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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXIII

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"Suppose you know what I'm here for--this divorce business? We wanted to settle it quietly without a fuss, and of course Paris is the best place for that sort of job. Live and let live; no questions asked. None of your dirty newspapers. Great country, this. No hypocrisy ... they understand Life over here!"

Susy gazed and listened. She remembered that people had thought Nelson would make a row when he found out. He had always been addicted to truculent anecdotes about unfaithful wives, and the very formula of his perpetual ejaculation-- "Caught you at it, eh?"--seemed to hint at a constant preoccupation with such ideas. But now it was evident that, as the saying was, he had "swallowed his dose" like all the others. No strong blast of indignation had momentarily lifted him above his normal stature: he remained a little man among little men, and his eagerness to rebuild his life with all the old smiling optimism reminded Susy of the patient industry of an ant remaking its ruined ant-heap.

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"Tell you what, great thing, this liberty! Everything's changed nowadays; why shouldn't marriage be too? A man can get out of a business partnership when he wants to; but the parsons want to keep us noosed up to each other for life because we've blundered into a church one day and said 'Yes' before one of 'em. No, no--that's too easy. We've got beyond that. Science, and all these new discoveries .... I say the Ten Commandments were made for man, and not man for the Commandments; and there ain't a word against divorce in 'em, anyhow! That's what I tell my poor old mother, who builds everything on her Bible. Find me the place where it says: 'Thou shalt not sue for divorce.' It makes her wild, poor old lady, because she can't; and she doesn't know how they happen to have left it out.... I rather think Moses left it out because he knew more about human nature than these snivelling modern parsons do. Not that they'll always bear investigating either; but I don't care about that. Live and let live, eh, Susy? Haven't we all got a right to our Affinities? I hear you're following our example yourself. First-rate idea: I don't mind telling you I saw it coming on last summer at Venice. Caught you at it, so to speak! Old Nelson ain't as blind as people think. Here, let's open another bottle to the health of Streff and Mrs. Streff!"

She caught the hand with which he was signalling to the sommelier. This flushed and garrulous Nelson moved her more poignantly than a more heroic figure. "No more champagne, please, Nelson. Besides," she suddenly added, "it's not true."

He stared. "Not true that you're going to marry Altringham?"


"By George then what on earth did you chuck Nick for? Ain't you got an Affinity, my dear?"

She laughed and shook her head.

"Do you mean to tell me it's all Nick's doing, then?"

"I don't know. Let's talk of you instead, Nelson. I'm glad you're in such good spirits. I rather thought--"

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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