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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter V

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Susy laughed. "We know what those warnings mean! I pity my namesake."

He swung about and gave her a quick look out of his small ugly twinkling eyes. "Is there any other woman in the world named Susan?"

"I hope so, if the name's an essential. Even if Nick chucks me, don't count on me to carry out that programme. I've seen it in practice too often."

"Oh, well: as far as I know, everybody's in perfect health at Altringham." He fumbled in his pocket and drew out a fountain pen, a handkerchief over which it had leaked, and a packet of dishevelled cigarettes. Lighting one, and restoring the other objects to his pocket, he continued calmly: "Tell me how did you manage to smooth things over with the Gillows? Ursula was running amuck when I was in Newport last Summer; it was just when people were beginning to say that you were going to marry Nick. I was afraid she'd put a spoke in your wheel; and I hear she put a big cheque in your hand instead."

Susy was silent. From the first moment of Strefford's appearance she had known that in the course of time he would put that question. He was as inquisitive as a monkey, and when he had made up his mind to find out anything it was useless to try to divert his attention. After a moment's hesitation she said: "I flirted with Fred. It was a bore but he was very decent."

"He would be--poor Fred. And you got Ursula thoroughly frightened!"

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"Well--enough. And then luckily that young Nerone Altineri turned up from Rome: he went over to New York to look for a job as an engineer, and Ursula made Fred put him in their iron works." She paused again, and then added abruptly: "Streffy! If you knew how I hate that kind of thing. I'd rather have Nick come in now and tell me frankly, as I know he would, that he's going off with--"

"With Coral Hicks?" Strefford suggested.

She laughed. "Poor Coral Hicks! What on earth made you think of the Hickses?"

"Because I caught a glimpse of them the other day at Capri. They're cruising about: they said they were coming in here."

"What a nuisance! I do hope they won't find us out. They were awfully kind to Nick when he went to India with them, and they're so simple-minded that they would expect him to be glad to see them."

Strefford aimed his cigarette-end at a tourist on a puggaree who was gazing up from his guidebook at the palace. "Ah," he murmured with satisfaction, seeing the shot take effect; then he added: "Coral Hicks is growing up rather pretty."

"Oh, Streff--you're dreaming! That lump of a girl with spectacles and thick ankles! Poor Mrs. Hicks used to say to Nick: 'When Mr. Hicks and I had Coral educated we presumed culture was in greater demand in Europe than it appears to be.'"

"Well, you'll see: that girl's education won't interfere with her, once she's started. So then: if Nick came in and told you he was going off--"

"I should be so thankful if it was with a fright like Coral! But you know," she added with a smile, "we've agreed that it's not to happen for a year."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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