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   Chapter 28 No.28

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 29651

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

THE next day Paul started at dawn for Port aux Pins, he wished to make the house ready for his wife; he had not much money, but there was one room in the plain cottage which should be beautiful. No suspicion came to him that there would be any difficulty in making it beautiful; his idea was simply that it was a matter of new furniture.

He reached Port aux Pins at night, and let himself into his cottage with his key; lighting a candle, he went to his room. He had never been dissatisfied with this simple apartment, he was not dissatisfied now; there was a good closet, where he could hang up his clothes; there was a broad shelf, where he could put his hand in the dark upon anything which he might want; there was his iron bedstead, and there was his white-pine bureau; two wooden chairs; a wash-hand stand, with a large bowl; a huge tin pail for water, a flat bath-tub in position on the floor, and plenty of towels and sponges-what could man want more?

But a woman would want more; and he gave a little laugh, which had a thrill in it, as he thought of Eve standing there, and looking about her at his plain masculine arrangements. The bare floor would not please her, perhaps; he must order a carpet. "Turkey," he thought, vaguely; he had heard the word, and supposed that it signified something very light in color, with a great many brilliant roses. "Perhaps there ought to be a few more little things," he said to himself, doubtfully. Then, after another moment's survey: "But I needn't be disturbed, she'll soon fill it full of tottlish little tables and dimity; she'll flounce everything with white muslin, and tie everything with blue ribbons; she'll overflow into the next room too, this won't be enough for her. Perhaps I'd better throw the two into one, with a big fireplace-I know she likes big fireplaces; if it's as large as that, I sha'n't be suffocated, even with all her muslin." And, with another fond laugh, he turned in.

The morning after Paul's departure, Eve did not go near Cicely; she asked Mrs. Mile, in a tone which even that unimaginative woman found haughty, how Mrs. Morrison was. (In reality the haughtiness hid a trembling fear.)

"She seems better, Miss Bruce, as regards her physical state. Truth compels me to add, however, that she says extremely irrational things."

"What things?" asked Eve, with a pang of dread. For the things which Mrs. Mile would call irrational might indicate that Cicely was herself again, Mrs. Mile's idea of the rational being always the commonplace.

"When she first woke, ma'am, she said, 'Oh, what a splendid wind!-how it does blow! I must go out and run and run. Can you run, Priscilla Jane?'-when my name, ma'am, is Priscilla Ann. Seeing that she was so lively, I began to tell her a dream which I had had. She interrupted me: 'Dreams are the reflections of our thoughts by day, Priscilla Jane. I know your thoughts by day; they are wearing. I don't want repetitions of them by night, I should be ground to powder.' Now, ma'am, could anything be more irrational?"

"She is herself again!" thought Eve. She went off into the forest, and did not return until the noon meal was over. Going to the kitchen, she ate some bread, she was fond of dry bread; coming back after this frugal repast, she still avoided Cicely's lodge, she went down to the beach. Here her restlessness ceased for the moment; she sat looking over the water, her eyes not seeing it, seeing only Paul. After half an hour, Hollis, with simulated carelessness, passed that way and stopped. As soon as he saw her face he said to himself, "They are to be married immediately!"

"We sha'n't be staying much longer at Jupiter Light, I guess," he said aloud, in a jocular tone.

"No," Eve answered. "The summer is really over," she added, as if in explanation.

"Don't look much like it to-day."

She made no reply.

"Paul went back to Potterpins rather in a hurry, didn't he?" pursued Hollis, playing with his misery.

"Yes.-He has a good deal to do," she continued. If he could not resist playing with his misery, neither could she help exulting in her happiness, parading it for her own joy in spoken words; it made it more real.

"Good deal to do? He didn't tell me about it; perhaps I could have helped him," Hollis went on awkwardly, but looking at her with all his heart in his eyes-his poor, hungry, unsatisfied old heart.

"You could be of use to us," said Eve, suddenly; ("Us!" thought Hollis.)-"the very greatest, Mr. Hollis. If you would go south with Judge Abercrombie and Mrs. Morrison it would be everything. They will probably go in a week or ten days, and Mrs. Mile accompanies them; but if you could go too, it would be much safer."

"And you to stay in Port aux Pins with Paul," thought Hollis. "I don't grudge it to you, Evie, God knows I don't-may you be very happy, sweet one! But I shall have to get out of this all the same. I'm ashamed of myself, old fellow that I am, but I can't stand it, I can't! I shall have to clear out. I'll go west."

Eve, meanwhile, was waiting for his reply. "Of course, Miss Bruce," he answered aloud, "should like nothing better than a little run down South. Why, the old judge and me, we'll make a regular spree of it!" And he slapped his leg in confirmation.

Eve gave him a bright smile by way of thanks. But she was too much absorbed to talk long with anybody, and presently she left him, taking a path through the woods.

In fifteen minutes her restlessness brought her back again. She stopped at the edge of the camp; Porley, near by, was making "houses"-that is, squares and pyramids of the little pebbles of the beach, which Master Jack demolished when completed, with the air of a conqueror. "Porley, go and ask the nurse how Mrs. Morrison is now;-whether she is more quiet."

"Mis' Morrison, she's ebber so much weller to-day," volunteered Porley. "When she ain't so quiet, Miss Bruce-droppin' off inter naps all de time-den she's weller."

"Do as I tell you," said Eve.

The girl went off.

"House," demanded Jack.

Eve took him on her shoulder instead.

"Sing to Jacky; poor, poor Jacky!" said the child, gleefully.

"Mis' Mile, she say Mis' Morrison done gone ter sleep dish yere minute," reported Porley, with a crestfallen air, returning.

Eve's spirits rose. "Oh, Jack, naughty boy!" She laughed convulsively, lifting up her shoulder, as the child tried to insert one of his pebbles under her linen collar, selecting a particularly ticklish spot on her throat for the purpose.-"Do you want to go out on the lake?"

Jack dropped his pebble; he was always wild with delight at the prospect of a voyage. Porley picked up his straw hat, and brought his little coat, in case the air should grow cool; in ten minutes they were afloat. Eve turned the canoe down the lake, rowing eastward.

After a voyage of twenty minutes, she headed the boat shoreward and landed; the woods hereabout had a gray-green look which tempted her; they brought back the memory of that first walk with Paul. "See to Jack," she said to Porley briefly, lifting the child safely to the beach. "I shall be back soon." Entering the wood, she walked on at random, keeping within sight of the water.

She was lost in a day-dream, one of those day-dreams which come sometimes to certain temperaments with such vividness that the real world disappears; she was with Paul, she was looking at him, his arm was round her, their future life together unrolled itself before her day by day, hour by hour, in all its details; in her happiness, all remembrance of anything else vanished away.

How long this state lasted she never knew. At a certain point a distant cry crossed the still ecstasy; but it reached her vaguely, it did not bring her back. A second summons was more distinct; but it seemed an impertinence which it was not necessary to answer. A third time came the sound, and now there were syllables: "Miss E-eve! Miss E-eve!" Then, a moment later, "Oh, Ba-by!" She recognized the shrillness of a negro woman's voice-it was Porley. "Baby?" That could only mean Jack! The trance was over, she felt as if a whip had been brought suddenly down upon her shoulders. She rushed to the lake, and from there along the beach towards the spot where she had left the child.

The screams grew louder. A bend hid that part of the beach from her view; would she never reach the end of that bend! She was possessed by a great fear. "Oh, don't let anything happen to baby!" She could not have told herself to whom she was appealing.

At last she reached the curve, she saw what had happened: the child, alone in the canoe, had been carried out to deep water.

Porley, frantic with grief, had waded out as far as she could; she was standing with the water up to her chin, sobbing aloud. Eve's flushed face turned white. She beckoned to Porley to come to her. Then she forced herself to stand motionless, in order to recover her breath. As Porley came up, "Stop crying!" she commanded. "We must not frighten him. Go back under the trees where he cannot see you, and sit there quietly; don't speak."

When she was left alone, she went up the beach until she was on a line with the canoe; the boat moved waywardly and slowly, but it was being carried all the time still farther from the shore. "Jacky, are you having a good time out there?" she called, with a smiling face, as though the escapade had been his own, and he had cleverly outwitted them.

There was not a grain of the coward in the child. "Ess," he called back, triumphantly. He was sitting on a folded shawl in the bottom of the canoe, holding on with his hands to the sides; his eyes came just above its edge.

"Aunty Eve is going to get a boat and come out after you," Eve went on; "then we'll go fishing. But Jack must sit perfectly still, or else she won't come; perfectly still. Does Jacky hear?"

"Ess," called Jack again.

"If you are tired, put your head down and go to sleep. Aunty Eve will come, soon if you are still; not if you move about."

"I's still," called Jack, in a high key.

"If there was only a man here!-a man could swim out and bring the boat in," she thought, wringing her hands, and then stopping lest Jack should see the motion. She did not allow herself to think-"If Paul were only here!" It was on Paul's account, to be able to think of him by herself, to dream of their daily life together-it was for this that she had left her brother's child on that solitary beach, with only a careless negro girl to watch over him! But there was no man near, and there was no second boat. The canoe was already visibly farther away; little Jack's eyes, looking at her, were becoming indistinct, she could see only the outline of his head and the yellow of his curls. She waved her hand to him and sang, clearly and gayly:

"Row the boat, row the boat, up to the strand;

Before our door there is dry land-"

And Jack answered with a distant "Ess." Then he tried to go on with it. "Who pums idder, all booted an' spur-r-rd," he chanted, straining his little lungs to the utmost, so that his auntie should hear him.

The tears poured down Eve's cheeks as she heard the baby voice; she knew he could not see them. For an instant, she thought of trying to swim out to him herself. "I can swim. It isn't very far." She began to unbutton her boots. But should she have the strength to bring him in, either in the canoe or in her arms? And if she should sink, there would be no one to save Jack. She rebuttoned her boots and ran to Porley. "Go to the beach, and walk up and down where Jack can see you. Call to him once in a while, but not too often; call gayly, don't let him see that you are frightened; if he thinks you are frightened, he will become frightened himself and move about; then he will upset the boat. Do you understand what I mean? I am going back to the camp for another canoe. Keep him in sight; and try-do try to be sensible."

She was off. Without much hope she began her race. Before she passed beyond hearing, Porley's voice came to her: "Hi-yi, Jack! Yo're kyar'in on now, ain't yer? Splendid fun, sho! Wisht I was 'long!" And then followed a high chuckle, which Porley intended as a laugh. At least the girl had understood.

Eve could run very swiftly; her light figure, with its long step, made running easy to her. Yet each minute was now so precious that instinctively she used every precaution: she let her arms hang lifelessly, so that no energy should be spent in poising them; she kept her lips apart, and her eyes fixed on the beach about two yards in advance of her, so that she could select as she ran the best places for her feet, and avoid the loose stones. Her slender feet, too (undressed they were models for a sculptor), aided her by their elasticity; she wore a light boot, longer than her foot, and the silken web of her stocking was longer, so that her step was never cramped. But she could not run as rapidly as her canoe had skimmed the water under her strong strokes when it had brought her here; and that voyage had lasted twenty minutes; she remembered this with dread. For a while she ran rapidly-too rapidly; then, feeling that her breath was labored, she forced herself to slacken her pace and make it more regular; as much as possible like a machine. Thus she ran on. Once she was obliged to stop. Then she fell into a long swinging step, throwing her body forward a little from right to left as her weight fell now upon one foot, now upon the other, and this change was such a relief that she felt as if she could run the remaining distance with comparative ease. But before she reached the camp, she had come to the end of all her arrangements and experiments; she was desperate, panting.

"If I can only keep on until they see me!"

The camp had an unusually quiet look; so far as her eyes, injected with red by the effort she had made, could see, there were no moving figures anywhere; no one sitting on the benches; no one on the beach. Where were all the people?-what could have become of them? Hollis and the judge?-even the cook and the Irishmen? Nothing stirred; it seemed to her as if the very leaves on the trees and the waters of the lake had been struck by an unnatural calm. She came to the first stakes, where the nets were sometimes spread out. The nets were not there now. Then she came to the cistern-a sunken cask to which water was brought from an ice-cold spring; still no sound. Then the wood-pile; the Irishmen had evidently been adding to it that day, for an axe remained in a severed trunk; but no one was there. Though she had kept up her pace without break as she ran past these familiar objects, there was now a singing in her ears, and she could scarcely see, everything being rimmed by the hot, red blur which seemed

to exhale from her own eyes. She reached the line of lodges at last; leaving the beach, and going through the wood, she went straight to Cicely's door. It was closed. She opened it. "Cicely!" she said, or rather her lips formed the name without a sound.

"What is the matter? Where is Jack?" cried Cicely, springing up as soon as she saw Eve's face.

They met, grasping each other's hands.

"Where is he? What have you done with him?" Cicely repeated, holding Eve with a grasp of iron.

Eve could not talk. But she felt the agony in the mother's cry. "Safe," she articulated.

Cicely relaxed her hold. Eve sank to her knees; thence to the floor.

Cicely seemed to understand; she brought a pillow with business-like swiftness, and placed it under Eve's head; then she waited. Eve's eyes were closed; her throat and chest labored so, as she lay with her head thrown back, that Cicely bent down and quickly took out the little arrow-pin, and unbuttoned the top buttons of her dress. This relieved Eve; the convulsive panting grew quiet.

But with her first long breath she was on her feet again. "Come!" she said. She opened the door and left the lodge, hurrying down to the beach; thence she ran westward along the shore to the point where the canoes were kept. Cicely ran by her side without speaking; they had no need of words.

Reaching the boats, Eve began to push one of them towards the water. "Call Mr. Hollis;-go up to the edge of the wood and call," she said to Cicely, briefly.

"Gone fishing," Cicely responded, helping to push the boat on the other side.

At this moment some one appeared-one of the Irishmen.

"Take him and follow in that other canoe," said Eve. "We want all the help we can get."

As they pushed off rapidly-three minutes had not passed since they left the lodge-Priscilla Mile came hurrying down to the shore; she had been taking her daily exercise-a brisk walk of half an hour, timed by her watch. "Mrs. Morrison, Mrs. Morrison, where are you going? Take me with you."

Cicely did not even look at her. "Go on," she said to the man.

Eve was paddling rapidly; the second canoe followed hers.

When Mrs. Mile found that the two boats kept on their course, she went back to the lodge, put on her bonnet and shawl, and set off down the beach in the direction in which they were going, walking with steady steps, the shawl compactly pinned with two strong shawl-pins representing beetles.

As soon as they were fairly afloat, Cicely called: "Where is Jack? Tell me about it."

"Presently," answered Eve, without turning her head.

"No. Now!" said the mother, peremptorily.

"He is out on the lake, in the canoe."



"Oh! and it's getting towards night! Row faster; what is the matter with you?" (This to the Irishman.) "Eve, wait; how far out is he?"

"It's very calm," Eve answered.

"But in the dark we can never find him," wailed the mother, in a broken voice.

Eve made swift, tireless strokes. The Irishman could not keep up with her.

It was growing towards night, as Cicely had said; the days were shorter now; clouds were gathering too, though the air and water remained strangely still; the night would be dark.

"Your arms are like willow twigs, you have no strength," said Cicely to the Irishman. "Hurry!"

The man had plenty of strength, and was exerting every atom of it. Still Eve kept ahead of him. "Oh, Jack!" she said to herself, "let me be in time!" It was her brother to whom she was appealing.

She reached the spot where she had left Porley; but there was no Porley there. Without stopping, she paddled on eastward; Cicely's canoe was now some distance behind. Fifteen minutes more and she saw Porley, she rowed in rapidly. "Where is he?"

"Dair!" answered Porley, pointing over the darkening water with a gesture that was tragic in its despair.

At first Eve saw nothing; then she distinguished a black speck, she pointed towards it with her paddle.

"Yass'm, dat's him. I 'ain't nebber take my yies off 'em," said the girl, crying.

"Tell Mrs. Morrison. She's coming," said Eve. She turned her boat and paddled out rapidly towards the speck.

"If I only had matches-why didn't I bring some? It will be dark soon. But it's so calm that nothing can have happened to him; he will be asleep." In spite of her pretended certainty, however, dread held her heart as in a vise. "I won't think-only row." She tried to keep her mind a blank, resorting to the device of counting her strokes with great interest. On the light craft sped, with the peculiar skimming motion of the Indian canoe, as if it were gliding on the surface of the water. The twilight grew deeper.

There came a little gust, lightning showed itself for an instant in the bank of clouds across the southern sky. "There is going to be a storm." She stopped; the other boat, which had been following her swiftly, came up.

"Have you ever been out in a canoe in a storm?" she called to the Irishman, keeping her own boat well away from Cicely's.

"No, mum."

"Take Mrs. Morrison back to shore, then, as fast as you can."

"Go on!" commanded Cicely, with flashing eyes.

There came another gust. The man, perplexed by the contrary orders, made wrong strokes; the boat careened, then righted itself.

"Take her back," called Eve, starting onward again.

"Follow that canoe!" said Cicely.

The man tried to obey Cicely; to intensify his obedience he stood up and paddled with his back bent. There came another flurry of wind; his boat careened again, and he lost his balance, he gave a yell. For a moment Eve thought that he had gone overboard. But he had only crouched. "Go back-while you can," she called, warningly.

And this time he obeyed her.

"Eve, take me with you-take me!" cried Cicely, in a tone that went to the heart.

"We needn't both of us die," Eve answered, calling back for the last time.

As she went forward on her course, lightning began to show itself frequently in pallid forks on the dark cloud-bank. "If only there's no gale!" she thought. Through these minutes she had been able to distinguish what she supposed was the baby's canoe; but now she lost it. She rowed on at random; then she began to call. Nothing answered. The lightning grew brighter, and she blessed the flashes; they would show her, perhaps, what she was in search of; with every gleam she scanned the lake in a different direction. But she saw nothing. She called again: "Jacky! Jack-y!" A great bird flew by, close over her head, and startled her; its wings made a rushing sound. "Jack-y! Jack-y!" She rowed on, calling loudly.

It was now perfectly dark. Presently an unusually brilliant gleam revealed for an instant a dark object on her left. She rowed towards it. "Jacky, speak to Aunty Eve. Aunty Eve is close beside you." She put her whole heart into this cry; then she waited, breathless.

From a distance came a sound, the sweetest which Eve Bruce had ever heard. "Ess," said Jack's brave little voice.

She tried to row towards it. Before she could reach the spot a wind coming from the south drove her canoe back. "Jacky, Jacky, say yes again."

"Ess," said the voice, fainter, and farther away.

The wind was stronger now, and it began to make a noise too, as it crossed the lake.

"Jacky, Jacky, you must answer me."


A crashing peal of thunder broke over their heads; when it had ceased, she could hear the poor little lad crying. His boat must have drifted, for his voice came from a new direction.

"I am coming directly to you, Jacky," she called, altering her course rapidly.

The thunder began again, and filled her ears. When it ceased, all was still.

"Jacky! Jacky!"

No answer.

And now there came another cry: "Eve, where are you? Wait for me." It was Cicely.

"This way," called Eve.

She never dreamed that Cicely was alone; she supposed that the Irishman had taken heart of grace and ventured back. But presently a canoe touched hers, and there in the night she saw Cicely all alone, like a phantom. "Baby?" demanded Cicely, holding the edge of Eve's boat.

"I heard him only a moment ago," answered Eve, as excited as herself. "Jacky! Jacky!"

No reply.

Then Cicely's voice sounded forth clearly: "It's mamma, Jack. Speak to mamma."

"Mam-ma!" came the answer. A distant sound, but full of joy.

Eve put her paddle in the water again. "Wait," said Cicely. And she stepped from her canoe into Eve's, performing the difficult feat without hesitation or tremor. The other canoe was abandoned, and Eve was off with a strong stroke.

"Call," she said.

Cicely called, and Jack answered.

"Call again."

"His poor little throat will be so tired!" said Cicely, her own voice trembling.

"We must," said Eve.



On they went, never reaching him, though he answered four times; for, in spite of the intensity of Eve's exertion, the sound constantly changed its direction. Cicely called to her child, she sang to him; she even laughed. "How slow you are!" she said to Eve. "Don't stop."

"I stopped to listen."

But presently they were both listening in vain. Jack's voice had ceased.

The wind now blew not in gusts, but steadily. Eve still rowed with all her strength, in reality at random, though; with each new flash of lightning she took a new direction, so that her course resembled the spokes of a wheel.

"He has of course fallen asleep," said Cicely. "He is always so good about going to bed."

Their canoe now rose and fell perceptibly; the tranquillity of the lake was broken, it was no longer gray glass, nor a black floor; first there was a swell; then little waves showed themselves; by-and-by these waves had crests. Eve, kneeling on the bottom, exerted all her intelligence to keep the boat in the right position.

"These canoes never tip over when left alone; it's only when people try to guide them," said Cicely, confidently. "Now Jack's just like no one; he's so very light, you know."

Words were becoming difficult, their canoe rose on the crest of one wave, then plunged down into the hollow behind it; then rose on the next. A light flared out on their left; it was low down, seeming below their own level.

"They have kindled-a fire-on the beach," called Eve. She was obliged to call now, though Cicely was so near.

"Yes. Porley," Cicely answered.

They were not so far out as they had thought; the light of the fire showed that. Perhaps they had been going round in a circle.

Eve was now letting the boat drift; Jack's canoe was drifting, the same currents and wind might take theirs in the same direction; it was not very long since they had heard his last cry, he could not be far away. The lightning had begun to come in great sheets of white light; these were blinding, but if one could bear to look, they lit up the surface of the water for an instant with extraordinary distinctness. Cicely, from her babyhood so impressionable to lightning, let its glare sweep over her unmoved; but her beautiful eyes were near-sighted, she could not see far. Eve, on the contrary, had strong eyesight, and after what seemed a long time (it was five minutes), she distinguished a dark, low outline very near at hand; she sent the boat in that direction with all her might.

"It's Jack!" she called to Cicely.

Cicely, holding on to the sides of the canoe, kept her head turned, peering forward with her unseeing eyes into the alternating darkness and dazzling glare. The flashes were so near sometimes that it seemed as if they would sweep across them, touch them, and shrivel them up.

Now they approached the other boat; they came up to it on the crest of a wave. Cicely took hold of its edge, and the two boats went down into the hollow behind together.

"Sit-in the centre-as much-as you can," Eve shouted. Then, being the taller, she rose, and in the next flash looked within. There lay Jack in the bottom, probably unconscious, a still little figure with a white face.

"He's there," she called, triumphantly. And then they went up on the next wave together, and down again.

"Slip-your hand-along-to the end," Eve called.

Cicely obeyed.

The second canoe, which all her strength had scarcely been able to hold alongside, now accompanied them more easily, towed by its stern. If it could have followed them instead of accompanying them, that would have been easier still; but Cicely's seat was at the bow, and Eve did not dare to risk a change of places; with the boat in tow, she paddled towards the shore as well as she could, guided by the fire, which was large and bright, poor Porley, owing to whose carelessness in the second place the accident had occurred (Eve's in the first place), expending in the collecting of dry fuel all the energy of her repentance and her grief. They were not very far out, but progress was difficult; Eve was not an expert; she did not know how to allow for the opposition, the dead weight, of the second canoe attached to the bow of her own; every now and then, owing to her lack of skill, the wind would strike it, and drive it from her so strongly that it seemed as if the connecting link, Cicely's little arm, would be drawn from its socket. The red glow of the fire looked human and home-like to these wanderers,-should they ever reach it? The waves grew more formidable as they approached the beach,-they were like breakers; Eve did her best, yet their progress seemed snail-like. At length, when they were so far in that she could distinguish the figures of Porley and the Irishman outlined against the fire, there came a breaker which struck the second canoe full on its side, filling it with water. Cicely gave a wild shriek of rage as it was forced from her grasp. At the same instant the aunt, leaving the paddle behind her, sprang into the sinking craft, and, seizing the child, went down with him into the dark lake.

She came up again, grasping the side of the boat; with one arm she lifted the boy, and gave him to his mother, an enormous effort, as his little body was rigid and heavy-like death.

And then they got ashore, they hardly knew how, though it took a long time, Eve clinging to the stern and Cicely paddling, her child at her feet; the Irishman came to their assistance as soon as he could, the wind drove them towards the beach; Porley helped when it came to the landing. In reality they were blown ashore.

Jack was restored. As Eve ceased her rubbing-she had worked over him for twenty minutes-and gave him alive and warm again to his mother's arms, Cicely kissed her cheek. "Bend down your head, Eve; I want to tell you that I forgive you everything. There is nothing the matter with me now; I understand and know-all; yet I forgive you,-because you have saved my child."

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