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The Awakening
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READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapters X–XIV

 

Part XII

She slept but a few hours. They were troubled and feverish
hours, disturbed with dreams that were intangible, that eluded her,
leaving only an impression upon her half-awakened senses of
something unattainable. She was up and dressed in the cool of the
early morning. The air was invigorating and steadied somewhat her
faculties. 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.
Most of the people at that early hour were still in bed and
asleep. A few, who intended to go over to the Cheniere for
mass, were moving about. The lovers, who had laid their plans the
night before, were already strolling toward the wharf. The lady in
black, with her Sunday prayer-book, velvet and gold-clasped,
and her Sunday silver beads, was following them at no great distance.
Old Monsieur Farival was up, and was more than half inclined to do
anything that suggested itself. He put on his big straw hat,
and taking his umbrella from the stand in the hall, followed
the lady in black, never overtaking her.
The little negro girl who worked Madame Lebrun's sewing-machine
was sweeping the galleries with long, absent-minded strokes
of the broom. Edna sent her up into the house to awaken Robert.
"Tell him I am going to the Cheniere. The boat is ready;
tell him to hurry."
He had soon joined her. She had never sent for him before.
She had never asked for him. She had never seemed to want him
before. She did not appear conscious that she had done anything
unusual in commanding his presence. He was apparently equally
unconscious of anything extraordinary in the situation. But his
face was suffused with a quiet glow when he met her.
They went together back to the kitchen to drink coffee. There
was no time to wait for any nicety of service. They stood outside
the window and the cook passed them their coffee and a roll, which
they drank and ate from the window-sill. Edna said it tasted good.
She had not thought of coffee nor of anything. He told her he had
often noticed that she lacked forethought.
"Wasn't it enough to think of going to the Cheniere and
waking you up?" she laughed. "Do I have to think of
everything?—as Leonce says when he's in a bad humor.
I don't blame him; he'd never be in a bad humor if it weren't for me."
They took a short cut across the sands. At a distance they
could see the curious procession moving toward the wharf—the
lovers, shoulder to shoulder, creeping; the lady in black, gaining
steadily upon them; old Monsieur Farival, losing ground inch by
inch, and a young barefooted Spanish girl, with a red kerchief on
her head and a basket on her arm, bringing up the rear.
Robert knew the girl, and he talked to her a little in the boat.
No one present understood what they said. Her name was Mariequita.
She had a round, sly, piquant face and pretty black eyes.
Her hands were small, and she kept them folded over the
handle of her basket. Her feet were broad and coarse.
She did not strive to hide them. Edna looked at her feet,
and noticed the sand and slime between her brown toes.
Beaudelet grumbled because Mariequita was there, taking up so
much room. In reality he was annoyed at having old Monsieur Farival,
who considered himself the better sailor of the two. But he
he would not quarrel with so old a man as Monsieur Farival, so he
quarreled with Mariequita. The girl was deprecatory at one moment,
appealing to Robert. She was saucy the next, moving her head up
and down, making "eyes" at Robert and making "mouths" at Beaudelet.
The lovers were all alone. They saw nothing, they heard
nothing. The lady in black was counting her beads for the third
time. Old Monsieur Farival talked incessantly of what he knew
about handling a boat, and of what Beaudelet did not know on the
same subject.
Edna liked it all. She looked Mariequita up and down, from
her ugly brown toes to her pretty black eyes, and
back again.
"Why does she look at me like that?" inquired the girl of Robert.
"Maybe she thinks you are pretty. Shall I ask her?"
"No. Is she your sweetheart?"
"She's a married lady, and has two children."
"Oh! well! Francisco ran away with Sylvano's wife, who had
four children. They took all his money and one of the children and
stole his boat."
"Shut up!"
"Does she understand?"
"Oh, hush!"
"Are those two married over there—leaning on each other?"
"Of course not," laughed Robert.
"Of course not," echoed Mariequita, with a serious,
confirmatory bob of the head.
The sun was high up and beginning to bite. The swift breeze
seemed to Edna to bury the sting of it into the pores of her face
and hands. Robert held his umbrella over her. As they went
cutting sidewise through the water, the sails bellied taut, with
the wind filling and overflowing them. Old Monsieur Farival
laughed sardonically at something as he looked at the sails, and
Beaudelet swore at the old man under his breath.
Sailing across the bay to the Cheniere Caminada, Edna felt
as if she were being borne away from some anchorage which had held
her fast, whose chains had been loosening—had snapped the night
before when the mystic spirit was abroad, leaving her free to drift
whithersoever she chose to set her sails. Robert spoke to her
incessantly; he no longer noticed Mariequita. The girl had shrimps
in her bamboo basket. They were covered with Spanish moss. She
beat the moss down impatiently, and muttered to herself sullenly.
"Let us go to Grande Terre to-morrow?" said Robert in a low
voice.
"What shall we do there?"
"Climb up the hill to the old fort and look at the little
wriggling gold snakes, and watch the lizards sun themselves."
She gazed away toward Grande Terre and thought she would like
to be alone there with Robert, in the sun, listening to the ocean's
roar and watching the slimy lizards writhe in and out among the
ruins of the old fort.
"And the next day or the next we can sail to the Bayou
Brulow," he went on.
"What shall we do there?"
"Anything—cast bait for fish."
"No; we'll go back to Grande Terre. Let the fish alone."
"We'll go wherever you like," he said. "I'll have Tonie come
over and help me patch and trim my boat. We shall not need Beaudelet
nor any one. Are you afraid of the pirogue?"
"Oh, no."
"Then I'll take you some night in the pirogue when the moon
shines. Maybe your Gulf spirit will whisper to you in which of
these islands the treasures are hidden—direct you to the very
spot, perhaps."
"And in a day we should be rich!" she laughed. "I'd give it
all to you, the pirate gold and every bit of treasure we could dig
up. I think you would know how to spend it. Pirate gold isn't a
thing to be hoarded or utilized. It is something to squander and
throw to the four winds, for the fun of seeing the golden specks
fly."
"We'd share it, and scatter it together," he said. His face
flushed.
They all went together up to the quaint little Gothic church
of Our Lady of Lourdes, gleaming all brown and yellow with paint in
the sun's glare.
Only Beaudelet remained behind, tinkering at his boat, and
Mariequita walked away with her basket of shrimps, casting a look
of childish ill humor and reproach at Robert from the corner of her
eye.
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