The Old Wives' Tale eBook

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

She showed him her proud back and nodding head and wrathful skirts; and hurried off without a word, almost running.  As for him, he was so startled by unexpected phenomena that he did nothing for a moment—­merely stood looking and feeling foolish.

Then she heard him in pursuit.  She was too proud to stop or even to reduce her speed.

“I didn’t mean to—­” he muttered behind her.

No recognition from her.

“I suppose I ought to apologize,” he said.

“I should just think you ought,” she answered, furious.

“Well, I do!” said he.  “Do stop a minute.”

“I’ll thank you not to follow me, Mr. Scales.”  She paused, and scorched him with her displeasure.  Then she went forward.  And her heart was in torture because it could not persuade her to remain with him, and smile and forgive, and win his smile.

“I shall write to you,” he shouted down the slope.

She kept on, the ridiculous child.  But the agony she had suffered as he clung to the frail wall was not ridiculous, nor her dark vision of the mine, nor her tremendous indignation when, after disobeying her, he forgot that she was a queen.  To her the scene was sublimely tragic.  Soon she had recrossed the bridge, but not the same she!  So this was the end of the incredible adventure!

When she reached the turnpike she thought of her mother and of Constance.  She had completely forgotten them; for a space they had utterly ceased to exist for her.

IV

“You’ve been out, Sophia?” said Mrs. Baines in the parlour, questioningly.  Sophia had taken off her hat and mantle hurriedly in the cutting-out room, for she was in danger of being late for tea; but her hair and face showed traces of the March breeze.  Mrs. Baines, whose stoutness seemed to increase, sat in the rocking-chair with a number of The Sunday at Home in her hand.  Tea was set.

“Yes, mother.  I called to see Miss Chetwynd.”

“I wish you’d tell me when you are going out.”

“I looked all over for you before I started.”

“No, you didn’t, for I haven’t stirred from this room since four o’clock. ...  You should not say things like that,” Mrs. Baines added in a gentler tone.

Mrs. Baines had suffered much that day.  She knew that she was in an irritable, nervous state, and therefore she said to herself, in her quality of wise woman, “I must watch myself.  I mustn’t let myself go.”  And she thought how reasonable she was.  She did not guess that all her gestures betrayed her; nor did it occur to her that few things are more galling than the spectacle of a person, actuated by lofty motives, obviously trying to be kind and patient under what he considers to be extreme provocation.

Maggie blundered up the kitchen stairs with the teapot and hot toast; and so Sophia had an excuse for silence.  Sophia too had suffered much, suffered excruciatingly; she carried at that moment a whole tragedy in her young soul, unaccustomed to such burdens.  Her attitude towards her mother was half fearful and half defiant; it might be summed up in the phrase which she had repeated again and again under her breath on the way home, “Well, mother can’t kill me!”

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