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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter IV

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To destroy them on the spot had seemed, at first thought, inevitable: it might be saving Ellie as well as herself. But such a step seemed to Susy to involve departure on the morrow, and this in turn involved notifying Ellie, whose letter she had vainly scanned for an address. Well--perhaps Clarissa's nurse would know where one could write to her mother; it was unlikely that even Ellie would go off without assuring some means of communication with her child. At any rate, there was nothing to be done that night: nothing but to work out the details of their flight on the morrow, and rack her brains to find a substitute for the hospitality they were rejecting. Susy did not disguise from herself how much she had counted on the Vanderlyn apartment for the summer: to be able to do so had singularly simplified the future. She knew Ellie's largeness of hand, and had been sure in advance that as long as they were her guests their only expense would be an occasional present to the servants. And what would the alternative be? She and Lansing, in their endless talks, had so lived themselves into the vision of indolent summer days on the lagoon, of flaming hours on the beach of the Lido, and evenings of music and dreams on their broad balcony above the Giudecca, that the idea of having to renounce these joys, and deprive her Nick of them, filled Susy with a wrath intensified by his having confided in her that when they were quietly settled in Venice he "meant to write." Already nascent in her breast was the fierce resolve of the author's wife to defend her husband's privacy and facilitate his encounters with the Muse. It was abominable, simply abominable, that Ellie Vanderlyn should have drawn her into such a trap!

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Well--there was nothing for it but to make a clean breast of the whole thing to Nick. The trivial incident of the cigars-how trivial it now seemed!--showed her the kind of stand he would take, and communicated to her something of his own uncompromising energy. She would tell him the whole story in the morning, and try to find a way out with him: Susy's faith in her power of finding a way out was inexhaustible. But suddenly she remembered the adjuration at the end of Mrs. Vanderlyn's letter: "If you're ever owed me anything in the way of kindness, you won't, on your sacred honour, say a word to Nick ...."

It was, of course, exactly what no one had the right to ask of her: if indeed the word "right", could be used in any conceivable relation to this coil of wrongs. But the fact remained that, in the way of kindness, she did owe much to Ellie; and that this was the first payment her friend had ever exacted. She found herself, in fact, in exactly the same position as when Ursula Gillow, using the same argument, had appealed to her to give up Nick Lansing. Yes, Susy reflected; but then Nelson Vanderlyn had been kind to her too; and the money Ellie had been so kind with was Nelson's .... The queer edifice of Susy's standards tottered on its base she honestly didn't know where fairness lay, as between so much that was foul.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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