MoboReader> Literature > Jupiter Lights

   Chapter 15 No.15

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 14070

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


PAUL had succeeded in keeping Cicely tranquil by a system of telegraphic despatches and letters, one or the other arriving daily; each morning Ferdie's wife received a few lines from Romney, written either by Miss Sabrina or the nurse; after she had read her note, she let herself be borne along indifferently on the current of another Port aux Pins day.

The Port aux Pins days were, in themselves, harder for the judge than for Cicely. For Cicely remained passive; but the old judge could not be passive to things he hated so intensely. At last, by good-fortune, Hollis found something that placated him a little; this was fishing, fishing for trout; not the great rich creature of the lakes, which passes under that name, but that exquisite morsel, the brook-trout. The judge had gone off contentedly, even happily, in search of this delicate prey; he and Hollis had explored the trout-streams of the two neighboring rivers. A third river, at a greater distance, was reported richer than any other; one morning they reached it, not only the two fishermen, but Cicely also, and Eve and Paul. They had crossed by steamer to a village on the north shore, an old fur-trading post; here they had engaged canoes and two Indians, and had spent a long day afloat on the clear wild stream. Its shores were rocky, deeply covered to the water's edge with a dark forest of spruce-trees; the branchlet trout-brooks, therefore, had been hard to find under the low-sweeping foliage. But in this search, Hollis was an expert; with his silk hat tipped more than ever towards the back of his head, he kept watch, and he and the judge were put ashore several times in the course of the day, returning smiling and amiable whether they brought trout or not, with the serene contentment of fishermen. The others remained in the canoes, those light birch-bark craft of the American red-men, which, for grace and beauty, have never been surpassed. Two red-men were paddling one of them at present; they were civilized red-men, they called themselves Bill and Jim. But, under their straw hats, hung down their long straight Indian hair, and the eagle profiles seemed out of place above the ready-made coats and trousers. On their slender feet they wore beaded moccasins. Paul Tennant and Hollis also wore moccasins, and the judge had put on his thinnest shoes; for the birch-bark canoe has a delicate floor.

The boat paddled by the Indians carried Cicely, Porley and Jack, and the judge; the second held only three persons-Eve, Hollis, and Paul Tennant. Paul was propelling it alone, his paddle touching the water now on one side, now on the other, lifted across as occasion required as lightly as though it had been a feather. Cicely was listless, Paul good-natured, but indifferent also-so it seemed to Eve; and Eve herself, though she remained quiet (as the judge had described her), Eve was at heart excited. These thick dark woods without a path, without a sound, the wild river, the high Northern air which was like an intoxicant-all these seemed to her wonderful. She breathed rapidly; she glanced at the others in astonishment. "Why don't they admire it? Why doesn't he admire it?" she thought, looking at Paul.

Once the idea came suddenly that Paul was laughing at her, and the blood sprang to her face; she kept her gaze down until the stuff of her dress expanded into two large circles in which everything swam, so that she was obliged to close her eyes dizzily.

And then, when at last she did look up, her anger and her dizziness had alike been unnecessary, for Paul was gazing at the wooded shore behind her; it was evident that he had not thought of her, and was not thinking of her now.

This was late in the day, on their way back. A few minutes afterwards, as they entered the lake, she saw a distant flash, and asked what it was.

"Jupiter Light," said Paul. "It's a flash-light, and a good one."

"There's a Jupiter Light on Abercrombie Island, too," Eve remarked.

"It's a common enough name," Paul answered; "the best-known one is off the coast of Florida."

The Indians passed them, paddling with rushing, rapid strokes.

"They're right; we shall be late for the steamer if we don't look out," said Paul. "You can help now if you like, Kit."

He and Hollis took off their coats, and the canoe flew down the lake under their feathery paddles; the water was as calm as a floor. Eve was sitting at the bow, facing Paul. No one spoke, though Hollis now and then crooned, or rather chewed, a fragment of his favorite song:

"'At the battle of the Nile I was there all the while-'"

The little voyage lasted half an hour.

They reached the village in time for the steamer, and soon afterwards not only Jack and Porley, but Cicely, the judge, and Hollis, tired after their long day afloat, had gone to bed. When Cicely sought her berth Eve also sought hers, the tiny cells being side by side. Since their arrival at Port aux Pins, Cicely had become more lenient to Eve; she was not so cold, sometimes she even spoke affectionately. But she was very changeable.

To-night, after a while, Eve tapped at Cicely's door. "Are you really going to bed so early?"

"I am in bed already."

"Do you want anything? Isn't there something I can bring you?"

"No."

Eve went slowly back to her own cell. But the dimness, the warm air, oppressed her; she sat down on a stool behind her closed door, the excitement of the day still remaining with her. "Is it possible that I am becoming nervous?-I, who have always despised nervousness?" She kept saying to herself, "I will go to bed in a few minutes." But the idea of lying there on that narrow shelf, staring at the light from the grating, repelled her. "At any rate I will not go on deck."

Ten minutes later she opened her door and went out.

The swinging lamp in the saloon was turned down, the place was empty; she crossed the short half-circle which led to the stern-deck, and stepped outside. There was no moon, but a magnificent aurora borealis was quivering across the sky, now an even band, now sending out long flakes of light which waved to and fro. Before she looked at the splendid heavens, however, she had scanned the deck. There was no one there. She sat down on one of the benches.

Presently she heard a step, some one was approaching. There was a gleam of a cigar; a man's figure; Paul.

"Is that you? I thought there would be no one here," she said.

"We are the only passengers," Paul answered. "But, as there are six of us, you cannot quite control us all."

"I control no one." ("Not even myself!" she thought.)

"You will have your wish, though you ought not to; despots shouldn't be humored. You will have the place to yourself in a few moments, because I shall turn in soon-the time to finish this cigar-if you don't mind the smoke?"

"No, I don't mind," she answered, a chill of disappointment creeping slowly over her.

"Hasn't it been jolly?" Paul said, after a moment: he had seated himself on a stool near her bench.

"I do love to be out like this, away from all bother."

"Do you? I thought you didn't."

The words were no sooner out than she feared he would say, "Why?" And then her answer (for of course she must say something; she could not let him believe that she had had no idea)-her answer would show that she had been thinking about him.

But apparently Paul was not curious, he did not ask. "It's very good for Cicely too; I wish I could take her oftener," he went on. "Her promise to stay on here weighs upon her heavily. I don't know whether she would have kept her word with me or not; but you know, of course, that Ferdie himself has written, telling her that she must stay?"

"No."

"She didn't tell you?"

"She tells me nothing!" replied Eve. "If she would only allow it, I would go down there to-morrow. I could be the nurse; I could be the housekeeper; anything."

"You're not needed down there, they have plenty of people; we want you here, to see to her."

"One or the other of them;-I hope they will always permit it. I can be of use, perhaps, about Jack."

"You are too humble, Miss Bruce; sometimes you seem to be almost on your knees to Cicely, as though you had done her some great wrong. The truth is the other way; she ought to be on her knees to you. You brought her off when she hadn't the force to come herself, poor little woman! And you did it boldly and quickly, just as a man would have done it. Now that I know you, I can imagine the whole thing."

"Never speak of that time; never," murmured Eve.

"Well, I won't, then, if you don't like it. But you will let me say how glad I am that you intend to remain with her, at least for a while. You will see from this that I don't believe a word of her story about your dislike for my brother."

"There is nothing I would not do for him!"

"Yes, you like to do things; to be active. They tell me that you are fond of having your own way; but that is the very sort of person they need-a woman like you, strong and cool. After a while you would really like Ferdie, you couldn't help it. And he would like you."

"It is impossible that he should like me." She rose quickly.

"You're going in? Well, fifteen hours in the open air are an opiate. Should you care to go forward first for a moment? I can show you a place where you can look down below; there are two hundred emigrants on board; Norwegians."

She hesitated, drawing her shawl about her.

"Take my arm; I can guide you better so. It's dark, and I know the ins and outs."

She put her hand upon his arm.

He drew it further through. "I don't want you to be falling down!"

They went forward along the narrow side. Conversation was not easy, they had to make their way round various obstacles by sense of feeling; still Eve talked; she talked hastily, irrelevantly. When she came to the end of her breath she found herself speaking this sentence: "I like your friend Mr. Hollis so much!"

"Yes, Kit is a wonderful fellow; he has extraordinary talent." He spoke in perfect good faith.

"Oh, extraordinary?" said Eve, abandoning Hollis with feminine versatility, as an obscure feeling, which she did not herself recognize, rose within her.

"If you don't think so, it's because you don't know him. He is an excellent classical scholar, to begin with; he has read everything under the sun; he is an inventor, a geologist, and one of the best lawyers in the state, in spite of his notion about not practising."

"You don't add that he is an excellent auctioneer?"

"No; that he is not, I am sorry to say; he is a very bad one."

"Yet it is the occupation which he has himself selected. Does that show such remarkable talent? Now you, with your mining-" She stopped.

"I didn't select mining," answered Paul, roughly, "and I'm not particularly good at it; I took what I could get, that's all."

They had now reached the forward deck. Two men belonging to the crew were sitting on a pile of rope; above, patrolling the small upper platform, was the officer in charge; they could not see him, but they could hear his step. To get to the bow, they walked as it were up hill; they reached the sharp point, and looked down over the high, smooth sides which were cutting the deep water so quietly. Eve's glance turned to the splendid aurora quivering and shining above.

"This T. P. Mayhew is an excellent boat," remarked Paul, who was still looking over the sides. "But, as to that, all the N. T. boats are good."

"N. T.?"

"Northern Transportation." He gave a slight yawn.

"Tell me about your iron," said Eve, quickly. ("Oh, he will go in! he is going in!" was her thought.)

"It isn't mine-I wish it was; I'm only manager."

"I don't mean the mine here; I mean your Clay County iron."

"What do you know about that?" said Paul, surprised.

"Mr. Hollis told me; he said you had declined an excellent offer, and he was greatly concerned about it; he told me the reasons why he did not agree with you."

"It must have been interesting! But that all happened some time ago; didn't you know that he had come round to my view of it, after all?"

"No."

"Yes, round he came; it took him eight days. He has got such a look-on-all-sides head that, when he starts out to investigate, he tramps all over the sky; if he intends to go north, he goes east, west, and south first, so as to make sure that these are not the right directions. However, on the eighth day in he came, squeezing himself through a crack, as usual, and explained to me at length the reasons why it was better, on the whole, to decline that offer. He had thought the matter out to its remotest contingencies-some of them went over into the next century! It was remarkably clear and well argued; and of course very satisfactory to me."

"But in the meantime you had already declined, hadn't you?"

"Yes. But it was a splendid piece of following up. I declare, I always feel my inferiority when I am with people who can really talk-talk like that!"

"Oh!" said Eve, in accents of remonstrance. Her tone was so eloquent that Paul laughed. He laughed to himself, but she heard it, or rather she felt it; she drew her hand quickly from his arm.

"Don't be vexed. I was only laughing to see how-"

"How what?"

"How invariably you women flatter."

"I don't." She spoke hurriedly, confusedly.

"You had better learn, then," Paul went on, still laughing; "I'm afraid that when we're well stuffed with it we're more good-natured. Shall I take you back to the stern? I'm getting frightfully sleepy; aren't you?"

On the way back she did not speak.

When they reached the stern-deck, "Good-night," he said, promptly opening the door into the lighted saloon.

She looked up at him; in her face there was an inattention to the present, an inattention to what he was saying. Her eyes scanned his features with a sort of slow wonder. But it was a wonder at herself.

"You had better see that the windows are closed," said Paul. "There's going to be a change of wind."

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares