The Age of Innocence Chapter 15
When Archer visits Skuytercliff, the butler tells him that the Countess Olenska is out; she has driven to church with Mrs. van der Luyden. Archer decides to drive towards town, hoping that he'll run into Ellen on the road.
He soon sees Ellen approaching the house. She looks vivid and cheerful. As they walk, Archer tries to ask Ellen what she's afraid of, and why she felt that she had to run away. She is in a good mood, and playfully resists his questions.
They come across a little cottage on the van der Luydens' property called the Patroon's house. Ellen invites Archer to come in for a talk. Archer tries again to ask why she wrote that she was unhappy. Ellen is silent for a long moment. Archer imagines with excitement that she is coming up behind him to hug him. As he waits, though, he sees Julius Beaufort coming up the path.
Archer bursts out laughing. Ellen reaches for his hand and moves to the window to see what he finds so funny. When she sees Beaufort, she shrinks back, still holding on to Archer's hand. Archer rudely asks if Beaufort is the reason for her fear. Ellen replies that she didn't know he was here. Archer drops her hand, and calls out to Beaufort that Ellen was expecting him.
On the way back to the city, Archer thinks about Beaufort's surprise visit. Archer knows that Beaufort came out with the desire to have an affair with Ellen. He feels threatened because Beaufort, although vulgar and crude, can give Ellen excitement and access to the community of artists she longs to befriend.
Archer returns home and unpacks a box of books from London. He finds a small book of poetry called "The House of Light":
"He took it up, and found himself plunged in an atmosphere unlike any he had ever breathed in books; so warm, so rich, and yet so ineffably tender, that it gave a new and haunting beauty to the most elementary of human passions. All through the night he pursued through those enchanting pages the vision of a woman who had the face of Ellen Olenska . . . " Chapter 15, pg. 114
The next few days are bleak for Archer. Mrs. Archer and Janey comment on how pale he looks. On the fourth day, he receives a note from Ellen asking him to come the following day so she can explain her situation to him.
Archer reads her note several times. All night, he thinks of the different ways he can answer it. In the morning, he decides that he will not reply. Instead, he packs his suitcase and boards a boat that will take him to St. Augustine, and to May.