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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXIX

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He stared, and then burst into a laugh. The blood rushed to her face. She had caught a familiar ring in his laugh, and it wounded her. What business had he, at such a time, to laugh in the old way?

"I'm sorry; but there is no other way, I'm afraid. No other way but one," he corrected himself.

She raised her head sharply. "Well?"

"That you should be the woman. --Oh, my dear!" He had dropped his mocking smile, and was at her side, her hands in his. "Oh, my dear, don't you see that we've both been feeling the same thing, and at the same hour? You lay awake thinking of it all night, didn't you? So did I. Whenever the clock struck, I said to myself: 'She's hearing it too.' And I was up before daylight, and packed my traps--for I never want to set foot again in that awful hotel where I've lived in hell for the last three days. And I swore to myself that I'd go off with a woman by the first train I could catch--and so I mean to, my dear."

She stood before him numb. Yes, numb: that was the worst of it! The violence of the reaction had been too great, and she could hardly understand what he was saying. Instead, she noticed that the tassel of the window-blind was torn off again (oh, those children!), and vaguely wondered if his luggage were safe on the waiting taxi. One heard such stories ....

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His voice came back to her. "Susy! Listen!" he was entreating. "You must see yourself that it can't be. We're married--isn't that all that matters? Oh, I know--I've behaved like a brute: a cursed arrogant ass! You couldn't wish that ass a worse kicking than I've given him! But that's not the point, you see. The point is that we're married .... Married .... Doesn't it mean something to you, something--inexorable? It does to me. I didn't dream it would--in just that way. But all I can say is that I suppose the people who don't feel it aren't really married-and they'd better separate; much better. As for us--"

Through her tears she gasped out: "That's what I felt ... that's what I said to Streff ...."

He was upon her with a great embrace. "My darling! My darling! You have told him?"

"Yes," she panted. "That's why I'm living here." She paused. "And you've told Coral?"

She felt his embrace relax. He drew away a little, still holding her, but with lowered head.

"No ... I ... haven't."

"Oh, Nick! But then--?"

He caught her to him again, resentfully. "Well--then what? What do you mean? What earthly difference does it make?"

"But if you've told her you were going to marry her--" (Try as she would, her voice was full of silver chimes.)

"Marry her? Marry her?" he echoed. "But how could I? What does marriage mean anyhow? If it means anything at all it means--you! And I can't ask Coral Hicks just to come and live with me, can I?"

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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