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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XIII

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And what of Fulmer? Mustering with new eyes his short sturdily-built figure, his nondescript bearded face, and the eyes that dreamed and wandered, and then suddenly sank into you like claws, Susy seemed to have found the key to all his years of dogged toil, his indifference to neglect, indifference to poverty, indifference to the needs of his growing family .... Yes: for the first time she saw that he looked commonplace enough to be a genius--was a genius, perhaps, even though it was Violet Melrose who affirmed it! Susy looked steadily at Fulmer, their eyes met, and he smiled at her faintly through his beard.

"Yes, I did discover him--I did," Mrs. Melrose was insisting, from the depths of the black velvet divan in which she lay sunk like a wan Nereid in a midnight sea. "You mustn't believe a word that Ursula Gillow tells you about having pounced on his 'Spring Snow Storm' in a dark corner of the American Artists' exhibition--skied, if you please! They skied him less than a year ago! And naturally Ursula never in her life looked higher than the first line at a picture-show. And now she actually pretends ... oh, for pity's sake don't say it doesn't matter, Fulmer! Your saying that just encourages her, and makes people think she did. When, in reality, any one who saw me at the exhibition on varnishing-day .... Who? Well, Eddy Breckenridge, for instance. He was in Egypt, you say? Perhaps he was! As if one could remember the people about one, when suddenly one comes upon a great work of art, as St. Paul did-- didn't he?--and the scales fell from his eyes. Well ... that's exactly what happened to me that day ... and Ursula, everybody knows, was down at Roslyn at the time, and didn't come up for the opening of the exhibition at all. And Fulmer sits there and laughs, and says it doesn't matter, and that he'll paint another picture any day for me to discover!"

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Susy had rung the door-bell with a hand trembling with eagerness--eagerness to be alone, to be quiet, to stare her situation in the face, and collect herself before she came out again among her kind. She had stood on the door-step, cowering among her bags, counting the instants till a step sounded and the door-knob turned, letting her in from the searching glare of the outer world .... And now she had sat for an hour in Violet's drawing-room, in the very house where her honey-moon might have been spent; and no one had asked her where she had come from, or why she was alone, or what was the key to the tragedy written on her shrinking face ....

That was the way of the world they lived in. Nobody questioned, nobody wondered any more-because nobody had time to remember. The old risk of prying curiosity, of malicious gossip, was virtually over: one was left with one's drama, one's disaster, on one's hands, because there was nobody to stop and notice the little shrouded object one was carrying. As Susy watched the two people before her, each so frankly unaffected by her presence, Violet Melrose so engrossed in her feverish pursuit of notoriety, Fulmer so plunged in the golden sea of his success, she felt like a ghost making inaudible and imperceptible appeals to the grosser senses of the living.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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