The Age of Innocence HTML version
It was a crowded night at Wallack's theatre.
The play was "The Shaughraun," with Dion Boucicault in the title role and Harry
Montague and Ada Dyas as the lovers. The popularity of the admirable English
company was at its height, and the Shaughraun always packed the house. In the
galleries the enthusiasm was unreserved; in the stalls and boxes, people smiled
a little at the hackneyed sentiments and clap- trap situations, and enjoyed the
play as much as the galleries did.
There was one episode, in particular, that held the house from floor to ceiling. It
was that in which Harry Montague, after a sad, almost monosyllabic scene of
parting with Miss Dyas, bade her good-bye, and turned to go. The actress, who
was standing near the mantelpiece and looking down into the fire, wore a gray
cashmere dress without fashionable loopings or trimmings, moulded to her tall
figure and flowing in long lines about her feet. Around her neck was a narrow
black velvet ribbon with the ends falling down her back.
When her wooer turned from her she rested her arms against the mantel-shelf
and bowed her face in her hands. On the threshold he paused to look at her;
then he stole back, lifted one of the ends of velvet ribbon, kissed it, and left the
room without her hearing him or changing her attitude. And on this silent parting
the curtain fell.
It was always for the sake of that particular scene that Newland Archer went to
see "The Shaughraun." He thought the adieux of Montague and Ada Dyas as
fine as anything he had ever seen Croisette and Bressant do in Paris, or Madge
Robertson and Kendal in London; in its reticence, its dumb sorrow, it moved him
more than the most famous histrionic outpourings.
On the evening in question the little scene acquired an added poignancy by
reminding him--he could not have said why--of his leave-taking from Madame
Olenska after their confidential talk a week or ten days earlier.
It would have been as difficult to discover any resemblance between the two
situations as between the appearance of the persons concerned. Newland
Archer could not pretend to anything approaching the young English actor's
romantic good looks, and Miss Dyas was a tall red-haired woman of monumental
build whose pale and pleasantly ugly face was utterly unlike Ellen Olenska's vivid
countenance. Nor were Archer and Madame Olenska two lovers parting in heart-
broken silence; they were client and lawyer separating after a talk which had
given the lawyer the worst possible impression of the client's case. Wherein,
then, lay the resemblance that made the young man's heart beat with a kind of
retrospective excitement? It seemed to be in Madame Olenska's mysterious