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  Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XVIII

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"BUT I can't think," said Ellie Vanderlyn earnestly, "why you don't announce your engagement before waiting for your divorce. People are beginning to do it, I assure you--it's so much safer!"

Mrs. Vanderlyn, on the way back from St. Moritz to England, had paused in Paris to renew the depleted wardrobe which, only two months earlier, had filled so many trunks to bursting. Other ladies, flocking there from all points of the globe for the same purpose, disputed with her the Louis XVI suites of the Nouveau Luxe, the pink-candled tables in the restaurant, the hours for trying-on at the dressmakers'; and just because they were so many, and all feverishly fighting to get the same things at the same time, they were all excited, happy and at ease. It was the most momentous period of the year: the height of the "dress makers' season."

Mrs. Vanderlyn had run across Susy Lansing at one of the Rue de la Paix openings, where rows of ladies wan with heat and emotion sat for hours in rapt attention while spectral apparitions in incredible raiment tottered endlessly past them on aching feet.

Distracted from the regal splendours of a chinchilla cloak by the sense that another lady was also examining it, Mrs. Vanderlyn turned in surprise at sight of Susy, whose head was critically bent above the fur.

"Susy! I'd no idea you were here! I saw in the papers that you were with the Gillows." The customary embraces followed; then Mrs. Vanderlyn, her eyes pursuing the matchless cloak as it disappeared down a vista of receding mannequins, interrogated sharply: "Are you shopping for Ursula? If you mean to order that cloak for her I'd rather know."

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Susy smiled, and paused a moment before answering. During the pause she took in all the exquisite details of Ellie Vanderlyn's perpetually youthful person, from the plumed crown of her head to the perfect arch of her patent-leather shoes. At last she said quietly: "No--to-day I'm shopping for myself."

"Yourself? Yourself?" Mrs. Vanderlyn echoed with a stare of incredulity.

"Yes; just for a change," Susy serenely acknowledged.

"But the cloak--I meant the chinchilla cloak ... the one with the ermine lining ...."

"Yes; it is awfully good, isn't it? But I mean to look elsewhere before I decide."

Ah, how often she had heard her friends use that phrase; and how amusing it was, now, to see Ellie's amazement as she heard it tossed off in her own tone of contemptuous satiety! Susy was becoming more and more dependent on such diversions; without them her days, crowded as they were, would nevertheless have dragged by heavily. But it still amused her to go to the big dressmakers', watch the mannequins sweep by, and be seen by her friends superciliously examining all the most expensive dresses in the procession. She knew the rumour was abroad that she and Nick were to be divorced, and that Lord Altringham was "devoted" to her. She neither confirmed nor denied the report: she just let herself be luxuriously carried forward on its easy tide. But although it was now three months since Nick had left the Palazzo Vanderlyn she had not yet written to him-nor he to her.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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