The Age of Innocence eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 300 pages of information about The Age of Innocence.
she cares nothing for all these!  Art and beauty, those she does care for, she lives for, as I always have; and those also surrounded her.  Pictures, priceless furniture, music, brilliant conversation—­ah, that, my dear young man, if you’ll excuse me, is what you’ve no conception of here!  And she had it all; and the homage of the greatest.  She tells me she is not thought handsome in New York—­good heavens!  Her portrait has been painted nine times; the greatest artists in Europe have begged for the privilege.  Are these things nothing?  And the remorse of an adoring husband?”

As the Marchioness Manson rose to her climax her face assumed an expression of ecstatic retrospection which would have moved Archer’s mirth had he not been numb with amazement.

He would have laughed if any one had foretold to him that his first sight of poor Medora Manson would have been in the guise of a messenger of Satan; but he was in no mood for laughing now, and she seemed to him to come straight out of the hell from which Ellen Olenska had just escaped.

“She knows nothing yet—­of all this?” he asked abruptly.

Mrs. Manson laid a purple finger on her lips.  “Nothing directly—­but does she suspect?  Who can tell?  The truth is, Mr. Archer, I have been waiting to see you.  From the moment I heard of the firm stand you had taken, and of your influence over her, I hoped it might be possible to count on your support—­to convince you . . .”

“That she ought to go back?  I would rather see her dead!” cried the young man violently.

“Ah,” the Marchioness murmured, without visible resentment.  For a while she sat in her arm-chair, opening and shutting the absurd ivory fan between her mittened fingers; but suddenly she lifted her head and listened.

“Here she comes,” she said in a rapid whisper; and then, pointing to the bouquet on the sofa:  “Am I to understand that you prefer that, Mr. Archer?  After all, marriage is marriage . . . and my niece is still a wife. . .”

XVIII.

“What are you two plotting together, aunt Medora?” Madame Olenska cried as she came into the room.

She was dressed as if for a ball.  Everything about her shimmered and glimmered softly, as if her dress had been woven out of candle-beams; and she carried her head high, like a pretty woman challenging a roomful of rivals.

“We were saying, my dear, that here was something beautiful to surprise you with,” Mrs. Manson rejoined, rising to her feet and pointing archly to the flowers.

Madame Olenska stopped short and looked at the bouquet.  Her colour did not change, but a sort of white radiance of anger ran over her like summer lightning.  “Ah,” she exclaimed, in a shrill voice that the young man had never heard, “who is ridiculous enough to send me a bouquet?  Why a bouquet?  And why tonight of all nights?  I am not going to a ball; I am not a girl engaged to be married.  But some people are always ridiculous.”

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The Age of Innocence from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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