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

He noticed that she paid no heed to him, but passed hurriedly to the window.

“What’s amiss in the Square?” Constance exclaimed.  “When I was in the parlour just now I saw a man running along Wedgwood Street, and I said to myself, what’s amiss?”

Dick and Lily joined her at the window.

Several people were hurrying down the Square, and then a man came running with a doctor from the market-place.  All these persons disappeared from view under the window of Mrs. Povey’s drawing-room, which was over part of Mrs. Critchlow’s shop.  As the windows of the shop projected beyond the walls of the house it was impossible, from the drawing-room window, to see the pavement in front of the shop.

“It must be something on the pavement—­or in the shop!” murmured Constance.

“Oh, ma’am!” said a startled voice behind the three.  It was Mary, original of the photograph, who had run unperceived into the drawing-room.  “They say as Mrs. Critchlow has tried to commit suicide!”

Constance started back.  Lily went towards her, with an instinctive gesture of supporting consolation.

“Maria Critchlow tried to commit suicide!” Constance muttered.

“Yes, ma’am!  But they say she’s not done it.”

“By Jove!  I’d better go and see if I can help, hadn’t I?” cried Dick Povey, hobbling off, excited and speedy.  “Strange, isn’t it?” he exclaimed afterwards, “how I manage to come in for things?  Sheer chance that I was here to-day!  But it’s always like that!  Somehow something extraordinary is always happening where I am.”  And this too ministered to his satisfaction, and to his zest for life.

II

When, in the evening, after all sorts of comings and goings, he finally returned to the old lady and the young one, in order to report the upshot, his demeanour was suitably toned to Constance’s mood.  The old lady had been very deeply disturbed by the tragedy, which, as she said, had passed under her very feet while she was calmly talking to Lily.

The whole truth came out in a short space of time.  Mrs. Critchlow was suffering from melancholia.  It appeared that for long she had been depressed by the failing trade of the shop, which was none of her fault.  The state of the Square had steadily deteriorated.  Even the ‘Vaults’ were not what they once were.  Four or five shops had been shut up, as it were definitely, the landlords having given up hope of discovering serious tenants.  And, of those kept open, the majority were struggling desperately to make ends meet.  Only Holl’s and a new upstart draper, who had widely advertised his dress-making department, were really flourishing.  The confectionery half of Mr. Brindley’s business was disappearing.  People would not go to Hanbridge for their bread or for their groceries, but they would go for their cakes.  These electric trams had simply carried to Hanbridge

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