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   Chapter 21 No.21

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 9640

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


PAUL came back to Port aux Pins five days before the time of his departure for the South. Cicely was still there. She had refused to go to St. Paul. "The only Paul I care for is the one here. What an i-dea, Eve, that I should choose just this moment for a trip! It looks as though you were trying to keep me away from him."

"I'm not trying; it's Paul," Eve might have answered.

"It must be curious to be such a cold sort of person as you are," Cicely went on, looking at her. "You have only one feeling that ever gives you any trouble, haven't you? That's anger."

"I am never angry with you," Eve answered, with the humility which she always showed when Cicely made her cutting little speeches.

Paul had been right. As the time of his departure for Romney drew near, Cicely grew restless. She was seized with fits of wild weeping. At last, when there were only two days left, Paul proposed a drive-anything to change, even if only upon the surface, the current of her thoughts. "We will go to Betsy Lake, and pay a visit to the antiquities."

The mine at Betsy Lake-the Lac aux Becs-Scies of the early Jesuit explorers-had been abandoned. Recently traces of work there in prehistoric times had been discovered, with primitive tools which excited interest in the minds of antiquarians. The citizens of Port aux Pins were not antiquarians; they said "Mound Builders;" and troubled themselves no more about it.

"We had better spend the night at the butter-woman's," Paul suggested. "It is too far for one day."

Eve did not go with the party. They had started at three o'clock, intending to visit a hill from which there was an extensive view, before going on to the butter-woman's farm-house. At four she herself went out for a solitary walk.

As she was passing a group of wretched shanties, beyond the outskirts of the town, a frightened woman came out of one of them, calling loudly, "Mrs. Halley! oh, Mrs. Halley, your Lyddy is dying!"

A second woman, who was hanging out clothes, dropped the garment she had in her hand and ran within; Eve followed her. A young girl, who appeared to be in a spasm, occupied the one bed, a poor one; the mother rushed to her. In a few minutes the danger was over, and the girl fell into a heavy sleep.

"That Mrs. Sullivan-she's too sprightly," said Mrs. Halley, after she had dismissed her frightened neighbor. "I just invited her to sit here trenquilly while I put out me clothes, when lo! she begins and screams like mad. She's had no education, that's plain. There's nothing the matter with my Lyddy except that she's delicate, and as soon as she's a little better I'm going to have her take music lessons on the peanner."

Eve looked at Mrs. Halley's ragged, wet dress, and at the wan, pinched face of the sleeping girl. "It is a pity you have to leave her," she said. "Couldn't you get somebody to do your washing?"

"I take in washing, miss; I'm a lady-laundress. Only the best; I never wash for the boats."

"How much do you earn a week?"

"Oh, a tidy sum," answered Mrs. Halley. Then, seeing that Eve had taken out her purse, her misery overcame her pride, and she burst forth, suddenly: "Never more than three dollars, miss, with me slaving from morning to night. And I've five children besides poor Lyddy there."

Eve gave her a five-dollar bill.

"Oh, may the Lord bless you!" she began to cry. "And me with me skirt all wet, and the house not clean, when the chariot of the Lord descended upon me!" She sank into a chair, her toil-worn hands over her face, her tired back bent forward, relaxed at last, and resting.

Eve pursued her investigations; she sent a boy to town for provisions, and waited to see a meal prepared. Mrs. Halley, still wet and ragged, but now refreshed by joy, moved about rapidly; at last there was nothing more to do but to sit down and wait. "She was the prettiest of all my children," she remarked, indicating the sleeping girl with a motion of her head.

"She is still pretty," Eve answered.

"Yet you never saw her making eyes at gentlemen like some; there's a great deal of making eyes at Potterpins. Rose Bonham, now-she got a silk dress out of Mr. Tennant no longer ago as last March."

"Mr. Tennant?"

"Yes; the gentleman who superintends the mine. Not that I have anything to say against him; gentlemen has their priviluges. All I say is-girls hasn't!"

Eve had risen. "I must go; I will come again soon."

"Oh, miss," said the woman, dropping her gossip, and returning to her gratitude (which was genuine)-"oh, miss, mayn't I know your name? I want to put it in me prayers. There was just three cents in the house, miss, when you came; and Lyddy she couldn't eat the last meal I got for her-a cracker and a piece of mackerel."

"You can pray for me without a name," said Eve, going

out.

She felt as though there were hot coals in her throat, she could scarcely breathe. She went towards the forest, and, entering it by a cart-track, walked rapidly on. Rose Bonham was the daughter of the butter-woman. Bonham had a forest farm about five miles from Port aux Pins on the road to Betsy Lake, and his wife kept Paul's cottage supplied with butter. Eve had seen the daughter several times; she was a very beautiful girl. Eve and Cicely thought her bold; but the women who eat the butter are apt to think so of those who bring it, if the bringers have sparkling eyes, peach-like complexions, and the gait of Hebe.

And Paul himself had suggested the spending the night there-an entirely unnecessary thing-under the pretence of gaining thereby an earlier start in the morning.

She came to a little pool of clear water; pausing beside it, half unconsciously, she beheld the reflection of her face in its mirror, and something seemed to say to her, "What is your education, your culture, your senseless pride worth, when compared with the peach-like bloom of that young girl?" Her own image looked up at her, pale, cold, and stern; it did not seem to her to have a trace of beauty. She took a stone, and, casting it in the pool, shattered the picture. "I wish I were beautiful beyond words! I could be beautiful if I had everything; if nothing but the finest lace ever touched me, if I never raised my hand to do anything for myself, if I had only dainty and delicate and beautiful things about me, I should be beautiful-I know I should. Bad women have those things, they say; why haven't they the best of it?"

She began to walk on again. She had not given much thought to the direction her steps were taking; now it came to her that the road to Lake Betsy, and therefore to Bonham's, was not far away, and she crossed the wood towards it. When she reached it, she turned towards Bonham's. Five miles. It was now after five o'clock.

When she came in sight of the low roof and scattered out-buildings a sudden realization of what she was doing came to her, and she stopped. Why was she there? If they should see her, any of them, what would they think? What could she say? As though they were already upon her, she took refuge hastily behind the high bushes with which the road was bordered. "Oh, what have I come here for? Humiliating! Let me get back home!-let me get back home!" She returned towards Port aux Pins by the fields, avoiding the road; the shadows were dense now; it was almost night.

She had gone more than a mile when she stopped. An irresistible force impelled her, and she retraced her steps. When she reached Bonham's the second time, lights were shining from the windows. The roughly-built house rose directly from the road. Blinds and curtains were evidently considered superfluous. With breathless eagerness she drew near; the evening was cool, and the windows were closed; through the small wrinkled panes she could distinguish a wrinkled Cicely, a wrinkled judge, a Hollis much askew, and a Paul Tennant with a dislocated jaw; they were playing a game. After some moments she recognized that it was whist; she almost laughed aloud, a bitter laugh at herself; she had walked five miles to see a game of whist.

A dog barked, she turned away and began her long journey homeward.

But the thought came to her, and would not leave her. "After the game is over, and the others have gone to bed, he will see that girl somehow!"

She did not find the road a long one. Passion made it short, a passion of jealous despair.

Reaching the town at last, she passed an ephemeral ice-cream saloon with a large window; seated within, accompanied by a Port aux Pins youth of the hobbledehoy species, was Rose Bonham, eating ice-cream.

The next evening at six the excursion party returned. At seven they were seated at the tea-table. The little door-bell jangled loudly in the near hall, there was a sound of voices; Paul, who was nearest the door, rose and went to see what it was.

After a long delay he came back and looked in. They had all left the table, and Cicely had gone to her room; Paul beckoned Eve out silently. His face had a look that made her heart stop beating; in the narrow hall, under the small lamp, he gave her, one by one, three telegraphic despatches, open.

The first: "Monday.

"Break it to Cicely. Dear Ferdie died at dawn.

"SABRINA ABERCROMBIE."

The second: "Monday.

"Morrison died this morning. Telegraph your wishes.

"EDWARD KNOX, M.D."

The third: "Wednesday.

"Morrison buried this afternoon. Address me, Charleston Hotel,

Charleston.

"EDWARD KNOX, M.D."

"I ought to have had them two days ago," said Paul. He stood with his lips slightly apart looking at her, but without seeing her or seeing anything.

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