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Part III Edith Wharton

Chapter XXV

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She continued to sit helplessly beside the hall-table, the tears running down her cheeks. The appearance of the bonne aroused her. Her youngest charge, Geordie, had been feverish for a day or two; he was better, but still confined to the nursery, and he had heard Susy unlock the house-door, and could not imagine why she had not come straight up to him. He now began to manifest his indignation in a series of racking howls, and Susy, shaken out of her trance, dropped her cloak and umbrella and hurried up.

"Oh, that child!" she groaned.

Under the Fulmer roof there was little time or space for the indulgence of private sorrows. From morning till night there was always some immediate practical demand on one's attention; and Susy was beginning to see how, in contracted households, children may play a part less romantic but not less useful than that assigned to them in fiction, through the mere fact of giving their parents no leisure to dwell on irremediable grievances. Though her own apprenticeship to family life had been so short, she had already acquired the knack of rapid mental readjustment, and as she hurried up to the nursery her private cares were dispelled by a dozen problems of temperature, diet and medicine.

Such readjustment was of course only momentary; yet each time it happened it seemed to give her more firmness and flexibility of temper. "What a child I was myself six months ago!" she thought, wondering that Nick's influence, and the tragedy of their parting, should have done less to mature and steady her than these few weeks in a house full of children.

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Pacifying Geordie was not easy, for he had long since learned to use his grievances as a pretext for keeping the offender at his beck with a continuous supply of stories, songs and games. "You'd better be careful never to put yourself in the wrong with Geordie," the astute Junie had warned Susy at the outset, "because he's got such a memory, and he won't make it up with you till you've told him every fairy-tale he's ever heard before."

But on this occasion, as soon as he saw her, Geordie's indignation melted. She was still in the doorway, compunctious, abject and racking her dazed brain for his favourite stories, when she saw, by the smoothing out of his mouth and the sudden serenity of his eyes, that he was going to give her the delicious but not wholly reassuring shock of being a good boy.

Thoughtfully he examined her face as she knelt down beside the cot; then he poked out a finger and pressed it on her tearful cheek.

"Poor Susy got a pain too," he said, putting his arms about her; and as she hugged him close, he added philosophically: "Tell Geordie a new story, darling, and you'll forget all about it."

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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