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The Awakening
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READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapters XXX–XXXV

 

Part XXXIV

The dining-room was very small. Edna's round mahogany would
have almost filled it. As it was there was but a step or two from
the little table to the kitchen, to the mantel, the small buffet,
and the side door that opened out on the narrow brick-paved yard.
A certain degree of ceremony settled upon them with the
announcement of dinner. There was no return to personalities.
Robert related incidents of his sojourn in Mexico, and Edna talked
of events likely to interest him, which had occurred during his
absence. The dinner was of ordinary quality, except for the few
delicacies which she had sent out to purchase. Old Celestine, with
a bandana tignon twisted about her head, hobbled in and out,
taking a personal interest in everything; and she lingered
occasionally to talk patois with Robert, whom she had known as a
boy.
He went out to a neighboring cigar stand to purchase cigarette
papers, and when he came back he found that Celestine had served
the black coffee in the parlor.
"Perhaps I shouldn't have come back," he said. "When you are
tired of me, tell me to go."
"You never tire me. You must have forgotten the hours and
hours at Grand Isle in which we grew accustomed to each other and
used to being together."
"I have forgotten nothing at Grand Isle," he said, not looking
at her, but rolling a cigarette. His tobacco pouch, which he laid
upon the table, was a fantastic embroidered silk affair, evidently
the handiwork of a woman.
"You used to carry your tobacco in a rubber pouch," said Edna,
picking up the pouch and examining the needlework.
"Yes; it was lost."
"Where did you buy this one? In Mexico?"
"It was given to me by a Vera Cruz girl; they are very
generous," he replied, striking a match and lighting his cigarette.
"They are very handsome, I suppose, those Mexican women; very
picturesque, with their black eyes and their lace scarfs."
"Some are; others are hideous. just as you find women
everywhere."
"What was she like—the one who gave you the pouch? You must
have known her very well."
"She was very ordinary. She wasn't of the slightest
importance. I knew her well enough."
"Did you visit at her house? Was it interesting? I should like
to know and hear about the people you met, and the impressions they
made on you."
"There are some people who leave impressions not so lasting as
the imprint of an oar upon the water."
"Was she such a one?"
"It would be ungenerous for me to admit that she was of that
order and kind." He thrust the pouch back in his pocket, as if to
put away the subject with the trifle which had brought it up.
Arobin dropped in with a message from Mrs. Merriman, to say
that the card party was postponed on account of the illness of one
of her children.
"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 didn't 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."
"I am always less fortunate than Robert. Has he been
imparting tender confidences?"
"I've been imposing myself long enough," said Robert, rising,
and shaking hands with Edna. "Please convey my regards to Mr.
Pontellier when you write."
He shook hands with Arobin and went away.
"Fine fellow, that Lebrun," said Arobin when Robert had gone.
"I never heard you speak of him."
"I knew him last summer at Grand Isle," she replied. "Here is
that photograph of yours. Don't you want it?"
"What do I want with it? Throw it away." She threw it back on
the table.
"I'm not going to Mrs. Merriman's," she said. "If you see
her, tell her so. But perhaps I had better write. I think I shall
write now, and say that I am sorry her child is sick, and tell her
not to count on me."
"It would be a good scheme," acquiesced Arobin. "I don't blame you;
stupid lot!"
Edna opened the blotter, and having procured paper and pen,
began to write the note. Arobin lit a cigar and read the evening
paper, which he had in his pocket.
"What is the date?" she asked. He told her.
"Will you mail this for me when you go out?"
"Certainly." He read to her little bits out of the newspaper,
while she straightened things on the table.
"What do you want to do?" he asked, throwing aside the paper.
"Do you want to go out for a walk or a drive or anything? It would
be a fine night to drive."
"No; I don't want to do anything but just be quiet. You go
away and amuse yourself. Don't stay."
"I'll go away if I must; but I shan't amuse myself. You know
that I only live when I am near you."
He stood up to bid her good night.
"Is that one of the things you always say to women?"
"I have said it before, but I don't think I ever came so near
meaning it," he answered with a smile. There were no warm lights
in her eyes; only a dreamy, absent look.
"Good night. I adore you. Sleep well," he said, and he
kissed her hand and went away.
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 Reisz's 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.
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