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   Chapter 12 No.12

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 16165

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


A DOCK on the Cuyahoga River, at Cleveland. The high bows of a propeller loomed up far above them; a wooden bridge, with hand-rails of rope, extended from a square opening in its side to the place where they were standing-the judge, bewildered by the deafening noise of the letting-off of steam and by the hustling of the deck-hands who ran to and fro putting on freight; little Jack, round-eyed with wonder, surveying the scene from his nurse's arms; Cicely, listless, unhearing; and Eve, with the same pale-cheeked self-control and the same devoted attention to Cicely which had marked her manner through all their rapid journey across the broad country from Charleston to Washington, from Washington to Pittsburgh, from Pittsburgh to Cleveland.

"I think we cross here," she said; "by this bridge." She herself went first. The bridge ascended sharply; little slats of wood were nailed across its planks in order to make the surface less slippery. The yellow river, greasy with petroleum from the refineries higher up the stream, heaved a little from the constant passing of other craft; this heaving made the bridge unsteady, and Eve was obliged to help the nurse when she crossed with Jack, and then to lead Cicely, and to give a hand to the judge, who came last.

"You are never dizzy," said the judge.

"No, I am never dizzy," Eve answered, as though she were saying the phrase over to herself as a warning.

She led the way up a steep staircase to the cabin above. This was a long narrow saloon, decked with tables each covered with a red cloth, whereon stood, in white vases representing a hand grasping a cornucopia, formal bouquets, composed principally of peonies and the foliage of asparagus. Narrow doors, ornamented with gilding, formed a panelling on each side; between the doors small stiff sofas of red velvet were attached by iron clamps to the floor, which was covered with a brilliant carpet; above each sofa, under the low ceiling, was a narrow grating. Women and a few men sat here and there on the sofas; they looked at the new passengers apathetically. Lawless children chased one another up and down the narrow spaces between the sofas and the tables, forcing each person who was seated to draw in his or her legs with lightning rapidity as they passed; babies with candy, babies with cookies, babies with apples, crawled and tottered about on the velvet carpet, and drew themselves up by the legs of the tables, leaving sticky marks on the mahogany surfaces, and generally ending by striking their heads against the top, sitting down suddenly and breaking into a howl. Eve led the way to the deck; she brought forward chairs, and they seated themselves. A regularly repeated and deafening clash came from the regions below; the deck-hands were bringing steel rails from a warehouse on the dock, and adding them one by one to the pile already on board by the simple method of throwing them upon it. After the little party had sat there for fifteen minutes, Eve said, "It is-it is insupportable!"

"You feel it because you have not slept. You haven't slept at all since we started," said Cicely, mentioning the fact, but without evident interest in it.

"Yes I have," responded Eve, quickly.

There came another tremendous clash. Eve visibly trembled; her cheeks seemed to grow more wan, the line between her eyes deepened.

"This noise must be stopped!" said the old planter, authoritatively. He got up and went to the side.

"They won't stop," said Cicely.

Eve sat still, the tips of the fingers of each of her hands pressed hard into the palm, and bits of her inner cheek held tightly between her teeth. At last the rails were all on board and the gangways hauled in; the propeller moved slowly away from her dock, a row of loungers, with upturned faces, watching her departure, and visibly envying the captain, who called out orders loudly from the upper deck-orders which were needed; for the river was crowded with craft of all kinds, and many man?uvres were necessary before the long steamer could turn herself and reach the open lake. She passed out at last between two piers, down which boys ran as fast as they could, racing with the engine to see which should reach the end first. At last they were away, and the noises ceased; there was only the regular throb of the machinery, the sound of the water churned by the screw. The sun was setting; Eve looked at the receding shores-the spires of Cleveland on the bluffs which rise from the Cuyahoga, the mass of roofs extending to the east and the west, bounded on the latter side by the pine-clad cliffs of Rocky River. After the splendid flaming sunset, the lake grew suddenly dark; it looked as vast and dusky as the ocean. Cicely sprang up. "I know I shall never come back across all this water!-I know I never, never shall!"

"Yes, you will, little girl," answered her grandfather, fondly.

"I don't mind. But I can't stay here and think! They must be doing something in there-all those people we saw in the cabin; I am going in to see." She went within, and Eve followed her; the nurse carried Jack after his mother. But the judge remained where he was; he sat with one hand laid over the other on the top of his cane. He looked at the dark lake; his feeling was, "What is to become of us?"

Within, all was animation; the tables had been pushed together by a troop of hurrying darkies in white aprons, and now the same troop were bringing in small open dishes, some flat and some bowl-like, containing an array of food which included everything from beefsteak to ice-cream. The passengers occupying the sofas watched the proceedings; then, at the sound of a tap on the gong, they rose and seated themselves on the round stools which did duty as chairs.

"Come," said Cicely, "let us go too." She seated herself; and again Eve patiently followed her. Cicely tasted everything and ate nothing. Eve neither tasted nor ate; she drank a glass of water. When the meal was over she spoke to one of the waiters, and gave him a fee; ten minutes later she carried out to the old man on the deck, with her own hands, a tray containing freshly cooked food, toast and tea; she arranged these on a bench under the hanging lamp (for the deck at the stern was covered); then she drew up a chair. The judge had not stirred.

"Won't you come?" said Eve, gently. "I have brought it for you."

The judge rose, and, coming to the improvised table, sat down. He had not thought that he could touch anything, but the hot tea roused him, and before he knew it he was eating heartily. "Do you know, I-I believe I was cold," he said, trying to laugh. "Yes-even this warm night!"

"I think we are all cold," Eve answered; "we are all numbed. It will be better when we get there-wherever it is."

The judge, warmed and revived, no longer felt so dreary. "You are our good angel," he said. And, with his old-fashioned courtesy, he bent his head over her hand.

But Eve snatched her hand away and fled; she fairly ran. He looked after her in wonder.

Within, the tables had again been cleared, and then piled upon top of one another at one end of the saloon; in front of this pile stretched a row of chairs. These seats were occupied by the orchestra, the same negro waiters, with two violins and a number of banjoes and guitars.

"Forward one; forward two-

De engine keeps de time;

Leabe de lady in de centre,

Bal-unse in er line,"

sang the leader to the tune of "Nelly Bly," calling off the figures of the quadrille in rhymes of his own invention. Three quadrilles had been formed; two thin women danced with their bonnets on; a tall man in a linen duster and a short man in spectacles bounded about without a smile, taking careful steps; girls danced with each other, giggling profusely; children danced with their mothers; and the belle of the boat, a plump young woman with long curls, danced with two youths, changing impartially after each figure, and throwing glances over her shoulder meanwhile at two more who stood in the doorway admiring. The throb of the

engine could be felt through the motion of the twenty-four dancers, through the clear tenor of the negro who sang. Outside was the wide lake and the night.

Sitting on one of the sofas, alone, was Cicely. She was looking at the dancers intently, her lips slightly parted. Eve sat down quietly by her side.

"Oh, how you follow me!" said Cicely, moving away.

Then suddenly she began to laugh. "See that man in the linen duster! He takes such mincing little steps in his great prunella shoes. See him smile! Oh! oh!" She pressed her handkerchief over her lips to stifle her spasmodic laughter. But she could not stifle it.

"Come," said Eve, putting her arm round her. Their state-room was near, she half carried her in. Light came through the gilded grating above. Cicely still laughed, lying in the lower berth; Eve undressed her; with soothing touch she tried to calm her, to stop her wild glee.

"He turned out his toes in those awful prunella shoes!" said Cicely, breaking into another peal of mirth.

"Hush, dear. Hush."

"I wish you would go away. You always do and say the wrong thing," said Cicely, suddenly.

"Perhaps I do," answered Eve, humbly enough.

Jack was asleep in the upper berth; she herself (as she would not leave them) was to occupy an improvised couch on the floor. But first she went out softly, closing the door behind her; she was going to look for her other charge. The judge, however, had gone to bed, and Eve came back. The dancing had ceased for the moment; a plump young negro was singing, and accompanying himself on the guitar; his half-closed eyes gazed sentimentally at the ceiling; through his thick lips came, in one of the sweetest voices in the world,

"No one to love,

None to cay-ress;

Roam-ing alone through

This world's wilderness-"

Eve stood with her hand on her door for an instant looking at him; then she looked at the listening people. Suddenly it came over her: "Perhaps it is all a dream! Perhaps I shall wake and find it one!"

She went in. Cicely was in her lethargic state, her hands lying motionless by her sides, her eyes closed. Eve uncoiled her own fair hair and loosened her dress; then she lay down on her couch on the floor.

But she could not sleep; with the first pink flush of dawn she was glad to rise and go out on deck to cool her tired eyes in the fresh air. The steamer was entering the Detroit River; deep and broad, its mighty current flowed onward smoothly, brimming full between its low green banks; the islands, decked in the fresh verdure of early summer, looked indescribably lovely as the rising sun touched them with gold; the lonely gazer wished that she might stop there, might live forever, hide forever, in one of these green havens of rest. But the steamer did not pause, and, laggingly, the interminable hours followed one another through another day. They were now crossing Lake Huron, they were out of sight of land; the purity of the cool blue water, ruffled by the breeze into curls of foam, made a picture to refresh the weariest vision. But Eve looked at it unseeingly, and Cicely did not look at all; the judge, too, saw nothing-nothing but Cicely. There had been no letter at Cleveland; for tidings they must still wait. Cicely had written a few lines to Paul Tennant, announcing their arrival. But to Eve it seemed as if they should never arrive, as if they should journey forever on this phantom boat, journey till they died.

At last Lake Huron was left behind; the steamer turned and went round the foaming leap of the St. Mary's River, the Sault Sainte Marie (called by lake-country people the Soo), and entered Lake Superior. Another broad expanse of water like a sea. At last, on the fifth day, Port aux Pins was in sight, a spot of white amid the pines. They were all assembled at the bow-Cicely, Eve, the judge, and Porley with little Jack; as the pier came into view with the waiting group of people at its end, no one spoke. Nearer and nearer, now they could distinguish figures; nearer and nearer, now they could see faces. Cicely knew which was Paul immediately, though she had never seen him. The judge took the knowledge from her eyes. Now people began to call to friends on the pier. Now the pier itself touched the steamer's side, the gangways were put out, and persons were crossing; in another minute a tall man had joined them, and, bending his head, had kissed Cicely.

"Mr. Tennant?" the judge had asked.

"Yes," answered Paul Tennant. He was looking at Cicely, trying to control a sudden emotion that had surprised him,-a man not given to emotions; he turned away for a moment, patting Jack's head. "She is so young!" he murmured to the judge.

"Paul," said Cicely, coming to them, "you have heard from Ferdie? There are letters?"

"No, I haven't heard lately. There are two letters for you, but they are not in his handwriting."

"Are they here?"

Paul's eyes turned rapidly, first to the judge, then to Eve. Eve's eyes answered him.

"At the house," he said.

"Is it far? Let us go at once." And Cicely turned towards the stairs.

"It's at the other end of the town; I've a wagon waiting."

Cicely was already descending. She crossed the gangway with rapid step; she would not wait for their meagre luggage. "Take me there at once, please; the wagon can come back for the others."

"I must go too," said Eve. The tone of her voice was beseeching.

"Get in, then," said Cicely. "Paul, take us quickly, won't you?" In her haste she seized the reins and thrust them into his hands. She would not sit down until he had taken his seat.

"I will send the wagon back immediately," Paul said to the judge. Then, seeing the lost look of the old planter, he called out: "Hollis! Here a moment."

A thin man with gray hair detached himself from the group of loungers on the pier, and hurried towards them.

"Judge Abercrombie, this is Mr. Christopher Hollis," said Paul; "he lives here, and he is a great friend of mine. Hollis, will you help about the baggage? I'm coming back immediately."

They drove away, but not before Cicely had asked Paul to let her sit beside him; Eve was left alone on the back seat.

"I wanted to sit beside you, Paul; but I'm afraid I can't talk," Cicely said. She put the back of her hand under her chin, as if to support her head; she looked about vaguely-at the street, the passing people.

"That's right, don't say anything; I like it better. You must be terribly tired," answered Paul, reassuringly.

They stopped before a white cottage. Upon entering, Paul gave an inquiring glance at Eve; then he left the room, and came back with two letters.

Cicely tore them open.

Eve drew nearer.

In another instant Cicely gave a cry which rang through the house. "He is hurt! Some one has shot him-has shot him!" Clutching the pages, she swayed forward, but Paul caught her. He laid her upon a couch; with his large, strong hands he placed a cushion under her head.

Eve watched him. She did not help him. Then she came to the sofa. "Is he dead, Cicely?" she asked, abruptly.

Cicely looked at her. "You want him to be!" Springing up suddenly, like a little tigress, still clutching her letters, she struck Eve with her left hand. Her gloved palm was soft, but, as she had exerted all her strength in the blow, the mark across Eve's cheek was red.

"Never mind," said Eve, hastily, as Paul started forward; "I am glad she did it." Her eyes were bright; the red had come into her other cheek; in spite of the mark of the blow, her face looked brilliant.

Cicely had fallen back; and this time she had lost consciousness.

"You can leave her to me now," Eve went on. "Of course what she said last means that he is not dead!" she added, with a long breath.

"Dead?" said Paul Tennant. "Poor Ferdie dead? Never!"

Eve had knelt down; she was chafing Cicely's temples. "Then you care for him very much?" she asked, looking at him for a moment over her shoulder.

"I care for him more than for anything else in the world," said the brother, shortly.

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