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Chapter 3

  • Ma'ame Pelagie, when she saw that her sister slept, arose noiselessly an_tepped outside upon the low-roofed narrow gallery. She did not linger there,
  • but with a step that was hurried and agitated, she crossed the distance tha_ivided her cabin from the ruin.
  • The night was not a dark one, for the sky was clear and the moon resplendent.
  • But light or dark would have made no difference to Ma'ame Pelagie. It was no_he first time she had stolen away to the ruin at night-time, when the whol_lantation slept; but she never before had been there with a heart so nearl_roken. She was going there for the last time to dream her dreams; to see th_isions that hitherto had crowded her days and nights, and to bid the_arewell.
  • There was the first of them, awaiting her upon the very portal; a robust ol_hite-haired man, chiding her for returning home so late. There are guests t_e entertained. Does she not know it? Guests from the city and from the nea_lantations. Yes, she knows it is late. She had been abroad with Felix, an_hey did not notice how the time was speeding. Felix is there; he will explai_t all. He is there beside her, but she does not want to hear what he wil_ell her father.
  • Ma'ame Pelagie had sunk upon the bench where she and her sister so often cam_o sit. Turning, she gazed in through the gaping chasm of the window at he_ide. The interior of the ruin is ablaze. Not with the moonlight, for that i_aint beside the other one—the sparkle from the crystal candelabra, whic_egroes, moving noiselessly and respectfully about, are lighting, one afte_he other. How the gleam of them reflects and glances from the polished marbl_illars!
  • The room holds a number of guests. There is old Monsieur Lucien Santien,
  • leaning against one of the pillars, and laughing at something which Monsieu_afirme is telling him, till his fat shoulders shake. His son Jules is wit_im—Jules, who wants to marry her. She laughs. She wonders if Felix has tol_er father yet. There is young Jerome Lafirme playing at checkers upon th_ofa with Leandre. Little Pauline stands annoying them and disturbing th_ame. Leandre reproves her. She begins to cry, and old black Clementine, he_urse, who is not far off, limps across the room to pick her up and carry he_way. How sensitive the little one is! But she trots about and takes care o_erself better than she did a year or two ago, when she fell upon the ston_all floor and raised a great "bo-bo" on her forehead. Pelagie was hurt an_ngry enough about it; and she ordered rugs and buffalo robes to be brough_nd laid thick upon the tiles, till the little one's steps were surer.
  • "Il ne faut pas faire mal a Pauline." She was saying it aloud —"faire mal _auline."
  • But she gazes beyond the salon, back into the big dining hall, where the whit_repe myrtle grows. Ha! how low that bat has circled. It has struck Ma'am_elagie full on the breast. She does not know it. She is beyond there in th_ining hall, where her father sits with a group of friends over their wine. A_sual they are talking politics. How tiresome! She has heard them say "l_uerre" oftener than once. La guerre. Bah! She and Felix have somethin_leasanter to talk about, out under the oaks, or back in the shadow of th_leanders.
  • But they were right! The sound of a cannon, shot at Sumter, has rolled acros_he Southern States, and its echo is heard along the whole stretch of Cot_oyeuse.
  • Yet Pelagie does not believe it. Not till La Ricaneuse stands before her wit_are, black arms akimbo, uttering a volley of vile abuse and of braze_mpudence. Pelagie wants to kill her. But yet she will not believe. Not til_elix comes to her in the chamber above the dining hall—there where tha_rumpet vine hangs—comes to say good-by to her. The hurt which the big bras_uttons of his new gray uniform pressed into the tender flesh of her bosom ha_ever left it. She sits upon the sofa, and he beside her, both speechless wit_ain. That room would not have been altered. Even the sofa would have bee_here in the same spot, and Ma'ame Pelagie had meant all along, for thirt_ears, all along, to lie there upon it some day when the time came to die.
  • But there is no time to weep, with the enemy at the door. The door has been n_arrier. They are clattering through the halls now, drinking the wines,
  • shattering the crystal and glass, slashing the portraits.
  • One of them stands before her and tells her to leave the house. She slaps hi_ace. How the stigma stands out red as blood upon his blanched cheek!
  • Now there is a roar of fire and the flames are bearing down upon he_otionless figure. She wants to show them how a daughter of Louisiana ca_erish before her conquerors. But little Pauline clings to her knees in a_gony of terror. Little Pauline must be saved.
  • "Il ne faut pas faire mal a Pauline." Again she is saying it aloud—"faire ma_ Pauline."
  • The night was nearly spent; Ma'ame Pelagie had glided from the bench upo_hich she had rested, and for hours lay prone upon the stone flagging,
  • motionless. When she dragged herself to her feet it was to walk like one in _ream. About the great, solemn pillars, one after the other, she reached he_rms, and pressed her cheek and her lips upon the senseless brick.
  • "Adieu, adieu!" whispered Ma'ame Pelagie.
  • There was no longer the moon to guide her steps across the familiar pathway t_he cabin. The brightest light in the sky was Venus, that swung low in th_ast. The bats had ceased to beat their wings about the ruin. Even th_ocking-bird that had warbled for hours in the old mulberry-tree had sun_imself asleep. That darkest hour before the day was mantling the earth.
  • Ma'ame Pelagie hurried through the wet, clinging grass, beating aside th_eavy moss that swept across her face, walking on toward the cabin-towar_auline. Not once did she look back upon the ruin that brooded like a hug_onster—a black spot in the darkness that enveloped it.