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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter VII

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All these pre-natal experiences now seemed utterly inapplicable to the new man he had become. He could not imagine being bored by Susy--or trying to escape from her if he were. He could not think of her as an enemy, or even as an accomplice, since accomplices are potential enemies: she was some one with whom, by some unheard-of miracle, joys above the joys of friendship were to be tasted, but who, even through these fleeting ecstasies, remained simply and securely his friend.

These new feelings did not affect his general attitude toward life: they merely confirmed his faith in its ultimate "jolliness." Never had he more thoroughly enjoyed the things he had always enjoyed. A good dinner had never been as good to him, a beautiful sunset as beautiful; he still rejoiced in the fact that he appreciated both with an equal acuity. He was as proud as ever of Susy's cleverness and freedom from prejudice: she couldn't be too "modern" for him now that she was his. He shared to the full her passionate enjoyment of the present, and all her feverish eagerness to make it last. He knew when she was thinking of ways of extending their golden opportunity, and he secretly thought with her, wondering what new means they could devise. He was thankful that Ellie Vanderlyn was still absent, and began to hope they might have the palace to themselves for the remainder of the summer. If they did, he would have time to finish his book, and Susy to lay up a little interest on their wedding cheques; and thus their enchanted year might conceivably be prolonged to two.

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Late as the season was, their presence and Strefford's in Venice had already drawn thither several wandering members of their set. It was characteristic of these indifferent but agglutinative people that they could never remain long parted from each other without a dim sense of uneasiness. Lansing was familiar with the feeling. He had known slight twinges of it himself, and had often ministered to its qualms in others. It was hardly stronger than the faint gnawing which recalls the tea-hour to one who has lunched well and is sure of dining as abundantly; but it gave a purpose to the purposeless, and helped many hesitating spirits over the annual difficulty of deciding between Deauville and St. Moritz, Biarritz and Capri.

Nick was not surprised to learn that it was becoming the fashion, that summer, to pop down to Venice and take a look at the Lansings. Streffy had set the example, and Streffy's example was always followed. And then Susy's marriage was still a subject of sympathetic speculation. People knew the story of the wedding cheques, and were interested in seeing how long they could be made to last. It was going to be the thing, that year, to help prolong the honey-moon by pressing houses on the adventurous couple. Before June was over a band of friends were basking with the Lansings on the Lido.

Nick found himself unexpectedly disturbed by their arrival. To avoid comment and banter he put his book aside and forbade Susy to speak of it, explaining to her that he needed an interval of rest. His wife instantly and exaggeratedly adopted this view, guarding him from the temptation to work as jealously as she had discouraged him from idling; and he was careful not to let her find out that the change in his habits coincided with his having reached a difficult point in his book. But though he was not sorry to stop writing he found himself unexpectedly oppressed by the weight of his leisure. For the first time communal dawdling had lost its charm for him; not because his fellow dawdlers were less congenial than of old, but because in the interval he had known something so immeasurably better. He had always felt himself to be the superior of his habitual associates, but now the advantage was too great: really, in a sense, it was hardly fair to them.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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