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The Way We Live Now

Mrs Hurtle
Paul Montague at this time lived in comfortable lodgings in Sackville Street, and
ostensibly the world was going well with him. But he had many troubles. His troubles in
reference to Fisker, Montague, and Montague and also their consolation are already
known to the reader. He was troubled too about his love, though when he allowed his
mind to expatiate on the success of the great railway he would venture to hope that on
that side his life might perhaps be blessed. Henrietta had at any rate as yet showed no
disposition to accept her cousin's offer. He was troubled too about the gambling, which
he disliked, knowing that in that direction there might be speedy ruin, and yet returning to
it from day to day in spite of his own conscience. But there was yet another trouble which
culminated just at this time. One morning, not long after that Sunday night which had
been so wretchedly spent at the Beargarden, he got into a cab in Piccadilly and had
himself taken to a certain address in Islington. Here he knocked at a decent, modest door
at such a house as men live in with two or three hundred a year and asked for Mrs Hurtle.
Yes Mrs Hurtle lodged there, and he was shown into the drawing-room. There he stood
by the round table for a quarter of an hour turning over the lodging-house books which
lay there, and then Mrs Hurtle entered the room. Mrs Hurtle was a widow whom he had
once promised to marry. 'Paul,' she said, with a quick, sharp voice, but with a voice which
could be very pleasant when she pleased taking him by the hand as she spoke, 'Paul, say
that that letter of yours must go for nothing. Say that it shall be so, and I will forgive
everything.'
'I cannot say that,' he replied, laying his hand on hers. 'You cannot say it! What do you
mean? Will you dare to tell me that your promises to me are to go for nothing?'
'Things are changed,' said Paul hoarsely. He had come thither at her bidding because he
had felt that to remain away would be cowardly, but the meeting was inexpressibly
painful to him. He did think that he had sufficient excuse for breaking his troth to this
woman, but the justification of his conduct was founded on reasons which he hardly
knew how to plead to her. He had heard that of her past life which, had he heard it before,
would have saved him from his present difficulty. But he had loved her did love her in a
certain fashion; and her offences, such as they were, did not debar her from his
sympathies.
'How are they changed? I am two years older, if you mean that.' As she said this she
looked round at the glass, as though to see whether she was become so haggard with age
as to be unfit to become this man's wife. She was very lovely, with a kind of beauty
which we seldom see now. In these days men regard the form and outward lines of a
woman's face and figure more than either the colour or the expression, and women fit
themselves to men's eyes. With padding and false hair without limit a figure may be
constructed of almost any dimensions. The sculptors who construct them, male and
female, hairdressers and milliners, are very skilful, and figures are constructed of noble
dimensions, sometimes with voluptuous expansion, sometimes with classic reticence,
sometimes with dishevelled negligence which becomes very dishevelled indeed when
 
 
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