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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXI

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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The Ambassadress, a blank perpendicular person, had been a shade less affable than Susy could have wished; but then there was Lady Joan--and the girl was handsome, alarmingly handsome to account for that: probably every one in the room had guessed it. And the old Duchess of Dunes was delightful. She looked rather like Strefford in a wig and false pearls (Susy was sure they were as false as her teeth); and her cordiality was so demonstrative that the future bride found it more difficult to account for than Lady Ascot's coldness, till she heard the old lady, as they passed into the hall, breathe in a hissing whisper to her nephew: "Streff, dearest, when you have a minute's time, and can drop in at my wretched little pension, I know you can explain in two words what I ought to do to pacify those awful money-lenders .... And you'll bring your exquisite American to see me, won't you! ... No, Joan Senechal's too fair for my taste .... Insipid..." "

Yes: the taste of it all was again sweet on her lips. A few days later she began to wonder how the thought of Strefford's endearments could have been so alarming. To be sure he was not lavish of them; but when he did touch her, even when he kissed her, it no longer seemed to matter. An almost complete absence of sensation had mercifully succeeded to the first wild flurry of her nerves.

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And so it would be, no doubt, with everything else in her new life. If it failed to provoke any acute reactions, whether of pain or pleasure, the very absence of sensation would make for peace. And in the meanwhile she was tasting what, she had begun to suspect, was the maximum of bliss to most of the women she knew: days packed with engagements, the exhilaration of fashionable crowds, the thrill of snapping up a jewel or a bibelot or a new "model" that one's best friend wanted, or of being invited to some private show, or some exclusive entertainment, that one's best friend couldn't get to. There was nothing, now, that she couldn't buy, nowhere that she couldn't go: she had only to choose and to triumph. And for a while the surface-excitement of her life gave her the illusion of enjoyment.

Strefford, as she had expected, had postponed his return to England, and they had now been for nearly three weeks together in their new, and virtually avowed, relation. She had fancied that, after all, the easiest part of it would be just the being with Strefford--the falling back on their old tried friendship to efface the sense of strangeness. But, though she had so soon grown used to his caresses, he himself remained curiously unfamiliar: she was hardly sure, at times, that it was the old Strefford she was talking to. It was not that his point of view had changed, but that new things occupied and absorbed him. In all the small sides of his great situation he took an almost childish satisfaction; and though he still laughed at both its privileges and its obligations, it was now with a jealous laughter.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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