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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter V

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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She was thinking of these things, and of the approaching date of Ellie Vanderlyn's return, and of the searching truths she was storing up for that lady's private ear, when she noticed a gondola turning its prow toward the steps below the balcony. She leaned over, and a tall gentleman in shabby clothes, glancing up at her as he jumped out, waved a mouldy Panama in joyful greeting.

"Streffy!" she exclaimed as joyfully; and she was half-way down the stairs when he ran up them followed by his luggage-laden boatman.

"It's all right, I suppose?--Ellie said I might come," he explained in a shrill cheerful voice; "and I'm to have my same green room with the parrot-panels, because its furniture is already so frightfully stained with my hair-wash."

Susy was beaming on him with the deep sense of satisfaction which his presence always produced in his friends. There was no one in the world, they all agreed, half as ugly and untidy and delightful as Streffy; no one who combined such outspoken selfishness with such imperturbable good humour; no one who knew so well how to make you believe he was being charming to you when it was you who were being charming to him.

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In addition to these seductions, of which none estimated the value more accurately than their possessor, Strefford had for Susy another attraction of which he was probably unconscious. It was that of being the one rooted and stable being among the fluid and shifting figures that composed her world. Susy had always lived among people so denationalized that those one took for Russians generally turned out to be American, and those one was inclined to ascribe to New York proved to have originated in Rome or Bucharest. These cosmopolitan people, who, in countries not their own, lived in houses as big as hotels, or in hotels where the guests were as international as the waiters, had inter-married, inter-loved and inter-divorced each other over the whole face of Europe, and according to every code that attempts to regulate human ties. Strefford, too, had his home in this world, but only one of his homes. The other, the one he spoke of, and probably thought of, least often, was a great dull English country-house in a northern county, where a life as monotonous and self-contained as his own was chequered and dispersed had gone on for generation after generation; and it was the sense of that house, and of all it typified even to his vagrancy and irreverence, which, coming out now and then in his talk, or in his attitude toward something or somebody, gave him a firmer outline and a steadier footing than the other marionettes in the dance. Superficially so like them all, and so eager to outdo them in detachment and adaptability, ridiculing the prejudices he had shaken off, and the people to whom he belonged, he still kept, under his easy pliancy, the skeleton of old faiths and old fashions. "He talks every language as well as the rest of us," Susy had once said of him, "but at least he talks one language better than the others"; and Strefford, told of the remark, had laughed, called her an idiot, and been pleased.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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