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   Chapter 11 No.11

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 12457

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


THE dawn was still very faint when the steamer stopped at Singleton Landing. There was no one waiting save an old negro, who caught the shore rope, and there was no one stirring on the boat save the gruff captain, muffled in an overcoat though the night was warm, and two deck-hands, who put ashore a barrel and a sack. Lights were burning dimly on board; the negro on the dock carried a lantern.

Two women came from the shadows, and crossed the plank to the lower deck, entering the dark space within, which was encumbered with loose freight-crates of fowls, boxes, barrels, coils of rope. The taller of the two women carried a sleeping child.

For Cicely had come to the end of her strength; she could hardly walk.

Eve found the sleepy mulatto woman who answered to the name of stewardess, and told her to give them a cabin immediately.

"Cabin? Why, de cabin's dish-yere," answered the woman, making a motion with her hand to indicate the gaudy little saloon in which they stood. She surveyed them with wonder.

"State-room," murmured Cicely.

Upon the lower bed in the very unstately white cell which was at last opened for them, her little figure was soon stretched out, apathetically. Her eyes remained closed; the dawn, as it grew brighter, did not tempt her to open them; she lay thus all day. Jack slept profoundly for several hours on the shelf-like bed above her. Then he woke, and instantly became very merry, laughing to see the shining green water outside, the near shores, the houses and groves and fields, and now and then a row-boat under sail. Eve brought him some bread and milk, and then she gave him a bath; he gurgled with laughter, and played all his little tricks and games, one after the other. But Cicely remained inert, she could not have been more still if she had been dead; the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed was so slight that Eve was obliged to look closely in order to distinguish it at all. Just before they reached Savannah she raised her to a sitting position, and held a cup of coffee to her lips. Cicely drank. Then, as the steamer stopped, Eve lifted her to her feet.

Cicely's eyes opened; they looked at Eve reproachfully.

"It will only take a few moments to go to the hotel," Eve answered.

She called the stewardess and made her carry Jack; she herself half carried Cicely. She signalled to the negro driver of one of the carriages waiting at the dock, and in a few minutes, as she had said, she was undressing her little sister-in-law and lifting her into a cool, broad bed.

Jack asleep, she began her watch. The sun was setting, she went to one of the windows, and looked out. Below her was a wide street without pavement, bordered on each side by magnificent trees. She could see this avenue for a long distance; the perspective made by its broad roadway was diversified, every now and then, by a clump of greenery standing in the centre, with a fountain or a statue gleaming through the green. Trees were everywhere; it was a city in a grove. She remembered her first arrival off this coast, when she came from England,-Tybee Light, and then the lovely river; now she was passing through the same city, fleeing from-danger?-or was it from justice? Twilight deepened; she left the window and sat down beside the shaded lamp; her hands were folded upon her lap, her gaze was fixed unseeingly upon the carpet. After ten minutes had passed, she became conscious of something, and raised her eyes; Cicely was looking at her. Eve rose and went to her. "Are we in Savannah?" Cicely asked.

"Yes."

Cicely continued to look at her. "If you really want me to go on, you had better take me at once."

"But you were too tired to go on-"

"It is not a question of tired, I shall be tired all my life. But if you don't want me to go back by the first boat to-morrow, you had better take me away to-night."

"By the midnight train," Eve answered.

And at midnight they left Savannah.

At Charleston they were obliged to wait; there had been a flood, and the track was overflowed.

Some purchases were necessary for their comfort; Eve did not dare to leave Cicely with Jack, lest she should find them both gone on her return; she therefore took them with her, saying to the negro coachman, privately, "If that lady should tell you to return to the hotel or to drive to the steamer when I am not with you, pay no attention to her; she is ill, and not responsible for what she says."

As she was coming out of a shop, a face she knew met her eyes-Judge Abercrombie. He had come from Gary Hundred that morning, and was on his way to Romney; he intended to take the evening boat.

He recognized them; he hurried to the carriage door, astonished, alarmed. Eve seemed cowed by his presence. It was Cicely who said, "Yes, we are here, grandpa. Get in, and I will tell you why."

But when the old man had placed himself opposite to her, when Eve had taken her seat again and the carriage was rolling towards the hotel, Cicely still remained mute. At last she leaned forward. "I can't tell you," she said, putting her hand into his; "at least I can't tell you now. Will you wait, dear? Do wait." Her voice, as she said this, was like the voice of a little girl of ten.

The old man, wondering, held her hand protectingly. He glanced at Eve. But Eve's eyes were turned away.

The drive was a short one. As they entered Cicely's room, Eve took Jack in her arms and went out again into the hall, closing the door behind her.

The hall was long, with a window at each end; a breeze blew through it, laden with the perfume of flowers. Jack clamored for a game; Eve raised him to her shoulder, and went to the window at the west end; it overlooked a garden crowded with blossoms; then she turned and walked to the east end, Jack considering it a march, and playing that her shoulder was his drum; the second window commanded a view of the burned walls of the desolated town. Eight times she made the slow journey from the flowers to the ruins, the ruins to the flowers. Then Cicely opened the door. "You can come in now. Grandpa knows."

Grandpa's face, in his new knowledge, was pitiful to see. He had evidently been trying to remain calm, and

he had succeeded so far as to keep his features firm; but his cheeks, which ordinarily were tinted with pink, had turned to a dead-looking yellow. "I should be greatly obliged if you would come with me for a walk," he said to Eve; "I have travelled down from Gary Hundred this morning, and, after being shut up in the train, you know, one feels the need of fresh air." He rose, and gave first one leg and then the other a little shake, with a pathetic pretence of preparing for vigorous exercise.

"I don't think I can go," Eve began. But a second glance at his dead-looking face made her relent, or rather made her brace herself. She rang the bell, and asked one of the chamber-maids to follow them with Jack; once outside, she sent the girl forward. "I have taken Jack because we cannot trust Cicely," she explained. "If she had him, she might, in our absence, take him and start back to the island; but she will not go without him."

"Neither of them must go back," said the judge. He spoke mechanically.

They went down the shaded street towards the Battery. "And there's Sabrina, too, poor girl! How do we know what has happened to her!" Eve hesitated. Then she said, slowly, "Cicely tells me that when these attacks are on him, he is dangerous only to herself and Jack."

"That makes him only the greater devil!" answered the judge. "What I fear is that he is already on her track; he would get over the attack soon-he is as strong as an ox-and if he should reach her,-have a chance at her with his damned repentant whinings-We must get off immediately! In fact, I don't understand why you are stopping here at all," he added, with sudden anger.

"We couldn't go on; the track is under water somewhere. And perhaps we need not hurry so." She paused. "I suppose you know that Cicely will go only to Paul Tennant," she added. "She refuses to go anywhere else."

"Where the devil is the man?"

"It's a place called Port aux Pins, on Lake Superior. I really think that if we don't take her to him at once, she will leave us and get back to Ferdie, in spite of all we can do."

"If there's no train, we'll take a carriage, we'll drive," declared the judge. "This is the first place he'll come to; we won't wait here!"

"There'll be a train this evening; they tell me so at the hotel," Eve answered. Then she waited a moment. "We shall have to stop on the way, Cicely is so exhausted; I suppose we go to Pittsburgh, and then to Cleveland to take the lake steamer; if you should write to Miss Sabrina from here, the answer might meet us at one of those places."

"Of course I shall write. At once."

"No, don't write!" said Eve, grasping his arm suddenly. "Or at least don't let her send any answer until the journey is ended. It's better not to know-not to know!"

"Not to know whether poor Sabrina is safe? Not to know whether that brute is on our track? I can't imagine what you are thinking of; perhaps you will kindly explain?"

"It's only that my head aches. I don't know what I am saying!"

"Yes, you must be overwrought," said the judge. He had been thinking only of Cicely. "You protected my poor little girl, you brought her away; it was a brave act," he said, admiringly.

"It was for Jack, I wanted to save my brother's child. Surely that was right?" Eve's voice, as she said this, broke into a sob.

"They were in danger of their lives, then?" asked the grandfather, in a low tone. "Cicely didn't tell me."

"She did not know, she had fainted. A few minutes more, and I believe he would-We should not have them now."

"But you got the boat off in time."

"But I got the boat off in time," Eve repeated, lethargically.

They had now reached the Battery Park; they entered and sat down on one of the benches; the negro girl played with Jack on the broad walk which overlooks the water. The harbor, with Sumter in the distance, the two rivers flowing down, one on each side of the beautiful city-beautiful still, though desolated by war-made a scene full of loveliness. The judge took off his hat, as if he needed more air.

"You are ill," said Eve, in the same mechanical voice.

"It's only that I cannot believe it even now-what Cicely told me. Why, it is my own darling little grandchild, who has been treated so, who has been beaten-struck to the floor! His strong hand has come down on her shoulder so that you could hear it!-Cicely, Eve; my little Cicely!" His old eyes, small and dry, looked at Eve piteously.

She put out her hand and took his in silence.

"She has always been such a delicate little creature, that we never let her have any care or trouble; we even spoke to her gently always, Sabrina and I. For she was so delicate when she was a baby that they thought she couldn't live; she had her bright eyes, even then, and she was so pretty and winning; but they said she must soon follow her mother. We were so glad when she began to grow stronger. But-have we saved her for this?"

"She is away from him now," Eve answered.

"And there was her father-my boy Marmaduke; what would Duke have said?-his baby-his little girl!" He rose and walked to and fro; for the first time his gait was that of a feeble old man.

"They can't know what happens to us here!-or else that they see some way out of it that we do not see," said Eve, passionately. "Otherwise, it would be too cruel."

"Duke died when she was only two years old," the judge went on. "'Father, ' he said to me, just at the last, 'I leave you baby.' And this is what I have brought her to!"

"You had nothing to do with it, she married him of her own free will. And she forgot everything, she forgot my brother very soon."

"I don't know what she forgot, I don't care what she forgot," the old man answered. He sat down on the bench again, and put his hands over his face. He was crying-the slow, hard tears of age.

At sunset they started. The negro chamber-maid, to whom Jack had taken a fancy, went with them as nurse, and twenty shining black faces were at the station to see her off.

"Good-bye, Porley; take keer yersef."

"Yere's luck, Porley; doan yer forgot us."

"Step libely, Jonah; Porley's a-lookin' at yer."

"Good-lye, Porley!"

The train moved out.

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