Mr. van der Luyden greeted Mrs. Archer with cousinly affability, proffered to Newland low-voiced congratulations couched in the same language as his wifes, and seated himself in one of the brocade armchairs with the simplicity of a reigning sovereign.
I had just finished reading the Times, he said, laying his long finger-tips together. In town my mornings are so much occupied that I find it more convenient to read the newspapers after luncheon.
Ah, theres a great deal to be said for that plan indeed I think my uncle Egmont used to say he found it less agitating not to read the morning papers till after dinner, said Mrs. Archer responsively.
Yes: my good father abhorred hurry. But now we live in a constant rush, said Mr. van der Luyden in measured tones, looking with pleasant deliberation about the large shrouded room which to Archer was so complete an image of its owners.
But I hope you had finished your reading, Henry? his wife interposed.
Quitequite, he reassured her.
Then I should like Adeline to tell you
Oh, its really Newlands story, said his mother smiling; and proceeded to rehearse once more the monstrous tale of the affront inflicted on Mrs. Lovell Mingott.
Of course, she ended, Augusta Welland and Mary Mingott both felt that, especially in view of Newlands engagement, you and Henry ought to know.
Ah said Mr. van der Luyden, drawing a deep breath.
There was a silence during which the tick of the monumental ormolu clock on the white marble mantelpiece grew as loud as the boom of a minute-gun. Archer contemplated with awe the two slender faded figures, seated side by side in a kind of viceregal rigidity, mouthpieces of some remote ancestral authority which fate compelled them to wield, when they would so much rather have lived in simplicity and seclusion, digging invisible weeds out of the perfect lawns of Skuytercliff, and playing Patience together in the evenings.
Mr. van der Luyden was the first to speak.
You really think this is due to somesome intentional interference of Lawrence Leffertss? he enquired, turning to Archer.
Im certain of it, sir. Larry has been going it rather harder than usual latelyif cousin Louisa wont mind my mentioning ithaving rather a stiff affair with the postmasters wife in their village, or some one of that sort; and whenever poor Gertrude Leffers begins to suspect anything, and hes afraid of trouble, he gets up a fuss of this kind, to show how awfully moral he is, and talks at the top of his voice about the impertinence of inviting his wife to meet people he doesnt wish her to know. Hes simply using Madame Olenska as a lightning-rod; Ive seen him try the same thing often before.
The leffertses! said Mrs. van der Luyden.
The leffertses! echoed Mrs. Archer. What would uncle Egmont have said of Lawrence Leffertss pronouncing on anybodys social position? It shows what Society has come to.
Well hope it has not quite come to that, said Mr. van der Luyden firmly.
Ah, if only you and Louisa went out more! sighed Mrs. Archer.
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