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   Chapter 17 No.17

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 12964

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


PAUL'S arrangements, as regarded Cicely, had been excellent. But an hour arrived when the excellence suddenly became of no avail; for Cicely's mood changed. When the change had taken place, nothing that any of these persons, who were devoting themselves to her, could do or say, weighed with her for one instant. She came from her tent one morning, and said, "Grandpa, please come down to the shore for a moment." She led the way, and the judge followed her. When they reached the beach the moon was rising, its narrow golden path crossed the lake to their feet. "I can't stay here any longer, grandpa."

"We will go back to Port aux Pins, then, dearie; though it seems a pity, you have been so well here."

"I don't mean Port aux Pins; I am going to Romney."

"But I thought Ferdie had written to you not to come? Tennant certainly said so, he assured me that Ferdie had written, urging you to stay here; he has no right to deceive me in that way-Paul Tennant; it's outrageous!"

"Ferdie did write. And he didn't urge me to stay, he commanded me."

"Then you must obey him," said the judge.

"No; I must disobey him." She stood looking absently at the water. "He has some reason."

"Of course he has-an excellent one; he wants to keep you out of the mess of a long illness-you and Jack."

"I wish you would never mention Jack to me again."

"My dear little girl,-not mention Jack? Why, how can we talk at all, without mentioning baby?"

"You and Eve keep bringing him into every conversation, because you think it will have an influence-make me give up Ferdie. Nothing will make me give up Ferdie. So you need not talk of baby any more."

The judge looked at her with eyes of despair.

Cicely went on. "No; it is not his illness that made Ferdie tell me to stay here. He has some other reason. And I am afraid."

"What are you afraid of?"

"I don't know,-that is the worst of it! Since his letter, I have imagined everything. I cannot bear it any longer; you must take me to him to-morrow, or I shall start by myself; I could easily do it, I could outwit you twenty times over."

"Outwit? You talk in that way to me?"

Cicely watched him as his face quivered, all his features seeming to shrink together for an instant. "I suppose I seem selfish, grandpa." She threw out her hands with sudden passion. "I don't want to be, I don't mean to be! It is you who are keeping me here. Can't you see that I must go? Can't you?"

"Why no, I can't," said the old man, terrified by her vehemence.

"There's no use talking, then." She left him, and went back through the woods towards the tents.

The judge came up from the beach alone. Hollis, who was sitting by the fire, noted his desolate face. "Euchre?" he proposed, good-naturedly. (He called it "yuke.") But the judge neither saw him nor heard him.

As Cicely reached her tent, she met Eve coming out, with Jack in her arms. She seized the child, felt of his feet and knees, and then, holding him tightly, she carried him to the fire, where she seated herself on a bench. Eve came also, and stood beside the fire. After a moment the judge seated himself humbly on the other end of the bench which held his grandchild. There was a pause, broken only by the crackling of the flame. Then Cicely said, with a dry little laugh, "You had better go to your tent, Mr. Hollis. You need not take part in this family quarrel."

"Quarrel!" replied Hollis, cheerily. "Who could quarrel with you, Mrs. Morrison? Might as well quarrel with a bobolink." No one answered him. "Don't know as you've ever seen a bobolink?" he went on, rather anxiously. "I assure you-lively and magnificent!"

"It is a pity you are so devoted to Paul," remarked Cicely, looking at him.

"Devoted? Well, now, I never thought I should come to that," said Hollis, with a grin of embarrassment, kicking the brands of the fire apart with, his boot.

"Because if you weren't, I might take you into my confidence-I need some one; I want to run away from grandpa and Eve."

"Oh, I dare say," said Hollis, jocularly. But his eyes happening to fall first upon Eve, then upon the judge, he grew suddenly disturbed. "Why don't you take Paul?" he suggested, still trying to be jocular. "He is a better helper than I am."

"Paul is my head jailer," answered Cicely. "Grandpa and Eve are only his assistants."

The judge covered his face with his hand. Hollis saw that he was suffering acutely. "Paul had better come and defend himself," he said, still clinging to his jocosity; "I am going to get him." And he started towards Paul's tent with long swinging strides, like the lope of an Indian.

"Cicely," said Eve, coming to the bench, "I will take you to Romney, if that is what you want; we will start to-morrow."

"Saul among the prophets!" answered Cicely, cynically. "Are you planning to escape from me with Jack, as I am planning to escape from grandpa?"

"I am not planning anything; I only want to help you."

Cicely looked at her. "Curiously enough, Eve, I believe you. I don't know what has changed you, but I believe you."

The judge looked up; the two women held each other's hands. The judge left his seat and hurried away.

He arrived at Paul's tent breathless. The hanging lamp within illuminated a rude table which held ink and paper; Paul had evidently stopped in the midst of his writing, for he still held his pen in his hand.

"I was saying to Paul that he really ought to come out now and talk to the ladies, instead of crooking his back over that writing," said Hollis.

But the judge waved him aside. "For God's sake, Tennant, come out, and see what you can do with Cicely! She is determined to go to that murdering brother of yours in spite of-"

"Hold up, if you please, about my brother," said Paul, putting down his pen.

"And Eve is abetting her;-says she will take her to-morrow."

"Not Miss Bruce? What has made her change so?-confound her!"

The judge had already started to lead the way back. But Hollis, who was behind, touched Paul's arm. "I say, don't confound her too much, Paul," he said, in a low tone. "She is a remarkably clever girl. And she thinks a lot of you."

"Sorry for her, then," answered Paul, going out. As Hollis still kept up with him, he added, "How do you know she does?"

"Because I like her myself," answered Hollis, bravely. "When you're that way, you know, you can always tell."

He fell behind. Paul went on alone.

When he reached the camp

-fire, Cicely looked up. "Oh, you've come!"

"Yes."

"There are two of us now. Eve is on my side."

"So I have heard." He went to Eve, took her arm, and led her away almost by force to the shadow at some distance from the fire. "What in the world has made you change so?" he said. "Do you know-it's abject."

"Yes, it's abject," Eve answered. She could see him looking at her in the dusky darkness; she had never been looked at in such a way before. "It's brave, too," she added, trying to keep back the tears.

"I don't understand riddles."

"I think you understand mine." She had said it. She had been seized with a sudden wild desire to make an end of it, to put it into words. The overweight of daring which nature had given her drew her on.

"Well, if I do, then," answered Paul, "why don't you want to please me?"

She turned her head away, suffocated by his calm acceptance of her avowal. "It would be of no use. And I want to make one woman happy; so few women are happy!"

"Do you call it happy to have Ferdie knocking her about?"

"She does."

"And knocking about Jack, too?"

"I shall be there, I can take care of Jack."

"I see I can do nothing with you. You have lost your senses!"

He went back to Cicely. "Ferdie has his faults, Cicely, as we both know; but you have yours too, you make yourself out too important. How many other women do you think he has cared for?"

"Before he saw me, five hundred, if you like; five thousand."

"And since he saw you-since he married you?"

Cicely laughed happily.

"I will bring you something," said Paul. He went off to his tent.

Eve came rapidly to Cicely. "Don't believe a word he tells you!"

"If it is anything against Ferdie, of course I shall not," answered Cicely, composedly.

The judge had followed Paul to his tent. He waited anxiously outside, and then followed him back.

"I don't believe, after all, Cicely, that you are going to do what I don't want you to do," said Paul, in a cheerful tone, as he came up. He seemed to have abandoned whatever purpose he had had, for he brought nothing with him-his hands were empty.

Cicely did not reply, she played with a curl of Jack's hair.

"Ferdie himself doesn't want you to go; you showed me his letter saying so."

"Yes."

"Isn't that enough, then? Come, don't be so cold with me," Paul went on, his voice taking caressing tones.

Cicely felt their influence. "I want to go, Paul, because that very letter of Ferdie's makes me afraid," she said, wistfully; "I feel that there is something behind, something I do not know."

"If there is, it is something which he does not wish you to know."

"That could never be; it is only because I am not with him; when I am with him, he tells me everything, he likes to tell me."

"Will you take my word for it if I assure you that it is much better for both of you, not only for yourself, but for Ferdie, that you stay here awhile longer?"

"No," replied Cicely, hardening. Her "no" was quiet, but it expressed an obstinacy that was immovable.

Paul looked at her. "Will you wait a week?"

"No."

"Will you wait three days?"

"I shall start to-morrow," replied Cicely.

"Read this, then." He took a letter from his pocket and held it towards her, his name, "Paul Tennant, Esq.," clearly visible on the envelope in the light of the flame.

But at the same instant Eve bent forward; she grasped his arm, drawing his hand back.

"Don't you interfere," he said, freeing himself.

Eve turned to the judge. "Oh, take her away!"

"Where to? I relied upon Tennant; I thought Tennant would be able to do something," said the old man, miserably.

Paul meanwhile, his back turned squarely to Eve, was again holding out the letter to Cicely.

Cicely did not take it.

"I'll read it aloud, then." He drew the sheet from its envelope, and, opening it, began, "'Dear old Paul-'"

Cicely put out both her hands,-"Give it to me." She took it hastily. "Oh, how can you treat him so-Ferdie, your own brother!" Her eyes were full of tears.

"I cared for him before you ever saw him," answered Paul, exasperated. "What do you know about my feelings? Ferdie wishes you to stay here, and every one thinks you exceedingly wrong to go-every one except Miss Bruce, who seems to have lost her head." Here he flashed a short look at Eve.

"I shall go!" cried Cicely.

"Because you think he cannot get on without you?"

"I know he cannot."

"Read the letter, then."

"No, take the letter away from her," said Eve. She spoke to Paul, and her tone was a command. He looked at her; with a sudden change of feeling he tried to obey her. But it was too late, Cicely had thrust the letter into the bodice of her dress; then she rose, her sleeping child in her arms. "Grandpa, will you come with me? Will you carry Jack?"

"I will take him," said Paul.

"No, only grandpa, please; not even you, Eve; just grandpa and I. You may come later; in fifteen minutes." She spoke with a dignity which she had never shown before, and they went away together, the old man carrying the sleeping child.

"What was in that letter?" Eve demanded accusingly, as soon as they were left alone.

"Well, another woman."

"Cruel!"

"Yes, it seems so now," said Paul, disturbed. "My one idea about it was that it might make her less confident that she was all-important to him; in that way we could keep her on here a while longer."

"Yes, with a broken heart."

"Oh, hearts! rubbish!-the point was to make her stay. You haven't half an idea how important it is, and I can't tell you; she cannot go back to him until I have been down there and-and changed some things, made new arrangements."

"I think it the greatest cruelty I have ever heard of!" She hurried through the woods towards the tents; Paul followed her.

The judge came out as they approached. "She is reading it," he said in a whisper. "Tennant, I hope you know what you are about?"

"Yes; that letter will make her stay," answered Paul, decisively.

Eve turned to enter the tent.

"The fifteen minutes are not up," said Paul, holding her back.

She drew away from him, but she did not try to enter again; they waited in silence.

Then came a sound. Eve ran within, the two men behind her.

Little Jack, on the bed, was sleeping peacefully. Cicely had fallen from her seat to the matting that covered the floor.

Eve lifted her; kneeling on the matting, she held her in her arms.

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