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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHis Second Wife - Chapter 22
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His Second Wife - Chapter 22 Post by :seasoned Category :Long Stories Author :Ernest Poole Date :May 2012 Read :2897

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His Second Wife - Chapter 22


As she sat there she grew furious with herself for having bungled so. Why hadn't she explained to him? Why hadn't she simply told him her plan for giving him back his friends? All at once she could hear herself saying what she should have said to Joe:

"I may have been wrong about it, Joe, but I thought the best way to bring you back to all the things you used to love was to let you think _you were doing it. So I let you and Dwight come together alone. I kept in the background, as I did about getting you into that club of yours. I was afraid to show my hand." On and on she talked to him. Oh, how simple and convincing, strong, and sensible and true. "Why didn't you say it, you little fool? You acted just like a scared young girl found out in doing something wrong!" She was ready to cry, but checked herself. "At least don't be a baby now. What are you to do about it?" She bit her lip. Now it was too late. She had made it worse--a hundred times! All at once she rose and began to walk. "Oh, rubbish!" she thought, impatiently. "You're not to give up, when everything else in your whole life was going so perfectly splendidly! . . . Why, of course. That's it. I'll call up Nourse, and have him come and explain to Joe how I went to him at the very start."

With a swift feeling of relief Ethel went to the telephone.

"Mr. Nourse is out of town."

"Oh, yes. Thank you. I'd forgotten. When do you expect him back?"

"Not until the end of the week."

As Ethel hung up the receiver she felt a little faint and queer. When Joe came back this evening she would have to face him alone! In vain she angrily told herself that it only needed common sense. The picture of his tired face, nerves all on edge, rose in her mind. The way his jealousy had flared up! No, it would not be easy! She might even--fail with him! At the thought, a foolish panic came. More walking was required. . . . She heard Susette beginning her supper, and she went in and sat with the child. And at first that worked out very well. Soon she was smiling and listening to the ceaseless chatter of the small girl. But suddenly Ethel exclaimed to herself, "Suppose I do fail, after all! If there's a divorce he'll take them both!" She jumped up in a frightened way, and went into her bedroom. She threw herself sobbing on the bed--but in a few minutes regained control with an effort and lay there motionless. The tangle was growing clearer now.

The very best she could hope was to make Joe half believe her, she thought. And that would mean she would have to drop Dwight and all chance of meeting those people he knew. She would live with a Joe so suspicious that she would be under his friend, Fanny Carr. "She'll be my friend, and bring me in touch with whatever other people she likes. I'll have to be nice to them--every one. And I'll live her life. Amy's life." She looked at the large photograph over on Joe's chiffonier. "Perhaps after all I shall be like her. How do I know what she was at my age? As I grow older, all hemmed in, why not stop caring for anything else?

"Oh, now do let's be sensible!" With an impatient movement of her lithe beautiful figure Ethel was up off the bed and walking the room with grim resolution in her brown eyes. Soon she was much quieter. She felt the warm youth within her rise. There must be a way! So far, so good. But the moment she tried to think what way, again at once she was off her ground. What could she do or say to Joe? Her failure to manage him that afternoon had shaken her confidence in herself. Ethel was only twenty-five, and now she felt even younger than that. All at once in a sickening way her courage oozed; she felt herself ignorant and alone. Why did not Joe come back, she asked. Was he going to stay away all night? And if he did, what would it mean? She remembered what he had said when he left: "Then you and I are through, you know." All right, then what was he going to do! "I don't even know how a man goes about it, if he wants to get a divorce!" And panic seized her as before. "I can't do this all by myself! I can't talk to him as I've got to talk--not till I know just what to say! I bungled it so! I need sound advice! Oh, for somebody to help me!" She thought of Dwight, but she would not go near him! She loathed the very sight of him now! Why had not he told her of those other affairs of his that could rise in this way against herself? Why had he allowed her to do those few little daring things, which looked so cheap and disgusting in the detective's typed report? And besides, if she did want to see him, could she, without being watched by some wretched detective? For the whole town seemed bristling with detectives and police. And the city of New York felt cold. As she lay on her bed, a sudden gay laugh from a neighbouring window recalled to her mind that night long ago, her first in New York, when she had listened excitedly and thought of all the stories here, both sad and comic.

"Well, I'm a story now," she thought. "And I suppose I'm comic!" The angry tears rose in I her eyes. Oh, for a real friend! There was Emily Giles, of course, but this was Emily's night out; and besides, in matters of this kind she would be worse than useless. "What I need is a woman who knows this town--and all its ways--and what to do!" As the evening drew on and still Joe did not come, again and again she felt ready to scream. And though she savagely held herself in, each time was harder than the last.

"Something has simply got to be done!" she told herself after one outbreak like that. Then all at once came the recollection of young Mrs. Grewe downstairs. "I must have some one or I'll go mad!" And she hurried to the telephone. But in the hall she stopped and frowned. "No, I won't call her up," she thought. "That inquisitive telephone girl downstairs would begin to gossip about it at once." For the same reason Ethel did not take the elevator. She ran quickly down two flights and rang at Mrs. Grewe's door. There was silence. She waited some moments, then rang again. "Oh, she's out--I know she is!" The thought brought a sickening empty feeling. She would have to face this night alone!

But abruptly the door opened, and a sleepy startled maid looked at her in dull surprise.

"Is she out tonight? Is Mrs. Grewe out?" Ethel asked impatiently.

"Yes--she's out," the girl replied.

But glancing behind her Ethel saw a high hat and an overcoat on a chair, and with a quick little "Oh!" of dismay, she turned and hurried away down the hall. She heard the maid's chuckle behind her. "Oh-h!" She could feel her cheeks burning. And when she got back to her bedroom upstairs, out of the shame and humility rose a fierce anger which downed all her fears at the thought of this night or of anything else. "I'll never be like her!" she exclaimed. "There'll never be a high hat in my hall at this time of night--nor a Boston old maid--nor a snickering telephone girl downstairs! Never! I'll make myself ugly first! For I'm not like you, I'm not like you! I've had a child, to begin with--and I'm going to keep him, he's mine!"

There came again a period of swift determined thinking. And at last with a quick thrill of relief she remembered Mrs. Crothers was coming with Dwight to call the next day. Sally Crothers--Joe's old friend! "If she believed in me--really believed in all that I was trying to do--she could give me just the advice I need! It may be I'm just silly--and she could give me her common sense! She might even talk to Joe herself--and make him realize my whole plan! If only I can get her to help me!"

Ethel went at once to her desk and rapidly wrote a note to Dwight, saying she thought it would be better to let Mrs. Crothers come alone.

"For I could do nothing, with him around. And I've got to do everything!" she thought as she folded the envelope.

In the morning she heard from Joe. When a messenger came with a note, she tore it open and read this:

"Please give this man my suit-case and put in what things I need. I shall stay here at the club awhile--it will be better all around. I am sorry for the scene I made and I don't want another. If you have any real explanation, send me word and I will come. But understand it has got to be real. If it is not we can't go on. I guess you see that."

She read it again. Then glancing up at the messenger, who was plainly curious at the expression on her face, she frowned at him impatiently.

"Will you wait downstairs!" she said. "It will take some little time to find the things my husband wants."

Rid of him, she began again and read the letter with desperate care. Yes, Joe was trying to be fair. To have said he was sorry for that scene was rather decent in him. "Oh, yes, but he'll make another!" she thought. "Don't I know how he is--all tired and nervous and unstrung? If my explanation doesn't seem real he'll fly up and leave me, and then we'll be through!" She clenched the letter and told herself that her explanation must be real. It was her one chance--she must take time, and get good sensible advice. Joe had Fanny Carr about. That was certain. She'd never leave him alone. She was busily bolstering up her side. And Ethel needed somebody, too, on her side--right behind her. Sally Crothers--Joe's old friend!

She packed Joe's things and sent them to him with a little letter: "I am glad you said you were sorry, Joe, for the way you acted was very unfair. You are quite right in waiting now--it is better for both of us to cool down. But my explanation is simple and real--as you will see. I shall send for you in a few days. I love you, dear. I love you."

After that, she spent hours in anxious reflection. Now about Sally Crothers, she thought. Should she tell her the trouble she was in? No, not at once. New Yorkers hate trouble and always fly from it--so she must lead to it gradually. "When she comes I've got to make her like me--very much--so much she's surprised!" To begin with, looks--for looks did count. That much of what Amy had said was true. "But what I must do is not to look like her. Sally Crothers detested her, and I've got to overcome all that. I must show her I'm quite different." For a time Ethel's mind dwelt on details. It must all be so simple, yet not too severe. "For Sally is gay, I understand. What I want is to look halfway between Mrs. Grewe and Emily Giles. Black? No. Dark blue, with that old Rhinestone pin. Wave my hair? No, that's Amy again!"

But from such thoughts about her dress, or her tea table, flowers, the lights in the room, her mind kept darting anxiously off. All this was nothing! What should she say? "It's a woman of brains who is coming to call. Think of all she knows--and she earns her living--she has a profession of her own! How in the world shall I talk to her? She thinks me like Amy--there's Amy again! Oh, Amy, Amy, I don't want to hate you! You helped me once, you were dear to me, and you had heaps and heaps of good points! But please, please stop coming up in my life!

"Don't get into another panic, my dear. When she comes you must be natural. Your natural self--that always counts. Don't try to show off what you haven't got. Show her only what you have. Make her feel you're young and ready to learn--half mad to learn! No, that won't do--not mad, but keen for everything--interested in her life--in all she does and thinks and feels." She frowned. "No, that's too personal. And you can't be personal in New York--not very--they don't like it here. Every one's too busy. You must be interested in things--the town in general--music--books--people in a general way.

"'Here's the kind of a girl who will grow,' she must say, 'and who is worth my taking up!' But will she! Now here's that panic again! And can't you see, you little goose, this is just what may spoil everything? If you're scared, you'll lose! You've got to keep cool every minute she's here! Who is this Sally anyhow? What has she done that you won't do when you're as old as she is? . . . Yes, but don't you strike that note! No woman likes to be reminded that she is ten years older than any other woman on earth. She'll put me down as a cute young thing who has a dangerous way with men. Dwight has praised me to her, of course--but she'll put his liking down to that--the--the--the sex side! I must show her it isn't, that I've got more, that I don't want men but women now! But not too hard or eager, you know. Oh, I must watch her all the time, to see if I'm getting any hold. And then, the minute I see my chance, I must tell her my trouble--no, my big chance--all I was just on the point of doing with Joe, and could do now--if only I had her for a friend!"

Such thinking was spasmodic and often disconnected. Thoughts of Joe kept breaking in, and of what she should do if she failed with him. And again, putting down with an effort all such thoughts and fancies, she took Susette and the baby and went out for a walk in the Park. It was one of those balmy days that come in winter now and then, and Ethel sat down on a bench for a while.

But then she looked around with a start. Who was that on a bench nearby? A fat man with a black moustache, his derby hat tipped over his forehead, and his two small piggish eyes morosely and narrowly watching her. A detective--working for Fanny Carr! Ethel angrily rose and called to Susette and wheeled the baby carriage away. But just as she passed the fat man, a small fat boy ran up to him.

"Say, Pa," whined the urchin. "Buy me a bag of peanuts."

"Like hell I will," the fat man growled.

And Ethel blushed. How absurd she had been!

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His Second Wife - Chapter 23 His Second Wife - Chapter 23

His Second Wife - Chapter 23
CHAPTER XXIIIIn reply to her note, Dwight had telephoned that Sally would be there at five. Mrs. Crothers arrived at a quarter past. She was a small alert looking woman of thirty-five, slender, almost wiry, dark, with black hair worn over her temples. Her small mouth was strong and willful, but she had nice pleasant eyes. She was wearing a pretty tan hat and grey furs that she put back on her shoulders as she smiled and held out her hand. "I'm so glad to meet you at last, my dear." "Oh, thank you," said Ethel quickly. And then, because that

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!"