You can't be too careful, by H. G. Wells

Chapter 21

Mrs Butter Takes Pity

ONE night Mrs Butter woke up to find the master in her room and his arms about her. “I carn’t sleep,” he said. “I carn’t sleep. I carn’t go on.”

She sat up sleepily. Her eyes were sticky with drowsiness and she opened them with an effort. Then she started and stared at his dim figure clinging to her, but she said not a word. There was a light in the passage but none in the room. Through her thin nightgown, he could feel her warm soft body and the delicate curves of her bosom. She exhaled a sweet warmth. She put her hand on his shoulder.

“I lie there and I keep thinking of you. I’ll kill myself.”

He was blubbering.

“I can’t endure life. I love you.”

She put her face close to his ear. “What do you want?” she breathed.

“I can’t stand it. You got to let me. You let me and I’ll marry you. I swear I’ll marry you the very moment I get free. Oh Mrs Butter. Mary!”

“But suppose we were to have a child.”

“Oh gaw!” he exclaimed, “Haven’t I learnt my lesson?”

“You’re sure this time?”

“Mary!”

“No. Don’t call me Mary yet. I want to be sure. What do you do?”

He spluttered and explained. She said hardly a word but she was attentive and there was no sort of response in her body to his embraces. This did not deter him in the least. She threw back the bedclothes.

“I suppose it had to come to this,” she said, and still held him back from her.

“Promise me one thing,” she said.

“Anything. Oh my dear! Oh my dear!”

“Yes; but this. You will let that boy be mine — really mine. You won’t turn against him because of her. You might, you know. You’ll never raise your hand against him. You’ll be good to him — always? Promise.”

“And don’t you care a little bit for me?”

“You can’t help yourself, Mr Tewler. I’m sorry for you. You’re such a young fellow. I feel like a mother to both of you.”

“And you call me Mr Tewler!”

“Yes. And you’ll call me Mrs Butter until the day we’re married. If we start using Christian names, servants will notice, people will talk; that girl Janet. . . . ”

So it was that Mrs Butter entrusted her body to Edward Albert. . . .

“Oh good!” said the happy convertite. “Now I feel square with life again. Did you like that?”

“I don’t like anything of the sort. But I suppose a man has to do that sort of thing. It’s nature’s way. And now you go off to your bed, Mr Tewler, and have a good sleep, and don’t you say a word about this to me tomorrow; not a word, I see no sense in talking over such things. I hoped I’d done with it for good. And remember when Janet’s here, walls have ears, I’ve got to be careful. I’d get rid of her if I dared, but that might set her suspecting. Good night, Mr Tewler:”

“Just a kiss,” said her grateful lover.

She turned her cheek to him.

And when Edward Albert was safely in his room, Mrs Butter went to Master Henry Tewler and took him in her arms and hugged him and kissed him and sat still, and presently wept.

“What else was there to do, you poor little mite?” she whispered. “It had to be.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30