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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXVIII

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"You haven't yet told me," he suggested, "how you happen to be living here."

"Here--with the Fulmer children?" She roused herself, trying to catch his easier note. "Oh, I've simply been governessing them for a few weeks, while Nat and Grace are in Sicily." She did not say: "It's because I've parted with Strefford." Somehow it helped her wounded pride a little to keep from him the secret of her precarious independence.

He looked his wonder. "All alone with that bewildered bonne? But how many of them are there? Five? Good Lord!" He contemplated the clock with unseeing eyes, and then turned them again on her face.

"I should have thought a lot of children would rather get on your nerves."

"Oh, not these children. They're so good to me."

"Ah, well, I suppose it won't be for long."

He sent his eyes again about the room, which his absent-minded gaze seemed to reduce to its dismal constituent elements, and added, with an obvious effort at small talk: "I hear the Fulmers are not hitting it off very well since his success. Is it true that he's going to marry Violet Melrose?"

The blood rose to Susy's face. "Oh, never, never! He and Grace are travelling together now."

"Oh, I didn't know. People say things ...." He was visibly embarrassed with the subject, and sorry that he had broached it.

"Some of the things that people say are true. But Grace doesn't mind. She says she and Nat belong to each other. They can't help it, she thinks, after having been through such a lot together."

"Dear old Grace!"

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He had risen from his chair, and this time she made no effort to detain him. He seemed to have recovered his self-composure, and it struck her painfully, humiliatingly almost, that he should have spoken in that light way of the expedition to Fontainebleau on the morrow .... Well, men were different, she supposed; she remembered having felt that once before about Nick.

It was on the tip of her tongue to cry out: "But wait--wait! I'm not going to marry Strefford after all!"--but to do so would seem like an appeal to his compassion, to his indulgence; and that was not what she wanted. She could never forget that he had left her because he had not been able to forgive her for "managing"--and not for the world would she have him think that this meeting had been planned for such a purpose.

"If he doesn't see that I am different, in spite of appearances ... and that I never was what he said I was that day--if in all these months it hasn't come over him, what's the use of trying to make him see it now?" she mused. And then, her thoughts hurrying on: "Perhaps he's suffering too--I believe he is suffering-at any rate, he's suffering for me, if not for himself. But if he's pledged to Coral, what can he do? What would he think of me if I tried to make him break his word to her?"

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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