The Old Wives' Tale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 811 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.

“But why do you want to see an execution?”

“It just happens that I do want to see an execution.  It’s a fancy of mine, that’s all.  I don’t know that any reason is necessary,” he said, pouring out water into the diminutive ewer.

She was aghast.  “And shall you leave me here alone?”

“Well,” said he, “I don’t see why my being married should prevent me from doing something that I’ve always wanted to do.  Do you?”

“Oh no!” she eagerly concurred.

“That’s all right,” he said.  “You can do exactly as you like.  Either stay here, or come with me.  If you go to Auxerre there’s no need at all for you to see the execution.  It’s an interesting old town—­cathedral and so on.  But of course if you can’t bear to be in the same town as a guillotine, I’ll go alone.  I shall come back to-morrow.”

It was plain where his wish lay.  She stopped the phrases that came to her lips, and did her best to dismiss the thoughts which prompted them.

“Of course I’ll go,” she said quietly.  She hesitated, and then went up to the washstand and kissed a part of his cheek that was not soapy.  That kiss, which comforted and somehow reassured her, was the expression of a surrender whose monstrousness she would not admit to herself.

In the rich and dusty drawing-room, Chirac and Chirac’s exquisite formalities awaited her.  Nobody else was there.

“My husband ...” she began, smiling and blushing.  She liked Chirac.

It was the first time she had had the opportunity of using that word to other than a servant.  It soothed her and gave her confidence.  She perceived after a few moments that Chirac did genuinely admire her; more, that she inspired him with something that resembled awe.  Speaking very slowly and distinctly she said that she should travel with her husband to Auxerre; as he saw no objection to that course; implying that if he saw no objection she was perfectly satisfied.  Chirac was concurrence itself.  In five minutes it seemed to be the most natural and proper thing in the world that, on her honeymoon, she should be going with her husband to a particular town because a notorious murderer was about to be decapitated there in public.

“My husband has always wanted to see an execution,” she said, later.  “It would be a pity to ...”

“As psychological experience,” replied Chirac, pronouncing the p of the adjective, “it will be very interessant. ...  To observe one’s self, in such circumstances ...”  He smiled enthusiastically.

She thought how strange even nice Frenchmen were.  Imagine going to an execution in order to observe yourself!


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