Home > English > Literature Classic Books > The Awakening > Part XXII
The Awakening
Classic Book   

READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapters XX–XXIV

 

Part XXII

One morning on his way into town Mr. Pontellier stopped at the
house of his old friend and family physician, Doctor Mandelet. The
Doctor was a semi-retired physician, resting, as the saying is,
upon his laurels. He bore a reputation for wisdom rather than
skill—leaving the active practice of medicine to his assistants
and younger contemporaries—and was much sought for in matters of
consultation. A few families, united to him by bonds of
friendship, he still attended when they required the services of a
physician. The Pontelliers were among these.
Mr. Pontellier found the Doctor reading at the open window of
his study. His house stood rather far back from the street, in the
center of a delightful garden, so that it was quiet and peaceful at
the old gentleman's study window. He was a great reader. He
stared up disapprovingly over his eye-glasses as Mr. Pontellier
entered, wondering who had the temerity to disturb him at that hour
of the morning.
"Ah, Pontellier! Not sick, I hope. Come and have a seat.
What news do you bring this morning?" He was quite portly, with a
profusion of gray hair, and small blue eyes which age had robbed
of much of their brightness but none of their penetration.
"Oh! I'm never sick, Doctor. You know that I come of tough
fiber—of that old Creole race of Pontelliers that dry up and
finally blow away. I came to consult—no, not precisely to
consult—to talk to you about Edna. I don't know what ails her."
"Madame Pontellier not well," marveled the Doctor. "Why, I
saw her—I think it was a week ago—walking along Canal Street, the
picture of health, it seemed to me."
"Yes, yes; she seems quite well," said Mr. Pontellier, leaning
forward and whirling his stick between his two hands; "but she
doesn't act well. She's odd, she's not like herself. I can't make
her out, and I thought perhaps you'd help me."
"How does she act?" inquired the Doctor.
"Well, it isn't easy to explain," said Mr. Pontellier,
throwing himself back in his chair. "She lets the housekeeping go
to the dickens."
"Well, well; women are not all alike, my dear Pontellier.
We've got to consider—"
"I know that; I told you I couldn't explain. Her whole
attitude—toward me and everybody and everything—has changed. You
know I have a quick temper, but I don't want to quarrel or be rude
to a woman, especially my wife; yet I'm driven to it, and feel like
ten thousand devils after I've made a fool of myself. She's making
it devilishly uncomfortable for me," he went on nervously. "She's
got some sort of notion in her head concerning the eternal rights
of women; and—you understand—we meet in the morning at the
breakfast table."
The old gentleman lifted his shaggy eyebrows, protruded his
thick nether lip, and tapped the arms of his chair with his
cushioned fingertips.
"What have you been doing to her, Pontellier?"
"Doing! Parbleu!"
"Has she," asked the Doctor, with a smile, "has she been associating
of late with a circle of pseudo-intellectual women—super-spiritual
superior beings? My wife has been telling me about them."
"That's the trouble," broke in Mr. Pontellier, "she hasn't
been associating with any one. She has abandoned her Tuesdays at
home, has thrown over all her acquaintances, and goes tramping
about by herself, moping in the street-cars, getting in after dark.
I tell you she's peculiar. I don't like it; I feel a little
worried over it."
This was a new aspect for the Doctor. "Nothing hereditary?"
he asked, seriously. "Nothing peculiar about her family
antecedents, is there?"
"Oh, no, indeed! She comes of sound old Presbyterian Kentucky
stock. The old gentleman, her father, I have heard, used to atone
for his weekday sins with his Sunday devotions. I know for a fact,
that his race horses literally ran away with the prettiest bit of
Kentucky farming land I ever laid eyes upon. Margaret—you know
Margaret—she has all the Presbyterianism undiluted. And the
youngest is something of a vixen. By the way, she gets married in a
couple of weeks from now."
"Send your wife up to the wedding," exclaimed the Doctor,
foreseeing a happy solution. "Let her stay among her own people
for a while; it will do her good."
"That's what I want her to do. She won't go to the marriage.
She says a wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on
earth. Nice thing for a woman to say to her husband!" exclaimed
Mr. Pontellier, fuming anew at the recollection.
"Pontellier," said the Doctor, after a moment's reflection,
"let your wife alone for a while. Don't bother her, and don't 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 needn't try to fathom.
But it will pass happily over, especially if you let her alone.
Send her around to see me."
"Oh! I couldn't do that; there'd be no reason for it,"
objected Mr. Pontellier.
"Then I'll go around and see her," said the Doctor. "I'll
drop in to dinner some evening en bon ami.
"Do! by all means," urged Mr. Pontellier. "What evening will
you come? Say Thursday. Will you come Thursday?" he asked, rising
to take his leave.
"Very well; Thursday. My wife may possibly have some
engagement for me Thursday. In case she has, I shall let you know.
Otherwise, you may expect me."
Mr. Pontellier turned before leaving to say:
"I am going to New York on business very soon. I have a big
scheme on hand, and want to be on the field proper to pull the
ropes and handle the ribbons. We'll let you in on the inside if
you say so, Doctor," he laughed.
"No, I thank you, my dear sir," returned the Doctor. "I leave
such ventures to you younger men with the fever of life still in
your blood."
"What I wanted to say," continued Mr. Pontellier, with his
hand on the knob; "I may have to be absent a good while. Would you
advise me to take Edna along?"
"By all means, if she wishes to go. If not, leave her here.
Don't contradict her. The mood will pass, I assure you. It may
take a month, two, three months—possibly longer, but it will pass;
have patience."
"Well, good-by, a jeudi, " said Mr. Pontellier, as he let
himself out.
The Doctor would have liked during the course of conversation
to ask, "Is there any man in the case?" but he knew his Creole too
well to make such a blunder as that.
He did not resume his book immediately, but sat for a while
meditatively looking out into the garden.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error
Classic Book Go to top