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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter XI

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"What's the matter with me? Too much rouge?" she asked, passing her arm in his as they left the table.

"No: too little. Look at yourself," he answered in a low tone.

"Oh, in these cadaverous old looking-glasses-everybody looks fished up from the canal!"

She jerked away from him to spin down the long floor of the sala, hands on hips, whistling a rag-time tune. The Prince and young Breckenridge caught her up, and she spun back with the latter, while Gillow-it was believed to be his sole accomplishment-snapped his fingers in simulation of bones, and shuffled after the couple on stamping feet.

Susy sank down on a sofa near the window, fanning herself with a floating scarf, and the men foraged for cigarettes, and rang for the gondoliers, who came in with trays of cooling drinks.

"Well, what next--this ain't all, is it?" Gillow presently queried, from the divan where he lolled half-asleep with dripping brow. Fred Gillow, like Nature, abhorred a void, and it was inconceivable to him that every hour of man's rational existence should not furnish a motive for getting up and going somewhere else. Young Breckenridge, who took the same view, and the Prince, who earnestly desired to, reminded the company that somebody they knew was giving a dance that night at the Lido.

Strefford vetoed the Lido, on the ground that he'd just come back from there, and proposed that they should go out on foot for a change.

"Why not? What fun!" Susy was up in an instant. "Let's pay somebody a surprise visit--I don't know who! Streffy, Prince, can't you think of somebody who'd be particularly annoyed by our arrival?"

"Oh, the list's too long. Let's start, and choose our victim on the way," Strefford suggested.

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Susy ran to her room for a light cloak, and without changing her high-heeled satin slippers went out with the four men. There was no moon--thank heaven there was no moon!--but the stars hung over them as close as fruit, and secret fragrances dropped on them from garden-walls. Susy's heart tightened with memories of Como.

They wandered on, laughing and dawdling, and yielding to the drifting whims of aimless people. Presently someone proposed taking a nearer look at the facade of San Giorgio Maggiore, and they hailed a gondola and were rowed out through the bobbing lanterns and twanging guitar-strings. When they landed again, Gillow, always acutely bored by scenery, and particularly resentful of midnight aesthetics, suggested a night club near at hand, which was said to be jolly. The Prince warmly supported this proposal; but on Susy's curt refusal they started their rambling again, circuitously threading the vague dark lanes and making for the Piazza and Florian's ices. Suddenly, at a calle-corner, unfamiliar and yet somehow known to her, Susy paused to stare about her with a laugh.

"But the Hickses--surely that's their palace? And the windows all lit up! They must be giving a party! Oh, do let's go up and surprise them!" The idea struck her as one of the drollest that she had ever originated, and she wondered that her companions should respond so languidly.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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