MoboReader> Literature > Jupiter Lights

   Chapter 25 No.25

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 20833

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


PAUL remained away for ten days; not by his own wish, but detained by business.

During his absence Hollis's services were in demand. Cicely was now able to go out on the lake, and he took her for an hour or two every morning in one of the larger canoes; the nurse and Cicely sat at the bow, then came Porley and Jack, then Eve, then Hollis. Cicely still did not talk, she had not again asked for her grandfather; but she looked at the water and the woods on the shore, and her face showed occasionally some slight childish interest in what was passing. Eve, too, scarcely spoke; but it was pleasure enough for poor Hollis to be opposite to her, where he could see her without appearing to gaze too steadily. He had always admired her; he had admired her voice, her reticent, independent way; he had admired her tall, slender figure, with the broad sweep of the shoulders, the erect carriage, and lithe, strong step. He had never thought her too cold, too pale; but now in the increased life and color which had come to her she seemed to him a daughter of the gods-the strong Northern gods with flaxen hair; the flush in her cheeks made her eyes bluer and her hair more golden; the curve of her lips, a curve which had once been almost sullen, was now strangely sweet. Her love had made her beautiful; her love, too, made her kind to Hollis;-women are often unconsciously cruel in this way. The poor auctioneer lived in a fool's paradise and forgot all his cautions; day-dreams began to visit him, he was a boy again.

On the eleventh day Paul returned.

Hollis happened to see him meet Eve. Outwardly it was simply that they shook hands, and stood for a moment exchanging an unimportant question or two; or rather Paul asked, and Eve answered; but Paul's tone was not what it once had been, his eyes, looking at Eve, were different. It was one thing to know that she loved Paul, Hollis was used to that; it was another to know that Paul loved her. He watched through the day, with all the acuteness of jealousy, discovering nothing. But that evening, when Eve had said good-night and started towards her lodge, Paul rose and followed her.

"I guess I'll go down to the lake for a moment or two," Hollis said to the judge, who was sitting by the fire. He walked away in the direction of the lake; then, doubling upon his track, he returned, avoiding the fire and going towards the row of lodges. Presently he saw two dusky figures, a man and a woman; they stood there for a moment; then the man bent his head and touched with his lips the woman's wrist. It was but for a second; they separated, she going towards her lodge, and he returning to the fire. The watcher in the wood stole noiselessly down to the beach and got out a canoe; then he went off and woke an Indian. Presently the two were paddling westward over the dark lake. They caught the steamer. Hollis reached Port aux Pins the following evening.

From the boat he went to a restaurant and ordered dinner; he called it "dinner" to make it appear more fine. He ordered the best that the establishment could offer. He complained because there were no anchovies. He said to the waiter: "This patty de fograr?-You must be sick! Take away these off-color peaches and bring me something first class. Bring lick-koors, too; can you catch on to that?" He drank a great deal of wine, finishing with champagne; then he lit a cigar and sauntered out.

He went to a beer-garden. The place was brightly lighted; dusty evergreens planted in tubs made foliage; little tables were standing in the sand; there was a stage upon which four men, in Tyrolese costume, were singing, "O Strassburg, du wundersch?ne Stadt!" very well, accompanied by a small orchestra.

"Hello, Katty, wie geht's?" said Hollis to a girl who was passing with a tray of empty beer-glasses. She stopped. "Want some ice-cream, Katty?"

"Oh, come now, Mr. Hollis, you know there's no ice-cream here."

"Did I say here? Outside, of course. Come along."

Katty went, nothing loath.

She was a girl of sixteen, with bright eyes, thick braids of brown hair, and a sweet voice; the fairness of extreme youth gave her a fictitious innocence. He took her to the ephemeral saloon, and sat looking at her while she devoured two large slabs of a violently pink tint; her preposterous Gainsborough hat, with its imitation plumes, she had taken off, and the flaring gas-light shone on her pretty face.

"Now shall we have a walk, Katty?"

They strolled through the streets for half an hour. He took her into a jeweller's shop, and bought her a German-silver dog-collar which she had admired in the window; she wanted it to clasp round her throat: "Close up, you know, under the chin; it's so cute that way." She was profuse in her thanks; of her own accord, when they came out, she took his arm.

He fell into silence. They passed his rooms; Katty looked up. "All dark," she said.

"Yes. I guess I'll take you back now, Katty; do you want to go home, or to the garden again?"

"I ain't accustomed to going to bed at this early hour, Mr. Hollis, whatever you may be. I'll go back to the gardens, please."

When they reached the entrance, he put his hand in his pocket and drew something out. "There, Katty, take that and buy more dog-collars. Money's all an old fellow like me is good for."

"Oh, Mr. Hollis,-when I like you better than many that's young."

"Thank you, Katty. Good-night."

He went, as he would have called it, "home." On the way he passed his office; a vague impulse made him unlock the door, and look in, by the light of a match. The skeleton was there, and the bonnets in their bandboxes. "I must try to work 'em off before winter," he thought; "they are really elegant." He locked the door again, and, going a little farther down the street, he entered an open hallway, and began to climb a long flight of stairs. On the second floor he inserted his key in a door, and, opening, entered; he was at home. The air was close and hot, and he threw up the windows; leaving the candle in the outer room, he went and sat down in his parlor, crossing his legs, and trying to lean back; every chair in the room was in its very nature and shape uncomfortable. Sitting there, his life in retrospect passed slowly before him, like a picture unrolling itself on the dark wall; he saw all the squalid poverty of it, all its disappointments, its deprivations. "From first to last it's been a poor affair; I wonder how I've stood it!" The dawn came into the room, he did not move; he sat there with his hat on until the little bell of the Baptist church near by began to ring for Sabbath-school. He listened to the sound for a while, it was persistent; finally he got up; his legs felt stiff, he brushed some dust from his trousers with the palm of his hand; then he went out.

He went down to the street, and thence to the Baptist church. The door stood open, and he went in; the children were already in their places, and the organ was sounding forth a lively tune; presently the young voices began all together in a chorus,

"The voice of free grace cries escape to the mount-ins-"

His mother used to sing that song, he remembered. She often sang it over her work, and she was always at work-yes, to the very day of her death; she was a patient, silent creature.

"I don't know that I'd oughter have less pluck than she had," thought her son.

"Brother, will you have a book?" whispered a little man in a duster, proffering one from behind.

Hollis took it, and followed the words as the children sang them to the end. When the prayer began, he laid the book down carefully on the seat, and went out on tiptoe. He went down to the pier; the westward bound boat had just come in; he went on board.

"Business," he explained to the judge, when he reached the camp. "Had to go."

"Sold the skeleton, perhaps?"

"Well, I've laid one!" responded Hollis, grimly.

The judge was in gay spirits, Cicely had been talking to him; it had been about Jack, and she had said nothing of importance; but the sentences had been rational, connected.

Several days passed, and the improvement continued; consciousness had returned to her eyes, they all felt hopeful. They had strolled down to the beach one evening to see the sunset, and watch the first flash of Jupiter Light out on its reef. Eve was with Hollis; she selected him each day as her companion, asking him in so many words to accompany her; Hollis went, showering out jokes and puns. Now and then he varied his efforts at entertainment by legends of what he called "old times on the frontier." They always began: "My father lived on a flat-boat. He was a bold and adventurous character." In reality, his father was a teacher of singing, who earned his living (sometimes) by getting up among school-children, who co-operated without pay, a fairy operetta called The Queen of the Flowers; he was an amiable man with a mild tenor voice; he finally became a colporteur for the Methodist Book Concern. To-day Hollis was talking about the flat-boat-maundering on, as he would himself have called it; Paul and the judge strolled to and fro. The water came up smoothly in long, low swells, whose edge broke at their feet with a little sound like "whisssh," followed by a retreating gurgle.

"Paul Tennant, are you there?" asked a voice.

Startled, they turned. On the bank above the beach, and therefore just above their heads (the bank was eight feet high), stood Cicely.

"It is you I want, Paul Tennant. Everything has come back to me; I know now that Ferdie is dead. You would not let me go to him; probably he thought that it was because I did not want to go. This I owe to you, and I curse you for it. I curse you, Paul Tennant, I curse your days and nights; all the things and people you like, all your hopes and plans. If you trust any one, I hope that person will betray you; if you love any one, I hope that person will hate you; if you should have any children, I hope they will be disobedient, and, whatever they may be to others, undutiful to you."

"Cicely, stop!" cried Eve. "Will no one stop her?"

"God, curse Paul Tennant. He has been so cruel!" She was now kneeling down, her arms held up to heaven in appeal.

The judge looked waxily pallid; Hollis did not move; Paul, much less disturbed than any one, was already climbing the bank. It was perpendicular, and there was ne

ither footing nor hold, but after one or two efforts he succeeded. When he reached the top, however, Cicely was gone. He went to her lodge; here he found her sitting quietly beside Jack's bed; she was alone, neither the nurse nor Porley was with her. Before he could speak, Eve appeared, breathless.

"Where is the nurse, Cicely?" Paul asked, in his usual tone.

"Do you mean that woman whom you have put over me? She has gone for a walk."

"And Porley?"

"You will find Porley at the big pine."

"What is she doing there?"

"I didn't want her about, so I tied her to the trunk," Cicely answered. "Probably she is frightened," she added, calmly.

"Go and find her," said Eve to Paul. "I will stay here."

"Have nothing to do with Paul Tennant, Eve," Cicely remarked. "He is almost a murderer. He didn't go to his brother; he let him die alone."

"I shall not leave you," said Paul, looking at Eve's white cheeks.

"Have you fallen in love with each other?" asked Cicely. "It needed only that."

"I beg you to go," Eve entreated.

Paul hesitated. "Will you promise not to leave this lodge until I come back?"

"Yes."

Paul went out. As he did so, he saw the judge approaching, leaning heavily on Hollis's arm.

"It's nothing," Hollis explained. "The judge, he's only tuckered out; a night's rest is all he needs."

"Take me to Cicely," the judge commanded.

"Cicely ought to be quiet now," Paul answered in a decided voice. "Eve is with her, and they're all right; women do better alone together, you know, when one of them has hysteria."

"Hysteria! Is that what you called it?" said the judge.

"Of course. And it's natural," Paul went on:-"poor little girl, coming to herself suddenly here in the woods, only to realize that her husband is dead. We shall have to be doubly tender with her, now that she is beginning to be herself again."

"You didn't mind it, then?" pursued the judge. He was relieved, of course-glad. Still it began to seem almost an impertinence that Paul should have paid so little attention to what had been to the rest of them so terrible.

"Mind? Do you mean what she was saying? I didn't half hear it, I was thinking how I could get up that bank. And that reminds me there's something wrong with Porley; she's at the big pine. I am going out there to see. Cicely told me that she had tied her in some way."

"If she did, the wench richly deserved it," said the judge, going towards his lodge, his step stiff and slow.

"He came mighty near a stroke," said Hollis to Paul in an undertone.

"Hadn't you better go with him, then?"

"Oh yes; I'll go." He went towards the judge's lodge. "You go right into that lodge, fool Hollis, and stay there,-stay with that unreasonable, vituperative, cantankerous old Bourbon of a judge, and-judge of Bourbon! You smooth him down, and you hearten him up, you agree with him every time; you tuck him in, you hang his old clothes over a chair, you take his shoes out, and black 'em; and you conduct yourself generally like one of his own nigs in the glorious old days of slavery-Maryland, my Maryland!" He lifted the latch of the door, and went in.

Paul, meanwhile, had gone to the big pine; when he reached it, the twilight had darkened into night. A crouching figure stood close to the trunk-Porley; she was tied by a small rope to the tree, the firm ligatures encircling her in three places-at the throat, the waist, and the ankles; in addition, her hands were tied behind her.

"Well, Porley, a good joke, isn't it?" Paul said, as he cut the knots of the rope with his knife.

"Ah-hoo!" sobbed the girl, her fright breaking into audible expression now that aid was near.

"Mrs. Morrison thought she would see how brave you were."

"Ah-hoo! Ah-hoo-hoo-hoo!" roared Porley, in a paroxysm of frantic weeping.

"If you are so frightened as that, what did you let her do it for? You are five times as strong as she is."

"I coulden tech her, marse-I coulden! Says she, 'A-follerin' an' spyin', Porley? Take dat rope an' come wid me. ' So I come. She's cunjud me, marse; I is done fer."

"Nonsense! Where's the nurse?"

"I doan know-I doan know. Says she, 'We'll take a walk, Miss Mile.' An' off dey went, 'way ober dat way. Reckon Miss Mile's dead!"

"No more dead than you are. Go back to the camp and un-cunjer yourself; there's a dollar to help it along."

He went off in the direction she had indicated. After a while he began to call at intervals; there was a distant answer, and he called again. And then gradually, nearer and nearer, came the self-respecting voice of Mary Ann Mile. Each time he shouted, "Hello there!" her answer was, "Yes, sir; present-lée," in a very well-educated tone.

"What is this, Mrs. Mile?"

"You may well ask, sir. Such an incident has never happened to me before. Mrs. Morrison remarked that she should enjoy a walk, and I therefore went with her; after we had proceeded some distance, suddenly she darted off. I followed her, and kept her in sight for a while, or rather she kept me in sight; then she disappeared, and I perceived not only that I had lost her, but that I myself was lost. It is a curious thing, sir,-the cleverness of people whose minds are disordered!"

"Her mind is no longer disordered, Mrs. Mile; she has got back her senses."

"Do you consider this an instance of it?" asked the nurse, doubtfully.

When Paul left Cicely's lodge, Eve closed the door. "Cicely, I have something to tell you. Listen."

"It is a pity you like that man-that Paul Tennant," Cicely answered.

"If I do like him, I can never be anything to him. This is what I wanted to tell you: that I shot his brother."

"Well, if his brother was like him-"

"Oh, Cicely, it was Ferdie-your Ferdie."

"What do you know about Ferdie?" demanded Cicely, coldly. "He never liked you in the least."

"Don't you know, Cicely, that Ferdie is dead?"

"Oh, yes, I know it. Paul would not let me go to him, and he died all alone."

"And do you know what was the cause of his death?"

"Yes; he was shot; there were some negroes, they got away in a boat."

"No, there were no negroes; I shot him. I took a pistol on purpose."

"It seems to be very hard work for you to tell me this, you are crying dreadfully," remarked Cicely, looking at her. "Why do you tell?"

"Because I am the one you must curse. Not Paul."

"It's all for Paul, then."

"But it was for you in the first place, Cicely. Don't you remember that we escaped?-that we went through the wood to the north point?-that you tried to push the boat off, and couldn't? Baby climbed up by one of the seats, and Ferdie saw him, and made a dash after him; then it was that I fired. I did it, Cicely. Nobody else."

"Oh," said Cicely, slowly, "you did it, did you?" She rose. "And Paul kept me from going to him! It was all you two." She went to the crib, and lifted Jack from his nest. He stirred drowsily; then fell asleep again. (Poor little Jack, what journeys!)

"Open that door; and go," Cicely commanded.

Eve hesitated a moment. Then she obeyed.

Cicely wrapped a shawl about Jack, and laid him down; she set to work and made two packets of clothing-one for herself, and one for the child-slinging them upon her arm; she put on her straw hat, took Jack, and went out, closing the door behind her. Eve, who was waiting outside in the darkness, followed her. She dared not call for help; she hoped that they might meet Paul coming back, or Porley, or the nurse. But they met no one, Paul was still at the big pine. Cicely turned down to the beach, and began to walk westward. Eve followed, moving as noiselessly as possible; but Cicely must have heard her, though she gave no sign of it, for, upon passing a point, Eve found that she had lost her, there was no one in sight. She ran forward, she called her name entreatingly; she stood by the edge of the water, fearing to see something dark floating there. She called again, she pleaded. No answer from the dusky night. She turned and ran back to the camp.

At its edge she met Paul. "You promised me that you would not leave the lodge," he said.

"Oh, Paul, I don't know where she is. Oh, come-hurry, hurry!"

They went together. She was so tired, so breathless, that he put his arm round her as a support.

"Oh, do not."

"This is where you ought always to be when you are tired-in my arms."

"Don't let us talk. She may be dead."

"Poor little Cicely! But you are more to me."

His tones thrilled her, she felt faint with happiness. Suddenly came the thought: "When we find her, she will tell him! She will tell him all I said."

"Don't believe her; don't believe anything she may tell you," she entreated, passionately. A fierce feeling took possession of her; she would fight for her happiness. "Am I nothing to you?" she said, pausing; "my wish nothing? Promise me not to believe anything Cicely says against me,-anything! It's all an hallucination."

Paul had not paid much heed to her exclamations, he thought all women incoherent; but he perceived that she was excited, exhausted, and he laid his hand protectingly on her hair, smoothing it with tender touch. "Why should I mind what she says? It would be impossible for her to say anything that could injure you in my eyes, Eve."

Beyond the next point they saw a light; it came from a little fire of twigs on the beach. Beside the fire was Jack; he was carefully wrapped in the shawl, the two poor little packets of clothing were arranged under him as a bed; Cicely's straw hat was under his head, and her handkerchief covered his feet. But there was no Cicely. They went up and down the beach, and into the wood behind; again Eve looked fearfully at the water.

"She isn't far from Jack," said Paul. "We shall find her in a moment or two."

Eve's search stopped. "In a moment or two he will know!"

"Here she is!" cried Paul.

And there was Cicely, sitting close under the bank in the deepest shadow. She did not move; Paul lifted her in his arms.

"The moon is under a cloud now," she explained, in a whispering voice; "as soon as it comes out, I shall see Ferdie over there on the opposite shore, and I shall call to him. "Don't let that fire go out, I haven't another match; he will need the light as a guide."

"She thinks she is on Singleton Island!" said Eve;-"the night we got away."

Her tone was joyous.

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares