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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XVIII

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"Ah, well--of course we all felt that at the time. And now somebody else wants to marry you! And it's your trousseau you were choosing that cloak for?" Ellie cried in incredulous rapture; then she flung her arms about Susy's shrinking shoulders. "You lucky lucky girl! You clever clever darling! But who on earth can he be?"

And it was then that Susy, for the first time, had pronounced the name of Lord Altringham.

"Streff--Streff? Our dear old Streff, You mean to say he wants to marry you?" As the news took possession of her mind Ellie became dithyrambic. "But, my dearest, what a miracle of luck! Of course I always knew he was awfully gone on you: Fred Davenant used to say so, I remember ... and even Nelson, who's so stupid about such things, noticed it in Venice .... But then it was so different. No one could possibly have thought of marrying him then; whereas now of course every woman is trying for him. Oh, Susy, whatever you do, don't miss your chance! You can't conceive of the wicked plotting and intriguing there will be to get him--on all sides, and even where one least suspects it. You don't know what horrors women will do-and even girls!" A shudder ran through her at the thought, and she caught Susy's wrists in vehement fingers. "But I can't think, my dear, why you don't announce your engagement at once. People are beginning to do it, I assure you--it's so much safer!"

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Susy looked at her, wondering. Not a word of sympathy for the ruin of her brief bliss, not even a gleam of curiosity as to its cause! No doubt Ellie Vanderlyn, like all Susy's other friends, had long since "discounted" the brevity of her dream, and perhaps planned a sequel to it before she herself had seen the glory fading. She and Nick had spent the greater part of their few weeks together under Ellie Vanderlyn's roof; but to Ellie, obviously, the fact meant no more than her own escapade, at the same moment, with young Davenant's supplanter--the "bounder" whom Strefford had never named. Her one thought for her friend was that Susy should at last secure her prize--her incredible prize. And therein at any rate Ellie showed the kind of cold disinterestedness that raised her above the smiling perfidy of the majority of her kind. At least her advice was sincere; and perhaps it was wise. Why should Susy not let every one know that she meant to marry Strefford as soon as the "formalities" were fulfilled?

She did not immediately answer Mrs. Vanderlyn's question; and the latter, repeating it, added impatiently: "I don't understand you; if Nick agrees-"

"Oh, he agrees," said Susy.

"Then what more do you want! Oh, Susy, if you'd only follow my example!"

"Your example?" Susy paused, weighed the word, was struck by something embarrassed, arch yet half-apologetic in her friend's expression. "Your example?" she repeated. "Why, Ellie, what on earth do you mean? Not that you're going to part from poor Nelson?"

Mrs. Vanderlyn met her reproachful gaze with a crystalline glance. "I don't want to, heaven knows--poor dear Nelson! I assure you I simply hate it. He's always such an angel to Clarissa ... and then we're used to each other. But what in the world am I to do? Algie's so rich, so appallingly rich, that I have to be perpetually on the watch to keep other women away from him--and it's too exhausting ...."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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