The Age of Innocence  纯真年代

He had just got back from a big official reception forthe inauguration of the new galleries at the MetropolitanMuseum, and the spectacle of those great spacescrowded with the spoils of the ages, where the throngof fashion circulated through a series of scientificallycatalogued treasures, had suddenly pressed on a rustedspring of memory.


"Why, this used to be one of the old Cesnola rooms,"he heard some one say; and instantly everything abouthim vanished, and he was sitting alone on a hardleather divan against a radiator, while a slight figure ina long sealskin cloak moved away down the meagrely-fitted vista of the old Museum.


The vision had roused a host of other associations,and he sat looking with new eyes at the library which,for over thirty years, had been the scene of his solitarymusings and of all the family confabulations.


It was the room in which most of the real things ofhis life had happened. There his wife, nearly twenty-sixyears ago, had broken to him, with a blushingcircumlocution that would have caused the young women ofthe new generation to smile, the news that she was tohave a child; and there their eldest boy, Dallas, toodelicate to be taken to church in midwinter, had beenchristened by their old friend the Bishop of New York,the ample magnificent irreplaceable Bishop, so long thepride and ornament of his diocese. There Dallas hadfirst staggered across the floor shouting "Dad," whileMay and the nurse laughed behind the door; there theirsecond child, Mary (who was so like her mother), hadannounced her engagement to the dullest and mostreliable of Reggie Chivers's many sons; and there Archerhad kissed her through her wedding veil before theywent down to the motor which was to carry them toGrace Church--for in a world where all else had reeledon its foundations the "Grace Church wedding"remained an unchanged institution.


It was in the library that he and May had alwaysdiscussed the future of the children: the studies ofDallas and his young brother Bill, Mary's incurableindifference to "accomplishments," and passion forsport and philanthropy, and the vague leanings toward"art" which had finally landed the restless and curiousDallas in the office of a rising New York architect.


The young men nowadays were emancipatingthemselves from the law and business and taking up all sortsof new things. If they were not absorbed in state politicsor municipal reform, the chances were that theywere going in for Central American archaeology, forarchitecture or landscape-engineering; taking a keenand learned interest in the prerevolutionary buildingsof their own country, studying and adapting Georgiantypes, and protesting at the meaningless use of theword "Colonial." Nobody nowadays had "Colonial"houses except the millionaire grocers of the suburbs.


But above all--sometimes Archer put it above all--itwas in that library that the Governor of New York,coming down from Albany one evening to dine andspend the night, had turned to his host, and said,banging his clenched fist on the table and gnashing hiseye-glasses: "Hang the professional politician! You'rethe kind of man the country wants, Archer. If thestable's ever to be cleaned out, men like you have gotto lend a hand in the cleaning."


"Men like you--" how Archer had glowed at thephrase! How eagerly he had risen up at the call! It wasan echo of Ned Winsett's old appeal to roll his sleevesup and get down into the muck; but spoken by a manwho set the example of the gesture, and whose summonsto follow him was irresistible.


Archer, as he looked back, was not sure that menlike himself WERE what his country needed, at least inthe active service to which Theodore Roosevelt hadpointed; in fact, there was reason to think it did not,for after a year in the State Assembly he had not beenre-elected, and had dropped back thankfully intoobscure if useful municipal work, and from that again tothe writing of occasional articles in one of thereforming weeklies that were trying to shake the countryout of its apathy. It was little enough to look back on;but when he remembered to what the young men of hisgeneration and his set had looked forward--the narrowgroove of money-making, sport and society towhich their vision had been limited--even his smallcontribution to the new state of things seemed to count,as each brick counts in a well-built wall. He had donelittle in public life; he would always be by nature acontemplative and a dilettante; but he had had highthings to contemplate, great things to delight in; andone great man's friendship to be his strength and pride.


He had been, in short, what people were beginningto call "a good citizen." In New York, for many yearspast, every new movement, philanthropic, municipal orartistic, had taken account of his opinion and wantedhis name. People said: "Ask Archer" when there was aquestion of starting the first school for crippled children,reorganising the Museum of Art, founding theGrolier Club, inaugurating the new Library, or gettingup a new society of chamber music. His days were full,and they were filled decently. He supposed it was all aman ought to ask.


Something he knew he had missed: the flower of life.But he thought of it now as a thing so unattainableand improbable that to have repined would have beenlike despairing because one had not drawn the first prizein a lottery. There were a hundred million tickets in HISlottery, and there was only one prize; the chances hadbeen too decidedly against him. When he thought of EllenOlenska it was abstractly, serenely, as one might thinkof some imaginary beloved in a book or a picture: shehad become the composite vision of all that he hadmissed. That vision, faint and tenuous as it was, had kepthim from thinking of other women. He had been whatwas called a faithful husband; and when May hadsuddenly died--carried off by the infectious pneumoniathrough which she had nursed their youngest child--hehad honestly mourned her. Their long years together hadshown him that it did not so much matter if marriage wasa dull duty, as long as it kept the dignity of a duty: lapsingfrom that, it became a mere battle of ugly appetites.Looking about him, he honoured his own past, andmourned for it. After all, there was good in the old ways.


His eyes, making the round of the room--done overby Dallas with English mezzotints, Chippendale cabinets,bits of chosen blue-and-white and pleasantly shadedelectric lamps--came back to the old Eastlake writing-table that he had never been willing to banish, and tohis first photograph of May, which still kept its placebeside his inkstand.


There she was, tall, round-bosomed and willowy, inher starched muslin and flapping Leghorn, as he hadseen her under the orange-trees in the Mission garden.And as he had seen her that day, so she had remained;never quite at the same height, yet never far below it:generous, faithful, unwearied; but so lacking inimagination, so incapable of growth, that the world of heryouth had fallen into pieces and rebuilt itself withouther ever being conscious of the change. This hard brightblindness had kept her immediate horizon apparentlyunaltered. Her incapacity to recognise change made herchildren conceal their views from her as Archer concealedhis; there had been, from the first, a joint pretenceof sameness, a kind of innocent family hypocrisy,in which father and children had unconsciouslycollaborated. And she had died thinking the world a goodplace, full of loving and harmonious households likeher own, and resigned to leave it because she wasconvinced that, whatever happened, Newland wouldcontinue to inculcate in Dallas the same principles andprejudices which had shaped his parents' lives, and thatDallas in turn (when Newland followed her) wouldtransmit the sacred trust to little Bill. And of Mary shewas sure as of her own self. So, having snatched littleBill from the grave, and given her life in the effort, shewent contentedly to her place in the Archer vault in St.Mark's, where Mrs. Archer already lay safe from theterrifying "trend" which her daughter-in-law had nevereven become aware of.


Opposite May's portrait stood one of her daughter.Mary Chivers was as tall and fair as her mother, butlarge-waisted, flat-chested and slightly slouching, as thealtered fashion required. Mary Chivers's mighty featsof athleticism could not have been performed with thetwenty-inch waist that May Archer's azure sash soeasily spanned. And the difference seemed symbolic;the mother's life had been as closely girt as her figure.Mary, who was no less conventional, and no moreintelligent, yet led a larger life and held more tolerantviews. There was good in the new order too.


The telephone clicked, and Archer, turning from thephotographs, unhooked the transmitter at his elbow.How far they were from the days when the legs of thebrass-buttoned messenger boy had been New York'sonly means of quick communication!


"Chicago wants you."


Ah--it must be a long-distance from Dallas, whohad been sent to Chicago by his firm to talk over theplan of the Lakeside palace they were to build for ayoung millionaire with ideas. The firm always sentDallas on such errands.


"Hallo, Dad--Yes: Dallas. I say--how do you feelabout sailing on Wednesday? Mauretania: Yes, nextWednesday as ever is. Our client wants me to look atsome Italian gardens before we settle anything, and hasasked me to nip over on the next boat. I've got to beback on the first of June--" the voice broke into ajoyful conscious laugh--"so we must look alive. I say,Dad, I want your help: do come."


Dallas seemed to be speaking in the room: the voicewas as near by and natural as if he had been loungingin his favourite arm-chair by the fire. The fact wouldnot ordinarily have surprised Archer, for long-distancetelephoning had become as much a matter of course aselectric lighting and five-day Atlantic voyages. But thelaugh did startle him; it still seemed wonderful thatacross all those miles and miles of country--forest,river, mountain, prairie, roaring cities and busy indifferentmillions--Dallas's laugh should be able to say:"Of course, whatever happens, I must get back on thefirst, because Fanny Beaufort and I are to be marriedon the fifth."


The voice began again: "Think it over? No, sir: not aminute. You've got to say yes now. Why not, I'd like toknow? If you can allege a single reason--No; I knew it.Then it's a go, eh? Because I count on you to ring upthe Cunard office first thing tomorrow; and you'd betterbook a return on a boat from Marseilles. I say,Dad; it'll be our last time together, in this kind ofway--. Oh, good! I knew you would."

耳机里又响起儿子的声音:“考虑考虑?不行,先生。一分钟也不行,你现在就得答应。为什么不?我想问一问。假如你能提出一条理由——不行,这我知道。那就一言为定?因为我料想你明天第一件事就是去摁丘纳德办公室的门铃。还有,你最好订一张到马赛的往返船票。我说爸,这将是我们最后一次一起旅行了 ——以这种方式。啊——太好了!我早知道你会的。”

Chicago rang off, and Archer rose and began to paceup and down the room.


It would be their last time together in this kind ofway: the boy was right. They would have lots of other"times" after Dallas's marriage, his father was sure; forthe two were born comrades, and Fanny Beaufort,whatever one might think of her, did not seem likely tointerfere with their intimacy. On the contrary, fromwhat he had seen of her, he thought she would benaturally included in it. Still, change was change, anddifferences were differences, and much as he felt himselfdrawn toward his future daughter-in-law, it wastempting to seize this last chance of being alone withhis boy.


There was no reason why he should not seize it,except the profound one that he had lost the habit oftravel. May had disliked to move except for valid reasons,such as taking the children to the sea or in themountains: she could imagine no other motive for leavingthe house in Thirty-ninth Street or their comfortablequarters at the Wellands' in Newport. After Dallashad taken his degree she had thought it her duty totravel for six months; and the whole family had madethe old-fashioned tour through England, Switzerlandand Italy. Their time being limited (no one knew why)they had omitted France. Archer remembered Dallas'swrath at being asked to contemplate Mont Blancinstead of Rheims and Chartres. But Mary and Bill wantedmountain-climbing, and had already yawned their wayin Dallas's wake through the English cathedrals; andMay, always fair to her children, had insisted on holdingthe balance evenly between their athletic and artisticproclivities. She had indeed proposed that her husbandshould go to Paris for a fortnight, and join them on theItalian lakes after they had "done" Switzerland; butArcher had declined. "We'll stick together," he said;and May's face had brightened at his setting such agood example to Dallas.


Since her death, nearly two years before, there hadbeen no reason for his continuing in the same routine.His children had urged him to travel: Mary Chivershad felt sure it would do him good to go abroad and"see the galleries." The very mysteriousness of such acure made her the more confident of its efficacy. ButArcher had found himself held fast by habit, by memories,by a sudden startled shrinking from new things.


Now, as he reviewed his past, he saw into what adeep rut he had sunk. The worst of doing one's dutywas that it apparently unfitted one for doing anythingelse. At least that was the view that the men of hisgeneration had taken. The trenchant divisions betweenright and wrong, honest and dishonest, respectable andthe reverse, had left so little scope for the unforeseen.There are moments when a man's imagination, so easilysubdued to what it lives in, suddenly rises above itsdaily level, and surveys the long windings of destiny.Archer hung there and wondered. . . .


What was left of the little world he had grown up in,and whose standards had bent and bound him? Heremembered a sneering prophecy of poor LawrenceLefferts's, uttered years ago in that very room: "Ifthings go on at this rate, our children will be marryingBeaufort's bastards."


It was just what Archer's eldest son, the pride of hislife, was doing; and nobody wondered or reproved.Even the boy's Aunt Janey, who still looked so exactlyas she used to in her elderly youth, had taken hermother's emeralds and seed-pearls out of their pinkcotton-wool, and carried them with her own twitchinghands to the future bride; and Fanny Beaufort, insteadof looking disappointed at not receiving a "set" from aParis jeweller, had exclaimed at their old-fashionedbeauty, and declared that when she wore them sheshould feel like an Isabey miniature.


Fanny Beaufort, who had appeared in New York ateighteen, after the death of her parents, had won itsheart much as Madame Olenska had won it thirtyyears earlier; only instead of being distrustful and afraidof her, society took her joyfully for granted. She waspretty, amusing and accomplished: what more did anyone want? Nobody was narrow-minded enough to rakeup against her the half-forgotten facts of her father'spast and her own origin. Only the older people rememberedso obscure an incident in the business life of NewYork as Beaufort's failure, or the fact that after hiswife's death he had been quietly married to the notoriousFanny Ring, and had left the country with his newwife, and a little girl who inherited her beauty. He wassubsequently heard of in Constantinople, then in Russia;and a dozen years later American travellers werehandsomely entertained by him in Buenos Ayres, wherehe represented a large insurance agency. He and hiswife died there in the odour of prosperity; and one daytheir orphaned daughter had appeared in New York incharge of May Archer's sister-in-law, Mrs. Jack Welland,whose husband had been appointed the girl'sguardian. The fact threw her into almost cousinlyrelationship with Newland Archer's children, and nobodywas surprised when Dallas's engagement was announced.


Nothing could more dearly give the measure of thedistance that the world had travelled. People nowadayswere too busy--busy with reforms and "movements,"with fads and fetishes and frivolities--to bother muchabout their neighbours. And of what account was anybody'spast, in the huge kaleidoscope where all thesocial atoms spun around on the same plane?


Newland Archer, looking out of his hotel window atthe stately gaiety of the Paris streets, felt his heartbeating with the confusion and eagerness of youth.


It was long since it had thus plunged and rearedunder his widening waistcoat, leaving him, the nextminute, with an empty breast and hot temples. Hewondered if it was thus that his son's conducted itselfin the presence of Miss Fanny Beaufort--and decidedthat it was not. "It functions as actively, no doubt, butthe rhythm is different," he reflected, recalling the coolcomposure with which the young man had announcedhis engagement, and taken for granted that his familywould approve.


"The difference is that these young people take it forgranted that they're going to get whatever they want,and that we almost always took it for granted that weshouldn't. Only, I wonder--the thing one's so certainof in advance: can it ever make one's heart beat aswildly?"


It was the day after their arrival in Paris, and thespring sunshine held Archer in his open window, abovethe wide silvery prospect of the Place Vendome. Oneof the things he had stipulated--almost the only one--when he had agreed to come abroad with Dallas, wasthat, in Paris, he shouldn't be made to go to one of thenewfangled "palaces."


"Oh, all right--of course," Dallas good-naturedlyagreed. "I'll take you to some jolly old-fashioned place--the Bristol say--" leaving his father speechless at hearingthat the century-long home of kings and emperorswas now spoken of as an old-fashioned inn, where onewent for its quaint inconveniences and lingering localcolour.


Archer had pictured often enough, in the first impatientyears, the scene of his return to Paris; then thepersonal vision had faded, and he had simply tried tosee the city as the setting of Madame Olenska's life.Sitting alone at night in his library, after the householdhad gone to bed, he had evoked the radiant outbreakof spring down the avenues of horse-chestnuts, the flowersand statues in the public gardens, the whiff of lilacsfrom the flower-carts, the majestic roll of the riverunder the great bridges, and the life of art and studyand pleasure that filled each mighty artery to bursting.Now the spectacle was before him in its glory, and ashe looked out on it he felt shy, old-fashioned, inadequate:a mere grey speck of a man compared with theruthless magnificent fellow he had dreamed of being. . . .


Dallas's hand came down cheerily on his shoulder."Hullo, father: this is something like, isn't it?" Theystood for a while looking out in silence, and then theyoung man continued: "By the way, I've got a messagefor you: the Countess Olenska expects us both at half-past five."


He said it lightly, carelessly, as he might haveimparted any casual item of information, such as the hourat which their train was to leave for Florence the nextevening. Archer looked at him, and thought he saw inhis gay young eyes a gleam of his great-grandmotherMingott's malice.


"Oh, didn't I tell you?" Dallas pursued. "Fanny mademe swear to do three things while I was in Paris: gether the score of the last Debussy songs, go to theGrand-Guignol and see Madame Olenska. You knowshe was awfully good to Fanny when Mr. Beaufort senther over from Buenos Ayres to the Assomption. Fannyhadn't any friends in Paris, and Madame Olenska usedto be kind to her and trot her about on holidays. Ibelieve she was a great friend of the first Mrs. Beaufort's.And she's our cousin, of course. So I rang her upthis morning, before I went out, and told her you and Iwere here for two days and wanted to see her."


Archer continued to stare at him. "You told her Iwas here?"


"Of course--why not?" Dallas's eye brows went upwhimsically. Then, getting no answer, he slipped hisarm through his father's with a confidential pressure.


"I say, father: what was she like?"


Archer felt his colour rise under his son's unabashedgaze. "Come, own up: you and she were great pals,weren't you? Wasn't she most awfully lovely?"


"Lovely? I don't know. She was different."


"Ah--there you have it! That's what it always comesto, doesn't it? When she comes, SHE'S DIFFERENT--andone doesn't know why. It's exactly what I feel aboutFanny."


His father drew back a step, releasing his arm. "AboutFanny? But, my dear fellow--I should hope so! Only Idon't see--"


"Dash it, Dad, don't be prehistoric! Wasn't she--once--your Fanny?"


Dallas belonged body and soul to the new generation.He was the first-born of Newland and May Archer,yet it had never been possible to inculcate in him eventhe rudiments of reserve. "What's the use of makingmysteries? It only makes people want to nose 'em out,"he always objected when enjoined to discretion. ButArcher, meeting his eyes, saw the filial light under theirbanter.


"My Fanny?"


"Well, the woman you'd have chucked everythingfor: only you didn't," continued his surprising son.


"I didn't," echoed Archer with a kind of solemnity.


"No: you date, you see, dear old boy. But mothersaid--"


"Your mother?"


"Yes: the day before she died. It was when she sentfor me alone--you remember? She said she knew wewere safe with you, and always would be, becauseonce, when she asked you to, you'd given up the thingyou most wanted."


Archer received this strange communication in silence.His eyes remained unseeingly fixed on the throngedsunlit square below the window. At length he said in alow voice: "She never asked me."


"No. I forgot. You never did ask each otheranything, did you? And you never told each otheranything. You just sat and watched each other, and guessedat what was going on underneath. A deaf-and-dumbasylum, in fact! Well, I back your generation for knowingmore about each other's private thoughts than weever have time to find out about our own.--I say,Dad," Dallas broke off, "you're not angry with me? Ifyou are, let's make it up and go and lunch at Henri's.I've got to rush out to Versailles afterward."


Archer did not accompany his son to Versailles. Hepreferred to spend the afternoon in solitary roamingsthrough Paris. He had to deal all at once with thepacked regrets and stifled memories of an inarticulatelifetime.


After a little while he did not regret Dallas'sindiscretion. It seemed to take an iron band from his heartto know that, after all, some one had guessed andpitied. . . . And that it should have been his wife movedhim indescribably. Dallas, for all his affectionateinsight, would not have understood that. To the boy, nodoubt, the episode was only a pathetic instance of vainfrustration, of wasted forces. But was it really no more?For a long time Archer sat on a bench in the ChampsElysees and wondered, while the stream of life rolledby. . . .


A few streets away, a few hours away, Ellen Olenskawaited. She had never gone back to her husband, andwhen he had died, some years before, she had made nochange in her way of living. There was nothing now tokeep her and Archer apart--and that afternoon he wasto see her.


He got up and walked across the Place de la Concordeand the Tuileries gardens to the Louvre. She hadonce told him that she often went there, and he had afancy to spend the intervening time in a place where hecould think of her as perhaps having lately been. Foran hour or more he wandered from gallery to gallerythrough the dazzle of afternoon light, and one by onethe pictures burst on him in their half-forgotten splendour,filling his soul with the long echoes of beauty.After all, his life had been too starved. . . .


Suddenly, before an effulgent Titian, he found himselfsaying: "But I'm only fifty-seven--" and then heturned away. For such summer dreams it was too late;but surely not for a quiet harvest of friendship, ofcomradeship, in the blessed hush of her nearness.


He went back to the hotel, where he and Dallas wereto meet; and together they walked again across thePlace de la Concorde and over the bridge that leads tothe Chamber of Deputies.


Dallas, unconscious of what was going on in hisfather's mind, was talking excitedly and abundantly ofVersailles. He had had but one previous glimpse of it,during a holiday trip in which he had tried to pack allthe sights he had been deprived of when he had had togo with the family to Switzerland; and tumultuousenthusiasm and cock-sure criticism tripped each otherup on his lips.


As Archer listened, his sense of inadequacy andinexpressiveness increased. The boy was not insensitive,he knew; but he had the facility and self-confidencethat came of looking at fate not as a master but as anequal. "That's it: they feel equal to things--they knowtheir way about," he mused, thinking of his son as thespokesman of the new generation which had sweptaway all the old landmarks, and with them the sign-posts and the danger-signal.


Suddenly Dallas stopped short, grasping his father'sarm. "Oh, by Jove," he exclaimed.


They had come out into the great tree-planted spacebefore the Invalides. The dome of Mansart floatedethereally above the budding trees and the long greyfront of the building: drawing up into itself all the raysof afternoon light, it hung there like the visible symbolof the race's glory.


Archer knew that Madame Olenska lived in a squarenear one of the avenues radiating from the Invalides;and he had pictured the quarter as quiet and almostobscure, forgetting the central splendour that lit it up.Now, by some queer process of association, that goldenlight became for him the pervading illumination inwhich she lived. For nearly thirty years, her life--ofwhich he knew so strangely little--had been spent inthis rich atmosphere that he already felt to be too denseand yet too stimulating for his lungs. He thought of thetheatres she must have been to, the pictures she musthave looked at, the sober and splendid old houses shemust have frequented, the people she must have talkedwith, the incessant stir of ideas, curiosities, images andassociations thrown out by an intensely social race in asetting of immemorial manners; and suddenly heremembered the young Frenchman who had once said tohim: "Ah, good conversation--there is nothing like it,is there?"


Archer had not seen M. Riviere, or heard of him,for nearly thirty years; and that fact gave the measureof his ignorance of Madame Olenska's existence. Morethan half a lifetime divided them, and she had spent thelong interval among people he did not know, in asociety he but faintly guessed at, in conditions he wouldnever wholly understand. During that time he had beenliving with his youthful memory of her; but she haddoubtless had other and more tangible companionship.Perhaps she too had kept her memory of him as somethingapart; but if she had, it must have been like arelic in a small dim chapel, where there was not time topray every day. . . .


They had crossed the Place des Invalides, and werewalking down one of the thoroughfares flanking thebuilding. It was a quiet quarter, after all, in spite of itssplendour and its history; and the fact gave one an ideaof the riches Paris had to draw on, since such scenes asthis were left to the few and the indifferent.


The day was fading into a soft sun-shot haze, prickedhere and there by a yellow electric light, and passerswere rare in the little square into which they had turned.Dallas stopped again, and looked up.


"It must be here," he said, slipping his arm throughhis father's with a movement from which Archer's shynessdid not shrink; and they stood together looking upat the house.


It was a modern building, without distinctive character,but many-windowed, and pleasantly balconied upits wide cream-coloured front. On one of the upperbalconies, which hung well above the rounded tops ofthe horse-chestnuts in the square, the awnings were stilllowered, as though the sun had just left it.


"I wonder which floor--?" Dallas conjectured; andmoving toward the porte-cochere he put his head intothe porter's lodge, and came back to say: "The fifth. Itmust be the one with the awnings."


Archer remained motionless, gazing at the upper windowsas if the end of their pilgrimage had been attained.


"I say, you know, it's nearly six," his son at lengthreminded him.


The father glanced away at an empty bench underthe trees.


"I believe I'll sit there a moment," he said.


"Why--aren't you well?" his son exclaimed.


"Oh, perfectly. But I should like you, please, to goup without me."


Dallas paused before him, visibly bewildered. "But, Isay, Dad: do you mean you won't come up at all?"


"I don't know," said Archer slowly.


"If you don't she won't understand."


"Go, my boy; perhaps I shall follow you."


Dallas gave him a long look through the twilight.


"But what on earth shall I say?"


"My dear fellow, don't you always know what tosay?" his father rejoined with a smile.


"Very well. I shall say you're old-fashioned, andprefer walking up the five flights because you don't likelifts."


His father smiled again. "Say I'm old-fashioned: that'senough."


Dallas looked at him again, and then, with anincredulous gesture, passed out of sight under the vaulteddoorway.


Archer sat down on the bench and continued to gazeat the awninged balcony. He calculated the time itwould take his son to be carried up in the lift to thefifth floor, to ring the bell, and be admitted to the hall,and then ushered into the drawing-room. He picturedDallas entering that room with his quick assured stepand his delightful smile, and wondered if the peoplewere right who said that his boy "took after him."


Then he tried to see the persons already in theroom--for probably at that sociable hour there wouldbe more than one--and among them a dark lady, paleand dark, who would look up quickly, half rise, andhold out a long thin hand with three rings on it. . . . Hethought she would be sitting in a sofa-corner near thefire, with azaleas banked behind her on a table.


"It's more real to me here than if I went up," hesuddenly heard himself say; and the fear lest that lastshadow of reality should lose its edge kept him rootedto his seat as the minutes succeeded each other.


He sat for a long time on the bench in the thickeningdusk, his eyes never turning from the balcony. At lengtha light shone through the windows, and a moment latera man-servant came out on the balcony, drew up theawnings, and closed the shutters.


At that, as if it had been the signal he waited for,Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back aloneto his hotel.


A Note on the Text

The Age of Innocence first appeared in four largeinstallments in The Pictorial Review, from July toOctober 1920. It was published that same year in bookform by D. Appleton and Company in New York and inLondon. Wharton made extensive stylistic, punctuation,and spelling changes and revisions between the serialand book publication, and more than thirty subsequentchanges were made after the second impression of thebook edition had been run off. This authoritative textis reprinted from the Library of America edition ofNovels by Edith Wharton, and is based on the sixthimpression of the first edition, which incorporates thelast set of extensive revisions that are obviously authorial.