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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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The week she had allowed herself had passed, and still there was no word from Nick. She allowed herself yet another day, and that too went by without a letter. She then decided on a step from which her pride had hitherto recoiled; she would call at the bank and ask for Nick's address. She called, embarrassed and hesitating; and was told, after enquiries in the post-office department, that Mr. Nicholas Lansing had given no address since that of the Palazzo Vanderlyn, three months previously. She went back to Versailles that afternoon with the definite intention of writing to Strefford unless the next morning's post brought a letter.

The next morning brought nothing from Nick, but a scribbled message from Mrs. Melrose: would Susy, as soon as possible, come into her room for a word, Susy jumped up, hurried through her bath, and knocked at her hostess's door. In the immense low bed that faced the rich umbrage of the park Mrs. Melrose lay smoking cigarettes and glancing over her letters. She looked up with her vague smile, and said dreamily: "Susy darling, have you any particular plans--for the next few months, I mean?"

Susy coloured: she knew the intonation of old, and fancied she understood what it implied.

"Plans, dearest? Any number ... I'm tearing myself away the day after to-morrow ... to the Gillows' moor, very probably," she hastened to announce.

Instead of the relief she had expected to read on Mrs. Melrose's dramatic countenance she discovered there the blankest disappointment.

"Oh, really? That's too bad. Is it absolutely settled--?"

"As far as I'm concerned," said Susy crisply.

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The other sighed. "I'm too sorry. You see, dear, I'd meant to ask you to stay on here quietly and look after the Fulmer children. Fulmer and I are going to Spain next week--I want to be with him when he makes his studies, receives his first impressions; such a marvellous experience, to be there when he and Velasquez meet!" She broke off, lost in prospective ecstasy. "And, you see, as Grace Fulmer insists on coming with us--"

"Ah, I see."

"Well, there are the five children--such a problem," sighed the benefactress. "If you were at a loose end, you know, dear, while Nick's away with his friends, I could really make it worth your while ...."

"So awfully good of you, Violet; only I'm not, as it happens."

Oh the relief of being able to say that, gaily, firmly and even truthfully! Take charge of the Fulmer children, indeed! Susy remembered how Nick and she had fled from them that autumn afternoon in New Hampshire. The offer gave her a salutary glimpse of the way in which, as the years passed, and she lost her freshness and novelty, she would more and more be used as a convenience, a stop-gap, writer of notes, runner of errands, nursery governess or companion. She called to mind several elderly women of her acquaintance, pensioners of her own group, who still wore its livery, struck its attitudes and chattered its jargon, but had long since been ruthlessly relegated to these slave-ant offices. Never in the world would she join their numbers.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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