9. Chapter IX.
The Countess Olenska had said "after five"; and at
half after the hour Newland Archer rang the bell
of the peeling stucco house with a giant wisteria throttling
its feeble cast-iron balcony, which she had hired,
far down West Twenty-third Street, from the vagabond
It was certainly a strange quarter to have settled in.
Small dress-makers, bird-stuffers and "people who
wrote" were her nearest neighbours; and further down
the dishevelled street Archer recognised a dilapidated
wooden house, at the end of a paved path, in which a
writer and journalist called Winsett, whom he used to
come across now and then, had mentioned that he
lived. Winsett did not invite people to his house; but he
had once pointed it out to Archer in the course of a
nocturnal stroll, and the latter had asked himself, with
a little shiver, if the humanities were so meanly housed
in other capitals.
Madame Olenska's own dwelling was redeemed from
the same appearance only by a little more paint about
the window-frames; and as Archer mustered its modest
front he said to himself that the Polish Count must
have robbed her of her fortune as well as of her illusions.
The young man had spent an unsatisfactory day. He
had lunched with the Wellands, hoping afterward to
carry off May for a walk in the Park. He wanted to
have her to himself, to tell her how enchanting she had
looked the night before, and how proud he was of her,
and to press her to hasten their marriage. But Mrs.
Welland had firmly reminded him that the round of
family visits was not half over, and, when he hinted at
advancing the date of the wedding, had raised reproachful
eye-brows and sighed out: "Twelve dozen of
Packed in the family landau they rolled from one
tribal doorstep to another, and Archer, when the afternoon's
round was over, parted from his betrothed with
the feeling that he had been shown off like a wild
animal cunningly trapped. He supposed that his readings
in anthropology caused him to take such a coarse
view of what was after all a simple and natural
demonstration of family feeling; but when he remembered
that the Wellands did not expect the wedding to take
place till the following autumn, and pictured what his
life would be till then, a dampness fell upon his spirit.