The Age of Innocence HTML version

Chapter 32
At the court of the Tuileries," said Mr. Sillerton Jackson with his reminiscent
smile, "such things were pretty openly tolerated."
The scene was the van der Luydens' black walnut dining-room in Madison
Avenue, and the time the evening after Newland Archer's visit to the Museum of
Art. Mr. and Mrs. van der Luyden had come to town for a few days from
Skuytercliff, whither they had precipitately fled at the announcement of Beaufort's
failure. It had been represented to them that the disarray into which society had
been thrown by this deplorable affair made their presence in town more
necessary than ever. It was one of the occasions when, as Mrs. Archer put it,
they "owed it to society" to show themselves at the Opera, and even to open their
own doors.
"It will never do, my dear Louisa, to let people like Mrs. Lemuel Struthers think
they can step into Regina's shoes. It is just at such times that new people push in
and get a footing. It was owing to the epidemic of chicken-pox in New York the
winter Mrs. Struthers first appeared that the married men slipped away to her
house while their wives were in the nursery. You and dear Henry, Louisa, must
stand in the breach as you always have."
Mr. and Mrs. van der Luyden could not remain deaf to such a call, and reluctantly
but heroically they had come to town, unmuffled the house, and sent out
invitations for two dinners and an evening reception.
On this particular evening they had invited Sillerton Jackson, Mrs. Archer and
Newland and his wife to go with them to the Opera, where Faust was being sung
for the first time that winter. Nothing was done without ceremony under the van
der Luyden roof, and though there were but four guests the repast had begun at
seven punctually, so that the proper sequence of courses might be served
without haste before the gentlemen settled down to their cigars.
Archer had not seen his wife since the evening before. He had left early for the
office, where he had plunged into an accumulation of unimportant business. In
the afternoon one of the senior partners had made an unexpected call on his
time; and he had reached home so late that May had preceded him to the van
der Luydens', and sent back the carriage.
Now, across the Skuytercliff carnations and the massive plate, she struck him as
pale and languid; but her eyes shone, and she talked with exaggerated