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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXVI

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His first visit was to his lawyer's; and as he walked through the familiar streets each approaching face, each distant figure seemed hers. The obsession was intolerable. It would not last, of course; but meanwhile he had the exposed sense of a fugitive in a nightmare, who feels himself the only creature visible in a ghostly and besetting multitude. The eye of the metropolis seemed fixed on him in an immense unblinking stare.

At the lawyer's he was told that, as a first step to freedom, he must secure a domicile in Paris. He had of course known of this necessity: he had seen too many friends through the Divorce Court, in one country or another, not to be fairly familiar with the procedure. But the fact presented a different aspect as soon as he tried to relate it to himself and Susy: it was as though Susy's personality were a medium through which events still took on a transfiguring colour. He found the "domicile" that very day: a tawdrily furnished rez-de-chaussee, obviously destined to far different uses. And as he sat there, after the concierge had discreetly withdrawn with the first quarter's payment in her pocket, and stared about him at the vulgar plushy place, he burst out laughing at what it was about to figure in the eyes of the law: a Home, and a Home desecrated by his own act! The Home in which he and Susy had reared their precarious bliss, and seen it crumble at the brutal touch of his unfaithfulness and his cruelty--for he had been told that he must be cruel to her as well as unfaithful! He looked at the walls hung with sentimental photogravures, at the shiny bronze "nudes," the moth-eaten animal-skins and the bedizened bed-and once more the unreality, the impossibility, of all that was happening to him entered like a drug into his veins.

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To rouse himself he stood up, turned the key on the hideous place, and returned to his lawyer's. He knew that in the hard dry atmosphere of the office the act of giving the address of the flat would restore some kind of reality to the phantasmal transaction. And with wonder he watched the lawyer, as a matter of course, pencil the street and the number on one of the papers enclosed in a folder on which his own name was elaborately engrossed.

As he took leave it occurred to him to ask where Susy was living. At least he imagined that it had just occurred to him, and that he was making the enquiry merely as a measure of precaution, in order to know what quarter of Paris to avoid; but in reality the question had been on his lips since he had first entered the office, and lurking in his mind since he had emerged from the railway station that morning. The fact of not knowing where she lived made the whole of Paris a meaningless unintelligible place, as useless to him as the face of a huge clock that has lost its hour hand.

The address in Passy surprised him: he had imagined that she would be somewhere in the neighborhood of the Champs Elysees or the Place de l'Etoile. But probably either Mrs. Melrose or Ellie Vanderlyn had taken a house at Passy. Well--it was something of a relief to know that she was so far off. No business called him to that almost suburban region beyond the Trocadero, and there was much less chance of meeting her than if she had been in the centre of Paris.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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