Chapter 14 Summary
Archer looks all over town the next day for a bunch of yellow roses. The search makes him late for work, but no one will notice. He wonders why he even bothers to go to work. He should have gone to Florida. He really is not needed on his job. In those times, at old-fashioned legal firms like the one for which he works, young professional men from wealthy families are not expected to make money. That is a disdainful act. They only have to show up for a few hours each day and look as if they are busy. The real work of the firm is to manage large estates and investments for their conservative clients, which evidently either does not take much work or it is left to the senior partners to supervise of these matters. The younger men, according to custom, are not expected even to advance in their professions. Instead, they sit at their desks and allow “the green mould of the perfunctory” grow over them. Archer feels concerned that the same mould is beginning to seep into his life.
From his desk, Archer sends a telegram to Madame Olenska, asking if he might stop by her house that evening. It bothers him that Ellen takes three days to send him a reply. Madame Olenska finally writes that she had “run away” the day after she saw him at the play. She is at Skuytercliff, the van der Luydens’s country estate. She adds that she wishes he were there too.
Archer re-reads the note several times. He wonders why Ellen felt she needed to run away. From whom was she running? What did she fear? Then he wonders if Ellen would always be a victim. Did she crave the dramatic role and, therefore, always found herself in the middle of some disaster?
Archer also wonders about the role the van der Luydens play in Ellen’s life. The van der Luydens’s house is seldom the scene of visitors. They are a very private couple. Few people have ever been invited to their home. Archer concludes that the van der Luydens might feel they had rescued Ellen before, when they invited her to join them for supper in honor of the duke. Maybe now they believe they must continue rescuing her.
At first Archer feels disappointed that Ellen is not in town. Then he remembers that he had earlier been asked to stay for the weekend with the Reggie Chiverses on the Hudson River, which coincidentally is not far from Skuytercliff. So he goes home, packs a bag, and sends a note to the Chiverses, explaining that he had a change of plans and would enjoy joining them for some winter fun.