5. Chapter V.
The word had fallen like a bombshell in the pure and
tranquil atmosphere of the Archer dining-room. Mrs.
Archer raised her delicate eye-brows in the particular
curve that signified: "The butler--" and the young
man, himself mindful of the bad taste of discussing
such intimate matters in public, hastily branched off
into an account of his visit to old Mrs. Mingott.
After dinner, according to immemorial custom, Mrs.
Archer and Janey trailed their long silk draperies up to
the drawing-room, where, while the gentlemen smoked
below stairs, they sat beside a Carcel lamp with an
engraved globe, facing each other across a rosewood
work-table with a green silk bag under it, and stitched
at the two ends of a tapestry band of field-flowers
destined to adorn an "occasional" chair in the drawing-room of young Mrs. Newland Archer.
While this rite was in progress in the drawing-room,
Archer settled Mr. Jackson in an armchair near the fire
in the Gothic library and handed him a cigar. Mr.
Jackson sank into the armchair with satisfaction, lit his
cigar with perfect confidence (it was Newland who
bought them), and stretching his thin old ankles to the
coals, said: "You say the secretary merely helped her to
get away, my dear fellow? Well, he was still helping her
a year later, then; for somebody met 'em living at
Newland reddened. "Living together? Well, why not?
Who had the right to make her life over if she hadn't?
I'm sick of the hypocrisy that would bury alive a woman
of her age if her husband prefers to live with harlots."
He stopped and turned away angrily to light his
cigar. "Women ought to be free--as free as we are," he
declared, making a discovery of which he was too
irritated to measure the terrific consequences.
Mr. Sillerton Jackson stretched his ankles nearer the
coals and emitted a sardonic whistle.
"Well," he said after a pause, "apparently Count
Olenski takes your view; for I never heard of his having
lifted a finger to get his wife back."