It would have been a difficult matter for Mr. Pontellier to define to his ow_atisfaction or any one else's wherein his wife failed in her duty towar_heir children. It was something which he felt rather than perceived, and h_ever voiced the feeling without subsequent regret and ample atonement.
If one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was no_pt to rush crying to his mother's arms for comfort; he would more likely pic_imself up, wipe the water out of his eves and the sand out of his mouth, an_o on playing. Tots as they were, they pulled together and stood their groun_n childish battles with doubled fists and uplifted voices, which usuall_revailed against the other mother-tots. The quadroon nurse was looked upon a_ huge encumbrance, only good to button up waists and panties and to brush an_art hair; since it seemed to be a law of society that hair must be parted an_rushed.
In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The motherwomen seemed t_revail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering abou_ith extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatene_heir precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshipe_heir husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves a_ndividuals and grow wings as ministering angels.
Many of them were delicious in the role; one of them was the embodiment o_very womanly grace and charm. If her husband did not adore her, he was _rute, deserving of death by slow torture. Her name was Adele Ratignolle.
There are no words to describe her save the old ones that have served so ofte_o picture the bygone heroine of romance and the fair lady of our dreams.
There was nothing subtle or hidden about her charms; her beauty was all there,
flaming and apparent: the spun-gold hair that comb nor confining pin coul_estrain; the blue eyes that were like nothing but sapphires; two lips tha_outed, that were so red one could only think of cherries or some othe_elicious crimson fruit in looking at them. She was growing a little stout,
but it did not seem to detract an iota from the grace of every step, pose,
gesture. One would not have wanted her white neck a mite less full or he_eautiful arms more slender. Never were hands more exquisite than hers, and i_as a joy to look at them when she threaded her needle or adjusted her gol_himble to her taper middle finger as she sewed away on the little night-
drawers or fashioned a bodice or a bib.
Madame Ratignolle was very fond of Mrs. Pontellier, and often she took he_ewing and went over to sit with her in the afternoons. She was sitting ther_he afternoon of the day the box arrived from New Orleans. She had possessio_f the rocker, and she was busily engaged in sewing upon a diminutive pair o_ight-drawers.
She had brought the pattern of the drawers for Mrs. Pontellier to cut out—_arvel of construction, fashioned to enclose a baby's body so effectually tha_nly two small eyes might look out from the garment, like an Eskimo's. The_ere designed for winter wear, when treacherous drafts came down chimneys an_nsidious currents of deadly cold found their way through key-holes.
Mrs. Pontellier's mind was quite at rest concerning the present material need_f her children, and she could not see the use of anticipating and makin_inter night garments the subject of her summer meditations. But she did no_ant to appear unamiable and uninterested, so she had brought fort_ewspapers, which she spread upon the floor of the gallery, and under Madam_atignolle's directions she had cut a pattern of the impervious garment.
Robert was there, seated as he had been the Sunday before, and Mrs. Pontellie_lso occupied her former position on the upper step, leaning listlessl_gainst the post. Beside her was a box of bonbons, which she held out a_ntervals to Madame Ratignolle.
That lady seemed at a loss to make a selection, but finally settled upon _tick of nougat, wondering if it were not too rich; whether it could possibl_urt her. Madame Ratignolle had been married seven years. About every tw_ears she had a baby. At that time she had three babies, and was beginning t_hink of a fourth one. She was always talking about her "condition." Her
"condition" was in no way apparent, and no one would have known a thing abou_t but for her persistence in making it the subject of conversation.
Robert started to reassure her, asserting that he had known a lady who ha_ubsisted upon nougat during the entire—but seeing the color mount into Mrs.
Pontellier's face he checked himself and changed the subject.
Mrs. Pontellier, though she had married a Creole, was not thoroughly at hom_n the society of Creoles; never before had she been thrown so intimatel_mong them. There were only Creoles that summer at Lebrun's. They all kne_ach other, and felt like one large family, among whom existed the mos_micable relations. A characteristic which distinguished them and whic_mpressed Mrs. Pontellier most forcibly was their entire absence of prudery.
Their freedom of expression was at first incomprehensible to her, though sh_ad no difficulty in reconciling it with a lofty chastity which in the Creol_oman seems to be inborn and unmistakable.
Never would Edna Pontellier forget the shock with which she heard Madam_atignolle relating to old Monsieur Farival the harrowing story of one of he_ccouchements, withholding no intimate detail. She was growing accustomed t_ike shocks, but she could not keep the mounting color back from her cheeks.
Oftener than once her coming had interrupted the droll story with which Rober_as entertaining some amused group of married women.
A book had gone the rounds of the pension. When it came her turn to read it,
she did so with profound astonishment. She felt moved to read the book i_ecret and solitude, though none of the others had done so,—to hide it fro_iew at the sound of approaching footsteps. It was openly criticised an_reely discussed at table. Mrs. Pontellier gave over being astonished, an_oncluded that wonders would never cease.