The Old Wives' Tale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 635 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.
on the martyrdom of her life.  What had she done to deserve it?  Always had she conscientiously endeavoured to be kind, just, patient.  And she knew herself to be sagacious and prudent.  In the frightful and unguessed trials of her existence as a wife, surely she might have been granted consolations as a mother!  Yet no; it had not been!  And she felt all the bitterness of age against youth—­youth egotistic, harsh, cruel, uncompromising; youth that is so crude, so ignorant of life, so slow to understand!  She had Constance.  Yes, but it would be twenty years before Constance could appreciate the sacrifice of judgment and of pride which her mother had made, in a sudden decision, during that rambling, starched, simpering interview with Miss Aline Chetwynd.  Probably Constance thought that she had yielded to Sophia’s passionate temper!  Impossible to explain to Constance that she had yielded to nothing but a perception of Sophia’s complete inability to hear reason and wisdom.  Ah!  Sometimes as she lay in the dark, she would, in fancy, snatch her heart from her bosom and fling it down before Sophia, bleeding, and cry:  “See what I carry about with me, on your account!” Then she would take it back and hide it again, and sweeten her bitterness with wise admonitions to herself.

All this because Sophia, aware that if she stayed in the house she would be compelled to help in the shop, chose an honourable activity which freed her from the danger.  Heart, how absurd of you to bleed!

CHAPTER IV

ELEPHANT

I

“Sophia, will you come and see the elephant?  Do come!” Constance entered the drawing-room with this request on her eager lips.

“No,” said Sophia, with a touch of condescension.  “I’m far too busy for elephants.”

Only two years had passed; but both girls were grown up now; long sleeves, long skirts, hair that had settled down in life; and a demeanour immensely serious, as though existence were terrific in its responsibilities; yet sometimes childhood surprisingly broke through the crust of gravity, as now in Constance, aroused by such things as elephants, and proclaimed with vivacious gestures that it was not dead after all.  The sisters were sharply differentiated.  Constance wore the black alpaca apron and the scissors at the end of a long black elastic, which indicated her vocation in the shop.  She was proving a considerable success in the millinery department.  She had learnt how to talk to people, and was, in her modest way, very self-possessed.  She was getting a little stouter.  Everybody liked her.  Sophia had developed into the student.  Time had accentuated her reserve.  Her sole friend was Miss Chetwynd, with whom she was, having regard to the disparity of their ages, very intimate.  At home she spoke little.  She lacked amiability; as her mother said, she was ‘touchy.’ 

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