The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

His features expressed disgust, but Sophia fancied that he was secretly pleased.

They swaggered out of the busy stir of the hotel, as those must who, having declined to be swindled, wish to preserve their importance in the face of the world.  In the street a cabman solicited them, and filled them with hope by saying that he knew of a hotel that might suit them and would drive them there for five francs.  He furiously lashed his horse.  The mere fact of being in a swiftly moving carriage which wayfarers had to avoid nimbly, maintained their spirits.  They had a near glimpse of the cathedral.  The cab halted with a bump, in a small square, in front of a repellent building which bore the sign, ‘Hotel de Vezelay.’  The horse was bleeding.  Gerald instructed Sophia to remain where she was, and he and Chirac went up four stone steps into the hotel.  Sophia, stared at by loose crowds that were promenading, gazed about her, and saw that all the windows of the square were open and most of them occupied by people who laughed and chattered.  Then there was a shout:  Gerald’s voice.  He had appeared at a window on the second floor of the hotel with Chirac and a very fat woman.  Chirac saluted, and Gerald laughed carelessly, and nodded.

“It’s all right,” said Gerald, having descended.

“How much do they ask?” Sophia inquired indiscreetly.

Gerald hesitated, and looked self-conscious.  “Thirty-five francs,” he said.  “But I’ve had enough of driving about.  It seems we’re lucky to get it even at that.”

And Chirac shrugged his shoulders as if to indicate that the situation and the price ought to be accepted philosophically.  Gerald gave the driver five francs.  He examined the piece and demanded a pourboire.

“Oh!  Damn!” said Gerald, and, because he had no smaller change, parted with another two francs.

“Is any one coming out for this damned valise?” Gerald demanded, like a tyrant whose wrath would presently fall if the populace did not instantly set about minding their p’s and q’s.

But nobody emerged, and he was compelled to carry the bag himself.

The hotel was dark and malodorous, and every room seemed to be crowded with giggling groups of drinkers.

“We can’t both sleep in this bed, surely,” said Sophia when, Chirac having remained downstairs, she faced Gerald in a small, mean bedroom.

“You don’t suppose I shall go to bed, do you?” said Gerald, rather brusquely.  “It’s for you.  We’re going to eat now.  Look sharp.”

III

It was night.  She lay in the narrow, crimson-draped bed.  The heavy crimson curtains had been drawn across the dirty lace curtains of the window, but the lights of the little square faintly penetrated through chinks into the room.  The sounds of the square also penetrated, extraordinarily loud and clear, for the unabated heat had compelled her to leave the window open.  She could not sleep.  Exhausted though she was, there was no hope of her being able to sleep.

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