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   Chapter 30 No.30

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 7996

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


CICELY thought of everything, she ordered everything; she and Eve had changed places. It was decided that they should take a North Shore steamer; this would carry them eastward to the Sault by a route far away from Port aux Pins. Mrs. Mile was to be sent back to that flourishing town on the day of their own departure, but preceding it in time by several hours; she would carry no tidings because she would know none. Hollis was to be taken into their confidence in a measure-he was to be informed that this change of plan was a necessity, and that Paul must not hear of it.

"He will do what we tell him to do," Cicely remarked.

"Oh, yes," said Eve, assentingly.

The first North Shore steamer would not pass before the morning of the third day. For twenty-four hours Eve remained inert, she did nothing. The judge, troubled, but inexpressibly excited at the prospect of never seeing Port aux Pins again; of getting away from these cold woods, and in a few days from these horrible great lakes; of soon breathing once more the air of his dear, warm, low-lying country, with its old plantations, its old towns, its old houses and old friends, hurried about wildly, trotting hither and thither on many errands, but without accomplishing much. On the second day Eve's mood changed, and a feverish activity took possession of her also; she was up and out at dawn, she did everything she could think of, she worked incessantly. By noon there was nothing more left to do, and there still remained the whole half of the day, and the night.

"I think I'll go out on the lake," she said to Cicely.

"Yes, row hard; tire yourself," Cicely answered.

She spoke coldly, though the advice she offered was good. She was trying hard to be kind to Eve during these difficult last hours when Paul was still so near; but though she did her best, she often failed. "You'd better not come back until nearly dark," she added; "we've got to be together through the long journey, you know."

"Very well," Eve replied.

It was a brilliant afternoon, the air was clear; already the woods had an autumn look. Eve paddled eastward for some time; then she came back and went out to Jupiter Light. Beaching her canoe, she strolled to and fro for a while; then she sat down. The water came up and laved the reef with a soft, regular sound, the Light loomed above her; presently a man came out of the door and locked it behind him.

"Good-afternoon, mum," he said, pausing on his way to his boat. "From the camp down below, ain't yer?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm going the other way myself. Want to be light-keeper for an hour or two?" This jocularly.

It was the man who had come down with a lantern and preceded her and Paul up the stairs to the little room at the top.

"There's some one else above, isn't there?" she asked.

"No, mum; all three of us off ter-day. But me and John Rail'll be back afore dark; you won't tell on us, I guess?" He gave a toothless smile and pushed off, nodding slightly in farewell as the distance between them increased. He went eastward round the point; his boat was soon out of sight.

Eve sat gazing at the Light; she recalled the exact tones of Paul's voice as he said, "Don't you want to go up?" Then they had climbed up, and down again; and how sweet and strange and exciting it was! Then he had rowed the canoe home; how delightful it had been to sit there and feel the boat dart forward under his strong strokes in the darkness!-for night had come on while they lingered on the reef. Then she remembered her anger when he said, as he was helping her out, "I saw how much you wanted to go!" It seemed so strange that she should ever have been angry with him; she could never be so again, no matter what he might do. She tried to think of the things he might do; for instance, he might marry (she had almost said "marry again"). "I ought to wish that he might find some one-" But she could go no further, that was the end of that line of thought; she could not wi

sh anything of the kind. She pressed her hands together in bitter, hot rebellion. But even her rebellion was without hope. She had been sitting with her feet crossed before her; she drew up her knees, put her arms upon them, and her head on her arms. She sat thus a long time.

A voice said, "Eve!"

With a start she raised her head. Paul stood there beside her.

"You did not expect to see me. But I had word. Hollis got one of the men off secretly as soon as he could; he was ashamed to see me treated so."

"No," said Eve; "he wanted to give me a pleasure." Nothing could have been more dreary than her tone, more desperate than her eyes, as she looked at him.

"Oh, why did you come here?" she went on.

"I didn't believe it, Eve; I thought it was all gammon."

"No; it's true."

"That you were going to leave me?-Going off without letting me know?"

"Yes."

"Who has been talking to you? Cicely-now that she is herself again? She's a murderous little creature."

"I talked to her, I asked her to take me with her."

"What is the matter with you?" said Paul. He bent and took her hands, and drew her to her feet. "Now I can look at you.-Tell me what you mean."

"Baby came near being drowned. And it was my fault. That brought me to my senses."

"It took you out of them!"

"I saw then that I had been thinking only of myself, my own happiness."

"Oh, it would have been some happiness, would it?" said Paul, with a touch of sarcasm. He took her in his arms.

"Have you the least doubt about my love for you?" Eve asked.

He looked deep into her eyes, so near his own. "No, I haven't." And he rested his lips on hers.

She did not resist, she returned his kiss. Then she left him. "It's like death to me, but I must. I shall never marry you." She went towards her canoe.

Paul gave a laugh. "That's a nice way to talk when I've been slaving over the house, and got all sorts of suffocating things you'll like." He came and took her hands off the boat's edge. "Why, Eve," he said, with sudden passion, "a week from to-day we shall be living there together."

"Never together."

"Why?"

"I can't tell you, because it's against myself.-I haven't the strength to tell you."

"Because it will make me think less of you? Not so much so as your trying to slip away from me unawares."

"You think it wouldn't. But it would."

"Try me!"

She released herself from the grasp of his hands. "Oh, if the cases had been reversed, how little I should have minded! No matter what you had done, you would have been the same to me-God knows you would! In life, in death, before anything and everything, I should have adored you always, you would always have come first."

"So it is with me," said Paul.

"No, it is not. And it's for that reason I am leaving you."

Paul made no more use of words. What she had said had left no impression upon him-no impression of importance. He had never been so much in love with her as at this moment.

"Don't you see how I am suffering?-I cannot bear it. Oh, leave me! let me go! Another minute and I shall not have the strength.-Don't kiss me again. Listen! I shot Ferdie, your brother. I-I!"

Paul's arms dropped. "Ferdie? Poor Ferdie?" The tears rushed to his eyes. "Why, some negroes did it."

"There were no negroes. It was I."

He stood there as if petrified.

With desperate courage, she launched her canoe. "You see now that I had to go. You could not marry a woman who-Not even if she did it to save-" She waited an instant, looking at him. He did not speak. She pushed off, lingering a moment longer. "Forgive me for trying to deceive you those few days," she said. Then, with quick strokes, she sent the boat westward. After a while, she changed her position, and, taking the other paddle, she began to row, so that she could look back the longer. His figure remained motionless for many minutes; then he sat down on the edge of his canoe. Thus she left him, alone under Jupiter Light.

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