The Age of Innocence Chapter 30
That evening, Archer and May sit together in their library. As he looks at his wife, Archer feels trapped by their marriage.
"She had spent her poetry and romance on their short courting: the function was exhausted because the need was past. Now she was simply ripening into a copy of her mother, and mysteriously, by the very process, trying to turn him into a Mr. Welland." Chapter 30, pg. 234
When Archer opens the window for fresh air to clear his mind, May tells him to shut it: "'You'll catch your death!'" Archer longs to tell her that he has felt dead for months.
His imagination suddenly runs wild, and it occurs to him that May might die. If she died, he would be free.
A week passes, and Archer hears nothing from Ellen. One day, Mrs. Mingott asks to see him. Archer hopes that he'll have a few moments alone with Ellen, and is disappointed when he learns that she is out visiting the disgraced Regina Beaufort.
Mrs. Mingott has changed her mind about Ellen; she no longer believes that Ellen should return to Count Olenski. The rest of the family, though, firmly believes that Ellen belongs with her husband, and that Mrs. Mingott should continue to cut off her granddaughter's allowance until Ellen comes to her senses.
Mrs. Mingott wants Archer to help convince the rest of the family that Ellen should stay. Ellen, Mrs. Mingott tells him, will not return to Washington. Instead, she will stay in New York to care for her grandmother.
Archer had been prepared to give up the life he knows to follow Ellen to Washington. When he hears the news, he is at first confused and then relieved:
"This was her answer to his final appeal of the other day: if she would not take the extreme step he had urged, she had at last yielded to half-measures. He sank back into the thought with the involuntary relief of a man who has been ready to risk everything, and suddenly tastes the dangerous sweetness of security." Chapter 30, pg. 238