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Countess Ellen Olenska leaves her brutish husband in Poland and returns to her socially prominent New York family, which is concerned lest there be scandal. Thus, there is a reception for Ellen, at which is announced the engagement of Ellen's cousin, May Mingott, and Newland Archer. Several men, including Newland, are attracted to Ellen, and the countess later finds it easy to lead a gay life with bohemian friends. A passionate love springs up between Ellen and Newland, despite the resistance of both to it. Newland marries May and hopes to forget Ellen, but in a subsequent meeting they decide to go away together. Visiting Ellen, May shares a confidence that causes the countess to decide to return to her husband. Ellen bids farewell to Newland with the suggestion that he can learn the reason from his wife. Receiving the news that May expects a child, Newland repents and resolves to be worthy of his wife.