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  Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter VI

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SUSY found Strefford, after his first burst of nonsense, unusually kind and responsive. The interest he showed in her future and Nick's seemed to proceed not so much from his habitual spirit of scientific curiosity as from simple friendliness. He was privileged to see Nick's first chapter, of which he formed so favourable an impression that he spoke sternly to Susy on the importance of respecting her husband's working hours; and he even carried his general benevolence to the length of showing a fatherly interest in Clarissa Vanderlyn. He was always charming to children, but fitfully and warily, with an eye on his independence, and on the possibility of being suddenly bored by them; Susy had never seen him abandon these precautions so completely as he did with Clarissa.

"Poor little devil! Who looks after her when you and Nick are off together? Do you mean to tell me Ellie sacked the governess and went away without having anyone to take her place?"

"I think she expected me to do it," said Susy with a touch of asperity. There were moments when her duty to Clarissa weighed on her somewhat heavily; whenever she went off alone with Nick she was pursued by the vision of a little figure waving wistful farewells from the balcony.

"Ah, that's like Ellie: you might have known she'd get an equivalent when she lent you all this. But I don't believe she thought you'd be so conscientious about it."

Susy considered. "I don't suppose she did; and perhaps I shouldn't have been, a year ago. But you see"--she hesitated-- "Nick's so awfully good: it's made me look; at a lot of things differently ...."

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"Oh, hang Nick's goodness! It's happiness that's done it, my dear. You're just one of the people with whom it happens to agree."

Susy, leaning back, scrutinized between her lashes his crooked ironic face.

"What is it that's agreeing with you, Streffy? I've never seen you so human. You must be getting an outrageous price for the villa."

Strefford laughed and clapped his hand on his breast-pocket. "I should be an ass not to: I've got a wire here saying they must have it for another month at any price."

"What luck! I'm so glad. Who are they, by the way?"

He drew himself up out of the long chair in which he was disjointedly lounging, and looked down at her with a smile. "Another couple of love-sick idiots like you and Nick .... I say, before I spend it all let's go out and buy something ripping for Clarissa."

The days passed so quickly and radiantly that, but for her concern for Clarissa, Susy would hardly have been conscious of her hostess's protracted absence. Mrs. Vanderlyn had said: "Four weeks at the latest," and the four weeks were over, and she had neither arrived nor written to explain her non-appearance. She had, in fact, given no sign of life since her departure, save in the shape of a post-card which had reached Clarissa the day after the Lansings' arrival, and in which Mrs. Vanderlyn instructed her child to be awfully good, and not to forget to feed the mongoose. Susy noticed that this missive had been posted in Milan.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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