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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXV

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It was curious to think that if he and she had remained together, and she had had a child--the vision used to come to her, in her sleepless hours, when she looked at little Geordie, in his cot by her bed--their life together might have been very much like the life she was now leading, a small obscure business to the outer world, but to themselves how wide and deep and crowded!

She could not bear, at that moment, the thought of giving up this mystic relation to the life she had missed. In spite of the hurry and fatigue of her days, the shabbiness and discomfort of everything, and the hours when the children were as "horrid" as any other children, and turned a conspiracy of hostile faces to all her appeals; in spite of all this she did not want to give them up, and had decided, when their parents returned, to ask to go back to America with them. Perhaps, if Nat's success continued, and Grace was able to work at her music, they would need a kind of governess-companion. At any rate, she could picture no future less distasteful.

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She had not sent to Mr. Spearman Nick's answer to her letter. In the interval between writing to him and receiving his reply she had broken with Strefford; she had therefore no object in seeking her freedom. If Nick wanted his, he knew he had only to ask for it; and his silence, as the weeks passed, woke a faint hope in her. The hope flamed high when she read one day in the newspapers a vague but evidently "inspired" allusion to the possibility of an alliance between his Serene Highness the reigning Prince of Teutoburg-Waldhain and Miss Coral Hicks of Apex City; it sank to ashes when, a few days later, her eye lit on a paragraph wherein Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer Hicks "requested to state" that there was no truth in the report.

On the foundation of these two statements Susy raised one watch-tower of hope after another, feverish edifices demolished or rebuilt by every chance hint from the outer world wherein Nick's name figured with the Hickses'. And still, as the days passed and she heard nothing, either from him or from her lawyer, her flag continued to fly from the quaking structures.

Apart from the custody of the children there was indeed little to distract her mind from these persistent broodings. She winced sometimes at the thought of the ease with which her fashionable friends had let her drop out of sight. In the perpetual purposeless rush of their days, the feverish making of winter plans, hurrying off to the Riviera or St. Moritz, Egypt or New York, there was no time to hunt up the vanished or to wait for the laggard. Had they learned that she had broken her "engagement" (how she hated the word!) to Strefford, and had the fact gone about that she was once more only a poor hanger-on, to be taken up when it was convenient, and ignored in the intervals? She did not know; though she fancied Strefford's newly-developed pride would prevent his revealing to any one what had passed between them. For several days after her abrupt flight he had made no sign; and though she longed to write and ask his forgiveness she could not find the words. Finally it was he who wrote: a short note, from Altringham, typical of all that was best in the old Strefford. He had gone down to Altringham, he told her, to think quietly over their last talk, and try to understand what she had been driving at. He had to own that he couldn't; but that, he supposed, was the very head and front of his offending. Whatever he had done to displease her, he was sorry for; but he asked, in view of his invincible ignorance, to be allowed not to regard his offence as a cause for a final break. The possibility of that, he found, would make him even more unhappy than he had foreseen; as she knew, his own happiness had always been his first object in life, and he therefore begged her to suspend her decision a little longer. He expected to be in Paris within another two months, and before arriving he would write again, and ask her to see him.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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