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Edna had attempted all summer to learn to swim. She had

received instructions from both the men and women; in some

instances from the children. Robert had pursued a system of

lessons almost daily; and he was nearly at the point of

livepaperhelp.com



discouragement in realizing the futility of his efforts. A certain

ungovernable dread hung about her when in the water, unless there

was a hand near by that might reach out and reassure her.

But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling,

clutching child, who of a sudden realizes its powers, and walks for

the first time alone, boldly and with over-confidence. She could

have shouted for joy. She did shout for joy, as with a sweeping

stroke or two she lifted her body to the surface of the water.

A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of

significant import had been given her to control the working of her

body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating

her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum

before.

Her unlooked-for achievement was the subject of wonder,

applause, and admiration. Each one congratulated himself that his

special teachings had accomplished this desired end.

How easy it is! she thought. It is nothing, she said

aloud; why did I not discover before that it was nothing. Think

of the time I have lost splashing about like a baby! She would not

join the groups in their sports and bouts, but intoxicated with her

newly conquered power, she swam out alone.

She turned her face seaward to gather in an impression of

space and solitude, which the vast expanse of water, meeting and

melting with the moonlit sky, conveyed to her excited fancy. As

she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which

to lose herself.

Once she turned and looked toward the shore, toward the people

she had left there. She had not gone any great distance that is,

what would have been a great distance for an experienced swimmer.

But to her unaccustomed vision the stretch of water behind her

assumed the aspect of a barrier which her unaided strength

would never be able to overcome.

A quick vision of death smote her soul, and for a second of

time appalled and enfeebled her senses. But by an effort she

rallied her staggering faculties and managed to regain the land.

She made no mention of her encounter with death and her flash

of terror, except to say to her husband, I thought I should have

perished out there alone.

You were not so very far, my dear; I was watching you, he

told her. [-0]

He seated himself again and rolled a cigarette, which he

smoked in silence. Neither did Mrs. Pontellier speak.

No multitude of words could have been more significant than those

moments of silence, or more pregnant with the first-felt throbbings

of desire. []

Edna began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a

dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the

realities pressing into her soul. The physical need for sleep

began to overtake her; the exuberance which had sustained and

exalted her spirit left her helpless and yielding to the conditions

which crowded her in. [4]

However, she was not seeking refreshment or help from

any source, either external or from within. She was blindly

following whatever impulse moved her, as if she had placed herself

in alien hands for direction, and freed her soul of responsibility. [4]

I wonder if Leonce will be uneasy! she speculated, as she

seated herself at table.

Of course not; he knows you are with me, Robert replied, as

he busied himself among sundry pans and covered dishes which had

been left standing on the hearth. [41]

She could only realize that she herself--her present self--was in some way

different from the other self. That she was seeing with different

eyes and making the acquaintance of new conditions in herself that

colored and changed her environment, she did not yet suspect.

She wondered why Robert had gone away and left her. It did

not occur to her to think he might have grown tired of being with

her the livelong day. She was not tired, and she felt that he was

not. She regretted that he had gone. It was so much more natural

to have him stay when he was not absolutely required to leave her. [4]

All that noise and confusion at the table must have upset

me, replied Edna, and moreover, I hate shocks and surprises.

The idea of Robert starting off in such a ridiculously sudden

and dramatic way! As if it were a matter of life and death!

Never saying a word about it all morning when he was with me.

Yes, agreed Madame Ratignolle. I think it was showing us

all--you especially--very little consideration. [47]

This seems to me perfectly preposterous and uncalled for. I

dont like it. I dont understand your motive for silence and

mystery, never saying a word to me about it this morning. He

remained silent, not offering to defend himself. He only said,

after a moment

Dont part from me in any ill humor. I never knew you to be

out of patience with me before.

I dont want to part in any ill humor, she said. But cant

you understand? Ive grown used to seeing you, to having you with

me all the time, and your action seems unfriendly, even unkind.

You dont even offer an excuse for it. Why, I was planning to be together,

thinking of how pleasant it would be to see you in the city next winter. [48]

Roberts going had some way taken the brightness, the color,

the meaning out of everything. The conditions of her life were in

no way changed, but her whole existence was dulled, like a faded

garment which seems to be no longer worth wearing. She sought him

everywhere--in others whom she induced to talk about him. She went

up in the mornings to Madame Lebruns room, braving the clatter of

the old sewing-machine. She sat there and chatted at intervals as

Robert had done. She gazed around the room at the pictures and

photographs hanging upon the wall, and discovered in some corner an

old family album, which she examined with the keenest interest,

appealing to Madame Lebrun for enlightenment concerning the many

figures and faces which she discovered between its pages. [4]

It did not strike her as in the least grotesque that she

should be making of Robert the object of conversation and leading

her husband to speak of him. The sentiment which she entertained

for Robert in no way resembled that which she felt for her husband,

or had ever felt, or ever expected to feel. She had all her life

long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never

voiced themselves. They had never taken the form of struggles.

They belonged to her and were her own, and she entertained the

conviction that she had a right to them and that they concerned no

one but herself. Edna had once told Madame Ratignolle that she

would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for any one.

Then had followed a rather heated argument; the two women did not

appear to understand each other or to be talking the same language.

Edna tried to appease her friend, to explain.

I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I

would give my life for my children; but I wouldnt give myself. I

cant make it more clear; its only something which I am beginning

to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.

I dont know what you would call the essential, or what you

mean by the unessential, said Madame Ratignolle, cheerfully; but

a woman who would give her life for her children could do no more

than that--your Bible tells you so. Im sure I couldnt do more

than that.[51]

Out! exclaimed her husband, with something like genuine

consternation in his voice as he laid down the vinegar cruet and

looked at her through his glasses. Why, what could have taken you

out on Tuesday? What did you have to do?

Nothing. I simply felt like going out, and I went out.

Well, I hope you left some suitable excuse, said her husband,

somewhat appeased, as he added a dash of cayenne pepper to the soup.

No, I left no excuse. I told Joe to say I was out, that was all.

Why, my dear, I should think youd understand by this time

that people dont do such things; weve got to observe les

convenances if we ever expect to get on and keep up with the

procession. If you felt that you had to leave home this afternoon,

you should have left some suitable explanation for your absence. [55]

`The Misses Delasidas. I worked a big deal in futures for

their father this morning; nice girls; its time they were getting

married. `Mrs. Belthrop. I tell you what it is, Edna; you cant

afford to snub Mrs. Belthrop. Why, Belthrop could buy and sell us

ten times over. His business is worth a good, round sum to me.

Youd better write her a note. `Mrs. James Highcamp. Hugh! the

less you have to do with Mrs. Highcamp, the better. `Madame

Laforce. Came all the way from Carrolton, too, poor old soul.

Miss Wiggs, `Mrs. Eleanor Boltons. He pushed the cards aside. [55]

It seems to me, he said, we spend money enough in this

house to procure at least one meal a day which a man could eat and

retain his self-respect.

You used to think the cook was a treasure, returned Edna,

indifferently.

Perhaps she was when she first came; but cooks are only

human. They need looking after, like any other class of persons

that you employ. Suppose I didnt look after the clerks in my

office, just let them run things their own way; theyd soon make a

nice mess of me and my business. [56]

She carried inher hands a thin handkerchief, which she tore into ribbons, rolled into a ball, and flung from her. Once she stopped, and taking off

her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet. When she saw it lying

there, she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it. But her

small boot heel did not make an indenture, not a mark upon the

little glittering circlet.

In a sweeping passion she seized a glass vase from the table

and flung it upon the tiles of the hearth. She wanted to destroy

something. The crash and clatter were what she wanted to hear.

A maid, alarmed at the din of breaking glass, entered the room

to discover what was the matter.

A vase fell upon the hearth, said Edna. Never mind; leave

it till morning.

Oh! you might get some of the glass in your feet, maam,

insisted the young woman, picking up bits of the broken vase that

were scattered upon the carpet. And heres your ring, maam,

under the chair.

Edna held out her hand, and taking the ring, slipped it upon

her finger. [57]

I hardly think we need new fixtures, Leonce. Dont let us

get anything new; you are too extravagant. I dont believe you

ever think of saving or putting by.

The way to become rich is to make money, my dear Edna, not to

save it, he said. He regretted that she did not feel inclined to

go with him and select new fixtures. [57]

As Edna walked along the street she was thinking of Robert.

She was still under the spell of her infatuation. She had tried to

forget him, realizing the inutility of remembering. But the

thought of him was like an obsession, ever pressing itself upon

her. It was not that she dwelt upon details of their acquaintance,

or recalled in any special or peculiar way his personality; it was

his being, his existence, which dominated her thought, fading

sometimes as if it would melt into the mist of the forgotten,

reviving again with an intensity which filled her with an

incomprehensible longing. [58]

Edna felt depressed rather than soothed after leaving them.

The little glimpse of domestic harmony which had been offered her,

gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life

which fitted her, and she could see in it but an appalling and

hopeless ennui. She was moved by a kind of commiseration for

Madame Ratignolle,--a pity for that colorless existence which never

uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in

which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she

would never have the taste of lifes delirium. Edna vaguely

wondered what she meant by lifes delirium. It had crossed her

thought like some unsought, extraneous impression. [60]

It sometimes entered Mr. Pontelliers mind to wonder if his

wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see

plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that

she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious

self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the

world. [61]

Oh! but she was a beauty! Certainly he smiled back, and

went up and talked to her. Mrs. Pontellier did not know him if she

supposed he was one to let an opportunity like that escape him.

Despite herself, the youngster amused her. She must have betrayed

in her look some degree of interest or entertainment. The boy grew

more daring, and Mrs. Pontellier might have found herself, in a

little while, listening to a highly colored story but for the

timely appearance of Madame Lebrun. [65]

Ah! an artist! You have pretensions, Madame.

Why pretensions? Do you think I could not become an artist?

I do not know you well enough to say. I do not know your

talent or your temperament. To be an artist includes much;

one must possess many gifts--absolute gifts--which have not

been acquired by ones own effort. And, moreover, to succeed, the

artist must possess the courageous soul.

What do you mean by the courageous soul?

Courageous, ma foi! The brave soul. The soul that dares

and defies. [68]

Pontellier, said the Doctor, after a moments reflection,

let your wife alone for a while. Dont bother her, and dont let

her bother you. Woman, my dear friend, is a very peculiar and

delicate organism--a sensitive and highly organized woman, such as

I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is especially peculiar. It would

require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them.

And when ordinary fellows like you and me attempt to cope with

their idiosyncrasies the result is bungling. Most women are moody

and whimsical. This is some passing whim of your wife, due to some

cause or causes which you and I neednt try to fathom.

But it will pass happily over, especially if you let her alone.

Send her around to see me. [71]

Its a pity Mr. Pontellier doesnt stay home more in the

evenings. I think you would be more--well, if you dont mind my

saying it--more united, if he did.

Oh! dear no! said Edna, with a blank look in her eyes.

What should I do if he stayed home? We wouldnt have anything to

say to each other.

She had not much of anything to say to her father, for that

matter; but he did not antagonize her. She discovered that he

interested her, though she realized that he might not interest her

long; and for the first time in her life she felt as if she were

thoroughly acquainted with him. He kept her busy serving him and

ministering to his wants. It amused her to do so. She would not

permit a servant or one of the children to do anything for him

which she might do herself. Her husband noticed, and thought it

was the expression of a deep filial attachment which he had never

suspected. [74]

Outside, away from the glow of the fire and the soft

lamplight, the night was chill and murky. The Doctor doubled his

old-fashioned cloak across his breast as he strode home through the

darkness. He knew his fellow-creatures better than most men; knew

that inner life which so seldom unfolds itself to unanointed eyes.

He was sorry he had accepted Pontelliers invitation. He was

growing old, and beginning to need rest and an imperturbed spirit.

He did not want the secrets of other lives thrust upon him.

I hope it isnt Arobin, he muttered to himself as he walked.

I hope to heaven it isnt Alcee Arobin. [76]

You are too lenient, too lenient by far, Leonce, asserted

the Colonel. Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your

foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife. Take my

word for it.

The Colonel was perhaps unaware that he had coerced his own

wife into her grave. Mr. Pontellier had a vague suspicion of it

which he thought it needless to mention at that late day.

Edna was not so consciously gratified at her husbands leaving

home as she had been over the departure of her father. [74]

When Edna was at last alone, she breathed a big, genuine sigh

of relief. A feeling that was unfamiliar but very delicious came

over her. She walked all through the house, from one room to

another, as if inspecting it for the first time. [78]

She realized that she had neglected her

reading, and determined to start anew upon a course of improving

studies, now that her time was completely her own to do with as she

liked.

After a refreshing bath, Edna went to bed. And as she

snuggled comfortably beneath the eiderdown a sense of restfulness

invaded her, such as she had not known before. [7]

Her talk grew familiar and confidential. It was no labor to become intimate

with Arobin. His manner invited easy confidence. [8]

She touched his hand as she scanned the red cicatrice on the inside

of his white wrist. A quick impulse that was somewhat spasmodic

impelled her fingers to close in a sort of clutch upon his hand.

He felt the pressure of her pointed nails in the flesh of his palm. [8]

Edna did not care or think whether it were genuine or not.

When she was alone she looked mechanically at the back of her hand

which he had kissed so warmly. Then she leaned her head down on

the mantelpiece. She felt somewhat like a woman who in a moment of

passion is betrayed into an act of infidelity, and realizes the

significance of the act without being wholly awakened from its

glamour. The thought was passing vaguely through her mind, What

would he think?

She did not mean her husband; she was thinking of Robert

Lebrun. Her husband seemed to her now like a person whom she had

married without love as an excuse.

She lit a candle and went up to her room. Alcee Arobin was

absolutely nothing to her. Yet his presence, his manners, the

warmth of his glances, and above all the touch of his lips upon her

hand had acted like a narcotic upon her. [8]

Oh! she exclaimed, letting the letter fall to the floor.

Why did you not tell me? She went and grasped Mademoiselles hands

up from the keys. Oh! unkind! malicious! Why did you not tell me?

That he was coming back? No great news, ma foi. I wonder

he did not come long ago. [88]

You are purposely misunderstanding me, ma reine. Are you

in love with Robert?

Yes, said Edna. It was the first time she had admitted it,

and a glow overspread her face, blotching it with red spots.

Why? asked her companion. Why do you love him when you

ought not to? [88]

She was already glad and happy to be alive at the mere thought

of his return. The murky, lowering sky, which had depressed her a

few hours before, seemed bracing and invigorating as she splashed

through the streets on her way home.

She stopped at a confectioners and ordered a huge box of

bonbons for the children in Iberville. She slipped a card in the

box, on which she scribbled a tender message and sent an abundance

of kisses.

Before dinner in the evening Edna wrote a charming letter to

her husband, telling him of her intention to move for a while into

the little house around the block, and to give a farewell dinner

before leaving, regretting that he was not there to share it, to

help out with the menu and assist her in entertaining the guests.

Her letter was brilliant and brimming with cheerfulness. [88]

Well, for instance, when I left her to-day, she put her arms

around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were

strong, she said. `The bird that would soar above the level plain

of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad

spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back

to earth. Whither would you soar?

Im not thinking of any extraordinary flights. I only half

comprehend her.

Ive heard shes partially demented, said Arobin.

She seems to me wonderfully sane, Edna replied.

Im told shes extremely disagreeable and unpleasant. Why

have you introduced her at a moment when I desired to talk of you? [8]

She only looked at him and smiled. His eyes were very near. He leaned upon the

lounge with an arm extended across her, while the other hand still

rested upon her hair. They continued silently to look into each

others eyes. When he leaned forward and kissed her, she clasped

his head, holding his lips to hers.

It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had

really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire. [0]

Quite new; `brand new, in fact; a present from my husband.

It arrived this morning from New York. I may as well admit that

this is my birthday, and that I am twenty-nine. [4]

There was something in her attitude, in her whole

appearance when she leaned her head against the high-backed chair

and spread her arms, which suggested the regal woman, the one who rules,

who looks on, who stands alone. [5]

He stood up beside her and smoothed her hair with his soft,

magnetic hand. His touch conveyed to her a certain physical

comfort. She could have fallen quietly asleep there if he had

continued to pass his hand over her hair. He brushed the hair

upward from the nape of her neck. [100]

He hoped she had not acted upon her rash impulse; and he begged her

to consider first, foremost, and above all else, what people would

say. He was not dreaming of scandal when he uttered this warning;

that was a thing which would never have entered into his mind to

consider in connection with his wifes name or his own. He was

simply thinking of his financial integrity. It might get noised

about that the Pontelliers had met with reverses, and were forced

to conduct their manage on a humbler scale than heretofore. It

might do incalculable mischief to his business prospects. [100]

Furthermore, in one of the daily papers appeared a brief

notice to the effect that Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier were

contemplating a summer sojourn abroad, and that their handsome

residence on Esplanade Street was undergoing sumptuous alterations,

and would not be ready for occupancy until their return. Mr.

Pontellier had saved appearances! [101]

There was with her a feeling

of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense

of having risen in the spiritual. Every step which she took toward

relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and

expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes; to see

and to apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was

she content to feed upon opinion when her own soul had invited her. [101]

It was with a wrench and a pang that Edna left her children.

She carried away with her the sound of their voices and

the touch of their cheeks. All along the journey homeward their

presence lingered with her like the memory of a delicious song.

But by the time she had regained the city the song no longer echoed

in her soul. She was again alone. [10]

In some way you seem to me like a child, Edna. You seem to

act without a certain amount of reflection which is necessary in

this life. That is the reason I want to say you mustnt mind if I

advise you to be a little careful while you are living here alone.

Why dont you have some one come and stay with you? Wouldnt

Mademoiselle Reisz come?

No; she wouldnt wish to come, and I shouldnt want her

always with me.

Well, the reason--you know how evil-minded the world is--some

one was talking of Alcee Arobin visiting you. Of course, it

wouldnt matter if Mr. Arobin had not such a dreadful reputation.

Monsieur Ratignolle was telling me that his attentions alone are

considered enough to ruin a woman s name. [10]

She had pictured him seeking her at the very

first hour, and he had lived under the same sky since day before

yesterday; while only by accident had he stumbled upon her.

Mademoiselle must have lied when she said, Poor fool, he loves

you.

Day before yesterday, she repeated, breaking off a spray of

Mademoiselles geranium; then if you had not met me here to-day

you wouldnt--when--that is, didnt you mean to come and see me? [105]

So he had come back because the Mexicans were not congenial;

because business was as profitable here as there; because of any

reason, and not because he cared to be near her. [105]

Do you remember that you promised to write to me when you

went away? A flush overspread his whole face.

I couldnt believe that my letters would be of any interest

to you.

That is an excuse; it isnt the truth. Edna reached for her

hat on the piano. She adjusted it, sticking the hat pin through

the heavy coil of hair with some deliberation. [106]

When she reentered, Robert was turning over magazines,

sketches, and things that lay upon the table in great disorder. He

picked up a photograph, and exclaimed

Alcee Arobin! What on earth is his picture doing here?

I tried to make a sketch of his head one day, answered Edna,

and he thought the photograph might help me. It was at the other house.

I thought it had been left there. I must have packed it up with

my drawing materials.

I should think you would give it back to him if you have finished with it.

Oh! I have a great many such photographs. I never think of returning them.

They dont amount to anything. Robert kept on looking at the picture.

It seems to me--do you think his head worth drawing?

Is he a friend of Mr. Pontelliers? You never said you knew him.

He isnt a friend of Mr. Pontelliers; hes a friend of mine.

I always knew him--that is, it is only of late that I know him

pretty well. But Id rather talk about you, and know what you have

been seeing and doing and feeling out there in Mexico. Robert

threw aside the picture. [107]

How do you do, Arobin? said Robert, rising from the

obscurity.

Oh! Lebrun. To be sure! I heard yesterday you were back.

How did they treat you down in Mexique?

Fairly well.

But not well enough to keep you there. Stunning girls,

though, in Mexico. I thought I should never get away from Vera

Cruz when I was down there a couple of years ago.

Did they embroider slippers and tobacco pouches and hat-bands

and things for you? asked Edna.

Oh! my! no! I didnt get so deep in their regard.

I fear they made more impression on me than I made on them.

You were less fortunate than Robert, then. [10]

She stayed alone in a kind of reverie--a sort of stupor. Step

by step she lived over every instant of the time she had been with

Robert after he had entered Mademoiselle Reiszs door. She

recalled his words, his looks. How few and meager they had been

for her hungry heart! A vision--a transcendently seductive vision

of a Mexican girl arose before her. She writhed with a jealous

pang. She wondered when he would come back. He had not said he

would come back. She had been with him, had heard his voice and

touched his hand. But some way he had seemed nearer to her off

there in Mexico. [110-111]

The maid brought

her a delicious printed scrawl from Raoul, expressing his love,

asking her to send him some bonbons, and telling her they had found

that morning ten tiny white pigs all lying in a row beside Lidies

big white pig.

A letter also came from her husband, saying he hoped to be

back early in March, and then they would get ready for that journey

abroad which he had promised her so long, which he felt now fully

able to afford; he felt able to travel as people should, without

any thought of small economies--thanks to his recent speculations

in Wall Street.

Much to her surprise she received a note from Arobin, written

at midnight from the club. It was to say good morning to her, to

hope she had slept well, to assure her of his devotion, which he

trusted she in some faintest manner returned.

All these letters were pleasing to her. She answered the

children in a cheerful frame of mind, promising them bonbons, and

congratulating them upon their happy find of the little pigs.

She answered her husband with friendly evasiveness, --not with

any fixed design to mislead him, only because all sense of reality

had gone out of her life; she had abandoned herself to Fate, and

awaited the consequences with indifference.

To Arobins note she made no reply. She put it under

Celestines stove-lid. [11]

Robert did not come that day. She was keenly disappointed.

He did not come the following day, nor the next. Each morning

she awoke with hope, and each night she was a prey to despondency.

She was tempted to seek him out. But far from yielding to the impulse,

she avoided any occasion which might throw her in his way. She did not

go to Mademoiselle Reiszs nor pass by Madame Lebruns, as she might

have done if he had still been in Mexico.

When Arobin, one night, urged her to drive with him, she

went--out to the lake, on the Shell Road. His horses were full of

mettle, and even a little unmanageable. She liked the rapid gait

at which they spun along, and the quick, sharp sound of the horses

hoofs on the hard road. They did not stop anywhere to eat or to

drink. Arobin was not needlessly imprudent. [11]

she was not greatly astonished to see Robert come in at the tall garden gate.

I am destined to see you only by accident, she said, shoving

the cat off the chair beside her. He was surprised, ill at ease,

almost embarrassed at meeting her thus so unexpectedly. [11]

You are the embodiment of selfishness, she said. You save

yourself something--I dont know what--but there is some selfish

motive, and in sparing yourself you never consider for a moment

what I think, or how I feel your neglect and indifference. I

suppose this is what you would call unwomanly; but I have got into

a habit of expressing myself. It doesnt matter to me, and you may

think me unwomanly if you like.

No; I only think you cruel, as I said the other day. Maybe

not intentionally cruel; but you seem to be forcing me into

disclosures which can result in nothing; as if you would have me

bare a wound for the pleasure of looking at it, without the

intention or power of healing it. [114]

She leaned over and kissed him--a soft, cool, delicate kiss,

whose voluptuous sting penetrated his whole being-then she moved

away from him. He followed, and took her in his arms, just holding

her close to him. She put her hand up to his face and pressed his

cheek against her own. The action was full of love and tenderness.

He sought her lips again. Then he drew her down upon the sofa

beside him and held her hand in both of his.

Now you know, he said, now you know what I have been

fighting against since last summer at Grand Isle; what drove me

away and drove me back again.

Why have you been fighting against it? she asked. Her face

glowed with soft lights.

Why? Because you were not free; you were Leonce Pontelliers

wife. I couldnt help loving you if you were ten times his wife;

but so long as I went away from you and kept away I could help

telling you so. She put her free hand up to his shoulder, and then

against his cheek, rubbing it softly. He kissed her again. His

face was warm and flushed.

There in Mexico I was thinking of you all the time, and

longing for you.

But not writing to me, she interrupted.

Something put into my head that you cared for me; and I lost

my senses. I forgot everything but a wild dream of your some way

becoming my wife.

Your wife!

Religion, loyalty, everything would give way if only you cared.

Then you must have forgotten that I was Leonce Pontelliers wife.

Oh! I was demented, dreaming of wild, impossible things,

recalling men who had set their wives free,

we have heard of such things.

Yes, we have heard of such things.

I came back full of vague, mad intentions. And when I got here--

When you got here you never came near me! She was still

caressing his cheek.

I realized what a cur I was to dream of such a thing, even if

you had been willing.

She took his face between her hands and looked into it as if

she would never withdraw her eyes more. She kissed him on the

forehead, the eyes, the cheeks, and the lips.

You have been a very, very foolish boy, wasting your time

dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier

setting me free! I am no longer one of Mr. Pontelliers possessions

to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say,

Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours, I should laugh

at you both. [114-115]

She was still stunned and speechless with emotion when later

she leaned over her friend to kiss her and softly say good-by.

Adele, pressing her cheek, whispered in an exhausted voice

Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children! Remember them! [11]

Yes, she said. The years that are gone seem like

dreams--if one might go on sleeping and dreaming--but to wake up and

find--oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to

suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all ones life. [10]

Still, she remembered Adeles voice whispering, Think of the

children; think of them. She meant to think of them; that

determination had driven into her soul like a death wound--but not

to-night. To-morrow would be time to think of everything.

Robert was not waiting for her in the little parlor. He was

nowhere at hand. The house was empty. But he had scrawled on a

piece of paper that lay in the lamplight

I love you. Good-by--because I love you. [10]

There were

a dozen men crazy about her at the Cheniere; and since it was

the fashion to be in love with married people, why, she could run

away any time she liked to New Orleans with Celinas husband. [1]

She had said over and over to herself To-day it is Arobin;

to-morrow it will be some one else. It makes no difference to me,

it doesnt matter about Leonce Pontellier--but Raoul and Etienne!

She understood now clearly what she had meant long ago when she

said to Adele Ratignolle that she would give up the unessential,

but she would never sacrifice herself for her children.

Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and

had never lifted. There was no one thing in the world that she

desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except

Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too,

and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her

alone. The children appeared before her like antagonists who had

overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the

souls slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to

elude them. She was not thinking of these things when she walked

down to the beach.

The water of the Gulf stretched out before her, gleaming with

the million lights of the sun. The voice of the sea is seductive,

never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul

to wander in abysses of solitude. All along the white beach,

up and down, there was no living thing in sight. A bird

with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling,

fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water.

Edna had found her old bathing suit still hanging, faded,

upon its accustomed peg.

She put it on, leaving her clothing in the bath-house. But

when she was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the

unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in

her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun,

the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her.

How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky!

how delicious! She felt like some new-born creature, opening its

eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.

The foamy wavelets curled up to her white feet, and coiled

like serpents about her ankles. She walked out. The water was

chill, but she walked on. The water was deep, but she lifted her

white body and reached out with a long, sweeping stroke. The touch

of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close

embrace.

She went on and on. She remembered the night she swam far

out, and recalled the terror that seized her at the fear of being

unable to regain the shore. She did not look back now, but went on

and on, thinking of the blue-grass meadow that she had traversed

when a little child, believing that it had no beginning and no end.

Her arms and legs were growing tired.

She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of

her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess

her, body and soul. How Mademoiselle Reisz would have laughed,

perhaps sneered, if she knew! And you call yourself an artist!

What pretensions, Madame! The artist must possess the courageous

soul that dares and defies.

Exhaustion was pressing upon and overpowering her.

Good-by--because I love you. He did not know; he did not

understand. He would never understand. Perhaps Doctor Mandelet

would have understood if she had seen him--but it was too late; the

shore was far behind her, and her strength was gone.

She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for

an instant, then sank again. Edna heard her fathers voice and her

sister Margarets. She heard the barking of an old dog that was

chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer

clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum of bees,

and the musky odor of pinks filled the air. [1-14]



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