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   Chapter 31 No.31

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 18251

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


WHEN Eve reached the camp, after her parting with Paul, Cicely was waiting for her on the beach, alone; apparently she had sent every one away. "Well?" she said, as the canoe grated on the sand.

"I told him," Eve answered.

"Everything?"

"Everything."

"And he did not-?"

"No, he did not."

For an instant Cicely's face expressed keen sympathy. Then her expression changed. "You did it, you know. You'll have to pay for it!"

"Will you help me to get away?" Eve asked.-"I cannot see him again."

"And do you imagine that by any chance he wishes to see you?" demanded Cicely, sarcastically.

"But he will have to come back here-he must; let me go away before he comes. We were leaving to-morrow in any case; help me off now," Eve pleaded.

Cicely surveyed her with pitiless eyes; the once strong Eve now looked at her imploringly, her face despairing, her voice broken. Having had her satisfaction, the vindictive little creature turned, and, going back to the lodge, began to issue orders with imperative haste, as though she had but one wish in the world, namely, to help Eve; Mrs. Mile found herself working as she had never worked before; the Irishmen tumbled over each other; Porley and the cook constantly gallopaded-no other word could describe their gait. The judge worked fiercely; he helped in launching the canoes until the blood rushed to his head; he ran after the Irishmen; he carried Jack, he scolded Porley. And then, during one of these journeys, his strength failed so suddenly that he was obliged to sit down; as there was no bench near, he sat down on the ground.

Soon afterwards Mrs. Mile came by.

"Dear me! Do let me assist you," she said sweetly.

"I am merely looking at the lake; it is charming this morning," replied the judge, waving his hand.

"I could assist you so well," said the nurse, coming nearer, "knowing, as I do, the exact position of all the muscles."

"Muscles, madam? It's more than I do! May I ask you to pass on?"

One of the Irishmen next appeared, carrying Jack's pillows and toys.

"Can you tell me where Mr. Hollis is?" demanded the judge, still seated.

"Mr. Hollis, surr? Yes, surr. Think he's gone fishing, surr."

"D-n him! He takes a nice time for it-when we're sweating here," muttered the judge, angrily.

But poor Hollis was fishing only in a figurative sense, and in bitter waters. He had sent for Paul-yes; but he could not stay to witness his return with Eve; (he had not the slightest doubt but that Eve would return with him). He shook hands with Paul upon his arrival, and made a number of jokes, as usual. But soon after the younger man's canoe had started eastward in search of Eve, a second canoe, with Hollis paddling, stole quietly away, going in the opposite direction. Its occupant reached Port aux Pins, in due time. He remained there but a few hours.

A month later a letter came to Paul from a small town near the base of the Rocky Mountains. "You see, when I got back to Port aux Pins, it sort of came over me that I'd go west. People are more lively out here, and not so crowded. I've got hold of a capital thing in raisins, in southern California. If that fails, there is stock-raising, and plenty of other things; and the same old auctioneer line. I've left a trifle in the savings-bank for Jacky. Perhaps you'll take charge of it for him? You'll hear from me again soon.-C. HOLLIS."

But Paul never heard from him; from that moment all trace of him was lost. Ferdie, if he had known Hollis, would have had a vision of him making his way year by year farther westward, always attired in the black coat and tall hat (which marked his dignity as a lawyer), whether voyaging in a prairie schooner, chopping wood at a camp, hunting elk, or searching for ore. But Paul had no such visions, he did not see human lives as tableaux-vivants. He was sincerely sorry that Hollis had vamosed in that way. But he understood it too.

The trifle turned out to be eight hundred dollars. It was regularly entered to little Jack's account, and there was a pass-book with his full name, "John Frederick Bruce." "Bruce,-that did it," thought Paul; "he could give it to the child. Poor old Kit! it must have been all he had."

Cicely's generalship was excellent; in less than half an hour the three canoes were ready, and the judge, Porley and Jack, Eve, Cicely herself, with three of the men to row, took their places; the boats glided out from the shore, turning towards the west. Mrs. Mile bowed gravely to the judge, with an air of compunction; she knew what an impression she had made upon that poor old man; she was afraid that she had not done right! Mrs. Mile was left in charge of the camp to await the arrival of Paul Tennant.

The canoes were out all night. At dawn the little party found refuge on one of the North Shore steamers, and began the long voyage down the chain of lakes, stopping again at the beautiful city of Cleveland, thence by railway to New York, and from there southward by sea. On the ninth morning of their journey their ocean steamer turned her bows towards the distant land, a faint line on the right; by noon, she was making her way along a winding channel, which was indicated here and there in the water by buoys painted white, which looked like ducks; the Atlantic was very calm, its hue was emerald green; it was so clear that one could see the great jelly-fish floating down below. The judge, with his hands clasped on his cane's head, stood looking eagerly at everything. His joy was deep, he felt himself an exile returning home. And oh! how beautiful home was! To him, this Southern coast was fair as Paradise; he welcomed the dark hue of the Southern trees, he welcomed the neglected fields, he even welcomed the broken-down old houses here and there. For at least they were not staring, they were not noisy; to the judge, the smart new houses of Port aux Pins-those with Mansard roofs-had seemed to shout and yell. Three negro fishermen, passing in a row-boat with a torn sail, were eminently worthy creatures; they were not the impudent, well-dressed mulattoes of the North, who elbowed him off the pavements, who read newspapers on steamers with the air of men of the world. When the winding channel-winding through water-came to an end at the mouth of an inlet, the white sand-hills on each hand were more beautiful to his eyes than the peaks of the Alps, or the soft outline of Italian mountains. "God bless my country!" was the old man's fervent thought. But his "country" was limited; it was the territory which lies between the St. Mary's River and the Savannah.

At the little port within the inlet they disembarked, and took the small steamer of the Inside Route, which was to carry them through the sounds to Romney. Night had come on, dark and quiet; clouds covered the sky; the air was warm, for it was still summer here. The dusky shores, dimly visible on either hand, gave a sense of protection after the vastness of the ocean; the odors of flowers reached them, and seemed sweet after its blank, cold purity. Cicely, with Porley and Jack, was on the deck near the stern; the judge was now with them, now at the prow, now up-stairs, now down-stairs; he could not be still. Eve sat by herself on the forward deck, gazing through the darkness at the water; she could not see it save here and there in broken gleams, where the lights from the lower cabin shone across it; she heard the rushing sound made by the great paddle-wheels as they revolved unseen behind her, and the fancy came to her that she should like to be lashed to the outer rim of one of them, and be carried up and down through the cool water. Towards ten o'clock a beam shone out ahead. "See it?" said the judge, excitedly, coming to show it to her. "Jupiter Light!"

And Eve remembered that less than a year before she had landed here for the first time, a woman imperious, sufficient to herself; a woman who was sure that she could direct her own course; in addition, a woman who supposed herself to be unhappy. How like child's play did this all seem now-her certainties, and her pride, and her supposed sorrow! "If I could die, wouldn't that be the best thing for me, as well as for Paul? A way out of it all? The first shock over, I should be but a memory to him; I should not be a miserable haunting presence, wretched myself, and making him wretched too. I wonder-I wonder-is it wrong to try to die?"

The stern Puritan blood of her father in her answered, "One must not give up until one has exhausted every atom of one's strength in the contest."

"But if it is all exhausted? If-" Here another feeling came sweeping over her. "No, I cannot die while he is in the world; in spite of my misery, I want to be here if he is here. Perhaps no knowledge of anything that happens here penetrates to the next world; if that is the case, I don't want to be there, no matter how beautiful it may be. I want to stay where I can hear of Paul."

After they had left the boat, and Pomp and Plato were hoisting the trunks into one of the wagons, Cicely came up.

"Eve, you must stay wit

h me more, now that we are here; you mustn't be always off by yourself."

"I thought you preferred it."

"Yes, through the journey. But not now. It's a great deal worse for me now than it is for you; you have left Paul behind, but I am going to see Ferdie in a moment or two. I shall see him everywhere-in the road, at the door, in our own room; he will stand and look at me."

"Well, you will like that."

"No, for it will be only a mockery; I shall not be able to put my arms round him; he won't kiss me."

"Cecilia," called the judge, his voice ringing out happily, "everything is ready now, and Cesh is restive."

Cicely gave one of her sudden little laughs. "Poor grandpa! he is so frantic with joy that he even says 'Cesh,'-though he loathes abbreviations!"

Secession, the mule, started on his leisurely walk towards Romney.

In the same lighted doorway where Eve had been received upon her first arrival, now appeared again the tall figure of Miss Sabrina. The poor lady was crying.

"Oh, my darling Cicely, what sorrow!" she said, embracing her niece fondly.

As they entered the hall: "Oh, my darling Cicely, what a home-coming for you! And to think-" More tears.

As they came into the lighted parlor: "Oh, my darling Cicely-What! no mourning?" This last in genuine surprise.

Cicely closed the door. She stood in the centre of the room. "This is not a charnel-house, Sabrina. No one is to speak to me of graves. As to mourning, I shall not wear an inch of it; you may wear as many yards as you like-you always loved it; did you begin to mourn for Ferdie before he was dead?"

"Oh, pa, she said such terrible things to me-our own Cicely. I don't know how to take it!" moaned poor Miss Sabrina to her father when they were left alone.

"Well, you are pretty black, Sabrina," suggested the judge, doubtfully. "Those tossels now-"

"I got them because they were cheap. I hope they look like mourning?"

"You needn't be afraid; they're hearse-like!"

"Are they, really?" said Miss Sabrina, with gratification. "The choice at the mainland store is so small." But presently the tears came again. "Oh, pa, everything is so sad now. Do you remember when I used to ride my little pony by your side, and you were on your big black horse? How kind you have always been to me, pa; and I have been such a disappointment to you!"

"No, no, Breeny; no, little girl," said the judge.

They kissed each other, the old man and his gray-haired child. Their minds went back to brighter days; they understood each other's sorrow.

At two o'clock Eve had not yet gone to bed. There was a tap at her door. She spoke. "Cicely?"

"Yes."

She drew back the bolt, and Cicely entered, carrying a small lamp. "You haven't gone to bed? So much the better; you are to come with me."

"Where?"

"To all the places where we went that night."

"I cannot."

"There is no question of 'cannot;' I wish you to go, and you must, if I say so."

Eve looked at her with forlorn eyes. But Cicely was inflexible. She opened the door; Eve followed her.

"First, I want to see that Jacky is all right," Cicely said. She led the way to her own room. Jack was asleep, his dimpled arms thrown out on the pillow. Cicely bent over him for a moment. Then she looked at Eve. "You won't ever be troubled by this sort of thing, will you? You'll never have a child!" She laughed, and, taking the lamp, turned towards the door. "This was Ferdie's dressing-room; don't you see him over there by the window?" Eve shrank. "Now he has gone. But we shall hear him following us along the corridor presently, and across the ballroom. Then, in the thicket, he will come and look at us;-do you remember his eyes, and the corners of his mouth,-how they were drawn down?" And the corners of her own mouth took the same grimace.

"I cannot go with you," said Eve, stopping.

"You will do what I wish you to," answered Cicely;-"one generally does when one has injured a person as you have injured me. For I loved Ferdie, you know; I really had the folly to love him." (She said this insolently.) Turning to Eve, with the same insolent smile, "At last you know what love is, don't you?" she added. "Has it brought you much happiness?"

Eve made no answer, she followed humbly; together they went through the labyrinth of small rooms at the end of the corridor and entered the ballroom.

Its empty space was dark, a glimmering gray alone marking the unshuttered windows. The circle of light from their lamp made the blackness still blacker.

"Do you remember when I put on that ball-dress of my grandmother's, and came jumping along here?" said Cicely. "How strange it is!-I think I was intended to be happy."

After a moment she went on: "Now we must begin to listen; he will come in behind us, we shall hear his step. You ought to hear it all your life!" she added.

They reached the window at last; it had seemed to Eve an endless transit. Cicely drew back the bolt, threw up the sash, and, with the aid of a chair, stepped out.

"Wait here," she said, when Eve had joined her outside; "then, when I have reached the thicket, draw the window down, just as he did; I want to hear the sound."

She went quickly towards the thicket, carrying her lamp. Eve was left alone on the veranda.

After a few minutes Eve tried to draw down the sash. It resisted, and she was obliged to use all her strength. A shiver came over her as she lifted her arms to try a second time, she almost expected to see a hand come stealing over her shoulder (or under it), and perform the task for her; and the hand would be-Ferdie's. She hurried after Cicely.

Cicely came out from the thicket. "Now take the lamp and walk down the road a little way; I wish to see the gleam moving over the bushes,-don't you remember?"

Eve obeyed. It seemed to her as if she should never be free from this island and its terror; as if she should spend the rest of her life here following Cicely, living over again their dreadful flight.

When she came back, Cicely said, "Now for the north point;" she led the way along the road; their footsteps made crunching sounds in the sand.

Cicely said, "I was in hopes that the moon would come out from behind those clouds. Oh, I'm so glad! there it is! Now it will light up the very spot where you shot him. I will leave the lamp here on the sand; that will give the yellow gleam that we saw behind us. Now go into the woods. Then, in a few moments, you must come out and look about, just as you did then, and you must put out your hand and make a motion of shooting."

"I will not," said Eve, outraged. "I shall leave you and go back."

Cicely saw that she had come to the end of her power. She put her arms round Eve's neck, and held her closely. "To please me, Eve; I shall never be content without it; I want to see how it all was, how you looked. Just this once, Eve; never again, but just this once."

"I thought you had forgiven me, Cicely?"

"I have, I have." She kissed Eve again. "Do content me."

Eve went slowly towards the trees. As she disappeared within the shadow, Cicely instantly concealed herself on the other side of the road. There was a silence.

The moon, emerging still further from the clouds, now silvered the forest, the path, and the sound with its clear light; there was no boat drawn up at the point's end; the beach sloped smoothly to the water, unbroken by any dark outline, and the water stretched smoothly towards Singleton Island, with only the track of the moon across it.

Eve stood in the shadow under the trees. The spell of the place was upon her; like a somnambulist, she felt herself forced by some inward compelling power to go through the whole scene. The thought of Cicely had passed from her mind; there was but one person there now-Ferdie; in another moment she should see him; she listened; then she went forward to the edge of the wood and looked down the road.

Something came rushing from the other side, and with quick force bore her to the ground. Not Ferdie, but Cicely, like a tigress, was upon her, her hands at her throat. In a strange suffocated voice, she cried, "Do you like it? Do you like it? Do you like to be dead?"

And Eve did not struggle; she lay motionless in Cicely's grasp-motionless under the weight of her body keeping her down. The thing did not seem to her at all incredible; suddenly it seemed like a remedy for all her troubles-if Cicely's grasp should tighten. Passively she closed her eyes.

But Cicely's grasp did not tighten; the fury that had risen within her had taken all her strength, and now she lay back white and still. Eve, like a person in a dream, went down to the beach and dipped her handkerchief in the water; slowly she came back, and bathed Cicely's forehead and wrists. But still Cicely did not stir. Eve put her hand on her heart. It was beating faintly. She stooped, and lifted Cicely in her arms, holding her as one holds a child, with one arm round her shoulders and the other under her knees, Cicely's head lying against her breast. Then she began her long walk back.

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