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“Oh yes,” Wendy said primly.
They had one opportunity to witness the result of the gunfire aboard the battleship. A shell burst amidst a copse ashore two miles away, and they distinctly saw men being hurled into the air, as well as parts of a dismantled cannon. A hearty cheer from the whole crew told what they thought of that shot.
"I am quite serious about Jasper."
“Okay,” Jenny said gaily. “I’ll meet you down there in forty-five minutes. And if I need your help, I’ll call you on your cell.” Dan nodded and leapt onto the elevator as soon as it opened. Down in the men’s department, he ambled over to a counter and spritzed his hands with Gucci cologne, wrinkling his nose at the strong, Italian, male scent. He looked around the intimidating, woody room for a bathroom where he could wash it off. Instead, he found a mannequin in full evening dress and beside it, a rack full of tuxes. Dan fingered the rich material of the jackets and looked at the labels. Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Armani. He imagined stepping out of a limo wearing his Armani tux with Serena on his arm. They’d stroll down the red carpet leading into the party, music thumping all around them, and people would turn and say, “Oh,” in hushed voices. Serena would press her perfect mouth to Dan’s ear. “I love you,” she’d whisper. Then Dan would stop and kiss her and pick her up and carry her back to the limo. Screw the party. They had better things to do. “Can I help you, sir?” A salesman asked. Dan turned abruptly. “No. I—” He hesitated and looked at his watch. Jenny was going to take forever upstairs, and why shouldn’t he? As long as he was there. He picked up the Armani tux and held it out to the sales guy. “Can I try this one on in my size?” he said. The cologne must have gone to his head. Jenny and Maureen had completely scoured the racks, and Maureen had filled a dressing room with dozens of possibilities in assorted sizes. The problem with Jenny was she was only a size two, but her chest was a size eight at least. Maureen thought they’d have to compromise and go for a six, letting it out in the bust and taking it in everywhere else. The first few dresses were a disaster. Jenny nearly busted the zipper of one trying to unsnag it from her bra. And the next one didn’t even make it over her boobs. The third one was completely obscene. The fourth one fit, sort of, except it was bright orange and had a ridiculous ruffle running across it, like someone had slashed it with a knife. Jenny poked her head out of the curtain to look for Maureen. Next door, Serena and her mother were just heading out of their dressing room to the cashier’s desk. “Serena!” Jenny called, without thinking twice. Serena turned around and Jenny blushed. She couldn’t believe she was talking to Serena van der Woodsen while wearing a bright orange dress with a stupid ruffle on it. “Hey Jenny,” Serena said, beaming sweetly down at her. She walked over and kissed Jenny on both cheeks. Jenny sucked in her breath and gripped the curtain to steady herself. Serena van der Woodsen had just kissed her. “Wow, crazy dress,” Serena said. She leaned in to whisper in Jenny’s ear. “You’re lucky you don’t have your mom with you. I got suckered into buying the ugliest dress in the store.” Serena held the dress up. It was long and black and completely gorgeous. Jenny didn’t know what to say. She wished she were the kind of girl who could complain about shopping with her mother. She wished she were the kind of girl who could complain about a beautiful dress being ugly. But she wasn’t. “Is everything all right, dear?” Maureen said, striding over and handing Jenny a strapless bra contraption to try on with her dresses. Jenny took the bra and glanced at Serena, her cheeks burning. “I’d better keep trying this stuff on,” she said. “See you Monday, Serena.” She let the curtain fall closed, but Maureen pulled it open a few inches. “That looks nice,” she said, nodding approvingly at the orange dress. “It suits you.” Jenny grimaced. “Does it come in black?” she asked. “But you’re too young for black,” Maureen said, frowning. Jenny frowned back and handed the pile of reject dresses to Maureen, closing the curtain firmly in her face. “Thanks for your help,” she called. She yanked the orange dress over her head and whipped off her bra, reaching for a black stretch-satin dress she had picked out herself. Braless, she pulled the dress on over her head and felt it ooze all over her. When she looked up, little Jenny Humphrey had vanished from the dressing room. In her place was a dangerous, slutty sex goddess. Throw in a pair of kitten heels, a thong, and some Chanel Vamp lipstick, and she had it going on. No girl is ever too young to wear black. Late Sunday morning the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art were crawling with people. Tourists, mostly, and locals who had come for a brief visit so they could brag about it to their friends and sound cultured. Inside, brunch was being served in the Egyptian wing for all the museum’s board members and their families. The Egyptian wing was a superb setting for nighttime parties—glittering gold and exotic, with the moonlight shining dramatically through its modern glass walls. But it was all wrong for brunch. Smoked salmon and eggs and mummified Egyptian Pharaohs really don’t mix. Plus, the morning sun was shining so brightly through the slanting glass walls, it made even the slightest hangover feel ten times worse. Who invented brunch anyway? The only decent place to be on Sunday mornings is in bed. The room was filled with large round tables and freshly-scrubbed Upper-East-Siders. Eleanor Waldorf, Cyrus Rose, the van der Woodsens, the Basses, the Archibalds, and their children were there, all seated around one table. Blair was sitting between Cyrus Rose and her mother, looking grumpy. Nate had been intermittently baked, drunk, or passed out since Friday, and looked woozy and rumpled, as if he’d just woken up. Serena was wearing some of the new clothes she’d bought shopping with her mother the day before, and she had a new haircut, with soft layers framing her face. She looked even more beautiful than ever, but nervous and jumpy after drinking six cups of coffee. Only Chuck seemed at ease, happily sipping his Bloody Mary. Cyrus Rose sliced his salmon-and-leek omelet in half and plunked it on a pumpernickel bagel. “I’ve been craving eggs,” he said, biting into it hungrily. “You know when your body tells you you need something?” he said, to no one in particular. “Mine’s shouting, ‘Eggs, eggs, eggs!’ ” And mine’s shouting, “Shut the fuck up,” Blair thought. Blair pushed her plate toward him. “Here, have mine. I hate eggs,” she said. Cyrus pushed her plate back. “No, you’re growing. You need that more than I do.” “That’s right, Blair,” her mother agreed. “Eat your eggs. They’re good for you.” “I hear eggs make your hair shiny,” Misty Bass added. Blair shook her head. “I don’t eat chicken abortions,” she said stubbornly. “They make me gag.” Chuck reached across the table. “I’ll eat them, if you don’t want them.” “Oh, now, Chuck,” Mrs. Bass clucked. “Don’t be a piggy.” “She said she didn’t want them,” Chuck said. “Right, Blair?” Blair handed her plate over, careful not to look at Serena or Nate, sitting on either side of Chuck. Serena was busy cutting her omelet into little squares, like Scrabble pieces. She began building tall towers of them. Out of the corner of his eye, Nate was watching her. He was also watching Chuck’s hands. Each time they slid underneath the tablecloth and out of view, Nate imagined them all over Serena’s legs. “Anyone see the Styles section of the Times today?” Cyrus asked, looking around the table. Serena’s head shot up. Her picture with the Remi brothers. She’d forgotten all about it. She pursed her lips and slunk down in her chair, waiting for an inquisition from her parents and everyone else at the table. But it never came. It was part of their social code not to dwell on things that embarrassed them. “Pass me the cream, Nate darling?” Blair’s mother said, while smiling at Serena. And that was that. Nate’s mother cleared her throat. “How is the Kiss on the Lips party going, Blair? Are you girls all ready?” she asked, swigging her Seven-and-Seven. “Yes, we’re all set,” Blair answered politely. “We finally got the invitations cleared up. And Kate Spade is sending over the gift bags after school on Thursday.” “I remember all the cotillions I used to organize,” Mrs. van der Woodsen said, with a dreamy expression. “But the thing we always used to worry about most was would the boys show up.” She smiled at Nate and Chuck. “We don’t have to worry about that with you two, do we?” she said. “I’m all over it,” Chuck said, scarfing Blair’s omelet. “I’ll be there,” Nate said. He glanced at Blair, who was staring at him now. Nate was wearing that same green cashmere sweater she had given him in Sun Valley. The one with the gold heart. “Excuse me,” Blair said. Then she stood up abruptly and left the table. Nate followed her. “Blair!” he called, weaving his way around the other tables, ignoring his friend Jeremy, who was waving to him from across the room. “Wait up.” Without turning around, Blair began walking even faster, her heels clacking on the white marble floor. They reached the hallway to the restrooms. “Come on, Blair. I’m sorry, okay? Can we please talk?” Nate called. Blair reached the door to the women’s room and turned around, pushing it halfway open with her rear end. “Just leave me alone, okay?” she said sharply, and went inside. Nate stood outside the door for a moment with his hands in his pockets, thinking. That morning, when he’d put on the green sweater Blair had given him, he’d found a little gold heart sewn into the sleeve. He’d never noticed it before, but it was obvious Blair had put it there. For the first time, he realized that she really meant it when she’d said she loved him. It was pretty intense. And pretty flattering. And it kind of made him want her again. It wasn’t just any girl who’d sew a gold heart into your clothes. He had that right. Serena had to pee desperately, but she couldn’t face being in the bathroom at the same time as Blair. After Blair and Nate had been gone for five minutes, though, Serena couldn’t hold it any longer. She stood up and headed for the ladies’ room. Familiar faces gazed up at Serena as she passed their tables. A waitress offered her a glass of champagne. But Serena shook her head and hurried down the marble hall to the bathrooms. Quick, heavy footsteps smacked on the floor behind her, and she turned around. It was Cyrus Rose. “Tell Blair to hurry if she wants dessert, will you?” he told her. Serena nodded and pushed open the door to the ladies’ room. Blair was washing her hands. She looked up, staring at Serena’s reflection in the mirror over the sink. “Cyrus says to hurry if you want dessert,” Serena said abruptly, walking into a stall, and banging the door shut. She pulled down her underwear and tried to pee, but she couldn’t, not with Blair in the room. Serena couldn’t believe herself.
Chapter 24 Harry's Letter
“Mount!” she cried, in a commanding voice. “I will ride inside. Take the road to San Tarem. Quick, senhor, as you value both our lives!”
From, these ghosts, our fathers received information. They were the schoolmasters of our ancestors. They were the scientists and philosophers, the geologists, legislators, astronomers, physicians, metaphysicians and historians of the past. For ages these ghosts were supposed to be the only source of real knowledge. They inspired men to write books, and the books were considered sacred. If facts were found to be inconsistent with these books, so much the worse for the facts, and especially for their discoverers. It was then, and still is, believed that these books are the basis of the idea of immortality; that to give up these volumes, or rather the idea that they are inspired, is to renounce the idea of immortality. This I deny.
"The two hundred-dollar bonds are mine," said Colonel Ross.
But mine, alas! has stood the blow;
One of the prime desires now, in consolidating the entire narrative within these covers, is to round out, from inception to finish, the record of our strange adventures in connection with our quest for an abandoned farm and on our becoming abandoned farmers, trusting that others, following our examples, may perhaps profit in some small degree by our mistakes as here set forth and perhaps ultimately when their dreams have come true, too, share in that proud joy of possession which is ours. Another object, largely altruistic in its nature, is to afford opportunity for the reader, by comparison of the chronological sub-divisions into which the story falls, to decide whether with the passage of time, my style of writing shows a tendency toward improvement or an increasing and enhanced faultiness. Those who feel inclined to write me upon the subject are notified that the author is most sensible in this regard, being ever ready to welcome criticism, provided only the criticism be favorable in tone. Finally there is herewith confessed a third motive, namely, an ambition that a considerable number of persons may see their way clear to buy this book.
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