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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lion's Share - Chapter 35. The Third Sort Of Woman
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The Lion's Share - Chapter 35. The Third Sort Of Woman Post by :st0ckman Category :Long Stories Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :627

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The Lion's Share - Chapter 35. The Third Sort Of Woman

CHAPTER XXXV. THE THIRD SORT OF WOMAN

"It was quite true what I told the detective. So I suppose you've finished with me for evermore!" Audrey burst out recklessly, as soon as she and Madame Piriac were alone together. The supreme moment had come, and she tried to grasp it like a nettle. Her adventurous rashness was, she admitted, undeniable. She had spoken the truth to the police officer about her identity and her spinsterhood because with unusual wisdom she judged that fibs or even prevarication on such a subject to such an audience might entangle her in far more serious difficulties later on. Moreover, with Inspector Keeble present, she could not successfully have gone very far from the truth. It was a pity that Madame Piriac had witnessed the scene, for really, when Audrey came to face it, the deception which she had practised upon Madame Piriac was of a monstrous and inexcusable kind. And now that Madame Piriac knew the facts, many other people would have to know the facts--including probably Mr. Gilman. The prospect of explanations was terrible. In vain Audrey said to herself that the thing was naught, that she had acted within her rights, and that anyhow she had long ago ceased to be diffident and shy!... She was intimidated by her own enormities. And she also thought: "How could I have been silly enough to tell that silly tale about the Spatts? More complications. And poor dear Inspector Keeble will be so shocked."

After a short pause Madame Piriac replied, in a grave but kind tone:

"Why would you that I should have finished with you for ever? You had the right to call yourself by any name you wished, and to wear any ring-that pleased your caprice. It is the affair of nobody but yourself."

"Oh! I'm so glad you take it like that," said Audrey with eager relief. "That's just what _I thought all along!"

"But it _is your affair!" Madame Piriac finished, with a peculiar inflection of her well-controlled voice. "I mean," she added, "you cannot afford to neglect it."

"No--of course not," Audrey agreed, rather dashed, and with a vague new apprehension. "Naturally I shall tell you everything, darling. I had my reasons. I----"

"The principal question is, darling," Madame Piriac stopped her. "What are you going to do now? Ought we not to return to the yacht?"

"But I must look after Jane Foley!" cried Audrey. "I can't leave her here."

"And why not? She has Miss Ingate."

"Yes, worse luck for her! Winnie would make the most dreadful mess of things if she wasn't stopped. If Winnie was right out of it, and Jane Foley had only herself and Aguilar to count on, there might be a chance. But not else."

"It is by pure hazard that you are here. Nobody expected you. What would this young girl Mees Foley have done if you had not been here?"

"It's no good wasting time about that, darling, because I _am here, don't you see?" Audrey straightened her shoulders and put her hands behind her back.

"My little one," said Madame Piriac with a certain solemnity. "You remember our conversation in my boudoir. I then told you that you would find yourself in a riot within a month, if you continued your course. Was I right? Happily you have escaped from that horrible complication. Go no farther. Listen to me. You were not created for these adventures. It is impossible that you should be happy in them."

"But look at Jane Foley," said Audrey eagerly. "Is she not happy? Did you ever see anybody as happy as Jane? I never did."

"That is not happiness," replied Madame Piriac. "That is exaltation. It is morbid. I do not say that it is not right for her. I do not say that she is not justified, and that that which she represents is not justified. But I say that a role such as hers is not your role. To commence, she does not interest herself in men. For her there are no men in the world--there are only political enemies. Do you think I do not know the type? We have it, _chez nous_. It is full of admirable qualities--but it is not your type. For you, darling, the world is inhabited principally by men, and the time will come--perhaps soon--when for you it will be inhabited principally by one man. If you remain obdurate, there must inevitably arrive a quarrel between that man and these--these riotous adventures."

"No man that I could possibly care for," Audrey retorted, "would ever object to me having an active interest in--er--politics."

"I agree, darling," said Madame Piriac. "He would not object. It is you who would object. The quarrel would occur within your own heart. There are two sorts of women--individualists and fanatics. It was always so. I am a woman, and I know what I'm saying. So do you. Well, you belong to the first sort of woman."

"I don't," Audrey protested. Nevertheless she recollected her thoughts on the previous night, near the binnacle and Mr. Gilman, about the indispensability of a man and about the futility of the state of not owning and possessing a man. The memory of these thoughts only rendered her more obstinate.

"But you will not have the courage to tell me that you are a fanatic?"

"No."

"Then what?"

"There is a third sort of woman."

"Darling, believe me, there is not."

"There's going to be, anyhow!" said Audrey with decision, and in English. "And I won't leave Jane Foley in the lurch, either!... Now I'll just run up and have a talk with her, if you don't mind waiting a minute or two."

"But what are you going to do?" Madame Piriac demanded.

"Well," said Audrey. "It is obvious that there is only one safe thing to do. I shall take Jane on board the yacht. We shall sail off, and she'll be safe."

"On the yacht!" repeated Madame Piriac, truly astounded. "But my poor oncle will never agree. You do not know him. You do not know how peculiar he is. Never will he agree! Besides----"

"Darling," said Audrey quietly and confidently. "If he does not agree, I undertake to go into a convent for the rest of my days."

Madame Piriac was silent.

Just as she was opening the door to go upstairs, Audrey suddenly turned back into the room.

"Darling," she said, kissing Madame Piriac. "How calmly you've taken it!"

"Taken what?"

"About me not being Mrs. Moncreiff nor a widow nor anything of that kind."

"But, darling," answered Madame Piriac with exquisite tranquillity. "Of course I knew it before."

"You knew it before!"

"Certainly. I knew it the first time I saw you, in the studio of Mademoiselle Nickall. You were the image of your father! The image, I repeat--except perhaps the nose. Recollect that as a child I saw your father. I was left with my mother's relatives, until matters should be arranged; but he came to Paris. Then before matters could be arranged my mother died, and I never saw him again. But I could never forget him.... Then also, in my boudoir that night, you blushed--it was very amusing--when I mentioned Essex and Audrey Moze. And there were other things."

"For instance?"

"Darling, you were never quite convincing as a widow--at any rate to a Frenchwoman. You may have deceived American and English women. But not myself. You did not say the convincing things when the conversation took certain turns. That is all."

"You knew who I was, and you never told me!" Audrey pouted.

"Had I the right, darling? You had decided upon your identity. It would have been inexcusable on my part to inform you that you were mistaken in so essential a detail."

Madame Piriac gently returned Audrey's kiss.

"So that was why you insisted on me coming with you to-day!" murmured Audrey, crestfallen. "You are a marvellous actress, darling."

"I have several times been told so," Madame Piriac admitted simply.

"What on earth did you expect would happen?"

"Not that which has happened," said Madame Piriac.

"Well, if you ask me," said Audrey with gaiety and a renewal of self-confidence. "I think it's all happened splendidly."

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