 
that the occasion of the entertainment was simply May 
Archer's natural desire to take an affectionate leave of 
her friend and cousin. 

It was the old New York way of taking life "without 
effusion of blood" : the way of people who dreaded scan- 
dal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, 
and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than 
"scenes," except the behaviour of those who gave rise 
to them. 

As these thoughts succeeded each other in his mind 
Archer felt like a prisoner in the centre of an armed 
camp. He looked about the table, and guessed at the 
inexorableness of his captors from the tone in which, ovef 

[338] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the asparagus from Florida, they were dealing with Beau- 
fort and his wife. "It's to show me," he thought, "what 
would happen to me " and a deathly sense of the 
superiority of implication and analogy over direct action, 
and of silence over rash words, closed in on him like 
the doors of the family vault. 

He laughed, and met Mrs. van der Luyden's startled 
eyes. 

"You think it laughable?" she said with a pinched 
smile. "Of course poor Regina's idea of remaining in 
New York has its ridiculous side, I suppose ;" and Archer 
muttered: "Of course." 

At this point, he became conscious that Madame Olen- 
ska's other neighbour had been engaged for some time 
with the lady on his right. At the same moment he saw 
that May, serenely enthroned between Mr. van der Luy- 
den and Mr. Selfridge Merry, had cast a quick glance 
down the table. It was evident that the host and the 
lady on his right could not sit through the whole meal 
in silence. He turned to Madame Olenska, and her pale 
smile met him. "Oh, do let's see it through," it seemed 
to say. 

"Did you find the journey tiring?" he asked in a 
voice that surprised him by its naturalness; and she 
answered that, on the contrary, she had seldom travelled 
with fewer discomforts. 

"Except, you know, the dreadful heat in the train," 
she added; and he remarked that she would not suffer 
from that particular hardship in the country she was 
going to. 

"I never," he declared with intensity, "was more nearly 
frozen than once, in April, in the train between Calais 
and Paris." 

She said she did not wonder, but remarked that, after 
13391 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

all, one could always carry an extra rug, and that every 
form of travel had its hardships; to which he abruptly 
returned that he thought them all of no account compared 
with the blessedness of getting away. She changed 
colour, and he added, his voice suddenly rising in pitch : 
"I mean to do a lot of travelling myself before long." 
A tremor crossed her face, and leaning over to Reggie 
Chivers, he cried out : "I say, Reggie, what do you say 
to a trip round the world: now, next month, I mean? 
I'm game if you are " at which 'Mrs. Reggie piped up 
that she could not think of letting Reggie go till after 
the Martha Washington Ball she was getting up for the 
Blind Asylum in Easter week ; and her husband placidly 
observed that by that time he would have to be practising 
for the International Polo match. 

But Mr. Self ridge Merry had caught the phrase "round 
the world," and having once circled the globe in his 
steam-yacht, he seized the opportunity to send down the 
table several striking items concerning the shallowness 
of the Mediterranean ports. Though, after all, he added, 
it didn't matter ; for when you'd seen Athens and Smyrna 
and Constantinople, what else was there? And Mrs. 
Merry said she could never be too grateful to Dr. Ben- 
comb for having made them promise not to go to Naples- 
on account of the fever. 

"But you must have three weeks to do India properly,"" 
her husband conceded, anxious to have it understood 
that he was no frivolous globe-trotter. 

And at this point the ladies went up to the drawing- 
room. 

In the library, in spite of weightier presences, Lawrence 
Lefferts predominated. 

The talk, as usual, had veered around to the Beauf orts* 
[340] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

find even Mr. van der Luyden and Mr. Selfridge Merry, 
installed in the honorary arm-chairs tacitly reserved for 
them, paused to listen to the younger man's philippic. 

Never had Lefferts so abounded in the sentiments that 
adorn Christian manhood and exalt the sanctity of the 
home. Indignation lent him a scathing eloquence, and it 
was clear that if others had followed his example, and 
acted as he talked, society would never have been weak 
enough to receive a foreign upstart like Beaufort no, 
sir, not even if he'd married a van der Layden or a 
Lanning instead of a Dallas. And what chance would 
there have been, Lefferts wrathfully questioned, of his 
marrying into such a family as the Dallases, if he had 
not already wormed his way into certain houses, as 
people like Mrs. Lemuel Struthers had managed to worm 
theirs in his wake? If society chose to open its doors 
to vulgar women the harm was not great, though the 
gain was doubtful ; but once it got in the way of tolerating 
men of obscure origin and tainted wealth the end was 
total disintegration and at no distant date. 

"If things go on at this pace," Lefferts thundered, 
looking like a young prophet dressed by Poole, and who 
had not yet been stoned, "we shall see our children fight- 
ing for invitations to swindlers' houses, and marrying 
Beaufort's bastards." 

"Oh, I say draw it mild !" Reggie Chivers and young 
Newland protested, while Mr. Selfridge Merry looked 
genuinely alarmed, and an expression of pain and disgust 
settled on Mr. van der Luyden's sensitive face. 

"Has he got any?" cried Mr. Sillerton Jackson, prick- 
ing up his ears; and while Lefferts tried to turn the 
question with a laugh, the old gentleman twittered into 
Archer's ear: "Queer, those fellows who are always 
wanting to set things right. The people who have thq 

[34i] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Worst cooks are always telling you they're poisoned when 
they dine out. But I hear there are pressing reasons for 
our friend Lawrence's diatribe: type-writer this time, 
I understand. . . ." 

The talk swept past Archer like some senseless river 
running and running because it did not know enough to 
stop. He saw, on the faces about him, expressions of 
interest, amusement and even mirth. He listened to the 
younger men's laughter, and to the praise of the Archer 
Madeira, which 'Mr. van der Luyden and Mr. Merry were 
thoughtfully celebrating. Through it all he was dimly 
aware of a general attitude of friendliness toward him- 
self, as if the guard of the prisoner he felt himself to be 
were trying to soften his captivity ; and the perception in- 
creased his passionate determination to be free. 

In the drawing-room, where they presently joined the 
ladies, he met May's triumphant eyes, and read in them 
the conviction that everything had "gone off" beautifully. 
She rose from Madame Olenska's side, and immediately 
Mrs. van der Luyden beckoned the latter to a seat on 
the gilt sofa where she throned. Mrs. Selfridge Merry 
bore across the room to join them, and it became clear 
to Archer that here also a conspiracy of rehabilitation: 
and obliteration was going on. The silent organisation 
which held his little world together was determined to 
put itself on record as never for a moment having 
questioned the propriety of Madame Olenska's conduct, 
or the completeness of Archer's domestic felicity. All 
these amiable and inexorable persons were resolutely 
engaged in pretending to each other that they had never 
heard of, suspected, or even conceived possible, the least 
hint to the contrary; and from this tissue of elaborate 
mutual dissimulation Archer once more disengaged the 
fact that New, York believed him to be Madame Olenska's 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

lover. He caught the glitter of victory in his wife's 
eyes, and for the first time understood that she shared 
the belief. The discovery roused a laughter of inner 
devils that reverberated through all his efforts to discuss 
the Martha Washington ball with Mrs. Reggie Chivers 
and little Mrs. Newland; and so the evening swept on, 
running and running like a senseless river that did not 
know how to stop. 

At length he saw that Madame Olenska had risen and 
was saying good-bye. He understood that in a moment 
she would be gone, and tried to remember what he had 
said to her at dinner; but he could not recall a single 
word they had exchanged. 

She went up to May t the rest of the company making 
a circle about her as she advanced. The two young 
women clasped hands; then May bent forward and 
kissed her cousin. 

"Certainly our hostess is much the handsomer of the 
two," Archer heard Reggie Chivers say in an undertone 
to young Mrs. Newland ; and he remembered Beaufort's 
coarse sneer at May's ineffectual beauty. 

A moment later he was in the hall, putting Madame 
Olenska's cloak about her shoulders. 

Through all his confusion of mind he had held fast 
to the resolve to say nothing that might startle or disturb 
her. Convinced that no power could now turn him from 
his purpose he had found strength to let events shape 
themselves as they would. But as he followed Madame 
Olenska into the hall he thought with a sudden hunger of 
being for a moment alone with her at the door of her 
carriage. 

"Is your carriage here?" he asked ; and at that moment 
Mrs. van der Luyden, who was being majestically in- 

T343] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

serted into her sables, said gently : "We are driving deaf 
Ellen home." 

Archer's heart gave a jerk, and Madame Olenska, 
clasping her cloak and fan with one hand, held out the 
other to him. "Good-bye," she said. 

"Good-bye but I shall see you soon in Paris," he 
answered aloud it seemed to him that he had shouted it. 

"Oh," she murmured, "if you and May could come ! J> 

Mr. van der Luyden advanced to give her his arm, and 
Archer turned to Mrs. van der Luyden. For a moment, 
in the billowy darkness inside the big landau, he caught 
the dim oval of a face, eyes shining steadily and she 
was gone. 

As he went up the steps he crossed Lawrence Lefferts 
coming down with his wife. Lefferts caught his host by 
the sleeve, drawing back to let Gertrude pass. 

"I say, old chap : do you mind just letting it be under- 
stood that I'm dining with you at the club tomorrow 
night? Thanks so much, you old brick! Good-night." 

"It did go off beautifully, didn't it?" May questioned 
from the threshold of the library. 

Archer roused himself with a start. As soon as the 
last carriage had driven away, he had come up to the 
library and shut himself in, with the hope that his wife, 
who still lingered below, would go straight to her room. 
But there she stood, pale and drawn, yet radiating the 
factitious energy of one who has passed beyond fatigue. 

"May I come and talk it over?" she asked. 

"Of course, if you like. But you must be awfully 
sleepy" 

"No, I'm not sleepy. I should like to sit with you a 
little." 

"Very ffiell/' he said, pushing her chair near the 
[344] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

She sat down and he resumed his seat; but neither 
spoke for a long time. At length Archer began abruptly : 
"Since you're not tired, and want to walk, there's some- 
thing I must tell you. I tried to the other night ." 

She looked at him quickly. "Yes, dear. Something 
about yourself?" 

"About myself. You say you're not tired : well, I am. 
Horribly tired . . ." 

In an instant she was all tender anxiety. "Oh, I've 
seen it coming on, Newland! You've been so wickedly 
overworked " 

"Perhaps it's that. Anyhow, I want to make a 
break" 

"A break? To give up the law?" 

"To go away, at any rate at once. On a long trip, 
ever so far off away from everything " 

He paused, conscious that he had failed in his attempt 
to speak with the indifference of a man who longs for 
a change, and is yet too weary to welcome it. Do what 
he would, the chord of eagerness vibrated. "Away from 
everything " he repeated. 

"Ever so far? Where, for instance?" she asked. 

"Oh, I don't know. India or Japan." 

She stood up, and as he sat with bent head, his chin 
propped on his hands, he felt her warmly and fragrantly 
hovering over him. 

"As far as that? But I'm afraid you can't, dear . . ." 
she said in an unsteady voice. "Not unless you'll take 
me with you." And then, as he was silent, she went on, 
in tones so clear and evenly-pitched that each separate 
syllable tapped like a little hammer on his brain: "That 
is, if the doctors will let me go ... but I'm afraid they 
won't. For you see, Newland, I've been sure since this 

[345] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

morning of something I've been so longing and hoping 
for" 

He looked up at her with a sick stare, and she sank 
down, all dew and roses, and hid her face against his 
knee. 

"Oh, my dear," he said, holding her to him while his 
cold hand stroked her hair. 

There was a long pause, which the inner devils filled 
with strident laughter; then May freed herself from his 
arms and stood up. 

"You didn't guess?" 

"Yes I ; no. That is, of course I hoped" 

They looked at each other for an instant and again 
fell silent; then, turning his eyes from hers, he asked 
abruptly: "Have you told any one else?" 

"Only Mamma and your mother." She paused, and 
then added hurriedly, the blood flushing up to her fore- 
head: "That is and Ellen. You know I told you we'd 
had a long talk one afternoon and how dear she was 
to me." 

"Ah " said Archer, his heart stopping. 

He felt that his wife was watching him intently. "Did 
you mind my telling her first, Newland?" 

"Mind? Why should I?" He made a last effort to 
collect himself. "But that was a fortnight ago, wasn't 
it? I thought you said you weren't sure till today." 

Her colour burned deeper, but she held his gaze. "No ; 
I wasn't sure then but I told her I was. And you see 
I was right!" she exclaimed, her blue eyes wet with 
victory. 






XXXIV 

NEWLAND ARCHER sat at the writing-table in 
his library in East Thirty-ninth Street. 

He had just got back from a big official reception for 
the inauguration of the new galleries at the Metropolitan 
Museum, and the spectacle of those great spaces crowded 
with the spoils of the ages, where the throng of fashion 
circulated through a series of scientifically catalogued 
treasures, had suddenly pressed on a rusted spring of 
memory. 

"Why, this used to be one of the old Cesnola rooms,** 
he heard some one say; and instantly everything about 
him vanished, and he was sitting alone on a hard leather 
divan against a radiator, while a slight figure in a long 
sealskin cloak moved away down the meagrely-fitted 
vista of the old Museum. 

The vision had roused a host of other associations, 
and he sat looking with new eyes at the library which, 
for over thirty years, had been the scene of his solitary 
musings and of all the family confabulations. 

It was the room in which most of the real things of 
his life had happened. There his wife, nearly twenty- 
six years ago, had broken to him, with a blushing cir- 
cumlocution that would have caused the young women 
of the new generation to smile, the news that she was to 
have a child; and there their eldest boy, Dallas, too 
delicate to be taken to church in midwinter, had been 
christened by their old friend the Bishop of New, Ygrk, 

[3473 



, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

the ample magnificent irreplaceable Bishop, so long 
the pride and ornament of his diocese. There Dallas 
had first staggered across the floor shouting "Dad," while 
May and the nurse laughed behind the door ; there their / 
second child, Mary (who was so like her mother), had i 
announced her engagement to the dullest and most relia- , 
ble of Reggie Chivers's many sons ; and there Archer had 
kissed her through her wedding veil before they went , 
down to the motor which was to carry them to Grace 
Church for in a world where all else had reeled on 
its foundations the "Grace Church wedding" remained 
an unchanged institution. 

It was in the library that he and May had always 
discussed the future of the children : the studies of Dallas 
and his young brother Bill, Mary's incurable indifference 
to "accomplishments," and passion for sport and philan- 
thropy, and the vague leanings toward "art" which had 
finally landed the restless and curious Dallas in the office 
of a rising New York architect. 

The young men nowadays were emancipating them- 
selves from the law and business and taking up all sorts of 
new things. If they were not absorbed in state politics 
or municipal reform, the chances were that they were 
going in for Central American archaeology, for architec- 
ture or landscape engineering ; taking a keen and learned 
interest in the pre-revolutionary buildings of their own 
country, studying and adapting Georgian types, and pro- 
testing at the meaningless use of the word "Colonial." 
Nobody nowadays had "Colonial" houses except the 
millionaire grocers of the suburbs. 

But above all sometimes Archer put it above all it 
was in that library that the Governor of New York, 
coming down from Albany one evening to dine and spend 
the night, had turned to his host, and said, banging his 

} [3483 . 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

clenched fist on the table and gnashing his eye-glasses: 
"Hang the professional politician! You're the kind of 
man the country wants, Archer. If the stable's ever to 
be cleaned out, men like you have got to lend a hand in 
the cleaning." 

"Men like you " how Archer had glowed at the 
phrase! How eagerly he had risen up at the call! It 
was an echo of Ned Winsett's old appeal to roll his 
sleeves up and get down into the muck; but spoken by 
a man who set the example of the gesture, and whose 
summons to follow him was irresistible. 

Archer, as he looked back, was not sure that men like 
himself were what his country needed, at least in the 
active service to which Theodore Roosevelt had pointed ; 
in fact, there was reason to think it did not, for after a 
year in the State Assembly he had not been re-elected, 
and had dropped back thankfully into obscure if useful 
municipal work, and from that again to the writing of 
occasional articles in one of the reforming weeklies that 
were trying to shake the country out of its apathy. It 
was little enough to look back on; but when he remem- 
bered to what the young men of his generation and his 
set had looked forward the narrow groove of money- 
making, sport and society to which their vision had been 
limited even his small contribution to the new state of 
things seemed to count, as each brick counts in a well- 
built wall. He had done little in public life; he would 
always be by nature a contemplative and a dilettante; 
but he had had high things to contemplate, great things 
to delight in ; and one great man's friendship to be his 
strength and pride. 

He had been, in short, what people were beginning to 
call "a good citizen." In New York, for many years past, 
every new movement, philanthropic, municipal or artistic, 

[349] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

had taken account of his opinion and wanted his name.' 
People said: "Ask Archer" when there was a question 
of starting the first school for crippled children, reorgan- 
ising the Museum of Art, founding the Grolier Club, 
inaugurating the new Library, or getting up a new society 
of chamber music. His days were full, and they were 
filled decently. He supposed it was all a man ought to 
ask. 

Something he knew he had missed : the flower of life. 
But he thought of it now as a thing so unattainable and 
improbable that to have repined would have been like 
despairing because one had not drawn the first prize in 
a lottery. There were a hundred million tickets in his 
lottery, and there was only one prize; the chances had 
been too decidedly against him. When he thought of 
Ellen Olenska it was abstractly, serenely, as one might 
think of some imaginary beloved in a book or a picture : 
she had become the composite vision of all that he had 
missed. That vision, faint and tenuous as it was, had 
kept him from thinking of other women. He had been 
rwhat was called a faithful husband; and when May had 
suddenly died carried off by the infectious pneumonia 
through which she had nursed their youngest child he 
had honestly mourned her. Their long years together 
had shown him that it did not so much matter if marriage 
was a dull duty, as long as it kept the dignity of a duty : 
lapsing from that, it became a mere battle of ugly appe- 
tites. Looking about him, he honoured his own past, 
and mourned for it. After all, there was good in the 
old ways. 

His eyes, making the round of the room done over by 
Dallas with English mezzotints, Chippendale cabinets, 
bits of chosen blue-and-white and pleasantly shaded 
electric lamps came back to the old Eastlake writing- 

1350] 






THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

that he had never been willing to banish, and to 
his first photograph of May, which still kept its place 
beside his inkstand. 

There she was, tall, round-bosomed and willowy, in 
her starched muslin and flapping Leghorn, as he had seen 
her under the orange-trees in the Mission garden. And 
as he had seen her that day, so she had remained ; never 
quite at the same height, yet never far below it : generous, 
faithful, unwearied; but so lacking in imagination, so 
incapable of growth, that the world of her youth had 
fallen into pieces and rebuilt itself without her ever being 
conscious of the change. This hard bright blindness had 
kept her immediate horizon apparently unaltered. Her 
incapacity to recognise change made her children conceal 
their views from her as Archer concealed his ; there had 
been, from the first, a joint pretence of sameness, a kind 
of innocent family hypocrisy, in which father and chil- 
dren had unconsciously collaborated. And she had died 
thinking the world a good place, full of loving and har- 
monious households like her own, and resigned to leave 
it because she was convinced that, whatever happened, 
Newland would continue to inculcate in Dallas the same 
principles and prejudices which had shaped his parents' 
lives, and that Dallas in turn (when Newland followed 
her) would transmit the sacred trust to little Bill. And 
of Mary she was sure as of her own self. So, having 
snatched little Bill from the grave, and given her life in 
the effort, she went contentedly to her place in the 
Archer vault in St. Mark's, where Mrs. Archer already 
lay safe from the terrifying "trend" which her daughter- 
in-law had never even become aware of. 

Opposite May's portrait stood one of her daughter. 
Mary Olivers was as tall and fair as her mother, but 
large-waisted, flat-chested and slightly slouching, as the 

[351] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

altered fashion required. Mary Chivers's mighty feats 
of athleticism could not have been performed with the 
twenty-inch waist that May Archer's azure sash so easily 
spanned. And the difference seemed symbolic; the 
mother's life had been as closely girt as her figure. 
'Mary, who was no less conventional, and no more intel- 
ligent, yet led a larger life and held more tolerant views. 
There was good in the new order too. 

The telephone clicked, and Archer, turning from the 
photographs, unhooked the transmitter at his elbow,* 
How far they were from the days when the legs of the 
brass-buttoned messenger boy had been New York's 
only means of quick communication! 

"Chicago wants you." 

Ah it must be a long-distance from Dallas, who had 
been sent to Chicago by his firm to talk over the plan of 
the Lake-side palace they were to build for a young 
millionaire with ideas. The firm always sent Dallas on 
such errands. 

"Hallo, Dad Yes: Dallas. I say how do you feel 
about sailing on Wednesday? 'Mauretania: Yes, next 
Wednesday as ever is. Our client wants me to look 
at some Italian gardens before we settle anything, and 
has asked me to nip over on the next boat. I've got to 
be back on the first of June " the voice broke into 
a joyful conscious laugh "so we must look alive. I say, 
Dad, I want your help: do come." 

Dallas seemed to be speaking in the room: the voice 
was as near by and natural as if he had been lounging 
in his favourite arm-chair by the fire. The fact would 
not ordinarily have surprised Archer, for long-distance 
telephoning had become as much a matter of course as 
electric lighting and five-day Atlantic voyages. But the 
laugh did startle him; it still seemed wonderful that 

[352] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

across all those miles and miles of country forest, river, 
mountain, prairie, roaring cities and busy indifferent 
millions Dallas's laugh should be able to say: "Of 
course, whatever happens, I must get back on the first, 
because Fanny Beaufort and I are to be married on the 
fifth." 

The voice began again : "Think it over ? No, sir : not 
a minute. You've got to say yes now. Why not, I'd like 
to know ? If you can allege a single reason No ; I knew 
it. Then it's a go, eh ? Because I count on you to ring 
tip the Cunard office first thing tomorrow; and you'd 
better book a return on a boat from Marseilles. I say, 
Dad ; it'll be our last time together, in this kind of way . 
Oh, good 1 I knew you would." 

Chicago rang off, and Archer rose and began to pace 
up and down the room. 

It would be their last time together in this kind of 
way: the boy was right. They would have lots of other 
"times" after Dallas's marriage, his father was sure; 
for the two were born comrades, and Fanny Beaufort, 
whatever one might think of her, did not seem likely to 
interfere with their intimacy. On the contrary, from 
what he had seen of her, he thought she would be natur- 
ally included in it. Still, change was change, and dif- 
ferences were differences, and much as he felt himself 
drawn toward his future daughter-in-law, it was tempting 
to seize this last chance of being alone with his boy. 

There was no reason why he should not seize it, except 
the profound one that he had lost the habit of travel. 
May had disliked to move except for valid reasons, such 
as taking the children to the sea or in the mountains: 
she could imagine no other motive for leaving the house 
in, Thirty-ninth Street or their comfortable quarters af 
the Wellands 1 in Newport. After Dallas had taken his 

[353] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE v 

degree she had thought it her duty to travel for six 
months ; and the whole family had made the old- fashioned 
tour through England, Switzerland and Italy. Their 
time being limited (no one knew why) they had omitted 
France. Archer remembered Dallas's wrath at being 
asked to contemplate Mont Blanc instead of Rheims and 
Chartres. But Mary and Bill wanted mountain-climbing, 
and had already yawned their way in Dallas's wake 
through the English cathedrals ; and May, always fair ta 
her children, had insisted on holding the balance evenly 
between their athletic and artistic proclivities. She had! 
indeed proposed that her husband should go to Paris for 
a fortnight, and join them on the Italian lakes after they 
had "done" Switzerland; but Archer had declined. 
"We'll stick together," he said; and May's face had 
brightened at his setting such a good example to Dallas. 

Since her death, nearly two years before, there had 
been no reason for his continuing in the same routine. 
His children had urged him to travel : Mary Chivers had 
felt sure it would do him good to go abroad and "see 
the galleries." The very mysteriousness of such a cure 
made her the more confident of its efficacy. But Archer 
had found himself held fast by habit, by memories, by 
a sudden startled shrinking from new things. 

Now, as he reviewed his past, he saw into what a 
deep rut he had sunk. The worst of doing one's duty 
was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything 
else. At least that was the view that the men of his 
generation had taken. The trenchant divisions between 
right and wrong, honest and dishonest, respectable and 
the reverse, had left so little scope for the unforeseen. 
There are moments when a man's imagination, so easily 
subdued to what it lives in, suddenly rises above its 

354] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

dailyMevel, and surveys the long windings of destiny. 
Archer hung there and wondered. . . . 

What was left of the little world he had grown up 
in, and whose standards had bent and bound him? He 
remembered a sneering prophecy of poor Lawrence Lef- 
ferts's, uttered years ago in that very room: "If things 
go on at this rate, our children will be marrying Beau- 
fort's bastards." 

It was just what Archer's eldest son, the pride of his 
life, was doing; and nobody wondered or reproved. 
Even the boy's Aunt Janey, who still looked so exactly 
as she used to in her elderly youth, had taken her 
mother's emeralds and seed-pearls out of their pink 
cotton-wool, and carried them with her own twitching 
hands to the future bride ; and Fanny Beaufort, instead 
of looking disappointed at not receiving a "set" from a 
Paris jeweller, had exclaimed at their old-fashioned 
beauty, and declared that when she wore them she should 
feel like an Isabey miniature. 

Fanny Beaufort, who had appeared in New York at 
eighteen, after the death of her parents, had won its heart 
much as Madame Olenska had won it thirty years earlier ; 
only instead of being distrustful and afraid of her, society 
took her joyfully for granted. She was pretty, amusing 
and accomplished: what more did any one want? No- 
body was narrow-minded enough to rake up against her 
the half-forgotten facts of her father's past and her own 
origin. Only the older people remembered so obscure an 
incident in the business life of New York as Beaufort's 
failure, or the fact that after his wife's death he had 
been quietly married to the notorious Fanny Ring, and 
had left the country with his new wife, and a little girl 
who inherited her beauty. He was subsequently heard 
of in Constantinople, then in Russia ; and a dozen years 

355] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

later American travellers were handsomely entertained 
by him in Buenos Ayres, where he represented a large 
insurance agency. He and his wife died there in the 
odour of prosperity; and one day their orphaned daugh- 
ter had appeared in New York in charge of May Archer's 
sister-in-law, Mrs. Jack Welland, whose husband had 
been appointed the girl's guardian. The fact threw her 
into almost cousinly relationship with Newland Archer's 
children, and nobody was surprised when D^llas's en- 
gagement was announced. 

Nothing could more clearly give the measure of the 
distance that the world had travelled. People nowadays 
were too busy busy with reforms and "movements," 
with fads and fetishes and frivolities to bother much 
about their neighbours. And of what account was any- 
body's past, in the huge kaleidoscope where all the social 
atoms spun around on the same plane? 

Newland Archer, looking out of his hotel window at 
the stately gaiety of the Paris streets, felt his heart beat- 
ing with the confusion and eagerness of youth. 

It was long since it had thus plunged and reared under 
his widening waistcoat, leaving him, the next minute, 
with an empty breast and hot temples. He wondered if 
it was thus that his son's conducted itself in the presence 
of Miss Fanny Beaufort and decided that it was not. 
"It functions as actively, no doubt, but the rhythm is 
different," he reflected, recalling the cool composure with 
| which the young man had announced his engagement, 
and taken for granted that his family would approve. 

"The difference is that these young people take it for 
granted that they're going to get whatever they want, 
and that we almost always took it for granted that we 
shouldn't. Only, I wonder the thing one's so certain 

[356] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

of in advance: can it ever make one's heart beat as 
wildly?" 

It was the day after their arrival in Paris, and the 
spring sunshine held Archer in his open window, above 
the wide silvery prospect of the Place Vendome. One of 
the things he had stipulated almost the only one when 
he had agreed to come abroad with Dallas, was that, in 
Paris, he shouldn't be made to go to one of the new- 
fangled "palaces." 

"Oh, all right of course," Dallas good-naturedly 
agreed. "I'll take you to some jolly old-fashioned place 
the Bristol say " leaving his father speechless at 
hearing that the century-long home of kings and emperors 
was now spoken of as an old-fashioned inn, where one 
went for its quaint inconveniences and lingering local 
colour. 

Archer had pictured often enough, in the first impatient 
years, the scene of his return to Paris ; then the personal 
vision had faded, and he had simply tried to see the city 
as the setting of Madame Olenska's life. Sitting alone 
at night in his library, after the household had gone to 
bed, he had evoked the radiant outbreak of spring down 
the avenues of horse-chestnuts, the flowers and statues 
in the public gardens, the whiff of lilacs from the flower- 
carts, the majestic roll of the river under the great 
bridges, and the life of art and study and pleasure that 
filled each mighty artery to bursting. Now the spectacle 
was before him in its glory, and as he looked out on it 
he felt shy, old-fashioned, inadequate : a mere grey speck 
of a man compared with the ruthless magnificent fellow 
he had dreamed of being. . . . 

Dallas's hand came down cheerily on his shoulder. 
"Hullo, father: this is something like, isn't it?" They 
stood for a while looking out in silence, and then the 

[357] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

young man continued : "By the way, I've got a message 
for you : the Countess Olenska expects us both at half- 
past five." 

He said it lightly, carelessly, as he might have imparted 
any casual item of information, such as the hour at 
which their train was to leave for Florence the next 
evening. Archer looked at him, and thought he saw in 
his gay young eyes a gleam of his great-grandmother 
Mingott's malice. 

"Oh, didn't I tell you ?" Dallas pursued. "Fanny made 
me swear to do three things while I was in Paris: get 
her the score of the last Debussy songs, go to the Grand- 
Guignol and see Madame Olenska. You know she was 
awfully good to Fanny when Mr. Beaufort sent her 
over from Buenos Ayres to the Assomption. Fanny 
hadn't any friends in Paris, and Madame Olenska used 
to be kind to her and trot her about on holidays. I believQ 
she was a great friend of the first Mrs. Beaufort's. And 
she's our cousin, of course. So I rang her up this morn- 
ing, before I went out, and told her you and I were here 
for two days and wanted to see her." 

Archer continued to stare at him. "You told her I was 
here?" 

"Of course why not?" Dallas's eyebrows went up 
whimsically. Then, getting no answer, he slipped his 
arm through his father's with a confidential pressure. 

"I say, father: what was she like?" 

Archer felt his colour rise under his son's unabashed 
gaze. "Come, own up: you and she were great pals, 
weren't you? Wasn't she most awfully lovely?" 

"Lovely ? I don't know. She was different." 

"Ah there you have it ! That's what it always comes 
to, doesn't it ? When she comes, she's different and one 
doesn't know why. It's exactly what I feel about Fanny." 

[358J 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

His father drew back a step, releasing his arm. "About 
Panny ? But, my dear fellow I should hope so ! Only 
I don't see " 

"Dash it, Dad, don't be prehistoric! Wasn't she 
once your Fanny?" 

Dallas belonged body and soul to the new generation. 
He was the first-born of Newland and May Archer, yet 
it had never been possible to inculcate in him even the 
rudiments of reserve. "What's the use of making mys- 
teries? It only makes people want to nose 'em out," 
he always objected when- enjoined to discretion. But 
Archer, meeting his eyes, saw the filial light under their 
t>anter. 

"My Fanny?" 

"Well, the woman you'd have chucked everything for : 
only you didn't," continued his surprising son. 

"I didn't," echoed Archer with a kind of solemnity. 

"No: you date, you see, dear old boy. But mother 
said" 

"Your mother?" 

"Yes : the day before she died. It was when she sent 
for me alone you remember? She said she knew we 
were safe with you, and always would be, because once, 
when she asked you to, you'd given up the thing you 
most wanted." 

Archer received this strange communication in silence. 
His eyes remained unseeingly fixed on the thronged sun- 
lit square below the window. At length he said in a low 
voice: "She never asked me." 

"No. I forgot. You never did ask each other any- 
thing, did you ? And you never told each other anything. 
You just sat and watched each other, and guessed at 
what was going on underneath. A deaf-and-dumb asy- 
lum, in fact! Well, I back your generation for know- 

[359] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

ing more about each other's private thoughts than we 
ever have time to find out about our own. I say, Dad," 
Dallas broke off, "you're not angry with me? If you 
are, let's make it up and go and lunch at Henri's. . I've 
got to rush out to Versailles afterward." 

Archer did not accompany his son to Versailles. He 
preferred to spend the afternoon in solitary roamings 
through Paris. He had to deal all at once with the packed 
regrets and stifled memories of an inarticulate lifetime. 

After a little while he did not regret Dallas's indiscre- 
tion. It seemed to take an iron band from his heart to 
know that, after all, some one had guessed and pitied. 
. . . And that it should have been his wife moved him 
indescribably. Dallas, for all his affectionate insight, 
would not have understood that. To the boy, no doubt, 
the episode was only a pathetic instance of vain frustra- 
tion, of wasted forces. But was it really no more ? For 
a long time Archer sat on a bench in the Champs Elysees 
and wondered, while the stream of life rolled by. . . . 

A few streets away, a few hours away, Ellen Olenska 
waited. She had never gone back to her husband, and 
when he had died, some years before, she had made no 
change in her way of living. There was nothing now 
to keep her and Archer apart and that afternoon he 
was to see her. 

He got up and walked across the Place de la Concorde 
and the Tuileries gardens to the Louvre. She had once 
told him that she often went there, and he had a fancy 
to spend the intervening time in a place where he could 
think of her as perhaps having lately been. For an hour 
or more he wandered from gallery to gallery through the 
dazzle of afternoon light, and one by one the pictures 
burst on him in their half-forgotten splendour, filling his 

[360] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

feoul with the long echoes of beauty. After all, his life 
had been too starved. . . . 

Suddenly, before an effulgent Titian, he found himself 
saying: "But I'm only fifty-seven " and then he turned 
away. For such summer dreams it was too late; but 
surely not for a quiet harvest of friendship, of comrade- 
ship, in the blessed hush of her nearness. 

He went back to the hotel, where he and Dallas were 
to meet; and together they walked again across the Place 
de la Concorde and over the bridge that leads to the 
Chamber of Deputies. 

Dallas, unconscious of what was going on in his father's 
mind, was talking excitedly and abundantly of Versailles. 
He had had but one previous glimpse of it, during a 
holiday trip in which he had tried to pack all the sights 
he had been deprived of when he had had to go with 
the family to Switzerland; and tumultuous enthusiasm 
and cock-sure criticism tripped each other up on his lips. 

As Archer listened, his sense of inadequacy and inex- 
pressiveness increased. The boy was not insensitive, 
he knew; but he had the facility and self-confidence that 
came of looking at fate not as a master but as an equal. 
"That's it: they feel equal to things they know their 
way about," he mused, thinking of his son as the spokes- 
man of the new generation which had swept away all 
the old landmarks, and with them the sign-posts and the 
danger-signal. 

Suddenly Dallas stopped short, grasping his father's 
arm. "Oh, by Jove," he exclaimed. 

They had come out into the great tree-planted space 
before the Invalides. The dome of Mansart floated 
ethereally above the budding trees and the long grey 
front of the building: drawing up into itself all the rays 

[361]. 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

of afternoon light, it hung there like the visible symbol 
of the race's glory. 

Archer knew that Madame Olenska lived in a square 
near one of the avenues radiating from the Invalides; 
and he had pictured the quarter as quiet and almost 
obscure, forgetting the central splendour that lit it up. 
Now, by some queer process of association, that golden 
light became for him the pervading illumination in which 
she lived. For nearly thirty years, her life of which he 
knew so strangely little had been spent in this rich 
atmosphere that he already felt to be too dense and yet 
too stimulating for his lungs. He thought of the theatres 
she must have been to, the pictures she must have looked 
at, the sober and splendid old houses she must have fre- 
quented, the people she must have talked with, the in- 
cessant stir of ideas, curiosities, images and associations 
thrown out by an intensely social race in a setting of 
immemorial manners; and suddenly he remembered the 
young Frenchman who had once said to him : "Ah, good 
conversation there is nothing like it, is there?" 

Archer had not seen M. Riviere, or heard of him, for 
nearly thirty years; and that fact gave the measure of 
his ignorance of Madame Olenska's existence. More 
than half a lifetime divided them, and she had spent the 
long interval among people he did not know, in a society 
he but faintly guessed at, in conditions he would never 
wholly understand. During that time he had been living 
with his youthful memory of her; but she had doubtless 
had other and more tangible companionship. Perhaps 
she too had kept her memory of him as something apart ; 
but if she had, it must have been like a relic in a small 
dim chapel, where there was not time to pray every 
day. . . . 

They had crossed the Place des Invalides, and were 
[362] 







THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

walking down one of the thoroughfares flanking the 
building. It was a quiet quarter, after all, in spite of it* 
splendour and its history ; and the fact gave one an idea 
of the riches Paris had to draw on, since such scenes as 
this were left to the few and the indifferent. 

The day was fading into a soft sun-shot haze, pricked 
here and there by a yellow electric light, and passers 
were rare in the little square into which they had turned. 
Dallas stopped again, and looked up. 

"It must be here," he said, slipping his arm through 
his father's with a movement from which Archer's shy- 
ness did not shrink; and they stood together looking up 
at the house. 

It was a modern building, without distinctive charac- 
ter, but many-windowed, and pleasantly balconied up 
its wide cream-coloured front. On one of the upper 
balconies, which hung well above the rounded tops of 
the horse-chestnuts in the square, the awnings were still 
lowered, as though the sun had just left it. 

"I wonder which floor ?" Dallas conjectured; and 
moving toward the porte-cochere he put his head into* 
the porter's lodge, and came back to say: "The fifth. 
It must be the one with the awnings/' 

Archer remained motionless, gazing at the upper 
windows as if the end of their pilgrimage had been 
attained. 

"I say, you know, it's nearly six," his son at length 
reminded him. 

The father glanced away at an empty bench under the 
trees. 

"I believe I'll sit there a moment," he said. 

"Why aren't you well?" his son exclaimed. 

"Oh, perfectly. But I should like you, please, to go 
up without me." 

[363] 



THE AGE OF INNOCENCE 

Dallas paused before him, visibly bewildered. 
I say, Dad : do you mean you won't come up at all ?" 

"I don't know," said Archer slowly. 

"If you don't she won't understand." 

"Go, my boy; perhaps I shall follow you." 

Dallas gave him a long look through the twilight. 

"But what on earth shall I say?" 

"My dear fellow, don't you always know what to say ?" 
his father rejoined with a smile. 

"Very well. I shall say you're old-fashioned, and 
prefer walking up the five flights because you don't like 
lifts." 

His father smiled again. "Say I'm old-fashioned: 
that's enough." 

Dallas looked at him again, and then, with an incredu- 
lous gesture, passed out of sight under the vaulted 
doorway. 

Archer sat down on the bench and continued to gaze 
at the awninged balcony. He calculated the time it 
would take his son to be carried up in the lift to the 
(fifth floor, to ring the bell, and be admitted to the hall, 
and then ushered into the drawing-room. He pictured 
Dallas entering that room with his quick assured step and 
his delightful smile, and wondered if the people were? 
right who said that his boy "took after him." 

Then he tried to see the persons already in the room 
for probably at that sociable hour there would be more 
than one and among them a dark lady, pale and dark, 
who would look up quickly, half rise, and hold out a 
long thin hand with three rings on it. ... He thought 
she would be sitting in a sofa-corner near the fire, with 
azaleas banked behind her on a table. 

"It's more real to me here than if I went up," he 
suddenly heard himself say; and the fear lest that last? 4 

[3641 



AGE OF INNOCENCE 

shadow of reality should lose its edge kept him rooted, 
to his seat as the minutes succeeded each other. 

He sat for a long time on the bench in the thickening 
dusk, his eyes never turning from the balcony. At length 
a light shone through the windows, and a moment later 
a man-servant came out on the balcony, drew up the 
awnings, and closed the shutters. 

At that, as if it had been the signal he waited for, 
Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back alone 
to his hotel. 






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