The Old Wives' Tale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 811 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.

Like a thief she passed into her bedroom and put on her things; and like a thief she crept downstairs, and so, without a word to Mary, into the street.  It was a desperate adventure.  As soon as she was in the street she felt all her weakness, all the fatigue which the effort had already cost her.  The pain returned.  The streets were still wet and foul, the wind cold, and the sky menacing.  She ought to go back.  She ought to admit that she had been a fool to dream of the enterprise.  The Town Hall seemed to be miles off, at the top of a mountain.  She went forward, however, steeled to do her share in the killing of Federation.  Every step caused her a gnashing of her old teeth.  She chose the Cock Yard route, because if she had gone up the Square she would have had to pass Holl’s shop, and Lily might have spied her.

This was the miracle that breezy politicians witnessed without being aware that it was a miracle.  To have impressed them, Constance ought to have fainted before recording her vote, and made herself the centre of a crowd of gapers.  But she managed, somehow, to reach home again on her own tortured feet, and an astounded and protesting Mary opened the door to her.  Rain was descending.  She was frightened, then, by the hardihood of her adventure, and by its atrocious results on her body.  An appalling exhaustion rendered her helpless.  But the deed was done.


The next morning, after a night which she could not have described, Constance found herself lying flat in bed, with all her limbs stretched out straight.  She was conscious that her face was covered with perspiration.  The bell-rope hung within a foot of her head, but she had decided that, rather than move in order to pull it, she would prefer to wait for assistance until Mary came of her own accord.  Her experiences of the night had given her a dread of the slightest movement; anything was better than movement.  She felt vaguely ill, with a kind of subdued pain, and she was very thirsty and somewhat cold.  She knew that her left arm and leg were extraordinarily tender to the touch.  When Mary at length entered, clean and fresh and pale in all her mildness, she found the mistress the colour of a duck’s egg, with puffed features, and a strangely anxious expression.

“Mary,” said Constance, “I feel so queer.  Perhaps you’d better run up and tell Miss Holl, and ask her to telephone for Dr. Stirling.”

This was the beginning of Constance’s last illness.  Mary most impressively informed Miss Holl that her mistress had been out on the previous afternoon in spite of her sciatica, and Lily telephoned the fact to the Doctor.  Lily then came down to take charge of Constance.  But she dared not upbraid the invalid.

“Is the result out?” Constance murmured.

“Oh yes,” said Lily, lightly.  “There’s a majority of over twelve hundred against Federation.  Great excitement last night!  I told you yesterday morning that Federation was bound to be beaten.”

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