The two chatted together for nearly twenty minutes; then the Countess rose and, walking alone across the wide drawing-room, sat down at Newland Archer’s side.
"At the last minute?" he echoed, betraying his surprise that she should ever have considered the alternative possible.
There was a silence during which the tick of the monumental ormolu clock on the white marble mantelpiece grew as loud as the boom of a minute-gun.
They got into the herdic, and as it drove off he took out his watch and saw that she had been absent just three minutes.
A sudden restlessness possessed him, and he was tongue-tied by the sense that their minutes were numbered, and that at any moment he might hear the wheels of the returning carriage.
"But your remembering each day to send them makes me love them so much more than if you’d given a standing order, and they came every morning on the minute, like one’s music-teacher—as I know Gertrude Lefferts’s did, for instance, when she and Lawrence were engaged."
The one thing that astonished him now was that he should have stood for five minutes arguing with her across the width of the room, when just touching her made everything so simple.
Forty minutes, eh?
One can’t be alone for a minute in that great seminary of a house, with all the doors wide open, and always a servant bringing tea, or a log for the fire, or the newspaper!
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There was something about the luxury of the Welland house and the density of the Welland atmosphere, so charged with minute observances and exactions, that always stole into his system like a narcotic.
It was long since it had thus plunged and reared under his widening waistcoat, leaving him, the next minute, with an empty breast and hot temples.
Archer choked with the sense of wasted minutes and vain words.
He sat down beside her and waited; but suddenly he heard a step echoing far off down the empty rooms, and felt the pressure of the minutes.
May sat without moving or speaking while the clock slowly measured out five minutes.
No, sir: not a minute.
The amber beads were trying to her complexion, or her dress was perhaps unbecoming: her face looked lustreless and almost ugly, and he had never loved it as he did at that minute.
Yes, but in ten minutes more he would be mounting his own doorstep; and there were May, and habit, and honour, and all the old decencies that he and his people had always believed in ….
Archer had known for the last few minutes that the words were coming; but when they came they sent the blood rushing to his temples as if he had been caught by a bent-back branch in a thicket.
It had been one of the amusements of Archer’s youth to wait for this annual pronouncement of his mother’s, and to hear her enumerate the minute signs of disintegration that his careless gaze had overlooked.
"It’s more real to me here than if I went up," he suddenly heard himself say; and the fear lest that last shadow of reality should lose its edge kept him rooted to his seat as the minutes succeeded each other.
Archer handed the note to his senior partner, and a few minutes later was crawling northward in a crowded horse-car, which he exchanged at Fourteenth Street for one of the high staggering omnibuses of the Fifth Avenue line.
"If only this new dodge for talking along a wire had been a little bit nearer perfection I might have told you all this from town, and been toasting my toes before the club fire at this minute, instead of tramping after you through the snow," he grumbled, disguising a real irritation under the pretence of it; and at this opening Madame Olenska twisted the talk away to the fantastic possibility that they might one day actually converse with each other from street to street, or…
"But the minute I laid eyes on her, I said: ’You sweet bird, you!
After he had leaned out into the darkness for a few minutes he heard her say: "Newland!
She hadn’t been here five minutes before I’d have gone down on my knees to keep her—if only, for the last twenty years, I’d been able to see where the floor was!"
There are no more uses of "minuteness" in the book.