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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 635 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.

Trade had improved in the point of excellence.  It was now admitted to be good—­a rare honour for trade!  The coal-mining boom was at its height, and colliers, in addition to getting drunk, were buying American organs and expensive bull-terriers.  Often they would come to the shop to purchase cloth for coats for their dogs.  And they would have good cloth.  Mr. Povey did not like this.  One day a butty chose for his dog the best cloth of Mr. Povey’s shop—­ at 12s. a yard.  “Will ye make it up?  I’ve gotten th’ measurements,” asked the collier.  “No, I won’t!” said Mr. Povey, hotly.  “And what’s more, I won’t sell you the cloth either!  Cloth at 12s. a yard on a dog’s back indeed!  I’ll thank you to get out of my shop!” The incident became historic, in the Square.  It finally established that Mr. Povey was a worthy son-in-law and a solid and successful man.  It vindicated the old pre-eminence of “Baines’s.”  Some surprise was expressed that Mr. Povey showed no desire nor tendency towards entering the public life of the town.  But he never would, though a keen satirical critic of the Local Board in private.  And at the chapel he remained a simple private worshipper, refusing stewardships and trusteeships.

III

Was Constance happy?  Of course there was always something on her mind, something that had to be dealt with, either in the shop or in the house, something to employ all the skill and experience which she had acquired.  Her life had much in it of laborious tedium—­tedium never-ending and monotonous.  And both she and Samuel worked consistently hard, rising early, ‘pushing forward,’ as the phrase ran, and going to bed early from sheer fatigue; week after week and month after month as season changed imperceptibly into season.  In June and July it would happen to them occasionally to retire before the last silver of dusk was out of the sky.  They would lie in bed and talk placidly of their daily affairs.  There would be a noise in the street below.  “Vaults closing!” Samuel would say, and yawn.  “Yes, it’s quite late,” Constance would say.  And the Swiss clock would rapidly strike eleven on its coil of resonant wire.  And then, just before she went to sleep, Constance might reflect upon her destiny, as even the busiest and smoothest women do, and she would decide that it was kind.  Her mother’s gradual decline and lonely life at Axe saddened her.  The cards which came now and then at extremely long intervals from Sophia had been the cause of more sorrow than joy.  The naive ecstasies of her girlhood had long since departed—­the price paid for experience and self-possession and a true vision of things.  The vast inherent melancholy of the universe did not exempt her.  But as she went to sleep she would be conscious of a vague contentment.  The basis of this contentment was the fact that she and Samuel comprehended and esteemed each other, and made allowances for each other.  Their characters had been tested and had stood the test.  Affection, love, was not to them a salient phenomenon in their relations.  Habit had inevitably dulled its glitter.  It was like a flavouring, scarce remarked; but had it been absent, how they would have turned from that dish!

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