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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XIX

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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Perhaps that was what Strefford's sharply narrowed eyes were seeing now, that same illimitable distance that she had lost forever--perhaps he was saying to himself, as she had said to herself when her lips left Nick's: "Each time we kiss we shall see it all again ...." Whereas all she herself had felt was the gasping recoil from Strefford's touch, and an intenser vision of the sordid room in which he and she sat, and of their two selves, more distant from each other than if their embrace had been a sudden thrusting apart ....

The moment prolonged itself, and they sat numb. How long had it lasted? How long ago was it that she had thought: "It's going to be easier than I imagined"? Suddenly she felt Strefford's queer smile upon her, and saw in his eyes a look, not of reproach or disappointment, but of deep and anxious comprehension. Instead of being angry or hurt, he had seen, he had understood, he was sorry for her!

Impulsively she slipped her hand into his, and they sat silent for another moment. Then he stood up and took her cloak from the divan. "Shall we go now! I've got cards for the private view of the Reynolds exhibition at the Petit Palais. There are some portraits from Altringham. It might amuse you."

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In the taxi she had time, through their light rattle of talk, to readjust herself and drop back into her usual feeling of friendly ease with him. He had been extraordinarily considerate, for anyone who always so undisguisedly sought his own satisfaction above all things; and if his considerateness were just an indirect way of seeking that satisfaction now, well, that proved how much he cared for her, how necessary to his happiness she had become. The sense of power was undeniably pleasant; pleasanter still was the feeling that someone really needed her, that the happiness of the man at her side depended on her yes or no. She abandoned herself to the feeling, forgetting the abysmal interval of his caress, or at least saying to herself that in time she would forget it, that really there was nothing to make a fuss about in being kissed by anyone she liked as much as Streff ....

She had guessed at once why he was taking her to see the Reynoldses. Fashionable and artistic Paris had recently discovered English eighteenth century art. The principal collections of England had yielded up their best examples of the great portrait painter's work, and the private view at the Petit Palais was to be the social event of the afternoon. Everybody-- Strefford's everybody and Susy's--was sure to be there; and these, as she knew, were the occasions that revived Strefford's intermittent interest in art. He really liked picture shows as much as the races, if one could be sure of seeing as many people there. With Nick how different it would have been! Nick hated openings and varnishing days, and worldly aesthetics in general; he would have waited till the tide of fashion had ebbed, and slipped off with Susy to see the pictures some morning when they were sure to have the place to themselves.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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