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in that last phrase; but as she sealedher letter to Strefford her eye had fallen on Nick’s missive,which lay beside it. Nothing in her husband’s brief lines hadembittered her as much as the allusion to Strefford. It seemedto imply that Nick’s own plans were made, that his own futurewas secure, and that he could therefore freely and handsomelytake thought for hers, and give her a pointer in the rightdirection. Sudden rage had possessed her at the thought: whereshe had at first read jealousy she now saw only a coldprovidence, and in a blur of tears she had scrawled herpostscript to Strefford. She remembered t nike air max 1 ebay hat she had not evenasked him to keep her secret. Well–after all, what would itmatter if people should already know that Nick had left her?
Their parting could not long remain a mystery, and the fact thatit was known might help her to keep up a presence ofindifference.
„It was in the bargain–in the bargain,“ rang through her brainas she re-read Strefford’s telegram. She understood that he hadsnatched the time for this hasty trip solely in the hope ofseeing her, and her eyes filled. The more bitterly she thoughtof Nick the more this proof of Strefford’s friendship moved her.
The clock, to her relief, reminded her that it was time to dressfor dinner. She would go down presently, chat with Violet andFulmer, and with Violet’s other guests, who would probably beodd and amusing, and too much out of her world to embarra nike air max 1 ss herby awkward questions. She would sit at a softly-lit table,breathe delicate scents, eat exquisite food (trust Mrs. Match!),and be gradually drawn again under the spell of her oldassociations. Anything, anything but to be alone ….
She dressed with e nike air max 1 grey ven more than her habitual care, reddened herlips attentively, brushed the faintest bloom of pink over herdrawn cheeks, and went down–to meet Mrs. Match coming up with atray.
„Oh, Madam, I thought you were too tired …. I was bringing itup to you myself–just a little morsel of chicken.“Susy, glancing past her, saw, through the open door, that thelamps were not lit in the drawing-room.
„Oh, no, I’m not tired, thank you. I thought Mrs. Melroseexpected friends at dinner!““Friends at dinner-to-night?“ Mrs. Match heaved a despairingsigh. Sometimes, the sigh seemed t nike air max 1 red o say, her mistress put toogreat a strain upon her. „Why, Mrs. Melrose and Mr. Fulmer wereengaged to dine in Paris. They left an hour ago. Mrs. Melrosetold me she’d told you,“ the house-k air max 1 eeper wailed.
Susy kept her little fixed smile. „I must have misunderstood.
In that case … well, yes, if it’s no trouble, I believe I willhave my tray upstairs. „Slowly she turned, and followed the housekeeper up into thedread solitude she had just left.
Chapter 14
THE next day a lot of people turned up unannounced for luncheon.
They were not of the far-fetched and the exotic, in whom Mrs.
Melrose now specialized, but merely commonplace fashionablepeople belonging to Susy’s own group, people familiar with theamusing romance of her penniless marriage, and to whom she hadto explain (though none of them really listened to the nike air max 1 sale explanation) that Nick was not with her just nike air max 1 now but had goneoff cruising … cruising in the AEgean with friends … gettingup material for his book (this detail had occurred to her in thenight).
It was the kind of encounter she had most dreaded; but itproved, after all, easy enough to go through compared with thoseendless hours of turning to and fro, the night before, in thecage of her lonely room. Anything, anything, but to bealone ….
Gradually, from the force of habit, she found herself actuallyin tune with the talk of the luncheon table, interested in thereferences to absen nike air max 1 black t friends, the light allusions to last year’sloves and quarrels, scandals and absurdities. The women, intheir pale summer dresses, were so graceful, indolent and sureof themselves, the men so easy and good-humoured! Perhaps,after all, Susy air max 1 reflected, it was the world she was meant for,since the other, the brief Paradise of her dreams, had alreadyshut its golden doors upon her. And then, as they sat on theterrace after luncheon, looking across at the yellow tree-topsof the park, one of the women said something–made just anallusion–that Susy would have let pass unnoticed in the olddays, but that now filled her with a sudden deep disgust ….
She stood up and wandered away, away from them all through thefading garden.
Two days later Susy and Strefford sat on the terrace of theTuileries above the Seine. She had asked him to meet her there,with the desire to avoid the crowded halls and drawing-room ofthe Nouveau Luxe where, even at that supposedly „dead“ season,people one knew were always drifting to and fro; and they sat ona bench in the pale sunlight, the discoloured leaves cheap nike air max 1 heaped attheir feet, and no one to share their solitude but a lameworking-man and a haggard woman who were lunching togethermournfully at the other end of the majestic vista.
Strefford, in his new mourning, looked unnaturally prosperousand well-valeted; but his ugly untidy features remained asundisciplined, his smile as whimsical, as of old. He had beenon cool though friendly terms with the pompous uncle and thepoor sickly cousin whose joint disappearance had so abruptlytransformed his future; and it was his way nike air max 1 premium to understate hisfeelings rather than to pretend more than he felt.
Nevertheless, beneath his habitual bantering tone Susy discerneda change. The disaster had shocked him profoundly; already, inhis brief sojourn among his people and among the greatpossessions so tragically acquired, old instincts had awakened,forgotten associations had spoken in him. Susy listened to himwistfully, silenced by her imaginative perception of thedistance that these things had put between them.
„It was horrible … seeing them both there together, laid outin that hideous Pugin chapel at Altringham … the poor boyespecially. I suppose that’s really what’s cutting me up now,“he murmured, almost apologetically.
„Oh, it’s more than that–more than you know,“ she insisted; buthe jerked back: „Now, my dear, don’t be edifying, please,“ andfumbled for a cigarette in the pocket which was alreadybeginning to bulge with his miscellaneous properties.
„And now about you–for that’s what I came for,“ he continued,turning to her with one of his sudden m cheap air max 1 ovements. „I couldn’tmake head or tail of your letter.“She paused a moment to steady her voice. „Couldn’t you? Isuppose you’d forgotten my bargain with Nick. He hadn’t-andhe’s asked me to fulfil it.“Strefford stared. „What–that nonsense about your setting eachother free if either of you had the chance to make a goodmatch?“She signed „Yes.““And he’s actually asked you–?““Well: practically. He’s gone off with th e Hickses. Beforegoing he wrote me that we’d better both consider ourselves free.
And Coral sent me a postcard to say that she would take the bestof care of him.“Strefford mused, his eyes upon his cigarette. „But what thedeuce led up to all this? It can’t have happened like that, outof a clear sky.“Susy flushed, hesitated, looked away. She had meant to tellStrefford the whole story; it had been one of her chief reasonsfor wishing to see him again, and half-unconsciously, perhaps,she had hoped, in his laxer atmosphere, to recover something ofher shattered self-esteem. But now she suddenly felt theimpossibility of confessing to anyone the depths to which Nick’swife had stooped. She fancied that her companion guessed thenature of her hesitation.
„Don’t tell me anything you don’t want to, you know, my dear.““No; I do want nike air max 1 leopard to; only it’s difficult. You see–we had so verylittle money ….““Yes?““And Nick–who was thinking of his book, and of all sorts of bigthings, fine things–didn’t realise … left it all to me … tomanage ….“She

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