The Age of Innocence Chapter 14
In the theatre's lobby, Archer runs into his friend Ned Winsett. Winsett, a journalist, is one of the only people with whom Archer feels that he can have deep, meaningful conversation. The two men are of different social stations (the New York society of Archer's world looks down upon journalists like Winsett), yet they respect and enjoy each other's company.
Tonight, Winsett asks Archer about the exotic woman in the Beaufort's box. He knows her by sight; Winsett and Ellen are neighbors in the unfashionable district where artists, writers, and other eccentric people live. When Archer tells him that Ellen is a Countess, Winsett is surprised. He can't figure out why a countess would bother to interact with the common people of his neighborhood.
Archer and Winsett have a good, challenging conversation, but it only reveals to Archer how their different social positions prevent them from truly understanding one another.
"A gentleman simply stayed at home and abstained. But you couldn't make a man like Winsett see that; and that was why the New York of literary clubs and exotic restaurants, though a first shake made it seem more of a kaleidoscope, turned out, in the end, to be a smaller box, with a more monotonous pattern, than the assembled atoms of Fifth Avenue." Chapter 14, pg. 104
The next morning, Archer looks all over the city for yellow roses to send to Ellen. He sends a note to her, asking if she will allow him to visit that afternoon. No reply comes, and Archer is hurt and embarrassed.
Three days later, Ellen finally replies. She writes that she left for Skuytercliff with the van der Luydens the day after the play to think in a quiet place, and that she wishes that Archer were there.
The note surprises Archer. He wonders what Ellen is running away from, and is disappointed to learn that she is gone. He remembers that the family of Reggie Chivers had invited him to their house on the Hudson River, only a few miles from Skuytercliff. Although he had refused the invitation the day before, Archer changes his mind.