part 4: chapter xvi "do you miss your friend greatly?" askedmademoiselle reisz one morning as she came creeping up behind edna, who had just lefther cottage on her way to the beach. she spent much of her time in the watersince she had acquired finally the art of swimming. as their stay at grand isle drew near itsclose, she felt that she could not give too much time to a diversion which afforded herthe only real pleasurable moments that she knew. when mademoiselle reisz came and touchedher upon the shoulder and spoke to her, the
woman seemed to echo the thought which wasever in edna's mind; or, better, the feeling which constantly possessed her. robert's going had some way taken thebrightness, the color, the meaning out of everything. the conditions of her life were in no waychanged, but her whole existence was dulled, like a faded garment which seems tobe no longer worth wearing. she sought him everywhere--in others whomshe induced to talk about him. she went up in the mornings to madamelebrun's room, braving the clatter of the old sewing-machine.
she sat there and chatted at intervals asrobert had done. she gazed around the room at the picturesand photographs hanging upon the wall, and discovered in some corner an old familyalbum, which she examined with the keenest interest, appealing to madame lebrun for enlightenment concerning the many figuresand faces which she discovered between its pages. there was a picture of madame lebrun withrobert as a baby, seated in her lap, a round-faced infant with a fist in hismouth. the eyes alone in the baby suggested theman.
and that was he also in kilts, at the ageof five, wearing long curls and holding a whip in his hand. it made edna laugh, and she laughed, too,at the portrait in his first long trousers; while another interested her, taken when heleft for college, looking thin, long-faced, with eyes full of fire, ambition and greatintentions. but there was no recent picture, none whichsuggested the robert who had gone away five days ago, leaving a void and wildernessbehind him. "oh, robert stopped having his picturestaken when he had to pay for them himself! he found wiser use for his money, he says,"explained madame lebrun.
she had a letter from him, written beforehe left new orleans. edna wished to see the letter, and madamelebrun told her to look for it either on the table or the dresser, or perhaps it wason the mantelpiece. the letter was on the bookshelf. it possessed the greatest interest andattraction for edna; the envelope, its size and shape, the post-mark, the handwriting.she examined every detail of the outside before opening it. there were only a few lines, setting forththat he would leave the city that afternoon, that he had packed his trunk ingood shape, that he was well, and sent her
his love and begged to be affectionatelyremembered to all. there was no special message to edna excepta postscript saying that if mrs. pontellier desired to finish the book which he hadbeen reading to her, his mother would find it in his room, among other books there onthe table. edna experienced a pang of jealousy becausehe had written to his mother rather than to her. every one seemed to take for granted thatshe missed him. even her husband, when he came down thesaturday following robert's departure, expressed regret that he had gone.
"how do you get on without him, edna?" heasked. "it's very dull without him," she admitted. mr. pontellier had seen robert in the city,and edna asked him a dozen questions or more.where had they met? on carondelet street, in the morning. they had gone "in" and had a drink and acigar together. what had they talked about? chiefly about his prospects in mexico,which mr. pontellier thought were promising.how did he look?
how did he seem--grave, or gay, or how? quite cheerful, and wholly taken up withthe idea of his trip, which mr. pontellier found altogether natural in a young fellowabout to seek fortune and adventure in a strange, queer country. edna tapped her foot impatiently, andwondered why the children persisted in playing in the sun when they might be underthe trees. she went down and led them out of the sun,scolding the quadroon for not being more attentive. it did not strike her as in the leastgrotesque that she should be making of
robert the object of conversation andleading her husband to speak of him. the sentiment which she entertained forrobert in no way resembled that which she felt for her husband, or had ever felt, orever expected to feel. she had all her life long been accustomedto harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves.they had never taken the form of struggles. they belonged to her and were her own, andshe entertained the conviction that she had a right to them and that they concerned noone but herself. edna had once told madame ratignolle thatshe would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for any one.
then had followed a rather heated argument;the two women did not appear to understand each other or to be talking the samelanguage. edna tried to appease her friend, toexplain. "i would give up the unessential; i wouldgive my money, i would give my life for my children; but i wouldn't give myself. i can't make it more clear; it's onlysomething which i am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself tome." "i don't know what you would call theessential, or what you mean by the unessential," said madame ratignolle,cheerfully; "but a woman who would give her
life for her children could do no more thanthat--your bible tells you so. i'm sure i couldn't do more than that.""oh, yes you could!" laughed edna. she was not surprised at mademoisellereisz's question the morning that lady, following her to the beach, tapped her onthe shoulder and asked if she did not greatly miss her young friend. "oh, good morning, mademoiselle; is it you?why, of course i miss robert. are you going down to bathe?" "why should i go down to bathe at the veryend of the season when i haven't been in the surf all summer," replied the woman,disagreeably.
"i beg your pardon," offered edna, in someembarrassment, for she should have remembered that mademoiselle reisz'savoidance of the water had furnished a theme for much pleasantry. some among them thought it was on accountof her false hair, or the dread of getting the violets wet, while others attributed itto the natural aversion for water sometimes believed to accompany the artistictemperament. mademoiselle offered edna some chocolatesin a paper bag, which she took from her pocket, by way of showing that she bore noill feeling. she habitually ate chocolates for theirsustaining quality; they contained much
nutriment in small compass, she said. they saved her from starvation, as madamelebrun's table was utterly impossible; and no one save so impertinent a woman asmadame lebrun could think of offering such food to people and requiring them to payfor it. "she must feel very lonely without herson," said edna, desiring to change the subject. "her favorite son, too.it must have been quite hard to let him go."mademoiselle laughed maliciously. "her favorite son!
oh, dear!who could have been imposing such a tale upon you?aline lebrun lives for victor, and for victor alone. she has spoiled him into the worthlesscreature he is. she worships him and the ground he walkson. robert is very well in a way, to give upall the money he can earn to the family, and keep the barest pittance for himself.favorite son, indeed! i miss the poor fellow myself, my dear. i liked to see him and to hear him aboutthe place the only lebrun who is worth a
pinch of salt.he comes to see me often in the city. i like to play to him. that victor! hanging would be too good forhim. it's a wonder robert hasn't beaten him todeath long ago." "i thought he had great patience with hisbrother," offered edna, glad to be talking about robert, no matter what was said."oh! he thrashed him well enough a year or two ago," said mademoiselle. "it was about a spanish girl, whom victorconsidered that he had some sort of claim upon.
he met robert one day talking to the girl,or walking with her, or bathing with her, or carrying her basket--i don't rememberwhat;--and he became so insulting and abusive that robert gave him a thrashing on the spot that has kept him comparatively inorder for a good while. it's about time he was getting another.""was her name mariequita?" asked edna. "mariequita--yes, that was it; mariequita. i had forgotten.oh, she's a sly one, and a bad one, that mariequita!" edna looked down at mademoiselle reisz andwondered how she could have listened to her
venom so long.for some reason she felt depressed, almost unhappy. she had not intended to go into the water;but she donned her bathing suit, and left mademoiselle alone, seated under the shadeof the children's tent. the water was growing cooler as the seasonadvanced. edna plunged and swam about with an abandonthat thrilled and invigorated her. she remained a long time in the water, halfhoping that mademoiselle reisz would not wait for her.but mademoiselle waited. she was very amiable during the walk back,and raved much over edna's appearance in
her bathing suit.she talked about music. she hoped that edna would go to see her inthe city, and wrote her address with the stub of a pencil on a piece of card whichshe found in her pocket. "when do you leave?" asked edna. "next monday; and you?""the following week," answered edna, adding, "it has been a pleasant summer,hasn't it, mademoiselle?" "well," agreed mademoiselle reisz, with ashrug, "rather pleasant, if it hadn't been for the mosquitoes and the farival twins." chapter xvii
the pontelliers possessed a very charminghome on esplanade street in new orleans. it was a large, double cottage, with abroad front veranda, whose round, fluted columns supported the sloping roof. the house was painted a dazzling white; theoutside shutters, or jalousies, were green. in the yard, which was kept scrupulouslyneat, were flowers and plants of every description which flourishes in southlouisiana. within doors the appointments were perfectafter the conventional type. the softest carpets and rugs covered thefloors; rich and tasteful draperies hung at doors and windows.
there were paintings, selected withjudgment and discrimination, upon the walls. the cut glass, the silver, the heavy damaskwhich daily appeared upon the table were the envy of many women whose husbands wereless generous than mr. pontellier. mr. pontellier was very fond of walkingabout his house examining its various appointments and details, to see thatnothing was amiss. he greatly valued his possessions, chieflybecause they were his, and derived genuine pleasure from contemplating a painting, astatuette, a rare lace curtain--no matter what--after he had bought it and placed itamong his household gods.
on tuesday afternoons--tuesday being mrs.pontellier's reception day--there was a constant stream of callers--women who camein carriages or in the street cars, or walked when the air was soft and distancepermitted. a light-colored mulatto boy, in dress coatand bearing a diminutive silver tray for the reception of cards, admitted them. a maid, in white fluted cap, offered thecallers liqueur, coffee, or chocolate, as they might desire. mrs. pontellier, attired in a handsomereception gown, remained in the drawing- room the entire afternoon receiving hervisitors.
men sometimes called in the evening withtheir wives. this had been the programme which mrs.pontellier had religiously followed since her marriage, six years before. certain evenings during the week she andher husband attended the opera or sometimes the play. mr. pontellier left his home in themornings between nine and ten o'clock, and rarely returned before half-past six orseven in the evening--dinner being served at half-past seven. he and his wife seated themselves at tableone tuesday evening, a few weeks after
their return from grand isle.they were alone together. the boys were being put to bed; the patterof their bare, escaping feet could be heard occasionally, as well as the pursuing voiceof the quadroon, lifted in mild protest and entreaty. mrs. pontellier did not wear her usualtuesday reception gown; she was in ordinary house dress. mr. pontellier, who was observant aboutsuch things, noticed it, as he served the soup and handed it to the boy in waiting."tired out, edna? whom did you have?
many callers?" he asked.he tasted his soup and began to season it with pepper, salt, vinegar, mustard--everything within reach. "there were a good many," replied edna, whowas eating her soup with evident satisfaction."i found their cards when i got home; i was out." "out!" exclaimed her husband, withsomething like genuine consternation in his voice as he laid down the vinegar cruet andlooked at her through his glasses. "why, what could have taken you out ontuesday? what did you have to do?""nothing.
i simply felt like going out, and i wentout." "well, i hope you left some suitableexcuse," said her husband, somewhat appeased, as he added a dash of cayennepepper to the soup. "no, i left no excuse. i told joe to say i was out, that was all." "why, my dear, i should think you'dunderstand by this time that people don't do such things; we've got to observe lesconvenances if we ever expect to get on and keep up with the procession. if you felt that you had to leave home thisafternoon, you should have left some
suitable explanation for your absence. "this soup is really impossible; it'sstrange that woman hasn't learned yet to make a decent soup.any free-lunch stand in town serves a better one. was mrs. belthrop here?""bring the tray with the cards, joe. i don't remember who was here." the boy retired and returned after amoment, bringing the tiny silver tray, which was covered with ladies' visitingcards. he handed it to mrs. pontellier.
"give it to mr. pontellier," she said.joe offered the tray to mr. pontellier, and removed the soup. mr. pontellier scanned the names of hiswife's callers, reading some of them aloud, with comments as he read."'the misses delasidas.' i worked a big deal in futures for theirfather this morning; nice girls; it's time they were getting married.'mrs. belthrop.' i tell you what it is, edna; you can'tafford to snub mrs. belthrop. why, belthrop could buy and sell us tentimes over. his business is worth a good, round sum tome.
you'd better write her a note.'mrs. james highcamp.' hugh! the less you have to do with mrs.highcamp, the better. 'madame laforce.'came all the way from carrolton, too, poor old soul. 'miss wiggs,' 'mrs. eleanor boltons.'"he pushed the cards aside. "mercy!" exclaimed edna, who had beenfuming. "why are you taking the thing so seriouslyand making such a fuss over it?" "i'm not making any fuss over it. but it's just such seeming trifles thatwe've got to take seriously; such things
count."the fish was scorched. mr. pontellier would not touch it. edna said she did not mind a littlescorched taste. the roast was in some way not to his fancy,and he did not like the manner in which the vegetables were served. "it seems to me," he said, "we spend moneyenough in this house to procure at least one meal a day which a man could eat andretain his self-respect." "you used to think the cook was atreasure," returned edna, indifferently. "perhaps she was when she first came; butcooks are only human.
they need looking after, like any otherclass of persons that you employ. suppose i didn't look after the clerks inmy office, just let them run things their own way; they'd soon make a nice mess of meand my business." "where are you going?" asked edna, seeingthat her husband arose from table without having eaten a morsel except a taste of thehighly-seasoned soup. "i'm going to get my dinner at the club. good night."he went into the hall, took his hat and stick from the stand, and left the house.she was somewhat familiar with such scenes. they had often made her very unhappy.
on a few previous occasions she had beencompletely deprived of any desire to finish her dinner.sometimes she had gone into the kitchen to administer a tardy rebuke to the cook. once she went to her room and studied thecookbook during an entire evening, finally writing out a menu for the week, which lefther harassed with a feeling that, after all, she had accomplished no good that wasworth the name. but that evening edna finished her dinneralone, with forced deliberation. her face was flushed and her eyes flamedwith some inward fire that lighted them. after finishing her dinner she went to herroom, having instructed the boy to tell any
other callers that she was indisposed. it was a large, beautiful room, rich andpicturesque in the soft, dim light which the maid had turned low. she went and stood at an open window andlooked out upon the deep tangle of the garden below. all the mystery and witchery of the nightseemed to have gathered there amid the perfumes and the dusky and tortuousoutlines of flowers and foliage. she was seeking herself and finding herselfin just such sweet, half-darkness which met her moods.
but the voices were not soothing that cameto her from the darkness and the sky above and the stars.they jeered and sounded mournful notes without promise, devoid even of hope. she turned back into the room and began towalk to and fro down its whole length, without stopping, without resting. she carried in her hands a thinhandkerchief, which she tore into ribbons, rolled into a ball, and flung from her.once she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet. when she saw it lying there, she stampedher heel upon it, striving to crush it.
but her small boot heel did not make anindenture, not a mark upon the little glittering circlet. in a sweeping passion she seized a glassvase from the table and flung it upon the tiles of the hearth.she wanted to destroy something. the crash and clatter were what she wantedto hear. a maid, alarmed at the din of breakingglass, entered the room to discover what was the matter. "a vase fell upon the hearth," said edna."never mind; leave it till morning." "oh! you might get some of the glass inyour feet, ma'am," insisted the young
woman, picking up bits of the broken vasethat were scattered upon the carpet. "and here's your ring, ma'am, under thechair." edna held out her hand, and taking thering, slipped it upon her finger. chapter xviii the following morning mr. pontellier, uponleaving for his office, asked edna if she would not meet him in town in order to lookat some new fixtures for the library. "i hardly think we need new fixtures,leonce. don't let us get anything new; you are tooextravagant. i don't believe you ever think of saving orputting by."
"the way to become rich is to make money,my dear edna, not to save it," he said. he regretted that she did not feel inclinedto go with him and select new fixtures. he kissed her good-by, and told her she wasnot looking well and must take care of herself. she was unusually pale and very quiet.she stood on the front veranda as he quitted the house, and absently picked afew sprays of jessamine that grew upon a trellis near by. she inhaled the odor of the blossoms andthrust them into the bosom of her white morning gown.
the boys were dragging along the banquettea small "express wagon," which they had filled with blocks and sticks. the quadroon was following them with littlequick steps, having assumed a fictitious animation and alacrity for the occasion.a fruit vender was crying his wares in the street. edna looked straight before her with aself-absorbed expression upon her face. she felt no interest in anything about her. the street, the children, the fruit vender,the flowers growing there under her eyes, were all part and parcel of an alien worldwhich had suddenly become antagonistic.
she went back into the house. she had thought of speaking to the cookconcerning her blunders of the previous night; but mr. pontellier had saved herthat disagreeable mission, for which she was so poorly fitted. mr. pontellier's arguments were usuallyconvincing with those whom he employed. he left home feeling quite sure that he andedna would sit down that evening, and possibly a few subsequent evenings, to adinner deserving of the name. edna spent an hour or two in looking oversome of her old sketches. she could see their shortcomings anddefects, which were glaring in her eyes.
she tried to work a little, but found shewas not in the humor. finally she gathered together a few of thesketches--those which she considered the least discreditable; and she carried themwith her when, a little later, she dressed and left the house. she looked handsome and distinguished inher street gown. the tan of the seashore had left her face,and her forehead was smooth, white, and polished beneath her heavy, yellow-brownhair. there were a few freckles on her face, anda small, dark mole near the under lip and one on the temple, half-hidden in her hair.as edna walked along the street she was
thinking of robert. she was still under the spell of herinfatuation. she had tried to forget him, realizing theinutility of remembering. but the thought of him was like anobsession, ever pressing itself upon her. it was not that she dwelt upon details oftheir acquaintance, or recalled in any special or peculiar way his personality; itwas his being, his existence, which dominated her thought, fading sometimes as if it would melt into the mist of theforgotten, reviving again with an intensity which filled her with an incomprehensiblelonging.
edna was on her way to madame ratignolle's. their intimacy, begun at grand isle, hadnot declined, and they had seen each other with some frequency since their return tothe city. the ratignolles lived at no great distancefrom edna's home, on the corner of a side street, where monsieur ratignolle owned andconducted a drug store which enjoyed a steady and prosperous trade. his father had been in the business beforehim, and monsieur ratignolle stood well in the community and bore an enviablereputation for integrity and clearheadedness.
his family lived in commodious apartmentsover the store, having an entrance on the side within the porte cochere. there was something which edna thought veryfrench, very foreign, about their whole manner of living. in the large and pleasant salon whichextended across the width of the house, the ratignolles entertained their friends oncea fortnight with a soiree musicale, sometimes diversified by card-playing. there was a friend who played upon the'cello. one brought his flute and another hisviolin, while there were some who sang and
a number who performed upon the piano withvarious degrees of taste and agility. the ratignolles' soirees musicales werewidely known, and it was considered a privilege to be invited to them. edna found her friend engaged in assortingthe clothes which had returned that morning from the laundry. she at once abandoned her occupation uponseeing edna, who had been ushered without ceremony into her presence. "'cite can do it as well as i; it is reallyher business," she explained to edna, who apologized for interrupting her.
and she summoned a young black woman, whomshe instructed, in french, to be very careful in checking off the list which shehanded her. she told her to notice particularly if afine linen handkerchief of monsieur ratignolle's, which was missing last week,had been returned; and to be sure to set to one side such pieces as required mendingand darning. then placing an arm around edna's waist,she led her to the front of the house, to the salon, where it was cool and sweet withthe odor of great roses that stood upon the hearth in jars. madame ratignolle looked more beautifulthan ever there at home, in a neglige which
left her arms almost wholly bare andexposed the rich, melting curves of her white throat. "perhaps i shall be able to paint yourpicture some day," said edna with a smile when they were seated.she produced the roll of sketches and started to unfold them. "i believe i ought to work again.i feel as if i wanted to be doing something.what do you think of them? do you think it worth while to take it upagain and study some more? i might study for a while with laidpore."
she knew that madame ratignolle's opinionin such a matter would be next to valueless, that she herself had not alonedecided, but determined; but she sought the words of praise and encouragement that would help her to put heart into herventure. "your talent is immense, dear!""nonsense!" protested edna, well pleased. "immense, i tell you," persisted madameratignolle, surveying the sketches one by one, at close range, then holding them atarm's length, narrowing her eyes, and dropping her head on one side. "surely, this bavarian peasant is worthy offraming; and this basket of apples! never
have i seen anything more lifelike.one might almost be tempted to reach out a hand and take one." edna could not control a feeling whichbordered upon complacency at her friend's praise, even realizing, as she did, itstrue worth. she retained a few of the sketches, andgave all the rest to madame ratignolle, who appreciated the gift far beyond its valueand proudly exhibited the pictures to her husband when he came up from the store alittle later for his midday dinner. mr. ratignolle was one of those men who arecalled the salt of the earth. his cheerfulness was unbounded, and it wasmatched by his goodness of heart, his broad
charity, and common sense. he and his wife spoke english with anaccent which was only discernible through its un-english emphasis and a certaincarefulness and deliberation. edna's husband spoke english with no accentwhatever. the ratignolles understood each otherperfectly. if ever the fusion of two human beings intoone has been accomplished on this sphere it was surely in their union. as edna seated herself at table with themshe thought, "better a dinner of herbs," though it did not take her long to discoverthat it was no dinner of herbs, but a
delicious repast, simple, choice, and inevery way satisfying. monsieur ratignolle was delighted to seeher, though he found her looking not so well as at grand isle, and he advised atonic. he talked a good deal on various topics, alittle politics, some city news and neighborhood gossip. he spoke with an animation and earnestnessthat gave an exaggerated importance to every syllable he uttered. his wife was keenly interested ineverything he said, laying down her fork the better to listen, chiming in, takingthe words out of his mouth.
edna felt depressed rather than soothedafter leaving them. the little glimpse of domestic harmonywhich had been offered her, gave her no regret, no longing. it was not a condition of life which fittedher, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui. she was moved by a kind of commiserationfor madame ratignolle,--a pity for that colorless existence which never upliftedits possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she wouldnever have the taste of life's delirium.
edna vaguely wondered what she meant by"life's delirium." it had crossed her thought like someunsought, extraneous impression. chapter xix edna could not help but think that it wasvery foolish, very childish, to have stamped upon her wedding ring and smashedthe crystal vase upon the tiles. she was visited by no more outbursts,moving her to such futile expedients. she began to do as she liked and to feel asshe liked. she completely abandoned her tuesdays athome, and did not return the visits of those who had called upon her.
she made no ineffectual efforts to conducther household en bonne menagere, going and coming as it suited her fancy, and, so faras she was able, lending herself to any passing caprice. mr. pontellier had been a rather courteoushusband so long as he met a certain tacit submissiveness in his wife.but her new and unexpected line of conduct completely bewildered him. it shocked him.then her absolute disregard for her duties as a wife angered him.when mr. pontellier became rude, edna grew insolent.
she had resolved never to take another stepbackward. "it seems to me the utmost folly for awoman at the head of a household, and the mother of children, to spend in an atelierdays which would be better employed contriving for the comfort of her family." "i feel like painting," answered edna."perhaps i shan't always feel like it." "then in god's name paint! but don't letthe family go to the devil. there's madame ratignolle; because shekeeps up her music, she doesn't let everything else go to chaos.and she's more of a musician than you are a painter."
"she isn't a musician, and i'm not apainter. it isn't on account of painting that i letthings go." "on account of what, then?" "oh! i don't know.let me alone; you bother me." it sometimes entered mr. pontellier's mindto wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. he could see plainly that she was notherself. that is, he could not see that she wasbecoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like agarment with which to appear before the
world. her husband let her alone as she requested,and went away to his office. edna went up to her atelier--a bright roomin the top of the house. she was working with great energy andinterest, without accomplishing anything, however, which satisfied her even in thesmallest degree. for a time she had the whole householdenrolled in the service of art. the boys posed for her. they thought it amusing at first, but theoccupation soon lost its attractiveness when they discovered that it was not a gamearranged especially for their
entertainment. the quadroon sat for hours before edna'spalette, patient as a savage, while the house-maid took charge of the children, andthe drawing-room went undusted. but the housemaid, too, served her term asmodel when edna perceived that the young woman's back and shoulders were molded onclassic lines, and that her hair, loosened from its confining cap, became aninspiration. while edna worked she sometimes sang lowthe little air, "ah! si tu savais!" it moved her with recollections. she could hear again the ripple of thewater, the flapping sail.
she could see the glint of the moon uponthe bay, and could feel the soft, gusty beating of the hot south wind. a subtle current of desire passed throughher body, weakening her hold upon the brushes and making her eyes burn.there were days when she was very happy without knowing why. she was happy to be alive and breathing,when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, theluxuriant warmth of some perfect southern day. she liked then to wander alone into strangeand unfamiliar places.
she discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner,fashioned to dream in. and she found it good to dream and to bealone and unmolested. there were days when she was unhappy, shedid not know why,--when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to bealive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly towardinevitable annihilation. she could not work on such a day, nor weavefancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood. chapter xx
it was during such a mood that edna huntedup mademoiselle reisz. she had not forgotten the ratherdisagreeable impression left upon her by their last interview; but she neverthelessfelt a desire to see her--above all, to listen while she played upon the piano. quite early in the afternoon she startedupon her quest for the pianist. unfortunately she had mislaid or lostmademoiselle reisz's card, and looking up her address in the city directory, shefound that the woman lived on bienville street, some distance away. the directory which fell into her hands wasa year or more old, however, and upon
reaching the number indicated, ednadiscovered that the house was occupied by a respectable family of mulattoes who hadchambres garnies to let. they had been living there for six months,and knew absolutely nothing of a mademoiselle reisz. in fact, they knew nothing of any of theirneighbors; their lodgers were all people of the highest distinction, they assured edna. she did not linger to discuss classdistinctions with madame pouponne, but hastened to a neighboring grocery store,feeling sure that mademoiselle would have left her address with the proprietor.
he knew mademoiselle reisz a good dealbetter than he wanted to know her, he informed his questioner. in truth, he did not want to know her atall, or anything concerning her--the most disagreeable and unpopular woman who everlived in bienville street. he thanked heaven she had left theneighborhood, and was equally thankful that he did not know where she had gone. edna's desire to see mademoiselle reisz hadincreased tenfold since these unlooked-for obstacles had arisen to thwart it. she was wondering who could give her theinformation she sought, when it suddenly
occurred to her that madame lebrun would bethe one most likely to do so. she knew it was useless to ask madameratignolle, who was on the most distant terms with the musician, and preferred toknow nothing concerning her. she had once been almost as emphatic inexpressing herself upon the subject as the corner grocer. edna knew that madame lebrun had returnedto the city, for it was the middle of november.and she also knew where the lebruns lived, on chartres street. their home from the outside looked like aprison, with iron bars before the door and
lower windows. the iron bars were a relic of the oldregime, and no one had ever thought of dislodging them.at the side was a high fence enclosing the garden. a gate or door opening upon the street waslocked. edna rang the bell at this side gardengate, and stood upon the banquette, waiting to be admitted. it was victor who opened the gate for her.a black woman, wiping her hands upon her apron, was close at his heels.
before she saw them edna could hear them inaltercation, the woman--plainly an anomaly- -claiming the right to be allowed toperform her duties, one of which was to answer the bell. victor was surprised and delighted to seemrs. pontellier, and he made no attempt to conceal either his astonishment or hisdelight. he was a dark-browed, good-lookingyoungster of nineteen, greatly resembling his mother, but with ten times herimpetuosity. he instructed the black woman to go at onceand inform madame lebrun that mrs. pontellier desired to see her.
the woman grumbled a refusal to do part ofher duty when she had not been permitted to do it all, and started back to herinterrupted task of weeding the garden. whereupon victor administered a rebuke inthe form of a volley of abuse, which, owing to its rapidity and incoherence, was allbut incomprehensible to edna. whatever it was, the rebuke was convincing,for the woman dropped her hoe and went mumbling into the house.edna did not wish to enter. it was very pleasant there on the sideporch, where there were chairs, a wicker lounge, and a small table. she seated herself, for she was tired fromher long tramp; and she began to rock
gently and smooth out the folds of her silkparasol. victor drew up his chair beside her. he at once explained that the black woman'soffensive conduct was all due to imperfect training, as he was not there to take herin hand. he had only come up from the island themorning before, and expected to return next he stayed all winter at the island; helived there, and kept the place in order and got things ready for the summervisitors. but a man needed occasional relaxation, heinformed mrs. pontellier, and every now and again he drummed up a pretext to bring himto the city.
my! but he had had a time of it the eveningbefore! he wouldn't want his mother to know, and hebegan to talk in a whisper. he was scintillant with recollections. of course, he couldn't think of tellingmrs. pontellier all about it, she being a woman and not comprehending such things. but it all began with a girl peeping andsmiling at him through the shutters as he passed by.oh! but she was a beauty! certainly he smiled back, and went up andtalked to her. mrs. pontellier did not know him if shesupposed he was one to let an opportunity
like that escape him. despite herself, the youngster amused her.she must have betrayed in her look some degree of interest or entertainment. the boy grew more daring, and mrs.pontellier might have found herself, in a little while, listening to a highly coloredstory but for the timely appearance of madame lebrun. that lady was still clad in white,according to her custom of the summer. her eyes beamed an effusive welcome.would not mrs. pontellier go inside? would she partake of some refreshment?
why had she not been there before?how was that dear mr. pontellier and how were those sweet children?had mrs. pontellier ever known such a warm november? victor went and reclined on the wickerlounge behind his mother's chair, where he commanded a view of edna's face. he had taken her parasol from her handswhile he spoke to her, and he now lifted it and twirled it above him as he lay on hisback. when madame lebrun complained that it wasso dull coming back to the city; that she saw so few people now; that even victor,when he came up from the island for a day
or two, had so much to occupy him and engage his time; then it was that the youthwent into contortions on the lounge and winked mischievously at edna. she somehow felt like a confederate incrime, and tried to look severe and disapproving.there had been but two letters from robert, with little in them, they told her. victor said it was really not worth whileto go inside for the letters, when his mother entreated him to go in search ofthem. he remembered the contents, which in truthhe rattled off very glibly when put to the
test.one letter was written from vera cruz and the other from the city of mexico. he had met montel, who was doing everythingtoward his advancement. so far, the financial situation was noimprovement over the one he had left in new orleans, but of course the prospects werevastly better. he wrote of the city of mexico, thebuildings, the people and their habits, the conditions of life which he found there.he sent his love to the family. he inclosed a check to his mother, andhoped she would affectionately remember him to all his friends.that was about the substance of the two
letters. edna felt that if there had been a messagefor her, she would have received it. the despondent frame of mind in which shehad left home began again to overtake her, and she remembered that she wished to findmademoiselle reisz. madame lebrun knew where mademoiselle reiszlived. she gave edna the address, regretting thatshe would not consent to stay and spend the remainder of the afternoon, and pay a visitto mademoiselle reisz some other day. the afternoon was already well advanced. victor escorted her out upon the banquette,lifted her parasol, and held it over her
while he walked to the car with her. he entreated her to bear in mind that thedisclosures of the afternoon were strictly confidential. she laughed and bantered him a little,remembering too late that she should have been dignified and reserved."how handsome mrs. pontellier looked!" said madame lebrun to her son. "ravishing!" he admitted."the city atmosphere has improved her. some way she doesn't seem like the samewoman."