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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XVII

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It was Ursula Gillow--dear old Ursula, on her way to Scotland-- and she and Susy fell on each other's necks. It appeared that Ursula, detained till the next evening by a dress-maker's delay, was also out of a job and killing time, and the two were soon smiling at each other over the exquisite preliminaries of a luncheon which the head-waiter had authoritatively asked Mrs. Gillow to "leave to him, as usual."

Ursula was in a good humour. It did not often happen; but when it did her benevolence knew no bounds.

Like Mrs. Melrose, like all her tribe in fact, she was too much absorbed in her own affairs to give more than a passing thought to any one else's; but she was delighted at the meeting with Susy, as her wandering kind always were when they ran across fellow-wanderers, unless the meeting happened to interfere with choicer pleasures. Not to be alone was the urgent thing; and Ursula, who had been forty-eight hours alone in London, at once exacted from her friend a promise that they should spend the rest of the day together. But once the bargain struck her mind turned again to her own affairs, and she poured out her confidences to Susy over a succession of dishes that manifested the head-waiter's understanding of the case.

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Ursula's confidences were always the same, though they were usually about a different person. She demolished and rebuilt her sentimental life with the same frequency and impetuosity as that with which she changed her dress-makers, did over her drawing-rooms, ordered new motors, altered the mounting of her jewels, and generally renewed the setting of her life. Susy knew in advance what the tale would be; but to listen to it over perfect coffee, an amber-scented cigarette at her lips, was pleasanter than consuming cold mutton alone in a mouldy coffee-room. The contrast was so soothing that she even began to take a languid interest in her friend's narrative.

After luncheon they got into the motor together and began a systematic round of the West End shops: furriers, jewellers and dealers in old furniture. Nothing could be more unlike Violet Melrose's long hesitating sessions before the things she thought she wanted till the moment came to decide. Ursula pounced on silver foxes and old lacquer as promptly and decisively as on the objects of her surplus sentimentality: she knew at once what she wanted, and valued it more after it was hers.

"And now--I wonder if you couldn't help me choose a grand piano?" she suggested, as the last antiquarian bowed them out.

"A piano?"

"Yes: for Ruan. I'm sending one down for Grace Fulmer. She's coming to stay ... did I tell you? I want people to hear her. I want her to get engagements in London. My dear, she's a Genius."

"A Genius--Grace!" Susy gasped. "I thought it was Nat ...."

"Nat--Nat Fulmer? Ursula laughed derisively. "Ah, of course-- you've been staying with that silly Violet! The poor thing is off her head about Nat--it's really pitiful. Of course he has talent: I saw that long before Violet had ever heard of him. Why, on the opening day of the American Artists' exhibition, last winter, I stopped short before his 'Spring Snow-Storm' (which nobody else had noticed till that moment), and said to the Prince, who was with me: 'The man has talent.' But genius--why, it's his wife who has genius! Have you never heard Grace play the violin? Poor Violet, as usual, is off on the wrong tack. I've given Fulmer my garden-house to do--no doubt Violet told you--because I wanted to help him. But Grace is my discovery, and I'm determined to make her known, and to have every one understand that she is the genius of the two. I've told her she simply must come to Ruan, and bring the best accompanyist she can find. You know poor Nerone is dreadfully bored by sport, though of course he goes out with the guns. And if one didn't have a little art in the evening .... Oh, Susy, do you mean to tell me you don't know how to choose a piano? I thought you were so fond of music!"

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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