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   Chapter 2 No.2

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 7534

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

THE father of John and Eva Bruce was an officer in the United States army. His wife had died when Eve was born. Captain Bruce brought up his children as well as he could; he would not separate himself from them, and so he carried them about with him to the various military stations to which he was ordered. When his boy was sixteen, an opportunity presented itself to him: an old friend, Thomas Ashley, who was established, and well established, in London, offered to take the lad, finish his education, and then put him into the house, as he called it, the house being the place of business of the wealthy English-American shipping firm to which he had the good-fortune to belong.

Captain Bruce did not hesitate. Jack was sent across the seas. Eve, who was then ten years old, wept desperately over the parting. Six years later she too went to England. Her father had died, and, young as she was, her determination to go to her brother was so strong that nothing could stand against it. During the six years of separation Jack had returned to America twice to see his father and sister; the tie between the three had not been broken by absence, but only made stronger. The girl had lived a concentrated life, therefore an isolated one. She had had her own way on almost all occasions. It was said of her, "Any one can see that she has been brought up by a man!" In reality there were two men; for Jack had seemed to her a man when he was only twelve years old. Her father gone, her resolve to go to Jack was, as has been said, so strong that nothing could stand against it. But in truth there was little to oppose to it, and few to oppose her; no one, indeed, who could set up anything like the force of will which she was exhibiting on the other side. She had no near relatives; as for her father's old friends, she rode over them.

"You'll have to let her go; she puts out her mouth so!" said Mrs. Mason, the colonel's wife, at last. The remark, as to its form, was incoherent; but everybody at the post understood her. At sixteen, then, Eve Bruce was sent to England. As soon as she was able she took a portion of the property which came to her from her mother, to make a comfortable home for Jack. For Jack had only his salary, and it was not a large one. He had made himself acceptable in the house, and in due time he was to have a small share of the profits; but the due time was not yet, and would not be for some years. His father's old friend, who had been his friend also, as well as his sponsor in the firm, had died. But his widow, who liked the young American-she was an American herself, though long expatriated-continued to extend to him much kindness; and, when his sister came over, she included her in the invitations. Eve did not care much for these opportunities, nor for the other opportunities that followed in their train; occasionally she went to a dinner; but she found her best pleasure in being with her brother alone. They remained in London all the year round, save for six weeks in August and September. Eve could have paid many a visit in the country during the autumn and winter; but their small, ugly house near Hans Place was more beautiful in her eyes, Jack being there, than the most picturesque cottage with a lawn and rose garden, or even than an ivy-grown mansion in a deer-haunted park.

Thus brother and sister lived on for eight years. Then one morning, early in 1864, Jack, who had chafed against his counting-house chains ever since the April of Sumter, broke them short off; he too had a determined mouth. "I can't stand it any longer, Eve; I am going home. Fortunately you are provided for, or I couldn't. I shall lose my place here, of course; but I don't care. Go I must." A week later he sailed for New York.

And he was soon in the army. "Blood will tell," said his father's regimental companions-the few who were left.

Eve, in London, now began to lead that life of watching the telegraphic despatches and counting the days for letters which was the lot of American women during those dark times of war. She remained in London, because it was understood between them that Jack was to return. But she rented their house, and lived in lodgings near by, so as to have all the more money ready for him when he should come back.

But Jack did not come back. When the war reached its end, he wrote that he was going to be married; she was a Southern girl-he was even particular as to her name and position: Cicely Abercrombie, the granddaughter of Judge Abercrombie of Abercrombie's Island. Eve scarcely read these names; she had stopped at "marry."

He did marry Cicely Abercrombie in October of that year, 1865.

He wrote long letters to his sister; he wished her to come out and join them. He had leased two of the abandoned cotton plantations-great things could be done in cotton now-and he was sure that he should make his fortune. Eve, overwhelmed with her disappointment and her grief, wrote and rewrote her brief replies before she could succeed in filling one small sheet without too much bitterness; for Jack was still Jack, and she loved him. He had never comprehended the exclusiveness, the jealousy of her affection; he had accepted her devotion and enjoyed it, but he had believed, without thinking much about it at any time, that all sisters were like that. In urging her, therefore, to join them, he did not in the least suspect that the chief obstacle lay in that very word "them," of which he was so proud. To join "them," to see some one else preferred; where she had been first, to take humbly a second place! And who could tell whether this girl was worthy of him? Perhaps the bitterest part of the suffering would be to see Jack himself befooled, belittled. The sister, wretchedly unhappy, allowed it to be supposed, without saying so-it was Jack who suggested it-that she would come later; after she had disposed of the lease of their house, and sold their furniture to advantage. In time the furniture was sold, but not to advantage. The money which she had taken from her capital to make a comfortable home for her brother was virtually lost.

Presently it was only a third place that could be offered to her, for, during the next winter, Jack wrote joyfully to announce the birth of a son. He had not made his fortune yet; but he was sure to do so the next year. The next year he died.

Then Eve wrote, for the first time, to Cicely.

In reply she received a long letter from Cicely's aunt, Sabrina Abercrombie, giving, with real grief, the particulars of Jack's last hours. He had died of the horrible yellow-fever. Eve was ill when the letter reached her; her illness lasted many months, and kind-hearted Mrs. Ashley took her, almost by force, to her place in the country, beautiful Hayling Hall, in Warwickshire. When at last she was able to hold a pen, Eve wrote again to Cicely; only a few lines (her first epistle had not been much longer); still, a letter. The reply was again from Miss Abercrombie, and, compared with her first communication, it was short and vague. The only definite sentences were about the child; "for he is the one in whom you are most interested, naturally," she wrote, under-scoring the "he" and the "naturally" with a pale line; the whole letter, as regards ink, was very pale.

And now Eve Bruce had this child. And she determined, with all the intensity of her strong will, of her burning, jealous sorrow, that he should be hers alone. With such a mother as Cicely there was everything to hope.

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