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0100_005E Part I Edith Wharton

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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"Look, dearest--wasn't it too darling of Ellie?"

She pressed the button of the lamp that lit her dressing-table, and her husband's face started unfamiliarly out of the twilight. She slipped off the bracelet and held it up to him.

"Oh, I can go you one better," he said with a laugh; and pulling a morocco case from his pocket he flung it down among the scent-bottles. Susy opened the case automatically, staring at the pearl because she was afraid to look again at Nick.

"Ellie--gave you this?" she asked at length.

"Yes. She gave me this." There was a pause. "Would you mind telling me," Lansing continued in the same dead-level tone, "exactly for what services we've both been so handsomely paid?"

"The pearl is beautiful," Susy murmured, to gain time, while her head spun round with unimaginable terrors.

"So are your sapphires; though, on closer examination, my services would appear to have been valued rather higher than yours. Would you be kind enough to tell me just what they were?"

Susy threw her head back and looked at him. "What on earth are you talking about, Nick! Why shouldn't Ellie have given us these things? Do you forget that it's like our giving her a pen-wiper or a button-hook? What is it you are trying to suggest?"

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It had cost her a considerable effort to hold his eyes while she put the questions. Something had happened between him and Ellie, that was evident-one of those hideous unforeseeable blunders that may cause one's cleverest plans to crumble at a stroke; and again Susy shuddered at the frailty of her bliss. But her old training stood her in good stead. There had been more than one moment in her past when everything-somebody else's everything-had depended on her keeping a cool head and a clear glance. It would have been a wonder if now, when she felt her own everything at stake, she had not been able to put up as good a defence.

"What is it?" she repeated impatiently, as Lansing continued to remain silent.

"That's what I'm here to ask," he returned, keeping his eyes as steady as she kept hers. "There's no reason on earth, as you say, why Ellie shouldn't give us presents--as expensive presents as she likes; and the pearl is a beauty. All I ask is: for what specific services were they given? For, allowing for all the absence of scruple that marks the intercourse of truly civilized people, you'll probably agree that there are limits; at least up to now there have been limits ...."

"I really don't know what you mean. I suppose Ellie wanted to show that she was grateful to us for looking after Clarissa."

"But she gave us all this in exchange for that, didn't she?" he suggested, with a sweep of the hand around the beautiful shadowy room. "A whole summer of it if we choose."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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