The Age of Innocence HTML version

Chapter 19
The day was fresh, with a lively spring wind full of dust. All the old ladies in both
families had got out their faded sables and yellowing ermines, and the smell of
camphor from the front pews almost smothered the faint spring scent of the lilies
banking the altar.
Newland Archer, at a signal from the sexton, had come out of the vestry and
placed himself with his best man on the chancel step of Grace Church.
The signal meant that the brougham bearing the bride and her father was in
sight; but there was sure to be a considerable interval of adjustment and
consultation in the lobby, where the bridesmaids were already hovering like a
cluster of Easter blossoms. During this unavoidable lapse of time the bridegroom,
in proof of his eagerness, was expected to expose himself alone to the gaze of
the assembled company; and Archer had gone through this formality as
resignedly as through all the others which made of a nineteenth century New
York wedding a rite that seemed to belong to the dawn of history. Everything was
equally easy--or equally painful, as one chose to put it--in the path he was
committed to tread, and he had obeyed the flurried injunctions of his best man as
piously as other bridegrooms had obeyed his own, in the days when he had
guided them through the same labyrinth.
So far he was reasonably sure of having fulfilled all his obligations. The
bridesmaids' eight bouquets of white lilac and lilies-of-the-valley had been sent in
due time, as well as the gold and sapphire sleeve-links of the eight ushers and
the best man's cat's-eye scarf-pin; Archer had sat up half the night trying to vary
the wording of his thanks for the last batch of presents from men friends and ex-
lady-loves; the fees for the Bishop and the Rector were safely in the pocket of his
best man; his own luggage was already at Mrs. Manson Mingott's, where the
wedding-breakfast was to take place, and so were the travelling clothes into
which he was to change; and a private compartment had been engaged in the
train that was to carry the young couple to their unknown destination--
concealment of the spot in which the bridal night was to be spent being one of
the most sacred taboos of the prehistoric ritual.
"Got the ring all right?" whispered young van der Luyden Newland, who was
inexperienced in the duties of a best man, and awed by the weight of his
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