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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter VII

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"After all," he said to himself one evening, as his eyes wandered, with somewhat of a convalescent's simple joy, from one to another of their large confiding faces, "after all, they've got a religion ...." The phrase struck him, in the moment of using it, as indicating a new element in his own state of mind, and as being, in fact, the key to his new feeling about the Hickses. Their muddled ardour for great things was related to his own new view of the universe: the people who felt, however dimly, the wonder and weight of life must ever after be nearer to him than those to whom it was estimated solely by one's balance at the bank. He supposed, on reflexion, that that was what he meant when he thought of the Hickses as having "a religion" ....

A few days later, his well-being was unexpectedly disturbed by the arrival of Fred Gillow. Lansing had always felt a tolerant liking for Gillow, a large smiling silent young man with an intense and serious desire to miss nothing attainable by one of his fortune and standing. What use he made of his experiences, Lansing, who had always gone into his own modest adventures rather thoroughly, had never been able to guess; but he had always suspected the prodigal Fred of being no more than a well-disguised looker-on. Now for the first time he began to view him with another eye. The Gillows were, in fact, the one uneasy point in Nick's conscience. He and Susy from the first, had talked of them less than of any other members of their group: they had tacitly avoided the name from the day on which Susy had come to Lansing's lodgings to say that Ursula Gillow had asked her to renounce him, till that other day, just before their marriage, when she had met him with the rapturous cry: "Here's our first wedding present! Such a thumping big cheque from Fred and Ursula!"

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Plenty of sympathizing people were ready, Lansing knew, to tell him just what had happened in the interval between those two dates; but he had taken care not to ask. He had even affected an initiation so complete that the friends who burned to enlighten him were discouraged by his so obviously knowing more than they; and gradually he had worked himself around to their view, and had taken it for granted that he really did.

Now he perceived that he knew nothing at all, and that the "Hullo, old Fred!" with which Susy hailed Gillow's arrival might be either the usual tribal welcome--since they were all "old," and all nicknamed, in their private jargon--or a greeting that concealed inscrutable depths of complicity.

Susy was visibly glad to see Gillow; but she was glad of everything just then, and so glad to show her gladness! The fact disarmed her husband and made him ashamed of his uneasiness. "You ought to have thought this all out sooner, or else you ought to chuck thinking of it at all," was the sound but ineffectual advice he gave himself on the day after Gillow's arrival; and immediately set to work to rethink the whole matter.

Fred Gillow showed no consciousness of disturbing any one's peace of mind. Day after day he sprawled for hours on the Lido sands, his arms folded under his head, listening to Streffy's nonsense and watching Susy between sleepy lids; but he betrayed no desire to see her alone, or to draw her into talk apart from the others. More than ever he seemed content to be the gratified spectator of a costly show got up for his private entertainment. It was not until he heard her, one morning, grumble a little at the increasing heat and the menace of mosquitoes, that he said, quite as if they had talked the matter over long before, and finally settled it: "The moor will be ready any time after the first of August."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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