The Age of Innocence HTML version
His wife's dark blue brougham (with the wedding varnish still on it) met Archer at
the ferry, and conveyed him luxuriously to the Pennsylvania terminus in Jersey
It was a sombre snowy afternoon, and the gas-lamps were lit in the big
reverberating station. As he paced the platform, waiting for the Washington
express, he remembered that there were people who thought there would one
day be a tunnel under the Hudson through which the trains of the Pennsylvania
railway would run straight into New York. They were of the brotherhood of
visionaries who likewise predicted the building of ships that would cross the
Atlantic in five days, the invention of a flying machine, lighting by electricity,
telephonic communication without wires, and other Arabian Night marvels.
"I don't care which of their visions comes true," Archer mused, "as long as the
tunnel isn't built yet." In his senseless school-boy happiness he pictured Madame
Olenska's descent from the train, his discovery of her a long way off, among the
throngs of meaningless faces, her clinging to his arm as he guided her to the
carriage, their slow approach to the wharf among slipping horses, laden carts,
vociferating teamsters, and then the startling quiet of the ferry-boat, where they
would sit side by side under the snow, in the motionless carriage, while the earth
seemed to glide away under them, rolling to the other side of the sun. It was
incredible, the number of things he had to say to her, and in what eloquent order
they were forming themselves on his lips . . .
The clanging and groaning of the train came nearer, and it staggered slowly into
the station like a prey- laden monster into its lair. Archer pushed forward,
elbowing through the crowd, and staring blindly into window after window of the
high-hung carriages. And then, suddenly, he saw Madame Olenska's pale and
surprised face close at hand, and had again the mortified sensation of having
forgotten what she looked like.
They reached each other, their hands met, and he drew her arm through his.
"This way--I have the carriage," he said.
After that it all happened as he had dreamed. He helped her into the brougham
with her bags, and had afterward the vague recollection of having properly
reassured her about her grandmother and given her a summary of the Beaufort
situation (he was struck by the softness of her: "Poor Regina!"). Meanwhile the
carriage had worked its way out of the coil about the station, and they were
crawling down the slippery incline to the wharf, menaced by swaying coal-carts,
bewildered horses, dishevelled express-wagons, and an empty hearse--ah, that
hearse! She shut her eyes as it passed, and clutched at Archer's hand.