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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHis Second Wife - Chapter 20
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His Second Wife - Chapter 20 Post by :StartFromHere Category :Long Stories Author :Ernest Poole Date :May 2012 Read :2532

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His Second Wife - Chapter 20

CHAPTER XX

The next morning Emily Giles returned from a visit back in Ohio.

"How have things been going?" she asked. "Very well indeed," said Ethel, with a scarcely perceptible smile. She and Emily understood each other, though very little had ever been said.

"Mr. Lanier still working hard?"

"Yes, poor dear," said Ethel, "but it has been so good for him." And at that a look of grim relish came on Emily's sallow face.

"You know I'm getting to like this town," she remarked with a genial air. "I wonder what'll the winter be like?"

"Oh, I think we'll do nicely, Emily. I've quite a few plans in my head."

"I'll bet you have," said Emily. And she went to don her "uniform."

In these days, again and again a sense of being just on the eve of something very exciting gave Ethel a new zest in life.

One day in the hall downstairs she came upon young Mrs. Grewe. Ethel gave a little start and then swiftly reddened. And she saw the young widow smile at that, and it made her annoyed with herself for having been so clumsy. "I'll show her I'm not such a prude," she thought. And having learned that Mrs. Grewe had taken another apartment here, Ethel went to see her--with a safe little feeling that Mrs. Grewe would have too much sense to return the call. This would end it--pleasantly.

The visit was a decided success. Mrs. Grewe was back from Europe sooner than she had expected--for reasons she did not explain. "And now I'm looking about," she said, "for another old lady from Boston. I rent a new one every year." Ethel stayed for tea. For nearly eight months she had had no woman to talk to, but Fanny Carr and Emily Giles. And she found it very pleasant to be chatting here so cosily. Not that she meant to keep it up. This sort of woman? H'm--well, no. But on the other hand, why not? After all, New York was a very big city.

"I'm never going to shut myself up in one little circle of people," she thought. "I mean to keep rubbing up against life."

There was an added pleasure, too, in the vague warm self-confidence which the young widow gave to her. "You can take care of yourself, my dear," said Mrs. Grewe's small lustrous black eyes.

"Well? Is he treating you better?" she asked.

"Yes," said Ethel.

"He's very wise." They smiled at each other.

"He's becoming quite sensible," Ethel said.

"And have you found those friends you wanted?"

"They're in sight," was Ethel's answer. Her hostess smiled good humouredly.

"You won't be able to keep me," she said. "He won't stand that--"

Ethel knit her brows.

"He'll stand a good deal," she answered, "when once I know where I stand myself."

"In the meantime you'd better leave me alone."

The two parted in affable fashion.

"There," thought Ethel in relief. "I got through that rather nicely. I needn't go again, of course."

She had started out for a brisk walk, and she drew a deep breath of the frosty air. The air in New York was often so--gay! And Mrs. Grewe had given her such a feeling of independence. She saw a man turn and look at her--the beast! But she smiled as she hurried on toward the Park.

Still, the brief visit had been rather daring. Joe would not have liked it at all. He would have been perfectly furious!

"However!" She walked briskly on. "What's the difference between Mrs. Grewe and his own dear friend, Fanny Carr?" she asked. "Nothing whatever--except that Fanny, so far as we know, has taken the trouble with each man to have a wedding and a divorce. The only other difference is that Fanny has no taste at all, while Mrs. Grewe has heaps of it! And she reads things--even Shaw; and she likes good music, too. She is going tonight to 'Salome.'" . . . For a moment Ethel let her mind run over all the operas she herself was going to hear, and the concerts, and the plays she would see and the dinners she would go to, the talks in which she would take part. She could see herself--just scintillating! . . . With a jerk she came back to Mrs. Grewe. "Oh, I guess it isn't very defiling to turn to her from Fanny Carr! I'll do as I please!" she impatiently thought.

Still, it had been rather daring. It fitted in exactly with several talks she had had of late with Dwight, her music teacher: talks in which each one of them had taken rather a challenging tone that had grown distinctly intimate. One night when Joe was out of town she had gone with Dwight to the opera. And she had not mentioned it to Joe--not that she felt guilty at all, she had simply dropped it out of her mind. In love with her husband? Yes, indeed. And let Dwight or any other man try to go the least bit too far--"As Fanny doubtless does with Joe," she suddenly added to herself. For a moment she walked viciously. Then she thought again of Dwight. He had told her she really had voice enough with which to go on the stage if she chose.

"Though I hope you won't," he had added.

"Why not?" she had asked. In reply he had hinted at perils that made it all sound rather thrilling.

"Joe wouldn't like it," Dwight had said.

"I might sing in concerts--"

"Joe wouldn't like it."

"Oh, bother Joe!"

Dwight had smiled a bit. "I wonder what you will do," he had said, "if Joe flivvers!"

"If he what?"

"Flivvers--drops back and makes money--turns to those other friends of his."

"He won't do that." But her voice had been tense, for the intimate feeling in Dwight's tone had made her a bit uneasy.

"Well," he had told her in a low voice, "I'm a friend of Joe's, you know, and I don't propose to play the cad. But if you and Joe ever should have a break--don't drop me, too. Do you understand?"

She had hesitated a moment upon just how to answer. Her heart had pounded rapidly.

"That isn't going to happen," she had told him gravely.

"Sure of that?"

"Yes, and you would be--if you understood me better."

"How?"

"I'm in love with that husband of mine for life," she had informed him impressively.

"You're very old-fashioned," he had smiled.

"Not at all!"

"Suppose I understand you better than you do yourself?"

She had glanced at him, seen the gleam in his eyes as he had drawn closer. And then very suddenly she had found it hard to breathe. What to say to stop him?

"At this moment," she had nearly gasped, "you appear to me so very--fat!"

That had bowled him over--naturally! In the next few moments the atmosphere had become chilly and depressed, and with a sudden rush of shame the certainty had grown upon her that she had made a fool of herself, that he had meant to do nothing at all. And from blushing furiously she had turned a little white, and had said to him:

"Please forgive me. I didn't mean that. I was--just a silly fool. Let's go on with my lesson."

"Now that I've learned mine, you mean."

And then regaining control of herself she had turned upon him quickly:

"Oh, be sensible, for goodness' sake! How are you and I to be friends if you act like this, you silly boy? You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

So she had got out of that all right, and had felt tremendously relieved. It was not only that she liked the man, he was besides her only hope, the one who could bring friends to her. "Women friends! That's what I need!" All this was so unsafe at times. Her husband's business, his two sides, Fanny Carr and her scheming, Dwight and his blue, twinkling eyes, Mrs. Grewe and her smiling good-fellowship--were all very nice and exciting. But safe? Oh, by no means!

But today as Ethel walked on through the Park, she smiled to herself expectantly. For Dwight had promised the next week to bring Sally Crothers to see her. "If only I can get on with her! She's my kind--I know she is--she's just exactly what I want. I don't want to be anything wild--not Mrs. Grewe nor Fanny Carr. I want to be myself, that's all, and happy with my husband!"

She turned abruptly toward her home. "In the meantime I am going back to give the baby his bath," she thought. She glanced at the watch on her gloved wrist. And a man who looked like a detective, or a villain in the "movies," looked after her in an envious way.

"Who's her date with!" he wondered.

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His Second Wife - Chapter 21 His Second Wife - Chapter 21

His Second Wife - Chapter 21
CHAPTER XXIThe days dragged by. She had anxious times. What would Sally Crothers be like? "And what in the world will she think of me? If she doesn't like me--very much--the very first time, I'll have lost my chance. For she's busy, her life is full of things--planning gardens and running about with her friends. And she won't so much as bother her head!" Ethel felt a dismal sinking. In vain she strove to assure herself. Joe, Nourse and then Dwight, one after the other, had all bowed down before her. "Oh, that was very simple!" she thought. "They're only men!"
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CHAPTER XIXBut all this was as nothing compared to the intensity, the ups and down, in her relations with Joe himself. He often looked tired and harassed. "What's the matter with me?" he seemed to ask. And she felt his two sides combatting each other. On the one hand were the influences of Nourse and Dwight and the men at the club, to which he went nearly every day. He took part in discussions there, long rambling talks and arguments. And his old ideals were rising hungrily within him. But meanwhile the business man in Joe kept savagely putting the dreamer
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