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0100_005E Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XX

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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She simply could not bear the thought of their privations; and neither, after a time, could Mr. Hicks, who found the Prince more democratic than anyone he had ever known at Apex City, and was immensely interested by the fact that their spectacles came from the same optician.

But it was, above all, the artistic tendencies of the Prince and his mother which had conquered the Hickses. There was fascination in the thought that, among the rabble of vulgar uneducated royalties who overran Europe from Biarritz to the Engadine, gambling, tangoing, and sponging on no less vulgar plebeians, they, the unobtrusive and self-respecting Hickses, should have had the luck to meet this cultivated pair, who joined them in gentle ridicule of their own frivolous kinsfolk, and whose tastes were exactly those of the eccentric, unreliable and sometimes money-borrowing persons who had hitherto represented the higher life to the Hickses.

Now at last Mrs. Hicks saw the possibility of being at once artistic and luxurious, of surrendering herself to the joys of modern plumbing and yet keeping the talk on the highest level. "If the poor dear Princess wants to dine at the Nouveau Luxe why shouldn't we give her that pleasure?" Mrs. Hicks smilingly enquired; "and as for enjoying her buttered scones like a baby, as she says, I think it's the sweetest thing about her."

Coral Hicks did not join in this chorus; but she accepted, with her curious air of impartiality, the change in her parents' manner of life, and for the first time (as Nick observed) occupied herself with her mother's toilet, with the result that Mrs. Hicks's outline became firmer, her garments soberer in hue and finer in material; so that, should anyone chance to detect the daughter's likeness to her mother, the result was less likely to be disturbing.

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Such precautions were the more needful--Lansing could not but note because of the different standards of the society in which the Hickses now moved. For it was a curious fact that admission to the intimacy of the Prince and his mother-- who continually declared themselves to be the pariahs, the outlaws, the Bohemians among crowned heads nevertheless involved not only living in Palace Hotels but mixing with those who frequented them. The Prince's aide-de-camp--an agreeable young man of easy manners--had smilingly hinted that their Serene Highnesses, though so thoroughly democratic and unceremonious, were yet accustomed to inspecting in advance the names of the persons whom their hosts wished to invite with them; and Lansing noticed that Mrs. Hicks's lists, having been "submitted," usually came back lengthened by the addition of numerous wealthy and titled guests. Their Highnesses never struck out a name; they welcomed with enthusiasm and curiosity the Hickses' oddest and most inexplicable friends, at most putting off some of them to a later day on the plea that it would be "cosier" to meet them on a more private occasion; but they invariably added to the list any friends of their own, with the gracious hint that they wished these latter (though socially so well-provided for) to have the "immense privilege" of knowing the Hickses. And thus it happened that when October gales necessitated laying up the Ibis, the Hickses, finding again in Rome the august travellers from whom they had parted the previous month in Athens, also found their visiting-list enlarged by all that the capital contained of fashion.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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