The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

His head popped up over the foot of the bed.  “This isn’t a joke, you know,” he said.

She kept silence.

“I give you one more chance.  Will you write to your mother—­or Constance if you like—­or won’t you?”

She scorned to reply in any way.

“I’m your husband,” he said.  “And it’s your duty to obey me, particularly in an affair like this.  I order you to write to your mother.”

The corners of her lips turned downwards.

Angered by her mute obstinacy, he broke away from the bed with a sudden gesture.

“You do as you like,” he cried, putting on his overcoat, “and I shall do as I like.  You can’t say I haven’t warned you.  It’s your own deliberate choice, mind you!  Whatever happens to you you’ve brought on yourself.”  He lifted and shrugged his shoulders to get the overcoat exactly into place on his shoulders.

She would not speak a word, not even to insist that she was indisposed.

He pushed his trunk outside the door, and returned to the bed.

“You understand,” he said menacingly; “I’m off.”

She looked up at the foul ceiling.

“Hm!” he sniffed, bringing his reserves of pride to combat the persistent silence that was damaging his dignity.  And he went off, sticking his head forward like a pugilist.

“Here!” she muttered.  “You’re forgetting this.”

He turned.

She stretched her hand to the night-table and held up a red circlet.

“What is it?”

“It’s the bit of paper off the cigar you bought in the Rue Montmartre this afternoon,” she answered, in a significant tone.

He hesitated, then swore violently, and bounced out of the room.  He had made her suffer, but she was almost repaid for everything by that moment of cruel triumph.  She exulted in it, and never forgot it.

Five minutes later, the gloomy menial in felt slippers and alpaca jacket, who seemed to pass the whole of his life flitting in and out of bedrooms like a rabbit in a warren, carried Gerald’s trunk downstairs.  She recognized the peculiar tread of his slippers.

Then there was a knock at the door.  The landlady entered, actuated by a legitimate curiosity.

“Madame is suffering?” the landlady began.

Sophia refused offers of food and nursing.

“Madame knows without doubt that monsieur has gone away?”

“Has he paid the bill?” Sophia asked bluntly.

“But yes, madame, till to-morrow.  Then madame has want of nothing?”

“If you will extinguish the candle,” said Sophia.

He had deserted her, then!

“All this,” she reflected, listening in the dark to the ceaseless rattle of the street, “because mother and Constance wanted to see the elephant, and I had to go into father’s room!  I should never have caught sight of him from the drawing-room window!”


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