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|Book II||Edith Wharton|
|Page 2 of 7||
Newland and his wife had had no idea of obeying this injunction; but Mrs. Carfry, with her usual acuteness, had run them down and sent them an invitation to dine; and it was over this invitation that May Archer was wrinkling her brows across the tea and muffins.
"It's all very well for you, Newland; you KNOW them. But I shall feel so shy among a lot of people I've never met. And what shall I wear?"
Newland leaned back in his chair and smiled at her. She looked handsomer and more Diana-like than ever. The moist English air seemed to have deepened the bloom of her cheeks and softened the slight hardness of her virginal features; or else it was simply the inner glow of happiness, shining through like a light under ice.
"Wear, dearest? I thought a trunkful of things had come from Paris last week."
"Yes, of course. I meant to say that I shan't know WHICH to wear." She pouted a little. "I've never dined out in London; and I don't want to be ridiculous."
He tried to enter into her perplexity. "But don't Englishwomen dress just like everybody else in the evening?"
"Newland! How can you ask such funny questions? When they go to the theatre in old ball-dresses and bare heads."
"Well, perhaps they wear new ball-dresses at home; but at any rate Mrs. Carfry and Miss Harle won't. They'll wear caps like my mother's--and shawls; very soft shawls."
"Yes; but how will the other women be dressed?"
"Not as well as you, dear," he rejoined, wondering what had suddenly developed in her Janey's morbid interest in clothes.
She pushed back her chair with a sigh. "That's dear of you, Newland; but it doesn't help me much."
He had an inspiration. "Why not wear your wedding-dress? That can't be wrong, can it?"
"Oh, dearest! If I only had it here! But it's gone to Paris to be made over for next winter, and Worth hasn't sent it back."
"Oh, well--" said Archer, getting up. "Look here-- the fog's lifting. If we made a dash for the National Gallery we might manage to catch a glimpse of the pictures."
The Newland Archers were on their way home, after a three months' wedding-tour which May, in writing to her girl friends, vaguely summarised as "blissful."
They had not gone to the Italian Lakes: on reflection, Archer had not been able to picture his wife in that particular setting. Her own inclination (after a month with the Paris dressmakers) was for mountaineering in July and swimming in August. This plan they punctually fulfilled, spending July at Interlaken and Grindelwald, and August at a little place called Etretat, on the Normandy coast, which some one had recommended as quaint and quiet. Once or twice, in the mountains, Archer had pointed southward and said: "There's Italy"; and May, her feet in a gentian-bed, had smiled cheerfully, and replied: "It would be lovely to go there next winter, if only you didn't have to be in New York."
But in reality travelling interested her even less than he had expected. She regarded it (once her clothes were ordered) as merely an enlarged opportunity for walking, riding, swimming, and trying her hand at the fascinating new game of lawn tennis; and when they finally got back to London (where they were to spend a fortnight while he ordered HIS clothes) she no longer concealed the eagerness with which she looked forward to sailing.
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