The Age of Innocence HTML version

Chapter 21
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
pitched 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 drawing-rooms through which
he had passed gave glimpses, between swaying lace curtains, of glassy parquet
floors islanded with chintz poufs, dwarf armchairs, and velvet tables covered with
trifles in silver.
The Newport Archery Club always held its August meeting at the Beauforts'. The
sport, which had hitherto known no rival but croquet, was beginning to be
discarded in favour of lawn-tennis; but the latter game was still considered too
rough and inelegant for social occasions, 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