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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XVII

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"I am fond of it; but without knowing anything about it--in the way we're all of us fond of the worthwhile things in our stupid set," she added to herself--since it was obviously useless to impart such reflections to Ursula.

"But are you sure Grace is coming?" she questioned aloud.

"Quite sure. Why shouldn't she? I wired to her yesterday. I'm giving her a thousand dollars and all her expenses."

It was not till they were having tea in a Piccadilly tea-room that Mrs. Gillow began to manifest some interest in her companion's plans. The thought of losing Susy became suddenly intolerable to her. The Prince, who did not see why he should be expected to linger in London out of season, was already at Ruan, and Ursula could not face the evening and the whole of the next day by herself.

"But what are you doing in town, darling, I don't remember if I've asked you," she said, resting her firm elbows on the tea-table while she took a light from Susy's cigarette.

Susy hesitated. She had foreseen that the time must soon come when she should have to give some account of herself; and why should she not begin by telling Ursula?

But telling her what?

Her silence appeared to strike Mrs. Gillow as a reproach, and she continued with compunction: "And Nick? Nick's with you? How is he, I thought you and he still were in Venice with Ellie Vanderlyn."

"We were, for a few weeks." She steadied her voice. "It was delightful. But now we're both on our own again--for a while."

Mrs. Gillow scrutinized her more searchingly. "Oh, you're alone here, then; quite alone?"

"Yes: Nick's cruising with some friends in the Mediterranean."

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Ursula's shallow gaze deepened singularly. "But, Susy darling, then if you're alone--and out of a job, just for the moment?"

Susy smiled. "Well, I'm not sure."

"Oh, but if you are, darling, and you would come to Ruan! I know Fred asked you didn't he? And he told me that both you and Nick had refused. He was awfully huffed at your not coming; but I suppose that was because Nick had other plans. We couldn't have him now, because there's no room for another gun; but since he's not here, and you're free, why you know, dearest, don't you, how we'd love to have you? Fred would be too glad--too outrageously glad--but you don't much mind Fred's love-making, do you? And you'd be such a help to me--if that's any argument! With that big house full of men, and people flocking over every night to dine, and Fred caring only for sport, and Nerone simply loathing it and ridiculing it, and not a minute to myself to try to keep him in a good humour .... Oh, Susy darling, don't say no, but let me telephone at once for a place in the train to morrow night!"

Susy leaned back, letting the ash lengthen on her cigarette. How familiar, how hatefully familiar, was that old appeal! Ursula felt the pressing need of someone to flirt with Fred for a few weeks ... and here was the very person she needed. Susy shivered at the thought. She had never really meant to go to Ruan. She had simply used the moor as a pretext when Violet Melrose had gently put her out of doors. Rather than do what Ursula asked she would borrow a few hundred pounds of Strefford, as he had suggested, and then look about for some temporary occupation until--

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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