Peter Van Degen Quotes in The Custom of the Country
But how long would their virgin innocence last? Popple’s vulgar hands were on it already—Popple’s and the unspeakable Van Degen’s! Once they and theirs had begun the process of initiating Undine, there was no knowing—or rather there was too easy knowing—how it would end!
Her colour rose again, and she looked him quickly and consciously in the eye. It was time to play her last card. “You seem to forget that I am—married,” she said.
Van Degen was silent—for a moment she thought he was swaying to her in the flush of surrender. But he remained doggedly seated, meeting her look with an odd clearing of his heated gaze, as if a shrewd businessman had suddenly replaced the pining gentleman at the window.
“Hang it—so am I!” he rejoined; and Undine saw that in the last issue he was still the stronger of the two.
Moffatt’s social gifts were hardly of a kind to please the two ladies: he would have shone more brightly in Peter Van Degen’s set than in his wife’s. But neither Clare nor Mrs. Fairford had expected a man of conventional cut, and Moffatt’s loud easiness was obviously less disturbing to them than to their hostess. Undine felt only his crudeness, and the tacit criticism passed on it by the mere presence of such men as her husband and Bowen; but Mrs. Fairford seemed to enjoy provoking him to fresh excesses of slang and hyperbole.
“If you’d only had the sense to come straight to me, Undine Spragg!
There isn’t a tip I couldn’t have given you—not one!”
Undine, without answering, caught up the pearls and thrust them into
Mrs. Heeny’s hands.
“Good land alive!” The masseuse dropped into a chair and let the twist slip through her fat flexible fingers. “Well, you got a fortune right round your neck whenever you wear them, Undine Spragg.”
Undine murmured something indistinguishable. “I want you to take them—” she began.
“Sell it? Sell Saint Desert?”
The suggestion seemed to strike him as something monstrously, almost fiendishly significant: as if her random word had at last thrust into his hand the clue to their whole unhappy difference. Without understanding this, she guessed it from the change in his face: it was as if a deadly solvent had suddenly decomposed its familiar lines.