The Old Wives' Tale - by Arnold Bennett
Sophia was now alone with Mr. Scales, for in order to discuss the
unnameable freely with Mrs. Chatterley her sister was edging up
the counter. Sophia had dreamed of a private conversation as
something delicious and impossible. But chance had favoured her.
She was alone with him. And his neat fair hair and his blue eyes
and his delicate mouth were as wonderful to her as ever. He was
gentlemanly to a degree that impressed her more than anything had
impressed her in her life. And all the proud and aristocratic
instinct that was at the base of her character sprang up and
seized on his gentlemanliness like a famished animal seizing on
"The last time I saw you," said Mr. Scales, in a new tone, "you
said you were never in the shop."
"What? Yesterday? Did I?"
"No, I mean the last time I saw you alone," said he.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "It's just an accident."
"That's exactly what you said last time."
Was it his manner, or what he said, that flattered her, that
intensified her beautiful vivacity?
"I suppose you don't often go out?" he went on.
"What? In this weather?"
"I go to chapel," said she, "and marketing with mother." There was
a little pause. "And to the Free Library."
"Oh yes. You've got a Free Library here now, haven't you?"
"Yes. We've had it over a year."
"And you belong to it? What do you read?"
"Oh, stories, you know. I get a fresh book out once a week."
"Saturdays, I suppose?"
"No," she said. "Wednesdays." And she smiled. "Usually."
"It's Wednesday to-day," said he. "Not been already?"
She shook her head. "I don't think I shall go out to-day. It's too
cold. I don't think I shall venture out to-day."