The Age of Innocence
They lunched slowly and meditatively, with mute intervals between rushes of talk;
for, the spell once broken, they had much to say, and yet moments when saying
became the mere accompaniment to long duologues of silence. Archer kept the
talk from his own affairs, not with conscious intention but because he did not
want to miss a word of her history; and leaning on the table, her chin resting on
her clasped hands, she talked to him of the year and a half since they had met.
She had grown tired of what people called "society"; New York was kind, it was
almost oppressively hospitable; she should never forget the way in which it had
welcomed her back; but after the first flush of novelty she had found herself, as
she phrased it, too "different" to care for the things it cared about--and so she
had decided to try Washington, where one was supposed to meet more varieties
of people and of opinion. And on the whole she should probably settle down in
Washington, and make a home there for poor Medora, who had worn out the
patience of all her other relations just at the time when she most needed looking
after and protecting from matrimonial perils.
"But Dr. Carver--aren't you afraid of Dr. Carver? I hear he's been staying with you
at the Blenkers'."
She smiled. "Oh, the Carver danger is over. Dr. Carver is a very clever man. He
wants a rich wife to finance his plans, and Medora is simply a good
advertisement as a convert."
"A convert to what?"
"To all sorts of new and crazy social schemes. But, do you know, they interest
me more than the blind conformity to tradition--somebody else's tradition--that I
see among our own friends. It seems stupid to have discovered America only to
make it into a copy of another country." She smiled across the table. "Do you
suppose Christopher Columbus would have taken all that trouble just to go to the
Opera with the Selfridge Merrys?"
Archer changed colour. "And Beaufort--do you say these things to Beaufort?" he
"I haven't seen him for a long time. But I used to; and he understands."
"Ah, it's what I've always told you; you don't like us. And you like Beaufort
because he's so unlike us." He looked about the bare room and out at the bare
beach and the row of stark white village houses strung along the shore. "We're