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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter IX

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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She restored her eye-glasses, opened her manual, and strode across the church to the expectant neophytes.

Lansing, looking after her, wondered for half a moment whether Mr. Beck were the object of this apparently unrequited sentiment; then, with a queer start of introspection, abruptly decided that, no, he certainly was not. But then--but then--. Well, there was no use in following up such conjectures .... He turned home-ward, wondering if the picnickers had already reached Palazzo Vanderlyn.

They got back only in time for a late dinner, full of chaff and laughter, and apparently still enchanted with each other's society. Nelson Vanderlyn beamed on his wife, sent his daughter off to bed with a kiss, and leaning back in his armchair before the fruit-and-flower-laden table, declared that he'd never spent a jollier day in his life. Susy seemed to come in for a full share of his approbation, and Lansing thought that Ellie was unusually demonstrative to her friend. Strefford, from his hostess's side, glanced across now and then at young Mrs. Lansing, and his glance seemed to Lansing a confidential comment on the Vanderlyn raptures. But then Strefford was always having private jokes with people or about them; and Lansing was irritated with himself for perpetually suspecting his best friends of vague complicities at his expense. "If I'm going to be jealous of Streffy now--!" he concluded with a grimace of self-derision.

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Certainly Susy looked lovely enough to justify the most irrational pangs. As a girl she had been, for some people's taste, a trifle fine-drawn and sharp-edged; now, to her old lightness of line was added a shadowy bloom, a sort of star-reflecting depth. Her movements were slower, less angular; her mouth had a needing droop, her lids seemed weighed down by their lashes; and then suddenly the old spirit would reveal itself through the new languor, like the tartness at the core of a sweet fruit. As her husband looked at her across the flowers and lights he laughed inwardly at the nothingness of all things else.

Vanderlyn and Clarissa left betimes the next morning; and Mrs. Vanderlyn, who was to start for St. Moritz in the afternoon, devoted her last hours to anxious conferences with her maid and Susy. Strefford, with Fred Gillow and the others, had gone for a swim at the Lido, and Lansing seized the opportunity to get back to his book.

The quietness of the great echoing place gave him a foretaste of the solitude to come. By mid-August all their party would be scattered: the Hickses off on a cruise to Crete and the AEgean, Fred Gillow on the way to his moor, Strefford to stay with friends in Capri till his annual visit to Northumberland in September. One by one the others would follow, and Lansing and Susy be left alone in the great sun-proof palace, alone under the star-laden skies, alone with the great orange moons-still theirs!--above the bell-tower of San Giorgio. The novel, in that blessed quiet, would unfold itself as harmoniously as his dreams.

He wrote on, forgetful of the passing hours, till the door opened and he heard a step behind him. The next moment two hands were clasped over his eyes, and the air was full of Mrs. Vanderlyn's last new scent.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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