The Old Wives' Tale HTML version
III.3. An Ambition Satisfied
She went to sleep in misery. All the glory of her new life had been eclipsed. But
when she woke up, a few hours later, in the large, velvety stateliness of the
bedroom for which Gerald was paying so fantastic a price per day, she was in a
brighter mood, and very willing to reconsider her verdicts. Her pride induced her
to put Gerald in the right and herself in the wrong, for she was too proud to admit
that she had married a charming and irresponsible fool. And, indeed, ought she
not to put herself in the wrong? Gerald had told her to wait, and she had not
waited. He had said that he should return to the restaurant, and he had returned.
Why had she not waited? She had not waited because she had behaved like a
simpleton. She had been terrified about nothing. Had she not been frequenting
restaurants now for a month past? Ought not a married woman to be capable of
waiting an hour in a restaurant for her lawful husband without looking a ninny?
And as for Gerald's behaviour, how could he have acted differently? The other
Englishman was obviously a brute and had sought a quarrel. His contradiction of
Gerald's statements was extremely offensive. On being invited by the brute to go
outside, what could Gerald do but comply? Not to have complied might have
meant a fight in the restaurant, as the brute was certainly drunk. Compared to the
brute, Gerald was not at all drunk, merely a little gay and talkative. Then Gerald's
fib about his chin was natural; he simply wished to minimize the fuss and to
spare her feelings. It was, in fact, just like Gerald to keep perfect silence as to
what had passed between himself and the brute. However, she was convinced
that Gerald, so lithe and quick, had given that great brute with his supercilious
ways as good as he received, if not better.
And if she were a man and had asked her wife to wait in a restaurant, and the
wife had gone home under the escort of another man, she would most assuredly
be much more angry than Gerald had been. She was very glad that she had
controlled herself and exercised a meek diplomacy. A quarrel had thus been
avoided. Yes, the finish of the evening could not be called a quarrel; after her
nursing of his chin, nothing but a slight coolness on his part had persisted.
She arose silently and began to dress, full of a determination to treat Gerald as a
good wife ought to treat a husband. Gerald did not stir; he was an excellent
sleeper: one of those organisms that never want to go to bed and never want to
get up. When her toilet was complete save for her bodice, there was a knock at
the door. She started.
"Gerald!" She approached the bed, and leaned her nude bosom over her
husband, and put her arms round his neck. This method of being brought back to
consciousness did not displease him.
The knock was repeated. He gave a grunt.
"Some one's knocking at the door," she whispered.