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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXVII

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She ran up to her room, scribbled a note, and hurried with it through the rain and darkness to the post-box at the corner. As she returned through the empty street she had an odd feeling that it was not empty--that perhaps Nick was already there, somewhere near her in the night, about to follow her to the door, enter the house, go up with her to her bedroom in the old way. It was strange how close he had been brought by the mere fact of her having written that little note to him!

In the bedroom, Geordie lay in his crib in ruddy slumber, and she blew out the candle and undressed softly for fear of waking him.

Nick Lansing, the next day, received Susy's letter, transmitted to his hotel from the lawyer's office.

He read it carefully, two or three times over, weighing and scrutinizing the guarded words. She proposed that they should meet to "settle things." What things? And why should he accede to such a request? What secret purpose had prompted her? It was horrible that nowadays, in thinking of Susy, he should always suspect ulterior motives, be meanly on the watch for some hidden tortuousness. What on earth was she trying to "manage" now, he wondered.

A few hours ago, at the sight of her, all his hardness had melted, and he had charged himself with cruelty, with injustice, with every sin of pride against himself and her; but the appearance of Strefford, arriving at that late hour, and so evidently expected and welcomed, had driven back the rising tide of tenderness.

Yet, after all, what was there to wonder at? Nothing was changed in their respective situations. He had left his wife, deliberately, and for reasons which no subsequent experience had caused him to modify. She had apparently acquiesced in his decision, and had utilized it, as she was justified in doing, to assure her own future.

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In all this, what was there to wail or knock the breast between two people who prided themselves on looking facts in the face, and making their grim best of them, without vain repinings? He had been right in thinking their marriage an act of madness. Her charms had overruled his judgment, and they had had their year ... their mad year ... or at least all but two or three months of it. But his first intuition had been right; and now they must both pay for their madness. The Fates seldom forget the bargains made with them, or fail to ask for compound interest. Why not, then, now that the time had come, pay up gallantly, and remember of the episode only what had made it seem so supremely worth the cost?

He sent a pneumatic telegram to Mrs. Nicholas Lansing to say that he would call on her that afternoon at four. "That ought to give us time," he reflected drily, "to 'settle things,' as she calls it, without interfering with Strefford's afternoon visit."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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