13. Chapter XIII.
Only the day before he had received a letter from
May Welland in which, with characteristic candour,
she had asked him to "be kind to Ellen" in their
absence. "She likes you and admires you so much--and
you know, though she doesn't show it, she's still very
lonely and unhappy. I don't think Granny understands
her, or uncle Lovell Mingott either; they really think
she's much worldlier and fonder of society than she is.
And I can quite see that New York must seem dull to
her, though the family won't admit it. I think she's
been used to lots of things we haven't got; wonderful
music, and picture shows, and celebrities--artists and
authors and all the clever people you admire. Granny
can't understand her wanting anything but lots of dinners
and clothes--but I can see that you're almost the
only person in New York who can talk to her about
what she really cares for."
His wise May--how he had loved her for that letter!
But he had not meant to act on it; he was too busy, to
begin with, and he did not care, as an engaged man, to
play too conspicuously the part of Madame Olenska's
champion. He had an idea that she knew how to take
care of herself a good deal better than the ingenuous
May imagined. She had Beaufort at her feet, Mr. van
der Luyden hovering above her like a protecting deity,
and any number of candidates (Lawrence Lefferts among
them) waiting their opportunity in the middle distance.
Yet he never saw her, or exchanged a word with her,
without feeling that, after all, May's ingenuousness
almost amounted to a gift of divination. Ellen Olenska
was lonely and she was unhappy.