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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXII

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She remained silent, and Strefford, after a moment, drew her gently down to the seat beside him. "Susy, upon my soul I don't know what you're driving at. Is it me you're angry with-or yourself? And what's it all about! Are you disgusted because I let the villa to a couple who weren't married! But, hang it, they're the kind that pay the highest price and I had to earn my living somehow! One doesn't run across a bridal pair every day ...."

She lifted her eyes to his puzzled incredulous face. Poor Streff! No, it was not with him that she was angry. Why should she be? Even that ill-advised disclosure had told her nothing she had not already known about him. It had simply revealed to her once more the real point of view of the people he and she lived among, had shown her that, in spite of the superficial difference, he felt as they felt, judged as they judged, was blind as they were-and as she would be expected to be, should she once again become one of them. What was the use of being placed by fortune above such shifts and compromises, if in one's heart one still condoned them? And she would have to--she would catch the general note, grow blunted as those other people were blunted, and gradually come to wonder at her own revolt, as Strefford now honestly wondered at it. She felt as though she were on the point of losing some new-found treasure, a treasure precious only to herself, but beside which all he offered her was nothing, the triumph of her wounded pride nothing, the security of her future nothing.

"What is it, Susy?" he asked, with the same puzzled gentleness.

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Ah, the loneliness of never being able to make him understand! She had felt lonely enough when the flaming sword of Nick's indignation had shut her out from their Paradise; but there had been a cruel bliss in the pain. Nick had not opened her eyes to new truths, but had waked in her again something which had lain unconscious under years of accumulated indifference. And that re-awakened sense had never left her since, and had somehow kept her from utter loneliness because it was a secret shared with Nick, a gift she owed to Nick, and which, in leaving her, he could not take from her. It was almost, she suddenly felt, as if he had left her with a child.

"My dear girl," Strefford said, with a resigned glance at his watch, "you know we're dining at the Embassy ...."

At the Embassy? She looked at him vaguely: then she remembered. Yes, they were dining that night at the Ascots', with Strefford's cousin, the Duke of Dunes, and his wife, the handsome irreproachable young Duchess; with the old gambling Dowager Duchess, whom her son and daughter-in-law had come over from England to see; and with other English and French guests of a rank and standing worthy of the Duneses. Susy knew that her inclusion in such a dinner could mean but one thing: it was her definite recognition as Altringham's future wife. She was "the little American" whom one had to ask when one invited him, even on ceremonial occasions. The family had accepted her; the Embassy could but follow suit.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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