Edna still felt dazed when she got outside in the open air. The Doctor's coup_ad returned for him and stood before the porte cochere. She did not wish t_nter the coupe, and told Doctor Mandelet she would walk; she was not afraid,
and would go alone. He directed his carriage to meet him at Mrs. Pontellier's,
and he started to walk home with her.
Up—away up, over the narrow street between the tall houses, the stars wer_lazing. The air was mild and caressing, but cool with the breath of sprin_nd the night. They walked slowly, the Doctor with a heavy, measured tread an_is hands behind him; Edna, in an absent-minded way, as she had walked on_ight at Grand Isle, as if her thoughts had gone ahead of her and she wa_triving to overtake them.
"You shouldn't have been there, Mrs. Pontellier," he said. "That was no plac_or you. Adele is full of whims at such times. There were a dozen women sh_ight have had with her, unimpressionable women. I felt that it was cruel,
cruel. You shouldn't have gone."
"Oh, well!" she answered, indifferently. "I don't know that it matters afte_ll. One has to think of the children some time or other; the sooner th_etter."
"When is Leonce coming back?"
"Quite soon. Some time in March."
"And you are going abroad?"
"Perhaps—no, I am not going. I'm not going to be forced into doing things. _on't want to go abroad. I want to be let alone. Nobody has any right—excep_hildren, perhaps—and even then, it seems to me—or it did seem—" She felt tha_er speech was voicing the incoherency of her thoughts, and stopped abruptly.
"The trouble is," sighed the Doctor, grasping her meaning intuitively, "tha_outh is given up to illusions. It seems to be a provision of Nature; a deco_o secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account of mora_onsequences, of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we fee_bliged to maintain at any cost."
"Yes," she said. "The years that are gone seem like dreams—if one might go o_leeping and dreaming—but to wake up and find—oh! well! perhaps it is bette_o wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe t_llusions all one's life."
"It seems to me, my dear child," said the Doctor at parting, holding her hand,
"you seem to me to be in trouble. I am not going to ask for your confidence. _ill only say that if ever you feel moved to give it to me, perhaps I migh_elp you. I know I would understand, And I tell you there are not many wh_ould—not many, my dear."
"Some way I don't feel moved to speak of things that trouble me. Don't think _m ungrateful or that I don't appreciate your sympathy. There are periods o_espondency and suffering which take possession of me. But I don't wan_nything but my own way. That is wanting a good deal, of course, when you hav_o trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others—but no matter-
still, I shouldn't want to trample upon the little lives. Oh! I don't kno_hat I'm saying, Doctor. Good night. Don't blame me for anything."
"Yes, I will blame you if you don't come and see me soon. We will talk o_hings you never have dreamt of talking about before. It will do us both good.
I don't want you to blame yourself, whatever comes. Good night, my child."
She let herself in at the gate, but instead of entering she sat upon the ste_f the porch. The night was quiet and soothing. All the tearing emotion of th_ast few hours seemed to fall away from her like a somber, uncomfortabl_arment, which she had but to loosen to be rid of. She went back to that hou_efore Adele had sent for her; and her senses kindled afresh in thinking o_obert's words, the pressure of his arms, and the feeling of his lips upon he_wn. She could picture at that moment no greater bliss on earth tha_ossession of the beloved one. His expression of love had already given him t_er in part. When she thought that he was there at hand, waiting for her, sh_rew numb with the intoxication of expectancy. It was so late; he would b_sleep perhaps. She would awaken him with a kiss. She hoped he would be aslee_hat she might arouse him with her caresses.
Still, she remembered Adele's voice whispering, "Think of the children; thin_f them." She meant to think of them; that determination had driven into he_oul like a death wound—but not to-night. To-morrow would be time to think o_verything.
Robert was not waiting for her in the little parlor. He was nowhere at hand.
The house was empty. But he had scrawled on a piece of paper that lay in th_amplight:
"I love you. Good-by—because I love you."
Edna grew faint when she read the words. She went and sat on the sofa. The_he stretched herself out there, never uttering a sound. She did not sleep.
She did not go to bed. The lamp sputtered and went out. She was still awake i_he morning, when Celestine unlocked the kitchen door and came in to light th_ire.