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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXV

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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The letter moved her but did not make her waver. She simply wrote that she was touched by his kindness, and would willingly see him if he came to Paris later; though she was bound to tell him that she had not yet changed her mind, and did not believe it would promote his happiness to have her try to do so.

He did not reply to this, and there was nothing further to keep her thoughts from revolving endlessly about her inmost hopes and fears.

On the rainy afternoon in question, tramping home from the "cours" (to which she was to return at six), she had said to herself that it was two months that very day since Nick had known she was ready to release him--and that after such a delay he was not likely to take any further steps. The thought filled her with a vague ecstasy. She had had to fix an arbitrary date as the term of her anguish, and she had fixed that one; and behold she was justified. For what could his silence mean but that he too ....

On the hall-table lay a typed envelope with the Paris postage-mark. She opened it carelessly, and saw that the letter-head bore Mr. Spearman's office address. The words beneath spun round before her eyes .... "Has notified us that he is at your disposal ... carry out your wishes ... arriving in Paris ... fix an appointment with his lawyers ...."

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Nick--it was Nick the words were talking of! It was the fact of Nick's return to Paris that was being described in those preposterous terms! She sank down on the bench beside the dripping umbrella-stand and stared vacantly before her. It had fallen at last--this blow in which she now saw that she had never really believed! And yet she had imagined she was prepared for it, had expected it, was already planning her future life in view of it--an effaced impersonal life in the service of somebody else's children--when, in reality, under that thin surface of abnegation and acceptance, all the old hopes had been smouldering red-hot in their ashes! What was the use of any self-discipline, any philosophy, any experience, if the lawless self underneath could in an instant consume them like tinder?

She tried to collect herself--to understand what had happened. Nick was coming to Paris--coming not to see her but to consult his lawyer! It meant, of course, that he had definitely resolved to claim his freedom; and that, if he had made up his mind to this final step, after more than six months of inaction and seeming indifference, it could be only because something unforeseen and decisive had happened to him. Feverishly, she put together again the stray scraps of gossip and the newspaper paragraphs that had reached her in the last months. It was evident that Miss Hicks's projected marriage with the Prince of Teutoburg-Waldhain had been broken off at the last moment; and broken off because she intended to marry Nick. The announcement of his arrival in Paris and the publication of Mr. and Mrs. Hicks's formal denial of their daughter's betrothal coincided too closely to admit of any other inference. Susy tried to grasp the reality of these assembled facts, to picture to herself their actual tangible results. She thought of Coral Hicks bearing the name of Mrs. Nick Lansing--her name, Susy's own!--and entering drawing-rooms with Nick in her wake, gaily welcomed by the very people who, a few months before, had welcomed Susy with the same warmth. In spite of Nick's growing dislike of society, and Coral's attitude of intellectual superiority, their wealth would fatally draw them back into the world to which Nick was attached by all his habits and associations. And no doubt it would amuse him to re-enter that world as a dispenser of hospitality, to play the part of host where he had so long been a guest; just as Susy had once fancied it would amuse her to re-enter it as Lady Altringham .... But, try as she would, now that the reality was so close on her, she could not visualize it or relate it to herself. The mere juxtaposition of the two names--Coral, Nick--which in old times she had so often laughingly coupled, now produced a blur in her brain.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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