4. Chapter IV.
In the course of the next day the first of the usual
betrothal visits were exchanged. The New York
ritual was precise and inflexible in such matters; and in
conformity with it Newland Archer first went with his
mother and sister to call on Mrs. Welland, after which
he and Mrs. Welland and May drove out to old Mrs.
Manson Mingott's to receive that venerable ancestress's
A visit to Mrs. Manson Mingott was always an
amusing episode to the young man. The house in itself
was already an historic document, though not, of course,
as venerable as certain other old family houses in
University Place and lower Fifth Avenue. Those were of
the purest 1830, with a grim harmony of cabbage-rose-garlanded carpets, rosewood consoles, round-arched
fire-places with black marble mantels, and immense
glazed book-cases of mahogany; whereas old Mrs.
Mingott, who had built her house later, had bodily cast
out the massive furniture of her prime, and mingled
with the Mingott heirlooms the frivolous upholstery of
the Second Empire. It was her habit to sit in a window
of her sitting-room on the ground floor, as if watching
calmly for life and fashion to flow northward to her
solitary doors. She seemed in no hurry to have them
come, for her patience was equalled by her confidence.
She was sure that presently the hoardings, the quarries,
the one-story saloons, the wooden green-houses in ragged
gardens, and the rocks from which goats surveyed
the scene, would vanish before the advance of residences
as stately as her own--perhaps (for she was an
impartial woman) even statelier; and that the cobble-stones over which the old clattering omnibuses bumped
would be replaced by smooth asphalt, such as people
reported having seen in Paris. Meanwhile, as every one
she cared to see came to HER (and she could fill her
rooms as easily as the Beauforts, and without adding a
single item to the menu of her suppers), she did not
suffer from her geographic isolation.