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  Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter VIII

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IT was not Mrs. Vanderlyn's fault if, after her arrival, her palace seemed to belong any less to the Lansings.

She arrived in a mood of such general benevolence that it was impossible for Susy, when they finally found themselves alone, to make her view even her own recent conduct in any but the most benevolent light.

"I knew you'd be the veriest angel about it all, darling, because I knew you'd understand me-- especially now," she declared, her slim hands in Susy's, her big eyes (so like Clarissa's) resplendent with past pleasures and future plans.

The expression of her confidence was unexpectedly distasteful to Susy Lansing, who had never lent so cold an ear to such warm avowals. She had always imagined that being happy one's self made one--as Mrs. Vanderlyn appeared to assume --more tolerant of the happiness of others, of however doubtful elements composed; and she was almost ashamed of responding so languidly to her friend's outpourings. But she herself had no desire to confide her bliss to Ellie; and why should not Ellie observe a similar reticence?

"It was all so perfect--you see, dearest, I was meant to be happy," that lady continued, as if the possession of so unusual a characteristic singled her out for special privileges.

Susy, with a certain sharpness, responded that she had always supposed we all were.

"Oh, no, dearest: not governesses and mothers-in-law and companions, and that sort of people. They wouldn't know how if they tried. But you and I, darling--"

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"Oh, I don't consider myself in any way exceptional," Susy intervened. She longed to add: "Not in your way, at any rate--" but a few minutes earlier Mrs. Vanderlyn had told her that the palace was at her disposal for the rest of the summer, and that she herself was only going to perch there--if they'd let her!--long enough to gather up her things and start for St. Moritz. The memory of this announcement had the effect of curbing Susy's irony, and of making her shift the conversation to the safer if scarcely less absorbing topic of the number of day and evening dresses required for a season at St. Moritz.

As she listened to Mrs. Vanderlyn--no less eloquent on this theme than on the other--Susy began to measure the gulf between her past and present. "This is the life I used to lead; these are the things I used to live for," she thought, as she stood before the outspread glories of Mrs. Vanderlyn's wardrobe. Not that she did not still care: she could not look at Ellie's laces and silks and furs without picturing herself in them, and wondering by what new miracle of management she could give herself the air of being dressed by the same consummate artists. But these had become minor interests: the past few months had given her a new perspective, and the thing that most puzzled and disconcerted her about Ellie was the fact that love and finery and bridge and dining-out were seemingly all on the same plane to her.

The inspection of the dresses lasted a long time, and was marked by many fluctuations of mood on the part of Mrs. Vanderlyn, who passed from comparative hopefulness to despair at the total inadequacy of her wardrobe. It wouldn't do to go to St. Moritz looking like a frump, and yet there was no time to get anything sent from Paris, and, whatever she did, she wasn't going to show herself in any dowdy re-arrangements done at home. But suddenly light broke on her, and she clasped her hands for joy. "Why, Nelson'll bring them--I'd forgotten all about Nelson! There'll be just time if I wire to him at once."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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