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nasked 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 Stre nike air max sale fford’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 embarrass 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 even 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 pas nike air max 95 t 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 to 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. Melrose nike air max told me she’d told you,” the house-keeper 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 theexplanation) that Nick was not with her just now but had goneoff cruising … cruising in the AEgean with friends … gettingup material for his book (th cheap air max 95 is 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 absent 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 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 th air max 95 ey 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 heaped attheir feet, and no one to share their solitude but a lameworking-man and a haggard woman who were lunching togethermournfully nike air max classic 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 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 t nike air max 90 hese 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 movements. “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 nike air max 1 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 the 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 nike air max 90 sale 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 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 stumbled over the word, remembering how Nick had alwayswinced at it. But Strefford did not seem to notice her, and shehurried on, unfolding in short awkward sentences the avowal oftheir pecuniary difficulties, and of Nick’s inability tounderstand that, to keep on with the kind of life they wereleading, one had to put up with things … accept favours ….
“Borrow money, you mean?””Well–yes; and all the rest.” No–decidedly she could cheap nike air max 95 notreveal to Strefford the episode of Ellie’s letters. “Nicksuddenly felt, I suppose, that he couldn’t stand it,” shecontinued; “and instead of asking me to try–to try to livedifferently, go off somewhere with him and live, like work-people, in two rooms, without a servant, as I was ready to do;well, instead he wrote me that it had all been a mistake fromthe beginning, that we couldn’t keep it up, and had betterrecognize the fact; and he went off on the Hickses’ yacht. Thelast evening that you were in Venice–the day he didn’t comeback to dinner–he had gone off to Genoa to meet them. Isuppose he intends to marry Coral.”Strefford received this in silence. “Well–it was your bargain,wasn’t it?” he said at length.
“Yes; but–“”Exactly: I always told you so. You weren’t ready to have himgo yet–that’s all.”She flushed to cheap nike air max trainers the forehead. “Oh, Streff–is it really all?””A question of time? If you doubt it, I’d like to see you try,for a while, in those two rooms without a servant; and then letme hear from you. Why, my dear, it’s only a question of time ina palace, with a steam yacht lying off the door-step, and aflock of motors in the garage; look around you and see. And didyou ever imagine that you and Nick, of all people, were going toescape the common doom, and survive like Mr. and Mrs. Tithonus,while all about you the eternal passions were crumbling topieces, and your native Divorce-states piling up theirrevenues?”She sat with bent head, the weight of the long years to comepressing like a leaden load on her shoulders.
“But I’m so young … life’s so long. What does last, then?””Ah, you’re too young to believe me, if I were to tell you;t cheap nike air max hough you’re intelligent enough to understand.””What does, then?””Why, the hold of the things we all think we could do without.
Habits–they outstand the Pyramids. Comforts, luxuries, theatmosphere of ease … above all, the power to get away fromdulness and monotony, from constraints and uglinesses. Youchose that power, instinctively, before you were even grown up;and so did Nick. And the only difference between you is thathe’s had the sense to see sooner than you that those are thethings that last, the prime necessities.””I don’t believe it!””Of course you don’t: at your age one doesn’t reason one’smaterialism. And besides you’re mortally hurt that Nick hasfound out sooner than you, and hasn’t disguised his discoveryunder any hypocritical phrases.””But surely there are people–“”Yes–saints and geniuses and heroes: all the fanatics! Towhich of their categories do you suppose we soft people belong?
And the cheap nike air max heroes and the geniuses–haven’t they their enormousfrailties and their giant appetites? And how should we escapebeing the victims of our little ones?”She sat for a while without speaking. “But, Streff, how can yousay such things, when I know you care: care for me, forinstance!””Care?” He put his hand on hers. “But, my dear, it’s just thefugitiveness of mortal caring that makes it so exquisite! It’sbecause we know we can’t hold fast to it, or to each other, orto anything ….””Yes … yes … but hush, please! Oh, don’t say it!” Shestood up, the tears in her throat, and he rose also.
“Come along, then; where do we lunch?” he said with a smile,slipping his hand throu gh her arm.
“Oh, I don’t know. Nowhere. I think I’m going back toVersailles.””Because I’ve disgusted you so deeply? Just my luck–when Icame over to ask you to marry me!”She laughe

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