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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter XI

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"I can't see anything very thrilling in surprising the Hickses," Gillow protested, defrauded of possible excitements; and Strefford added: "It would surprise me more than them if I went."

But Susy insisted feverishly: "You don't know. It may be awfully exciting! I have an idea that Coral's announcing her engagement--her engagement to Nick! Come, give me a hand, Streff--and you the other, Fred-" she began to hum the first bars of Donna Anna's entrance in Don Giovanni. "Pity I haven't got a black cloak and a mask ...."

"Oh, your face will do," said Strefford, laying his hand on her arm.

She drew back, flushing crimson. Breckenridge and the Prince had sprung on ahead, and Gillow, lumbering after them, was already halfway up the stairs.

"My face? My face? What's the matter with my face? Do you know any reason why I shouldn't go to the Hickses to-night?" Susy broke out in sudden wrath.

"None whatever; except that if you do it will bore me to death," Strefford returned, with serenity.

"Oh, in that case--!"

"No; come on. I hear those fools banging on the door already." He caught her by the hand, and they started up the stairway. But on the first landing she paused, twisted her hand out of his, and without a word, without a conscious thought, dashed down the long flight, across the great resounding vestibule and out into the darkness of the calle.

Strefford caught up with her, and they stood a moment silent in the night.

"Susy--what the devil's the matter?"

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"The matter? Can't you see? That I'm tired, that I've got a splitting headache--that you bore me to death, one and all of you!" She turned and laid a deprecating hand on his arm. "Streffy, old dear, don't mind me: but for God's sake find a gondola and send me home."



It was never any concern of Streff's if people wanted to do things he did not understand, and she knew that she could count on his obedience. They walked on in silence to the next canal, and he picked up a passing gondola and put her in it.

"Now go and amuse yourself," she called after him, as the boat shot under the nearest bridge. Anything, anything, to be alone, away from the folly and futility that would be all she had left if Nick were to drop out of her life ....

"But perhaps he has dropped already--dropped for good," she thought as she set her foot on the Vanderlyn threshold.

The short summer night was already growing transparent: a new born breeze stirred the soiled surface of the water and sent it lapping freshly against the old palace doorways. Nearly two o'clock! Nick had no doubt come back long ago. Susy hurried up the stairs, reassured by the mere thought of his nearness. She knew that when their eyes and their lips met it would be impossible for anything to keep them apart.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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