The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

With this the catalogue of her satisfactions ended.  She had no idea at all as to what she ought to do, or could do.  The mere prospect of venturing out of the room intimidated her.  Had Gerald left her trunk in the hall?  Of course he had.  What a question!  But what would happen to her?  London ...  London had merely dazed her.  She could do nothing for herself.  She was as helpless as a rabbit in London.  She drew aside the window-curtain and had a glimpse of the river.  It was inevitable that she should think of suicide; for she could not suppose that any girl had ever got herself into a plight more desperate than hers.  “I could slip out at night and drown myself,” she thought seriously.  “A nice thing that would be for Gerald!”

Then loneliness, like a black midnight, overwhelmed her, swiftly wasting her strength, disintegrating her pride in its horrid flood.  She glanced about for support, as a woman in the open street who feels she is going to faint, and went blindly to the bed, falling on it with the upper part of her body, in an attitude of abandonment.  She wept, but without sobbing.

II

Gerald Scales walked about the Strand, staring up at its high narrow houses, crushed one against another as though they had been packed, unsorted, by a packer who thought of nothing but economy of space.  Except by Somerset House, King’s College, and one or two theatres and banks, the monotony of mean shops, with several storeys unevenly perched over them, was unbroken, Then Gerald encountered Exeter Hall, and examined its prominent facade with a provincial’s eye; for despite his travels he was not very familiar with London.  Exeter Hall naturally took his mind back to his Uncle Boldero, that great and ardent Nonconformist, and his own godly youth.  It was laughable to muse upon what his uncle would say and think, did the old man know that his nephew had run away with a girl, meaning to seduce her in Paris.  It was enormously funny!

However, he had done with all that.  He was well out of it.  She had told him to go, and he had gone.  She had money to get home; she had nothing to do but use the tongue in her head.  The rest was her affair.  He would go to Paris alone, and find another amusement.  It was absurd to have supposed that Sophia would ever have suited him.  Not in such a family as the Baineses could one reasonably expect to discover an ideal mistress.  No! there had been a mistake.  The whole business was wrong.  She had nearly made a fool of him.  But he was not the man to be made a fool of.  He had kept his dignity intact.

So he said to himself.  Yet all the time his dignity, and his pride also, were bleeding, dropping invisible blood along the length of the Strand pavements.

He was at Salisbury Street again.  He pictured her in the bedroom.  Damn her!  He wanted her.  He wanted her with an excessive desire.  He hated to think that he had been baulked.  He hated to think that she would remain immaculate.  And he continued to picture her in the exciting privacy of that cursed bedroom.

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