part 1: chapter i a green and yellow parrot, which hung in acage outside the door, kept repeating over and over:"allez vous-en! allez vous-en! sapristi!that’s all right!" he could speak a little spanish, and also alanguage which nobody understood, unless it was the mocking-bird that hung on the otherside of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with maddeningpersistence. mr. pontellier, unable to read hisnewspaper with any degree of comfort, arose
with an expression and an exclamation ofdisgust. he walked down the gallery and across thenarrow "bridges" which connected the lebrun cottages one with the other.he had been seated before the door of the main house. the parrot and the mockingbird were theproperty of madame lebrun, and they had the right to make all the noise they wished. mr. pontellier had the privilege ofquitting their society when they ceased to be entertaining. he stopped before the door of his owncottage, which was the fourth one from the
main building and next to the last. seating himself in a wicker rocker whichwas there, he once more applied himself to the task of reading the newspaper.the day was sunday; the paper was a day old. the sunday papers had not yet reached grandisle. he was already acquainted with the marketreports, and he glanced restlessly over the editorials and bits of news which he hadnot had time to read before quitting new orleans the day before. mr. pontellier wore eye-glasses.he was a man of forty, of medium height and
rather slender build; he stooped a little.his hair was brown and straight, parted on one side. his beard was neatly and closely trimmed.once in a while he withdrew his glance from the newspaper and looked about him.there was more noise than ever over at the house. the main building was called "the house,"to distinguish it from the cottages. the chattering and whistling birds werestill at it. two young girls, the farival twins, wereplaying a duet from "zampa" upon the piano. madame lebrun was bustling in and out,giving orders in a high key to a yard-boy
whenever she got inside the house, anddirections in an equally high voice to a dining-room servant whenever she gotoutside. she was a fresh, pretty woman, clad alwaysin white with elbow sleeves. her starched skirts crinkled as she cameand went. farther down, before one of the cottages,aa lady in black was walking demurely up and down, telling her beads. a good many persons of the pension had goneover to the cheniere caminada in beaudelet’s lugger to hear mass.some young people were out under the wateroaks playing croquet.
mr. pontellier’s two children were there–sturdy little fellows of four and five. a quadroon nurse followed them about with afaraway, meditative air. mr. pontellier finally lit a cigar andbegan to smoke, letting the paper drag idly from his hand. he fixed his gaze upon a white sunshadethat was advancing at snail’s pace from the beach. he could see it plainly between the gaunttrunks of the water-oaks and across the stretch of yellow camomile.the gulf looked far away, melting hazily into the blue of the horizon.
the sunshade continued to approach slowly.beneath its pink-lined shelter were his wife, mrs. pontellier, and young robertlebrun. when they reached the cottage, the twoseated themselves with some appearance of fatigue upon the upper step of the porch,facing each other, each leaning against a supporting post. "what folly! to bathe at such an hour insuch heat!" exclaimed mr. pontellier. he himself had taken a plunge at daylight.that was why the morning seemed long to him. "you are burnt beyond recognition," headded, looking at his wife as one looks at
a valuable piece of personal property whichhas suffered some damage. she held up her hands, strong, shapelyhands, and surveyed them critically, drawing up her fawn sleeves above thewrists. looking at them reminded her of her rings,which she had given to her husband before leaving for the beach. she silently reached out to him, and he,understanding, took the rings from his vest pocket and dropped them into her open palm. she slipped them upon her fingers; thenclasping her knees, she looked across at robert and began to laugh.the rings sparkled upon her fingers.
he sent back an answering smile. "what is it?" asked pontellier, lookinglazily and amused from one to the other. it was some utter nonsense; some adventureout there in the water, and they both tried to relate it at once. it did not seem half so amusing when told.they realized this, and so did mr. pontellier.he yawned and stretched himself. then he got up, saying he had half a mindto go over to klein’s hotel and play a game of billiards."come go along, lebrun," he proposed to robert.
but robert admitted quite frankly that hepreferred to stay where he was and talk to mrs. pontellier. "well, send him about his business when hebores you, edna," instructed her husband as he prepared to leave."here, take the umbrella," she exclaimed, holding it out to him. he accepted the sunshade, and lifting itover his head descended the steps and walked away."coming back to dinner?" his wife called after him. he halted a moment and shrugged hisshoulders.
he felt in his vest pocket; there was aten-dollar bill there. he did not know; perhaps he would returnfor the early dinner and perhaps he would not. it all depended upon the company which hefound over at klein’s and the size of "the game."he did not say this, but she understood it, and laughed, nodding good-by to him. both children wanted to follow their fatherwhen they saw him starting out. he kissed them and promised to bring themback bonbons and peanuts. chapter ii
mrs. pontellier’s eyes were quick andbright; they were a yellowish brown, about the color of her hair. she had a way of turning them swiftly uponan object and holding them there as if lost in some inward maze of contemplation orthought. her eyebrows were a shade darker than herhair. they were thick and almost horizontal,emphasizing the depth of her eyes. she was rather handsome than beautiful. her face was captivating by reason of acertain frankness of expression and a contradictory subtle play of features.her manner was engaging.
robert rolled a cigarette. he smoked cigarettes because he could notafford cigars, he said. he had a cigar in his pocket which mr.pontellier had presented him with, and he was saving it for his after-dinner smoke. this seemed quite proper and natural on hispart. in coloring he was not unlike hiscompanion. a clean-shaved face made the resemblancemore pronounced than it would otherwise have been.there rested no shadow of care upon his open countenance.
his eyes gathered in and reflected thelight and languor of the summer day. mrs. pontellier reached over for a palm-leaf fan that lay on the porch and began to fan herself, while robert sent between hislips light puffs from his cigarette. they chatted incessantly: about the thingsaround them; their amusing adventure out in the water–it had again assumed itsentertaining aspect; about the wind, the trees, the people who had gone to the cheniere; about the children playingcroquet under the oaks, and the farival twins, who were now performing the overtureto "the poet and the peasant." robert talked a good deal about himself.
he was very young, and did not know anybetter. mrs. pontellier talked a little aboutherself for the same reason. each was interested in what the other said. robert spoke of his intention to go tomexico in the autumn, where fortune awaited him.he was always intending to go to mexico, but some way never got there. meanwhile he held on to his modest positionin a mercantile house in new orleans, where an equal familiarity with english, frenchand spanish gave him no small value as a clerk and correspondent.
he was spending his summer vacation, as healways did, with his mother at grand isle. in former times, before robert couldremember, "the house" had been a summer luxury of the lebruns. now, flanked by its dozen or more cottages,which were always filled with exclusive visitors from the "quartier francais," itenabled madame lebrun to maintain the easy and comfortable existence which appeared tobe her birthright. mrs. pontellier talked about her father’smississippi plantation and her girlhood home in the old kentucky bluegrass country. she was an american woman, with a smallinfusion of french which seemed to have
been lost in dilution. she read a letter from her sister, who wasaway in the east, and who had engaged herself to be married. robert was interested, and wanted to knowwhat manner of girls the sisters were, what the father was like, and how long themother had been dead. when mrs. pontellier folded the letter itwas time for her to dress for the early dinner. "i see leonce isn’t coming back," she said,with a glance in the direction whence her husband had disappeared.
robert supposed he was not, as there were agood many new orleans club men over at klein’s. when mrs. pontellier left him to enter herroom, the young man descended the steps and strolled over toward the croquet players,where, during the half-hour before dinner, he amused himself with the little pontellier children, who were very fond ofhim. chapter iii it was eleven o’clock that night when mr.pontellier returned from klein’s hotel. he was in an excellent humor, in highspirits, and very talkative.
his entrance awoke his wife, who was in bedand fast asleep when he came in. he talked to her while he undressed,telling her anecdotes and bits of news and gossip that he had gathered during the day. from his trousers pockets he took a fistfulof crumpled bank notes and a good deal of silver coin, which he piled on the bureauindiscriminately with keys, knife, handkerchief, and whatever else happened tobe in his pockets. she was overcome with sleep, and answeredhim with little half utterances. he thought it very discouraging that hiswife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest inthings which concerned him, and valued so
little his conversation. mr. pontellier had forgotten the bonbonsand peanuts for the boys. notwithstanding he loved them very much,and went into the adjoining room where they slept to take a look at them and make surethat they were resting comfortably. the result of his investigation was farfrom satisfactory. he turned and shifted the youngsters aboutin bed. one of them began to kick and talk about abasket full of crabs. mr. pontellier returned to his wife withthe information that raoul had a high fever and needed looking after.
then he lit a cigar and went and sat nearthe open door to smoke it. mrs. pontellier was quite sure raoul had nofever. he had gone to bed perfectly well, shesaid, and nothing had ailed him all day. mr. pontellier was too well acquainted withfever symptoms to be mistaken. he assured her the child was consuming atthat moment in the next room. he reproached his wife with herinattention, her habitual neglect of the children. if it was not a mother’s place to lookafter children, whose on earth was it? he himself had his hands full with hisbrokerage business.
he could not be in two places at once;making a living for his family on the street, and staying at home to see that noharm befell them. he talked in a monotonous, insistent way. mrs. pontellier sprang out of bed and wentinto the next room. she soon came back and sat on the edge ofthe bed, leaning her head down on the pillow. she said nothing, and refused to answer herhusband when he questioned her. when his cigar was smoked out he went tobed, and in half a minute he was fast asleep.
mrs. pontellier was by that time thoroughlyawake. she began to cry a little, and wiped hereyes on the sleeve of her peignoir. blowing out the candle, which her husbandhad left burning, she slipped her bare feet into a pair of satin mules at the foot ofthe bed and went out on the porch, where she sat down in the wicker chair and beganto rock gently to and fro. it was then past midnight.the cottages were all dark. a single faint light gleamed out from thehallway of the house. there was no sound abroad except thehooting of an old owl in the top of a water-oak, and the everlasting voice of thesea, that was not uplifted at that soft
hour. it broke like a mournful lullaby upon thenight. the tears came so fast to mrs. pontellier’seyes that the damp sleeve of her peignoir no longer served to dry them. she was holding the back of her chair withone hand; her loose sleeve had slipped almost to the shoulder of her uplifted arm. turning, she thrust her face, steaming andwet, into the bend of her arm, and she went on crying there, not caring any longer todry her face, her eyes, her arms. she could not have told why she was crying.
such experiences as the foregoing were notuncommon in her married life. they seemed never before to have weighedmuch against the abundance of her husband’s kindness and a uniform devotion which hadcome to be tacit and self-understood. an indescribable oppression, which seemedto generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being witha vague anguish. it was like a shadow, like a mist passingacross her soul’s summer day. it was strange and unfamiliar; it was amood. she did not sit there inwardly upbraidingher husband, lamenting at fate, which had directed her footsteps to the path whichthey had taken.
she was just having a good cry all toherself. the mosquitoes made merry over her, bitingher firm, round arms and nipping at her bare insteps. the little stinging, buzzing imps succeededin dispelling a mood which might have held her there in the darkness half a nightlonger. the following morning mr. pontellier was upin good time to take the rockaway which was to convey him to the steamer at the wharf. he was returning to the city to hisbusiness, and they would not see him again at the island till the coming saturday.
he had regained his composure, which seemedto have been somewhat impaired the night before. he was eager to be gone, as he lookedforward to a lively week in carondelet street. mr. pontellier gave his wife half of themoney which he had brought away from klein’s hotel the evening before.she liked money as well as most women, and accepted it with no little satisfaction. "it will buy a handsome wedding present forsister janet!" she exclaimed, smoothing out the bills as she counted them one by one.
"oh! we’ll treat sister janet better thanthat, my dear," he laughed, as he prepared to kiss her good-by. the boys were tumbling about, clinging tohis legs, imploring that numerous things be brought back to them. mr. pontellier was a great favorite, andladies, men, children, even nurses, were always on hand to say goodby to him. his wife stood smiling and waving, the boysshouting, as he disappeared in the old rockaway down the sandy road.a few days later a box arrived for mrs. pontellier from new orleans.
it was from her husband.it was filled with friandises, with luscious and toothsome bits–the finest offruits, pates, a rare bottle or two, delicious syrups, and bonbons in abundance. mrs. pontellier was always very generouswith the contents of such a box; she was quite used to receiving them when away fromhome. the pates and fruit were brought to thedining-room; the bonbons were passed around. and the ladies, selecting with dainty anddiscriminating fingers and a little greedily, all declared that mr. pontellierwas the best husband in the world.
mrs. pontellier was forced to admit thatshe knew of none better. chapter iv it would have been a difficult matter formr. pontellier to define to his own satisfaction or any one else’s wherein hiswife failed in her duty toward their it was something which he felt rather thanperceived, and he never voiced the feeling without subsequent regret and ampleatonement. if one of the little pontellier boys took atumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother’s arms forcomfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes and thesand out of his mouth, and go on playing.
tots as they were, they pulled together andstood their ground in childish battles with doubled fists and uplifted voices, whichusually prevailed against the other mother- tots. the quadroon nurse was looked upon as ahuge encumbrance, only good to button up waists and panties and to brush and parthair; since it seemed to be a law of society that hair must be parted andbrushed. in short, mrs. pontellier was not a mother-woman. the mother-women seemed to prevail thatsummer at grand isle. it was easy to know them, fluttering aboutwith extended, protecting wings when any
harm, real or imaginary, threatened theirprecious brood. they were women who idolized theirchildren, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to effacethemselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels. many of them were delicious in the role;one of them was the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm.if her husband did not adore her, he was a brute, deserving of death by slow torture. her name was adele ratignolle.there are no words to describe her save the old ones that have served so often topicture the bygone heroine of romance and
the fair lady of our dreams. there was nothing subtle or hidden abouther charms; her beauty was all there, flaming and apparent: the spun-gold hairthat comb nor confining pin could restrain; the blue eyes that were like nothing but sapphires; two lips that pouted, that wereso red one could only think of cherries or some other delicious crimson fruit inlooking at them. she was growing a little stout, but it didnot seem to detract an iota from the grace of every step, pose, gesture. one would not have wanted her white neck amite less full or her beautiful arms more
slender. never were hands more exquisite than hers,and it was a joy to look at them when she threaded her needle or adjusted her goldthimble to her taper middle finger as she sewed away on the little night-drawers orfashioned a bodice or a bib. madame ratignolle was very fond of mrs.pontellier, and often she took her sewing and went over to sit with her in theafternoons. she was sitting there the afternoon of theday the box arrived from new orleans. she had possession of the rocker, and shewas busily engaged in sewing upon a diminutive pair of night-drawers.
she had brought the pattern of the drawersfor mrs. pontellier to cut out–a marvel of construction, fashioned to enclose a baby’sbody so effectually that only two small eyes might look out from the garment, likean eskimo’s. they were designed for winter wear, whentreacherous drafts came down chimneys and insidious currents of deadly cold foundtheir way through key-holes. mrs. pontellier’s mind was quite at restconcerning the present material needs of her children, and she could not see the useof anticipating and making winter night garments the subject of her summermeditations. but she did not want to appear unamiableand uninterested, so she had brought forth
newspapers, which she spread upon the floorof the gallery, and under madame ratignolle’s directions she had cut apattern of the impervious garment. robert was there, seated as he had been thesunday before, and mrs. pontellier also occupied her former position on the upperstep, leaning listlessly against the post. beside her was a box of bonbons, which sheheld out at intervals to madame ratignolle. that lady seemed at a loss to make aselection, but finally settled upon a stick of nougat, wondering if it were not toorich; whether it could possibly hurt her. madame ratignolle had been married sevenyears. about every two years she had a baby.at that time she had three babies, and was
beginning to think of a fourth one. she was always talking about her"condition." her "condition" was in no way apparent, andno one would have known a thing about it but for her persistence in making it thesubject of conversation. robert started to reassure her, assertingthat he had known a lady who had subsisted upon nougat during the entire–but seeingthe color mount into mrs. pontellier’s face he checked himself and changed the subject. mrs. pontellier, though she had married acreole, was not thoroughly at home in the society of creoles; never before had shebeen thrown so intimately among them.
there were only creoles that summer atlebrun’s. they all knew each other, and felt like onelarge family, among whom existed the most amicable relations. a characteristic which distinguished themand which impressed mrs. pontellier most forcibly was their entire absence ofprudery. their freedom of expression was at firstincomprehensible to her, though she had no difficulty in reconciling it with a loftychastity which in the creole woman seems to be inborn and unmistakable. never would edna pontellier forget theshock with which she heard madame
ratignolle relating to old monsieur farivalthe harrowing story of one of her accouchements, withholding no intimatedetail. she was growing accustomed to like shocks,but she could not keep the mounting color back from her cheeks. oftener than once her coming hadinterrupted the droll story with which robert was entertaining some amused groupof married women. a book had gone the rounds of the pension. when it came her turn to read it, she didso with profound astonishment. she felt moved to read the book in secretand solitude, though none of the others had
done so,–to hide it from view at the soundof approaching footsteps. it was openly criticised and freelydiscussed at table. mrs. pontellier gave over being astonished,and concluded that wonders would never cease. chapter v they formed a congenial group sitting therethat summer afternoon–madame ratignolle sewing away, often stopping to relate astory or incident with much expressive gesture of her perfect hands; robert and mrs. pontellier sitting idle, exchangingoccasional words, glances or smiles which
indicated a certain advanced stage ofintimacy and camaraderie. he had lived in her shadow during the pastmonth. no one thought anything of it.many had predicted that robert would devote himself to mrs. pontellier when he arrived. since the age of fifteen, which was elevenyears before, robert each summer at grand isle had constituted himself the devotedattendant of some fair dame or damsel. sometimes it was a young girl, again awidow; but as often as not it was some interesting married woman. for two consecutive seasons he lived in thesunlight of mademoiselle duvigne’s
presence. but she died between summers; then robertposed as an inconsolable, prostrating himself at the feet of madame ratignollefor whatever crumbs of sympathy and comfort she might be pleased to vouchsafe. mrs. pontellier liked to sit and gaze ather fair companion as she might look upon a faultless madonna."could any one fathom the cruelty beneath that fair exterior?" murmured robert. "she knew that i adored her once, and shelet me adore her. it was ‘robert, come; go; stand up; sitdown; do this; do that; see if the baby
sleeps; my thimble, please, that i left godknows where. come and read daudet to me while i sew.’" "par exemple!i never had to ask. you were always there under my feet, like atroublesome cat." "you mean like an adoring dog. and just as soon as ratignolle appeared onthe scene, then it was like a dog. ‘passez!adieu! allez vous-en!’" "perhaps i feared to make alphonsejealous," she interjoined, with excessive
naivete.that made them all laugh. the right hand jealous of the left! the heart jealous of the soul!but for that matter, the creole husband is never jealous; with him the gangrenepassion is one which has become dwarfed by disuse. meanwhile robert, addressing mrspontellier, continued to tell of his one time hopeless passion for madameratignolle; of sleepless nights, of consuming flames till the very sea sizzledwhen he took his daily plunge. while the lady at the needle kept up alittle running, contemptuous comment:
"blagueur–farceur–gros bete, va!" he never assumed this seriocomic tone whenalone with mrs. pontellier. she never knew precisely what to make ofit; at that moment it was impossible for her to guess how much of it was jest andwhat proportion was earnest. it was understood that he had often spokenwords of love to madame ratignolle, without any thought of being taken seriously.mrs. pontellier was glad he had not assumed a similar role toward herself. it would have been unacceptable andannoying. mrs. pontellier had brought her sketchingmaterials, which she sometimes dabbled with
in an unprofessional way. she liked the dabbling.she felt in it satisfaction of a kind which no other employment afforded her.she had long wished to try herself on madame ratignolle. never had that lady seemed a more temptingsubject than at that moment, seated there like some sensuous madonna, with the gleamof the fading day enriching her splendid color. robert crossed over and seated himself uponthe step below mrs. pontellier, that he might watch her work.
she handled her brushes with a certain easeand freedom which came, not from long and close acquaintance with them, but from anatural aptitude. robert followed her work with closeattention, giving forth little ejaculatory expressions of appreciation in french,which he addressed to madame ratignolle. "mais ce n’est pas mal! elle s’y connait, elle a de la force, oui."during his oblivious attention he once quietly rested his head against mrs.pontellier’s arm. as gently she repulsed him. once again he repeated the offense.she could not but believe it to be
thoughtlessness on his part; yet that wasno reason she should submit to it. she did not remonstrate, except again torepulse him quietly but firmly. he offered no apology.the picture completed bore no resemblance to madame ratignolle. she was greatly disappointed to find thatit did not look like her. but it was a fair enough piece of work, andin many respects satisfying. mrs. pontellier evidently did not think so. after surveying the sketch critically shedrew a broad smudge of paint across its surface, and crumpled the paper between herhands.
the youngsters came tumbling up the steps,the quadroon following at the respectful distance which they required her toobserve. mrs. pontellier made them carry her paintsand things into the house. she sought to detain them for a little talkand some pleasantry. but they were greatly in earnest. they had only come to investigate thecontents of the bonbon box. they accepted without murmuring what shechose to give them, each holding out two chubby hands scoop-like, in the vain hopethat they might be filled; and then away they went.
the sun was low in the west, and the breezesoft and languorous that came up from the south, charged with the seductive odor ofthe sea. children freshly befurbelowed, weregathering for their games under the oaks. their voices were high and penetrating. madame ratignolle folded her sewing,placing thimble, scissors, and thread all neatly together in the roll, which shepinned securely. she complained of faintness. mrs. pontellier flew for the cologne waterand a fan. she bathed madame ratignolle’s face withcologne, while robert plied the fan with
unnecessary vigor. the spell was soon over, and mrs.pontellier could not help wondering if there were not a little imaginationresponsible for its origin, for the rose tint had never faded from her friend’sface. she stood watching the fair woman walk downthe long line of galleries with the grace and majesty which queens are sometimessupposed to possess. her little ones ran to meet her. two of them clung about her white skirts,the third she took from its nurse and with a thousand endearments bore it along in herown fond, encircling arms.
though, as everybody well knew, the doctorhad forbidden her to lift so much as a pin! "are you going bathing?" asked robert ofmrs. pontellier. it was not so much a question as areminder. "oh, no," she answered, with a tone ofindecision. "i’m tired; i think not." her glance wandered from his face awaytoward the gulf, whose sonorous murmur reached her like a loving but imperativeentreaty. "oh, come!" he insisted. "you mustn’t miss your bath.come on.
the water must be delicious; it will nothurt you. come." he reached up for her big, rough straw hatthat hung on a peg outside the door, and put it on her head.they descended the steps, and walked away together toward the beach. the sun was low in the west and the breezewas soft and warm. > part 2: chapter vi edna pontellier could not have told why,wishing to go to the beach with robert, she
should in the first place have declined,and in the second place have followed in obedience to one of the two contradictoryimpulses which impelled her. a certain light was beginning to dawn dimlywithin her,–the light which, showing the way, forbids it. at that early period it served but tobewilder her. it moved her to dreams, to thoughtfulness,to the shadowy anguish which had overcome her the midnight when she had abandonedherself to tears. in short, mrs. pontellier was beginning torealize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relationsas an individual to the world within and
about her. this may seem like a ponderous weight ofwisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight–perhaps more wisdomthan the holy ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman. but the beginning of things, of a worldespecially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing.how few of us ever emerge from such beginning! how many souls perish in its tumult! the voice of the sea is seductive; neverceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring,
inviting the soul to wander for a spell inabysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. the voice of the sea speaks to the soul.the touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace. chapter vii mrs. pontellier was not a woman given toconfidences, a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature.even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. at a very early period she had apprehendedinstinctively the dual life–that outward
existence which conforms, the inward lifewhich questions. that summer at grand isle she began toloosen a little the mantle of reserve that had always enveloped her. there may have been–there must have been–influences, both subtle and apparent, working in their several ways to induce herto do this; but the most obvious was the influence of adele ratignolle. the excessive physical charm of the creolehad first attracted her, for edna had a sensuous susceptibility to beauty. then the candor of the woman’s wholeexistence, which every one might read, and
which formed so striking a contrast to herown habitual reserve–this might have furnished a link. who can tell what metals the gods use inforging the subtle bond which we call sympathy, which we might as well call love. the two women went away one morning to thebeach together, arm in arm, under the huge white sunshade. edna had prevailed upon madame ratignolleto leave the children behind, though she could not induce her to relinquish adiminutive roll of needlework, which adele begged to be allowed to slip into thedepths of her pocket.
in some unaccountable way they had escapedfrom robert. the walk to the beach was no inconsiderableone, consisting as it did of a long, sandy path, upon which a sporadic and tangledgrowth that bordered it on either side made frequent and unexpected inroads. there were acres of yellow camomilereaching out on either hand. further away still, vegetable gardensabounded, with frequent small plantations of orange or lemon trees intervening. the dark green clusters glistened from afarin the sun. the women were both of goodly height,madame ratignolle possessing the more
feminine and matronly figure. the charm of edna pontellier’s physiquestole insensibly upon you. the lines of her body were long, clean andsymmetrical; it was a body which occasionally fell into splendid poses;there was no suggestion of the trim, stereotyped fashion-plate about it. a casual and indiscriminating observer, inpassing, might not cast a second glance upon the figure. but with more feeling and discernment hewould have recognized the noble beauty of its modeling, and the graceful severity ofpoise and movement, which made edna
pontellier different from the crowd. she wore a cool muslin that morning–white,with a waving vertical line of brown running through it; also a white linencollar and the big straw hat which she had taken from the peg outside the door. the hat rested any way on her yellow-brownhair, that waved a little, was heavy, and clung close to her head. madame ratignolle, more careful of hercomplexion, had twined a gauze veil about her head.she wore dogskin gloves, with gauntlets that protected her wrists.
she was dressed in pure white, with afluffiness of ruffles that became her. the draperies and fluttering things whichshe wore suited her rich, luxuriant beauty as a greater severity of line could nothave done. there were a number of bath-houses alongthe beach, of rough but solid construction, built with small, protecting galleriesfacing the water. each house consisted of two compartments,and each family at lebrun’s possessed a compartment for itself, fitted out with allthe essential paraphernalia of the bath and whatever other conveniences the ownersmight desire. the two women had no intention of bathing;they had just strolled down to the beach
for a walk and to be alone and near thewater. the pontellier and ratignolle compartmentsadjoined one another under the same roof. mrs. pontellier had brought down her keythrough force of habit. unlocking the door of her bath-room shewent inside, and soon emerged, bringing a rug, which she spread upon the floor of thegallery, and two huge hair pillows covered with crash, which she placed against thefront of the building. the two seated themselves there in theshade of the porch, side by side, with their backs against the pillows and theirfeet extended. madame ratignolle removed her veil, wipedher face with a rather delicate
handkerchief, and fanned herself with thefan which she always carried suspended somewhere about her person by a long,narrow ribbon. edna removed her collar and opened herdress at the throat. she took the fan from madame ratignolle andbegan to fan both herself and her companion. it was very warm, and for a while they didnothing but exchange remarks about the heat, the sun, the glare. but there was a breeze blowing, a choppy,stiff wind that whipped the water into froth.
it fluttered the skirts of the two womenand kept them for a while engaged in adjusting, readjusting, tucking in,securing hair-pins and hat-pins. a few persons were sporting some distanceaway in the water. the beach was very still of human sound atthat hour. the lady in black was reading her morningdevotions on the porch of a neighboring bathhouse. two young lovers were exchanging theirhearts’ yearnings beneath the children’s tent, which they had found unoccupied.edna pontellier, casting her eyes about, had finally kept them at rest upon the sea.
the day was clear and carried the gaze outas far as the blue sky went; there were a few white clouds suspended idly over thehorizon. a lateen sail was visible in the directionof cat island, and others to the south seemed almost motionless in the fardistance. "of whom–of what are you thinking?" askedadele of her companion, whose countenance she had been watching with a little amusedattention, arrested by the absorbed expression which seemed to have seized and fixed every feature into a statuesquerepose. "nothing," returned mrs. pontellier, with astart, adding at once: "how stupid!
but it seems to me it is the reply we makeinstinctively to such a question. let me see," she went on, throwing back herhead and narrowing her fine eyes till they shone like two vivid points of light. "let me see.i was really not conscious of thinking of anything; but perhaps i can retrace mythoughts." "oh! never mind!" laughed madameratignolle. "i am not quite so exacting.i will let you off this time. it is really too hot to think, especiallyto think about thinking." "but for the fun of it," persisted edna.
"first of all, the sight of the waterstretching so far away, those motionless sails against the blue sky, made adelicious picture that i just wanted to sit and look at. the hot wind beating in my face made methink–without any connection that i can trace of a summer day in kentucky, of ameadow that seemed as big as the ocean to the very little girl walking through thegrass, which was higher than her waist. she threw out her arms as if swimming whenshe walked, beating the tall grass as one strikes out in the water. oh, i see the connection now!""where were you going that day in kentucky,
walking through the grass?""i don’t remember now. i was just walking diagonally across a bigfield. my sun-bonnet obstructed the view. i could see only the stretch of greenbefore me, and i felt as if i must walk on forever, without coming to the end of it.i don’t remember whether i was frightened or pleased. i must have been entertained. "likely as not it was sunday," she laughed;"and i was running away from prayers, from the presbyterian service, read in a spiritof gloom by my father that chills me yet to
think of." "and have you been running away fromprayers ever since, ma chere?" asked madame ratignolle, amused."no! oh, no!" edna hastened to say. "i was a little unthinking child in thosedays, just following a misleading impulse without question. on the contrary, during one period of mylife religion took a firm hold upon me; after i was twelve and until-until–why, isuppose until now, though i never thought much about it–just driven along by habit.
but do you know," she broke off, turningher quick eyes upon madame ratignolle and leaning forward a little so as to bring herface quite close to that of her companion, "sometimes i feel this summer as if i were walking through the green meadow again;idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided." madame ratignolle laid her hand over thatof mrs. pontellier, which was near her. seeing that the hand was not withdrawn, sheclasped it firmly and warmly. she even stroked it a little, fondly, withthe other hand, murmuring in an undertone, "pauvre cherie." the action was at first a little confusingto edna, but she soon lent herself readily
to the creole’s gentle caress. she was not accustomed to an outward andspoken expression of affection, either in herself or in others. she and her younger sister, janet, hadquarreled a good deal through force of unfortunate habit. her older sister, margaret, was matronlyand dignified, probably from having assumed matronly and housewifely responsibilitiestoo early in life, their mother having died when they were quite young, margaret wasnot effusive; she was practical. edna had had an occasional girl friend, butwhether accidentally or not, they seemed to
have been all of one type–the self-contained. she never realized that the reserve of herown character had much, perhaps everything, to do with this. her most intimate friend at school had beenone of rather exceptional intellectual gifts, who wrote fine-sounding essays,which edna admired and strove to imitate; and with her she talked and glowed over the english classics, and sometimes heldreligious and political controversies. edna often wondered at one propensity whichsometimes had inwardly disturbed her without causing any outward show ormanifestation on her part.
at a very early age–perhaps it was whenshe traversed the ocean of waving grass– she remembered that she had beenpassionately enamored of a dignified and sad-eyed cavalry officer who visited herfather in kentucky. she could not leave his presence when hewas there, nor remove her eyes from his face, which was something like napoleon’s,with a lock of black hair failing across the forehead. but the cavalry officer meltedimperceptibly out of her existence. at another time her affections were deeplyengaged by a young gentleman who visited a lady on a neighboring plantation.
it was after they went to mississippi tolive. the young man was engaged to be married tothe young lady, and they sometimes called upon margaret, driving over of afternoonsin a buggy. edna was a little miss, just merging intoher teens; and the realization that she herself was nothing, nothing, nothing tothe engaged young man was a bitter affliction to her. but he, too, went the way of dreams.she was a grown young woman when she was overtaken by what she supposed to be theclimax of her fate. it was when the face and figure of a greattragedian began to haunt her imagination
and stir her senses.the persistence of the infatuation lent it an aspect of genuineness. the hopelessness of it colored it with thelofty tones of a great passion. the picture of the tragedian stood enframedupon her desk. any one may possess the portrait of atragedian without exciting suspicion or comment.(this was a sinister reflection which she cherished.) in the presence of others she expressedadmiration for his exalted gifts, as she handed the photograph around and dwelt uponthe fidelity of the likeness.
when alone she sometimes picked it up andkissed the cold glass passionately. her marriage to leonce pontellier waspurely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages whichmasquerade as the decrees of fate. it was in the midst of her secret greatpassion that she met him. he fell in love, as men are in the habit ofdoing, and pressed his suit with an earnestness and an ardor which left nothingto be desired. he pleased her; his absolute devotionflattered her. she fancied there was a sympathy of thoughtand taste between them, in which fancy she was mistaken.
add to this the violent opposition of herfather and her sister margaret to her marriage with a catholic, and we need seekno further for the motives which led her to accept monsieur pontellier for her husband. the acme of bliss, which would have been amarriage with the tragedian, was not for her in this world. as the devoted wife of a man who worshipedher, she felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality,closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams. but it was not long before the tragedianhad gone to join the cavalry officer and
the engaged young man and a few others; andedna found herself face to face with the realities. she grew fond of her husband, realizingwith some unaccountable satisfaction that no trace of passion or excessive andfictitious warmth colored her affection, thereby threatening its dissolution. she was fond of her children in an uneven,impulsive way. she would sometimes gather thempassionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them. the year before they had spent part of thesummer with their grandmother pontellier in
iberville. feeling secure regarding their happinessand welfare, she did not miss them except with an occasional intense longing.their absence was a sort of relief, though she did not admit this, even to herself. it seemed to free her of a responsibilitywhich she had blindly assumed and for which fate had not fitted her. edna did not reveal so much as all this tomadame ratignolle that summer day when they sat with faces turned to the sea.but a good part of it escaped her. she had put her head down on madameratignolle’s shoulder.
she was flushed and felt intoxicated withthe sound of her own voice and the unaccustomed taste of candor. it muddled her like wine, or like a firstbreath of freedom. there was the sound of approaching voices.it was robert, surrounded by a troop of children, searching for them. the two little pontelliers were with him,and he carried madame ratignolle’s little girl in his arms. there were other children beside, and twonurse-maids followed, looking disagreeable and resigned.
the women at once rose and began to shakeout their draperies and relax their muscles.mrs. pontellier threw the cushions and rug into the bath-house. the children all scampered off to theawning, and they stood there in a line, gazing upon the intruding lovers, stillexchanging their vows and sighs. the lovers got up, with only a silentprotest, and walked slowly away somewhere else. the children possessed themselves of thetent, and mrs. pontellier went over to join them.
madame ratignolle begged robert toaccompany her to the house; she complained of cramp in her limbs and stiffness of thejoints. she leaned draggingly upon his arm as theywalked. chapter viii "do me a favor, robert," spoke the prettywoman at his side, almost as soon as she and robert had started their slow, homewardway. she looked up in his face, leaning on hisarm beneath the encircling shadow of the umbrella which he had lifted. "granted; as many as you like," hereturned, glancing down into her eyes that
were full of thoughtfulness and somespeculation. "i only ask for one; let mrs. pontellieralone." "tiens!" he exclaimed, with a sudden,boyish laugh. "voila que madame ratignolle est jalouse!" "nonsense!i’m in earnest; i mean what i say. let mrs. pontellier alone.""why?" he asked; himself growing serious at his companion’s solicitation. "she is not one of us; she is not like us.she might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously."
his face flushed with annoyance, and takingoff his soft hat he began to beat it impatiently against his leg as he walked."why shouldn’t she take me seriously?" he demanded sharply. "am i a comedian, a clown, a jack-in-the-box? why shouldn’t she?you creoles! i have no patience with you! am i always to be regarded as a feature ofan amusing programme? i hope mrs. pontellier does take meseriously. i hope she has discernment enough to findin me something besides the blagueur.
if i thought there was any doubt–""oh, enough, robert!" she broke into his heated outburst. "you are not thinking of what you aresaying. you speak with about as little reflectionas we might expect from one of those children down there playing in the sand. if your attentions to any married womenhere were ever offered with any intention of being convincing, you would not be thegentleman we all know you to be, and you would be unfit to associate with the wivesand daughters of the people who trust you." madame ratignolle had spoken what shebelieved to be the law and the gospel.
the young man shrugged his shouldersimpatiently. "oh! well!that isn’t it," slamming his hat down vehemently upon his head. "you ought to feel that such things are notflattering to say to a fellow." "should our whole intercourse consist of anexchange of compliments? ma foi!" "it isn’t pleasant to have a woman tellyou–" he went on, unheedingly, but breaking off suddenly: "now if i were likearobin-you remember alcee arobin and that story of the consul’s wife at biloxi?"
and he related the story of alcee arobinand the consul’s wife; and another about the tenor of the french opera, who receivedletters which should never have been written; and still other stories, grave and gay, till mrs. pontellier and her possiblepropensity for taking young men seriously was apparently forgotten. madame ratignolle, when they had regainedher cottage, went in to take the hour’s rest which she considered helpful. before leaving her, robert begged herpardon for the impatience–he called it rudeness–with which he had received herwell-meant caution.
"you made one mistake, adele," he said,with a light smile; "there is no earthly possibility of mrs. pontellier ever takingme seriously. you should have warned me against takingmyself seriously. your advice might then have carried someweight and given me subject for some reflection. au revoir.but you look tired," he added, solicitously."would you like a cup of bouillon? shall i stir you a toddy? let me mix you a toddy with a drop ofangostura."
she acceded to the suggestion of bouillon,which was grateful and acceptable. he went himself to the kitchen, which was abuilding apart from the cottages and lying to the rear of the house. and he himself brought her the golden-brownbouillon, in a dainty sevres cup, with a flaky cracker or two on the saucer. she thrust a bare, white arm from thecurtain which shielded her open door, and received the cup from his hands.she told him he was a bon garcon, and she meant it. robert thanked her and turned away toward"the house."
the lovers were just entering the groundsof the pension. they were leaning toward each other as thewateroaks bent from the sea. there was not a particle of earth beneaththeir feet. their heads might have been turned upside-down, so absolutely did they tread upon blue ether. the lady in black, creeping behind them,looked a trifle paler and more jaded than usual.there was no sign of mrs. pontellier and the children. robert scanned the distance for any suchapparition.
they would doubtless remain away till thedinner hour. the young man ascended to his mother’sroom. it was situated at the top of the house,made up of odd angles and a queer, sloping ceiling. two broad dormer windows looked out towardthe gulf, and as far across it as a man’s eye might reach.the furnishings of the room were light, cool, and practical. madame lebrun was busily engaged at thesewing-machine. a little black girl sat on the floor, andwith her hands worked the treadle of the
machine. the creole woman does not take any chanceswhich may be avoided of imperiling her health.robert went over and seated himself on the broad sill of one of the dormer windows. he took a book from his pocket and beganenergetically to read it, judging by the precision and frequency with which heturned the leaves. the sewing-machine made a resoundingclatter in the room; it was of a ponderous, by-gone make.in the lulls, robert and his mother exchanged bits of desultory conversation.
"where is mrs. pontellier?""down at the beach with the children." "i promised to lend her the goncourt. don’t forget to take it down when you go;it’s there on the bookshelf over the small table."clatter, clatter, clatter, bang! for the next five or eight minutes. "where is victor going with the rockaway?""the rockaway? victor?""yes; down there in front. he seems to be getting ready to drive awaysomewhere." "call him."clatter, clatter!
robert uttered a shrill, piercing whistlewhich might have been heard back at the wharf."he won’t look up." madame lebrun flew to the window. she called "victor!"she waved a handkerchief and called again. the young fellow below got into the vehicleand started the horse off at a gallop. madame lebrun went back to the machine,crimson with annoyance. victor was the younger son and brother–atete montee, with a temper which invited violence and a will which no ax couldbreak. "whenever you say the word i’m ready tothrash any amount of reason into him that
he’s able to hold.""if your father had only lived!" clatter, clatter, clatter, clatter, bang! it was a fixed belief with madame lebrunthat the conduct of the universe and all things pertaining thereto would have beenmanifestly of a more intelligent and higher order had not monsieur lebrun been removed to other spheres during the early years oftheir married life. "what do you hear from montel?" montel was a middle-aged gentleman whosevain ambition and desire for the past twenty years had been to fill the voidwhich monsieur lebrun’s taking off had left
in the lebrun household. clatter, clatter, bang, clatter!"i have a letter somewhere," looking in the machine drawer and finding the letter inthe bottom of the workbasket. "he says to tell you he will be in veracruz the beginning of next month,"– clatter, clatter!–"and if you still havethe intention of joining him"–bang! clatter, clatter, bang! "why didn’t you tell me so before, mother?you know i wanted–" clatter, clatter, clatter!"do you see mrs. pontellier starting back with the children?
she will be in late to luncheon again.she never starts to get ready for luncheon till the last minute."clatter, clatter! "where are you going?" "where did you say the goncourt was?" chapter ix every light in the hall was ablaze; everylamp turned as high as it could be without smoking the chimney or threateningexplosion. the lamps were fixed at intervals againstthe wall, encircling the whole room. some one had gathered orange and lemonbranches, and with these fashioned graceful
festoons between. the dark green of the branches stood outand glistened against the white muslin curtains which draped the windows, andwhich puffed, floated, and flapped at the capricious will of a stiff breeze thatswept up from the gulf. it was saturday night a few weeks after theintimate conversation held between robert and madame ratignolle on their way from thebeach. an unusual number of husbands, fathers, andfriends had come down to stay over sunday; and they were being suitably entertained bytheir families, with the material help of madame lebrun.
the dining tables had all been removed toone end of the hall, and the chairs ranged about in rows and in clusters. each little family group had had its sayand exchanged its domestic gossip earlier in the evening. there was now an apparent disposition torelax; to widen the circle of confidences and give a more general tone to theconversation. many of the children had been permitted tosit up beyond their usual bedtime. a small band of them were lying on theirstomachs on the floor looking at the colored sheets of the comic papers whichmr. pontellier had brought down.
the little pontellier boys were permittingthem to do so, and making their authority felt. music, dancing, and a recitation or twowere the entertainments furnished, or rather, offered. but there was nothing systematic about theprogramme, no appearance of prearrangement nor even premeditation. at an early hour in the evening the farivaltwins were prevailed upon to play the piano. they were girls of fourteen, always clad inthe virgin’s colors, blue and white, having
been dedicated to the blessed virgin attheir baptism. they played a duet from "zampa," and at theearnest solicitation of every one present followed it with the overture to "the poetand the peasant." "allez vous-en! sapristi!" shrieked the parrot outside thedoor. he was the only being present who possessedsufficient candor to admit that he was not listening to these gracious performancesfor the first time that summer. old monsieur farival, grandfather of thetwins, grew indignant over the interruption, and insisted upon having thebird removed and consigned to regions of
darkness. victor lebrun objected; and his decreeswere as immutable as those of fate. the parrot fortunately offered no furtherinterruption to the entertainment, the whole venom of his nature apparently havingbeen cherished up and hurled against the twins in that one impetuous outburst. later a young brother and sister gaverecitations, which every one present had heard many times at winter eveningentertainments in the city. a little girl performed a skirt dance inthe center of the floor. the mother played her accompaniments and atthe same time watched her daughter with
greedy admiration and nervous apprehension. she need have had no apprehension.the child was mistress of the situation. she had been properly dressed for theoccasion in black tulle and black silk tights. her little neck and arms were bare, and herhair, artificially crimped, stood out like fluffy black plumes over her head. her poses were full of grace, and herlittle black-shod toes twinkled as they shot out and upward with a rapidity andsuddenness which were bewildering. but there was no reason why every oneshould not dance.
madame ratignolle could not, so it was shewho gaily consented to play for the others. she played very well, keeping excellentwaltz time and infusing an expression into the strains which was indeed inspiring. she was keeping up her music on account ofthe children, she said; because she and her husband both considered it a means ofbrightening the home and making it attractive. almost every one danced but the twins, whocould not be induced to separate during the brief period when one or the other shouldbe whirling around the room in the arms of a man.
they might have danced together, but theydid not think of it. the children were sent to bed.some went submissively; others with shrieks and protests as they were dragged away. they had been permitted to sit up tillafter the ice-cream, which naturally marked the limit of human indulgence. the ice-cream was passed around with cake–gold and silver cake arranged on platters in alternate slices; it had been made andfrozen during the afternoon back of the kitchen by two black women, under thesupervision of victor. it was pronounced a great success–excellent if it had only contained a little
less vanilla or a little more sugar, if ithad been frozen a degree harder, and if the salt might have been kept out of portionsof it. victor was proud of his achievement, andwent about recommending it and urging every one to partake of it to excess. after mrs. pontellier had danced twice withher husband, once with robert, and once with monsieur ratignolle, who was thin andtall and swayed like a reed in the wind when he danced, she went out on the gallery and seated herself on the low window-sill,where she commanded a view of all that went on in the hall and could look out towardthe gulf.
there was a soft effulgence in the east. the moon was coming up, and its mysticshimmer was casting a million lights across the distant, restless water. "would you like to hear mademoiselle reiszplay?" asked robert, coming out on the porch where she was. of course edna would like to hearmademoiselle reisz play; but she feared it would be useless to entreat her."i’ll ask her," he said. "i’ll tell her that you want to hear her. she likes you.she will come."
he turned and hurried away to one of thefar cottages, where mademoiselle reisz was shuffling away. she was dragging a chair in and out of herroom, and at intervals objecting to the crying of a baby, which a nurse in theadjoining cottage was endeavoring to put to sleep. she was a disagreeable little woman, nolonger young, who had quarreled with almost every one, owing to a temper which wasself-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others. robert prevailed upon her without any toogreat difficulty.
she entered the hall with him during a lullin the dance. she made an awkward, imperious little bowas she went in. she was a homely woman, with a smallweazened face and body and eyes that glowed. she had absolutely no taste in dress, andwore a batch of rusty black lace with a bunch of artificial violets pinned to theside of her hair. "ask mrs. pontellier what she would like tohear me play," she requested of robert. she sat perfectly still before the piano,not touching the keys, while robert carried her message to edna at the window.
a general air of surprise and genuinesatisfaction fell upon every one as they saw the pianist enter.there was a settling down, and a prevailing air of expectancy everywhere. edna was a trifle embarrassed at being thussignaled out for the imperious little woman’s favor. she would not dare to choose, and beggedthat mademoiselle reisz would please herself in her selections.edna was what she herself called very fond of music. musical strains, well rendered, had a wayof evoking pictures in her mind.
she sometimes liked to sit in the room ofmornings when madame ratignolle played or practiced. one piece which that lady played edna hadentitled "solitude." it was a short, plaintive, minor strain.the name of the piece was something else, but she called it "solitude." when she heard it there came before herimagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore.he was naked. his attitude was one of hopelessresignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him.
another piece called to her mind a daintyyoung woman clad in an empire gown, taking mincing dancing steps as she came down along avenue between tall hedges. again, another reminded her of children atplay, and still another of nothing on earth but a demure lady stroking a cat. the very first chords which mademoisellereisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down mrs. pontellier’s spinalcolumn. it was not the first time she had heard anartist at the piano. perhaps it was the first time she wasready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abidingtruth.
she waited for the material pictures whichshe thought would gather and blaze before her imagination.she waited in vain. she saw no pictures of solitude, of hope,of longing, or of despair. but the very passions themselves werearoused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat uponher splendid body. she trembled, she was choking, and thetears blinded her. mademoiselle had finished. she arose, and bowing her stiff, lofty bow,she went away, stopping for neither, thanks nor applause.as she passed along the gallery she patted
edna upon the shoulder. "well, how did you like my music?" sheasked. the young woman was unable to answer; shepressed the hand of the pianist convulsively. mademoiselle reisz perceived her agitationand even her tears. she patted her again upon the shoulder asshe said: "you are the only one worth playing for. those others?bah!" and she went shuffling and sidling on down the gallery toward her room.but she was mistaken about "those others."
her playing had aroused a fever ofenthusiasm. "what passion!""what an artist!" "i have always said no one could playchopin like mademoiselle reisz!" "that last prelude!bon dieu! it shakes a man!" it was growing late, and there was ageneral disposition to disband. but some one, perhaps it was robert,thought of a bath at that mystic hour and under that mystic moon. chapter x
at all events robert proposed it, and therewas not a dissenting voice. there was not one but was ready to followwhen he led the way. he did not lead the way, however, hedirected the way; and he himself loitered behind with the lovers, who had betrayed adisposition to linger and hold themselves apart. he walked between them, whether withmalicious or mischievous intent was not wholly clear, even to himself. the pontelliers and ratignolles walkedahead; the women leaning upon the arms of their husbands.edna could hear robert’s voice behind them,
and could sometimes hear what he said. she wondered why he did not join them.it was unlike him not to. of late he had sometimes held away from herfor an entire day, redoubling his devotion upon the next and the next, as though tomake up for hours that had been lost. she missed him the days when some pretextserved to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day withouthaving thought much about the sun when it was shining. the people walked in little groups towardthe beach. they talked and laughed; some of them sang.
there was a band playing down at klein’shotel, and the strains reached them faintly, tempered by the distance. there were strange, rare odors abroad–atangle of the sea smell and of weeds and damp, new-plowed earth, mingled with theheavy perfume of a field of white blossoms somewhere near. but the night sat lightly upon the sea andthe land. there was no weight of darkness; there wereno shadows. the white light of the moon had fallen uponthe world like the mystery and the softness of sleep.most of them walked into the water as
though into a native element. the sea was quiet now, and swelled lazilyin broad billows that melted into one another and did not break except upon thebeach in little foamy crests that coiled back like slow, white serpents. edna had attempted all summer to learn toswim. she had received instructions from both themen and women; in some instances from the robert had pursued a system of lessonsalmost daily; and he was nearly at the point of discouragement in realizing thefutility of his efforts. a certain ungovernable dread hung about herwhen in the water, unless there was a hand
near by that might reach out and reassureher. but that night she was like the littletottering, stumbling, clutching child, who of a sudden realizes its powers, and walksfor the first time alone, boldly and with over-confidence. she could have shouted for joy.she did shout for joy, as with a sweeping stroke or two she lifted her body to thesurface of the water. a feeling of exultation overtook her, as ifsome power of significant import had been given her to control the working of herbody and her soul. she grew daring and reckless,overestimating her strength.
she wanted to swim far out, where no womanhad swum before. her unlooked-for achievement was thesubject of wonder, applause, and admiration. each one congratulated himself that hisspecial teachings had accomplished this desired end."how easy it is!" she thought. "it is nothing," she said aloud; "why did inot discover before that it was nothing. think of the time i have lost splashingabout like a baby!" she would not join the groups in theirsports and bouts, but intoxicated with her newly conquered power, she swam out alone.
she turned her face seaward to gather in animpression of space and solitude, which the vast expanse of water, meeting and meltingwith the moonlit sky, conveyed to her excited fancy. as she swam she seemed to be reaching outfor the unlimited in which to lose herself. once she turned and looked toward theshore, toward the people she had left there. she had not gone any great distance–thatis, what would have been a great distance for an experienced swimmer. but to her unaccustomed vision the stretchof water behind her assumed the aspect of a
barrier which her unaided strength wouldnever be able to overcome. a quick vision of death smote her soul, andfor a second of time appalled and enfeebled her senses.but by an effort she rallied her staggering faculties and managed to regain the land. she made no mention of her encounter withdeath and her flash of terror, except to say to her husband, "i thought i shouldhave perished out there alone." "you were not so very far, my dear; i waswatching you," he told her. edna went at once to the bath-house, andshe had put on her dry clothes and was ready to return home before the others hadleft the water.
she started to walk away alone. they all called to her and shouted to her.she waved a dissenting hand, and went on, paying no further heed to their renewedcries which sought to detain her. "sometimes i am tempted to think that mrs.pontellier is capricious," said madame lebrun, who was amusing herself immenselyand feared that edna’s abrupt departure might put an end to the pleasure. "i know she is," assented mr. pontellier;"sometimes, not often." edna had not traversed a quarter of thedistance on her way home before she was overtaken by robert.
"did you think i was afraid?" she askedhim, without a shade of annoyance. "no; i knew you weren’t afraid.""then why did you come? why didn’t you stay out there with theothers?" "i never thought of it.""thought of what?" "of anything. what difference does it make?""i’m very tired," she uttered, complainingly."i know you are." "you don’t know anything about it. why should you know?i never was so exhausted in my life.
but it isn’t unpleasant.a thousand emotions have swept through me to-night. i don’t comprehend half of them.don’t mind what i’m saying; i am just thinking aloud. i wonder if i shall ever be stirred againas mademoiselle reisz’s playing moved me to-night.i wonder if any night on earth will ever again be like this one. it is like a night in a dream.the people about me are like some uncanny, half-human beings.there must be spirits abroad to-night."
"there are," whispered robert, "didn’t youknow this was the twenty-eighth of august?" "the twenty-eighth of august?" "yes. on the twenty-eighth of august, atthe hour of midnight, and if the moon is shining–the moon must be shining–a spiritthat has haunted these shores for ages rises up from the gulf. with its own penetrating vision the spiritseeks some one mortal worthy to hold him company, worthy of being exalted for a fewhours into realms of the semi-celestials. his search has always hitherto beenfruitless, and he has sunk back, disheartened, into the sea.but to-night he found mrs. pontellier.
perhaps he will never wholly release herfrom the spell. perhaps she will never again suffer a poor,unworthy earthling to walk in the shadow of her divine presence." "don’t banter me," she said, wounded atwhat appeared to be his flippancy. he did not mind the entreaty, but the tonewith its delicate note of pathos was like a reproach. he could not explain; he could not tell herthat he had penetrated her mood and understood. he said nothing except to offer her hisarm, for, by her own admission, she was
exhausted. she had been walking alone with her armshanging limp, letting her white skirts trail along the dewy path.she took his arm, but she did not lean upon it. she let her hand lie listlessly, as thoughher thoughts were elsewhere–somewhere in advance of her body, and she was strivingto overtake them. robert assisted her into the hammock whichswung from the post before her door out to the trunk of a tree."will you stay out here and wait for mr. pontellier?" he asked.
"i’ll stay out here.good-night." "shall i get you a pillow?""there’s one here," she said, feeling about, for they were in the shadow. "it must be soiled; the children have beentumbling it about." "no matter."and having discovered the pillow, she adjusted it beneath her head. she extended herself in the hammock with adeep breath of relief. she was not a supercilious or an over-dainty woman. she was not much given to reclining in thehammock, and when she did so it was with no
cat-like suggestion of voluptuous ease, butwith a beneficent repose which seemed to invade her whole body. "shall i stay with you till mr. pontelliercomes?" asked robert, seating himself on the outer edge of one of the steps andtaking hold of the hammock rope which was fastened to the post. "if you wish.don’t swing the hammock. will you get my white shawl which i left onthe window-sill over at the house?" "are you chilly?" "no; but i shall be presently.""presently?" he laughed.
"do you know what time it is?how long are you going to stay out here?" "i don’t know. will you get the shawl?""of course i will," he said, rising. he went over to the house, walking alongthe grass. she watched his figure pass in and out ofthe strips of moonlight. it was past midnight.it was very quiet. when he returned with the shawl she took itand kept it in her hand. she did not put it around her."did you say i should stay till mr. pontellier came back?"
"i said you might if you wished to."he seated himself again and rolled a cigarette, which he smoked in silence.neither did mrs. pontellier speak. no multitude of words could have been moresignificant than those moments of silence, or more pregnant with the first-feltthrobbings of desire. when the voices of the bathers were heardapproaching, robert said good-night. she did not answer him.he thought she was asleep. again she watched his figure pass in andout of the strips of moonlight as he walked away. part 3: chapter xi
"what are you doing out here, edna?i thought i should find you in bed," said her husband, when he discovered her lyingthere. he had walked up with madame lebrun andleft her at the house. his wife did not reply."are you asleep?" he asked, bending down close to look at her. "no."her eyes gleamed bright and intense, with no sleepy shadows, as they looked into his."do you know it is past one o’clock? come on," and he mounted the steps and wentinto their room. "edna!" called mr. pontellier from within,after a few moments had gone by.
"don’t wait for me," she answered. he thrust his head through the door."you will take cold out there," he said, irritably."what folly is this? why don’t you come in?" "it isn’t cold; i have my shawl.""the mosquitoes will devour you." "there are no mosquitoes."she heard him moving about the room; every sound indicating impatience and irritation. another time she would have gone in at hisrequest. she would, through habit, have yielded tohis desire; not with any sense of
submission or obedience to his compellingwishes, but unthinkingly, as we walk, move, sit, stand, go through the daily treadmill of the life which has been portioned out tous. "edna, dear, are you not coming in soon?"he asked again, this time fondly, with a note of entreaty. "no; i am going to stay out here.""this is more than folly," he blurted out. "i can’t permit you to stay out there allnight. you must come in the house instantly." with a writhing motion she settled herselfmore securely in the hammock.
she perceived that her will had blazed up,stubborn and resistant. she could not at that moment have doneother than denied and resisted. she wondered if her husband had ever spokento her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command. of course she had; she remembered that shehad. but she could not realize why or how sheshould have yielded, feeling as she then did. "leonce, go to bed," she said, "i mean tostay out here. i don’t wish to go in, and i don’t intendto.
don’t speak to me like that again; i shallnot answer you." mr. pontellier had prepared for bed, but heslipped on an extra garment. he opened a bottle of wine, of which hekept a small and select supply in a buffet of his own. he drank a glass of the wine and went outon the gallery and offered a glass to his wife.she did not wish any. he drew up the rocker, hoisted hisslippered feet on the rail, and proceeded to smoke a cigar.he smoked two cigars; then he went inside and drank another glass of wine.
mrs. pontellier again declined to accept aglass when it was offered to her. mr. pontellier once more seated himselfwith elevated feet, and after a reasonable interval of time smoked some more cigars. edna began to feel like one who awakensgradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel againthe realities pressing into her soul. the physical need for sleep began toovertake her; the exuberance which had sustained and exalted her spirit left herhelpless and yielding to the conditions which crowded her in. the stillest hour of the night had come,the hour before dawn, when the world seems
to hold its breath.the moon hung low, and had turned from silver to copper in the sleeping sky. the old owl no longer hooted, and thewater-oaks had ceased to moan as they bent their heads.edna arose, cramped from lying so long and still in the hammock. she tottered up the steps, clutching feeblyat the post before passing into the house. "are you coming in, leonce?" she asked,turning her face toward her husband. "yes, dear," he answered, with a glancefollowing a misty puff of smoke. "just as soon as i have finished my cigar."
chapter xii she slept but a few hours. they were troubled and feverish hours,disturbed with dreams that were intangible, that eluded her, leaving only an impressionupon her half-awakened senses of something unattainable. she was up and dressed in the cool of theearly morning. the air was invigorating and steadiedsomewhat her faculties. however, she was not seeking refreshment orhelp from any source, either external or from within.
she was blindly following whatever impulsemoved her, as if she had placed herself in alien hands for direction, and freed hersoul of responsibility. most of the people at that early hour werestill in bed and asleep. a few, who intended to go over to thecheniere for mass, were moving about. the lovers, who had laid their plans thenight before, were already strolling toward the wharf. the lady in black, with her sunday prayer-book, velvet and gold-clasped, and her sunday silver beads, was following them atno great distance. old monsieur farival was up, and was morethan half inclined to do anything that
suggested itself. he put on his big straw hat, and taking hisumbrella from the stand in the hall, followed the lady in black, neverovertaking her. the little negro girl who worked madamelebrun’s sewing-machine was sweeping the galleries with long, absent-minded strokesof the broom. edna sent her up into the house to awakenrobert. "tell him i am going to the cheniere.the boat is ready; tell him to hurry." he had soon joined her. she had never sent for him before.she had never asked for him.
she had never seemed to want him before. she did not appear conscious that she haddone anything unusual in commanding his presence.he was apparently equally unconscious of anything extraordinary in the situation. but his face was suffused with a quiet glowwhen he met her. they went together back to the kitchen todrink coffee. there was no time to wait for any nicety ofservice. they stood outside the window and the cookpassed them their coffee and a roll, which they drank and ate from the window-sill.
edna said it tasted good.she had not thought of coffee nor of anything.he told her he had often noticed that she lacked forethought. "wasn’t it enough to think of going to thecheniere and waking you up?" she laughed. "do i have to think of everything?–asleonce says when he’s in a bad humor. i don’t blame him; he’d never be in a badhumor if it weren’t for me." they took a short cut across the sands. at a distance they could see the curiousprocession moving toward the wharf–the lovers, shoulder to shoulder, creeping; thelady in black, gaining steadily upon them;
old monsieur farival, losing ground inch by inch, and a young barefooted spanish girl,with a red kerchief on her head and a basket on her arm, bringing up the rear.robert knew the girl, and he talked to her a little in the boat. no one present understood what they said.her name was mariequita. she had a round, sly, piquant face andpretty black eyes. her hands were small, and she kept themfolded over the handle of her basket. her feet were broad and coarse.she did not strive to hide them. edna looked at her feet, and noticed thesand and slime between her brown toes.
beaudelet grumbled because mariequita wasthere, taking up so much room. in reality he was annoyed at having oldmonsieur farival, who considered himself the better sailor of the two. but he would not quarrel with so old a manas monsieur farival, so he quarreled with mariequita.the girl was deprecatory at one moment, appealing to robert. she was saucy the next, moving her head upand down, making "eyes" at robert and making "mouths" at beaudelet.the lovers were all alone. they saw nothing, they heard nothing.
the lady in black was counting her beadsfor the third time. old monsieur farival talked incessantly ofwhat he knew about handling a boat, and of what beaudelet did not know on the samesubject. edna liked it all. she looked mariequita up and down, from herugly brown toes to her pretty black eyes, and back again."why does she look at me like that?" inquired the girl of robert. "maybe she thinks you are pretty.shall i ask her?" "no. is she your sweetheart?""she’s a married lady, and has two
children." "oh! well!francisco ran away with sylvano’s wife, who had four children.they took all his money and one of the children and stole his boat." "shut up!""does she understand?" "oh, hush!""are those two married over there–leaning on each other?" "of course not," laughed robert."of course not," echoed mariequita, with a serious, confirmatory bob of the head.the sun was high up and beginning to bite.
the swift breeze seemed to edna to bury thesting of it into the pores of her face and hands.robert held his umbrella over her. as they went cutting sidewise through thewater, the sails bellied taut, with the wind filling and overflowing them. old monsieur farival laughed sardonicallyat something as he looked at the sails, and beaudelet swore at the old man under hisbreath. sailing across the bay to the chenierecaminada, edna felt as if she were being borne away from some anchorage which hadheld her fast, whose chains had been loosening–had snapped the night before
when the mystic spirit was abroad, leavingher free to drift whithersoever she chose to set her sails.robert spoke to her incessantly; he no longer noticed mariequita. the girl had shrimps in her bamboo basket.they were covered with spanish moss. she beat the moss down impatiently, andmuttered to herself sullenly. "let us go to grande terre to-morrow?" saidrobert in a low voice. "what shall we do there?" "climb up the hill to the old fort and lookat the little wriggling gold snakes, and watch the lizards sun themselves."
she gazed away toward grande terre andthought she would like to be alone there with robert, in the sun, listening to theocean’s roar and watching the slimy lizards writhe in and out among the ruins of theold fort. "and the next day or the next we can sailto the bayou brulow," he went on. "anything–cast bait for fish.""no; we’ll go back to grande terre. let the fish alone.""we’ll go wherever you like," he said. "i’ll have tonie come over and help mepatch and trim my boat. we shall not need beaudelet nor any one.are you afraid of the pirogue?" "oh, no."
"then i’ll take you some night in thepirogue when the moon shines. maybe your gulf spirit will whisper to youin which of these islands the treasures are hidden–direct you to the very spot,perhaps." "and in a day we should be rich!" shelaughed. "i’d give it all to you, the pirate goldand every bit of treasure we could dig up. i think you would know how to spend it. pirate gold isn’t a thing to be hoarded orutilized. it is something to squander and throw tothe four winds, for the fun of seeing the golden specks fly."
"we’d share it, and scatter it together,"he said. his face flushed. they all went together up to the quaintlittle gothic church of our lady of lourdes, gleaming all brown and yellow withpaint in the sun’s glare. only beaudelet remained behind, tinkeringat his boat, and mariequita walked away with her basket of shrimps, casting a lookof childish ill humor and reproach at robert from the corner of her eye. chapter xiii a feeling of oppression and drowsinessovercame edna during the service.
her head began to ache, and the lights onthe altar swayed before her eyes. another time she might have made an effortto regain her composure; but her one thought was to quit the stifling atmosphereof the church and reach the open air. she arose, climbing over robert’s feet witha muttered apology. old monsieur farival, flurried, curious,stood up, but upon seeing that robert had followed mrs. pontellier, he sank back intohis seat. he whispered an anxious inquiry of the ladyin black, who did not notice him or reply, but kept her eyes fastened upon the pagesof her velvet prayer-book. "i felt giddy and almost overcome," ednasaid, lifting her hands instinctively to
her head and pushing her straw hat up fromher forehead. "i couldn’t have stayed through theservice." they were outside in the shadow of thechurch. robert was full of solicitude. "it was folly to have thought of going inthe first place, let alone staying. come over to madame antoine’s; you can restthere." he took her arm and led her away, lookinganxiously and continuously down into her face. how still it was, with only the voice ofthe sea whispering through the reeds that
grew in the salt-water pools! the long line of little gray, weather-beaten houses nestled peacefully among the orange trees.it must always have been god’s day on that low, drowsy island, edna thought. they stopped, leaning over a jagged fencemade of sea-drift, to ask for water. a youth, a mild-faced acadian, was drawingwater from the cistern, which was nothing more than a rusty buoy, with an opening onone side, sunk in the ground. the water which the youth handed to them ina tin pail was not cold to taste, but it was cool to her heated face, and it greatlyrevived and refreshed her.
madame antoine’s cot was at the far end ofthe village. she welcomed them with all the nativehospitality, as she would have opened her door to let the sunlight in. she was fat, and walked heavily andclumsily across the floor. she could speak no english, but when robertmade her understand that the lady who accompanied him was ill and desired torest, she was all eagerness to make edna feel at home and to dispose of hercomfortably. the whole place was immaculately clean, andthe big, four-posted bed, snow-white, invited one to repose.
it stood in a small side room which lookedout across a narrow grass plot toward the shed, where there was a disabled boat lyingkeel upward. madame antoine had not gone to mass. her son tonie had, but she supposed hewould soon be back, and she invited robert to be seated and wait for him.but he went and sat outside the door and smoked. madame antoine busied herself in the largefront room preparing dinner. she was boiling mullets over a few redcoals in the huge fireplace. edna, left alone in the little side room,loosened her clothes, removing the greater
part of them.she bathed her face, her neck and arms in the basin that stood between the windows. she took off her shoes and stockings andstretched herself in the very center of the high, white bed. how luxurious it felt to rest thus in astrange, quaint bed, with its sweet country odor of laurel lingering about the sheetsand mattress! she stretched her strong limbs that ached alittle. she ran her fingers through her loosenedhair for a while. she looked at her round arms as she heldthem straight up and rubbed them one after
the other, observing closely, as if it weresomething she saw for the first time, the fine, firm quality and texture of herflesh. she clasped her hands easily above herhead, and it was thus she fell asleep. she slept lightly at first, half awake anddrowsily attentive to the things about her. she could hear madame antoine’s heavy,scraping tread as she walked back and forth on the sanded floor. some chickens were clucking outside thewindows, scratching for bits of gravel in the grass.later she half heard the voices of robert and tonie talking under the shed.
she did not stir.even her eyelids rested numb and heavily over her sleepy eyes.the voices went on–tonie’s slow, acadian drawl, robert’s quick, soft, smooth french. she understood french imperfectly unlessdirectly addressed, and the voices were only part of the other drowsy, muffledsounds lulling her senses. when edna awoke it was with the convictionthat she had slept long and soundly. the voices were hushed under the shed.madame antoine’s step was no longer to be heard in the adjoining room. even the chickens had gone elsewhere toscratch and cluck.
the mosquito bar was drawn over her; theold woman had come in while she slept and let down the bar. edna arose quietly from the bed, andlooking between the curtains of the window, she saw by the slanting rays of the sunthat the afternoon was far advanced. robert was out there under the shed,reclining in the shade against the sloping keel of the overturned boat.he was reading from a book. tonie was no longer with him. she wondered what had become of the rest ofthe party. she peeped out at him two or three times asshe stood washing herself in the little
basin between the windows. madame antoine had laid some coarse, cleantowels upon a chair, and had placed a box of poudre de riz within easy reach. edna dabbed the powder upon her nose andcheeks as she looked at herself closely in the little distorted mirror which hung onthe wall above the basin. her eyes were bright and wide awake and herface glowed. when she had completed her toilet shewalked into the adjoining room. she was very hungry. no one was there.but there was a cloth spread upon the table
that stood against the wall, and a coverwas laid for one, with a crusty brown loaf and a bottle of wine beside the plate. edna bit a piece from the brown loaf,tearing it with her strong, white teeth. she poured some of the wine into the glassand drank it down. then she went softly out of doors, andplucking an orange from the low-hanging bough of a tree, threw it at robert, whodid not know she was awake and up. an illumination broke over his whole facewhen he saw her and joined her under the orange tree."how many years have i slept?" she inquired.
"the whole island seems changed.a new race of beings must have sprung up, leaving only you and me as past relics. how many ages ago did madame antoine andtonie die? and when did our people from grand isle disappear from the earth?"he familiarly adjusted a ruffle upon her shoulder. "you have slept precisely one hundredyears. i was left here to guard your slumbers; andfor one hundred years i have been out under the shed reading a book. the only evil i couldn’t prevent was tokeep a broiled fowl from drying up."
"if it has turned to stone, still will ieat it," said edna, moving with him into the house. "but really, what has become of monsieurfarival and the others?" "gone hours ago.when they found that you were sleeping they thought it best not to awake you. any way, i wouldn’t have let them.what was i here for?" "i wonder if leonce will be uneasy!" shespeculated, as she seated herself at table. "of course not; he knows you are with me,"robert replied, as he busied himself among sundry pans and covered dishes which hadbeen left standing on the hearth.
"where are madame antoine and her son?"asked edna. "gone to vespers, and to visit somefriends, i believe. i am to take you back in tonie’s boatwhenever you are ready to go." he stirred the smoldering ashes till thebroiled fowl began to sizzle afresh. he served her with no mean repast, drippingthe coffee anew and sharing it with her. madame antoine had cooked little else thanthe mullets, but while edna slept robert had foraged the island. he was childishly gratified to discover herappetite, and to see the relish with which she ate the food which he had procured forher.
"shall we go right away?" she asked, afterdraining her glass and brushing together the crumbs of the crusty loaf."the sun isn’t as low as it will be in two hours," he answered. "the sun will be gone in two hours.""well, let it go; who cares!" they waited a good while under the orangetrees, till madame antoine came back, panting, waddling, with a thousandapologies to explain her absence. tonie did not dare to return. he was shy, and would not willingly faceany woman except his mother. it was very pleasant to stay there underthe orange trees, while the sun dipped
lower and lower, turning the western sky toflaming copper and gold. the shadows lengthened and crept out likestealthy, grotesque monsters across the grass. edna and robert both sat upon the ground–that is, he lay upon the ground beside her, occasionally picking at the hem of hermuslin gown. madame antoine seated her fat body, broadand squat, upon a bench beside the door. she had been talking all the afternoon, andhad wound herself up to the storytelling pitch. and what stories she told them!but twice in her life she had left the
cheniere caminada, and then for thebriefest span. all her years she had squatted and waddledthere upon the island, gathering legends of the baratarians and the sea.the night came on, with the moon to lighten edna could hear the whispering voices ofdead men and the click of muffled gold. when she and robert stepped into tonie’sboat, with the red lateen sail, misty spirit forms were prowling in the shadowsand among the reeds, and upon the water were phantom ships, speeding to cover. chapter xiv the youngest boy, etienne, had been verynaughty, madame ratignolle said, as she
delivered him into the hands of his mother. he had been unwilling to go to bed and hadmade a scene; whereupon she had taken charge of him and pacified him as well asshe could. raoul had been in bed and asleep for twohours. the youngster was in his long whitenightgown, that kept tripping him up as madame ratignolle led him along by thehand. with the other chubby fist he rubbed hiseyes, which were heavy with sleep and ill humor. edna took him in her arms, and seatingherself in the rocker, began to coddle and
caress him, calling him all manner oftender names, soothing him to sleep. it was not more than nine o’clock. no one had yet gone to bed but thechildren. leonce had been very uneasy at first,madame ratignolle said, and had wanted to start at once for the cheniere. but monsieur farival had assured him thathis wife was only overcome with sleep and fatigue, that tonie would bring her safelyback later in the day; and he had thus been dissuaded from crossing the bay. he had gone over to klein’s, looking upsome cotton broker whom he wished to see in
regard to securities, exchanges, stocks,bonds, or something of the sort, madame ratignolle did not remember what. he said he would not remain away late.she herself was suffering from heat and oppression, she said.she carried a bottle of salts and a large fan. she would not consent to remain with edna,for monsieur ratignolle was alone, and he detested above all things to be left alone. when etienne had fallen asleep edna borehim into the back room, and robert went and lifted the mosquito bar that she might laythe child comfortably in his bed.
the quadroon had vanished. when they emerged from the cottage robertbade edna good-night. "do you know we have been together thewhole livelong day, robert–since early this morning?" she said at parting. "all but the hundred years when you weresleeping. goodnight."he pressed her hand and went away in the direction of the beach. he did not join any of the others, butwalked alone toward the gulf. edna stayed outside, awaiting her husband’sreturn.
she had no desire to sleep or to retire;nor did she feel like going over to sit with the ratignolles, or to join madamelebrun and a group whose animated voices reached her as they sat in conversationbefore the house. she let her mind wander back over her stayat grand isle; and she tried to discover wherein this summer had been different fromany and every other summer of her life. she could only realize that she herself–her present self–was in some way different from the other self. that she was seeing with different eyes andmaking the acquaintance of new conditions in herself that colored and changed herenvironment, she did not yet suspect.
she wondered why robert had gone away andleft her. it did not occur to her to think he mighthave grown tired of being with her the livelong day. she was not tired, and she felt that he wasnot. she regretted that he had gone. it was so much more natural to have himstay when he was not absolutely required to leave her. as edna waited for her husband she sang lowa little song that robert had sung as they crossed the bay.it began with "ah! si tu savais," and every
verse ended with "si tu savais." robert’s voice was not pretentious.it was musical and true. the voice, the notes, the whole refrainhaunted her memory. chapter xv when edna entered the dining-room oneevening a little late, as was her habit, an unusually animated conversation seemed tobe going on. several persons were talking at once, andvictor’s voice was predominating, even over that of his mother. edna had returned late from her bath, haddressed in some haste, and her face was
flushed.her head, set off by her dainty white gown, suggested a rich, rare blossom. she took her seat at table between oldmonsieur farival and madame ratignolle. as she seated herself and was about tobegin to eat her soup, which had been served when she entered the room, severalpersons informed her simultaneously that robert was going to mexico. she laid her spoon down and looked abouther bewildered. he had been with her, reading to her allthe morning, and had never even mentioned such a place as mexico.
she had not seen him during the afternoon;she had heard some one say he was at the house, upstairs with his mother. this she had thought nothing of, though shewas surprised when he did not join her later in the afternoon, when she went downto the beach. she looked across at him, where he satbeside madame lebrun, who presided. edna’s face was a blank picture ofbewilderment, which she never thought of disguising. he lifted his eyebrows with the pretext ofa smile as he returned her glance. he looked embarrassed and uneasy.
"when is he going?" she asked of everybodyin general, as if robert were not there to answer for himself."to-night!" "this very evening!" "did you ever!""what possesses him!" were some of the replies she gathered, utteredsimultaneously in french and english. "impossible!" she exclaimed. "how can a person start off from grand isleto mexico at a moment’s notice, as if he were going over to klein’s or to the wharfor down to the beach?" "i said all along i was going to mexico;i’ve been saying so for years!" cried
robert, in an excited and irritable tone,with the air of a man defending himself against a swarm of stinging insects. madame lebrun knocked on the table with herknife handle. "please let robert explain why he is going,and why he is going to-night," she called out. "really, this table is getting to be moreand more like bedlam every day, with everybody talking at once. sometimes–i hope god will forgive me–butpositively, sometimes i wish victor would lose the power of speech."
victor laughed sardonically as he thankedhis mother for her holy wish, of which he failed to see the benefit to anybody,except that it might afford her a more ample opportunity and license to talkherself. monsieur farival thought that victor shouldhave been taken out in mid-ocean in his earliest youth and drowned. victor thought there would be more logic inthus disposing of old people with an established claim for making themselvesuniversally obnoxious. madame lebrun grew a trifle hysterical;robert called his brother some sharp, hard names.
"there’s nothing much to explain, mother,"he said; though he explained, nevertheless- -looking chiefly at edna–that he couldonly meet the gentleman whom he intended to join at vera cruz by taking such and such a steamer, which left new orleans on such aday; that beaudelet was going out with his lugger-load of vegetables that night, whichgave him an opportunity of reaching the city and making his vessel in time. "but when did you make up your mind to allthis?" demanded monsieur farival. "this afternoon," returned robert, with ashade of annoyance. "at what time this afternoon?" persistedthe old gentleman, with nagging
determination, as if he were cross-questioning a criminal in a court of justice. "at four o’clock this afternoon, monsieurfarival," robert replied, in a high voice and with a lofty air, which reminded ednaof some gentleman on the stage. she had forced herself to eat most of hersoup, and now she was picking the flaky bits of a court bouillon with her fork. the lovers were profiting by the generalconversation on mexico to speak in whispers of matters which they rightly consideredwere interesting to no one but themselves. the lady in black had once received a pairof prayer-beads of curious workmanship from
mexico, with very special indulgenceattached to them, but she had never been able to ascertain whether the indulgenceextended outside the mexican border. father fochel of the cathedral hadattempted to explain it; but he had not done so to her satisfaction. and she begged that robert would interesthimself, and discover, if possible, whether she was entitled to the indulgenceaccompanying the remarkably curious mexican prayer-beads. madame ratignolle hoped that robert wouldexercise extreme caution in dealing with the mexicans, who, she considered, were atreacherous people, unscrupulous and
revengeful. she trusted she did them no injustice inthus condemning them as a race. she had known personally but one mexican,who made and sold excellent tamales, and whom she would have trusted implicitly, sosoft-spoken was he. one day he was arrested for stabbing hiswife. she never knew whether he had been hangedor not. victor had grown hilarious, and wasattempting to tell an anecdote about a mexican girl who served chocolate onewinter in a restaurant in dauphine street. no one would listen to him but old monsieurfarival, who went into convulsions over the
droll story.edna wondered if they had all gone mad, to be talking and clamoring at that rate. she herself could think of nothing to sayabout mexico or the mexicans. "at what time do you leave?" she askedrobert. "at ten," he told her. "beaudelet wants to wait for the moon.""are you all ready to go?" "quite ready.i shall only take a hand-bag, and shall pack my trunk in the city." he turned to answer some question put tohim by his mother, and edna, having
finished her black coffee, left the table.she went directly to her room. the little cottage was close and stuffyafter leaving the outer air. but she did not mind; there appeared to bea hundred different things demanding her attention indoors. she began to set the toilet-stand torights, grumbling at the negligence of the quadroon, who was in the adjoining roomputting the children to bed. she gathered together stray garments thatwere hanging on the backs of chairs, and put each where it belonged in closet orbureau drawer. she changed her gown for a more comfortableand commodious wrapper.
she rearranged her hair, combing andbrushing it with unusual energy. then she went in and assisted the quadroonin getting the boys to bed. they were very playful and inclined totalk–to do anything but lie quiet and go to sleep. edna sent the quadroon away to her supperand told her she need not return. then she sat and told the children a story.instead of soothing it excited them, and added to their wakefulness. she left them in heated argument,speculating about the conclusion of the tale which their mother promised to finishthe following night.
the little black girl came in to say thatmadame lebrun would like to have mrs. pontellier go and sit with them over at thehouse till mr. robert went away. edna returned answer that she had alreadyundressed, that she did not feel quite well, but perhaps she would go over to thehouse later. she started to dress again, and got as faradvanced as to remove her peignoir. but changing her mind once more she resumedthe peignoir, and went outside and sat down before her door. she was overheated and irritable, andfanned herself energetically for a while. madame ratignolle came down to discoverwhat was the matter.
"all that noise and confusion at the tablemust have upset me," replied edna, "and moreover, i hate shocks and surprises.the idea of robert starting off in such a ridiculously sudden and dramatic way! as if it were a matter of life and death!never saying a word about it all morning when he was with me.""yes," agreed madame ratignolle. "i think it was showing us all–youespecially–very little consideration. it wouldn’t have surprised me in any of theothers; those lebruns are all given to heroics. but i must say i should never have expectedsuch a thing from robert.
are you not coming down?come on, dear; it doesn’t look friendly." "no," said edna, a little sullenly. "i can’t go to the trouble of dressingagain; i don’t feel like it." "you needn’t dress; you look all right;fasten a belt around your waist. just look at me!" "no," persisted edna; "but you go on.madame lebrun might be offended if we both stayed away." madame ratignolle kissed edna good-night,and went away, being in truth rather desirous of joining in the general andanimated conversation which was still in
progress concerning mexico and themexicans. somewhat later robert came up, carrying hishand-bag. "aren’t you feeling well?" he asked. "oh, well enough.are you going right away?" he lit a match and looked at his watch."in twenty minutes," he said. the sudden and brief flare of the matchemphasized the darkness for a while. he sat down upon a stool which the childrenhad left out on the porch. "get a chair," said edna. "this will do," he replied.he put on his soft hat and nervously took
it off again, and wiping his face with hishandkerchief, complained of the heat. "take the fan," said edna, offering it tohim. "oh, no!thank you. it does no good; you have to stop fanningsome time, and feel all the more uncomfortable afterward.""that’s one of the ridiculous things which men always say. i have never known one to speak otherwiseof fanning. how long will you be gone?""forever, perhaps. i don’t know.
it depends upon a good many things.""well, in case it shouldn’t be forever, how long will it be?""i don’t know." "this seems to me perfectly preposterousand uncalled for. i don’t like it. i don’t understand your motive for silenceand mystery, never saying a word to me about it this morning."he remained silent, not offering to defend himself. he only said, after a moment:"don’t part from me in any ill humor. i never knew you to be out of patience withme before."
"i don’t want to part in any ill humor,"she said. "but can’t you understand? i’ve grown used to seeing you, to havingyou with me all the time, and your action seems unfriendly, even unkind.you don’t even offer an excuse for it. why, i was planning to be together,thinking of how pleasant it would be to see you in the city next winter.""so was i," he blurted. "perhaps that’s the–" he stood up suddenlyand held out his hand. "good-by, my dear mrs. pontellier; good-by.you won’t–i hope you won’t completely forget me."
she clung to his hand, striving to detainhim. "write to me when you get there, won’t you,robert?" she entreated. "i will, thank you. good-by."how unlike robert! the merest acquaintance would have saidsomething more emphatic than "i will, thank you; good-by," to such a request. he had evidently already taken leave of thepeople over at the house, for he descended the steps and went to join beaudelet, whowas out there with an oar across his shoulder waiting for robert.
they walked away in the darkness.she could only hear beaudelet’s voice; robert had apparently not even spoken aword of greeting to his companion. edna bit her handkerchief convulsively,striving to hold back and to hide, even from herself as she would have hidden fromanother, the emotion which was troubling– tearing–her. her eyes were brimming with tears.for the first time she recognized the symptoms of infatuation which she had feltincipiently as a child, as a girl in her earliest teens, and later as a young woman. the recognition did not lessen the reality,the poignancy of the revelation by any
suggestion or promise of instability.the past was nothing to her; offered no lesson which she was willing to heed. the future was a mystery which she neverattempted to penetrate. the present alone was significant; washers, to torture her as it was doing then with the biting conviction that she hadlost that which she had held, that she had been denied that which her impassioned,newly awakened being demanded. part 4: chapter xvi "do you miss your friend greatly?" askedmademoiselle reisz one morning as she came creeping up behind edna, who had just lefther cottage on her way to the beach.
she spent much of her time in the watersince she had acquired finally the art of swimming. as their stay at grand isle drew near itsclose, she felt that she could not give too much time to a diversion which afforded herthe only real pleasurable moments that she knew. when mademoiselle reisz came and touchedher upon the shoulder and spoke to her, the woman seemed to echo the thought which wasever in edna’s mind; or, better, the feeling which constantly possessed her. robert’s going had some way taken thebrightness, the color, the meaning out of
everything. the conditions of her life were in no waychanged, but her whole existence was dulled, like a faded garment which seems tobe no longer worth wearing. she sought him everywhere–in others whomshe induced to talk about him. she went up in the mornings to madamelebrun’s room, braving the clatter of the old sewing-machine. she sat there and chatted at intervals asrobert had done. she gazed around the room at the picturesand photographs hanging upon the wall, and discovered in some corner an old familyalbum, which she examined with the keenest
interest, appealing to madame lebrun for enlightenment concerning the many figuresand faces which she discovered between its pages. there was a picture of madame lebrun withrobert as a baby, seated in her lap, a round-faced infant with a fist in hismouth. the eyes alone in the baby suggested theman. and that was he also in kilts, at the ageof five, wearing long curls and holding a whip in his hand. it made edna laugh, and she laughed, too,at the portrait in his first long trousers;
while another interested her, taken when heleft for college, looking thin, long-faced, with eyes full of fire, ambition and greatintentions. but there was no recent picture, none whichsuggested the robert who had gone away five days ago, leaving a void and wildernessbehind him. "oh, robert stopped having his picturestaken when he had to pay for them himself! he found wiser use for his money, he says,"explained madame lebrun. she had a letter from him, written beforehe left new orleans. edna wished to see the letter, and madamelebrun told her to look for it either on the table or the dresser, or perhaps it wason the mantelpiece.
the letter was on the bookshelf. it possessed the greatest interest andattraction for edna; the envelope, its size and shape, the post-mark, the handwriting.she examined every detail of the outside before opening it. there were only a few lines, setting forththat he would leave the city that afternoon, that he had packed his trunk ingood shape, that he was well, and sent her his love and begged to be affectionatelyremembered to all. there was no special message to edna excepta postscript saying that if mrs. pontellier desired to finish the book which he hadbeen reading to her, his mother would find
it in his room, among other books there onthe table. edna experienced a pang of jealousy becausehe had written to his mother rather than to her. every one seemed to take for granted thatshe missed him. even her husband, when he came down thesaturday following robert’s departure, expressed regret that he had gone. "how do you get on without him, edna?" heasked. "it’s very dull without him," she admitted. mr. pontellier had seen robert in the city,and edna asked him a dozen questions or
more.where had they met? on carondelet street, in the morning. they had gone "in" and had a drink and acigar together. what had they talked about? chiefly about his prospects in mexico,which mr. pontellier thought were promising.how did he look? how did he seem–grave, or gay, or how? quite cheerful, and wholly taken up withthe idea of his trip, which mr. pontellier found altogether natural in a young fellowabout to seek fortune and adventure in a
strange, queer country. edna tapped her foot impatiently, andwondered why the children persisted in playing in the sun when they might be underthe trees. she went down and led them out of the sun,scolding the quadroon for not being more attentive. it did not strike her as in the leastgrotesque that she should be making of robert the object of conversation andleading her husband to speak of him. the sentiment which she entertained forrobert in no way resembled that which she felt for her husband, or had ever felt, orever expected to feel.
she had all her life long been accustomedto harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves.they had never taken the form of struggles. they belonged to her and were her own, andshe entertained the conviction that she had a right to them and that they concerned noone but herself. edna had once told madame ratignolle thatshe would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for any one. then had followed a rather heated argument;the two women did not appear to understand each other or to be talking the samelanguage. edna tried to appease her friend, toexplain.
"i would give up the unessential; i wouldgive my money, i would give my life for my children; but i wouldn’t give myself. i can’t make it more clear; it’s onlysomething which i am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself tome." "i don’t know what you would call theessential, or what you mean by the unessential," said madame ratignolle,cheerfully; "but a woman who would give her life for her children could do no more thanthat–your bible tells you so. i’m sure i couldn’t do more than that.""oh, yes you could!" laughed edna. she was not surprised at mademoisellereisz’s question the morning that lady,
following her to the beach, tapped her onthe shoulder and asked if she did not greatly miss her young friend. "oh, good morning, mademoiselle; is it you?why, of course i miss robert. are you going down to bathe?" "why should i go down to bathe at the veryend of the season when i haven’t been in the surf all summer," replied the woman,disagreeably. "i beg your pardon," offered edna, in someembarrassment, for she should have remembered that mademoiselle reisz’savoidance of the water had furnished a theme for much pleasantry.
some among them thought it was on accountof her false hair, or the dread of getting the violets wet, while others attributed itto the natural aversion for water sometimes believed to accompany the artistictemperament. mademoiselle offered edna some chocolatesin a paper bag, which she took from her pocket, by way of showing that she bore noill feeling. she habitually ate chocolates for theirsustaining quality; they contained much nutriment in small compass, she said. they saved her from starvation, as madamelebrun’s table was utterly impossible; and no one save so impertinent a woman asmadame lebrun could think of offering such
food to people and requiring them to payfor it. "she must feel very lonely without herson," said edna, desiring to change the subject. "her favorite son, too.it must have been quite hard to let him go."mademoiselle laughed maliciously. "her favorite son! oh, dear!who could have been imposing such a tale upon you?aline lebrun lives for victor, and for victor alone.
she has spoiled him into the worthlesscreature he is. she worships him and the ground he walkson. robert is very well in a way, to give upall the money he can earn to the family, and keep the barest pittance for himself.favorite son, indeed! i miss the poor fellow myself, my dear. i liked to see him and to hear him aboutthe place the only lebrun who is worth a pinch of salt.he comes to see me often in the city. i like to play to him. that victor! hanging would be too good forhim.
it’s a wonder robert hasn’t beaten him todeath long ago." "i thought he had great patience with hisbrother," offered edna, glad to be talking about robert, no matter what was said."oh! he thrashed him well enough a year or two ago," said mademoiselle. "it was about a spanish girl, whom victorconsidered that he had some sort of claim upon. he met robert one day talking to the girl,or walking with her, or bathing with her, or carrying her basket–i don’t rememberwhat;–and he became so insulting and abusive that robert gave him a thrashing on
the spot that has kept him comparatively inorder for a good while. it’s about time he was getting another.""was her name mariequita?" asked edna. "mariequita–yes, that was it; mariequita. i had forgotten.oh, she’s a sly one, and a bad one, that mariequita!" edna looked down at mademoiselle reisz andwondered how she could have listened to her venom so long.for some reason she felt depressed, almost unhappy. she had not intended to go into the water;but she donned her bathing suit, and left
mademoiselle alone, seated under the shadeof the children’s tent. the water was growing cooler as the seasonadvanced. edna plunged and swam about with an abandonthat thrilled and invigorated her. she remained a long time in the water, halfhoping that mademoiselle reisz would not wait for her.but mademoiselle waited. she was very amiable during the walk back,and raved much over edna’s appearance in her bathing suit.she talked about music. she hoped that edna would go to see her inthe city, and wrote her address with the stub of a pencil on a piece of card whichshe found in her pocket.
"when do you leave?" asked edna. "next monday; and you?""the following week," answered edna, adding, "it has been a pleasant summer,hasn’t it, mademoiselle?" "well," agreed mademoiselle reisz, with ashrug, "rather pleasant, if it hadn’t been for the mosquitoes and the farival twins." chapter xvii the pontelliers possessed a very charminghome on esplanade street in new orleans. it was a large, double cottage, with abroad front veranda, whose round, fluted columns supported the sloping roof.
the house was painted a dazzling white; theoutside shutters, or jalousies, were green. in the yard, which was kept scrupulouslyneat, were flowers and plants of every description which flourishes in southlouisiana. within doors the appointments were perfectafter the conventional type. the softest carpets and rugs covered thefloors; rich and tasteful draperies hung at doors and windows. there were paintings, selected withjudgment and discrimination, upon the walls. the cut glass, the silver, the heavy damaskwhich daily appeared upon the table were
the envy of many women whose husbands wereless generous than mr. pontellier. mr. pontellier was very fond of walkingabout his house examining its various appointments and details, to see thatnothing was amiss. he greatly valued his possessions, chieflybecause they were his, and derived genuine pleasure from contemplating a painting, astatuette, a rare lace curtain–no matter what–after he had bought it and placed itamong his household gods. on tuesday afternoons–tuesday being mrs.pontellier’s reception day–there was a constant stream of callers–women who camein carriages or in the street cars, or walked when the air was soft and distancepermitted.
a light-colored mulatto boy, in dress coatand bearing a diminutive silver tray for the reception of cards, admitted them. a maid, in white fluted cap, offered thecallers liqueur, coffee, or chocolate, as they might desire. mrs. pontellier, attired in a handsomereception gown, remained in the drawing- room the entire afternoon receiving hervisitors. men sometimes called in the evening withtheir wives. this had been the programme which mrs.pontellier had religiously followed since her marriage, six years before.
certain evenings during the week she andher husband attended the opera or sometimes the play. mr. pontellier left his home in themornings between nine and ten o’clock, and rarely returned before half-past six orseven in the evening–dinner being served at half-past seven. he and his wife seated themselves at tableone tuesday evening, a few weeks after their return from grand isle.they were alone together. the boys were being put to bed; the patterof their bare, escaping feet could be heard occasionally, as well as the pursuing voiceof the quadroon, lifted in mild protest and
entreaty. mrs. pontellier did not wear her usualtuesday reception gown; she was in ordinary house dress. mr. pontellier, who was observant aboutsuch things, noticed it, as he served the soup and handed it to the boy in waiting."tired out, edna? whom did you have? many callers?" he asked.he tasted his soup and began to season it with pepper, salt, vinegar, mustard–everything within reach. "there were a good many," replied edna, whowas eating her soup with evident
satisfaction."i found their cards when i got home; i was out." "out!" exclaimed her husband, withsomething like genuine consternation in his voice as he laid down the vinegar cruet andlooked at her through his glasses. "why, what could have taken you out ontuesday? what did you have to do?""nothing. i simply felt like going out, and i wentout." "well, i hope you left some suitableexcuse," said her husband, somewhat appeased, as he added a dash of cayennepepper to the soup.
"no, i left no excuse. i told joe to say i was out, that was all." "why, my dear, i should think you’dunderstand by this time that people don’t do such things; we’ve got to observe lesconvenances if we ever expect to get on and keep up with the procession. if you felt that you had to leave home thisafternoon, you should have left some suitable explanation for your absence. "this soup is really impossible; it’sstrange that woman hasn’t learned yet to make a decent soup.any free-lunch stand in town serves a
better one. was mrs. belthrop here?""bring the tray with the cards, joe. i don’t remember who was here." the boy retired and returned after amoment, bringing the tiny silver tray, which was covered with ladies’ visitingcards. he handed it to mrs. pontellier. "give it to mr. pontellier," she said.joe offered the tray to mr. pontellier, and removed the soup. mr. pontellier scanned the names of hiswife’s callers, reading some of them aloud,
with comments as he read."’the misses delasidas.’ i worked a big deal in futures for theirfather this morning; nice girls; it’s time they were getting married.’mrs. belthrop.’ i tell you what it is, edna; you can’tafford to snub mrs. belthrop. why, belthrop could buy and sell us tentimes over. his business is worth a good, round sum tome. you’d better write her a note.’mrs. james highcamp.’ hugh! the less you have to do with mrs.highcamp, the better. ‘madame laforce.’came all the way from carrolton, too, poor
old soul. ‘miss wiggs,’ ‘mrs. eleanor boltons.’"he pushed the cards aside. "mercy!" exclaimed edna, who had beenfuming. "why are you taking the thing so seriouslyand making such a fuss over it?" "i’m not making any fuss over it. but it’s just such seeming trifles thatwe’ve got to take seriously; such things count."the fish was scorched. mr. pontellier would not touch it. edna said she did not mind a littlescorched taste.
the roast was in some way not to his fancy,and he did not like the manner in which the vegetables were served. "it seems to me," he said, "we spend moneyenough in this house to procure at least one meal a day which a man could eat andretain his self-respect." "you used to think the cook was atreasure," returned edna, indifferently. "perhaps she was when she first came; butcooks are only human. they need looking after, like any otherclass of persons that you employ. suppose i didn’t look after the clerks inmy office, just let them run things their own way; they’d soon make a nice mess of meand my business."
"where are you going?" asked edna, seeingthat her husband arose from table without having eaten a morsel except a taste of thehighly-seasoned soup. "i’m going to get my dinner at the club. good night."he went into the hall, took his hat and stick from the stand, and left the house.she was somewhat familiar with such scenes. they had often made her very unhappy. on a few previous occasions she had beencompletely deprived of any desire to finish her dinner.sometimes she had gone into the kitchen to administer a tardy rebuke to the cook.
once she went to her room and studied thecookbook during an entire evening, finally writing out a menu for the week, which lefther harassed with a feeling that, after all, she had accomplished no good that wasworth the name. but that evening edna finished her dinneralone, with forced deliberation. her face was flushed and her eyes flamedwith some inward fire that lighted them. after finishing her dinner she went to herroom, having instructed the boy to tell any other callers that she was indisposed. it was a large, beautiful room, rich andpicturesque in the soft, dim light which the maid had turned low.
she went and stood at an open window andlooked out upon the deep tangle of the garden below. all the mystery and witchery of the nightseemed to have gathered there amid the perfumes and the dusky and tortuousoutlines of flowers and foliage. she was seeking herself and finding herselfin just such sweet, half-darkness which met her moods. but the voices were not soothing that cameto her from the darkness and the sky above and the stars.they jeered and sounded mournful notes without promise, devoid even of hope.
she turned back into the room and began towalk to and fro down its whole length, without stopping, without resting. she carried in her hands a thinhandkerchief, which she tore into ribbons, rolled into a ball, and flung from her.once she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet. when she saw it lying there, she stampedher heel upon it, striving to crush it. but her small boot heel did not make anindenture, not a mark upon the little glittering circlet. in a sweeping passion she seized a glassvase from the table and flung it upon the
tiles of the hearth.she wanted to destroy something. the crash and clatter were what she wantedto hear. a maid, alarmed at the din of breakingglass, entered the room to discover what was the matter. "a vase fell upon the hearth," said edna."never mind; leave it till morning." "oh! you might get some of the glass inyour feet, ma’am," insisted the young woman, picking up bits of the broken vasethat were scattered upon the carpet. "and here’s your ring, ma’am, under thechair." edna held out her hand, and taking thering, slipped it upon her finger.
chapter xviii the following morning mr. pontellier, uponleaving for his office, asked edna if she would not meet him in town in order to lookat some new fixtures for the library. "i hardly think we need new fixtures,leonce. don’t let us get anything new; you are tooextravagant. i don’t believe you ever think of saving orputting by." "the way to become rich is to make money,my dear edna, not to save it," he said. he regretted that she did not feel inclinedto go with him and select new fixtures. he kissed her good-by, and told her she wasnot looking well and must take care of
herself. she was unusually pale and very quiet.she stood on the front veranda as he quitted the house, and absently picked afew sprays of jessamine that grew upon a trellis near by. she inhaled the odor of the blossoms andthrust them into the bosom of her white morning gown. the boys were dragging along the banquettea small "express wagon," which they had filled with blocks and sticks. the quadroon was following them with littlequick steps, having assumed a fictitious
animation and alacrity for the occasion.a fruit vender was crying his wares in the street. edna looked straight before her with aself-absorbed expression upon her face. she felt no interest in anything about her. the street, the children, the fruit vender,the flowers growing there under her eyes, were all part and parcel of an alien worldwhich had suddenly become antagonistic. she went back into the house. she had thought of speaking to the cookconcerning her blunders of the previous night; but mr. pontellier had saved herthat disagreeable mission, for which she
was so poorly fitted. mr. pontellier’s arguments were usuallyconvincing with those whom he employed. he left home feeling quite sure that he andedna would sit down that evening, and possibly a few subsequent evenings, to adinner deserving of the name. edna spent an hour or two in looking oversome of her old sketches. she could see their shortcomings anddefects, which were glaring in her eyes. she tried to work a little, but found shewas not in the humor. finally she gathered together a few of thesketches–those which she considered the least discreditable; and she carried themwith her when, a little later, she dressed
and left the house. she looked handsome and distinguished inher street gown. the tan of the seashore had left her face,and her forehead was smooth, white, and polished beneath her heavy, yellow-brownhair. there were a few freckles on her face, anda small, dark mole near the under lip and one on the temple, half-hidden in her hair.as edna walked along the street she was thinking of robert. she was still under the spell of herinfatuation. she had tried to forget him, realizing theinutility of remembering.
but the thought of him was like anobsession, ever pressing itself upon her. it was not that she dwelt upon details oftheir acquaintance, or recalled in any special or peculiar way his personality; itwas his being, his existence, which dominated her thought, fading sometimes as if it would melt into the mist of theforgotten, reviving again with an intensity which filled her with an incomprehensiblelonging. edna was on her way to madame ratignolle’s. their intimacy, begun at grand isle, hadnot declined, and they had seen each other with some frequency since their return tothe city.
the ratignolles lived at no great distancefrom edna’s home, on the corner of a side street, where monsieur ratignolle owned andconducted a drug store which enjoyed a steady and prosperous trade. his father had been in the business beforehim, and monsieur ratignolle stood well in the community and bore an enviablereputation for integrity and clearheadedness. his family lived in commodious apartmentsover the store, having an entrance on the side within the porte cochere. there was something which edna thought veryfrench, very foreign, about their whole
manner of living. in the large and pleasant salon whichextended across the width of the house, the ratignolles entertained their friends oncea fortnight with a soiree musicale, sometimes diversified by card-playing. there was a friend who played upon the’cello. one brought his flute and another hisviolin, while there were some who sang and a number who performed upon the piano withvarious degrees of taste and agility. the ratignolles’ soirees musicales werewidely known, and it was considered a privilege to be invited to them.
edna found her friend engaged in assortingthe clothes which had returned that morning from the laundry. she at once abandoned her occupation uponseeing edna, who had been ushered without ceremony into her presence. "’cite can do it as well as i; it is reallyher business," she explained to edna, who apologized for interrupting her. and she summoned a young black woman, whomshe instructed, in french, to be very careful in checking off the list which shehanded her. she told her to notice particularly if afine linen handkerchief of monsieur
ratignolle’s, which was missing last week,had been returned; and to be sure to set to one side such pieces as required mendingand darning. then placing an arm around edna’s waist,she led her to the front of the house, to the salon, where it was cool and sweet withthe odor of great roses that stood upon the hearth in jars. madame ratignolle looked more beautifulthan ever there at home, in a neglige which left her arms almost wholly bare andexposed the rich, melting curves of her white throat. "perhaps i shall be able to paint yourpicture some day," said edna with a smile
when they were seated.she produced the roll of sketches and started to unfold them. "i believe i ought to work again.i feel as if i wanted to be doing something.what do you think of them? do you think it worth while to take it upagain and study some more? i might study for a while with laidpore." she knew that madame ratignolle’s opinionin such a matter would be next to valueless, that she herself had not alonedecided, but determined; but she sought the words of praise and encouragement that
would help her to put heart into herventure. "your talent is immense, dear!""nonsense!" protested edna, well pleased. "immense, i tell you," persisted madameratignolle, surveying the sketches one by one, at close range, then holding them atarm’s length, narrowing her eyes, and dropping her head on one side. "surely, this bavarian peasant is worthy offraming; and this basket of apples! never have i seen anything more lifelike.one might almost be tempted to reach out a hand and take one." edna could not control a feeling whichbordered upon complacency at her friend’s
praise, even realizing, as she did, itstrue worth. she retained a few of the sketches, andgave all the rest to madame ratignolle, who appreciated the gift far beyond its valueand proudly exhibited the pictures to her husband when he came up from the store alittle later for his midday dinner. mr. ratignolle was one of those men who arecalled the salt of the earth. his cheerfulness was unbounded, and it wasmatched by his goodness of heart, his broad charity, and common sense. he and his wife spoke english with anaccent which was only discernible through its un-english emphasis and a certaincarefulness and deliberation.
edna’s husband spoke english with no accentwhatever. the ratignolles understood each otherperfectly. if ever the fusion of two human beings intoone has been accomplished on this sphere it was surely in their union. as edna seated herself at table with themshe thought, "better a dinner of herbs," though it did not take her long to discoverthat it was no dinner of herbs, but a delicious repast, simple, choice, and inevery way satisfying. monsieur ratignolle was delighted to seeher, though he found her looking not so well as at grand isle, and he advised atonic.
he talked a good deal on various topics, alittle politics, some city news and neighborhood gossip. he spoke with an animation and earnestnessthat gave an exaggerated importance to every syllable he uttered. his wife was keenly interested ineverything he said, laying down her fork the better to listen, chiming in, takingthe words out of his mouth. edna felt depressed rather than soothedafter leaving them. the little glimpse of domestic harmonywhich had been offered her, gave her no regret, no longing.
it was not a condition of life which fittedher, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui. she was moved by a kind of commiserationfor madame ratignolle,–a pity for that colorless existence which never upliftedits possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she wouldnever have the taste of life’s delirium. edna vaguely wondered what she meant by"life’s delirium." it had crossed her thought like someunsought, extraneous impression. chapter xix
edna could not help but think that it wasvery foolish, very childish, to have stamped upon her wedding ring and smashedthe crystal vase upon the tiles. she was visited by no more outbursts,moving her to such futile expedients. she began to do as she liked and to feel asshe liked. she completely abandoned her tuesdays athome, and did not return the visits of those who had called upon her. she made no ineffectual efforts to conducther household en bonne menagere, going and coming as it suited her fancy, and, so faras she was able, lending herself to any passing caprice.
mr. pontellier had been a rather courteoushusband so long as he met a certain tacit submissiveness in his wife.but her new and unexpected line of conduct completely bewildered him. it shocked him.then her absolute disregard for her duties as a wife angered him.when mr. pontellier became rude, edna grew insolent. she had resolved never to take another stepbackward. "it seems to me the utmost folly for awoman at the head of a household, and the mother of children, to spend in an atelierdays which would be better employed
contriving for the comfort of her family." "i feel like painting," answered edna."perhaps i shan’t always feel like it." "then in god’s name paint! but don’t letthe family go to the devil. there’s madame ratignolle; because shekeeps up her music, she doesn’t let everything else go to chaos.and she’s more of a musician than you are a painter." "she isn’t a musician, and i’m not apainter. it isn’t on account of painting that i letthings go." "on account of what, then?"
"oh! i don’t know.let me alone; you bother me." it sometimes entered mr. pontellier’s mindto wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. he could see plainly that she was notherself. that is, he could not see that she wasbecoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like agarment with which to appear before the world. her husband let her alone as she requested,and went away to his office. edna went up to her atelier–a bright roomin the top of the house.
she was working with great energy andinterest, without accomplishing anything, however, which satisfied her even in thesmallest degree. for a time she had the whole householdenrolled in the service of art. the boys posed for her. they thought it amusing at first, but theoccupation soon lost its attractiveness when they discovered that it was not a gamearranged especially for their entertainment. the quadroon sat for hours before edna’spalette, patient as a savage, while the house-maid took charge of the children, andthe drawing-room went undusted.
but the housemaid, too, served her term asmodel when edna perceived that the young woman’s back and shoulders were molded onclassic lines, and that her hair, loosened from its confining cap, became aninspiration. while edna worked she sometimes sang lowthe little air, "ah! si tu savais!" it moved her with recollections. she could hear again the ripple of thewater, the flapping sail. she could see the glint of the moon uponthe bay, and could feel the soft, gusty beating of the hot south wind. a subtle current of desire passed throughher body, weakening her hold upon the
brushes and making her eyes burn.there were days when she was very happy without knowing why. she was happy to be alive and breathing,when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, theluxuriant warmth of some perfect southern day. she liked then to wander alone into strangeand unfamiliar places. she discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner,fashioned to dream in. and she found it good to dream and to bealone and unmolested. there were days when she was unhappy, shedid not know why,–when it did not seem
worth while to be glad or sorry, to bealive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly towardinevitable annihilation. she could not work on such a day, nor weavefancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood. chapter xx it was during such a mood that edna huntedup mademoiselle reisz. she had not forgotten the ratherdisagreeable impression left upon her by their last interview; but she neverthelessfelt a desire to see her–above all, to
listen while she played upon the piano. quite early in the afternoon she startedupon her quest for the pianist. unfortunately she had mislaid or lostmademoiselle reisz’s card, and looking up her address in the city directory, shefound that the woman lived on bienville street, some distance away. the directory which fell into her hands wasa year or more old, however, and upon reaching the number indicated, ednadiscovered that the house was occupied by a respectable family of mulattoes who hadchambres garnies to let. they had been living there for six months,and knew absolutely nothing of a
mademoiselle reisz. in fact, they knew nothing of any of theirneighbors; their lodgers were all people of the highest distinction, they assured edna. she did not linger to discuss classdistinctions with madame pouponne, but hastened to a neighboring grocery store,feeling sure that mademoiselle would have left her address with the proprietor. he knew mademoiselle reisz a good dealbetter than he wanted to know her, he informed his questioner. in truth, he did not want to know her atall, or anything concerning her–the most
disagreeable and unpopular woman who everlived in bienville street. he thanked heaven she had left theneighborhood, and was equally thankful that he did not know where she had gone. edna’s desire to see mademoiselle reisz hadincreased tenfold since these unlooked-for obstacles had arisen to thwart it. she was wondering who could give her theinformation she sought, when it suddenly occurred to her that madame lebrun would bethe one most likely to do so. she knew it was useless to ask madameratignolle, who was on the most distant terms with the musician, and preferred toknow nothing concerning her.
she had once been almost as emphatic inexpressing herself upon the subject as the corner grocer. edna knew that madame lebrun had returnedto the city, for it was the middle of november.and she also knew where the lebruns lived, on chartres street. their home from the outside looked like aprison, with iron bars before the door and lower windows. the iron bars were a relic of the oldregime, and no one had ever thought of dislodging them.at the side was a high fence enclosing the
garden. a gate or door opening upon the street waslocked. edna rang the bell at this side gardengate, and stood upon the banquette, waiting to be admitted. it was victor who opened the gate for her.a black woman, wiping her hands upon her apron, was close at his heels. before she saw them edna could hear them inaltercation, the woman–plainly an anomaly- -claiming the right to be allowed toperform her duties, one of which was to answer the bell.
victor was surprised and delighted to seemrs. pontellier, and he made no attempt to conceal either his astonishment or hisdelight. he was a dark-browed, good-lookingyoungster of nineteen, greatly resembling his mother, but with ten times herimpetuosity. he instructed the black woman to go at onceand inform madame lebrun that mrs. pontellier desired to see her. the woman grumbled a refusal to do part ofher duty when she had not been permitted to do it all, and started back to herinterrupted task of weeding the garden. whereupon victor administered a rebuke inthe form of a volley of abuse, which, owing
to its rapidity and incoherence, was allbut incomprehensible to edna. whatever it was, the rebuke was convincing,for the woman dropped her hoe and went mumbling into the house.edna did not wish to enter. it was very pleasant there on the sideporch, where there were chairs, a wicker lounge, and a small table. she seated herself, for she was tired fromher long tramp; and she began to rock gently and smooth out the folds of her silkparasol. victor drew up his chair beside her. he at once explained that the black woman’soffensive conduct was all due to imperfect
training, as he was not there to take herin hand. he had only come up from the island themorning before, and expected to return next he stayed all winter at the island; helived there, and kept the place in order and got things ready for the summervisitors. but a man needed occasional relaxation, heinformed mrs. pontellier, and every now and again he drummed up a pretext to bring himto the city. my! but he had had a time of it the eveningbefore! he wouldn’t want his mother to know, and hebegan to talk in a whisper. he was scintillant with recollections.
of course, he couldn’t think of tellingmrs. pontellier all about it, she being a woman and not comprehending such things. but it all began with a girl peeping andsmiling at him through the shutters as he passed by.oh! but she was a beauty! certainly he smiled back, and went up andtalked to her. mrs. pontellier did not know him if shesupposed he was one to let an opportunity like that escape him. despite herself, the youngster amused her.she must have betrayed in her look some degree of interest or entertainment.
the boy grew more daring, and mrs.pontellier might have found herself, in a little while, listening to a highly coloredstory but for the timely appearance of that lady was still clad in white,according to her custom of the summer. her eyes beamed an effusive welcome.would not mrs. pontellier go inside? would she partake of some refreshment? why had she not been there before?how was that dear mr. pontellier and how were those sweet children?had mrs. pontellier ever known such a warm november? victor went and reclined on the wickerlounge behind his mother’s chair, where he
commanded a view of edna’s face. he had taken her parasol from her handswhile he spoke to her, and he now lifted it and twirled it above him as he lay on hisback. when madame lebrun complained that it wasso dull coming back to the city; that she saw so few people now; that even victor,when he came up from the island for a day or two, had so much to occupy him and engage his time; then it was that the youthwent into contortions on the lounge and winked mischievously at edna. she somehow felt like a confederate incrime, and tried to look severe and
disapproving.there had been but two letters from robert, with little in them, they told her. victor said it was really not worth whileto go inside for the letters, when his mother entreated him to go in search ofthem. he remembered the contents, which in truthhe rattled off very glibly when put to the test.one letter was written from vera cruz and the other from the city of mexico. he had met montel, who was doing everythingtoward his advancement. so far, the financial situation was noimprovement over the one he had left in new
orleans, but of course the prospects werevastly better. he wrote of the city of mexico, thebuildings, the people and their habits, the conditions of life which he found there.he sent his love to the family. he inclosed a check to his mother, andhoped she would affectionately remember him to all his friends.that was about the substance of the two letters. edna felt that if there had been a messagefor her, she would have received it. the despondent frame of mind in which shehad left home began again to overtake her, and she remembered that she wished to findmademoiselle reisz.
madame lebrun knew where mademoiselle reiszlived. she gave edna the address, regretting thatshe would not consent to stay and spend the remainder of the afternoon, and pay a visitto mademoiselle reisz some other day. the afternoon was already well advanced. victor escorted her out upon the banquette,lifted her parasol, and held it over her while he walked to the car with her. he entreated her to bear in mind that thedisclosures of the afternoon were strictly confidential. she laughed and bantered him a little,remembering too late that she should have
been dignified and reserved."how handsome mrs. pontellier looked!" said madame lebrun to her son. "ravishing!" he admitted."the city atmosphere has improved her. some way she doesn’t seem like the samewoman."