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

All the time she was plotting, and gathering her strength to disobey orders and get as far as the mirror.  Her preliminary studies and her preparations were as elaborate as those of a prisoner arranging to escape from a fortress.  The first attempt was a failure.  The second succeeded.  Though she could not stand without support, she managed by clinging to the bed to reach a chair, and to push the chair in front of her until it approached the mirror.  The enterprise was exciting and terrific.  Then she saw a face in the glass:  white, incredibly emaciated, with great, wild, staring eyes; and the shoulders were bent as though with age.  It was a painful, almost a horrible sight.  It frightened her, so that in her alarm she recoiled from it.  Not attending sufficiently to the chair, she sank to the ground.  She could not pick herself up, and she was caught there, miserably, by her angered jailers.  The vision of her face taught her more efficiently than anything else the gravity of her adventure.  As the women lifted her inert, repentant mass into the bed, she reflected, “How queer my life is!” It seemed to her that she ought to have been trimming hats in the showroom instead of being in that curtained, mysterious, Parisian interior.

II

One day Madame Foucault knocked at the door of Sophia’s little room (this ceremony of knocking was one of the indications that Sophia, convalescent, had been reinstated in her rights as an individual), and cried: 

“Madame, one is going to leave you all alone for some time.”

“Come in,” said Sophia, who was sitting up in an armchair, and reading.

Madame Foucault opened the door.  “One is going to leave you all alone for some time,” she repeated in a low, confidential voice, sharply contrasting with her shriek behind the door.

Sophia nodded and smiled, and Madame Foucault also nodded and smiled.  But Madame Foucault’s face quickly resumed its anxious expression.

“The servant’s brother marries himself to-day, and she implored me to accord her two days—­what would you?  Madame Laurence is out.  And I must go out.  It is four o’clock.  I shall re-enter at six o’clock striking.  Therefore ...”

“Perfectly,” Sophia concurred.

She looked curiously at Madame Foucault, who was carefully made up and arranged for the street, in a dress of yellow tussore with blue ornaments, bright lemon-coloured gloves, a little blue bonnet, and a little white parasol not wider when opened than her shoulders.  Cheeks, lips, and eyes were heavily charged with rouge, powder, or black.  And that too abundant waist had been most cunningly confined in a belt that descended beneath, instead of rising above, the lower masses of the vast torso.  The general effect was worthy of the effort that must have gone to it.  Madame Foucault was not rejuvenated by her toilette, but it almost procured her pardon for the crime of being over forty, fat, creased, and worn out.  It was one of those defeats that are a triumph.

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