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Part I Edith Wharton

Chapter XII

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There it was, then; that was the last picture he was to have of her. For he knew now that he was not going back; at least not to take up their life together. He supposed he should have to see her once, to talk things over, settle something for their future. He had been sincere in saying that he bore her no ill-will; only he could never go back into that slough again. If he did, he knew he would inevitably be drawn under, slipping downward from concession to concession ....

The noises of a hot summer night in the port of Genoa would have kept the most care-free from slumber; but though Nick lay awake he did not notice them, for the tumult in his brain was more deafening. Dawn brought a negative relief, and out of sheer weariness he dropped into a heavy sleep. When he woke it was nearly noon, and from his window he saw the well-known outline of the Ibis standing up dark against the glitter of the harbour. He had no fear of meeting her owners, who had doubtless long since landed and betaken themselves to cooler and more fashionable regions: oddly enough, the fact seemed to accentuate his loneliness, his sense of having no one on earth to turn to. He dressed, and wandered out disconsolately to pick up a cup of coffee in some shady corner.

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As he drank his coffee his thoughts gradually cleared. It became obvious to him that he had behaved like a madman or a petulant child--he preferred to think it was like a madman. If he and Susy were to separate there was no reason why it should not be done decently and quietly, as such transactions were habitually managed among people of their kind. It seemed grotesque to introduce melodrama into their little world of unruffled Sybarites, and he felt inclined, now, to smile at the incongruity of his gesture .... But suddenly his eyes filled with tears. The future without Susy was unbearable, inconceivable. Why, after all, should they separate? At the question, her soft face seemed close to his, and that slight lift of the upper lip that made her smile so exquisite. Well-he would go back. But not with any presence of going to talk things over, come to an agreement, wind up their joint life like a business association. No--if he went back he would go without conditions, for good, forever ....

Only, what about the future? What about the not far-distant day when the wedding cheques would have been spent, and Granny's pearls sold, and nothing left except unconcealed and unconditional dependence on rich friends, the role of the acknowledged hangers-on? Was there no other possible solution, no new way of ordering their lives? No--there was none: he could not picture Susy out of her setting of luxury and leisure, could not picture either of them living such a life as the Nat Fulmers, for instance! He remembered the shabby untidy bungalow in New Hampshire, the slatternly servants, uneatable food and ubiquitous children. How could he ask Susy to share such a life with him? If he did, she would probably have the sense to refuse. Their alliance had been based on a moment's midsummer madness; now the score must be paid ....

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The Glimpses of the Moon
Edith Wharton

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