The Age of Innocence HTML version

Chapter 20
Of course we must dine with Mrs. Carfry, dearest," Archer said; and his wife
looked at him with an anxious frown across the monumental Britannia ware of
their lodging house breakfast-table.
In all the rainy desert of autumnal London there were only two people whom the
Newland Archers knew; and these two they had sedulously avoided, in
conformity with the old New York tradition that it was not "dignified" to force one's
self on the notice of one's acquaintances in foreign countries.
Mrs. Archer and Janey, in the course of their visits to Europe, had so
unflinchingly lived up to this principle, and met the friendly advances of their
fellow-travellers with an air of such impenetrable reserve, that they had almost
achieved the record of never having exchanged a word with a "foreigner" other
than those employed in hotels and railway-stations. Their own compatriots-- save
those previously known or properly accredited-- they treated with an even more
pronounced disdain; so that, unless they ran across a Chivers, a Dagonet or a
Mingott, their months abroad were spent in an unbroken tete-a-tete. But the
utmost precautions are sometimes unavailing; and one night at Botzen one of the
two English ladies in the room across the passage (whose names, dress and
social situation were already intimately known to Janey) had knocked on the door
and asked if Mrs. Archer had a bottle of liniment. The other lady--the intruder's
sister, Mrs. Carfry--had been seized with a sudden attack of bronchitis; and Mrs.
Archer, who never travelled without a complete family pharmacy, was fortunately
able to produce the required 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
When the Archers left Botzen they had no idea of ever seeing Mrs. Carfry and
Miss Harle again. Nothing, to Mrs. Archer's mind, would have been more
"undignified" than to force one's self on the notice of a "foreigner" to whom one
had happened to render an accidental service. But Mrs. Carfry and her sister, to
whom this point of view was unknown, and who would have found it utterly
incomprehensible, felt themselves linked by an eternal gratitude to the "delightful
Americans" who had been so kind at Botzen. With touching fidelity they seized
every chance of meeting Mrs. Archer and Janey in the course of their continental
travels, and displayed a supernatural acuteness in finding out when they were to
pass through London on their way to or from the States. The intimacy became
indissoluble, and Mrs. Archer and Janey, whenever they alighted at Brown's
Hotel, found themselves awaited by two affectionate friends who, like