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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter IV

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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The very depth of her perplexity puzzled her. She had been in "tight places" before; had indeed been in so few that were not, in one way or another, constricting! As she looked back on her past it lay before her as a very network of perpetual concessions and contrivings. But never before had she had such a sense of being tripped up, gagged and pinioned. The little misery of the cigars still galled her, and now this big humiliation superposed itself on the raw wound. Decidedly, the second month of their honey-moon was beginning cloudily ....

She glanced at the enamel led travelling-clock on her dressing table--one of the few wedding-presents she had consented to accept in kind--and was startled at the lateness of the hour. In a moment Nick would be coming; and an uncomfortable sensation in her throat warned her that through sheer nervousness and exasperation she might blurt out something ill-advised. The old habit of being always on her guard made her turn once more to the looking-glass. Her face was pale and haggard; and having, by a swift and skilful application of cosmetics, increased its appearance of fatigue, she crossed the room and softly opened her husband's door.

He too sat by a lamp, reading a letter which he put aside as she entered. His face was grave, and she said to herself that he was certainly still thinking about the cigars.

"I'm very tired, dearest, and my head aches so horribly that I've come to bid you good-night." Bending over the back of his chair, she laid her arms on his shoulders. He lifted his hands to clasp hers, but, as he threw his head back to smile up at her she noticed that his look was still serious, almost remote. It was as if, for the first time, a faint veil hung between his eyes and hers.

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"I'm so sorry: it's been a long day for you," he said absently, pressing his lips to her hands

She felt the dreaded twitch in her throat.

"Nick!" she burst out, tightening her embrace, "before I go, you've got to swear to me on your honour that you know I should never have taken those cigars for myself!"

For a moment he stared at her, and she stared back at him with equal gravity; then the same irresistible mirth welled up in both, and Susy's compunctions were swept away on a gale of laughter.

When she woke the next morning the sun was pouring in between her curtains of old brocade, and its refraction from the ripples of the Canal was drawing a network of golden scales across the vaulted ceiling. The maid had just placed a tray on a slim marquetry table near the bed, and over the edge of the tray Susy discovered the small serious face of Clarissa Vanderlyn. At the sight of the little girl all her dormant qualms awoke.

Clarissa was just eight, and small for her age: her little round chin was barely on a level with the tea-service, and her clear brown eyes gazed at Susy between the ribs of the toast-rack and the single tea-rose in an old Murano glass. Susy had not seen her for two years, and she seemed, in the interval, to have passed from a thoughtful infancy to complete ripeness of feminine experience. She was looking with approval at her mother's guest.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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