Part 1 out of 5
Proofed by: Dean Gilley
THE GLIMPSES OF THE MOON by EDITH WHARTON
IT rose for them--their honey-moon--over the waters of a lake so
famed as the scene of romantic raptures that they were rather
proud of not having been afraid to choose it as the setting of
"It required a total lack of humour, or as great a gift for it
as ours, to risk the experiment," Susy Lansing opined, as they
hung over the inevitable marble balustrade and watched their
tutelary orb roll its magic carpet across the waters to their
"Yes--or the loan of Strefford's villa," her husband emended,
glancing upward through the branches at a long low patch of
paleness to which the moonlight was beginning to give the form
of a white house-front.
"Oh, come when we'd five to choose from. At least if you count
the Chicago flat."
"So we had--you wonder!" He laid his hand on hers, and his
touch renewed the sense of marvelling exultation which the
deliberate survey of their adventure always roused in her ....
It was characteristic that she merely added, in her steady
laughing tone: "Or, not counting the flat--for I hate to brag-
just consider the others: Violet Melrose's place at Versailles,
your aunt's villa at Monte Carlo--and a moor!"
She was conscious of throwing in the moor tentatively, and yet
with a somewhat exaggerated emphasis, as if to make sure that he
shouldn't accuse her of slurring it over. But he seemed to have
no desire to do so. "Poor old Fred!" he merely remarked; and
she breathed out carelessly: "Oh, well--"
His hand still lay on hers, and for a long interval, while they
stood silent in the enveloping loveliness of the night, she was
aware only of the warm current running from palm to palm, as the
moonlight below them drew its line of magic from shore to shore.
Nick Lansing spoke at last. "Versailles in May would have been
impossible: all our Paris crowd would have run us down within
twenty-four hours. And Monte Carlo is ruled out because it's
exactly the kind of place everybody expected us to go. So--
with all respect to you--it wasn't much of a mental strain to
decide on Como."
His wife instantly challenged this belittling of her capacity.
"It took a good deal of argument to convince you that we could
face the ridicule of Como!"
"Well, I should have preferred something in a lower key; at
least I thought I should till we got here. Now I see that this
place is idiotic unless one is perfectly happy; and that then
it's-as good as any other."
She sighed out a blissful assent. "And I must say that Streffy
has done things to a turn. Even the cigars--who do you suppose
gave him those cigars?" She added thoughtfully: "You'll miss
them when we have to go."
"Oh, I say, don't let's talk to-night about going. Aren't we
outside of time and space ...? Smell that guinea-a-bottle stuff
over there: what is it? Stephanotis?"
"Y-yes .... I suppose so. Or gardenias .... Oh, the fire-
flies! Look ... there, against that splash of moonlight on the
water. Apples of silver in a net-work of gold ...." They
leaned together, one flesh from shoulder to finger-tips, their
eyes held by the snared glitter of the ripples.
"I could bear," Lansing remarked, "even a nightingale at this
A faint gurgle shook the magnolias behind them, and a long
liquid whisper answered it from the thicket of laurel above
"It's a little late in the year for them: they're ending just
as we begin."
Susy laughed. "I hope when our turn comes we shall say good-bye
to each other as sweetly."
It was in her husband's mind to answer: "They're not saying
good-bye, but only settling down to family cares." But as this
did not happen to be in his plan, or in Susy's, he merely echoed
her laugh and pressed her closer.
The spring night drew them into its deepening embrace. The
ripples of the lake had gradually widened and faded into a
silken smoothness, and high above the mountains the moon was
turning from gold to white in a sky powdered with vanishing
stars. Across the lake the lights of a little town went out,
one after another, and the distant shore became a floating
blackness. A breeze that rose and sank brushed their faces with
the scents of the garden; once it blew out over the water a
great white moth like a drifting magnolia petal. The
nightingales had paused and the trickle of the fountain behind
the house grew suddenly insistent.
When Susy spoke it was in a voice languid with visions. "I have
been thinking," she said, "that we ought to be able to make it
last at least a year longer."
Her husband received the remark without any sign of surprise or
disapprobation; his answer showed that he not only understood
her, but had been inwardly following the same train of thought.
"You mean," he enquired after a pause, "without counting your
"Yes--without the pearls."
He pondered a while, and then rejoined in a tender whisper:
"Tell me again just how."
"Let's sit down, then. No, I like the cushions best." He
stretched himself in a long willow chair, and she curled up on
a heap of boat-cushions and leaned her head against his knee.
Just above her, when she lifted her lids, she saw bits of
moonflooded sky incrusted like silver in a sharp black
patterning of plane-boughs. All about them breathed of peace
and beauty and stability, and her happiness was so acute that it
was almost a relief to remember the stormy background of bills
and borrowing against which its frail structure had been reared.
"People with a balance can't be as happy as all this," Susy
mused, letting the moonlight filter through her lazy lashes.
People with a balance had always been Susy Branch's bugbear;
they were still, and more dangerously, to be Susy Lansing's.
She detested them, detested them doubly, as the natural enemies
of mankind and as the people one always had to put one's self
out for. The greater part of her life having been passed among
them, she knew nearly all that there was to know about them, and
judged them with the contemptuous lucidity of nearly twenty
years of dependence. But at the present moment her animosity
was diminished not only by the softening effect of love but by
the fact that she had got out of those very people more--yes,
ever so much more--than she and Nick, in their hours of most
reckless planning, had ever dared to hope for.
"After all, we owe them this!" she mused.
Her husband, lost in the drowsy beatitude of the hour, had not
repeated his question; but she was still on the trail of the
thought he had started. A year--yes, she was sure now that
with a little management they could have a whole year of it!
"It" was their marriage, their being together, and away from
bores and bothers, in a comradeship of which both of them had
long ago guessed the immediate pleasure, but she at least had
never imagined the deeper harmony.
It was at one of their earliest meetings--at one of the
heterogeneous dinners that the Fred Gillows tried to think
"literary"--that the young man who chanced to sit next to her,
and of whom it was vaguely rumoured that he had "written," had
presented himself to her imagination as the sort of luxury to
which Susy Branch, heiress, might conceivably have treated
herself as a crowning folly. Susy Branch, pauper, was fond of
picturing how this fancied double would employ her millions: it
was one of her chief grievances against her rich friends that
they disposed of theirs so unimaginatively.
"I'd rather have a husband like that than a steam-yacht!" she
had thought at the end of her talk with the young man who had
written, and as to whom it had at once been clear to her that
nothing his pen had produced, or might hereafter set down, would
put him in a position to offer his wife anything more costly
than a row-boat.
"His wife! As if he could ever have one! For he's not the kind
to marry for a yacht either." In spite of her past, Susy had
preserved enough inner independence to detect the latent signs
of it in others, and also to ascribe it impulsively to those of
the opposite sex who happened to interest her. She had a
natural contempt for people who gloried in what they need only
have endured. She herself meant eventually to marry, because
one couldn't forever hang on to rich people; but she was going
to wait till she found some one who combined the maximum of
wealth with at least a minimum of companionableness.
She had at once perceived young Lansing's case to be exactly the
opposite: he was as poor as he could be, and as companionable
as it was possible to imagine. She therefore decided to see as
much of him as her hurried and entangled life permitted; and
this, thanks to a series of adroit adjustments, turned out to be
a good deal. They met frequently all the rest of that winter;
so frequently that Mrs. Fred Gillow one day abruptly and sharply
gave Susy to understand that she was "making herself
"Ah--" said Susy with a long breath, looking her friend and
patroness straight in the painted eyes.
"Yes," cried Ursula Gillow in a sob, "before you interfered Nick
liked me awfully ... and, of course, I don't want to reproach
you ... but when I think ...."
Susy made no answer. How could she, when she thought? The
dress she had on had been given her by Ursula; Ursula's motor
had carried her to the feast from which they were both
returning. She counted on spending the following August with
the Gillows at Newport ... and the only alternative was to go to
California with the Bockheimers, whom she had hitherto refused
even to dine with.
"Of course, what you fancy is perfect nonsense, Ursula; and as
to my interfering--" Susy hesitated, and then murmured: "But if
it will make you any happier I'll arrange to see him less
often ...." She sounded the lowest depths of subservience in
returning Ursula's tearful kiss ....
Susy Branch had a masculine respect for her word; and the next
day she put on her most becoming hat and sought out young Mr.
Lansing in his lodgings. She was determined to keep her promise
to Ursula; but she meant to look her best when she did it.
She knew at what time the young man was likely to be found, for
he was doing a dreary job on a popular encyclopaedia (V to X),
and had told her what hours were dedicated to the hateful task.
"Oh, if only it were a novel!" she thought as she mounted his
dingy stairs; but immediately reflected that, if it were the
kind that she could bear to read, it probably wouldn't bring him
in much more than his encyclopaedia. Miss Branch had her
standards in literature ....
The apartment to which Mr. Lansing admitted her was a good deal
cleaner, but hardly less dingy, than his staircase. Susy,
knowing him to be addicted to Oriental archaeology, had pictured
him in a bare room adorned by a single Chinese bronze of
flawless shape, or by some precious fragment of Asiatic pottery.
But such redeeming features were conspicuously absent, and no
attempt had been made to disguise the decent indigence of the
Lansing welcomed his visitor with every sign of pleasure, and
with apparent indifference as to what she thought of his
furniture. He seemed to be conscious only of his luck in seeing
her on a day when they had not expected to meet. This made Susy
all the sorrier to execute her promise, and the gladder that she
had put on her prettiest hat; and for a moment or two she looked
at him in silence from under its conniving brim.
Warm as their mutual liking was, Lansing had never said a word
of love to her; but this was no deterrent to his visitor, whose
habit it was to speak her meaning clearly when there were no
reasons, worldly or pecuniary, for its concealment. After a
moment, therefore, she told him why she had come; it was a
nuisance, of course, but he would understand. Ursula Gillow was
jealous, and they would have to give up seeing each other.
The young man's burst of laughter was music to her; for, after
all, she had been rather afraid that being devoted to Ursula
might be as much in his day's work as doing the encyclopaedia.
"But I give you my word it's a raving-mad mistake! And I don't
believe she ever meant me, to begin with--" he protested; but
Susy, her common-sense returning with her reassurance, promptly
cut short his denial.
"You can trust Ursula to make herself clear on such occasions.
And it doesn't make any difference what you think. All that
matters is what she believes."
"Oh, come! I've got a word to say about that too, haven't I?"
Susy looked slowly and consideringly about the room. There was
nothing in it, absolutely nothing, to show that he had ever
possessed a spare dollar--or accepted a present.
"Not as far as I'm concerned," she finally pronounced.
"How do you mean? If I'm as free as air--?"
He grew thoughtful. "Oh, then, of course--. It only seems a
little odd," he added drily, "that in that case, the protest
should have come from Mrs. Gillow."
"Instead of coming from my millionaire bridegroom, Oh, I haven't
any; in that respect I'm as free as you."
"Well, then--? Haven't we only got to stay free?"
Susy drew her brows together anxiously. It was going to be
rather more difficult than she had supposed.
"I said I was as free in that respect. I'm not going to
marry--and I don't suppose you are?"
"God, no!" he ejaculated fervently.
"But that doesn't always imply complete freedom ...."
He stood just above her, leaning his elbow against the hideous
black marble arch that framed his fireless grate. As she
glanced up she saw his face harden, and the colour flew to hers.
"Was that what you came to tell me?" he asked.
"Oh, you don't understand--and I don't see why you don't, since
we've knocked about so long among exactly the same kind of
people." She stood up impulsively and laid her hand on his arm.
"I do wish you'd help me--!"
He remained motionless, letting the hand lie untouched.
"Help you to tell me that poor Ursula was a pretext, but that
there IS someone who--for one reason or another--really has a
right to object to your seeing me too often?"
Susy laughed impatiently. "You talk like the hero of a novel--
the kind my governess used to read. In the first place I should
never recognize that kind of right, as you call it--never!"
"Then what kind do you?" he asked with a clearing brow.
"Why--the kind I suppose you recognize on the part of your
publisher." This evoked a hollow laugh from him. "A business
claim, call it," she pursued. "Ursula does a lot for me: I
live on her for half the year. This dress I've got on now is
one she gave me. Her motor is going to take me to a dinner
to-night. I'm going to spend next summer with her at
Newport .... If I don't, I've got to go to California with the
Suddenly in tears, she was out of the door and down his steep
three flights before he could stop her--though, in thinking it
over, she didn't even remember if he had tried to. She only
recalled having stood a long time on the corner of Fifth Avenue,
in the harsh winter radiance, waiting till a break in the
torrent of motors laden with fashionable women should let her
cross, and saying to herself: "After all, I might have promised
Ursula ... and kept on seeing him ...."
Instead of which, when Lansing wrote the next day entreating a
word with her, she had sent back a friendly but firm refusal;
and had managed soon afterward to get taken to Canada for a
fortnight's ski-ing, and then to Florida for six weeks in a
As she reached this point in her retrospect the remembrance of
Florida called up a vision of moonlit waters, magnolia fragrance
and balmy airs; merging with the circumambient sweetness, it
laid a drowsy spell upon her lids. Yes, there had been a bad
moment: but it was over; and she was here, safe and blissful,
and with Nick; and this was his knee her head rested on, and
they had a year ahead of them ... a whole year .... "Not
counting the pearls," she murmured, shutting her eyes ....
LANSING threw the end of Strefford's expensive cigar into the
lake, and bent over his wife. Poor child! She had fallen
asleep .... He leaned back and stared up again at the
silver-flooded sky. How queer--how inexpressibly queer--it was
to think that that light was shed by his honey-moon! A year
ago, if anyone had predicted his risking such an adventure, he
would have replied by asking to be locked up at the first
There was still no doubt in his mind that the adventure was a
mad one. It was all very well for Susy to remind him twenty
times a day that they had pulled it off--and so why should he
worry? Even in the light of her far-seeing cleverness, and of
his own present bliss, he knew the future would not bear the
examination of sober thought. And as he sat there in the summer
moonlight, with her head on his knee, he tried to recapitulate
the successive steps that had landed them on Streffy's
On Lansing's side, no doubt, it dated back to his leaving
Harvard with the large resolve not to miss anything. There
stood the evergreen Tree of Life, the Four Rivers flowing from
its foot; and on every one of the four currents he meant to
launch his little skiff. On two of them he had not gone very
far, on the third he had nearly stuck in the mud; but the fourth
had carried him to the very heart of wonder. It was the stream
of his lively imagination, of his inexhaustible interest in
every form of beauty and strangeness and folly. On this stream,
sitting in the stout little craft of his poverty, his
insignificance and his independence, he had made some notable
voyages .... And so, when Susy Branch, whom he had sought out
through a New York season as the prettiest and most amusing girl
in sight, had surprised him with the contradictory revelation of
her modern sense of expediency and her old-fashioned standard of
good faith, he had felt an irresistible desire to put off on one
more cruise into the unknown.
It was of the essence of the adventure that, after her one brief
visit to his lodgings, he should have kept his promise and not
tried to see her again. Even if her straightforwardness had not
roused his emulation, his understanding of her difficulties
would have moved his pity. He knew on how frail a thread the
popularity of the penniless hangs, and how miserably a girl like
Susy was the sport of other people's moods and whims. It was a
part of his difficulty and of hers that to get what they liked
they so often had to do what they disliked. But the keeping of
his promise was a greater bore than he had expected. Susy
Branch had become a delightful habit in a life where most of the
fixed things were dull, and her disappearance had made it
suddenly clear to him that his resources were growing more and
more limited. Much that had once amused him hugely now amused
him less, or not at all: a good part of his world of wonder had
shrunk to a village peep-show. And the things which had kept
their stimulating power--distant journeys, the enjoyment of art,
the contact with new scenes and strange societies--were becoming
less and less attainable. Lansing had never had more than a
pittance; he had spent rather too much of it in his first plunge
into life, and the best he could look forward to was a middle-
age of poorly-paid hack-work, mitigated by brief and frugal
holidays. He knew that he was more intelligent than the
average, but he had long since concluded that his talents were
not marketable. Of the thin volume of sonnets which a friendly
publisher had launched for him, just seventy copies had been
sold; and though his essay on "Chinese Influences in Greek Art"
had created a passing stir, it had resulted in controversial
correspondence and dinner invitations rather than in more
substantial benefits. There seemed, in short, no prospect of
his ever earning money, and his restricted future made him
attach an increasing value to the kind of friendship that Susy
Branch had given him. Apart from the pleasure of looking at her
and listening to her--of enjoying in her what others less
discriminatingly but as liberally appreciated--he had the sense,
between himself and her, of a kind of free-masonry of precocious
tolerance and irony. They had both, in early youth, taken the
measure of the world they happened to live in: they knew just
what it was worth to them and for what reasons, and the
community of these reasons lent to their intimacy its last
exquisite touch. And now, because of some jealous whim of a
dissatisfied fool of a woman, as to whom he felt himself no more
to blame than any young man who has paid for good dinners by
good manners, he was to be deprived of the one complete
companionship he had ever known ....
His thoughts travelled on. He recalled the long dull spring in
New York after his break with Susy, the weary grind on his last
articles, his listless speculations as to the cheapest and least
boring way of disposing of the summer; and then the amazing luck
of going, reluctantly and at the last minute, to spend a Sunday
with the poor Nat Fulmers, in the wilds of New Hampshire, and of
finding Susy there--Susy, whom he had never even suspected of
knowing anybody in the Fulmers' set!
She had behaved perfectly--and so had he--but they were
obviously much too glad to see each other. And then it was
unsettling to be with her in such a house as the Fulmers', away
from the large setting of luxury they were both used to, in the
cramped cottage where their host had his studio in the verandah,
their hostess practiced her violin in the dining-room, and five
ubiquitous children sprawled and shouted and blew trumpets and
put tadpoles in the water-jugs, and the mid-day dinner was two
hours late-and proportionately bad--because the Italian cook
was posing for Fulmer.
Lansing's first thought had been that meeting Susy in such
circumstances would be the quickest way to cure them both of
their regrets. The case of the Fulmers was an awful object-
lesson in what happened to young people who lost their heads;
poor Nat, whose pictures nobody bought, had gone to seed so
terribly-and Grace, at twenty-nine, would never again be
anything but the woman of whom people say, "I can remember her
when she was lovely."
But the devil of it was that Nat had never been such good
company, or Grace so free from care and so full of music; and
that, in spite of their disorder and dishevelment, and the bad
food and general crazy discomfort, there was more amusement to
be got out of their society than out of the most opulently
staged house-party through which Susy and Lansing had ever
yawned their way.
It was almost a relief to tile young man when, on the second
afternoon, Miss Branch drew him into the narrow hall to say: "I
really can't stand the combination of Grace's violin and little
Nat's motor-horn any longer. Do let us slip out till the duet
"How do they stand it, I wonder?" he basely echoed, as he
followed her up the wooded path behind the house.
"It might be worth finding out," she rejoined with a musing
But he remained resolutely skeptical. "Oh, give them a year or
two more and they'll collapse--! His pictures will never sell,
you know. He'll never even get them into a show."
"I suppose not. And she'll never have time to do anything worth
while with her music."
They had reached a piny knoll high above the ledge on which the
house was perched. All about them stretched an empty landscape
of endless featureless wooded hills. "Think of sticking here
all the year round!" Lansing groaned.
"I know. But then think of wandering over the world with some
"Oh, Lord, yes. For instance, my trip to India with the
Mortimer Hickses. But it was my only chance and what the deuce
is one to do?"
"I wish I knew!" she sighed, thinking of the Bockheimers; and
he turned and looked at her.
"The answer to your question. What is one to do--when one sees
both sides of the problem? Or every possible side of it,
They had seated themselves on a commanding rock under the pines,
but Lansing could not see the view at their feet for the stir of
the brown lashes on her cheek.
"You mean: Nat and Grace may after all be having the best of
"How can I say, when I've told you I see all the sides? Of
course," Susy added hastily, " I couldn't live as they do for a
week. But it's wonderful how little it's dimmed them."
"Certainly Nat was never more coruscating. And she keeps it up
even better." He reflected. "We do them good, I daresay."
"Yes--or they us. I wonder which?"
After that, he seemed to remember that they sat a long time
silent, and that his next utterance was a boyish outburst
against the tyranny of the existing order of things, abruptly
followed by the passionate query why, since he and she couldn't
alter it, and since they both had the habit of looking at facts
as they were, they wouldn't be utter fools not to take their
chance of being happy in the only way that was open to them, To
this challenge he did not recall Susy's making any definite
answer; but after another interval, in which all the world
seemed framed in a sudden kiss, he heard her murmur to herself
in a brooding tone: "I don't suppose it's ever been tried
before; but we might--." And then and there she had laid before
him the very experiment they had since hazarded.
She would have none of surreptitious bliss, she began by
declaring; and she set forth her reasons with her usual lucid
impartiality. In the first place, she should have to marry some
day, and when she made the bargain she meant it to be an honest
one; and secondly, in the matter of love, she would never give
herself to anyone she did not really care for, and if such
happiness ever came to her she did not want it shorn of half its
brightness by the need of fibbing and plotting and dodging.
"I've seen too much of that kind of thing. Half the women I
know who've had lovers have had them for the fun of sneaking and
lying about it; but the other half have been miserable. And I
should be miserable."
It was at this point that she unfolded her plan. Why shouldn't
they marry; belong to each other openly and honourably, if for
ever so short a time, and with the definite understanding that
whenever either of them got the chance to do better he or she
should be immediately released? The law of their country
facilitated such exchanges, and society was beginning to view
them as indulgently as the law. As Susy talked, she warmed to
her theme and began to develop its endless possibilities.
"We should really, in a way, help more than we should hamper
each other," she ardently explained. "We both know the ropes so
well; what one of us didn't see the other might--in the way of
opportunities, I mean. And then we should be a novelty as
married people. We're both rather unusually popular--why not be
frank!--and it's such a blessing for dinner-givers to be able to
count on a couple of whom neither one is a blank. Yes, I really
believe we should be more than twice the success we are now; at
least," she added with a smile, "if there's that amount of room
for improvement. I don't know how you feel; a man's popularity
is so much less precarious than a girl's--but I know it would
furbish me up tremendously to reappear as a married woman." She
glanced away from him down the long valley at their feet, and
added in a lower tone: "And I should like, just for a little
while, to feel I had something in life of my very own--something
that nobody had lent me, like a fancy-dress or a motor or an
The suggestion, at first, had seemed to Lansing as mad as it was
enchanting: it had thoroughly frightened him. But Susy's
arguments were irrefutable, her ingenuities inexhaustible. Had
he ever thought it all out? She asked. No. Well, she had; and
would he kindly not interrupt? In the first place, there would
be all the wedding-presents. Jewels, and a motor, and a silver
dinner service, did she mean? Not a bit of it! She could see
he'd never given the question proper thought. Cheques, my dear,
nothing but cheques--she undertook to manage that on her side:
she really thought she could count on about fifty, and she
supposed he could rake up a few more? Well, all that would
simply represent pocket-money! For they would have plenty of
houses to live in: he'd see. People were always glad to lend
their house to a newly-married couple. It was such fun to pop
down and see them: it made one feel romantic and jolly. All
they need do was to accept the houses in turn: go on honey-
mooning for a year! What was he afraid of? Didn't he think
they'd be happy enough to want to keep it up? And why not at
least try--get engaged, and then see what would happen? Even if
she was all wrong, and her plan failed, wouldn't it have been
rather nice, just for a month or two, to fancy they were going
to be happy? "I've often fancied it all by myself," she
concluded; "but fancying it with you would somehow be so awfully
That was how it began: and this lakeside dream was what it had
led up to. Fantastically improbable as they had seemed, all her
previsions had come true. If there were certain links in the
chain that Lansing had never been able to put his hand on,
certain arrangements and contrivances that still needed further
elucidation, why, he was lazily resolved to clear them up with
her some day; and meanwhile it was worth all the past might have
cost, and every penalty the future might exact of him, just to
be sitting here in the silence and sweetness, her sleeping head
on his knee, clasped in his joy as the hushed world was clasped
He stooped down and kissed her. "Wake up," he whispered, "it's
THEIR month of Como was within a few hours of ending. Till the
last moment they had hoped for a reprieve; but the accommodating
Streffy had been unable to put the villa at their disposal for a
longer time, since he had had the luck to let it for a thumping
price to some beastly bouncers who insisted on taking possession
at the date agreed on.
Lansing, leaving Susy's side at dawn, had gone down to the lake
for a last plunge; and swimming homeward through the crystal
light he looked up at the garden brimming with flowers, the long
low house with the cypress wood above it, and the window behind
which his wife still slept. The month had been exquisite, and
their happiness as rare, as fantastically complete, as the scene
before him. He sank his chin into the sunlit ripples and sighed
for sheer content ....
It was a bore to be leaving the scene of such complete
well-being, but the next stage in their progress promised to be
hardly less delightful. Susy was a magician: everything she
predicted came true. Houses were being showered on them; on all
sides he seemed to see beneficent spirits winging toward them,
laden with everything from a piano nobile in Venice to a camp in
the Adirondacks. For the present, they had decided on the
former. Other considerations apart, they dared not risk the
expense of a journey across the Atlantic; so they were heading
instead for the Nelson Vanderlyns' palace on the Giudecca. They
were agreed that, for reasons of expediency, it might be wise to
return to New York for the coming winter. It would keep them in
view, and probably lead to fresh opportunities; indeed, Susy
already had in mind the convenient flat that she was sure a
migratory cousin (if tactfully handled, and assured that they
would not overwork her cook) could certainly be induced to lend
them. Meanwhile the need of making plans was still remote; and
if there was one art in which young Lansing's twenty-eight years
of existence had perfected him it was that of living completely
and unconcernedly in the present ....
If of late he had tried to look into the future more insistently
than was his habit, it was only because of Susy. He had meant,
when they married, to be as philosophic for her as for himself;
and he knew she would have resented above everything his
regarding their partnership as a reason for anxious thought.
But since they had been together she had given him glimpses of
her past that made him angrily long to shelter and defend her
future. It was intolerable that a spirit as fine as hers should
be ever so little dulled or diminished by the kind of
compromises out of which their wretched lives were made. For
himself, he didn't care a hang: he had composed for his own
guidance a rough-and-ready code, a short set of "mays" and
"mustn'ts" which immensely simplified his course. There were
things a fellow put up with for the sake of certain definite and
otherwise unattainable advantages; there were other things he
wouldn't traffic with at any price. But for a woman, he began
to see, it might be different. The temptations might be
greater, the cost considerably higher, the dividing line between
the "mays" and "mustn'ts" more fluctuating and less sharply
drawn. Susy, thrown on the world at seventeen, with only a weak
wastrel of a father to define that treacherous line for her, and
with every circumstance soliciting her to overstep it, seemed to
have been preserved chiefly by an innate scorn of most of the
objects of human folly. "Such trash as he went to pieces for,"
was her curt comment on her parent's premature demise: as
though she accepted in advance the necessity of ruining one's
self for something, but was resolved to discriminate firmly
between what was worth it and what wasn't.
This philosophy had at first enchanted Lansing; but now it began
to rouse vague fears. The fine armour of her fastidiousness had
preserved her from the kind of risks she had hitherto been
exposed to; but what if others, more subtle, found a joint in
it? Was there, among her delicate discriminations, any
equivalent to his own rules? Might not her taste for the best
and rarest be the very instrument of her undoing; and if
something that wasn't "trash" came her way, would she hesitate a
second to go to pieces for it?
He was determined to stick to the compact that they should do
nothing to interfere with what each referred to as the other's
"chance"; but what if, when hers came, he couldn't agree with
her in recognizing it? He wanted for her, oh, so passionately,
the best; but his conception of that best had so insensibly, so
subtly been transformed in the light of their first month
His lazy strokes were carrying him slowly shoreward; but the
hour was so exquisite that a few yards from the landing he laid
hold of the mooring rope of Streffy's boat and floated there,
following his dream .... It was a bore to be leaving; no doubt
that was what made him turn things inside-out so uselessly.
Venice would be delicious, of course; but nothing would ever
again be as sweet as this. And then they had only a year of
security before them; and of that year a month was gone.
Reluctantly he swam ashore, walked up to the house, and pushed
open a window of the cool painted drawing-room. Signs of
departure were already visible. There were trunks in the hall,
tennis rackets on the stairs; on the landing, the cook Giulietta
had both arms around a slippery hold-all that refused to let
itself be strapped. It all gave him a chill sense of unreality,
as if the past month had been an act on the stage, and
its setting were being folded away and rolled into the wings to
make room for another play in which he and Susy had no part.
By the time he came down again, dressed and hungry, to the
terrace where coffee awaited him, he had recovered his usual
pleasant sense of security. Susy was there, fresh and gay, a
rose in her breast and the sun in her hair: her head was bowed
over Bradshaw, but she waved a fond hand across the breakfast
things, and presently looked up to say: "Yes, I believe we can
just manage it."
"To catch the train at Milan--if we start in the motor at ten
He stared. "The motor? What motor?"
"Why, the new people's--Streffy's tenants. He's never told me
their name, and the chauffeur says he can't pronounce it. The
chauffeur's is Ottaviano, anyhow; I've been making friends with
him. He arrived last night, and he says they're not due at Como
till this evening. He simply jumped at the idea of running us
over to Milan."
"Good Lord--" said Lansing, when she stopped.
She sprang up from the table with a laugh. "It will be a
scramble; but I'll manage it, if you'll go up at once and pitch
the last things into your trunk. "
"Yes; but look here--have you any idea what it's going to cost?"
She raised her eyebrows gaily. "Why, a good deal less than our
railway tickets. Ottaviano's got a sweetheart in Milan, and
hasn't seen her for six months. When I found that out I knew
he'd be going there anyhow."
It was clever of her, and he laughed. But why was it that he
had grown to shrink from even such harmless evidence of her
always knowing how to "manage"? "Oh, well," he said to himself,
"she's right: the fellow would be sure to be going to Milan."
Upstairs, on the way to his dressing room, he found her in a
cloud of finery which her skilful hands were forcibly
compressing into a last portmanteau. He had never seen anyone
pack as cleverly as Susy: the way she coaxed reluctant things
into a trunk was a symbol of the way she fitted discordant facts
into her life. "When I'm rich," she often said, "the thing I
shall hate most will be to see an idiot maid at my trunks."
As he passed, she glanced over her shoulder, her face pink with
the struggle, and drew a cigar-box from the depths. "Dearest,
do put a couple of cigars into your pocket as a tip for
Lansing stared. "Why, what on earth are you doing with
"Packing them, of course .... You don't suppose he meant them
for those other people?" She gave him a look of honest wonder.
"I don't know whom he meant them for--but they're not
She continued to look at him wonderingly. "I don't see
what there is to be solemn about. The cigars are not Streffy's
either ... you may be sure he got them out of some bounder. And
there's nothing he'd hate more than to have them passed on to
"Nonsense. If they're not Streffy's they're much less mine.
Hand them over, please, dear."
"Just as you like. But it does seem a waste; and, of course,
the other people will never have one of them .... The gardener
and Giulietta's lover will see to that!"
Lansing looked away from her at the waves of lace and muslin
from which she emerged like a rosy Nereid. "How many boxes of
them are left?"
"Unpack them, please."
Before she moved there was a pause so full of challenge that
Lansing had time for an exasperated sense of the disproportion
between his anger and its cause. And this made him still
She held out a box. "The others are in your suitcase
downstairs. It's locked and strapped."
"Give me the key, then."
"We might send them back from Venice, mightn't we? That lock is
so nasty: it will take you half an hour."
"Give me the key, please." She gave it.
He went downstairs and battled with the lock, for the allotted
half-hour, under the puzzled eyes of Giulietta and the sardonic
grin of the chauffeur, who now and then, from the threshold,
politely reminded him how long it would take to get to Milan.
Finally the key turned, and Lansing, broken-nailed and
perspiring, extracted the cigars and stalked with them into the
deserted drawing room. The great bunches of golden roses that
he and Susy had gathered the day before were dropping their
petals on the marble embroidery of the floor, pale camellias
floated in the alabaster tazzas between the windows, haunting
scents of the garden blew in on him with the breeze from the
lake. Never had Streffy's little house seemed so like a nest of
pleasures. Lansing laid the cigar boxes on a console and ran
upstairs to collect his last possessions. When he came down
again, his wife, her eyes brilliant with achievement, was seated
in their borrowed chariot, the luggage cleverly stowed away, and
Giulietta and the gardener kissing her hand and weeping out
"I wonder what she's given them?" he thought, as he jumped in
beside her and the motor whirled them through the nightingale-
thickets to the gate.
CHARLIE STREFFORD'S villa was like a nest in a rose-bush; the
Nelson Vanderlyns' palace called for loftier analogies.
Its vastness and splendour seemed, in comparison, oppressive to
Susy. Their landing, after dark, at the foot of the great
shadowy staircase, their dinner at a dimly-lit table under a
ceiling weighed down with Olympians, their chilly evening in a
corner of a drawing room where minuets should have been danced
before a throne, contrasted with the happy intimacies of Como as
their sudden sense of disaccord contrasted with the mutual
confidence of the day before.
The journey had been particularly jolly: both Susy and Lansing
had had too long a discipline in the art of smoothing things
over not to make a special effort to hide from each other the
ravages of their first disagreement. But, deep down and
invisible, the disagreement remained; and compunction for having
been its cause gnawed at Susy's bosom as she sat in her
tapestried and vaulted bedroom, brushing her hair before a
"I thought I liked grandeur; but this place is really out of
scale," she mused, watching the reflection of a pale hand move
back and forward in the dim recesses of the mirror. "And yet,"
she continued, "Ellie Vanderlyn's hardly half an inch taller
than I am; and she certainly isn't a bit more dignified .... I
wonder if it's because I feel so horribly small to-night that
the place seems so horribly big."
She loved luxury: splendid things always made her feel handsome
and high ceilings arrogant; she did not remember having ever
before been oppressed by the evidences of wealth.
She laid down the brush and leaned her chin on her clasped
hands .... Even now she could not understand what had made her
take the cigars. She had always been alive to the value of her
inherited scruples: her reasoned opinions were unusually free,
but with regard to the things one couldn't reason about she was
oddly tenacious. And yet she had taken Streffy's cigars! She
had taken them--yes, that was the point--she had taken them for
Nick, because the desire to please him, to make the smallest
details of his life easy and agreeable and luxurious, had become
her absorbing preoccupation. She had committed, for him,
precisely the kind of little baseness she would most have
scorned to commit for herself; and, since he hadn't instantly
felt the difference, she would never be able to explain it to
She stood up with a sigh, shook out her loosened hair, and
glanced around the great frescoed room. The maid-servant had
said something about the Signora's having left a letter for her;
and there it lay on the writing-table, with her mail and Nick's;
a thick envelope addressed in Ellie's childish scrawl, with a
glaring "Private" dashed across the corner.
"What on earth can she have to say, when she hates writing so,"
She broke open the envelope, and four or five stamped and sealed
letters fell from it. All were addressed, in Ellie's hand, to
Nelson Vanderlyn Esqre; and in the corner of each was faintly
pencilled a number and a date: one, two, three, four--with a
week's interval between the dates.
"Goodness--" gasped Susy, understanding.
She had dropped into an armchair near the table, and for a long
time she sat staring at the numbered letters. A sheet of paper
covered with Ellie's writing had fluttered out among them, but
she let it lie; she knew so well what it would say! She knew
all about her friend, of course; except poor old Nelson, who
didn't, But she had never imagined that Ellie would dare to use
her in this way. It was unbelievable ... she had never pictured
anything so vile .... The blood rushed to her face, and she
sprang up angrily, half minded to tear the letters in bits and
throw them all into the fire.
She heard her husband's knock on the door between their rooms,
and swept the dangerous packet under the blotting-book.
"Oh, go away, please, there's a dear," she called out; "I
haven't finished unpacking, and everything's in such a mess."
Gathering up Nick's papers and letters, she ran across the room
and thrust them through the door. "Here's something to keep you
quiet," she laughed, shining in on him an instant from the
She turned back feeling weak with shame. Ellie's letter lay on
the floor: reluctantly she stooped to pick it up, and one by
one the expected phrases sprang out at her.
"One good turn deserves another .... Of course you and Nick are
welcome to stay all summer .... There won't be a particle of
expense for you--the servants have orders .... If you'll just
be an angel and post these letters yourself .... It's been my
only chance for such an age; when we meet I'll explain
everything. And in a month at latest I'll be back to fetch
Susy lifted the letter to the lamp to be sure she had read
aright. To fetch Clarissa! Then Ellie's child was here? Here,
under the roof with them, left to their care? She read on,
raging. "She's so delighted, poor darling, to know you're
coming. I've had to sack her beastly governess for
impertinence, and if it weren't for you she'd be all alone with
a lot of servants I don't much trust. So for pity's sake be
good to my child, and forgive me for leaving her. She thinks
I've gone to take a cure; and she knows she's not to tell her
Daddy that I'm away, because it would only worry him if he
thought I was ill. She's perfectly to be trusted; you'll see
what a clever angel she is ...." And then, at the bottom of the
page, in a last slanting postscript: "Susy darling, if you've
ever owed me anything in the way of kindness, you won't, on your
sacred honour, say a word of this to any one, even to Nick. And
I know I can count on you to rub out the numbers."
Susy sprang up and tossed Mrs. Vanderlyn's letter into the fire:
then she came slowly back to the chair. There, at her elbow,
lay the four fatal envelopes; and her next affair was to make up
her mind what to do with them.
To destroy them on the spot had seemed, at first thought,
inevitable: it might be saving Ellie as well as herself. But
such a step seemed to Susy to involve departure on the morrow,
and this in turn involved notifying Ellie, whose letter she had
vainly scanned for an address. Well--perhaps Clarissa's nurse
would know where one could write to her mother; it was unlikely
that even Ellie would go off without assuring some means of
communication with her child. At any rate, there was nothing to
be done that night: nothing but to work out the details of
their flight on the morrow, and rack her brains to find a
substitute for the hospitality they were rejecting. Susy did
not disguise from herself how much she had counted on the
Vanderlyn apartment for the summer: to be able to do so had
singularly simplified the future. She knew Ellie's largeness of
hand, and had been sure in advance that as long as they were her
guests their only expense would be an occasional present to the
servants. And what would the alternative be? She and Lansing,
in their endless talks, had so lived themselves into the vision
of indolent summer days on the lagoon, of flaming hours on the
beach of the Lido, and evenings of music and dreams on their
broad balcony above the Giudecca, that the idea of having to
renounce these joys, and deprive her Nick of them, filled Susy
with a wrath intensified by his having confided in her that when
they were quietly settled in Venice he "meant to write."
Already nascent in her breast was the fierce resolve of the
author's wife to defend her husband's privacy and facilitate his
encounters with the Muse. It was abominable, simply abominable,
that Ellie Vanderlyn should have drawn her into such a trap!
Well--there was nothing for it but to make a clean breast of the
whole thing to Nick. The trivial incident of the cigars-how
trivial it now seemed!--showed her the kind of stand he would
take, and communicated to her something of his own
uncompromising energy. She would tell him the whole story in
the morning, and try to find a way out with him: Susy's faith
in her power of finding a way out was inexhaustible. But
suddenly she remembered the adjuration at the end of Mrs.
Vanderlyn's letter: "If you're ever owed me anything in the way
of kindness, you won't, on your sacred honour, say a word to
It was, of course, exactly what no one had the right to ask of
her: if indeed the word "right", could be used in any
conceivable relation to this coil of wrongs. But the fact
remained that, in the way of kindness, she did owe much to
Ellie; and that this was the first payment her friend had ever
exacted. She found herself, in fact, in exactly the same
position as when Ursula Gillow, using the same argument, had
appealed to her to give up Nick Lansing. Yes, Susy reflected;
but then Nelson Vanderlyn had been kind to her too; and the
money Ellie had been so kind with was Nelson's .... The queer
edifice of Susy's standards tottered on its base she honestly
didn't know where fairness lay, as between so much that was
The very depth of her perplexity puzzled her. She had been in
"tight places" before; had indeed been in so few that were not,
in one way or another, constricting! As she looked back on her
past it lay before her as a very network of perpetual
concessions and contrivings. But never before had she had such
a sense of being tripped up, gagged and pinioned. The little
misery of the cigars still galled her, and now this big
humiliation superposed itself on the raw wound. Decidedly, the
second month of their honey-moon was beginning cloudily ....
She glanced at the enamel led travelling-clock on her dressing
table--one of the few wedding-presents she had consented to
accept in kind--and was startled at the lateness of the hour.
In a moment Nick would be coming; and an uncomfortable sensation
in her throat warned her that through sheer nervousness and
exasperation she might blurt out something ill-advised. The old
habit of being always on her guard made her turn once more to
the looking-glass. Her face was pale and haggard; and having,
by a swift and skilful application of cosmetics, increased its
appearance of fatigue, she crossed the room and softly opened
her husband's door.
He too sat by a lamp, reading a letter which he put aside as she
entered. His face was grave, and she said to herself that he
was certainly still thinking about the cigars.
"I'm very tired, dearest, and my head aches so horribly that
I've come to bid you good-night." Bending over the back of his
chair, she laid her arms on his shoulders. He lifted his hands
to clasp hers, but, as he threw his head back to smile up at her
she noticed that his look was still serious, almost remote. It
was as if, for the first time, a faint veil hung between his
eyes and hers.
"I'm so sorry: it's been a long day for you," he said absently,
pressing his lips to her hands
She felt the dreaded twitch in her throat.
"Nick!" she burst out, tightening her embrace, "before I go,
you've got to swear to me on your honour that you know I should
never have taken those cigars for myself!"
For a moment he stared at her, and she stared back at him with
equal gravity; then the same irresistible mirth welled up in
both, and Susy's compunctions were swept away on a gale of
When she woke the next morning the sun was pouring in between
her curtains of old brocade, and its refraction from the ripples
of the Canal was drawing a network of golden scales across the
vaulted ceiling. The maid had just placed a tray on a slim
marquetry table near the bed, and over the edge of the tray Susy
discovered the small serious face of Clarissa Vanderlyn. At the
sight of the little girl all her dormant qualms awoke.
Clarissa was just eight, and small for her age: her little
round chin was barely on a level with the tea-service, and her
clear brown eyes gazed at Susy between the ribs of the toast-
rack and the single tea-rose in an old Murano glass. Susy had
not seen her for two years, and she seemed, in the interval, to
have passed from a thoughtful infancy to complete ripeness of
feminine experience. She was looking with approval at her
"I'm so glad you've come," she said in a small sweet voice. "I
like you so very much. I know I'm not to be often with you; but
at least you'll have an eye on me, won't you?"
"An eye on you! I shall never want to have it off you, if you
say such nice things to me!" Susy laughed, leaning from her
pillows to draw the little girl up to her side.
Clarissa smiled and settled herself down comfortably on the
silken bedspread. "Oh, I know I'm not to be always about,
because you're just married; but could you see to it that I have
my meals regularly?"
"Why, you poor darling! Don't you always?"
"Not when mother's away on these cures. The servants don't
always obey me: you see I'm so little for my age. In a few
years, of course, they'll have to--even if I don't grow much,"
she added judiciously. She put out her hand and touched the
string of pearls about Susy's throat. "They're small, but
they're very good. I suppose you don't take the others when you
"The others? Bless you! I haven't any others--and never shall
"No other pearls?"
"No other jewels at all."
Clarissa stared. "Is that really true?" she asked, as if in
the presence of the unprecedented.
"Awfully true," Susy confessed. "But I think I can make the
servants obey me all the same."
This point seemed to have lost its interest for Clarissa, who
was still gravely scrutinizing her companion. After a while she
brought forth another question.
"Did you have to give up all your jewels when you were
"Divorced--?" Susy threw her head back against the pillows and
laughed. "Why, what are you thinking of? Don't you remember
that I wasn't even married the last time you saw me?"
"Yes; I do. But that was two years ago." The little girl wound
her arms about Susy's neck and leaned against her caressingly.
"Are you going to be soon, then? I'll promise not to tell if you
don't want me to."
"Going to be divorced? Of course not! What in the world made
you think so? "
"Because you look so awfully happy," said Clarissa Vanderlyn
IT was a trifling enough sign, but it had remained in Susy's
mind: that first morning in Venice Nick had gone out without
first coming in to see her. She had stayed in bed late,
chatting with Clarissa, and expecting to see the door open and
her husband appear; and when the child left, and she had jumped
up and looked into Nick's room, she found it empty, and a line
on his dressing table informed her that he had gone out to send
It was lover-like, and even boyish, of him to think it necessary
to explain his absence; but why had he not simply come in and
told her! She instinctively connected the little fact with the
shade of preoccupation she had noticed on his face the night
before, when she had gone to his room and found him absorbed in
letter; and while she dressed she had continued to wonder what
was in the letter, and whether the telegram he had hurried out
to send was an answer to it.
She had never found out. When he reappeared, handsome and happy
as the morning, he proffered no explanation; and it was part of
her life-long policy not to put uncalled-for questions. It was
not only that her jealous regard for her own freedom was matched
by an equal respect for that of others; she had steered too long
among the social reefs and shoals not to know how narrow is the
passage that leads to peace of mind, and she was determined to
keep her little craft in mid-channel. But the incident had
lodged itself in her memory, acquiring a sort of symbolic
significance, as of a turning-point in her relations with her
husband. Not that these were less happy, but that she now
beheld them, as she had always formerly beheld such joys, as an
unstable islet in a sea of storms. Her present bliss was as
complete as ever, but it was ringed by the perpetual menace of
all she knew she was hiding from Nick, and of all she suspected
him of hiding from her ....
She was thinking of these things one afternoon about three weeks
after their arrival in Venice. It was near sunset, and she sat
alone on the balcony, watching the cross-lights on the water
weave their pattern above the flushed reflection of old
palace-basements. She was almost always alone at that hour.
Nick had taken to writing in the afternoons--he had been as good
as his word, and so, apparently, had the Muse and it was his
habit to join his wife only at sunset, for a late row on the
lagoon. She had taken Clarissa, as usual, to the Giardino
Pubblico, where that obliging child had politely but
indifferently "played"--Clarissa joined in the diversions of her
age as if conforming to an obsolete tradition--and had brought
her back for a music lesson, echoes of which now drifted down
from a distant window.
Susy had come to be extremely thankful for Clarissa. But for
the little girl, her pride in her husband's industry might have
been tinged with a faint sense of being at times left out and
forgotten; and as Nick's industry was the completest
justification for their being where they were, and for her
having done what she had, she was grateful to Clarissa for
helping her to feel less alone. Clarissa, indeed, represented
the other half of her justification: it was as much on the
child's account as on Nick's that Susy had held her tongue,
remained in Venice, and slipped out once a week to post one of
Ellie's numbered letters. A day's experience of the Palazzo
Vanderlyn had convinced Susy of the impossibility of deserting
Clarissa. Long experience had shown her that the most crowded
households often contain the loneliest nurseries, and that the
rich child is exposed to evils unknown to less pampered infancy;
but hitherto such things had merely been to her one of the
uglier bits in the big muddled pattern of life. Now she found
herself feeling where before she had only judged: her
precarious bliss came to her charged with a new weight of pity.
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
"Streffy!" she exclaimed as joyfully; and she was half-way down
the stairs when he ran up them followed by his luggage-laden
"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.
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.
As he shambled up the stairs with her, arm in arm, she was
thinking of this quality with a new appreciation of its value.
Even she and Lansing, in spite of their unmixed Americanism,
their substantial background of old-fashioned cousinships in New
York and Philadelphia, were as mentally detached, as universally
at home, as touts at an International Exhibition. If they were
usually recognized as Americans it was only because they spoke
French so well, and because Nick was too fair to be "foreign,"
and too sharp-featured to be English. But Charlie Strefford was
English with all the strength of an inveterate habit; and
something in Susy was slowly waking to a sense of the beauty of
Lounging on the balcony, whither he had followed her without
pausing to remove the stains of travel, Strefford showed himself
immensely interested in the last chapter of her history, greatly
pleased at its having been enacted under his roof, and hugely
and flippantly amused at the firmness with which she refused to
let him see Nick till the latter's daily task was over.
"Writing? Rot! What's he writing? He's breaking you in, my
dear; that's what he's doing: establishing an alibi. What'll
you bet he's just sitting there smoking and reading Le Rire?
Let's go and see."
But Susy was firm. "He's read me his first chapter: it's
wonderful. It's a philosophic romance--rather like Marius, you
"Oh, yes--I do!" said Strefford, with a laugh that she thought
She flushed up like a child. "You're stupid, Streffy. You
forget that Nick and I don't need alibis. We've got rid of all
that hyprocrisy by agreeing that each will give the other a hand
up when either of us wants a change. We've not married to spy
and lie, and nag each other; we've formed a partnership for our
"I see; that's capital. But how can you be sure that, when Nick
wants a change, you'll consider it for his advantage to have
It was the point that had always secretly tormented Susy; she
often wondered if it equally tormented Nick.
"I hope I shall have enough common sense--" she began.
"Oh, of course: common sense is what you're both bound to base
your argument on, whichever way you argue."
This flash of insight disconcerted her, and she said, a little
irritably: "What should you do then, if you married?--Hush,
Streffy! I forbid you to shout like that--all the gondolas are
stopping to look!"
"How can I help it?" He rocked backward and forward in his
chair. "'If you marry,' she says: 'Streffy, what have you
decided to do if you suddenly become a raving maniac?'"
"I said no such thing. If your uncle and your cousin died,
you'd marry to-morrow; you know you would."
"Oh, now you're talking business." He folded his long arms and
leaned over the balcony, looking down at the dusky ripples
streaked with fire. "In that case I should say: 'Susan, my
dear--Susan--now that by the merciful intervention of Providence
you have become Countess of Altringham in the peerage of Great
Britain, and Baroness Dunsterville and d'Amblay in the peerages
of Ireland and Scotland, I'll thank you to remember that you are
a member of one of the most ancient houses in the United
Kingdom--and not to get found out.'"
Susy laughed. "We know what those warnings mean! I pity my
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
"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
"He would be--poor Fred. And you got Ursula thoroughly
"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."
SUSY found Strefford, after his first burst of nonsense,
unusually kind and responsive. The interest he showed in her
future and Nick's seemed to proceed not so much from his
habitual spirit of scientific curiosity as from simple
friendliness. He was privileged to see Nick's first chapter, of
which he formed so favourable an impression that he spoke
sternly to Susy on the importance of respecting her husband's
working hours; and he even carried his general benevolence to
the length of showing a fatherly interest in Clarissa Vanderlyn.
He was always charming to children, but fitfully and warily,
with an eye on his independence, and on the possibility of being
suddenly bored by them; Susy had never seen him abandon these
precautions so completely as he did with Clarissa.
"Poor little devil! Who looks after her when you and Nick are
off together? Do you mean to tell me Ellie sacked the governess
and went away without having anyone to take her place?"
"I think she expected me to do it," said Susy with a touch of
asperity. There were moments when her duty to Clarissa weighed
on her somewhat heavily; whenever she went off alone with Nick
she was pursued by the vision of a little figure waving wistful
farewells from the balcony.
"Ah, that's like Ellie: you might have known she'd get an
equivalent when she lent you all this. But I don't believe she
thought you'd be so conscientious about it."
Susy considered. "I don't suppose she did; and perhaps I
shouldn't have been, a year ago. But you see"--she hesitated--
"Nick's so awfully good: it's made me look; at a lot of things
"Oh, hang Nick's goodness! It's happiness that's done it, my
dear. You're just one of the people with whom it happens to
Susy, leaning back, scrutinized between her lashes his crooked
"What is it that's agreeing with you, Streffy? I've never seen
you so human. You must be getting an outrageous price for the
Strefford laughed and clapped his hand on his breast-pocket. "I
should be an ass not to: I've got a wire here saying they must
have it for another month at any price."
"What luck! I'm so glad. Who are they, by the way?"
He drew himself up out of the long chair in which he was
disjointedly lounging, and looked down at her with a smile.
"Another couple of love-sick idiots like you and Nick .... I
say, before I spend it all let's go out and buy something
ripping for Clarissa."
The days passed so quickly and radiantly that, but for her
concern for Clarissa, Susy would hardly have been conscious of
her hostess's protracted absence. Mrs. Vanderlyn had said:
"Four weeks at the latest," and the four weeks were over, and
she had neither arrived nor written to explain her non-
appearance. She had, in fact, given no sign of life since her
departure, save in the shape of a post-card which had reached
Clarissa the day after the Lansings' arrival, and in which Mrs.
Vanderlyn instructed her child to be awfully good, and not to
forget to feed the mongoose. Susy noticed that this missive had
been posted in Milan.
She communicated her apprehensions to Strefford. "I don't trust
that green-eyed nurse. She's forever with the younger
gondolier; and Clarissa's so awfully sharp. I don't see why
Ellie hasn't come: she was due last Monday."
Her companion laughed, and something in the sound of his laugh
suggested that he probably knew as much of Ellie's movements as
she did, if not more. The sense of disgust which the subject
always roused in her made her look away quickly from his
tolerant smile. She would have given the world, at that moment,
to have been free to tell Nick what she had learned on the night
of their arrival, and then to have gone away with him, no matter
where. But there was Clarissa--!
To fortify herself against the temptation, she resolutely fixed
her thoughts on her husband. Of Nick's beatitude there could be
no doubt. He adored her, he revelled in Venice, he rejoiced in
his work; and concerning the quality of that work her judgment
was as confident as her heart. She still doubted if he would
ever earn a living by what he wrote, but she no longer doubted
that he would write something remarkable. The mere fact that he
was engaged on a philosophic romance, and not a mere novel,
seemed the proof of an intrinsic superiority. And if she had
mistrusted her impartiality Strefford's approval would have
reassured her. Among their friends Strefford passed as an
authority on such matters: in summing him up his eulogists
always added: "And you know he writes." As a matter of fact,
the paying public had remained cold to his few published pages;
but he lived among the kind of people who confuse taste with
talent, and are impressed by the most artless attempts at
literary expression; and though he affected to disdain their
judgment, and his own efforts, Susy knew he was not sorry to
have it said of him: "Oh, if only Streffy had chosen--!"
Strefford's approval of the philosophic romance convinced her
that it had been worth while staying in Venice for Nick's sake;
and if only Ellie would come back, and carry off Clarissa to St.
Moritz or Deauville, the disagreeable episode on which their
happiness was based would vanish like a cloud, and leave them to
Ellie did not come; but the Mortimer Hickses did, and Nick
Lansing was assailed by the scruples his wife had foreseen.
Strefford, coming back one evening from the Lido, reported
having recognized the huge outline of the Ibis among the
pleasure craft of the outer harbour; and the very next evening,
as the guests of Palazzo Vanderlyn were sipping their ices at
Florian's, the Hickses loomed up across the Piazza.
Susy pleaded in vain with her husband in defence of his privacy.
"Remember you're here to write, dearest; it's your duty not to
let any one interfere with that. Why shouldn't we tell them
we're just leaving!"
"Because it's no use: we're sure to be always meeting them.
And besides, I'll be hanged if I'm going to shirk the Hickses.
I spent five whole months on the Ibis, and if they bored me
occasionally, India didn't."
"We'll make them take us to Aquileia anyhow," said Strefford
philosophically; and the next moment the Hickses were bearing
down on the defenceless trio.
They presented a formidable front, not only because of their
mere physical bulk--Mr. and Mrs. Hicks were equally and
majestically three-dimensional--but because they never moved
abroad without the escort of two private secretaries (one for
the foreign languages), Mr. Hicks's doctor, a maiden lady known
as Eldoradder Tooker, who was Mrs. Hicks's cousin and
stenographer, and finally their daughter, Coral Hicks.
Coral Hicks, when Susy had last encountered the party, had been
a fat spectacled school-girl, always lagging behind her parents,
with a reluctant poodle in her wake. Now the poodle had gone,
and his mistress led the procession. The fat school-girl had
changed into a young lady of compact if not graceful outline; a
long-handled eyeglass had replaced the spectacles, and through
it, instead of a sullen glare, Miss Coral Hicks projected on the
world a glance at once confident and critical. She looked so
strong and so assured that Susy, taking her measure in a flash,
saw that her position at the head of the procession was not
fortuitous, and murmured inwardly: "Thank goodness she's not
If she was not pretty, she was well-dressed; and if she was
overeducated, she seemed capable, as Strefford had suggested, of
carrying off even this crowning disadvantage. At any rate, she
was above disguising it; and before the whole party had been
seated five minutes in front of a fresh supply of ices (with
Eldorada and the secretaries at a table slightly in the
background) she had taken up with Nick the question of
exploration in Mesopotamia.
"Queer child, Coral," he said to Susy that night as they smoked
a last cigarette on their balcony. "She told me this afternoon
that she'd remembered lots of things she heard me say in India.
I thought at the time that she cared only for caramels and
picture-puzzles, but it seems she was listening to everything,
and reading all the books she could lay her hands on; and she
got so bitten with Oriental archaeology that she took a course
last year at Bryn Mawr. She means to go to Bagdad next spring,
and back by the Persian plateau and Turkestan."
Susy laughed luxuriously: she was sitting with her hand in
Nick's, while the late moon--theirs again--rounded its orange-
coloured glory above the belfry of San Giorgio.
"Poor Coral! How dreary--" Susy murmured
"Dreary? Why? A trip like that is about as well worth doing as
anything I know."
"Oh, I meant: dreary to do it without you or me, she laughed,
getting up lazily to go indoors. A broad band of moonlight,
dividing her room onto two shadowy halves, lay on the painted
Venetian bed with its folded-back sheet, its old damask coverlet
and lace-edged pillows. She felt the warmth of Nick's enfolding
arm and lifted her face to his.
The Hickses retained the most tender memory of Nick's sojourn on
the Ibis, and Susy, moved by their artless pleasure in meeting
him again, was glad he had not followed her advice and tried to
elude them. She had always admired Strefford's ruthless talent
for using and discarding the human material in his path, but now
she began to hope that Nick would not remember her suggestion
that he should mete out that measure to the Hickses. Even if it
had been less pleasant to have a big yacht at their door during
the long golden days and the nights of silver fire, the Hickses'
admiration for Nick would have made Susy suffer them gladly.
She even began to be aware of a growing liking for them, a
liking inspired by the very characteristics that would once have
provoked her disapproval. Susy had had plenty of training in
liking common people with big purses; in such cases her stock of
allowances and extenuations was inexhaustible. But they had to
be successful common people; and the trouble was that the
Hickses, judged by her standards, were failures. It was not
only that they were ridiculous; so, heaven knew, were many of
their rivals. But the Hickses were both ridiculous and
unsuccessful. They had consistently resisted the efforts of the
experienced advisers who had first descried them on the horizon
and tried to help them upward. They were always taking up the
wrong people, giving the wrong kind of party, and spending
millions on things that nobody who mattered cared about. They
all believed passionately in "movements" and "causes" and
"ideals," and were always attended by the exponents of their
latest beliefs, always asking you to hear lectures by haggard
women in peplums, and having their portraits painted by wild
people who never turned out to be the fashion.
All this would formerly have increased Susy's contempt; now she
found herself liking the Hickses most for their failings. She
was touched by their simple good faith, their isolation in the
midst of all their queer apostles and parasites, their way of
drifting about an alien and indifferent world in a compactly
clinging group of which Eldorada Tooker, the doctor and the two
secretaries formed the outer fringe, and by their view of
themselves as a kind of collective re-incarnation of some past
state of princely culture, symbolised for Mrs. Hicks in what she
called "the court of the Renaissance." Eldorada, of course, was
their chief prophetess; but even the intensely "bright" and
modern young secretaries, Mr. Beck and Mr. Buttles, showed a
touching tendency to share her view, and spoke of Mr. Hicks as
"promoting art," in the spirit of Pandolfino celebrating the
munificence of the Medicis.
"I'm getting really fond of the Hickses; I believe I should be
nice to them even if they were staying at Danieli's," Susy said
"And even if you owned the yacht?" he answered; and for once his
banter struck her as beside the point.
The Ibis carried them, during the endless June days, far and
wide along the enchanted shores; they roamed among the
Euganeans, they saw Aquileia and Pomposa and Ravenna. Their
hosts would gladly have taken them farther, across the Adriatic
and on into the golden network of the Aegean; but Susy resisted
this infraction of Nick's rules, and he himself preferred to
stick to his task. Only now he wrote in the early mornings, so
that on most days they could set out before noon and steam back
late to the low fringe of lights on the lagoon. His work
continued to progress, and as page was added to page Susy
obscurely but surely perceived that each one corresponded with a
hidden secretion of energy, the gradual forming within him of
something that might eventually alter both their lives. In what
sense she could not conjecture: she merely felt that the fact
of his having chosen a job and stuck to it, if only through a
few rosy summer weeks, had already given him a new way of saying
"Yes" and "No."
OF some new ferment at work in him Nick Lansing himself was
equally aware. He was a better judge of the book he was trying
to write than either Susy or Strefford; he knew its weaknesses,
its treacheries, its tendency to slip through his fingers just
as he thought his grasp tightest; but he knew also that at the
very moment when it seemed to have failed him it would suddenly
be back, beating its loud wings in his face.
He had no delusions as to its commercial value, and had winced
more than he triumphed when Susy produced her allusion to
Marius. His book was to be called The Pageant of Alexander.
His imagination had been enchanted by the idea of picturing the
young conqueror's advance through the fabulous landscapes of
Asia: he liked writing descriptions, and vaguely felt that
under the guise of fiction he could develop his theory of
Oriental influences in Western art at the expense of less
learning than if he had tried to put his ideas into an essay.
He knew enough of his subject to know that he did not know
enough to write about it; but he consoled himself by remembering
that Wilhelm Meister has survived many weighty volumes on
aesthetics; and between his moments of self-disgust he took
himself at Susy's valuation, and found an unmixed joy in his
Never--no, never!--had he been so boundlessly, so confidently
happy. His hack-work had given him the habit of application,
and now habit wore the glow of inspiration. His previous
literary ventures had been timid and tentative: if this one was
growing and strengthening on his hands, it must be because the
conditions were so different. He was at ease, he was secure, he
was satisfied; and he had also, for the first time since his
early youth, before his mother's death, the sense of having some
one to look after, some one who was his own particular care, and
to whom he was answerable for himself and his actions, as he had
never felt himself answerable to the hurried and indifferent
people among whom he had chosen to live.
Susy had the same standards as these people: she spoke their
language, though she understood others, she required their
pleasures if she did not revere their gods. But from the moment
that she had become his property he had built up in himself a
conception of her answering to some deep-seated need of
veneration. She was his, he had chosen her, she had taken her
place in the long line of Lansing women who had been loved,
honoured, and probably deceived, by bygone Lansing men. He
didn't pretend to understand the logic of it; but the fact that
she was his wife gave purpose and continuity to his scattered
impulses, and a mysterious glow of consecration to his task.
Once or twice, in the first days of his marriage, he had asked
himself with a slight shiver what would happen if Susy should
begin to bore him. The thing had happened to him with other
women as to whom his first emotions had not differed in
intensity from those she inspired. The part he had played in
his previous love-affairs might indeed have been summed up in
the memorable line: "I am the hunter and the prey," for he had
invariably ceased to be the first only to regard himself as the
second. This experience had never ceased to cause him the
liveliest pain, since his sympathy for his pursuer was only less
keen than his commiseration for himself; but as he was always a
little sorrier for himself, he had always ended by distancing
All these pre-natal experiences now seemed utterly inapplicable
to the new man he had become. He could not imagine being bored
by Susy--or trying to escape from her if he were. He could not
think of her as an enemy, or even as an accomplice, since
accomplices are potential enemies: she was some one with whom,
by some unheard-of miracle, joys above the joys of friendship
were to be tasted, but who, even through these fleeting
ecstasies, remained simply and securely his friend.
These new feelings did not affect his general attitude toward
life: they merely confirmed his faith in its ultimate
"jolliness." Never had he more thoroughly enjoyed the things he
had always enjoyed. A good dinner had never been as good to
him, a beautiful sunset as beautiful; he still rejoiced in the
fact that he appreciated both with an equal acuity. He was as
proud as ever of Susy's cleverness and freedom from prejudice:
she couldn't be too "modern" for him now that she was his. He
shared to the full her passionate enjoyment of the present, and
all her feverish eagerness to make it last. He knew when she
was thinking of ways of extending their golden opportunity, and
he secretly thought with her, wondering what new means they
could devise. He was thankful that Ellie Vanderlyn was still
absent, and began to hope they might have the palace to
themselves for the remainder of the summer. If they did, he
would have time to finish his book, and Susy to lay up a little
interest on their wedding cheques; and thus their enchanted year
might conceivably be prolonged to two.
Late as the season was, their presence and Strefford's in Venice
had already drawn thither several wandering members of their
set. It was characteristic of these indifferent but
agglutinative people that they could never remain long parted
from each other without a dim sense of uneasiness. Lansing was
familiar with the feeling. He had known slight twinges of it
himself, and had often ministered to its qualms in others. It
was hardly stronger than the faint gnawing which recalls the
tea-hour to one who has lunched well and is sure of dining as
abundantly; but it gave a purpose to the purposeless, and helped
many hesitating spirits over the annual difficulty of deciding
between Deauville and St. Moritz, Biarritz and Capri.
Nick was not surprised to learn that it was becoming the
fashion, that summer, to pop down to Venice and take a look at
the Lansings. Streffy had set the example, and Streffy's
example was always followed. And then Susy's marriage was still
a subject of sympathetic speculation. People knew the story of
the wedding cheques, and were interested in seeing how long they
could be made to last. It was going to be the thing, that year,
to help prolong the honey-moon by pressing houses on the
adventurous couple. Before June was over a band of friends were
basking with the Lansings on the Lido.
Nick found himself unexpectedly disturbed by their arrival. To
avoid comment and banter he put his book aside and forbade Susy
to speak of it, explaining to her that he needed an interval of
rest. His wife instantly and exaggeratedly adopted this view,
guarding him from the temptation to work as jealously as she had
discouraged him from idling; and he was careful not to let her
find out that the change in his habits coincided with his having
reached a difficult point in his book. But though he was not
sorry to stop writing he found himself unexpectedly oppressed by
the weight of his leisure. For the first time communal dawdling
had lost its charm for him; not because his fellow dawdlers were
less congenial than of old, but because in the interval he had
known something so immeasurably better. He had always felt
himself to be the superior of his habitual associates, but now
the advantage was too great: really, in a sense, it was hardly
fair to them.
He had flattered himself that Susy would share this feeling; but
he perceived with annoyance that the arrival of their friends
heightened her animation. It was as if the inward glow which
had given her a new beauty were now refracted upon her by the
presence of the very people they had come to Venice to avoid.
Lansing was vaguely irritated; and when he asked her how she
liked being with their old crowd again his irritation was
increased by her answering with a laugh that she only hoped the
poor dears didn't see too plainly how they bored her. The
patent insincerity of the reply was a shock to Lansing. He knew
that Susy was not really bored, and he understood that she had
simply guessed his feelings and instinctively adopted them:
that henceforth she was always going to think as he thought. To
confirm this fear he said carelessly: "Oh, all the same, it's
rather jolly knocking about with them again for a bit;" and she
answered at once, and with equal conviction: "Yes, isn't it?
The old darlings--all the same!"
A fear of the future again laid its cold touch on Lansing.
Susy's independence and self-sufficiency had been among her
chief attractions; if she were to turn into an echo their
delicious duet ran the risk of becoming the dullest of
monologues. He forgot that five minutes earlier he had resented
her being glad to see their friends, and for a moment he found
himself leaning dizzily over that insoluble riddle of the
sentimental life: that to be differed with is exasperating, and
to be agreed with monotonous.
Once more he began to wonder if he were not fundamentally
unfitted for the married state; and was saved from despair only
by remembering that Susy's subjection to his moods was not
likely to last. But even then it never occurred to him to
reflect that his apprehensions were superfluous, since their tie
was avowedly a temporary one. Of the special understanding on
which their marriage had been based not a trace remained in his
thoughts of her; the idea that he or she might ever renounce
each other for their mutual good had long since dwindled to the
ghost of an old joke.
It was borne in on him, after a week or two of unbroken
sociability, that of all his old friends it was the Mortimer
Hickses who bored him the least. The Hickses had left the Ibis
for an apartment in a vast dilapidated palace near the
Canareggio. They had hired the apartment from a painter (one of
their newest discoveries), and they put up philosophically with
the absence of modern conveniences in order to secure the
inestimable advantage of "atmosphere." In this privileged air
they gathered about them their usual mixed company of quiet
studious people and noisy exponents of new theories, themselves
totally unconscious of the disparity between their different
guests, and beamingly convinced that at last they were seated at
the source of wisdom.
In old days Lansing would have got half an hour's amusement,
followed by a long evening of boredom, from the sight of Mrs.
Hicks, vast and jewelled, seated between a quiet-looking
professor of archaeology and a large-browed composer, or the
high priest of a new dance-step, while Mr. Hicks, beaming above
his vast white waistcoat, saw to it that the champagne flowed
more abundantly than the talk, and the bright young secretaries
industriously "kept up" with the dizzy cross-current of prophecy
and erudition. But a change had come over Lansing. Hitherto it
was in contrast to his own friends that the Hickses had seemed
most insufferable; now it was as an escape from these same
friends that they had become not only sympathetic but even
interesting. It was something, after all, to be with people who
did not regard Venice simply as affording exceptional
opportunities for bathing and adultery, but who were reverently
if confusedly aware that they were in the presence of something
unique and ineffable, and determined to make the utmost of their
"After all," he said to himself one evening, as his eyes
wandered, with somewhat of a convalescent's simple joy, from one
to another of their large confiding faces, "after all, they've
got a religion ...." The phrase struck him, in the moment of
using it, as indicating a new element in his own state of mind,
and as being, in fact, the key to his new feeling about the
Hickses. Their muddled ardour for great things was related to
his own new view of the universe: the people who felt, however
dimly, the wonder and weight of life must ever after be nearer
to him than those to whom it was estimated solely by one's
balance at the bank. He supposed, on reflexion, that that was
what he meant when he thought of the Hickses as having "a
A few days later, his well-being was unexpectedly disturbed by
the arrival of Fred Gillow. Lansing had always felt a tolerant
liking for Gillow, a large smiling silent young man with an
intense and serious desire to miss nothing attainable by one of
his fortune and standing. What use he made of his experiences,
Lansing, who had always gone into his own modest adventures
rather thoroughly, had never been able to guess; but he had
always suspected the prodigal Fred of being no more than a well-
disguised looker-on. Now for the first time he began to view
him with another eye. The Gillows were, in fact, the one uneasy
point in Nick's conscience. He and Susy from the first, had
talked of them less than of any other members of their group:
they had tacitly avoided the name from the day on which Susy had
come to Lansing's lodgings to say that Ursula Gillow had asked
her to renounce him, till that other day, just before their
marriage, when she had met him with the rapturous cry: "Here's
our first wedding present! Such a thumping big cheque from Fred
Plenty of sympathizing people were ready, Lansing knew, to tell
him just what had happened in the interval between those two
dates; but he had taken care not to ask. He had even affected
an initiation so complete that the friends who burned to
enlighten him were discouraged by his so obviously knowing more
than they; and gradually he had worked himself around to their
view, and had taken it for granted that he really did.
Now he perceived that he knew nothing at all, and that the
"Hullo, old Fred!" with which Susy hailed Gillow's arrival might
be either the usual tribal welcome--since they were all "old,"
and all nicknamed, in their private jargon--or a greeting that
concealed inscrutable depths of complicity.
Susy was visibly glad to see Gillow; but she was glad of
everything just then, and so glad to show her gladness! The
fact disarmed her husband and made him ashamed of his
uneasiness. "You ought to have thought this all out sooner, or
else you ought to chuck thinking of it at all," was the sound
but ineffectual advice he gave himself on the day after Gillow's
arrival; and immediately set to work to rethink the whole
Fred Gillow showed no consciousness of disturbing any one's
peace of mind. Day after day he sprawled for hours on the Lido
sands, his arms folded under his head, listening to Streffy's
nonsense and watching Susy between sleepy lids; but he betrayed
no desire to see her alone, or to draw her into talk apart from
the others. More than ever he seemed content to be the
gratified spectator of a costly show got up for his private
entertainment. It was not until he heard her, one morning,
grumble a little at the increasing heat and the menace of
mosquitoes, that he said, quite as if they had talked the matter
over long before, and finally settled it: "The moor will be
ready any time after the first of August."
Nick fancied that Susy coloured a little, and drew herself up
more defiantly than usual as she sent a pebble skimming across
the dying ripples at their feet.