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   Chapter 20 No.20

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 12004

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

FOURTH OF JULY at Port aux Pins; a brilliant morning with the warm sun tempering the cool air, and shining on the pure cold blue of the lake.

At ten o'clock, the cannon began to boom; the guns were planted at the ends of the piers, and the men of the Port aux Pins Light Artillery held themselves erect, trying to appear unconscious of the presence of the whole town behind them, eating peanuts, and criticising.

The salute over, the piers were deserted, the procession was formed. The following was the order as printed in the Port aux Pins Eagle:

"The Marshal of the Day.

The Goddess of Liberty. (Parthenia Drone.)

The Clergy. (In carriages.)

Fire-Engine E. P. Snow.

The Mayor and Common Council. (In carriages.) Hook and Ladder No. 1.

The Immortal Colonies. (Thirteen little girls in a wagon, singing the 'Red, White, and Blue.')

Fire-Engine Leander Braddock.

The Carnival of Venice. (This was a tableau. It represented the facade of a Venetian palace, skilfully constructed upon the model of the Parthenon, with Wolf Roth in an Indian canoe below, playing upon his guitar. Wolf was attired, as a Venetian, in a turban, a spangled jacket, high cavalry boots with spurs, and powdered hair; Idora Drone looked down upon him from a Venetian balcony; she represented a Muse.)

Reader of the Declaration of Independence, and Orator of the Day. (In carriages.)

The Survivors of the War. (On foot with banners.)

Model of Monument to Our Fallen Heroes.

The Band. (Playing 'The Sweet By-and-By.')

Widows of Our Fallen Heroes. (In carriages.)

Fire-Engine Senator M. P. Hagen.

The Arts and Sciences. (Represented by the portable printing-press of the Port aux Pins Eagle; wagons from the mines loaded with iron ore; and the drays, coal-carts, and milk-wagons in a procession, adorned with streamers of pink tarlatan)."

Cicely watched the procession from the windows of Paul's office, laughing constantly. When Hollis passed, sitting stiffly erect in his carriage-he was the "Reader of the Declaration of Independence"-she threw a bouquet at him, and compelled him to bow; Hollis was adorned with a broad scarf of white satin, fastened on the right shoulder with the national colors.

"I am going to the public square to hear him read," Cicely announced, suddenly. "Paul, you must take me. And you must go too, grandpa."

"I will keep out of the rabble, I think," said the judge.

"Oh, come on; I dare say you have never heard the thing read through in your life," suggested Paul, laughing.

"The Declaration of Independence? My grandfather, sir, was a signer!"

The one church bell (Baptist) and the two little fire bells were jangling merrily when they reached the street. People were hurrying towards the square; many of them were delegates from neighboring towns who had accompanied their fire-engines to Port aux Pins on this, the nation's birthday. White dresses were abundant; the favorite refreshment was a lemon partially scooped out, the hollow filled with lemon candy. When they reached the square Paul established Cicely on the top of a fence, standing behind to steady her; and presently the procession appeared, wheeling slowly in, and falling into position in a half-circle before the main stand, the gayly decorated fire-engines in front, with the Carnival of Venice and the Goddess of Liberty, one at each end. The clergy, the mayor and common council, the orator of the day, were escorted to their places on the stand, and the ceremonies opened. By-and-by came the turn of Hollis. In a high voice he began:

"When in the course-of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another-"

"Cheer!" whispered Cicely to Paul.

Paul, entering into it, set up hurrahs with so much vigor that all the people near him joined in patriotically, to the confusion of the reader, who went on, however, as well as he could:

"We hold these truths-to be self-evident, that all men are created equal-"

"Again," murmured Cicely.

And again Paul's corner burst forth irrepressibly, followed after a moment by the entire assemblage, glad to be doing something in a vocal way on their own account, and determined to have their money's worth of everything, noise and all.

And so, from "the present king of Great Britain" to "our lives, our forrchuns, and our sacrred honor" on it went, a chorus of hurrahs growing louder and louder until they became roars.

"I knew it was you," Hollis said to Paul, when, later, his official duties over, and his satin scarf removed, he appeared at the cottage to talk it over.

"But say, did you notice the widows of our fallen heroes? They had a sort of glare under their crape. You see, once we had eight of 'em, but this year there is only one left; all the rest have married again. Now it happens that this very year the Soldiers' Monument is done at last, and naturally the committee wanted the widows to ride in the procession. The one widow who was left declared that she would not ride all alone; she said it would look as though no one had asked her, whereas she had had at least three good offers. So the committee went to the others and asked them to dress up as former widows, just for to-day. So they did; and lots of people cried when they came along, two and two, all in black, so pathetic." He sprang up to greet Eve, who was entering, and the foot-board entangled itself with his feet, after the peculiarly insidious fashion of extension-chairs. "Instrument of torture!" he said, grinning.

"I will leave it to you in my will," declared Paul. "And it is just as well to say it now, before witnesses, because I am going away to-morrow."

"To-morrow!" said Cicely.

"Only to Lakeville on business. I shall be back the day before I start south."

"There go the last few hours!" thought Eve.

The third evening after, Hollis came up the path to Paul's door. The judge, Eve, Cicely, and Porley with Jack, w

ere sitting on the steps, after the Port aux Pins fashion. They had all been using their best blandishments to induce Master Jack to go to bed; but that young gentleman refused; he played patty-cake steadily with Porley, looking at the others out of the corner of his eye; and if Porley made the least attempt to rise, he set up loud bewailings, with his face screwed, but without a tear. It was suspected that these were pure artifice; and not one of his worshippers could help admiring his sagacity. They altogether refrained from punishing it.

"I was at the post-office, so I thought I'd just inquire for you," said Hollis. "There was only one letter; it's for Miss Bruce."

Eve took the letter and put it in her pocket. She had recognized the handwriting instantly.

Hollis, who also knew the handwriting, began to praise himself in his own mind as rapidly as he could for bringing it. "It was a good thing to do, and a kind thing; you must manage jobs like that for her often, C. Hollis. Then you'll be sure that you ain't, yourself, a plumb fool. She doesn't open it? Of course she doesn't. Sit down, and stop your jawing!"

Eve did not open her letter until she reached her own room. It was eleven o'clock; when she was safely behind her bolted door, she took it from its envelope and read it. She read it and re-read it; holding it in her hand, she pondered over it. She was standing by the mantelpiece because her lamp was there. After a while she became half conscious that the soles of her feet were aching; she bore it some time longer, still half consciously. When it was one o'clock she sat down. The letter was as follows:

"DEAR EVE,-Now that I am away from her, I can see that Cicely is not so well as we have thought. All that laughing yesterday morning wasn't natural; I am afraid that she will break down completely when I start south. So I write to suggest that you take her off for a trip of ten days or so; you might go to St. Paul. Then she needn't see me at all, and it really would be better.

"As to seeing you again-

"Yours sincerely, PAUL TENNANT."

"Why did he write, 'As to seeing you again,' and then stop? What was it that he had intended to say, and why did he leave it unfinished? 'As to seeing you again-' Supposing it had been, 'As to seeing you again, I dread it!' But no, he would never say that; he doesn't dread anything-me least of all! Probably it was only, 'As to seeing you again, there would be nothing gained by it; it would be for such a short time.'"

But imagination soon took flight anew. "Possibly, remembering that day in the wood, he was going to write, 'As to seeing you again, do you wish to see me? Is it really true that you care for me a little? It was so brave to tell it! A petty spirit could never have done it.' But no, that is not what he would have thought; he likes the other kind of women-those who do not tell." She laid her head down upon her arms.

Presently she began again: "He had certainly intended to write something which he found himself unable to finish; the broken sentence tells that. What could it have been? Any ordinary sentence, like, 'As to seeing you again, it is not necessary, as you know already my plans,'-if it had been anything like that, he would have finished it; it would have been easy to do so. No; it was something different. Oh, if it could only have been, 'As to seeing you again, I must see you, it must be managed in some way; I cannot go without a leave-taking!'" She sat up; her eyes were now radiant and sweet. Their glance happened to fall upon her watch, which was lying, case open, upon the table. Four o'clock. "I have sat here all night! I am losing my wits." She undressed rapidly, angrily. Clad in white, she stood brushing her hair, her supple figure taking, all unconsciously, enchanting postures as she now held a long lock at arm's-length, and now, putting her right hand over her shoulder, brushed out the golden mass that fell from the back of her head to her knees. "But he must have intended to write something unusual, even if not of any of the things I have been thinking of; then he changed his mind. That is the only solution of his leaving it unfinished-the only possible solution." This thought still filled her heart when daylight came.

The evening before, sitting in the bar-room of the Star Hotel, Lakeville, Paul had written his letter. He had got as far as, "Then she needn't see me at all, and it really would be better. As to seeing you again," when a voice said, "Hello, Tennant!-busy?"

"Nothing important," replied Paul, pushing back the sheet of paper.

The visitor shook hands; then he seated himself, astride, on one of the bar-room chairs, facing the wooden back, which he hugged tightly. He had come to talk about Paul's Clay County iron; he had one or two ideas about it which he thought might come to something.

Paul, too, thought that they might come to something when he heard what they were. He was excited; he began to jot down figures on the envelope which he had intended for Eve. Finally he and the new-comer went out together; before going he put the letter in his pocket.

When he came in, it was late. "First mail to Port aux Pins?" he inquired.

"Five o'clock to-morrow morning," replied the drowsy waiter.

"Must finish it to-night, then," he thought. He took out the crumpled sheet, and, opening it, read through what he had written. "What was it I was going to add?" He tried to recall the train of thought. But he was sleepy (as Hollis said, Paul had a genius for sleep); besides, his mind was occupied by the new business plan. "I haven't the slightest idea what I was going to say.-A clear profit of fifty thousand in four years; that isn't bad. Ferdie will need a good deal. Ye-ough!" (a yawn). "What was it I was going to say?-I can't imagine. Well, it couldn't have been important, in any case. I'll just sign it, and let it go." So he wrote, "Yours sincerely, Paul Tennant;" and went to bed.

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