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TheProjectGutenbergEBookofTheReef,byEdithWharton ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith almostnorestrictionswhatsoever Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.org Title:TheReef Author:EdithWharton ReleaseDate:July12,2008[EBook#283] [LastUpdated:August19,2017] Language:English ***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEREEF*** ProducedbyGailJahn,JohnHamm,andDavidWidger THEREEF byEdithWharton CONTENTS BOOKI I II III IV V VI VII VIII BOOKII IX X XI XII XIII XIV XV XVI BOOKIII XVII XVIII XIX XX XXI XXII BOOKIV XXIII XXIV XXV XXVI XXVII XXVIII XXIX BOOKV XXX XXXI XXXII XXXIII XXXIV XXXV XXXVI XXXVII XXXVIII XXXIX BOOKI I “Unexpectedobstacle Pleasedon’tcometillthirtieth Anna.” AllthewayfromCharingCrosstoDoverthetrainhadhammeredthewords ofthetelegramintoGeorgeDarrow’sears,ringingeverychangeofironyonits commonplace syllables: rattling them out like a discharge of musketry, letting them, one by one, drip slowly and coldly into his brain, or shaking, tossing, transposingthemlikethediceinsomegameofthegodsofmalice;andnow,as heemergedfromhiscompartmentatthepier,andstoodfacingthewind-swept platformandtheangryseabeyond,theyleaptoutathimasiffromthecrestof thewaves,stungandblindedhimwithafreshfuryofderision “Unexpectedobstacle Pleasedon’tcometillthirtieth Anna.” Shehadputhimoffattheverylastmoment,andforthesecondtime:puthim offwithallhersweetreasonableness,andforoneofherusual“good”reasons— hewascertainthatthisreason,liketheother,(thevisitofherhusband’suncle’s widow)wouldbe“good”!Butitwasthatverycertaintywhichchilledhim The factofherdealingsoreasonablywiththeircaseshedanironiclightontheidea that there had been any exceptional warmth in the greeting she had given him aftertheirtwelveyearsapart Theyhadfoundeachotheragain,inLondon,somethreemonthspreviously,at a dinner at the American Embassy, and when she had caught sight of him her smilehadbeenlikearedrosepinnedonherwidow’smourning Hestillfeltthe throbofsurprisewithwhich,amongthestereotypedfacesoftheseason’sdiners, hehadcomeuponherunexpectedface,withthedarkhairbandedabovegrave eyes;eyesinwhichhehadrecognizedeverylittlecurveandshadowashewould haverecognized,afterhalfalife-time,thedetailsofaroomhehadplayedinasa child Andas,intheplumedstarredcrowd,shehadstoodoutforhim,slender, secluded and different, so he had felt, the instant their glances met, that he as sharplydetachedhimselfforher Allthatandmorehersmilehadsaid;hadsaid not merely “I remember,” but “I remember just what you remember”; almost, indeed, as though her memory had aided his, her glance flung back on their recaptured moment its morning brightness Certainly, when their distracted Ambassadress—with the cry: “Oh, you know Mrs Leath? That’s perfect, for GeneralFarnhamhasfailedme”—hadwavedthemtogetherforthemarchtothe dining-room, Darrow had felt a slight pressure of the arm on his, a pressure faintlybutunmistakablyemphasizingtheexclamation:“Isn’titwonderful?—In London—intheseason—inamob?” Littleenough,onthepartofmostwomen;butitwasasignofMrs Leath’s qualitythateverymovement,everysyllable,toldwithher Evenintheolddays, as an intent grave-eyed girl, she had seldom misplaced her light strokes; and Darrow,onmeetingheragain,hadimmediatelyfelthowmuchfinerandsureran instrumentofexpressionshehadbecome Theireveningtogetherhadbeenalongconfirmationofthisfeeling Shehad talked to him, shyly yet frankly, of what had happened to her during the years whentheyhadsostrangelyfailedtomeet Shehadtoldhimofhermarriageto FraserLeath,andofhersubsequentlifeinFrance,whereherhusband’smother, leftawidowinhisyouth,hadbeenre-marriedtotheMarquisdeChantelle,and where, partly in consequence of this second union, the son had permanently settledhimself Shehadspokenalso,withanintenseeagernessofaffection,of her little girl Effie, who was now nine years old, and, in a strain hardly less tender,ofOwenLeath,thecharmingcleveryoungstepsonwhomherhusband’s deathhadlefttohercare Aporter,stumblingagainstDarrow’sbags,rousedhimtothefactthathestill obstructedtheplatform,inertandencumberingashisluggage “Crossing,sir?” Washecrossing?Hereallydidn’tknow;butforlackofanymorecompelling impulsehefollowedtheportertotheluggagevan,singledouthisproperty,and turned to march behind it down the gang-way As the fierce wind shouldered him,buildingupacrystalwallagainsthisefforts,hefeltanewthederisionofhis case “Nastyweathertocross,sir,”theporterthrewbackathimastheybeattheir waydownthenarrowwalktothepier Nastyweather,indeed;butluckily,asit hadturnedout,therewasnoearthlyreasonwhyDarrowshouldcross Whilehepushedoninthewakeofhisluggagehisthoughtsslippedbackinto theoldgroove HehadonceortwicerunacrossthemanwhomAnnaSummers hadpreferredtohim,andsincehehadmetheragainhehadbeenexercisinghis imaginationonthepictureofwhathermarriedlifemusthavebeen Herhusband hadstruckhimasacharacteristicspecimenofthekindofAmericanastowhom oneisnotquiteclearwhetherhelivesinEuropeinordertocultivateanart,or cultivates an art as a pretext for living in Europe Mr Leath’s art was watercolour painting, but he practised it furtively, almost clandestinely, with the disdainofamanoftheworldforanythingborderingontheprofessional,while hedevotedhimselfmoreopenly,andwithreligiousseriousness,tothecollection of enamelled snuff-boxes He was blond and well-dressed, with the physical distinctionthatcomesfromhavingastraightfigure,athinnose,andthehabitof lookingslightlydisgusted—aswhoshouldnot,inaworldwhereauthenticsnuffboxes were growing daily harder to find, and the market was flooded with flagrantforgeries? Darrowhadoftenwonderedwhatpossibilitiesofcommuniontherecouldhave beenbetweenMr Leathandhiswife Nowheconcludedthattherehadprobably been none Mrs Leath’s words gave no hint of her husband’s having failed to justifyherchoice;butherveryreticencebetrayedher Shespokeofhimwitha kind of impersonal seriousness, as if he had been a character in a novel or a figure in history; and what she said sounded as though it had been learned by heartandslightlydulledbyrepetition ThisfactimmenselyincreasedDarrow’s impressionthathismeetingwithherhadannihilatedtheinterveningyears She, who was always so elusive and inaccessible, had grown suddenly communicativeandkind:hadopenedthedoorsofherpast,andtacitlylefthim to draw his own conclusions As a result, he had taken leave of her with the sensethathewasabeingsingledoutandprivileged,towhomshehadentrusted somethingprecioustokeep Itwasherhappinessintheirmeetingthatshehad givenhim,hadfranklylefthimtodowithashewilled;andthefranknessofthe gesturedoubledthebeautyofthegift Their next meeting had prolonged and deepened the impression They had foundeachotheragain,afewdayslater,inanoldcountryhousefullofbooks andpictures,inthesoftlandscapeofsouthernEngland Thepresenceofalarge party,withallitsaimlessandagitateddisplacements,hadservedonlytoisolate the pair and give them (at least to the young man’s fancy) a deeper feeling of communion,andtheirdaystherehadbeenlikesomemusicalprelude,wherethe instruments, breathing low, seem to hold back the waves of sound that press againstthem Mrs Leath,onthisoccasion,wasnolesskindthanbefore;butshecontrived tomakehimunderstandthatwhatwassoinevitablycomingwasnottocometoo soon Itwasnotthatsheshowedanyhesitationastotheissue,butratherthatshe seemed to wish not to miss any stage in the gradual reflowering of their intimacy Darrow,forhispart,wascontenttowaitifshewishedit Herememberedthat once,inAmerica,whenshewasagirl,andhehadgonetostaywithherfamily inthecountry,shehadbeenoutwhenhearrived,andhermotherhadtoldhimto lookforherinthegarden Shewasnotinthegarden,butbeyondithehadseen her approaching down a long shady path Without hastening her step she had smiled and signed to him to wait; and charmed by the lights and shadows that played upon her as she moved, and by the pleasure of watching her slow advancetowardhim,hehadobeyedherandstoodstill Andsosheseemednow tobewalkingtohimdowntheyears,thelightandshadeofoldmemoriesand new hopes playing variously on her, and each step giving him the vision of a different grace She did not waver or turn aside; he knew she would come straighttowherehestood;butsomethinginhereyessaid“Wait”,andagainhe obeyedandwaited Onthefourthdayanunexpectedeventthrewouthiscalculations Summoned to town by the arrival in England of her husband’s mother, she left without giving Darrow the chance he had counted on, and he cursed himself for a dilatory blunderer Still, his disappointment was tempered by the certainty of being with her again before she left for France; and they did in fact see each other in London There, however, the atmosphere had changed with the conditions Hecouldnotsaythatsheavoidedhim,oreventhatshewasashade less glad to see him; but she was beset by family duties and, as he thought, a littletooreadilyresignedtothem The Marquise de Chantelle, as Darrow soon perceived, had the same mild formidableness as the late Mr Leath: a sort of insistent self-effacement before whichevery oneabout hergaveway Itwasperhapstheshadow ofthislady’s presence—pervasive even during her actual brief eclipses—that subdued and silenced Mrs Leath The latter was, moreover, preoccupied about her stepson, who,soonafterreceivinghisdegreeatHarvard,hadbeenrescuedfromastormy love-affair,andfinally,aftersomemonthsoftroubleddrifting,hadyieldedtohis step-mother’scounselandgoneuptoOxfordforayearofsupplementarystudy ThitherMrs Leathwentonceortwicetovisithim,andherremainingdayswere packed with family obligations: getting, as she phrased it, “frocks and governesses”forherlittlegirl,whohadbeenleftinFrance,andhavingtodevote the remaining hours to long shopping expeditions with her mother-in-law Nevertheless, during her brief escapes from duty, Darrow had had time to feel hersafeinthecustodyofhisdevotion,setapartforsomeinevitablehour;and the last evening, at the theatre, between the overshadowing Marquise and the unsuspiciousOwen,theyhadhadanalmostdecisiveexchangeofwords Now, in the rattle of the wind about his ears, Darrow continued to hear the mocking echo of her message: “Unexpected obstacle.” In such an existence as Mrs Leath’s, at once so ordered and so exposed, he knew how small a complicationmightassumethemagnitudeofan“obstacle;”yet,evenallowing ever supposed that Owen would not know? Probably, from the height of his greaterexperience,hehadseenlongsincethatallthathappenedwasinevitable; andthethoughtofit,atanyrate,wasclearlynotweighingonhimnow Hewasalreadydressedfortheevening,andashecametowardherhesaid: “TheAmbassador’sbookedforanofficialdinnerandI’mfreeafterall Where shallwedine?” Anna had pictured herself sitting alone all the evening with her wretched thoughts, and the fact of having to put them out of her mind for the next few hours gave her an immediate sensation of relief Already her pulses were dancingtothetuneofDarrow’s,andastheysmiledateachothershethought: “NothingcaneverchangethefactthatIbelongtohim.” “Where shall we dine?” he repeated gaily, and she named a well-known restaurantforwhichshehadonceheardhimexpressapreference Butasshedid soshefanciedshesawashadowonhisface,andinstantlyshesaidtoherself:“It wastherehewentwithher!” “Oh,no,notthere,afterall!”sheinterruptedherself;andnowshewassurehis colourdeepened “Whereshallitbe,then?” Shenoticedthathedidnotaskthereasonofherchange,andthisconvinced herthatshehadguessedthetruth,andthatheknewshehadguessedit “Hewill alwaysknowwhatIamthinking,andhewillneverdaretoaskme,”shethought; andshesawbetweenthemthesameinsurmountablewallofsilenceasbetween herselfandOwen,awallofglassthroughwhichtheycouldwatcheachother’s faintestmotionsbutwhichnosoundcouldevertraverse They drove to a restaurant on the Boulevard, and there, in their intimate corner of the serried scene, the sense of what was unspoken between them gradually ceased to oppress her He looked so light-hearted and handsome, so ingenuouslyproudofher,soopenlyhappyatbeingwithher,thatnootherfact could seem real in his presence He had learned that the Ambassador was to spendtwodaysinParis,andhehadreasontohopethatinconsequencehisown departureforLondonwouldbedeferred Hewasexhilaratedbytheprospectof being with Anna for a few hours longer, and she did not ask herself if his exhilarationwereasignofinsensibility,forshewastooconsciousofhispower ofswayinghermoodsnottobesecretlyproudofaffectinghis Theylingeredforsometimeoverthefruitandcoffee,andwhentheyroseto goDarrowsuggestedthat,ifshefeltdisposedfortheplay,theywerenottoolate forthesecondpartoftheprogrammeatoneofthesmallertheatres His mention of the hour recalled Owen to her thoughts She saw his train rushing southward through the storm, and, in a corner of the swaying compartment,hisface,whiteandindistinctasithadloomedonherintherainy twilight Itwashorribletobethusperpetuallypayingforherhappiness! Darrowhadcalledforatheatricaljournal,andhepresentlylookedupfromit tosay:“IhearthesecondplayattheAthénéeisamusing.” It was on Anna’s lips to acquiesce; but as she was about to speak she wonderedifitwerenotattheAthénéethatOwenhadseenDarrowwithSophy Viner She was not sure he had even mentioned the theatre, but the mere possibility was enough to darken her sky It was hateful to her to think of accompanyingDarrowtoplaceswherethegirlhadbeenwithhim Shetriedto reason away this scruple, she even reminded herself with a bitter irony that whenevershewasinDarrow’sarmsshewaswherethegirlhadbeenbeforeher —butshecouldnotshakeoffhersuperstitiousdreadofbeingwithhiminanyof thescenesoftheParisianepisode Sherepliedthatshewastootiredfortheplay, andtheydrovebacktoherapartment Atthefootofthestairsshehalf-turnedto wishhimgoodnight,butheappearednottonoticehergestureandfollowedher uptoherdoor “This is ever so much better than the theatre,” he said as they entered the drawing-room She had crossed the room and was bending over the hearth to light the fire Sheknewhewasapproachingher,andthatinamomenthewouldhavedrawn the cloak from her shoulders and laid his lips on her neck, just below the gathered-uphair Theseprivilegeswerehisand,howeverdeferentlyandtenderly he claimed them, the joyous ease of his manner marked a difference and proclaimedaright “After the theatre they came home like this,” she thought; and at the same instantshefelthishandsonhershouldersandshrankback “Don’t—oh,don’t!”shecried,drawinghercloakabouther Shesawfromhis astonishedstarethatherfacemustbequiveringwithpain “Anna!Whatonearthisthematter?” “Owenknows!”shebrokeout,withaconfuseddesiretojustifyherself Darrow’scountenancechanged “Didhetellyouso?Whatdidhesay?” “Nothing!Iknewitfromthethingshedidn’tsay.” “Youhadatalkwithhimthisafternoon?” “Yes:forafewminutes Icouldseehedidn’twantmetostay.” She had dropped into a chair, and sat there huddled, still holding her cloak abouthershoulders Darrowdidnotdisputeherassumption,andshenoticedthatheexpressedno surprise Hesatdownatalittledistancefromher,turningaboutinhisfingersthe cigar-case he had drawn out as they came in At length he said: “Had he seen MissViner?” Sheshrankfromthesoundofthename “No Idon’tthinkso I’msurehe hadn’t ” Theyremained silent,lookingawayfromone another FinallyDarrowstood upandtookafewstepsacrosstheroom Hecamebackandpausedbeforeher, hiseyesonherface “Ithinkyououghttotellmewhatyoumeantodo.”Sheraisedherheadand gavehimbackhislook “NothingIdocanhelpOwen!” “No;butthingscan’tgoonlikethis.”Hepaused,asiftomeasurehiswords “Ifillyouwithaversion,”heexclaimed Shestartedup,half-sobbing “No—oh,no!” “Poorchild—youcan’tseeyourface!” She lifted her hands as if to hide it, and turning away from him bowed her headuponthemantel-shelf Shefeltthathewasstandingalittlewaybehindher, buthemadenoattempttotouchherorcomenearer “Iknowyou’vefeltasI’vefelt,”hesaidinalowvoice—“thatwebelongto each other and that nothing can alter that But other thoughts come, and you can’t banish them Whenever you see me you remember you associate me with things you abhor You’ve been generous—immeasurably You’ve given meallthechancesawomancould;butifit’sonlymadeyousuffer,what’sthe use?” Sheturnedtohimwithatear-stainedface “Ithasn’tonlydonethat.” “Oh,no!Iknow There’vebeenmoments ”Hetookherhandandraisedit tohislips “They’llbewithmeaslongasIlive ButIcan’tseeyoupayingsuch apriceforthem I’mnotworthwhatI’mcostingyou.” She continued to gaze at him through tear-dilated eyes; and suddenly she flungoutthequestion:“Wasn’tittheAthénéeyoutookhertothatevening?” “Anna—Anna!” “Yes; I want to know now: to know everything Perhaps that will make me forget I ought to have made you tell me before Wherever we go, I imagine you’vebeentherewithher Iseeyoutogether Iwanttoknowhowitbegan, whereyouwent,whyyoulefther Ican’tgooninthisdarknessanylonger!” Shedidnotknowwhathadpromptedherpassionateoutburst,butalreadyshe felt lighter, freer, as if at last the evil spell were broken “I want to know everything,”sherepeated “It’stheonlywaytomakemeforget.” After she had ceased speaking Darrow remained where he was, his arms folded,hiseyeslowered,immovable Shewaited,hergazeonhisface “Aren’tyougoingtotellme?” “No.”Thebloodrushedtohertemples “Youwon’t?Whynot?” “IfIdid,doyousupposeyou’dforgetthat?” “Oh—”shemoaned,andturnedawayfromhim “Youseeit’simpossible,”hewenton “I’vedoneathingIloathe,andtoatone forityouaskmetodoanother Whatsortofsatisfactionwouldthatgiveyou?It wouldputsomethingirremediablebetweenus.” Sheleanedherelbowagainstthemantel-shelfandhidherfaceinherhands Shehadthesensethatshewasvainlythrowingawayherlasthopeofhappiness, yet she could nothing, think of nothing, to save it The conjecture flashed throughher:“ShouldIbeatpeaceifIgavehimup?”andsherememberedthe desolationofthedaysaftershehadsenthimaway,andunderstoodthatthathope was vain The tears welled through her lids and ran slowly down between her fingers “Good-bye,”sheheardhimsay,andhisfootstepsturnedtothedoor Shetriedtoraiseherhead,buttheweightofherdespairboweditdown She saidtoherself:“Thisistheend hewon’ttrytoappealtomeagain ”andshe remainedinasortoftrancedrigidity,perceivingwithoutfeelingthefatefullapse oftheseconds Thenthecordsthatboundherseemedtosnap,andsheliftedher headandsawhimgoing “Why,he’smine—he’smine!He’snooneelse’s!”Hisfacewasturnedtoher and the look in his eyes swept away all her terrors She no longer understood whathadpromptedhersenselessoutcry;andthemortalsweetnessoflovinghim becameagaintheonerealfactintheworld XXXIX Anna,thenextday,woketoahumiliatedmemoryofthepreviousevening Darrowhadbeenrightinsayingthattheirsacrificewouldbenefitnoone;yet sheseemeddimlytodiscernthattherewereobligationsnottobetestedbythat standard Sheowedit,atanyrate,asmuchtohisprideastoherstoabstainfrom therepetitionofsuchscenes;andshehadlearnedthatitwasbeyondherpower todosowhiletheyweretogether Yetwhenhehadgivenherthechancetofree herself,everythinghadvanishedfromhermindbuttheblindfearoflosinghim; andshesawthatheandshewereasprofoundlyandinextricablyboundtogether astwotreeswithinterwovenroots Foralongtimeshebroodedonherplight, vaguely conscious that the only escape from it must come from some external chance Andslowlytheoccasionshapeditselfinhermind ItwasSophyViner only who could save her—Sophy Viner only who could give her back her lost serenity ShewouldseekthegirloutandtellherthatshehadgivenDarrowup; andthatsteponcetakentherewouldbenoretracingit,andshewouldperforce havetogoforwardalone Anypretextforactionwasakindofanodyne,andshedespatchedhermaidto the Farlows’ with a note asking if Miss Viner would receive her There was a longdelaybeforethemaidreturned,andwhenatlastsheappeareditwaswitha slipofpaperonwhichanaddresswaswritten,andaverbalmessagetotheeffect thatMissVinerhadleftsomedayspreviously,andwasstayingwithhersisterin ahotelnearthePlacedel’Etoile ThemaidaddedthatMrs Farlow,ontheplea thatMissViner’splanswereuncertain,hadatfirstmadesomedifficultyabout givingthisinformation;andAnnaguessedthatthegirlhadleftherfriends’roof, andinstructedthemtowithholdheraddress,withtheobjectofavoidingOwen “She’skeptfaithwithherselfandIhaven’t,”Annamused;andthethoughtwasa freshincentivetoaction Darrowhadannouncedhisintentionofcomingsoonafterluncheon,andthe morningwasalreadysofaradvancedthatAnna,stillmistrustfulofherstrength, decidedtodriveimmediatelytotheaddressMrs Farlowhadgiven Ontheway thereshetriedtorecallwhatshehadheardofSophyViner’ssister,butbeyond thegirl’senthusiasticreportoftheabsentLaura’slovelinessshecouldremember only certain vague allusions of Mrs Farlow’s to her artistic endowments and matrimonialvicissitudes Darrowhadmentionedherbutonce,andinthebriefest terms,ashavingapparentlyverylittleconcernforSophy’swelfare,andbeing,at anyrate,toogeographicallyremotetogiveheranypracticalsupport;andAnna wondered what chance had brought her to her sister’s side at this conjunction Mrs Farlowhadspokenofherasacelebrity(inwhatlineAnnafailedtorecall); butMrs Farlow’scelebritieswerelegion,andthenameontheslipofpaper— Mrs McTarvie-Birch—didnotseemtohaveanydefiniteassociationwithfame While Anna waited in the dingy vestibule of the Hotel Chicago she had so distinct a vision of what she meant to say to Sophy Viner that the girl seemed alreadytobebeforeher;andherheartdroppedfromalltheheightofitscourage when the porter, after a long delay, returned with the announcement that Miss Vinerwasnolongerinthehotel Anna,doubtfulifsheunderstood,askedifhe merelymeantthattheyoungladywasoutatthemoment;butherepliedthatshe hadgoneawaythedaybefore Beyondthishehadnoinformationtoimpart,and after a moment’s hesitation Anna sent him back to enquire if Mrs McTarvieBirch would receive her She reflected that Sophy had probably pledged her sister to the same secrecy as Mrs Farlow, and that a personal appeal to Mrs Birchmightleadtolessnegativeresults Therewasanotherlongintervalofsuspensebeforetheporterreappearedwith anaffirmativeanswer;andathirdwhileanexiguousandhesitatingliftboreher uppastasuccessionofshabbylandings When the last was reached, and her guide had directed her down a winding passagethatsmeltofsea-goingluggage,shefoundherselfbeforeadoorthrough whichastrongodouroftobaccoreachedhersimultaneouslywiththesoundsofa suppressedaltercation Herknockwasfollowedbyasilence,andafteraminute ortwothedoorwasopenedbyahandsomeyoungmanwhoseruffledhairand generalairofcreaseddisorderledhertoconcludethathehadjustrisenfroma long-limbed sprawl on a sofa strewn with tumbled cushions This sofa, and a grand piano bearing a basket of faded roses, a biscuit-tin and a devastated breakfasttray,almostfilledthenarrowsitting-room,intheremainingcornerof whichanotherman,short,swarthyandhumble,satexaminingtheliningofhis hat Annapausedindoubt;butonhernamingMrs Birchtheyoungmanpolitely invited her to enter, at the same time casting an impatient glance at the mute spectatorinthebackground Thelatter,raisinghiseyes,whichwereroundandbulging,fixedthem,noton theyoungmanbutonAnna,whom,foramoment,hescrutinizedassearchingly as the interior of his hat Under his gaze she had the sense of being minutely catalogued and valued; and the impression, when he finally rose and moved towardthedoor,ofhavingbeenacceptedasabetterguaranteethanhehadhad any reason to hope for On the threshold his glance crossed that of the young man in an exchange of intelligence as full as it was rapid; and this brief scene left Anna so oddly enlightened that she felt no surprise when her companion, pushing an arm-chair forward, sociably asked her if she wouldn’t have a cigarette Her polite refusal provoked the remark that he would, if she’d no objection;andwhilehegropedformatchesinhisloosepockets,andbehindthe photographsandletterscrowdingthenarrowmantel-shelf,sheventuredanother enquiryforMrs Birch “Just a minute,” he smiled; “I think the masseur’s with her.” He spoke in a smoothdenationalizedEnglish,which,likethelookinhislong-lashedeyesand thepromptnessofhischarmingsmile,suggestedalongtraininginalltheartsof expediency Havingfinallydiscoveredamatch-boxonthefloorbesidethesofa, he lit his cigarette and dropped back among the cushions; and on Anna’s remarking that she was sorry to disturb Mrs Birch he replied that that was all right,andthatshealwayskepteverybodywaiting After this, through the haze of his perpetually renewed cigarettes, they continued to chat for some time of indifferent topics; but when at last Anna againsuggestedthepossibilityofherseeingMrs Birchherosefromhiscorner with a slight shrug, and murmuring: “She’s perfectly hopeless,” lounged off throughaninnerdoor Annawasstillwonderingwhenandinwhatconjunctionofcircumstancesthe much-married Laura had acquired a partner so conspicuous for his personal charms, when the young man returned to announce: “She says it’s all right, if youdon’tmindseeingherinbed.” HedrewasidetoletAnnapass,andshefoundherselfinadimuntidyscented room, with a pink curtain pinned across its single window, and a lady with a great deal of fair hair and uncovered neck smiling at her from a pink bed on whichanimmensepowder-pufftrailed “Youdon’tmind, doyou? HecostssuchafrightfullotthatIcan’t afford to sendhimoff,”Mrs Birchexplained,extendingathickly-ringedhandtoAnna, andleavingherindoubtastowhetherthepersonalludedtowerehermasseuror herhusband Beforeareplywaspossibletherewasaconvulsivestirbeneaththe pinkexpanse,andsomethingthatresembledanotherpowder-puffhurleditselfat AnnawithavolleyofsoundslikethepoppingofLilliputianchampagnecorks Mrs Birch, flinging herself forward, gasped out: “If you’d just give him a caramel there,inthatboxonthedressing-table it’stheonlyearthlythingto stophim ”andwhenAnnahadprofferedthissoptoherassailant,andhehad withdrawnwithitbeneaththebedspread,hismistresssankbackwithalaugh “Isn’theabeauty?ThePrincegavehimtomedownatNicetheotherday— but he’s perfectly awful,” she confessed, beaming intimately on her visitor In the roseate penumbra of the bed-curtains she presented to Anna’s startled gaze anoddchromo-likeresemblancetoSophyViner,orasuggestion,rather,ofwhat Sophy Viner might, with the years and in spite of the powder-puff, become Larger, blonder, heavier-featured, she yet had glances and movements that disturbinglysuggestedwhatwasfreshestandmostengaginginthegirl;andas shestretchedherbareplumparmacrossthebedsheseemedtobepullingback theveilfromdingydistancesoffamilyhistory “Do sit down, if there’s a place to sit on,” she cordially advised; adding, as Anna took the edge of a chair with miscellaneous raiment: “My singing takessomuchtimethatIdon’tgetachancetowalkthefatoff—that’stheworst ofbeinganartist.” Annamurmuredanassent “Ihopeithasn’tinconveniencedyoutoseeme;I toldMr Birch—” “Mr who?”therecumbentbeautyasked;andthen:“Oh,Jimmy!”shefaintly laughed,asifmoreforherownenlightenmentthanAnna’s Thelattercontinuedeagerly:“IunderstandfromMrs Farlowthatyoursister was with you, and I ventured to come up because I wanted to ask you when I shouldhaveachanceoffindingher.” Mrs McTarvie-Birchthrewbackherheadwithalongstare “Doyoumeanto saytheidiotatthedoordidn’ttellyou?Sophywentawaylastnight.” “Last night?” Anna echoed A sudden terror had possessed her Could it be thatthegirlhadtrickedthemallandgonewithOwen?Theideawasincredible, yet it took such hold of her that she could hardly steady her lips to say: “The porterdidtellme,butIthoughtperhapshewasmistaken Mrs Farlowseemed tothinkthatIshouldfindherhere.” “It was all so sudden that I don’t suppose she had time to let the Farlows know Shedidn’tgetMrs Murrett’swiretillyesterday,andshejustpitchedher thingsintoatrunkandrushed——” “Mrs Murrett?” “Why, yes Sophy’s gone to India with Mrs Murrett; they’re to meet at Brindisi,”Sophy’ssistersaidwithacalmsmile Annasatmotionless,gazingatthedisorderedroom,thepinkbed,thetrivial faceamongthepillows Mrs McTarvie-Birch pursued: “They had a fearful kick-up last spring—I daresayyouknewaboutit—butItoldSophyshe’dbetterlumpit,aslongasthe oldwomanwaswillingto Asanartist,ofcourse,it’sperfectlyimpossiblefor metohaveherwithme ” “Ofcourse,”Annamechanicallyassented Through the confused pain of her thoughts she was hardly aware that Mrs Birch’sexplanationswerestillcontinuing “NaturallyIdidn’taltogetherapprove ofhergoingbacktothatbeastofawoman IsaidallIcould Itoldhershewas a fool to chuck up such a place as yours But Sophy’s restless—always was— andshe’stakenitintoherheadshe’drathertravel ” Anna rose from her seat, groping for some formula of leave-taking The pushingbackofherchairrousedthewhitedog’ssmoulderinganimosity,andhe drowned his mistress’s further confidences in another outburst of hysterics ThroughthetumultAnnasignedaninaudiblefarewell,andMrs Birch,having momentarily succeeded in suppressing her pet under a pillow, called out: “Do comeagain!I’dlovetosingtoyou.” Annamurmuredawordofthanksandturnedtothedoor Assheopeneditshe heardherhostesscryingafterher:“Jimmy!Doyouhearme?JimmyBrance!” andthen,therebeingnoresponsefromthepersonsummoned:“Dotellhimhe mustgoandcalltheliftforyou!” EndoftheProjectGutenbergEBookofTheReef,byEdithWharton ***ENDOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEREEF*** 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ThisWebsiteincludesinformationaboutProjectGutenberg-tm, includinghowtomakedonationstotheProjectGutenbergLiterary ArchiveFoundation,howtohelpproduceourneweBooks,andhowto subscribetoouremailnewslettertohearaboutneweBooks ... enough apart for the reflectionof the upperonetodeepen the colourof the other The joltingof the trainhadagainshakenloose the lockaboveherear Itdancedonhercheeklike the flitofabrownwingoverflowers,andDarrowfeltanintensedesiretolean... characterandmannerofoccupationshownin the passingfaces, the streetsigns, the names of the hotels they passed, the motley brightness of the flower-carts, the identityof the churchesandpublicbuildingsthatcaughthereye... hersafein the custodyofhisdevotion,setapartforsomeinevitablehour;and the last evening, at the theatre, between the overshadowing Marquise and the unsuspiciousOwen,theyhadhadanalmostdecisiveexchangeofwords Now, in the rattle of the wind about
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