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   Chapter 26 No.26

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 10922

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


PAUL AND EVE took Cicely back to the camp. And almost immediately, before Mrs. Mile could undress her, she had fallen asleep. It was the still slumber of exhaustion, but it seemed also to be a rest; she lay without moving all that night, and the next day, and the night following. As she slumbered, gradually the tenseness of her face was relaxed, the lines grew lighter, disappeared; then slowly a pink colored her cheeks, restoring her beauty.

They all came softly in from time to time to stand beside her for a moment. The nurse was sure that the sleep was nature's medicine, and that it was remedial; and when at last, on the second day, the dark eyes opened, it could be seen that physically the poor child was well.

She laughed with Jack, she greeted her grandfather, and talked to him; she called Porley "Dilsey," and told her that she was much improved. "I will give you a pair of silver ear-rings, Dilsey, when we get home." For she seemed to comprehend that they were not at home, but on a journey of some sort. The memory of everything that had happened since Ferdie's arrival at Romney had been taken from her; she spoke of her husband as in South America. But she did not talk long on any subject. She wished to have Jack always with her, she felt a tranquil interest in her grandfather, and this was all. With the others she was distant. Her manner to Eve was exactly the manner of those first weeks after Eve's arrival at Romney. She spoke of Paul and Hollis to her grandfather as "your friends."

She gathered flowers; she talked to the Indians, who looked at her with awe; she wandered up and down the beach, singing little songs, and she spent hours afloat. Mrs. Mile, who, like the well-trained nurse that she was, had no likes or dislikes as regarded her patients, and who therefore cherished no resentment as to the manner in which she had been befooled in the forest-Mrs. Mile thoroughly enjoyed "turning out" her charge each morning in a better condition than that of the day before. Cicely went willingly to bed at eight every evening, and she did not wake until eight the next morning; when she came out of her lodge after the bath, the careful rubbing, and the nourishing breakfast which formed part of Mrs. Mile's excellent system, from the crisp edges of her hair down to her quick-stepping little feet, she looked high-spirited, high-bred, and fresh as an opening rose. Mrs. Mile would follow, bringing her straw hat, her satisfaction expressed by a tightening of her long upper lip that seemed preliminary to a smile (though the smile never came), and by the quiet pride visible in her well-poised back. When, as generally happened, Cicely went out on the lake, Mrs. Mile, after over-seeing with her own eyes the preparations for lunch, would retire to a certain bench, whence she could watch for the returning boats, and devote herself to literature for a while, always reading one book, the History of Windham, Connecticut, Windham being her native place. As she sat there, with her plain broad-cheeked face and smooth scanty hair, her stiff white cuffs, her neat boots, size number seven, neatly crossed before the short skirt of her brown gown, she made a picture of a sensible, useful person (without one grain of what a man would call feminine attractiveness). But no one cared to have her attractive at Jupiter Light; they were grateful for her devotion to Cicely, and did not study her features. They all clustered round Cicely more constantly than ever now, this strange little companion, so fair and fresh, so happily unconscious, by God's act, of the sorrows that had crushed her.

Paul was back and forth, now at the camp for a day or two, now at Port aux Pins. One afternoon, when he was absent, Eve went to the little forest burying-ground belonging to Jupiter Light. On the way she met Cicely, accompanied by Mrs. Mile.

"Where are you going? I will go with you, I think," Cicely remarked. "It can't be so tiresome as this."

Mrs. Mile went intelligently away.

"I am very tired of her," Cicely continued; "she looks like the Mad Hatter at the tea-party: this style ten-and-six. Why are you turning off?"

"This path is prettier."

"No; I want to go where you were going first."

"Perhaps she won't mind," thought Eve.

When they came to the little enclosure, Cicely looked at it calmly. "Is this a garden?" she asked. She began to gather wild flowers outside. Eve went within; she cleared the fallen leaves from the grave of the little girl. While she was thus occupied, steps came up the path, and Hollis appeared; making a sign to Eve, he offered his arm quickly to Cicely. "Mrs. Morrison, the judge is in a great hurry to have you come back."

"Grandpa?" said Cicely. "Is he ill?"

"Yes, he is very ill indeed," replied Hollis, decidedly.

"Poor grandpa!" said Cicely. "Let us hurry."

They went back to the camp. Reaching it, he took her with rapid step to her lodge, where the judge and Mrs. Mile were waiting. "You are ill, grandpa?" said Cicely, going to him.

"I am already better."

"But not by any means well yet," interposed Mrs. Mile; "he must stay here in this lodge, and you shouldn't leave him for one moment, Mrs. Morrison."

Porley and Jack were also present; every now and then Mrs. Mile would give Porley a peremptory sign.

Hollis and Eve stood together near the door talking in low tones. "A muss among the Indians," Hollis explained. "Those we brought a

long are peaceful enough if left to themselves; in fact, they are cowards. But a dangerous fellow, a very dangerous scamp, joined them this morning on the sly, and they've got hold of some whiskey; I guess he brought it. I thought I'd better tell you; the cook is staying with them to keep watch, and the judge and I are on the lookout here; I don't think there is the least real danger; still you'd better keep under cover. If Paul comes, we shall be all right."

"Do you expect him to-day?"

"Sorter; but I'm not sure."

A drunken shout sounded through the forest.

"An Indian spree is worse than a white man's," remarked Hollis. "But you ain't afraid, I see that!" He looked at her admiringly.

"I'm only afraid of one thing in the world," replied Eve, taking, woman-like, the comfort of a confession which no one could understand.

"Can you shoot?" Hollis went on.-"Fire a pistol?"

She blanched.

"There, now, never mind. 'Twas only a chance question."

"No, tell me. I can shoot perfectly well; as well as a man."

"Then I'll give you my pistol. You'll have no occasion to use it, not the least in the world; but still you'll be armed."

"Put it on the table. I can get it if necessary."

"Well, I'll go outside. I'm to stroll about where I can see the cook; that's my cue; and you can stay near the door, where you can see me; that's yours. And the judge, he has the back window, one of the guns is there. All right? Bon-sor, then." He went out.

Eve sat down by the door. The judge kept up a conversation with Cicely, and anxiously played quiet games with little Jack, until both fell asleep; Cicely fell asleep very easily now, like a child. Mrs. Mile lifted her in her strong arms and laid her on the bed, while Porley took Jack; poor Porley was terribly frightened, but rather more afraid of Mrs. Mile, on the whole, than of the savages.

By-and-by a red light flashed through the trees outside; the Indians had kindled a fire.

Twenty minutes later Hollis paused at the door. "Paul's coming, I guess; I hear paddles."

"Of course you'll go down and meet him?" said Eve.

"No, I can't leave the beat."

"I can take your place for that short time."

"Don't you show your head outside-don't you!" said Hollis, quickly.

Eve looked at him. "I shall go down to the beach myself, if you don't." Her eyes were inflexible.

All Hollis's determination left him. "The judge can take this beat, then; you can guard his window," he said, in a lifeless tone. He went down to the beach.

All of them-the judge, Mrs. Mile, and Porley, as well as Eve-could hear the paddles now; the night, save for the occasional shouts, was very still. Eve stood at the window. "Will the Indians hear him, and go down?"

But they did not hear him. In another five minutes Paul had joined them.

Hollis, who was with him, gave a hurried explanation. "We're all right, now that you are here," he concluded; "we are more than a match for the drunken scamps if they should come prowling up this way. When the whiskey's out of 'em to-morrow, we can reduce 'em to reason."

"Why wait till to-morrow?" said Paul.

"No use getting into a fight unnecessarily."

"I don't propose to fight," Paul answered.

"They're eleven, Tennant," said the judge; "you wouldn't have time to shoot them all down."

"I'm not going to shoot," Paul responded. He went towards the door.

"Don't go," pleaded Eve, interposing.

He went straight on, as though he had not heard her.

"I can't move him," she thought, triumphantly. "I can no more move him than I could move a mountain!"

Paul was gone. Hollis followed him to the door. "We two must stay here and protect the women, you know," said the judge, warningly.

"Why, certainly," said Hollis; "of course,-the ladies." He came back.

Suddenly Eve hurried out.

Paul reached the Indian quarters, and walked up to the fire. He gave a look round the circle.

The newly arrived man, the one whom Hollis had called dangerous, sprang to his feet.

Paul took him by the throat and shook the breath out of him.

When Hollis came hurrying up, the thing was done; the other Indians, abject and terrified, were helping to bind the interloper.

"The cook can watch them now," said Paul. "I suppose there's no supper, with all this row?"

Hollis gave a grim laugh. "At a pinch-like this, I don't mind cooking one."

Paul turned. And then he saw Eve behind him.

Hollis had gone to the kitchen; he did not wish to see them meet.

"You did absurdly wrong to come, Eve," said Paul, going to her. "What possible good was it? And if there had been real danger, you would have been in the way."

"You are trembling; are you so frightened, then?" he went on, his voice growing softer.

"I am not frightened now."

They went towards the lodge.

"It's a desolate life you've arranged for me, Eve," he said, going back to his subject, the Indians already forgotten. "I'm not to say anything to you; I'm to have nothing; and so we're to go on apparently forever. What is it you are planning for? I am sure I don't know. I know you care for me, and I don't believe that you'll find anything sweeter than the love I could give you,-if you would let me."

"There is nothing sweeter," Eve answered.

"Have you given up keeping me off?" He drew her towards him. She did not resist.

In her heart rose the cry, "For one day, for one hour, let me have it, have it all! Then-"

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