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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XX

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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Lansing still smiled. "The question is, I suppose, whether her desire to shine equals her capacity."

The aide-de-camp stared. "You mean, she's not ambitious?"

"On the contrary; I believe her to be immeasurably ambitious."

"Immeasurably?" The aide-de-camp seemed to try to measure it. "But not, surely, beyond--" "beyond what we can offer," his eyes completed the sentence; and it was Lansing's turn to stare. The aide-de-camp faced the stare. "Yes," his eyes concluded in a flash, while his lips let fall: "The Princess Mother admires her immensely." But at that moment a wave of Mrs. Hicks's fan drew them hurriedly from their embrasure.

"Professor Darchivio had promised to explain to us the difference between the Sassanian and Byzantine motives in Carolingian art; but the Manager has sent up word that the two new Creole dancers from Paris have arrived, and her Serene Highness wants to pop down to the ball-room and take a peep at them .... She's sure the Professor will understand ...."

"And accompany us, of course," the Princess irresistibly added.

Lansing's brief colloquy in the Nouveau Luxe window had lifted the scales from his eyes. Innumerable dim corners of memory had been flooded with light by that one quick glance of the aide-de-camp's: things he had heard, hints he had let pass, smiles, insinuations, cordialities, rumours of the improbability of the Prince's founding a family, suggestions as to the urgent need of replenishing the Teutoburger treasury ....

Miss Hicks, perforce, had accompanied her parents and their princely guests to the ballroom; but as she did not dance, and took little interest in the sight of others so engaged, she remained aloof from the party, absorbed in an archaeological discussion with the baffled but smiling savant who was to have enlightened the party on the difference between Sassanian and Byzantine ornament.

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Lansing, also aloof, had picked out a post from which he could observe the girl: she wore a new look to him since he had seen her as the centre of all these scattered threads of intrigue. Yes; decidedly she was growing handsomer; or else she had learned how to set off her massive lines instead of trying to disguise them. As she held up her long eye-glass to glance absently at the dancers he was struck by the large beauty of her arm and the careless assurance of the gesture. There was nothing nervous or fussy about Coral Hicks; and he was not surprised that, plastically at least, the Princess Mother had discerned her possibilities.

Nick Lansing, all that night, sat up and stared at his future. He knew enough of the society into which the Hickses had drifted to guess that, within a very short time, the hint of the Prince's aide-de-camp would reappear in the form of a direct proposal. Lansing himself would probably--as the one person in the Hicks entourage with whom one could intelligibly commune-be entrusted with the next step in the negotiations: he would be asked, as the aide-de-camp would have said, "to feel the ground." It was clearly part of the state policy of Teutoburg to offer Miss Hicks, with the hand of its sovereign, an opportunity to replenish its treasury.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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