5. Chapter V.
The next evening old Mr. Sillerton Jackson came to
dine with the Archers.
Mrs. Archer was a shy woman and shrank from
society; but she liked to be well-informed as to its
doings. Her old friend Mr. Sillerton Jackson applied to
the investigation of his friends' affairs the patience of a
collector and the science of a naturalist; and his sister,
Miss Sophy Jackson, who lived with him, and was
entertained by all the people who could not secure her
much-sought-after brother, brought home bits of minor
gossip that filled out usefully the gaps in his picture.
Therefore, whenever anything happened that Mrs.
Archer wanted to know about, she asked Mr. Jackson
to dine; and as she honoured few people with her
invitations, and as she and her daughter Janey were an
excellent audience, Mr. Jackson usually came himself
instead of sending his sister. If he could have dictated
all the conditions, he would have chosen the evenings
when Newland was out; not because the young man
was uncongenial to him (the two got on capitally at
their club) but because the old anecdotist sometimes
felt, on Newland's part, a tendency to weigh his
evidence that the ladies of the family never showed.
Mr. Jackson, if perfection had been attainable on
earth, would also have asked that Mrs. Archer's food
should be a little better. But then New York, as far
back as the mind of man could travel, had been divided
into the two great fundamental groups of the Mingotts
and Mansons and all their clan, who cared about eating
and clothes and money, and the Archer-Newland-van-der-Luyden tribe, who were devoted to travel,
horticulture and the best fiction, and looked down on
the grosser forms of pleasure.
You couldn't have everything, after all. If you dined
with the Lovell Mingotts you got canvas-back and
terrapin and vintage wines; at Adeline Archer's you
could talk about Alpine scenery and "The Marble Faun";
and luckily the Archer Madeira had gone round the
Cape. Therefore when a friendly summons came from
Mrs. Archer, Mr. Jackson, who was a true eclectic,
would usually say to his sister: "I've been a little gouty
since my last dinner at the Lovell Mingotts'--it will do
me good to diet at Adeline's."