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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter IX

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NELSON VANDERLYN, still in his travelling clothes, paused on the threshold of his own dining-room and surveyed the scene with pardonable satisfaction.

He was a short round man, with a grizzled head, small facetious eyes and a large and credulous smile.

At the luncheon table sat his wife, between Charlie Strefford and Nick Lansing. Next to Strefford, perched on her high chair, Clarissa throned in infant beauty, while Susy Lansing cut up a peach for her. Through wide orange awnings the sun slanted in upon the white-clad group.

"Well--well--well! So I've caught you at it!" cried the happy father, whose inveterate habit it was to address his wife and friends as if he had surprised them at an inopportune moment. Stealing up from behind, he lifted his daughter into the air, while a chorus of "Hello, old Nelson," hailed his appearance.

It was two or three years since Nick Lansing had seen Mr. Vanderlyn, who was now the London representative of the big New York bank of Vanderlyn & Co., and had exchanged his sumptuous house in Fifth Avenue for another, more sumptuous still, in Mayfair; and the young man looked curiously and attentively at his host.

Mr. Vanderlyn had grown older and stouter, but his face still kept its look of somewhat worn optimism. He embraced his wife, greeted Susy affectionately, and distributed cordial hand-grasps to the two men.

"Hullo," he exclaimed, suddenly noticing a pearl and coral trinket hanging from Clarissa's neck. "Who's been giving my daughter jewellery, I'd like to know!"

"Oh, Streffy did--just think, father! Because I said I'd rather have it than a book, you know," Clarissa lucidly explained, her arms tight about her father's neck, her beaming eyes on Strefford.

Nelson Vanderlyn's own eyes took on the look of shrewdness which came into them whenever there was a question of material values.

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"What, Streffy? Caught you at it, eh? Upon my soul-spoiling the brat like that! You'd no business to, my dear chap-a lovely baroque pearl--" he protested, with the half-apologetic tone of the rich man embarrassed by too costly a gift from an impecunious friend.

"Oh, hadn't I? Why? Because it's too good for Clarissa, or too expensive for me? Of course you daren't imply the first; and as for me--I've had a windfall, and am blowing it in on the ladies."

Strefford, Lansing had noticed, always used American slang when he was slightly at a loss, and wished to divert attention from the main point. But why was he embarrassed, whose attention did he wish to divert, It was plain that Vanderlyn's protest had been merely formal: like most of the wealthy, he had only the dimmest notion of what money represented to the poor. But it was unusual for Strefford to give any one a present, and especially an expensive one: perhaps that was what had fixed Vanderlyn's attention.

"A windfall?" he gaily repeated.

"Oh, a tiny one: I was offered a thumping rent for my little place at Como, and dashed over here to squander my millions with the rest of you," said Strefford imperturbably.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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