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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXI

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ON the drive back from her dinner at the Nouveau Luxe, events had followed the course foreseen by Susy.

She had promised Strefford to seek legal advice about her divorce, and he had kissed her; and the promise had been easier to make than she had expected, the kiss less difficult to receive.

She had gone to the dinner a-quiver with the mortification of learning that her husband was still with the Hickses. Morally sure of it though she had been, the discovery was a shock, and she measured for the first time the abyss between fearing and knowing. No wonder he had not written--the modern husband did not have to: he had only to leave it to time and the newspapers to make known his intentions. Susy could imagine Nick's saying to himself, as he sometimes used to say when she reminded him of an unanswered letter: "But there are lots of ways of answering a letter--and writing doesn't happen to be mine."

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Well--he had done it in his way, and she was answered. For a minute, as she laid aside the paper, darkness submerged her, and she felt herself dropping down into the bottomless anguish of her dreadful vigil in the Palazzo Vanderlyn. But she was weary of anguish: her healthy body and nerves instinctively rejected it. The wave was spent, and she felt herself irresistibly struggling back to light and life and youth. He didn't want her! Well, she would try not to want him! There lay all the old expedients at her hand--the rouge for her white lips, the atropine for her blurred eyes, the new dress on her bed, the thought of Strefford and his guests awaiting her, and of the conclusions that the diners of the Nouveau Luxe would draw from seeing them together. Thank heaven no one would say: "Poor old Susy--did you know Nick had chucked her?" They would all say: "Poor old Nick! Yes, I daresay she was sorry to chuck him; but Altringham's mad to marry her, and what could she do? "

And once again events had followed the course she had foreseen. Seeing her at Lord Altringham's table, with the Ascots and the old Duchess of Dunes, the interested spectators could not but regard the dinner as confirming the rumour of her marriage. As Ellie said, people didn't wait nowadays to announce their "engagements" till the tiresome divorce proceedings were over. Ellie herself, prodigally pearled and ermined, had floated in late with Algie Bockheimer in her wake, and sat, in conspicuous tete-a-tete, nodding and signalling her sympathy to Susy. Approval beamed from every eye: it was awfully exciting, they all seemed to say, seeing Susy Lansing pull it off! As the party, after dinner, drifted from the restaurant back into the hall, she caught, in the smiles and hand-pressures crowding about her, the scarcely-repressed hint of official congratulations; and Violet Melrose, seated in a corner with Fulmer, drew her down with a wan jade-circled arm, to whisper tenderly: "It's most awfully clever of you, darling, not to be wearing any jewels."

In all the women's eyes she read the reflected lustre of the jewels she could wear when she chose: it was as though their glitter reached her from the far-off bank where they lay sealed up in the Altringham strong-box. What a fool she had been to think that Strefford would ever believe she didn't care for them!

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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