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The Awakening
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READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapters XXV–XXIX

 

Part XXIX

Without even waiting for an answer from her husband regarding
his opinion or wishes in the matter, Edna hastened her preparations
for quitting her home on Esplanade Street and moving into the
little house around the block. A feverish anxiety attended her
every action in that direction. There was no moment of deliberation,
no interval of repose between the thought and its fulfillment.
Early upon the morning following those hours passed in Arobin's society,
Edna set about securing her new abode and hurrying her arrangements
for occupying it. Within the precincts of her home she felt like
one who has entered and lingered within the portals of some
forbidden temple in which a thousand muffled voices bade her begone.
Whatever was her own in the house, everything which she had
acquired aside from her husband's bounty, she caused to be
transported to the other house, supplying simple and meager
deficiencies from her own resources.
Arobin found her with rolled sleeves, working in company with
the house-maid when he looked in during the afternoon. She was
splendid and robust, and had never appeared handsomer than in the
old blue gown, with a red silk handkerchief knotted at random
around her head to protect her hair from the dust. She was mounted
upon a high stepladder, unhooking a picture from the wall when he
entered. He had found the front door open, and had followed his
ring by walking in unceremoniously.
"Come down!" he said. "Do you want to kill yourself?" She greeted him
with affected carelessness, and appeared absorbed in her occupation.
If he had expected to find her languishing, reproachful, or indulging
in sentimental tears, he must have been greatly surprised.
He was no doubt prepared for any emergency, ready for any one
of the foregoing attitudes, just as he bent himself easily and
naturally to the situation which confronted him.
"Please come down," he insisted, holding the ladder and
looking up at her.
"No," she answered; "Ellen is afraid to mount the ladder. Joe
is working over at the `pigeon house'—that's the name Ellen gives
it, because it's so small and looks like a pigeon house—and some
one has to do this."
Arobin pulled off his coat, and expressed himself ready and
willing to tempt fate in her place. Ellen brought him one of her
dust-caps, and went into contortions of mirth, which she found
it impossible to control, when she saw him put it on before
the mirror as grotesquely as he could. Edna herself could not
refrain from smiling when she fastened it at his request. So it
was he who in turn mounted the ladder, unhooking pictures and
curtains, and dislodging ornaments as Edna directed. When he had
finished he took off his dust-cap and went out to wash his hands.
Edna was sitting on the tabouret, idly brushing the tips of a
feather duster along the carpet when he came in again.
"Is there anything more you will let me do?" he asked.
"That is all," she answered. "Ellen can manage the rest." She
kept the young woman occupied in the drawing-room, unwilling to be
left alone with Arobin.
"What about the dinner?" he asked; "the grand event, the coup d'etat?"
"It will be day after to-morrow. Why do you call it the `coup d'etat?'
Oh! it will be very fine; all my best of everything—crystal, silver and gold,
Sevres, flowers, music, and champagne to swim in. I'll let Leonce pay
the bills. I wonder what he'll say when he sees the bills.
"And you ask me why I call it a coup d'etat?" Arobin had
put on his coat, and he stood before her and asked if his cravat
was plumb. She told him it was, looking no higher than the tip of
his collar.
"When do you go to the `pigeon house?'—with all due
acknowledgment to Ellen."
"Day after to-morrow, after the dinner. I shall sleep there."
"Ellen, will you very kindly get me a glass of water?" asked
Arobin. "The dust in the curtains, if you will pardon me for
hinting such a thing, has parched my throat to a crisp."
"While Ellen gets the water," said Edna, rising, "I will say
good-by and let you go. I must get rid of this grime, and I have
a million things to do and think of."
"When shall I see you?" asked Arobin, seeking to detain her,
the maid having left the room.
"At the dinner, of course. You are invited."
"Not before?—not to-night or to-morrow morning or tomorrow
noon or night? or the day after morning or noon? Can't you see
yourself, without my telling you, what an eternity it is?"
He had followed her into the hall and to the foot of the
stairway, looking up at her as she mounted with her face half
turned to him.
"Not an instant sooner," she said. But she laughed and looked
at him with eyes that at once gave him courage to wait and made it
torture to wait.
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