Chapter 4 Notes from The Age of Innocence

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The Age of Innocence Chapter 4

On the day after the ball, Archer, May, and Mrs. Welland pay the traditional betrothal visit to Mrs. Manson Mingott's house.

All are relieved that the Countess Olenska is not there. She has gone out during the "shopping hour," which is not considered acceptable for someone in her fragile social position to do. May's family doesn't care at this point: "To the general relief the Countess Olenska was not present in her grandmother's drawing-room . . . it spared them the embarrassment of her presence, and the faint shadow that her unhappy past might seem to shed on their radiant future." Chapter 4, pg. 29

Mrs. Mingott is delighted with their engagement, although she is not surprised; relatives had long ago predicted that Archer and May would marry. Archer tells her that he wants to be married soon, but May and her mother do not agree. Mrs. Mingott sides with Archer.

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The visit is interrupted by the return of Ellen Olenska. To everyone's surprise, she is followed by Julius Beaufort, who ran into her in Madison Square and walked her home.

Beaufort stays in the drawing room to gossip with Mrs. Mingott about last night's ball. Everyone else gathers in the hallway to put on their coats. Archer finally tells Ellen about the engagement, which she already knew. She invites him to visit her someday.

In the carriage, Archer, May, and Mrs. Welland talk about Mrs. Mingott. They are careful not to say anything about Ellen, but they are all thinking the same thing: that Ellen made a mistake in being seen in public with Julius Beaufort the day after her arrival in New York. Archer silently criticizes Ellen for inviting him to visit; after all, men who are engaged don't spend their time calling on married women. Archer is thankful that his future wife knows and follows the manners and customs of New York society.

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