31. Chapter XXXI.
Archer had been stunned by old Catherine's news.
It was only natural that Madame Olenska should
have hastened from Washington in response to her
grandmother's summons; but that she should have decided
to remain under her roof--especially now that
Mrs. Mingott had almost regained her health--was less
easy to explain.
Archer was sure that Madame Olenska's decision
had not been influenced by the change in her financial
situation. He knew the exact figure of the small income
which her husband had allowed her at their separation.
Without the addition of her grandmother's allowance it
was hardly enough to live on, in any sense known to
the Mingott vocabulary; and now that Medora Manson,
who shared her life, had been ruined, such a
pittance would barely keep the two women clothed and
fed. Yet Archer was convinced that Madame Olenska
had not accepted her grandmother's offer from interested
She had the heedless generosity and the spasmodic
extravagance of persons used to large fortunes, and
indifferent to money; but she could go without many
things which her relations considered indispensable,
and Mrs. Lovell Mingott and Mrs. Welland had often
been heard to deplore that any one who had enjoyed
the cosmopolitan luxuries of Count Olenski's establishments
should care so little about "how things were
done." Moreover, as Archer knew, several months had
passed since her allowance had been cut off; yet in the
interval she had made no effort to regain her grand-mother's favour. Therefore if she had changed her course
it must be for a different reason.
He did not have far to seek for that reason. On the
way from the ferry she had told him that he and she
must remain apart; but she had said it with her head
on his breast. He knew that there was no calculated
coquetry in her words; she was fighting her fate as he
had fought his, and clinging desperately to her resolve
that they should not break faith with the people who
trusted them. But during the ten days which had elapsed
since her return to New York she had perhaps guessed
from his silence, and from the fact of his making no
attempt to see her, that he was meditating a decisive
step, a step from which there was no turning back. At
the thought, a sudden fear of her own weakness might
have seized her, and she might have felt that, after all,
it was better to accept the compromise usual in such
cases, and follow the line of least resistance.