Im sorry to think it of Madame Olenska, said Mrs. van der Luyden; and Mrs. Archer murmured: Ah, my dearand after youd had her twice at Skuytercliff!
It was at this point that Mr. Jackson seized the chance to place his favourite allusion.
At the Tuileries, he repeated, seeing the eyes of the company expectantly turned on him, the standard was excessively lax in some respects; and if youd asked where Mornys money came from! Or who paid the debts of some of the Court beauties . . .
I hope, dear Sillerton, said Mrs. Archer, you are not suggesting that we should adopt such standards?
I never suggest, returned Mr. Jackson imperturbably. But Madame Olenskas foreign bringing-up may make her less particular
Ah, the two elder ladies sighed.
Still, to have kept her grandmothers carriage at a defaulters door! Mr. van der Luyden protested; and Archer guessed that he was remembering, and resenting, the hampers of carnations he had sent to the little house in Twenty-third Street.
Of course Ive always said that she looks at things quite differently, Mrs. Archer summed up.
A flush rose to Mays forehead. She looked across the table at her husband, and said precipitately: Im sure Ellen meant it kindly.
Imprudent people are often kind, said Mrs. Archer, as if the fact were scarcely an extenuation; and Mrs. van der Luyden murmured: If only she had consulted some one
Ah, that she never did! Mrs. Archer rejoined.
At this point Mr. van der Luyden glanced at his wife, who bent her head slightly in the direction of Mrs. Archer; and the glimmering trains of the three ladies swept out of the door while the gentlemen settled down to their cigars. Mr. van der Luyden supplied short ones on Opera nights; but they were so good that they made his guests deplore his inexorable punctuality.
Archer, after the first act, had detached himself from the party and made his way to the back of the club box. From there he watched, over various Chivers, Mingott and Rushworth shoulders, the same scene that he had looked at, two years previously, on the night of his first meeting with Ellen Olenska. He had half-expected her to appear again in old Mrs. Mingotts box, but it remained empty; and he sat motionless, his eyes fastened on it, till suddenly Madame Nilssons pure soprano broke out into Mama, non mama. . .
Archer turned to the stage, where, in the familiar setting of giant roses and pen-wiper pansies, the same large blonde victim was succumbing to the same small brown seducer.
From the stage his eyes wandered to the point of the horseshoe where May sat between two older ladies, just as, on that former evening, she had sat between Mrs. Lovell Mingott and her newly-arrived foreign cousin. As on that evening, she was all in white; and Archer, who had not noticed what she wore, recognised the blue-white satin and old lace of her wedding dress.
It was the custom, in old New York, for brides to appear in this costly garment during the first year or two of marriage: his mother, he knew, kept hers in tissue paper in the hope that Janey might some day wear it, though poor Janey was reaching the age when pearl grey poplin and no bridesmaids would be thought more appropriate.
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