The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

One morning the shop-shutter was wound up, and Brindley, inflated with the importance of controlling two establishments, strutted in and out under the sign of Daniel Povey.  And traffic in bread and cakes and flour was resumed.  Apparently the sea of time had risen and covered Daniel and all that was his; for his wife was under earth, and Dick lingered at Pirehill, unable to stand, and Daniel was locked away.  Apparently, in the regular flow of the life of the Square, Daniel was forgotten.  But not in Samuel Povey’s heart was he forgotten!  There, before an altar erected to the martyr, the sacred flame of a new faith burned with fierce consistency.  Samuel, in his greying middle-age, had inherited the eternal youth of the apostle.

III

On the dark winter morning when Samuel set off to the grand assize, Constance did not ask his views as to what protection he would adopt against the weather.  She silently ranged special underclothing, and by the warmth of the fire, which for days she had kept ablaze in the bedroom, Samuel silently donned the special underclothing.  Over that, with particular fastidious care, he put his best suit.  Not a word was spoken.  Constance and he were not estranged, but the relations between them were in a state of feverish excitation.  Samuel had had a cold on his flat chest for weeks, and nothing that Constance could invent would move it.  A few days in bed or even in one room at a uniform temperature would have surely worked the cure.  Samuel, however, would not stay in one room:  he would not stay in the house, nor yet in Bursley.  He would take his lacerating cough on chilly trains to Stafford.  He had no ears for reason; he simply could not listen; he was in a dream.  After Christmas a crisis came.  Constance grew desperate.  It was a battle between her will and his that occurred one night when Constance, marshalling all her forces, suddenly insisted that he must go out no more until he was cured.  In the fight Constance was scarcely recognizable.  She deliberately gave way to hysteria; she was no longer soft and gentle; she flung bitterness at him like vitriol; she shrieked like a common shrew.  It seems almost incredible that Constance should have gone so far; but she did.  She accused him, amid sobs, of putting his cousin before his wife and son, of not caring whether or not she was left a widow as the result of this obstinacy.  And she ended by crying passionately that she might as well talk to a post.  She might just as well have talked to a post.  Samuel answered quietly and coldly.  He told her that it was useless for her to put herself about, as he should act as he thought fit.  It was a most extraordinary scene, and quite unique in their annals.  Constance was beaten.  She accepted the defeat, gradually controlling her sobs and changing her tone to the tone of the vanquished.  She kissed him in bed, kissing the rod.  And he gravely kissed her.

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The Old Wives' Tale from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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