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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXIII

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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"I'll tell her, Nelson," she promised; and climbed the stairs alone to her dreary room.

Susy's one fear was that Strefford, when he returned the next day, should treat their talk of the previous evening as a fit of "nerves" to be jested away. He might, indeed, resent her behaviour too deeply to seek to see her at once; but his easygoing modern attitude toward conduct and convictions made that improbable. She had an idea that what he had most minded was her dropping so unceremoniously out of the Embassy Dinner.

But, after all, why should she see him again? She had had enough of explanations during the last months to have learned how seldom they explain anything. If the other person did not understand at the first word, at the first glance even, subsequent elucidations served only to deepen the obscurity. And she wanted above all--and especially since her hour with Nelson Vanderlyn--to keep herself free, aloof, to retain her hold on her precariously recovered self. She sat down and wrote to Strefford--and the letter was only a little less painful to write than the one she had despatched to Nick. It was not that her own feelings were in any like measure engaged; but because, as the decision to give up Strefford affirmed itself, she remembered only his kindness, his forbearance, his good humour, and all the other qualities she had always liked in him; and because she felt ashamed of the hesitations which must cause him so much pain and humiliation. Yes: humiliation chiefly. She knew that what she had to say would hurt his pride, in whatever way she framed her renunciation; and her pen wavered, hating its task. Then she remembered Vanderlyn's words about his wife: "There are some of our old times I don't suppose I shall ever forget--" and a phrase of Grace Fulmer's that she had but half grasped at the time: "You haven't been married long enough to understand how trifling such things seem in the balance of one's memories."

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Here were two people who had penetrated farther than she into the labyrinth of the wedded state, and struggled through some of its thorniest passages; and yet both, one consciously, the other half-unaware, testified to the mysterious fact which was already dawning on her: that the influence of a marriage begun in mutual understanding is too deep not to reassert itself even in the moment of flight and denial.

"The real reason is that you're not Nick" was what she would have said to Strefford if she had dared to set down the bare truth; and she knew that, whatever she wrote, he was too acute not to read that into it.

"He'll think it's because I'm still in love with Nick ... and perhaps I am. But even if I were, the difference doesn't seem to lie there, after all, but deeper, in things we've shared that seem to be meant to outlast love, or to change it into something different." If she could have hoped to make Strefford understand that, the letter would have been easy enough to write--but she knew just at what point his imagination would fail, in what obvious and superficial inferences it would rest

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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