The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

Cyril showed no emotion whatever on learning himself the inheritor of thirty-five thousand pounds.  He did not seem to care.  He spoke of the sum as a millionaire might have spoken of it.  In justice to him it is to be said that he cared nothing for wealth, except in so far as wealth could gratify his eye and ear trained to artistic voluptuousness.  But, for his mother’s sake, and for the sake of Bursley, he might have affected a little satisfaction.  His mother was somewhat hurt.  His behaviour caused her to revert in meditation again and again to the futility of Sophia’s career, and the waste of her attributes.  She had grown old and hard in joyless years in order to amass this money which Cyril would spend coldly and ungratefully, never thinking of the immense effort and endless sacrifice which had gone to its collection.  He would spend it as carelessly as though he had picked it up in the street.  As the days went by and Constance realized her own grief, she also realized more and more the completeness of the tragedy of Sophia’s life.  Headstrong Sophia had deceived her mother, and for the deception had paid with thirty years of melancholy and the entire frustration of her proper destiny.

After haunting Bursley for a fortnight in elegant black, Cyril said, without any warning, one night:  “I must go the day after to-morrow, mater.”  And he told her of a journey to Hungary which he had long since definitely planned with Matthew Peel-Swynnerton, and which could not be postponed, as it comprised ‘business.’  He had hitherto breathed no word of this.  He was as secretive as ever.  As to her holiday, he suggested that she should arrange to go away with the Holls and Dick Povey.  He approved of Lily Holl and of Dick Povey.  Of Dick Povey he said:  “He’s one of the most remarkable chaps in the Five Towns.”  And he had the air of having made Dick’s reputation.  Constance, knowing there was no appeal, accepted the sentence of loneliness.  Her health was singularly good.

When he was gone she said to herself:  “Scarcely a fortnight and Sophia was here at this table!” She would remember every now and then, with a faint shock, that poor, proud, masterful Sophia was dead.

CHAPTER V

END OF CONSTANCE

I

When, on a June afternoon about twelve months later, Lily Holl walked into Mrs. Povey’s drawing-room overlooking the Square, she found a calm, somewhat optimistic old lady—­older than her years—­ which were little more than sixty—­whose chief enemies were sciatica and rheumatism.  The sciatica was a dear enemy of long standing, always affectionately referred to by the forgiving Constance as ‘my sciatica’; the rheumatism was a new-comer, unprivileged, spoken of by its victim apprehensively and yet disdainfully as ‘this rheumatism.’  Constance was now very stout.  She sat in a low easy-chair between the oval table and the window,

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