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   Chapter 19 No.19

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 12989

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


THEY walked for some distance without speaking. "I have just been writing to Ferdie," Paul said at last.

The gray-green wood had seemed to Eve like another world, an enchanted land. Now she was forced back to real life again. "Oh, if he would only say nothing-just go on without speaking; it's all I ask," she thought.

"I shall go down there in ten days or so," Paul went on. "Ferdie will be up then-in all probability well. I shall take him to Charleston, and from there we shall sail."

"Sail?"

"To Norway."

"Norway?"

"Didn't I tell you?-I have made up my mind that a long voyage in a sailing vessel will be the best thing for him just now."

"And you go too?"

"Of course."

"Four or five weeks, perhaps?"

"Four or five months; as it grows colder, we can come down to the Mediterranean."

A chill crept slowly over Eve. "Was it-wasn't it difficult to arrange for so long an absence?"

"As Hollis would phrase it, 'You bet it was!'" answered Paul, laughing. "I shall come back without a cent in either pocket; but I've been centless before-I'm not terrified."

"If you would only take some of mine!"

"You will have Cicely. We shall both have our hands full."

She looked up at him more happily; they were to be associated together in one way, then, after all. But a vision followed, a realization of the blankness that was to come. Less than two weeks and he would be gone!

"When the journey is over, shall you bring Ferdie to Port aux Pins?"

"That depends. On the whole, I think not; Ferdie would hate the place; it's comical what tastes he has-that boy! My idea is that he will do better in South America; he has already made a beginning there, and likes the life. This time he can take Cicely with him, and that will steady him; he will go to housekeeping, he will be a family man." And Paul smiled; to him, Ferdie was still the lad of fifteen years before.

But in Eve's mind rose a recollection of the light of a candle far down a narrow road. "Oh, don't let her go with him! Don't!"

Paul stopped. "You are sometimes so frightened, I have noticed that. And yet you are no coward. What happened-really? What did you do?"

She could not speak.

"I'm a brute to bother you about it," Paul went on. "But I have always felt sure that you did more that night than you have ever acknowledged; Cicely couldn't tell us, you see, because she had fainted. How strange you look! Are you ill?"

"It is nothing. Let us walk on."

"As you please."

"If they go to South America, why shouldn't you go with them?" he said, after a while, returning to his first topic. "You will have to go if you want to keep a hold on Jack, for Cicely will never give him up to you for good and all, as you have hoped. If you were with them, I should feel a great deal safer."

Well, that was something. Was this, then, to be her occupation for the future-by a watch over Ferdie, to make his brother more comfortable? She tried to give a sarcastic turn to this idea. But again the feeling swept over her: Oh, if it had only been any one but Ferdinand Morrison!-Ferdinand Morrison!

"How you shuddered!" said Paul. Walking beside her, he had felt her tremble. "You certainly are ill."

"No. But don't let us talk of any of those things to-day, let us forget them."

"How can we?"

"I can!" The color rose suddenly in her cheeks; for the moment she was beautiful. "My last walk with him! When he is gone, the days will be a blank."

-"It is my last walk with you!" she said aloud, pursuing the current of her thoughts.

He looked at her askance.

His glance brought her back to reality. She turned and left him; she walked rapidly towards the lake, coming out on the beach beyond Eagle Point.

He followed her, and, as he came up, his eyes took possession of and held hers, as they had done before; then, after a moment, he put his arm round her, drew her to him, and bent his face to hers.

She tried to spring from him. But he still held her. "What shall I say to excuse myself, Eve?"

The tones of his voice were very sweet. But he was smiling a little too. She saw it; she broke from his grasp.

"You look as though you could kill me!" he said.

(And she did look so.)

"Forgive me," he went on; "tell me you don't mind."

"I should have thought-that what I confessed to you-you know, that day-

But there were no subtleties in Paul. "Why, that was the very reason," he answered. "What did you tell me for, if you didn't want me to think of it?" Then he took a lighter tone. "Come, forget it. It was nothing.-What's one kiss?"

Eve colored deeply.

And then, suddenly, Paul Tennant colored too.

He turned his head away, and his glance, resting on the water, was stopped by something-a dark object floating. He put up a hand on each side of his face and looked more steadily. "Yes. No. Yes! There's a woman out there-lashed to something. I must go out and see." He had thrown his hat down upon the sand as he spoke; he was hastily taking off his coat and waistcoat, his shoes and stockings; then he waded out rapidly, and when the rock shelved off, he began to swim.

Eve stood watching him mechanically. "He has already forgotten it!"

Paul reached the dark object. Then, after a short delay, she could see that he was trying to bring it in.

But his progress was slow.

"Oh, there must be something the matter! Perhaps a cramp has seized him." A terrible impatience took possession of her; it was impossible for him to hear her, yet she cried to him at the top of her voice, and fiercely: "Let it go! Let it go, I say! Come in alone. Who cares for it, whatever it is?" It was not until his burden lay on the beach that she could turn her mind from him in the least, or think of what he had brought.

The burden was a girl of ten, a fair child with golden curls, now heavy with water; her face was calm, the eyes peacefully closed. She had been lashed to a plank by somebody's hand-whose? Her father's? Or had it been done by a sobbing mother, praying, while she worked, that she and her little daughter might meet again.

"It's dreadful, when they're so young," said big Paul, bending over the body reverently to loosen the ropes. He finished his task, and straightened himself. "A collision or a fire. If it was a fire, they must have seen it from Jupiter Light." He scanned the lake. "Perhaps there are others who are not dead; I must have one of the canoes at once. I'll go by the beach. You had better fo

llow me." He put on his shoes, and, dripping as he was, he was off again like a flash, running towards the west at a vigorous speed.

Eve watched him until he was out of sight. Then she sat down beside the little girl and began to dry her pretty curls, one by one, with her handkerchief. Even then she kept thinking, "He has forgotten it!"

By-and-by-it seemed to her a long time-she saw a canoe coming round the point. It held but one person-Paul. He paddled rapidly towards her. "Why didn't you follow me, as I told you to?" he said, almost angrily. "Hollis has gone back to the camp for more canoes and the Indians; he took Cicely, and he ought to have taken you."

"I wanted to stay here."

"You will be in the way; drowned people are not always a pleasant sight. Sit where you are, then, since you are here; if I come across anything, I'll row in at a distance from you."

He paddled off again.

But before very long she saw him returning. "Are you really not afraid?" he asked, as his canoe grated on the beach.

"No."

"There's some one out there. But I find I can't lift anything into this canoe alone-it's so tottlish; I could swim and tow, though, if I had the canoe as a help. Can you paddle?"

"Yes."

"Get in, then." He stepped out of the boat, and she took his place. He pushed it off and waded beside her until the water came to his chin; then he began to swim, directing her course by a movement of his head. She used her paddle very cautiously, now on one side, now on the other, the whole force of her attention bent upon keeping the little craft steady. After a while, chancing to raise her eyes, she saw something dark ahead. Fear seized her, she could not look at it; she felt faint. At the same moment, Paul left her, swimming towards the floating thing. With a determined effort at self-control, she succeeded in turning the canoe, and waited steadily until Paul gave the sign. Keeping her eyes carefully away from that side, she then started back towards the shore, Paul convoying his floating freight a little behind her. As they approached the beach, he made a motion signifying that she should take the canoe farther down; when she was safely at a distance, he brought his tow ashore. It was the body of a sailor. The fragment of deck planking to which he was tied had one end charred; this told the dreadful tale-fire at sea.

The sailor was dead, though it was some time before Paul would acknowledge it. At length he desisted from his efforts. He came down the beach to Eve, wiping his forehead with his wet sleeve. "No use, he's dead. I am going out again."

"I will go with you, then."

"If you are not too tired?"

They went out a second time. They saw another dark object half under water. Again the sick feeling seized her; but she turned the canoe safely, and they came in with their load. This time, when he dismissed her, she went back to the little girl, and, landing, sat down; she was very tired.

After a while she heard sounds-four canoes coming rapidly round the point, the Indians using their utmost speed. She rose; Hollis, who was in the first canoe, saw her, and directed his course towards her. "Why did you stay here?" he demanded, sternly, as he saw the desolate little figure of the child.

Eve began to excuse herself. "I was of use before you came; I went out; I helped."

"Paul shouldn't have asked you."

"He had to; he couldn't do it alone."

"He shouldn't have asked you." He went off to Paul, and she sat down again; she took up her task of drying the golden curls. After a while the sound of voices ceased, and she knew that they had all gone out on the lake for further search. She went on with what she was doing; but presently, in the stillness, she began to feel that she must turn and look; she was haunted by the idea that one of the men who had been supposed to be dead was stealing up noiselessly to look over her shoulder. She turned. And then she saw Hollis sitting not far away.

"Oh, I am so glad you are there!"

Hollis rose and came nearer, seating himself again quietly. "I thought I wouldn't leave you all alone."

She scanned the water. The five canoes were clustered together far out; presently, still together, they moved in towards the shore.

"They are bringing in some one else!"

"Sha'n't we go farther away?" suggested Hollis-"farther towards the point? I'll go with you."

"No, I shall stay with this little girl; I do not intend to leave her. You won't understand this, of course; only a woman would understand it."

"Oh, I understand," said Hollis.

But Eve ignored him. "The canoes are keeping all together in a way they haven't done before. Do you think-oh, it must be that they have got some one who is living!"

"It's possible."

"They are holding something up so carefully." She sprang to her feet. "I am sure I saw it move! Paul has really saved somebody. How can you sit there, Mr. Hollis? Go and find out!"

Hollis went. In twenty minutes he came back.

"Well?" said Eve, breathlessly.

"Yes, there's a chance for this one; he'll come round, I guess."

"Paul has saved him."

"I don't know that he's much worth the saving; he looks a regular scalawag."

"How can you say that-a human life!"

Hollis looked down at the sand, abashed.

"Couldn't I go over there for a moment?" Eve said, still excitedly watching the distant group.

"Better not."

"Tell me just how Paul did it, then?" she asked. "For of course it was he, the Indians don't know anything."

"Well, I can't say how exactly. He brought him in."

"Isn't he wonderful!"

"I have always thought him the cleverest fellow I have ever known," responded poor Hollis, stoutly.

The next day the little girl, freshly robed and fair, was laid to rest in the small forest burying-ground belonging to Jupiter Light; Eve had not left her. There were thirty new mounds there before the record was finished.

"Steamer Mayhew burned, Tuesday night, ten miles east Jupiter Light, Lake Superior. Fifteen persons known to be saved. Mayhew carried twenty cabin passengers and thirty-five emigrants. Total loss." (Associated Press despatch.)

Soon after this the camp was abandoned; as Paul was to go south so soon, he could not give any more time to forest-life, and they all, therefore, returned to Port aux Pins together. Once there Paul seemed to have no thought for anything but his business affairs. And Eve, in her heart, said again, "He has forgotten!"

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