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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter IX

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"You dear thing--I'm just off, you know," she said. "Susy told me you were working, and I forbade her to call you down. She and Streffy are waiting to take me to the station, and I've run up to say good-bye."

"Ellie, dear!" Full of compunction, Lansing pushed aside his writing and started up; but she pressed him back into his seat.

"No, no! I should never forgive myself if I'd interrupted you. I oughtn't to have come up; Susy didn't want me to. But I had to tell you, you dear .... I had to thank you..."

In her dark travelling dress and hat, so discreetly conspicuous, so negligent and so studied, with a veil masking her paint, and gloves hiding her rings, she looked younger, simpler, more natural than he had ever seen her. Poor Ellie such a good fellow, after all!

"To thank me? For what? For being so happy here?" he laughed, taking her hands.

She looked at him, laughed back, and flung her arms about his neck.

"For helping me to be so happy elsewhere--you and Susy, you two blessed darlings!" she cried, with a kiss on his cheek.

Their eyes met for a second; then her arms slipped slowly downward, dropping to her sides. Lansing sat before her like a stone.

"Oh," she gasped, "why do you stare so? Didn't you know ...?"

They heard Strefford's shrill voice on the stairs. "Ellie, where the deuce are you? Susy's in the gondola. You'll miss the train!"

Lansing stood up and caught Mrs. Vanderlyn by the wrist. "What do you mean? What are you talking about?"

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"Oh, nothing ... But you were both such bricks about the letters .... And when Nelson was here, too .... Nick, don't hurt my wrist so! I must run!"

He dropped her hand and stood motionless, staring after her and listening to the click of her high heels as she fled across the room and along the echoing corridor.

When he turned back to the table he noticed that a small morocco case had fallen among his papers. In falling it had opened, and before him, on the pale velvet lining, lay a scarf-pin set with a perfect pearl. He picked the box up, and was about to hasten after Mrs. Vanderlyn--it was so like her to shed jewels on her path!--when he noticed his own initials on the cover.

He dropped the box as if it had been a hot coal, and sat for a long while gazing at the gold N. L., which seemed to have burnt itself into his flesh.

At last he roused himself and stood up.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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