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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XV

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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Meanwhile the days at Mrs. Melrose's drifted by as they had been wont to drift when, under the roofs of the rich, Susy Branch had marked time between one episode and the next of her precarious existence. Her experience of such sojourns was varied enough to make her acutely conscious of their effect on her temporary hosts; and in the present case she knew that Violet was hardly aware of her presence. But if no more than tolerated she was at least not felt to be an inconvenience; when your hostess forgot about you it proved that at least you were not in her way.

Violet, as usual, was perpetually on the wing, for her profound indolence expressed itself in a disordered activity. Nat Fulmer had returned to Paris; but Susy guessed that his benefactress was still constantly in his company, and that when Mrs. Melrose was whirled away in her noiseless motor it was generally toward the scene of some new encounter between Fulmer and the arts. On these occasions she sometimes offered to carry Susy to Paris, and they devoted several long and hectic mornings to the dressmakers, where Susy felt herself gradually succumbing to the familiar spell of heaped-up finery. It seemed impossible, as furs and laces and brocades were tossed aside, brought back, and at last carelessly selected from, that anything but the whim of the moment need count in deciding whether one should take all or none, or that any woman could be worth looking at who did not possess the means to make her choice regardless of cost.

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Once alone, and in the street again, the evil fumes would evaporate, and daylight re-enter Susy's soul; yet she felt that the old poison was slowly insinuating itself into her system. To dispel it she decided one day to look up Grace Fulmer. She was curious to know how the happy-go-lucky companion of Fulmer's evil days was bearing the weight of his prosperity, and she vaguely felt that it would be refreshing to see some one who had never been afraid of poverty.

The airless pension sitting-room, where she waited while a reluctant maid-servant screamed about the house for Mrs. Fulmer, did not have the hoped-for effect. It was one thing for Grace to put up with such quarters when she shared them with Fulmer; but to live there while he basked in the lingering radiance of Versailles, or rolled from chateau to picture gallery in Mrs. Melrose's motor, showed a courage that Susy felt unable to emulate.

"My dear! I knew you'd look me up," Grace's joyous voice ran down the stairway; and in another moment she was clasping Susy to her tumbled person.

"Nat couldn't remember if he'd given you our address, though he promised me he would, the last time he was here." She held Susy at arms' length, beaming upon her with blinking short-sighted eyes: the same old dishevelled Grace, so careless of her neglected beauty and her squandered youth, so amused and absentminded and improvident, that the boisterous air of the New Hampshire bungalow seemed to enter with her into the little airtight salon.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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