The Age of Innocence Chapter 32
The following evening, several members of New York society go to the opera. Archer remembers the night two years earlier when he met Ellen. Many things this evening are the same: the opera is Faust, Christine Nilsson sings the lead role, and Archer sits in the men's club box and looks across the room at the Mingott's box. May looks a little older and more tired, but she still reminds Archer of the night of their engagement. As Archer remembers the younger May, he suddenly wants to confess everything and ask her for the freedom she had once offered him in St. Augustine.
Archer tells May that he has a headache, and they leave the opera early. At home, he tries to tell May, but she won't let him. May pretends that Archer's reason for wanting to talk about Ellen is because she hasn't been nice to her cousin.
May casually tells him that any hard feelings she had for her cousin are gone because Ellen will soon leave New York and return to Europe. When he hears this, Archer struggles for control. He doesn't believe it until May shows him a letter. Ellen wrote to May that she had decided to return to Europe, and is planning to leave immediately for Washington to pack her belongings. At the end of the letter, she added that it would be useless for any of her friends to try to change her mind.
Archer laughs crazily, but he manages to ask May why Ellen wrote the letter. May guesses that Ellen decided to write it after their conversation at Mrs. Mingott's the evening before.