The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

“Can’t!” said Matthew.

“Well, come into the studio a minute, anyhow.”

“Haven’t time; I shall miss my train.”

“I don’t care if you miss forty trains.  You must come in.  You’ve got to see that fountain,” Cyril insisted crossly.

Matthew yielded.  When they emerged into the street again, after six minutes of Cyril’s savage interest in his own work, Matthew remembered Mrs. Scales.

“Of course you’ll write to your mother?” he said.

“Yes,” said Cyril, “I’ll write; but if you happen to see her, you might tell her.”

“I will,” said Matthew.  “Shall you go over to Paris?”

“What!  To see Auntie?” He smiled.  “I don’t know.  Depends.  If the mater will fork out all my exes ... it’s an idea,” he said lightly, and then without any change of tone, “Naturally, if you’re going to idle about here all morning you aren’t likely to catch the twelve-five.”

Matthew got into the cab, while the driver, the stump of a cigar between his exposed teeth, leaned forward and lifted the reins away from the tilted straw hat.

“By-the-by, lend me some silver,” Matthew demanded.  “It’s a good thing I’ve got my return ticket.  I’ve run it as fine as ever I did in my life.”

Cyril produced eight shillings in silver.  Secure in the possession of these riches, Matthew called to the driver—­

“Euston—­like hell!”

“Yes, sir,” said the driver, calmly.

“Not coming my way I suppose?” Matthew shouted as an afterthought, just when the cab began to move.

“No.  Barber’s,” Cyril shouted in answer, and waved his hand.

The horse rattled into Fulham Road.

III

Three days later Matthew Peel-Swynnerton was walking along Bursley Market Place when, just opposite the Town Hall, he met a short, fat, middle-aged lady dressed in black, with a black embroidered mantle, and a small bonnet tied with black ribbon and ornamented with jet fruit and crape leaves.  As she stepped slowly and carefully forward she had the dignified, important look of a provincial woman who has always been accustomed to deference in her native town, and whose income is ample enough to extort obsequiousness from the vulgar of all ranks.  But immediately she caught sight of Matthew, her face changed.  She became simple and naive.  She blushed slightly, smiling with a timid pleasure.  For her, Matthew belonged to a superior race.  He bore the almost sacred name of Peel.  His family had been distinguished in the district for generations.  ‘Peel!’ You could without impropriety utter it in the same breath with ‘Wedgwood.’  And ‘Swynnerton’ stood not much lower.  Neither her self-respect, which was great, nor her commonsense, which far exceeded the average, could enable her to extend as far as the Peels the theory that one man is as good as another.  The Peels never shopped in St. Luke’s Square. 

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