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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XVIII

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"The poor shivering dear," she answered laughing, "of course it shall have its nice warm winter cloak, and I'll choose another one instead."

"Oh, you darling, you! If you would! Of course, whoever you were ordering it for need never know ...."

"Ah, you can't comfort yourself with that, I'm afraid. I've already told you that I was ordering it for myself." Susy paused to savour to the full Ellie's look of blank bewilderment; then her amusement was checked by an indefinable change in her friend's expression.

"Oh, dearest--seriously? I didn't know there was someone ...."

Susy flushed to the forehead. A horror of humiliation overwhelmed her. That Ellie should dare to think that of her-- that anyone should dare to!

"Someone buying chinchilla cloaks for me? Thanks!" she flared out. "I suppose I ought to be glad that the idea didn't immediately occur to you. At least there was a decent interval of doubt ...." She stood up, laughing again, and began to wander about the room. In the mirror above the mantel she caught sight of her flushed angry face, and of Mrs. Vanderlyn's disconcerted stare. She turned toward her friend.

"I suppose everybody else will think it if you do; so perhaps I'd better explain." She paused, and drew a quick breath. "Nick and I mean to part--have parted, in fact. He's decided that the whole thing was a mistake. He will probably; marry again soon--and so shall I."

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She flung the avowal out breathlessly, in her nervous dread of letting Ellie Vanderlyn think for an instant longer that any other explanation was conceivable. She had not meant to be so explicit; but once the words were spoken she was not altogether sorry. Of course people would soon begin to wonder why she was again straying about the world alone; and since it was by Nick's choice, why should she not say so? Remembering the burning anguish of those last hours in Venice she asked herself what possible consideration she owed to the man who had so humbled her.

Ellie Vanderlyn glanced at her in astonishment. "You? You and Nick--are going to part?" A light appeared to dawn on her. "Ah--then that's why he sent me back my pin, I suppose?"

"Your pin?" Susy wondered, not at once remembering.

"The poor little scarf-pin I gave him before I left Venice. He sent it back almost at once, with the oddest note--just: 'I haven't earned it, really.' I couldn't think why he didn't care for the pin. But, now I suppose it was because you and he had quarrelled; though really, even so, I can't see why he should bear me a grudge ...."

Susy's quick blood surged up. Nick had sent back the pin-the fatal pin! And she, Susy, had kept the bracelet--locked it up out of sight, shrunk away from the little packet whenever her hand touched it in packing or unpacking--but never thought of returning it, no, not once! Which of the two, she wondered, had been right? Was it not an indirect slight to her that Nick should fling back the gift to poor uncomprehending Ellie? Or was it not rather another proof of his finer moral sensitiveness! ... And how could one tell, in their bewildering world, "It was not because we've quarrelled; we haven't quarrelled," she said slowly, moved by the sudden desire to defend her privacy and Nick's, to screen from every eye their last bitter hour together. "We've simply decided that our experiment was impossible-for two paupers."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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