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

Sophia remembered the very words, ‘You can’t alter her,’ which she had used in remonstrating with Cyril.  And now she had been guilty of precisely the same unreason as that with which she had reproached Cyril!  She was ashamed, both for herself and for Constance.  Assuredly it had not been such a scene as women of their age would want to go through often.  It was humiliating.  She wished that it could have been blotted out as though it had never happened.  Neither of them ever forgot it.  They had had a lesson.  And particularly Sophia had had a lesson.  Having learnt, they left the Rutland, amid due ceremonies, and returned to St. Luke’s Square.

CHAPTER IV

END OF SOPHIA

I

The kitchen steps were as steep, dark, and difficult as ever.  Up those steps Sophia Scales, nine years older than when she had failed to persuade Constance to leave the Square, was carrying a large basket, weighted with all the heaviness of Fossette.  Sophia, despite her age, climbed the steps violently, and burst with equal violence into the parlour, where she deposited the basket on the floor near the empty fireplace.  She was triumphant and breathless.  She looked at Constance, who had been standing near the door in the attitude of a shocked listener.

“There!” said Sophia.  “Did you hear how she talked?”

“Yes,” said Constance.  “What shall you do?”

“Well,” said Sophia.  “I had a very good mind to order her out of the house at once.  But then I thought I would take no notice.  Her time will be up in three weeks.  It’s best to be indifferent.  If once they see they can upset you However, I wasn’t going to leave Fossette down there to her tender mercies a moment longer.  She’s simply not looked after her at all.”

Sophia went on her knees to the basket, and, pulling aside the dog’s hair, round about the head, examined the skin.  Fossette was a sick dog and behaved like one.  Fossette, too, was nine years older, and her senility was offensive.  She was to no sense a pleasant object.

“See here,” said Sophia.

Constance also knelt to the basket.

“And here,” said Sophia.  “And here.”

The dog sighed, the insincere and pity-seeking sigh of a spoilt animal.  Fossette foolishly hoped by such appeals to be spared the annoying treatment prescribed for her by the veterinary surgeon.

While the sisters were coddling her, and protecting her from her own paws, and trying to persuade her that all was for the best, another aged dog wandered vaguely into the room:  Spot.  Spot had very few teeth, and his legs were stiff.  He had only one vice, jealousy.  Fearing that Fossette might be receiving the entire attention of his mistresses, he had come to inquire into the situation.  When he found the justification of his gloomiest apprehensions, he nosed obstinately up to Constance, and would not be put off.  In vain Constance told him at length that he was interfering with the treatment.  In vain Sophia ordered him sharply to go away.  He would not listen to reason, being furious with jealousy.  He got his foot into the basket.

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