Nothing about his betrothed pleased him more than her resolute determination to carry to its utmost limit that ritual of ignoring the "unpleasant" in which they had both been brought up.
In the course of the next day the first of the usual betrothal visits were exchanged.
To the general relief the Countess Olenska was not present in her grandmother’s drawing-room during the visit of the betrothed couple.
Mrs. Welland murmured, while the young man, smiling at his betrothed, replied: "As soon as ever it can, if only you’ll back me up, Mrs. Mingott."
Archer would have liked to join the travellers and have a few weeks of sunshine and boating with his betrothed; but he too was bound by custom and conventions.
He was sorry that he had not told May Welland of Countess Olenska’s request, and a little disturbed by the thought that his betrothed might come in to see her cousin.
Here he was, at the very moment of his betrothal—a moment for pure thoughts and cloudless hopes—pitchforked into a coil of scandal which raised all the special problems he would have preferred to let lie.
But here he was pledged to defend, on the part of his betrothed’s cousin, conduct that, on his own wife’s part, would justify him in calling down on her all the thunders of Church and State.
The group about Miss Welland made way for him with significant smiles, and after taking his share of the felicitations he drew his betrothed into the middle of the ball-room floor and put his arm about her waist.
He delighted in the radiant good looks of his betrothed, in her health, her horsemanship, her grace and quickness at games, and the shy interest in books and ideas that she was beginning to develop under his guidance.
Packed in the family landau they rolled from one tribal doorstep to another, and Archer, when the afternoon’s round was over, parted from his betrothed with the feeling that he had been shown off like a wild animal cunningly trapped.
From the tone of the club box he had perceived how grave a mistake that would be; and, though he was more than ever determined to "see the thing through," he felt less chivalrously eager to champion his betrothed’s cousin than before their brief talk at the Opera.
It was only that afternoon that May Welland had let him guess that she "cared" (New York’s consecrated phrase of maiden avowal), and already his imagination, leaping ahead of the engagement ring, the betrothal kiss and the march from Lohengrin, pictured her at his side in some scene of old European witchery.
It was annoying that the box which was thus attracting the undivided attention of masculine New York should be that in which his betrothed was seated between her mother and aunt; and for a moment he could not identify the lady in the Empire dress, nor imagine why her presence created such excitement among the initiated.
She had behaved beautifully—and in beautiful behaviour she was unsurpassed—during the call on Mrs. Welland; but Newland knew (and his betrothed doubtless guessed) that all through the visit she and Janey were nervously on the watch for Madame Olenska’s possible intrusion; and when they left the house together she had permitted herself to say to her son: "I’m thankful that Augusta Welland received us alone."
She was so placed that Archer, by merely raising his eyes, could see her bent above her work-frame, her ruffled elbow-sleeves slipping back from her firm round arms, the betrothal sapphire shining on her left hand above her broad gold wedding-ring, and the right hand slowly and laboriously stabbing the canvas.
Though May’s outline was slightly heavier, as her goddesslike build had foretold, her athletic erectness of carriage, and the girlish transparency of her expression, remained unchanged: but for the slight languor that Archer had lately noticed in her she would have been the exact image of the girl playing with the bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley on her betrothal evening.
Having greeted Mrs. Lovell Mingott, a large blonde lady in creaking satin, he sat down beside his betrothed, and said in a low tone: "I hope you’ve told Madame Olenska that we’re engaged?
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She was betrothed on the day of her birth.
Last of all came a little hump-backed, wizened old man in whom she recognized with a shudder the new Grand Vizier and her own betrothed husband, Ahoshta Tarkaan himself.