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|Part I||Edith Wharton|
|Page 5 of 6||
"Oh, come! I've got a word to say about that too, haven't I?"
Susy looked slowly and consideringly about the room. There was nothing in it, absolutely nothing, to show that he had ever possessed a spare dollar--or accepted a present.
"Not as far as I'm concerned," she finally pronounced.
"How do you mean? If I'm as free as air--?"
He grew thoughtful. "Oh, then, of course--. It only seems a little odd," he added drily, "that in that case, the protest should have come from Mrs. Gillow."
"Instead of coming from my millionaire bridegroom, Oh, I haven't any; in that respect I'm as free as you."
"Well, then--? Haven't we only got to stay free?"
Susy drew her brows together anxiously. It was going to be rather more difficult than she had supposed.
"I said I was as free in that respect. I'm not going to marry--and I don't suppose you are?"
"God, no!" he ejaculated fervently.
"But that doesn't always imply complete freedom ...."
He stood just above her, leaning his elbow against the hideous black marble arch that framed his fireless grate. As she glanced up she saw his face harden, and the colour flew to hers.
"Was that what you came to tell me?" he asked.
"Oh, you don't understand--and I don't see why you don't, since we've knocked about so long among exactly the same kind of people." She stood up impulsively and laid her hand on his arm. "I do wish you'd help me--!"
He remained motionless, letting the hand lie untouched.
"Help you to tell me that poor Ursula was a pretext, but that there IS someone who--for one reason or another--really has a right to object to your seeing me too often?"
Susy laughed impatiently. "You talk like the hero of a novel-- the kind my governess used to read. In the first place I should never recognize that kind of right, as you call it--never!"
"Then what kind do you?" he asked with a clearing brow.
"Why--the kind I suppose you recognize on the part of your publisher." This evoked a hollow laugh from him. "A business claim, call it," she pursued. "Ursula does a lot for me: I live on her for half the year. This dress I've got on now is one she gave me. Her motor is going to take me to a dinner to-night. I'm going to spend next summer with her at Newport .... If I don't, I've got to go to California with the Bockheimers-so good-bye."
Suddenly in tears, she was out of the door and down his steep three flights before he could stop her--though, in thinking it over, she didn't even remember if he had tried to. She only recalled having stood a long time on the corner of Fifth Avenue, in the harsh winter radiance, waiting till a break in the torrent of motors laden with fashionable women should let her cross, and saying to herself: "After all, I might have promised Ursula ... and kept on seeing him ...."
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