The Age of Innocence HTML version

Chapter 22
A party for the Blenkers--the Blenkers?"
Mr. Welland laid down his knife and fork and looked anxiously and incredulously
across the luncheon- table at his wife, who, adjusting her gold eye-glasses, read
aloud, in the tone of high comedy: "Professor and Mrs. Emerson Sillerton request
the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Welland's company at the meeting of the
Wednesday Afternoon Club on August 25th at 3 o'clock punctually. To meet Mrs.
and the Misses Blenker. "Red Gables, Catherine Street. R. S. V. P."
"Good gracious--" Mr. Welland gasped, as if a second reading had been
necessary to bring the monstrous absurdity of the thing home to him.
"Poor Amy Sillerton--you never can tell what her husband will do next," Mrs.
Welland sighed. "I suppose he's just discovered the Blenkers."
Professor Emerson Sillerton was a thorn in the side of Newport society; and a
thorn that could not be plucked out, for it grew on a venerable and venerated
family tree. He was, as people said, a man who had had "every advantage." His
father was Sillerton Jackson's uncle, his mother a Pennilow of Boston; on each
side there was wealth and position, and mutual suitability. Nothing--as Mrs.
Welland had often remarked-- nothing on earth obliged Emerson Sillerton to be
an archaeologist, or indeed a Professor of any sort, or to live in Newport in
winter, or do any of the other revolutionary things that he did. But at least, if he
was going to break with tradition and flout society in the face, he need not have
married poor Amy Dagonet, who had a right to expect "something different," and
money enough to keep her own carriage.
No one in the Mingott set could understand why Amy Sillerton had submitted so
tamely to the eccentricities of a husband who filled the house with long- haired
men and short-haired women, and, when he travelled, took her to explore tombs
in Yucatan instead of going to Paris or Italy. But there they were, set in their
ways, and apparently unaware that they were different from other people; and
when they gave one of their dreary annual garden-parties every family on the
Cliffs, because of the Sillerton-Pennilow-Dagonet connection, had to draw lots
and send an unwilling representative.
"It's a wonder," Mrs. Welland remarked, "that they didn't choose the Cup Race
day! Do you remember, two years ago, their giving a party for a black man on the
day of Julia Mingott's the dansant? Luckily this time there's nothing else going on
that I know of--for of course some of us will have to go."