The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

“And what about the shop?” cried Constance.

“Ye can sell us th’ stock at a valuation.”

Constance suddenly comprehended the scheme.  Mr. Critchlow would remain the chemist, while Mrs. Critchlow became the head of the chief drapery business in the town.  Doubtless they would knock a hole through the separating wall on the other side, to balance the bricking-up on this side.  They must have thought it all out in detail.  Constance revolted.

“Yes!” she said, a little disdainfully.  “And my goodwill?  Shall you take that at a valuation too?”

Mr. Critchlow glanced at the creature for whom he was ready to scatter thousands of pounds.  She might have been a Phryne and he the infatuated fool.  He glanced at her as if to say:  “We expected this, and this is where we agreed it was to stop.”

“Ay!” he said to Constance.  “Show me your goodwill.  Lap it up in a bit of paper and hand it over, and I’ll take it at a valuation.  But not afore, missis!  Not afore!  I’m making ye a very good offer.  Twenty pound a year, I’ll let ye th’ house for.  And take th’ stock at a valuation.  Think it over, my lass.”

Having said what he had to say, Charles Critchlow departed, according to his custom.  He unceremoniously let himself out by the side door, and passed with wavy apron round the corner of King Street into the Square and so to his own shop, which ignored the Thursday half-holiday.  Miss Insull left soon afterwards.

III

Constance’s pride urged her to refuse the offer.  But in truth her sole objection to it was that she had not thought of the scheme herself.  For the scheme really reconciled her wish to remain where she was with her wish to be free of the shop.

“I shall make him put me in a new window in the parlour—­one that will open!” she said positively to Cyril, who accepted Mr. Critchlow’s idea with fatalistic indifference.

After stipulating for the new window, she closed with the offer.  Then there was the stock-taking, which endured for weeks.  And then a carpenter came and measured for the window.  And a builder and a mason came and inspected doorways, and Constance felt that the end was upon her.  She took up the carpet in the parlour and protected the furniture by dustsheets.  She and Cyril lived between bare boards and dustsheets for twenty days, and neither carpenter nor mason reappeared.  Then one surprising day the old window was removed by the carpenter’s two journeymen, and late in the afternoon the carpenter brought the new window, and the three men worked till ten o’clock at night, fixing it.  Cyril wore his cap and went to bed in his cap, and Constance wore a Paisley shawl.  A painter had bound himself beyond all possibility of failure to paint the window on the morrow.  He was to begin at six a.m.; and Amy’s alarm-clock was altered so that she might be up and dressed to admit him.  He came a week

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