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0100_005E Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXIV

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Table Of Contents: The Glimpses of the Moon

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Again and again he fancied he had established a truce with the past: had come to terms--the terms of defeat and failure with that bright enemy called happiness. And, in truth, he had reached the point of definitely knowing that he could never return to the kind of life that he and Susy had embarked on. It had been the tragedy, of their relation that loving her roused in him ideals she could never satisfy. He had fallen in love with her because she was, like himself, amused, unprejudiced and disenchanted; and he could not go on loving her unless she ceased to be all these things. From that circle there was no issue, and in it he desperately revolved.

If he had not heard such persistent rumours of her re-marriage to Lord Altringham he might have tried to see her again; but, aware of the danger and the hopelessness of a meeting, he was, on the whole, glad to have a reason for avoiding it. Such, at least, he honestly supposed to be his state of mind until he found himself, as on this occasion, free to follow out his thought to its end. That end, invariably, was Susy; not the bundle of qualities and defects into which his critical spirit had tried to sort her out, but the soft blur of identity, of personality, of eyes, hair, mouth, laugh, tricks of speech and gesture, that were all so solely and profoundly her own, and yet so mysteriously independent of what she might do, say, think, in crucial circumstances. He remembered her once saying to him: "After all, you were right when you wanted me to be your mistress," and the indignant stare of incredulity with which he had answered her. Yet in these hours it was the palpable image of her that clung closest, till, as invariably happened, his vision came full circle, and feeling her on his breast he wanted her also in his soul.

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Well--such all-encompassing loves were the rarest of human experiences; he smiled at his presumption in wanting no other. Wearily he turned, and tramped homeward through the winter twilight ....

At the door of the hotel he ran across the Prince of Teutoburg's aide-de-camp. They had not met for some days, and Nick had a vague feeling that if the Prince's matrimonial designs took definite shape he himself was not likely, after all, to be their chosen exponent. He had surprised, now and then, a certain distrustful coldness under the Princess Mother's cordial glance, and had concluded that she perhaps suspected him of being an obstacle to her son's aspirations. He had no idea of playing that part, but was not sorry to appear to; for he was sincerely attached to Coral Hicks, and hoped for her a more human fate than that of becoming Prince Anastasius's consort.

This evening, however, he was struck by the beaming alacrity of the aide-de-camp's greeting. Whatever cloud had hung between them had lifted: the Teutoburg clan, for one reason or another, no longer feared or distrusted him. The change was conveyed in a mere hand-pressure, a brief exchange of words, for the aide-de-camp was hastening after a well-known dowager of the old Roman world, whom he helped into a large coronetted brougham which looked as if it had been extracted, for some ceremonial purpose, from a museum of historic vehicles. And in an instant it flashed on Lansing that this lady had been the person chosen to lay the Prince's offer at Miss Hicks's feet.

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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