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Summer Edith Wharton

Chapter XIII

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She had given him all she had--but what was it compared to the other gifts life held for him? She understood now the case of girls like herself to whom this kind of thing happened. They gave all they had, but their all was not enough: it could not buy more than a few moments....

The heat had grown suffocating--she felt it descend on her in smothering waves, and the faces in the crowded hall began to dance like the pictures flashed on the screen at Nettleton. For an instant Mr. Royall's countenance detached itself from the general blur. He had resumed his place in front of the harmonium, and sat close to her, his eyes on her face; and his look seemed to pierce to the very centre of her confused sensations....A feeling of physical sickness rushed over her--and then deadly apprehension. The light of the fiery hours in the little house swept back on her in a glare of fear....

She forced herself to look away from her guardian, and became aware that the oratory of the Hatchard cousin had ceased, and that Mr. Miles was again flapping his wings. Fragments of his peroration floated through her bewildered brain...."A rich harvest of hallowed memories....A sanctified hour to which, in moments of trial, your thoughts will prayerfully return....And now, O Lord, let us humbly and fervently give thanks for this blessed day of reunion, here in the old home to which we have come back from so far. Preserve it to us, O Lord, in times to come, in all its homely sweetness--in the kindliness and wisdom of its old people, in the courage and industry of its young men, in the piety and purity of this group of innocent girls----" He flapped a white wing in their direction, and at the same moment Lambert Sollas, with his fierce nod, struck the opening bars of "Auld Lang Syne."...Charity stared straight ahead of her and then, dropping her flowers, fell face downward at Mr. Royall's feet.

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Edith Wharton

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