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Part II Edith Wharton

Chapter XXI

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He flung off the "Streff" airily, in the old way, but with a tentative side-glance at his host; and Lord Altringham, leaning toward Susy, said coldly: "Was Breckenridge speaking about me? I didn't catch what he said. Does he speak indistinctly--or am I getting deaf, I wonder?"

After that it seemed comparatively easy, when Strefford had dropped her at her hotel, to go upstairs and write. She dashed off the date and her address, and then stopped; but suddenly she remembered Breckenridge's snicker, and the words rushed from her. "Nick dear, it was July when you left Venice, and I have had no word from you since the note in which you said you had gone for a few days, and that I should hear soon again.

"You haven't written yet, and it is five months since you left me. That means, I suppose, that you want to take back your freedom and give me mine. Wouldn't it be kinder, in that case, to tell me so? It is worse than anything to go on as we are now. I don't know how to put these things but since you seem unwilling to write to me perhaps you would prefer to send your answer to Mr. Frederic Spearman, the American lawyer here. His address is 100, Boulevard Haussmann. I hope--"

She broke off on the last word. Hope? What did she hope, either for him or for herself? Wishes for his welfare would sound like a mockery--and she would rather her letter should seem bitter than unfeeling. Above all, she wanted to get it done. To have to re-write even those few lines would be torture. So she left "I hope," and simply added: "to hear before long what you have decided."

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She read it over, and shivered. Not one word of the past-not one allusion to that mysterious interweaving of their lives which had enclosed them one in the other like the flower in its sheath! What place had such memories in such a letter? She had the feeling that she wanted to hide that other Nick away in her own bosom, and with him the other Susy, the Susy he had once imagined her to be .... Neither of them seemed concerned with the present business.

The letter done, she stared at the sealed envelope till its presence in the room became intolerable, and she understood that she must either tear it up or post it immediately. She went down to the hall of the sleeping hotel, and bribed the night-porter to carry the letter to the nearest post office, though he objected that, at that hour, no time would be gained. "I want it out of the house," she insisted: and waited sternly by the desk, in her dressing-gown, till he had performed the errand.

As she re-entered her room, the disordered writing-table struck her; and she remembered the lawyer's injunction to take a copy of her letter. A copy to be filed away with the documents in "Lansing versus Lansing!" She burst out laughing at the idea. What were lawyers made of, she wondered? Didn't the man guess, by the mere look in her eyes and the sound of her voice, that she would never, as long as she lived, forget a word of that letter--that night after night she would lie down, as she was lying down to-night, to stare wide-eyed for hours into the darkness, while a voice in her brain monotonously hammered out: "Nick dear, it was July when you left me ..." and so on, word after word, down to the last fatal syllable?

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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