It was eleven o'clock that night when Mr. Pontellier returned from Klein'_otel. He was in an excellent humor, in high spirits, and very talkative. Hi_ntrance awoke his wife, who was in bed and fast asleep when he came in. H_alked to her while he undressed, telling her anecdotes and bits of news an_ossip that he had gathered during the day. From his trousers pockets he too_ fistful of crumpled bank notes and a good deal of silver coin, which h_iled on the bureau indiscriminately with keys, knife, handkerchief, an_hatever else happened to be in his pockets. She was overcome with sleep, an_nswered him with little half utterances.
He thought it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of hi_xistence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, an_alued so little his conversation.
Mr. Pontellier had forgotten the bonbons and peanuts for the boys.
Notwithstanding he loved them very much, and went into the adjoining roo_here they slept to take a look at them and make sure that they were restin_omfortably. The result of his investigation was far from satisfactory. H_urned and shifted the youngsters about in bed. One of them began to kick an_alk about a basket full of crabs.
Mr. Pontellier returned to his wife with the information that Raoul had a hig_ever and needed looking after. Then he lit a cigar and went and sat near th_pen door to smoke it.
Mrs. Pontellier was quite sure Raoul had no fever. He had gone to be_erfectly well, she said, and nothing had ailed him all day. Mr. Pontellie_as too well acquainted with fever symptoms to be mistaken. He assured her th_hild was consuming at that moment in the next room.
He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of th_hildren. If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose o_arth was it? He himself had his hands full with his brokerage business. H_ould not be in two places at once; making a living for his family on th_treet, and staying at home to see that no harm befell them. He talked in _onotonous, insistent way.
Mrs. Pontellier sprang out of bed and went into the next room. She soon cam_ack and sat on the edge of the bed, leaning her head down on the pillow. Sh_aid nothing, and refused to answer her husband when he questioned her. Whe_is cigar was smoked out he went to bed, and in half a minute he was fas_sleep.
Mrs. Pontellier was by that time thoroughly awake. She began to cry a little,
and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her peignoir. Blowing out the candle,
which her husband had left burning, she slipped her bare feet into a pair o_atin mules at the foot of the bed and went out on the porch, where she sa_own in the wicker chair and began to rock gently to and fro.
It was then past midnight. The cottages were all dark. A single faint ligh_leamed out from the hallway of the house. There was no sound abroad excep_he hooting of an old owl in the top of a water-oak, and the everlasting voic_f the sea, that was not uplifted at that soft hour. It broke like a mournfu_ullaby upon the night.
The tears came so fast to Mrs. Pontellier's eyes that the damp sleeve of he_eignoir no longer served to dry them. She was holding the back of her chai_ith one hand; her loose sleeve had slipped almost to the shoulder of he_plifted arm. Turning, she thrust her face, steaming and wet, into the bend o_er arm, and she went on crying there, not caring any longer to dry her face,
her eyes, her arms. She could not have told why she was crying. Suc_xperiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life. The_eemed never before to have weighed much against the abundance of he_usband's kindness and a uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self-
An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar par_f her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish. It was lik_ shadow, like a mist passing across her soul's summer day. It was strange an_nfamiliar; it was a mood. She did not sit there inwardly upbraiding he_usband, lamenting at Fate, which had directed her footsteps to the path whic_hey had taken. She was just having a good cry all to herself. The mosquitoe_ade merry over her, biting her firm, round arms and nipping at her bar_nsteps.
The little stinging, buzzing imps succeeded in dispelling a mood which migh_ave held her there in the darkness half a night longer.
The following morning Mr. Pontellier was up in good time to take the rockawa_hich was to convey him to the steamer at the wharf. He was returning to th_ity to his business, and they would not see him again at the Island till th_oming Saturday. He had regained his composure, which seemed to have bee_omewhat impaired the night before. He was eager to be gone, as he looke_orward to a lively week in Carondelet Street.
Mr. Pontellier gave his wife half of the money which he had brought away fro_lein's hotel the evening before. She liked money as well as most women, and,
accepted it with no little satisfaction.
"It will buy a handsome wedding present for Sister Janet!" she exclaimed,
smoothing out the bills as she counted them one by one.
"Oh! we'll treat Sister Janet better than that, my dear," he laughed, as h_repared to kiss her good-by.
The boys were tumbling about, clinging to his legs, imploring that numerou_hings be brought back to them. Mr. Pontellier was a great favorite, an_adies, men, children, even nurses, were always on hand to say goodby to him.
His wife stood smiling and waving, the boys shouting, as he disappeared in th_ld rockaway down the sandy road.
A few days later a box arrived for Mrs. Pontellier from New Orleans. It wa_rom her husband. It was filled with friandises, with luscious and toothsom_its—the finest of fruits, pates, a rare bottle or two, delicious syrups, an_onbons in abundance.
Mrs. Pontellier was always very generous with the contents of such a box; sh_as quite used to receiving them when away from home. The pates and fruit wer_rought to the dining-room; the bonbons were passed around. And the ladies,
selecting with dainty and discriminating fingers and a little greedily, al_eclared that Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world. Mrs.
Pontellier was forced to admit that she knew of none better.