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   Chapter 18 No.18

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 12415

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

THE letter, though it was only a partial revelation, roused in Ferdie's wife a passion of anger so intense that they were all alarmed. She did not speak or stir; she sat looking at them; but her very immobility, with the deep spot of red in each cheek, and her darkened narrowed eyes, made her terrible. This state lasted for twenty-four hours, during which time the poor old judge, unable to sit down or to sleep, wandered about, Hollis accompanying him silently, and waiting outside when he went every now and then to the entrance of the tent to look in. Paul came once. But Cicely's eyes darkened so when she saw him that Eve hurriedly motioned him away. She followed him out.

"Do not come again until I send for you."

"If there is nothing for me to do then, I might as well go to bed."

"You are fortunate in being able to sleep!"

"I shall sleep a great deal better than I did when I thought she would be starting south in spite of us," retorted Paul. "Imagine her arriving there and finding out-It's much worse than she knows; that letter only tells a little. There are others, telling more, which I have kept back."

"Did you really, then, keep back anything!"

"She'll forgive me. She'll forgive me, and like me better than ever; you'll see."

"And is it a question of you? It is her husband, her faith in him, her love for him," said Eve, passionately.

"Oh, as to that, she will forgive him the very first moment she sees him," answered Paul, going off.

Early in the morning of the second day, Cicely sent for him. "If you don't still believe in him, if you don't still love him-" she began the instant he entered, her poor little voice trying to be a threat.

"Of course I believe in him."

"And he is noble? and good?"

"If you can call him that-to-day-you are a trump," said Paul, delightedly.

He had gained his point; and, by one of the miracles of love, she could forgive her husband and excuse his fault; she could still worship him, believe in him. Paul also believed in him, but in another way. And upon this ground they met, Paul full of admiration for what he called her pluck and common-sense (both were but love), and she adoring him for his unswerving affection for his brother. Paul would go South soon; he would-he would make arrangements. She pinned all her faith upon Paul now; Paul was her demi-god because he believed in his brother.

And thus the camp-life went on again.

One morning, not long after this, Hollis and the judge were sitting at the out-door table, engaged with their fishing-tackle. Hollis was talking of the approaches of old age.

"Yes, two sure signs of it are a real liking for getting up early in the morning, and a promptness in doing little things. Contrariwise, an impatience with the younger people, who don't do 'em."

"Stuff!" said the judge. "The younger people are lazy; that's the whole of it."

"Yet they do all the important work of the world," Hollis went on; "old people only potter round. Take Paul, now-he ain't at all keen about getting up at daylight; in fact, he has a most uncommon genius for sleep; but, once up, he makes things drive all along the line, I can tell you. Not the trifles" (here Hollis's voice took a sarcastic tone); "not what borrowed books must be sent here, nor what small packages left there; you never saw him pasting slips out of a newspaper in a blank-book, nor being particular about his ink, with a neat little tray for pens; the things he concerns himself about are big things: ore contracts, machinery for the mines, negotiations with thousands of dollars tacked to the tail of 'em."

"I dare say," said the judge, with a dry little yawn; "Mr. Tennant is, without doubt, an excellent accountant."

The tone of this remark, however, was lost upon Hollis. "That Paul, now, has done, since I've known him, at least twenty things that I couldn't have done myself, any one of them, to save my life," he went on; "and yet I'm no fool. Not that they were big undertakings, like the Suez Canal or the capture of Vicksburg; but at least they were things done, and completely done. Have you ever noticed how mighty easy it is to believe that you could do all sorts of things if you only had the opportunity? The best way, sir, to go on believing that is never to let yourself try! I once had a lot of that kind of fool conceit myself. But I know better now; I know that from top to bottom and all round I'm a failure."

The judge made no effort to contradict this statement; he changed the position of his legs a little, by way of answer, so as not to appear too discourteous.

"I'm a failure because I always see double," pursued Hollis, meditatively; "I'm like a stereoscope out of kilter. When I was practising law, the man I was pitching into always seemed to me to have his good side; contrariwise, the man I was defending had his bad one; and rather more bad because my especial business was to make him out a capital good fellow."

There was a sound of voices; Paul came through the wood on his way to the beach, with Cicely; Eve, behind them, was leading Jack.

"Are you going out again?" said the judge.

"Yes. Paul can go this morning," Cicely answered.

"But you were out so long yesterday," said the old man, following them.

"Open air fatigue is a good fatigue," said Paul, as he lifted Cicely into one of the canoes.

The judge had stopped at the edge of the beach; he now went slowly back into the wood and joined Hollis.

"Your turn, Miss Bruce," said Paul. And Eve and Jack were placed in a second canoe. One of the Indians was to paddle it, but he was not quite ready. Paul and Cicely did not wait; they started.

"I's a-goin' wis old Eve!-old Eve!-old Eve!"

chanted Jack, at the top of his voice, to the tune of "Charley is my darling," which Hollis had taught him.

"Seems mean that she should have to go with a Chip, when there are white men round," said Hollis.

The judge made no reply.

But Eve at that moment called, "Mr. Hollis, are you busy? If not, couldn't you come with me instead of this man?"

Hollis advanced to the edge of the woods and made a bow. "I am exceedingly pleased to accept. My best respects." He the

n took off his coat, and, clucking to the Indian as a sign of dismissal, he got into the canoe with the activity of a boy, and pushed off.

It was a beautiful day. The thick woods on the shore were outlined sharply in the Northern air against the blue sky. Hollis paddled slowly.

"Why do you keep so far behind the other boat?" said Eve, after a while.

"That's so; I'm just loafing," answered Hollis.

"Christopher H., paddle right along," he went on to himself. "You needn't be so afraid that Paul will grin; he'll understand."

And Paul did understand. At the end of half an hour, when Eagle Point was reached, and all had disembarked, he came to Hollis, and stood beside him for a moment.

"This canoe is not one of the best," Hollis remarked.

"No," said Paul.

"I think we can make it do for a while longer, though," Hollis went on, examining it more closely.

"I dare say we can," Paul answered.

They stood there together for a moment, rapping it and testing it in various ways; then they separated, perfectly understanding each other. "I really didn't try to come with her:" this was the secret meaning of Hollis's remark about the canoe.

And "I know you didn't," was the signification of Paul's answer.

Cicely and Eve were sitting on the beach. It was a wild shore, clean, untouched by man; the pure waters of the lake rolled up and laved its glistening brown pebbles. Jack ramped up and down against Eve's knees. "Sing to Jacky-poor, poor Jacky!" he demanded loudly.

"That child is too depressing with his 'Poor Jacky'!" said Cicely. "Never say that again, Jack; do you hear?"

"Poor, poor Jacky!" said the boy immediately, as though he were irresistibly forced to try the phrase again.

"He heard some one say it to that parrot in Port aux Pins," explained Eve.

"Oh, I shall never be able to govern him!" Cicely answered.

"Sing to Jacky, Aunty Eve-poor, poor Jacky!"

And in a low tone Eve began to sing:

"'Row the boat, row the boat up to the strand;

Before our door there is dry land.

Who comes hither all booted and spurred?

Little Jacky Bruce with his hand on his sword.'"

Paul came up. "Now for a walk," he said to Cicely.

"I am sorry, Paul. But if I sit here it will be lovely; if I walk, I am afraid I shall be too tired."

"I'll stay here, then; I am not at all keen about a tramp."

"No, please go. And take Eve."

"Uncly Paul, not old Eve. I want old Eve," announced Jack, reasonably.

"You don't seem to mind his calling you that," said Paul, laughing.

"Why should I?" Eve answered. "I don't care for a walk, thanks."

"Make her go," continued Cicely; "march her off."

"Will you march?" asked Paul.

"Not without a drum and fife."

Jack was now cooing without cessation, and in his most insinuating tones, "Sing to Jacky-poor, poor Jacky. Sing to Jacky-poor, poor Jacky!"

She took him in her arms and walked down the beach with him, going on with her song in a low tone:

"'He knocks at the door and he pulls up the pin,

And he says, "Mrs. Wingfield, is Polly within?"

"Oh, Polly's up-stairs a-sewing her silk."

Down comes Miss Polly as white as milk.'"

"Eve never does what you ask, Paul," remarked Cicely.

"Do I ask so often?"

"I wish you would ask her oftener."

"To be refused oftener?"

"To gain your point-to conquer her. She is too self-willed-for a woman." She looked at Paul with a smile.

The tie between them had become very close, and it was really her dislike to see him rebuffed, even in the smallest thing, that made her say, alluding to Eve, "Conquer her; she is too self-willed-for a woman."

Paul smiled. "I shall never conquer her."

"Try, begin now; make her think that you want her to walk with you."

"But I don't."

"Can't you pretend?"

"Why should I?"

"Well, to please me."

"You're an immoral little woman," said Paul, laughing. "I'll go; remember, however, that you sent me." He went up the beach to meet Eve, who was still walking to and fro, singing to Jack, Hollis accompanying them after his fashion; that is, following behind, and stopping to skip a stone carelessly when they stopped. Paul went straight to Eve. "I wish you would go with me for a walk," he said. He looked at her, his glance, holding hers, slowly became entreating. The silence between them lasted an appreciable instant.

"I will go," said Eve.

Jack seemed to understand that his supremacy was in danger. "No, old Eve-no. I want old Eve, Uncly Paul," he said, in his most persuasive voice. Then, to make himself irresistible, he began singing Eve's song:

"'Who pums idder, all booted an' spurred?

Little Jacky Bruce wiz his han' on his sword.'"

Hollis came up. "Were you wanting to go off somewhere? I'll take Jack."

"Old man, you get out," suggested Jack, calmly.

"Oh, where does he learn such things?" said Eve. She thought she was distressed-she meant to be; but there was an undertide of joyousness, which Hollis saw.

"On the contrary, Jackum, I'll get in," he answered. "If it's singing you want, I can sing very beautifully. And I can dance too; looker here." And skipping across the beach in a Fisher's Horn-pipe step, he ended with a pigeon's wing.

Jack, in an ecstasy of delight, sprang up and down in Eve's arms. "'Gain! 'gain!" he cried, imperiously, his dimpled forefinger pointed at the dancer.

Again Hollis executed his high leap. "Now you'll come to me, I guess," he said. And Jack went readily. "You are going for a walk, I suppose?" Hollis went on. "There's nothing very much in these woods to make it lively." He had noted the glow of anticipation in her face, and was glad that he had contributed to it. But when he turned to Paul, expecting as usual to see indifference, he did not see it; and instantly his feelings changed, he felt befooled.

Jack made prodding motions with his knees. "Dant! dant!"

"I'll dance in a few minutes, my boy," said Hollis.

Paul and Eve went up the beach and turned into the wood. It was a magnificent evergreen forest without underbrush; above, the sunlight was shut out, they walked in a gray-green twilight. The stillness was so intense that it was oppressive.

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