The Age of Innocence eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 300 pages of information about The Age of Innocence.
establish herself in Washington.  There, during the winter, he had heard of her (as one always heard of pretty women in Washington) as shining in the “brilliant diplomatic society” that was supposed to make up for the social short-comings of the Administration.  He had listened to these accounts, and to various contradictory reports on her appearance, her conversation, her point of view and her choice of friends, with the detachment with which one listens to reminiscences of some one long since dead; not till Medora suddenly spoke her name at the archery match had Ellen Olenska become a living presence to him again.  The Marchioness’s foolish lisp had called up a vision of the little fire-lit drawing-room and the sound of the carriage-wheels returning down the deserted street.  He thought of a story he had read, of some peasant children in Tuscany lighting a bunch of straw in a wayside cavern, and revealing old silent images in their painted tomb . . .

The way to the shore descended from the bank on which the house was perched to a walk above the water planted with weeping willows.  Through their veil Archer caught the glint of the Lime Rock, with its white-washed turret and the tiny house in which the heroic light-house keeper, Ida Lewis, was living her last venerable years.  Beyond it lay the flat reaches and ugly government chimneys of Goat Island, the bay spreading northward in a shimmer of gold to Prudence Island with its low growth of oaks, and the shores of Conanicut faint in the sunset haze.

From the willow walk projected a slight wooden pier ending in a sort of pagoda-like summer-house; and in the pagoda a lady stood, leaning against the rail, her back to the shore.  Archer stopped at the sight as if he had waked from sleep.  That vision of the past was a dream, and the reality was what awaited him in the house on the bank overhead:  was Mrs. Welland’s pony-carriage circling around and around the oval at the door, was May sitting under the shameless Olympians and glowing with secret hopes, was the Welland villa at the far end of Bellevue Avenue, and Mr. Welland, already dressed for dinner, and pacing the drawing-room floor, watch in hand, with dyspeptic impatience—­ for it was one of the houses in which one always knew exactly what is happening at a given hour.

“What am I?  A son-in-law—­” Archer thought.

The figure at the end of the pier had not moved.  For a long moment the young man stood half way down the bank, gazing at the bay furrowed with the coming and going of sailboats, yacht-launches, fishing-craft and the trailing black coal-barges hauled by noisy tugs.  The lady in the summer-house seemed to be held by the same sight.  Beyond the grey bastions of Fort Adams a long-drawn sunset was splintering up into a thousand fires, and the radiance caught the sail of a catboat as it beat out through the channel between the Lime Rock and the shore.  Archer, as he watched, remembered the scene in the Shaughraun, and Montague lifting Ada Dyas’s ribbon to his lips without her knowing that he was in the room.

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The Age of Innocence from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.