As he came out into the lobby Archer ran across his friend Ned Winsett, the only one among what Janey called his clever people with whom he cared to probe into things a little deeper than the average level of club and chop-house banter.
He had caught sight, across the house, of Winsetts shabby round-shouldered back, and had once noticed his eyes turned toward the Beaufort box. The two men shook hands, and Winsett proposed a bock at a little German restaurant around the corner. Archer, who was not in the mood for the kind of talk they were likely to get there, declined on the plea that he had work to do at home; and Winsett said: Oh, well so have I for that matter, and Ill be the Industrious Apprentice too.
They strolled along together, and presently Winsett said: Look here, what Im really after is the name of the dark lady in that swell box of yourswith the Beauforts, wasnt she? The one your friend Lefferts seems so smitten by.
Archer, he could not have said why, was slightly annoyed. What the devil did Ned Winsett want with Ellen Olenskas name? And above all, why did he couple it with Leffertss? It was unlike Winsett to manifest such curiosity; but after all, Archer remembered, he was a journalist.
Its not for an interview, I hope? he laughed.
Wellnot for the press; just for myself, Winsett rejoined. The fact is shes a neighbour of minequeer quarter for such a beauty to settle inand shes been awfully kind to my little boy, who fell down her area chasing his kitten, and gave himself a nasty cut. She rushed in bareheaded, carrying him in her arms, with his knee all beautifully bandaged, and was so sympathetic and beautiful that my wife was too dazzled to ask her name.
A pleasant glow dilated Archers heart. There was nothing extraordinary in the tale: any woman would have done as much for a neighbours child. But it was just like Ellen, he felt, to have rushed in bareheaded, carrying the boy in her arms, and to have dazzled poor Mrs. Winsett into forgetting to ask who she was.
That is the Countess Olenskaa granddaughter of old Mrs. Mingotts.
Whewa Countess! whistled Ned Winsett. Well, I didnt know Countesses were so neighbourly. Mingotts aint.
They would be, if youd let them.
Ah, well It was their old interminable argument as to the obstinate unwillingness of the clever people to frequent the fashionable, and both men knew that there was no use in prolonging it.
I wonder, Winsett broke off, how a Countess happens to live in our slum?
Because she doesnt care a hang about where she livesor about any of our little social sign-posts, said Archer, with a secret pride in his own picture of her.
Hmbeen in bigger places, I suppose, the other commented. Well, heres my corner.
He slouched off across Broadway, and Archer stood looking after him and musing on his last words.
Ned Winsett had those flashes of penetration; they were the most interesting thing about him, and always made Archer wonder why they had allowed him to accept failure so stolidly at an age when most men are still struggling.
Archer had known that Winsett had a wife and child, but he had never seen them. The two men always met at the Century, or at some haunt of journalists and theatrical people, such as the restaurant where Winsett had proposed to go for a bock. He had given Archer to understand that his wife was an invalid; which