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|Part I||Edith Wharton|
|Page 3 of 4||
She sprang up from the table with a laugh. "It will be a scramble; but I'll manage it, if you'll go up at once and pitch the last things into your trunk. "
"Yes; but look here--have you any idea what it's going to cost?"
She raised her eyebrows gaily. "Why, a good deal less than our railway tickets. Ottaviano's got a sweetheart in Milan, and hasn't seen her for six months. When I found that out I knew he'd be going there anyhow."
It was clever of her, and he laughed. But why was it that he had grown to shrink from even such harmless evidence of her always knowing how to "manage"? "Oh, well," he said to himself, "she's right: the fellow would be sure to be going to Milan."
Upstairs, on the way to his dressing room, he found her in a cloud of finery which her skilful hands were forcibly compressing into a last portmanteau. He had never seen anyone pack as cleverly as Susy: the way she coaxed reluctant things into a trunk was a symbol of the way she fitted discordant facts into her life. "When I'm rich," she often said, "the thing I shall hate most will be to see an idiot maid at my trunks."
As he passed, she glanced over her shoulder, her face pink with the struggle, and drew a cigar-box from the depths. "Dearest, do put a couple of cigars into your pocket as a tip for Ottaviano."
Lansing stared. "Why, what on earth are you doing with Streffy's cigars?"
"Packing them, of course .... You don't suppose he meant them for those other people?" She gave him a look of honest wonder.
"I don't know whom he meant them for--but they're not ours ...."
She continued to look at him wonderingly. "I don't see what there is to be solemn about. The cigars are not Streffy's either ... you may be sure he got them out of some bounder. And there's nothing he'd hate more than to have them passed on to another."
"Nonsense. If they're not Streffy's they're much less mine. Hand them over, please, dear."
"Just as you like. But it does seem a waste; and, of course, the other people will never have one of them .... The gardener and Giulietta's lover will see to that!"
Lansing looked away from her at the waves of lace and muslin from which she emerged like a rosy Nereid. "How many boxes of them are left?"
"Unpack them, please."
Before she moved there was a pause so full of challenge that Lansing had time for an exasperated sense of the disproportion between his anger and its cause. And this made him still angrier.
She held out a box. "The others are in your suitcase downstairs. It's locked and strapped."
"Give me the key, then."
"We might send them back from Venice, mightn't we? That lock is so nasty: it will take you half an hour."
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