The Old Wives' Tale
II.5. Another Crime
One night--it was late in the afternoon of the same year, about six months after
the tragedy of the florin--Samuel Povey was wakened up by a hand on his
shoulder and a voice that whispered: "Father!"
The thief and the liar was standing in his night-shirt by the bed. Samuel's sleepy
eyes could just descry him in the thick gloom.
"What--what?" questioned the father, gradually coming to consciousness. "What
are you doing there?"
"I didn't want to wake mother up," the boy whispered. "There's someone been
throwing dirt or something at our windows, and has been for a long time."
Samuel stared at the dim form of the thief and liar. The boy was tall, not in the
least like a little boy; and yet, then, he seemed to his father as quite a little boy, a
little 'thing' in a night- shirt, with childish gestures and childish inflections, and a
childish, delicious, quaint anxiety not to disturb his mother, who had lately been
deprived of sleep owing to an illness of Amy's which had demanded nursing. His
father had not so perceived him for years. In that instant the conviction that Cyril
was permanently unfit for human society finally expired in the father's mind. Time
had already weakened it very considerably. The decision that, be Cyril what he
might, the summer holiday must be taken as usual, had dealt it a fearful blow.
And yet, though Samuel and Constance had grown so accustomed to the
companionship of a criminal that they frequently lost memory of his guilt for long
periods, nevertheless the convention of his leprosy had more or less persisted
with Samuel until that moment: when it vanished with strange suddenness, to
Samuel's conscious relief.
There was a rain of pellets on the window.
"Hear that?" demanded Cyril, whispering dramatically. "And it's been like that on
my window too."
Samuel arose. "Go back to your room!" he ordered in the same dramatic
whisper; but not as father to son--rather as conspirator to conspirator.
Constance slept. They could hear her regular breathing.
Barefooted, the elderly gowned figure followed the younger, and one after the
other they creaked down the two steps which separated Cyril's room from his
"Shut the door quietly!" said Samuel.
And then, having lighted Cyril's gas, Samuel drew the blind, unfastened the catch
of the window, and began to open it with many precautions of silence. All the
sashes in that house were difficult to manage. Cyril stood close to his father,
shivering without knowing that he shivered, astonished only that his father had