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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXVI

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The probable explanation was that his lawyer had given him the wrong address; not only the wrong number but the wrong street. He pulled out the slip of paper, and was crossing over to decipher it under the lamp, when an errand-boy appeared out of the obscurity, and approached the house. Nick drew back, and the boy, unlatching the gate, ran up the steps and gave the bell a pull.

Almost immediately the door opened; and there stood Susy, the light full upon her, and upon a red-checked child against her shoulder. The space behind them was dark, or so dimly lit that it formed a black background to her vivid figure. She looked at the errand-boy without surprise, took his parcel, and after he had turned away, lingered a moment in the door, glancing down the empty street.

That moment, to her watcher, seemed quicker than a flash yet as long as a life-time. There she was, a stone's throw away, but utterly unconscious of his presence: his Susy, the old Susy, and yet a new Susy, curiously transformed, transfigured almost, by the new attitude in which he beheld her.

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In the first shock of the vision he forgot his surprise at her being in such a place, forgot to wonder whose house she was in, or whose was the sleepy child in her arms. For an instant she stood out from the blackness behind her, and through the veil of the winter night, a thing apart, an unconditioned vision, the eternal image of the woman and the child; and in that instant everything within him was changed and renewed. His eyes were still absorbing her, finding again the familiar curves of her light body, noting the thinness of the lifted arm that upheld the little boy, the droop of the shoulder he weighed on, the brooding way in which her cheek leaned to his even while she looked away; then she drew back, the door closed, and the street-lamp again shone on blankness.

"But she's mine!" Nick cried, in a fierce triumph of recovery ...

His eyes were so full of her that he shut them to hold in the crowding vision.

It remained with him, at first, as a complete picture; then gradually it broke up into its component parts, the child vanished, the strange house vanished, and Susy alone stood before him, his own Susy, only his Susy, yet changed, worn, tempered--older, even--with sharper shadows under the cheek-bones, the brows drawn, the joint of the slim wrist more prominent. It was not thus that his memory had evoked her, and he recalled, with a remorseful pang, the fact that something in her look, her dress, her tired and drooping attitude, suggested poverty, dependence, seemed to make her after all a part of the shabby house in which, at first sight, her presence had seemed so incongruous.

"But she looks poor!" he thought, his heart tightening. And instantly it occurred to him that these must be the Fulmer children whom she was living with while their parents travelled in Italy. Rumours of Nat Fulmer's sudden ascension had reached him, and he had heard that the couple had lately been seen in Naples and Palermo. No one had mentioned Susy's name in connection with them, and he could hardly tell why he had arrived at this conclusion, except perhaps because it seemed natural that, if Susy were in trouble, she should turn to her old friend Grace.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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