Archer looked at him with startled eyes. New York, for a young man who had frequented the Goncourts and Flaubert, and who thought the life of ideas the only one worth living! He continued to stare at M. Riviere perplexedly, wondering how to tell him that his very superiorities and advantages would be the surest hindrance to success.
“New York—New York—but must it be especially New York?” he stammered, utterly unable to imagine what lucrative opening his native city could offer to a young man to whom good conversation appeared to be the only necessity.
A sudden flush rose under M. Riviere’s sallow skin. “I—I thought it your metropolis: is not the intellectual life more active there?” he rejoined; then, as if fearing to give his hearer the impression of having asked a favour, he went on hastily: “One throws out random suggestions—more to one’s self than to others. In reality, I see no immediate prospect—” and rising from his seat he added, without a trace of constraint: “But Mrs. Carfry will think that I ought to be taking you upstairs.”
During the homeward drive Archer pondered deeply on this episode. His hour with M. Riviere had put new air into his lungs, and his first impulse had been to invite him to dine the next day; but he was beginning to understand why married men did not always immediately yield to their first impulses.
“That young tutor is an interesting fellow: we had some awfully good talk after dinner about books and things,” he threw out tentatively in the hansom.
May roused herself from one of the dreamy silences into which he had read so many meanings before six months of marriage had given him the key to them.
“The little Frenchman? Wasn’t he dreadfully common?” she questioned coldly; and he guessed that she nursed a secret disappointment at having been invited out in London to meet a clergyman and a French tutor. The disappointment was not occasioned by the sentiment ordinarily defined as snobbishness, but by old New York’s sense of what was due to it when it risked its dignity in foreign lands. If May’s parents had entertained the Carfrys in Fifth Avenue they would have offered them something more substantial than a parson and a schoolmaster.
But Archer was on edge, and took her up.