The Age of Innocence HTML version

Chapter 17
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 surprised by
Madame Olenska's visit.
"She had on a black velvet polonaise with jet buttons, and a tiny green monkey
muff; I never saw her so stylishly dressed," Janey continued. "She came alone,
early on Sunday afternoon; luckily the fire was lit in the drawing-room. She had
one of those new card- cases. She said she wanted to know us 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
"I hope you liked her, mother."
Mrs. Archer drew her lips together. "She certainly lays herself out to please, even
when she is calling on an old lady."
"Mother doesn't think her simple," 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 Olenska 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.