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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 13
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    XIII.

    It was a crowded night at Wallack's theatre.

    The play was "The Shaughraun," with Dion
    Boucicault in the title role and Harry Montague and
    Ada Dyas as the lovers. The popularity of the admirable
    English company was at its height, and the Shaughraun
    always packed the house. In the galleries the enthusiasm
    was unreserved; in the stalls and boxes, people
    smiled a little at the hackneyed sentiments and clap-
    trap situations, and enjoyed the play as much as the
    galleries did.

    There was one episode, in particular, that held the
    house from floor to ceiling. It was that in which Harry
    Montague, after a sad, almost monosyllabic scene of
    parting with Miss Dyas, bade her good-bye, and turned
    to go. The actress, who was standing near the mantelpiece
    and looking down into the fire, wore a gray
    cashmere dress without fashionable loopings or trimmings,
    moulded to her tall figure and flowing in long
    lines about her feet. Around her neck was a narrow
    black velvet ribbon with the ends falling down her
    back.

    When her wooer turned from her she rested her arms
    against the mantel-shelf and bowed her face in her
    hands. On the threshold he paused to look at her; then
    he stole back, lifted one of the ends of velvet ribbon,
    kissed it, and left the room without her hearing him or
    changing her attitude. And on this silent parting the
    curtain fell.

    It was always for the sake of that particular scene
    that Newland Archer went to see "The Shaughraun."
    He thought the adieux of Montague and Ada Dyas as
    fine as anything he had ever seen Croisette and Bressant
    do in Paris, or Madge Robertson and Kendal in London;
    in its reticence, its dumb sorrow, it moved him
    more than the most famous histrionic outpourings.

    On the evening in question the little scene acquired
    an added poignancy by reminding him--he could not
    have said why--of his leave-taking from Madame
    Olenska after their confidential talk a week or ten days
    earlier.

    It would have been as difficult to discover any
    resemblance between the two situations as between the
    appearance of the persons concerned. Newland Archer
    could not pretend to anything approaching the young
    English actor's romantic good looks, and Miss Dyas
    was a tall red-haired woman of monumental build
    whose pale and pleasantly ugly face was utterly unlike
    Ellen Olenska's vivid countenance. Nor were Archer
    and Madame Olenska two lovers parting in heart-broken
    silence; they were client and lawyer separating
    after a talk which had given the lawyer the worst
    possible impression of the client's case. Wherein, then,
    lay the resemblance that made the young man's heart
    beat with a kind of retrospective excitement? It seemed
    to be in Madame Olenska's mysterious faculty of
    suggesting tragic and moving possibilities outside the daily
    run of experience. She had hardly ever said a word to
    him to produce this impression, but it was a part of
    her, either a projection of her mysterious and outlandish
    background or of something inherently dramatic,
    passionate and unusual in herself. Archer had always
    been inclined to think that chance and circumstance
    played a small part in shaping people's lots compared
    with their innate tendency to have things happen to
    them. This tendency he had felt from the first in
    Madame Olenska. The quiet, almost passive young woman
    struck him as exactly the kind of person to whom
    things were bound to happen, no matter how much she
    shrank from them and went out of her way to avoid
    them. The exciting fact was her having lived in an
    atmosphere so thick with drama that her own tendency
    to provoke it had apparently passed unperceived. It
    was precisely the odd absence of surprise in her that
    gave him the sense of her having been plucked out of a
    very maelstrom: the things she took for granted gave
    the measure of those she had rebelled against.

    Archer had left her with the conviction that Count
    Olenski's accusation was not unfounded. The mysterious
    person who figured in his wife's past as "the secretary"
    had probably not been unrewarded for his share
    in her escape. The conditions from which she had fled
    were intolerable, past speaking of, past believing: she
    was young, she was frightened, she was desperate--
    what more natural than that she should be grateful to
    her rescuer? The pity was that her gratitude put her, in
    the law's eyes and the world's, on a par with her
    abominable husband. Archer had made her understand
    this, as he was bound to do; he had also made her
    understand that simplehearted kindly New York, on
    whose larger charity she had apparently counted, was
    precisely the place where she could least hope for
    indulgence.

    To have to make this fact plain to her--and to
    witness her resigned acceptance of it--had been intolerably
    painful to him. He felt himself drawn to her by
    obscure feelings of jealousy and pity, as if her dumbly-
    confessed error had put her at his mercy, humbling yet
    endearing her. He was glad it was to him she had
    revealed her secret, rather than to the cold scrutiny of
    Mr. Letterblair, or the embarrassed gaze of her family.
    He immediately took it upon himself to assure them
    both that she had given up her idea of seeking a
    divorce, basing her decision on the fact that she had
    understood the uselessness of the proceeding; and with
    infinite relief they had all turned their eyes from the
    "unpleasantness" she had spared them.

    "I was sure Newland would manage it," Mrs. Welland
    had said proudly of her future son-in-law; and old
    Mrs. Mingott, who had summoned him for a confidential
    interview, had congratulated him on his cleverness,
    and added impatiently: "Silly goose! I told her myself
    what nonsense it was. Wanting to pass herself off as
    Ellen Mingott and an old maid, when she has the luck
    to be a married woman and a Countess!"

    These incidents had made the memory of his last talk
    with Madame Olenska so vivid to the young man that
    as the curtain fell on the parting of the two actors his
    eyes filled with tears, and he stood up to leave the
    theatre.

    In doing so, he turned to the side of the house behind
    him, and saw the lady of whom he was thinking seated
    in a box with the Beauforts, Lawrence Lefferts and one
    or two other men. He had not spoken with her alone
    since their evening together, and had tried to avoid
    being with her in company; but now their eyes met,
    and as Mrs. Beaufort recognised him at the same time,
    and made her languid little gesture of invitation, it was
    impossible not to go into the box.

    Beaufort and Lefferts made way for him, and after a
    few words with Mrs. Beaufort, who always preferred
    to look beautiful and not have to talk, Archer seated
    himself behind Madame Olenska. There was no one
    else in the box but Mr. Sillerton Jackson, who was
    telling Mrs. Beaufort in a confidential undertone about
    Mrs. Lemuel Struthers's last Sunday reception (where
    some people reported that there had been dancing).
    Under cover of this circumstantial narrative, to which
    Mrs. Beaufort listened with her perfect smile, and her
    head at just the right angle to be seen in profile from
    the stalls, Madame Olenska turned and spoke in a low
    voice.

    "Do you think," she asked, glancing toward the
    stage, "he will send her a bunch of yellow roses tomorrow
    morning?"

    Archer reddened, and his heart gave a leap of
    surprise. He had called only twice on Madame Olenska,
    and each time he had sent her a box of yellow roses,
    and each time without a card. She had never before
    made any allusion to the flowers, and he supposed she
    had never thought of him as the sender. Now her
    sudden recognition of the gift, and her associating it
    with the tender leave-taking on the stage, filled him
    with an agitated pleasure.

    "I was thinking of that too--I was going to leave the
    theatre in order to take the picture away with me," he
    said.

    To his surprise her colour rose, reluctantly and duskily.
    She looked down at the mother-of-pearl opera-glass
    in her smoothly gloved hands, and said, after a pause:
    "What do you do while May is away?"

    "I stick to my work," he answered, faintly annoyed
    by the question.

    In obedience to a long-established habit, the Wellands
    had left the previous week for St. Augustine,
    where, out of regard for the supposed susceptibility of
    Mr. Welland's bronchial tubes, they always spent the
    latter part of the winter. Mr. Welland was a mild and
    silent man, with no opinions but with many habits.
    With these habits none might interfere; and one of
    them demanded that his wife and daughter should always
    go with him on his annual journey to the south.
    To preserve an unbroken domesticity was essential to
    his peace of mind; he would not have known where his
    hair-brushes were, or how to provide stamps for his
    letters, if Mrs. Welland had not been there to tell him.

    As all the members of the family adored each other,
    and as Mr. Welland was the central object of their
    idolatry, it never occurred to his wife and May to let
    him go to St. Augustine alone; and his sons, who were
    both in the law, and could not leave New York during
    the winter, always joined him for Easter and travelled
    back with him.

    It was impossible for Archer to discuss the necessity
    of May's accompanying her father. The reputation of
    the Mingotts' family physician was largely based on the
    attack of pneumonia which Mr. Welland had never
    had; and his insistence on St. Augustine was therefore
    inflexible. Originally, it had been intended that May's
    engagement should not be announced till her return
    from Florida, and the fact that it had been made known
    sooner could not be expected to alter Mr. Welland's
    plans. Archer would have liked to join the travellers
    and have a few weeks of sunshine and boating with his
    betrothed; but he too was bound by custom and
    conventions. Little arduous as his professional duties were,
    he would have been convicted of frivolity by the whole
    Mingott clan if he had suggested asking for a holiday
    in mid-winter; and he accepted May's departure with
    the resignation which he perceived would have to be
    one of the principal constituents of married life.

    He was conscious that Madame Olenska was looking
    at him under lowered lids. "I have done what you
    wished--what you advised," she said abruptly.

    "Ah--I'm glad," he returned, embarrassed by her
    broaching the subject at such a moment.

    "I understand--that you were right," she went on a
    little breathlessly; "but sometimes life is difficult . . .
    perplexing. . ."

    "I know."

    "And I wanted to tell you that I DO feel you were
    right; and that I'm grateful to you," she ended, lifting
    her opera-glass quickly to her eyes as the door of the
    box opened and Beaufort's resonant voice broke in on
    them.

    Archer stood up, and left the box and the theatre.

    Only the day before he had received a letter from
    May Welland in which, with characteristic candour,
    she had asked him to "be kind to Ellen" in their
    absence. "She likes you and admires you so much--and
    you know, though she doesn't show it, she's still very
    lonely and unhappy. I don't think Granny understands
    her, or uncle Lovell Mingott either; they really think
    she's much worldlier and fonder of society than she is.
    And I can quite see that New York must seem dull to
    her, though the family won't admit it. I think she's
    been used to lots of things we haven't got; wonderful
    music, and picture shows, and celebrities--artists and
    authors and all the clever people you admire. Granny
    can't understand her wanting anything but lots of dinners
    and clothes--but I can see that you're almost the
    only person in New York who can talk to her about
    what she really cares for."

    His wise May--how he had loved her for that letter!
    But he had not meant to act on it; he was too busy, to
    begin with, and he did not care, as an engaged man, to
    play too conspicuously the part of Madame Olenska's
    champion. He had an idea that she knew how to take
    care of herself a good deal better than the ingenuous
    May imagined. She had Beaufort at her feet, Mr. van
    der Luyden hovering above her like a protecting deity,
    and any number of candidates (Lawrence Lefferts among
    them) waiting their opportunity in the middle distance.
    Yet he never saw her, or exchanged a word with her,
    without feeling that, after all, May's ingenuousness
    almost amounted to a gift of divination. Ellen Olenska
    was lonely and she was unhappy.
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