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The Awakening
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READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapters I–V

 

Part I

A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the
door, kept repeating over and over:
"Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!"
He could speak a little Spanish, and also a language which
nobody understood, unless it was the mocking-bird that hung on the
other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the
breeze with maddening persistence.
Mr. Pontellier, unable to read his newspaper with any degree
of comfort, arose with an expression and an exclamation of disgust.
He walked down the gallery and across the narrow "bridges" which
connected the Lebrun cottages one with the other. He had been
seated before the door of the main house. The parrot and the
mockingbird were the property of Madame Lebrun, and they had the
right to make all the noise they wished. Mr. Pontellier had the
privilege of quitting their society when they ceased to be
entertaining.
He stopped before the door of his own cottage, which was the
fourth one from the main building and next to the last. Seating
himself in a wicker rocker which was there, he once more applied
himself to the task of reading the newspaper. The day was Sunday;
the paper was a day old. The Sunday papers had not yet reached
Grand Isle. He was already acquainted with the market reports,
and he glanced restlessly over the editorials and bits of news which
he had not had time to read before quitting New Orleans the day before.
Mr. Pontellier wore eye-glasses. He was a man of forty, of
medium height and rather slender build; he stooped a little. His
hair was brown and straight, parted on one side. His beard was
neatly and closely trimmed.
Once in a while he withdrew his glance from the newspaper and
looked about him. There was more noise than ever over at the
house. The main building was called "the house," to distinguish it
from the cottages. The chattering and whistling birds were still
at it. Two young girls, the Farival twins, were playing a duet
from "Zampa" upon the piano. Madame Lebrun was bustling in and
out, giving orders in a high key to a yard-boy whenever she got
inside the house, and directions in an equally high voice to a
dining-room servant whenever she got outside. She was a fresh,
pretty woman, clad always in white with elbow sleeves. Her
starched skirts crinkled as she came and went. Farther down,
before one of the cottages, a lady in black was walking demurely up
and down, telling her beads. A good many persons of the pension
had gone over to the Cheniere Caminada in Beaudelet's
lugger to hear mass. Some young people were out under the
wateroaks playing croquet. Mr. Pontellier's two children were there
sturdy little fellows of four and five. A quadroon nurse followed
them about with a faraway, meditative air.
Mr. Pontellier finally lit a cigar and began to smoke, letting
the paper drag idly from his hand. He fixed his gaze upon a white
sunshade that was advancing at snail's pace from the beach. He
could see it plainly between the gaunt trunks of the water-oaks and
across the stretch of yellow camomile. The gulf looked far away,
melting hazily into the blue of the horizon. The sunshade
continued to approach slowly. Beneath its pink-lined shelter were
his wife, Mrs. Pontellier, and young Robert Lebrun. When they
reached the cottage, the two seated themselves with some appearance
of fatigue upon the upper step of the porch, facing each other,
each leaning against a supporting post.
"What folly! to bathe at such an hour in such heat!" exclaimed
Mr. Pontellier. He himself had taken a plunge at daylight. That
was why the morning seemed long to him.
"You are burnt beyond recognition," he added, looking at his
wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which
has suffered some damage. She held up her hands, strong, shapely
hands, and surveyed them critically, drawing up her fawn sleeves
above the wrists. Looking at them reminded her of her rings, which
she had given to her husband before leaving for the beach. She
silently reached out to him, and he, understanding, took the rings
from his vest pocket and dropped them into her open palm. She
slipped them upon her fingers; then clasping her knees, she looked
across at Robert and began to laugh. The rings sparkled upon her
fingers. He sent back an answering smile.
"What is it?" asked Pontellier, looking lazily and amused from
one to the other. It was some utter nonsense; some adventure out
there in the water, and they both tried to relate it at once. It
did not seem half so amusing when told. They realized this, and so
did Mr. Pontellier. He yawned and stretched himself. Then he got
up, saying he had half a mind to go over to Klein's hotel and play
a game of billiards.
"Come go along, Lebrun," he proposed to Robert. But Robert
admitted quite frankly that he preferred to stay where he was and
talk to Mrs. Pontellier.
"Well, send him about his business when he bores you, Edna,"
instructed her husband as he prepared to leave.
"Here, take the umbrella," she exclaimed, holding it out to
him. He accepted the sunshade, and lifting it over his head
descended the steps and walked away.
"Coming back to dinner?" his wife called after him. He halted
a moment and shrugged his shoulders. He felt in his vest pocket;
there was a ten-dollar bill there. He did not know; perhaps he
would return for the early dinner and perhaps he would not.
It all depended upon the company which he found over at Klein's
and the size of "the game." He did not say this, but she understood it,
and laughed, nodding good-by to him.
Both children wanted to follow their father when they saw him
starting out. He kissed them and promised to bring them back
bonbons and peanuts.
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