The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

“No,” she said.  “Not me.”

“Why didn’t you go too?” He continued his flattering investigations with a generous smile.

“I simply didn’t care to,” said she, proudly nonchalant.

“And I suppose you are in charge here?”

“No,” she answered.  “I just happened to have run down here for these scissors.  That’s all.”

“I often see your sister,” said he. “‘Often’ do I say?—­that is, generally, when I come; but never you.”

“I’m never in the shop,” she said.  “It’s just an accident to-day.”

“Oh!  So you leave the shop to your sister?”

“Yes.”  She said nothing of her teaching.

Then there was a silence.  Sophia was very thankful to be hidden from the curiosity of the shop.  The shop could see nothing of her, and only the back of the young man; and the conversation had been conducted in low voices.  She tapped her foot, stared at the worn, polished surface of the counter, with the brass yard-measure nailed along its edge, and then she uneasily turned her gaze to the left and seemed to be examining the backs of the black bonnets which were perched on high stands in the great window.  Then her eyes caught his for an important moment.

“Yes,” she breathed.  Somebody had to say something.  If the shop missed the murmur of their voices the shop would wonder what had happened to them.

Mr. Scales looked at his watch. ’"I dare say if I come in again about two—­” he began.

“Oh yes, they’re sure to be in then,” she burst out before he could finish his sentence.

He left abruptly, queerly, without shaking hands (but then it would have been difficult—­she argued—­for him to have put his arm over the boxes), and without expressing the hope of seeing her again.  She peeped through the black bonnets, and saw the porter put the leather strap over his shoulders, raise the rear of the barrow, and trundle off; but she did not see Mr. Scales.  She was drunk; thoughts were tumbling about in her brain like cargo loose in a rolling ship.  Her entire conception of herself was being altered; her attitude towards life was being altered.  The thought which knocked hardest against its fellows was, “Only in these moments have I begun to live!”

And as she flitted upstairs to resume watch over her father she sought to devise an innocent-looking method by which she might see Mr. Scales when he next called.  And she speculated as to what his name was.


When Sophia arrived in the bedroom, she was startled because her father’s head and beard were not in their accustomed place on the pillow.  She could only make out something vaguely unusual sloping off the side of the bed.  A few seconds passed—­not to be measured in time—­and she saw that the upper part of his body had slipped down, and his head was hanging, inverted, near the floor between the bed and the ottoman.  His face, neck, and hands

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