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   Chapter 33 No.33

Jupiter Lights By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 10047

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


THE judge was waiting for the steamer at Warwick Landing. Attired in white duck, with his boy Pomp (Pomp was sixty) waiting respectfully in the background, he was once more himself. As the steamer drew near, he bowed with all his old courtliness, and he was immediately answered by the agitated smile of a lady on the deck, who, with her shawl blowing off and her veil blowing out, was standing at the railing, timid in spite of her fifty-three years. It could be no one but Miss Leontine, who had come over from Gary Hundred, with her maid, to pay a visit to her dear Sabrina at Romney. The maid was a negro girl of thirteen, attired in a calico dress and sun-bonnet; she did nothing save strive to see how far she could straddle on the deck, whose flat surface seemed to attract her irresistibly. Miss Leontine carried her own travelling-bag. Occasionally she would say: "Clementine, shush! draw yourself together immediately." But Clementine never drew herself.

The judge assisted his guest to disembark-she ambled across the plank, holding his hand; they drove to Romney in the one-seated wagon, the judge acting as charioteer. Pomp and the maid were supposed to walk.

"Clementine, whatever you do, don't cling on behind," said Miss Leontine, turning her head once or twice unseemingly, to blink at the offender. But Clementine clung all the way; and brayed at intervals.

The judge, in his present state of joy, almost admired Miss Leontine,-she was so unlike Parthenia Drone! "Ah, my dear Miss Wingfield, how changed is society in these modern days!" he said, flicking the flank of the mule. "In my time who ever heard a lady's voice three feet away? Who ever knew her opinions-if she had any? Who ever divined, at least in the open air, the texture of her cheek, modestly hidden under her bonnet, or saw more than the tip of her slipper under the hem of her robe? Now women think nothing of speaking in public-at least at the North; they attend conventions, pass resolutions, appear in fancy-dress at Fourth of July parades; their bonnets for the most part" (not so Miss Leontine's) "are of a brazen smallness; and their feet, if I may so express it, are the centre of every room! When I was young, the most ardent suitor could obtain as a sign of preference, only a sigh;-at most some startled look, some smile, some reppurtee. All was timidity-timidity and retirement."

Miss Leontine, in her gratification at this description of her own ideal, clasped her hands so tightly together under her shawl that her corset-board made a long red mark against her ribs in consequence.

As they came within sight of the house, a figure was walking rapidly across the lawn. "Is that Mr. Singleton?" inquired Miss Leontine. "Dear Nannie wrote that they would come over to-day."

"No, that's not Singleton; Singleton's lame," said the judge.

"And yet it looks so much like him," murmured Miss Leontine, with conviction, still peering, with the insistence of a near-sighted person.

"It's a man named Watson," said the judge, decidedly.

Watson was a generic title, it did for any one whom the judge could not quite see. He considered that a name stopped unnecessary chatter,-made an end of it; if you once knew that it was Watson or Dunlap, you let it alone.

In reality the figure was that of Paul Tennant. After reading Eve's note he crushed the sheet in his hand, and turned towards the house with rapid stride. There was no one in the hall; he rang the parlor bell.

"Do you know where Miss Bruce is?" he asked, when Powlyne appeared.

"In her room, marse, I spex."

"Go and see. Don't knock; listen." He paced to and fro until Powlyne came back.

"Ain't dere, marse. Nor yet, periently, she ain't in de house anywhuz; spex she's gone fer a walk."

"Go and find out if any one knows which way she went."

But no one had seen Eve.

"Where is Mrs. Morrison?"

"She's yere, safe enough. I know whur she is," answered Powlyne. "Mis' Morrison she's down at de barf-house, taken a barf."

"Is any one with her?"

"Dilsey; she's dere."

"Go and ask Dilsey how soon Mrs. Morrison can see me."

Powlyne started. As she did not come back immediately, he grew impatient, and went himself to the bath-house. It was a queer little place, a small wooden building, near the sound. It seemed an odd idea to bathe there, in a tank filled by a pump, when, twenty feet distant, stretched the lagoon, and on the other side of the island the magnificent sea-beach, smooth as a floor.

Paul knocked. "How soon can Mrs. Morrison see me?"

"She's troo her barf," answered Dilsey's voice at the crack. "Now she's dess a-lounjun."

"Tell her who it is;-that it's important."

In another moment Dilsey opened the door, and ushered him into the outer room. It was a square apartment, bare and rough, lighted only from above; its sole article of furniture was a divan in the centre; an inner door led to the bath-room beyond. Upon the divan Cicely was lying, her head propped by cushions, the soft w

aves of her hair loose on her shoulders. Delicate white draperies, profusely trimmed with lace, enveloped her, exhaling an odor of violets.

"Cicely, where is Eve?" demanded Paul.

"Wait outside, Dilsey," said Cicely. Then, when the girl had disappeared, "She has gone to Charleston," she answered.

"And from there?"

"I don't know."

"When did she start!"

"Two hours ago."

-"Immediately after leaving me," Paul reflected, audibly.

"Yes."

"But there's no steamer at this hour."

"One of the field hands rowed her up to Mayport; there she was to take a wagon, and drive inland to a railway station."

"She could only hit the Western Road."

"Yes; but she can make a connection, farther on, which will enable her to reach Charleston by to-morrow night."

"I shall be twelve hours behind her, then; the first steamer leaves this evening. You are a traitor, Cicely! Why didn't you let me know?"

"She did not wish it."

"I know what she wishes."

"Yes, she loves you-if you mean that. But-I agree with her."

"Agree with her how?"

"That the barrier is too great. You would end by hating her," said Cicely.

"I'm the judge of that! If any one hates her, it is you; you constantly torture her, you are merciless."

"She shot my husband."

"She shot your murderer! Another moment and Ferdie might have killed you."

"And if I preferred it? At any rate, she had no right to interfere," cried Cicely, springing up.

"Why were you running away from him, then, if you preferred it? You fled to her room, and asked for help; you begged her to come out with you."

"It was on account of baby," answered Cicely, her voice like that of a little girl, her breast beginning to heave.

"And she saved your child's life a second time-on Lake Superior."

"I know it-I know it. But you cannot expect-"

"I expect nothing; you are absolutely unreasonable, and profoundly selfish."

"I'm not selfish. I only want to make her suffer!" cried Cicely, with sparkling eyes.

Paul looked at her sternly. "In that dress you appear like a courtesan; and now you talk like one. It is a good thing my brother was taken off, after all-with such a wife!"

Cicely sank down at his feet. "Oh, don't say that, Paul; it is not true. All this-these are the things that are underneath, they are the things that touch me; you never see them when I am dressed. It is only that I always liked to be nice for him; that is the reason I had all this lace; and I keep it up, because I want him to think of me always as just the same; yes, even when I am old. For I know he does think of me, and he sees me too; he is often here. Listen,-I can't help hating Eve, Paul. But it only comes in little whiffs, now and then. Supposing I had shot her, could you like me, after that?" She rose, holding up her hands to him pleadingly. "In one way I love Eve."

"Yet you let her go! Heaven knows where she is now."

He turned his head away sharply. But she saw his tears. "No, Paul," she cried, terrified, "she isn't dead-if you mean that; she told me once, 'As long as he is in the world, I want to live!'"

"Well-I shall go after her," said Paul, controlling himself. He turned towards the door.

Cicely followed him. "Say good-by to me." She put up her face.

He touched her forehead with his lips. Then he held her off for a moment, and looked at her. "Poor child!" he said.

He returned to the house for his travelling-bag; he remembered that he had left it in the parlor upon his arrival, five hours before.

The pleasant, shabby room, as he opened the door, held a characteristic group: Miss Sabrina, gliding about with plum-cake; the judge, pouring cherry-bounce; Mistress Nannie Singleton, serenely seated, undergoing the process of being brushed by Clementine and Powlyne, who made hissing sounds like hostlers, and, standing on one foot in a bent attitude, held out behind a long leg. Rupert Singleton, seated in the largest arm-chair, was evidently paying compliments to Miss Leontine, who, gratified and embarrassed, and much entangled with her wineglass, her gloves, and her plate of cake, hardly knew, to use a familiar expression, whether she was on her head or her heels. Not that Miss Sabrina would have mentioned her heels; to her, heels, shins, and ribs did not exist, in a public way; they were almost medical terms, belonging to the vocabulary of the surgeon.

"I beg your pardon; I think I left my bag here," said Paul.

"I had it taken to your room," answered Miss Sabrina, coming forward. "Powlyne, go with Mr. Tennant."

"Let her bring it down, please; I am leaving immediately," said Paul, shaking hands with his hostess in farewell.

The judge followed him out. "Leaving, did you say? But you've only just come."

"I am going to Charleston.-I must follow Miss Bruce without a moment's delay."

"Has she gone!" There was a gleam of triumph in the old Georgian's eyes as he said this. "You will find Charleston a very pleasant place," he added, politely.

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