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The Awakening
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READ STUDY GUIDE: Chapters XXXVI–XXXIX

 

Part XXXVII

Edna looked in at the drug store. Monsieur Ratignolle was
putting up a mixture himself, very carefully, dropping a red liquid
into a tiny glass. He was grateful to Edna for having come; her
presence would be a comfort to his wife. Madame Ratignolle's
sister, who had always been with her at such trying times, had not
been able to come up from the plantation, and Adele had been
inconsolable until Mrs. Pontellier so kindly promised to come to
her. The nurse had been with them at night for the past week, as
she lived a great distance away. And Dr. Mandelet had been coming
and going all the afternoon. They were then looking for him any
moment.
Edna hastened upstairs by a private stairway that led from the
rear of the store to the apartments above. The children were all
sleeping in a back room. Madame Ratignolle was in the salon,
whither she had strayed in her suffering impatience. She sat on
the sofa, clad in an ample white peignoir, holding a
handkerchief tight in her hand with a nervous clutch. Her face was
drawn and pinched, her sweet blue eyes haggard and unnatural. All
her beautiful hair had been drawn back and plaited. It lay in a
long braid on the sofa pillow, coiled like a golden serpent. The
nurse, a comfortable looking Griffe woman in white apron and
cap, was urging her to return to her bedroom.
"There is no use, there is no use," she said at once to Edna.
"We must get rid of Mandelet; he is getting too old and careless.
He said he would be here at half-past seven; now it must be eight.
See what time it is, Josephine."
The woman was possessed of a cheerful nature, and refused
to take any situation too seriously, especially a situation
withwhich she was so familiar. She urged Madame to have
courage and patience. But Madame only set her teeth hard
into her under lip, and Edna saw the sweat gather in beads
on her white forehead. After a moment or two she uttered
a profound sigh and wiped her face with the handkerchief
rolled in a ball. She appeared exhausted. The nurse gave her
a fresh handkerchief, sprinkled with cologne water.
"This is too much!" she cried. "Mandelet ought to be killed!
Where is Alphonse? Is it possible I am to be abandoned like
this-neglected by every one?"
"Neglected, indeed!" exclaimed the nurse. Wasn't she there?
And here was Mrs. Pontellier leaving, no doubt, a pleasant evening
at home to devote to her? And wasn't Monsieur Ratignolle coming
that very instant through the hall? And Josephine was quite sure
she had heard Doctor Mandelet's coupe. Yes, there it was,
down at the door.
Adele consented to go back to her room. She sat on the edge
of a little low couch next to her bed.
Doctor Mandelet paid no attention to Madame Ratignolle's
upbraidings. He was accustomed to them at such times, and was too
well convinced of her loyalty to doubt it.
He was glad to see Edna, and wanted her to go with him into
the salon and entertain him. But Madame Ratignolle would not
consent that Edna should leave her for an instant. Between
agonizing moments, she chatted a little, and said it took her mind
off her sufferings.
Edna began to feel uneasy. She was seized with a vague dread.
Her own like experiences seemed far away, unreal, and only half
remembered. She recalled faintly an ecstasy of pain, the heavy
odor of chloroform, a stupor which had deadened sensation, and an
awakening to find a little new life to which she had given being,
added to the great unnumbered multitude of souls that come and go.
She began to wish she had not come; her presence was not
necessary. She might have invented a pretext for staying away; she
might even invent a pretext now for going. But Edna did not go.
With an inward agony, with a flaming, outspoken revolt against
the ways of Nature, she witnessed the scene of torture.
She was still stunned and speechless with emotion when later
she leaned over her friend to kiss her and softly say good-by.
Adele, pressing her cheek, whispered in an exhausted voice:
"Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children! Remember them!"
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