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Chapter 25

  • When the weather was dark and cloudy Edna could not work. She needed the su_o mellow and temper her mood to the sticking point. She had reached a stag_hen she seemed to be no longer feeling her way, working, when in the humor,
  • with sureness and ease. And being devoid of ambition, and striving not towar_ccomplishment, she drew satisfaction from the work in itself.
  • On rainy or melancholy days Edna went out and sought the society of th_riends she had made at Grand Isle. Or else she stayed indoors and nursed _ood with which she was becoming too familiar for her own comfort and peace o_ind. It was not despair; but it seemed to her as if life were passing by,
  • leaving its promise broken and unfulfilled. Yet there were other days when sh_istened, was led on and deceived by fresh promises which her youth held ou_o her.
  • She went again to the races, and again. Alcee Arobin and Mrs. Highcamp calle_or her one bright afternoon in Arobin's drag. Mrs. Highcamp was a worldly bu_naffected, intelligent, slim, tall blonde woman in the forties, with a_ndifferent manner and blue eyes that stared. She had a daughter who serve_er as a pretext for cultivating the society of young men of fashion. Alce_robin was one of them. He was a familiar figure at the race course, th_pera, the fashionable clubs. There was a perpetual smile in his eyes, whic_eldom failed to awaken a corresponding cheerfulness in any one who looke_nto them and listened to his good-humored voice. His manner was quiet, and a_imes a little insolent. He possessed a good figure, a pleasing face, no_verburdened with depth of thought or feeling; and his dress was that of th_onventional man of fashion.
  • He admired Edna extravagantly, after meeting her at the races with her father.
  • He had met her before on other occasions, but she had seemed to hi_napproachable until that day. It was at his instigation that Mrs. Highcam_alled to ask her to go with them to the Jockey Club to witness the turf even_f the season.
  • There were possibly a few track men out there who knew the race horse as wel_s Edna, but there was certainly none who knew it better. She sat between he_wo companions as one having authority to speak. She laughed at Arobin'_retensions, and deplored Mrs. Highcamp's ignorance. The race horse was _riend and intimate associate of her childhood. The atmosphere of the stable_nd the breath of the blue grass paddock revived in her memory and lingered i_er nostrils. She did not perceive that she was talking like her father as th_leek geldings ambled in review before them. She played for very high stakes,
  • and fortune favored her. The fever of the game flamed in her cheeks and eves,
  • and it got into her blood and into her brain like an intoxicant. People turne_heir heads to look at her, and more than one lent an attentive car to he_tterances, hoping thereby to secure the elusive but ever-desired "tip."
  • Arobin caught the contagion of excitement which drew him to Edna like _agnet. Mrs. Highcamp remained, as usual, unmoved, with her indifferent star_nd uplifted eyebrows.
  • Edna stayed and dined with Mrs. Highcamp upon being urged to do so. Arobi_lso remained and sent away his drag.
  • The dinner was quiet and uninteresting, save for the cheerful efforts o_robin to enliven things. Mrs. Highcamp deplored the absence of her daughte_rom the races, and tried to convey to her what she had missed by going to the
  • "Dante reading" instead of joining them. The girl held a geranium leaf up t_er nose and said nothing, but looked knowing and noncommittal. Mr. Highcam_as a plain, bald-headed man, who only talked under compulsion. He wa_nresponsive. Mrs. Highcamp was full of delicate courtesy and consideratio_oward her husband. She addressed most of her conversation to him at table.
  • They sat in the library after dinner and read the evening papers togethe_nder the droplight; while the younger people went into the drawing-room nea_y and talked. Miss Highcamp played some selections from Grieg upon the piano.
  • She seemed to have apprehended all of the composer's coldness and none of hi_oetry. While Edna listened she could not help wondering if she had lost he_aste for music.
  • When the time came for her to go home, Mr. Highcamp grunted a lame offer t_scort her, looking down at his slippered feet with tactless concern. It wa_robin who took her home. The car ride was long, and it was late when the_eached Esplanade Street. Arobin asked permission to enter for a second t_ight his cigarette—his match safe was empty. He filled his match safe, bu_id not light his cigarette until he left her, after she had expressed he_illingness to go to the races with him again.
  • Edna was neither tired nor sleepy. She was hungry again, for the Highcam_inner, though of excellent quality, had lacked abundance. She rummaged in th_arder and brought forth a slice of Gruyere and some crackers. She opened _ottle of beer which she found in the icebox. Edna felt extremely restless an_xcited. She vacantly hummed a fantastic tune as she poked at the wood ember_n the hearth and munched a cracker.
  • She wanted something to happen—something, anything; she did not know what. Sh_egretted that she had not made Arobin stay a half hour to talk over th_orses with her. She counted the money she had won. But there was nothing els_o do, so she went to bed, and tossed there for hours in a sort of monotonou_gitation.
  • In the middle of the night she remembered that she had forgotten to write he_egular letter to her husband; and she decided to do so next day and tell hi_bout her afternoon at the Jockey Club. She lay wide awake composing a lette_hich was nothing like the one which she wrote next day. When the maid awok_er in the morning Edna was dreaming of Mr. Highcamp playing the piano at th_ntrance of a music store on Canal Street, while his wife was saying to Alce_robin, as they boarded an Esplanade Street car:
  • "What a pity that so much talent has been neglected! but I must go."
  • When, a few days later, Alcee Arobin again called for Edna in his drag, Mrs.
  • Highcamp was not with him. He said they would pick her up. But as that lad_ad not been apprised of his intention of picking her up, she was not at home.
  • The daughter was just leaving the house to attend the meeting of a branch Fol_ore Society, and regretted that she could not accompany them. Arobin appeare_onplused, and asked Edna if there were any one else she cared to ask.
  • She did not deem it worth while to go in search of any of the fashionabl_cquaintances from whom she had withdrawn herself. She thought of Madam_atignolle, but knew that her fair friend did not leave the house, except t_ake a languid walk around the block with her husband after nightfall.
  • Mademoiselle Reisz would have laughed at such a request from Edna. Madam_ebrun might have enjoyed the outing, but for some reason Edna did not wan_er. So they went alone, she and Arobin.
  • The afternoon was intensely interesting to her. The excitement came back upo_er like a remittent fever. Her talk grew familiar and confidential. It was n_abor to become intimate with Arobin. His manner invited easy confidence. Th_reliminary stage of becoming acquainted was one which he always endeavored t_gnore when a pretty and engaging woman was concerned.
  • He stayed and dined with Edna. He stayed and sat beside the wood fire. The_aughed and talked; and before it was time to go he was telling her ho_ifferent life might have been if he had known her years before. Wit_ngenuous frankness he spoke of what a wicked, ill-disciplined boy he ha_een, and impulsively drew up his cuff to exhibit upon his wrist the scar fro_ saber cut which he had received in a duel outside of Paris when he wa_ineteen. She touched his hand as she scanned the red cicatrice on the insid_f his white wrist. A quick impulse that was somewhat spasmodic impelled he_ingers to close in a sort of clutch upon his hand. He felt the pressure o_er pointed nails in the flesh of his palm.
  • She arose hastily and walked toward the mantel.
  • "The sight of a wound or scar always agitates and sickens me," she said. "_houldn't have looked at it."
  • "I beg your pardon," he entreated, following her; "it never occurred to m_hat it might be repulsive."
  • He stood close to her, and the effrontery in his eyes repelled the old,
  • vanishing self in her, yet drew all her awakening sensuousness. He saw enoug_n her face to impel him to take her hand and hold it while he said hi_ingering good night.
  • "Will you go to the races again?" he asked.
  • "No," she said. "I've had enough of the races. I don't want to lose all th_oney I've won, and I've got to work when the weather is bright, instead of—"
  • "Yes; work; to be sure. You promised to show me your work. What morning may _ome up to your atelier? To-morrow?"
  • "No!"
  • "Day after?"
  • "No, no."
  • "Oh, please don't refuse me! I know something of such things. I might help yo_ith a stray suggestion or two."
  • "No. Good night. Why don't you go after you have said good night? I don't lik_ou," she went on in a high, excited pitch, attempting to draw away her hand.
  • She felt that her words lacked dignity and sincerity, and she knew that h_elt it.
  • "I'm sorry you don't like me. I'm sorry I offended you. How have I offende_ou? What have I done? Can't you forgive me?" And he bent and pressed his lip_pon her hand as if he wished never more to withdraw them.
  • "Mr. Arobin," she complained, "I'm greatly upset by the excitement of th_fternoon; I'm not myself. My manner must have misled you in some way. I wis_ou to go, please." She spoke in a monotonous, dull tone. He took his hat fro_he table, and stood with eyes turned from her, looking into the dying fire.
  • For a moment or two he kept an impressive silence.
  • "Your manner has not misled me, Mrs. Pontellier," he said finally. "My ow_motions have done that. I couldn't help it. When I'm near you, how could _elp it? Don't think anything of it, don't bother, please. You see, I go whe_ou command me. If you wish me to stay away, I shall do so. If you let me com_ack, I—oh! you will let me come back?"
  • He cast one appealing glance at her, to which she made no response. Alce_robin's manner was so genuine that it often deceived even himself.
  • Edna did not care or think whether it were genuine or not. When she was alon_he looked mechanically at the back of her hand which he had kissed so warmly.
  • Then she leaned her head down on the mantelpiece. She felt somewhat like _oman who in a moment of passion is betrayed into an act of infidelity, an_ealizes the significance of the act without being wholly awakened from it_lamour. The thought was passing vaguely through her mind, "What would h_hink?"
  • She did not mean her husband; she was thinking of Robert Lebrun. Her husban_eemed to her now like a person whom she had married without love as a_xcuse.
  • She lit a candle and went up to her room. Alcee Arobin was absolutely nothin_o her. Yet his presence, his manners, the warmth of his glances, and abov_ll the touch of his lips upon her hand had acted like a narcotic upon her.
  • She slept a languorous sleep, interwoven with vanishing dreams.