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   Chapter 13 THE SPIDER SPINS.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 6886

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Julia got up from her bed the moment that her mother had gone. Her first feeling was that her privacy had been shamefully outraged. A true mother should honorably respect the reserve of the little child. But Julia was now a woman, grown, with a woman's spirit. She rose from her bed, and shut her window with a bang that was meant to be a protest. She then put the tenpenny nail sometimes used to fasten the window down, in its place, as if to say, "Come in, if you can." Then she pulled out the folds of the chintz curtain, hanging on its draw-string half-way up the window. If there had been any other precaution possible, she would have taken it. But there was not.

She took up the note, and read it. Julia was not a girl of keen penetration. Her training was that of a country life. She did not read between the lines of August's note, and could only understand that she was dismissed. Outraged by her mother's tyranny, spurned by her lover, she stood like a hunted creature, brought to bay, looking for the last desperate chance for escape.

Crushed? No. If she had been weaker, if she had been of the quieter, frailer sort, instead of being, as she was, elastic, impulsive, recuperative, she might have been crushed. She was wounded in her heart of hearts, but all her pride and hardihood, of which she had not a little, had now taken up arms against outrageous fortune. She was stung at every thought of August and his letter, of Betsey Malcolm and her victory, of the fact that her mother had read the letter and knew of her humiliation. And she paced the floor of her room, and resolved to resist and to be revenged. She would marry anybody, that she might show Betsey and August they had not broken he heart and that her love did not go begging.

O Julia! take care. Many another woman has jumped off that precipice!

And she would escape from her mother. The indications of affection adroitly given by Humphreys were all remembered now. She could have him, and she would. He would take her to Cincinnati. She would have her revenge all around. I am sorry to show you my heroine in this mood. But the fairest climes are sometimes subject to the fiercest hurricanes, the frightfulest earthquakes!

After an hour the room seemed hot. She pulled back the chintz curtain and pushed up the window. The blue-grass in the pasture looked cool as it drank the heavy dews. She climbed through the window on to the long, old-fashioned upper porch. She sat down upon an old-fashioned settee with rockers, and began to rock. The motion relieved her nervousness and fanned her hot cheeks. Yes, she would accept the first respectable lover that offered. She would go to the city with Humphreys, if he asked her. It is only fair to say that Julia did not at all consider--she was not in a temper to consider--what a marriage with Humphreys implied. She only thought of it on two sides--the revenge upon August and Betsey, and the escape from a thralldom now grown more bitter than death. True, her conscience was beginning to awaken, and to take up arms against her resolve. But nothing could be plainer. In marrying Mr. Humphreys she should marry a friend, the only friend she had. In marrying him she would satisfy her mother, and was it not her duty to sacrifice something to her mother's happiness, perhaps her mother's life?

TEMPTED.

Yes, yes, Julia, a false spirit of self-sacrifice is another path over the cliff! In such a m

ood as this all paths lead into the abyss.

Her mind was made up. She braced her will against all the relentings of her heart. She wished that Humphreys, who had indirectly declared his love so often, were there to offer at once. She would accept him immediately, and then the whole neighborhood should not say that she had been deserted by a Dutchman. For in her anger she found her mother's epithets expressive.

He was there! Was it the devil that planned it? Does he plan all those opportunities for wrong that are so sure to offer themselves? Humphreys, having led a life that turned night into day, sat at the farther end of the long upper porch, smoking his cigar, waiting a bed-time nearer to the one to which he was accustomed.

Did he suspect the struggle in the heart of Julia Anderson? Did he guess that her pride and defiance had by this time reached high-water mark? Did he divine this from seeing her there? He rose and started in through the door of the upper hall, the only opening to the porch, except the window. But this was a feint. He turned back and sat himself down upon the farther end of the settee from Julia. He understood human nature perfectly, and had had long practice in making gradual approaches. He begged her pardon for the bungling manner in which he had communicated intelligence that must be so terrible to a heart so sensitive! Julia was just going to declare that she did not care anything for what August said or thought, but her natural truthfulness checked the transparent falsehood. She had not gone far enough astray to lie consciously; she was, as yet, only telling lies to herself. Very gradually and cautiously did he proceed so as not to "flush the bird." Even as I saw, an hour ago, a cat creep upon a sparrow with fascinating eyes, and a waving, snake-like motion of the tail, and a treacherous feline smile upon her face, even so, cautiously and by degrees, Humphreys felt his way with velvet paws toward his prey. He knew the opportunity, that once gone might not come again; he soon guessed that this was the hour and power of darkness in the soul of Julia, the hour in which she would seek to flee from her own pride and mortification. And if Humphreys knew how to approach with a soft tread, very slowly and cautiously, he also knew--men of his "profession" always know--when to spring. He saw the moment, he made the spring, he seized the prey.

"Will you trust your destiny to me, Miss Anderson? You seem beset by troubles. I have means. I could not but he wholly devoted to your welfare. Let me help you to flee away from--from all this mortification, and this--this domestic tyranny. Will you intrust yourself to me?"

He did not say anything about love. He had an instinctive feeling that it would not be best. She felt herself environed with insurmountable difficulties, threatened with agonies worse than death--so they seemed to her. He simply, coolly opened the door, and bade her easily and triumphantly escape. Had he said one word of tenderness the reaction must have set in.

She was silent.

"I did hope, by sacrificing all my own hopes, to effect a reconciliation. But when that young man spoke insulting words about you, I determined at once to offer you my devoted protection. I ask no more than you are able to give, your respect Will you accept my life-long protection as your husband?"

"Yes!" said the passionate girl in an agony of despair

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