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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXIV

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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The discovery piqued him; and instead of making straight for his own room he went up to Mrs. Hicks's drawing-room.

The room was empty, but traces of elaborate tea pervaded it, and an immense bouquet of stiff roses lay on the centre table. As he turned away, Eldorada Tooker, flushed and tear-stained, abruptly entered.

"Oh, Mr. Lansing--we were looking everywhere for you."

"Looking for me?"

"Yes. Coral especially ... she wants to see you. She wants you to come to her own sitting-room."

She led him across the ante-chamber and down the passage to the separate suite which Miss Hicks inhabited. On the threshold Eldorada gasped out emotionally: "You'll find her looking lovely--" and jerked away with a sob as he entered.

Coral Hicks was never lovely: but she certainly looked unusually handsome. Perhaps it was the long dress of black velvet which, outlined against a shaded lamp, made her strong build seem slenderer, or perhaps the slight flush on her dusky cheek: a bloom of womanhood hung upon her which she made no effort to dissemble. Indeed, it was one of her originalities that she always gravely and courageously revealed the utmost of whatever mood possessed her.

"How splendid you look!" he said, smiling at her.

She threw her head back and gazed him straight in the eyes. "That's going to be my future job."

"To look splendid?"


"And wear a crown?"

"And wear a crown ...."

They continued to consider each other without speaking. Nick's heart contracted with pity and perplexity.

"Oh, Coral--it's not decided?"

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She scrutinized him for a last penetrating moment; then she looked away. "I'm never long deciding."

He hesitated, choking with contradictory impulses, and afraid to formulate any, lest they should either mislead or pain her.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he questioned lamely; and instantly perceived his blunder.

She sat down, and looked up at him under brooding lashes--had he ever noticed the thickness of her lashes before?

"Would it have made any difference if I had told you?"

"Any difference--?"

"Sit down by me," she commanded. "I want to talk to you. You can say now whatever you might have said sooner. I'm not married yet: I'm still free."

"You haven't given your answer?"

"It doesn't matter if I have."

The retort frightened him with the glimpse of what she still expected of him, and what he was still so unable to give.

"That means you've said yes?" he pursued, to gain time.

"Yes or no--it doesn't matter. I had to say something. What I want is your advice."

"At the eleventh hour?"

"Or the twelfth." She paused. "What shall I do?" she questioned, with a sudden accent of helplessness.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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