The Old Wives' Tale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 811 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.
and Constance could bring themselves to be deferential and flattering to every customer that entered.  No, she did not understand it; but her mother (though a proud woman) and Constance seemed to practise such behaviour so naturally, so unquestioningly, that she had never imparted to either of them her feelings; she guessed that she would not be comprehended.  But long ago she had decided that she would never “go into the shop.”  She knew that she would be expected to do something, and she had fixed on teaching as the one possibility.  These decisions had formed part of her inner life for years past.  She had not mentioned them, being secretive and scarcely anxious for unpleasantness.  But she had been slowly preparing herself to mention them.  The extraordinary announcement that she was to leave school at the same time as Constance had taken her unawares, before the preparations ripening in her mind were complete—­before, as it were, she had girded up her loins for the fray.  She had been caught unready, and the opposing forces had obtained the advantage of her.  But did they suppose she was beaten?

No argument from her mother!  No hearing, even!  Just a curt and haughty ‘Let me hear no more of this’!  And so the great desire of her life, nourished year after year in her inmost bosom, was to be flouted and sacrificed with a word!  Her mother did not appear ridiculous in the affair, for her mother was a genuine power, commanding by turns genuine love and genuine hate, and always, till then, obedience and the respect of reason.  It was her father who appeared tragically ridiculous; and, in turn, the whole movement against her grew grotesque in its absurdity.  Here was this antique wreck, helpless, useless, powerless—­merely pathetic —­actually thinking that he had only to mumble in order to make her ‘understand’!  He knew nothing; he perceived nothing; he was a ferocious egoist, like most bedridden invalids, out of touch with life,—­and he thought himself justified in making destinies, and capable of making them!  Sophia could not, perhaps, define the feelings which overwhelmed her; but she was conscious of their tendency.  They aged her, by years.  They aged her so that, in a kind of momentary ecstasy of insight, she felt older than her father himself.

“You will be a good girl,” he said.  “I’m sure o’ that.”

It was too painful.  The grotesqueness of her father’s complacency humiliated her past bearing.  She was humiliated, not for herself, but for him.  Singular creature!  She ran out of the room.

Fortunately Constance was passing in the corridor, otherwise Sophia had been found guilty of a great breach of duty.

“Go to father,” she whispered hysterically to Constance, and fled upwards to the second floor.


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