32. Chapter XXXII.
At the court of the Tuileries," said Mr. Sillerton
Jackson with his reminiscent smile, "such things
were pretty openly tolerated."
The scene was the van der Luydens' black walnut
dining-room in Madison Avenue, and the time the evening
after Newland Archer's visit to the Museum of
Art. Mr. and Mrs. van der Luyden had come to town
for a few days from Skuytercliff, whither they had
precipitately fled at the announcement of Beaufort's
failure. It had been represented to them that the disarray
into which society had been thrown by this deplorable
affair made their presence in town more necessary
than ever. It was one of the occasions when, as Mrs.
Archer put it, they "owed it to society" to show themselves
at the Opera, and even to open their own doors.
"It will never do, my dear Louisa, to let people like
Mrs. Lemuel Struthers think they can step into Regina's
shoes. It is just at such times that new people push
in and get a footing. It was owing to the epidemic of
chicken-pox in New York the winter Mrs. Struthers
first appeared that the married men slipped away to
her house while their wives were in the nursery. You
and dear Henry, Louisa, must stand in the breach as
you always have."
Mr. and Mrs. van der Luyden could not remain deaf
to such a call, and reluctantly but heroically they had
come to town, unmuffled the house, and sent out
invitations for two dinners and an evening reception.
On this particular evening they had invited Sillerton
Jackson, Mrs. Archer and Newland and his wife to go
with them to the Opera, where Faust was being sung
for the first time that winter. Nothing was done without
ceremony under the van der Luyden roof, and
though there were but four guests the repast had begun
at seven punctually, so that the proper sequence of
courses might be served without haste before the gentlemen
settled down to their cigars.
Archer had not seen his wife since the evening
before. He had left early for the office, where he had
plunged into an accumulation of unimportant business.
In the afternoon one of the senior partners had made
an unexpected call on his time; and he had reached
home so late that May had preceded him to the van der
Luydens', and sent back the carriage.