Click here to Download The House of Mirth PDF Book by Edith Wharton Language English having PDF Size 3.2 MB and No of Pages 251.
Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart. It was a Monday in early September, and he was returning to his work from a hurried dip into the country; but what was Miss Bart doing in town at that season?
The House of Mirth PDF Book by Edith Wharton
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If she had appeared to be catching a train, he might have inferred that he had come on her in the act of transition between one and another of the country houses which disputed her presence after the close of the Newport season; but her desultory air perplexed him.
She stood apart from the crowd, letting it drift by her to the platform or the street, and wearing an air of irresolution which might, as he surmised, be the mask of a very definite purpose. It struck him at once that she was waiting for some one, but he hardly knew why the idea arrested him.
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There was nothing new about Lily Bart, yet he could never see her without a faint movement of interest: it was characteristic of her that she always roused speculation, that her simplest acts seemed the result of far-reaching intentions. An impulse of curiosity made him turn out of his direct line to the door, and stroll past her.
He knew that if she did not wish to be seen she would contrive to elude him; and it amused him to think of putting her skill to the test. “Mr. Selden—what good luck!” She came forward smiling, eager almost, in her resolve to intercept him. One or two persons, in brushing past them.
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Lingered to look; for Miss Bart was a figure to arrest even the suburban traveller rushing to his last train. Selden had never seen her more radiant. Her vivid head, relieved against the dull tints of the crowd, made her more conspicuous than in a ball-room, and under her dark hat and veil she regained the girlish smoothness.
The purity of tint, that she was beginning to lose after eleven years of late hours and indefatigable dancing. Was it really eleven years, Selden found himself wondering, and had she indeed reached the nine-and-twentieth birthday with which her rivals credited her? “What luck!” she repeated. “How nice of you to come to my rescue!”
He responded joyfully that to do so was his mission in life, and asked what form the rescue was to take. “Oh, almost any—even to sitting on a bench and talking to me. One sits out a cotillion—why not sit out a train? It isn’t a bit hotter here than in Mrs. Van Osburgh’s conservatory—and some of the women are not a bit uglier.” The House of Mirth PDF Book
She broke off, laughing, to explain that she had come up to town from Tuxedo, on her way to the Gus Trenors’ at Bellomont, and had missed the three-fifteen train to Rhinebeck. “And there isn’t another till half-past five.” She consulted the little jewelled watch among her laces. “Just two hours to wait. And I don’t know what to do with myself.
My maid came up this morning to do some shopping for me, and was to go on to Bellomont at one o’clock, and my aunt’s house is closed, and I don’t know a soul in town.” She glanced plaintively about the station. “It IS hotter than Mrs. Van Osburgh’s, after all. If you can spare the time, do take me somewhere for a breath of air.”
She reaped the reward to which disinterestedness is entitled, and found an agreeable companion in her niece. She had expected to find Lily headstrong, critical and “foreign”—for even Mrs. Peniston, though she occasionally went abroad, had the family dread of foreignness—but the girl showed a pliancy. The House of Mirth PDF Book
Which, to a more penetrating mind than her aunt’s, might have been less reassuring than the open selfishness of youth. Misfortune had made Lily supple instead of hardening her, and a pliable substance is less easy to break than a stiff one. Mrs. Peniston, however, did not suffer from her niece’s adaptability.
Lily had no intention of taking advantage of her aunt’s good-nature. She was in truth grateful for the refuge offered her: Mrs. Peniston’s opulent interior was at least not externally dingy. But dinginess is a quality which assumes all manner of disguises; and Lily soon found that it was as latent in the expensive routine of her aunt’s life.
As in the makeshift existence of a continental pension. Mrs. Peniston was one of the episodical persons who form the padding of life. It was impossible to believe that she had herself ever been a focus of activities. The most vivid thing about her was the fact that her grandmother had been a Van Alstyne. The House of Mirth PDF Book
This connection with the well-fed and industrious stock of early New York revealed itself in the glacial neatness of Mrs. Peniston’s drawing-room and in the excellence of her cuisine. She belonged to the class of old New Yorkers who have always lived well, dressed expensively.
And done little else; and to these inherited obligations Mrs. Peniston faithfully conformed. She had always been a looker-on at life, and her mind resembled one of those little mirrors which her Dutch ancestors were accustomed to affix to their upper windows, so that from the depths of an impenetrable domesticity they might see what was happening in the street.
Mrs. Peniston was the owner of a country-place in New Jersey, but she had never lived there since her husband’s death—a remote event, which appeared to dwell in her memory chiefly as a dividing point in the personal reminiscences that formed the staple of her conversation. The House of Mirth PDF Book Download
She was a woman who remembered dates with intensity, and could tell at a moment’s notice whether the drawing-room curtains had been renewed before or after Mr. Peniston’s last illness. In this strain Mrs. Trenor continued for nearly an hour to admonish her friend. Miss Bart listened with admirable equanimity.
Her naturally good temper had been disciplined by years of enforced compliance, since she had almost always had to attain her ends by the circuitous path of other people’s; and, being naturally inclined to face unpleasant facts as soon as they presented themselves, she was not sorry to hear an impartial statement of what her folly was likely to cost.
The more so as her own thoughts were still insisting on the other side of the case. Presented in the light of Mrs. Trenor’s vigorous comments, the reckoning was certainly a formidable one, and Lily, as she listened, found herself gradually reverting to her friend’s view of the situation. The House of Mirth PDF Book Download
Mrs. Trenor’s words were moreover emphasized for her hearer by anxieties which she herself could scarcely guess. Affluence, unless stimulated by a keen imagination, forms but the vaguest notion of the practical strain of poverty. Judy knew it must be “horrid” for poor Lily to have to stop to consider whether she could afford real lace on her petticoats.
And not to have a motor-car and a steam-yacht at her orders; but the daily friction of unpaid bills, the daily nibble of small temptations to expenditure, were trials as far out of her experience as the domestic problems of the char-woman. Mrs. Trenor’s unconsciousness of the real stress of the situation had the effect of making it more galling to Lily.
While her friend reproached her for missing the opportunity to eclipse her rivals, she was once more battling in imagination with the mounting tide of indebtedness from which she had so nearly escaped. What wind of folly had driven her out again on those dark seas? The House of Mirth PDF Book Download
If anything was needed to put the last touch to her self-abasement it was the sense of the way her old life was opening its ruts again to receive her. Yesterday her fancy had fluttered free pinions above a choice of occupations; now she had to drop to the level of the familiar routine.
In which moments of seeming brilliancy and freedom alternated with long hours of subjection. Fortune willed, however, that the hurried approach of Mrs. Fisher, as whose aidede-camp Van Alstyne was acting, should break up the group before Selden reached the threshold of the room.
One or two of the men wandered off in search of their partners for supper, and the others, noticing Selden’s approach, gave way to him in accordance with the tacit freemasonry of the ball-room. Lily was therefore standing alone when he reached her; and finding the expected look in her eye, he had the satisfaction of supposing he had kindled it. The House of Mirth PDF Book Free
The look did indeed deepen as it rested on him, for even in that moment of self-intoxication Lily felt the quicker beat of life that his nearness always produced. She read, too, in his answering gaze the delicious confirmation of her triumph, and for the moment it seemed to her that it was for him only she cared to be beautiful.
Selden had given her his arm without speaking. She took it in silence, and they moved away, not toward the supper-room, but against the tide which was setting thither. The faces about her flowed by like the streaming images of sleep: she hardly noticed where Selden was leading her.
Till they passed through a glass doorway at the end of the long suite of rooms and stood suddenly in the fragrant hush of a garden. Gravel grated beneath their feet, and about them was the transparent dimness of a midsummer night. Hanging lights made emerald caverns in the depths of foliage, and whitened the spray of a fountain falling among lilies. The House of Mirth PDF Book Free
The magic place was deserted: there was no sound but the splash of the water on the lily-pads, and a distant drift of music that might have been blown across a sleeping lake. Selden and Lily stood still, accepting the unreality of the scene as a part of their own dream-like sensations.
It would not have surprised them to feel a summer breeze on their faces, or to see the lights among the boughs reduplicated in the arch of a starry sky. The strange solitude about them was no stranger than the sweetness of being alone in it together.
At length Lily withdrew her hand, and moved away a step, so that her white-robed slimness was outlined against the dusk of the branches. Selden followed her, and still without speaking they seated themselves on a bench beside the fountain. The House of Mirth PDF Book Free
Judy Trenor’s summons was very welcome to Lily. It was the first time she had received a direct communication from Bellomont since the close of her last visit there, and she was still visited by the dread of having incurred Judy’s displeasure.
But this characteristic command seemed to reestablish their former relations; and Lily smiled at the thought that her friend had probably summoned her in order to hear about the Brys’ entertainment. Mrs. Trenor had absented herself from the feast, perhaps for the reason so frankly enunciated by her husband, perhaps because.
As Mrs. Fisher somewhat differently put it, she “couldn’t bear new people when she hadn’t discovered them herself.” At any rate, though she remained haughtily at Bellomont, Lily suspected in her a devouring eagerness to hear of what she had missed. The House of Mirth PDF Book Free
And to learn exactly in what measure Mrs. Wellington Bry had surpassed all previous competitors for social recognition. Lily was quite ready to gratify this curiosity, but it happened that she was dining out. She determined, however, to see Mrs. Trenor for a few moments.
And ringing for her maid she despatched a telegram to say that she would be with her friend that evening at ten. She was dining with Mrs. Fisher, who had gathered at an informal feast a few of the performers of the previous evening. There was to be plantation music in the studio after dinner—for Mrs. Fisher, despairing of the republic.
Had taken up modelling, and annexed to her small crowded house a spacious apartment, which, whatever its uses in her hours of plastic inspiration, served at other times for the exercise of an indefatigable hospitality. Lily was reluctant to leave, for the dinner was amusing. The House of Mirth PDF Book Free
And she would have liked to lounge over a cigarette and hear a few songs; but she could not break her engagement with Judy, and shortly after ten she asked her hostess to ring for a hansom, and drove up Fifth Avenue to the Trenors’. She waited long enough on the doorstep to wonder that Judy’s presence in town.
Was not signalized by a greater promptness in admitting her; and her surprise was increased when, instead of the expected footman, pushing his shoulders into a tardy coat, a shabby care-taking person in calico let her into the shrouded hall.
Trenor, however, appeared at once on the threshold of the drawing-room, welcoming her with unusual volubility while he relieved her of her cloak and drew her into the room. “Come along to the den; it’s the only comfortable place in the house. Doesn’t this room look as if it was waiting for the body to be brought down? The House of Mirth PDF Book Free
Can’t see why Judy keeps the house wrapped up in this awful slippery white stuff—it’s enough to give a fellow pneumonia to walk through these rooms on a cold day. You look a little pinched yourself, by the way: it’s rather a sharp night out. I noticed it walking up from the club.
Come along, and I’ll give you a nip of brandy, and you can toast yourself over the fire and try some of my new Egyptians—that little Turkish chap at the Embassy put me on to a brand that I want you to try, and if you like ’em I’ll get out a lot for you: they don’t have ’em here yet, but I’ll cable.”