They lunched slowly and meditatively, with mute intervals between rushes of talk; for, the spell once broken, they had much to say, and yet moments when saying became the mere accompaniment to long duologues of silence. Archer kept the talk from his own affairs, not with conscious intention but because he did not want to miss a word of her history; and leaning on the table, her chin resting on her clasped hands, she talked to him of the year and a half since they had met.
She had grown tired of what people called society; New York was kind, it was almost oppressively hospitable; she should never forget the way in which it had welcomed her back; but after the first flush of novelty she had found herself, as she phrased it, too different to care for the things it cared aboutand so she had decided to try Washington, where one was supposed to meet more varieties of people and of opinion. And on the whole she should probably settle down in Washington, and make a home there for poor Medora, who had worn out the patience of all her other relations just at the time when she most needed looking after and protecting from matrimonial perils.
But Dr. Carverarent you afraid of Dr. Carver? I hear hes been staying with you at the Blenkers.
She smiled. Oh, the Carver danger is over. Dr. Carver is a very clever man. He wants a rich wife to finance his plans, and Medora is simply a good advertisement as a convert.
A convert to what?
To all sorts of new and crazy social schemes. But, do you know, they interest me more than the blind conformity to traditionsomebody elses traditionthat I see among our own friends. It seems stupid to have discovered America only to make it into a copy of another country. She smiled across the table. Do you suppose Christopher Columbus would have taken all that trouble just to go to the Opera with the Selfridge Merrys?
Archer changed colour. And Beaufortdo you say these things to Beaufort? he asked abruptly.
I havent seen him for a long time. But I used to; and he understands.
Ah, its what Ive always told you; you dont like us. And you like Beaufort because hes so unlike us. He looked about the bare room and out at the bare beach and the row of stark white village houses strung along the shore. Were damnably dull. Weve no character, no colour, no variety.I wonder, he broke out, why you dont go back?
Her eyes darkened, and he expected an indignant rejoinder. But she sat silent, as if thinking over what he had said, and he grew frightened lest she should answer that she wondered too.
At length she said: I believe its because of you.
It was impossible to make the confession more dispassionately, or in a tone less encouraging to the vanity of the person addressed. Archer reddened to the temples, but dared not move or speak: it was as if her words had been some rare butterfly that the least motion might drive off on startled wings, but that might gather a flock about it if it were left undisturbed.
At least, she continued, it was you who made me understand that under the dullness there are things so fine and sensitive and delicate that even those I most cared for in my other life look cheap in comparison. I dont know how to explain myselfshe drew together her troubled brows but it seems as if Id never before understood with how much that is hard and shabby and base the most exquisite pleasures may be paid.
Exquisite pleasuresits something to have had them! he felt like retorting; but the appeal in her eyes kept him silent.
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