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Chapter XXXIV

Newland Archer sat at the writing-table in his library
in East Thirty-ninth Street.

He had just got back from a big official reception for
the inauguration of the new galleries at the Metropolitan
Museum, and the spectacle of those great spaces
crowded with the spoils of the ages, where the throng
of fashion circulated through a series of scientifically
catalogued treasures, had suddenly pressed on a rusted
spring of memory.

"Why, this used to be one of the old Cesnola rooms,"
he heard some one say; and instantly everything about
him vanished, and he was sitting alone on a hard
leather divan against a radiator, while a slight figure in
a long sealskin cloak moved away down the meagrely-
fitted vista of the old Museum.

The vision had roused a host of other associations,
and he sat looking with new eyes at the library which,
for over thirty years, had been the scene of his solitary
musings and of all the family confabulations.

It was the room in which most of the real things of
his life had happened. There his wife, nearly twenty-six
years ago, had broken to him, with a blushing
circumlocution that would have caused the young women of
the new generation to smile, the news that she was to
have a child; and there their eldest boy, Dallas, too
delicate to be taken to church in midwinter, had been
christened by their old friend the Bishop of New York,
the ample magnificent irreplaceable Bishop, so long the
pride and ornament of his diocese. There Dallas had
first staggered across the floor shouting "Dad," while
May and the nurse laughed behind the door; there their
second child, Mary (who was so like her mother), had
announced her engagement to the dullest and most
reliable of Reggie Chivers's many sons; and there Archer
had kissed her through her wedding veil before they
went down to the motor which was to carry them to
Grace Church--for in a world where all else had reeled
on its foundations the "Grace Church wedding"
remained an unchanged institution.

It was in the library that he and May had always
discussed the future of the children: the studies of
Dallas and his young brother Bill, Mary's incurable
indifference to "accomplishments," and passion for
sport and philanthropy, and the vague leanings toward
"art" which had finally landed the restless and curious
Dallas in the office of a rising New York architect.

The young men nowadays were emancipating
themselves from the law and business and taking up all sorts
of new things. If they were not absorbed in state politics
or municipal reform, the chances were that they
were going in for Central American archaeology, for
architecture or landscape-engineering; taking a keen
and learned interest in the prerevolutionary buildings
of their own country, studying and adapting Georgian
types, and protesting at the meaningless use of the
word "Colonial." Nobody nowadays had "Colonial"
houses except the millionaire grocers of the suburbs.

But above all--sometimes Archer put it above all--it
was in that library that the Governor of New York,
coming down from Albany one evening to dine and
spend the night, had turned to his host, and said,
banging his clenched fist on the table and gnashing his
eye-glasses: "Hang the professional politician! You're
the kind of man the country wants, Archer. If the
stable's ever to be cleaned out, men like you have got
to lend a hand in the cleaning."

"Men like you--" how Archer had glowed at the
phrase! How eagerly he had risen up at the call! It was
an echo of Ned Winsett's old appeal to roll his sleeves
up and get down into the muck; but spoken by a man
who set the example of the gesture, and whose summons
to follow him was irresistible.

Archer, as he looked back, was not sure that men
like himself WERE what his country needed, at least in
the active service to which Theodore Roosevelt had
pointed; in fact, there was reason to think it did not,
for after a year in the State Assembly he had not been
re-elected, and had dropped back thankfully into
obscure if useful municipal work, and from that again to
the writing of occasional articles in one of the
reforming weeklies that were trying to shake the country
out of its apathy. It was little enough to look back on;
but when he remembered to what the young men of his
generation and his set had looked forward--the narrow
groove of money-making, sport and society to
which their vision had been limited--even his small
contribution to the new state of things seemed to count,
as each brick counts in a well-built wall. He had done
little in public life; he would always be by nature a
contemplative and a dilettante; but he had had high
things to contemplate, great things to delight in; and
one great man's friendship to be his strength and pride.

He had been, in short, what people were beginning
to call "a good citizen." In New York, for many years
past, every new movement, philanthropic, municipal or
artistic, had taken account of his opinion and wanted
his name. People said: "Ask Archer" when there was a
question of starting the first school for crippled children,
reorganising the Museum of Art, founding the
Grolier Club, inaugurating the new Library, or getting
up a new society of chamber music. His days were full,
and they were filled decently. He supposed it was all a
man ought to ask.

Something he knew he had missed: the flower of life.
But he thought of it now as a thing so unattainable
and improbable that to have repined would have been
like despairing because one had not drawn the first prize
in a lottery. There were a hundred million tickets in HIS
lottery, and there was only one prize; the chances had
been too decidedly against him. When he thought of Ellen
Olenska it was abstractly, serenely, as one might think
of some imaginary beloved in a book or a picture: she
had become the composite vision of all that he had
missed. That vision, faint and tenuous as it was, had kept
him from thinking of other women. He had been what
was called a faithful husband; and when May had
suddenly died--carried off by the infectious pneumonia
through which she had nursed their youngest child--he
had honestly mourned her. Their long years together had
shown him that it did not so much matter if marriage was
a dull duty, as long as it kept the dignity of a duty: lapsing
from that, it became a mere battle of ugly appetites.
Looking about him, he honoured his own past, and
mourned for it. After all, there was good in the old ways.

His eyes, making the round of the room--done over
by Dallas with English mezzotints, Chippendale cabinets,
bits of chosen blue-and-white and pleasantly shaded
electric lamps--came back to the old Eastlake writing-
table that he had never been willing to banish, and to
his first photograph of May, which still kept its place
beside his inkstand.

There she was, tall, round-bosomed and willowy, in
her starched muslin and flapping Leghorn, as he had
seen her under the orange-trees in the Mission garden.
And as he had seen her that day, so she had remained;
never quite at the same height, yet never far below it:
generous, faithful, unwearied; but so lacking in
imagination, so incapable of growth, that the world of her
youth had fallen into pieces and rebuilt itself without
her ever being conscious of the change. This hard bright
blindness had kept her immediate horizon apparently
unaltered. Her incapacity to recognise change made her
children conceal their views from her as Archer concealed
his; there had been, from the first, a joint pretence
of sameness, a kind of innocent family hypocrisy,
in which father and children had unconsciously
collaborated. And she had died thinking the world a good
place, full of loving and harmonious households like
her own, and resigned to leave it because she was
convinced that, whatever happened, Newland would
continue to inculcate in Dallas the same principles and
prejudices which had shaped his parents' lives, and that
Dallas in turn (when Newland followed her) would
transmit the sacred trust to little Bill. And of Mary she
was sure as of her own self. So, having snatched little
Bill from the grave, and given her life in the effort, she
went contentedly to her place in the Archer vault in St.
Mark's, where Mrs. Archer already lay safe from the
terrifying "trend" which her daughter-in-law had never
even become aware of.

Opposite May's portrait stood one of her daughter.
Mary Chivers was as tall and fair as her mother, but
large-waisted, flat-chested and slightly slouching, as the
altered fashion required. Mary Chivers's mighty feats
of athleticism could not have been performed with the
twenty-inch waist that May Archer's azure sash so
easily spanned. And the difference seemed symbolic;
the mother's life had been as closely girt as her figure.
Mary, who was no less conventional, and no more
intelligent, yet led a larger life and held more tolerant
views. There was good in the new order too.

The telephone clicked, and Archer, turning from the
photographs, unhooked the transmitter at his elbow.
How far they were from the days when the legs of the
brass-buttoned messenger boy had been New York's
only means of quick communication!

"Chicago wants you."

Ah--it must be a long-distance from Dallas, who
had been sent to Chicago by his firm to talk over the
plan of the Lakeside palace they were to build for a
young millionaire with ideas. The firm always sent
Dallas on such errands.

"Hallo, Dad--Yes: Dallas. I say--how do you feel
about sailing on Wednesday? Mauretania: Yes, next
Wednesday as ever is. Our client wants me to look at
some Italian gardens before we settle anything, and has
asked me to nip over on the next boat. I've got to be
back on the first of June--" the voice broke into a
joyful conscious laugh--"so we must look alive. I say,
Dad, I want your help: do come."

Dallas seemed to be speaking in the room: the voice
was as near by and natural as if he had been lounging
in his favourite arm-chair by the fire. The fact would
not ordinarily have surprised Archer, for long-distance
telephoning had become as much a matter of course as
electric lighting and five-day Atlantic voyages. But the
laugh did startle him; it still seemed wonderful that
across all those miles and miles of country--forest,
river, mountain, prairie, roaring cities and busy indifferent
millions--Dallas's laugh should be able to say:
"Of course, whatever happens, I must get back on the
first, because Fanny Beaufort and I are to be married
on the fifth."

The voice began again: "Think it over? No, sir: not a
minute. You've got to say yes now. Why not, I'd like to
know? If you can allege a single reason--No; I knew it.
Then it's a go, eh? Because I count on you to ring up
the Cunard office first thing tomorrow; and you'd better
book a return on a boat from Marseilles. I say,
Dad; it'll be our last time together, in this kind of
way--. Oh, good! I knew you would."

Chicago rang off, and Archer rose and began to pace
up and down the room.

It would be their last time together in this kind of
way: the boy was right. They would have lots of other
"times" after Dallas's marriage, his father was sure; for
the two were born comrades, and Fanny Beaufort,
whatever one might think of her, did not seem likely to
interfere with their intimacy. On the contrary, from
what he had seen of her, he thought she would be
naturally included in it. Still, change was change, and
differences were differences, and much as he felt himself
drawn toward his future daughter-in-law, it was
tempting to seize this last chance of being alone with
his boy.

There was no reason why he should not seize it,
except the profound one that he had lost the habit of
travel. May had disliked to move except for valid reasons,
such as taking the children to the sea or in the
mountains: she could imagine no other motive for leaving
the house in Thirty-ninth Street or their comfortable
quarters at the Wellands' in Newport. After Dallas
had taken his degree she had thought it her duty to
travel for six months; and the whole family had made
the old-fashioned tour through England, Switzerland
and Italy. Their time being limited (no one knew why)
they had omitted France. Archer remembered Dallas's
wrath at being asked to contemplate Mont Blanc
instead of Rheims and Chartres. But Mary and Bill wanted
mountain-climbing, and had already yawned their way
in Dallas's wake through the English cathedrals; and
May, always fair to her children, had insisted on holding
the balance evenly between their athletic and artistic
proclivities. She had indeed proposed that her husband
should go to Paris for a fortnight, and join them on the
Italian lakes after they had "done" Switzerland; but
Archer had declined. "We'll stick together," he said;
and May's face had brightened at his setting such a
good example to Dallas.

Since her death, nearly two years before, there had
been no reason for his continuing in the same routine.
His children had urged him to travel: Mary Chivers
had felt sure it would do him good to go abroad and
"see the galleries." The very mysteriousness of such a
cure made her the more confident of its efficacy. But
Archer had found himself held fast by habit, by memories,
by a sudden startled shrinking from new things.

Now, as he reviewed his past, he saw into what a
deep rut he had sunk. The worst of doing one's duty
was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything
else. At least that was the view that the men of his
generation had taken. The trenchant divisions between
right and wrong, honest and dishonest, respectable and
the reverse, had left so little scope for the unforeseen.
There are moments when a man's imagination, so easily
subdued to what it lives in, suddenly rises above its
daily level, and surveys the long windings of destiny.
Archer hung there and wondered. . . .

What was left of the little world he had grown up in,
and whose standards had bent and bound him? He
remembered a sneering prophecy of poor Lawrence
Lefferts's, uttered years ago in that very room: "If
things go on at this rate, our children will be marrying
Beaufort's bastards."

It was just what Archer's eldest son, the pride of his
life, was doing; and nobody wondered or reproved.
Even the boy's Aunt Janey, who still looked so exactly
as she used to in her elderly youth, had taken her
mother's emeralds and seed-pearls out of their pink
cotton-wool, and carried them with her own twitching
hands to the future bride; and Fanny Beaufort, instead
of looking disappointed at not receiving a "set" from a
Paris jeweller, had exclaimed at their old-fashioned
beauty, and declared that when she wore them she
should feel like an Isabey miniature.

Fanny Beaufort, who had appeared in New York at
eighteen, after the death of her parents, had won its
heart much as Madame Olenska had won it thirty
years earlier; only instead of being distrustful and afraid
of her, society took her joyfully for granted. She was
pretty, amusing and accomplished: what more did any
one want? Nobody was narrow-minded enough to rake
up against her the half-forgotten facts of her father's
past and her own origin. Only the older people remembered
so obscure an incident in the business life of New
York as Beaufort's failure, or the fact that after his
wife's death he had been quietly married to the notorious
Fanny Ring, and had left the country with his new
wife, and a little girl who inherited her beauty. He was
subsequently heard of in Constantinople, then in Russia;
and a dozen years later American travellers were
handsomely entertained by him in Buenos Ayres, where
he represented a large insurance agency. He and his
wife died there in the odour of prosperity; and one day
their orphaned daughter had appeared in New York in
charge of May Archer's sister-in-law, Mrs. Jack Welland,
whose husband had been appointed the girl's
guardian. The fact threw her into almost cousinly
relationship with Newland Archer's children, and nobody
was surprised when Dallas's engagement was announced.

Nothing could more dearly give the measure of the
distance that the world had travelled. People nowadays
were too busy--busy with reforms and "movements,"
with fads and fetishes and frivolities--to bother much
about their neighbours. And of what account was anybody's
past, in the huge kaleidoscope where all the
social atoms spun around on the same plane?

Newland Archer, looking out of his hotel window at
the stately gaiety of the Paris streets, felt his heart
beating with the confusion and eagerness of youth.

It was long since it had thus plunged and reared
under his widening waistcoat, leaving him, the next
minute, with an empty breast and hot temples. He
wondered if it was thus that his son's conducted itself
in the presence of Miss Fanny Beaufort--and decided
that it was not. "It functions as actively, no doubt, but
the rhythm is different," he reflected, recalling the cool
composure with which the young man had announced
his engagement, and taken for granted that his family
would approve.

"The difference is that these young people take it for
granted that they're going to get whatever they want,
and that we almost always took it for granted that we
shouldn't. Only, I wonder--the thing one's so certain
of in advance: can it ever make one's heart beat as

It was the day after their arrival in Paris, and the
spring sunshine held Archer in his open window, above
the wide silvery prospect of the Place Vendome. One
of the things he had stipulated--almost the only one--
when he had agreed to come abroad with Dallas, was
that, in Paris, he shouldn't be made to go to one of the
newfangled "palaces."

"Oh, all right--of course," Dallas good-naturedly
agreed. "I'll take you to some jolly old-fashioned place--
the Bristol say--" leaving his father speechless at hearing
that the century-long home of kings and emperors
was now spoken of as an old-fashioned inn, where one
went for its quaint inconveniences and lingering local

Archer had pictured often enough, in the first impatient
years, the scene of his return to Paris; then the
personal vision had faded, and he had simply tried to
see the city as the setting of Madame Olenska's life.
Sitting alone at night in his library, after the household
had gone to bed, he had evoked the radiant outbreak
of spring down the avenues of horse-chestnuts, the flowers
and statues in the public gardens, the whiff of lilacs
from the flower-carts, the majestic roll of the river
under the great bridges, and the life of art and study
and pleasure that filled each mighty artery to bursting.
Now the spectacle was before him in its glory, and as
he looked out on it he felt shy, old-fashioned, inadequate:
a mere grey speck of a man compared with the
ruthless magnificent fellow he had dreamed of being. . . .

Dallas's hand came down cheerily on his shoulder.
"Hullo, father: this is something like, isn't it?" They
stood for a while looking out in silence, and then the
young man continued: "By the way, I've got a message
for you: the Countess Olenska expects us both at half-
past five."

He said it lightly, carelessly, as he might have
imparted any casual item of information, such as the hour
at which their train was to leave for Florence the next
evening. Archer looked at him, and thought he saw in
his gay young eyes a gleam of his great-grandmother
Mingott's malice.

"Oh, didn't I tell you?" Dallas pursued. "Fanny made
me swear to do three things while I was in Paris: get
her the score of the last Debussy songs, go to the
Grand-Guignol and see Madame Olenska. You know
she was awfully good to Fanny when Mr. Beaufort sent
her over from Buenos Ayres to the Assomption. Fanny
hadn't any friends in Paris, and Madame Olenska used
to be kind to her and trot her about on holidays. I
believe she was a great friend of the first Mrs. Beaufort's.
And she's our cousin, of course. So I rang her up
this morning, before I went out, and told her you and I
were here for two days and wanted to see her."

Archer continued to stare at him. "You told her I
was here?"

"Of course--why not?" Dallas's eye brows went up
whimsically. Then, getting no answer, he slipped his
arm through his father's with a confidential pressure.

"I say, father: what was she like?"

Archer felt his colour rise under his son's unabashed
gaze. "Come, own up: you and she were great pals,
weren't you? Wasn't she most awfully lovely?"

"Lovely? I don't know. She was different."

"Ah--there you have it! That's what it always comes
to, doesn't it? When she comes, SHE'S DIFFERENT--and
one doesn't know why. It's exactly what I feel about

His father drew back a step, releasing his arm. "About
Fanny? But, my dear fellow--I should hope so! Only I
don't see--"

"Dash it, Dad, don't be prehistoric! Wasn't she--
once--your Fanny?"

Dallas belonged body and soul to the new generation.
He was the first-born of Newland and May Archer,
yet it had never been possible to inculcate in him even
the rudiments of reserve. "What's the use of making
mysteries? It only makes people want to nose 'em out,"
he always objected when enjoined to discretion. But
Archer, meeting his eyes, saw the filial light under their

"My Fanny?"

"Well, the woman you'd have chucked everything
for: only you didn't," continued his surprising son.

"I didn't," echoed Archer with a kind of solemnity.

"No: you date, you see, dear old boy. But mother

"Your mother?"

"Yes: the day before she died. It was when she sent
for me alone--you remember? She said she knew we
were safe with you, and always would be, because
once, when she asked you to, you'd given up the thing
you most wanted."

Archer received this strange communication in silence.
His eyes remained unseeingly fixed on the thronged
sunlit square below the window. At length he said in a
low voice: "She never asked me."

"No. I forgot. You never did ask each other
anything, did you? And you never told each other
anything. You just sat and watched each other, and guessed
at what was going on underneath. A deaf-and-dumb
asylum, in fact! Well, I back your generation for knowing
more about each other's private thoughts than we
ever have time to find out about our own.--I say,
Dad," Dallas broke off, "you're not angry with me? If
you are, let's make it up and go and lunch at Henri's.
I've got to rush out to Versailles afterward."

Archer did not accompany his son to Versailles. He
preferred to spend the afternoon in solitary roamings
through Paris. He had to deal all at once with the
packed regrets and stifled memories of an inarticulate

After a little while he did not regret Dallas's
indiscretion. It seemed to take an iron band from his heart
to know that, after all, some one had guessed and
pitied. . . . And that it should have been his wife moved
him indescribably. Dallas, for all his affectionate
insight, would not have understood that. To the boy, no
doubt, the episode was only a pathetic instance of vain
frustration, of wasted forces. But was it really no more?
For a long time Archer sat on a bench in the Champs
Elysees and wondered, while the stream of life rolled
by. . . .

A few streets away, a few hours away, Ellen Olenska
waited. She had never gone back to her husband, and
when he had died, some years before, she had made no
change in her way of living. There was nothing now to
keep her and Archer apart--and that afternoon he was
to see her.

He got up and walked across the Place de la Concorde
and the Tuileries gardens to the Louvre. She had
once told him that she often went there, and he had a
fancy to spend the intervening time in a place where he
could think of her as perhaps having lately been. For
an hour or more he wandered from gallery to gallery
through the dazzle of afternoon light, and one by one
the pictures burst on him in their half-forgotten splendour,
filling his soul with the long echoes of beauty.
After all, his life had been too starved. . . .

Suddenly, before an effulgent Titian, he found himself
saying: "But I'm only fifty-seven--" and then he
turned away. For such summer dreams it was too late;
but surely not for a quiet harvest of friendship, of
comradeship, in the blessed hush of her nearness.

He went back to the hotel, where he and Dallas were
to meet; and together they walked again across the
Place de la Concorde and over the bridge that leads to
the Chamber of Deputies.

Dallas, unconscious of what was going on in his
father's mind, was talking excitedly and abundantly of
Versailles. He had had but one previous glimpse of it,
during a holiday trip in which he had tried to pack all
the sights he had been deprived of when he had had to
go with the family to Switzerland; and tumultuous
enthusiasm and cock-sure criticism tripped each other
up on his lips.

As Archer listened, his sense of inadequacy and
inexpressiveness increased. The boy was not insensitive,
he knew; but he had the facility and self-confidence
that came of looking at fate not as a master but as an
equal. "That's it: they feel equal to things--they know
their way about," he mused, thinking of his son as the
spokesman of the new generation which had swept
away all the old landmarks, and with them the sign-
posts and the danger-signal.

Suddenly Dallas stopped short, grasping his father's
arm. "Oh, by Jove," he exclaimed.

They had come out into the great tree-planted space
before the Invalides. The dome of Mansart floated
ethereally above the budding trees and the long grey
front of the building: drawing up into itself all the rays
of afternoon light, it hung there like the visible symbol
of the race's glory.

Archer knew that Madame Olenska lived in a square
near one of the avenues radiating from the Invalides;
and he had pictured the quarter as quiet and almost
obscure, forgetting the central splendour that lit it up.
Now, by some queer process of association, that golden
light became for him the pervading illumination in
which she lived. For nearly thirty years, her life--of
which he knew so strangely little--had been spent in
this rich atmosphere that he already felt to be too dense
and yet too stimulating for his lungs. He thought of the
theatres she must have been to, the pictures she must
have looked at, the sober and splendid old houses she
must have frequented, the people she must have talked
with, the incessant stir of ideas, curiosities, images and
associations thrown out by an intensely social race in a
setting of immemorial manners; and suddenly he
remembered the young Frenchman who had once said to
him: "Ah, good conversation--there is nothing like it,
is there?"

Archer had not seen M. Riviere, or heard of him,
for nearly thirty years; and that fact gave the measure
of his ignorance of Madame Olenska's existence. More
than half a lifetime divided them, and she had spent the
long interval among people he did not know, in a
society he but faintly guessed at, in conditions he would
never wholly understand. During that time he had been
living with his youthful memory of her; but she had
doubtless had other and more tangible companionship.
Perhaps she too had kept her memory of him as something
apart; but if she had, it must have been like a
relic in a small dim chapel, where there was not time to
pray every day. . . .

They had crossed the Place des Invalides, and were
walking down one of the thoroughfares flanking the
building. It was a quiet quarter, after all, in spite of its
splendour and its history; and the fact gave one an idea
of the riches Paris had to draw on, since such scenes as
this were left to the few and the indifferent.

The day was fading into a soft sun-shot haze, pricked
here and there by a yellow electric light, and passers
were rare in the little square into which they had turned.
Dallas stopped again, and looked up.

"It must be here," he said, slipping his arm through
his father's with a movement from which Archer's shyness
did not shrink; and they stood together looking up
at the house.

It was a modern building, without distinctive character,
but many-windowed, and pleasantly balconied up
its wide cream-coloured front. On one of the upper
balconies, which hung well above the rounded tops of
the horse-chestnuts in the square, the awnings were still
lowered, as though the sun had just left it.

"I wonder which floor--?" Dallas conjectured; and
moving toward the porte-cochere he put his head into
the porter's lodge, and came back to say: "The fifth. It
must be the one with the awnings."

Archer remained motionless, gazing at the upper windows
as if the end of their pilgrimage had been attained.

"I say, you know, it's nearly six," his son at length
reminded him.

The father glanced away at an empty bench under
the trees.

"I believe I'll sit there a moment," he said.

"Why--aren't you well?" his son exclaimed.

"Oh, perfectly. But I should like you, please, to go
up without me."

Dallas paused before him, visibly bewildered. "But, I
say, Dad: do you mean you won't come up at all?"

"I don't know," said Archer slowly.

"If you don't she won't understand."

"Go, my boy; perhaps I shall follow you."

Dallas gave him a long look through the twilight.

"But what on earth shall I say?"

"My dear fellow, don't you always know what to
say?" his father rejoined with a smile.

"Very well. I shall say you're old-fashioned, and
prefer walking up the five flights because you don't like

His father smiled again. "Say I'm old-fashioned: that's

Dallas looked at him again, and then, with an
incredulous gesture, passed out of sight under the vaulted

Archer sat down on the bench and continued to gaze
at the awninged balcony. He calculated the time it
would take his son to be carried up in the lift to the
fifth floor, to ring the bell, and be admitted to the hall,
and then ushered into the drawing-room. He pictured
Dallas entering that room with his quick assured step
and his delightful smile, and wondered if the people
were right who said that his boy "took after him."

Then he tried to see the persons already in the
room--for probably at that sociable hour there would
be more than one--and among them a dark lady, pale
and dark, who would look up quickly, half rise, and
hold out a long thin hand with three rings on it. . . . He
thought she would be sitting in a sofa-corner near the
fire, with azaleas banked behind her on a table.

"It's more real to me here than if I went up," he
suddenly heard himself say; and the fear lest that last
shadow of reality should lose its edge kept him rooted
to his seat as the minutes succeeded each other.

He sat for a long time on the bench in the thickening
dusk, his eyes never turning from the balcony. At length
a light shone through the windows, and a moment later
a man-servant came out on the balcony, drew up the
awnings, and closed the shutters.

At that, as if it had been the signal he waited for,
Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back alone
to his hotel.

The End

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
General Fiction
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