The Age of Innocence Chapter 1
At the Academy of Music in New York City, the famous opera singer Christine Nilsson sings in Faust. In the middle of a stirring love song, Newland Archer arrives fashionably late. He enters the club box of seats reserved for young, wealthy, important men like himself.
Directly opposite is the club box of Mrs. Manson Mingott, the obese matriarch of another prominent New York family (and the grandmother of Archer's new fiancée.) Seated in her box are her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Lovell Mingott, her daughter, Mrs. Welland, and her granddaughter, May Welland.
Archer gazes across the room at May. Just that afternoon, he and May had become engaged. Unlike Archer, May lacks romantic experience. Archer sees himself as a teacher to his future wife. As he proudly watches May watching the opera, he begins dreaming about their future together.
"And he contemplated her own absorbed young face with a thrill of possessorship in which pride in his own masculine initiation was mingled with a tender reverence for her abysmal purity. 'We'll read Faust together . . . by the Italian lakes . . .' he thought, somewhat hazily confusing the scene of his projected honeymoon with the masterpieces of literature which it would be his manly privilege to reveal to his bride." Chapter 1, pg. 13
The people sitting near him suddenly interrupt his daydreams. Lawrence Lefferts, New York's expert on manners, and Sillerton Jackson, its expert on important families, are staring at Mrs. Mingott's opera box in surprise and shock. Archer looks, too. Seated next to his fiancée is a newcomer: a slim, exotic, dramatic-looking woman. She seems unconscious of the attention that is focused on her.
The other men in Archer's box wait in suspense to hear what Sillerton Jackson has to say about this woman: "'I didn't think the Mingott's would have tried it on.'" Chapter 1, pg. 16