MoboReader> Literature > Jupiter Lights

   Chapter 9 No.9

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 9068

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

FERDIE had been two weeks at Romney.

Halcyon days they had seemed, each one beautiful from morning to night, with blue skies and golden sunshine; blossoms covered the trees, the air was full of perfume. Ferdie must always be doing something; besides the hunting and fishing, he had made a new swing, a new dock; he had taught the negroes base-ball; he had rowed and sailed hither and thither-up the river, out to sea, and north and south along the sounds, paying visits at the various islands when Cicely desired them. Every one was delighted with him, from Miss Sabrina down to the smallest darky; the captains of the Inland Route steamers grew accustomed to seeing him on the dock at Jupiter Light; the store-keeper on the mainland opposite looked out every morning for his sail coming across the Sound. Cicely, in the same state of mute bliss, accompanied him everywhere; Miss Sabrina went whenever the excursion was not too long. The negroes followed him about in a troop; of their own accord they gave him the title of "young marse."

Through these days Eve felt herself an alien; Cicely said nothing to her save when she was with the others; she never came to her in her own room. And Eve could not feel that this neglect was caused by dislike; it was simply the egotism of perfect happiness. When Eve was present, Cicely talked to her; when she was not present, Cicely hardly remembered her existence. Miss Sabrina was not quite so forgetful, but she too was absorbed; Eve sometimes sat all the evening without speaking; fortunately she could make her stay short, under the pretext of not disturbing Jack by coming in late. She was not a timid woman, not a woman easily disheartened; each long, solitary day (for she seldom accompanied them), each silent evening, only strengthened her purpose of carrying away the child. She kept him with her constantly; Cicely allowed it, and Ferdie, after one or two good-natured attempts to carry off the little boy for a romp, left him undisturbed to his aunt. Whether Cicely had told him to do this, Eve did not know.

Strangely enough, Ferdie talked to her more than the others did. Several times, seeing her in the grove with Jack, he had come out to join her. And always, as he approached, Eve would make some excuse, and send the child farther away; this action on her part was involuntary. One morning she had gone to the beach. She had been there half an hour when she saw his figure emerging from the bush-bordered road. "Take Jack away," she said quickly to Dilsey.

Dilsey, vexed at being ordered off when handsome "young marse" was approaching, took her charge round a point entirely out of sight, so that Eve and Ferdie were alone. The child gone, Eve could turn all her attention to the man by her side; her watching mood came upon her, the mood in which she spent her evenings. Ferdie had thrown himself down on the sand; handsome as he was, Eve had discovered faults in his face; the features were in danger of becoming too sharp; a little more, and the cheeks would be thin. The mouth had a flattening at the corners, a partly unconscious, partly voluntary action of the muscles, like that which accompanies a "dare" (so Eve described it to herself) on the part of a boy who has come off conqueror in one fight, but who is expecting another and severer one in a moment. This expression (it was visible when he was silent) and a look in his eyes sometimes-these two things seemed to Eve signs of the curse. They were slight signs, however; they would not have been discovered by one woman in a thousand; for Ferdie was not only handsome, there was also something charming about him. But Eve had small admiration for the charming.

To-day, as Ferdie lounged beside her, she determined to try an experiment.

"I am very anxious to have Jack," she began.

"It seems to me that you do have him; it's a complete possession," answered Ferdie, laughing; "I've scarcely been able to touch the youngster since I came."

"I mean that I want him to live with me, as though he were my own child; I would bring him up with all possible care."

"Have you made a vow, then, never to marry?" Ferdie demanded, looking at her with a merry gleam in his eyes.

"Should you object-if Cicely were willing to give him to me?" Eve continued, a slight haughtiness in her manner alone replying to his remark.

"I suppose I couldn't, though I'm fond of the little chap." ("Fond!" Eve thought. She looked at him, with parted lips, in suspense.) "But I can't imagine Cicely's con

senting," Ferdie went on; "she is devoted to the child."

"Not so much as she is to you."

"Do you want me to urge her to give him to you?"

"Yes," Eve answered.

"Why do you want him? For your own pleasure?"

Eve hesitated a moment. "Partly."

"Are you by any possibility fancying that you can take better care of him than we can?" asked Ferdie, relapsing into his laugh, and sending another pebble skimming over the shining waters. "Leaving Cicely aside, I am the jolliest of fathers."

"It must be that he does not know," Eve thought; "whatever his faults, hypocrisy is not one of them."

But this only made him the more terrible to her-a man who could change so unconsciously into a savage.

"Granting the jolliness, I wish you would ask Cicely," she said; "do it for my sake. I am lonely, I shall grow lonelier. It would be everything to me to have him."

"Of course you will grow lonelier," said Ferdie. He turned towards her, leaning on his elbow. "Come, let me advise you; don't be a forlorn old maid. All women ought to marry; it is much better for them."

"Are they then so sure to be happy?" asked Eve, sarcastically.

"Of course they are.-The nice ones."

Eve looked at him. "Even when married to brutes?-to madmen?"

"Oh, you wouldn't select a brute. As for the madmen, they are locked up," answered Ferdie, comfortably.

Eve rose. "I don't know what I shall say next-if I stay here," was her thought.

"I wish you knew my brother Paul," remarked Ferdie as he lifted himself from the sand. "I can't argue with you, I can't put you down" (his smile as he said "put you down" was wonderfully sweet). "But he could-Paul could; and what's more, he would, too! He hates a woman who goes on as you do."

"Your brother lives in Canada, I believe?" said Eve, coldly.

"Canada?-what gave you that idea? He loathes Canada. He has charge of a mine on Lake Superior. He has always worked tremendously hard, poor old Paul! I have never approved of it, such a steady grind as that."

"What is the name of the place?"

"Port aux Pins; called by the natives Potterpins. Are you thinking of going there?"

"I may," Eve answered. Her tone was defiant in spite of herself; what did she care for Port aux Pins and his brother, save for their connection with his wretched self?

They had begun to walk towards home; Dilsey was in advance with Jack. "I beg you to urge Cicely to let me have him," Eve began again, her eyes resting on Jack's little wagon.

"You have made up your mind to ask a favor of me; you must want it terribly," Ferdie responded. He took off his hat and let the breeze blow over his forehead. "I will do what I can for you. Of course we cannot, Cicely and I, give up her child to you entirely; but he might live with you for part of the year, as you desire it so much. My intention is to go back to Valparaiso; I like the life there, and I shall make it my home; there are excellent houses to be had, I have one in view at this moment. Later, of course, Cicely would wish her boy to come to her there. But in the meantime, while he is still so young-yes, I will do what I can for you; you may count upon me."

"Thanks," answered Eve. Her words were humble, but she did not look humble as she spoke them; Ferdie with his favors and his good-nature seemed to her more menacing than ever.

The tranquil life went on. Every morning she said to herself, "To-day something must happen!" But the Arcadian hours continued, and two more weeks passed slowly by. Eve began to hate the sunshine, the brilliant, undimmed southern stars.

"My dear, you are growing paler," said Miss Sabrina one day. "Perhaps this sea-air of ours is not good for you."

Eve wanted to reply: "Is it good to be watching every instant?-to be listening and starting and thinking one hears something?" "You are right; it is not," she answered aloud; "all the same, I will stay awhile longer, if you will let me."

"Oh, my dear-when we want you to live here!"

"Perhaps I shall die here," Eve responded, with a laugh.

Miss Sabrina looked at her in surprise; for the laugh was neither gentle nor sweet.

Eve was tired, tired mentally and physically; this state of passive waiting taxed her; action of some sort, even though accompanied by the hardest conditions, would have been easier to her ardent unconquered will. She occupied herself with Jack; she said as little as she could to Ferdie; and she watched Cicely. Underneath this watchfulness there grew up a strong contempt for love.

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