The Age of Innocence
Ol-ol--howjer spell it, anyhow?" asked the tart 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
"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, raised his eye-brows with an
ironic grimace that warned the 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 requirements 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