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

She saw that he was in anguish.  He could not take the watch.  Tears came into his eyes.  Then he hid his face, and dashed away.  She heard a sob-impeded murmur that sounded like, “Forgive me!” and the banging of a door.  And in the stillness she heard the regular snoring of M. Carlier.  She too cried.  Her vision was blurred by a mist, and she stumbled into the kitchen and seized the clock, and carried it with her upstairs, and shivered in the intense cold of the night.  She wept gently for a very long time.  “What a shame!  What a shame!” she said to herself.  Yet she did not quite blame Chirac.  The frost drove her into bed, but not to sleep.  She continued to cry.  At dawn her eyes were inflamed with weeping.  She was back in the kitchen then.  Chirac’s door was wide open.  He had left the flat.  On the slate was written, “I shall not take meals to-day.”

III

Their relations were permanently changed.  For several days they did not meet at all; and when at the end of the week Chirac was obliged at last to face Sophia in order to pay his bill, he had a most grievous expression.  It was obvious that he considered himself a criminal without any defence to offer for his crime.  He seemed to make no attempt to hide his state of mind.  But he said nothing.  As for Sophia, she preserved a mien of amiable cheerfulness.  She exerted herself to convince him by her attitude that she bore no resentment, that she had determined to forget the incident, that in short she was the forgiving angel of his dreams.  She did not, however, succeed entirely in being quite natural.  Confronted by his misery, it would have been impossible for her to be quite natural, and at the same time quite cheerful!

A little later the social atmosphere of the flat began to grow querulous, disputatious and perverse.  The nerves of everybody were seriously strained.  This applied to the whole city.  Days of heavy rains followed the sharp frosts, and the town was, as it were, sodden with woe.  The gates were closed.  And though nine-tenths of the inhabitants never went outside the gates, the definite and absolute closing of them demoralized all hearts.  Gas was no longer supplied.  Rats, cats, and thorough-bred horses were being eaten and pronounced ‘not bad.’  The siege had ceased to be a novelty.  Friends did not invite one another to a ‘siege-dinner’ as to a picnic.  Sophia, fatigued by regular overwork, became weary of the situation.  She was angry with the Prussians for dilatoriness, and with the French for inaction, and she poured out her English spleen on her boarders.  The boarders told each other in secret that the patronne was growing formidable.  Chiefly she bore a grudge against the shopkeepers; and when, upon a rumour of peace, the shop-windows one day suddenly blossomed with prodigious quantities of all edibles, at highest prices, thus proving that the famine was artificially created, Sophia was furious. 

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