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That Costly Ride
by [?]

The doctor declared they must wait and see; some complication or other might arise.

Hector waited three days, then he returned. The old woman, fresh-faced and clear-eyed, began to whine when she saw him:

“I can’t move, sir; I can’t move a bit. I shall be like this for the rest of my days.”

A shudder passed through Hector’s frame. He asked for the doctor, who merely shrugged his shoulders and said:

“What can I do? I can’t tell what’s wrong with her. She shrieks when they try to raise her. They can’t even move her chair from one place to another without her uttering the most distressing cries. I am bound to believe what she tells me; I can’t look into her inside. So long as I have no chance of seeing her walk I am not justified in supposing her to be telling lies about herself.”

The old woman listened, motionless, a malicious gleam in her eyes.

A week passed, then a fortnight, then a month. Madame Simon did not leave her armchair. She ate from morning to night, grew fat, chatted gaily with the other patients and seemed to enjoy her immobility as if it were the rest to which she was entitled after fifty years of going up and down stairs, of turning mattresses, of carrying coal from one story to another, of sweeping and dusting.

Hector, at his wits’ end, came to see her every day. Every day he found her calm and serene, declaring:

“I can’t move, sir; I shall never be able to move again.”

Every evening Madame de Gribelin, devoured with anxiety, said:

“How is Madame Simon?”

And every time he replied with a resignation born of despair:

“Just the same; no change whatever.”

They dismissed the servant, whose wages they could no longer afford. They economized more rigidly than ever. The whole of the extra pay had been swallowed up.

Then Hector summoned four noted doctors, who met in consultation over the old woman. She let them examine her, feel her, sound her, watching them the while with a cunning eye.

“We must make her walk,” said one.

“But, sirs, I can’t!” she cried. “I can’t move!”

Then they took hold of her, raised her and dragged her a short distance, but she slipped from their grasp and fell to the floor, groaning and giving vent to such heartrending cries that they carried her back to her seat with infinite care and precaution.

They pronounced a guarded opinion–agreeing, however, that work was an impossibility to her.

And when Hector brought this news to his wife she sank on a chair, murmuring:

“It would be better to bring her here; it would cost us less.”

He started in amazement.

“Here? In our own house? How can you think of such a thing?”

But she, resigned now to anything, replied with tears in her eyes:

“But what can we do, my love? It’s not my fault!”